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Can Procrastination Actually Spur Innovation? Perhaps!

Posted on Mar 08, 2012

Yes, you read that right, procrastination is a crucial part of innovation. Or so says Whitney Johnson, a founding partner in Rose Park Advisors.

Johnson says progress can only be made if the push of a situation (a frustration or problem to be solved) and the pull of an enticing new idea were greater than the forces holding us back our allegiance to past behavior (the status quo) and anxiety.

Johnson experienced this when writing her book, Dare, Dream, Do, She said as her deadline neared, her apprehension around the book's to-do list outweighed the pull of the commitments she made to her editor and publicist until she sat down and thought about it.

One she viewed her book as another project and applied the lessons she'd learned from incubating a business, she was able to use the procrastination and anxiety she felt to propel herself to finishing all her pre-launch tasks.

Johnson's snappy-sounding assertion caught the eye of more than one business person, including a few here at US Dataworks.

As a business executive that takes prides in delivering consistent innovation, I thought the title of Johnson's article surely had to be wrong so I started reading it so I could pick it apart, said Leilani Doyle, vice president for marketing and product management at US Dataworks.

Like many, Doyle was pleasantly surprised.

I found the underlying principals in this article to ring more true that I had ever imagined, Doyle admitted. I have long recognized that real innovation can't be planned. You can't just wake up and say "Today I am going to innovate a new way to process a check payment. It just doesn't happen that way; it requires a spark."

She continued: I always thought that spark was the coming together of previous knowledge with focused attention. But after reading this article I see that by procrastinating, we set ourselves up with that push or spark needed to solve a problem. Maybe that's why my innovation has been running a little low recently; I am just too busy to procrastinate.

Source: Harvard Business Review, March 2012