Fields points out that many “Voila!” moments come in the spaces outside the structured formats of daily business. They come when you go for a walk, when you’re washing your child’s hair, when you’re playing golf. He cites Prof Herbert Benson’s book The Breakout Principle for extra authority.
It seems Fields and Benson both agree that you must allow for an empty space within yourself and within your project and decision making process. By putting aside the problem, it allows the mind to make connections that would otherwise be blocked. Benson goes so far as to ascribe a biological process to it and his book aims to train one in how to trigger it
If you like, you can go the way Benson does and describe it in terms of the body/mind connection. Benson argues that a four step process should be sought: that struggle; relaxation; breakout (or peak) experience; and a new normal is the beneficial cycle for resolution and growth.
Fields breaks this down into three phases: first, identify the problem; second, work crazy hard on your problem; third, step away from it all (work, computers, pda, everything) to achieve your solution.
This goes beyond the concept of leading with an “open mind”, and extends to the level of your team. It can benefit a team to have established the ability to “go rogue”, especially at the outset or when things get blocked. What happens when you do this, I think, is your team is allowed the time and space to connect to their innate creativity.
When you’re struggling to solve a problem, meet a deadline, or make a key decision, it’s easy to get caught up in the output. You have to deliver X by Y or else. If you get focused on the deadlines, the budgets, the rules and processes to get an outcome, you’ll get a result, but you’ll only reinforce the stress. This may create a team of incredible crisis managers, but it is no way to run a company.
I suggest that if you focus instead on keeping an empty bowl at the table, not only will you have a satisfactory solution, finish, or decision, but you will have a result that actually makes the next matter easier to resolve.
Be an empty bowl. There is space within you, empty, clear of obstruction, instruction, structure, ego, or intent, but surrounded and supported by your experience and knowledge.
Into this bowl you pour your matter at hand. Now strip away everything to the soft kernel of the matter.
Start with yourself, your agenda and that of your team. The leader should spend time keeping the bowl clear of the agendas, calendars, egos and intentions of the team, and let them focus on the matter at hand.
Try various methods to do this, without setting any store by it. I used to say “we take our work very seriously, but not ourselves.”
Be supple, be flexible, be fluid. Change the leader of the meeting, ban electronics, meet in the park, go for a walk together, make a meal together, whatever. As a leader, focus on providing your team space to “go rogue”, off message, or from a strange point of view, but always without the things that bind and complicate things. The only rule is there are no rules or set roles for them to play.
The matter at hand may appear complex, but if you build a process through practice that allows your team to “go rogue” to simplify it, you’ll find the it and the next matter easier to solve, and your outcomes simpler, more focused, and truly useful.
Make an empty space to deal with matters at hand right from the start. Keep it clear and clean of outside intent or issues. Reduce and simplify, again and again until only the kernel of the matter remains. Simple things are easy to manage with little ado.
It is said, that learning consists of doing and accumulating; but the “empty bowl” consists of undoing and diminishing. Keep diminishing and diminishing, until you reach the simplest matter. Then the simplest action will resolve all things.
An aside: This is not easy. I don’t want to give the impression that it is. But right now you are likely expending just as much effort in building a team of crisis managers. And if you’ve spent all that time and effort to build such a team, is it any wonder that everything starts to look like a crisis?