Take steps forward in creative thinking – engage your inner toddler

You must also engage your inner charm.

Ask anyone who has any interest in health and wellbeing how many steps you’re ‘supposed’ to take in a day and they’ll tell you 10,000.

Have you ever paced up and down in the hallway or sat watching telly waving your arm about or tied your step-counting device to the dog or to get the steps up to your 10,000 daily goal?

10,000 steps is a nice round number and for many a stretch goal to aim for.

Increasing activity must be a good thing for your health – right?

That’s what I thought until I discovered that the invention of the 10,000 steps goal for an active, healthy lifestyle is completely made up and based on no scientific evidence.

It originated as a marketing campaign for a pedometer just before the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. The pedometer name, Manpo-kei, means 10,000 steps in Japanese. The campaign that encouraged users to walk 10,000 steps a day was so successful that the number has become the definitive goal on today’s fitness trackers and in wellness programmes.

10,000 steps has become ‘how many steps we’re supposed to take.’

I’m not in any way criticising 10,000 steps. I had a goal of 10,000 steps a day (until I started researching this blog).

What’s my point then?

My point is that once something is the ‘norm’ once it’s established as ‘how we do things’ it can be difficult to think differently or challenge it.

And in the case of 10,000 steps it wasn’t until much later that there was any research into what the optimum about of steps a day might be. One piece of research conducted in 2019 and shared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, tracked daily steps of 17,000 older women. They found that as the number of daily steps increased, the all-cause mortality rate decreased until 7,500 steps. In other words, 7,500 is the lowest number of steps with the highest level of health benefits, making it an ideal daily goal.

According to this research there are no health benefits to walking more than 7,500 steps a day. Any step count above that, including the 10,000-step goal, has roughly the same health outcomes.

Remember to ask ‘why?’

Creativity and innovation are fundamentally about solving problems. Often this means remembering to challenge the accepted norms and current ways of thinking by asking ‘why?’ more.

Did we just accept 10,000 steps was the optimum for over 50 years because a marketing campaign told us? If we’d asked ‘why?’ sooner might people today be tackling a 7,500-step target which is more achievable for more people and therefore have a bigger impact on a population’s overall health?

As technology evolves, more research becomes available, and our knowledge increases how we see the world can change and ‘how we do things here’ can change. For example, along the theme of health and fitness just look at some of the weird eating advice for weight loss over the years!

If you want to improve your creativity and problem-solving skills, which are becoming increasingly more important in today’s workplace, don’t take anything to be ‘the norm’ or ‘how we do things here’.

The trick is to engage your inner toddler and ask ‘why?’ more. What assumptions is your organisation making that if questioned could lead to better outcomes, for example, greater productivity, serving customers better or improving employee motivation? What systems, processes or ways of doing things might be improved?

You must also engage your inner charm, so when you ask ‘why?’ it lands as an interested ‘why?’ that opens up discussion not a stroppy disagreeable one that has the opposite impact!

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