The Balance Of Fueling Innovation

Most entrepreneurs I know strive to read anything and everything about markets and industries, priding themselves on their breadth of knowledge, confident that such breadth will be a form of insight when The Big Idea comes.  Previously I fell into this content-hungry category, subscribing to several busy tech blogs, anxious when I couldn’t read everything in my feed.  However, an essay by Glenn Kelman provoked me to try an experiment.  Several weeks ago I unsubscribed from every tech blog except A VC and stopped checking Twitter regularly.  My experiment goes somewhat against the advice of a fantastic book by Steven Johnson, whose thesis is that ideas start as hunches, and, by connecting with other hunches, grow into a world changing phenomenons like evolution and the internet.

Reading Glenn’s recent post on friendship and solitude, where he talks about the importance of solitude for leadership, I realized that my experiment has worked.  The number of blogs and tweets per day I read has dropped dramatically.  While the number of ideas and hunches I’ve created has increased dramatically.  And I’m significantly more productive each day!

I believe that we need to balance between consuming and thinking.  We need to read about our industry, but we also need to escape our busy lives and think by ourselves.  So I challenge you to turn off Twitter sometimes, close your RSS reader, and fall into a place where your own ideas can dance and move and grow.  I spend most of my evenings eating with friends, sometimes feeling lonely when I have a night to myself.  And I don’t enjoy cycling by myself.  But times of solitude and even loneliness help us think, help us develop our ideas that perhaps one day will change the world.