Walking And Talking: A Simple Route To Creative Thinking

How can you increase your productivity? Stop everything and go for a stroll.

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How can you increase your productivity? Stop everything and go for a stroll.


Walking And Talking: A Simple Route To Creative Thinking

How can you increase your productivity? Stop everything and go for a stroll.

Share this article

Michael Burnett, author of ‘Walks in and Around Dolgellow Town’ in Snowdonia, states that during the walks, “there are a series of revelations. These moments of discovery are mind-cleansing. They focus you. Give you that moment of clarity you need to make those important decisions”.

Well, that was certainly the case for Theresa May, when she shocked the nation with her announcement of a snap election that she seemingly decided upon following her Easter break, walking with her husband around said town of Dolgellow! Not a bad testimonial for Mr Burnett!

Angela Merkel is also a keen walker (apparently they give each other walking books at birthday presents). So if walking works for two of our most influential world leaders then maybe we should take a leaf out of their book, or at least follow in their footsteps and see what a good walk can do for us!

Since at least the time of Greek philosophers, many have discovered the deep, intuitive connection between walking and thinking. Aristotles followers (who used to literally follow him around as he walked) were known as Peripatetics, which is the Greek word for meandering.

Dickens used to write from 9am till 2pm and then go for a walk: 20-30 miles a day were routine for him. An academic has calculated that William Wordsworth walked as many as 180,000 miles in his life, that’s an average of 6.5 miles a day from the age of 5.

Steve Jobs became famous for his walking meetings. He said they allowed him to concentrate on the meeting and nothing else. You would not want a ‘fitbit’ challenge with any of that lot!

But why have and why do so many people find walking such a rewarding way to process, gain clarity and have ideas? Well, it starts with simple chemistry. When we walk, the heart pumps faster which circulates more blood and therefore oxygen to our muscles, organs and importantly to our brains.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs: liked a good walk

More oxygen to the brain the better it works…it’s not rocket science. Which reminds me, Albert Einstein was another fan. He often took a long walk on the beach to introspect and work out complex problems in his head.

Recent research proves that even during mild exercise, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Not only that but the health benefits mean that we promote new connections between brain cells and delay the inevitable ‘brain rot’ that hits us all at some point.

Stay fit and you’ll stay sharp. Latest medical advice suggests that walking is by far the most efficient and comprehensive form of exercise of health. A friend of mine who was recently diagnosed with high cholesterol was told by his doctor to buy a dog, because they need walking twice a day. Apparently, dog owners on average walk 24,000 miles over the lifetime of their pet!

As a creative capability business we’re always looking for new ways to help our clients come up with ideas. Walking isn’t new, but I do think it’s currently an under-utilised technique at work.

The traditional brainstorm unfortunately still happens in meeting room 3b, with laptops on the table and someone at the flip chart trying to make sense of a busy and heated debate. In fact, a recent study from Harvard has found that walking at your natural gate, spikes your creativity by an average of 60%!

Even if its just 5% then surely we should be lacing up our trainers, escaping the boardroom  and heading outside? It seems that the rhythm of the repetitive movement of walking helps us to relax our mental state.

Because we don’t have to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking, our attention is free to wander, to overlay the world before us with all that rich stimulus that resides in our subconscious. It’s this kind of relaxed mental state that gives us new ideas and strokes of insight.

Not only that but our environment is constantly changing as we walk and therefore offering up a smorgasbord of sensory delights with every step. Walking is the perfect antidote to the equation; dull, uninspiring office space = equally dull ideas.

Where we walk can also therefore influence the ideas we have. An urban landscape will energise, distract and bombard while rolling hills and wooded walks create a calmer more meditative state. Both equally useful depending on your need.


A dog is a useful partner in this process

Virginia Wolfe walked as she found it inspired her writing. She apparently relished the creative energy of the London Streets, describing them as “being on a highest crest of the highest wave, right in the centre and swim of things”, but also described walks in the South Downs to “have space to spread my mind out in”.

At Upping Your Elvis, we love using walking as a creative technique to quickly allow people to process information, get unstuck, find new ideas or insights or just inject some energy into a recurring problem. But a small amount of discipline is required so that you walk with a purpose.

To start off, you need to be holding a problem or challenge in your mind. You then get into pairs and go for a walk to discuss it. Chris and I did this just last week when we went on a 10 mile walk along the Jurassic coastline in Devon to discuss and explore Upping Your Elvis’ proposition.

To up the ante, we get our clients to take it in turns to talk uninterrupted and as fast as they can on the subject they’re working on for a whole 7 1/2 minutes! The other person is just there as a sound board, who can then play back what they thought might be interesting at the end.

This approach is aided by the repetitive motion of walking. Nike have rebranded this technique ‘walkie talkie’. So not only does it tap into our innate need as humans to move, but also the therapeutic qualities of a good old rant. We call it ‘Talk it Out’ and it’s become our favourite creative technique for it’s simplicity and flexibility.

So which ever way you look at it…its good to walk! It spikes your creativity

1.       It spikes your creativity.

2.       It gets you out of the office and away from technology.

3.       It’s good for you.

4.       It gives you energy.

5.       It gives you perspective.

6.       It helps you connect with other people.

7.       It’s free!

8.       It takes no planning.

9.       Who knows who you might bump into!

In support of Mental Health Awareness Week, Jim and Chris will be hosting Elvis Walks and Talks in London and Dorset at 1pm until 2pm on May 10th 2017. We would love it if you could join us, it’s fun, free and inspiring!

Sign up to meet Jim in London here and Chris in Dorset here.


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Walking And Talking: A Simple Route To Creative Thinking

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