Friday, February 26, 2010

Innovation: Consider the gauntlet thrown

I've lately been looking at this notion that virtue =

(pick one or more)

  • hard work

  • long hours

  • deprivation

  • suffering

  • a measure of misery


What if that isn't the case?

And I thought about software development, an environment that seem to thrive on the hard work-long hours-deprivation factors of that equation.

Seems to thrive.

Somehow we as a society generally buy into the idea that if we're really being productive and contributing--if we're really being good or virtuous--it has to hurt. And if one person on the team works 80 hours a week, three more people will decide they must work 100 hours a week--at a cost of health, family, accuracy, and

...wait for it…

innovation.

I'm throwing down the gauntlet and saying that I think we as a company or a nation or a world could be much more innovative and come up with much stronger, safer, more streamlined solutions if we worked less and suffered less--and if we played more.

Are you going to get your best ideas if you've spent 100 hours a week at your desk? Or if you've spent 20 of those hours in meetings with other people who have spent 80 hours a week at their desks?

Innovation comes from creativity, and creativity thrives on new experiences and new surroundings and new connections and the freshest air possible.

What if you worked 40 or 50 hours a week and brought your best, most-rested brain to it? What if the rest of the week you had more time to think and to dream up new possibilities…

...What if?

3 comments:

leslic said...

I'll see your gauntlet and raise you one, JOannie: I think that 20 - 30 hours per week is more than enough time to get work done and come up with creative and interesting ways of living. Thanks for the reminder that what some view as lazy, I have always thought was simply good business sense.

Joannie said...

Good point, Leslie. I guess it depends on how focused you can be for how long a stretch, and find the rhythm that makes sense (without working 80 hours a week--or even close to it).

The Good Typist said...

Great post, Joannie! I work in heart disease prevention for a local non-profit, and this month especially, being Heart Month, we are all working every weekend, and insanely long hours to keep up on everything. My diet's gone to hell, I'm stressed out and exhausted, I haven't seen the gym in weeks, and I'm fighting the flu. I also have medical appointments I've put off for well over two months because if I take time off in the day, I don't get things done that need to get done. Yet, a big part of my job is to educate people about eating well, keeping stress levels reasonable, finding time for movement, and seeing your doctor on regular basis. Ironic, no? And this a non-profit--not a hard-driving corporation. I believe that to the degree that we can, we need to walk our talk and model what we preach out in the community. There is support for this at the organization, but it tends to get lost in times like these.

I totally agree with you that it's ridiculous to think that more working hours (many of them spent wasted in meetings) are going to magically lead innovation. And this ingrained cultural concept that somehow more hours=moral virtue has got to go.