Innovation doesn’t always happen in the fast lane. How slowing down can put you ahead.
Don’t get me wrong, we can learn a ton from AI, but as we move faster to keep up with it, we can’t ignore the invaluable lessons that come from nature. And unlike the fast-paced world of AI, nature moves at a snail’s pace, literally. What can we learn from this? While it’s important for brands to keep up with our modern age in order to stay relevant, being creative enough to truly innovate may require the opposite approach. Psychologist Adam Grant found that those who slow down even to the point of procrastination are often more creative, original thinkers than their counterparts. That means that stopping to smell the roses doesn’t just make you happier, it makes you more innovative too.
You can’t rush eureka moments.
- Inspiration takes patient observation. Creativity and innovation don’t happen in a vacuum. We’re inspired by what’s around us, and the only way to absorb this information and let it guide us toward our own innovative work is to carefully observe it. This process takes time.
- Let your mind wander. While thinking linearly might be a faster approach, it typically leads to conventional thinking. It’s in the disjointed thinking where true creative epiphanies lie. That’s because the unconscious mind needs time to wander and contemplate information pulled from various sources. If you slow down and relax, dopamine is released in the brain, which helps the mind go elsewhere and, in turn, be creative.
- Quality over quantity. Option fatigue is real. Focus on the quality of your ideas over the volume of them. The more you force it for speed and quantity, the less great ideas you’ll have.
- Well-being matters. Self-care leads to less stress and lower anxiety levels, which makes room for creativity. Torturing yourself to produce more in less time while neglecting to take care of yourself results in burnout and lower quality work.
- Dream by day and night. The German scientist August Kekulé’s had a dream about a self-devouring snake, which led him to discover the ring-like structure of benzene. Talk about a roundabout way to an innovative breakthrough. And that’s not all. The Beatles’ song “Yesterday” was also born from a dream.
Brands that won the race by slowing down.
- Dyson: The brand took a whopping 15 years and 5,127 prototypes before creating its innovative vacuum cleaner.
- Patagonia: The outdoor clothing & gear company has built a strong, attractive brand reputation by taking its time to source materials and produce products that don’t hurt the environment.
- Starbucks: With a focus on personalization, this brand has always taken a slower, more thoughtful approach to all of their marketing and product development.
- Apple: Steve Jobs was known for his painstakingly slow attention to detail and commitment to quality. The company had no problem taking its time to release new products, and it never stopped them from being ahead of the curve.
- Lush: This makeup brand prioritizes ethical sourcing and handmade products. And while this requires a slower production process, it’s helped them build a loyal customer base.
- LEGO: With a focus on the quality and longevity of their products, LEGO never rushes their process, quite the contrary. Their slow approach has helped them maintain their positive brand reputation.
Just because everything is speeding up, doesn’t mean we should all follow suit, especially when it comes to being innovative. As actor and comedian John Cleese put it: “Your creativity acts like a tortoise – poking its head out nervously to see if the environment is safe before it fully emerges. Thus, you need to create a tortoise enclosure – an oasis amongst the craziness of modern life – to be a safe haven where your creativity can emerge.” So take your time, observe and let your ideas incubate. Watch a few TikTok videos while you’re at it. Trust us, despite your slow pace, you’ll win the race with the most creative ideas and you won’t even break a sweat.