Appledorp, Holland -- Sometimes you just have to be the round peg in the square...table. Last year I gave a speech at the Tax Government of Holland's Innovation Days Conference. A conference designed to inspire the 40,000 employees at the tax office in Holland to get innovative. Unfortunately, only about 1000 employees come to the conference...and I guess it's because all the rest somehow don't believe in waking up from their comatose state. The managers and the CTO all want everyone to come, but it's a long road ahead to motivate their staff.
The conference was so great that I actually went back the next day and talked to more people. It's just like that, you can sit there and decide to just "do you job" or you can rise up yourself, meet the call, and give more than you have to in the situation. So I did, because they inspired me! I really felt that the leaders were wide awake...I could see it in their eyes! So I went back the next day even though I didnt have to, sat in a corner and anyone who wanted to come and talk to me I would talk to. I had a group of about 20 people around me and we were all discussing about technology, innovation, and the challenges they had to step out of their safe holes and get into the program. What program? Well the tax office offers 5000 euro to any employee that wants to innovate. It can be a trip around the world, or start up a project--anything that will in the end result in them creating something new. They have to apply and be approved, but sadly again, out of 40,000 employees only 17 applied and only 7 people actually followed through into the program!
I talked to the people who were around me, some were thinking about getting into the program, some were already in the program. The ones who were thinking about getting into the program mostly were afraid of failing, or afraid that their idea was not yet totally formed. I explained to them the concept of "pivoting" that my friend Ali talked to me about...that as you move towards where you think your company should be going, if you find that it's not working, you just have a look at what IS working, and move in that direction--ie you pivot the company in that direction and keep going.
Often times I liken being a good entrepreneur or CEO to the speech that the CEO of Pepsi gave to the Yale entrepreneurs program. She said that being a good CEO was like being the captain of the ship and it is the job of the CEO to be the visionary...to see farther than anyone else into the future, and then to steer the ship in that direction. She said that it's really hard because the other members of the crew cant see that far to the "land" so to speak, and may not even believe that there is land in that direction! So the job again of the CEO is to convince everyone to row in that direction before they mutiny.
Anyway, I just shared with them my thoughts about this and what I learned along the way, and encouraged many of them to get into the program. It was a great day.
So how does this relate to the picture of this desk? Well, on the way to the conference I was told to stop and get a piece of wood. So I picked up a gnarly stick, which was not really what the organizers had in mind but I insisted! Everyone that brought a piece of wood went to the carpenter and he then would put it on the table. I said that sometimes an organic piece of wood placed in a certain way, was just what you needed in order to "disrupt" the perfection of all that perfectness.
And here it is. They actually followed through, put the piece of wood exactly where I said it should go, and this is what it looks like. It's really awesome that they did it!