Graduate Blog / Graduate Life

Productive Slacking with Anirudh Dhebar

“Create your own little slacks every day and be productive, not different” said professor Anirudh Dhebar as he finished the last bit of rice and curry in his plate while leaving me full of food for thought.

Lunch time at Olin café is pretty usual – multiple tables of graduate students discussing their group assignments or the case study for the next class. Except for this one table with professor Dhebar.

Every Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon, typically during supper or lunch hours, professor Dhebar leads an informal chat to discuss the challenges and issues the leaders of tomorrow will face. The motivation behind the chat, in Dhebar’s words is “to address things that don’t get touched upon in class”.

Each week as he scours through the news, the professor in the marketing division, chooses an article he thinks is worth talking about and sends out the link to the article to the Babson community. Articles are usually picked from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times or Financial Times. These articles range from science, technology, business and society topics which stems to the subject of his email – STB&S Roundtable chat.

I attended one of his chats at lunch time on Tuesday. The article in discussion – “Managers can draw a line between slack and slacking” from the Financial Times.

To me and many other students and young professionals, the word slack usually resonates with an app that provides collaboration tools and services. After the discussion with professor Dhebar, the word slack has a new definition for me.

Slack is useful time taken by employees to pursue their own ideas. Some products that have come out of this useful slack time are post-it notes, Gmail and Google news. The question Dhebar posed was, whose responsibility is it to slack? Does the company need to give slack time, do employees have to take the onus of slack time or do managers need to implement it? Or, do we even need time to slack? As he unboxed his lunch, it felt like Olin café went quiet and everyone turned around to our table to hear the thoughts that would follow.

As the answers ensued, Anirudh kept probing into further “whys”. If you think it is the managers responsibility to inculcate a culture of slack, why should it not be the individual’s responsibility or the company’s as a whole? As we tried to funnel towards it being an individual’s responsibility to slack, Anirudh questioned if it is better to slack or should we often be slacking – a time taken to unwind.

As the debate rallied towards productive slacks, Anirudh said he doesn’t feel the need for slacking because his day is made of different slacks. His class to him was a form of slack where he pushes his students to think beyond the case and his students’ perspectives make him think differently. The roundtable chat was another form of slack that discussed a topic he would probably not get a chance to discuss with students. These small slacks in his day were productive slacks that made him different. He wasn’t striving for being different, but these productive slacks made him different.

If he didn’t have the Marketing High-Tech products class to teach right after lunch, I would have probably spent the entire afternoon, and evening, discussing more on how we can create multiple slacks in our day.

You can find Anirudh Dhebar in Olin café on Monday evening at 6:00pm and Tuesday afternoon at 12:00pm creating his own slack and maybe one for you too.