Those who wish they could go home after work to get back to their hobbies, might just see a way to bring the dynamics of their hobbies into work – which will benefit both their performance and organisation, writes Dave Hanna

Age-old advice for a person who is overstressed on the job and whose performance is slipping is to “take some time off and regroup.”

Research in recent years is pointing us in a different direction, one that is just as therapeutic and raises performance far better than merely “taking time off.” This new direction? Spend time often in creative hobbies.

What the research says
One study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology surveyed 341 employees about what they do during downtime, how creative they are at work, and how well they support their employer and co-workers. The researchers concluded that people who regularly engage in creative hobbies outside of work feel more relaxed and in control in their off hours. (The research subjects defined “creative hobbies” any way they wished). The regular hobbyists were more likely to be helpful to co-workers and creative in their approach to solving work problems than those who spent little time with hobbies. The regular hobbyists also had a 15% to 30% edge over others when it came to performance rankings.

These findings reinforce the sentiment expressed by Joyce Maxfield, a wise neighbour and friend, who said, “A change is as good as a rest.”

Links to on-the-job performance
Studies are underway to understand some of the causal factors between creative hobbies and better on-the-job performance. One possible explanation is the work of Dr. Edward de Bono, who first expressed the concept of “lateral thinking.” Lateral thinking is the solving of problems indirectly and creatively through viewing the problem in a new and unusual light. Dr. de Bono’s approach fits well with one definition of creativity: looking at one thing and seeing another.

“People often become very passionate about their hobby experiences. Such passion can be the creative spark that drives breakthrough innovations at work”

For example, we could try generating new ideas for improving our profitability by turning things upside down. Instead of focusing on the bottom line, what if we tried to think of many possibilities on the top line to grow profits, such as accelerating the introduction of new products already in the pipeline or more intensely connecting with our customers to discover important unmet needs? This idea would resonate with any team members who were gardeners. They understand you have to plant seeds before you can grow anything.

The link to team performance
What if, instead of trying to downsize staff to meet our budget commitments, we chose, instead, to expand the number of current associates who contribute practical cost-cutting ideas? Any sports enthusiast knows strong teamwork is superior to the best disconnected individual efforts.

The word “connection” captures the magic between hobbies and work performance. People often become very passionate about their hobby experiences. Such passion can be the creative spark that drives breakthrough innovations at work.

Those who wish they could go home after work to get back to their hobbies, might just see a way to bring the dynamics of their hobbies into work. Their passion would enable them to overcome challenges and obstacles to the new idea just as passion keeps runners running toward the finish line or gardeners weeding to the end of a row.

High performers are very passionate about their work and they, too, persevere until they find a way to reach their goals.

Applying hobby passions to business
Here are examples of “looking” at one thing and “seeing” another:

  • Equestrian: Pat and Linda Parelli, proponents of “natural horsemanship” for 30 years in the U.S., Australia, and other countries, teach, “A horse doesn’t care how much you know until he knows how much you care.” (Could you apply this dictum to build more productive relationships at work?)
  • Art: Artist Kimbal Warren says, “Without understanding one’s self, one cannot create. My art reveals how I think, feel, see, understand, and even experience life. The art process requires true awareness of one’s surroundings. Painting is a constant and spiritual development of problem solving.” (How creative would your performance be if it reflected your inner self–your best thoughts, deepest feelings, highest vision, and most memorable experiences?)
  • Jogging: Profound thoughts often enter the minds of joggers while they run. (What creative connections might come to you about work challenges/dilemmas if you ponder these while jogging?)
  • Volunteering: People experience a strong sense of good will and comradery through volunteering. (Could you build team cohesion by doing a community service project together?)
  • Choreography: Organising a dance routine requires designing sequences of steps and movements. (How might you “choreograph” the many elements that have to come together in moving to a more productive culture?)

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