Many CEOs have identified creativity and innovation as critically important to growing their organizations. My experiences have convinced me that most of what they are seeking is lying dormant in in the knowledge and experiences of their employees and customers, and that employees are longing for the opportunity to be included, involved and unleashed.
Several years ago, I interviewed for a mid-level management position. In the first interview, my prospective employer had a book on his desk titled, “Beep! Beep! … Competing In The Age Of The Road Runner.” He explained that the president of the organization had just presented concepts from the book at the annual meeting and that this was the focus of the entire organization. Three hours later I walked out of a great interview and was eager to learn more, so I immediately purchased the book.
That night I read the first three chapters of the book and made notes on nearly every page. I was hooked! The book was based on the Warner Bros. cartoon and compared organizations to Wile E. Coyote’s and the Road Runner’s. Below are a few quotes:
- “Wile E. thinks like a bureaucrat; the Road Runner thinks like an entrepreneur.” (link)
- “[R]oadrunner people … want to understand the whole game, the whole company, the whole business — not just their job; people who think like businesspeople and owners — not like narrowly focused employees who follow rules and crave order.” (link)
- “In any enterprise, people must be full players if they are to successfully give, share, and put in a championship performance. There can be no bench-warming second-stringers, as there are on athletic teams. There can be no one treated as subordinate or expendable.” (link)
The next day, I attended a meeting at my job. In the middle of the meeting, I had my own “cartoon moment” when a visual image of everyone in the room wearing a Coyote head flashed through my mind. Instantly, I realized that I was and had always been a Road Runner. I had been working in organizations that taught Coyotes how to speak Road Runner, but never really understood what it took to create a Road Runner culture.
Yes, I went to work for the Road Runner organization. What privilege and honor to have “permission” to bring my Road Runner tail-feathers to work every day. What a rare and precious treasure to work in a place that valued each individual’s knowledge and experiences. Imagine creativity, innovation and joy infusing your organization and producing unprecedented results.
Below is a quick snapshot of what I’ve learned in the years since:
- While it may seem like “common sense” to think that employees are paid to make a difference, the sad reality is that in many organizations employees are trained to color in the lines, to never to ask “why” and to “just do, and not think.”
- When everyone in the organization is collaborating and working towards the same goal; titles, egos and silos no longer act as roadblocks. Knowledge and creativity are unleashed to produce outcomes that are even greater than Warner Bros. can imagine.
- The most creative and innovative solutions will rarely come from the person with the biggest title or the person with the most impressive formal education. They will come from the collective knowledge and experiences of the employees and the customers.
- It is possible for ordinary people to lead massive organizational change and achieve unprecedented results.
For those of you who are hungry for this experience know this: A Road Runner culture will give long-term life and health to the organization if — and only if — titled leaders take ownership of the following:
- You must continually speak of and model the vision, values and purpose of your organization.
- You must become a demolition expert, who supports your team by blowing up obstacles that limit their ability to serve each other and your customers.
- You must protect your culture by holding each other accountable to actions Nos. 1 and 2.
- You must have an on-boarding plan in place that keeps actions Nos. 1, 2 and 3 front and center — especially in a growing organization.
Stephen Covey wrote, “Once people have experienced real synergy they are never quite the same again.” He was so right. What would you give to experience that for yourself? Are you ready to instigate a leadership revolution in your organization?
Chery Gegelman is the president of Giana Consulting LLC and one of the authors of the new Lead Change Book, “The Character-Based Leader, Instigating A Leadership Revolution… One Person At A Time.” Click the link to receive a complimentary chapter of the book.