Innovation: We Do not Have Time for it!


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I just had another interesting meeting with great people today. They work with innovation and R&D and we got to spend a little less than an hour together to discuss some of the challenges that you face on these issues in big companies today.

A little less than an hour. I mention this again because we got one of the biggest issues at workplaces in general a little before 10am. We did not have enough time. The people in this meeting had to go to other meetings. It would have been great if we could have continued the discussion, but they said they had to go. That’s just how it is.

It is my experience that most corporate innovators – and corporate employees in general – work in a very special box with a clear mark on it. It says URGENT!

Get the daily things done and when they are done you get even more to do. That is the corporate thread-mill that we have known for decades, but the twist is that we do not only get more to do today. Everything also happens faster. We are stuck in the “urgent” box.

Everyone is just too busy and this is a problem in particular with innovation as you really need to get some down time to reflect on what is happening and what can be done differently next time.

A key reason why this is important is that the innovation capability within big companies is not just about getting things done; there is a huge element of experimentation and creativity to it and there are lots of unknowns and even failures that we need to learn from.

This does not happen because everyone is too busy.

What can we do about this? I do not have a clear answer, but I think we need to look into two directions:

Personal responsibility and leadership responsibility

You can change things by yourself although you might have to be willing to risk your job if the leaders do not live up to their responsibility to create a better workplace.

Both of these directions boil down to an important path of belief.

Do I believe that I as well as my colleagues and others, whom I interact with can be more productive in the long run if we work smarter rather than faster?

Of course, you need to find a balance here, but I think we are beyond the point where you can get people to simply run faster and add more to their workload. Most organizations today are already very lean and thus there is no point in just giving already productive people more tasks. This can quickly become counter-productive. Too many people already go down with stress-related issues.

Maybe there is more value for everyone if you help already productive people to work smarter and a key element for this to happen is to make room for down time or reflection time.

Tips for High-Value Thinking

When you work with innovation at a high level, you need time to think and reflect in order to be as good as you can be. Very few of us manage to do this in today’s hectic world, but with a few changes, you can probably free up one hour of time a week for high-value thinking. Once you try this, you’ll think it’s the greatest luxury of your week.

An hour of solitary reflection (with no interruptions for multi-tasking or other distractions allowed) could make a tremendous difference in your ability to remain focused on your vision and your priorities. To make maximum use of this valuable time, your thinking needs to be directed toward a particular issue. Here are some additional guidelines:

• Set an objective. What do you want to achieve with this hour?

• Fully define the problem first. Don’t jump immediately to a solution before exploring all the facets of the issue at hand.

• Write, type, or record your thoughts ASAP. It’s all too easy to forget your thinking and your conclusions if you move on after your thinking hour and don’t get your ideas saved. Also, putting something on paper makes your commitment to it more concrete and is more likely to prompt you to actually follow through on a plan.

• Make maximum use of any solitary time. Many people note that they get their best ideas when walking or running or even driving alone. Any time you’re alone and away from interruptions can be good thinking time as long as you don’t let your cell phone interfere. Just be sure to record your results as soon afterward as you can.

Personally, I meditate on a daily basis. I have a set of guided meditation sessions ranging from 3 to 30 minutes. Even on busy days, I can always find at least 3 minutes for this. It works very well for me.

I hope this can inspire you to take some actions in order to get more reflection time and start working smarter. It would be great to hear your ideas, reflections and comments on this.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stefan Lindegaard
Stefan is an author, speaker, facilitator and consultant focusing on open innovation, social media tools and intrapreneurship.


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