The Benefits of Combinatory Play for Project Managers

Albert Einstein first coined the term “combinatory play” in a letter he wrote Jacques Hadamard. He was fascinated to discover Einstein’s secrets about creative thinking.
Combinatory play, in its simplest form, is the process of considering two or more seemingly unrelated topics and activities and putting them together so that something new and unique emerges.
Einstein would, for example, set himself a challenge that related to work and then forget it. He would play his beloved piano or violin, then go to bed. Eventually, he would remember the challenge and find the answers a few days later.
From a biological standpoint, there are two things happening here. First, your brain will be able to discover new connections by engaging in a variety of unrelated activities.
Secondly, your brain cells are doing all the connecting work in the sub-conscious while you sleep. This is the time when the mind is at its calmest and is unaffected by the constant buzz of the day.
Combinatory play is a great way to get ideas…
It’s simple, but it’s true. Because the modern workplace is not conducive to combination play, it is a great source for ideas. GENIUS YOU conducted a 2020 study that surveyed over 2000 people from 17 multi-nationals in 10 sectors.
One open-ended question was included in the study, asking respondents to comment on their company’s creativity and innovation. There were several key themes that highlighted the obstacles to creativity in the workplace.
23% of all responses were from people who felt “time poverty” or “burden of overload”. One sentence sums it all: “Our greatest downfall in the business is not giving sufficient time to creative thinking.”
It is important to place importance on thinking as well as doing. The team is constantly working on projects, but they spend very little time creating new ideas.
The working environment was not conducive for creativity. It was seen as oppressive and suffocating. Too little time for creativity, too many corporate processes obstructing creativity, too much pressure on brain’s neurotransmitters to allow them connect with each other.
I feel fortunate that I have been an independent consultant for many years. I work from home most of the time and am free from the stress and strains of corporate life. I have been able put combinatory play into action.
Combinatory step by step…
Ironically, it is important to be disciplined when you are describing creative processes. Let me describe my routine.
I set myself a challenge, a difficult nut to crack. I write it down in my colorful notebook. I also brainstorm any ideas that may already be in my head.
I don’t feel pressured to solve the problem right away. I allow myself time and space to find the answers.
My lifestyle is well-balanced. To release endorphins, and lower stress hormones, I exercise every day. I have a lot of fun interacting with people online. YouTube is a treasure trove of inspiring videos from all walks.
Before going to bed every night, I take a hot shower, listen to the radio and read a little. There is not a gadget in my bathroom in the hour before darkness falls.
Every morning, I take a shower. This is when my mind often reaps the benefits of a restful night. I can capture ideas with the post-it note pad and pen that I keep in the bathroom.
Combinatory play in action…
Fitness Gyms Spotify. YouTube. Joe Wicks. GENIUS YOU is a small capability agency that I manage. Our mission is to assist individuals and teams in strengthening their creative muscles.
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