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3 Ways to Increase Creativity and Productivity in 2021 (and Beyond)

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I’ve recently read a Nikkei Style interview (article written in Japanese) on increasing smart productivity by Mr. Haruaki Deguchi. He is a thinker, author of more than 35 books, entrepreneur and the current president of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan (as per the time of writing), which also happened to be my alma mater. In 2006, he co-founded the first independent Japanese insurance company in 74 years, Lifenet Insurance. Previously, he held various roles with Nippon Life Insurances for 35 years, including being the president of the company’s subsidiary in London.

In the article, he mentioned some ways to revolutionise working style, especially in the context of Japan. These include bringing more women into the older male-dominated top management, especially in industries that target women of 20s-40s. Another is on ways to work more productively, as the common mindset in Japan is that working long hours equals being productive. At last, a Japanese man who thinks progressively and advocates for diversity in the workplace!, I thought. Being from a multicultural background, I feel strongly about issues like diversity and inclusion. But in this article, I’ll be focusing on the productivity issue.

While Mr. Deguchi’s thoughts are mostly relevant for those who love working long hours like the Japanese, the three ways below are also applicable for those looking to stay relevant in their workplace and for those who are just looking for ways to get inspiration, regardless of their nationalities or working culture. As the original interview article with Mr. Deguchi was published in pre-COVID19 era, I’ve added my own thoughts to suit the current COVID19 situation (yes, even if vaccines are here already!)

The 3 ways to increase creativity and productivity are:

1. Interact with lots of people

In a normal office working situation, you’ll be inclined to spend time chatting with your colleagues in the same room. Or maybe you’re the type to concentrate on your own work and talk to others only when necessary, which mostly is about work at hand. If you work in a field that requires constant idea output, like consultants, book publishers, marketing agencies or even an entrepreneur, this model will only be detrimental to idea generation. It may be possible to generate some ideas, but these won’t be groundbreaking ones. Using the office hour to go out and meet working relations in the nearest coffee shop or having lunch outside while discussing ideas with other people is better for an amazing idea generator than just staying in the office but not interacting meaningfully with anyone.

For those doing work from home and cannot work in the office due to lockdown, it’s still possible to network and interact with new people. Joining new networking groups, utilising Linkedin to engage with your connections (who knows they might even be building a local co-working community that you could be part of), or even building a new community yourself through live streaming. During the last year as I was stuck with working from home, my main method of networking is through joining monthly meetings I’ve never attended before that are organised by Federation of Small Businesses and local groups like the digital Lancaster hub Fraser House. This is good to keep updated on the latest news in the region and on who’s doing what. Joining webinars or online summits on topics of your interest also work. With Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Twitch and many other communication apps, there’s no excuse for not being able to interact with new people outside your circle.

2. Read lots of books

Or listen to audiobooks, if you just couldn’t find time to sit and read. I’ve been an audiobook convert since last year and I’m loving it. For as long as I know, I’m a predominantly visual person. This means I absorb information better through seeing and reading. But my current lifestyle which involves lots of screen time means straining my eyes until I feel dizzy. Usually this means my eyes screaming “Overwork!”. I used to do some readings in my Kindle before I slept. While most of the time I got to sleep in no time, there were times when reading just made it worse.

For the past few months, I’ve been listening to audiobooks from Audible with my smartphone as my bedtime companion (imagine having Andy Serkis reading The Hobbit as you try to sleep). So far I’ve completed at least 10 audiobooks. Not only does it let my eyes rest while still enjoying the pleasure of reading a book, I also trained myself to be a good listener (literally). If I missed some parts, I can replay that specific part and all’s not lost.

Reading books exposes us to new insights and thoughts. As we have these inputs, it’ll be easier to get inspired for new ideas. Without inputs from external stimulants like reading books, it’s almost impossible to have that amazing new idea (assuming that there are no other external stimulants).

While Mr. Deguchi said to read lots of books - as books are the author’s life work and reading them means getting to know and understand what the author is saying in an extended time - I’d still combine them with web articles, forums, Wikipedia and other web resources. I’d read web articles for news, an introduction to a new topic, or if I need the information in as little time as possible.

3. (Go out) to explore new and interesting places

Although Mr. Deguchi used the Japanese character of “travel” for his third way, it doesn’t necessarily mean booking the earliest flight to (name of the countries/places you’ve been wanting to visit). He said that it could be as simple as go out to the neighborhood, visit that new bakery you’ve noticed for a while, buy and eat one of the breads. This new information opens up a new pathway in the brain, thus “updating” the brain with new insights.

In the current situation with lockdown and only essential shops opening, this is best done in moderation and wisely. I’m not saying for you to go out just to do this, as I advocate staying at home unless for essential purposes like getting the groceries or doing some brisk walks around my flat’s area according to the lockdown guideline in England. When I do go out to get my groceries (with my face mask on), I like to walk and see what new things are there in the area if it’s along the way.

Alternatively, you could try finding something new to do online and learning more about it. I’m currently looking into Twitch streaming, especially on how to broadcast the livestream with cool overlays like other streamers do and finding out why anyone would be keen to watch someone playing video games. Interestingly, I found out that there are business brands using Twitch for their brand/product awareness. One American fast food chain even streams playing video games and gains followers. I wouldn’t know all of these if I didn’t decide to get involved and find out about something as foreign as Twitch.

Now you’ve seen the 3 ways on how you can increase your creativity and productivity. If you’ve noticed it, the common point among them is to stimulate the brain for the purpose of generating new ideas through new experiences. As long as we know this point, we can creatively use other ways to increase our creativity and productivity.

What’s your way to increase creativity and productivity?

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