Playing the guitar (or the violin), drawing, playing complex board games, or good ol’ woodworking, home repairs, or car maintenance may sound like hobbies that couldn’t be farther away from the duties and skills of the work that happens in the office; however, they can be a valuable asset that often goes overlooked. Hobbies, past-times, avocations, and out-of-office passions (fishing or WW2 history, anyone?) that seem at first unrelated to professional skills and success have proven to be intrinsically correlated to the overall development and deployment of talent.
From Nobel Prize winners in sciences and non-sciences (e.g. Peace, Literature) to iconic entrepreneurs, they all pursue interests and activities that go beyond the area for which they become famously successful. For instance, Albert Einstein thought through his groundbreaking theories while playing the violin, while Elon Musk got the ideas for his post-PayPal career in electric vehicles and space travel from his lifelong interest in science fiction.
Hobbies and avocations can be highly valuable in the workplace for three reasons:
- Hobbies and avocations are an indicators of broad(er) talent(s).
Hobbies require a level of curiosity and commitment that usually manifest in other activities—when the curiosity sparks. Do you feel as excited and passionate about your hobby as you do with your everyday job?
- Hobbies and avocations are sources of insights and skills.
Board games such as chess can sharpen strategy skills, in the same way that knowing how to maintain a car’s engine provides a good perspective of systems and engineering. Improv helps with public speaking. How do your hobbies make you better at something else?
- Hobbies and avocations can be a platform for team culture and connection.
Aside from an organization’s stated mission, hobbies and avocations provide ways to bond beyond the confines (and potential rivalries and insider politics) of the office. That’s why “watercooler talk” about the popular or office-favorite TV show is more than a cliché. What non-workplace activities give your organization a common language and culture?
Do you know how your hobbies could make you better in the workplace?
Nowadays Orange Consulting can help you find out.
Root-Bernstein, Robert, Lindsay Allen, Leighanna Beach, Ragini Bhadula, Justin Fast, Chelsea Hosey, Benjamin Kremkow, et al. 2008. “Arts Foster Scientific Success: Avocations of Nobel, National Academy, Royal Society, and Sigma Xi Members.” Journal of Psychology of Science and Technology 1 (2): 51–63. https://doi.org/10.1891/1939-7054.1.2.51.
Root-Bernstein, Robert, Amber Peruski, Megan Vandyke, Michele Root-Bernstein, Rex Lamore, John Schweitzer, James Lawton, and Eileen Roraback. 2019. “Differences in Male and Female Arts and Crafts Avocations in the Early Training and Patenting Activity Of Stemm Professionals.” Technology & Innovation 20 (3): 197–219. https://doi.org/10.21300/20.3.2019.197.
Root-Bernstein, Robert, and Michele Root-Bernstein. 2020. “A Statistical Study of Intra-Domain and Trans-Domain Polymathy among Nobel Laureates.” Creativity Research Journal, May, 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1080/10400419.2020.1751545.