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Business Home > Opinion Analysis
Business mavericks

Oksana Tashakova (MAXIMISE YOUR POTENTIAL) / 10 June 2012

Fast Company’s Bill Taylor and Polly LaBarre together wrote “Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win.”

This book describes some of the most successful businessmen and women in the world and how they became so by breaking all the rules. On Innovation Watch.com, Taylor  describes some of the common features they found among these boundary-breaking innovators. He writes that success stories happen when you’re different from everyone else, when you share value rather than sell value, when you deal with informed customers, when you gain knowledge from everyone you can, when you act with integrity and when you never stop learning.

In a review of the book, NGLCC.org adds that the authors also describe the most successful leaders as those who “exude a blend of humility and ambition — humbition — that relies on the power of persuasion rather than formal authority.”

A CNN article describes a number of these mavericks, including the owner of the Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban. Cuban has always gone against current thinking and trends. He told CNN: “If other people are coming to the same conclusion as I am, I think, this is a business I shouldn’t waste my time with.”

Taylor describes another such thinker in his Harvard Business Review blog: Commerce Bank. Commerce operates under TD Bank now and became successful by being unconventional. They studied retail superstars like Starbucks and Target rather than other banks and created a strategy of “retailtainment”: making banking fun. They are open seven days a week, have free coin-counting machines and have special dress-up days for their employees.

Both Amazon and Craigslist display the sharing value instead of selling value credo. Amazon lets competitors sell their products alongside their own. CNN explains that CEO Jeff Bezos gives something away for free and ends up building up the business in the long run. Craigslist’s Craig Newmark likes to “Leave some money on the table.” He could make much more than he does but tells CNN: “We’ve built a pretty good environment of trust. You always have to respect your customers and follow through with the values you profess. If you do, the market will reward you.”

Many successful companies act with that kind of integrity, with a higher purpose in mind. Cranium cofounder Richard Tait tells US News: “We conduct ourselves as if we are a global movement. It’s the pursuit of a dream, to give everyone a chance to shine.”

Whole Foods’ John Mackey cut his salary from $1 million to $1 according to CNN. He also donates proceeds from his future options to charity and caps his executive’s salaries. He explains: “Fewer things harm an organisation’s morale more than great disparities in compensation. When a workplace is perceived as unfair and greedy, it begins to destroy the social fabric of the organisation.”

Mackey tells CNN: “Eventually, businesses that focus strictly on profits will be voted out.”

Plenty of other mavericks put employees first. Apple, Pixar, Southwest Airlines and Wal-Mart are just a few examples of this. Every employee in these organisations understands why what they do matters.

Cranium’s CFO Jack Lawrence tells US News: “I have tried to teach everyone, right down to the technicians on the floor, how to think like a businessperson. There are no secrets here.” This kind of transparency helps breed collective innovation and employee commitment.

The retail chain Anthropologie has never had to advertise because of employee advocacy and the ad agency Wieden + Kennedy has a school to promote “subversive ideas” reports NGLCC.org. This kind of “disruptive point of view” is also common to maverick companies writes NGLCC.org as the writer describes how fast-growing banking system ING Direct won’t offer auto loans or issue credit cards. ING’s CEO Arkadi Kuhlmann wants to help people save money instead of spending it. He hates credit cards and refuse to make use of ATM machines according to Business Pundit.com.

How might you think outside the box? Think of a higher good? Think of what standards you can change or what norms don’t make real sense in terms of your industry?

The writer is an executive coach and HR training and development expert. She can be reached at oksana@academia ofhumanpotential.com or www.academiaofhumanpotential.com. Views expressed are her own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy


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