How We Work #1: Permission to Wonder

Last month we kicked off the first event in a series we’ve titled as Revival Talks. The aim here is to make room in our thoughts for questions most of us are not daily struggling with — be it about space, the future of humanity, geopolitics or philosophy. For our utmost delight, we had the honour of hosting Devid Delgado from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab as our first guest.

Permission to wonder (at work)

And what a great fit he was for the opening event! David is a renowned speaker and as a visual strategist for NASA, his daily job is to develop experiences that provoke curiosity through a mix of science and imagination.

NASA Orbit Pavilion. Photo: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech/The Studio/Dan Goods

You might want to check out the NASA Orbit Pavilion located in southern California that brings us closer to the 19 Earth-observing satellites. Another great example is the Metamorphosis — Rosetta comet inspired sculpture next to San Francisco Bridge. David has described Metamorphosis as “We wanted to allow people to walk inside this growing comet tail and wonder how and why these celestial mysteries exist.” David is also the author of Visions of the Future — series of 1930 style travel posters advertising trips to far-away planets.

The aim of all of these undertakings as well as of David’s newest project Museum of Awe are the same — to bring space and science closer to the everyday lives of ordinary people, spark questions and inspire awe.

This permission to wonder, as David calls it, is the central theme for most of his work. With our own Revival Talks, our goal is to take time aside the daily work tasks to look deeper into and think broader of the world (and space!) around us.

But why?

As in every other team, we have a number of highly motivated people with extensive reading lists and wide interests. And we love it! We also believe in putting your money where your mouth is and not only say we encourage curiosity and constant learning but actually cut time from all of our schedules for this.

Prior to Revival Talks and already for some time now, we’ve hosted a series of Friday afternoon seminars in the office. These have mostly been pragmatic ones focusing, for example on sleep and managing stress by understanding the inner workings of the human brain or directly related to our projects and in-house knowledge sharing. No doubt we plan to keep these going as well. But with Revival Talks we take a step further, as the central point is not the individual or the work we are doing, instead we concentrate on the forces that shape the world around us.

Eva-Maria Kangro, our go-to brain specialist.

Both prior to and after the first Revival Talks event we have got positive feedback from our people, saying they appreciate the knowledge sharing and thought-provoking aspect of the events. And yes, some people are mostly drawn to the element of entertainment, that these talks carry. Which, of course, is not wrong, but leaves out the other side of the coin. Whereas we definitely want these talks to be entertaining, we also want them to trigger a creative mindset for new and different perspectives.

Putting creativity to work

At Icefire we’re not about working *more*, instead, we look for ways to work smarter and better. Both as teams as well as individuals. Who wouldn’t like that?

According to Eva-Maria Kangro, change management consultant with a PhD in psychology who spoke on one of our Friday afternoon seminars, there is definitely a link between creativity and efficiency.

“Creativity is about building innovative and meaningful solutions, generating alternative paths — thinking out of the box. It allows you to see critical connections and find hidden patterns. So, creativity is more like the essential quality than just a helping factor for beneficial proceeding.”

So if we strive for working smarter, we should start by encouraging creativity. Eva-Maria points out a number of ways to boost creativity in the workplace:

Firstly, the brain needs stimulation, challenging tasks to solve. Creativity rarely jumps out of the blue, even if it seems like that.

 

Secondly, creativity is the matter of smart experimenting and reasoning rather than quick decision making. Thus, give time to the manifestation.

 

Thirdly, provide a psychologically safe atmosphere to allow people´s brains to work in their full potential. Feeling insecure or embarrassed has the opposite effect.

 

And last but not least: take breaks, move and chat in person. A brain´s fit depends largely on the balance of effort and relaxation, it is like a muscle. Also, physical activity helps us to get out of the mental freeze. And do not underestimate the empowering impact of social share.

We’re on the right track

Working smarter needs creativity and creativity is the result of the brain’s neuroplasticity i.e. of new active connections inside your brain. There are a number of ways for boosting neuroplasticity and some of them include exercising your brain and that means widening your perspective, working on understanding and possibly discussing the concepts you have not yet thought about.

Vilve Vene, Icefire’s CEO sees that the Revival Talks are a good way of sparking up thoughts and conversations about the wider world that in turn have a positive effect on our work. “Seminars and talks are of course only one way of doing this — in addition to the good old regular exercise, reading, and meditation — but as it has an element of entertainment and socializing in the mix, we’ve found it worth to explore,” she adds.

Let’s see how our Revival Talks will roll out, but we’re certainly thinking about making them a semi-open, bring-a-friend type of events.

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Written by: Kadri Sundja

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