Silence and R & D Time

Two recent articles in the New York Times caught my attention. The first was an economics story in the New York Times Magazine that talked about research and development and how the U.S. is no longer spending enough on R&D. China is poised to run us over.

 The second article was an opinion piece entitled “The Joy of Silence,” by Pico Iyer, about a business meeting in a a luxury “black hole” hotel, which had no Internet access, TV or cell phone reception. Instead of being constantly interrupted by technology, people used the downtime to think and be quiet. (Mr. Iyer has gone further than most people in his quest for more silence, by moving to rural Japan.)

These articles had two things in common that relate to us as small business owners:   

  1. We need to spend time on research and development, just like larger businesses.
  2. In my case (and probably yours too, if you’re the business owner), this R&D might need to include downtime, away from the phone/internet/TV and all other screens.

Here are some ways small business owners can do research and development for their businesses:

  1. Take classes and read print publications (you can read them online, but reading print will get you away from screens). For example, I would like to know more about what helps people change, and incorporate this research into my individual and group client work.   
  2. Create more downtime in our schedules.
  3. Keep closer tabs on the competition.
  4. Do research with  clients about what works and doesn’t work for them.

I’d love to hear what you think. Now, I know we don’t need more things to do as small business owners. But have you ever thought about incorporating research and development into your business plan? What’s the best way to do R & D for your own business? Comment below.

2 Replies to “Silence and R & D Time”

  1. On downtime:

    We all need to “turn off” work for a while. I like the outdoors, so I try to get in a camping trip at least once a year for 3-4 days. The places I go have no cell phone coverage, so I just put an announcement in the voice mail greeting that says I can’t be reached, and offer an emergency contact number for someone who can help clients while I am gone.

    Camping sounds suspiciously like “No phone, no lights, no motor-cars; not a single luxury…” but I find it refreshing. The fresh air and sunshine probably help. A different version of outdoor downtime mioght be a beach with lots of sun and ocean waves.

    Besides longer vacation downtimes, I like to set aside mini-downtimes on a more frequent basis – usually weekly.

    For example, set aside time for a hobby, or even just time with friends – anything that is different from ‘work.’ Be sure to let voice mail/e-mail do their jobs during these times. If someone asks about work, just change the subject, and explain why: “That’s enough about work for now!”


  2. On R&D:

    My industry is constantly coming up with new products that my clients are interested in. Luckily, there’s tons of material available to evaluate these new products, from manuals and spec sheets to reviews by early-adopter users.

    I regularly spend some amount of time learning about new products and thinking about how they would be useful to my clients. Sometimes, that means using a product for purposes other than what it was intended.

    I also try to attend an industry trade show at least every couple of years. While tradeshows often have more marketing sizzle than substance, they are at least an exposure to new products and trends. You can follow up afterward for all the details you need.

    I often find that my clients are generally a year or so behind ‘the cutting edge’ that is on display at trade shows. While I may not immediately use any new product that I learn about at a trade show, I usualy find clients become interested in those products 1-2 years after they make their appearance.

    But by then, I am already learning about the next wave of new products.


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