First, it was “Smoke Break.” For those of us not into the habit, we would marvel at the conga line that was created once those two simple words were uttered in some Cubicle Kingdom in Anywhere, USA. Assistants, managers, CEOs… didn’t matter. The call to light up was a beacon of goodness, and many followed the flock to the magical “smoking area” and its glorious “smokers post.”
Next, came “Mental Break.” You know, when your job gets too much? My question on this always was… when you missed said “mental break” did you actually HAVE a mental break and lose it?! It’s an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, circled around a “WTF?” I always felt mental breaks seemed to be eerily similar to the “I’m outta here” kids in school who would just randomly decide the high school history class was just not moving the needle too much, and stood up and walked out of class… wha?
We spent so much time figuring out ways to escape the work we do, that we often forgot the most important break needed… the one where you allow yourself time to DREAM BIG. Time to ROCK OUT SOME FRESH CONCEPTS. Time to hit an “Idea Break.”
Every sector, every industry needs this kind of moment. Even if your job is creative by design (like, say, you are a “Creative Director” hello?) you need to step away, reset the brain parts, and look to find a spot to get down n’ dirty with the funtime, jovial, and idea portion of the head.
But DK, my boss would be so thrilled with me doing this?
Really?! Smoke breaks build camaraderie, through Parliaments and Marlboros. Mental breaks will keep the pressure cooker turning into a volcanic eruption, but saying you are about to step away to generate new, fresh ideas would be considered naughty? Really?!
Look, Mr./Mrs. Ima BumBoss, I don’t mean to rain on your reign, but you need to check that melon of yours. Idea Breaks are the best kind of getaways for you. If positioned properly, fostered with love n’ trust, and sprinkled with a little support… these might be the best non-meeting meetings you have each and every week for your team.
Companies large and small are moving into this world of unlimited sport drinks, ping-pong tables in the break room, flex time on the time sheets, and other perks in the workplace. Now don’t get me wrong, a noble game of “Damn I Wish We Have Beer” Beer Pong is always fun at 1pm on a Wednesday, but I’m not talking about breaks that are solely for the individual to relax and recharge. I’m talking about a concept that includes awesome work benefits while also giving people a little get-away from their desks, computers, or dull cubicles sitting next to this guy.
Wanna build your little Oasis for Idea Osmosis? Well get out your ruler and 3/4 inch reversible drill Bob Vila, it’s buildin’ time!
1. Find a great conference room, unused office, or other available space.
2. Fill it with easel pads, markers, whiteboards, Post-It notes, crayons, and other fun Weapons of Cool Creation (WCCs)
3. Place the “We’re Open” sign on the front. Cut the ribbon, break the champagne bottle on the door, whatever. Call it open and have at it.
Rules for the room are easy: 1. Not be used for sitting around staring at your belly button or out into space (unless that’s how you generate cool ideas, then go man go); 2. No phones; 3. Clean up and reset the room when you’re done; 4. There’s no Rule 4.
Let your team know that the room is to be used whenever, however. It is a safe place to bring colleagues, design teams, executives, clients… whoever might need the space for a moment of idea generating; HOWEVER, the room should not turn into a conference room, with the trappings of booking the room or closing it off. The room should always be open to anyone/any team who might want to go into it. If they are cool with another person(s) in the room already, they will just take an alternate corner/side/wing… if not, they can come back later. Again the idea of the space is for you to get away for a moment and be in a space to allow yourself the freedom to free-think, design, conjurer up, or doodle… make it a space inviting and open to all.
OK, DK. But I’m am told that that’s why I was given an office – to give me the space to do exactly that.
Really? Well what are you doing now? Probably at the same time as you are reading this, you have Facebook open, Twitter running (you just can’t help but see that “(356) Twitter” at the top, can’t ya?), you voice mail box light is blinking, your Blackberry light is blinking red (which of course dominates your ability to do anything else but check those emails/voice mails), and your email inbox has important E.D. spam mailers and asks for donations to the King of Siam or something sitting out… Offices are now rooms filled with Idea-Vacuums – ideas get sucked into them and have to be filtered out, if and only if you have the patience to clean out the bag and attached it back without getting dust all over you. Office space is the cassette tape of idea creation: it still can turn out a tune, if you love the Lo-Fi, have the exactly right equipment, and don’t mind twirling the taps sometimes with a pencil (Youngster, please consult someone who grew up in the 1970s or 80s for more information on these “cassettes” I speak of)…
We are constantly told how ideas and time to create are essential to work, to bolstering or brain activity, and to keep us sharp.. then create a space that allows for this at any point in time! If you live in a business world that feels this way in ANY part of your space.. congratulations, you have a kick-ass joint and bravo to you and your team. But for the 95% of the rest of you… it’s time to get creative. If you build it, he will come.
Space for ideas (metaphorically and literally) are needed to make us all better at what we do. The space to reach out, stretch, and challenge ourselves to not settle for the norm or what is typical, allows for our work to improve and progress… and at the end of the day, that is the truest definition of a great idea. Well that… and a great encouraging you to “Do It.”
So next time, dare yourself to take a break.. an Idea Break.