Unleashing your company’s hidden potential: some good examples

The importance of attracting new talents has been driving companies away from conventional recruitment methods. The brewing company Heineken and the food, chocolate and petcare producer Mars, for instance, got together to launch an integrated trainee programme. During the first three years of their career paths, participants can get to know the reality of two different companies, speeding up their skills development.

However, companies have also been striving to maximise internal talent, the collective intelligence of their people. We at Exago strongly believe you can tackle most of your business challenges by unleashing the hidden potential of your people.

Those familiar with the topic of innovation in work management, of collective intelligence’s power engagement, probably heard of the examples of Whole Foods, W. L. Gore and Google. Gary Hamel and Bill Breen point out these successful cases in their famous book ‘The Future of Management’:

a) Creating a community of purpose
The retailer Whole Foods Market employees are organised in teams and assigned responsibilities usually confined in a hierarchy of managers – such as managing administrative budgets, positions, processes and recruitments. The company engages all employees within a community united by the desire to contribute to a healthier and more sustainable world.

b) The innovation democracy
W. L. Gore is a revolutionary company in the textile industry, working as a ‘bureaucracy-free zone’. There are no hierarchies or titles, no layers of management and no organograms. Information flows in all directions and peers chose leaders. A natural leadership emerges. Different members are free to experiment and devote a half day a week to any initiative they choose.

c) A totally disruptive model
Probably the biggest touchstone in workplace innovation comes from Silicon Valley. Google has successively been ranked among the top firms to work for, giving its employees ‘the opportunity to change the world’.

Google has a flat hierarchy, organised in small, self-run teams, focused on the development of a product and a complex net of lateral communications. Besides having an extraordinary compensation policy, it has espoused the formula ‘70-20-10’– people can allocate 70% of their resources to their main activity, 20% to activities that significantly contribute to the main one and the remaining 10% to marginal ideas.

Two examples from Brazil
Companies around the world are showing that anyone can make a positive difference in work organisation. In Brazil, for example, groundbreaking businesses seek to implement effective mechanisms and platforms that allow employees’ ideas to be taken into account, engaging them in the processes of innovation and path definition. Here are two suggestive examples:

a) Co-creating the future
Natura is often regarded as one of the most innovative and dynamic companies in Brazil. The 2013 annual list by Forbes magazine has once again ranked it among the 10 most innovative companies in the world, even though the top positions are usually taken over by US firms. For consecutive years, it has also earned its place on the top of
the list of the 100 best companies to work for.

A market-leader in Brazil, present in seven countries in Latin America and in France, the cosmetics company sees itself as a community of people who engage in the construction of a better world – by means of a better relationship with themselves, the other and nature.

The firm builds consistent networks, both internally and externally. It also invests in collective and collaborative creation as a tool to live up to today’s challenges and to offer competitive services and products.

b) Zero hierarchy
Vagas, one of the biggest career websites in Brazil, has been fostering recognition with its horizontal structure. There is no hierarchy, no command structure.

In 2014, ‘The Management Innovation eXchange’ (MIX), which looks for the most innovative projects in management of people and companies worldwide, has awarded the company with M-Prize. MIX is an initiative of the management guru Gary Hamel, with the support of Harvard Business Review and the consulting firm McKinsey&Company.

Within its unique collaborative environment, Vagas deals with 2,500 different clients. No fixed positions are held. Functions are discharged. Decisions are made by a consensus among team members: hiring, strategic planning, salary establishment. Since its foundation in 1999, the company has never grown less than 25% a year.

The key take-ways
There is no single magic recipe. However, take note of a set of good practices that are standing out for the value they are creating.

  • Decentralisation and elimination of hierarchy
  • Bigger autonomy and flexibility (in working schedules, spaces, etc.)
  • Multidisciplinarity (bringing in people with different skills, experience and knowledge) and increased collaboration in the projects
  • Greater transparency
  • Goal-oriented work and employees’ empowerment, with an innovation-led approach.

But how are companies building their own vision of the future? How are they taking over the reins of innovation?

The future of work: taking over the reins of innovation

The future of work and the transformation from within

Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director and co-founder

Francisco de Rhodes Sérgio, VP Inbound and Sales for LATAM

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