The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization? is written by Brad Rencher, EVP and general manager of digital marketing at Adobe.
At Adobe, we’re in the business of creativity and data, but like any other organization, we’re constantly looking at how to foster that next ingenious idea and encourage creative thinking. Between travel, meetings and hectic work schedules, I’m a firm believer that work-life balance and accounting for downtime for our brains can be a big factor in driving creativity. This means getting people’s minds off their ever-growing to-do list and enjoying the things they love — not only after hours but during the workday.
I’m fortunate that overseeing Adobe’s digital marketing business out of our Lehi office grants me constant access to breathtaking, mountainous terrain. I’m an avid cyclist, both inside and outside the workplace, as are many of my colleagues, and I’ll argue it can’t get much better than cycling in Utah. Beyond the health benefits of exercise, cycling can foster creativity and collaboration. Let me explain. I schedule over two meetings each month with my team that are literally out of the boardroom; these are meetings held on bicycles where we can all take a deep breath, enjoy the surrounding beauty, and take a break from thinking about our heavy workload and tasks. These rides encourage creative thinking and also foster camaraderie as we encourage each other up a rigorous climb. Numerous employees and executives have told me that they literally count down the minutes until their next cycling meeting.
During our cycling meetings we’ve come up with more ideas than I can count. These ideas range from our focus on experience-led business, new product innovations, and creative ways to engage with customer prospects. It was on one of the organized rides with employees that the idea of the Adobe Cycling Club originated, of which I’m the executive sponsor, with over 400 employees participating. We’re working to raise $515,000 for cancer research in an upcoming Can4Cancer Tour, so our rides do even more than spur creativity and collaboration; they’re contributing to a bigger cause.
I also conduct meetings with clients and partners on the bike for the same reasons I do with employees — to foster creativity and strengthen relationships. Executives from The Weather Channel, Razorfish, HUGE, and Isobar are just a few of the executives who I’ve held cycling meetings with. And bikes aren’t required for every single outdoor meeting. For colleagues who don’t ride, we also conduct meetings outside — well when it’s not winter that is — so we’re not confined to four walls physically or mentally. The beauty and fresh air open the mind, and helps spur idea generation and creativity.
So my best advice to you is to think outside the boardroom, and (figuratively and literally) get people outside. Employee downtime — both planned and ad hoc — unleashes creativity and reinforces that you care about their wellbeing. When people feel valued, they’ll be more engaged.