By E. Elizabeth Carter
If you looked at a list of the major corporations from five years ago and now you will notice a big change. Companies that many of us grew up with (i.e. Kraft, etc.) are gone from the list and others known as disruptors are on it (i.e. AirBnb). How do these companies grow so quickly while ones that were once dominant in their fields are dying? Have you ever wondered if it is just the product or service, or is it the leadership and employees or a combination of both? The real answer is the latter but there is much more to it than that.
The traditional workforce functioned as we know in a hierarchical manner with the leader at the top. The expectation was that if “you did your job” you would be rewarded with a raise and possibly a bonus, and every x number of years you could expect a promotion. In my opinion what has changed drastically in the way we do business is what I will call “wonder”.
I wonder if we could do this more effectively? I wonder if I really need to work in an office setting five days a week? I wonder why we have done it this way for years but really have not achieved the results we desire? I wonder why the phrase “we have always done it this way” is not only obsolete but boring? I wonder why an element of fun can’t be incorporated into the workday?
These moments of wonder are what is changing the business landscape. The issue is that some leaders and team members have concerns with it. Some of this concern is due to fear and some is due to complacency. However I think the real issue is that once we grew up we did not know how to wonder anymore. As a child we dreamed up all kinds of things. One day we may be slaying dragons with cardboard swords and towels as capes. Other days we may be rocketing off into space. Our imagination always took us to a new place to explore. So how do companies inspire their employees to wonder?
One way is through brainstorming. Pick a topic and let every team member write down ideas on sticky notes. Each idea has its own sticky note. Encourage outrageousness even if practically speaking it could not happen. The idea is that one crazy idea may spark other ideas that eventually get to one that could be implemented.
Here is an example. I was conducting a training session on team building for managers of a government agency. There were a lot of restrictions on how they could reward their team members. No half days off, no outside events, etc. By doing this brainstorming activity, ideas emerged that were not only doable but made everyone realize that they were being too narrow-minded in their thinking, not only about a reward system but also on other things they felt they had no control over. They came away with several ideas they could implement right away but also felt empowered which made them feel better about their workplace overall.
The idea of wondering “what if” could bring a lot more fulfillment into your workplace as well as help with retention issues. Just wonder what the possibilities could be.