When I bake bread, the key ingredient is the yeast. Without yeast, or when the yeast is old and does not work, there are no bubbles inside the dough and the bread comes out as a hard, inedible lump.

What is the key ingredient when we bake an innovation cake? Creativity? Ideas? 

No. TIME! Time to think. Time to reflect. Time to meditate.

Time that most of us simply do not have, and do not allocate.

Here are two examples.

* Isaac Newton was a brilliant student and thinker at Cambridge Univ. During the Plague, all students were sent home to prevent its spread. At his home in the English countryside, Newton had time to reflect. He invented his great laws (including the law of gravity), the law linking mass, gravity and distance, and what Leibniz later called the Calculus, during this time. Would he have achieved such innovation without the time to reflect?

* Deng Xiao Peng was sent home to house arrest during the Cultural Revolution in China. There, he had much time to reflect on why China’s economy was failing. His insights led to China’s turning toward free markets, when he returned to power. Would China be the economic powerhouse it is today, had Deng not had the time to reflect at home?

Innovators – make yourself time and space for reflection. It should be unstructured time, without a specific purpose. You will be amazed at how many ideas flood into your mind – ideas based on questions and problems generated during periods when we are under fierce time pressure, questions that percolate in our subconscious, in our ‘blink’ brains, and for which solutions emerge only if there is time to reflect on them.