Enlightened by Randomness
A few posts ago, I wrote about the Mindless Task Party. However, there is other aspect that is important and can make a mindless task much more mindful and purposeful… testing randomness. If you’re folding towels, fold every 20th towel a different way.
Evolution occurs when random changes in genetics offer an advantage of fitness in a particular environment. That random change is passed on to the next generation.
For any new task to be performed, there is a learning curve. Every attempt is a bit different until the performer of the task finds a method that offers the least effort compared to outcome. After a certain number, the performer reaches a plateau. It’s at this plateau where random changes to how the task is performed can offer new ways of doing the same thing that could be better and help rise above the plateau.
But what percentage of tasks should be used for experimentation should be allotted?
Google, famously, allows “20% time” for its employees to try something new in the hopes that this randomness will yield the next killer app. Other companies offer similar intra-preneurial activities. For more defined roles, maybe the percentage can be much lower.
It is possible that natural randomness may appear in a system to help create innovations so that designed randomness isn’t necessary. There’s the apocryphal story of the customer who walks in demanding his potatoes be sliced thinner, leading to the potato chip. Other systems and roles may have elements of randomness that cause movement towards innovation.
However, for systems that are isolated, it might be necessary to insert the randomness to break through plateaus.