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11/23/2014

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In the 1980's I worked for an uncredentialed and disruptive misfit.

JZ took a failing penny stock mining company and turned it into the third or fourth largest (depending on how you measure it) precious metals mining company in North America, and a key holding of the Bessemer Trust.

Under present-day rules of engagement, he personally and the company he built would have been sued into penury and bankruptcy for violations of political correctness.

Tony,

Strikes me as a fun place to work!

Harvard Business School professor Dorothy Leonard and Tufts University professor Walter Swap in their book "When Sparks Fly" say something similar. They talk about bringing "aliens" (complete outsiders) into teams as a way to stimulate innovative thinking.

"Yes" would be my answer to your three bulleted questions. Status quo maintenance and reliance on narrow degrees and other traditional credentials create self-fulfilling prophesies. When senior management and the board of directors look and act like clones, there tends to be little imagination.

A little spice helps the soup. Every chemical reaction needs a catalyst. Different perspectives are invaluable.

I'm a firm believer in the Medici Effect - in a post I did a while back I mentioned that companies need to create their own "Florence" and allow serendipitous discovery.

From that post:

"The Future of Work Will be Fueled by Coffee" says it best…

That, my friends, is how creativity and innovation really happen: unplanned interactions among the "raw materials" of new products and
new businesses. Third Places are enablers of innovation, and that’s just what the economy needs a whole lot more of.

Does your company encourage these connections or do you put up walls and rules about who and what you can talk about? Is one of your objectives each day to get a new point of view? Do you stay within your industry, group, department, etc?"

You can’t motivate innovation but you can provide the environment where innovation occurs and provide incentives to execute against those new ideas.

Jacque and Jim:

Great points - thanks for sharing them here.

Paul:

Great title (why didn't we think of that?!) - the future of work will indeed be fueled by coffee and (sometimes) serendipitous connections.

And completely agree - you can't "motivate" innovation, you can only provide an environment conducive to it. And more often than not, the job of rewards specialist is to identify the obstacles and barriers created by reward practices and remove them.

Readers, please also check out Paul's terrific post on this book and topic...

http://www.symbolist.com/blog/2007/03/the_new_florenc/

Appreciate the discussion!

Ann,

I love the Medici Effect. I met Franz several years ago and he mentioned that Marcus Samuelsson, the amazing chef, was a friend. They grew up in similar environments and have both come up with very different visions of the world.

I think this small innovative perspective is what separates most smaller companies from most larger companies. When you are small you use every person to the fullest extent of their abilities. When you are larger you begin to use people to the best piece of the their abilities.

We forget that it is the holistic combination of the the person that made us and them successful (and engaged and satisfied).

We do the same with our comp programs. We work so hard to get programs in place that we are unwilling to revisit them as often as needed. So we end up on a "path" that is increasingly defined by decisions that were never meant to have the long-term impact impact they do.

great reminder.

My article on a very different approach on a very similar topic can be found here. http://www.compensationcafe.com/2010/11/offer-the-world-first-and-money-second.html

Dan:

Lucky you! Yes the Marcus Samuelsson story is another amazing one that Johansson shares.

Great points - in our rush to maximize the impact and efficiency of work, we've pushed specialization and narrowed focus at the expense of realizing (and supporting) what the "whole" person may be able to bring to the table.

And our comp programs have followed suit, in a great many cases.

Thanks for sharing the reminder and link to your article!

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