A good post to head into a holiday weekend...(btw, I'm celebrating my holiday next weekend as it's closer to my birthday and there's less people out vacationing.)
I'm interested in how breakthrough ideas are sometimes incubated during vacations, breaks, retreats, precious snatches of time, and just plain goofing off. We should take more time off, not less. (Wow, Americans only take 10.2 days off per year!) I know I single-handedly help raise the average. And it's my pleasure to do so. But I'd like to see more fellow Americans recharge and regenerate. Our minds are renewable resources and creativity is a "renewable skill" as the quote below asserts. Taking time out for renewal really works for me...and I am curious if it is a universally applicable practice. So I'll be sharing more anecdotes I come across that seem to corroborate this theory. Here's one in this post below.
"He [Steven Covey] writes about the man cutting a tree in the forest who looks exhausted; but when you suggest that he sharpen his dull saw, he tells you that he is "too busy sawing" to sharpen the saw. The pressure to perform with precision over long hours, to make informed decisions, and to deal creatively in managing people and problems on paper are renewable job skills. And the only way to renew them is to take time off from work. In other words, those who don't take time for self-renewal -- to sharpen the saw" with a vacation, a night at the movies, or a day at the beach -- will eventually take time off in unproductive ways, through illness, accidents, costly errors, irritability with clients, and a lack of ideas." -- The Art of Self-Renewal: Balancing Pressure and Productivity On and Off the Job by Dr. Barbara Mackoff (some good parts, but in general I'd pass on this book).
In the same day at Worthwhile that this interview with Andre Durand, CEO of PingID, whom incubated the business idea while on a prolonged vacation is published, another post questions the need for vacations. Well, I'm not disputing that vacation "spots" can be boring but that's if you are conforming to other people's notions of vacation and their idea of renewal. Or you can go for stimulating travel that gets you unstuck, stirs the senses and incubate that way.
"Even if work is more interesting"...spending more time at work can be counter-productive.
...British osteopath Dr. Donald Norfolk reported on lab experiments showing that working too long on complex problems increased problem-solving time by 500 percent. - The Art of Self-Renewal
There seems to be a particularly American fascination with butt-on-chair time, as Ricardo Semler, CEO of Semler (and now at Harvard Business School as a visiting executive of sorts) calls it.
Worthwhile: Andre, how did Ping start?
Durand: I was sitting at my desk at Jabber [Andre Durand was the founder] on a rather gloomy Friday in Denver contemplating what I wanted to do when I grew up when I received an email from a high-school friend who had recently purchased a 50' sailboat and was in the process of visiting every island in the Caribbean. It took but 10 seconds for me to decide to take some time off to visit my friend and recharge the batteries that were suffering from 10 years of straight start-up grind. Being in the Caribbean for an extended period of time gave me the opportunity think freely about a number of things which were of interest. In particular, it gave me the time to start dabbling with blogs. I'd wake up around 6am, go topside with my laptop and start writing about anything which was of interest. I wrote about a variety of things such as global consciousness or networked computing. When finished, I'd copy the story to a floppy, and search for the nearest internet cafe from which I'd upload my story. For the first time, I'd found an outlet for some of my creative ideas, and the weblog became a place to try out many of those ideas. It was during this time that I started to think about digital identity, having noticed that identity was underneath many of the things I was writing about.
Off-topic, but if you are interested in digital identity, I recommend the Digital ID World conference (attended first year) and for a customer-centric perspective (beyond security) on why digital identity is important, take a peek at an old blog post.