A while back I was sitting on a flight from London to Singapore when I struck up a conversation with the chap sitting next to me.
He was a freelance accountant working for an Indonesian company but based in England. After the usual small talk the conversation drifted around to business travel (in his job he had to do rather a lot of it).
He said that years ago any travel whether by car, rail or plane was his thinking time or, if he was with a colleague, the time they talked strategy not tactics. He went on to say that with mobile devices and 4G his only refuge now was long-haul flights.
We both agreed that the accepted belief that “you must be available 24/”‘ held by most businesses these days just results in everybody living in a tactical world with little time left over for innovative or creative thinking.
He then told me of an accounts department he’d worked for once who were big on open-plan and so low on the opportunity for strategic thought. The deal was if you didn’t want to be interrupted you wore a red baseball cap. Nobody, not even the MD apparently, would talk to somebody who was sporting their chapeau rouge.
They recognised that everybody, especially leaders, needs some uninterrupted time when they can focus their thoughts.
Think about that for a moment. A busy office environment; a real need to focus and concentrate and a sign that says “leave me alone”. How cool would that be! So perhaps we all need a physical version of a red hat (or maybe even just a red hat) to enable us to fence off some personal thinking time that everybody respects, even the boss.
Or perhaps we could all just take more long-haul flights.