Idea machine

Let’s continue with yesterday’s topic of ideas.

James Altucher promotes the practice of coming up with 10 ideas every day. You can read his ultimate guide here.

Imagine coming up with 10 ideas every day for your ethics and compliance program. That’s a few thousand ideas every year.

If only one in ten is a good idea, that is still a few hundred good ideas every year. If only one in ten is successful in your company, that’s a few dozen successes each year. Two to three times a month, you knock it out of the park!

Here are some prompts:

  • 10 sections of the Code of Conduct to update with examples
  • 10 policies to simplify
  • 10 topics to add to the new employee training
  • 10 “Did you know?” short posts to publish on Yammer
  • 10 companies to benchmark with
  • 10 E&C professionals to invite to the next Ethics Day
  • 10 features to include in an E&C app for employees
  • 10 ways to partner with HR
  • 10 industry events to present at
  • 10 vendors to invite in for a demo

That’s a 100 ideas right there, in only two weeks.

Ten of those ideas might be good. One might succeed.

Every. Two. Weeks.

I came across this concept of “idea machine” this morning when reading the James Altucher chapter in Tim Ferriss’ book titled Tools of Titans. I created my first list of 10 ideas this morning. Writing this post was one of the 10 ideas.

Idea pyramid

Perhaps you are familiar with Heinrich’s Law and the safety pyramid:

Conceived in 1931, the idea linked near-misses to serious injuries, demonstrating that you can reduce serious injuries by addressing the risk of small accidents. It revolutionized how people think about safety.

There is a similar pyramid for ideas. The number at the base varies for each person but my pyramid looks like this:

In other words, I need about 10 bad ideas before I have a really good one.

Do your employees feel safe to have bad ideas?

For employers, both pyramids argue in favor of safety — one physical, the other psychological.

Beware the balloons

Some industries are more deserving of regulations than others.

Among those are industries related to shelter. When it comes to the shelter we provide for our family, some business practices should not be allowed.

I worked in the mortgage industry in the late 1990s. I saw borrowers sign up for balloon mortgages to buy homes they could not afford. Many of them barely spoke English and had little education. It was safe to assume that many would default on — and be surprised by — the $50,000 balloon payment that was due 10 years later. The 2008 mortgage crisis didn’t really come as a shock to me.

The current power crisis in Texas highlights a similar problem. Homeowners have been lured into “low-cost” electricity contracts where the price of the electricity is not fixed but tied to the demand. People who paid $250 in January for an entire month of electricity were paying $1,000 a day last week when demand peaked. Many admit that they didn’t fully understand the contract they signed. Like the balloon mortgagees, they were distracted by the low cost of entry.

In an ideal world, a sales person would say “Listen. We have this electricity contract that is really attractive at first. But it forces you to save a ton of money on the side, for when you’ll have to make a huge, unexpected payment. Most people can’t save that much and they regret their decision. So, quite frankly, I strongly recommend you don’t buy this product.” In fact, in a really ideal world, companies would decide to offer these products only to sophisticated customers with large liquidities, not to the average Joe.

Until we live in that world, regulations are in order.

Awesome giants

I suspect that every large organization has a few awesome giants.

For me, awesome giants are the executives respected by all for their intelligence, for their gravitas, and for their ability to cut through the noise. No problem is too large for them. They see the way out and they show you the path — not the easy one but the necessary one. They demand of you more than you think yourself capable of and set you up for success. They do not lead with fear, but their awesomeness can be intimidating.

One such giant, now retired from my company, is Paul Beach. Paul just launched his own blog to share his thoughts on government, politics, public policy, corporate compliance and ethics. I am so pleased to be once again in a position to receive, from afar, Paul’s wisdom. I will look forward to each new post.

Limited resources

It’s OK for me to decide not to pack a warm sweater because it doesn’t fit in my carry-on luggage. I just need to be willing to buy one at my destination if it gets too cold.

It’s OK for Texas to decide not to link its power grid to neighboring states because it doesn’t want to be subject to federal jurisdiction. It just needs to have a plan for the occasional snow storm.

No one has unlimited resources. If you look at your company’s risk assessment, you’ve probably decided not to address certain risks right now. That’s fine, but you need to have a plan for when the risk shows up sooner than expected.

Bike lanes

In 2011, Casey Neistat got a ticket in New York City for riding his bike outside of the bike lane.

It was somewhat frustrating to him because the bike lanes are often obstructed in NYC. His frustration went up a notch when, after paying his $50 ticket, he found out that his “infraction” wasn’t even illegal.

So he made this video, filming himself crashing in all kinds of bike lane obstructions — from big orange traffic drums to garbage bins to… wait for it… police cars. The video had five million views on YouTube on its first day. A day or so later, the Mayor had to take questions from journalists about the City’s bike lanes.

I am not recommending that you make a viral video the next time you face an unfair situation at work. But I am suggesting that we all have more influence than we think we have.

Recognizing this influence is the first step. Overcoming our fear to use it is the second.

Look both ways

I recently read a book that destroyed my views on a divisive topic.

I did not join the “other side”. I didn’t necessarily leave “my team.” But I gained a new perspective and a new respect for a group that I had comfortably assumed was wrong. It was a comfortable assumption because everyone around me shared it.

I wonder how many other strong-held beliefs could be similarly shattered if I simply exposed myself to an intelligent and rational opposing viewpoint?

Grasping an idea points your attention in one direction. Wisdom makes you look both ways.

Being grounded

Calm down.

Bring it down a notch.

Lower your gaze.

Sit down.

Write your thoughts down.

I haven’t researched why all these expressions invite us to seek a lower plane when we are excited and upset, but it’s likely a call towards humility (from the Latin humus, meaning “from the Earth” or “grounded”).

Ethical leaders understand that they don’t make their best decisions when they’re all worked up.

The invisible parachute

Imagine you are a Formula 1 driver.

You have a high-performing car, a skilled crew, and marquee sponsors.

But, unbeknownst to everyone, an invisible parachute is attached to the back of your car.

Given the competitive nature of the sport, you are unlikely to win many races. And the races you win won’t break any records. The drag created by the ‘chute is holding you back.

Many organizations are driving with an invisible parachute attached to their business. They have a great product, skilled employees and savvy marketers. But, unbeknownst to them, they also have a flawed corporate culture creating drag on their performance. The drag is invisible because they don’t look for it.

How do you know if you have a parachute holding you back? It’s easy: you do. And all your competitors do as well. No one has a perfect corporate culture.

But everyone can work to make their parachute smaller.