From challenge to change: why now is the time to stop furnishing your homes and start furnishing your minds

‘From challenge to change’ is a philosophy-at-work series, helping people think better and do better. Author: Nick Myers, planning partner at OLIVER.

an image of a colorful light bulb

Us humans don’t hibernate, but lockdown is as close as it gets. Like bears leaving our caves we’re now having to emerge into the great outdoors: flabbier, groggier, hungrier. (Or is that just me?)

While life’s been on pause, we’ve been starved of the experiences necessary to create well-furnished minds. It’s not that we’ve been lazy, it’s just between endless Zoom calls we’ve not had the time. And, when we did get a moment to think there was no theatre, no cinema, no eateries, and peers around us. It’s been a time of mental malnourishment, a fast of the mind.

This isn’t just bad for us, it’s bad for our clients and their business. We need a rich diet of experiences in order to have the kind of ideas that will lead to breakthrough creative and business solutions. It is only through a well-furnished mind that we’ll be able to create work that’s culturally relevant and far removed from the ‘world of marketing’, that so many campaigns seem to occupy. But, during the past year there’s been a drought of the experiences necessary to feed the mind. And the effect is a dearth of original thinking.

This is actually an opportunity.

Spending just a few more minutes a day to furnish your mind will set you apart from your peers and rivals, and mean you’re better equipped to help your clients as they emerge from the pandemic. The thing is, most of us know what we ought to do, it’s just we don’t. But I’d say if you’re too busy to furnish your mind, you’re too busy.

Here are some tips for ensuring your mind is well-furnished whether you’ve continuing to work-from-home or heading back to the office.

Meet with yourself

If back-to-back meetings are robbing you of time, schedule a few meetings in the week with yourself. Don’t just do them as a one-off either, lock them in as a recurring opportunity to furnish your mind.

Watch what you hate

Social media has us bound in echo chambers of our own making. Break-out of this by reading something you hate or otherwise wouldn’t. Doing this doesn’t just furnish the mind but can help build the empathy required for being a good marketer.

Follow broadly, cull mercilessly

Constantly seek out new and interesting people to follow on social media and email. I would recommend the Farnam Street Blog for their book recommendations, Neil Perkin’s Only Dead Fish for his curation of the best blogs, and MIT’s The Download for a daily dose of what’s hot in emerging technology. However, don’t limit yourself to our industry, go broader. The trick is then to cull mercilessly. Two crappy emails and unsubscribe. If someone’s Twitter feed isn’t adding value ditch it. The result is a fresh flow of brain-food without being overwhelmed by spam.

Tap into the hive mind

Don’t go it alone. Get your team on board. My own team run a shared space on Teams, we share what we’ve been reading, and with one client the first couple of minutes of any meeting is given to talking about what we’ve all been watching on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Finally, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have time to do a lot of mental furnishing. As any IKEA shopper will tell you small touches done regularly make a difference. Just do what you can, and don’t worry about what you can’t. But commit to creating a well-furnished mind. It will benefit your clients and your career.