If you have heard of “attention capital theory” then you will know that the primary capital resource we have are our brains. Or our brain’s ability to create value through sustained attention. But too often, either as individuals or organizations, we do not really optimize this resource and rather take the convenient way and deal with whatever is at hand in our current culture of communication overload.
Jerry Seinfeld told this story on what made his TV series one of the most successful ever in an interview a few years ago with Alec Baldwin:
“Let me tell you why my TV series in the 90s was so good, besides just an inordinate amount of just pure good fortune. In most TV series, 50 percent of the time is spent working on the show, 50 percent of the time is spent dealing with personality, political, and hierarchical issues of making something. We spent 99 percent of our time writing. Me and Larry [David]. The two of us. The door was closed. It’s closed. Somebody calls. We’re not taking the call. We were gonna make this thing funny. That’s why the show was good.”
Can you imagine how some people must have felt about not having their calls or emails answered by them? To not have them join a meeting? To ignore what people wanted them to do even if this was labelled as urgent or even hierarchically important?
Why do we put convenience over value? Yes, it may make our life easier if we are quick to reply to an email or attend the next meeting. But what if we just “closed our door”- like Jerry and Larry did – could we possibly end up producing more value in the long run? What if you took the time to “make this thing funny”?
Practice makes perfect. Who hasn’t been told that at some point in their life? But is it true?
I like Adam Grant’s take who believes that what separates the good from the great is the willingness to try new things. You may be successful the way you are, but regardless of whether you are a company or an individual if you follow the same thing, the same routine, the same strategy over and over again you are more or less standing still, it means you are not growing.
Especially today where our world is changing at an incredible speed we need to have the willingness to experiment. To experiment with what you already know, and to experiment beyond that.
As Adam Grant said in a recent interview with GQ:
“..I would love to see every individual, every group try at least one experiment every week. Whether that’s shifting the structure of your meetings, or rotating around the leader for that decision—you can make a long list of what kind of experiments might be relevant. But to me, that’s kind of the big lesson of organizational psychology: the people who are willing to try new things beat the ones who don’t.”
How can you break your silos of your own built routines and start to experiment?
(Photo Credit: Harry Waisman Lab)
“One of the most important dimensions of job satisfaction is how you feel about your employer’s mission.” writes Robert H. Frank, an economics professor at Cornell University.
Values shape company behaviour. It is about how we treat employees, our customers, the type of products we build, the office environment we provide and much more. Most companies state values that usually always sound great, but actually are not shown in behaviours.
Some questions that leadership can ask themselves could be:
- How do we live our values at this company?
- What are stories and examples we can share that show how our values are put into practice?
- When a department, team or individual does not stick to the company values are there consequences? And what would these look like?
- How do we as leadership ensure that even when making difficult decision we can stay true to the company values?
Adam Bryant has interviewed 525 chief executives through his years writing the Corner Office column for the NY Times. In his last column (unfortunately) he sums up what his takeaways are from what’s important about leadership, culture and the “men vs. women” question. A great read – this is my favorite takeaways from the article:
“You have to be open and alert at every turn to the possibility that you’re about to learn the most important lesson of your life.”