I have followed the developments of the One Week | One Tool project with great interest over the past seven days. Like everybody else, I’m very curious to see what the actual tool ends up being.
But whatever it is–and my knowledge of the people involved tells me that it’s definitely not going to be a disappointment–other observations can already be made about the process based on what we do know so far.
And the key one for me is this: #oneweek shows the merits of monotasking. Or more broadly, that when you pull people out of their ordinary work environments and patterns and instead go full immersion in an environment focused on one thing, incredible things are possible.
I’ve seen the same thing happen with the summertime residential Virginia Governor’s School program which my wife directed for five years. Her staff of fifty–a faculty made up of college professors and high school teachers from around the country and a committed, creative student life staff–built an incredible learning environment for four weeks that annually changed the lives of 400 gifted high school students.
One of the things that always struck me during the program was how hard it was to “break in” from the outside; sometimes frustrating, sure, when some banal but important thing having to do with scheduling some family event or question about a bill needed her attention. But mostly it was just an impressive testimony to the creation of this focused and finite world, the throwing up of barriers that cut out the rest of the “real world” so that the authors of the program could concentrate fiercely on creating something the world had never seen before.
I imagine this is what happens at Pixar during their creative process. It certainly happens at professional football training camps: players are pulled out of their daily routines and thrown in together to concentrate on this one thing at the exclusion of everything else.
Successful ingredients appear to include: a place apart, a finite length of time, a concentrated (and concentrating) group of people, a specific charge, and creativity.
The result? Magic. It happened at Governor’s School, and it happened at #oneweek.
And the takeaway question for me: how can we replicate that effect in the ordinary workplace, where multitasking tends to rob us from this kind of approach?