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Interruptions: The Biggest Enemy of Creativity

One hour of quiet concentration in any business can be worth two hours of normal working time, according to the management of a Denver business, quoted in a Success magazine item.

“Interruptions are the biggest enemy of creativity,” says Gary Desmond, a principal of Hoover Berg Desmond (HBD) a $30 million a year architectural firm. To minimize the inevitable interruptions in the firm’s large, open offices, Desmond came up with the idea which is more familiar with kids than corporations—the quiet hour. Every morning from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., no one at HBD including the principals, may communicate with anyone else inside or outside the office. “Basically, we’re sitting at our desks for that hour,” says Desmond, who makes allowances for emergency phone calls. “We try to focus totally on our clients’ designs.” Initially, HBD’s 25 employees balked at the concept. “Management had to explain that this was not a response to bad work habits. It was a vehicle to make us concentrate even more rigorously,” says Desmond, although he now concedes that quiet hour is an excellent crack-the-whip technique too. But what do the clients think of it? At first, the firm chose to hide the policy from the outside world.

“Businesses that found out used to ask if we served milk and cookies at quiet hour,” says Desmond. “But we stuck to it and now those same firms respect how much we’re trying to accomplish every morning.” Quiet hour has worked out so well, in fact, that HBD wants to start a second one, perhaps in midafternoon. “Our employees all wish they had more quiet hours,” says Desmond. “It gives us what most businesses need so badly, a little time to think.”

Management Digest, Vol. 1, No. 4 (July, 1989)