CRAYON BOX 2: AIGA Time Off from Work for Inspiration & Innovation?

14 10 2009

What does Make/Think mean to you? I was asked that while at the AIGA MAKE/THINK convention in Memphis Tennessee. For those who do not know AIGA is a graphic artist associciaton. Now those two words, MAKE/THINK toiled in my mind.  I pondered how those two words together are apart of my design life. As my mind boiled and toiled over the thought, a thin bushy haired Austrian man walked out on stage and began to speak with his delightful German accent. The designer was one of my favorite minds, Stefan Sagmeister. That man would be one of four scratch off winners on my inspirational lotto ticket. I was on the way to cashing in the jack pot winning ticket to my mental bank. My right side being a mental Swiss bank account of freedom, and my left brain a 401k of responsible brain investing and spending.

As Sagmeisters spoke he focused in on how he gained inspiration. Most of his inspiration for innovation comes from a genius idea that we need to spend time on a sabbatical in order to live a better life and to become a better worker in any field. He noticed he was becoming predictable so, every 7 years he shuts down his design group and they take a full year off. That’s right, no calls, only away messages stating they are out of office for a full year. He understands greatly the power of a sabbatical.

He spoke on how 3m, and Google give their employees up to 20% time off, paid to research and invent on their own. 3m has had a few ideas born in this off time. Those ideas are called Scotch Tape and Sticky Notes…you might have heard of them. As I sat an listened to Stephan I made the direct connection to his process and Pixar.

Pixar Animation Studios allows employees to stay on the payroll and use facilities at Pixar, while they are in between films, to explore and develop their own projects. This is how they find new talents, ideas, and innovation from within. Other studios hire you for a movie and then lay you off when “run of show” has completed. At Pixar, an animator that makes a great short story during their paid time off, might get a chance to become a director for a short film and then get to direct a feature film. Pixar and these amazing companies have found success in downtime, allowing their employees the freedom to explore in their own way, which in return increases their success.  Watch Stefans Talk below.


This kind of exploration leads to work place morale. Morale is one of the single most overlooked aspects in most companies. Often you will find the low moral slows productivity, lowers retention, and creates frustration, among other things. Anyone who has seen Office Space, knows that the movie illustrates this point perfectly.

Brad Bird one of the Directors at Pixar Animation Studios and said this about morale, “In my experience, the thing that has the most significant impact on a movie’s budget—but never shows up in a budget—is morale. If you have low morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about 25 cents of value. If you have high morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about $3 of value. Companies should pay much more attention to morale.” (Gigacom.com)

If only more companies, agencies, groups, and world leaders could see this value.  I truly believe we could innovate, and motivate ourselves in ways yet to be seen. Could you imagine if we had some kind of business plan to show business people, clients, and bosses. They could look at hard facts and results. They could see this plan puts their finances back in the black and creates fresh new ideas that lead to change which for the business people leads to profits! I wish we had crystal ball that showed all of this process already working in the real world. Oh wait there is Pixar, Stefan Sagmeister, 3m, Google and many more.

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One response

23 10 2009
Kurt

I recommend watching an of Sagmeister's videos on Ted. He has a great one on happiness.

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