If you’re going to turn on an innovation engine, a lot depends on whether managers listen for the brilliance in their employees’ ideas that they can then help test, or whether they listen for what’s wrong and why it won’t work.
– Shari Ballard, Executive vice president of human resources and legal for Best Buy. Source.
On my post about liking vs. loving your job, Gabe asked an interesting question in the comments:
What do you do if you work at a place where, every time you try to “raise your game???, i.e. creating coding standards, improving functionality of commonly used systems, etc, you are told that “We don’t have time for that.??? or “We should put that on the back burner until we have more staff.??? or anything else that ends up sounding like “No???.
What advice do you have for those who want to improve things and are consistently met with opposition?
To me, there are few things that are more demotivating than coming up with what I believe is a good idea, only to see it shot down by the usual, boiler-plate objections.
And it doesn’t have to be this way. London-based innovation agency ?WhatIf! have implemented a practice they call greenhousing. In the book Sticky Wisdom, they write:
Plants are at their most fragile when they are small and just starting to grow. That’s why gardeners use greenhouses. It’s the same with ideas. They are easiest to destroy when they first appear. Unfortunately, most business cultures tend to stifle ideas before they can take root.
The latest BMW ad campaign has very little to do with cars and focuses instead on the corporate values of the Bayerische Motoren Werke.
One version of it says:
We say no to:
Lowest common denominators
So we can say yes to good ideas.
BMW fights bureaucracy. This is cool. Why is it cool?
1: Bureaucracy kills happiness at work
Bureaucracy saps people’s energy and motivation. If you don’t believe me, read Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon Mackenzie. It’s an excellent book about how to thrive in organizitions plagued by red tape.
2: Branding through good corporate identity rules
BMW are choosing to brand themselves not through their products or technology but through how they run their business.
3: Branding that matches products rules
This campaing works only because the corporate identity they are expressing happens to match the products. BMW’s vehicles (I’m the proud owner of one myself) are innovative and exciting matching the (mildly) revolutionary message of the ads.
It’s great to see companies making a stand against bureaucracy and It’s even better to see companies making bold, positive identities and standing by them.
It just struck me though: Is anyone else surprised to see such an anti-authoritarian message… from a German company :o)
Pat May just started a blog called Radical Thinking and it looks great already.
Check it out, especially his recent post on the habit of getting ideas, which includes this choice Steinbeck quote:
Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple, learn how to look after them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.
Karen Høeg, a good friend of mine, works for the Danish Commerce and Companies Agency and if you think that’s a mouthful you should see it in Danish: Erhvervs- og Selskabsstyrelsen. They are:
the official place of registration for Danish Businesses. In parallel the DCCA administers legislations regulating Businesses, amongst others the Companies Act and the Company Accounts Act.
Before you get too many images of a dusty, boring government agency rubberstamping it old-skool, I’ll have you know that they’re actually pretty with-it.
How can we know that? Because they made we are funky one of their core values. Yep, that’s right, a government agency that wants to be funky. This is great news, and a good sign that public work places can actually be very modern and fun to work at.
However, the “funky” value did result in one hilarious misunderstanding. During a parliament debate, a politician from the opposition asked the The Minister of Economic and Business Affairs a lot of pointed questions about this choice of values. He simply couldn’t understand why they would want to call themselves funky. Turns out he didn’t know what funky meant, and had looked it up in a dictionary, which said:
1. Having a moldy or musty smell: funky cheese; funky cellars.
2. Having a strong, offensive, unwashed odor.
One day early in this journey it dawned on me that they way I’d been running Interface is the way of the plunderer. Plundering something that is not mine, something that belongs to every creature on earth.
And I said to myself “My goodness, a day must come where this is illegal, where plundering is not allowed. I mean, it must come.”
So I said to myself “My goodness, some day people like me will end up in jail.”
– Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface, the world’s largest carpet manufacturer
I may be doing an innovation workshop next week and I’m looking for some new, great exercises to do with the participants. Do you know any good ones?
I’m especially interested in short, fun activites that either get the creative juices flowing or make an important point about innovation and creativity. Your help will be much appreciated!
Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, is defined as voluntary efforts by businesses to contribute to society. It may include
- Workplace issues (such as training and equal opportunities)
- Human rights
- The business’ impact on the community
- Reputation, branding and marketing
- Ethical investment
- Ethics and corporate governance
And now something even more interesting is going on right here in Denmark: we’re implementing a national policy to enhance corporate growth and sustainable social development by teaching small and mid-sized businesses about CSR .
The project kicked off formally last week and will educate 12.000 danish leaders and employees from small and mid-sized businesses in CSR, helping them to increase their profits while doing something good for society and the planet. It is, as far as I know, the largest CSR project in the world.
Studies show that companies who do CSR make more money than those who don’t. Quite simply, doing good helps businesses do well.
I have a simple explanation for why this is the case: Doing good feels good. It makes people happy. And happy people are the best way to business success.
In my post about Creating a Happy and Rich Business, I outlined the six practices of happy workplaces, and two of these are “Care” and “Think and act long-term”. CSR is an expression of both of these. That’s why it makes people happy, and that’s why it’s good for corporate profits and corporate growth.
But then again, I would say that, wouldn’t I? :o)
Some books get you thinking and Fred Gratzon’s The lazy Way to Success definitely did that to me. Damn you, Fred!
I have seen the light. I now realize that my ingrained laziness has not only been one of the major forces shaping my life, it’s been a boost to almost every important area of my life.
Me, doing what I do best: Nothing.
Here are some random thoughts on how laziness has helped me in my university studies, in my work in IT, in leadership and in entrepreneurship.
The lazy student
When I started studying at the University of Southern Denmark (I graduated with a masters in computer science in 1994), I was always envious of the over-achievers. You know them – they’re the people who are always prepared for today’s lecture, have done their homework and never need to do any last-minute, aaaaargh-exams-are-only-two-weeks-away studying. Like I did. Every. single. semester.
I used to beat myself up for not being like them, but in the end I accepted, that I’m just not that person. The final realization came to me while I was writing my masters thesis (on virtual sensors for robots, if anyone wants to know), and I discovered that some days I can’t write. I literally can’t put two words together and have anything meaningful come out. I can frustrate myself nearly to death trying, but I won’t get anywhere.
And other days, writing is totally effortless and both the quantity and the quality of the output is high. I am in fact having one of those days today, I can’t seem to stop writing. What I realized was that this is me. It’s the way I work, and I have go with that.
So I adopted the lazy approach to writing, which is that I write whenever I feel like it. And my output on a writing day easily outweighs the x days where I didn’t get any writing done.
Incidentally, the thesis still got done on time and it got me an A. So there!
The lazy developer
Masters degree in hand I went on to become an IT consultant and developer, and I quickly learned this: If I’m programming something and it feels like work, I haven’t found the right solution yet. When the right solution presents itself, the task becomes fun and easy. I also get to admire the beauty of an efficient, simple solution.
Good code is a pleasure to maintain, tweak and refactor. Bad code is hard work. Also laziness means only doing things once, instead of repeating yourself all over the place – another hallmark of good code.
The lazy leader
After my IT days I went on to leadership and learned this: If leading people feels like hard work, you’re most definitely not doing it right. The lazy leader adapts his leadership style to the people around him to the point where it feels like he’s doing almost no work and people are leading themselves. I refer you to this classic Lao Tzu quote as proof that this notion is more than 2500 years old.
When I spoke at the Turkish Management Center’s HR conference in Turkey, one of the other speakers was Semco’s CEO Ricardo Semler. He said in his presentation that Semco recently celebrated the 10th. anniversary of Ricardo not deciding anything in the company. It started when he took 18 months out to travel the world, and discovered that the company ran just fine without him. If that ain’t laziness on a very high plane, I don’t know what is and you can read all about it in Ricardo’s excellent book The Seven-Day Weekend.
The lazy entrepreneur
As an entreprenur, my approach has been this: Start a lot of small projects and see which ones grab me. Rather than try to analyze my way to an answer to which opportunity is the best/will make me the most money/will be the most fun, I float a lot of ideas in a lot of places. Some happen, most don’t. The ones that happen are by definition the right ones, and they are always fun to work on. Always.
It’s common to think that success only comes with hard work, but I’ve found the opposite to be true for me. In my case, success has come from NOT working hard, and my laziness has definitely done me a lot of good. The only difficult part has been to let go of the traditional work ethic and accept my laziness. To work with it instead of against it.
Will the lazy approach work for you? Maybe not. Maybe you get more success from working long and hard, from putting your nose to the grindstone and applying yourself. But if you’ve never tried the lazy approach, how can you know that that doesn’t work even better? Give it a shot, you might like it!
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I think that the ever-evolving user interface and communication tools that we are developing might impact the future of management in the real world. My feeling is that what we are doing in WoW represents in many ways the future of real time collaborative teams and leadership in an increasingly ad hoc, always-on, diversity intense and real-time environment.
The race is on: Who will be first to offer management training based on playing WoW :o)