Monday, November 06, 2006

Sumantra Ghoshal on smell

Rediff has this very interesting article by the late Sumantra Ghoshal (see links on the great management thinker on Wikipedia, London Business School, The Guardian) on the importance of smell at workplaces.

These are some excerpts from the article that highlight the point that smell itself can have a huge effect on productivity at a workplace (or even elsewhere for that matter):
... downtown Kolkata in July. The temperature is over 100°F with humidity of 98%. The reality was that I felt very tired during most of the vacation. Most of it I spent indoors and a lot of it simply in bed.
I used to live in Fontainebleau... There is something about the smell of the air, about the trees, that will make you want to run, jog, jump up, catch a branch, to throw a stone, to do something. You will find that even though you entered the forest to have a leisurely walk, you are doing something else -- and that is the essence of the issue of revitalising people.
Most large companies in India and abroad end up creating 'Downtown Kolkata in Summer' inside themselves.
And then goes on to explain it in the context of a workplace:
All the systems that top management create -- human resource systems, manufacturing systems, planning systems, budgeting systems -- each by itself is totally justified.However, collectively, what does it feel for me.... they exist for one reason and one reason alone -- to control me.... That is the environment - constraint, compliance, control, contract - that is the smell of the place....
when everybody knows .... the company is simply not doing as well as it could. But, as opposed to confronting reality, top management creates rationalisation and brings down the level of aspirations to that of satisfactory underperformance.
First, I believe, it is possible, certainly in medium and small-sized organisations, and even in very large organisations, to create that smell; and to protect it over a long period of time.
My second assertion is that is possible to do so in a reasonably short period of time.
So the next time you want to tell your company or its management, "You stink!", you may actually mean it in a more literal sense than just as a pejoration...

Also cross posted here.

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