Meaningful travel and the value of lowly places

by Steve Brock on June 13, 2011

So you knew your singing sounded better in the shower, but did you ever wonder why you are more creative there as well?

Not every aspect of meaningful travel requires a trip across the country or around the world. Sometimes a simple trip down the hall will suffice…

This week and last I’ve been giving presentations at Kiros gatherings (meetings of Christian business people in the Puget Sound region here in Washington) on the subject of The Power of Place.

One point I wasn’t able to fit in on the discussion was how some of the lowliest places have the greatest impact on us. In particular, I want to touch on a place that is somewhat an untouchable subject: the bathroom (or restroom).

We don’t talk about restrooms much for obvious reasons. But as I think about the value of face-to-face meetings for building relationships, I have to admit that restrooms play a surprising role.

I cannot count the number of business trips where some of the most significant conversations with clients occurred not in the meeting itself, but to, from or in the restroom during breaks between the meetings.

Men give women a hard time for going in packs to the restroom, but guys do the same thing, just a bit less overtly. We start our conversations in the meeting room, but somewhere along the way to the restroom, the discussion tends to get more personal. It’s a weird dynamic, I admit. But I’m not sure it is due to the restroom itself.

I think instead it illustrates how simply moving out of the “formal” meeting place into a place deemed less formal like the restroom or hallway can change the nature of our dialogues because we let our guard down and open up more. We cease seeing each other in the proper business roles defined by our meetings and more as fellow humans heading to the same place for the same human needs.

If this all sounds quirky, just notice the next out-of-town meeting you have and how hallway or restroom discussions have a different vibe. Sometimes the biggest breakthroughs in relationships and business meetings don’t occur in the meetings.

The second value of a bathroom is more private. I’m referring, less you get nervous, to the shower. In the presentation, I noted ways in which place affects one’s creativity. No where is this more common than in the shower. Many people report having some of their best ideas while standing beneath a flow of hot water. But why?

Research has shown that a number of factors – physical and psychological – come into play: the temperature, moisture, “white noise,” and isolation. But the main reason is this: All of those elements calm us and focus us.

Some people say that having an alcoholic beverage makes them more creative. That’s not exactly true. Instead, alcohol does what the shower does. It dulls our senses. That doesn’t increase our creativity but it does shut down or at least quiet down all those competing ideas and voices in our heads. In the shower, the reason we seem to have more creative thoughts is because we have less other thoughts. We’re able to pursue one line of thinking, something we miss in our stressed, “multi-tasking” routines outside the shower walls.

Restrooms for relationships. Showers for creativity. Odd places for these things, but just another example of the Power of Place to add value to our lives in surprising ways.

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