Sunday, November 25, 2007

Taking time out - the pause that innovates

So, in my current position I have been giving a great deal of thought to what I can do to help people be more productive in their programming jobs. I have been working with some wonderful people to both improve myself and to help Big Co. grow and become better at what it does in the world. One of the topics of discussion that has come up recently has been stirring in the back of my head. The discussion was around finding ways to innovate in the management realm to support doing "the work of Big Co." in new and innovative ways, ways that can not easily be copied by other companies because they are internal processes to Big Co.

One of the specific subtopics during this discussion was around providing time for people to innovate, time to pause and stand back, time to contemplate what it is they are attempting to accomplish or what it is they have been asked to do. I am writing about it now because as coincidence would have it this simple idea, the idea of providing people time to 'think on things', came up during a sermon I was listening to.

Now the sermon was about the Sabbath - the day of rest. What was said was that the world is moving fast. We all feel that things are faster then we would like - we even gage each other on how busy we are, almost as if it was a badge of courage, or something to keep up with like a busy/activity based keeping up with the Jones. This same feeling of quickness occurs both at home and at work. The work a day world at Big Co. is fast paced. There is a constant focus to get things done and get things done faster (translate that into getting more things done in a given time box). Put simply management at Big Co. wants their people to add value to what is going on in a faster manner. However for people in Big Co. to add value, I would argue that there needs to be built in time to rest, time to innovate, time to simply sit and think about what has been presented to you as the "THING that needs to get done." There is, however, a consistent lack of time built into the Big Co. schedule to 'contemplate', no time to pause and innovate. In short there is no Sabbath.

The draw back to this management focus on getting things done faster is that there is a myopic focus on the short term. The benefits right now are the focus. What this can leave out is future based planning. The other thing it can leave out are the "AH HA" moments that can result out of taking a moment to think about what is being done or asked for. Stepping back to see a larger picture can help Big Co. to plan better, it can help Big Co. employees to come up with innovative ways to solve problems presented such that they solve other well known corporate problems as well. As an employee you can better see connections between things. You may even have the time to have an epiphany that leads to Big Co. changing its direction and saving hundreds of thousands of dollars to the bottom line. Adding a pause between getting things done may simply prevent Big Co. employees from jumping ship to another company - but one could argue that just in preventing turn over you are saving the company money.

So the question is do you take time out to contemplate and think on things? Does your management provide you time to sit and think? If the answer is no please consider that taking time out for individuals might be necessary for Big Co. to grow to a new level, to expand into a new place. It may be specifically needed for individuals to grow and innovate as well. Stressed people think poorly, well rested individuals that are relaxed in what they do that have time to think clearly are setup to innovate. So are you set up to innovate or are you set up to be stressed the answer may surprise you.
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