In a growing company, juggling side projects and a full-time job is often frowned upon.
Everyone is supposed to be focused on one goal and one goal only — building the company. Any work that appears to sway from that overarching goal is viewed in a negative light.
But side projects don’t actually have to steal focus away from the company’s main objective. They can be useful as an outlet for creative energy, as a way to develop employees, and even as a tool to bring in new clients.
It all depends on how you treat these projects. If they’re looked down upon and discouraged, you won’t see any of the benefits.
If leadership embraces the idea of passion projects and offshoots, some spectacular things can happen.
Think of it like a daily walk. It’s comfortable to take the same route every day because you see the same stores, the same people. There may be minor deviations, but usually you know what to expect.
But if you want to see something new, you have to take different streets.
The original path may be trustworthy and dependable, but it won’t ever take you out of your comfort zone or help you see things in a new light. It’s only when you change your route that you run into new people, hear new voices, find new restaurants.
That’s what your side projects are — little side streets that can lead you to new ideas.
Here’s why they’re so important:
Deviating from the norm opens you up to new opportunities.
I’m not advocating you split your attention between multiple time-consuming ventures. Honestly, 90% of your time should be focused on your core business and its requirements.
But sometimes, in order to get where you want to go, you have to take an approach that isn’t totally linear.
I’ll give you an example.
Our team at Chronicled established a company as a passion project called the Blockchain Art Collective (BAC), which is separate from the work we do with supply chains. Recently, we were helping an organization register art and antiquities through the BAC.
And now, that party has expressed interest in using our supply chain capacities to track pharmaceutical drugs — one of our core company solutions.
So what started as a side company ended up bringing our organization business. It wasn’t the most direct route, but it did open up an opportunity we might not have had otherwise.
It can improve employee retention and company sustainability.
Passion projects are often about giving people the time, permission, and resources to do something a little different.
These opportunities can be significant, say a sabbatical after several years of hard work. Or they can be smaller, more frequent breaks for people to pursue their interests.
Allowing employees to invest just 5% of their time at work into related projects can lead to major growth and new discoveries. In fact, it can help attract the younger generation of workers since 78% of Millennials believe being involved in side projects is beneficial to their careers.
And outside projects give employees some leeway to work outside the strict confines of their normal day-to-day workload.
That outlet can be key to retaining employees for the long run. High turnover rates are costly, not just financially, but in terms of the human capital you lose and the negative impact it can have on morale.
Giving your team an outlet — even one that’s tangentially related to the work they’re doing — is a good way to foster individual growth and keep people from burning out.
Ideas will compound into something bigger and better for your team.
Many people are actually more productive when they have a lot going on.
When they know they need to get several things done in a day, they work harder to meet those deadlines.
I started my first company while I was still getting my Masters. Looking back, it’s hard to believe I was doing all that at once. But that’s how I’ve always been. Even in college I gravitated toward interdisciplinary studies — combining what I learned in my logic or astronomy classes with what I was writing about in my English or anthropology classes.
I never felt like my company and my schoolwork were at odds. I never felt like any one of my classes pulled my attention away from the others.
Instead, I felt like they were compounding and creating new perspectives, thought processes, and ideas.
Side projects at a company don’t have to compete with the main goals. Ideally, team members will apply what they learn from those projects to their work — leading to new ideas, new opportunities, and a more flexible and innovative company.
Thanks for reading!