One Size Fits All?


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Greetings.  It’s the end of another busy week and a perfect time to test your IQ, or “Innovation Quotient,” with an exciting multiple choice (or is that multiple guess) question.  So here goes…

Let’s assume that everyone in your company or organization needs a new pair of shoes at exactly the same.  It’s not the most likely scenario, but it’s a good way to illustrate an important point.

To solve this problem you might: 

(a) Take them all to the shoe store to pick out their own pair of new shoes.

(b) Direct them to an on-line shoe store where they could pick out their own pair of new shoes in the calm of their own office.

(c) Measure all of their feet then go the shoe store and pick out your favorite pair of shoes for everyone in their unique sizes.  Or,

(d) Go to the shoe store and pick out your favorite pair of shoes for everyone in your size.

There are, of course, lots more possibilities but we’ll stick with these four for now. And if we think about them for a moment, the first choice seems to make the most sense.  Most people have their own preferences when it comes to things like shoes and would probably do best by going to the store and trying them on until they find the most comfortable fit.  I learned this lesson many years ago from my Uncle Nat, a shoe salesman extraordinaire and a funny and thoughtful fellow, who always said that a pair of comfortable shoes was a person’s single most important item of apparel.  ”Of course he’d say that,” you’re thinking.  ”He was a shoe salesman.” But you have to admit that it’s hard to be successful when your feed hurt.  So let’s get back to our story…

The second choice might also work if the on-line store has a reasonable exchange policy just in case the shoes aren’t comfortable.  And the third choice might also work assuming that you had great taste in shoes or could create excitement about the prospect of having a “corporate shoe.”  After all, people in lots of organizations wear uniforms or the same logo-ed shirt.

But the fourth choice doesn’t seem to make much sense, because everyone’s feet are unique and forcing them to all wear the exact same size shoes will mean that only a few people get a comfortable fit.  Yet that’s exactly what most companies and organizations do with so many programs and initiatives designed to spark creativity and innovation.  They offer one size and assume that it works for everyone.  One size of HR policies, one size of training, one size of incentives, one set of IT tools and support, one work arrangement, and so on.  As though treating everyone the same will inspire them to do uniquely remarkable things.  It just doesn’t work that way.

So next time you’re thinking about unlocking the genius in your organization, why not take the time to ask every employee what it will take to get them to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Then design your programs, initiatives, and support to enable it to happen.  

We win in business when we realize that everyone wears different shoes.  And that everyone is motivated by different things.  Maybe it’s time to think differently about what it takes to get comfortable with innovation.


Republished with author's permission from original post.

Alan Gregerman
Alan Gregerman is an award-winning author, consultant and keynote speaker who has been called "one of the most original thinkers in business today" and "the Robin Williams of business consulting." His work focuses on helping companies and organizations to unlock the genius in all of their people in order to deliver the most compelling value to their customers.


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