The Idea Dude


Monday, December 21, 2009

Making people take the stairs

How do you get people to take the stairs instead of the elevator? How do you encourage people to throw their trash in the bin instead of the floor? It turns out if you can't pay people to do it, at least make it fun.

The Fun Theory initiative by Volkswagen did just that. It's a competition to encourage people to come up with ideas of how to make things mundane, well, just more fun. Some of the ideas are indeed wonderful, like making stairs look and sound like piano keys making it fun to use them instead of the elevator next door.

Parents understand this concept very well. It's easier to make a chore into a game than simply make their kids do it. Of course the caveat is once the novelty has worn off you have to find new ways to keep them engaged.

But it did make me think why most managers are not trained to think this way. When I ran software teams, there was only one objective to be a successful leader (note, I used the word lead and not manage on purpose). The objective to create situations where the team could and would initiate the tasks themselves because of the following reasons:

  • Passion - the overwhelming desire to want to do something because of a force within
  • Creativity - the result of a challenge that is often extremely difficult or seemingly impossible
  • Fun - the sense of achievement and the execution of the task that makes you smile no matter how tough it may be

Of course to do so, you have to empower and part of it means making sure they understood and were aligned with your intent. The primary reason we hate letting go? they may do something contrary to our intent. If they are aligned, you can be sure they often come up with even better solutions than you could think of on your own.

My job then? was to Inspire, Initiate and Imagine...

Their job then? was the same to Inspire, Initiate and Imagine...

It's takes a lot of guts for a master to become the apprentice but if you reach that point, you have either lost your job to your protege or made your company infinitely more powerful.


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