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Very Superstitious

(September 2011) posted on Wed Sep 07, 2011

Problems with letting superstitions into the workplace.

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By Craig Miller

They felt – and passionately so – that I would be making their job a nightmare and would cost our company money in increased labor and ruined materials. I took their expert opinion under advisement, and then asked the prepress and print department to produce a bus wrap in only seven panels. The output consisted of two 5 x 45-foot panels for each side, two 5 x 10-foot panels for the back, and one panel for under the front windshield. The same bus, using their preferred method, would have required 20 5 x 10-foot vertical side panels for the sides and back, plus short verticals for the front. In short, seven panels versus 22.
When our guys groaned with disapproval, I reminded them that the company was assuming all the risk. If my idea failed, we would just have to reprint the bus and pay them to do the install a second time. They were getting paid regardless. It was my idea; any consequences were all on me. So we did it.

The installation went off without a hitch. The long panels printed fine, a testament to our prepress and print departments. The seven panels took significantly less time to line up and install than the 22 would have. The finished product was a significant step forward in our vehicle-graphics offering. We went on to do hundreds of vehicles with the horizontal method and I think the longest side panels we have done to date were for 55-foot trailers. The installers no longer work for us and they have taken the method to other companies; neither they nor our current crop of installers would ever choose to go back to their former method.

Living in the real world
As managers and owners, we can firmly hold onto beliefs that are not supported by reality. Our employees can resist innovation because they adhere to erroneous beliefs. But, these superstitious beliefs will always topple when put to the test of reality. We simply have to be open to the input of others and give rationales to our employees along with the permission to challenge our beliefs and embrace an approved risk. The future belongs to those who set superstitions aside and more intelligently live in the real world. 

Craig Miller is a principal shareholder in Las Vegas-based Pictographics ( where he is also director of military and law-enforcement projects, the company's defense-contracting division.