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Why We Should Make Time to Brainstorm New, Innovative Ideas

How can we better plan, strategize and come up with new innovative ideas in our post-COVID world?

Different colored sticky notes on a wall in the background with a hand holding an empty sticky note in the foreground.
A lot has changed at work over the past few years during the pandemic.

From the move to working from home for many public- and private-sector roles, to the seemingly never-ending list of demands placed on staff that stayed in professional roles rather than switching employers, to the move back to the office or hybrid home/office work environments, it seems as if digital transformation is accelerating at breakneck speeds.

So how can we find time think about new innovative ideas in this environment? What are some fresh ways to think about innovation as we move into 2023?

An article from CNBC recently grabbed my attention on this topic: “This CEO has 1 weekly activity that gives him the ‘very best ideas’—and you can do it, too.” Here’s an excerpt:

“Doug Hirsch has a surprisingly simple method for getting the best ideas: setting aside three to four hours of alone time for deep thinking per week.

“Hirsch, co-CEO and founder of the prescription drug savings company GoodRx, believes so strongly in the method that he intentionally builds that alone time into his work schedule each week. Finding the time is a challenge — he and co-CEO Trevor Bezdek collectively manage more than 700 employees at a company with a $2.43 billion market capitalization, as of Friday evening.”


Revolancer offers these tips on how to think of new ideas when you’re stuck:
  • Tip No. 1 – Do the opposite...
  • Tip No. 2 – Become self-aware…
  • Tip No. 3 – Mix it up a little…
  • Tip No. 4 – Sleep on it…
  • Tip No. 5 – Brainstorm with others…

I also like this piece from Life Junctions (which was written for women but applies to most men as well): “Time to think: 8 strategies to give yourself an edge.”

“Once every three months, take some time to reflect on four areas of your life:
  • Pursuits: Your career, volunteer work, professional or creative projects
  • People: Family, friends and people that matter to you
  • Personal: Your health and well-being
  • Possessions: Your home, stuff, including things in your digital cloud.”

The article goes on to list six tips to be more effective with your time to think. The list has some great examples to reduce stress and reward yourself — and not just add more pressure to a crowded schedule. Here they are, but the details for each are in the article link:
  • Don’t assume you need a lot of time.
  • When you think and plan, consider using pen and paper at least some of the time.
  • Be consistent.
  • Remember “Less but better.”
  • Create buffer zones.
  • Recognize the things you accomplish.


This is not the first (nor likely will it be the last) time that I have blogged about ideas on how to generate ideas. Back in 2016, I wrote about our need to get away, under the “digital detox” theme. Here’s what I wrote more than five years ago:

Fast Company did an experiment to see the brain benefits to a digital detox. They studied 35 very successful people in the Moroccan desert and saw that after only a few days without technology, the group experienced:

  • Better Posture, Deeper Friendships: After three days without technology, people’s posture noticeably changed. They began to adapt to primarily looking forward into people’s eyes, rather than downward into their screens.
  • Google (Search) Is a Conversation Killer: In a connected world, when a general trivia question comes up, people immediately Google the answer, ending that particular line of questioning. 
  • Improved Memory: People were more likely to remember obscure details about one another, such as the names of distant relatives mentioned in passing.
  • More Efficient Sleep: The guests on the trip said that they did not have to sleep as long, but felt even more rested and rejuvenated.
  • New Perspectives: People tended to make significant changes to their lives when they were offline for a while.”


Some people are saying that they are thinking differently after having COVID-19. Lifespan offers this article: “What is Post-COVID Brain Fog - and How Can You Recover?

“COVID-19 causes neurologic symptoms in two ways: by worsening pre-existing symptoms and by triggering entirely new symptoms. If a person already had nerve pain due to a neuropathy (a general term for nerve dysfunction) or spine injury, a case of COVID-19 was quite likely to aggravate the pain and leave it worse than before. Likewise, a person with mild memory impairment of aging will likely find themselves with a significant decline in thinking abilities for several months after recovering from the initial infection. Recent studies have found that entirely new, painful, small fiber neuropathies and new cognitive impairment can be triggered by COVID-19 infection in patients of any age, even in those that had only mild symptoms at the time of the infection. With perhaps 1 in 4 Rhode Islanders having been infected with COVID-19, this means that you or someone you know may be experiencing post-COVID-19 brain fog.”

The article goes on to list things you can do to reduce or eliminate this brain fog, such as more exercise and reducing alcohol and tobacco use.

One more: I like this TED Talk (video below) on “How to gain control of your free time” by Laura Vanderkam, which has been viewed almost 7.5 million times since 2017. I especially love her opening line: “I was once late for my own talk on time management.” It gave me hope to listen to the rest of her talk, which is excellent, covering great ways to accomplish goals and priorities by thinking through our weeks way in advance.


During my 17 years in Michigan state government (all pre-COVID), we often planned off-site meetings to brainstorm, strategize and build plans. Those leadership sessions often included personal time with coaches and mentors to help plan and strategize.

Currently, in the fall of 2022, many organizations struggle to find time for such get-togethers for a variety of reasons, and it is too bad for them. I encourage leaders to find the time and resources for their teams to come together to network, dream, brainstorm, plan and improve.

And there is nothing stopping each of us from finding time to think and plan more about our professional and personal lives on our own time.

Finding regular time to plan and think has enabled me to speak as the keynote at global conferences, write books and even write this blog.

Vanderkam ends her talk by saying, “There is time. Even if we are busy, we have time for what matters. And when we focus on what matters, we can build the lives we want, in the time we’ve got.”
Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.