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3 Ideas to challenge the norm in 2014

3 Ideas to challenge the norm in 2014

As you begin the work year, I thought it would be good to kick off with a message of bucking the trend and challenging ourselves.

1. Hierarchy

Earlier today I came across an article in Quartz about Zappos adopting a holacratic model of management. If you haven’t read Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, I would definitely recommend that you get a copy. It’s a short and well-written book that gives you insight into the importance of developing strong and lasting relationships with your suppliers, employees as well as your customers.

Zappos is known for its low staff turnover and very defined and close-knit company culture. Another company known for its low staff turnover is Gore Tex, which incidentally has also been operating a model of managing without managers for about 50 years.

It’s definitely a bold way to overcome the increasing bureaucracy that a company almost inevitably faces as it grows. I believe it would take a great deal of planning and ironically a lot of structure and management, though not in the conventional sense, in order to make a totally non-hierarchical model work.

While you may not be able to try something as wild as that in your company, it may be useful to think about where overly bureaucratic practices might currently exist in your organisation. How can your team streamline to reduce administration and bureaucracy? How can you enable more decisions to be made without the need for multiple levels of approval? How can you increase the participation and harness the talent and ideas of more junior members of the team?

2. Open Offices

The second idea I would like to discuss is that of open offices. Many of us have either once worked in an open planned office or we still currently work in one. And now schools have even switched from having rows of desks to having banks of tables where the children face each other.

All of this was meant to create a more collaborative environment and foster discussion. However, my personal experience was quite the opposite and a lot of people I’ve met also agree that open offices can have a detrimental effect on productivity and thinking.

This article from The New Yorker also questions the usefulness of open plan offices and discusses some of the negative psychological impacts that it can have.

If you are an introvert, you may feel relieved when reading some of the thoughts in this book by Susan Cain, who speaks on our behalf about the difficulty of working in an environment constantly surrounded by people and distractions.

Again, while you may not be able to transform the physical environment of your office, I hope that these articles might make you think about introducing some new ways of working. Perhaps you could allow and even encourage employees to work in meeting rooms on their own from time to time. You could get feedback from your team about environments that they find more productive. Would it be possible to install a water feature that cancels out some of the background noise? Could you provide members of your team slightly more flexible working conditions so that they can spend part of their day or maybe once a week working from home?

There are many ways to greatly improve productivity by making the physical environment more conducive. See what you can do in the coming months to improve your team’s working space.

3. Not be spoon-fed ideas!

I understand the desire to be given ideas and suggestions and it’s important to read and learn as much as possible. For instance feel free to follow my current reading list.

However, we need to be active and think of our own ideas. Simply absorbing information passively will not get us very far.

So get out of your comfort zone in 2014. Think of ways to improve your team. Then more importantly, take action and try out those ideas! You can even get your team involved with brainstorming ideas and ways to implement the selected suggestions and also getting their evaluations of the implemented ideas.

Let’s make 2014 our most productive year yet.

Andrea James

Andrea James is a Decision-making Consultant and Trainer at Quintessential Consulting. She helps businesses and individuals improve their decision-making processes so that they achieve better results more consistently.

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