I was at the Microsoft Canadian Leadership Summit in Redmond last week. It's a great event for learning about future trends and technologies, as well as considering and applying the lessons presented by Microsoft experts and futurists. As in the past, I was blown away by great presentations from Andrew McAfee, Heather Warncke, and others. But my first eye-opener came early and unexpectedly from the harried CIO beside me, responding fiercely to a number of emails on his laptop during the opening session.
One of the main benefits of attending these events is the ability to disconnect, and spend some time focusing on thinking in new ways outside of our regular day-to-day requirements. And given the increasing pace of change, it's essential that we are actively able to focus on what's next, and stay energized about all the possibilities our partners and our customers afford us. Our inability to take the opportunities to remove ourselves from the constant fire-hose of requests that can be our day-to-day work lives diminishes our ability to be effective in the long term.
Our business requires innovation, and innovation requires reflection. If we're going to get better, we can't be doing the same thing over and over again. Deepest meaning comes when taking the time to consider our current position, and coupling that with new insight. If we're not stopping to reflect and gain that insight, we're not truly appreciating the opportunity we have to improve and raise the bar. And being exposed to a number of experts helping with that very task is a wondrous opportunity; one that should not be dismissed, minimized, or abused.
So that most distinct lesson I got from the CIO typing madly beside me, like a playoff hockey player talking to his financial advisor between shifts, was that I don't want to be that guy. I know that just because wireless Internet exists in the conference room, it's probably not a good idea to be responding to email when one of the pre-eminent futurists on the planet is focussed on getting me in the loop. I understand how we can perceive the urgent as being important when it's not, and choose to fire off that work request when the greatest revelation we could possibly imagine may be flying by our ears. It's not easy to disconnect.
If we are always "on", we miss out on the great ideas and revelations that come from being able to disconnect. If big things are expected of us, it's essential we take an opportunity on a regular basis to detach, and think. Much in the way that we often find solutions to life's problems by dismissing them, then discover the answer after taking a break - as a 'Eureka' moment. I'm sure Archimedes would never have had his Eureka moment if he was constantly checking email on his mobile.