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About the Coffee Maker March 13, 2017

Posted by Peter Varhol in Uncategorized.
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So as I continue to read about how companies have discovered the magic path to innovation, putting everyone in the same room, with personal space bumped up against one another, in reach of the coffee machine, in order to innovate, I have several succinct comments:

  1. I don’t drink coffee, and in fact hate the smell of it. You will not find me near the coffee maker.
  2. This worked for Yahoo so well, right?
  3. Everyone thinks that the solution is to throw people together, stir, and wait for innovation.

It’s not nearly that easy, of course, and organizations are stupid if they think that it is. Yet we as institutions continue to persist in believing that it is.

Fifteen years ago, I worked for a company whose CEO abruptly decided that all employees needed to be in an office in order to bask in the company culture, and one day fired all of those who didn’t go into an office on a daily basis.

Of course, management can do what it wants. And usually does.  But all too often organizations and their managements engage in groupthink.  If a power broker says that we need to put people together in the same room and let them percolate, then that’s what companies do.

It’s not that easy, folks. And too many people think that it is (I’m talking about you, Marissa Mayer).  Mayer, of course, was faced with a very difficult job – what did Yahoo want to be when it grew up (it should have been Facebook before Facebook).  And she ended up with about $200 million for failing.  You know, we all want to succeed in our endeavors, but a bunch of money makes it easier to accept our limitations.

The real problem is that executives tend to think that there is a straightforward answer that only they have thought of. I am sorry, they are not paid to be drive-by executives, just making a few pithy comments and leaving it to others to do any hard work.  The answers are not easy, and implementing them is not easy.