Saturday, June 20, 2009

Get rid of that label

Some of us get bogged down by what interests we showed in our early childhood, a teacher or a parent would have called us sporty, artistic, numerate or systematic. If one escapes from there, then the waiting corporate world would do something similar and assign us a 'role'!

An individual more often has an ear for only what labels others have assigned, or what she has assigned for self, more often in the areas we are supposed to earn our bread from. Similarly our creative instincts also get aligned to this mindset, though capable, we end up raising self designed hurdles against creative possibilities.

Labels play equally negative role in collaborative innovation.

1) Expecting a research engineer to shorten the duration on a car assembly line.

2) Expecting a productivity improvement unit of your company to improve productivity of your team.

3) Expecting a security guard at your premise to protect you from all security related threats.

As you see the labels are nothing more than anchors, the desired “outcome” however does not necessarily need to come out of the labels.

Don’t run to facility management for a facility improvement idea. Don’t congregate only the experts on subject for the innovation at hand.

A little story I read sometime back. A teenager, while going through the list of school sports he could participate on a sports day, wished there was ‘fishing’ in the list, as that is what he has done most in last few years. But then his eyes stopped on the 'long jump', a sport he has never attempted. It was while fishing he started jumping from one side of the stream to the other, at times he got wet while not making it to the other side, but the distance he jumped increased as he became more proficient.

As an individual your most promising expertise may not be in the domain of your work.

Get rid of that label; try a mask – the transient!


  1. Hi Jayesh...
    You have put up the right things..
    I am in 100% agreement with you.

  2. I so agree with your views. I am also of the point of view that the labels/roles should be looked as a means to define what is part of your job but at the same time organizations and especially managers need to give the person freedom to effectively contribute to the organization beyond just his realm of expertise.

  3. The ones you have listed are the titles and roles that are given to people in specific spots in a the organization.

    Lets say we have security person who mans the front gate. Has he been trained on security ?? No. He only knows frisking of people/car/bags that is it. He does not know about the intention of the same. If there is a mistake then he is taken to task and fired. So he always works under the threat of getting fired. He now cares more his salary than protecting the company.

    Coming to the improvement of productivity. Generally companies (at least in software sector) have quality departments to measure productivity. Its really funny. Productivity is economic measure AND NOT A QUALITY MEASURE. I wonder why nobody realises this . If its an economic measure then the DELIVERY should measure and improve productivity rather than QUALITY. Now quality measures productivity, if the productivity dips, its a really funny situation that quality is taken to task and rarely delivery. I find it amusing that in many meetings that delivery asking the quality as to why the productivity dipped, while the question should have been to themselves!

    I believe that labels are bit necessary to depict the roles that a person plays. Before coming up with these roles, a thought should have gone into as to why a particular role is envisaged. Otherwise the person in those roles will get demotivated.

    In open innovation, we can have roles that AID the innovation rather than acting as gatekeepers. The moment a gatekeeper mentality develops, open innovation withers. The roles should be disbanded at that moment.

  4. Wonderful Jayesh!
    Might I add that we also look outside the business box to world-wide problem-solving and question all labels, cultural, religious, age, education, etc. and assumptions in order to create a world peace. (our own as well as those of others!) I highly recommend reading the book "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson!!