Sign on a church billbord - Don't have too much of an open mind, your brain might fall out

As of late I seem to get the inspiration for our blog posts from the local signs on churches of all denominations. The   other day I passed one that said “Don’t be too open minded, your brain might fall out.” Really is that what they meant to say?

Take a moment and consider your organization. I am not concerned whether you are a small to medium sized enterprise or a member of the Fortune 1000, I continually hear and read in social media about managers who complain that they can’t get their human capital assets engaged in the organization. But there is a valid reason behind this dilemma. Consider the scenarios below:

  • An employee comes to you with an idea for a new service based on the comments from customers and your immediate reaction is “That’s not the way we do things here;”
  • An employee comes to you with a view of the organizational processes and says there are ways to reduce steps and your response is “They will not let us make any changes to the processes:”
  • An employee comes to you asking why the organization does something and your first response is “because that is just the way we have always done things.”

On June 11, the Wall St Journal ran an article entitled Employed but not engaged, in which they reported the results of a new Gallup poll that found that 52% of all full-time workers in America aren't involved in, enthusiastic about or committed to their work. Another 18% are "actively disengaged," meaning they have gone beyond just checking out mentally, and could even be undermining colleagues' accomplishments. This is a direct result of the mentality shown by the church billboard.

Here is the downside of the scenarios above. We marginalize our human capital assets in a number of ways each and every day. You want engaged employees but shut down any attempt to think out of the box. You want engaged employees but when they suggest ways to better serve your customers, your response is that is just not the way we do things here.  Unfortunately you can’t have your cake and eat it too in this situation. You can’t state that you welcome their input and then shut them off when you get it.

The only way our organizations survive in this chaotic business climate the concentration shifts to one based in how we solve the organizational problems. We create an environment in which the ultimate goal is the perpetuity of the organization and our ability to meet the voice of the customer. It is absolutely essential that every facet of the organization be involved within the efforts. Consider this story from history- the 3M creation of post-it notes. The Post-it® Note was invented as a solution without a problem: Dr. Spencer Silver developed a unique, repositionable adhesive, but the 3M scientist didn't know what to do with his discovery. Then, six years later, a colleague of Dr. Silver, Art Fry, remembered the light adhesive when he was daydreaming about a bookmark that would stay put in his church hymnal. The rest is history according to the post-it website. Look around your desk. I am not a betting man but I would bet that you have at least one post-a-note pad sitting on your desk. If 3M was not willing to go beyond the corporate mantra would they be on your desk today?

 The purpose of innovation, collaboration and an open mind towards what the future could hold is the way we become innovative and collaborative in our efforts. The key is to recognize that some of the greatest concepts for new products and services do not come from someone sitting in a corner office and passing down edicts. The greatest concepts came from our rank and file human capital assets who are the real corporate experts and who point out steps within the process that is causing problems. They are the ones who will spot problems way before you do.  However when you, by actions, words, and attitudes squash this effort with comments like the one in the introduction you hinder the organizational development.

So tell me the next time a non-owned corporate asset approached you and says that they have away to more efficiently meet the needs of the customers are you going to say let’s really look at it or are you going to say sorry we just don’t do things that way here. Are you going to be willing to function with an open mind and not worry if the brain falls out?

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