8. Think. Even a little bit, but regularly.  

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Now, this one seems very obvious. But it's hard.

I'm serious.

It's actually hard work - and hard to motivate yourself sometimes - to step back and really think about how things are going - and where and how you want them to go. It's easier to just continue with what you're used to, especially as that's what anyone who has worked in a large company has been trained to do - to carry on, to of course discuss "innovation and creativity" but at the same time to understand that you mustn't actually do it. The message from most large companies is that beyond everything, for ****'s sake (and for the sake of your promotion), don't rock the boat. And thinking tends to rock boats rather a lot.

I used to work in the biggest telco research lab in the UK (actually probably in Europe) and each day to get into the main lab block, we had to walk under a large sign that read, "Research is the doorway to tomorrow." But the reality was that mostly the attitude there was conservative beyond belief and it would have been truer (and better advice for getting on in the organisational structure) if it had read, "Whatever you do, don't think." It was the dullest, silliest place you can imagine - with huge amounts of money being poured in the dullest silliest "research" it was possible to dream up - very little of which ever lead anywhere. Those who did think got out - quick.

In fact, one of the most interesting people I knew there was - quietly and on the side - using the powerful mainframes we then had in order to run his own business distributing gay erotica around the world. Nice guy (I was actually at uni with him) - and it was erotica, not porn, as he had some ethics. For all I know he is still there and still sitting calmly in the basement of that awful lab block successfully running his own thing. He was certainly someone who could think creatively - and see the funny side as well as the opportunities.

So - even if you are in a situation or job that's labelled "research" or "creative" or "academic" - there is no automatic guarantee that you'll be encouraged to think. You need to make yourself take some time to just draw back and ask some questions about what you're doing - and imagine some possibilities.

Right now, these are the things I'm thinking about:

  • What happens if the world economy really does implode? Is anyone going to be buying decorative design? Assuming yes, then who and where is our market?

  • How do we need to change? How do we make the work continually better value for money? Or do we focus more on making genuinely enjoyable bits of escapism - is that what people need now, some escape, some laughs and some comfort?

  • Assuming that there isn't going to be a meltdown (and the fact is, that even when times are hard, people still do buy nice things) do we want to be more in "New Age" shops or in design shops? Which way feels best for us? We feel as though we are at a cross-roads and we need to think carefully and decide which way we want to go now.

  • With all this worrying about the economy and turnover and whatnot, are we in danger of forgetting that this is all about doing the work WE want/need to do? How do we make space for the less commercial things that develop our own ideas? As Alex says, how do we make sure we don't lose ourselves?

And many more thoughts follow on from these. The trick is not to try to tackle all this in one day - if I did that my brain would probably give up and tell me to go and eat sushi - but to put some time aside once or twice a week and just sit and think. It's vital (in both senses) to notice what's going on in the world, and also closer to home in your own field/market. Be honest with yourself about the realities, and think about how to respond. All sorts of things will become clearer, and you'll also feel more in control.

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