The Panic Button

A new Button

I’d heard about this particular corporate office, but thought the rumours just couldn’t be true, afterall, nothing could be that bad! So with a certain feeling of uncertainty, I mustered up the required courage and walked with some trepidation through the entrance of the building to my scheduled appointment.

As I walked through the automatic opening and rather imposing glass doors each of which boldly portrayed the company’s famous insignia, I heard a quiet woosh sound, and sensed that a small quota of my innovation can been surreptitiously sucked out of the pores from a skin. A slight feeling of fear started to permeate through me!

I waited in the reception area for my host to arrive and noticed that the office was devoid of colour, all employees were dressed in dark ominous tones of corporate boringness and the walls were blank canvasses of white with the occasional random poster of business repetition. A drop of sweat now slowly meandered down from my forehead…this was not looking good!

After waiting about five minutes completely immersed in silence as no one appeared to laugh, smile or have any normal facial expression that had a glimmer of hope or inspiration, my host finally appeared.

My host was the CMO. He was dressed in a traditional dark suit, white shirt, rather bland yet expensive tie, black polished shoes and reeked of that rather common aftershave.

My internal innovation meter sensed impending doom and urgently started to seek an exit from this place of potential creative tyranny. I noticed a prominent button protected by thick glass on the wall that was fully coated in dust and cobwebs which read “break in case of innovation emergency!” This was indeed such a situation! I excused myself from my host, ran to the button, smashed the glass and eagerly pressed this button of hope.

What happened next….well that is a choice that all you who are reading this blog post can make! All of us have the choice to work in a corporate environment that is bleak, or one that inspires and cultivates innovation. If it is the former, then why not implement a culture of innovation change…it could be fun and quite stimulating for all concerned!

If you are in any doubt, may I suggest you place an ‘Innovation Panic Button” on your office wall and then quietly observe just how many employees try to press it? I think that you will be surprised at the number of people who desperately seek that innovation cultural change and the associated benefits that are derived from it!

Just a thought…..?

And This Years Winner Is…..Teamwork

That One Day in September

Last weekend here in Melbourne it was the Grand Final of Australian Rules Football competition that involved the clash between two mighty football teams – Hawthorn and Fremantle. On the big day an audience of 100,000+ supporters sat in the famous and historical MCG stadium and cheered loudly as they encouraged their team towards victory with the goal of being the 2013 Premiers. However, only one team can be victorious and this year the winner was Hawthorn.

Prior, during and after the game, it is always interesting to observe the behaviours of the two team’s supporters. Each supporter dresses up in their football team’s club colours, waves team flags and provides “verbal encouragement” to their players, the opposition and particularly the umpires. Although the supporters have allegiance to their individual teams, after the game there is minimal malice and they depart on mass with “friendly” banter amongst their own supporters and those from the opposition team. In this instance, it could be said that the real winner was “football” as the game was a spectacular ending to yet another great football season that was enjoyed by all supporters of the game.

Let’s explore this team concept further in the corporate office. Many organizations are functionally structured into discrete work groups (marketing, sales, HR, production, etc), or business divisions, or via geography (Australia, Denmark, Japan). Over time, these groups tend to develop their own work culture and ethos that crafts and encourages certain good, and some bad behaviours. Unfortunately, this may also lead to an “us” and “them” mentality where one group tries to score points off another work group, just like in the game of football.

However, the key is for these work groups to recognise that there is one larger and more strategic team, that of the total organization. Sure, there can be a work group team credo under the direction of their General Manager (“team captain”), but only if the real winner is the overall business.

In football, it is the umpires role to keep order in the game and to administer and implement the rules to ensure an equal opportunity for all players. Taking this thought further, do we need to establish a band of independent “Behavioural Umpires (BU)” that freely roam the corporate organization calling poor intergroup teamwork with a series of Red, Yellow and Green “behaviour cards” and associated penalties?

For instance, a person given a “Yellow behavioural card” could be placed into a “behavioural sin-bin” for a day where they are forced to watch DVDs of greater teamwork effectiveness? Those awarded a “Red card” may need to spend a day working in the work group they have offended to learn about that team’s ways of “goodness”? However, the “Green card” would reward positive teamwork behaviour and could result in a financial incentive and other forms of recognition. The BU would have a special uniform, complete with a corporate branded whistle, so they are easily recognisable as they wander through the various work teams.

At the end of each financial year, the BUs could get together and have a “best and fairest” award for those employees deemed to have exhibited the optimum in teamwork excellence. There could even be a corporate dinner at a prestigious hotel to celebrate the occasion with a large and impressive trophy presented to the winner by the organization’s CEO.

So may I suggest that work teams never lose sight of the larger organization to ensure that the winner is always the one team, and not the individual!

Just a thought…..