Thursday, May 27, 2010

Business. Silence in the boardroom

Imagine, you telling a really really funny joke in front of everyone [comedic drum rim shot] ... then no one laughs. The room is filled with awkward silence and wide-eyes are starring right back at ya, with "What the hell is she on about?" written all over their faces.

Example of a bad joke from Kochie (Australian Anchorman):

Awkward, right?? This is what I feel like sometimes in the boardroom. In the creative field, we often come together to brainstorm ideas for marketing campaigns, TV commercials and etc. So what we need is people coming in full of ideas and just simply blurting it out and bouncing ideas off each other. Great ideas come from good brainstorming sessions and people working together to fine-tune. This has proven to be very difficult in Vietnam.

Why the silence?

It is frustrating, however the local Vietnamese are quite reserved in nature and therefore is often difficult to get them to openly share ideas. Why? They are afraid that their ideas are not good, and being embarrassed. It's very hierarchal here, whereby as a child the locals were taught never to disrespect your mother, father and elders. Throughout school, never question or talk back to the teachers and so even when at work (in Vietnamese companies) the boss is... THE BOSS. Shut up and do what he says or else you'll be fired.

Sometimes it's difficult to get a simple yes or no response. For example, "Do you like the idea?" And no one responds. Arrghh.... it drives me crazy!

What am I doing about it?

No idea is a bad idea. Understanding why this is a case, I and our management team encourages everyone to express their ideas, no matter how bad you think your idea is, just raise it. No idea is ever discounted, it's written on the whiteboard for consideration.

Involve people. I often make simple jokes or uses the people in the boardroom as examples, whilst explaining ideas in order to get them involved. Get them to laugh and feel a little more relaxed.

Food & Drinks. Sometimes we order food & drinks to inspire us. It always works because who doesn't like food, right?

Building a team culture. This is really important. We must break away from the hierarchal structure, because true greatness comes from team-effort, not a lone-effort. I was inspired by old my manager, Mr Pete (No exotic alias names this time) years ago. Mr Pete was a good team leader, by bonding the team and actually showed that he cared about the team. As a result, we felt comfortable to tell him our issues which led to changes to better the team. He introduces a thing called "That week that was." It was a weekly e-newsletter sent to the team reflecting on the week in a humorous way. Brilliant I thought.

I now have introduced "The month that was" and present it to the team every month at our company update. It includes funny photos of the teams captured during that month, people's birthdays, funny stories (some are true, some I make up). Everyone has a good laugh, we laugh at each other and it creates a friendly and family environment. It's been running for almost a year now and it works!

Today, we held a brainstorm and I can really see our team shooting off ideas and sharing their thoughts on things. Vietnamese or no Vietnamese, we all have good ideas to achieve greatness! I'm so proud of my team and now so pumped to pitch our ideas!!

I'll leave you with this great Heineken commercial. A result from a good creative brainstorm:


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