Twice a year, for the past twelve years, Bill Gates has gone into seclusion for a “Think Week”, retreat where employees, friends and even family are banned. The insights gleaned from “Think Week” help determine Microsoft’s future.
Gates first few “Think Weeks”, went through the following process. (Advances in technology, have streamlined things today.)
- His assistant collected and prioritized information from every corner of Microsoft
- A caretaker was engaged to fix him two simple meals a day and to enforce the no visitor rule.
- He read 100 or more reports during the week.
- He wrote detailed comments on the papers he read.
- Gates worked 18 hours straight some days.
- By week’s end, hundreds of people received emails and a Think Week summary had been prepared for executives.
- In the weeks after Think Week he held follow-up meetings.
Consider holding your own version of a Think Week:
- Allocate enough time. Without sufficient time to pull yourself out of the day-to-day details, you can’t see at the big picture. While seven days might be too long for most of us (Bill Gates does own a HUGE company), be sure you allocate enough time to take a broad view of your company and industry.
- Prepare what you are going to think about. Gates spends 15 hours a day reading newspapers, magazines and company reports. He searches for ideas about trends and advances in technology from around the world. What business books have you been waiting to read? What projects have you neglected for lack of time? How many “I need to read this” articles have you stacked in a pile?
- Stay away from your normal routine. Not all of us can afford to go to a secluded cottage on the waterfront, however we should step out of our normal day-to-day routine in order to see our business/life from a different perspective.
- Take detailed notes on every idea. Gather information from many resources, let your imagination take flight. Record the results.
- Follow up on the ideas. With no follow-up, Think Week loses its’ value. The Think Week exercise is useful only if it changes the way you live and work and approach the future.
Listen to what Bill Gates says about how Think Weeks are done today.