Sam is a lawyer by training and works for a company doing what he is supposed to do – be a lawyer. He’s actually a pretty good one as the Deputy General Counsel of a company which is in the plastics and tubing business. He was at home one weekend and happened upon the ABC TV show called Shark Tank, where at-home inventors go into the “Shark Tank” and pitch their ideas to established entrepreneurs/investors who would consider investing money in the inventions. This particular episode was about a firefighter/inventor from Arkansas who had invented a mechanical device that allows a fireman to connect the fire hose from a truck to a fire hydrant in 3 seconds – about 20 seconds less than would be done normally.
With him he also had a more commonly used application for his invention – a quick and easy way to install your typical garden hose into the water-spout attached to your house. The “Sharks” were circling the water and wanted to be in business with this inventor. Ultimately, one of the “Sharks”, namely the famous Mark Cuban (billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks) made the firefighter an offer to buy his company which the firefighter eagerly accepted.
Sam saw this episode and immediately texted the head of his company’s consumer division asking him to check out the show to see if that product had any application to their business or if they already had something similar in development. The next thing you know, in a matter of 24-48 hours, the two sides were talking. Whether or not Sam’s company eventually does any deal with the firefighter is not the point.
The point is that Sam had an idea which he thought would be good for his company to pursue. He’s a lawyer and doing business development wasn’t in his job description. But he took his idea to colleagues anyway because he thought it would be valuable for the company. He didn’t think twice. He just did it. And his company and the rest of the management team were receptive enough to encourage new, fresh ideas from their employees. Kudos to Sam and kudos to the leadership of his company!
Many of us who work in jobs where we may not have opportunities such as this, where our jobs are perhaps more limiting or our management not as receptive. And yes, there are times it’s better to put your head down and keep doing what you’re doing. That it may be better to pass on things ‘above my pay grade’. This is NOT one of those times.
We’re living in a world full of chaos and disorder, where companies are trying to figure out new ways, new models to survive. In times of uncertainty and cutbacks, I can tell you that all ideas are on the table. All ideas are needed and welcome. No expert can predict the future – the economy or the competition. What got companies successful today will not make them successful tomorrow. That in order to fully embrace the chaos, we all have to think and do things differently and take chances that we may have avoided in the past.
This is the time – it’s yours – to do something unique. You’ve got a blank slate. Companies big and small are as concerned about the global competition as much as most of us are about losing our jobs. So, while it may look like the “Suggestion Box” no longer exists, business leaders are looking for the next new idea and it might just come from you.
Embrace the Chaos is about realizing that no one is smarter than anyone of us. If anything this uncertainty has done it has made us realize that no matter what your title or who you know, anything is still possible and that good ideas are welcomed. This is the best time to be alive when experts are wrong and you and I are no better or WORSE at coming up with new ideas than anyone of them! This is about saying YES to new things. Trying new things. Anything. If you believe it’s a good idea, then it may very well be. Who knows until you get it out there and give it a shot.
If I ran a company, I would give every single employee a new title right underneath their current title. In big bold letters on their business card, directly underneath Accountant, Operations, Administrative Assistant, Marketing, Finance, Legal or whatever title they have, would be listed: BDG-Business Development Guy/Girl. Because good ideas don’t jump off of a balance sheet and do not come from an organizational chart nor from the “Strategy” department. They come from people who are down the line – in the guts of the company. From people who know the real world and may not have a fancy office – but they silently wear a new title – The BDG.
“Standing still…is going backwards” -Japanese proverb