February 11, 2013

The art and science of Schvitz Time

Every once in a while in the creative business, a Big Idea seems to come suddenly. A client may detail a thorny, complex marketing problem, for example, and – yahtzee! – a big shiny solution appears, on the ride back to the office if not in the meeting itself.

We learned long ago to take a crucial step at this point – to shut up, for as much as two weeks. (Your mileage may vary.)

There are two reasons Schvitz Time is essential: first, an even better idea may intrude in the interval. It happens. Second, to arrive at a solution too soon devalues the idea. (“How can you charge us this king’s ransom for something you solved in two hours?”)

Both are valid. You can’t fall in love with your idea and stop the process of can-you-top-this that spurs creative teams. Also, some thorny, complex problems actually take a lot more time to solve, but the value of the result is the same. Intellectual property should be valued for its lifetime equity, not for the time-clock measure of its gestation.

Why we call it Schvitz Time: (The apocryphal Lucy Ricardo version.) After the two weeks of improvements and/or dormancy, you prepare to present the Big Shiny Idea. Just before entering the boardroom, muss your hair, splash water on your face*, and rush in breathlessly, crying “Oh, we were up night and day for weeks, but we finally found the answer!” Sometimes, as a matter of fact, it’s true.

*Schvitz (Yiddish, “sweat”)