corporate creativity & innovation
Fine in theory, but different in reality! © 2006 David M. Weeks.
17.- Management 'smart talks' and pass the buck

Robert Sutton and Jeffrey Pfeffer both professors at Stanford University, refer to the dangerous gulf that exists between what managers know should happen and what actually does as the "knowing-doing gap." The duo argue that merely knowing what to do is not enough. What separates successful companies from the rest is their ability to put their knowledge to work. They use the term "Smart Talk" to describe what managers say instead of act.

creativity & innovation diary From: Weeks, David
Sent: 23 May 2001 04:01 PM
To: Kong, John
Subject: sponsorship required


I have an intranet business creativity web site (sponsored by Ian), which was initially aimed at improving people's thinking to improve Archimedes entries. Recent feedback has shown that it may it has touched on a new dimension - staff motivation..

Specific examples include tele-workers who have a monotonous job (their words) and need frequent breaks in order to remain motivated. These regular small breaks seem counter to productivity, but they lead to higher staff morale which has many associated benefits as I'm sure you know. They regularly visit the site, which gets over 1000 visits daily, for some relief through stimulating puzzles and humour that they share.

It has been suggested that a new site dedicated to boosting morale would be a great advantage especially to Teleworkers. The notion of [email protected] work as an initiative and ways of stimulating fresh thinking could be key elements. This requires sponsorship, which is my reason for writing. In addition I am very keen on provoking and stimulating fresh thinking through training. (have already contacted them).

I'd like to know your thoughts.


From what David had learned and on the basis of site feedback, the creation of a Motivation website seemed a no-brainer. But within a large organisation senior management often starts procrastining.

As he'd mentioned Call Centres in the e-mail, Human Resources latched onto this and cascaded the idea in their direction. Unfortunately this wrecks the idea for a groupwide functional owner of 'motivation'. Focusing it where it is needed is a good idea but if that function rejects it then the whole concept is lost to the whole organisation. Human Resources missed the opportunity to gain a resource that would give them more credibility in the organisation.

creativity & innovation diary From: Clixton, Darol On Behalf Of Flatcroft, Lucy
Sent: 04 June 2001 15:31
To: Rain, Mike (Personnel)
Cc: Sumolo, Toni
Subject: RE: Feedback


Further to our discussion on Friday, I have now spoken to the Centre Managers in both the Telesales and Banking sites. In these business areas there is a recognition of the importance of creating a working environment that can relieve some of the stress and repetitiveness of the work. There is an appetite for investing in creative ways of improving the However, the focus of the business is on providing colleagues with sufficient breaks away from the telephone and the PC, and social/recreational activities that put the fun back into the working day.

Whilst at the desk it was still felt that colleagues have limited time to surf the net and therefore the business would be reluctant to invest in such a site. For example in Telesales the Centre Manager led me to believe that the creativity site was most popular with Team Managers who used the exercises in their team meetings. One idea that was mentioned was that some of the exercises contained in the site could be usefully used as 'teasers' to incentivise colleagues to read the latest business and product news updates in the short spells of time they have between phone calls.

In summary it does not seem appropriate to invest in a specific site of this nature for colleagues, but there may be some advantages to be gained by putting David in touch with the local communications team in each part of the business.


Sometimes managers can't see the wood for the trees. Since David already knew that staff where accessing his site whilst managing calls he know that the comments above were pure rubbish.

creativity & innovation diary From: Rain, Mike (Personnel)
Sent: 12 June 2001 01:32 PM
To: Weeks, David
Cc: Yurston, Grey; Starker, Manet; Flatcroft, Lucy; Sumolo, Toni; Bate, Karen; Fair Andy
Subject: FW: Feedback


John King has asked me to reply on his behalf.

Please find below the considered response to your suggestion.

It looks as though a commissioned site would be more appropriate than 'a good idea looking for sponsorship'.

Perhaps you could contact either the business area (Grey Yurston or Andy Fair), Training (Manet Starker) or Personnel (Toni Sumolo) to take your idea forward.

Many thanks for your input.


David got the feeling that finding a home for MAP and staff motivation was simply a distraction for these people. They go through the motions but are locked in their mental boxes trying desparately to pass the buck.

Funnily enough there were 'workstreams' which were looking at how to improve motivation in the call centres. Of course they were analysing and creating reports and implementing nothing in particular. They wanted to subsume the motivational site - then it really would get lost! Was the not invented here syndrome at work ?

creativity & innovation diary From: Fair, Andy
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2001
09:22 To: French, Carl; Flatcroft, Lucy
Subject: FW: Feedback

Lucy/Carl, the fact that the site has got lots of hits speaks for itself I guess. I think its a good idea to get this idea into the People Project within Aztec, as proposed in Lucy's note. Naturally we'd all worry about increasing amounts in 'not ready' within our sites, but I'm sure we could do something that wouldn't cause us an issue. Clearly we'd want to balance the validity of this idea against lots of others within the People Project.


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