July 31, 2014

How to keep your organization full of brilliant, brand new, and really old ideas

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Bright Ideas

Bright ideas by dragonslayero

If you were able to go into any organization, particularly a struggling one (or one that is failing entirely) and you will hear ideas from every person, up and down the organizational hierarchy, on what is wrong and what needs to be fixed in order to turn things around. 

That, in itself, is not a bad thing.  It is clear and obvious that people, no matter their positions or titles, or their professional backgrounds or formal eductions, are thinkers.  They will observe the things that make their lives more difficult and endeavor to find ways to reduce the difficulty or eliminate it entirely.  If the perception is that the difficulty is due to some failure of high-positioned people to adequately guide the organization, then there will be ideas generated around how to improve those strategic and operational problems.  These are the discussions that fill the cafeterias, breakrooms, hallways and after-hours hangouts.

What you will often find, however, is that many of the ideas discussed in these conversations – even among the high-ranking decision makers with authority to move and change the organization as a whole, is that the ideas are, usually, nothing new.  To the person who speaks them, they are often brought forth as a revelation, however, to anyone who has endeavored to study organizations, management, operations, strategy, or other these supposedly brilliant ideas are nothing more than re-hashings of decades-old thoughts that people have simply never been exposed to.

You might hear things like:

  • “People here are terrified to say anything.  If they just weren’t afraid of getting fired for saying anything out of turn, maybe we’d get some new direction around here.” (Which is one of Deming’s 14 points – “Remover Fear”)
  • “I think we should just base all production around using that test machine.  that’s where we get held up all the time.  We make up a bunch of units, but then we have to store them and wait until we can get them through the test machine.  Maybe we should just buy another one ?” (Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, Womack & Jones, “Lean Thinking,” and many other Lean books)
  • “I hate this org. chart.  I hate the whole idea behind the org. chart.  Whoever came up with this anyway?  It’s like everyone’s grouped according to rank like we’re all in the military.  It makes annual reviews like some kind of demaning process that gets bestowed on you from up on high.”  (Scholtes, The Leader’s Handbook)

The list could go on forever.  Of ourse, many will say that exposing people to these sort of ideas, oir ideals, is the realm of consultants – they are the bookreaders and learners who have the time to spend on diving into the theoretical.  I’d like to know, however, what if people were trained in these schools of thought from the get-go?  What if this type of thinking was the norm, and not the domain of eggheads and consultants?  How many more organizations would thrive, instead ofmerely survive.  As I stated in the opening, people are always thinking and looking to solve problems.  If they were educated in these ways of thinking, in order to make their starting ppint for developing new ideas that much more evolved, wouldn’t we be much closer to the elusive workplace ideal?

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  • TP

    Yes,! couldnt agree more. We spend so much of our waking hours in an activity that people treat so shabbily and off-hand.
    It’s interesting! people know more about how their car works than how their workplace does.
    I recently did a post about this exact thing.