Thursday, January 27, 2011

A bit more Feynman.

After working so intensely on the Manhattan Project, Feynman was hired by Cornell University as a Professor of Physics. He was burnt out and depressed. He had, he claimed, no ideas. Here are Feynman's own words:

"Physics disgusts me a little bit now, but I used to enjoy doing physics. Why did I enjoy it? I used to play with it. I used to do whatever I felt like doing--it didn't have to do with whether it was important for the development of nuclear physics, but whether is was interesting and amusing for me to play with."

Later, Feynman was in a Cornell cafeteria and someone, fooling around, throws a plate in the air. "I had nothing to do, so I start to figure out the motion of the rotating plate...It came out of a complicated equation!"

Feynman relates his enthusiasm to fellow Nobelist and physicist Hans Bethe and Bethe replies, "Feynman, that's pretty interesting, but what's the importance of it? Why are you doing it?"

Feynman ignored Bethe and kept playing with the idea of the wobbling plate. "Then I thought about how electron orbits start to move in relativity...Everything flowed effortlessly...There was no importance to what I was doing, but ultimately there was. The diagrams and the whole business that I got the Nobel Prize for came from that piddling around with the wobbling plate."

I write about this today because there are parallels to our business. When the holding companies and their rapacious hordes of MBAs and project managers took over our business, they systematically eliminated play. There is no downtime to be allowed. Every hour must be billable. We do not have permission to not be productive and we are, therefore, not productive. But our meetings are met, our forms are filled in and our timesheets are neat as a pin.

This is obvious to everyone but the people who run our businesses.


Tore Claesson said...

As everyone who's ever had to come up ideas as a job knows they never appeared when sitting at your desk looking professional. They come at night. They pop up over lunch. They interrupt you when you're watching a movie. They distract you in the middle of a conversation with your spouse. And occasionally they appear during a client meeting. Never when you fill out your time sheet however.

Anonymous said...

Tore, I've actually been very creative on time sheets now and again. Especially when dinner money is concerned.

Tore Claesson said...

@anon I reckon you are right. The whole industry is amazingly creative when it comes to time sheeting. I forgot.

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