‘Poke the Box’
Our company values are to be courageous, fair and true to all. The whole team went on a values workshop to agree on measurements of these values.

One of the measurements was to read a book on personal or professional growth per year and share our learnings with the team. One of our other measurements is to find different and better ways of doing things in the functions we manage, so I chose a book by Seth Godin, called ‘Poke the Box’. The reason for this is that it’s about starting ‘stuff’, doing things differently and ultimately ‘poking the box’ to see what happens if a change is made.

I feel very inspired after reading ‘Poke the Box’. The blurb describes it as a ‘manifesto about producing something that’s scarce, and thus valuable. It demands that you stop waiting for a roadmap and start one instead…’. It is basically saying; stop waiting for tasks or things to do and start ‘stuff’ yourself.

Key Learning
My key learning from ‘Poke the Box’ is that ‘initiative is scarce and therefore valuable’.

There could be many reasons why initiative is scarce. For example; fear,  lack of time or capacity, in general people are happy to let others do the work and if people don’t initiate things then they don’t need to take the blame if it doesn’t work.

It is therefore valuable to be an initiator, but equally it is valuable to be a company that embraces initiation and provides space and resources to enable employees to initiate / do things differently. As proven by some of our value measurements I feel that SK Chase is one of these companies, but is in the minority.

A really interesting example given in the book, was that Starbucks started off as a coffee bean and tea leaves store under the vision of Jerry Baldwin, who believed that the beans were the point and not the coffee. Howard Schultz, however. was obsessed with espresso and took a trip to Italy, which made Starbucks the coffee shop we know today. However if Jerry Baldwin had not started the original store then it wouldn’t have developed. The lesson is, that starting something doesn’t mean it will be right first time and is not a straight line to success, but gives potential to become something great.

This came to light in a project SK Chase are investing time and money into at the moment; our system rebuild project. We had the first few development cycles planned but then our developers advised they had to stop the flow and concentrate on some research, which could potentially change the whole flow of the project and ultimately even the outcome. But without initiating and starting the project, no improvements would be made and the system would just get more and more complex.

It also emphasizes that things will go wrong more often than not when you start things, unless you are super lucky. But not to be afraid of being wrong, you’ll always learn something from it and move on.

Jan the Initiator
‘Poke the Box’ also made me want to be an initiator personally as well as professionally. A few days after reading this book I got a plasterer in to plaster my hallway. I had wanted to decorate it since I moved in a year and a half ago! And I now love my hallway and enjoy welcoming people into my home (see some photos below).

I now say every morning when I wake up – I am an INITIATOR (say in the style of Gerard Butler in 300 – This is SPARTA!)

Ok, maybe that’s a bit too far…but I hope this inspires you to start something too.