Saturday, June 21, 2008

Counter intuitive thinking and a $1000 incentive to quit the company

It is not very often that you hear the company where a person works described in a really enthusiastic and positive light. This could be part of the national cynicism of the British but I’m sure its pretty universal. Its one of the few bastions of a sense of community feeling to be able to share in the berating of the place where you work on a par with things like reality TV contestants.

So what if your company started to offer you incentives to leave. If you really meant all of the moans you'd take them up in a shot. Otherwise you would have to start to admit that actually you have got it pretty good and on balance its where you want to be.

Zappos, which for people outside the US is the Amazon of shoes, offers all new recruits $1000 to leave after they have completed their initial training (from an interview on the HBR ideaCast.) And as the company has been growing so has the amount offered to quit. The result being that the people who stay do so after interrogating and renewing their conviction, and the one’s that don’t have the desire or the energy leave the company with its full blessing and something to tide them over while they think about their next move. It makes perfect sense knowing that one of the big problems with big companies is the lower concentrations of motivated and passionate people than in small companies.  However I had to hear the explanation before I fully agreed and understood. Therein is the problem because anything that needs explanation to sound sensible is always going to struggle in the modern company where ideas have to survive based on only the partial attention of all the people necessary to carry and execute them.

It’s a far harder sell to get people to implement the opposite of what seems to make sense rather than the obvious. Even less so in consumer facing decisions such as brand communications which often come from outside partners who have even more incentives to put simplicity first. There must be plenty of instances where the opposite of what seems to make sense is a much better option…


-Grown-ups telling young people not to do things like smoke and drink usually has the opposite effect. Wouldn’t it be better to do something like brand them as brilliant fun for the ‘sad’ and middle aged.

-The hard sell also puts up barriers rather than takes them down… why not communicate how hard your product is to find or make your audience go to special lengths to get hold of it.

-By selling sex to men to promote a product like deodorant (aka LYNX,) you are essentially part of the problem that stops young men getting what they really want i.e. attracting and affirming the behaviours of the kind of men who put pictures of topless women on their wall. Wouldn’t it be better to be the kind of brand that helps men appreciate that if they really really like women that much then would it not be much better to avoid doing things that repel them like giant images of Carman Electra in their uni flat. This may not seem counter intuitive to most women but to the 18 year old male and the marketing director it might well be.

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