Getting a thinking ‘high’ when you fly

Air travel is picking up again, and the time spent in the skies can be put to great use, says Vinay Kanchan


Airplane travel has thankfully rebounded to some extent, since the dark days. Now, many people are spending more time on planes again.

At over thirty thousand feet in the air, one’s passenger seat is much like a secluded ‘cocoon’. The interruptions of the outside world are put on hold. No pesky calls or messages. No uninvited intrusions upon one’s time and thinking space, and no in-laws visiting either!

So, given this gift of temporary isolation, how do you choose to spend that time?

I, for one, find this elevated perspective particularly exhilarating when it comes to the process of ideation.

There’s something irresistible about having one’s feet up in the clouds. Add to that the presence of a serene environment, enabling one to literally hear one’s own thoughts. Surely there’s more to be made of this. Here’s looking at some things you may do, to land with more than you began the flight with.

1. An actual pad & there’s ideas to be had

At the height of human technological prowess, it may seem counterintuitive to pull out an archaic writing device. However, scribbling pads, and blank ones at that, have the knack of giving a different perspective to thought.

Doodling or scribbling one’s ideas on paper, has the curious effect of breathing a different sort of life into them. ‘Old fashioned’ notions such as imagination, begin to influence one’s thinking. The benefits of this activity are accentuated by using different coloured pens. Cerebral processes then also try and reach the altitudes achieved by the aircraft.

While Socrates had adverse things to say about trapping ideas in the written form, he never quite faced a performance appraisal. On a more serious note, these ‘scribbled sorties’ can often lead to perspectives that can take both the business and oneself to greater heights.

2. Seek things at random, cause sparks in tandem

Many complain that they need a trigger or catalyst to get them thinking. While one is tempted to blame the education system for this, flight time is limited and is better put to more productive use. Look around and seek objects that arrest your attention. These could be inanimate, or for the mischievous ones, human, by design. Then, bring them to bear on the problem at hand. For instance, watching someone leaf through an inflight magazine, could set off a train of thought (even though one is on a plane), around how this could inspire ideas for increasing revenue.

Advertising in the right media may present an obvious starting point. Dwelling on how customers can be made ‘captive’ to one’s offering — akin to how these magazines are sometimes the only choice available for reading — could open up some promising avenues. Moving on further from there, to how the customers can be ‘captivated’, could just add a jet-powered turbo boost to the germinating ideas.

3. Reaching the height of a star, look upon the problem from afar

Creativity always favours the detached point of view. Perhaps there’s no better vantage point to adopt the distant perspective from, than when one is flying high above.

From that place, no excessively cluttered whiteboards are visible, no mails stare back demanding an urgent response, and no irate customers are complaining at the top of their voices.

The luxury of watching one’s problems disappear in the distance can be extremely gratifying. In fact, a sense of spiritual calm descends upon all thought.

One begins to reflect on how little all of this really matters. That ability to extract oneself from the mire of the current situation, always brings with it clearer, bolder thinking. One can appreciate things that really matter — to the business and the self — and that moment of epiphany can often result in some potent directions of thought. The ‘high ground’ sure has its benefits, even if in this case it is in the high skies.

4. Indulge in that nap, get up ready to rap

We seem to live in a work culture, which celebrates battling fatigue and endless toil to overcome challenges at hand. While this endeavour can be well intentioned, it can also make for uninspired, tired thinking. Just as your smartphone and laptop, your mind needs to be recharged too. It almost seems silly to state this, but it is true. Often the time of a flight, offers that little ‘window of opportunity’ to escape worldly woes. A short sleep allows dreams to surface, which make for unexpected connections that lead to innovation —just check with Kekule and our very own Ramanujan.

Even if that doesn’t happen, resting the mind and body, is always a great idea. Perhaps we need to have an official ‘nap time’ during work hours. ‘Sleeping on the job’ can have some tremendously great effects on productivity, and the quality of the team’s thought process and energy levels. That is why, catching forty (or more) winks on a flight, is actually a great and productive investment of that time. Who knows what new possibilities one may wake up to!

To conclude, many are reacquainting themselves with time in the air. The unique environment that this provides, should always be used in ways that best suit our intentions.

While I have listed four possible activities that can be indulged in, sometimes just staring  out of the window, may be the most refreshing of them all.

Happy flying, physically and mentally!

The writer, Vinay Kanchan is an author, brand storyteller and innovation catalyst. His books include ‘Sportivity’, ‘Lessons from the Playground’ &’The Madness Starts at 9’.

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