Cleese talks about the value of sleeping on a problem and waking to find the answer is apparent. He also described experiences where his "unconscious" continued to work on a sketch when he wasn't consciously aware he was thinking about it. Cleese is describing a phenomenen we call Relaxed Concentration. Relaxed concetration is a mental state that is essential for creative thinking and innovation.
Ever notice that your best ideas come to you at seemingly random times? They hit you when you are in the shower, going for a run, or driving to the store. They rarely come when you've been sitting at your desk for an hour focusing hard on the problem and trying to figure it out. Our most creative ideas require the metaphorical "right brain" thinking that can only happen when we forget about the problem and let our mind wander. As Cleese points out, our subconscious actually continues to mull it over and send signals up to our consciousness until... Eureka! we have a solution.
Cleese also talks about the necessity for creating an oasis or enclosure for the tortoise of creativity; "a shy creature that needs to poke it's head out and see if it's safe to come out and play." In today's Blackberry/Iphone enabled high speed, uber connected, business world we are constantly bombarded with interruptions and distractions. As this New York Times article on multi-tasking suggests, this connectivity comes at the expense of our brain's much needed relaxed concentration time. Cleese suggests that you set aside a designated time and space for creative thinking during which nothing can interrupt your train of thought. Have you created an enclosure where it is safe for your creativity tortoise to poke it's head out and play?
By Chris Dolan, Associate Business Innovationist