TTW Mailbox: Mark Larson — Crazy times call for crazy organizations

Hey Michael:

I'm Mark Larson, former librarian who jumped ship for online publishing (HowStuffWorks.com) and information design. I just finished an old Tom Peters book today, The Tom Peters Seminar: Crazy Times Call for Crazy Organizations. It's over a decade old, but even today the ideas are radical. A number of great lines from the book remind me of the powerful verbs of Library 2.0: listen, re-imagine, change, trust, empower, criticize, grow, stretch, learn…

From Peters' book:

On culture
-The average company, large or small, suffers far more from excess dullness than from excess eccentricity.

On executives as change-leaders

-Quoting Harry Quadracci: "People think the president of an outfit has to be the main organizer. No, the president is the main disorganizer. Everybody 'manages' quite well; whenever anything goes wrong, they take immediate action to make sure nothing will go wrong again. The problem is, nothing new will ever happen, either."

On trust
-If we bosses could appreciate the responsibility and pride that people take in doing things most of us would be tempted to dismiss as mundane, we'd know how to tap a very profound power….The simple fact is that people–a worker–would rather have a good day than a crummy day. She or he would rather invest in the job than not; rather learn on the job than not. It's insulting to suggest otherwise.

On "experience" vs. continuous learning (this anecdote screams "stodgy librarian")
-There's an old story about the departure of an 18-year veteran purchasing staffer from a company. "It's a shame to lose all that experience," one executive said to another. "We didn't lose 18 years' experience," replied the second, "we lost one year's experience repeated 17 times over."

On collaboration
-Quoting: Michael Schrage: "Collaboration is like romance… it can't be routine and predictable."

On curiosity, adventure, criticism
-Consider having each employee submit a one-page essay on (a) the oddest thing I've done this year off the job, (b) the craziest idea I've tried at work (c) my most original screw-up on the job, and off, or (d) the five
stupidest rules we have around here.

Excellent stuff, Mark! I’m especially interested in those lists of the “five stupidest rules we have around here.” Anyone care to share their list and some suggestions to make them not so stupid or throw them out?

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