The Three Eyes

Have you ever wondered how Google became such a successful company? At least part of their success comes from the way they manage their time and resources. In 2005, then-CEO Eric Schmidt shared his vision for investing Google’s time:

We spend 70% of our time on core [businesses], search and ads. We spend 20% on adjacent businesses, ones related to the core businesses in some interesting way. And then 10% of our time should be on things that are truly new.

This idea is powerful in its simplicity. To truly grow, we have to step outside the comfort zone of our core competencies, and look to the future.

Although it’s often called the 70/20/10 Rule, I think it’s worth focusing attention on what each number really represents, so I’ve come up with a different name: the Three Eyes.

The first eye is Iteration. This eye focuses on improving your central competencies.

The second eye is Incubation. Ideas from this eye build off the strengths of your core foundation, but may take somewhat longer to bear fruit. You must protect and nurture them.

The third eye is Innovation. The purpose of this eye is to make sure you never grow too complacent, but are always stretching for new opportunities — even if they seem crazy at first.

Even though the Three Eyes were originally conceived for guiding working hours and business strategies, they work wonderfully for personal development as well. Let’s say I have two hours of free time every Monday through Thursday, and six hours each Saturday and Sunday. That’s about 20 hours per week. This means I should be spending 14 hours iterating, four hours incubating, and two hours a week innovating.

For me, the truly earth-shaking conclusion is this: I should be spending one night a week learning or doing something totally new.

Maybe this means reading a book or listening to a podcast. Perhaps it’s sketching out the wireframe for that iPhone app idea you’ve always had. It could even be something physical, like visiting a new neighborhood or trying a new workout.

Whatever way you choose to innovate, remember to give yourself permission to fail. The whole point of the third eye is to try crazy things. It’s only natural that they won’t all work out. In fact, it’s better for an idea to fail at this stage than any other time, since at least you didn’t spend much time on it.

All too often, we’re so busy that we feel we have to spend all our time on present problems and current emergencies. But the Three Eyes remind us that, in actuality, we can’t afford not to consider the long term. We must always live with one foot in the present, and the other firmly planted in the future.