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Management itself needs innovation

Management itself needs innovation
At Google, staff are given time to manage projects that are non-work-related. Photo: Reuters
Published: 4:02 AM, November 20, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, November 21, 2013
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When I set up the Entheo Network seven years ago, we experimented with new ways of working. Some were very successful; some weren’t. We ditched the term “office” and called it a “space”, which was just that — a versatile space for collaborating on and sharing about projects. The furniture had multiple functions — white boards were cupboard doors, while work surfaces for computers were stationed along the edges of the room, leaving the central space free for creative collaboration.

Work became something we did, not somewhere we went. While some were non-believers in the high levels of personal freedom and trust, people were encouraged to take their work to cafes and parks or work at home.

Everyone knew what they needed to achieve and each had a personal mission statement that supported organisational goals. Performance management became about value contribution, where both the individual and the collective assessed each other’s contributions to the business.

Granted, we are an Innovation Company, so it came with the territory.But it was more than just putting a couple of brightly coloured bean bags in the corner and making it a fun place to work. As we experimented, and challenged conventional wisdom, more and more of our work became about how we could help our clients innovate in their management practices and corporate culture to free up room for creative thinking and enable level of responsiveness to change.

FROM GOOGLE TO GORe-TEX

But what about larger organisations experimenting with their management thinking and ways of working?

You may have heard about the 25 per cent rule at Google: To encourage experimentation, 25 per cent of a person’s working week is freed up to allow tinkering on projects that are non-work-related. Is it enforced? No.

I had dinner with a director at Google a few years back and asked about this rule. She said the beauty of it is that it sends the message to people that they are free to experiment and create. From this personal time, whether during the work week, evening or weekend, new ideas would emerge that could add value to the Google business. But then, that is Google — we sort of expect it.

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