There’s an old 3M cultural rule that allows employees to spend 15% of their time working on their own ideas without management intervention, so long as their work remotely relates to the business. It’s an unwritten rule, and it’s a good one. I can personally attribute $60M in business as a direct result of this rule.
Recently, I was advocating the implementation of a similar 15% rule for a client in order to boost morale, spark creativity and reward employees with the freedom to work on their own ideas. While in tacit agreement, the CEO expressed reservations about the potential loss of productivity and the ROI. She asked how would we measure the program.
While a legitimate question, my reply was that you don’t measure the program. Not directly.
We hear a lot about how marketing is now a science. How unless you’re measuring ROI and quantifying each customer touch point, lead source, lead score, and so on, that you are wasting effort, and not as likely to be successful. Measurement is king. Quantify everything.
Being an “analytic” and having spent a short part of my career as a “process” engineer, I tend to agree that measurement is a necessary and good thing. There’s an old statement that says you can’t improve something unless you measure it. However, only up to a point.
Why? Because sometimes our marketing and sales results come from people, and there are qualities about people that are hard to quantify. How does one measure passion? How do we measure creativity, determination, compassion or empathy? Or the freedom to create with 15% of your time? These are valuable human traits, and I believe that they can add to the success of any marketing or sales program.
The problem is when measurement is taken to an extreme. I’m not a fan of measuring everything. Too many times we seek security in numbers, as if they alone are the key to control, and predicting the future. The numbers become the end. Because we can measure something, doesn’t mean we have to. Sometimes we have to trust the spirit in people. Their desire to succeed and create. Managers measure passion, leaders enable it.
In quantum physics, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is often misstated so as to imply that simultaneous measurements of both the position and momentum cannot be made. And while a slight misstatement, I believe it can be applied to business. If we try to measure passion or creativity, we cannot understand their momentum. As a matter of fact it dies.
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