The Unsung Hero of Innovation? Time. | The Garage Group

The Unsung Hero of Innovation? Time.

Devin Baldridge

As business strategy and innovation leaders, we have developed an arsenal of tools and tactics that have proven effective in guiding teams through their business challenges, often inspired by entrepreneurial thinking. One of these tools is time.


We see “time” as a force that can be leveraged as a catalyst for innovation. While it may seem counterintuitive to leverage an already limited resource– that’s just the point. By harnessing this force, we can both create a sense of urgency, or leverage it to create the seeming absence of time, both of which are necessary when participating in the innovation process. 


Over the years, we regularly spot teams that treat innovation and strategy as an intellectual exercise, and essentially become “stuck” in a cycle of theory and debate, oftentimes never leaving the office. Time, in these situations, can be effectively used to create pressure and a sense of urgency that forces individuals and teams to actuate other senses thereby getting them “unstuck.” 


At TGG, we use Sprints as a time-constrained format for driving teams to action. Our approach to Sprints follow 5 principles: they are a period of focused time and attention, they infuse fresh multi-disciplinary thinking, they are punctuated by cycles of divergence and convergence, they involve iterative learning that builds over time, and they are fast to encourage teams to think and act quickly. In the context of a Sprint, we’ll use complimentary tactics that get teams out of the office and engaging with their target consumers to build empathy and inspire creativity.

Additionally, the use of Displayed Thinking is another effective practice in the context of a Sprint to further activate a team, encouraging them to find new non-verbal ways to convey their thinking, making the creative process a multi-sensorial experience. We like to use physical artifacts, prototypes, virtual walls, post-its, sketches, images all as effective tools of communication.  By using tactics like these within the constraint of time, time becomes a catalyst for taking action.


Time can also be used to create space. This use of time might seem counterintuitive in an environment that places a high value on multi-tasking and activity, but it is important to recognize neither equates to productivity.


As a parent, have you ever put your child in a “time out”?  


Parents often use this as a form of discipline giving the child time to settle down and think about their actions. In a similar way, but without the negative connotations, we have found it effective to create space for individuals or teams to take a time out. 


Sometimes the most effective way to go fast is to slow down first. We’ve consistently found the act of giving space for an individual or team to collect and metabolize all the thoughts, feelings, stimuli that are flowing through them can be transformative. One of the benefits we have found in leading Sprints virtually, is the space/time between working sessions. We use this time to create strategic margin for individuals to process and think. Other simple tactics, such as allowing a few minutes to quietly and individually capture thoughts before discussing as a group, typically leads to a much more intentional, and richer outcome. 


Ironically, in 2018, Calm was the app of the year, indicating individuals are looking for rest through their devices! We have also observed a steady rise in the adoption of mindfulness practices among industry leaders like Arianna Huffington and large corporations like Google’s Search Inside Yourself Program. Time is a catalyst for processing, and imagining. 


Our encouragement to you is that as you find yourself being tasked with addressing a big business challenge, consider experimenting with time as a catalyst to help you get to breakthrough. 


How are you strategically leveraging time as a force to maximize the outcome of your work? If this article resonated with you, we’d love to be your partner in your next innovation challenge. Get in touch with us>>>

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