Thinking – No One Gets Paid To Do It Anymore

By Ernest O’Dell – Questar TeleCommunications and Guerrilla Internet Marketing

Back when I was in elementary, junior high and high school, my dad used to work with me on my homework. Algebra, trigonometry, geometry, and a few other “technical” subjects weren’t always my favorite past-times. They required me to “think through” a problem to arrive at the “correct” answer.

Oh, sure! I could come up with any old answer just to get out of doing home work, but it wouldn’t “cut the mustard” and get a passing grade. My dad used to tell me, “Think. Just think, boy!” Well, actually, he would get frustrated at my lackadaisical attitude towards the whole venture and yell at me in his loudest voice. Seems he got more stressed out of the exercise than I did.

Henry Ford once hired an “efficiency expert” to go through his plant. Ford directed him to find the most nonproductive employees and tell him who they were so he could then fire them.

I’ve always wondered what an “efficiency expert” was. Sounds like a “cushy” BS job only the government could come up with…

(I know I’m not supposed to end my sentences with a preposition, Maudie! But, I’m just havin’ a conversation with my readers! Leave me alone!)


…I do digress.

When this “expert” finished, he gave his report to Mr. Ford and told him that he was particularly concerned with one of his engineers.

Every time I walk by his office, he’s just sitting there in his big office chair with his feet propped up on the desk. I never see him doing anything! I definitely think you ought to fire him!

Mr. Ford was curious to know who was wasting his money and company time that way, so he asked the “expert” to point him out. When they came to his office, sure enough, they found him reclined back in his chair, with his eyes closed, feet up on the desk, with his hands folded across his chest.

Mr. Ford whispered, “Shhh! Don’t wake him up!

The expert cocked his head to one side and looked at Mr. Ford sort of funny and asked him, “Why?

To which Mr. Ford told him, “I can’t fire him. I pay that man to do nothing but think, and that’s what he’s doing. He’s my ‘idea man.’ I pay him to come up with new designs for my cars! He makes me millions! Leave him alone!

Even in today’s culture of corporate downsizing, right-sizing, left-sizing and the old Lateral Arabesque, no company can afford to lose its thinkers. Not yours, not any of them.

Most especially if your just a “small shop” of just a few real estate agents under one broker, or a medium sized off of insurance salesmen.

Now, I know you probably can’t afford to hire a “staff thinker,” so you’re going to have to “wear the hat” because people are depending on YOU to come up with the “bright ideas.”

In the larger scheme of things, it’s likely that you already have some of these people working for you. You can call them strategic planners, researcher, creative engineers, visioneers, or some similar version. At Disney, they’re called “imagineers.”

At Microsoft, they’re called “millionaires.” Bill Gates is the wealthiest billionaire on the planet. He’s wealthier than Donald Trump. But they both have ideas that have made them billions, and they have “idea people” working for them.

I know what you’re probably thinking right now: Ernest has been sniffing too much Folger’s Coffee at 2:00 o’clock in the morning.

You’re probably formulating a retort to ridicule my logic and come back with something to “cut me down a notch or two…” But trust me here… just listen to what I’m saying.

You don’t have to agree with me, and you don’t have to disagree with me. Just don’t dismiss it “out of hand.”

At least, not just yet…

You’re thinking to yourself, “Ernest has gone off his rocker! And if he thinks I’m going to hire—much less—keep someone with a title and no responsibility, he’s nuttier than the bag lady on the corner of 5th and Vine!

And I would agree with you.

Who in their ‘right mind’ would hire someone—or keep someone—who had no measurable goals, no restrictive job descriptions, no pressure? Because nobody can tell if they’re doing their job! Well, that’s exactly what happens to the “Corporate Thinker.”

It’s such unfamiliar territory that people get lost in it. Why? Because most people are like drones… sheep, if you will. They want you to tell them what to do. They want YOU to do all the thinking. They don’t want to come up with any ideas because it might require more out of them than what they are getting paid for…

(There it is again, Maudie! Dang!)

Look around your office and see if you can identify the person you’d go to first if you needed a great new plan or idea…

There’s your Thinker.

His or her real job title may not be your first clue. But because you always go to them first when you have a problem, and you’re in need of a solution, should be the first hint.

They’re your “go-to” guy. Or your maven. Or, whatever you want to call them. Just don’t call them dismiss-able.

Years ago, at the El Cortez Hotel in San Diego, California, management decided they needed another elevator in the hotel because one just wasn’t adequate to serve their guests. They hired engineers and architects to retrofit the hotel for a second elevator.

The “experts” discussed several options, and eventually settled on a plan to cut a hole through each floor to accommodate the new elevator.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, a janitor overheard their discussions, and inquired about their intentions. The engineers patiently explained their plans to him (thinking—of all things—that he wouldn’t ‘understand’ because he was “just a janitor.”)

The janitor was concerned and told them so: “That’s going to make quite a mess—plaster, dust, and debris everywhere.

No problem,” he was told, “because the hotel would be closed during the construction.

But that will cost the hotel a lot of money in lost revenue, and a lot of people will be out of jobs while the hotel is closed,” the janitor replied.

Well! Mr. Janitor!“, one of the architects remarked snidely… “You got a better idea? What do YOU suggest we do? Huh? You’re just a janitor! What the hell do YOU know?

To their surprise, he told them something that none of them had ever thought of before: “You could build the elevator on the outside of the hotel.

Hmmm… they all scratched their heads.

It’s never been done before. But it’s an intriguing concept, and it just might work. And it would be unique and we would be the only one in the world with an elevator on the outside of the building.

The engineers and architects, hired for their creative thinking, decided it was an idea worth developing. An architectural feature we now see every day on hotels around the world. Talk about a feat of engineering! And the idea was the brainchild—not of a structural engineer—but of an humble hotel janitor.

Not a “staff thinker.” Not a “corporate planner.” But a thinker on the staff.

This janitor spent his days, weeks, months and years at that hotel—minding his own business—doing his job… many times alone: with only his thoughts. So, while he worked, in what many would consider a menial job, he did a lot more thinking than the experts who had a lot of letters behind their names.

Chances are you have several people like that in your company.


Come and lean a little closer to me while I whisper something in your ear: They’re worth their weight in gold.

Did you hear what I just said?

Consultants and “experts” may come and go, but the employees who work for you every day, who faithfully come in and do their jobs (and sometimes the job of others) are your best source of great ideas and inspiration for the rest of your organization.

Let’s lay down a few ground rules for encouraging great thinking:

  • Respond with enthusiasm. Don’t criticize them or belittle them because they don’t have a college degree. Some of the dumbest morons I’ve met have college degrees, and many of them are elected “officials.” When someone has a great idea or thought, be enthusiastic rather than demanding details on how to implement it. Don’t argue with them like you’re in a health care summit with the President. This person might only be the janitor, or the clerk behind the counter at the store, or the sacker who is bagging up your groceries. But he has ideas that nobody else has ever thought of… (There it is again, Maudie!) Somebody else can develop the ideas. And if you told me you haven’t seen it happen before, you would be lying to me and your pants would be on fire.
  • Make your workplace conducive to thinking. Windows are inspirational. Big windows. Bay windows. The kind that lets in a lot of sunlight. Whole walls made out of windows. Cheerful colors stimulate creativity. Flowers, trees and office landscaping. Real plants: not those fake plastic ones. The ones that have beautiful aromas and scents. The kind that cause allergic reactions in some people and inspirational thoughts in others. Photographs hanging on your office wall, letters of commendation from the Governor of the State of Texas, letters of rejection from the President of the United States (yes, even some of those are inspirational… they inspire you to keep doing what you’re doing because you know you’ve ‘hit a nerve.’) You know those inspirational posters you see in other people’s offices? Those are some of my favorites. Sterile surroundings are for doctor’s offices and operating rooms. What we’re looking for here is some “brain candy.”
  • Celebrate every now and then. Take the gang to an adult version of Chuckie Cheese. Take them to the opera or the symphony if that’s their “cup of tea.” “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is still true. Let your staff know they can still have fun and be productive at the same time. I used to work for an I/T firm in Austin, Texas years ago where everybody brought their favorite beer for Friday afternoons. We had food catered in from a different place each Friday and we all got together to just “unwind and mastermind” about the next “Big Thing.” Then we would go home full of barbeque—with a buzz.
  • Give credit where credit is due. If memory serves me right, it was a truck driver at a big trucking firm who came up with a solution to a very big problem they were having. Seems that their logistics weren’t quite lining up with the manufacturers and they were wasting a lot of time on the road with empty trucks going back and forth on the road. The solution was found in a small software application that cost the company a whopping $35 dollars a month to use, and they not only saved millions of dollars each year, but also multiplied their revenues over 400% each month. (And they even got the tax deduction on the software as an expense!)

“Minds are like parachutes: They don’t do you much good unless they’re open.”

Click the link below to download a copy of this article in PDF.

Thinking – No One Gets Paid To Do It Anymore – GUERRILLA REVIEW.pdf


Leave a comment

No comments yet.

Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s