Why the ability to solve problems is more important than having a right answer

When I was 8 years old I knew all the flags of the world. When I was 16 I knew about Pythagoras theorem and when I was 21 I knew how Nylon was made.

Whilst flags, Pythagoras and Nylon are all interesting to a degree, I’m not sure how genuinely useful any of those topics have really been in my career. I learned about them to pass exams. I crammed the information in order to regurgitate it and get as many questions right as I could. Then I forgot it all. My schools and Universities could tick a box though. If enough of us remembered enough facts it meant they got better ratings, which meant more students and more money in subsequent years.

Throughout education I remember being rewarded for getting things right. And I learned this young. At an early age I figured out that asking challenging questions, thinking differently or being a maverick didn’t make me popular with teachers, so over time I stopped.

Then when we start work we are given key performance indicators and objectives. As adults working for an organisation we are measured and judged on how we conform to a set of pre-defined objectives. These are just the grown up versions of getting rewarded for getting things right passing tests, and ticking boxes.

So it’s no wonder that so many organisations struggle to be successful at innovation. Learning to pass exams rather than learning to think for ourselves discourages innovation from an early age, and lets not underestimate the impact that our early years experiences have on our adult behaviour.

Innovation isn’t about confirming to a set of rules or learning about how things have always been done. It’s about thinking differently, responding to change and solving problems. I’m not saying that it’s not important to learn from history and the great discoveries that have gone before us, but if we are not mindful, we may end up focusing on the events of the past and miss the real lessons of the innovators experiences; of questioning the status quo, learning from the present and not giving up when others said it was impossible.

And the real life lessons that we experience are really important in a world that is changing faster than ever before and will never move so slowly again. It’s unlikely that anyone entering the workforce today will have the same job in ten years time. *One estimate suggests that 65% of children starting primary school today will end up working in jobs that currently don’t even exist.

Right now we need our innovation and creativity skills more than ever before.

We’ve been forced to change radically in 2020. Many of us have already adapted to working from home or adjusted into new roles. We’ve stayed connected, and many people have been even more connected while remaining socially distanced. Parents have adapted to teach their kids (and many kids have adapted to teach their parents)!

Human beings are good at creativity, innovation and adapting, but we’re not used to having to adapt so quickly in a highly stressful situation and for a sustained period of time. The adrenalin needed to respond to a crisis exhausts us and we run out of steam. Gary Gower talks about it in his recent blog about getting past the 6-month wall.

When we’re stressed, anxious or out of steam our ability to think creatively is diminished.

When we feel stressed, it’s common to experience ‘brain fog’ – that feeling of not being able to think straight. When we’re out of steam we can lack the ability to focus or concentrate on anything properly. When we’re anxious we can make quick and ill thought through decisions or procrastinate so much that we do nothing at all.

This is because when we’re feeling stressed or anxious our basic survival instincts kick in and our bodies go into fight, flight or freeze mode. This makes it very difficult to access the creative thinking parts of our brains needed to solve problems effectively.

We are all creative and according to research, to think creatively we simply need to be in a relaxed or playful mindset. That’s why many people have their best ideas in the shower, walking the dog or in the pub. Ideas flow when we’re relaxed.

There’s no relaxation or playfulness when we’re operating in fight, flight or freeze mode. So in a crisis it can be hard to think creatively and solve problems, despite knowing that in a crisis is the time when we need these skills the most.

Being able to solve problems is a very important skill right now. That’s why I’ve joined forces with leadership coach Charly White.

Charly specialises in helping leaders and teams build their resilience and wellbeing. I work with teams to help them think creatively to solve problems. Between us we’ll provide you with the tools to lower your stress and anxiety levels, getting you ready to play with practical tools to build your creativity and problem solving skills.

Join us on 22 October. For more information and sign up here. (Hurry – the early bird ends at midnight on Friday 16 October) 

Get out in nature for good health and resilience

A guest blog by Ellen Fineran.

I regard spending time in nature as one of my top priorities for feeling good about myself and staying resilient. That’s been even more relevant since the COVID-19 restrictions.

I grew up as a pretty feral child of the 1970s but then a career in the motor trade with long hours and a daily commute, combined with being a single parent, left little time for nurturing my soul through nature.

It wasn’t that nature wasn’t still all around me; more that I tended to ignore it and didn’t see its importance in my daily life. Then, in my early forties, I began working for Derbyshire Wildlife Trust as Head of Commercial Development. Being around so many people who were passionate about our beautiful wild spaces reawakened my need to connect with nature and I now feel the healthiest and happiest I’ve been throughout my adult life.

And don’t just take my word for it – there is plenty of evidence that the natural world is the foundation of our health, wellbeing and prosperity. So if you’d like to feel the benefits of exploring the nature that’s on your doorstep, here are my top tips:

Don’t be scared – you don’t need any PPE or specialist skills to get out into nature. Find a local park or green space near your home where you can social distance from others, take a stroll and enjoy exploring. Personally I love spotting a Public Footpath and seeing where it leads to!

Really notice – nature is everywhere, no matter where you live, and very often we just don’t see it. Listen to the blackbird singing on the neighbour’s roof or notice the wild flowers growing on the roadside verges. I love to watch the seasons change and I enjoy the different colours, textures and sounds that each season brings.

Nature can alter your mood – find a space somewhere green to stop, sit and think. Take deep, conscious breaths and use all of your senses to experience it. If you can let yourself relax into this, it really will empty your mind and give you a new perspective on things.

You don’t need to be a wildlife expert – I don’t care that I don’t know the calls of all the birds or the names of the plants, but I know that I love the sound of birdsong and I take joy in looking at lush green leaves. As humans, we have a natural curiosity to understand everything around us (which is great if that’s your thing) but needing to know can take the joy out of simply enjoying nature and wildlife and feeling connected with it. So be blissful in your ignorance and enjoy the moment.

Build being in nature into your daily routine – make daily choices which bring you closer to nature. For me, that was getting a dog and taking a morning walk before work. If that’s not for you, find your thing. For example, you might take a stroll with a friend at lunchtime or have your post-work glass of wine in the garden.

Have fun – I love taking part in The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild each year in June and it starts next week! The idea is to carry out a simple and fun Random Act of Wildness every day throughout June and share it with your friends on social media. It can be anything from spotting a bee in a flower to having a cuppa in the sunshine.

And finally, my best advice really is to just get out there and enjoy the natural world around you. Wherever you live, whether that’s in a city, the countryside or somewhere in-between, exploring the nature on your doorstep will help you stay healthy and resilient in these difficult times. I know that the days when I’ve started off with a mindful morning walk across the fields are the days where I feel energised and productive and ready to take on this crazy world.

Ellen Fineran is Head of Commercial Development at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, a member of the Lucidity Network and in her spare time she can be found baking amazing cakes and exploring the countryside with her dog Beano.

Here’s your link to take part in 30 Days Wild and get your free pack of goodies to help you to plan your wild month. We’re looking forward to seeing what you get up to.

The amazing benefit of hiking on your health, happiness and productivity

A guest blog by Tim Fox.

It is easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day life and to fall into a sort of routine. We wake up, we go to our jobs, and we come home. Now and again, we’ll maybe go out and have a drink with friends or something. It is a proven fact that humans are creatures of habit, and falling into a routine is just a regular aspect of life.

But what if I told you that making a small change to your regular routine, can have a phenomenal impact on your health, happiness, and productivity? You might even be surprised to know that it’s something simple. The answer is hiking. Taking hikes, even small ones can have wondrous health benefits! Let us tell you more about it.

  1. Vitamin D

There are so many health benefits that come, just from being outdoors. Being outside means we get to soak up vitamin D, which is a necessary nutrient that we need to be healthy. When we are out in the sun, this nutrient is naturally and readily available. This is important to know because vitamin D occurs very rarely in foods. We can always take vitamins or supplements, but nothing beats soaking up that natural sunshine.

Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium better, which means stronger bones and healthy bone growth. More important still, deficiency of this nutrient has been linked to various cancers and even depression. If that alone isn’t reason enough to get more sunshine, then I don’t know what is!

  1. Decompress and Relax

Another wonderful thing that hiking and nature do is it helps to decompress and relax naturally. The science behind it isn’t exact, but many scientists say that it simply has a positive, psychological, effect on us. Taking some time for the outdoors can decrease stress, boost creativity, and improve mental clarity.

Many tests have even shown that it even lowers blood pressure. Our jobs can be hectic, our lives can be busy, but disconnecting from all that now and again and enjoying nature, can be very beneficial for both our mental and physical health.

  1. Endorphins

When it comes to the outdoors, nobody can argue that hiking is one of the best activities you can do. Not only are you getting that healthy sunshine and the relaxation that comes with being outside, but you are also getting exercise too, which is also very beneficial for your health.

Exercising gives us endorphins. Endorphins interact with receptors in your brain that can give us a feeling of positivity. These endorphins can also reduce stress, help keep us healthy, and also help us to lose weight. When you combined these endorphins with nature’s natural ability also to boost mood and mind, you get the ultimate combination of both health and happiness boosters.

    4. Experiences

Hiking also has some other wonderful experiences too! Apart from being very healthy and relaxing, it can also be fun and engaging. There is so much to do on a hike. You can take pictures and capture the beauty of the outdoors, you can bird watch, or you can take in all of the lovely flora and fauna in the area. Stop and smell the roses.

This is what makes hiking one of the best activities that you can do! It keeps you healthy, boosts your mood, is fun, and the creativity boost you get will make your day easier and feel so much less stressful. You don’t even have to hike a lot. Life is busy, and we all know this. Even a short ten- or fifteen-minute hike through a park can have more health benefits for you than you realize.

  1. The Colour Green

Another interesting tidbit about hiking and nature deals with the colour green. Perhaps this colour also has something to do with nature’s phycological effect on us. An interesting study at the University of Essex concluded that being around the colour green actually made people feel lower exertion during exercise and also reported fewer mood disturbances too.

The people who exercised around different colors did not feel the same way. So perhaps there is something about the colour green that has just a little bit of magic on our psyches.

Conclusion

Even if you can only spare a couple of hours a day, you should engage in hiking outside. Hiking will provide you with peace of mind and keep you healthy. But before you go hiking don’t forget to take few essentials especially water and best hydration bladder to keep you hydrated. Based on the evidence and from those who spend time outdoors, it is a wonderful way to stay healthy, happy, and get a creative boost that you won’t find anywhere else.

Since the age of 10, Tim, a writer at Outdoor With J, has enjoyed camping in the great outdoors. Although he loves the peace and quiet of the outdoors, he also likes his creature comforts. Tim’s mission is to make camping a fun and comfortable experience for all.