Volkswagen demonstrates how to think outside the box
An acquaintance of mine was asked to challenge the management of a classical orchestra on how they could attract new audience. That challenge made me think of Volkswagen’s initiaive ‘The Fun Theory’. The company has produced a fresh and eye opening experiment on how to make people change behaviour.
My experience is that people stuck in a corner normally will not appreciate a quick solution to their problem. They want help to think out of the box. Since they are often better equiped to tackle their issues than their helpers are, providing a hand in order to change focus can free up lots of great perspectives.
The woman gave her speech, showed the Volkswagen video and asked the listeners to reflect upon how they could apply the wisdom to their own problem. It worked.
Boston Consulting Group and Jeanie Daniel Duck shows how organisational change can be tamed.
Duck has written a wonderful book about how people can experience change as a dreadful force. Even thought it’s academically not the most perfect book written on the topic, the author’s use of plain drawings and vivid, corporate examples all makes it an enjoyable read. She makes you realise that it is perfectly possible to control the fear of change. Her book may be useful for anyone in charge of managing an organisational change process.
Check out a rather critical review or take a look at the main ideas put forward in the book.
I was about to loose my faith in online collaboration as a tool for driving corporate change. Now I think there is hope.
A couple of weeks ago a lunch conversation brought forward an interesting Wired article on organisational transparency. I had shared my frustration about the hype of social media and online collaboration. To me these phenomens looked like brilliant, fun and incredibly useful for people and business relying on capitalising on their insight into users’ behaviour online. However, as a tool for driving forward organisational change I had become a sceptic.
Simply put, my frustration goes like this
- Why bother to apply social media tools and IT resources that enable people to solve problems together in a company if there is no culture for change?
- Why bother to challenge the employees to work differently if the leadership segment don’t give a damn about organisational development?
- How can companies tap into the potential of the social web as a strategically smart, collaborative tool when companies continue being closed to the outside?
At this moment I don’t have fully fledged good answeres for this. However, after reading Clive Thompson’s Wired article The See-Through CEO I believe there is hope for all of us. Any corporation can change, open up and become more collaborative.
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Turn problems into projects
I have grown increasingly fond of Tim Brown. He is truly a visionary thinker for business. He suggests all of us should think and act as designer, independently of what we do for a living.
In this video interview at Business Week, a US journal, he answers five questions from the readers on how to put design thinking into practice.
One of his key points is that what he labels ‘design thinkers’ are more eager to start a creative, involving process when facing a problem rather than dwelling too long in a slow, analytical process. Thus, he suggests:
turn problems into projects, go looking for ideas in the real world instead of inventing solutions without reality checks. Never only stick to the grid of ready made solutions.
At least that is sort of what he is saying. Watch the interview and learn.
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Play more at work and create outstanding results
Tim Brown, CEO of legendary design consultancy IDEO, suggests leaders and workers must understand the power of letting go of control at work. People eager to create results and making a difference will then discover the power of free thinking occuring when letting go of control.
The video shows a speech Tim Brown gave at the TED conference in Monterey in February 2008. It is a nice demonstration of serious playfulness, engaging with the audience and enabling people to connect to his message.
Brown heads a design company. Logically he is used to be working with physical objects. Nevertheless, he also works with what he calls ‘designing experiences’. That is, enabling design to improve people’s everyday lives and user experiences. Therefore he is very concerned about how people interact with their surroundings and other people. His job as a designer is to build a bridge linking physical context and people.
In his speech he provides us with some clues of what we can do at work in order to improve our ability to view, think and work less locked.
Brown points out a couple of challenges in many organisations that should make us reflect upon how we work:
- We fear the judgement of our peers: We are embarrassed to showing our ideas to those around us. This fear causes us being conservative about sharing our ideas. Children do not have that fear, Brown claims. They are eager to show whatever they make to their surroundings. Kids who feel secure are the ones who feel most free to play.
- We self edit our selves too early: Instead we ought to let go, explore lots of things, go for quantity. We all constantly come up with new ideas or new angles on how to solve a problem. Still, there is a strong tendency as grown ups to stop, shake off that new idea, and return to routine. Why? Perhaps in order to get things done, even if it’s a suboptimal manner of solving a problem. Brown thinks this is wrong thinking. Challenge yourself more often!
How can we create work arenas where people can prosper?
- Playfulness is important: It helps people do their work better and feel better when they work. Go ahead, play around yourself and let go of control.
- Think as a child: a kid would rather explore a new thing when it comes across something unfamiliar. Instead of rushing into categorising and concluding when working with things alien to us, explore and hesitate to draw conclusions.
- Create trust at work: Never underestimate the power of creating and sustaining an ambience of trust at work. Without it energy disappears. Why? Because creative work is risk taking. Experiencing that people dissmiss your input or ideas can be difficult. Feeling uncomfortable is logical when sharing your ideas. However, creating a work environment where trust is the default ambience, ideas will prosper and value will add to the bottom line.
- Look for solutions in contexts completely different from your own daily work setting: Ask someone to pose silly questions about your assignment or project. Perhaps the local chef in the canteen can provide you with questions more relevant to the outcome your searching than more experienced team members.
In case you’d like to read more about how to develop your people and organisation, please feel free to check out my blog post outstanding leaders appraise their staff.
Last thing: Brown’s speech has also been summarised by Yes!AndSpace on the Flickr photo sharing site:
[click for a bigger version in order to read the text in the drawing]
Gary Hamel peeks into the future of management. It is participatory.
Management guru Gary Hamel presents the core message from his new book’The future of management’ (2008): enable your organisation to fit the human beings of your corporation. Not vica versa. ‘Organisations should not be less human than we are’, Hamel claims. Only then it will be possible to get the most out of a company’s most talented people.
Management 2.0 and the future of management
In case you are looking for ideas on how to adapt your organisation to needs of smashing corporate silos and facilitating knowledge sharing, please check out my summary of a Hamel’s wonderful article on management 2.0 and co-creation.
British comedian Eddie Izzard suggests how the Brits colonised the world. Any ideas to pick up for the organisational change crowd?