Last Updated Oct 18, 2010 7:00 PM EDT
This isn't the first time I've woken up with brainstorms about things I've been working on. I've often found that altered states of consciousness - like being half asleep, meditating, running, or doing "mindless" tasks - can bring about spontaneous inspiration or solutions to tough problems.
Anyway, it got me thinking about all the odd and quirky workplace habits people develop to help them think through complex situations, cope with heavy-duty stress, or just plain relax. Having known probably thousands of senior executives over the decades, I've got plenty of stories to share; these are my top 10:
- Back in the day, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates used to rock back and forth in his chair at meetings. The more agitated or excited he was, the more he rocked. That, along with a notorious disinterest in his personal appearance, was why some think he has a touch of Asperger's Syndrome.
- One Toshiba exec in Japan, on celebratory nights, would, on the fly, don makeup and any props he could find or borrow from barroom patrons and act out karaoke songs. No kidding, I was there.
- Two CEOs I've had the least respect for, over the years, were also the only two that kept regular hours, roughly 9 to 6. Nothing changed their patterns. Some might applaud the discipline, but I think the lack of flexibility is impractical given today's fast-paced business world. One CEO was a real flop; the other made loads of money, but shareholders didn't.
- When I worked at a high-tech company in Texas, one of the technical execs used to take a bunch of the engineers to the shooting range at lunchtime to blow off steam. It definitely seemed to help.
- When he was annoyed with one of his people, one CEO of a large technology company would imagine the person's compensation - dollar sign and all - emblazoned on his forehead. He'd decide right then and there if the guy was worth it or not.
- A former CEO I worked for likes to solve differential equations to relax and pass the time on flights. Sure, he's got a PhD in physics, but still.
- Back in the mid-90s, when this sort of thing wasn't so unusual, a bunch of execs at a public company where I worked would go out for food and drinks, sometimes lots of drinks, then go back to work well into the evening.
- I worked for two CEOs who couldn't have been more different but had one thing in common. Whenever they were alone in their offices they both put on their headphones and immersed themselves, one in music, the other in business news.
- A former computer industry senior executive who later sat on the board of a company where I worked had absolutely no table manners whatsoever. Watching him eat was gross, but you know, he was such a brilliant guy that everyone cut him slack. I wonder if he even knows he does it?
- As for me, I like to spark my neurons with drugs ... legal drugs! Either heavy doses of caffeine - not so unusual - or a couple of glasses of wine! I actually write about half my blog posts in the evening. Can you tell which ones?
Also check out:
- 10 Classic Ways to Get Inspired
- Top 10 Most Annoying Employees: Don't Become One!
- Top 3 Myths About Top Executives