As we know there are many companies which tend to give their employees some time for creating or developing new goods and services. Inovations are the engine of the economics. If there were no inovations, we would have lived in caves or on threes up to now. That’s why the new technologies and products are the thing that inprove our lifestyle. But how can we determine how many hours to work on new projects? Where is the balance between market ideas and basic work tasks?
In the excellent article ”In Praise of Slack: Time Is of the Essence” from The Academy of Management Executives M. B. Lawson writes about the importance of having time during your work day that is not already taken up with tasks. From the article:
Slack (slack is our free time) is important for organizational adaptation and innovation.
Increasingly complex systems and technologies require more, not less, time for monitoring and processing information. Future demands for strategic flexibility and for integrating learning and knowledge throughout organizations highlight the need to reexamine the importance of time in organizational work – and to recognize that all organizational resources cannot be committed to immediate output efforts if we are to have time to pay attention, think and benefit from the knowledge gained.
For instance, Google has put some new rules around “20% time”, the one day a week an employee spends on side projects, people are having a field day forecasting the end of innovation at the company that claims to “use their powers for good, not evil.”. Projects like Google Glass and driverless cars were a distraction from their core business – and pointed to a channeling of energy which was headed in too many directions. Since then, Google CEO Larry Page has announced that the company is moving forward with a “more wood behind fewer arrows” strategy, focusing energy on the projects most important to the strategies that will propel the company forward.
“The CEO may say innovation is one of the company’s top three priorities,” says Doug Williams, a Forrester Research analyst, “but there’s always something happening in the short-term that pushes the long-term innovation off.”. He also says: “It’s energizing for employees to take a break from their day-to-day business and think creatively about solving other problems or using technology in a different way”.
The culmination of this month of free work time is called Pitchday. That’s when everyone will get a chance to pitch their idea, mockup, prototype, or proof of concept to the whole company. The better the pitch, the more likely the project will happen.
Another manager’s trick is setting up a hackathon.
For example: everyone in a company stops working for two days. 500 develepers are distrubuted in different teams, every team working on a completely new idea. At the and of the period teams are assembled, the one with most potencial improve wins.
David J. Jilk, CEO of Standing Cloud, says that getting employees to think more closely about a matter that they normally wouldn’t develop can really motivate them. It not only nourishes innovative thought processes, but gives them hope that their projects will bring value to the company in the future. “You might have that person in accounting who has a product or service idea,” he says. “It won’t be perfected, but it may have the germ of an idea that could turn into a good revenue stream.”
Other companies have additional training budgets which every employee is required to use (Woohoo inc – 2 weeks and 8,000 USD).
Some managers see all free time as wasted time, others – don’t have enough resources to afford it.
In start-ups, as in all companies, there needs to be a balance between exploring new ideas, and exploiting the ideas that are already in place. If a company spends too much time exploring it won’t capitalize on the ideas it has (as is sometimes speculated led to the rapid demise of Xerox PARC). On the other hand, if a company spends too much time focusing on what it already has, then new trends, technologies and markets are easily overlooked, as has been seen in so many industries and company, maybe most noteably Kodak, the picture company that missed the entire shift to digital pictures.
If every moment of the work day is taken up with tasks and work, it damages the organization in many ways. Creativity and flexibility are lost because there is no time to come up with and act on new ideas. No one helps anyone else, because people are booked 100% (or more) on their own tasks. There’s no time to learn new skills. That’s leads to unhappy customers and employees. One of the big ideas of economics is dropped down – the efficiency, which means demand is going down and the the profitability is destroyed. Do not all companies want to succeed? That’s why companies should distribute enough time to their workers for inovations.