Read D.F.'s bio and previous columns
August 4, 2008
The Box Busters:
Innovators Unleashed (Or So They Think)
“D.F., I want you to meet Nate,” said the client CEO. “He is a member of
our new Box Busters working group.”
This should be good.
Nate extends his hand. “I helped come up with the name, Mr. Krause,” he
proudly informed me.
see. What does it mean?”
Nate explained that the Box Busters working group had been “empowered”
by the corporation to eschew conventional wisdom, challenge corporate
paradigms and – you knew this was coming – “think outside the box.”
The Box Busters.
“You know,” I said. “This reminds me a little bit of when you had some
skunkworks groups operating here.” Oops. There I stopped. Skunkworks
groups were clandestine employee cabals who met in secret locations
without the CEO’s knowledge to try to come up with creative, innovative
ideas. I was afraid I had spilled the beans.
“Skunkworks groups!” said the CEO. “Absolutely loved those!”
“You found out about them?”
“Yes I did,” he said. “At first I must admit I was a little offended
that the employees felt they needed to conduct their innovative thinking
exercises without my involvement, but I quickly realized they were just
trying to make the company better, so we decided the corporation would
sponsor the skunkworks groups.”
“And what happened after that?” I asked.
“They just died out for some reason,” he said.
Gosh. Wonder why.
any rate, the Box Busters are now the de facto successors to the
skunkworks groups. They’re a group of employees who are permitted –
required, even – to do things without following the usual procedures of
the rest of the company.
Now, you don’t suppose this serves as a tacit admission that the
company’s usual procedures are inefficient, anachronistic and
antithetical to the whole idea of innovation. Hence the need to exempt a
certain group from said rules so that at least someone is
accomplishing something worthwhile. You don’t suppose that, do you? Of
course you don’t. It was silly of me to think that.
“So what are you working on right now?” I asked Nate.
“We’re putting together a product rollout that will be unlike anything
this company has ever seen,” he said. “Where the usual procedure takes
two years, ours will take three months. We’ve streamlined the design
process, accelerated the approval process and radically altered the
interdepartmental input procedures.”
other words, they’re doing stuff without asking the powers-that-be
(especially legal) if it’s OK. That does sound faster!
“And you’re going to be able to bring this product to market without
having to take all those conventional steps?”
“Absolutely,” Nate said.
“Well . . .” said the boss.
Nate and I both turned our glances quickly in the direction of the boss.
Nate looked somewhat taken aback. I did not.
“Management will of course conduct a thorough review of all this,” the
CEO said. “We value very highly the efforts of the Box Busters. They’re
our stars! They’re our difference-makers. Prudence, of course, requires
us to give any product rollout careful thought.”
Nate looked a little shellshocked. I gave him a comforting pat on the
“Don’t worry, Nate,” I said. “If they let the Box Busters actually work,
pretty soon the whole company would turn into a Box Busters group. And
then do you know what would happen?”
shook his head.
“The first assignment of the Corporatewide Box Busters would be to build
a new, ‘better’ box.”
Nate looked at me. He knew it was true. Boxes are built to last.
© 2008 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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