Is your organisation a mould or an engine?

Is your organisation a mould or an engine, sit back and think, what does a mould do? You use a mould to get the exact shape and size. Similarly, you would have faced numerous situations where you would be hiring great talent with new ideas and lots of energy but few years down the line you don’t see much fire in their belly and witness lack of ideas and drive from them. The key reason for this is because you have put them into your mould and forced them to think exactly the same way you think, speak the same language, and follow the same protocols, basically become another duplicate of your robot factory.

The drawback to this is that you restrict new thinking and new ideas to fuel innovation in your organisation, The ideal situation would be to attract great talent and let them bring their ideas to the table and see how you can use them as another cog wheel of your engine rather than force them to be a mould. This is a tricky process because if you don’t do this correctly you will face challenges.

However, innovative organisations and innovative leaders think differently, they see talent as cog wheels to power their engine and explore new terrains. How are they capable of doing that? They welcome new ideas and new thinking and map them with their firm’s goals and analyze how they could fit in the organization. For example, Steve Jobs, saw a great design engineers working at Xerox, and saw their potential. He connected the dots and hired them to work in Macintosh,

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"When you have a market monopoly, the sales and marketing people end up running the company. The product people get run out of the company. Then the companies forget what it means to make great products. The [researchers] at Xerox PARC used to call the people who ran Xerox ‘toner heads.’ They just had no clue about a computer or what it could do." -  Steve Jobs, 1995.

Another great example is Sir Richard Branson. The success factor behind his business portfolio is that he acquired good companies and let them run independently so they will not become another mould product of Virgin Group. Hence, these companies were able to generate new ideas and new capabilities to fuel the growth of the group. 

Most of you would be thinking, how can you run an organisation when no one thinks and follows the same actions as the rest of the organisation. It is crucial to preserve your culture and values but you should find new ways of harnessing the power of new talent. Most business leaders are focused on running a marathon with day to day operations and simply lack the time to study their cog wheels and analyse how sharp these wheels are or if they need an upgrade. However, great leaders create new projects when they see great talent. They headhunt and create new revenue lines challenging status quo. Steve Jobs is a great example of using this strategy.

Good leaders are good listeners and do not have ego. They have a purpose and they are emotionally intelligent. As Dalai Lama once said, if you speak you speak what you already know, but when you listen there is always a chance of learning a new thing from that conversation. Leaders need to be emotionally intelligent in conversations with their talent. How many CEOs sit with their chief people officers or heads of HR to see how their cog wheels are doing. As leaders, how often do they ask for profiles of their key players, review their strengths and weaknesses and evaluate where they would need improvement? (A little bit of engine oil can go a long way and ensure that they could run smoothly, this could be sending them on a leadership camp, giving them a new project to implement or work in a new area of the business)

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” – Steve Jobs

What is your organisation type? A Mould or an Engine?

Subject area: Innovation