Successful people have been studied and written about for centuries. We all wonder what qualities and habits enable greatness. Malcom Gladwell surmised that greatness was an output of practice—and a lot of it. 10,000 hours of deliberate practice seemed to be the magic number in his best selling book, “Outliers.” But like most things, it’s more complex than simply logging 10,000 hours.
A quick search on Google demonstrates how much has been written about the topic. As you can see below, when searching for “leadership qualities” over 40 million results are found.
People with an engineering mindset look at problems from the standpoint of product/service performance. They seek opportunities for functional improvement.
But not every problem has an engineering answer. After the easy fixes are in place, future efforts start to suffer from diminishing returns. At a certain point, it becomes incredibly difficult to enhance the functional value of a good. So how do you improve the experience without changing the reality of its performance?
You focus on the perception of its performance.
These days, everyone wants to talk about strategies for motivating employees. The topic has exploded over the past decade or so because our understanding of motivation has evolved. Decades ago, people thought we were motivated primarily by compensation. Pay people more and they’ll work harder, right? Fortunately, we’ve come to understand that human beings are more complicated than that.
Now, culture is all the rage. Thought leaders across every industry preach the effectiveness of building great work environments and weaving perks into the career experience. Article after article, blog post after blog post, headline after headline. The same talking points—largely repackaged.
What is culture? According to the experts, it’s a magical confluence of work and fun that improves performance across the board.
But the culture peddlers are missing the point. Yes, it’s important to create an atmosphere that drives and inspires great work, but are employee happiness and performance really as simple as a few perks and a pinch of autonomy?
We don’t think so.
Do you remember what you were doing the day that Netflix died?
During the summer of 2011, Netflix announced that it would be splitting its DVD-by-mail and streaming services. The streaming service would continue to be called Netflix, while the DVD service would be renamed “Qwikster.” Not only was this a bizarre and confusing choice, it also essentially created a price-hike for loyal users that had been signed up for both services. Consumers were outraged. The move was dubbed a giant “FAIL” by the collective masses, and CEO Reed Hastings quickly scrambled to put the toothpaste back in the tube, so to speak. Qwikster was scrapped, and prices returned to normal, but it seemed Netflix had done irreparable damage to its reputation. They were as good as dead…
The common cliché is that a picture is worth a thousand words. However, the worth of an image is still grossly undervalued. A picture has the ability to break down barriers of misunderstanding across languages and cultures, while using universal truths and experiences to help people make connections.
Of course, it's easy to see how a picture could lose its perceived worth. Today we are so inundated with imagery that it seems very commonplace, from skulls to represent poison, to street signs that tell us when there are children at play, to directions on how to put on a floatation device should our plane lose altitude. And of course, there are those wonderful things called infographics, which help break down the loftiest, dustiest, most impenetrable statistics into easy to understand bite-sized chunks. You can’t visit a website, open a magazine or even go the bathroom these days without seeing one.
There are many people throughout history who helped push the use of infographics to be commonplace. Most notable among them is Edward Tufte, whose book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, is considered the Bible on the subject. However, Tufte is far from the first to use pretty pictures to make things simple and easy to understand. Way before Edward Tufte mortgaged his home to finance his book on infographics, a polymath by the name of Otto Neurath saw value in images being more than just a pretty picture. He had a vision of using images as a universal language, changing the way we look at statistics and, yes, the restroom… forever.