Do you encourage your staff to think?

Seth Godin writes an interesting blog entry today about the dangers of ‘doing things by heart’. He relates an experience of going into a noodle bar and asking for something that wasn’t quite what it showed on the menu (the picture showed it came with sauce, he didn’t want any). The waitress brought the dish with sauce with a ‘that’s-the-way-we-do-it-here’ attitude.

I read in the paper yesterday about an incident on a train. An little old lady had inadvertently boarded the wrong train and therefore had an invalid ticket. The conductor insisted she had to pay for a new one (over £100) but she couldn’t afford it and got rather upset. A fellow passenger remonstrated with the conductor but to no avail. So the passenger went up and down the train, explaining the story to the other travellers and suggesting they club together to pay for the old lady’s ticket. He succeeded in raising the money, but was detained after the journey for begging!

As Godin points out, the way we train staff often stops them from using common sense. The best companies revolve around certain core values and these are communicated to and totally absorbed by their employees. Where the letter of the rule book conflicts with those core values, their employees will stop and question whether the stated procedure is the right course of action.

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