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Do It Like Darwin


Did anyone have to deal with that one friend at school that always left their homework until the morning it was due, or submitted their assignments at 11:58pm on the night it was due? A friend of mine left her dissertation write up until three weeks before it was due, and managed, in a frenzy of panic and Redbull, to write a ten-thousand-word essay. Of course, the extent of his procrastination was something I did not sympathise with; after all, he had put himself in that situation himself.


But, what I didn’t realise at the time, was that the diamonds are made under pressure mentality may have actually had some substance to it. Of course, the idea of procrastinating, and leaving your work until the last minute clashes with many people’s working mentality, and isn’t compatible in every workplace. After all, you cannot create a skyscraper you’ve procrastinated crafting by 11:58 on the night before it is to be unveiled.


As Adam Grant eloquently explained this in his 2016 TED Talk: The surprising habits of original thinkers, saying, “procrastination is a vice when it comes to productivity, but a virtue when it comes to creativity”. This means that ideas that are generated closer to a set deadline may be more compelling, interesting and out-of-the-box than those that come to mind earlier in the process.


Grant elaborated in his video to explain that in a practical experiment that he and one of his students Jihae did. In this experiment, they had a sample of individuals to come up with business ideas over a short period of time, and had independent readers come in and dictate which ideas were most original, creative or useful. In order to establish the benefits of procrastinating, Grant and Jihae decided to have a fraction of their sample play Minesweeper for five minutes and a fraction doing the same for ten minutes. They found that the individuals in the sample who played Minesweeper for five minutes were 16% more innovative than those who didn’t play at all, and those who played for too long. They were, therefore able to create a curvature that demonstrated that a mid-level amount of procrastination does allow for more innovative ideas to be brought to the forefront of the mind.


In Andrew Santella’s book: Soon: An Overdue History of Procrastination, from Leonardo and Darwin to You and Me, he identified both Da Vinci and Darwin as procrastinators. During an interview with Knowledge @ Warton, the University of Pennsylvania’s podcast, Santella explained that Darwin “came up with the ideas at the root of natural selection more than 20 years before he got around to finally publishing On the Origin of Species. He must have known that his ideas were world-changing and crucially important, yet he delayed in pursuing them.” He elaborated, to recount that Darwin’s interest in collecting and studying barnacles lead to “his kids [growing] up thinking that [collecting barnacles] was what everyone did.”


Although we don’t suggest endeavouring to collect barnacles instead of writing your dissertation, or your business plan, we do understand that indulging outside interests and creating a divide between work and play allows your mind to continue to mull ideas over. Procrastinating is not necessarily the bane of our existence like many consider it to be. No, it is fuel, a scenic route to good ideas, and a path worth taking.


Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.


He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.


The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.


To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address: arvind@theagileworks.com

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