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Archive for April 27th, 2009

Change the Environment to Change the Outcome

Posted by Bob Warfield on April 27, 2009

Creativity +  Passion +  Drive + Initiative +  Fun = Excellence

These are all qualities most of us would like to associate with our businesses.  Yet all too often we’re so focused on the business results, we forget to feed these qualities.  Business results can be great fun, and can involve a lot of passion.  But they can also become an endless focus on mind numbing blocking and tackling.  The solution is not to ignore the blocking and tackling.  We can’t.  In fact, we have to do more of it and do it better than the other guys if we expect to win.  What we can do is get our heads up every now and again and focuse briefly on something to do with the positive attributes that lead to Excellence.

I live in the coastal village of Santa Cruz, California, which is quite a drive from my workplace in Mountain View.  People tell me I made the wrong life choice.  I spend so much time at work, I should be living in Mountain View and visiting Santa Cruz.  But that’s just not how I see it.  True, Santa Cruz is not my whole week, but I get to experience it every day.  It lifts my spirits and gives me a profound break from the work-a-day grind.  That break helps me to function better at work when I get back.

Why not get such breaks more frequently?  Why not make the work environment itself offer a boost to your cognitive energies every time you turn around?  I see this sort of thing as the cognitive equivalent of a palate cleansing.  If nothing else, I try to jump up from my desk and go have a high energy conversation with someone in the company as I finish each project, just to reset my perspective before I tackle the next project.

I’ve done some pretty zaney things in my own past to keep the juices flowing.  Back in my Borland days, I kept a 700 HP twin turbo engine I built (cars and hot rodding them is an after hours passion for me) in the middle of my office.  It was a personal reminder of things I had to get done for Borland before I could go play with it, but it also served as a zaney source of energy around the company.  Our CEO Philippe Kahn made it a mandatory stop on any tour he was giving to a visitor.

I read a wonderful post by Robert Scoble on Zappos culture.  This retailler is famous for fabulous customer service, but Scoble’s story of what it’s like to work there is even more interesting.  They have some powerful cognitive palate cleansers at work there!  Every aspect of the culture is in tune with the idea, as a matter of fact.  It’s no wonder they generate such great customer service.  How can you expect to deliver wonderful service unless you’re having a good time doing it yourself?

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