In 1985, a film company facing financial pressure hired a new president. In an effort to cut costs, the president asked the two leaders of a division, Ed and Alvy, to conduct layoffs. Ed and Alvy resisted—eliminating employees would dilute the company’s value. The president issued an ultimatum: a list of names was due to him at nine o’clock the next morning.
When the president received … [ Read more ]
A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground into a large field. While he was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on him. As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, he began to realize how warm he was. The dung was actually thawing … [ Read more ]
When Gary Loveman joined Harrah’s Entertainment (now Caesars Entertainment) in 1998, the casino company priced its slot machines like everyone else in the gaming industry. Management presumed that decreasing payouts—essentially raising the price—would drive some customers to other casinos. A sensible assumption, perhaps, but Loveman—a quantitative type who left a professorship at Harvard Business School to join the company—wasn’t one to assume. He commissioned a … [ Read more ]
About ten years ago, two weeks before Valentine’s Day, a female customer, whom we will call Sue, stopped into the store to buy a bike for her husband. Because she had gone all out to get the very best bike she could for her husband, she needed to pay us in increments. So, she put a deposit on the bike until she could save up … [ Read more ]
Some organizations and initiatives are so successful that a sort of folklore arises around them. John F. Kennedy is said to have asked a janitor scrubbing a floor at Cape Canaveral what he was doing and received the reply, “I’m working to put a man on the moon.” The story is probably apocryphal, as it’s also been attributed to architect Christopher Wren at St. Paul’s … [ Read more ]
The CEO of one company was determined that his employees understand the issues surrounding the company’s recent poor results and become fully engaged to help turn the company around. Here’s how he accomplished this.
The company held four brown bag lunch meetings over four weeks where employees could attend for free for one hour and hear from an outside professional about how to invest in the … [ Read more ]
During the 1960s, psychologist Walter Mischel conducted “the marshmallow test” with four-year-olds in the preschool at Stanford University, to assess each preschooler’s ability to delay gratification. Each four-year-old was given one marshmallow. They were told that they could eat it immediately or, if they waited until the researcher returned in 20 minutes, they could have two marshmallows.
Some kids in the group just couldn’t wait. They … [ Read more ]
Take the classic fable of the two sisters, quarrelling over a single orange. The sisters, who focus too much on cooperating with one another, cooperatively agree to cut the orange in half – a compromise agreement. One sister uses the juice and throws the rind away; the other sister uses the rind and throws the juice away, and then they realize – too late – … [ Read more ]
A turkey was chatting with a bull. “I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree,” sighed the turkey, “but I haven’t got the energy.”
“Well, why don’t you nibble on some of my droppings?” replied the bull. “They’re packed with nutrients.”
The turkey pecked at a lump of dung, found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch … [ Read more ]
Recognition can be given in traditional ways—a complimentary e-mail, or a pat on the back for a job well done. But you can also get creative with it. One of my favorite examples is the one business consultant Alexander Kjerulf cites about a Danish car company that instituted “The Order of the Elephant.” The elephant is a two-foot-tall stuffed animal that any employee can give … [ Read more ]