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Business leaders should think like plumbers: The quirkiest attitude suggestions

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It is said that in a corporate world, “the most successful businesses understand the power of creating the right mindset”. When you get it right, it’s incredibly effective. But how do you find out what’s best for your business?

Naturally, most of us flock online to find the answer. Let’s just say that you’ll have a plethora of often witty suggestions to pick from. This includes a few humorous comparisons as well.

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Take Mary Jo Asmus’ philosophy that leaders need to think like plumbers. That’s right, a plumber.

“Think about pressure for a minute,” she explained. “Plumbers deal with pressure all the time – in their case, water pressure. Consequently, plumbers know all about safety valves and their benefits when the pressure gets too high.”

The link here is that leaders deal with pressure all the time as well. She suggested that this pressure can generate much “overheated energy”, and “get to the boiling point of anger”. That’s where a safety valve is needed.

“When it comes to your teammates, that safety valve is you,” said Asmus. “You must provide a safe outlet to release that pressure. Teammates must feel comfortable walking into your office, or calling you on the phone, to express their anger or frustration. And you must be able to patiently listen to this pressure release, and not funnel it to any other dangerous place, or worse yet, go the opposite direction and build the pressure up to the point of an explosion. It takes a lot of patience to be a safety valve – but in the end, it pays off.”

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And you don’t even need a wrench.

Just look at Mario! He gets rich from collecting coins, gets to test new contraptions, travels to various islands, sometimes even enters a race or two, fights the bad guy and saves the damsel in distress, all in a day’s work.

This leads onto the next point: Why it helps to think like a game designer.

While completing his PhD, Jason Fox started playing World of Warcraft “a lot” apparently.

Read more about the gaming industry:

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“This was bizarre,” he said. “Despite lecturing on the topic of motivation, and having some very important goals for fitness, finance and thesis writing, I was spending all of my spare time playing a video game. It was only when I moved house and lost my internet connection that I realised what was going on. Somehow, the design of this game had displaced all of the motivational structures I had. And so, henceforth I embarked upon a quest to unpack why some games are so effective at sustaining motivation and engagement.”

He explains that one of the reasons why online games are such a success is due to a feedback system: “It makes sense that we are more inclined to invest in things that contribute to progress. Game designers know this.”

Fox added: “All work can be viewed through the lens of game design. In fact, much of life could be viewed this way.”

For example, a project has various “gaming rules” such as goals and time restrictions, and there are key performance indicators and milestones to achieve along the way, which creates feedback.

And if you’re looking to get more motivation and engagement from your staff, the easiest thing you can do is offer a reward. Indeed, most of gamification is about creating fancy incentives to influence behaviour.

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In his 27gen blog, Bob Adams believed that business leaders needed the “soft skills” associated with product, fashion, or even architectural designers instead.

“Design must start with establishing a deep understanding of those we are designing for,” Adams said. “Leaders who thought like designers would put themselves in the shoes of their team or client. It involves understanding both their emotional and ‘rational’ needs and wants. Great designs inspire – they grab us at an emotional level. Yet we often don’t even attempt to engage our customer or team at an emotional level – let alone inspire them.

“Leaders who thought like designers would see themselves as learners. Leaders often default to a straightforward linear problem-solving methodology: define a problem, identify various solutions, analyse each, and choose one – the right one. Designers aren’t nearly so impatient, or optimistic. They understand that the successful invention takes experimentation and that empathy is hard won. So is the task of learning.”

IKEA was based on this concept. Almost every aspect of the company’s “legendary business model” was a result of experimental response to urgent problems.

Founder Ingvar Kamprad’s mantra seems to be: “Regard every problem as a possibility.”

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