Jim Collins: Sleep + Focus = Creativity

Jim Collins' “Good To Great” is a fabulous book. If you haven’t already, please do yourself a favor and read it.

Since I admire Collins, I read with interest a profile of Collins in Sunday’s New York Times.

Collins tracks (with stopwatches) how he spends his time. As any management guru — like Collins — will tell you, you are what you measure, so Collins unsurprisingly succeeds in his goal of spending over half his time on creative pursuits.

What grabbed my attention is Collins' tracking of his sleep and its impact on his ability to think creatively:

He sleeps with vigor, too. He figures that he needs to get 70 to 75 hours of sleep every 10 days, and once went to a sleep lab to learn more about his own patterns. Now — surprise, surprise — he logs his time spent on a pillow, naps included, and monitors a rolling average.

“If I start falling below that,” he says, pointing to the short list on his whiteboard, “I can still teach and do ‘other,’ but I can’t create.”

Mr. Hansen, his co-author on the current turbulence project, occasionally teases Mr. Collins about his relentless self-improvement.

“I always laugh about the sleep log,” he says.

I also admire Collins' ability to say “no”:

Mr. Collins also is quite practiced at saying “no.” Requests pour in every week for him to give speeches to corporations and trade associations. It could be a bustling sideline, given that he commands a top-tier fee of $65,000 to dispense his wisdom. But he will give only 18 speeches this year, and about a third of them will be pro bono for nonprofit groups.

Companies also ask him to consult. But he mostly declines…

[His] willingness to say no and focus on what not to do as much as what to do — stems from a conversation that Mr. Collins had with one of his mentors, the late Peter F. Drucker, the pioneer in social and management theories.

“Do you want to build ideas first and foremost?” he recalls Mr. Drucker asking him, trying to capture his mentor’s Austrian accent. “Zen you must not build a big organization, because zen you will end up managing zat organization.” …

“We could have had a big consulting firm and training firm and it would have been a huge lucrative machine,” he says. “But I want to answer the questions.”

Posted by James on Saturday, May 23, 2009