Last fall, I worked at a fast-casual chain while completing my MBA. During my time there, I really wanted to learn about how the business worked and what made it so successful. I noticed many things - how the customers were so attracted to photos of the food, the importance of presentation and lighting, how fulfilling and exhausting consistent customer service is and how easy it can be to sell more menu items by simply suggesting. I was only there for a short time, but I was surprised by how much I had learned about what matters in running a fast-casual restaurant.
I don’t think it really matters where you’re working or what you’re doing - you can learn wherever you are (even if you’re just learning what’s not right for you). You can discover a new customer service method for your business when the resort employee offers you a drink while you’re relaxing on the beach. You may discover a better display method for your product while grocery shopping. However, you must be present to do so. Not just physically present, but fully engaged as well.
This doesn’t mean you should be obsessed with your business, never “turning it off”. You don’t have to actively be looking to discover ways to improve your business in order to do so - people have strokes of genius while in the middle of seemingly unrelated tasks all the time.
But the sure way not to discover a creative solution is by being stressed and distracted.
If, when laying on the beach, all you feel is stress about how your business is doing back home and are preoccupied with that worry, you’re not going to notice how the resort staff asks if you want a drink. If all you’re worried about while grocery shopping is getting out of there quickly, you’re not going to notice the creative produce display when you pick up bananas. In order to be a creative problem solver in your business, you need to be mentally present. Your life is not something to rush through. Your seemingly mundane tasks, like grocery shopping, contain opportunities to learn, discover and grow.
If your mind is clouded with stress, you eliminate the opportunity to discover the solution to the problem you’re stressing about.
Be present, be teachable, be open to discovery and you may learn more than you thought, which could take your business further than you thought possible.
More resources on creativity and stress:
Effects of Stress on Creativity by Lisa Riley (Taxi)
The Science of Creativity by Amy Novotney (APA)