What if someone told you that all it took to unleash your inner creative spark was five minutes of daily, deliberate practice? Or that a “breakthrough” needn’t be a monumental triumph, but instead be something that makes your day just a tinge easier?
That’s the underlying principle that guides Josh Linker’s work in the tech industry, and the focus of his new book, Big Little Breakthroughs. Linker believes that everyone has deep reserves of creativity and ingenuity, and the beauty of such a philosophy boils down to its simplicity: It only takes five minutes a day to make the most of this innate ability and you don’t need to follow a secret recipe to make it a reality. Rather, you can do what best suits your preference and form your own daily ritual.
I talked to Linker about how others can start to apply his approach to their own lives, and why anyone can glean inspiration from the concept of small, daily breakthroughs.
Why the focus on creating smaller achievements throughout your day?
Gigantic breakthroughs can feel risky and out of reach. In contrast, micro-innovations are far less risky, accessible to all, and a great way to build creative skills. Further, small wins add up to meaningful results.
As a tech entrepreneur, I worked to build my organization so that creativity wasn’t just reserved for me as the CEO, but rather it was the job of us all. By tapping into small, daily acts of innovation across my entire team, we were able to grow to become the leading company in our industry. At a personal level, I love looking for small acts of creativity on a daily basis which tends to boost my energy and fuel my momentum in all aspects of business and life.
How do you calibrate what a “small” triumph looks like?
We tend to think innovation only counts if it’s a billion-dollar idea. In contrast, I don’t believe there’s a minimum threshold for a creative triumph. To me, a small win is still a win as long as the innovation creates some utility value. Moving the printer four steps closer in order to save time will not make the cover of a magazine, but still boosts productivity. I hate using words like “must,” but I believe the most productive approach to harness innovation and build creative capacity is to focus on daily practice. The more we discover small ideas, the more likely we’ll be to seize the big ones.
How can someone who’s unfamiliar with that concept start to use it?
First, we must recognize that all human beings are creative. We are hard-wired for creativity, regardless of job title, age, geography, or experience. We can all be creative in our own ways. Next, let’s give ourselves permission to tinker and experiment the way scientists do in a lab. When we let down our guard and allow our creativity to flow regularly, it will develop and multiply.
Are five minutes a day enough to catalyze the creative processes you describe?
Since we’re built to be creative as human beings, it’s more of a rediscovery process than learning an entirely new language. Therefore, a deliberate effort for just five minutes a day will deliver a meaningful boost of creativity in our lives and businesses.
The technique I share in the book is an example rather than a prescription, so readers should feel free to craft a daily ritual that feels right from any of the mindsets and tactics in the book. The crucial element is making it a deliberate, daily habit. It’s a high-leverage activity in that a small amount of effort will yield a disproportionately large set of results.
How crucial is the daily ritual?
It isn’t about being rigid, but rather making creativity a part of daily life. My morning ritual helps pre-wire my day for creative problem solving and inventive thinking. It provides a heightened awareness for opportunities throughout the day to see the possibilities and deploy imagination in order to enjoy meaningful results. The daily habit revs our creative engines in order to drive the outcomes we care most about from career and company to health, family, and community.