Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, has a habit I wish more CEOs would adopt. He sets aside two hours every day to walk around the office and think.
Writing in The Sunday Times, Matthew Goodman calls this a "hippy dippy idea that could only be dreamed up in the cosseted, sunbaked surroundings of Silicon Valley." That snarky remark suggests he's never run a company. Because every CEO and senior executive I know finds that the hardest part of his or her job is getting thinking time. With a bias for action which usually got them to the top spot, they have neither the habit nor do they feel they have the time for reflection.
What every successful leader knows, however, is that thinking is what they're there for. When you run an organization, there are plenty of people to do things, but precious few who can step back, consider, reflect, and truly pay attention to what is happening to the business, inside and out.
When I worked in television, I used to book an appointment with myself once a week. I'd leave the office and walk or drive just to gain some perspective. Those were the times when I'd remember important conversations or observations and they were typically the times I came up with my best ideas. But it was only by making thinking time a firm appointment that I was able to commit to it.
Modern neuroscience shows that you have our best insights, Eureka moments, or simple observations when you look away from the problem. My father-in-law, a scientist, has been known to solve equations in his sleep. A fellow writer has her best ideas, she says, when she walks her dog; that's why she keeps paper and pen in her coat pocket. I had my best technology idea as I drove home from work.
I don't think Jeff Weiner is "hippy dippy"; I think he shows admirable discipline. And there's plenty to support the fact that his thinking pays off: LinkedIn has seen its shares sore from its opening price of $45 to yesterday's $233 and, during Weiner's tenure, revenue has soared from $79 million when he took over to nearly $1.5 billion this year.
I know entrepreneurs are action animals and, as much as anyone, I like getting things done. But action without reflection is just noise. So stop reading. Breathe. And think.