Who: Scott Eriksson
Company: Aspen Tree Software
Has held title for: 2 years
Previous title: Manufacturing Engineer
Degree: BS, Industrial and Operations Engineering
Maybe it was his quest to build the ultimate home office — an elaborate rig of desk, bike and weights that enable simultaneous computing and exercise. More likely it was his habit of "getting on my soapbox and preaching." Whatever the reason, Scott Eriksson (firstname.lastname@example.org) won the title of Minister of Progress at Aspen Tree Software. The Laramie, Wyoming company sells electronic recruiting systems and job-interview software to big-name clients such as Macy's, Coopers & Lybrand, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Marriott.
What's your definition of progress?
I'm constantly harping on continuous improvement, but I'm also obsessed with projecting customer needs into the future. It's almost a religion for me — that's how the minister role came about.
How do you measure progress?
You can't. It's a cliche, but you absolutely have to focus on the journey and not the destination.
How do you know when you've progressed?
We see results every time a change is rolled out — such as when we implemented a phone interviewing system that processed over 200,000 applicants for Macy's in one holiday season. Right now we're working on converging the Net and interactive cable technology to develop an Aspen Tree career channel.
How do you foster progress at Aspen Tree?
I try not to plan or structure too much. It's like the architect who waits to put sidewalks in his courtyards until he sees how people walk across them.
What's the biggest obstacle to progress?
Continuous change in technology — it's the biggest headache, and the biggest source of excitement.
What's your favorite example of progress?
Thomas Edison is my hero. He failed about 5,000 times trying to invent the light bulb. A reporter asked him if he was ready to give up and he answered, "I haven't failed 5,000 times, I'm 5,000 steps closer to what's really going to work."
A version of this article appeared in the Dec 1996/Jan 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.