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Stop wasting time and innovate


One way to become more innovative is to stop doing all the things that are wasting your time and sapping your energy, say G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón of Bloomberg Businessweek.

They begin by quoting the famous investor and industrialist Warren Buffett, who says: "The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say 'no' to almost everything."

Continuing on this theme, Maddock and Vitón suggest that rather than making a "to-do" list for the new year, you should instead make a "stop-doing" list – focusing on the essential, rather than the important.

Explaining the difference, the authors say that the essentials are emotional, while the important is rational – the essentials go on a "to-die-for list" while the important gets put on a "to-do" list.

Maddock and Vitón say: "It's easy to spend your time on the important – for example, coming up with a new product to satisfy the sales force's desire to offer something new. But necessary as that is, doing so isn't really going to inspire anyone. In other words, it is not essential.

"In contrast, creating a culture that celebrates failure – because if you don't take risks, you will never develop a game-changing product or service – is an essential belief that can shape everything your organisation does."

According to the authors, the most experienced leaders realise that what their people are not going to focus on is equally important as what their teams are going to focus on doing, so their best people will be put to work on projects that are going to have the biggest impact on the company.

They say: "Smart leaders know which types of engagements, clients, and employees are a fit – and which should be avoided. A not-so-smart company takes on all kinds of engagements, clients, and employees. It makes less money because it is constantly learning how to do new things, how to deliver on more and more commitments."


Before deciding what you need to do, you have to "create a clearing" by working out what you won't do any more. The authors make the following suggestion:

"Before you and your senior leadership team head off-site to plan your key initiatives for next year, ask all the members to come armed with two things. First, ask them to provide the name of an activity your company should halt because it saps energy and produces little real or perceived benefit.

"Start your management meeting by discussing the things you are no longer going to do. Once you have determined what should go on the "stop-doing" list, you've created an opportunity to focus on the five or six core initiatives that really matter. Agree on those and assign accountability."

The Stop-Doing List
G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón
Bloomberg Businessweek