Making Time for Innovation

The research is clear: the brain needs time to innovate. Unfortunately, time is a project manager’s most precious commodity—and it’s usually in short supply. Research conducted by New York-based research firm Basex Inc. found that nearly 28% of an office worker’s time is spent being interrupted—costing the United States an estimated US$900 billion annually (Van Loon, 2013). This number could well be even higher among project managers, who spend up to 90% of their time communicating with others (Phillips). These interruptions become even more concerning when one considers how long it takes the average worker to return to serious mental tasks after an interruption. In a study released in 2007, a group of Microsoft workers took, on average, 15 minutes to resume writing reports or computer code after responding to an incoming email or instant message (Lohr, 2007). With all of these distractions, it may seem next to impossible to carve out time for innovation and strategic thinking—but new research suggests it is possible. We must start by critically examining the most substantial obstacle to productivity known to date—our own brains.


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