‘Goofing off’ can spark business-defining ideas


Goofing off. That’s probably what it looks like I’m doing most of the time. But really I’m just endlessly curious to read about new things, look at different images, and get lost in a wormhole of seemingly time-wasting internet detritus. Most of it is probably worthless. But some of it can spark an idea that can change my or a client’s business.

Goofing off is what we all did as kids. Before we became serious and played by the rules. We did things that entertained us. We lived. We yearned to learn, to discover, to escape. As adults, it’s easy to get lost in your everyday routine and lose sight of the bigger picture.

Let me share an example. At this point, I’ve spent most of my career in big multinational advertising agencies, cocooned in a creative bubble and cushioned from the true realities of business. In these large traditional agencies, new work just rolls onto your desk. Lots of people stay late working on client briefs, looking at award annuals, watching case studies, and perusing every ad website they can wrap their eyes upon. I know a few creative types who are so far removed from reality they see their job is to win awards rather than sell and get people to like the brands they are working for.

Now, as a partner of a growing independent agency, I’m no longer cocooned from the business side of things. New clients don’t just roll in on their own, I’ve got to go and find them, while hopefully still producing great work and inspiring everyone else in the office to make work they’re proud of.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve got to get totally serious and lose that goofing off, inquisitive side of how I work. Instead I’ve embraced my responsibilities. It’s opening my mind up to new and exciting things. I’m learning new stuff. It’s keeping my mind fresh by being challenged by things I’ve never ever contemplated before. It’s not easy. But it’s different. And different is what keeps us all going.

It’s for the same reason that I consistently encourage people to go home on time whenever possible. See your family. Go to an exhibition. Watch a movie. Do stuff that people do. Don’t just get stuck in the business grind.

There is so much more to life than business. Most people are literally clocking in and clocking off, just trying to earn enough money to take care of their family, to make it through the week, and get to the weekend. So, it’s important to never forget to have a variety-filled existence that exposes you to all that life has to offer.

The more well-rounded you are, the more you can understand what “real” people think about and wish for.

So, my advice when it comes to staying creative while running a business is this: make time to goof off because inspiration can come from the most unexpected places.

In other words, go home on time whenever you can. Don’t work on the weekends. Turn your computer off and put your phone away. Wander around with your mind open. Eavesdrop on people’s conversations on the train and in cafes.

Because the more experiences you’ve got access to, the more creativity you’ll be able to bring to your work and the people you work with.


About the author

AlexWadeltonAlex Wadelton is Partner and Executive Creative Director at ZOO Group Melbourne. ZOO Group is an independent creative network with agencies in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Singapore and Auckland. Pawl Cubbin, founder and CEO of Zoo Group was recently profiled by Dynamic Business in Cultivate entrepreneurialism, stay small as you go big: Pawl Cubbin on competitive advantage