Greetings.  Even in our challenging economy, companies and organizations are bringing on new staff and hoping they'll be able to make a difference as quickly as possible.  But all too often they begin these new and important relationships with an old and tired idea–orientation.  The practice of bringing new employees into the fold and making them fine, upstanding and highly-productive members of our tribe in as little time as possible.  After all, time is money and we would have never filled this position unless we were desperate to get a pile of work done.  And so our ancestors invented "orientation" as the fastest way to get the new folks up to speed on what our organization believes in, what we actually do and exactly how we do it.  Let's show them our way–which is obviously far better than the way they did things at the old company or, for that matter, at any time in their life before they lucked out and got a job here.  Otherwise, why in the world would they ever have joined us.  

But what if its not far better?  In fact, what if we are down-right mediocre at some things that really matter?  Then wouldn't it be far better to have them orient us?

New employees are an amazing gift!  They show up with new enthusiasm, energy and a burning desire to contribute and add value.  They also arrive with new ideas and fresh perspectives based on a new and different set of life and work experiences.  Ideas, perspectives and experiences that could actually make us more successful.  But instead of quickly celebrating and tapping their differences, all too often we race to make them just like us.  And orientation becomes the first step in sucking the genius right out of them. 

Doesn't it make more sense to find out what they know and how we look through their eyes?  If so, its relatively easy to do.  Because after they complete their forms and get their ID badges, we can send them off to explore our business without any preconceived notions.  Talk to anyone they'd like, including the CEO.  Attend a few meetings of their choosing.  Visit departments they will need to collaborate with. Ask a bunch of thoughtful questions.  Wander around to see us in action.  Then come back and tell us their thoughts on what we seem to know and do very well, and the areas in which we seem partially or totally clueless. And in the process, we will have begun to demonstrate our interest in their ideas and commitment to their success.

We win in business by combining our best thinking with the genius of new people and new ideas.  New hires are one of the most powerful ways to keep us fresh and young in mind and heart–even when they arrive with decades of experience.  

Think about the way that your company or organization orients new people.  Is it the best way to unlock genius, innovation, customer value and business success?  Or is there a way that is simply better?  


Invisible Fences

Greetings.  Ever wonder about invisible fences?  Those marvels of science and technology that magically keep the family dog from racing into the street to chase a car or a cat, or simply to mark his or her territory.  It turns out they're all around us, protecting more than one million pets from their innate desire to do something stupid and potentially life threatening.  And yet we rarely notice them.  Unless, of course, we see one of those oddly amusing signs in the neighborhood that says: "Invisible Fence."  I guess that no one has figured out how to create an invisible sign yet.  Sounds like a pretty cool assignment for a summer intern.  

But why would I write about "invisible fences" in a blog on unlocking genius and delivering compelling value?  Is it because I've found–in more than twenty years of consulting–that they are such an integral part of so many leading companies and organizations, protecting us from our innate desire to do something brilliant?  Is it because they're all around us in…
  • The history of how we've always done things.  
  • The way we frame and evaluate problems and opportunities.  
  • The way we think about our customers and their needs.  
  • The way we find and share information.  
  • The way we develop plans and budgets. 
  • The way we set goals and attempt to meet them. 
  • The way we handle new and different ideas. 
  • The way we provide incentives for performance. 
  • The way we hire and orient new people who are, all too often, just like us. 
  • The way we lead and are led. 
It turns out that these invisible fences are our biggest obstacles to real genius and greater success.  And, our biggest obstacles to delivering more compelling value to those we have the privilege to serve.  Yet just like the family dog, far too many of us have been conditioned to avoid them out of fear that we might get ZAPPED.  

Invisible Fence

Maybe its time to put a sign in your workplace that says: "Beware of the Presence of Invisible Fences."  Its time to run out in the street in search of new ideas and possibilities.