The CRACKS in the system

The CRACKS in the system

Conclusions, Rules, Advisories, Compliance, Kick-starts, Solutions. Notice how many more we get today than we did even three years ago? Ask a banker what is his priority – customers, digitisation, security? He will look at you blankly for a moment and then mutter “compliance”. Ask an internet retailer what is his priority and he will say “security”. Ask the head of any business what is the true priority for his company and he will say “talent”. And the paradox is that if he finds the talent it will be swamped with a tsunami of CRACKS.

The conflict between compliance and creativity has never been greater. Compliance requires that we obey, follow the law to the letter, regiment ourselves so that we can prove that we did the right thing, even if the outcome was failure. Creativity means that we look at everything with a view to improving or supplanting it. How do we avoid either of these antagonists from ousting the other to the point where we have only robots or chaos?

Separating them, which some companies do, is fatal. All you end up with is two warring silos forever seeking the judgment of a weary boss. He has a backside to protect, too, so he will nearly always side with conformity – right up to the moment of liquidation.

I met an intelligent man recently doing an upper middle management job. He was complaining about the way a routine and frequent process in the logistics of his business was dealt with at head office, on the other side of the world. It led to three times the amount of work really needed. But the European head office had decreed and he had to follow. The cost to the business amounted to about 8% of the profit each transaction could have delivered. I asked him what he had done about it. “Not my job” was the reply.

He was, of course, correct in the sense of his job description. He was wrong in the sense that he is a responsible executive who has the interests of the company and its stakeholders at heart. What should he have done? He should have boarded a ‘plane to his head office and made a firm but reasonable case to change the system, pointing out that if they did so his journey would be paid for in a mere seven hours trading the new way.

Too dramatic when he could have written an email? Too assertive and likely to give rise to an innately hostile reply? Too threatening to his bosses who might see it as a challenge to their authority? All these things, but leave out the “too”. Drama makes a point better than any other system I know except nuclear missiles. The assertiveness and threat will only emerge if he wants credit for the new system. If he allows his bosses the credit, he will win.

The CRACKS in the system are going to get more onerous. The need for thoughtful, personal responsibility increases at the same pace. It demands clarity of thought and courage to act. At no point does it require aggression, bad behaviour or sabotage – to use them is to admit a fatal weakness.

The creative advantages we have as a species will not develop their full potential if all we do is paper over the CRACKS. We must expose them, rethink and redesign them, question and improve them and when possible annihilate them. Only by doing so will our species remain the entrancing, maddening, adaptable, contradictive creation it is.

Only then will we know what is true success – and what is real creation.