Looking at the great inventions and awesome creations of art that humankind has collectively produced, I can’t help but notice a common theme: the need for leisure. Leisure here not meaning, sitting around and doing nothing at all, but the need to have time that is otherwise unstructured and undemanding. When you are toiling day in and day out without respite, it is difficult to innovate or to pursue ideas. Consequently, it is only in the absence of immediate demands that we see truly great ideas arise. Necessity is perhaps not the mother of invention, but free time. As I see it, there are three different ways that a person can find leisure time.
The first, most hardcore, and most simply realized, is to embrace a willingness to be poor, live threadbare, and, so relieved of the need to make a great deal of money, be freed to spend the majority of one’s day doing what one pleases. Eventually, if one’s leisure time is productive, great art or other works may come forth and fund further leisure time.
Many who have leisure time don’t need to work because they are financially in sufficient shape to live a life of comfort without labors. This frees their mind to wander where it pleases while taking sufficient care of their body to not be impeded by its needs.
A model I discovered at Legato is that another way to have leisure time is to have one’s capacity greatly exceed the expectations placed upon you. In this way, you complete your tasks more quickly than expected and have time remaining to innovate and to create in
Unfortunately, leisure time is taken for waste in modern society, just like “general research” is not an expense that most people think is not worth its cost. Without a pragmatic way to determine what the likely ROI is going to be for such an abstract investment, the modern skeptical investor is sure to stay far away. But it is this very class of science that has given us the driving forces of the modern economy!
This gives an interesting rationale behind “padding” a schedule (intentionally assigning an employee less work than they are capable of completing in a given time period) — not to laze around after completing a task and before the next is to begin, but to allow for unstructured time in which to contemplate the state of the tools at hand, how to improve upon them, and to reflect upon the larger-scale needs of the company as a whole. When driven from task to task with nary a blink between, it is unlikely that a company could innovate at a sufficient rate to have it lead in a knowledge economy. The added cost of taking longer to come to market should be balanced against the increased satisfaction
and retention of employees and the value of the ideas that are likely to result.