I’m in one of those seasons of life where my schedule feels three notches beyond packed. We enjoy staying active in our church, our community, and family. My wife and I believe in the concept of going above and beyond in our professional lives too. We, however, recognize that packing our lives with more activities isn’t sustainable or healthy.
As I’ve been reading about innovative teams and business culture, I’ve been smacked in the face by this very simple idea: margin. It’s the idea of giving yourself or your team the gift of time. Here are a few places where this idea shows up:
- “Innovation time off”: The post-it note was invested at 3M when a leader gave his team 20% of their work time to develop new product concepts. Innovators like Google have adopted this idea of “innovation time off” too. Through this strategy, Googlers invented amazing products like Gmail, Google Cardboard, and many others.
- Create margin for your teams: In the world of engineering, there’s a temptation to plan monthly schedules down to the exact hour to make sure you’re getting 100% capacity from the team. The best teams make time to plan regularly. They, however, acknowledge that you can’t think and plan for everything. In fact, that level of planning is wasteful. It’s great to give your team margin to account for the unexpected stuff that ALWAYS happens and creates the opportunity for creative thought. The extra time can be helpful to address process improvement or reduce technical debt.
- Genius hour: It’s cool to see the idea of margin showing up in k-12 education too. Many innovative educators have tried increasing student engagement in learning by empowering them to have time to learn a topic of interest to the student. In most cases, the student present their work or new knowledge to the rest of the class. To learn more about this practice, check out the following posts on Edutopia and Gallit Zvi’s blog.
In the world of personal finance, it’s a common practice to make sure you have an emergency fund to cover the unexpected things of life. I have to say that I’m guilty of not always creating margin for myself to have down time to recharge my mind, my heart, and soul. This might be prayer, going fishing or having open time to relax. This is a place of growth for me. It’s an opportunity to learn to say “no” to some good things of life to make room for the best.
What are your favorite ways to create margin for your team? How do you create margin for yourself?