Carve out time for non-work work

Creativity expert and author Daniel Pink calls it “non-commissioned work”, the projects or challenges people choose to tackle on top of their day job, just because an issue fascinates or annoys them. Such was the case with Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, from the University of Manchester, who won last year’s Nobel Prize in physics for experiments that isolated the remarkable substance of graphene. They didn’t do it as part of their heavily committed, funded research program but in the ten per cent of time set aside at the lab for non-funded personal projects. “It was in their Friday evening experiments – not their regular, day-to-day work – that the scientists made their graphene breakthrough,” Pink relates. “They won science’s highest honour not for their official duties, but for work that was unsanctioned, unfunded and unofficial.” Google and many other tech companies offer employees funded time off for their own pursuits, something 3M pioneered in 1948 with a 15 per cent program that’s produced many of its most successful products. Left to follow their instincts and indulge their curiosity, employees demonstrate incredible innovation, and not just in new products. Leaders at Tokio Marine Nichido Systems, a finalist in the Harvard Business Review/McKinsey Management 2.0 Challenge, transformed the Japanese company from a heavily siloed, passive enterprise into a vibrant, productive workplace by implementing a range of radical staff-driven initiatives, such as banning internal competition and result-based payment and encouraging employees to do work they really prefer. Among lessons learned: “The role of management is not managing people. It’s to help people.”

 

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