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Articles and tips from your smart, witty, and talented FW employees.

A Change of Mind



A few weeks ago I was in Philadelphia kicking off a prediction market project with a large multi-national corporation. In that organization were a small group of up and comers who decided the company was poor at "future thinking" and needed to work differently. They put together a proposal, got a sponsor, and got the project funded within 2 months.

A month before that we started a project with an energy company where an executive decided he was going to try and improve the culture of his group because of a recent internal survey citing a distrust of management.

Soon before that, we started a project, spearheaded by a Professor from Dartmouth, with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to forecast and communicate about global mass atrocities in a whole new way.

In each example, there was usually one person, or a small group of people, willing to take a risk to stand up and say: "I think we as an organization can do better." 

While we love working with and are inspired by these corporate "rebels," the reality is that an organization, to be successful in fulfilling their mission, needs people to play many different parts. It needs its leaders, its doers, its visionaries, and even its contrarians. People who can define a direction and others to get them there and challenge the status quo every step of the way. 

In a small company like ours, almost everyone needs to play multiple parts, regularly. But in a large organization, where traditional roles are much more tightly defined, people are often silo'd, then collide in a sea of office politics. 

If you have ever worked in a large company, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. Most large organizations are aware they have cultural and operational problems and have any number of programs to try and combat them: perpetual reorganizations, sanctioned side projects, internal peer reward systems, lunch and learns, town halls, idea competitions, beer:thirties on friday afternoons, anonymous internal prediction markets. :) 

All of these initiatives are good ideas, but none are golden tickets. If you want to address your cultural problems, perhaps you have to look at something more fundamental that's going on: a lack of respect or jealousy of people different than yourself. For example, do you consider yourself a "visionary" or "idea person?" I suspect you have at least a little disdain for those who you consider to be "doers." In your world, success is about good ideas, and everything else is just details. 

Or how about you, doers? Have you ever been in a status meeting with your manager and thought - this guy has no idea what he's talking about. He's just hand waving away critical details which will make this project fail if we don't address them.

The reality is probably somewhere in the middle. And that's the big acknowledgment most people don't seem willing to make. The brilliant programmer or analyst who thinks everyone else is an idiot. The CEO who thinks all success is due to him and he's owed millions. I'm not recommending retreats and trust games, but I do think a dose of humility and acknowledgment that other people might, just might, also contribute something unique and valuable that you can't is a critical first step in repairing your culture.


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