The second goal of Mavericks at Work – to restore the promise of business as a force for innovation, satisfaction, and progress, and to get beyond its recent history as a source of revulsion, remorse, and recrimination (xii).
The companies, executives, and entrepreneurs you’ll meet in the pages that follow are investing a more exciting, more compelling, more rewarding future for business. They have devised provocative and instructive answers to four of the timeless challenges that face organizations of every size and leaders in every field: setting strategy, unleashing new ideas, connecting with customers, and helping their best people achieve great results (xiii).
In an economy defined by overcapacity, oversupply, and utter sensory overload – an economy in which everyone already has more than enough of whatever it is you’re selling – the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for a truly distinctive set of ideas about where your industry should be going. You can’t do big things as a competitor if you’re content with doing things only a little better than the competition (xiv).
Southwest has become such a mass-market icon that it’s easy to lose sight of the utter distinctiveness of its approach to the airline business. The company’s direct point-to-point route system avoids the high costs and endless delays of the hub-and-spoke system around which the mainstream industry is built…Yet low fares don’t mean sullen service. Quite the opposite: the company’s gate agents, flight attendants, even its pilots, are famous for their flashy smiles, showy personalities, and corny sense of humor… This is a company whose distinctive value system, rather than any breakthrough technology or unprecedented business insight, explains its unrivaled success (10).
Southwest flourished because it reimagined what it means to be an airline. Indeed, Roy Spence insists that Southwest isn’t in the airline business. It is, he argues, in the freedom business. Its purpose is to democratize the skies – to make air travel as available and as flexible for average Americans as it has been for the well-to-do (11).
In other words, companies that compete on a distinctive set of ideas are comfortable rejecting opportunities and strategies that more traditional players would rush to embrace. ING Direct even rejects customers that is considers out of sync with its advocacy message (18).
“There’s another lesson that’s really obvious,” he continues. “You cannot motivate the best people with money. Money is just a way to keep score. The best people in any field are motivated by passion. That becomes more true the higher the skill level gets. People do their best work when they are passionately engaged in what they’re doing” (91).
A problem-solver is someone who gets handed a challenge, goes into the lab, and doesn’t come out until he or she has an answer. A solution-finder looks around the world and is agnostic as to where the answer comes from, so long as it’s the best answer at the lowest cost in the shortest time (107).
Wieden argues that his job is to “walk in stupid every day “ – to keep challenging the organization, and himself, to seek out unexpected ideas, outside influences, and new perspective on old problems. “It’s the hardest thing to do as a leader,” he concedes, “but it’s the most important thing. Whatever day it is, something in the world changed overnight, and you better figure out what it is and what it means. You have to forget what you just did and what you just learned. You have to walk in stupid every day” (111).
It’s a make-or-break insight for an open-source world: the most effective leaders are the ones who are the most insatiable learners, and experienced leaders leaern the most by interacting with people whose interests, backgrounds and experiences are the least like theirs (112-113).
There companies operate in vastly different industries and project radically different personalities to the outside world. But one way or another, each of them has figured out how to stop interacting with customers purely (or even primarily) on the basis of dollars-and-cents economic value. Instead, they have encouraged customers to buy into their values and forge bonds of loyalty and shared identity that help both sides cut through the clutter of the marketplace (140).
“Our job isn’t to hire people,” explains Giasson. “It is to find and present people we believe in” (211).
That’s an acid test of whether an organization is serious about discovering and attracting the best talent available: Is it searching for talent independent of current openings or immediate plans? Does it scout for talent ahead of the need for talent? (211)
Have you identified untapped sources of talent – sources that the competition tends to ignore? Do you invest the time to stay in touch with these potential stars, to act as an ambassador as well as a scout, so that when they’re ready to consider a move, you’re ready to move them into a high-impact position? Are the best people inside your company committed to recruiting and referring the best people they know outside the company? If not, why do you expect to win more than your fair share of the best talent in your business? (220)
Most creativity happens in spite of the organization, not because of it. That’s why successful innovators don’t ask for the most resources or the strictest oversight; they ask for the most room to maneuver and the fewest bureaucratic hurdles (239).
There’s a difference between preaching about the human factor in business and practicing the people skills that shape the character of competition inside your company. Are you as determined to excel in the talent market as you are in the product market, or do you still treat talent as a business backwater? (254)
Why should great people join your organization? Do you know a great person when you see one? Can you find great people who aren’t looking for you? Are you great at teaching great people how your organization works and wins? Does your organization work as distinctively as it competes? (255-261)
The best leaders understand that the best rank-and-file performers aren’t motivated primarily by money. Great people want to work on exciting projects. Great people want to feel like impact players inside their organizations. Great people want to be surrounded with and challenged by other great people. Put simply, great people want to feel like they’re part of something greater than themselves (255).
What’s your version of Google’s top ten list? Have you set out – clearly, crisply, in language that reflects the spirit of your organization – the most compelling reasons for great people to work on your team, in your division, at your company? If not, it’s a great project to start working on Monday morning (255).
Can you craft an old-fashioned help wanted ad that captures the newfangled ideas around which your workplace is organized? Can you make it fun? Can you make it fresh? Can you make it compelling enough to attract the attention of talented people who aren’t looking to change jobs? (258)
Leaders who are determined to elevate the people factor in business understand that the real work begins once talented people walk through the door. HR maverick John Sullivan says it best: “Stars don’t work for idiots.” As you fill your organization with stars, it’s up to you to keep them aligned – to master the interaction between stars and systems that defines everyday life at the most effective organizations we’ve encountered… If you want great people to do their best work, the logic goes, then you’ve got to create the right working conditions from the moment they walk through the door (261).
You can’t do big things in business if you’re content with doing things a little better than your rivals (Appendix).
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Best Quotes from Mavericks at Work
These are the best quotes from Mavericks at Work (which I promised in an earlier post that I would follow up on, as it is July's Book of the Month). This list of quotes wasn't too hard to get since I usually highlight/mark the books as I read along. Typing wasn't bad because, as you can see, there aren't that many quotes. Anyways, here they are: