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What are you putting up with, that you don't know you don't have to?

I was reading a story recently about someone who had gotten a new job - I’ll call him “Bill.” Bill worked with data processing. He had a number of daily tasks that took most of the day to complete - at least for the person who had the job before him. Bill, however, quickly discovered that with a few simple scripts in an automation tool, he could compile all his reports in about 30 minutes.


So, after a few weeks on the job, Bill learned how to automate everything, reduced his 9-5 position to about 30 minutes of work, and spent the next few years pretending to work 7 1/2 hours a day... all while getting accolades from his superiors about how hard he worked!


When I read that from my perspective as a creativity expert, I couldn’t help but wonder: what are organizations putting up with that they don’t even realize they don’t have to?

In Bill’s case, neither his predecessor nor his superiors wondered how they could make things easier or more efficient. No one thought to.


It’s one thing when the CFO says, “We need to save a million dollars,” or the COO says, “We need to reduce turnover,” or the CTO says, “We need to reduce our warranty repairs and recalls.”


But what about the things you can change to save money, save time, or save effort, that aren't on the radar of the C-Suite? Or on anybody's radar, for that matter? Let's call these things the "Unknown Annoyances."


I read an interesting article in this month's Harvard Business Review, but before I dive into that, I need to bring up my Creativity Formula:


Creativity = Psychological Safety + Curiosity + Divergent Thinking


For a deeper breakdown, check out the book, Activate Your Genius Mode or download the free Genius Mode Quick Reference. Psychological Safety is the ability to express ideas without fear of punishment or reprimand, Curiosity is the ability to notice things and make connections, and Divergent Thinking is the ability to generate many different ideas.


In order to discover the unknown annoyances, people at every level of the workforce need to have that psychological safety. This isn't the 1910's, when Fredrick Taylor published The Principles of Scientific Management, in which he described the typical laborer as "so stupid" that their managers needed to focus on enforcing standards rather than enlisting their help in solving problems. So, ensure that everyone in the workforce can express ideas without fear of being shot down, fired, ignored, or ridiculed. And remember, even wild ideas can be tamed into workable solutions.


Ensure that everyone in the workforce can express ideas without fear of being shot down, fired, ignored, or ridiculed. And remember, even wild ideas can be tamed into workable solutions.

The biggest factor here, however, is curiosity. By implementing practices that promote curiosity and connection-making, you can encourage a culture where everyone seeks to contribute to making their jobs easier, better, or more efficient, to the benefit of the organization. In Bill's case, his curious mind was almost programmed to seek out possibilities for making things more efficient, unlike his predecessor.


Imagine if you could make everyone's mind work the same way as Bill's. What inefficiencies, new processes, or common frustrations could you discover?


In his memoir The Coalwood Way, Homer Hickam (of Rocket Boys and October Sky fame) told the story of working in his town's coal mines one summer during college. Two teams of miners started a competition over who could be the first to complete a long section of railroad track through the mine.


The Creativity Formula, if implemented and promoted, will help to uncover those unknown annoyances, boosting the productivity, happiness, and engagement of your workforce.

These were long, hard days of manual labor, and things were always done the same way. At the start of the day, they gathered their supplies, and worked as hard and as fast as they could to build the track. It was a matter of "Work Harder." Homer, however, was constantly curious about how they could improve their system. Although he was an inexperienced miner, his team had the psychological safety that allowed him to express an idea: What if they put their supplies at the end of the day's route, allowing them to work their way closer to their supplies as they got tired, rather than working further away from them?


That simple change allowed them to maintain a faster work pace throughout the day, not lugging supplies over an increasingly large distance as they grew tired. His team eventually won the competition. Homer's team was able to effectively promote Psychological Safety + Curiosity + Divergent Thinking as they worked.


The Creativity Formula, if implemented and promoted, will help to uncover those unknown annoyances, boosting the productivity, happiness, and engagement of your workforce.


In the July-August, 2020 issue of the Harvard Business Review, authors Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini describe the institutional process of responsabilisation: their process for teaching the entire workforce to feel shared responsibility over the operation of the company, rather than the responsibility resting on the shoulders of the C-Suite, being disseminated down to the employees on the floor.


The authors follow the story of Jean-Michel Guillon, the head of Michelin's (tires) personnel department, and his implementation of responsabilisation in Michelin. They felt that Michelin, "had been organizing work with an exceedingly narrow view of human beings. We had assumed that people would exert effort only if closely supervised or motivated by pay. As a result, people in our factories were using only a fraction of their capacities" (emphasis added).


The article is a fascinating read, but the results boil down to this: one manufacturing location was able to reduce defects from 7% to 1.5%, increase productivity by 10%, and drop absenteeism from 5% to virtually zero.


Responsabilisation will help your workforce feel a shared responsibility for what happens in the workplace, and the Creativity Formula will gain a mindset for discovering those unknown annoyances, and problem-solve what to do about it.




With practice, you can Activate Your Genius Mode. For more tips on how to practice creative skills, to hear more, contact Creative Dave to book a workshop or motivational speech for your school or organization before his roster is full for the year!

Inside the book Activate Your Genius Mode you'll find many more tools for diverging, and other mental strategies you need, to elevate the creativity of your school, students, business or workforce. Visit the Conjunction Media Store to purchase.

Contact David about speaking or workshopping at your school or business event.




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