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Book of the month (November 2009)

Red noses preferred

It may not be the season yet, but Rudolph has been spotted at offices everywhere. In fact, based on the premise of Cyndi Laurin and Craig Morningstar’s book, The Rudolph Factor, you could be the next Rudolph. Rudolphs, explain the authors, are the 10 percent of any organization’s people who are the true agents of innovation – people who can shine the light exactly where a company needs to go.

According to the book, there are 16 ways to spot a Rudolph. Some of their behaviors include generally sharing unconventional ways to solve problems and having an easier time than most at identifying the root cause of a problem; involuntarily spending an average of four to six hours per day (outside their normal workday) thinking about new ways of doing things, or simply making things better for their organization; seeing their world through a lens of possibility, opportunity and potential; and preferring to leverage the name, reputation and resources of an organization rather than starting and managing their own businesses, which would take time away from being creative and innovative.

The Rudolph Factor is largely centered on the case study example of Boeing’s Creative Edge Program, which was designed to make the C-17 cargo aircraft more affordable. Employees were praised and paid for their cost-saving ideas after the complex integration of various teams to counter competition from Airbus, cultural decay and the market pressures that had caused a steep decline in profits. Boeing’s culture of innovation has been touted for impacting the bottom line in very significant ways.

The authors use engaging and punchy language and review notes following each chapter. Both authors are inspirational speakers and entrepreneurs so expect a chorus of positive messages. Perhaps the timeliest advice is that companies are being forced to take a hard look at people (and processes) and weed out those who may have stifled creativity so they can make room for the “bright beacons” who are eager to challenge turbulence.

“Your Rudolphs are not always aggressive enough to fight for their ideas, or savvy enough to navigate the maze of office politics,” said Laurin. “Unless you already have a Rudolph-friendly culture that embraces risk, do everything you can to shield and nurture them. If you don’t, they’ll stay in hiding, with their noses dimmed. And everyone will lose.”

The Rudolph Factor is published by Wiley ($21.95).

The Rudolph Factor 

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