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Claim your moment of energy

I work in an environment where everyone desires to innovate. So we have innovation programs and projects in place and people can set aside time to work on their initiatives. Yet everyone still feels we can do more, and we fail to have an innovative culture. I think it is because although we have all the preconditions, client projects always get priority, and it is literally at the end of our day that we find the time to work on our innovation initiatives, if at all.

The solution is time management, although I rather speak about energy management. But it is different from the traditional definition. Recently I spoke with a colleague who is creative and innovative, has a great desire to do cool stuff, but does not get to it. We reviewed his average day to see why he would not get to it. So we made a schedule. He would start his day at 9AM working on client projects; if time left he would support the business development function, if then was time left he would work on another company initiative, and if then if any time was left, he may work on an innovation initiative. By then it would be 6PM or past, and his energy level was on a low.

I advised him to identify his personal “moment of energy” in the day, and spend it on something he really wants to accomplish, e.g., the innovation initiative. That’s my advice to anyone who wants to get accomplished something that she or he really wants: claim that hour or so in your day at which your creative energy is at a peak, and do what you really want to do. Use that time slot to have your creative juices flow, and make sure that you have the means with you to have them materialize and document them.

The moment of energy is probably different for every person. Mine is in the early morning, and I may spend it at the kitchen table or at Starbucks, writing and drawing, just before I come into the office to do my daily job. Your moment of energy may be different, for example in the evening or night. The thing is to recognize it and claim it as yours. When you enjoy your moment of energy like this, I am sure that the rest of your day will also be more gratifying and productive.

Use processes properly

Many organizations have processes in place to help workers get to deliverables. Processes are helpful to an organization because they help capable people to get to results more effectively and efficiently. Unfortunately, processes are also abused. Too often, it’s enough to have followed the process and ticked the boxes. Also too often, processes are in place to compensate for a lack of capable people. I believe both are wrong. The original idea should be restored: Processes should help people to get to results more effectively and efficiently, by freeing up time and resources to do proper thinking and investigating.

Leading by example

Our family pet is a rabbit named Tommie. We gave it to our children for them to take care of it; feeding it and cleaning its cage. After a few years it is evident that they don’t. Sure, they love it and hug it, taking it out of its cage and out on a leash. But dad has to do the feeding and cleaning. So I wonder: is that bad? Is it part of the upbringing of children to be strict and make them do it? Would they grow into less responsible adults if we don’t? I believe it’s not. I believe that as long as children get exposed to an example, they will pick it up when they are ready, just like I did. In fact, leading by example and inspiring people to pick it up, is a virtue I generally believe in.

Set expectations first

In our market research practice we often test product concepts, claims, value propositions and other pieces of material. Jokingly, we place bets on which piece we expect to win. I think we should be more serious about it: the business should put indicate beforehand which piece they think is going to win, why and by how much. This is helpful because it helps to weed out the bad pieces prior to the study, preventing us from wasting time and other resources. Furthermore, it is a better way to leverage the knowledge in the business team and make informed decisions. Finally, it prevents hindsight bias, allowing people to claim they knew an item would win or lose, which is impossible to prove or deny. My usual response is “great, so why did we test it?” I believe we should set the expectations first and do something with them.

Word of the day: curation

Last Sunday I was on a plane on my way to Boston and I sat next to a very interesting guy who taught me a few new words. One of them was “curation”. My spelling checker does not recognize it, but it is related to “curator” and “to curate”. It means that a text is well researched so you can trust it to be accurate. This is opposed to tweets and many blogs that are just blatantly superficial, opinionated and are focused on sharing comments in an instant. As a journalist, he liked blogs (he actually writes one himself on WordPress) but he did not necessarily liked the superficial and instant nature. I agreed with him: as professionals (him being a journalist; me being a researcher) we need to focus on the validity of what we publish instead of just putting it out there as soon as possible.