Episode 75: Space Can Lead to Innovation with Shivani Gupta 

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the AskShivani Podcast. Today, I'm going to talk about space that leads to creativity. And I wanted to talk a bit about this notion of innovation and creativity. Every solopreneur, every entrepreneur, every business owner, every CEO, and executive wants to talk about how their organization, their business, needs innovation. And innovation doesn't always have to be a large, world breaking record, it is often the simplicity of incremental shifts, incremental improvements, incremental changes, that can also lead to lots of innovation.

I remember in the 1990s, going through university, and there was a lot of Japanese philosophies around particularly in the manufacturing world that talked about Kaizen or small steps improvements. And really, innovation, again, does not need to be big, but it's about small, medium and large changes. However, how do people find space to be innovative, and in my experience, having mentored 1000s of people, and worked with more than 100 companies now across the last 20 years, but for a decade before that I was in the corporate world, my husband is still in the corporate world. And obviously, a lot of the clients that I work with, vary between entrepreneurs and corporate world as well. One of the three most important things that they speak about is productivity, and how to maximize their time, and how to find more time for their family for themselves. That is in the top three issues, that keeps coming up over and over again. And often when it comes to their diary, they want to become innovative around what they want to do for their family. They want to have more space to perhaps be able to pursue a passion that they have not full time, but part time, maybe an hour a week, they want to be able to have more time for exercise for meditation, but also when they're at work, they want to be more present and happiness skills around what's happening at home, and other things that might be happening in their head and other stresses that they might have. But almost all of them have no space in their diary.

 My experience has been that the reason that people sometimes aren't innovating, is because their diaries are jam packed from start to finish. I look at some of my days where some days are just full of Back-to-Back meetings. And as we go through, you know, COVID, certainly in a lot of the world has now opened up but a lot of people talk about how they've got zoom fatigue, some people are saying how fantastic Zoom is I know for me, personally, it's been fantastic. Because I haven't had to get on the road, I haven't had to hop on a plane. And I've missed elements of that. But I've also really enjoyed that from a family perspective, where I can have that space, create my work, do what I need to do, but also be around my family and not be away for days at a time. For others, it's been really, really challenging, and people have become more and more accessible through zoom. And as a result of that, they are finding that they're actually more fatigued than they were when they had face to face time. Or perhaps they had that little bit of time to get away for travel. Or they even had that little thing of traveling from work, where they got to decompress and let go of their workday before they enter their family. For me, it's literally about 12 stairs, between my office and the living space. And, you know, I can only walk that so slowly.

But when you want to create something it needs time, you know, when you want to create something new. When you want to find something innovative, you need space, you need space in your diary, but what that leads to some space in your mind. I know that I look at our kids and sometimes how I think that they're still a bit over scheduled and we say no to quite a few things. I come across some of their friends who are literally back-to-back playing sports every day of the week and sometimes to sports in a day. Plus score plus their wellbeing plus their family plus their friends. And it feels like a lot. And I look at some of the leaders that I have an opportunity to work with their diaries are back-to-back whether they're zoom, whether they're face to face, whether they're hybrid. So, everybody wants this innovation. Everybody wants this improvement and process to have improvements, but nobody has space in their diary. And how do you do that? I know that when I work one on one would people, one of the things we speak about is finding to 90 minute or two hour blocks in your diary uninterrupted, perhaps the door shot definitely devices off, if you can just have time to think with a piece of paper and a pencil, or just sit and reflect, to look at what's working and what's not working to look at where some of the things and pain points are that you want to actually make some improvements are often those moments of stillness, those moments of silence is really where the innovation happens, or at least it starts to brew, and then that brewing takes a little bit longer. And, you know, I always think that if you don't have those spaces in your diary, then you can't often just innovate something in five minutes. Or if you've come up with the idea, thinking, wow, this is really painful, it needs an improvement, you actually then need time to do that.

So, the first step that I offer anybody that I'm mentoring that's really struggling with that issue of space in their diary wanting to lead to innovations and changes for themselves, changes for their family changes in their work, having time to think about some of the bigger problems is creating space. I've also, when I reflect on some of the amazing leaders, I've had an opportunity to work with, who've been my mentors, almost all of them, but one, and I'm thinking of dozens of different people who all have created their day to actually have space. And then they're doing. So, if they've got 17 things on the action to do list, what they do is prioritize the exercise, they prioritize some thinking time, some being time, sometime where they've got their devices off. Sometimes they combine the two things you might be walking along the beach with no devices, and no talking and being in silence. And I noticed that that's when you really start to think about the biggest stuff. Recently, I had the opportunity to travel finally overseas for a conference. And when I finished that conference, I decided that I normally would rush back to my home, and I would then get into the normal doings. I felt very strongly this year, because I felt this conference was going to be really big. And I had been a long time waiting to get to it, that I wanted some integration time. But I wanted some time to think and look at some of the problems, look at what had surfaced, and really have time to reflect and then be able to work out what actions I'm going to take. And that needed some space.

So, I ended up deciding to go to New York. And taking some time ago and thinking about what was it that I was going to implement from the conference, what was going to change my life, what was I going to innovate. And a couple of things popped up, I noticed for me, where I really enjoy my walking and enjoy my yoga and enjoy my Pilates, you know, often that doesn't come as a forefront, that often will come as a priority three, or four or five in my day, behind my work and my family and my learning. So, knowing that if I just focused on exercise for the sake of it, that's not that exciting for me. But if I could build in 30 minutes of exercise, as a mast in my diary, as some space in my diary, it would actually have a ripple effect into my work, and my family and my learning. And then I could see the benefits of actually doing that.

So, I started to make some changes since this trip and walking around a very noisy city for integration and having some time to think creating that space. And I don't have all of the ideas in terms of what I will do in my work. But certainly, the innovation in my personal life has already come through. And that was just by being silent by thinking about what had happened at the conference by looking and reflecting on what was working and what was not working. And then building that into my diary. And having that as a mask knowing the impact that it has. And as I'm starting to think about some of the bigger issues I'm also going oh yeah, that's really interesting that you can work with spaces in your diary. And space doesn't mean that you are doing less it just means that I've got space to think about bigger issues.

One particular person, Paul that I had an opportunity to work with. One of the things he ended up implementing as a result of one of the sessions we had was he implemented a 90-day 90 minute per day into his diary. So rather than once or twice a week for that time, and he found that the morning time was the most effective for him, that's where he thought the best. And so, he would spend more time if he's doing stuff of his 17 things or whatever number of things on his action list, when he was not at his peak performance of thinking. So, to innovate, think about some of the bigger changes. And he didn't just do that on work. He also looked at his family and looked at things that he needed to change within himself. So, he did personal business, and work and family. And so, what he would do is 90 minutes, after a bit of exercise, after a bit of meditation, he took no meetings, and he decided that his day, from the office from 8:30 to 10, would be without devices without meetings. And he would then think about some of the problems at work, and what needed to happen. And he said, within two or three weeks, he found the impact of that thinking amazing. And he started to work on bigger issues. And as a result of that, he would then also get very clear about what he wanted to achieve that day. Some of those things on the list of 17 items, for example, started to disappear, and become irrelevant. And others became more relevant and more potent and more things that he needed to action as a result of that 90 days. And I just thought that was fantastic that you can do that drop in the ocean with somebody in a conversation as a mentoring session, and he ended up implementing it. It's now been over a year. And he has been implementing it and the amount of things that he's sold that were bigger. Not only has his business grown, but his team's grown, his health has grown. And he's also been able to schedule in more one-on-one time with his partner wife and his three kids, just by becoming that little bit clearer. And we're focused on working on the bigger things that you want to do.

So, I just hope that if you are struggling for time for creativity, for innovation, and you know, I look at my kids, who we keep saying no to for different things, we're probably one of the few or parents that are saying no, you need space and time to rest. You need space and time to be bored. I know that when they get really bored, they get creative. My son the other day, we said that we couldn't do any electronics, and for our daughter as well. And I noticed that he just picked up the piano. And she got her guitar, and they were jamming together for about 20 minutes. We haven't seen that in months, just because they were bored. And they were not allowed to use any devices and they had some time off everything. As far as did we, that creativity comes from that.

So that even if you're struggling for time, sometimes by scheduling some clear things, and then I would suggest start off with 90 minutes once a week. And if you can build it up like all to 90 minutes a day. That's amazing. But even if you just started off with that 90 Day pocket, an hour, and a half, which sounds like a lot, but it's not where you had no devices. You just sat and looked at the pain points in your life, whether they be for you personally and how you think, whether they be for your family, and what needs to improve and what you need to innovate and find or perhaps in your workplace or perhaps all of the above, but just start off with one thing, thinking through the issues, knowing that you might not have the exact solution. What are the next steps what are the actions you could take that would help you and then work out a way forward. Thanks for listening.