Laptops and Crayons: Innovation Made Easy

Way back in the first few years of my career, I decided to buy a set of wooden building blocks for my office. I placed them on a side table next to the chair my visitors would sit, and it inevitably drew people to toy with them while we discussed business. People loved to visit my office and chat, playing with those blocks.

Over the next 15 years or so, I grew increasingly intent on my advancement and attained ever greater amounts of responsibility. Somewhere along the way I packed up my wooden blocks. I guess I decided they wouldn’t do. And eventually I forgot about them.

At some point, like we all do, I began to acquire enough confidence and wisdom to allow myself to integrate more of my whole self into my work style. So, after having faked my way through a number of years as a CFO acting the way I believed I was supposed to, I began to show up more authentically.

One day, I suddenly thought about those building blocks. I hurried home that evening but I just couldn’t find them. The next morning I stopped by the drug store on the way to the office and on the spur of the moment bought two boxes of crayons.

Now I will admit, I didn’t leave my crayons out on the desktop on a constant basis. Older and wiser, I had a mind to use my crayons when the moment might call for it. Sometimes, I would take out my crayons in a private moment when I found myself either bored with what I was doing, or in need of a different form of stimulation to help my mind with a bit of problem-solving.

Sometimes, I would bring out my crayons in a meeting with a few colleagues—even just taking notes on our conversation with those crayons shifted our thinking. It certainly lightened the mood. Those crayons gave us all permission to be a little…silly. A little more joyous. And in doing so, we did better thinking. Now, not everyone felt drawn to using crayons. And that’s fine too. You certainly can’t be forced to engage in any sort of creative exercise.

For me, it’s wooden blocks and crayons. For you, it might be something different. The simple idea of bringing some different material for drawing, recording, mapping or shaping our ideas is worth trying. Maybe it’s colorful construction paper, scissors and glue. What about a little sandbox?! (Well, is that SO crazy?) Or your thing could be music. You don’t need me here to tell you what medium might trigger that playful, creative side.

Try it, though. This isn’t a cute little idea just to smile at—or scoff at. I mean business. Our laptops and smart phones are effective tools. Don’t forget the crayons.

If you’re looking for the confidence to bring your own “crayons” into the office, join us for COURAGE CAMP, August 16 & 17. Dare to bring you full self to your workplace.