Get up from your desk if you want to think better

On my most recent reading over the internet, I came across one of the articles in MindTools talking about a book called “Work Rules!”. A colleague of mine had already bought this book to my attention, saying that it is a must-read. After reading this small summary I am inclined to agree with him.

One of the points that are made is very dear to my heart.

Over my years as a software engineer and most recently as a team coach, one of the things I truly believe is that “great ideas don’t happen at your desk”.

When I was leading a team of data migration engineers, one of the “go-to” options that I used to deploy when someone was stuck in a problem was to remove them from their desks.

Let’s go outside and grab a coffee.
Now tell me about your problem.

It is amazing how a change of scenery had such a big impact on the brain.

As soon as we moved to another place and they started explaining the problem, they would come up with the solution in a matter of minutes. Just think about it. Something that was bothering them for maybe half an hour or more was solved in less than 5 minutes. Just by moving away from their desk.

OK. Let’s get back to my original thought.

The idea shared in the book by Laszlo Bock (former senior VP of People Operations at Google and currently CEO and founder of Humu) is that great ideas happen away from the desk. On snack areas. Maybe the locker room after a yoga class. Or even playing a game on a basketball court.

It’s not like I needed validation to know that what I was doing was right. The results spoke for themselves, but it never hurts to have a second opinion. 😀
Especially when that second opinion comes in the form of “google executives”.

In addition to the places that Lazlo mentions in the book, one that I have seen working over and over again is the coffee machine. Maybe because I am Portuguese and we drink a lot of coffee, or maybe just because I like coffee. But why is this?

What is so special about the coffee machine?

I think, and don’t quote me on this, I am not an expert in psychology, is that when we are on the computer or the desk, our thinking brain is in play. When we move away we give a chance to our creative counterpart.

This could be because when we move away from our desk we become more relaxed. We start seeing things in other eyes, and the right brain kicks in.

I could be completely wrong, but one thing is for sure. It works. I’ve used it and I’ve seen it happen.
Have you ever tried this before?



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