American Ingenuity

Tell people that they're brilliant and give them room to prove it for long enough, and they'll show you brilliance every time. We're not smarter than any other race of people. We're just encouraged to go for it. That makes all the difference in the world.

There are a lot of cool countries in the world, along with those that don't appeal to my personal taste. That's not much of a problem, however, as the leaders of most nations don't call me very often to discuss the way they run things. Even though there's a lot of different ways to organize a government, and a lot of countries to choose from, I'm sure I can be forgiven for liking mine the best. It is, after all, conveniently located.

Companies, like countries, also have an organizational style that permeates the dense foliage of cubicles, the wide open spaces of outside reps, and all points in between. Like governments, that philosophy ranges from an inhibiting strictness to a counter culture bordering on anarchy.

Since I grew up in the days of Watergate and an era of social unrest, it's a pretty safe bet that I'm not your glassy eyed, flag waving patriot who blindly believes that the government does nothing wrong. Nonetheless, for my personal taste it's the best gig going, warts and all, so an American I remain. Not just by birth, but by choice. It makes it easier to get parts for my Corvette.

Many of you feel the same way about your company. Corporate scandals are never in short supply, ethics is a word that management often needs to look up in the dictionary, and customers are frequently misled and considered a nuisance. Even so, since such behavior is not uncommon for modern businesses, you decided that of all of your choices, your current employer was the best bet. It may not be perfect, but it's a good gig. If you didn't feel that way, you would have quit and gone somewhere else.

The environment you find yourself in has a tremendous impact on your productivity, as well as the amount of creative inspiration you're likely to encounter. Many cultures have a very well defined and stratified society. Your occupation and social standing is based on which family you're a part of. If you are born to a blacksmith, you're expected to learn that trade. Never mind that you're allergic to horses. It's just the way things are. In other countries, the government itself may decide your occupation. Either way, your personal desires are irrelevant.

That's one of the things I like about the good old US of A. We can be an unruly lot, but then, that's the nature of independence and free enterprise. Whatever job you want or company you desire to open, it's your choice. Do the homework, acquire the skills, and roll the dice. Maybe you'll win, maybe you'll lose, but it's your call. And if you don't like the game, you can choose another one at any time.

This freedom has had a profound impact on the creative nature of our culture. In a land where anything is possible, people are encouraged to explore, experiment and innovate. The result is a phrase we're all familiar with: American Ingenuity. Tell people that they're brilliant and give them room to prove it for long enough, and they'll show you brilliance every time. We're not smarter than any other race of people. We're just encouraged to go for it. That makes all the difference in the world.

So how do you organize the people and work in your company? Is it a strict and autocratic environment? A mind numbing bureaucracy? Or do you structure your people in a way that allows them to be ingenious? It doesn't matter if you run the company or just oversee a couple of people. With flexibility, trust, the willingness to take chances, and perhaps just a little reduction of ego, you can create an environment where people are encouraged to reach for the extraordinary. They won't hit a home run every time, but given the chance, your company's history will eventually tell the tale of an inspired and brilliant people.

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