My title is unashamedly borrowed from Richard Plepler, CEO of the premium US cable network, HBO. He was quoted in an interview reported in the Financial Times on January 11th, 2015 [Lunch with the FT by Matthew Garrahan]. It was said in the context of discussing how a company can encourage creativity. I like it because it sums up my own approach to nurturing an environment in which high-quality innovative research can flourish. The role of the leader is to establish and maintain that environment in which everyone must feel able to express their opinions and then once the decision is made be prepared to unite in achieving the goal. This requires a level of transparency that many leaders find hard to implement and ability to listen to dissenting views that most leaders find difficult or impossible to tolerate. Good leaders create a culture in which people feel safe expressing their views. To quote Richard Plepler again “Someone once said to me, ‘You made the room safe to talk.’ And I said. ‘If you want to win, what other way is there to be?'”.
Engineering is a creative profession in which we need to worry more about culture and less about strategy. Of course, bringing about culture change is much harder than writing a new strategy!