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  • 06.01.04

Traps of the Trade

Jeff and John bring up some good points. When it comes to getting ideas, we seem to be our own worst enemies. Either our views of what our jobs as managers should be (solving problems and coming up with ideas ourselves) or the way we structure organizations and their control systems (focusing on doing what we are already doing better) work against ideas and innovation. So, how do we get out of these traps?

Jeff and John bring up some good points. When it comes to getting ideas, we seem to be our own worst enemies. Either our views of what our jobs as managers should be (solving problems and coming up with ideas ourselves) or the way we structure organizations and their control systems (focusing on doing what we are already doing better) work against ideas and innovation. So, how do we get out of these traps?

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When looking at the list of Ideas Are Free companies that show the best results from ideas, it is interesting to note what we don’t find. Jim Collins would not consider all of the leaders of these companies Level 5 leaders. It is a mixed group. Some are dynamic and outspoken; others seem rather shy. Some are authoritarian; others delegated decision making freely.

What they do have in common is a strong belief that their people have great ideas, and they work passionately to encourage and use those ideas. They are all humble enough to realize that they don’t have all the answers — or even all of the questions. They also don’t seem to fear changing the rules and questioning their assumptions about how a company should be run. If a company policy or practice gets in the way of getting ideas, they change it. For example, when purchasing paperwork and procedures get in the way of implementing ideas, policies get changed. Several of the companies allow front-line workers to spend money to implement their ideas without management approval. Does this mean they abdicate control? Not at all. They simply are not afraid to look at how control in maintained in a different light.

In this way, the issue is less one of control or centralization, discussed by John and Johnnie, than one of the nature of control and centralization. As Johnnie points out, some control and direction helps with creativity and ideas. We certainly found this to be the case with the companies we studied.

The primary challenge is getting managers to change their attitudes.