March 27, 2014 | Elise Schafer

Dreaming for Innovation

Think outside of the box to solve your business’s problems

Dreaming for Innovation

Yawn ... stretch ... a-hem (clears throat). I’ve just woken up from a nap. No, I’m not resting for lack of work. This was a special sort of nap. I’m experimenting with what the authors of this issue’s Manager’s Notebook wrote about in their column, “Become a Better Manager with Creativity, Innovation.” They describe how inventor Thomas Edison would maximize his productivity by briefly falling asleep.

Edison utilized what is called hypna­gogia. “The state [actually a variety of states] that can be experienced as we hang onto consciousness while moving toward sleep,” wrote Foltz and Wilson.

We’ve all been there, unintentionally, in the wee hours of the morning — some call it lucid dreaming — when suddenly a new idea pops into your mind. It aids in problem solving because this “emotional and cognitive wandering can be gently guided, as Edison did, or left open to go where it wants to go. Guided wandering has the benefit of keeping a topic of our interest in mind so we can observe it from new angles to learn new things.”

Edison employed some complicated methods, using specialized tools to make sure he didn’t fall into a deep sleep during his upright, seated naps. You can read about this and follow those directions — if you happen to have few metal ball bearings and steel plates lying around — or you could employ one of the other methods outlined in Manager’s Notebook to make sure your “brief nap” indeed stays brief.

Before my nap I tried to think about solving some of the problems facing the feed and grain industry: transportation and logistics issues, grain quality prob­lems, safety concerns, overstepping regu­lations and the still unpassed Farm Bill. And in my state of drowsiness, I began to realize that some folks in the industry seemed to have already benefited from some productive sleep.

For example, our Safety First feature describes how the American Society of Biological Engineers (ASABE) is taking a closer look at some innovative ways to solve one of the indus­try’s biggest safety problems: grain bin entrapment. From new design parameters that make it easier to use safety harnesses inside bins to making warning signage recommendations, the ASABE commit­tee is dedicated to finding new ways to make bins safer.

Despite sounding somewhat crazy and inappropriate for work, isn’t it worth a shot to try a creative new way of think­ing if the payoff could be higher profit margins, a more streamlined production process or a new training program?

Whether or not you use a napping technique to creatively solve problems, I do challenge you to think outside of the box in overcoming your business’s next hurdle. Why not enjoy the benefits of rest and relaxation while you’re at it?

Elise Schafer | Editor, Feed & Grain

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