Why Your Business Should Feel Like Times Square

NOBL
4 min readJun 29, 2016

Every time I visit Times Square, I see the exact same thing: everything’s changed. Some stores have turned over, the characters swapped spots, and there’s absolutely no one I recognize from my last visit. And yet, there is still a cacophonous din of happy sounds, sales are humming along merrily, people are posing for selfies, and tourists look every direction but straight ahead. No matter how different it is, and no matter how often I go, it’s still Times Square.

Sounds a lot like what your business should be.

On the one hand, you want your brand, value proposition, culture, and mission to be as rock-solid consistent as the plaza where the ball drops. On the other, you want to keep updating the people you serve, keep updating the ads, keep updating the offerings, and stay on the high-definition, neon-light cutting edge. It’s a lot like a standing wave:

There are certain points, in addition to the boundaries, that never move once the wave gets going. These are the nodes, and they have the appearance of anchoring the wave so that certain parts of the organization can stretch out and chart a long distance while still being tethered to the overarching pattern of the system.

Creating such a dynamic equilibrium is a challenge, because it seems impossible to shift from the chaos of starting up the wave (when everything’s moving) to the stability-in-motion of points constantly reaching out and questing for greater distance. The trick lies in the boundaries used to start the wave. The founding vision and value proposition of the company serve as the initial walls that enclose the wave, and absolutely nothing can be allowed to move them:

Over the course of developing the company based on these two non-negotiables, a pattern will emerge that constitutes the culture and brand of the company. These become the other bulwarks that protect the company from too much motion. For each employee the company adds on, be it number two or number two thousand, every member of the team needs to be anchored by the nodes of the company, and then given the freedom to innovate as far as (s)he can go without losing the tether.

For some, especially those working within the core competencies of the company, the tether isn’t very long, because the job requires executing on something fundamentally nodal. Others, however, get to fling themselves far and wide, seeking new complexities for the company and finding new ways of creating value that are still attached to the firm’s nodes.

This reflects the importance of a strong onboarding process. Usually, onboarding is about getting a username and password, learning about policies, and spending a couple of minutes watching a presentation about the history of the company that could bore a caffeinated cheerleader. The legal department rightly requires a lot of those orientation pieces, but make sure that the executive department requires that people go through even more time connecting to the firm and thinking both by themselves, with managers, and with the team, about how they can fit into the company’s dynamic equilibrium. This goes hand in hand with enabling the employee to engage in job crafting, which creates the space for the employee to pick a direction and start going the distance to create value, and later to add his/her individuality to the firm’s innovation efforts.

By creating this mosaic of talent, a startup can make a strongly anchored standing wave, and take it to the top of the proverbial hockey stick.

If you think that’s impossible, take a ride on one of the eight train lines that run to the intersection that never sleeps.

Written by Dr. Orin Davis on behalf of NOBL. Sign up for our weekly newsletter for more insights into leading your team through change.

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