Free Time

Nancy Gibbs writing in Time magazine (22 Nov 2010) discusses innovation and why we need to reinvent free time:

. . . . no one has yet managed to [invent] the time machine.  Or better yet, the time expander.  So we’ve got to play tricks on ourselves:  schedule free time, however counterintuitive that may seem. . .   I’ve always envied the Google engineers their 20% time”:  the one day a week they are told to allocate to a kind of intellectual R&D, working on projects that aren’t part of their normal job description.  This speaks to one of the ironies of innovation:  too much freedom makes it harder, too little makes it impossible.  But if we were ordered by our bosses to spend even one hour a week brainstorming, blueskying, free-associating, I imagine the rest of the week would become more creative as well.

Creativity can be an admirable end in itself–but it’s also a route to power.  The great designer, architect and innovator Buckminster Fuller once marveled at the workings of a tiny piece at the edge of the rudder of a great steamship, like the ‘Queen Mary,’ called the trimtab.  “Just moving the little trimtab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around.  Takes almost no effort at all,” he said.  “The little individual can be a trimtab.  Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether.  But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go.”  Etched in stone at his grave site, it says, CALL ME TRIMTAB–BUCKY.

Buckminster Fuller Headstone

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This entry was posted in anarchism, Organizational Dynamics, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Free Time

  1. susan says:

    I applaud Google engineers for the 20%. I think some companies also do a sort of “time out” as part of their day/week, i.e., no telephone calls, no e-mails, no interruptions, etc. Just some down time to spend on projects, meditate, etc. We are being inundated with so many different things coming at us. What is 5 free minutes anymore? It’s a luxury….

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