“Like the soil, mind is fertilized while it lies fallow, until a new burst of bloom ensues.”
–John Dewey

Presently, it will be a year since I started working at Nokia. Since starting, I have been involved in several back-to-back projects with the usual short time frames and high demands. If ever ideas began to flourish in the midst of these projects that were outside of the scope, I did not have the time to give them attention to grow. They withered and faded in the bustle of productivity.

One of the great things about my graduate school experience was being in an environment and culture that encouraged exploration, cultivation of new connections between disparate ideas, and tolerance for failure. Even though I had less time and more stress in school than I currently have at work, the conditions made it possible for me to wander, to go off on ideas just to see where they led. Built within the framework of my graduate work there existed space to explore. Pursuit of tangential ideas was expected and it often led to the learning and production of designs that were beyond what could have possibly been asked for.

Reflecting on the past year, and while setting objectives for my next six months with Nokia, I realize I miss the wanderings of my grad school experience, and desire to have those wandering be a part of my current experience. While it may be something my team would support and understand as valuable, the greater organizational culture may not tolerate the sacrifice to production. Wandering needs to be part of the culture and holistic, Just as Google’s 20 percent personal project time is part of their culture, wandering needs to be understood within the culture as contributing to productivity. For that to happen, it needs to be supported as a productive activity, where the ideas that surface are encouraged to become realized.

During casual conversations, others have commiserated their need to wander as well, to have time to pursue an idea when it comes up, to not have it slip away. I wonder how much creativity and innovation is lost when people don’t have time to nurture their ideas. In the innovation gold rush, can wandering be an untapped mine of creativity? How can we use design as an approach to understand the needs of people and business, and help shape organizational culture to support both?