Conserve your energy for innovation


Throughout the industrial age, tips on time management – essentially, how to pack more productive activities into each work day – were perennially popular.

Only in recent years have we seen a major shift in emphasis from merely “being productive” to the bigger question: Why squeeze more activities into a day unless we’re sure that all of those tasks need to be done in the first place?

And thus “lean management” was born – aimed at rooting out time-eating bureaucracy and wasteful work. Instead of doing more stuff more efficiently, the idea is to look upstream so we can eliminate low value tasks and bad management practices.

NOW COMES THE EVEN BIGGER QUESTION: Is it enough to minimize time wasted, or should we also obsess about how we expend and renew our energy? In the context of causing innovation to happen, burnout and depression at work are not only health issues, they lead to lost business opportunities. In other words, we may somehow find the time to be creative, but we must also possess the energy for innovation.

In a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time,” Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy examine costs, causes and remedies for today’s human “energy crisis.” They recommend practices for renewing four dimensions of personal energy: physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy and spiritual energy.

This month’s HBR addresses ways of working that rob us of time via “Lean Knowledge Work.” Ideally, recovered time could be directed toward innovation. As well in this issue, the highly-regarded Rosabeth Moss Kanter observes, some of the greatest harm in organizations today is being caused by “callousness about people’s time.”

Management theorists and workers on the ground are still in the early days of understanding the relationship between time, energy and innovation. This is a fruitful area of study that deserves special attention. Perhaps as an alternative to Master of Business Administration, future students will be able to pursue an inspiring Master of Business Vitality degree.

- Sharon VanderKaay

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  • About The Nature of Innovation

    We are a Toronto-based firm of architects who see our collaboration with clients and colleagues as providing a living lab for enriching the creative process. Farrow Partnership Architects’ built work has been internationally recognized for leadership in human-centric design. This is where we come to discuss our ideas as they hatch and our experiences as they happen.
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