PRODUCTIVE WORK – PRODUCTIVE BREAKS
If your philosophy (business and personal) is based on thriving rather than surviving, you probably like getting useful things done. And you probably ask yourself every now and then, how you can best support your own productivity. My answer for Dreambounded Leaders is, remember what it means to be fully present in the natural creative flow of your consciousness. Simply put that means work effectively when you are working and clear your mind effectively when you are not working.
Two examples of how others with respectable accomplishments have done this might be useful.
For the first example, I’m currently reading a book called, The Right Kind of Crazy by Adam Steltzner. Steltzner led the Entry, Descent, and Landing team in landing the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars and his book talks about how he and his teams discovered “breakthrough innovation in the face of the impossible.”
He says the following about how he got things done. “What I found to be most honest and most effective was to have all the groups I interacted with good-naturedly bashing one another. The goal was to find a way for ideas to win rather than people, so it was important to set up this jousting as a test of competing truths rather than competing egos or hierarchies.”
In the book, he says he wanted to get to that place where “conflict could be creative rather than combustible” and to do that he “also needed the team to remain very close personally.”
This brings up the idea of a shift in consiousness from what I call in Dreambounded Leadership, Organizing Mind to Releasing Mind. Steltzner wanted the active building part of the process to find the best ways possible to put together the hardware and software that would get the rover from orbit around Mars to a gentle landing on the surface. And he wanted to address the human element as part of that process. In this project, lots of very smart people needed to work together finding the best ways to do things without turning the process into a brawl or burning out.
As part of having the team remain very close personally, he “sponsored ‘EDL lunches,’ with five to twenty-five members of the team, going off-lab to a place called Nicole’s, in South Pasadena. . . “ (EDL stood for: Entry, Descent, and Landing).
“Sometimes we’d talk about business, but mostly we’d just try to be human, talk movies we liked, restaurants, our opinions of our children’s schools, or awesome wackiness found on YouTube.”
In other words, Steltzner shifted his team from Organizing Mind to Releasing Mind – productive work to productive break (activities that were unrelated to the job).
For the second example, Steltzner relates a story about physicist Enrico Fermi insisting on much the same kind of shift in consciousness as non-negotiable in his and his team’s creative process. Apparently, Fermi was about to create the first sustained nuclear fission reaction at his lab under the University of Chicago football stadium in Hyde park.
Steltzner tells the story as follows: “Three rods needed to be pulled out to set the reaction in motion. In some sense Fermi’s entire career had been leading up to this one huge moment. But on the big day, just as the technician pulled out the first rod, Fermi noticed the clock. ‘Stop,’ he said. ‘Time for lunch.’ So, as usual, his team gathered around a big table to enjoy one another’s company, sharing stories about family and whatever else was going on in their lives.”
This shift in consciousness puts the active building part of the project into a larger context by making Releasing Mind part of the process rather than an optional rest from the process. This shift allows a letting go of the work. and its potential for becoming too serious and then resulting in decisions based on fear.
I like to think of those kinds of breaks, not as a break from work, but a break in consciousness allowing the natural flow of consciousness to do its thing.
The takeaway: every business involves people working together in some form or format. Push yourself and others hard for the best ideas possible and when intuition calls for a shift, meet everyone for lunch and talk about other things.