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Why your organization needs radical people

Many of us talk about change. Especially the people who work at large companies or governmental organizations. “We need to do things differently.” But what do we mean by this? It’s a very broad statement. Mostly it means that we want to work smarter, more efficient and of course: be agile.

The agile way of working. That’s what we are emphasising. I really like that. But please don’t mix it up with the other thing which you think of when you talk about change: culture. More and more people are wearing sneakers at the office. We don’t sit in boring meeting rooms anymore. Instead we are hanging out in the company’s restaurant and we even visit external hipster locations. I like it. And if that isn’t enough, we are also adding exclamation marks and smilies in our social media posts on the company page. Sometimes we even make jokes with our customers. Cool. But does this culture change really have an impact on working smarter, more efficient and being agile? Nope. We are not there yet. 

Let’s summarize what we have achieved so far: 

  • With the agile way of working we improved our way of product/software development
  • With the sneakers and casual communication style we have brought some fun in our daily job

So we solved two issues. But there is still one left: the thing with the red tape (or purple crocodile in Dutch, or bullshit in my own language). Large companies and public agencies are struggling with bureaucratic barriers which are keeping them away from adding value, unlocking innovation and growth. If you ask me, this is a huge problem. Almost every company that starts today, is starting to solve an issue or add value somewhere. But a company which has already been around for decades, is often primarily focused on saving its existence. Adding value has a lower priority.

To solve this issue we need more than sprint plannings, sneakers and hipster coffee. We need radical people. Really. Our previous generations left behind a work culture which nowadays has a lot of bullshit. During their time, it was working. It’s just the autonomous evolution of their work culture which made sense in their time. We, millennials, will also leave some bullshit behind for Gen Z. I mean, can you imagine that a judge will appear in a hoodie and sneakers at court? And sometimes I even notice the bullshit today, many start-ups are looking for high skilled employees for a soccer table at the office, a healthy lunch and friday afternoon drinks instead of a proper salary. Come on. But that’s for the next generation to fix. Now let’s get back to the bullshit that we are facing right now. The reason why we need radical people is very simple: almost everyone is talking about change. Yet we are not changing. Consider the people who talk about change as compromisers. Because there is still a group left that wants to stick to traditional stuff. And the compromisers, with sneakers, say: I believe in both ways. The traditional way and new way. So we have people who are stuck in the status quo and people who want to get out of the status quo (the majority). Now we just need the radical people to drag the majority out of the status quo. 

An organization has rules. A large organization has more rules. A large organization which was founded in the past century has even more rules. Today, many of these (written and unwritten) rules don’t make sense anymore. And of course the majority is following these rules. However, to unlock innovation and change things you will also need to learn, right? And we all agree: learning new things comes from making mistakes. It’s a very cliche saying. Many leaders use this saying in their speeches and it is often shared on LinkedIn. Now tell me one thing: how on earth are you going to make mistakes if you follow the rules? Exactly. That’s where the radical people come in.

The past two years are the most successful part of my career until now. Together with my colleagues we found a way to unlock innovation within a large organization. When I started with this position two years ago, I said to one of my colleagues: “Hey I know that you’re responsible for business development, but I already want to let you know that a lot of moments will come that I just do and decide stuff which are actually in your field and sometimes I will even do that without discussing it with you. You can blame me and yell at me afterwards if it was not a good idea.” This was an agreement that we had in our entire team. 

Making mistakes and learning is all about experiments. And at a certain point you always need to prepare some slides for others before you continue with an experiment. However, for me it sometimes took more time to do the slides and stakeholder stuff than the experiment itself. In these cases I just went on with my experiment. Not everyone liked it, but as a radical millennial I just didn’t care. Because tell me again, how are you going to make mistakes and learn when you showed your plan to dozens of people who all will share their wisdom and experience to make your experiment a perfect plan? Exactly. 

This is why I am always ready to learn something new by just being ready to take the blame for any mistakes. We should respect our colleagues, boss or CEO but we shouldn’t be afraid of them. I myself am only afraid of my mother and wife (I have them both on LinkedIn, so this will also prove it if they read my articles or not). 

So are you’re looking for innovation, culture change, less bureaucracy and more fun in your work?! Go and break some rules. For the sake of your company’s purpose and growth.