The Faceless Collective

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There are some companies that effortlessly symbolise the definition of true success. Their business names are iconic and are immediately recognisable by the young, the old, and those selectively aged in between.

There are no descriptive emotional tag-lines, no longwinded corporately clever arrangement of words, they are just “are”, and don’t need “to be”.

And here I was, sitting in the Board Room of one of these globally clever giants of industry, all by myself! It was an eerie and exciting feeling as I sucked in the room’s impressive atmosphere. I carefully crossed my legs under the highly polished large wooden boardroom table and cautiously, and gingerly, leaned back and pressed my back into the well-worn brown leather club chair.

The north side of the room had large floor-to-ceiling glass windows that overlooked the Yarra River from high up on the 39th floor. This view was balanced by an array of large and formidable oil painting portraits of their esteemed leaders that had steered the company successfully over the past 83 years.

As I slowly studied the names under each painting, my eyes suddenly stopped when I read the polished brass name-tag of what appeared to be a most unusual portrait that was strategically, and I assumed deliberately, centred right in the middle of all the other framed canvasses. This painting was definitely larger in size, more brightly illuminated, and presumably highly prized, and worthy of more significant corporate value. The inscription in large black font read “Our Perpetual Innovator”. But the most striking aspect of this painting was the face, or should I say, its absence! Yes, this painting was of a “faceless”, yet distinguished individual. I was intrigued and decided to leave my comfortable leather chair and have a closer inspection. As I got closer, I noticed some additional words at the bottom; “Innovation is not derived from any individual, but from the collective”. I pondered these words and slowly understood their symbolic meaning, as this I suspected was the key fundamental aspect as to why this business was so successful.

This business recognised that many ideas, derived, and continually shared between the employees of this organisation, were the driving force behind their creativity. They had seen that this vast, and rich, source of innovation was not reliant upon a single individual, but the combined force of the collective.

Wow, if only all companies could recognise this fact!

So next time you are sitting in the Board Room of your company and happen to view the historical images of your past illustrious leaders, may I suggest you consider the power of the “Faceless Collective” and not just focus on any one individual?

The Chair of Accumulated Thought

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Imagine this…located in one of the most innovative corporate organizations, whose name I won’t mention as you all know the company, there is a particular chair located in a quiet room located in the north west corner of the building.

Now this chair is quite unassuming. It is a hazelnut coloured leather chair, that is well worn and has some deep indentations from a large number of bottoms residing for extended periods of time as they enjoyed the comfortable sitting experience.

The uniqueness of this chair is that each occupant leaves a thought impression behind them that is absorbed and read by the next and subsequent beneficiaries who have the good fortune to sit in it.

This chair, also known within this corporate company as the “chair of accumulated thought” is used to derive and develop new innovations related to products and processes.

So how does it work? Well, it’s a bit like “walking in someone else’s shoes”. Once you have true empathy, you are able to view issues from another person’s perspective and this new and stimulating knowledge can be used to provide you with a completely different insight into solving a particular issue you may be facing. The brilliance of the “chair of accumulated thought” is that the empathetic experiences compound upon each other thereby providing a complex and truly original solution to any problem that could not simply be solved alone by any individual.

Yes, you are right, the “chair of accumulated thought” does not actually exist. But, it could quite easily if we shared our experiences and thoughts openly and freely with each other when trying to solve a problem. In many situations, our own personal prejudices and self-doubts limit or hinder our ideas that tend to lead to a less than optimum solution being achieved.

So next time you are solving a complex problem, or trying to develop that spark of thought innovation, why not try to utilise the “chair of accumulated thought”. May I suggest you take it in turn to actually sit in a chair by yourself and write down your thoughts in a writing pad strategically placed on the arm of the chair. The next person who sits in the chair, then reads your thoughts of prose, quietly absorbs your thinking and then adds their ideas on the page under yours. This process continues until all your colleagues assigned to solve the problem have had the opportunity to sit and write in the chair. It would be rather interesting to read the words accumulated at the end? Who knows what creative thought solutions may permeate from the activity!!

The Thought of Antiquities

Antique shop window - Lillie Road

I must admit, I am not a fan of the whole shopping experience. When I need to purchase an item, I go straight to the target shop, buy the required product, and then quickly make a planned and strategically executed escape out the nearest exit!

However, there is one particular shop where this focussed stealth methodology seems to not work for me, that of an Antique Dealer. Here I can happily spend hours fossicking through the vast array of totally unexpected items. In these premises I have no preconceived idea of what to expect, I just meander through the pre-owned range of second-hand inventory gleefully absorbing the visual feast of gadgets, furniture, paintings, knick-knacks and other ornaments. In some instances, I don’t actually purchase anything, but I always leave the shop with numerous ideas of optimistic purchase possibilities that might just be useful for some project when I get home.

On examining my thought further, I willingly enter the Antique Dealer with an open mind, I have no preconceived objectives, except in the exploration of new and potentially exciting objects. On seeing these items, my mind is subconsciously linking these antique items with my existing home objects.

There is an interesting corollary here with the process of generating solutions to specific problems in our private lives or in the corporate world. In many instances we tend to quickly focus on a solution without exploring other options, some of which may take time and patience to develop. Most of us follow the “get-in/get-out” shopping approach that I typically follow, but the better solution is to let your thoughts wander contentedly along with an open mind (ie the “Antique Dealer” approach).

In the corporate world, time pressures and business imperatives tend to cloud our ability to take the “Antique Dealer” approach, but I would suggest this strategy as the outcome will be more beneficial and satisfying to all those involved.

Just a thought that might just be useful in the future?