Running a company


Every day in the life of a startup involves creativity. Creativity, followed by an intense period of action, reflection, and probably a little more creativity.

Unfortunately, ‘doing’ and ‘thinking’ require two quite different mindsets. It can often be quite difficult to switch between them. Getting stuff done require focus, no distractions and a swift attitude toward decisions. Creativity and original thought by contrast requires space, time and the freedom to be wrong.

At DrDoctor we have started holding our board meetings offsite, somewhere neutral and starting them with lunch. We found this led to freer thinking and a much more interesting session. I’m certain we’re not the first to find the value of taking ideas somewhere new and giving them time to brew.

John Cleese gave an excellent talk on why this works. He describes two mental states; the ‘closed’ and ‘open’ modes. The first, a place for doing, and the second a sanctuary for creativity.

He explains the five steps required to get into the open mode.

  • Space to think without distraction
  • Time to let one’s mind decompress
  • Time to let ideas grow (and not just jump at the first ‘right’ answer)
  • Confidence and trust in yourself and the others around you to support even the craziest suggestion (for the process is better with others to bounce ideas off)
  • Finally, most importantly, humour. One must fool around and play with ideas.

For me, this was a light bulb moment to why our offsite board meetings are so much better. Lunch gives us time to decompress and relax and stepping out of the office, away from our laptops lets us forget our to-do list and play with bigger ideas.

Cleese goes on to say businesses often confuse seriousness with solemnity. Often the most serious situations require creative thought and therefore a good slice of humour can go a long way to solving a vexing problem. To him, solemnity is no use at all. I agree.

Cross posted from Toms Blog