A Shultz Hour

What a great idea!


When George Shultz — (who died this year, at the age of 100) — was Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, he developed a weekly ritual. He closed the door to his office and sat down with a pen and a pad of paper. For the next hour, Shultz tried to clear his mind and think about big ideas, rather than the minutiae of government work.”

“Only two people could interrupt him, he told his secretary: “My wife or the President.”

Shultz told me that story when I interviewed him a few years ago, and it has stuck with me, because it’s even more useful advice today than it was four decades ago. These days, we are constantly interrupted by minutiae, via alerts and text messages. They can make it impossible to carve out time to think through difficult problems in new ways or come up with creative ideas.”

Letting your mind wander, Sandi Mann, a British psychologist, has said, “makes us more creative, better at problem-solving, better at coming up with creative ideas.” The Dutch have a word for this concept: niksen, or the art of doing nothing. (And here’s a GQ interview in which the journalist Manoush Zomorodi argues that boredom could open the mind to creativity, problem-solving and more ambitious life goals.)”

Shultz’s biggest accomplishment in government was precisely such a fresh idea: a recognition — which most other Reagan advisers lacked — that Mikhail Gorbachev was serious about reforming the Soviet Union.”

As Amos Tversky, a pathbreaking psychologist said: “You waste years by not being able to waste hours.” *(subscription may be required for all links, from the New York Times)

I can’t tell you how many stations hired me to help when the PD was quite able to provide everything I may have if s/he had only had the time.

Stations pay me and other consultants a lot of money to come in, sit inside a hotel room for a couple of days listening non-stop, taking notes on what I hear, and what I don’t.

Station management won’t let their PD do that. Why, I don’t know.

So, if you are a radio program director, or GM, I highly recommend you allot one hour each week with nothing at all scheduled, and strict limits on who is permitted to interrupt you.

Turn off your phones. Close your door. Listen or not. Just think without any agenda or goal.

This works best for me when I get outside the station, walking, preferably in a wild space or park.

It may take some practice emptying your mind of all the approaching deadlines and problems, but once that part of mind relaxes and shuts off, your right brain, the creative side, will fire up.

I think it will amaze you, and I know it will be good for both you and your station’s product.