We had a small walnut tree in our back yard. I guess the squirrels loved the nuts, because we never got very many of them. Finally the tree just died. My husband carefully saved all of the pieces and made beautiful handles for things—knives, axes, hammers. They would just show up under the Christmas tree as exquisite gifts for several years. He also made several walking sticks and finally an elegant highly polished sculpture for me this year, I guess from the trunk. It was like “the giving tree.” Never hugely noticeable in its life, the tree had been gracious and generous in its death.
Just when I thought all the gifts from the tree and my creative husband were finished, this week Richard dug up the root of the tree, which was rather remarkably big. He couldn’t get it all, because a piece of it had already made its way under the fence and into the neighbor’s yard. I wondered if they mightn’t have been willing for him to get it, but he said he had already poured concrete over it to make the foundation for the fence he is building. So, no.
So now he has taken several pictures of that big root and he studies it on his computer to see what he might do with it. He looks at it from different angles, perspectives; considers different opportunities for it. What a shame we as leaders don’t get to consider our problems from so many perspectives. He can do anything with that root. All possibilities are open. Base for a table. Another sculpture. Base for a lamp. A bowl, a dish, a clock. He wanders back by the computer screen and investigates it again and again, patiently, like a predator gaining on its prey.
What a blessing it would be if we had time to examine our colleagues and our clients with such consideration. Everyone and everything is in much too much a hurry. No time to come back and look again. Decisions must be made. Projects must be planned. People must be assigned. Budgets must be developed.
Such a hurry and rush approach does limit us, though. It’s hard to do really creative things without giving our “right brains” time to work. Our right brains are very efficient, but they do not operate in a linear fashion like our left brains. We must have some time available so we can come back to something patiently, consider it over time. Put it up on our computer screen and look at it casually as we walk by. Like a stealthy predator: “I don’t see you. You’re safe over there.” And all the time our minds are working. All the time, we’re gaining on it.
The wonderful thing about the way the right brain works is that we do not have to be conscious of what it’s doing for it to be effective. We can be deeply involved in other things. We have all experienced an “aha!” while we were showering, driving the interstate, or drifting off to sleep.
Good creative leadership allows such thought processes, and is ready to take advantage of them. We must acknowledge the efficacy of such workings of our brains and be ready to claim the harvest. We must find ways to inspire such thinking. Sometimes “sleeping on it” really is the best idea.