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5/1/2002 | 2 MINUTE READ

Perspectives: An Open Shop

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Thomas Edison said, "There ain't no rules around here.


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Thomas Edison said, "There ain't no rules around here. We're trying to accomplish something!" How can you accomplish anything, discover anything, forge ahead, if there are rules holding you back?

Of course, when dealing with masses, such as when driving, flying, attending sporting events or other large venues, you need rules or you would have chaos. Rules are necessary to maintain order.

I think what Mr. Edison meant is that you cannot be afraid to take a chance because you might break a rule. What if Rosa Parks had "obeyed the rules" and sat in the back of the bus? What if our forefathers had not "broken the rules" and signed the Declaration of Independence? What if Picasso had painted by number?

Do you encourage yourself and those around you to think beyond the rules? Do you give your employees the power to make decisions about the line? Can they change a rule or two to see if it makes operations more efficient? Why not get them together to brainstorm about what they think can be done to improve the line, the company, the work environment or even the corporate image. Make the meeting fair game for whatever topic is on their minds. There aren't any rules. You are trying to improve the company.

Also, your employees are your greatest assets. Who knows your finishing lines better? Who knows the day-to-day operations of the company better? What better way to encourage teamwork? And it really doesn't cost much money. More time is involved than anything. Have the meeting during lunch and order in a few pizzas. Have it in the morning before work and order in a couple dozen donuts.

Several large and small finishing companies practice this empowering process. Larger companies tend to have a more formalized process, while smaller companies tend to just gather round the break table. No matter how formalized the process, the atmosphere in the shop should be one of openness and acceptance, where employees aren't afraid to present ideas no matter how farfetched they may seem.

Consider what Thomas Edison's rules may have been. This man had patents for things that people probably thought were quite useless at the time: an electric pen and paraffin paper, which ended up being used for wrapping candy. He was never discouraged. He is quoted as saying, "Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do, doesn't mean it is useless." No idea is useless; it probably just hasn't been expressed.