Perspective and De-Learning

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Perspective and De-learning Audio version of today’s Reading for Leading

Listen to Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies share the remarkable story of his workplace democracy with Dan on the Everyday Leadership show. His interview is the first of the two podcasts in the “Democracy in the Workplace.”

Friends,

Wildly different stories, same darned theme:

STORY ONE.  Had lunch with Mom on Friday. She said she’d gone to the annual women’s club luncheon at the city hall in Lathrup Village, and while there, she signed up to be an alternate driver for Meals on Wheels. She said, “I’d been meaning to do that for a long time.” I love the picture of my 79-1/2 year old mom delivering meals to 65 year olds. Mom keeps gaining new perspectives, and de-learning that she’s supposed to be old, inactive, taking from others and pulling back.

STORY TWO.  I was running my favorite training loop in a cemetery in Lansing on Saturday. After a quick trip to Sunoco to grab a Powerade I came back and having run hundreds of loops over the last couple years thought, “maybe I’ll run in the opposite direction.” As humans we have these unconscious habits of efficiency, repeating things the same way over and over again. So, the perspective shift was crazy: As I ran in the other direction, I felt I was in a completely different place; perspective changed almost everything!

STORY THREE.  I did one of the most fascinating interviews ever on my radio show on Saturday. It was all about workplace democracy – a completely different way of looking at workplace organization, productivity, innovation and even compensation. I spoke with Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies, an Indian company with 60,000 employees (or transformers as he likes to call them) in 26 countries. Vineet had written in his Harvard Business Review blog: “executives tend to gravitate toward their zones of comfort as they grow older — and then wonder why the magic has disappeared from work.” He says it’s time to de-learn. Nayar, whose company grew 21% last year, says the only way to compete is to innovate, and the only way to innovate is to de-learn what you think you know.

He argues that democracy at work is the only way to generate enough and fast enough innovation.  This means de-learning how we work. Employees have to de-learn that they just follow directions, and instead must see the business as active owners and creators and collaborators. And instead of managers pretending they know everything, he wants his managers “to suck up to employees” to support their efforts and to learn from their perspective, which after all is at eye-level with the customer.

STORY FOUR.  You’ll begin this week like every other: same trip to coffee machine, same seat at staff meeting (same agenda?), same waiting for others.  To innovate, you’ve got to de-learn, to de-learn you need to find a new perspective.  Take it literally! Run the loop backwards. Sit in another chair. Shake it up to

Lead with your best self,

Dan