Stop Starting and Start Stopping if You Want to Make Innovation Happen[Jeff DeGraff, Professor at University of Michigan]

What if the key to innovation isn’t starting something new? What if the real secret is stopping something old? Think about your life for a moment – that novel you want to write, that company you want to start, that cottage you want to build. You are a productivity juggernaut; a focused professional who can do the jobs of three people while simultaneously keeping yourself in the running for parent of the year. So if you are so good at making things happen why can’t you get to the unimportant stuff in your life? You know, the creative expression of your most essential work. The answer is obvious. You don’t have the capacity – the time, resources or energy – to do the new things because you are busy maintaining the old ones.

Why is it so much harder to stop doing something than it is to start doing something? Because the devil you know is always better than the devil you don’t. Don’t believe me? Consider losing that weight you’ve been trying to shed for a decade? Instead of starting a rigorous exercise regime, try passing on some of your current routines – the frappuccino at the corner café, the beer with the boys or watching the game sitting in your overstuffed lounger after the evening meal. Stopping something that is no longer useful or superseded by something more greatly desired frees up your assets. But nature does indeed abhor a vacuum. So what fills up the newly empty time slots – the spaces in our lives – can either be something comparable to what we have eliminated – more mindless task pursuit, another meeting or any variety of adminstrivia – or something of a very different nature. What is required is the purposeful transformation of this newly freed up capacity into something better and new.

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