There is one fundamental value that is at the core of motivating people at work. This value is often misunderstood or misconstrued, and that is a real tragedy of the modern enterprise. This value is respect for people.
I am fascinated by the multitudes of ways that companies fail. There is such an abundance of source material on this, and yet history keeps repeating itself over and over again with most companies that achieve breakthrough success succumbing some years down the line.
Why does this happen? What can be done to sustain success?
Helsingin Sanomat, one of the main newspapers in Finland, published an article on a “magic trick” performed in the public home care for the elderly in the city of Helsinki. This magic trick reduced the workload of personnel while improving the well-being of their customers. (Here is a link to the article itself, it is in Finnish)
Obviously, there is no actual magic at work – just work. However, it looks like an interesting case of process improvement in services, so let’s take a look at what Helsingin Sanomat reported on the new system and what kind of general framework this work is linked to.
There are many methods and frameworks for innovation, but those are not the subject of this post. Rather, I want to take a look at three easy little things you can do to help you innovate better. Things that are not a system or a method, but three simple habits that you can incorporate into whatever general framework you use.
Language gives us seemingly endless possibilities to create stories. However, the stories that actually resonate share a common, much more limited structure. The structure of a character, a problem, and an attempted resolution repeats over and over again when it comes to good stories.
Random streams of consciousness do not make for compelling stories. Neither do dream scenarios where everything goes well all the time. Such stories leave us feeling dissatisfied and bored, there is just something not quite right about them. Our mind craves for challenges, for problems and hardships, and for the struggle to eventually resolve them and triumph.
Human beings are creatures of tales and stories. Indeed, one of the most important measures of any leader or salesperson nowadays is storytelling ability. Stories motivate us and change us, their effect on our behavior and judgment far surpasses that of non-fiction: when we encounter a story, we let our guard down and become immersed in its world, allowing it to shape ours.
However, not all stories are equal. Some affect us for a short while, some end up doing more harm than good, while some bring about lasting change and purpose. When you tell a story, you are wielding a powerful tool, so wield it responsibly.
Division of labor is perhaps the greatest invention of mankind. Not everyone has to be a part-time farmer in order to eat, and that’s awesome. However, increasing specialization is not only a good thing, and we have in many ways reached and even surpassed the limits where it is good for us.
It is winter time in the Nordic countries, and with winter comes snow. While doing some routine snow removal the other day, my mind wandered to the Lean Startup concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Snow removal can illustrate the concept quite nicely, so I took this picture of my driveway.
What is a minimum viable product? It is a complete product in the sense that it actually does something.
The cleared area marked in red is not a minimum viable product. Sure, snow has been cleared across the entire width of the driveway, but you can’t actually use it for anything.
The cleared area marked in blue, on the other hand, is a minimum viable product. You have pedestrian access to the mailbox and out of the yard without walking through snow. You can actually accomplish a task! Yeah, it needs to be made wider for cars, but that’s part of future development, adding more features to the product. As a minimum viable product, the product is already accomplishing something.
By now, Lean has a fairly long history. With its roots at Toyota in the 1950s, it had its first run at fame in the West in the 1990s, and more recently the Lean Startup movement has adopted the term to describe their customer-centric product development methods based on Lean principles.
However, while there are lots of companies that are doing Lean or doing Lean Startup, there are precious few companies that are Lean. This is an important distinction, because most often when you do Lean, you are using it as a toolkit, whereas for companies that are Lean, Lean is a fundamental management philosophy that has a dramatic effect on the relationships within the enterprise and also extends beyond the enterprise to the relationship between the company and the society at large.
To understand the distinction, we need to take a look at what Lean is all about.
It is always exciting to find results being achieved by applying Lean thinking in new environments. So, when I recently came across an article describing how the Bærland Skole primary school in Norway had adopted Lean practices to improve learning results and reduce the administrative burden faced by the teachers, I could not help but reflect on their experiences and think about everything Lean has to offer to education, and primary schools in particular.
In this post, I will summarize the experiences at the Bærland Skole, and consider what Lean can do for primary schools even beyond their achievements.