Thinking with concepts

Thinking with concepts

In our everyday lives, it seems natural for us to talk about the things that are processed by the company that we work for. We go to work and we talk about insurance policies, home-loans, phone-plans, children’s board games, magazines, fast-food meals and stocks and shares.

When we have these conversations, we take it for granted that we are talking about real and factual things. We do not see that there is any difference between talking about a loaf of bread and talking about the financial position of a public limited company.

The reality however is, that when we talk about anything that is meaningful to us, we have already formed a concept in our minds about the nature of the thing under discussion. That means, we have translated the actual item into an abstract concept that represents to us the inherent nature of the item.

Without this ability to create abstract concepts in our minds, we would be unable to make value judgments or think about how different things fit together.

Concepts are like the air we breathe. They are everywhere. They are essential to our life, but we rarely notice them. Yet only when we have conceptualized a thing in some way can we think about it. Nature does not give us instruction in how things are to be conceptualized. We must create that conceptualization, alone or with others. Once it is conceptualized, we integrate a thing into a network of ideas (as no concept stands alone).

We humans approach virtually everything in our experience as something that can be “decoded.” Things are given meaning by the power of our mind to create a conceptualization and to make inferences on the basis of it – hence, we create further conceptualizations. We do this so routinely and automatically that we don’t typically recognize ourselves as engaged in these processes….

…it is precisely this capacity [to create concepts through which we see and experience the world] of which you must take charge in taking command of your thinking. You must become the master of your own conceptualizations…

Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life, Richard Paul, Linda Elder
FT Press, 24 Aug. 2013, page 99

Our ability to create concepts within our minds is the bedrock on which our reasoning rests. The concepts that we form in our minds determine the value judgments and logical associations that we can subsequently make.

In reality, therefore, before we even begin to think about a problem we have already determined the way that our thoughts will proceed and the possibilities that we will be able to identify, by choosing to conceptualise the items at hand in a particular way.


Accurate concepts

When we transform the things in the world around us into abstract concepts, we make qualitative decisions about how we will view these things from now on. The subtlety of these decisions is as nuanced as life itself, however it is possible to identify some basic choices we make when deciding how to decipher reality.

Personal or impersonal: Some ideas are close to our feelings, other ideas we hold at an arm’s length. We can choose to relate to something in a close and personal manner, or we can choose to view the same thing impartially and from a distance.

For instance, a worker in a factory may relate to their work with pride and satisfaction, but it is likely that an accountant in head-office will relate to the worker’s output from a purely financial perspective. The worker sees the inherent goodness in what they produce, the accountant perceives the commercial usefulness of the same thing. Both of these conceptualisations are valid; the worker has adopted a personal view and the accountant has adopted an impersonal view, of the same reality.

The accountant’s impersonal conceptualisation is fitting for their job, their impersonal approach enables them to determine the correct course of action needed for the financial wellbeing of the company. Were they to be passionate, they would be unable to make decisions that could involve cutting a particular product or service, for example.

However, the worker’s personal perspective is fitting for their job. Because of their personal involvement, they will apply the best of their skills and knowledge to ensure that they can take pride in the quality and robustness of their work.

Important or trivial: We can conceptualise something as having minute relevance to ourselves, or as being overwhelmingly important.

For example, some people may ignore a minor skin blemish, but other people may pay thousands of dollars to have it invisibly removed. Alternatively, some people may feel it is important to prevent the destruction of natural habitats, but other people may feel this is a minor detail in improving farm productivity.

Our decision to spend time and energy on something, often depends on how significant we think the thing is. Subsequently, it is important to realise how our initial perceptions influence our subsequent course of action. Otherwise, we may pay too much attention to something insignificant, or too little attention to something that could have great potential.

Controllable or uncontrollable: Sometimes we perceive that we have influence over something, at other times we live with an attitude of “that is just the way things are”. That means, we may choose to view something as being under our influence, or we may prefer to feel that it is unalterable and that nothing we could possibly do would have any bearing on the outcome.

For example, we can view the variable quality of manufactured goods as something that is due to natural circumstance and that is beyond our control. Or we can view the variable quality of manufactured goods as something which we can improve on using precision technology and equipment.

Alternatively, we may see the pollution in the city that we live in as something which is an inevitable part of living an urban environment, or we may see pollution as something that we can eliminate through petitioning to change local traffic regulations.

If you perceive that you have influence over an outcome, but in reality you don’t, you may waste your efforts and achieve no results despite a lot of hard work. If you believe that you don’t have influence over an outcome, but in fact you do, you could miss out on an opportunity that was easily within your grasp.


Feeling your way

When we assess reality, we have to decide whether we are seeing something new, or if we are seeing something that we can categorise according to prior experience and knowledge. There may be some aspects of an experience that we can categorise in accordance with our previous knowledge, and other aspects of the experience that we discern as new and original.

Sometimes the best way to perceive what is genuinely new and fresh in what we are seeing, is to connect to the experience and let it wash over us. We can then retroactively think about the way the experience made us feel, and see if we tasted something new.

We set every new fact or impression in the framework and light of our existing knowledge, and this “apperception,” as it is called, is a large and vital factor in all our knowledge.

We thus see things, not only as they are, but also as we are. The mind itself is an active and determining agent in forming our knowledge. Every one thus sees his own objects and creates his own world. It is these differences in minds that make the immense differences in the things men see. When Turner showed one of his sunsets to a friend and the friend remarked that he had never seen such a sunset, Turner replied, “Don’t you wish you could?”…

These… constructs are the representatives in our minds of the realities of the objective world, and therefore it is of the first importance that they represent them accurately… Any inaccuracy or error in them… may undermine and ruin our whole structure of thought and life.

The Psychology of Religion, James H. Snowden, page 29

The best way to understand the nature of new things that we see and experience is to let them talk for themselves. If we approach new experiences with an open mind, we are likely to be able to discern the true essence of what we are looking at. However, if we approach new situations with preconceived ideas, we are likely to see what we expect to see, and miss new insights that we could have gained.


Take away

It can be a struggle for us not to project what we expect to see, onto what we are actually seeing. By keeping an open mind, we can discern the subtle innuendoes that hint at the true essence of what we encounter. However if we retrofit new experiences into what we are expecting, we may miss new vistas of growth and opportunity.

One day, I received a cutting from a Chinese business magazine. It had interviewed a famous visitor from the West, one of those rare people who has influenced almost everyone’s life all over the globe. He had been my student some thirty years earlier; he became the venture capitalist who was the first to invest in Google, Yahoo, eBay, humble start-ups that eventually changed the world.

He was asked who had been the greatest influence on his career. He named me, and gave this reason: I had taught him that things are not what they appear to be.

It is unusual for a teacher to be understood by a pupil. But he saw precisely the true measure of my ignorance. Every time I encounter an object, a person or an experience, I do not see only it, but also how else it could be. I am always asking myself: How could it be otherwise?…

The process of creating something useful and beautiful out of what I learn does not resemble building a house out of bricks that have been ordered in advance. It is more like painting a picture which gradually takes shape. As I add and subtract colours and contours, each opens up possibilities that I did not imagine beforehand, and I rush off to deepen my understanding of them, and research new territories, which in turn open up new vistas and new meanings for the too naive or simple thoughts I began with.

The Hidden Pleasures of Life: A New Way of Remembering the Past and Imagining the Future
Theodore Zeldin, MacLehose Press, 2015

Life is full of opportunity, but in order to be able to connect to this flow of energy, we may have to draw back the curtain of assumptions that we live safely behind.

Career growth and happiness

Career growth and happiness

It can sometimes seem that there is a conflict of interests between our personal lives and our career development. Perhaps career progression will only happen if we short change our personal lives, or maybe our personal lives will only work out if we sacrifice career growth.

All too often…, leaders and managers become so consumed in climbing the corporate ladder, or working to ensure that they do not move down the ladder, that lose focus of what is really important in life…

Can you really be successful in the office and at home? Can you be successful at both without shorting one or the other?.. Are you willing to sacrifice family for professional achievement? Some folks are.. How many times have you heard someone say, “I wish had spent more time with my children when they were growing up.”?..

Is the price worth it? Assess your personal situation and decide where to place your dedication and determination.

Modeling and Benchmarking Supply Chain Leadership, page 87

Does there have to be a contradiction between career growth and achieving personal happiness, or is there a way to find harmony between these different facets of our existence?



One of the most important ingredients of a successful personal life, is the ability to be natural and spontaneous. For example, we often find happiness when we allow our thoughts and feelings to wander wherever they want to go. In our working lives however, we tend to assume a stricter and more self-conscious mode of existence.

Two of the factors that persuade us to leave our natural selves behind when we enter the workplace are:

  • Time pressure: In our personal lives, our feelings and thoughts develop at their own natural pace. In the workplace, on the other hand, our activities are timebound. Work must happen within its allotted time slot, otherwise the downstream processes that depend on our output will come to a stop.
  • Conformity: In our personal lives, we value self-expression and search for our unique individuality. In our work life, on the other hand, we conform to the ways of thinking, feeling and doing of the company that we work for, so that we can blend into the workplace dynamic.

The need to meet targets on time, and the pressure to conform to the company’s way of thinking, pushes us into a task-focussed frame of mind which can make us lose touch with our natural selves.

Children have a natural grace which asserts itself easily, but which is rarely seen in the sophisticated adult except in persons with a great natural sweetness of mind. Innocent moments are of greater value in the adult – they bring a more complex being and a wider knowledge into balance than in the case of the child – but such moments are infrequent of the difficulty experienced by a mature person in coming to terms with a complicated world….

The child shows an interest in the minute details of objects. He wonders at things and is fascinated by them. The cultivated adult, on the other hand, fails to observe much of what goes on about him, subordinates his activities to his interests, has little left to wonder at, and is too confident of his knowledge of things to find them fascinating…

William Blake, page 14

If we lose the naturalness that is essential to our personal lives, we are likely to make decisions that could adversely impact the relationships that are crucial to us.

How can we make sure that our natural freshness is not dulled by the daily grind?


Thriving from challenge

When we encounter pressure to perform, we experience a sense of uncertainty. “Will we be able to meet the challenge, or will we fall short?”

There are two ways that we can respond to this quandary. We can either feel exhilarated, and rise to meet the challenge that has been put to us. Or we can feel dismayed by the expectations that have been placed on us, and tense ourselves up to desperately try to meet our targets.

The experience of uncertainty can vary: it can be an exhilarating challenge to be confronted and resolved – it is exciting and makes us feel edgy and alive, and delivers us a sense of satisfaction and mastery when we resolve [the situation]; or it can be anxiety provoking and stressful, making us feel impotent and unable to predict or control our world and what will happen to us in it.

…if we believe our resources to deal with the demand[s placed on us] are adequate, we feel a sense of [excitement that makes us meet the challenge head on.] if we believe our resources are inadequate, we feel a sense of threat that [makes us shrink away and ignore the challenge as much as possible].

Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology: Collection: Volumes 1 & 2, page 65

Being upbeat about the challenges we face, releases our inner aptitudes and enables us to grow from the challenge. If we feel overwhelmed, on the other hand, our feeling of inadequacy makes us close up, and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Two ways in which a positive frame of mind provides us with the abilities that we need to win are:

  • Finding new possibilities: If we feel secure in our capability to ultimately solve the problem, then we allow ourselves time to look around for new ideas. If we feel threatened by the challenge, however, then we can’t afford to admit that we do not already possess the tools and knowledge needed to solve the problem, as this would make us feel more threatened. Subsequently we may try to force a non-optimal solution, using the knowledge that is immediately available, instead of looking for fresh insights.
  • Intuition: Intuition happens when we allow ourselves to park a problem in the back of our minds. Our subconscious then makes the connection between our understanding in other areas and the problem that we are faced with. If we agitatedly turn the problem round and round in our minds however, we will never experience the deep understanding that comes when our background thought processes are allowed to free-wheel.


High energy balance

If we grow to meet the challenges that we face at work, this releases energy that grows our natural vitality. The positivity that this creates provides strength and dynamism in our personal lives, which in turn becomes the the base from which we can approach new work challenges with confidence and optimism.

This positive feedback loop can become the gateway for us to operate at an entirely new level.

Waiting for inspiration and creativity

Waiting for inspiration and creativity

Sometimes we feel that however hard we try, we’re not getting anywhere. At other times, we suddenly find inspiration and achieve a breakthrough. To understand this sensation of uneven progress, it is worthwhile considering some of the ways in which we learn and find new knowledge.


Types of knowledge

In general terms, there are two ways that we know things. One way of knowing is when we feel that “that’s just the way things are”. The other way of knowing is when we have been taught information, which we accept as being true.


For example, the knowledge that a car is about to run you over, is not verbally expressed in your thoughts. If you look up while crossing the road and you see that you are in a collision course with a car, it is unlikely that the following will go through your mind, “It would appear that given my direction of travel and the car’s direction of travel, and considering our respective velocities, it is probable that the car and myself will collide in 3 seconds, which would result in severe injury.”


Instead, it is more likely that you will jump out of the way as fast as possible, without thinking about your high-school applied maths. This type of knowledge is sometimes referred to as tacit knowledge, it is “just the way things are”.


On the other hand, if you perform an experiment to see if the earth orbits the sun or if the sun orbits the earth, then it is likely that you will mentally think through your conclusion, “I have proven that the earth orbits the sun, and the sun does not orbit the earth”. This is because the earth’s orbit is not something that you experience directly, so knowledge of the earth’s orbit has to be expressed verbally within your mind, for you to be able to think about it. This type of knowledge is sometimes referred to as explicit knowledge. It is information that you know and are aware of, but it is not part of your life.


Most knowledge falls on a spectrum between these two extremes. To learn the piano, we need to learn some music theory, but practice extensively to get the feel of the instrument. On the other hand, studying science is mostly based on textual information, however doing practical experiments gives us a feeling for the underlying concepts.

Within business and Knowledge Management, two types of knowledge are usually defined, namely explicit and tacit knowledge. The former refers to codified knowledge, such as that found in documents, while the latter refers to non codified and often personal/experience-based knowledge. in order to understand knowledge, it is important to define these theoretical opposites.


Explicit Knowledge: This type of knowledge is formalized and codified, and is sometimes referred to as know-what. It is therefore fairly easy to identify, store, and retrieve… Explicit knowledge is found in: databases, memos, notes, documents, etc.


Tacit Knowledge: This type of knowledge… is sometimes referred to as know-how and refers to intuitive, hard to define knowledge that is largely experience based. Because of this, tacit knowledge is often context dependent and personal in nature. It is hard to communicate and deeply rooted in action, commitment, and involvement… Tacit knowledge is found in: the minds of human stakeholders. It includes cultural beliefs, values, attitudes, mental models, etc. as well as skills, capabilities and expertise.


…tacit and explicit knowledge should be seen as a spectrum rather than as definitive points. Therefore in practice, all knowledge is a mixture of tacit and explicit elements rather than being one or the other.

Knowledge and reality

Since knowledge is an extension of our natural understanding of reality, all of our knowledge must be somehow linked to an actual feeling or perception which we have personally felt or experienced.


Theoretical knowledge cannot exist within our minds, unless it is somehow linked to a real life experience which is meaningful to us. Or in other words, all explicit knowledge must be rooted in our tacit knowledge, somehow.

Explicit knowledge is [sometimes] presented as a universally comprehensible commodity, which can be stored in a knowledge archive, shared with colleagues or clicked across cyberspace… In an incisive essay entitled ‘Do we really understand tacit knowledge?’, Haridimos Tsoukas (2003) makes the crucial point that… short of a brain transplant, the capacity to know is not a transferable commodity: it is inherently personal and inherently tacit: ‘All knowledge falls into one of these two classes: it is either tacit or rooted in tacit knowledge’ (Polanyi, 1967: 195, original emphasis)… ‘The ideal of a strictly explicit knowledge is indeed self-contradictory; deprived of their tacit coefficients, all spoken words, all formulae, all maps and graphs, are strictly meaningless. An exact mathematical theory means nothing unless we recognise an inexact non-mathematical knowledge on which it bears and a person whose judgement upholds this bearing.’ (Polanyi, 1967).

A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book About Studying Strategy, page 62

However, if we assume that all knowledge is rooted in our personal perceptions and feelings, it is difficult to understand how we can ever learn from anyone else.


The mentor’s knowledge is predicated on their own personal feelings and experiences. If so, how can we absorb the knowledge that they verbally transmit to us, when we do not share the feelings and experiences that their own knowledge is rooted in?


Borrowing intuition

In addition to simply transmitting knowledge, every good teacher develops a personal connection with their students. The teacher will enthuse their students with their own passion for the subject, and make them feel that they are part of a journey of discovery and exploration.

One can amass textual knowledge, but without that personal connection to the teacher, without the absorption of the teacher’s way of learning… – and especially without emulating his or her way of embodying what is taught, then [the student remains] not only ignorant but [worse, when they themselves come to teach, they are like a] sorcerer!


[A teacher who can repeat the words, but never understood their own mentor’s inner meaning] just mumbles magic words, produces some dazzling temporary effects, and the student is duped. We all have had teachers like this, I suspect, and know the unfortunate students… who imitate this magical mumbling.

Make Yourself a Teacher, page 74

A good teacher shows their students how the knowledge that they are teaching resonates within them. When a teacher shows how their knowledge lightens up their world, the teacher allows the students to borrow their perspective on reality, in order to absorb the knowledge being taught. “If it is meaningful for the teacher, then it must be true.”


In other words, the students use the teacher’s tacit knowledge as a basis for absorbing the explicit knowledge that they are being taught. It may take the students years to develop their own inner grasp of these foundational truths, however.




The “aha” moment of inspiration, occurs when our natural intuitions and our technical knowledge, align with each other. When this happens, we become able to feel our way through the complexities that face us, and find the simple but brilliant solutions that result from the synthesis of instinct and intricacy.


However, as long as we rely on the intuitions that were lent to us by our teachers, our own intuition cannot enhance our understanding of our academic knowledge. Only once we autonomously perceive the underlying truths of our learned knowledge, can we experience the convergence of tacit and explicit knowledge, that results in a breakthrough.

Designing the future

Designing the future

Being creative and thinking of new ideas, often requires unlearning the patterns that we tend to think in. Instead of looking for techniques to make us become innovative, we may find that we can be intuitively inventive as long as we are not hampered by our preconceived notions.

In order to free-up our minds, it is worthwhile considering the different modes in which we think, so that we can consciously direct our inventiveness.


Creativity and imagination

We normally think that the most important talent for coming up with new ideas is imagination, if we have a good imagination, then we can be the “ideas man”. However there is a precursor to imagination, which is our wish to be creative.

Innovation starts with the feeling that by applying our creative-will, we can somehow make the world a better place. Subsequently, we imagine the type of thing that could help people, according to our nature and field of expertise. We then select the most promising idea, and start working through the challenges of implementation.

The thing that fires imagination is our initial drive to be creative. This creative-will then finds its expression through imagination and practical application.

the image [that we imagine] is not a state… but a consciousness… the imaging consciousness… is spontaneous and creative… the image… in so far as it is primary and incommunicable, is the product of a conscious activity, is shot through with a flow of creative will.

The Imaginary


Division of labour

The phases of creative-will, imagination, resolution and development, are not necessarily done by one person. In a corporate environment, the general direction for advance may come from management. The product development team may be tasked with coming up with possible ideas and selecting the best proposal. The research and development department may be tasked with turning these ideas into practical reality. And the manufacturing division will turn out the finished product.

Innovation can occur anywhere within this chain of creative-will, imagination, resolution and development. For example, management may feel that the company should move in a new direction. The product development team may conceptualise a new product that breaks with existing norms. The research and development team may make a technological breakthrough. And the manufacturing division may gain unprecedented efficiencies.

However, the higher up the innovation-chain a fresh approach is applied, the greater the innovation will be. For example, if management decide on a new direction, the ripple effect of originality through the company, will be far greater than if a production manager makes a process more efficient.

Professor Ikujiro Nonaka of the Hitotsubashi University, gives the following example of how a fresh approach from high-level management, can filter down the chain of innovation, until it results in the creation of the knowledge that is needed to realise the management vision.

In 1978, top management at Honda inaugurated the development of a new-concept car with the slogan “Let’s gamble.” The phrase expressed senior executives’ conviction that Honda’s Civic and Accord models were becoming too familiar. Managers also realized that along with a new postwar generation entering the car market, a new generation of young product designers was coming of age with unconventional ideas about what made a good car.

The business decision that followed from the “Let’s gamble” slogan was to form a new-product development team of young engineers and designers (the average age was 27). Top management charged the team with two—and only two—instructions: first, to come up with a product concept fundamentally different from anything the company had ever done before; and second, to make a car that was inexpensive but not cheap…

Project team leader Hiroo Watanabe coined another slogan to express his sense of the team’s ambitious challenge: Theory of Automobile Evolution. The phrase described an ideal. In effect, it posed the question, If the automobile were an organism, how should it evolve? As team members argued and discussed what Watanabe’s slogan might possibly mean, they came up with an answer in the form of yet another slogan: “man-maximum, machine-minimum.” This captured the team’s belief that the ideal car should somehow transcend the traditional human-machine relationship…

The “evolutionary” trend the team articulated eventually came to be embodied in the image of a sphere—a car simultaneously “short” (in length) and “tall” (in height). Such a car, they reasoned, would be lighter and cheaper but also more comfortable and more solid than traditional cars. A sphere provided the most room for the passenger while taking up the least amount of space on the road. What’s more, the shape minimized the space taken up by the engine and other mechanical systems. This gave birth to a product concept the team called “Tall Boy,” which eventually led to the Honda City, the company’s distinctive urban car.

…the City’s revolutionary styling and engineering were prophetic. The car inaugurated a whole new approach to design in the Japanese auto industry based on the man-maximum, machine-minimum concept, which has led to the new generation of “tall and short” cars now quite prevalent in Japan…

The Knowledge-creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation, page 11

Honda achieved a quantum leap forward because management’s encouragement to be creative started with no preconceived notions of what the company’s future products would be. This pure creative-will filtered down through the company’s echelons and allowed the engineering team to imagine an unfamiliar shape of car, which totally broke with the conventional wisdom of what a car should look like.


Dynamism and creativity

In order to be inventive, we can fire up our imagination and free ourselves from our assumptions about the way things have to be. We can allow our thoughts to lead us in whichever direction they go, and fight the feeling that the things that we have imagined could not possibly be right.

However, the degree to which we can channel our creative-will altogether, depends on our commitment to experiencing the pure joy of living in all areas of life.

As human beings, we are driven to grow and learn, to move forward… We are driven to reinvent our world and ourselves. Human creativity is intrinsic to our nature. Our desire to create is fundamental to our essence, central to what makes us human.

…The building of a house is an expression of our creative drive. The nursing of a patient is an expression of our creative drive. The teaching of a child is an expression of our creative drive. The raising of a family is an expression of our creative drive. The writing of a novel or of a book on economics is an expression of our creative drive. Our… expression is as diverse as we are unique, as varied as our dreams.

As such, our… expression is as abundant as the creative activity that brought it into being. We are as prolific as we are creative. The greater our creative activity, the greater its impact on our material world.

Economics of Fulfillment, page 58

Creativity and imagination are part of who we are. If we live in a fresh and energetic way, our creative-will will show us the way forward when conventional knowledge and know-how have drawn a blank.

Job specialisation and personal development

Job specialisation and personal development

People sometimes find that the dream-job that they once landed has now become a source of frustration and exasperation. As hard as they try, they cannot see how they can gain any personal development by continuing in their current position. What changed between their initial thrill of getting a job and their present feeling that they have bumped into a brick wall?

Learning from children’s books

Children’s books can provide simple lessons which resonate with our life experiences. Bob Graham is a popular children’s books author who encapsulates compelling life-lessons in his narratives.

One of Bob Graham’s storybook characters is a multi-talented dog called Buffy. When Buffy is fired for being too good, he is challenged to re-think life, reinvent himself and find happiness on his own terms.

This is Buffy’s story:

  • Buffy was a stage assistant to Brillo the magician, however Brillo found that the audience was cheering louder for Buffy than for himself, so Buffy was made redundant.

“OUT! and never come back,” cried Brillo.

  • With his last coins, Buffy bought a tin of dog food and a can opener from a supermarket. Then he jumped aboard a moving freight train that was heading into the countryside.

And while he slept, the train continued its rhythm:
and never come back.
and never come back.

  • In the morning, Buffy jumped off the train and went to find a job. However Buffy was unemployable because he did not fit into a slot.

Nobody wanted a dancing sheep dog.
Nobody wanted a tiny rope-throwing cattle dog.
Nobody wanted a plate-juggling kitchen dog.
Nobody wanted a guard dog who played the harmonica.

  • One day, exhausted, Buffy stopped in front of a statue in a town square. The statue was inscribed with the words “I am me. No more. No less”. Buffy decided that the world would have to accept him on his own terms.

“Then one day Buffy stopped. He put down his bag, wiped his brow and looked around him.
“I can go no further,” he said.
“I’m not a sheep dog, a cattle dog, a kitchen dog or a guard dog. So what sort of dog am I?”
“I am Buffy! And I will do what I do. And this time, the world shall come to me.”

  • Buffy started busking, and met Mary Kelly and the musical Kelly family. The Kelly’s acknowledged his unique talents and adopted him.

Now, each night after dinner, the music starts and each night the floorboards shake. Mary’s and Buffy’s feet beat to the rhythm of the jigs and the reels.
And Buffy lives up there, on the hill, to this day.

Buffy: An Adventure Story


Self-actualisation versus specialisation

When we get a job, we are excited because it took all of our persistence, hard-work and study to acquire the skills and knowledge needed for the job.

Nevertheless, as Buffy found out, most jobs require a specific skill set, and do not involve all facets of our personalities. Furthermore, the larger a company is, the smaller part every employee plays in the creation of the finished product, and the more specialised each job becomes.

Subsequently, the reason you may not find fulfillment in your job, is because your job is not you.

  • You are multi-talented – but your job requires that you focus and refine one specific skill.
  • You are innovative – but your job requires that you do exactly the same thing every day.
  • You like relating to people in different ways – but your job requires that you should relate to people predictably.


Thinking out of the square

It is perfectly possible, that you will not find a job on a job board that requires all your skills and that involves all facets of your personality. Subsequently, some people are leaving the standard career path to look for greater versatility.

Rather than define their lives and self-worth in terms of a preordained, often constraining, career track, workers are creating their own patchworks of job experiences to suit their lives.

The Opt-out Revolt: Why People Are Leaving Companies to Create Kaleidoscope Careers

It is also possible, however, that the risk of leaving the security of a standard career path, does not appeal to you. If so, how can you grow within a job that does not seem to require all that you have to give?

According to the Harvard Business Review, the answer is to make sure that there is always something happening in your life, outside of your working hours.

The bottom line: Satisfaction at work is influenced by factors such as benefits, pay, relationships, and commute length. But all of this boils down to two things being important, regardless of your circumstances: (1) having a life outside of work, and (2) having the money to afford it. If you have a job that grants you both of these, you might be happier than you realize.

If you lead a full and vibrant life outside of work, then regardless of the boundaries of your job, people will appreciate the warmth and humanity that you bring to your place of employment.

Although your job may seem limiting, if you carry on polishing your professional skills and growing as a human being, opportunity may knock in unexpected ways, just as it did for Buffy.

Internal employee view vs external business view of a company

Internal employee view vs external business view of a company

Employees’ understanding of what a company is all about, is very different to the market’s understanding of the business. This is because employees have an idealistic view of the company, whereas the financial markets take a commercial view of the company.

An example of the non-idealistic business perspective, is the commonly held view that the only ideal that a business should have is to increase its profits.

There is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.

Although this is a healthy perspective as far as investors are concerned, thinking that the only goal of the company is to increase its profits, would very quickly demoralise the most enthusiastic company woman or man. Employees have the need to believe in a higher purpose in their daily tasks, other than making money for the company’s shareholders.

In response to this need for professional self-respect, companies create an internal world in which there is inherent pride in doing your job. Management organises the company in a way that if everyone does their job well, then the company will be financially successful. Employees do not need to ponder over the financial significance of their work, however.

Let me once again emphasize that instilling feelings of pride in your employees is an essential part of the environment that stimulates them to do their best.

Pride in who I work for, or pride in my company, is the first and most important. It is having the feeling that where you work is a good place, that it makes a product that is good, and that it is one of the best, or the best in their industry. It is feeling good when you tell someone where you work.

Pride in what I do is the feeling that my job, and especially how I do it, makes a difference… It is a feeling that you stand out in your profession. It is knowing that you are doing the best of the best.

The Workplace Family: A Framework for Getting the Best From Your Employees, page 85


Context for accomplishment

To create an internal company world where professional pride is insulated from the financial evaluation of the company’s work force, the following elements must be present:

  • Feeling of goodness: Employees must have a good feeling about the products or services that they produce. In other words, employees must feel that the goods or services that the company produces are inherently good and desirable. If employees feel proud of the goods or services that they produce, then they will feel good about their share in making this result possible, without having to think about the financial evaluation of their productivity.
  • Professional pride: Employees must feel proud that they are doing professional work which requires their unique skills, talent and knowledge. If employees feel pride in their work, then they will gain a sense of professional self-respect, without having to think about the financial value of their skillset.
  • Recognition and respect: If employees feel that their contribution to the company’s success is recognised, this will motivate them to succeed, without having to view themselves as the cause of the company’s profits.

The basic ingredients for developing a healthy internal company work-attitude are respect for the company’s products, respect for the skills needed to turn out the company’s products and recognition of employees’ part in creating the company’s products. Together, these attitudes create a self-contained world of striving and accomplishment, which insulates employees from the commercial evaluation of their activities.


Paradigm translation

The market’s perspective of employees’ work is very different to the perspective of the employees who do the work. The market evaluates employees’ work from a commercial perspective, however employees assess the value of their work according to its inherent usefulness and goodness.

To be successful, companies must respond to the market’s commercial expectations, and also foster an internal work-environment of striving and fulfillment in which employees can feel good about themselves because of their accomplishments. For this to happen, the company’s leadership must translate the commercial pressure on the company into internal dynamism, and also align the company’s internal creativity with the commercial expectations placed on the company.

In 2004 Drucker said, “The CEO is the link between the Inside that is ‘the organization,’ and the Outside of society, economy, technology, markets, and customers…”

My experience validates Drucker’s observations, and my actions since those early days and weeks have been consistent with them… Over time I’ve come to see the power in Drucker’s words about linking the outside to the inside…

The CEO is uniquely positioned to ensure that a company’s purpose, values, and standards are relevant for the present and future and for the businesses the company is in. The CEO can and must make the interventions necessary to keep purpose and values focused on the outside. To sustain competitive advantage and growth, he or she must create standards to ensure that the company wins with those who matter most and against its very best competitors.

True leadership requires emotional involvement and inspired guidance within the company’s internal world, combined with forthright and astute business practices when selling the company and its products.

By translating commercial pressure into internal inspiration and internal inspiration into financial results, managers can be popular with both staff and investors.




Growing by meeting new challenges depends on your ability to change

Growing from change

Traditionally, corporations, even very powerful ones, do not last longer than one or two hundred years. For example, the Dutch East India Company which for a while was more powerful than some European governments, was founded in 1602 and became bankrupt in the late 1700’s.

As the BBC pointed out in 2012

The past few years have seen previously unthinkable corporate behemoths – from financial firms such as Lehman Brothers to iconic car manufacturers such as Saab – felled by economic turmoil or by unforgiving customers and tough rivals.

Can a company live forever? – BBC News

Is there a fundamental reason that corporations cannot last forever, or will we see a future that contains 1000 year old Microsoft’s and Oracle’s that are indelibly entrenched in the world’s economy and work-style?

Self-contained universe

The larger and more successful a company is, the more likely it is to develop its own way of thinking, its own way of doing things and its own internal world of values and emotions.

…individual companies have their own respective corporate culture and values, and at the same time each company also has its own view of leadership, which is influenced by different organizational contexts embedded within the company.

The sharing of organizational culture and values gives rise to unique corporate systems, rules, and customs, and establishes the company’s own way of thinking and ways of viewing things in general, as well as [inducing] thought and behavior patterns… into employees.

Developing Holistic Leadership: A Source of Business Innovation, Section Synchronization of Leadership, by Mitsuru Kodama

By developing its own way of doing things, it is possible for a company to gain predictability and to enhance process quality. By developing its own culture and inner emotional environment, it is possible for a company to get employee buy-in, increase employee longevity and become known as a good place to work.

There is danger, however, in a company developing its own inner world of values and emotions. The happy self-contained corporate world may eventually become self-justifying and so lose touch with the external market reality. If this happens, the company can become uncompetitive, unresponsive to changing market conditions, and lose market share.

Is there a way to ensure that the internal corporate world will be used as a position of strength from which to respond to market challenges, rather than as an easy refuge from a market that relentlessly demands change and improvement?

Expecting the unexpected

Generally speaking, people want to hear things that will make them happy, and not things that they may find upsetting. For example, if someone thinks that they have their life worked out, the last thing they want you to tell them is something that challenges their plans. If you do tell them something that poses a challenge to their life plan, they may ignore you or forcibly reject your ideas. Having a clear life-plan gives people a feeling of safe predictability; demonstrating that this plan is impractical can make them feel threatened and anxious.

Similarly, when a company builds a cosy self-contained working environment, employees develop a feeling of security and predictability which is based on the ongoing viability of the corporate business plan. Subsequently, executives can be resistant to hearing anything that could cause them to have to rethink the business plan that forms the basis for the work environment in which they live, because this would make them feel anxious and worried.

A classic case of such short-sightedness was Kodak’s reluctance to recognise the imminent demise of photographic film, till it was too late.

In 1975, Kodak engineer Steve Sasson invented the world’s first digital camera… After taking your photos with the camera, you could … display the images on a standard TV. He and his colleagues demonstrated this “filmless technology” to Kodak executives throughout 1976.

But Kodak had a blind spot when it came to anything that might disrupt the company’s profitable film business. Sasson reports the executive reation: “Why would anyone want to view his or her pictures on a TV? How would you store these images? What does an electronic photo album look like? When would this type of approach be available to the consumer?”

Sasson and his team did not have the answers. But by applying Moore’s law, the team came up with an estimate: In 15 to 20 years, the devices would be available to consumers…In January 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy.

When a company is large and successful, its size can be its worst enemy, especially when it is so dominant that it lacks serious competition. A company culture that drove success in the early days can become overly codified, rigid and ritualistic… Slowly, great companies can lose touch with reality.

The Connected Company, pg. 46 – 47

The Kodak executives did not want to hear about digital photography because this challenged the cosy world they lived in, within the world’s top photographic film company.


The ability to grow from a challenge relies on having an attitude of continual growth and freshness. If every day is new, you can use your previous accomplishments as a base from which to meet new challenges. On the other hand, if you expect not to have your daily routine disturbed, then even when warning signs appear that change is required, you will probably carry on doing the same thing as yesterday.

Staying alert and being ready to meet life head on, will position you to surf the waves of change.

Skills diversification

Skills diversification

Generally speaking, career development can proceed in one of two directions.

  • Specialisation: You become an expert in your domain. As your expertise grows, people seek your advice and value your opinion. Eventually you may become an acknowledged authority in your chosen area.
  • Diversification: You acquire knowledge in disparate domains, e.g. medicine and IT. Using your overarching knowledge, you identify the opportunity to create new products and services by combining ideas from these domains. You then apply your cross-domain understanding to bring your ideas to fruition.

Diversifying your skills holds great potential; if there is a natural synergy between your existing skill base and your new-found knowledge, then you can make a bold move forward in your career. However, acquiring skills and knowledge that do not relate directly to what you currently do can lead to a dead-end. You could do a great course or read an interesting book, but end up with information that you are unable to integrate into your career.

How can you plan successful career diversification with the confidence that your new talent will be a brilliant supplement to your base competencies?

Interestingly, companies considering diversification face a similar quandary, and lessons from their decision-making process can be applied to individual’s career decisions.

Company diversification

According to the Harvard Business Review, when companies consider diversification, they should not simply look at the products and services that they provide and extrapolate from this base. Instead, they should go one level deeper and understand what the underlying organisational strengths are that make them good at what they do. Once a company has identified the strengths that enable it to deliver well, it can consider how these strengths can be applied to the operations of acquired businesses.

In other words, the true strategic assets of a company do not lie in the bricks-and-mortar of the business, because this can be imitated by competitors. Instead, the true strategic assets of a company are the ingrained organisational strengths, the flexibility and the determination that make the company good at what it does. Once these underlying strengths have been identified, the company can consider diversification based on the value they can add by injecting these strengths into the new acquisition.

Consider the case of Blue Circle Industries, a British company that is one of the world’s leading cement producers. In the 1980s, Blue Circle decided to diversify… It was, the company’s managers determined, in the business of making products related to home building. So Blue Circle expanded into real estate, bricks, waste management, gas stoves, bath-tubs – even lawn mowers. According to one retired executive, “Our move into lawn mowers was based on the logic that you need a lawn mower for your garden – which, after all, is next to your house.” Not surprisingly, few of Blue Circle’s diversification forays proved successful.

Blue Circle’s less focused, business-definition approach to diversification didn’t answer the more relevant question: What are our company’s strategic assets, and how and where can we make the best use of them?

One company that did ask that question – and reaped the rewards – is the United Kingdom’s Boddington Group. In 1989, Boddington’s then chairman, Denis Cassidy, assessed the company’s competitive situation. At the time, Boddington was a vertically integrated beer producer that owned a brewery, wholesalers, and pubs throughout the country. But consolidation was changing the beer industry, making it hard for small players like Boddington to make a profit. The company had survived up to that point because its main strategic asset was in retailing and hospitality: it excelled at managing pubs. So Cassidy decided to diversify in that direction.

Quickly, the company sold off the brewery and acquired resort hotels, restaurants, nursing homes, and health clubs while keeping its large portfolio of pubs. “The decision to abandon brewing was a painful one, especially because the brewery has been a part of us for more than 200 years,” Cassidy says. “But given the changes taking place in the business, we realized we could not play the brewing game with the big boys. We decided to build on our excellent skills in retailing, hospitality, and property management to start a new game.” Boddington’s diversification resulted in the creation of enormous shareholder value – especially when compared with the strategies adopted by regional brewers that decided to remain in the business. It also illustrates what happens when a company moves beyond a business-definition approach and instead launches a diversification effort based on its strategic assets.

To diversify successfully, companies need to look within to understand why they are good at what they do, and then use these unique strategic assets as a base for diversification. Similarly, you can make a quantum leap forward in your career by identifying your unique inner strengths, acquiring hard skills that these strengths can be applied to and then creating synergy between your base skill-set and your new-found knowledge.


Professor Gerald Grow is the professor of magazine journalism at Florida A&M University. He describes the personal qualities that provide the base for application of your professional skills as meta-skills, i.e. skill enabling skills. In a discussion concerning journalism he writes:

Every profession is based on both skills and metaskills. Skills are the activities people have to perform well – like reporting, writing, attributing quotes properly and avoiding libel. Metaskills are higher-order skills that enable journalists to use their skills effectively. Metaskills – such as critical thinking – are what make the skills effective. Without metaskills, skills are like a hammer in the hands of a child.

You can identify your personal meta-skills by thinking about what you are passionate about in your career. It is likely that these aspects of your work excite you because they correlate with your unique inner competencies and personal competitive differentiators. Once you have identified this career sweet-spot, you can think about which other knowledge areas would gel best with your meta-skills.

Your core business proposition

As soon as you begin a professional career or enter the business world, you enter a fight to establish your unique identity within the sea of available talent and commercial opportunity that comprises the modern business world.

The greatest success you can have lies in the development of your unique business proposition. Once you find the optimum combination of inner strengths and hard skills that is uniquely you, opportunity will naturally coalesce around you. Diversification can provide you with the skills and experience you need to realise your core business proposition.

In many cases, the core business proposition which is most appropriate to your own tastes, preferences and personality will arise by a fairly natural process from within your own experience of participating in the business world.

The point is demonstrated again and again by looking at the success stories of successful business people. For them, their core business strategy is not something which they devised from scratch by sitting at a desk and having a good think, but something which came to them as the result of their interaction with life.

The Seven Deadly Skills of Competing, page 80


To optimise your career it may be useful to acquire new skills that synergise with your base proficiencies.  Try this five step process to unleash the inner vitality that can make your dreams come true:

  1. Identify what you are passionate about.
  2. Identify the meta-skills (personal strengths) that drive your success.
  3. Determine new areas these meta-skills can be applied to.
  4. Acquire hard skills in these new areas.
  5. Create synergy between your old skillset and your new skillset.

In summary: Take a step back, reflect, then take a step forward.

work-life integrated success

Integrating personal and career success

Integrating personal and career success

Getting a job and earning money do not always guarantee that you will enjoy a life of satisfaction and happiness.

‘The paradox of prosperity’ (1999), a paper prepared for the Salvation Army by the Henley Centre, argues that although material prosperity is increasing in western society, the chances of a fulfilling life are decreasing. By 2010 more people will experience life stress, fewer people will find satisfying relationships, fewer people will feel secure and ‘safe’ and fewer people will be able to meet the conditions for self-actualisation.

BTEC National Health Studies, page 302

This is odd, as it would seem that if you are financially successful and earning money that you can spend on the things that are important to you, then your earning power will automatically strengthen your personal life. Are career involvement and success in your personal life fundamentally incompatible, or is it just a question of finding the right balance?

High-energy and low-energy states

The way that we feel and think at home is very different to the way that we feel and think at work. At home we are in a relaxed, low energy mode. Our office mindset, on the other hand, is high energy and focussed. Over the course of 24 hours, we oscillate from our serene low-energy home mindset to the high-energy office mentality, and then back to our low-energy state when we go home.

The journey to work is not only a physical transportation, but also a psychological transformation from the home persona to the work persona. In her book Home and Work (1996), Christena Nippert-Eng described how people go through a set of rituals to move from their home mentality to their work mentality. The separation between home and workplace is not just a spatial one; the two environments correspond to two social identities. Nippert-Eng’s respondents had elaborate techniques and habits to shed their home mentality in the work and get into the work mentality, and then leave the professional mode behind them in the evening to resume their private persona at home. These practices could be as simple as putting on specific clothes for each environment, reading the newspaper, drinking coffee or having beer at the end of the day.

Digital Anthropology, edited by Heather A. Horst, Daniel Miller, page 133

This constant change is healthy and refreshing. On the way to work we psyche ourselves up into the high-energy office mentality. When we get back home, we unwind, tell over amusing anecdotes from the workplace and  laugh at office frustrations. Our down time at home rejuvenates us for another day on the office and our energetic work life provides the impetus for us to progress with our personal lives.

Is there something that can disrupt this healthy cycle; so we become unable to bring our relaxed home mood to the office, or we become unable to bring our work energy back home?

Uneven energy

By nature, we are complex beings and display the different facets of our personalities in different situations. For example, sometimes we enjoy having fun, sometimes we engage in intellectually stimulating activities and sometimes we enjoy providing guidance to others and helping people out.

All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players
They have their exits and their entrances
And one man in his time plays many parts

As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII – William Shakespeare

However, the high energy attitude we assume at work may positively exclude us from involving all aspects of our personalities in our jobs. For example:

  • The manager who is trying to explain his point of view at a board meeting is probably not thinking about finding oneness with nature.


  • The share trader who is trying to determine the market direction is probably not thinking about playing with their kids.


  • The tour guide who is happily displaying local history is probably not thinking about how they will pay off their mortgage.

Subsequently, in the course of going about our work, we may encounter the following circumstances.

  • Our job only involves specific aspects of our personalities.


  • We move into a high-energy frame of mind in order to meet the challenges of doing our jobs.

so that

  • We become unevenly energised; the parts of our personalities that we activate at work, become stronger. But the parts of our personalities that we do not need at work, are forgotten and left behind.

Becoming trapped in your work mindset

The healthy oscillation between your low-energy home mindset and your high-energy frame of mind, depends on your ability to reset back to your old, natural self, when you go back home.

However, if only one aspect of your personality is involved in your work, then work pressures may push you to consistently think and feel in a particular way.

If this happens, then even when you go home to relax, your thoughts and feelings will tend to follow along the same lines that you are used to at work. Subsequently, you will be unable to escape from your work mentality, as your personality will start to become centred around the feelings and thoughts that you experience at work.


Due to the increasing role specialisation of the modern workplace, it is likely that your job will place pressure on you to adopt a particular attitude and act in a particular way at work. However, this does not necessarily mean that you want to become “that type of person”.

If you are objectively aware of the persona that you project at work, you will be able to ensure that when you return home, you can take off the “work clothes” that you wore during the day, and reset to your simple, natural self.

knowledge creation strategy

Knowledge creation strategy – creating an intense learning environment

Knowledge creation strategy

Theory of the Firm and knowledge creation strategy

When devising a strategy for the future growth of a firm, it is initially necessary to decide how to view the current state of the firm. The Theory of the Firm provides various perspectives that firms can be analysed from.
For example, the Product Based View of the Firm states that the products that a company produces are its primary differentiator. In this case, strategy consists of dominating specific product markets.

The strategic objective in the PBV (product based view) is to dominate in a product or service market. Firms are able to dominate when they have the best understanding of the industry, particularly the opportunities and threats that are emerging.
… The PBV (product based view) of strategy asks what it is that the firm must do to dominate in its selected industry. Pursuit of these answers is expected to generate the most desirable internal configuration.
Governing Transformative Technological Innovation: Who’s in Charge?

On the other hand, the Resource Based View of the Firm states that a firm’s capabilities are its primary differentiator. Therefore strategy consists of applying the firm’s capabilities in the most effective manner possible.

Resource based theory sees the firm as a collection of assets, or capabilities… The success of corporations is based on those of their capabilities that are distinctive…

Business strategy involves identifying a firm’s capabilities: putting together a collection of complementary assets and capabilities, and maximising and defending the economic rents which result…

Knowledge Based View of the Firm

The Knowledge Based View of the Firm (KBV) is a specialisation of the Resource Based View, which posits that the primary competitive advantage of a company lies in its knowledge. This perspective is particularly relevant to companies that rely predominantly on human capital and know-how, such as financial services and high-tech companies.
The knowledge-based view of the firm argues that the products and services produced by tangible resources depend on how they are combined and applied, which is a function of the firm’s know-how. This knowledge is embedded in and carried through individual employees as well as entities such as organization culture and identity, routines, policies, systems, and documents.

The knowledge-based view of the firm posits that these knowledge assets may produce long-term sustainable competitive advantage for the organization because knowledge-based resources are socially complex to understand and difficult to imitate by another organization (Alavi & Leidner, 2001).

Strategic Knowledge Management Technology, page 55

However, assuming that knowledge is the primary differentiator of a company can make it difficult to identify a future growth strategy. There does not seem to be any way to guarantee the invention of commercially useful knowledge within a company and there is nothing to prevent the smallest company from making a discovery that is crucial to the entire industry.
In other words, how can a company position itself to be the repository of knowledge that does not yet exist?

Due to this problem, some researchers have come to the conclusion that it is not possible to create a strategic growth plan that is based specifically on the Knowledge Based View of the Firm.

Given the current theoretical perspectives on knowledge, KBV (knowledge based value) is not yet a theory of strategy (i.e., a theory that links independent variables to a specific conception of firm performance) that goes beyond the insights provided by the resource-based view and the related dynamic capabilities approach.
…Similarly, the empirical literature suggests that it is unlikely that we have a new theory of organization, given that internal and external knowledge transfer processes are not appreciably different (i.e. there is no way of localising knowledge creation within the firm).

Knowledge-Based View: A New Theory of Strategy?

Hence the question arises, is it possible to determine a company structure that is optimised for the creation and application of new knowledge?
The following are some ideas for encouraging creativity and retaining inventive talent.

Emotional complexity

Due to the need for social crystallisation and operational predictability, corporations often encourage an emotionally simple and homogenous environment.

Corporate homogeneity – All business verticals and functional components can achieve a homogeneous ambition and approach if their aspirations and perceptions are well guided. A vision document provides the required homogeneity. All stakeholders can perform with better zeal if they connect to a common purpose provided by the organization’s vision.
Strategic Planning, Execution, and Measurement (SPEM): A Powerful Tool for CEOs, page 8

However, predictability is the antithesis of innovation. People with a predictable work-habit are likely to think predictably as well. The passion of intellectual accomplishment can only be cultured in an emotionally complex environment that does not scale down diversity, variety and expressiveness.

Creation lies at the edge between order and chaos. Requisite variety helps a knowledge-creating organisation to maintain the balance between order and chaos. An organisation’s internal diversity has to match the variety and complexity of the environment in order to deal with challenges posed by that environment.
SECI, Ba and Leadership: a Unified Model of Dynamic Knowledge Creation, page 28

Intellectual excitement

Foment an atmosphere of intellectual excitement that incorporates mind, body and spirit. All of these are required input for new knowledge creation.

Knowledge is created in the spiral that goes through two seemingly antithetical concepts such as order and chaos, micro and macro, part and whole, mind and body, tacit and explicit, self and other, deduction and induction, and creativity and control.

SECI, Ba and Leadership: a Unified Model of Dynamic Knowledge Creation

Knowledge-outcome ownership

Encourage people to feel ownership of the outcome of their knowledge.

The Mac team had a complicated set of motivations, but the most unique ingredient was a strong dose of artistic values. First and foremost, Steve Jobs thought of himself as an artist, and he encouraged the design team to think of ourselves that way, too. The goal was never to beat the competition, or to make a lot of money; it was to do the greatest thing possible, or even a little greater…
Since the Macintosh team were artists, it was only appropriate that we sign our work. Steve came up with the awesome idea of having each team member’s signature engraved on the hard tool that molded the plastic case, so our signatures would appear inside the case of every Mac that rolled off the production line…
We held a special signing party after one of our weekly meetings on February 10, 1982. Jerry Mannock, the manager of the industrial design team, spread out a large piece of drafting paper on the table to capture our signatures. Steve gave a little speech about artists signing their work, and then cake and champagne were served as he called each team member to step forward and sign their name for posterity… Steve waited until last, when he picked a spot near the upper center and signed his name with a flourish.

Societal improvement

The “I did something really great” feeling, can only be experienced if people realise that they are doing something which is genuinely useful for society.

It was no use appealing to the ‘organization’ to produce new products in a miracle time. Everything had to be done on a person-to-person basis and cutting across all the lines of red-tape…

I summarize the qualifications for this sort of operation:

1. Money capitalism has to give way to motives of human capitalism both as to public sentiment (‘fighting for our lives’) or the breaking of red tape (‘You can do the paper work later’). It is a sense of vital urgency.

2. One has to work with back-room boys who are both self-starters and ingenious and who enjoy the sense of vital urgency. For once, the back-room boys feel they are doing something useful.

Innovation and Employment, page 143

In summary

Creative minds are attracted to interesting environments. Compulsory homogeneity is the first warning sign that ingenuity and originality are on their way out. A true learning environment can only be led by someone who relishes the personal growth of constant learning themselves.

The Black Board drawings of Rudolf Steiner