Design By Committee.

A good friend pointed this sign out to me the other day and I had to laugh. Looks like your typical, run of the mill parking sign designed to protect precious slots for diners at Andy’s Deli, a popular spot on the NW side. Perfectly normal, and yet… 35 minute parking? I’ve seen 10, 15, 30, 45… but 35? I get the feeling there is a committee at work here. And that they thought very hard about this sign. Parking is a critical retail element that can make or break a business, so I’m glad they thought about it. Creativity is messy when it comes to collaborative projects. There are committees, layers of approval, regulations, stakeholders. Run well with inspiration collaboration can take us beyond ourselves, creating something no single individual could have come up with alone. Run poorly and, well, you’ve probably already run into that so no need … Continue reading

Who Needs Innovation Training?

Here is a Thursday Thought Experiment built around the question, “Who Needs Innovation Training?” This is about little ideas. Simple little ideas that can add up to big improvements in productivity. Little creative thoughts that flair-up only to be extinguished. When learning a new job, folks typically spend quite a bit of time in the HOW stage. (How do I get this done, Who do I talk to, What needs to happen…) They then move quickly through the WHY stage. (That short amount of time when what you have to do and what makes sense simply doesn’t match up.) And, if they last long enough, end up in the State-of-DO. (Easier to do than to question Why.) The more efficient your training the quicker employees end up in the State-of-DO. Organizationally this encourages a top-down pull innovation process instead of a bottom-up push innovation process.

Procrastination = Creativity | There Is Hope!

“Productive mediocrity requires discipline of an ordinary kind.” Quote from W.A. Pannapacker’s article How To Procrastinate Like Leonardo da Vinci. (UPDATE: subscription now required to get to this article.) Evidently Leonardo never saw a project he couldn’t avoid finishing.  But maybe procrastination is the wrong word for his tendency to ‘solve and move on.’ Do you have any of these frustrating creative folks on your staff?  Been working them over with GTD (Getting Things Done) seminars and yearly reviews that express frustration at implementation but awe over concept? Did the brilliant strategic thinker get so caught up in seemingly unimportant details that all work stopped? Stop trying to change your dreamers.  Create an environment that lets them kick start solutions and then move on – leaving talented managers to wrap up the details.  Use your staff in ways that builds on their strength…and avoids their blind spots. It may be … Continue reading

Can Smiles Overcome Jerks?

The jerk in Felps’ research primarily teased those around him. Everyone laughed. No one wanted to repeat the experience.  Many feel teasing is part of the bonding process.  I’m guilty I admit.  Turns out the ‘innocent’ teasing costs your company hard cold productivity cash. In his research negative emotions traveled perfectly well, not only ruining the team’s day, but by the end of the experience many in the meeting picking up on the behaviors of  the ‘bad apple.’ Now the good news. Research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in December 2008 shows that happiness can also travel in an infections sort of way across several degrees of separation. (Bob’s Happy, He knows Sue, You know Sue’s friend, You’re Happy!) The good news is that Happy seems to travel better than Sad.   The ability for emotions to transfer infectiously without a conscious cause reinforces the need to carefully … Continue reading

Infective Team Dynamics

Your business is run by teams.  Now, more than ever, you have to be sensitive to team killers – the one or two individuals that drag a high quality group of people into the mud. We’ve all dealt with them.  The individual who just seems to be in the way, not pulling his weight or simply a jerk.  Some interesting research by Dr. William Felps, Rotterdam School of Management, indicates that team effectiveness can be reduced by 30% to 40% through the simple addition of a single ‘bad apple.’  He describes his research in a recent episode of This American Life and had it published in the 2006 journal, Research in Organizational Behavior, Volume 27, 181–230.  Bad apples were described as jerks, slackers and depressive pessimists. I really enjoy the inventiveness of the experiment.