As the founding editor of Fast Company Magazine, Bill Taylor has an up-close look at some of the most fascinating and successful organizations in the world. Now, Taylor gives us the road map for transforming companies, shaking up entire industries, and challenging ourselves to lead in brand new ways.
Transforming your company
Transforming your company is hard work, especially if old habits reign supreme. Taylor shows us that the most successful companies combat this problem in two ways.
First, they develop the ability to look at a familiar problem as if they had never seen it before. Take Swatch Group for an example. When Nicolas Hayek took over the company, he resisted selling off assets and sending manufacturing operations abroad as many other Swiss companies had done. Instead, he keeps his brands and his manufacturing operations in Switzerland. He had looked at a situation that many others had seen and seen the situation anew
Second, These organizations realize that looking outside of their fields will also give them insights that otherwise would have remained untapped. The story of Henry Ford illuminates this point. Ford was touring a Chicago slaughterhouse when he noticed that each worker handled one part of the process and passed the meat to the next man. As we all now know, the first assembly line the world had ever seen was soon after producing automobiles at Ford.
Ultimately, it’s the work you do on yourself as a leader that is the hardest. A new crop of leaders understands that it takes a new mindset to engage with a workforce that demands participation and wants to be invested in their work.
First, these leaders understand that they don’t have to have all the answers. Taylor provides Orpheus Chamber Orchestra as an organization that serves as a new model of leadership. Orpheus operates without a conductor. Imagine an entire organization functioning where the leadership was transferred to whoever was best equipped to handle the role given the circumstances it was facing.
Second, these leaders understand that there is hidden genius everywhere. Netflix taught us this when they created the Netflix Prize, which promised $1 million to anybody who could improve the performance of the Netflix algorithm that suggested new movies to customers by 10 percent.
Third, these leaders all share the distinction of being “humbitious”. The blend of humility and ambition sets them free to learn every day but also tenaciously strive toward whatever goals they are working towards.
5 habits of highly humbitious leaders
Bill Taylor leaves us with 5 habits to become the humbitious leader that we need to be in order to achieve our goals.
1. Real business geniuses don’t pretend to know everything. Admit you don’t have all the answers
2. The most creative leaders leverage the virtues of collective genius to evaluate the ideas they attract. This means giving your employees a voice in the idea-generation process.
3. Not all new ideas are good ideas. So leaders who ask for lots of ideas have to get good at rejecting the bad ones without demoralizing the people who contributed them.
4. Leaders who are eager for outsiders to share ideas with them have to be eager to share their ideas with outsiders. Idea sharing is a two-way street.
5. Humbition can be an organizational way of life. Imagine the power of an entire organization that is both humble enough to keep learning and ambitious enough to apply what they learn in the service of your goal.