One of the most important factors contributing to the improvement of business productivity and, in general, to innovate, is doing nothing productive (in the short-term).
When I say “nothing productive”, I mean the traditional and industrial notion that still prevails in most companies. To do productive things in this case consists in performing specific tasks aimed to achieve a definite goal in a specific period of time: to write a report, to visit a potential buyer, to make a piece…
However, innovation, as a creative act, is governed by different patterns, motivations and times. Since the objective of innovation is to find different solutions, new ways of doing things, it is essential to shift the focus of daily life to move into the extraordinary. One of the most useful techniques for doing this is, paradoxically, not to look for a solution, but to explore without direction or fixed targets.
The major drawback of this technique is that it requires an investment of time. Since time is money, “wasting time” doing nothing is frowned upon in business. There are urgent matters to be sorted out.
Normally, the only people who can afford to explore new paths are the senior executives, for example attending seminars where they will collect new ideas to be implemented in the company. Their innovative proposals, however, are generally met with reluctance on the part of workers, since they have to apply them.
This reluctance to change is understandable and a consequence of the division of work in most companies, where thinking is meant to senior executives and the rest are limited to executing the ideas of the formers. No wonder, then, if workers are suspicious of innovation.
But if it is true that senior executives have a strategic vision of the company, “executors” have a practical view of it. They are the ones who know the details of the process and know where the problems lie. Could not the executors also go to seminars, to take time to browse the Internet or to carry out their own projects? Surely, these activities would be suspect.
However, innovation should be a requirement by all employees in the company, as they are required to be hard working or punctual.
Being innovative means, first, to improve things that do not work well. Should not this be expected of any employee?
But secondly, to be innovative also means improving things that do work well. This is where “doing nothing” can be useful. To explore new sources of information without a specific goal may lead to an unexpected encounter with great ideas that we like and we decide to apply in our company.
Do not forget that many of the emergencies that arise and occupy our time are a direct consequence of not having innovated when it was not necessary.