19 June 2023
20% time: unleashing creativity and innovation
Albert Einstein once said, “creativity is intelligence having fun”. In today’s rapidly evolving tech landscape, fostering creativity and innovation within your team is essential to stay ahead of the curve.
My job as CTO is to create this environment and culture at PM Connect. A culture where pushing the boundaries isn’t prohibited but encouraged. It is only then that the true potential of the business will be fulfilled.
Part of this equation is building connections. I strongly believe that informal, non-hierarchical connections go deeper and faster than those shackled by convention.
One effective strategy to foster connections, a boundary-breaking mentality and encourage continuous learning amongst the team is implementing 20% time. This approach enables team members to think outside the box and feel free from traditional constraints and structures – which in turn cultivates a growth mindset.
I initiated this approach in February, and we’re starting to reap the rewards already. But before I discuss these, put simply, what is 20% time?
20% time is where one in five days of an employee’s week is devoted to solving problems that the employee thinks will benefit the company most, rather than the tasks given to them by their bosses in the traditional sense.
Let me break down the benefits into component parts:
Empowering Learning and Personal Growth
By embracing 20% time, businesses cultivate a culture that values continuous learning and empowers employees to tackle problems using their own initiative, therefore becoming independent thinkers and lifelong learners – leading to organic personal development.
20% time allows team members to tap into their creative potential by breaking away from conventional thinking. Consistently exercising this creative muscle pays dividends in the long run, with the payback being a creative team for all 5 days of the week. Providing the freedom to explore, experiment, and take risks leads to groundbreaking ideas and solutions. Sometimes taking risks can be a challenge due to the internal and external rules and pressures we face in a commercial environment. You have to overcome this for a team to thrive.
Encouraging collaboration and cross-pollination
Collaboration in business fuels growth as it allows individuals to learn from one another and expand their perspectives – creating an environment that thrives on collective intelligence. 20% time fosters collaboration, beyond normal operational structures, by providing opportunities for my team to work across departments and share their knowledge and insights.
This time nurtures intrapreneurship by fostering a growth mindset among employees. A culture of experimentation and embracing failure as a learning opportunity is essential for intrapreneurship. These initiatives enable employees to take ownership of their projects, think like entrepreneurs, and contribute innovative ideas that drive the business forward.
Gaining a Competitive Edge
Organisations that continuously adapt are better equipped to navigate change and seize opportunities. By embracing 20% time, businesses position themselves as pioneers in their sector, attracting top talent and staying ahead of the competition.
20% time has been instrumental in fostering the culture I set out to when I joined PM Connect; one where learning, development and innovation is at the heart of how we work and most importantly self-sustained beyond me.
However, what have I learned? That we haven’t gone fast or far enough. We still have more to do to unlock our team members’ potential, drive change and nurture the feedback loop.
It is working, we are getting new ideas and innovative practices – but there are still barriers and people being shy. The reality is that we are still all learning how to make this work, including me!
We’ve come a long way. I’m sure we will go so much further. Whatever happens, I know it will be fun and I know the learning will never stop
Sanjay Mistry – Group CTO
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