Creating Time for Innovation

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Last week, I wrapped up a workshop I was teaching innovation leaders on the 7 laws of innovation. At the end of every workshop or session I teach, I conduct an “AMA” or ask me anything time. There seems to be a recurring question I get from leaders who have taken the Innovation Bootcamp and the 7 laws workshop. The question is, “Creating time for innovation, is it possible?”

Creating Time for Innovation

Time for innovation as an Organization

Now I will share some examples of how organizations have created time for innovation. The first example occurred in the early days of HP, long before I was CTO. Bill Hewlett would set aside time for the engineers to work on side projects they wanted to prioritize. Friday from noon till the end of the day was where this typically went down. All HP's part cabinets would be open and available, with the rule that you had to demo what you created at the end.

In the early days of this show, I interviewed Art Fong, employee #9 at HP. He got recruited by Bill directly while doing radar work for the military in WW2. During these times, he worked on putting together one of the first radar guns for measuring vehicle speed. This work led to the development of new test gear and resulted in employees feeling like they had time and permission to create new ideas. This mindset became part of the culture at HP.

Another example of how you can create time for innovation has to do with project planning. Most organizations focus all 40 hours of the week on getting projects done for clients. A disciplined organization will schedule 35 hours a week for projects and leave an extra five hours for innovation/think time. Some organizations use what I call “innovation vacations.” This spare time allows employees to refresh and think of new ideas outside of their scheduled work time. I do “trend safaris,” where I hunt for the latest things at significant events. I would do this at The Hanover Furniture Fair, New York Fashion Week, the world's fair in Tokyo, etc.

Creating Time as an Individual

You may still be wondering what you as an individual can do to create time for innovation. The first thing you can do is prioritize. Innovation requires time and commitment. As an innovator and an author, I've learned that consistency is more important than quantity. If you spend an hour a day innovating every day, you will make a lot of progress. You can even spend fifteen minutes a day working on something if you're consistent.

Next, you can find an innovation accountability partner. I had a dream of writing a book for many years but didn't do it till an agent approached me with the idea and kept me accountable. You can also talk to your boss and show them the work you are doing. Ask them for guidance on how you can fit innovation time into your schedule. Once you have innovation time allocated, protect it. Just like going to the gym, it becomes a habit if you do it for enough days. Similarly, if you start skipping it, eventually, you will stop it altogether.

Creating time for innovation is so important because, without it, you will have zero ideas. If you are a leader, you need to give explicit permission to everyone in your organization to innovate. This move can be something like a one-day-a-month innovation day. At the end of the day, you can't create time. When it's gone, it's gone, and it is constrained. By prioritizing your innovation, you will be one step closer to coming up with that new idea.

To know more about creating time for innovation, listen to this week's show: Creating Time for Innovation.

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