wandering Aimlessly: key to Innovation?

October 24, 2011

When I was a kid, my older brother used to have this die hard aversion to starting the car unless we knew precisely where we were headed. We always joked about his phobia of  “Wandering Aimlessly”.

And, for most of us, when we wake up on a Monday or close down shop for a Friday, we have a carefully constructed plan for what will happen in the days that follow. In our quest for focused achievement, we check in with Base Camp and tackle project lists; we outline daily plans for the day; we list “three learning objectives” for every educational session we create or attend. This is great for accomplishing task; and we all know that adult learners need a defined educational goal…but does it stifle creativity and possibilities when put ourselves in such a clearly delineated position?

Mike Bloomberg (I’m a HUGE fan) recently said, “The essence of innovation is you don’t know what you’re going to build, what it’s going to be called, how much it’s going to cost.” He was referring to the fact that governments are expected to provide justification and accountability in advance of spending public money, which serves to limit their true capabilities to innovate, to try new things. But I think it easily translates to many aspects of life.

Have you ever just sat down at a computer and “browsed”? How often do you sit down at the TV and surf channels? What about Facebook? Have you ever just meandered through everyone’s posts? If yes, do you ever stumble across new articles, books, television programs, cool videos or even make new friends? So think about your job. What if you were allowed to step away from that list of to do’s for a day or even a week, but were still being paid to work? What if your only job was to freewrite your ideas and observations about your workplace…to browse or surf your job? Do you think there would be solutions or innovations you might come up with?

I guess my point is that if you’re feeling a bit trapped, claustrophobic, buried…or even bored…in your job, why not do a little aimless wandering? Explain to your superiors that you need a tiny on-the-job sabbatical. Some freedom to explore creativity and meander through your workplace – maybe a retreat is exactly what you need? Perhaps you’ll find that magic restart button, or even unleash the innovation you know lurks within 🙂