I recently read an article in The Wall Street Journal entitled "The Workplace Evolves From Sunbeam's 'Chainsaw Al' to Netflix's No-Jerk Rule." It started on an excellent foot by using the verb "evolve." Then it progressed into an un-evolved series of questions and statements.
Printing the query: "How Tough Is Too Tough?" sets the evolution of our leadership practices back.
Stating that: "It takes sharp elbows to climb the corporate ladder," fuels a punitive set of beliefs about business behavior.
And to identify "Knowing when to break out the brass knuckles" as a leadership attribute is, quite frankly, irresponsible.
Being tough, having sharp elbows and behaving in ruthless and aggressive ways that hurt other people in the pursuit of making more money is A CHOICE. It is not a leadership "must do" to succeed. Toxic business cultures, breeding stressed out, unhealthy and unhappy people can't breed innovation. At some point profitability will go flat or decline. Thank God.
My dear friend Roman Tsunder, Co-Founder and Chair of PTTOW! and I agree; caring, conscious cultures are now the most important card in the organizational success deck. Consumers will deny CEO's who don't strive towards this because the public actually is invested in the treatment of the human beings behind the products they buy. If you don't believe me, just ask CEO John Mackey/Whole Foods.
To further prove our point, I queried some of the amazing leaders involved with PTTOW! The question I posed was this:
What do you believe are the three most important psychological conditions to breed innovation?
Here are their responses:
Cirque du Soleil
At Cirque du Soleil we have an organizational culture that fosters innovation and creative ideas from individuals at every level of the company. Our senior leadership creates an atmosphere that is open, dynamic and ambitious; we encourage proactive attitudes so if someone sees an opportunity or a challenge their ideas have a platform to be heard. Each year we run a contest that is called the Talent Bursary and the top three ideas are awarded cash prizes, we have had amazing ideas put forth and many of these submissions has been built and put into practice over the years. Cirque du Soleil is a company built on the power of creativity and innovation and it is an essential part of our DNA.
EVP Brand Partnerships and Music Licensing
Warner Bros Records
At Warner Bros Records, we encourage creative participation from all areas and all levels of the company. Everyone is invited to weekly marketing meetings with the intention of giving everyone a voice, and a chance to learn. Participation in the meetings is truly encouraged, and we've found that sometimes the best ideas have not necessarily come from the top execs, but from assistants and managers who might bring a fresh perspective. When those ideas come into the room, we build teams around them, to help them come to fruition. For those who are not yet ready to spout their ideas freely, we have an internal "ideas" email address. This is available for use by anyone in the company, at any level, and in any department, to put their ideas out there in a way that may be more comfortable for them. The ideas can be artist oriented, strategically minded, or perhaps ideas on how we can be more sustainable as a company. All ideas are read and considered by multiple people in the company, and the cream rises to the top. Again, we'll build a team around the best ideas, and continue to evolve them, until we can bring them to market, or accomplish the particular goal.
Co-founder and CEO
Thrillist Media Group
I think a big part of what makes Thrillist Media Group such an innovative and exciting place to work is that we completely encourage and reward a free exchange of ideas from employees at every level. We have certain programs that are specifically designed to foster innovation. For example, we recently launched an initiative called "Hack Fridays" - where every other Friday, our entire tech team drops whatever projects they're focusing on to get the opportunity to work on whatever "dream" hacks they'd like (creating anything from in-house tools to iterations to one of our products).
Our office environment is also designed to encourage social interaction and communication. Our HQ has a very open layout - we have no private offices or cubicles. Everyone sits in the same desk (me included) -- and there are plenty of couches and "cafeteria-style" seating. Some of the best ideas in the history of the company have been discovered between people from entirely different departments who just happen to sit next to each other a couch one day.
We also have a ton of booze, which helps make you innovative.
If you are a business leader reading this blog, I'd love to hear your answer too!