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The value of downtime

I’ve had a really exciting weekend. I had a new friend, David Hammond, come over for a brainstorming session. We initially met as part of a new venture we’ve both involved in. Saturday we started discussing how we were going to build a company from scratch. He’s taken on the role of COO for a start-up; I’ve taken on the role of systems engineer for the same start-up. My title and location within the organization has very interesting implications for those that study organizational development –but I’ll save that for another post someday. Enough to say, the job of building a corporation out of thin air is no simple task, especially when everyone else is concern with production and science concerns expecting you to fill in all the corporate, infrastructure and process definition.

To paraphrase his gut; “I was feeling like the lone ranger in this activity”. Our Chief Strategy Officer and CO-Founder recommended that he talk with me. After my introduction to my role within the group: “I’m with white space between all the boxes on the chart” He had a sense I could help. He had brought a role of several large diagrams from past work that he unfurled across my living room floor. As he explained each, I would chime in with references and concepts that were in line with materials or provided more details. And so it went for about an hour; his diagrams and symbols my response to references. It felt like a scene from “Close Encounters” we were establishing a common language between us; a language of common beliefs, mental models and concepts. After we’d started communicating in our new dialect, rapid progress was made in what we needed to do and have others do; tools and systems to be built and strategies for how.

At 5:30 we stopped for dinner at his place. His wife had put together an excellent spread. The conversation varied between business, politics and family. All in all it was an almost perfect day. If my wife had been with me it would have been 10 out of 10.

This morning I woke up and started thinking about how to represent simply the areas we have to defined –which so happened to have similar activity I have engaged in with some other friends. I seem to have become a taxonomist by accident and business designer by intent—to others who have not been involved in the conversation and don’t have a common language. I came up with the following mode.

Later I took a break from all this deep thinking or so I thought to read my LinkedIn page update. An article “What Happened to downtime” caught my attention. The past two years had been dedicated to 24×7 execution activities the company I presently works at focuses on. There has been little downtime to think by others or I, despite efforts to influence people to do such. Weekends were not much different, until I started to just regain my strategic footing through mentoring others. Then this article resonated with my thinking. How often do we get caught up with the urgent and forget to think. Then I looked how easily I came up with the diagram about within a day of identifying a need for it. I’m sure had a needed to come up with it yesterday we both would have drawn a blank. It was that 4 hours this morning of downtime that enabled the creativity to pour in.

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