10 Tips from the Business Heretic’s Handbook


What, you didn’t know there was a handbook for business heretics? Oh. How awkward that nobody told you. Well, let’s rectify that now, starting with this post. Here are ten tips to help familiarize you with some of the most basic tenets of heresy in business. There are plenty more, but this will get you started. Ready? Let’s dive in!

1. On Rules Breaking

Laws can land you in jail. Breaking corporate policy, doing end-runs around procedures, and just plain getting stuff done – that will either get you fired or into the CEO’s office. Rules are merely guidelines. Guidelines are meant to guide, nothing more. If they don’t guide – if they aren’t helpful – then ignore them.

2. On Resources

Resources can be bought and sold. Steel is a resource. Laptops are resources. Humans are not, and will never be, resources. Humans are “people.” Stop using the word “resource” when what you mean is “person.” Seriously. Stop that right now.

3. On That Damned Box

Just, please, stop talking about that freakin’ box already! No heretic has ever used the phrase “think outside the box,” because heretics know that innovators don’t even see a box to begin with!

4. On Helpfulness

Boss, read these words aloud: “My job is to make your job easier.” Say it ten times, till you can really say it with conviction. Then, leave your office and go say it to the first 20 employees you see. Repeat this once an hour for a month. You can read the rest of this post later.

5. On Motivation

If you have to motivate your people, you’ve either hired the wrong people or you’ve quashed their motivation somewhere along the way. Good people are self-motivated. Give them a BHAG (a “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal,” as Jim Collins so eloquently puts it) and then help them achieve it. How? Better reread #4. See you in another month.

6. On Culture

There are only three things that matter in business: culture, culture, culture. Your job as leader is to be the steward – the nurturer and protector – of the culture. The culture runs your business. You do not.

7. On Viruses

Any marketer who tells you your campaign will go viral also has a bridge to sell you. Participants way outside of your control – the general public, in other words – decide what goes viral and what… doesn’t. All you can do is your best. The web will (or won’t) do the rest.

8. On Metrics

Give me a metric and thirty minutes, I’ll show you how to game it. No joke: I dare you. Business heretics lead with just one metric: dollars. Set your BHAG, open your books, and let your culture (i.e. your people) do the rest.

9. On Books, Open and Closed

It’s 2013. You still don’t have open book management? Oh. I thought you considered yourself a business heretic. How are your people ever going to help you attain your BHAG if you’re still hoarding information like it’s 1955?

10. On Use of Your Time

What is the best use of a leader’s time? Let me answer that question with a question of my own: What makes you a leader? You lead people, right? Then every minute of your day that you spend in your office or in front of a spreadsheet or managing your boss is another minute you are robbing from your actual job, which is helping your people. Do your job. Lead your people, face to face.

Here’s the thing about business heresy: it’s different. That makes it uncomfortable to a lot of people, especially career managers. But let me leave you with a thought: chances are, the most successful business leaders you can name are themselves heretics. So you can follow all the rules, you can do the opposite of these ten tips, or you can… be incredibly successful! Hey, totally up to you. No one’s judging.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot:

11. On Giving More in Business

Heretics promise you ten tips and give you eleven. So here’s a list of just a few of the better-known business heretics I can name without blinking: Bill Hewlett and David Packard, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gore, Richard Branson, Yvon Chouinard, Herb Kelleher, Ricardo Semler, Tony Hsei, Steve Jobs, Jack Stack, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Can you name more? Let us know in the comments.

It’s hard to read a post on ExchangeGain that isn’t about business heresy. Still, if you liked this post, let us also recommend The 12 Most Irrefutable Laws of Business Heresy

Image credit: robodread / 123RF Stock Photo

Ted Coiné is a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer and an Inc. Top 100 Leadership and Management Expert. This stance at the crossroads of social and leadership put him in a unique perspective to identify the demise of Industrial Age management and the birth of the Social Age. The result, after five years of trend watching, interviewing and intensive research, is his latest book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive, which he co-authored with Mark Babbitt. An inspirational speaker and popular blogger, Ted is a pioneer of the Human Side of Business (#humanbiz) movement. He is also a serial business founder and three-time CEO. When not speaking at conferences and corporate functions, Ted advises CEOs on how to become Truly Social Leaders, or “Blue Unicorns” as they put it in A World Gone Social, in order to bring their companies into the Social Age. Ted’s advice: “Change is only scary if it’s happening to you. Instead, bring the change your competitors dread. That is something only a Social Age business leader can accomplish.”

  • JonTurino

    Good stuff, Ted. Thanks for posting. Would love to have your views on my new The A to Z Blog Book that contains similar sentiments in many of the articles. It’s on Kindle.

  • http://www.ipnostudio.com/ Andrea Hypno

    Fabulous post, short but so true. I’m just wondering if those who behave differently can show the same results of those business heretics you gave on point eleven.

    If not why are they still going down the wrong road? :)

  • Ed Gutierrez

    Ted! This little gem needs a small tweek. #1. Never, never, approach policy with above advice. All things are interrelated. If policy is out of date, a committee should be exercising due diligence to make changes that make sense. If not, you’re inviting a free for all which will be based on everyone’s own perspective. This won’t work in companies with aggressive budgets. Also, if you’re subject to external audits, you’ve opened yourself up to findings. Policy has a purpose. It is the path to meet your mission statement. If it needs change, then it needs change. But don’t ignore it. That mentality will carry over into other areas you wouldn’t expect or want them to.

  • David Ivers

    Ted, I couldn’t agree more! I would add Walt Disney to your list. A good example of someone who could have easily ended the whole thing before he got started, if he’d listened to conventional business wisdom of his day. I can think of some businesses that are so focused on making Dollars, they put so much value on that, they actually de-value the customer and the employees of the company. They forget that people, customers and employees can and will vote with their feet. The real question such businesses and their leadership team should be asking themselves is this. Would you want to go into one if your stores/offices/practice and receive the service and /or products currently being offered? If the answer is not a resounding yes! Then You, the leadership team, have a moral and possibly legal obligation to do something about it! Thanks for such a wonderful, common sense piece. David Ivers | @edu_ivers

  • There’s a more human way to do business.

    In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.

  • Connect

    Newsletter Subscription

    Do you like our posts? If so, you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up HERE and receiveThe ExchangeGain Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!
  • Contact Us