This Way Out

Departments - This Way Out

A fresh take on business

October 19, 2009
Lawn & Landscape

Air Support
“Unless all employees are fully engaged and empowered to solve problems, you’ll never be able to think your way out of a financial morass,” say Cyndi Laurin and Craig Morningstar in their book The Rudolph Factor. The authors use the holiday character Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer as an analogy to share lessons The Boeing Co., one of America’s oldest aircraft manufacturers, learned about innovation – lessons that can be applied and replicated in any business.

Rudolphs, explain the authors, are the 10 percent of any organization’s people who are agents of innovation – people who can shine the light exactly where a company needs to go. Since they tend to identify causes of problems (rather than symptoms), they generate sustainable solutions more quickly and efficiently than their counterparts.

Here are a few of the book’s insights:

  • Company leaders must be more participative than autocratic. Once you give up your illusion of control, more ideas will percolate from the ground up.
  • Learn to recognize Rudolphs. They spend time involuntarily thinking about things they are most passionate about; acquiring the capabilities to manifest their thoughts into reality and taking action.
  • Identify and meet your Rudolphs’ needs. Boeing provided theirs with an outlet to share ideas, protection from their direct manager and ill-willed peers (because Rudolphs are commonly seen as a threat), permission to take risks and share unconventional ideas, access to collaborative teams including non-Rudolphs, and the ability to execute their ideas.
  • Put systems in place to encourage innovative thinking. Boeing’s Creative Edge Program, designed to make the C-17 cargo aircraft more affordable, paid employees for their cost-saving ideas. In return, employees have generated more $90 million with their ideas over the past decade and continue to impact the bottom line in significant ways. Every year, hundreds of employees contribute their innovative ideas and are awarded from $50 to $250 per employee plus 1 to 2 percent of the first year’s net savings. “The prospect of earning some extra money tends to sharpen and refine the creative process, which results in better conceived, more workable ideas,” Morningstar says.
Rudolphs are already lurking somewhere on the sidelines at your company, waiting for you to find the on switch that illuminates their guiding beacon. That’s great news for cash-strapped companies that can ill-afford to hire expensive superstars.

Fake Out
As climate change accelerates, scientists keep coming up with increasingly fanciful schemes to fight it. The latest comes from a study by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers reporting forests of artificial trees could potentially soak up carbon dioxide.

According to the study, 100,000 synthetic trees spread across the U.K. could remove the CO2 emissions of all cars, trucks and buses in the country. The trees, which are two-thirds as tall as average wind turbines, are coated with materials that absorb CO2. Once the trees capture carbon dioxide, it can be stored underground in empty oil and natural gas reserves.

The plan isn’t cheap or problem-free – each tree costs $24,313. And what happens to the stored CO2 in the event of an earthquake?

Can fake trees really be more efficient at capturing CO2 – and as aesthetically pleasing – than those pesky real trees? Tell us what you think. Send a note to or call 330-523-5382. You can also sound off on our online forum at


If You’re Happy and You Know It…
Business owners outrank 10 other occupational groups in overall well-being, based on a September Gallup survey of more than 100,000 working adults. The survey measured contentment, emotional and physical health, job satisfaction and overall life quality.

Business owners may seem unlikely winners, considering half of the nation’s full-time small businesses typically fail within five years of start-up (and considering that rate’s risen in the recession). They are also more likely to work extremely long hours than people in any other occupation group, other Gallup research shows.

However, “despite the recession, it still pays to be your own boss,” says Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll. The survey, adds John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “reaffirms my view that the more control you have over your work, the happier you are.”