Why Unstructured Time Might be the Best Thing to Happen to Your Organization

ImageFrederick Taylor and Henri Fayol each were responsible for developing a new way forward for labor. Fayol and Taylor were both responsible for much of the improvement in thinking about how work was accomplished in late-1800s through the mid-1900s. Many of the improvements for organizing a workforce into producing consistent, replicable work in industry can be attributed to their improvement of Henry Ford’s assembly line. Both of these engineers developed new concepts for management, of which some still can be found in operation today.

Why the history lesson? Today’s worker is all too often bound to a physical building, desk, or even phone by many of the management improvements of an era 80 to 150 year old. We still have the concept of the 40+ work week, time cards, and even office management that was perfect for industry but is largely out of place in the present technological, mind-oriented work world.

One of the saddest by-products of this overly rigid, out of step with what should be reality, work existence that many people live is that we constantly face burnout, disengagement, and apathy. One suggestion that seems to present an alternative to this chained-to-your-desk, time-card-punching functioning of previous generations is the institutional embrace of unstructured time.

You can read about the concept and its effects here, here, here, and here. The reality is that this unstructured time rather than being responsible for Facebook wandering and blog-rolling is often responsible for tremendous innovation in organizations. When you give people autonomy, resources, and support, it is amazing what they can come up with.

How would unstructured time impact your own workplace?

What is left to Discover?


It was said that once Ernest Shackleton and others made expeditions to Antarctica the world had largely been mapped in every sincle continent. By that point in history, about one century ago (the Endurance voyage began in 1914 with the culmination in 1917), it was thus, believed that there was nothing left for mankind to discover and the age of the explorer was coming to an end.

That idea is downright laughable. Discovery takes place every day. Just yesterday, as I sat and watched children plotting strategies for an Egg Hunt and toddlers fumbling over themselves searching for eggs, I recognized that we are constantly charting new territory that can lead us to discovery.

In many ways this reminds me of Easter just before my 4th birthday (it is possible that some video evidence remains of this day) that I, in hunting for my Easter basket, struck on some realities that were both comical and enlightening. That morning after looking in the end table and seeing that my basket was not in that location, I started away, only to stop, bend down and look in that same location through my legs. Not surprisingly, the basket still wasn’t in that spot. Yes, I did go on to find my basket sometime later, but being the youngest child, this video became fodder for some sibling ribbing throughout the years.

In hindsight, I have learned a great deal about this process of discovery. Most researchers now acknowledge that innovation and invention do not stem from an epiphany moment or some random leap forward in knowledge. Instead, this growth happens by taking and bringing together previously unconnected areas of life.

So what it is that has been keeping you anchored in your life or work? Rather than taking the same line of reasoning that brought you to this present stagnation, how could you embark on a new road of discovery by taking parts of your world that may seem unrelated and bringing them together?

Give yourself permission today to step outside of your normal box and discover a new path forward, it may mean all the difference in the world!ry

Your help is needed!

While the name on the site is teamworkdoc, this site is really more about us than it is about me. Every day when I sit down to write, I think about what can truly bring impact to your life. While the process of writing is a positive way for me to get the research, books, blogs, conferences, and presentations to codify into a clear line of thinking, ultimately the only reason for this site is the desire to engage people in an ongoing pursuit of excellence.

So, after almost ten days in on the fun, I want to flip the script a bit. Rather than me pretending to be the sage with all of the great thoughts, I thought it would be beneficial as we chart the course, to ask you some questions (please answer in the space below).


1)      Of the blogs that you read, what type of content generally brings the most benefit to you?

2)      Do you prefer just the written word, or a combination of type, video, and images?

3)      Have you ever offered to be a guest blogger for a site? Would that interest you here?

4)      How much time are you willing to set aside when you read a blog?

5)      What one topic do you most want to see addressed here on teamworkdoc?


Thanks! I hope to stir up some discussion and co-create a space that challenges each one us as we move forward in our journey!


Fight burnout and stress: Go play!

Fight burnout and stress: Go play!

It is amazing to me how often I hear about the themes of burnout, stress, lack of creativity and innovation, stagnation, etc. from people in business, nonprofit, educational, and religious work spaces. The truth of the matter is, we likely have all felt ourselves in these downward cycles that occur at work from time-to-time (or in some cases, all the time). Why?

Let me detail one workplace that I was in, where this easily could have been the case, but rarely ever was. I worked in college admissions for a small, private, religious higher educational institution. We faced aggressive targets for enrollment, high expectations for student contacts, and the hope of a solid close rate for campus visits. All of these things could have been overwhelming to a group of workers who were mostly just out of college themselves. But it didn’t.

Recently, I have been influenced by a stream of research that has focused on the importance of play. Research by Stuart M. Brown, M.D. points to the reality that play is not only fun, it is vital to our living and working! He points to play, you know that stuff you did when you were younger – before everyone told you to grow up and be serious, as a mechanism that shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul (which just happens to be the subtitle for his book). Dr. Brown along with the National Institute for Play are working to bring about a greater understanding of what play actually does for us as humans (think energy, happiness, creativity, etc.) and this is a very exciting project.

So back to the potentially stressful work environment. How did we get through this? We played. A handful of us had a standing pattern. When stress got high, calls were not going as planned, etc. we would take a break, walk down to the Campus Center and play foosball. Other times, when we were unable to step away we would shoot hoops on a flimsy door mount basketball hoop. Still other times we would engage in word play over the way someone said something in a previous call, or even – when computers were left “unlocked” we might come back from lunch or a break with a desktop background of a cat, or a screen saver of our designated “employee of the month”. This was on top off our semi-regular lunchtime basketball playing and evening euchre games. This could have been problematic, but thankfully during that period of time we had supervisors who understood the benefit that this play brought to our workplace: harmony, energy, teamwork, concern for others, and creativity.

What a realized in those instances, and have recently tried to reconstruct due to mounting levels of priorities, was that play helps. Think about it. The energy you get from stepping aside to play for even a few minutes provides fuel for an hour of work or more, easily. Some people may look at you as immature, a screwoff, or even worse for playing in the midst of these environments, but your ability to stay sane, produce creatively, and maintain energy will be all the proof you need for play.


So, how can you incorporate play into your work?

Looking at your world through new eyes

So, preface, I am married to an incredible woman and with that marriage I became part of a larger family. In that family, as in all families is a cast of characters (all are wonderful, trust me – I am so very thankful for them). One particular member of that family has challenged the way that I see things, literally. After examining his work the other day, I joked about my desire to have an eye transplant to see the world the way that he does. While technology has grown by leaps and bounds this still has yet to occur.

So since transplants won’t happen, I have challenged myself to learn from the images that he captures with his camera lens. Yes, my brother-in-law, Jeff (a.k.a JLB), is a photographer. No, I don’t mean he takes pictures though. He is a painter of landscapes, a designer of ideas, a sculptor of imagery, a collector of memories, and a vessel of imagination. He is an artist (seriously, go check out his work)

Now, the above description, artist, will never be said about me. In fact, I might go so far as to say that my almost 5 year-old daughter is a better artist than I am (see, I told you so). For much of my life, I have focused on thinking, talking, and analyzing. I enjoy a beautiful sunset, I love the view of being on the water, but no one would ever mistake me for an artist.


For the last decade though, I have been growing. It is through initial interactions with JLB (then a graphic designer at a small, private college that we both worked at) that I began to appreciate the world through new eyes. No longer do I think about “creative” as some distinct group of people, instead I have learned to see the finer things about design, scope, and imagery in my work.

Starting with JLB and leading to a host of design-oriented individuals, my world has expanded to seeing a new way to piece things together. I have a continually growing level of appreciation for how design immeasurably impacts work. While you are at it, check out organizations like Work Design Magazine and IDEO. Read books like A Whole New Mind, Accidental Creative, and The Myths of Creativity. But also, explore, take photos, look at magazines, create a design wall (gosh, that might have just stuck me close to promoting Pinterest), scrapbook (that one is for you, mom), step out outside, visit new locations, walk in the park, and meet people.

We live in a time in which we are constantly moving, always bombarded by noise and images, but rarely do we stop and appreciate beauty. As we grow up, society tends to discard imagination and play as being immature and juvenile. Fight back, have fun, pretend, go hang out with children and get drawn into their world of imagination. Experience the beauty that is all around – and you will recognize that you are seeing the world with a whole new set of eyes.

It’s only failure if you didn’t learn anything from it: 7 Lessons from my pathetic attempt at crowdfunding (Part 2)

Yesterday, I shared my pathetic attempt at crowdfunding a computer. Sometimes you swing big and hit a home run, other times you swing big and fall on your face. This time, it was pretty much a face plant. So, it was a failure, right? Not a chance. There was so much I learned from this social experiment, including these 7 important lessons:

1)      Never expect 100% of any group to buy-in to your idea

This may seem like an obvious one, but how often do we get really worked up when people don’t seem to think our idea is the best thing that ever happened? We should be used to the reality that not everyone will pick up what we are putting down. If they did, then something would be wrong. Creative disagreements, differences of opinions, and competing frameworks for doing things are what makes life in community so interesting.

2)      Early adopters will often participate even if the goal/vision/need/purpose is totally clear

Don’t you just love ‘em! I had a few people throw coins my way who frankly had no real clue what on Earth I was trying to do (heck, did I even know?). These people were the early adopters. This small percentage of people is going to find a reason to believe in your idea (or you) because they are ready for change and a new model or thought-process them. Engage them, encourage them, but don’t expect them to be responsible for making the whole thing happen.

3)      Sometimes even people the closest to you will think that your idea is crazy

Seriously. Isn’t family required by some kind of contract to support everything you do? I mean mom’s hang artwork on their fridges from their children regardless of how void of real artistic talent it is, just because we are their children, right? Not in this case. Sometimes the people that are close to you will very clearly tell you that your idea is stupid. And sometimes they are right, but not always. The important thing in this situation is to have close advisors around you whose opinion you trust that are given free-reign to tell you when something is out of whack.

4)      People on the fringe of your circles may actually be the greatest/most surprising champions

In a direct contract to Lesson 3, sometimes the people you least expect will be your champions. In the case of my laptop funding, I had old high school friends, friends of friends, and people I hadn’t communicated with in years who were the first to step to the plate. This was a profound wake-up call that our community isn’t always present, but stands by just waiting to be activated.

5)      If you have not clarified “why” they should act, they most likely won’t

In this situation, my “why” was missing. Why should someone give even a nickel to me if I couldn’t give them a good reason – because my old laptop is breaking down, which person among us doesn’t have a similar issue? No, if we are going to move mountains we need to explain the “why”. If you include people in a compelling reason, provide them with a mechanism, and give them a little room for creativity, the results will amaze you!

6)      Sometimes creating a small buy-in will only serve to hamper your ultimate goal

When we have an idea, we are entitled to set the parameters for the action of others. The problem comes when we don’t provide them with varying levels of commitment. In this context I asked people for 2 quarters, 1 nickel, and 4 pennies. You can probably find that in the cushion of your couch or stuck in the cupholders of your car. What about those that wanted to do more, they had to create their own level of commitment, rather than be encouraged that people can commit at varying levels (which we should help them understand).

7)      Newton’s first law of motion

A friend asked me before church this week if I had the funds for the new laptop yet. I sadly admitted that not only did I not have the funds, but nothing had changed in the last two weeks. The reality was, I had let moss grow under that big rock. If you have a campaign, movement, or cause that you are working toward – don’t stop moving it. Getting that rock rolling is quite a challenge and it will be even harder if you are constantly starting and stopping. Be clear and be ready when you launch then go all out for it.

Obviously, this initiative was not a loss. You could say that these seven lessons more than make up for the lack of new laptop (see this is getting posted on something isn’t it?), funds, or even my pride. Dream big, but don’t forget to work hard to make sure structure is in place so that your dream has a place to live.



Welcome to the Site

It has been a long time coming. Too many times we talk about doing something – but then continue to do nothing about it. To borrow the subtitle from Jon Acuff’s work, I have decided to “Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters”. So this is the space in which that magic is going to happen.

I have a few posts in the works and will be posting regularly on leadership, innovation, teamwork, and other bits of culture as they stimulate my interest.

Thanks for joining me on the journey!