Next time your hear someone couching innovation in terms of
complex processes, jargon, and esoteric management theories, challenge them
with this simple question: how do you plan to enable people here to
enjoy their work?
The more I learn about innovation, the more I believe that the
organizations who innovate year over year over year are those who treat
people well, who build cultures where enjoying one’s work — routinely reaching a state of flow — is not the exception, but the rule. If you want
to be sustainably innovative, these places teach us, then solve for
human happiness. Think JetBlue. Gore. Honda.
Or even Ferrari. Ferrari, the grandest brand in the world, red speed
incarnate. Because it operates within the byzantine world of Formula 1
racing, where teams spend upwards of $200 million per season to design,
build and campaign two tiny cars around the globe, Ferrari could easily
be a nasty, brutish place to work. But it isn’t, and therein lies the
secret to its formidable record of victory: helping its people get into flow.
Jean Todt, the scuderia’s leader, says this about his approach to culture:
People will give their best at work if they are happy. If people respect their co-workers, both professionally and personally, they will want them to be happy too, and will help each other when there are problems.
Could enjoyment really equal innovation? Yes. It’s as simple (but
difficult) a proposition as this: to innovate well, treat your people well.
Innovation is not just about the product
A great post by Diego Rodriguez over at metacool on innovation:The more I learn about innovation, the more I believe that the organizations who innovate year over year over year are those who treat people well, who build cultures where
Enjoyment = Flow = Innovation
“The more I learn about innovation, the more I believe that the organizations who innovate year over year over year are those who treat people well, who build cultures where enjoying one’s work — routinely reaching a state of flow…
I once defined passion at work as “the accountant who feels like driving an F1, a Ferrari let´s say”.
Yes, the F1 in general has that mix of excitement, demanding work and competitiveness that makes it a unique field for work.
This year Ferrari is having a bad season. Renault has taken the lead. In just a few months. That´s a perfect example of innovation and competitiveness. I wrote a post about Renault´s CEO Flavio Briatore some months ago. You can see it at
I appreciate the post on flow, enjoyment, and work. My 25 year old nephew who planted trees for 3 summers in British Columbia, Canada said it best: “When you are happy, you make more money, because you plant more trees.” Now that’s getting to the root of work and enjoyment!
Here’s a related train of thought: enjoyment at work enables us to play, and play generates the creativity that leads to new solutions…
“Play fascinates and absorbs to the point of making us infinitely repeat our attempts to improve our performance, to create new paths, new ways to arrive, in our case, to the ‘right’ product, the most suitable solutions.
It is in this sense that play can enrich the design process, and that the concept of playfulness in design may justify more exhaustive study in this research area.
We may conclude that ‘play’, so necessary in that it precedes and gives rise to the creative act, like beauty, will save the world.”
It’s a good example of an apparently linear, rule-based vocation where art still plays a decisive role. Isn’t the right to be present when the magic works what keeps many of us at our frustrating but occasionally sublime tasks? Part of creating that “joy at work” environment is enabling the artistry of applied expertise. Would Ferrari’s current pain – measured in thousandths of seconds of not-quite-as-quick-overall as Renault and McLaren – be as acute if they were used to being back with the Minardis and Jordans? Hardly – this is a crew with the skills and the passion, and every weekend they attempt again to manage the complexity they await the sublime release of achievement when it all comes together. I think permitting the role of artistry in execution is a key lever in enabling that flow.