Cameron Gott, PCC
ADHD Coaching for Leaders & Professionals


The Global Creative Blog

Elevating The Cost of Doing Nothing


The expression the cost of doing nothing is well known in business circles. It basically illustrates the eventual higher expense of delaying action on known organization challenges from ignoring basic facility maintenance to failing to address inefficiency or even toxic work behavior. There are many reasons people choose this route of inaction, like not wanting to upset the apple cart or placing a premium on running at capacity, the list goes on. When the machines are running who wants to stop the process when the process is making money? Individuals on larger teams who are averse to risk or fear making a wrong decision will fall into the trap of delaying action out of a sense of job security.

How does this effect the Global Creative?

Global Creatives with their dynamic sense of time and propensity to procrastinate can really struggle with this concept. They can conversely find the benefit in entertaining the opposite view - of placing a premium on the notion of doing nothing or delaying action. A flurry of recent articles illustrate the benefits of procrastination but Global Creatives can use it as a not-so-effective prioritizing tool to delay important decisions and possibly hurt their bottomline. Consequences of not heeding the cost of doing nothing can be significant from losing hard-to-replace talent to missing a once in a lifetime opportunity. The greater cost is the compounding effect of this practice over time. Much like any basic investment model, failing to invest early and consistently impacts measurable dividends as time passes on. A great physical example of the cost of doing nothing is the accumulation of clutter - stacks of paperwork piling up because the owner delays a decision to move it forward to a final resolution. Piles of paperwork can seem inert enough but, in actuality, all of those pieces of paper represent hundreds of incompletes or open loops that siphon off energy and attention-impacting productivity.

Countering the effects of this phenomenon and actually Doing Something is a type of work that is firmly entrenched in the Quadrant II category - work that is never urgent but very important. Global Creatives are excellent responders but can really struggle with QII projects - projects with benefits beyond their immediate time horizon.

Some of the potential ADHD challenges at play here:

  • lack of clarity of the dilemma and where to start

  • reengaging and tracking a larger change initiative over a longer period of time

  • limiting immediate gratification projects so they don’t always supersede these more delayed ones

To further exacerbate this quandary, Global Creative are not completely inactive when they are doing nothing. Far from it. On the inside they are often beset with excessive worry and anxiety further stifling any constructive activity to address the work dilemma. They are prone to bouts of rumination and emotional rollercoaster rides as they consider the dilemma but don’t take constructive action. Indecision can incapacitate them when faced with complex dilemmas. It’s like an amusement park ride that has long lost its element of fun but never stops.

A Global Creative’s highly associative way of thinking (non-linear) can be a liability in that they can see how all things are connected and interrelated but don’t see one clear path forward. It’s why they tend to be the big picture people in organizations. But like a giant landscape piece of art, start to change the colors in one area of the picture and they can’t help but see how it impacts and changes the lighting or mood in the rest of the picture. This cause and effect conundrum (If I change A it impacts B, C, D and Y) can ripple out in ways to the point of overwhelm and shut-down. A move down one path of thinking or action inexorably creates a compounding effect of impacting an almost infinite number of other paths of thought and action.

A wicked cycle of circular thinking can occur burning precious bandwidth, leaving the individual in an exhausted state of doubt with little to show for the emotional expenditure. Executive function breakdowns in prioritization, activation and emotional regulation are contributing factors here. Highlighting the cost of doing nothing is helpful, but a Global Creative can do more to address this dilemma.

Tactics that can help

Develop and model a culture that acknowledges and embraces change. Modeling this for your people will embolden them to proactively address change issues. Embracing change also activates the Global Creative super powers of vision and possibility.

Don’t suffer alone. Break the cycle of circular internal thinking by bringing your concerns to the surface. Do this with a small cognitively-diverse team of long-term change agents with the charge of addressing the cost of doing nothing head-on. Reframe the concern as an opportunity and let your more linear thinkers manage the actual action part. Leverage your associative way of thinking to share the bigger vision (that big landscape piece of art) and help connect the bigger dots.

Ask the questions, “What am I downplaying? What am I putting off?”. We downplay things all the time. Especially things we can put off until tomorrow. Attempt to quantify the actual cost of not taking action to see how the bottomline is being impacted. Again, resource others.

Quantify the cost of the emotional angst events that tend to occur with these periods of inaction. Simple economics can be applied here. Ten minutes of action can mitigate 60 minutes of deep negative rumination (that may be all about the ten minutes of action not happening). Test it out. It works.

Block time every week to spend time on bigger QII initiatives that provide a payoff farther down the road. Better yet, have a small team actively engage here (see above). Delegate this initiative to someone else to prioritize and remember. Don’t leave it to the person with ADHD.

Commit to smaller chunks of action - ten minutes. Often the block is in activating for task. Play the Ten Minute Rule where you only commit to 10 minutes of action and only continue if you want. Often just sitting with the task for 3 minutes one can find an entry point and get going.

Embracing proactive change initiatives

Taking steps toward change can release creative juices when reframed as an opportunity and not seen as some risky action. Notice the perspective you have on these initiatives. Take stock of your practice here. Do you avoid this type of work at all cost? Is it just now coming on to your radar? Dig in a bit, spend some time reflecting on this concept and undoubtedly the value and your interest will increase along with motivation and incentive.