“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”

Adventures of a Curious Character

My book review this week is Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman by Richard P. Feynman.

Besides winning the Nobel Prize in physics in 1965, Feynman was an eccentric, larger than life character with a list of achievements and accolades that are hard to fathom. He actively worked on the development of the atomic bomb, traded ideas with Einstein, Bohr, and Nick the Greek, cracked safes guarding highly sensitive atomic secrets, played bongo drums for a ballet, along with a host of other eclectic activities and accomplishments. This is a highly entertaining book full of funny stories, technical theory, and valuable life principles.

My takeaways from this book are the principles that Feynman discovered and exemplified throughout his life. I have listed a few of them below:

5 Simple Steps To Fail Your Way To Success

The goal, then, is to uncouple fear and failure – to create an environment in which making mistakes doesn’t strike terror into your employees’ hearts.Ed Catmull

 

Organizations that value growth and success encourage their employees to innovate, try new things and stretch the boundaries of the business. These organizations embrace failure because they realize without failure an organization cannot grow and reach new levels of success. They also know that if an organization is not growing then it is stagnating . . . and stagnating businesses fail.

My son and a few of his friends started a landscape and lawn care company this summer. They built a website, flyers, posters and brochures. They knocked on doors, distributed flyers and sold their services to as many people as they could. Once they landed enough customers, they went and rented an aerator and power rake and worked their tails off. At the end of the first day they had lost $15! Talk about a disappointing failure!

How Smart Thinking Can Improve Your Business, Engage Your Employees and Satisfy Your Customers

Leaders of successful businesses foster innovative work environments where their employees are able to creatively apply their knowledge and strengths to solve their customers’ problems. This sort of work environment is motivating for employees, results in happy, repeat customers that are happy to pay for your services and products. It is a win-win-win for everyone.

Back in the early 90’s I worked for a consulting company that had this mindset. Employees were encouraged to work with customers to identify areas in their businesses that could be improved. We then proposed a number of solutions to deal with these improvement opportunities and the customers would hire us to implement them.

Protean Corporation

In his book The Future Arrived Yesterday: The Rise of the Protean Corporation and What It Means for You, Michael S. Malone defines a new phenomenon in the corporate world which he calls the Protean Corporation (Protean means the ability to change into many different forms or to do many different things). The Protean Corporation is a new form of organization that is structured to handle the stresses and strains we see emerging in our marketplace today. Stresses ranging from the retiring baby boomers being replaced by Gen Xer’s, Gen Y’s and millennials to the rising Asian workforce, continuous Internet connectivity, the pace of technological change, dramatic increases in new consumers, the emerging nations and the rise in entrepreneurialism. These stresses and strains are unleashing an unprecedented rate of change into the marketplace, a rate of change that has never before been experienced and one that the organizations today struggle to handle successfully.

According to Malone, the Protean Corporation “must find a way to continuously and rapidly change almost everyone of their attributes – products, services, finances, physical plant, markets, customers, and both tactical and strategic goals – yet at the same time retain a core of values, customs, legends, and philosophy that will be little affected by the continuous and explosive changes taking place just beyond its edges.”

How can the Protean Corporation do this? By structuring itself into three distinct groups;