If you’re one who hits the snooze button multiple times, can only survive a Monday morning with strong coffee and the realization that you only need to get through 104 hours before the weekend comes again, I’ve got a revelation for you.
Half a world away, in Stockholm, resides the Epicenter innovation center, where scores of people come dashing – yes, dashing! – into work, in a unique environment that sparks creativity, collaboration, and an unprecedented level of high energy, and in which I had the privilege recently of attending an interactive discussion on Nobel thinking. In addition to the enthusiastic employees bustling around me, I was greeted by a prominent sign proclaiming, “Thank God It’s Monday!” and received my first taste of a cultural climate unlike any I’d ever experienced.
Residing in the building are some of the giants in innovation: Google. Microsoft. Merck Pharmaceuticals. And at every turn, spaces beckoned creativity and collaboration – private work corners, airy public spaces, standing cubicles, soundproof closets allowing you to shout your ideas out loud if you’d like. They offer a variety of levels of conscious programming to allow for cross-pollination and cross-cultural interaction: morning yoga, lectures, demonstrations. Fascinating and inspiring.
The formal presentation that I attended with a small group of art enthusiasts, courtesy of KMAC Museum and its director Aldy Milliken, was presented by Tobias Degsell, former curator of the Nobel Prize Museum, who spoke on creativity. His premise was that creativity is really not just having an idea, but having the capacity to actually implement that idea, to formalize that idea, to make it into some type of a reality. One of his responsibilities as museum curator was to look at the 911 recipients of the Nobel Prize and determine commonalities, one being Cambridge University, from which 10% of Nobel laureates had graduated. Although it’s noteworthy that the university has been in existence for 800 years, the key to its capacity for creative success seems to lie in its culture of collaboration. For instance, they pair people together from different backgrounds, different places in the university – a student in linguistics or literature might be paired with a physics professor – for 5-hour intensive discussions. Participants have to find common ground – an opening of the mind and sharing of ideas across age limits, education limits, areas of interest.
Tobias distilled what it takes to be innovative and creative into several words: Communication, Vision, Work, Competence, Questions, Disrespect, Contacts, Networks, Meetings, Courage, Playfulness, and Combine. He shared insight into some iconic geniuses – Albert Einstein, for one, whom many believe to have worked in a vacuum, and yet he did interact with others and probe to find the fallacies in their ideas, particularly those in academia. He highlighted the importance of both persistence in staying with an idea you firmly believe can work, even if it’s not popular or accepted, and in questioning and challenging what others accept as the right way, the only way, the standard. That’s how innovation works.
My takeaway: work should be something that energizes you, that drives you. The ability to create and innovate is such a powerful energy, and I’m thankful for a career that allows me to pursue my passion with abandon. I challenge you to spend some time in creative collaboration with others you respect, and allow yourself the capacity to innovate. You may even find yourself foregoing the snooze button altogether and discovering the joy in proclaiming, “Thank God it’s Monday!”