Creativity and innovation can be tricky things. Understanding the "how" of both can feel challenging to get your arms around, yet instinctively you know the results when you see them. Richard Tait exemplifies creativity and innovative results like few others. And embracing his simple practice just might be the start of taking a walk in his creative shoes. But first, who the heck is Richard Tait?
On rare occasion we know an innovator by name--Elon Musk or Arianna Huffington, for example. But most we know not by name but by their creations. In Richard's case that began with the founding or co-founding 12 different businesses in less than a decade at Microsoft, including notable successes like Expedia and Carpoint.
After Microsoft came the creation Richard is perhaps best known for: Cranium, the company that revived and revolutionized the board game market, including how and where board games were sold (its games were among the first non-food items sold in Starbucks coffee shops). Since selling Cranium to toy giant Hasbro, Richard's creative touch has extended from the founding of an innovation lab, to advising Starbucks about how to foster a culture of innovation as their entrepreneur is residence.
It's a wonderful portfolio by almost any measure. But where do all these creative ideas come from? Years ago I asked Richard that very question, and his answer was more than a little bit surprising: "It has a lot to do with how I go to lunch."
The Power Lunch Redefined
It wasn't a flip comment. Richard was serious. How he went to lunch was his way of creating a deliberate pause - a conscious moment, no matter how brief or seemingly inconsequential, in which you leave yourself some space. Openness lies in that space, as does the opportunity to question. And through such things we see the new and the possible, in other words, the pause is where we discover those seedling ideas that fuel the breakthrough innovations that comes much later on. None of those future outcomes are planned way back at the beginning when we choose to pause.
In the beginning they're not only unknowable, they're irrelevant. It's the pausing itself, no matter the form, and the habit of deliberately taking the pause that matter most. For Richard Tait that pause came through how he chose to go to lunch. And by taking a look at Richard's lunch pattern, we can see how its components could be catalytic.
3 Key Components of a Deliberate Pause
Get out. For Richard, going to lunch was a simple action with three parts. Part one was decidedly even deceivingly unassuming: each day he went 'out' to lunch. Nothing fancy per se, he just went out. Out of the office. Out of the familiar. Out of the routine, and thus briefly out of his current mindset, something that can quietly but powerfully take hold of any of us and narrow our view, even in the few hours of work before lunchtime.
Change your ways. Then he went one better with part two - every day when Richard headed out to lunch, he walked a different route. It may at first sound like a hassle, but it wasn't. One day it might have meant taking 1st Street to the deli when the day before he took 3rd Street. Sometimes he'd try a new neighborhood and new eateries altogether. There were even busy days when his route change was as seemingly inconsequential as walking counterclockwise around the fountain in the park instead of the clockwise direction he normally walked. Regardless, he shifted his body in a new direction and shifted his mind away from routine.
Pursue the new. And then there was part 3--no matter where his lunch travels took him, Richard always engaged someone and always did so with some element of "new" in the mix. What qualified? If the person he engaged was an old friend or a work colleague, he might ask them an unexpected question. The new could come in the form of engaging a complete stranger, perhaps the person in front of him in the deli line that he'd otherwise avoid but instead said, "Wow, have you ever seen the line this long?" The action wasn't complicated it was just new.
What was the significance of all this tiny disruption of the daily routine? That was it exactly--he was disrupting the daily routine, scratching the record, turning the kaleidoscope one tiny twist to change the view.
The act--be it going to lunch in a different way, or something completely different that better suits your own world - is most often completely inconsequential, and that is exactly why its consequences are so profound. It's small enough not to throw your entire world off kilter, making it little enough to keep the act from becoming a hurdle or an inconvenience too easily dismissed. Repeated each day, it becomes a habit - a habit of tilting one's head sideways for a new view, or asking a question aloud instead of leaving it silent in your head or unasked. , It's just being open in the tiniest crack-of-the-door way that makes you suddenly aware of the world on the other side.
Want to be more creative? Think of Richard Tait's walk and follow the path to find your own pause.