Ahh, the beach. Peaceful, quiet serenity. A vacation away from the pressures and stress of the workplace. Sounds really promising, unless of course you are a business owner or entrepreneur. Too often, entrepreneurs and small business owners often skip the chance to take a vacation, because the entrepreneur or owner is vital to the operations of the business.
But by skipping a vacation you may be shortchanging yourself. There is, of course, the missed opportunity for some rest and relaxation, but perhaps even more importantly the opportunity to experience new things, see new places and engage your brain in entirely new ways of thinking. It's these experience that create new thinking patterns and that ultimately lead to innovation.
Stuck in a rut
Many people get stuck in a rut at the workplace. This is true regardless of the size or nature of the company. Modern business is for the most part structured around efficiency and repeatability--eliminating variance and creating consistency. So if your day-to-day business is about eliminating variance and sustaining consistency, your thinking will be restricted in the same manner. Several months will pass, and then you'll realize that you haven't had an interesting new idea or a real insight into new customer needs or wants in months. That's because the day-to-day operations constrain thinking to delivering immediate operational needs and capabilities, leaving you with have few new insights.
Getting out, Experiencing more
We need rest and relaxation to recharge our batteries and bring us back to work with a new sense of purpose. But if you think a vacation is only useful for this purpose, you are missing out on some of the real benefits of stepping away from the day to day grind. The real opportunity for entrepreneurs and small business owners isn't rest and relaxation, it's also the new interactions, new experiences and new "ah-ha" moments that come when your brain isn't so focused on urgent operational activities.
We know that innovation is almost always an interesting combination of existing technologies or capabilities, but sometimes those interesting components or capabilities are hard to see from the office. While I'm not suggesting that your vacation should become a relentless pursuit of new ideas, if you'll open up your mind to the possibilities during a vacation you can't help but notice all of the ways a problem can be solved, or new ways to address a customer's need, or new service features or business models.
I almost always come back from a vacation with a new perspective, a new way to solve a customer problem, or simply some ideas into how I can innovate. Often I'll file away some of these inputs--not ideas, but inputs--to use when I'm trying to help clients create new ideas. If you've traveled to the beach, you could ask, how might we incorporate sand or surf or beach concepts into our products or services. How might we incorporate business models I observe in a resort in my own business? How do great works of art or sculpture or architecture encourage me to think more creatively?
The old saying goes that all work and no play make for a dull boy (or girl). Dull people make dull products and services that eventually bore their customers. Don't take your vacation just to generate new ideas or incorporate new experiences, but by all means when you go, be open to the inputs and experiences that may lead to new ideas.