Slow-Motion Multitasking

Highly creative people often have one thing in common and I’m glad we now have a name for it: slow-motion multitasking.

Texting while driving is a bad idea, we can agree on this. But for a specific kind of activity, doing multiple things at the same time is exactly what we should do.

Science has shown that multitasking on a per-second basis, also known as human multitasking, is decreasing productivity.

But I’d like to argue that developing multiple ideas at the same time is something completely different. This means you should move back and forth between ideas, depending on where you can contribute to the success, not where you have to work due to an artificial schedule.

But please, this procrastination/piling up of initial ideas should not be confused with firefighting, also often observed when people work on different topics at the same time. It should also not be used as an excuse not to work on a difficult topic.

If you just had a brilliant idea for another topic, it is beneficial to set one thing aside for some time. Switching allows the brain to visualize a problem by taking new impressions and learnings into account.

I observed working on projects of different domains at the same time works best for me. For example, defining the architecture for industrial, real-time analytics, high-throughput streaming application and building (design, manufacturing) an endurance drone.

This can be perfectly combined with open innovation and Hydra.

Practical Tip 1 – Be Prepared to Document

Keep a nice notebook (paper) and a pencil next to your bed to make a note whenever the muse visits. Don’t do it on loose sheets of paper. It doesn’t have the same effect and it gets messy fast. Leave space when you start with an idea by using the right sides only for example and write down dates whenever you add info.

Enterprises should provide online space where employees can propose ideas and collaborate with others (enterprise idea management platform). Employees throughout the company can join a project, not just a specific group.

You will see that over time the book with your ideas will get very full. You will go back to ideas you had years before and supplement them over time. I started with my books 9 years ago and got several hundred potential business and startup ideas.

It also happens from time to time that you see ideas you had in your book appear as actual products. Don’t worry about it, but take it as an “It can’t be too wrong what I’m thinking if some of the greatest minds have the same idea.” Try to learn from these occurrences how the innovator brought the topic to life.

Practical Tip 2 – Provide Environment

As an enterprise, plan some money for domain experts to provide a platform for further ideation (afterburner) of topics added to the enterprise idea management platform.

Allow departments to easily fund employee projects. Introduce an innovation currency (1 coin per person) for every employee which can be spent independently.

This fixes that some topics never get fixed due to the profit/loss responsibility of internally competing departments.

Practical Tip 3 – Learn to Sketch

Learn how to sketch. It is easier to add a small sketch to an idea than to describe it, especially when you want to communicate your idea in order to gain support for example in a management review presentation.

Practical Tip 4 – Provide Resources

Make room for innovation. If you are a company, I would highly encourage you to make room for your employees to explore better ways.

Give free access to equipment in their spare time such as servers, spectrum analyzers, motors, CNC machines, lathes or whatever you’re working with.

If employees have a good idea, encourage them, connect them with resources and give credit. Treat their ideas with respect and at an appropriate time, act as a sponsor / financial angel.

Practical Tip 5 – Rapid Prototyping

Automation and fast turn around is key. If you’ve left the initial stage (sketching, enriching) of the idea, being fast to iterate is key.

In the hardware world, this means rapid prototyping with 3D printing, 3D scanning, the use of a desktop CNC router, etc.

For software try either low code platforms or ecosystems with plenty of libraries and automate as much as possible.

Try to focus on “delivering” full cut-troughs through the stack to allow potential customers to test your product. This is where you should do hypothesis-driven testing at the latest. I prefer to already start it at the beginning.

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