“Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” ~Picasso
"No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others. The wise acknowledge this help with gratitude." ~Unknown
Time is one of the biggest constraints any leader has. There is always too much to do, and almost never enough time to get it done. One of the most overlooked ways to deal with this time crunch is to beg, borrow and steal ideas, processes, reports and advice from your peers.
How many times have you been in a meeting and heard “We have something almost exactly like that to measure ________”? My guess is that you’ve heard it from time to time, and I’d also guess that there were plenty of times a peer had something, but didn’t speak up. How much time could have been saved if only one department head worked on it instead of three working on it independently of each other?
The main issue that some people have with stealing other people’s ideas, processes, reports is that it is … well ... stealing. They erroneously think that they are supposed to build everything from the ground up by themselves to prove their capabilities. But what is truly valuable in the organizational environments of today are synergies. If you are asking for the assistance, advice, etc. and you ensure that you give credit where it is due, then you are creating teamwork and synergies, not tearing things down. You are giving credit, not taking credit.
And before I go any further I want to address the obvious caveat which is: Do not overuse this and stifle innovation by becoming a copycat or trying to fit a “square peg into a round hole” every time you want to do something. There is a time to use the copycat technique and a time not to. With that said, we are looking to apply the 80/20 rule in a new and different way. The idea is that the existing process from a peer is a roadmap that can take care of almost 80% of the work, leaving you with 20% to customize and ensure it applies directly to your area.
The bigger your organization the more likely it is that there is something similar to what you are working on in another department. FIND IT, and use the time you gain on the impactful things that you can’t borrow or steal from others. Stealing in the organizational environment has the following effects:
§ Wasted time on simple things – Whether it is the basic framework, the formatting of the SOPs, or even some of the training material, much of the work will be done or in a format that allows you to adapt it to your needs.
§ Trial and error – You may not know where the stumbling blocks were, but you can be reasonably assured they were overcome. Now this doesn’t mean that all of the trial and error is over, but you are further down the road with this often painful process.
§ The need to get buy-in – If it is currently in place and functioning, it is easier for people to visualize it in your operation. This gets past all of the team members who may have trouble visualizing it. Believe it or not, this is a very close second to the “wasted time” benefit. The reason is that if you have the “buy-in” of your team, any project runs smoother, quicker and better because they are engaged in it.
It allows time:
§ For customization – Rarely will you be able to “plug and play” what you have taken from another area, there will always need to be some customization. And while you’re at it, you may look for areas to make natural improvements. Think of it as version 2.0.
§ For thinking medium and long term – Once you get some time, it’s important to spend some on medium and long term planning/strategy. These are the areas that are most quickly left to collect dust when you get busy. This helps you be proactive which assists you in getting even more free time.
§ For the BIG things – The next thing that often gets left behind when you get busy are the BIG things that you should be working on. The reason is relatively simple and that is that you can tackle 5-10 little projects, or frustrate the people effected by those by handling the 1 BIG thing. It may not be right, but it is somewhat understandable.
So the next time you find yourself in a huge time crunch, or even when you’d like to make more time for other big things, look for ideas you might be able to “steal.” It could just be the best thing for you and your organization.