Tuesday, 16 September 2008

How would you staff the company in order to increase its creativity and effectiveness?

What I would do if I were a manager…

To start the recruitment process, we first develop and prioritize the key requirements needed from the positions, such as special qualifications, traits, characteristics and experience; develop the job description; and place a classified ad in newspapers and recruit online, which will create a diverse candidate pool. Then we screen the CVs / applications, hold employment tests and interview candidates. (Heathfield, S.)

Except for outstanding candidates who meet the requirement, we will consider hiring novices and experts in some unrelated areas as well (Sutton, 2001). They can bring benefit to the company because a variety of experience and backgrounds allows them to see and possibly solve problems from a new perspective.

We apply non-hierarchical, flat organizational structure, which is most conducive to creativity and innovation (Kotelnikov, V.). This structure provides more effective communication processes and increased flexibility to deal with rapidly changing environment. The decision making process is quicker because of less approval levels. Employees have more responsibility, independence and authority. Due to equally distributed authority, it will be easy to build up a small society of mutual trust and support. With support, trust and encouragement from managers, many creative ideas come into world without fear for failure.

Leadership style of management team should preferably be participative, democratic and non-authoritarian.

Training courses of Conflict Management and Effective Meeting will be conducted for the team. Beside their specific jobs, employees are encouraged to join those to know how to deal with difficult situations that usually occur in working environment.
The company rewards failure and success; and punishes inaction. (Sutton, 2001) Most people always pass failure on the way to success. Some failure moves the firm closer to success. Inaction is the worst kind of failure - and the only kind that deserves to be punished.

Essential office facilities are set up. Flexible working hour is applied to make people feel comfortable. I myself cannot work well in a firm that force its employees to work 8hrs/day, from 8am to 5pm. Therefore, we had better let people handle their tasks and time.

Finally, “Aloha Friday” party, serving free breakfast and juice, is held on the last Friday of the month. I myself did enjoy many successful Aloha Friday Parties in my previous company. Before starting our working Friday, we have a chance to “recharge” our energy after a week and be ready for the weekend ahead. Those parties improve co-worker relationships and create a superior working environment that facilitates creativity and innovation.


Sutton, R. (2001). The Weird Rules of Creativity. Harvard Business Review, September 2001

Heathfield, S. Hiring Employees: A Checklist for Success in Hiring Employees. Retrieved 2008-09-15, from http://humanresources.about.com/cs/selectionstaffing/a/hiringchecklist.htm

Kotelnikov, V. Flat Organizational Structure: Empowering People and Making Faster Decisions. Retrieved 2008-09-15, from http://www.1000ventures.com/business_guide/organization_flat.html

Monday, 15 September 2008

The Weird Rules of Creativity by Robert I. Sutton

The article that I am most interested in from creativity module is “The Weird Rules of Creativity” by Robert I. Sutton (2001). After the first surprise about the author’s idea of not applying rational rules of management, I understand his point of view and agree that some approaches will work whereas some may not.

I totally agree with the author that hiring novices and experts in some unrelated area can bring benefit to the company because a variety of experience and backgrounds allows them to see and possibly solve problems from a new perspective. Who will believe a company offering banking solutions recruits one with PhD in Chemistry as a product development manager? My customer - located in Australia - did, and that PhD person has been working effectively with many “weird” and precious suggestions for more than three years.

Starting rewarding failures, not just successes and punishing the inaction only are certainly brilliant ideas to boost the creativity. Most people always pass failure on the way to success. There are more failures than successes. Some failure moves the firm closer to success. Reward for failure facilitates creativity since management support and trust enable people to take risks without fear or undue penalty for failure. Inaction is more dangerous than failure, because inaction causes the firm not only to remain the same, but to fall behind.

What the author says: “taking perfectly happy people and goading them into fights among themselves” is a risky proposal. The manager has to keep in mind that the fights he/she needs to cause are all about ideas. If personality conflicts or relationship issues are provoked, they will destroy the creativity.

Suggestion of hiring slow learners or people who make you uncomfortable, those you do not like is a controversial one. I understand that varied perspectives and ideas will ease the innovation, but we do not need to hire slow learners and those we dislike to make the variation. In my opinion, the supporting argument for this idea is not convincing. Slow learners, who will take long time to learn and be trained, will have bad influence to the co-workers and the firm.

In conclusion, this article, which cancels most of managerial conventions, is one of the most fascinating and shocking that I have ever read. Since creativity is unofficially considered to play a significant role in the initial attractiveness and sustained competitiveness of many firms, people should think how they can apply Sutton’s suggestions to their company to enhance the creativity. Do not accept them as a whole without extremely cautious examination because real world is not as simplistic as theory. The combination of conventional methods of management and “weird” rules may be the best.


Sutton, R. (2001). The Weird Rules of Creativity. Harvard Business Review, September 2001

What a Star – What a Jerk by Sarah Cliffe

This article involves an interesting dilemma, illustrated by a short real-life story about Jane - a manager and Andy - a top performer and a jerk. I agree with all constructive advices that four commentators offer in Jane’s situation.

Andys exist everywhere. Jane is facing a typical situation: a top-performing salesperson that is nasty and bullying to everyone around. She cannot get rid of him, but she cannot let him destroy the team either.

I agree with Chuck McKenzie that the manager needs to carve out a role that lets him focus on what he is good at. She should give him the permission to work alone as much as possible. Chuck McKenzie also states that if Jane and her group can learn how to face with true diversity, they will be a stronger and more creative group.

This Andy was certainly not going to change his attitude after a short talk with Jane. Jane must make him understand that productivity is not good enough and that his job depends on his professional relationship with co-workers. Andy is required to realize team result is as important as individual result, and rudeness does not help improve performance in this company. Psychologist and consultant James Waldroop even proposes strict methods that stroke this extremely narcissistic man’s ego and at the same time hammer him hard with critique; offer him two options (staying or leaving). Before executing those methods, Jane must have backup plans if Andy chooses to leave.

Jane’s main problem is not the jerk called Andy, but herself. She is far too passive and could not take control of the whole situation. Jane has to define each person's responsibilities and help team members understand her expectation for each member. She should stop sending email to Rick Lazarus because Rick – an old colleague – cannot give her good advices and may reinforce her managerial blind spots.

I strongly agree that Jane needs to conduct some training courses for the team, such as Conflict Management, Assertiveness Development and Effective Meeting. The team will then perhaps know how to deal with Andy’s negative attitude and behavior.

“What a Star - What a Jerk” is a worth reading article that reveals an interesting issue that challenges most managers nowadays. Jane, the manager in this story, needs to enhance her leadership skills and management skills. After the final warning, if Andy does not improve himself, Jane has to fire him and find a substitution, like what James Waldroop mentioned in his advice "I don't care how much money somebody could make us, or how smart they are; it's not worth it if they disrupt the entire group”


Cliffe, S. (2001). What a Star – What a Jerk. Harvard Business Review, September 2001