Friday, April 14, 2017


How do we encourage our staff to be more innovative? It’s an old problem that has challenged managers for decades. But an unexpected solution may come from a study of Indian farmers’ adoption of new crops. The answer for farmers, as well as Western managers, may lie in creating more ‘slack time’. The study by Thomas Zhang, Rajesh Chandy and Om Narasimhan, in the London Business School Review, found that decreasing the amount of time given to conducting routine tasks is associated with increased levels of innovation. This ‘slack time’ allows for new ideas to be conceived and implemented. The research looked at farmers in India. The development community has long puzzled over the low levels of adoption for new seeds and ideas within Indian agriculture. The study’s authors tracked the daily activities of farmers, recording in particular slack time. That is time not spent on work, domestic chores or physical requirements (such as sleep). Those farmers that enjoyed the greatest amount of slack time, more the most responsive to innovation. The management implications of this study are profound. Business administration is still dominated by the notion that time and money must be carefully tracked and continually be put to use. If you want employees to be more innovative, place more pressure on their daily schedules to enable this. But the study challenges this idea and claims that time constraints are a key inhibitor to innovation. “Innovation happens when employees are not in meetings,” notes one of the report’s authors Dr Thomas Zhang. “If you are under time constraint, then you’ll behave as if you are stupid: you’ll be more short-term in outlook and will be less innovative. WWW.BRIANSCAVO.COM