Ways We Innovate: Waste Some Time

Waste Some Time For A Good Cause

I was reading an excellent article in one of my new favorite magazines, The New Philosopher, on Technology. In fact, the entire issue was on technology, a great read – you should pick it up.

But I digress. In one article, a researcher had a stunning revelation: he realized that he no longer wasted time. From the moment he woke up to the moment he went to bed, he was always doing something – reading, responding to emails, working out, eating, writing etc. He noted that he was so busy, that he had every moment of his entire day completely scheduled, and never spent a moment, not even a second, simply doing nothing. He mused: is this what it means to be someone living in the 21st century, an always on, cog in the machine, able to be super productive, every second of every day? I wonder, is this us, now? More than ever before we have the tools, the culture, and the mindset to be ultraproductive all the time, as we are forever hyperconnected into the hive mind.

I’m sure that this is the case for extremely busy people, CEO’s and other executives, celebrities, rock stars, and even some of us regular Joe’s who might be part of the Shut-In Economy and need someone to do everything for us because Goddammit, we have no time to waste. None.

If you read the prevailing wisdom of LinkedIn, and plenty of other business leading content feeds (you can’t really call it journalism anymore, can you?) it’s all about being more productive:

It’s all about doing more and more in less and less time. I even wrote my own 6 Steps To Ultra Productivity. Shame on me – an innovator giving tips on productivity, when in reality, what we really need to be innovative is the exact opposite. We need unproductivity. We need to waste time. In the language of that last post – we need distractions to help us innovate, not the other way around.

Focused work is great – when you really need to get something done in a short period of time. Maniacal focus in bursts works great if you have a clear, exact picture of what you are trying to do. But what you need in order to be innovative is the exact opposite. You need to waste time – to let your mind wander – to walk in curves instead of lines – to make connections you may not have normally made – to let serendipity be your good buddy.

So here is the problem: you probably have some of the busiest people in your company, typically your top executives, lives so tightly scheduled and productive that they have no time to waste, which gives them no time to innovate – to think about the future – these are the very people who need to be able to have the time to waste in order to innovate.

So if you are one of those CEOs, celebrities or rock stars, if you realize that you no longer waste time, and you want to come up with new business models, product or service innovations, maybe you just need to think about just wasting some time. Who knows what you can come up with.