Learn from companies doing weird and crazy things

Karl Moore: Julian you have a book you are working on now about Deviants, can you tell us a little bit about that?

Julian Birkinshaw: So Deviants for me are companies that are doing weird things that we look at and say, “Is this something we can learn from?” A couple of examples, there is a famous Brazilian company called Semco which is famous for, among other things, letting workers set their own salaries, choose their own terms of employment, and a very successful company but a little bit weird. Another example to date, for example, would be HCL Technologies. It is an Indian I.T. services company where they have been very, kind of, progressive in putting 360 degree feedback online for everybody to look at and that is a very, kind of, courageous practice because it obviously exposes bad managers to everyone else to see. So for me, there is a whole category of companies that people like me, people like you, write case studies around. We like to build them up as exemplars, as role models that other people can copy, but the trouble is they are often, shall we say, so weird that it is very difficult for normal companies to learn from them. So what this new project that I am working on is saying, “We would love to be able to improve the way that we work, we would love to use these examples to try to figure out and decode some of these crazy progressive new management practices, but it is actually quite difficult to do it because those companies are often coming from such a sort of different background.”

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