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The Secret of Business Success: (Do Nothing)

I like talking to successful people.

Recently I talked to a successful friend of mine who had just sold his company for £25m and asked for the secret to his success.  ”Do you want to know what it is?, he said.  ”It’s taking time off”.

Pressed to explain, he said “My best ideas have come while I’ve been hanging off the side of a cliff, or in a bar in Bali, or talking to a group of students in Ghana.  It’s never while I am elbow-deep at what we traditionally call ‘work’.”

Another friend of mine has a 30 person company and they all always stop for lunch.  It’s a web design company, and he says that if everyone didn’t stop for lunch then they wouldn’t talk that frequently together.  Which means that everyone would be sitting at their desks in silence with headphones on.  It’s the only time the office really comes to life.  And ideas cross-pollinate and really start to flow.

Two weeks ago I did some work with a customer service team who had lost some feeling for clients.  To help them reconnect I put them in blindfolds and made them wear gags.  They didn’t like it, but got the point – this was their customers in the call queue unable to see anyone or speak because they were on hold.

Interestingly one delegate said to me “For those 10 minutes blindfolded my thinking was as clear as it has been in ages.  I’m going to try that more often!”  That delegate was doing nothing.  But it had a profound effect.

Doing nothing in business might seem counter intuitive.  But maybe it’s where the best ideas float to the surface.

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