Most of us feel like there is barely enough time in the day to get three things checked off the to do list, much less devote time and energy to individual creative thinking or “dabble time.” Given multiple demands on our time, energy and personal bandwidth, how can we make the case that it’s a good return on the investment of time? Scheduling some dabble time will help spark your creative process, give you new insights into your own business, help you innovate and encourage fun!
I learned the true value of dabble time in business school in a new product development (NPD) class. From day one our assumptions about creativity, brainstorming and innovation were consistently challenged. I left every class energized, invigorated and a little sad it was over. Most of my colleagues felt the same way because we were dreaming of the freedom to dabble and learn about anything we wanted while we were on the clock.
One of our NPD takeaways was that leading innovators and the companies that employ them highly value dabble time. An example is W.L. Gore & Associates, makers of GORE-TEX and many other leading products. A visit to their website yields a brief glimpse of how they prioritize creativity, teamwork, exploration and discovery. One of our guests in the NPD class was an engineer from Gore and she underscored just how important it was to dabble – independently and collectively. Through this company-sanctioned time they were able to read, think, draw, daydream and create. What W.L. Gore values is that through this process, their colleagues are sparking ideas for new products or ways to innovate and make new products better. Not only is this fun for people but also it’s an investment in the product pipeline.
Another example is IDEO, an award-winning global design firm. You may have seen their work featured on an episode of ABC’s Nightline a few years ago where they redesigned a shopping cart in four days. This firm is consistently at the center of innovation, creativity and technical proficiency (and they still have fun). Tom Kelley of IDEO authored The Art of Innovation, Lessons in Creativity from IDEO. It’s an excellent read and provides insights into their company culture and success.
For those of us without company-sanctioned dabble time it’s a little bit harder, but not impossible, to create room for some dabbling and creative pursuits. One of the easiest things to do is read as much as you can about other industries, innovators, art, design, etc. The point is to get out of your routine, get your brain working in a different way and broaden your knowledge base. By doing this you’ll be able to make links and connections between ideas and processes you never thought about. You may also find a solution to that nagging challenge or an idea for your next award winning marketing campaign strategy.
About the author
Meghan Ray Virro is a marketing communications professional with experience creating innovative solutions for diverse non-profit and for-profit enterprises.