Monday, 17 September 2012

Too Good To Be True?

What if I told you there was an office-based communication system that had the following features:
·         extremely fast operating speed  
·         instant updates
·         unlimited RAM
·         specialises in exposing hypocrisy
·         inextinguishable
·         completely free!

What if I told you that?
It’s called ‘The Grapevine’ – the informal transmission of fact or fiction from person to person at work. This gossip-fuelled system is one of the most powerful elements of the corporate apparatus. Just because it’s underground and unregulated doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take it seriously.
The currency of the grapevine is what people actually do at work – not what they say they are going to do.  I used to work in Thailand – my boss lived in Australia. He would fly into Bangkok but unlike many of his colleagues he never came directly into the office.  Instead he’d go out into what we called the ‘field’ (normal life) where he’d observe how our customers were using our products – in their own homes.  This meant when he eventually showed up in the office he was able to make decisions informed by a first hand and intimate type of intelligence. 
The Grapevine across most of the region had his activities monitored and his reputation was quickly and accurately formed – he was a guy who took customers seriously.  This was in contrast to desk bound email-wafflers who extolled the virtues of customer proximity but remained cocooned at work.
Whether we like it or not the Grapevine is a 24-hour news service that’s moulding our reputation – right now.  We invest so much into our lives at work we have to take the grapevine seriously – it’s our most powerful personal brand broadcast system.  We can choose to feed it with ‘activity’ or sit back and let it write the script.
I’m exploring this and other innovation concepts in my new book: The Science Of Serendipity – How Large Organisations Unlock The Promise Of Innovation.  To be published by John Wiley and Sons in early November.