Dirt IS Good

muddy-woman

An office colleague of mine was trying to convey the attributes of infrequent showering as a benefit to the environment, and her body, after reading an article in a leading Australian newspaper*. My altruistic persona understood the associated advantages with water and soap conservation, and for that individual sacrifice I was indeed grateful. However, I must admit that I was struggling to find common agreement with the potential impact on her personal hygiene and that unique, and highly distinctive human odourfication.

That night, whilst driving home in my air-conditioned clean car cocooned from all external negative atmospheric influences, I thought objectively about my colleague, and I came to the conclusion that Dirt was actually a very good thing, particularly for the process of fostering innovation in the corporate office. No, I’m not suggesting for a moment that a dirty unwashed body should be encouraged, particularly as I am still a strong believer in the virtues of daily ablutions, but I am purporting the advantages of having a “dirty mind”, one that is openly shared and encouraged amongst all employees.

Now for all of you that do have a “dirty mind”, immediately stop, go no further with your thought processes!  When I use the term “dirt”, I mean; mud, soil or clay….yes, that Dirt.

In the corporate office, there are many ideas generated, some great, others, well, not so great. However, many of these hypothetically brilliant ideas experience a relatively short creative life that quickly evaporate before they can be progressed to a state of potential future commercial benefit.

Think of a plant that needs time to cultivate roots in dirt from which it obtains the necessary nutrients for growth. If it is left unprotected without the life giving benefits of soil, it soon withers and dies. Similarly, your thoughts require a “dirty mind” to take hold, grow and develop. Here the “dirty mind” is your business culture and it needs to be one that is rich in a variety of ideas that support these fragile seeds of creative thought. Should your business be lacking the “Dirt” and be more like an arid desert where endless restrictive procedures prevail, then innovation has no hope of developing.

Yes, Dirt is good and a “dirty mind” should indeed be encouraged.

* http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/beauty/how-often-should-we-shower-much-less-often-than-you-think-20150310-140487.html

Ideas that Think: “Idea-inks”

thinking.

“With so many great ideas out there, I know we will find the right one!”

I’m sure that many of you when doing a “braining storming” session have said this phrase to your colleagues in a desperate plea to find that truly innovative idea that will be the financial answer to all your company’s problems? However, in most occasions, I suspect you would have been disappointed with the result.

This got me thinking. What if we were to view “ideas”, rather than as a non-descript and transient thought, but as an idea with it’s own personal objectives and desires? Yes, I’m referring to “ideas that think”! Now this changes the game plan completely!

Let’s explore this concept further.

Firstly, let’s define these “ideas that think” which I will name “Idea-inks” for want of a better name.

Let’s assume that “Idea-inks” have their own unique and complex personality and they, like people, want to achieve self-actualization, just like in Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy. But they will also have basic survival desires to ensure their long-term ability to procreate. To do this, I can visualise “Idea-inks” wofting between corporate organizations trying to find the right environment that accommodates their requirements for psychological, safety, a sense of belonging, self esteem and that all important opportunity for innovation and creativity.

But what if your corporate culture is rather dull, boring and lacking the required inspiration for an “Idea-ink” to embed, establish roots and grow? If this sounds like your organization, then it’s not surprising that your brainstorming sessions lead to little, if any, new ideas being developed, after all, why should an “Idea-ink” want to live there, nor put the time into your company with little opportunity for potential long term self actualization prospects?

Corporate organizations need to “woo” the “Idea-inks” into your business. You need to make them feel welcome. But “Idea-inks” are not gullible, but rather insightful and quickly appreciate whether they are being sold something under false pretences.

If your business wants the most innovative ideas, then you want to target the most creative “Idea-inks”. Like all business transactions, if your corporate culture is poor, you will get the dud “Idea-inks”, if your work environment is continually dynamic and vibrant, you will be bombarded by a plethora of the most talented and inspiring “Idea-inks” fighting to maintain a presence in your office.

So the answer to getting a continual flow of the right business ideas into your corporate office is your culture and environment. Make sure you target the right “Idea-inks” for your company, and your creativity will be guaranteed!

You Took a RISK….Fantastic!!

TAKE RISKS

In one of my previous blog posts you will recall my recent attempt at roller skating (https://thinkingfuturethoughts.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/office-roller-skating-instructors/)

As I look back on that memory, I can vividly recall the difference in skating standard between myself (a hesitant, stumbling, novice) and that of my instructor (graceful, impressive, stunning…and yes…that rather magnificent short flappy skirt, not that I really noticed, well, maybe just a little….)

Both of us had the same type of roller skates, we were on the same skating rink, the same skating ambition not to fall over, but our skating performance skills were noticeably different! Why…well, it’s called experience. My skating experience was one lesson, her experience was extensive and it showed. But, her skating prowess didn’t happen quickly, it took many years of practice, learning, taking risks, and being prepared to occasionally fail and have that embarrassing moment of falling over and landing on her bottom.

In the corporate office, the prospect of failure isn’t really encouraged. The environment is very risk adverse, in fact, most of us are too scared to explore new ideas, particularly our managers, just in case they don’t work. It’s no wonder that innovation and creativity is stifled, or on the verge of becoming non-existent!

However, to build a corporate risk-taking environment that is effective, it needs to start at the top. A culture must develop that says…”it’s ok to fail..in fact, it’s ok to fail quite a few times…just keep working your innovative idea and eventually you will succeed and more importantly…learn”. Of course there are many caveats and T&Cs associated with this comment, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to work in an organization that encouraged you to take risks and stuff up occasionally along the way!?

Why doesn’t the CEO of your organization share with you some of their personal failures, and their learnings from those experiences? If they haven’t had any failures, does that mean they were too scared to take any risks, or did the organization not let them do so? If that’s the case, I suspect you might be working in rather a boring and conservative company so it might be time to get out before you also becoming branded with the concept that innovation lethargy is the norm and acceptable behavior!

Most companies have a corporate newsletter that is circulated internally to all employees highlighting various business successes that have occurred over the last few weeks or months. Why not include a section that highlights people in the business that had the courage to try something new, something innovative, and if it failed, get them to explain their learnings from the process. These people need to be encouraged and to be given public recognition. By doing this, others will also see that it’s ok to try something new and bold.

Why not add an innovation component into your employee’s performance goals for the year? Now this would create a vastly different mindset in the management structure as I suspect that most managers wouldn’t know where to start in this process? One option could be to provide all managers and employees with an “Innovation 101” type course that provides the basics in brainstorming and creativity techniques to make people think that little bit differently (PS: If you need a hand in doing this, let me know!)

The corporate office should be fun, exciting and have a culture that promotes innovation. Afterall, we spend most of our lives at work…so make it a place that you want to be at and more importantly….enjoy!

Corporate Guide Illuminators

Car headlights

Recently I was driving at night on a rather windy and narrow road in the country. The region was quite desolate so there were no other cars to be seen, apart from the occasional animal leaping in front of my car’s headlights with a stunned suicidal look of fright and utter surprise, including me!

Navigating the dark road terrain took a large amount of concentration, particularly as I had no idea as to the width of the road on quite a few occasions. This resulted in me reducing my driving speed rather dramatically as I attempted to come to terms with the unfamiliar environment.

If I had been following a car the whole journey would have been much easier and far less stressful. In this situation, the other car’s headlights would have illuminated the road for me and I could have judged their trajectory by monitoring the red lights permeating from the back of their vehicle.

Let’s explore this analogy in the corporate office. On many occasions when starting a new job or task, we are left to our own devices from which we frequently learn via a process of trial and error. If we are unsure of the required process, we typically proceed with some degree of caution so as to minimize the likelihood of potential mistakes.

However, if we had a ‘corporate guide’ (or mentor) to assist us along our business journey we would progress with greater confidence and speed and arrive at the final objective (or destination) in a much more comfortable state of mind and improved productivity.

One option is to equip those people in the business classified as mentors with a red reflector on their backs and bottoms and a white lantern on their stomachs, just like with a car to provide direction for other employees, but somehow I can’t see this being accepted by the wearer?

A better, and maybe less attention seeking option is for the organization to take the time and effort to train mentors on how to work and encourage those employees who are deemed less knowledgeable on an activity prior to them embarking on the project or task.

However, I do quite like the idea of highlighting mentors with a large hat with a gold flashing light positioned on top to recognize their mentorship skills….but that’s just me.

The Achievement of “Mobility Optimization”

Roads these days now cater for a variety of users, all with differing needs and requirements. To do this, many a driver will have observed the ever growing emergence of a number of specialist lanes segmenting the bitumen for motorised vehicles, cyclists, roller skaters, skateboarders, those wanting to travel slowly, and of course pedestrians. Each lane is typically branded with a painted logo and may even enjoy a unique colour and/or road texture to provide additional differentiation.

No longer do roads just exist for the humble automobile, they now facilitate the movement of a many a mode of transport. The result is what I will term “mobility optimization”.

There is another transport corridor which could benefit greatly from the use of “mobility optimization”, and that is in the corporate office.

Most offices have a maze of corridors that link employees between various work stations, meeting rooms, food lounges and of course those dead-end traffic zones known as photocopy rooms. People are all walking at different speeds, some dawdling along in deep thought, others perched up against a wall enjoying some social interchange creating a walking hazard for others, some carefully juggling a number of work items such as computers, folders and a steaming long black coffee cup that is poised for spillage, others just in a hurry to get out of the building!

The solution is obvious! The corporate office needs to establish transit lanes in the workplace corridors to facilitate “mobility optimization”.

For those people in a hurry, their corridor lane could be made from polished floorboards to assist fast walking, running or even the use of corporate approved roller skates (furnishing the company logo) for the achievement of optimum speed around the building.

The slow walking lane would consist of a thick shag pile carpet, together with the occasional table and chair on which a number of drinking glasses would be placed to support and maintain the reduced speed objective.

Like on a freeway, where car breakdown zones exist on the side of the road out of harms way, office corridors would be designed with “dialog zones” where employees could stop and socialise in small out of the way “bunker nooks” that do not hinder those co-workers that are on the move.

Surveillance speed cameras could be mounted above each corridor to ensure the correct use of each lane. Those employees observed not following the “terms and conditions” of their selected lane usage, would receive a “mobility optimization infringement notice” that would be E-mailed to their work computer. Those repeat infringement offenders, would feel the wrath of the corporate wandering wofters! (a wrath that most people do not want to experience!).

So, in order to eliminate your corporate office of all movement hindrance resulting in transport inefficiency, may I suggest that you initiate a program of “mobility optimization” and enjoy a much more pleasant and effective office environment!

The Flamboyee

Mondrian dress

If you have ever watched a speedboat cutting through the still water in a large lake, it is a most impressive sight. Besides the monstrous noise catapulting flamboyantly into the surrounding air, in its trail there is a sharp and distinctive series of oscillating waves that permeate from the back of the boat and eventually make their way to the shore. As an observer, you have no option but to take notice and to acknowledge the visual spectacle that is quickly unfolding before your physical senses.

This occurrence got me thinking…..

Corporate innovation needs “The Flamboyant Employee” to act as a catalyst to inspire and to make others in the office think that little bit differently. As a suggestion, let’s call these people the “Flamboyee”.

As the “Flamboyee” wanders through the office, their profile captures the attention of their fellow workers. They may have a flirtatious smile, a wicked glint in their eye, wear a range of unique clothes, or possess some other individual and distinctive mannerisms and attributes. The key requirement is that people take notice of the “Flamboyee”, break their concentration and initiate a spark of innovation in their thinking, or in their subconscious. This “Flamboyee Effect” rippling throughout the office environment can be likened to the waves in the lake generated by the speedboat. Those employees in direct contact with the “Flamboyee” will tend to obtain the greatest innovation benefit.

It is important not to have too many “Flamboyees” meandering the corporate passageways; otherwise there could be a clashing of the innovation waves that may lead to a negative impact and eventual capsizing in creativity. However, a well-planned timetable of “Flamboyee” activity is essential to ensure that a sustained level of innovation buoyancy is maintained throughout the working day, particularly near 5 PM when many a worker’s motivation starts to quickly subside.

The role of the “Flamboyee” should be prized by management, and HR should have a specific position description prescribed with key performance innovation indicators to make sure that the “Flamboyee” is operating effectively and achieving their maximum creative potential.

Just a thought, but one definitely worthwhile exploring further!

The Mathematical Idea

Numbers

If you were an accountant, just imagine if the unthinkable happened?  What if you were at the crucial stage in developing a strategic profit and loss statement, or an annual budget and you ran out of numbers!

Yes, instead of numbers being an unlimited thought concept, what if they were an actual physical asset that was purchased, had a market value, and were manufactured in a finite quantity? How would the accountant cope? If they ran out of “4”s, could they continue the financial analysis that they were working on by replacing the “4” with a “3”, after-all they are close? Somehow, I suspect not!

So why is it that some corporate organizations tend to have a greater proportion of innovative ideas compared to other companies? After all, aren’t ideas, like numbers unlimited and freely generated?

One probable answer is the culture of the organization and the environment that has been established to encourage and promote innovation of thought. Many progressive companies are well aware of this requirement and have developed a range of thought creation initiates to drive and maintain the innovation process focused on targeted applications. If we go back to the accountant, it is all very well have an unlimited supply of numbers, but the key is how these numbers are applied to a specific problem thereby creating a solution. The same can be said for ideas, it is great to have a plethora of them, but the real opportunity is obtained when they initiate a creative solution that leads to additional sales revenue via a new market or product.

So next time you use your calculator to solve a mathematical problem, try to think of the numbers on the keys from a slightly different perspective. Why not view those numbers as the inputs for a range of ideas which when combined via a systematic approach lead to the generation of a creative and new solution. By the way, in this calculator there would be no “Error” function, for when generating ideas, there are no mistakes, just opportunities for improvement!

The Gravity of Change

Apple on the ground

Gravity is one of those laws of physics that you know will work in all circumstances, what goes up, must eventually come down. The only variable is the rate of descent.

This creates an interesting opportunity in the establishment of a culture of “change” in the corporate environment. If the change is to work effectively, it must start at the top of the organization. Once in motion, the law of gravity comes into play and the change gradually permeates down through the whole organizational structure. The higher the starting point of the change, the greater the momentum and the better the chance of success in the change reaching the lower levels.

However, if there are any resistors to the downward movement, these blockers should be quickly identified and removed to allow the continued progression of change.

Gravity also ensures that change proceeds only in the required direction. Should a change start progressing in an undesired path, gravity will naturally implement the appropriate course correction.

One problem with gravity is that change has minimal impact on the corporate organization if it starts at the bottom. Here the change will have a limited life and will quickly run out influence and will eventually stop.

So next time you observe the influence of gravity in your surrounding environment consider how it can be used to implement an effective program of change in your corporate organization. Don’t fight the laws of physics, but rather, use this proven law to your advantage and let gravity do the work. But make sure you start the change at a high level to achieve the maximum impact.

 

The Business Vote….In or Out?

Voting

At election time you will find a politician strategically working their electorate in an attempt to win as many precious votes as possible. The politician will tell you what they have done in the past, and what things they will do in the future to ensure your personal interests are being maintained. If you find the political sell credible, you have the option to vote them in, or out of their parliamentary seat of power.

What if this voting concept was utilised in the corporate office? Why shouldn’t senior managers, such as the CEO, MD, be voted in or out of their role by a range of key stakeholders which includes their shareholders, peers and more importantly their subordinates? Some senior managers typically sell themselves exceptionally well to their shareholders, but typically do not view their direct reports in the same manner, nor with equal importance.

Why shouldn’t the senior manager on a regular basis be required to promote themselves, just like a politician at election time, to their employees where they outline their vision for the organisation, how they will achieve it and the future benefit derived for all workers? At the end of the promotional and lobbying period all employees would vote on the senior manager’s performance and credibility. If the vote is poor, this would result in the immediate dismissal of the senior manager as it would be apparent that they have not inspired their staff sufficiently to deliver the required business strategy. It would also benefit shareholders as it would be a good indicator of the future performance of the organisation under the leadership of this senior manager.

It’s just a thought, but the concept could also lead to greater transparency in the corporate environment where all levels of the organisation feel as if they have some political control, ownership and influence in the future direction of their business?

Change Management and the Lily Pond

Pond Apocalypse

Have you every considered the humble lily pond?

Looking at the top of the pond you see clear blue water inter-dispersed with a variety of flat circular green lilies bobbing gently in harmony with the movements of the water. Should there be any sudden changes or displacements in the pond, the lilies move accordingly, the larger the change, the greater the movement.

As you explore deeper into the pond, the water becomes more murky with various weeds and algae until you finally reach the bottom where there will be a layer of thick black sludge that entraps any items that may visit.

The view from the bottom of the pond is in extreme contrast with the clear waters that percolate around the green lilies.

This got me thinking….let us now consider the impact of a change management program in the business environment and its correlation with the lily pond.

Those in senior management positions (the lilies on the pond surface) are usually more involved with the change process and have a greater appreciation of the overall business objective. This understanding assists in enabling them to cope with any turbulence during the process.

However, as you go lower down the corporate structure, their knowledge of the business objectives of the change program becomes less apparent. Here these employees have less visibility of the process and are typically focused on survival (keeping their job) as their environment becomes more harsh and tough (in the black pond sludge).

For the change management process to be successful, the “water in the pond needs to be continually in motion” and any detrimental “plant life” should to be removed, diluted, or transformed by the cleansing action of the water currents to avoid black pond sludge. Internal communication within the organisation is the key to keeping the “water in motion” thereby ensuring that everyone in the pond benefits from the continually moving currents.

So, just like in the pond where it is important to keep the water moving, so it is in a change management program to have communications that reach all levels of the organisation.