Dr Peter Kreuz: I would like to encourage the participants to learn how to forget. If may seem paradoxical, but the ability to forget – to set aside something learned – is becoming a more and more decisive success factor in our business world and in the toy industry as well. And I see it over and over again in the companies with which I work: The greatest difficulty is not in moving people to accept new ideas, but in having them forget old ones. The thought sticks in our heads: “But it still works. Why should we question our recipes for success today that still worked for us yesterday?” But that is precisely what we should do.
So, are traditional, normal things so terrible?
P. K.: No, not at all. It only becomes problematic when behaviour patterns that have always worked and that have been the foundation of a company’s success become sacred cows. The readiness to question traditional convictions, to attack conventional success patterns, to discard intellectual straitjackets, and to break through the limits of our own thinking must become much a matter of course.
How can this be promoted?
P. K.: We have to allow more colourful characters and critical spirits into our companies. The secret to success is variety, not uniformity.
But these critical spirits do not fit in and want to make changes. Why would you hire someone like that?
P. K.: The challenge is clear as day: You first have to be able to tolerate those kinds of people. They are rough around the edges, ask tough questions, and aren’t satisfied with a simple no. This can be exhausting, and in many companies, people just don’t want to be bothered. That is why people who call the status quo into question are often about as popular as smokers in open-plan offices. To add insult to injury, there are many bosses who demand a wealth of ideas from their employees, but in reality, reward conformity.
What can bosses do to see that such thinking and acting is more widespread?
P. K.: Management pioneer, Peter Drucker, said it like this: “90 percent of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” That is the problem of many bosses. They do not see their jobs as creating the conditions needed to set such thinking and action free.
What is it that bosses will need to pay closer attention to in managing their employees?
P. K.: A narrow policy teaches people to follow the rules. That would be a good point of departure for management work. Which rules can we disregard? Which process can we radically simplify? Cleaning up, radically de-cluttering, airing out our minds! Clearing everything out of the way that upsets employees and prevents them from focusing on their work and having a sense of dedication.
How specifically can you fight it?
P. K.: One of my customers runs an employee contest called “Kill a Stupid Rule.” The approach is very clever: Employees are asked to identify superfluous rules and unnecessary processes and to propose a way to get along without them. This triggers a bureaucratic purge that works wonders. I find it exemplary.
In closing, let us return to the Toy Business Forum: What is your message for the participants?
P. K.: They cannot accomplish anything extraordinary by copying what makes other people special. That is the sure way to always come in second. They can gain inspiration from other companies. But then you have to run your own experiments, discover your own path, and find your own answers for the future.