When people don’t do what you want ’em to do…

When people don’t do what you want ’em to do… | Brian Oulton

People I’ve worked with have labelled me a LOT of things… for my sake, I won’t list most of them. However, many times I’m called “creative” or “innovative”, often marked by a seemingly endless string of ideas, approaches or solutions. Here’s my secret… I come from different roots than many of my peers and see things from a different perspective that drives different approaches to business challenges. The creativity doesn’t come from too much caffeine or sugar, but instead comes from a science I learned long ago and use EVERY DAY. Here’s a key…

When people don’t do what you want them to do, I use a simple model I learned in my very first job as a trainer. I ask, “Is it because they lack the skills and knowledge, the motivation and incentive, or the tools and environment?” Once I sort through these, I’m able to get a clear picture of what’s going on and which kinds of solutions are likely to work. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my experience:

  • Sometimes (OK, many times) its a combination of the above.
  • I learned pretty quickly to put the right incentives in place & eliminate competing incentives before chasing after other remedies that address skill/knowledge or tools/environment issues. Doing anything else first is an exercise in futility.
  • Training helps when people lack skills and knowledge, but often is expensive and less effective than other solutions, especially when the person doesn’t use the skills often, doesn’t need to memorize how to do something,  or won’t apply the skills shortly after training.
  • Instead of reaching for training immediately, I’ve learned to create all kinds of job aids for sales people to sell more effectively and for workers to use complex products successfully.
  • I’ve used this same model to simplify complex products and processes, design new user interfaces that enable a simpler workflow, and even have created entire multi-million dollar initiatives based on the use of this model to simplify complete product suites.

The science draws its roots from the behaviorist, B.F. Skinner and some great guys that applied his principles to industry, including Thomas Gilbert, Robert Mager, Joe Harless, and Geary Rummler. I’ve applied what these gentlemen taught me throughout my career as a trainer, marketer, strategist, high-tech sales rep, and leader. I owe them, and one of my bosses, Tony Moore, a lot for taking me down this path less traveled. If you’re looking to add creativity and innovation (shhhh…its really science) to your tool set… go ahead and read (and apply) some of their work.

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