Mining People Matters

Steve Heather

Steve Heather, Managing Director and Co-founder of Mining People International (MPi).

True innovation is more than just shrinking and slashing!

True innovation is more than just shrinking and slashing!

It seems every business improvement guru is telling the mining industry to innovate, create, solve and brainstorm its way to a more productive industry. Our world of recruitment, search and labour hire is no different. It is being turned on its head by a literal tidal wave of new technologies, all requiring often complex research, product assessment and implementation.

I truly get that we need to do it and can see that our business will be far more productive and efficient.  Awesome in fact! However, despite being told “what” I should be doing, I’m rarely given any advice as to “how” to do this mission critical thing and so I thought some ideas I recently came across might help.

Firstly, there needs to be acceptance that real innovation isn’t simply about cutting things out, or reducing. True innovation is often talked about as requiring a kind of parallel thinking.

The issue today though, is how do we create the environment or “space”, where true creative thinking can occur and where ideas (and problems) can be allowed to flow in and then be followed, often randomly, to a natural conclusion?

One thing seems certain. A world where the eyes (and therefore the mind, to which they are connected) flick back and forth to the flashing light of a smartphone, warning us of the arrival of yet another communication, of no doubt epic importance – ain’t it!

I’m finding the avalanche of such communications are now reaching such a level, that they  actually start to numb the brain and shutdown creative thinking completely.

Bob Dylan, once accepted as one of the worlds most gifted musical poets believed that creativity was about accepting all the unconscious thoughts that enter the mind and then controlling them. I recently read an interview he did with Paul Zollo for Zollo’s bookSongwriters on Songwriting

Bob DylanFirst of all, there’s two kinds of thoughts in your mind: there’s good thoughts and evil thoughts. Both come through your mind … You must get rid of all that baggage. You ought to be able to sort out those thoughts, because they don’t mean anything, they’re just pulling you around, too. It’s important to get rid of them thoughts. Then you can do something from some kind of surveillance of the situation. You have some kind of place where you can see it but it can’t affect you.”

Everyone can do this, but it has to start with the recognition that for most people processing the clutter so as to achieve a ‘Dylan-esque’ clarity, wont be achieved from inside the same environment that created the problem or situation in the first place.

Airplanes can provide such an environment, so try not to fill your flight time with more data processing type work. Rather, collect some of your more important tasks, that require a bit of creativity and spend those smartphone free hours letting the mind wander and follow ideas.

For others, a walk in the park or a run will do it, while for others, a solo drink at a quiet bar is their place.

Another great book on the subject Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work: How Artists Work by Mason Currey lists six key rules;

  • Be a morning person
    Very early risers form a clear majority of history’s most creative minds, including everyone from Mozart to Georgia O’Keeffe to Frank Lloyd Wright. The crucial trick is to get up at the same time every day.
  • Don’t give up the day job
    TS Eliot’s day job at Lloyds bank gave him crucial financial security. Kafka crammed in his writing between 10.30pm and the small hours of the morning; by day he worked in an insurance office. Limited time focuses the mind and the self-discipline required to show up for a job seeps back into the processes of art.
  • Take lots of walks
    Walking – especially walking in natural settings, or just lingering amid greenery – is associated with increased productivity and proficiency of creative tasks. The ubiquity of walking, especially in the daily routines of composers, includes Beethoven, Mahler, Erik Satie and Tchaikovsky.
  • Stick to a schedule
    Patricia Highsmith ate virtually the same thing for every meal, in her case bacon and fried eggs. Ritual-wise, Le Corbusier was up at 6am for his 45 minutes of daily calisthenics, and Immanuel Kant had neighbors in Königsberg who could set their clocks by his 3.30pm walk. Iron regularity is the rule. The alternative to a rigid structure is the existential terror of no structure at all.
  • Coffee
    The only substance that has been championed down the centuries is coffee. Beethoven measured out his beans, Kierkegaard poured black coffee over a cup full of sugar, then gulped down the resulting concoction, which had the consistency of mud; Balzac drank 50 cups a day. Consume in moderation.
  • Learn to work anywhere
    Agatha Christie didn’t have a desk. Any stable tabletop for her typewriter would do. During Jane Austen’s years at Chawton in Hampshire in the 1810s, she wrote mainly in the family sitting-room, often with her mother sewing nearby. Continually interrupted by visitors, she wrote on scraps of paper that could easily be hidden away. The perfect workspace isn’t what leads to brilliant work, just as no other “perfect” routine will turn you into an artistic genius.

However you do it, recognise that creating the space will probably require some commitment and discipline and mastery of the natural desire to constantly scan the inbox.

Good luck.