Some like to Procrastinate

Would you do this?

A student comes to you and asks you to invest in his company.

He says, “I’m working with three friends, and we’re going to try to disrupt an industry by selling stuff online.”

You say, “OK, you guys spent the whole summer on this, right?”

“No, we all took internships just in case it doesn’t work out.”

“All right, but you’re going to go in full time once you graduate.”

“Not exactly. We’ve all lined up backup jobs.”

Six months go by – it’s the day before the company launches, and there is still not a functioning website.

“You guys realise, the entire company is a website. That’s all it is.”

Would you take a change or pass up the opportunity?

These students were Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt, David Gilboa, and Jeffrey Raider, and they ended up naming the company Warby Parker. They sell glasses online. They were recently recognised as the world’s most innovative company and valued at over a billion dollars.

Procrastination is, by definition, “Putting off despite expecting to be worse off.”

Does procrastination lead to being more creative?

Indeed, this is an old idea, having been put forth a few times, such as Van Eerde’s (2003) “Perhaps procrastination is functional to creativity because it may serve to incubate ideas” or Cohen and Ferrari (2010) “Prior research supported that procrastination may prolong the incubation period for creativity.”

Most recently, in his book Creative: How Non-Conformists Move the World and, for good measure, accompanied Ted Talk and mass media campaign, Adam Grant revives the notion that procrastinators are more creative than non-procrastinators because they are given a chance to incubate their ideas.

Incubation requires a delay between when you start and finish, like leaving cookies to bake in the oven. For incubation to work, you start early, get familiar with the project and then take a break.

While the project is still active in your sub-conscience that is when you incubate creativity. Procrastination gives you time to contemplate different ideas, to think in nonlinear ways, to make surprising leaps.

Aaron Sorkin said “You call it procrastinating. I call it thinking.”

Leonardo da Vinci toiled on and off for years on the Mona Lisa. Writing in his journal how much he felt like a failure. But some of the diversions he took in optics transformed the way that he modelled light and made him into a much better painter.

Procrastinating is a restraint when it comes to productivity, but it can be a benefit for creativity.

What you see with achievers is that they are quick to start, but they’re slow to finish.

And this is what happened with Warby Parker. While dragging their heels for six months, there was a lot of other companies that started to sell glasses online. They missed the first-mover advantage. But they were spending all that time trying to figure out how to get people to be comfortable ordering glasses online.

What the research shows is that first movers have a 47% failure rate and that “companies that took control of a product’s market share after the first movers pioneered them – had only an 8% failure rate.”

Like early pioneers crossing the Nullabor, first movers have to create their own wagon trails, but later movers can follow in the ruts.

Look at Facebook, building a social network until after Myspace and Friendster.

Look at Google, building a search engine for years after Altavista and Yahoo.

It’s much simpler to improve on somebody else’s idea than it is to create something new from nothing.

So you don’t have to be first. You just have to be different and better.

Being quick to start but slow to finish can make you the winner.

Contact Fortix today for great ways to improve your productivity by leaving you to implement more creative business ideas.

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