Peter Kreuz is an entrepreneur, bestselling author and founder of the Rebels at Work initiative. There is no one better suited to talk about challenging old paradigms, defying the status quo, and doing things differently. The Financial Times equates Kreuz to a match that ignites breakthrough thinking.
The Spielwarenmesse® was able to attract him as keynote speaker for the Toy Business Forum and asked him some questions.
“The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.”
You will be speaking at the Toy Business Forum. What can the participants look forward to?
Peter Kreuz: I like to encourage people to learn how to forget. It may seem paradoxical, but the ability to forget – to set aside something learned – is becoming a more and more decisive success factor in our business world and in the toy industry as well. And I see it over and over again in the companies with which I work: The hardest thing in the world is not that people accept new ideas, but forget the old ones. The thought sticks in our heads: But it still works. Why should we question our recipes for success that still worked for us yesterday? But that’s precisely what we should do.
So, are traditional, normal things so terrible?
Peter Kreuz: No, not at all. It only becomes problematic when behavior patterns that have always worked and that have been the foundation of a company’s success become sacred cows. The readiness to question traditional convictions, to attack conventional success patterns, to discard intellectual straitjackets, and to break through the limits of our own thinking must become much a matter of course.
“The secret to success is variety, not uniformity.”
How can this be promoted?
Peter Kreuz: We have to allow more colorful characters and critical spirits into our companies. The secret to success is variety, not uniformity.
But these critical spirits do not fit in and want to make changes. Why would you hire someone like that?
Peter Kreuz: The challenge is clear as day: You first have to be able to tolerate those kinds of people. They are rough around the edges, ask tough questions, and aren’t satisfied with a simple no. This can be exhausting, and in many companies, people just don’t want to be bothered. To add insult to injury, there are many bosses who demand a wealth of ideas from their employees, but in reality, reward conformity.
What can bosses do to see that such thinking and acting is more widespread?
Peter Kreuz: Management pioneer, Peter Drucker, said: “Ninety percent of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get things done.” That’s the problem in many organizations. They do not see their jobs as creating the conditions needed to set such thinking and action free.
“Many bosses demand a wealth of ideas from their employees, but in reality, reward conformity.”
What is it that bosses will need to pay closer attention to in managing their employees?
Peter Kreuz: Having a strict company policy in place and enforcing it may seem like the best way of ensuring conformity, but being a stickler for rules may actually turn out to be counterproductive. A good starting point point are these question: Which rules can we disregard? Which process can we radically simplify? Cleaning up, radically de-cluttering, airing out our minds! Clearing everything out of the way that upsets employees and prevents them from focusing on their work and creating value for the customers.
How specifically can you fight it?
Peter Kreuz: One of my customers runs an employee contest called “Kill a Stupid Rule.” The approach is very clever: Employees are asked to identify superfluous rules and unnecessary processes and to propose a way to get along without them. This triggers a bureaucratic purge that works wonders. I find it exemplary.
In closing, let us return to the Toy Business Forum: What is your message for the participants?
Peter Kreuz: You cannot become an original innovator by copying what others are doing. That is the sure way to always come in second. You can gain inspiration from other companies but then you have to run your own experiments, discover your own path, and find your own answers for the future.
“Ninety percent of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get things done.”
Visit the Toy Business Forum at the Spielwarenmesse® 2019. There, on Saturday, 2 February 2019 at 1:00 pm, Peter Kreuz will deliver his keynote speech “Dynamite for rebels”. The former professor of management will show how holding fast to outdated conventions bars the path to the future. Check out the full program for the Toy Business Forum.