A Structure of Unstructured Time

How to create and cultivate an innovation-oriented culture?

Soren Kaplan, the author of the bestseller “Leapfrogging”, says that most corporate visions and missions sound alarmingly alike, emphasizing sales. According to Kaplan, instead of concentrating on making profit, we should be focused on the way we want to change the world, and put people first.

This sounds like a plan for creating original innovations, as well as making the world a better place for all. But how to create a truly innovation-oriented culture at the workplace, a culture focused on the way the world needs to be changed?

In his article “6 Ways to Create a Culture of Innovation”, Kaplan gives us a few good starting points. First of all, when attempting to create an innovation-oriented culture in your organization, it is essential that the people working there have got enough time to spare for experimenting and becoming “intrapreneurs”.

Kaplan says this calls for creating a structure for some “unstructured” time in the organization level. Google is one of the companies that gives its employees about 10% “free” time to innovate.

Kaplan says that providing free time for employees to experiment with new technologies, products, or processes can catalyze the next big thing. Nevertheless, he also states that too many companies—and the consultants they hire—attempt to over-engineer the innovation process. In my opinion, a consultant is perhaps only needed for convincing the management that driving intrapreneurship and creating an innovation-oriented culture and workflow is a key factor in any organization’s success.

If your organization were to adopt “the Google workflow”, each employee working a 40-hour week should use approximately 4 hours per week being an intrapreneur. How to make this happen? It seems there are several ways to implement this kind of workflow. One easy way to start focusing more on innovation is to begin or end your working day with approximately 45 minutes of “unstructured” time.

However, I believe the most valuable innovations are created together with others. What I would add to Kaplan’s suggestions is getting a group of diverse people from the organization together to act as a team of intrapreneurs whenever creating new products or services, as well as getting the customers deeply involved in the process of innovation in order to co-create value.

This, to me, seems like the most feasible way of putting people first, and it might help in focusing on the various ways to be the change we want to see in the world.

Read more in the article on innovation by Soren Kaplan:


About Meditation and Mindfulness

I thought today I’d take a minute or two to talk about meditation and mindfulness.

Many people immediately associate mindfulness with deep insight meditation, which starts by focusing on the breath. However, mindfulness can be about many other things besides that.

A number of well-known companies, Apple and Google as perhaps the most prominent examples, are now implementing mindfulness programs for their employees. In the meanwhile, our organization is currently participating in a large-scale research project on practicing compassion at the workplace.

My interest in this subject matter, mindfulness and compassion, sparked over 10 years ago when I was visiting Tibet. The trip was extraordinary. Getting to know the political situation in the Himalayas as well as immersing in the rich culture of the Tibetans made me, eventually, take up spiritual practice. By this I do not mean that I am particularly religious, but rather that I attempt to simply apply some methods of spirituality in my everyday life.

As it is, like many of us, I am currently leading a fairly busy life. Over the years, having also suffered from this situation from time to time, I have come to realize the need of incorporating some mindfulness principles into my daily life.

It is not always easy. To begin with, meditation is perhaps not the best method of mindfulness nor relaxation for me. But the idea of doing nothing and simply focusing on the moment can and perhaps should be applied whether or not one assumes the correct posture. Like most people do, I find that taking small breaks during the workday makes me more productive and reduces stress. And likewise, fully focusing on one subject or task at a time certainly helps in getting the best result.

At home, I have a few reminders of paying attention to mindfulness around. One of these is a thangka. For those that are not familiar with the term, a thangka is basically a traditional Buddhist painting, originally created for meditation purposes, as an aid for meditation. Even though I find meditation to be too hard for me, the thangka is a constant reminder of the importance of spiritual practice.

Not every method works for everyone. That is why I decided to seek for a concise list of different ways to practice mindfulness at the workplace online to add to this post, and found this one by Laura Vanderkam. Some good starting points for the journey towards mindfulness by Laura are listed in her article below.