I used to work for a company who had the slogan THINK plastered all over the walls. I have a box full of trinkets and mementos in the basement adorned with that word in all capital letters – reminders of a time when thinking at work was encouraged.
Some of you know that I recently discovered the AMC TV series Mad Men. It may even be fair to say that I am addicted to the show. (The third season of the show just ended and I seriously wish there were more than two back seasons to catch up on.)
Now there’s a lot not to like about the work environment portrayed in the show. (In case you’ve been under a rock like I was, it’s about the advertising industry set in the early sixties on Madison Avenue – hence the title.) There is constant chain-smoking and a lot of drinking in the office. The men are mostly philanderers and believe they have a right to be. The women are clearly oppressed – those in the office are mostly secretaries but their goal is to get married and live a very boring life in the suburbs where they can dote on their husbands when they get home from work. (Yikes! Clearly I would not have fit in.)
Unlike The Office, the hilarious NBC sit-com where absolutely no work gets done, on Mad Men there is real work going on. The show even draws you into the drama of the work.
More importantly, there’s a lesson we can learn from Mad Men.
What I admire most about their work environment is that they have time to think. They work hard, they have deadlines, they have clients to please, and yet they still take time to think. And they collaborate. They get together and brainstorm. They re-work ideas until they get it just right. When a client meeting is coming up they plan who is going to say what and exactly how to reel the client in. No haphazard meetings here. They think, they decide, they plan, and they pitch.
I wonder if the people working in Corporate America in the 60’s knew what a luxury they had?
From where I sit it doesn’t look like there’s been a lot of thinking going on in Corporate America recently. Surely Bob Moffat and others weren’t thinking much at all when they shared company secrets. But even on a smaller scale – how much time do you have to really think about the work you do?
When your boss asks you to send a revision two minutes before a meeting, it’s usually just not an option to say, “I’d really like at least ten minutes to think about it before I send it to you.”
When was the last time you really felt like you could finish a project before you turned it in? When was the last time you got to think for yourself – instead of being told what the answer was? When was the last time you felt really confident about the quality of your work?
When was the last time you had the luxury to think about your work?