How This Olympic Sport Can Boost Creative Thinking
This story originally appeared as a contributed piece in Fortune.
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 billion-dollar 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 several meetings a 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 comradery as we encourage each other up a rigorous climb or share the workload of pacelining (for those who don’t cycle, picture the perfect lines of cyclers you see during the Tour de France; when done properly it can increase riders’ efficiency up to 30 percent). Numerous employees and executives have told me how much they look forward to 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. In fact the idea of a cycling engagement app that we’re launching at our annual digital marketing conference in Las Vegas in March, Adobe Summit, was conceived while on numerous rides with fellow Adobe executives. This cycling app is focused on engaging the corporate cycling community – beyond Adobe – offering personalized experiences, ride data, curated content and even a forum for executives to share business challenges and creative ways they’re going about digital transformations for their companies. I’m ecstatic about this because we’re expanding the concept of cycling to encourage creative thinking beyond Adobe!
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, and is now 400+ employees strong. We’re working to raise $515,000 for cancer research in a recent 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, Isobar and more are among those I hold 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, fresh air and openness opens the mind, and helps spur idea generation and creativity.
My advice to you as a fellow executive? Think outside the boardroom, 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.