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U of T Researchers Find ‘Slack Time’ is a Key Ingredient to Successful Innovation

New research from our very own University of Toronto has revealed that slack time may work wonders for your career.

Well, kind of.

It essentially shows that “slack time,” is an essential ingredient when it comes to innovation.

The most successful innovators use their down time to work on tasks that are less exciting than that great idea of theirs, but are key to success. It’s the mundane, less exciting jobs that really bring a project to life, after all. That’s why, when up-and-coming entrepreneurs get a little time off from their normal activities to work on other things, they use it to complete these less exciting tasks.

“Slack time does something more than what we thought,” said Avi Goldfarb, the Patricia Ellison Professor of Marketing at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. “You need a creative idea for sure, but you also need to tell people about it and you need to put some effort into raising money. Slack time may give you the opportunity to do those mundane, execution-oriented tasks.”

Goldfarb, along with fellow Rotman researcher Ajay Agrawal, a professor of strategic management, and Christian Catalini, an assistant professor of technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and strategic management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, examined data from the ever-so-popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter for a 5-year period.

Their goal was to track the ebb and flow of new projects going online for donations during and outside of US college breaks. While some students were surely taking full advantage of their Spring Breaks in all its party-filled glory, others were busy working on their dreams.

The researchers found a 49 per cent increase in projects posted in college towns during vacation times. They also noticed correlations between the types of projects and the types of schools. Meaning, the more artistic projects were posted when arts schools went on breaks, while more tech projects got posted during breaks for top engineering schools.

However, projects tended to be posted during the first part of the breaks, rather than the end. According to the researchers, this suggests that the creative, front-end development (aka fun part) of the project had already been completed and what was left was the menial work that nobody really loves to do.

“If it’s ideation that’s happening, then these projects should be posted at the end of breaks so that people have time to put things together and they should be newer projects,” said Goldfarb. “Our results rejected all of those possibilities very strongly.”

Instead, the mundane, execution-oriented tasks associated with launching a crowdfunding campaign like administration, planning, and promotion may benefit significantly from a good use of slack time.


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