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This Is How Innovative People Think!

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This Is How Innovative People Think!

Check out these ten intelligent ways that innovative people think and act differently!

1. They pay attention to patterns.

Specifically, they utilize Apophenia, the ability to perceive patterns within random data to help point them toward relationships and potential problems. This tendency is tied, by necessity, to strong powers of observation. If you’re paying attention to what’s happening around you, you’re bound to notice a few patterns.

That’s a human tendency, after all. However, there are some people who see patterns in random happenings more than the average person. This ability to perceive a large number of patterns also allows for the ability to see potential problems before they are realized. People endowed with this ability often make excellent innovators and leaders.

However, Slate writer Katy Waldman points out that drawing too many connections can create its own problems:

“So apophenia cuts both ways – it’s a profoundly human habit of mind that can underlie adaptive behaviors and reward flights of fancy, or induce all kinds of paranoia and silliness.”

In fact, in its extreme form apophenia can signal the presence of schizophrenia – definitely not a desirable diagnosis. One example is the story of Bobby Fischer, recently documented in the historically-based film “Pawn Sacrifice.” Fischer was a chess champion whose thinking devolved into conspiratorial thinking and paranoia, but he was also a genius who very likely utilized apophenia to predict a significant number of moves that could be made during his chess matches.

2. They analyze data on a large scale.

After observing the patterns mentioned above, they funnel that tendency into concrete terms via analysis of data on a massive scale – or ‘big data.’ For example, D.J. Patil, the first resident data scientist of the White House, has stated that one of his main goals is to offer a “vision on how to provide maximum social return on federal data.” This goal is a very innovative one, and it serves as a positive signal to U.S. citizens that their government is trying to utilize the data being collected on them for something positive and useful – as opposed to stereotypes about the NSA and other breaches of privacy in the news.

3. They embrace high-risk situations.

For example, they derive funding from venture capital in order to help them fund new business ventures, a practice that is high risk but carries much potential for pay-offs and rewards.

Robert Mooradian, professor of Finance at Northeastern University, recently discussed venture capital as something that’s helping to support innovation:

“These big corporate structures don’t do as well in terms of getting new innovations started, in terms of developing new innovations, so most of these public companies are active in seeking out these kinds of targets [for acquisition].”

Because the startups involved in venture capital investments and funding have few financial assets, the investments are financially high-risk. However, these innovative startups often have a great deal of intellectual capital, a trait that is very attractive to venture capitalists. Another advantage to deriving funding from venture capitalists is the inherent publicity built in to sharing a project with the type of people who tend to invest in promising new startups is that those investors often carry a great deal of clout with fellow influencers with financial capital.

4. They are very curious.

Because they are very curious, they are interested in learning as much as they can from people and situations around them. They also seek out new information via recreational reading and conducting informal research on topics that interest them. Basically, they’re autodidacts: they love to learn on their own, without any external encouragement or traditional class structure needed.

In addition to traditional library-based research for new information, they also view every conversation as an opportunity to learn something new. They recognize that every individual is unique and has their own knowledge to offer to those willing to seek it out.

5. They are excellent listeners who are very empathetic.

That is, not only are they good at listening well to people and truly hearing what they have to say, but they also are able to mentally and emotionally put themselves in the speaker’s proverbial shoes, imagining what it would be like to live through the situation being presented to them. They have, in other words, a high degree of emotional intelligence. This ability lends credence to the listener, from the speaker’s perspective. As a result, good listeners make very good managers, since working side-by-side – metaphorically speaking – is often much more motivating for employees than working with a top-down approach.

6. They are persistent.

That is, while they strive for perfection, they continue going forward, regardless of obstacles or pauses in the momentum of their progress. The statistics about Abraham Lincoln come to mind. As this article interestingly points out, Lincoln’s successes were as numerous as his failures; it was because of his persistence, in fact, that he was able to succeed. Inevitably, a large number of attempts will include a certain number of failures – due to imperfection and statistical chance, among other factors. If you fail to try a substantial number of times, however, your effort is bound to yield fewer successes than if you’d put in a few more attempts.

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7. They are inherently creative and understand the creative process.

Take, for another example, the writer’s life, which requires an enormous amount of patience, considering the time and dedication that a book necessitates. Some of the best advice my thesis advisor ever gave me was the following succinct imperative: “Don’t rush.”

Yes, it’s possible to finish a book in a year, but why would you want to do that? It would likely be less impressive than the same document more thoroughly revised and sat with for a more substantial amount of time – so as to allow the ideas and images to sufficiently percolate and develop. This is the nature of the creative process. It demands a sort of two steps forward, one step back kind of approach that inevitably involves a great deal of ‘muddling,’ or experimentation.

8. They embrace paradoxical thinking.

The rejection of either/or thinking is one of the most crucial elements that go into good critical thinking.

As number ten on this list reminds us, “Great innovators do not see the world in black and white. While many people come to “either/or” conclusions, they strive to see “both/and.”

This idea reminds me of Walt Whitman’s lines from section 51 of “Song of Myself” that argue so passionately for complexity:

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“Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

The greatest thinkers are always keenly aware of the value of paradox and complexity in all things.

9. They are non-conformists.

In other words, good innovators choose to avoid what everyone else is doing and set out on their own, instead. Take Stewart Butterfield, co-founder and CEO of Slack who was recently named 2015 Technology Innovator by Wall Street Journal magazine. Slack is a new chat room app that has become wildly popular and has apparently become “the fastest-growing business application of all time.” That’s quite an achievement.

Yet the concept is simple: provide a chat room environment that feels more spacious – its virtual ‘rooms’ are larger than those of Google messenger, for example – while also providing a convenient, flexible, and interactive way for colleagues to share files. With those characteristics, Slack combines the best features of email and IM platforms. It also adds characteristics of social sharing sites like Facebook by enabling emoji-style reactions to conversation channels. The result is a messaging app that doesn’t conform in the slightest.

10. They are “human, yet highly resilient.”

A recent article by Kim Booth emphasizes several different traits often found in innovative leaders, and one of them was the ability to show resilience in the face of opposition and setbacks. Inherent resilience is a highly desirable trait for someone to have, especially when surrounded by people who might be scared or confused. This is a wonderful leadership quality that comes in handy especially during times of uncertainty or chaos – such as corporate restructuring, or a company move to a new building.

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During times like these, it’s important to have a leader who provides an example of idealistic, resilient thinking; providing this type of example inspires endurance and courage in others, as well as unique, innovative ways to deal with hardship and uncertainty. In fact, sometimes it is uncertainty that allows for the most innovative kinds of thinking: what is there to lose, after all, when there’s nowhere to go but up?

Next time you’re stuck and having trouble moving forward on a project or personal goal, try changing direction with a new approach taken from one of the ten ideas listed above. Let me know how it goes in the comments below!

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

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