The Friday Free Job Day

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According to a fictitious survey in the Australian Financial Review, I work for one of the most innovative companies in Australia, and I know why!

One of the activities that differentiates my company from our competition, is a highly anticipated employee event that occurs without fail on the last Friday of the month. No, it’s not allowing staff to wear casual clothes (which happens weekly anyway – see rules below), it’s our Friday Free Job Day (FFJD).

So what is this FFJD and how does it work you may ask?

Well, it’s surprisingly simple, and the process has produced some remarkable process improvements, but more importantly, a truly dynamic and progressive culture of innovation within our company.

At precisely 6 PM on the last Thursday night of the working month, each employee is sent an SMS that advises them what job they will be doing the following day so they can dress, and mentally prepare accordingly. For instance, I might be advised that I will be the CEO, the CFO, the Marketing Director, the Head of HR, or the Office Manager, just to name a few. When I arrive at my allocated office on the Friday morning, the actual person fulfilling that job has vacated their office and has left me a list outlining the 5 biggest challenges hindering them in their role. My task for that day is to explore ideas that address, and potentially solve the 5 outlined issues. At the conclusion of the day, I leave my ideas of solution on their desk for them to review, consider and to explore further when they arrive at work on Monday morning.

Through the use of a fresh set of eyes, the results have been staggering, but more importantly, the positive impact on employee morale has been phenomenal.

Another derived benefit of the FFJD process is that each employee gains a greater insight into how the business operates, and how their role impacts those around them.

So for those companies that think Casual Friday is a sign of your corporate innovation brilliance, think bigger, try the Friday Free Job Day once a month and the results achieved will happily surprise you.

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Commandments for Casual Friday Attire:
https://thinkingfuturethoughts.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/commandments-for-casual-friday-attire/

The Lazy Creative

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It can happen via a deliberate wrist glance, a nonchalant button press, or the frequent refreshing of a specifically purchased iPhone App. You have all observed it in action. Yes, it’s the now quite common hourly habit of the corporate office FITBIT wearer as they compete with their fellow fanatical walkers for the esteemed victor of the Workweek Hustle.

But in a recent study, at a soon to be prestigious Australian Institute of Sport, a rather unusual finding has been discovered that has found a direct correlation with a person’s aptitude for innovation, and their FITBIT daily step count. Contrary to what you may think, the lower the FITBIT number, the higher the innovation intellect.

The majority of the corporate office population view those in their working ranks with a very Low FITBIT Step Count (LFSC) as being rather lazy. However, the study results found this to be remarkably furthest from the truth.

Those of your colleagues with a LFSC typically commenced their innovation training early in their youth as a teenager. A visual clue to their future LFSC creative talent would be their clothes, towels and food plates being strategically placed on the floor in their bedrooms. As the days of litter and odour progressed unhindered, a frustrated parent would finally succumb to the mess and tidy their room, with no stepping activity required at all from the clever child.

For teenagers that mastered this skill, their LFSC innovative prowess continued into their working life where the role of the parent was replaced by a fellow work colleague. Here they would sit comfortably at their desk, with their ears and eyes seeking out a potential parental worker surrogate to ensure that their need for physical exertion was significantly minimized. If you are not familiar with their innovative FITBIT step reduction techniques, take note of the following behavioural clues:

  1. The Coffee Run: They will hear the murmurings of colleagues thinking of making a dash to the nearest café for a coffee. Using their creative talent, they will feign extreme busyness and will ask you to get them a coffee on their behalf. If they are masterly at their LFSC craft, you will also be paying for them, with no hope or expectation of a reciprocal arrangement.
  1. The Carpark: In the office carpark, the innovative LFSC colleague will park in the closest position next to the elevator thereby ensuring the least number of walking steps. Some may even place a “Reserved” sign to guarantee this requirement.
  1. The Video Conference: Rather than having to walk to a meeting, the LFSC colleague will cunningly schedule a video conference, even if the colleagues invited sit only a few desks away.

So next time you have a FITBIT Workweek Hustle and you power your way on a daily basis to stepping superiority, may I suggest that you have a look at the work colleague that always comes last. Yes, they are the truly innovative people in your corporate office as it takes creative ingenuity to be that lazy!

The Future Outer Look

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Although located on the 536th floor, the view from my private office window is identical to those located on the lower and upper levels where I look straight into a neighbouring building situated just a few centimetres away, the only separation being a sound proof block of thick, perfectly transparent glass. Modern city building regulations stipulate that all walls of construction need to allow the unhindered transmission of light to conform with the strict environmental conditions of work as decreed by the World Office Worker Organisation (WOWO), year of issue 2056.

For those of you unfamiliar with the architectural designs for those of us fortunate enough to be working for a maximum of 2 hours a day, office layouts have definitely changed from the good old days of our grandparents.  Yes, no longer do workers have to reside in the primitive conditions associated with the open planned corporate office. Now, each employee has his, or her, very own dedicated floor space in the building that ensures complete sound solitude, together with the ability to creatively think without any unwelcome, or untimely interruption.

Most corporate office buildings, particularly those located in the CBD, are over 5,000 floors high, lined up side-by-side with military precision along the street frontage, and are constructed entirely from toughened glass blocks as per the WOWO building legislation. However, by the standards of yesteryear, these buildings are not very wide, in fact only 5 metres which matches the WOWO allocated floor width for each employee.

Through an innovative design pioneered by a charitable private Australian research establishment, these impressive tall buildings no longer require an elevator for vertical transportation. Instead, there are two hollow chimney chutes that transcend the entire height of the building located at each end of the floor. The key to this invention was to have the corporate Finance Team located in the upper floors, and the Marketing Department situated in the basement. As hot air rises, it quickly creates an upward wind gust that increases in velocity until it reaches the upper heights of the building where it interacts with the strong negative drag, and then rapidly condenses to form a downward airflow. The result is the formation of an employee transportation system that effortlessly moves people, or objects, up and down the building in a consistent clockwise rotation.

Now should you work in an earthquake location, have no fear as each tall building is linked via a simple locking block designed by Lego Constructions. This company also specialises in amazingly fast building construction techniques, and their corresponding destruction, should it be required.

Occasionally the employee of the corporate office may want to have a meeting with other coworkers not via the traditional video conference, but one involving a real person interaction. The answer is again quite simple utilising the construction techniques developed by Lego Constructions. If a larger meeting room is required, each employee floor is equipped with a block extraction tong which enables a simple person sized hole to be developed in the adjacent building. However, when using the extraction tong, it is important not to remove any blocks located in the hollow chimney chutes as this may result in a large influx of transported employees quickly filling up your allocated floor.

For those employees that have the occasional need for visual privacy from all potential onlookers within and outside the building, Lego Constructions have a simple solution. In each transparent glass building block there is a small sensor that measures the first onset of any employee blush or embarrassment. Should this sensor be triggered, a rapid temperature reduction is initiated within the block that frosts the outer surface that quickly distorts any light transition so a person’s concealment is ensured when required.

Yes, the view from my office window is quite impressive, but like all employees, I wonder what the view is like from other side of the transparent wall adjourning my building? A thought to ponder as I tirelessly works my requisite 2 hours.

Something is rather fishy here

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The instruction was clear. I had to read it twice, just to make sure that I really understood this significant and totally bizarre change. However, I was not the only person in this most peculiar and unfamiliar situation. Work colleagues of mine all around the globe were also stumbling over the words from a comprehensive perspective. But, it had to be followed, that’s the way it is in this organization. You don’t ask questions, you only obey.

A few hours earlier in a remote and very small office in Miami, Florida, a lonely IT guru had just hacked the global computer system of their competition. One minute and strategic change had been implemented, and was about to take effect.

The chain of unquestionable command now came into operation as the hacked instructions were followed to the letter by all the organization’s kitchen employees, thereby initiating the unusual replacement of “beef” with “fish”.

Unsuspecting children and adults who habitually ordered their favourite menu item were tormented with sensory disappointment immediately following their first bite. Customers all around the world experienced massive displeasure and sought a prompt upsized replacement, or financial reimbursement. Outcries were expressed in the media, with many negative customer slurs making it to the front page of national newspapers. The theme of “That’s not a Big Mac” resonated for hours until McDonald’s senior management identified the cause of the catastrophe and quickly made the required “Big Mac” ingredient correction.

But those based in the company in Miami smirked with delight knowing that a major public relations coup had just prevailed, particularly as they watched “Whopper” sales reach a new daily record.

Now readers, let’s step back for a moment from this “Big Mac” experience and ponder how this episode may have an impact on those working in the corporate office. How many of your employees actually challenge instructions and current work practices with the view of improving the process? Do they just blindly follow them without asking “why is this so”? If this is your organization, then you are creatively doomed, as a culture of innovation will never make it to the “menu” that you provide to your customers.

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PS: Now on the subject of hamburgers, I must admit I don’t like the standard script of these fast chain restaurants. I like the poetic license that all Australian hamburger makers abide by, that being, you can have anything you want as long as it fits within the bun (which must include beetroot, pineapple and an egg!).

 

If The Head Fits, Then Wear It

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This afternoon I was standing nonchalantly at the corner of a busy road intersection painfully aware of the intense bright Australian sun beaming down on my hairless head with absolute ferocity. “Why was I not wearing a hat?” It was quite stupid really when I actually thought about, particularly when reminded by my delicate skinned head as it quickly transitioned to a pink coloured and progressively uncomfortable warm state.

Looking around at my fellow Melbourne city lunchtime walkers, I literally saw no hats adorning the head of any fashionable suit clad man, nor elegantly and spiffily dressed woman. The only hats observed seemed to be situated on the heads of the elderly, or those below the age of 20 in the shape of a mod-looking cap, complete with a market approved logo emblazoned just above its peak. In the years past, men and woman all wore hats that complemented and embellished their business attire, and which provided them with a distinctive look that was most dashing, sophisticated, and had that mark of business professionalism. So, why the change in our cultural hat appreciation? Was it due to the long, free flowing hairstyles of the sixties, seventies and eighties decades where the hair-boof factor made wearing a hat not socially acceptable, nor possible, owing to the excessive follicular volume?

One will never know, but the time is now ripe for a global corporate hat revolution!

Oui, Vive Le Chapeau!

My fellow corporate office compatriots, go on, don’t procrastinate any longer, take action, heed this call to your head and wear a hat!

I can hear your objections, one in particular, that being, what about the dreaded look of “hat hair”? Relax, all will be just fine, mainly as this newly acquired hair look will soon become a fashion statement that publicly notifies the world that you have elected to protect the longer term wellbeing of your head, and are now an accredited and chicly respected wearer of hats! Yes, you will be a modern trendsetter, and one that will soon be a stylish pioneer that will be ogled with extreme envy by the unfortunate hatless few.

Now, for any HR Managers reading this blog post, there is now one strategically important office furniture addition that you will quickly need to purchase to maintain employee morale, that being a hat stand so as to cope with the massive influx of hats!

My Esteemed Fellow Mischief Makers

The 39 Steps - Metro - Man 1 & 2

I paused at the top of the escalator and took a deep breath as I read the poorly illuminated conference sign that would direct me downwards to the basement of this 2 star hotel in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.

I dusted “on” my black suit, with matching black scruffy shirt; at least I didn’t have to worry about my black shoes as they were already quite dirty and had a few prominent scratches that looked most imposing and disrespectful.

There were no issues with my hair being uncombed, mainly because I was fortunate not to have any, so I decided to mess up my long eyebrows, just for added visual effect.

Perfect I thought, I was now ready to head downstairs to the Awards Ceremony, at which I was tipped to receive the most prestigious award, that being for “Disservice to Innovation in the Corporate Office”. I had been working on this achievement for the past twenty years, had successfully infiltrated many global architectural firms in Europe, North America and Australasia, and more importantly, no one had yet realized what I had been doing!

What still surprises me the most was that senior business leaders and managers all applauded my efforts, all happily accepted my designs without fully understanding the consequences, and; they eagerly paid me a massive fortune in the process, to which I am indeed most personally grateful. To top it all off, they unashamedly made my office concepts a blueprint standard of excellence which was adopted, without any intellectual thought, by all organisations that considered themselves leaders in creativity! I still laugh when I think about that last comment!

I glanced at the chipped hands on my tired looking watch and saw that it was now time to make my tardy entrance to the ceremony. As I slowly descended down the escalator, I reached into my suit pocket and had another brief look at my hastily written acceptance speech, just in case it was required.

Written in my messy black inked scribble, I reread the words….”Thank you for this great dishonor! Yes, it’s still hard to believe that my once crazy thought and so fantastically disruptive idea, which I initially developed so many years ago as a joke, is still being used in the corporate office! And to make it even more remarkable, this superbly dysfunctional concept is still cited by experts as being one of the strategic keys to innovation! I smiled, as I imagined the thunderous applause that I would receive from my fellow mischief makers on doing a job so well, for so long, and I was still fooling those that should know better!

I was so looking forward to making the celebratory champagne drinking toast, which would be; “My Esteemed Fellow Mischief Makers, I give you the “Open Planned Office!”

Exploits of the “Paid Gentlemen”

Spy vs Spy

It was indeed a masterful, and strategically well executed plan in which the “paid gentlemen” (and I use the term “gentlemen” quite loosely let me assure you), had finally found what they were looking for after ransacking the Melbourne corporate office they had stealthily entered in the early hours of the morning precisely thirty minutes earlier. Dressed in the latest Australian Vogue approved designer fashion espionage dark clothing, with matching matte black soft kangaroo leather gloves so as to leave no fingerprints, and wearing matching black sound deadening yachting boat shoes, they systematically searched all potential hiding places.

To find the treasured item they were seeking, absolute darkness and silence was a non-negotiable prerequisite. Any search equipment illuminating light, such as torches, mobile phone screens, or audible communication between the “paid gentleman”, would make finding their objective impossible, as it would immediately, and permanently, disrupt its purity thereby making it worthless. As this was a risk they were not willing to take, specialist and custom fitting Ray-ban infrared goggles, together with some rather spiffy complex hand signals were the “paid gentleman’s” search accessories of choice.

To their great excitement, and might I say massive relief, they finally found that what they sought in a very sneaky and rather cunningly clever hiding location. The item was packaged in a lead lined small wooden red box. The “paid gentlemen” then placed this precious red box into a small attaché suitcase and locked it decisively using the twelve-digit lock combination that they would only divulge on receipt of their exorbitant $500M payment from the unscrupulous buyer.

Following a highly tense sixty-minute flight from Melbourne to Sydney, a surreptitious rendezvous with the seeker of the valuable item was arranged at a secret location in a prestigious hotel in Darling Harbour. It was there that the private exchange took place, upon which the now well “paid gentlemen” slowly departed the scene with a sense of relief and a new feeling of personal affluence.

The new illegal, and rather thrilled, keeper of the item quickly went up to her penthouse hotel suite on the ninth floor and swiftly bolted the room door. All lights were turned off; all window blinds were drawn to ensure complete darkness. She hurriedly unfolded the piece of paper on which the well “paid gentlemen” had written the twelve-digit code, and one by one the numbers were accurately entered until the small wooded red box was revealed. Her heart was now thumping so loud she thought her eardrums might explode with anticipation! Her trembling slender fingers toyed with the box latch and she opened it slowly. As the box opened, what seemed like a burning green gas hissed loudly upon release, followed by a large explosive pop. The startled woman quickly opened the box to make sure that the contents were OK and noticed that there was nothing inside apart from a small typed yellow parchment. She speedily grabbed her metal-rimmed spectacles and read out loud the following words: “Innovation is not something you can buy or steal. Innovation needs creativity!”.

In a fit of temper, combined with a rich and complex range of choice expletives, she heeded these words, and with a sense of “innovation and creativity”, she picked up the red box and attaché case and threw them straight out an open hotel window and then burst into tears with extreme disappointment and massive financial loss. Seconds later, these two hurtling objects landed with decisive and heavy force upon the unprotected and fragile heads of the soon to be very dead “well paid gentlemen” as they gleefully walked out the hotel with their unscrupulous financial gains.

With justice done, the small red wooden box bounced a couple of times on the footpath awaiting the next potential seeker of innovation and creativity!

Seeking that Optimal Balance

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The rather assertive, and I thought rather scary young woman, dressed impeccably in the bland and very dark company coloured uniform, beckoned me forward as I was next in the line and requested my name. Without any hesitation so as to not potentially upset her, I quickly replied, “CRAMER, Steven”. My name was immediately crossed off the list.

She, although her name badge said ‘Mandy’ (I wouldn’t dare call her this for fear of appearing too friendly) then asked me and my luggage to stand on the scales to which the total weight was duly recorded with minimal facial expression nor interest.

I was then given my helicopter boarding pass which specified my seating position for the short flight out to the off shore oil platform in Bass Strait some distance off the Southern Australian coastline.

All this procedural rigmarole was apparently required to ensure the helicopter weight was balanced from a safety perspective as we traversed the fierce, and somewhat unpredictable, cyclonic wind gusts to our offshore destination.

Now this got me thinking about the corporate office and how the business tries to “balance” their people skill sets to achieve the best chance of success. Well, I say this comment a little bit tongue in cheek as most organisations unfortunately don’t actually do this aviation procedure of ‘skill balancing’ particularly well. If they were indeed a helicopter, I suspect many of them would be flying along lopsided with a predominance of accountants, HR, engineers, extroverts or introverts! No wonder many companies tend to plummet to their financial doom and fail to obtain their targeted business objectives!

As each business objective may be different, management (just like ‘Mandy’) need to plan accordingly to ensure the right ‘weight’ mix of skills are on board. This skill set will often change based on the task and velocity of the objective required.

Now when potential danger looms, a pilot may reluctantly jettison a selected item from the aircraft to avoid jeopardizing the entire mission. Should a business encounter unexpected climatic economic turbulence, it may necessitate the ejection of some awkward and oversized individuals who are exacerbating the effect. If this needs to be done, the kind and humane approach is to provide these people with a personalized parachute before pushing them out the door, but there are some mean spirited and callous managers who like the free-fall spectacle. For those who choose the latter, may I remind them that what goes up does eventually come down, and lands with a massive hard thump!

Yes, it’s all in planning which bottoms you want in which seats in your next business mission. Without the right “bottom balance” it could be a rather uncomfortable and long flight.

One final comment and it relates to the scenery the business will observe as you travel to your intended destination and this relates to your choice of navigator. For the optimum journey of learning and excitement, may I suggest placing a creative individual in this role and your flight will never be boring!

That Virgin Airline Safety Announcement

Things You Notice

As I was sitting in my allocated seat in my now rather too frequent weekly Virgin flight from Melbourne to Sydney, I vaguely heard the all too familiar safety demonstration which was telling me what to do in an emergency. I, like many other frequent flyers had become rather blasé to this important message. The announcement was one that I should pay attention to, but when you have heard it so many times, the competing options of sleeping, reading a book, or examining the lipstick colour being worn by the air hostess just seems to take precedence! (By the way, yes the lipstick colour does change, the wearer apparently has the option to tailor their own lip colouring depending on what mood they are in on that day…just in case you were wondering…and yes, I did ask!)

This got me thinking. Most of us in the corporate office have a daily routine that changes quite infrequently, if at all. We tend to arrive at work at the same time, park our cars in the same allocated spot, start the day with that all too familiar long black, take a banana from the corporate fruit basket to be eaten later, and then arc up our computers as we take a big sigh in preparation as we work our way through the torrent of new emails in our inbox. Sound familiar?

So why not utilize the safety announcement protocols that are used by the airlines to deliver a message to motivate all employees at the start of the day with the right mind set? Well, with a few tailored variations of course!!

No, I’m not suggesting that the leadership team wear red lipstick, just like the Virgin air hostesses and parade around the office in an attempt to rev up the employees, but it would certainly be a unique and different spectacle that would indeed be noticed.

Instead, like on the plane, let’s focus on the office PA systems that are typically only used for practice emergency drills where that all too familiar ‘whoop, whoop’ sounds permeates through the building just when you are about to skull that freshly purchased coffee, or start that all important phone call.

So why can’t we use that corporate PA system slightly differently? Why couldn’t the CEO deliver a morning motivational message that is full of wit, anecdotes and other words of perceived cleverness? This would of course test the inspirational personality characteristics of the CEO, but this is a simple, yet creative task, that they should be able to do without even having to blink!

Other thoughts for the PA message could include; some boppy dance music (maybe The Eurythmics ‘Sweet Dreams are made of this’), a chapter read from a thought provoking book, some karaoke that all employees join in with, some voice impressions…the key is to have something different. Why not use the PA system at random times of the day to minimize employee complacency? Instead of the PA system, why not utilize the corporate spruiker concept where the CEO walks around the office corridors with a megaphone blasting out innovative words of motivation? I’m sure that you can think of many more ideas that break the boring corporate mold of minimal motivation!

So maybe next time you are sitting on the plane you might now listen to the safety announcement with a slightly different perspective? If not, well, make sure you have a good sleep instead!

Business Basics: Beach, Balls, Bats and Bathers

A family plays beach cricket at Byron Bay

As you stroll along many Australian seaside beaches in summer you are bound to come across a group of people playing cricket on the sand. The official name for this game is “Beach Cricket”.

The customary uniform for Beach Cricket is typically minimal and encompasses a range of different coloured and sized speedos, bikinis, hats, sunglasses and the frequent application of sunblock. The rules will vary depending on beach locality and the skill set of the players, but for that optimum scoring opportunity, a large hit by the batsman into the sea normally provides the best result!

There is usually no participant exclusion to the game as with more people, the easier it is to play, particularly when fielding the ball on the soft hot sand in your bare feet. Those wanting to play do not need a formal invitation. The accepted custom is to simply walk up and ask “Can I join in and play?” The response is unquestionably “Yep, sure thing, just take a fielding position out in the sand, or sea”. I personally like the sea, as it provides the maximum opportunity for extreme laziness, body cooling and water flotation!

The game may last for hours, or until the ball is absconded by a passing dog frolicking on the sand, but the result is a great time for all.

If we look at the game of Beach Cricket from a corporate office perspective there are some important strategic learnings.

In Beach Cricket there are no exclusions, cliques or private groups that filter member participation. Each new player is welcomed regardless of whether their skill set is minimal or vastly experienced. So why not have this same employee involvement philosophy in business? Is it that we are too self conscious to join in, or too scared that we may “drop the ball”, or are we a little too selective about having the “right” people” in our work team?

As with Beach Cricket, when people feel welcome and valued regardless of their ability, they tend to enjoy the team spirit, the sense of belonging and throw themselves into the required objective (which occurs quite literally when fielding the ball on the sand and in the water) with an unrestricted level of enthusiasm. Many of the team participants may discover some hidden talents when provided with the opportunity “to play”, others may watch and learn from the more experienced and skilled members of the team, either way, the result is beneficial to all.

So next time your office work team starts to have that all too familiar “dysfunctional look”, may I suggest you grab a ball, a cricket bat and head for the beach! If your team is located in the cooler climates, you are allowed to swap the swimming bathers for some more suitable and warmer clothing attire, and if the ball is hit deliberately into the cold ocean water, may I suggest the cheeky batsman be ruled as out and they be asked to field the ball themselves!

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