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“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” Henry Ford

I wonder whether Henry Ford actually said this and if so what his employees thought of it?

My suspicion is that they met it with some scepticism and that the workplace in particular was responsible for the decline of Ford and the rise of other manufacturers in the late 1920’s.

Because I guess if he did say it, and most commenters will say that he held this view, whilst it demonstrates the power of the creative, innovative mind, it also betrays a lack of what, tact?

You see innovators, however brilliant, are not always “people people”.

On the other hand they are often right, without innovation a business will go nowhere, fast. If you put it another way, if you continue to look in the same direction you will always see the same thing. Meanwhile, your competitors are looking somewhere else and finding something new and exciting to lure away your customers. What happened to all the other bookshops when Waterstones entered the high street, for example?

I argue that the crux of successful business is not innovation alone. It is innovation combined with employee buy in. Your employees must, simply put, love your products or services as much as you do. I often wonder why a waiter in a successful restaurant cares whether he charges you for that second (or third) glass of wine. The answer is he buys in to the product, he cares whether you enjoyed your meal, or not and he appreciates the cost and value to the customer of the dining experience.

When your people buy into your innovation there is little time for squabbles. There is work to be done, money to be earned, mutual goals to be achieved. When squabbles arise you know two things. First, your employees have not bought in to your business. They have too much time on their hands. Second, unless or until the resulting negativity is quashed your business, notwithstanding its innovative drive, will go the same path of non-innovative businesses, nowhere fast, a shame.

Workplace mediation works to align those employees to your creative spark. Ongoing coaching and training will serve to keep them on the track to growth and success.

So, go ahead ask your out of the box questions, innovate and recognise that your people will not like the resulting change. But that means neither that you are wrong (far from it) nor that change is impossible (it isn’t).

For more information and debate around this topic please contact

Michael Lister

[email protected]