Problem-solving in the morning, creativity in the afternoon.
In Dan Pink’s latest book, When, he goes into great detail on “when to” do things, as opposed to “how to” do things, and after identifying individuals into various categories (most people are either morning people or midday people) he’s identified the absolute best time of day for most people to be creative and inventive is the afternoon.
(This applies to about 60% of folks, who he categorized as “larks” and “third birds”, either morning people or in-between folks. There is a third set of the populace who are dedicated night owls, and this will not work for them. Therefore, if most of your team are night owls, then you probably need to make your creative time even later.)
For most people, the morning is great for analytic work, problem-solving and straight up solutioning by using standard methods. However, if you are looking to unleash your team’s creativity, most of them will be most creative in the afternoon. So book your brainstorming sessions right after lunch, or in the mid-afternoon.
Just like using a diverse team along all axes will get you more creative ideas than a homogenous team (which may be better for productivity), having your brainstorming sessions in the afternoon, will trigger more creative, out-of-the-box thinking.
If you want the ultimate in creative thinking, combine the two!
I’ve found that the best ideas come out of putting the best minds in the same room, giving them a few guidelines, and letting them think.
While the actual process we use varies greatly depending on the outcomes of the session, we find that the time of day does make a difference in the outputs – early morning meeting starts can sometimes be difficult: sometimes your attendees may have a tough time detaching themselves from the day-to-day issues – especially if the proposed outcome of the session is to develop strategic plans for anything but the very near future time frame.
By the time the afternoon is around, your team’s minds have been warmed up – after facing the most pressing concrete problems of the day, they are now free to relax more – to allow other thoughts to wander in – to form those all-important juxtapositions to trigger new ideas and new products.
Letting the discussion flow is also important – allowing your team to toss ideas around – each building on the other – and each riffing and expanding as you go. Capturing ideas in a visual way – text – diagrams – flows – we find helps a lot when it comes to generating disruptive new ideas.
Leveraging the right time of day helps by ensuring that your team’s minds are more pliable and open to new angles.
And that’s exactly what you need when you are developing potential new billion-dollar businesses.