I have previously mentioned Heron Dance, the small nature and spirit, words and watercolor publication of Ann O'Shaughnessy and Rod MacIver but I recently chanced across a back issue with two quotes that touch on our conversation about time to think so I am interspersing them with your responses.
Thanks to everyone who shared your ideas. We hope you enjoy and that you claim your time to think, to reflect on your life and world, to enjoy.
From Nick Dufill: You can take advantage of the fact that your brain is thinking even while you're doing something else. If you have the choice, and if it is appropriate, don't go from trigger straight to action. Spend a short amount of time acquainting yourself with the issue (pre-exposure) and then let it simmer for a while. Subconsciously, your mind will be evaluating possibilities, and when you return in a couple of day's time you will have clearer ideas and insights, without trying to create the time to force these through. As an extension to this, maintain notes or mind maps on "stuff I am thinking about", to keep the process ticking over. Browse them occasionally for a short break from other activities.
From Hal Macomber: The message to get lean is the way slack is created. Just take a look at the most lean company of them all, Toyota. Their record of innovating sets the standard for us all. The employees in the Toyota Kentucky plant are innovating at the rate of more than one adopted improvement per person per week. (Anyone from Toyota able to provide the exact number?)
The big reason we have no time to think is that we are running around cleaning up after what didn't go right. Efforts to get more reliable through our processes and practices will yeild plenty of time for thinking and innovating.
(For more discussion of "lean" processes and how they relate to this question of time, see Hal's blog at http://weblog.halmacomber.com)
From David Ogilvy via Heron Dance: I am almost incapable of logical thought, but I have developed techniques for keeping open the telephone line to my unconscious, in case thaat disorderly repository has anything to tell me. I hear a great deal of music. I am on friendly terms with John Barleycorn. I take long hot baths. I garden. I go into retreat among the Amish. I watch birds. I go
for long walks in the country. And I take frequent vacations so that my brain can lie fallow -- no golf, no cocktail parties, no tennis, no bridge, no concentration, only a bicycle. (Ogilvy is the O of ad agency BBDO.)
From Annie Robinson: Probably a lot of your readers will relegate this suggestion to the Loony Tune Department. But learning to use one's going-to-sleep Alpha time to program the subconscious to seek innovative ideas can be a great help. Very often helpful suggestions come through at the waking Alpha time. I've used this approach very often in my 9l years and have found it very fruitful. So go ahead and call me "fruity". I've heard that before.
From Steve Rossiter: Einstein, Da Vinci, Henry Ford all took the time to think meditatively. Perhaps bigger issues require big think time and smaller 'shop' issues can be dealt with in smaller real-time although Toyota's cut the silliness and come up with some answers policies provide a time definite advantage for pushing continious improvement along.
From David Waller: Good discussion - a lot of common ground. I would add:
1. efficient does not necessarily mean effective. We definitely need to take the time to ensure that we are only working on projects that fit the strategic plan (forcing us to have one and review it!). I estimate that approx 1/3rd of projects caould be cancelled without negatively affecting a company's future - quite the opposite. This action will "free up" time and resources.
2. We need to embed continuous improvement and idea generation in our company values and beliefs so that the "free time" is invested well. e.g. Toyota
Keep up the good thinking!
From Ed Bernacki: I have been thinking about the issue of "lack of time to innovate" for a while. It is ironic that millions of people have had "time management" training yet they fail to do the one thing that people are supposed to do better than machines - that is be creative in solving our challenges. Perhaps the problem is that we are too busy managing our time, instead of managing our ideas over time.
As a speaker on this theme, I have found that people lack the basic skills to manage ideas over time. Artists manage the creation of their ideas (eg paintings and books) over time. When is the last time you saw a painter start an idea on a post it note, continue on the back of the envelope, etc. This is silly but that's what many managers do. As such, they can not harness their even 2, 5 or 12
minutes a day into something larger. I have written a 12 month calendar on this theme - you have 12 months, set 12 challenges that require 12 ideas, but you must invest 12 minutes per day. As such, 12 12 12 12. It also provides room for 12 pages designed for one idea on each.
No one is paid by their employers to "manage time". They get paid to produce results. In a world suffering from a "failure of the imagination", we need to rethink the notion of time. Any comments?
(Ed: I once read that the brain thinks best in 5-7 minute bursts so Ed's idea of 12 minutes a day might be productive.)
From Laurie Heil: We try to avoid scheduling recurring meetings on Fridays, to allow us to focus on finishing things up. I also scheduled an hour each Friday for each of my team members called "Sacred Think Time".
From Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi via Heron Dance: Robertson Davies, the Canadian author, said one of the most important things in his life was being able to take a nap every day after lunch for twenty minutes. That's for two reasons. One is that by developing a schedule that's under your control, you are not being flogged around by life, as he puts it; you are not always jumping to someone else's tune. You develop your own rhythm of work and rest. The other thing is that it's during idle time that ideas have a chance to recombine in new ways, because if we think consciously about solving a problem or writing a book, then we are sitting there forcing our ideas to move in lockstep, in a straight line, and probably what comes out is not very new or original.
For original ideas to come about, you have to let them percolate under the level of consciousness in a place where we have no way to make them obey our own desires or our own direction. So they find their way, their random combinations that are driven by forces we don't know about. It's through this recombination that something new may come up, not when we try to push them directly. -- from an interview by Michael Toms in the New Dimensions newsletter.
From Ross Wirth: Two things work for me:
(1) I read a lot and make frequent notes in the margin on how the information might be applied. If the idea cannot be immediately used, I file the item in a file at home that has many folders including one called "project ideas" that is examined a couple times a year. I keep a folder of magazines, emails, and other items in my car so I will always have something to read during the dead times I
may have to wait on others. I also load my briefcase with such items prior to leaving on a plane flight.
(2) Dialogue at lunch. Innovation is oftentimes a group event where others can serve as sounding boards, thereby turning lunch into a learning event. People are invited to lunch based upon their past willingness to explore new ideas and/or their possible connection to an active problem.
From Richard Weddle: I make time to think. For me it is night. Finish the business of the day. Get time with wife and baby. After they all go to sleep, the house is quiet, there is no TV, the work is done, so I get to read or sketch and brainstorm. So, I'm a little tired. That's the way it goes. Actually, tired can
sometimes lead to great ideas - I'm groggy, and I go to the garage and close the doors, pick up one of my weights, stand over the metal floor on my weight rack, and think about the problem until I start to doze. Then the weight drops, makes a clang! Wakes me, and I write all the images or semi-dreams that came to mind.