The difference between recharging and goofing off

Taking breaks from your regular activity supposedly enhances your ability to concentrate. Consequently, the clever employer should encourage those who spend their day in front of the computer screen to interrupt their activity from time to time to relax and recharge.

I have a small beach ball in my office, a promotional item left over from some conference. What if I’d throw it up into the air? Today I tried it out: very relaxing – beats walking to the washroom or getting another cup of coffee. But I felt odd.  What would my co-workers think about me? Sure looks like I’m goofing off.

In an office environment, some forms of de-stressing are more accepted that others. Getting coffee is the top accepted de-stresser, I would say. Smoking also features high on the list – need a break, have a smoke. Going for a walk – good, but may take too long in the eyes of the boss.

Many also deal with stress by talking to their fellow employees. Probably better for your health than smoking, but can cause significant disruption of the workflow, particularly if many employees go through a stressful time at once.

Spending five minutes with a beach ball (or a skipping rope? or a mini-putt?) seems like a worthwhile alternative that should be an acceptable form of recharging – and easier to monitor than other common forms of in-office relaxation, such as constantly checking your Twitter feed or Facebook updates. Then, I think, you are basically just goofing off…

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Innovation, the new normal?

Companies in many sectors are facing rapid change. Following Clayton Christensen’s terminology, established businesses are being disrupted by new technology, and new business models are developed around these technologies.

Whether it is 3D printing of medical implants, crowd sourcing of clinical trial data analysis, software that supports pre-clinical studies and identifies the most promising drug candidates, ‘big data’ capturing patients’ genomic profile or personalized health records that patients can carry from physician to physician, fundamental transformations are afoot in the healthcare industry.

Consultants to the healthcare sector struggle to stay on top of all the different angles that are emerging. How much reading can you do in a day? Should you rather update your skills in data mining (i.e. working with ‘big data’) or become an expert in social media platforms and the many ways they are being used by patients and physicians or study government initiatives to incorporate new technologies in reorganizing the way healthcare is delivered to the patient?

The state of confusion is pretty typical for market changes. Initially, there is a whirlwind of new ideas and approaches. Are electric cars going to be the way of the future or ceramic fuel cells? Or will biking emerge as ‘disruptive technology’ in a reorganized urban neighbourhood? Will patients carry their own health records around on a USB stick or will they become universally accessible through a (password protected) cloud? Will pharmaceutical companies find ways to make drug development cheaper or will fewer drugs be approved or will best supportive care with the bells and whistles of comfortable retirement living ‘disrupt’ the oncology pipeline? Will iOS, android or Windows 8 emerge as the dominant ecosystem for computer / tablet / phone or do we need to learn all three to know what works how in which environment? Etc, etc.

Should we wait until the dust settles before we decide how to focus our efforts?

I am not sure that the dust will ever settle. The pace of change is accelerating, with no sign of stopping or settling down. Then where should we pitch our tent? What should we hold on to? I believe that companies and individuals will succeed who develop mechanisms, routines, practices that allow them to deal with change. Not just once, but on an ongoing basis. Those who effectively survey what is going on in the whirlwind, who systematically capture their own ideas on how to ride the storm and who devise an easy process that allows them to test, develop and implement these ideas will have a chance.