Every day it seems we are learning more and more about the dangers of spending too much time sitting. But there is one danger not making the news you need to seriously think about as a leader—the danger of missing the ideas that only come when you are thinking on your feet (consciously or unconsciously).

Image from DollarPhotoClub.com

Image from DollarPhotoClub.com

Quick, where do you get your best ideas?

Whatever your response, my bet is that they don’t come to you when you are sitting at a desk or around a conference table. They probably don’t even occur when you are at work or when you are thinking about work.

Having asked this question to people numerous times (in a completely random and totally unscientific manner), the most common answers tend to be in the shower, while driving somewhere, during a workout, ride, or run, or lying in bed.

But don’t take my word for it.

A study recently conducted by two professors from the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri found that compared with sitting, groups who held meetings standing up were more excited and less territorial about their ideas. The study concluded that standing in the workplace leads to better elaboration and collaboration.

Another study conducted by researchers from Stanford University in California found that walking boosts creative thinking. By comparing levels of creativity in people while they walked and while they stood, researchers concluded that creative output went up by about 60 percent while people were walking.

Notice a theme here? Thinking on your feet has a powerful impact on creativity.

So how do you bring the value of thinking on your feet into the workplace or the meeting room?

  1. Design breakout discussions where small groups stand around a flip chart or work at a white board.
  2. Give everyone post-it pads they can write their ideas on and have them post those ideas on a wall, then engage in discussion, debate, and realignment of the ideas into logical groupings.
  3. Get a standup desk so you spend more time on your feet, particularly good for phone conversations, processing e-mail, and dictating content. (NOTE: I’ve had a treadmill desk for about four years now…it works great!)
  4. Equip your office with a pub height table where you can have meetings with people while they stand, preferably with a white board nearby.
  5. Take a walk (inside or outside) when you are stumped on a project instead of staring at a blank computer screen waiting for ideas to flow.
  6. Take walking breaks or use the stairs instead of the elevator in your building as often as possible.

Action Advice: Take a serious look at the meeting rooms (and all of the public spaces) in your credit union with an eye on how you can create more opportunities for people to think on their feet. It may mean purchasing flip chart stands, pads, and pens to put in each corner of the room. Having a collaborative focal point in the room, like a white board, also encourages people to work together (and supports drop-in visitors to ideation sessions which adds perspective and creativity to the process).