I have long been fascinated by Bill Gates’ legendary Think Weeks which he takes twice a year to read and reflect on the world around him. After his Think Week in 2005, Robert Guth, reporter with The Wall Street Journal, wrote an article that included this statement:
Four days into this Think Week, Gates had read 56 papers, working 18 hours straight some days. His record is 112 papers.
"I don't know if I'll catch my record, but I'll certainly do 100," he said. Among the unread papers: "10 Crazy Ideas to Shake Up Microsoft."
I was curious about the ten crazy ideas and delighted to find them listed on the blog, Mini-Microsoft I’m not sure what I expected but it definitely wasn’t what I saw. (list shown at the end of this post). I only want to talk about #1-- Schedule Unscheduled Time into Performance Reviews.
Think about it. The number one "crazy idea" from one of the most successful companies in history is the same thing I hear from companies large and small: more time to think. Obviously whoever suggested this at Microsoft thought the only way it would happen would be to make it an official part of the performance review process ... but that if it could be done, this change would "shake up" the company.
Across the world, the demand for innovation has reached a fevered pitch. But, the universal fuel for innovation -- time to think -- appears to be the most elusive resource of all.
What Would a "Think Week" Look Like?
After thinking about the time issue for several years now, I don’t think that trying to find time to think within the normal context of our over-busy, down-sized and outsourced working environments makes a lot of sense. Urgent always bullies its way past important.
We take time to respond to an email from our customers or managers even when it means putting a strategic project on hold. So, we probably need to do what Gates does and get away somewhere.
So, here’s the question: if you were going to design a Think Week for yourself, what would you do to create the most productive, thought-stimulating week possible? We thought this would be an interesting survey question ... and might also help you think through what would be most helpful to you. So please click this link and share your thoughts -- We’ll summarize the results in a 3-4 weeks.
Microsoft’s "Ten Crazy Ideas to Shake Up the Company"
1. Schedule Unscheduled Time into Performance Reviews
2. "Break Up" the Company
3. Encourage Loose but Prominent Couplings
4. Exile and Empower Incubation Projects
5. Offer Super-exponential Rewards
6. Offer Different Risk-Reward Compensation Profiles
7. Cut Back on Bureaucracy
8. Review Cost Cutting
9. Reduce Headcount on Large Dev Projects
10. Eliminate Exec Reviews