Weekender: U2’s Edge on Directing Inspiration

edge-u2Welcome to another edition of leadersayswhat’s the Weekender, an edge of thought to start your weekend on the right track. Why just the edge? Because it’s the weekend!

In the midst of a never-ending brainstorming session with looming high-priority deadlines, how do you re-invigorate your team? You could try yelling at them to squeeze out some creativity, recognition to sweet-talk a few new thoughts, or bribery to “grease the mental wheels.” Unfortunately, anyone on the brink of burnout needs more than motivation; they need inspiration…and it’s your job to provide it.

To supply the necessary inspiration your team needs to reach their creative potential, you must be prepared. In a recent conversation on the podcast Off Camera with Sam Jones, U2’s Edge discussed a trick used by famed record producer, Brian Eno.

Eno is a master of directing inspiration. I’m sure you’re aware of his oblique strategies. We call them tarot cards but they’re basically ways to take a session from being in a safe, orderly, predictable place and knock it instantly into a sort of beautiful chaos. So there are cards that suggest a change of strategy within the studio. He’d shuffle the deck, take one out, and it might say, ‘Everybody swap instruments’ or ‘play whatever song you’re playing at half time.’… What this spoke to is that inspiration is about being out of your comfort zone or trying different things, risking failure and getting out of that very conscious place that we are all in most of the time, because the subconscious part of the brain is way more creative.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to present diversions that will help our team generate the most creative solutions possible. Keep a folder of on-the-go activities that are readily available for you to refresh your team. And remain vigilantly aware of the work environment so you know when these distractions are needed.

Work association games, charades, or any number of team building exercises give the conscious mind a break while stretching the subconscious. This is supported by Shelley H. Carson, author of Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life, who found that distractions foster creativity by loading a higher number of stimuli in your awareness, thereby allowing your subliminal the opportunity to generate more new ideas.

Not convinced that these games are no more than fluff? You should ask U2, one of the most successful bands in history, who continue to use these games to find new levels of innovation. Then, you may realize that a 15 minute “fun” diversion will save you and your teams hours in frustrating mental gridlock.