Could something stunning happen if you freed your mind?

Feb 16th

Travelling to work the other day on the bus, I absent-mindedly reached for my iPod and looked at it.  Simple, minimalist and beautiful.  And a great example of what can happen if you question your constructs.

By construct I mean an assumption or web of assumptions that helps us make sense of our world.  Constructs help us organise our activities, and identify important things from the extraneous.  They can occur on multiple levels:  individual, organisational, business model, and industry.  Multiple constructs typically converge and form a ‘dominant logic’ for a company and for an industry.

Here’s one:  “Construction work is dangerous – there will always be fatal accidents”.  Or how about: “Manufacturing always creates waste”? What happens, though, if one leader in an industry challenges the constructs operating today?  Ray Anderson did that in the carpet industry, and his company, Interface aims to become a restorative business – in other words, it will return to the environment more than it takes.  You can read about his remarkable story here

At Balfour Beatty, Ian Tyler and Andy Rose decided that fatal accidents or serious injury (to anyone, including the public) in the course of their company’s operations were no longer acceptable – they challenged the industry construct.  Their Zero Harm initiative aims to eliminate the risk of serious harm or death by 2012.  You can read about how they are tackling this huge challenge in our latest booklet, “Eating the elephant – how do I tackle the really difficult issues?”

So, what constructs are working in your industry?  It pays to challenge them.  Something stunning might happen if you do.

British designer Jonathan Ive refused to accept that MP3 players had to be ugly and covered in switches and buttons.  He wanted something simple, minimalist and beautiful.  His team came up with the click wheel.  MP3s were never the same again.

This article is filed under: leadership

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