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We’ve Always Done It That Way

July 9, 2015 | Leadership, Teamwork, Trust

Photo by Shannon Dizmang on Flickr

How many times have we heard that? I am sure this was a common phrase at Polaroid and probably led to their demise. The great companies…the ones that have survived for more than a decade or two do not allow this to be part of their lexicon. IBM for instance could have said the phrase, “We’ve always done it that way”, when their main frame business began to dwindle. They tried a few different business lines and kept trying until they found their new niche. To my knowledge, I don’t even think they do much in the hardware space anymore. When they began, that was their main business line.

Not only executives say this phrase, but front line staff and supervisors have been known to say it. That is why it is up to us as leaders to ban this phrase and continue to seek out new ideas. Sometimes these new ideas come from the people we would least expect; new hires. Quint Studer calls it “harvesting intellectual capital” in his book, Results That Last. Studer says that harvesting intellectual capital:

  • Drives Individual Accountability
  • Fosters a Culture of Ownership
  • Can Have a Significant Impact on the Bottom Line.

Studer specifically recommends asking all new hires “Are there things you did at your previous job that might be helpful to us?” He recommends doing this at a meeting with the new hire held 30 days after they start their position.

Another way Studer suggests to “harvest intellectual capital” is to turn the “suggestion box” into a “bright ideas” box. Bright ideas are centered around improving efficiency, cutting unnecessary costs, and encouraging innovation. One example is sharing one of your location or department’s best practices with the rest of the organization. To make a bright ideas program thrive, leaders must perform the following:

  • Garner enthusiasm for the program and encourage participation
  • Help employees focus their ideas on the organization’s goals.
  • Say no to an idea without saying no to the employee
  • Tweak an average idea so that it truly shines.

Ridding the organization of that dreaded phrase accomplishes two things. First, it allows for new ideas to be discussed and possibly implemented which allows the organization to strive for excellence. Second, it creates a culture of trust, teamwork and ownership. What are some other ways to harvest intellectual capital?


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