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Read, Learn, and Think Your Way to Success… Like Bill Gates.

7 08 2006

If Bill Gates Thinks It Matters …

Bill Gates doesn’t have to know everything. He recognizes that he has employees who do. But, he appreciates the importance of taking the time to learn what they know. He takes time to listen to their ideas. He takes time to think, to ponder the direction of Microsoft. The Wall Street Journal highlighted Gates’ bi-annual Think Weeks in a recent article In Secret Hideaway, Bill Gates Ponders Microsoft’s Future by Robert A. Guth. The concept took hold of my imagination.

Essentially, for many years, Gates has gone into seclusion for two, one-week “Think Weeks” a year. Family, friends and Microsoft employees are banned from his retreat.

Alone, he reads manuscripts from Microsoft associates on topics that range from the future of technology to speculation about the next “hot” products. Some papers suggest new products or different versions of current products. Any employee can write up ideas and send them for Gates’ perusal. He says he may read 100 papers during a Think Week and his record is 112 papers.

Not just reading, Gates takes the time to respond to employee suggestions. One paper may result in an email sent to hundreds of Microsoft employees world-wide. Employees wait with baited breath to see if their paper or idea might receive the go ahead following one of these famous Think Weeks.

The process of reviewing employee ideas has evolved over the years. An assistant now culls the submitted papers prior to Think Week and a computerized response system lets Gates easily respond to papers. But the basic idea - to read and think during time alone – remains constant.
Think Week Implications for the Rest of Us

Bill Gates takes the time, twice a year, to read and ponder the future of Microsoft. How often do you take any time at all to read new ideas, consider your current work and life, and make changes? Not often enough, I’ll bet.

But, if the CEO of one of the most powerful corporations in the world sets this example, I am willing to learn. This article idea came to me during a one-hour think time earlier this week. I jotted down four additional ideas – in just an hour of reading and thinking.

I know, take time to think; take time to read and learn may be simple messages. But do you do it? If not, take time to think; take time to read and learn. You can transform your world.
Ten Thinking and Dreaming Exercises for Creativity and Innovation

* Read with pen and notebook in hand; jot down any idea that comes into your consciousness.

* Keep a notebook in which you can keep track of ideas, by your bed and in your car.

* Write one idea down on a piece of paper and brainstorm any thought that comes from it: how to accomplish the idea, what to do about the idea, where to use the idea, who can help you implement the idea, and any other thought that enters your mind.

* Read a non-fiction book every week. Read magazines, journals, online articles, all-the-time.

* Clip articles and place them in a folder of related articles or ideas. Periodically, glance through the folder.

* Create “idea files” in most folders in your computer. Create an idea or to-do file in your email program. Add ideas as they come to you.

* Take time to stare out your window (if your setting deserves attention), play with a desk toy, take a quiet walk. Do any rote activity that allows thoughts to swirl through your mind.

* Encourage your staff and coworkers to do all of the above and share ideas with each other at “think” or brainstorm sessions. Schedule annual retreats or off-site meetings to plan and generate ideas.

* Develop an employee suggestion process.

* Schedule think weeks, think days, or think hours for yourself or your work group.

Thinking time and learning time are both critical to creativity and innovation. The old adage: “stop to smell the roses” is true for both your current work and your career. Take time to plant and harvest the ideas that fuel your progress and success.

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