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JAMMING MAN
SIDEBAR: A CREATIVE CULTURE
Excerpted from Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity by John Kao (Harper Collins, 1996)

"Your "office" consists of a credenza on wheels, and you can move it wherever you want to be, wherever your work takes you."
  startling sight greets first-time visitors to the cafeteria of hearing-aid maker Oticon in Hellerup, Denmark. Smack in the middle of the room, a huge transparent plastic pipe runs from floor to ceiling. During the course of the day--lightly at lunch, heavily in the morning and at quitting time--a snowfall of paper drifts down the tube.
     That transparent tube is a powerful symbol. A symbol backed up by action. At Oticon only one person handles each piece of paper--to enter its useful information into a database, shred the paper, and then send it down the tube. It's a vivid reminder to everyone in the building that Oticon is striving to become a paperless office, and therefore a rapid-response business. This aversion to paper encourages people to talk to one another, bounce ideas around, mix it up. The company's physical plant is designed to facilitate this give-and-take. Headquarters is in an old Tuborg brewery (fermentation being a neat symbol for a creativity-conscious company). Connecting the floors is a spiral staircase, intentionally designed to be wide enough for people to stop and talk during chance encounters. Each floor has a coffee bar for schmoozing. Finally, at Oticon, your "office" consists of a credenza on wheels, and you can move it wherever you want to be, wherever your work takes you.



     All this stagecraft is part of a deliberate effort to create a culture of creativity. To turn Oticon into a company where innovation is the norm, where everyone is encouraged to use ingenuity and imagination, and where corporate jamming happens. The company has cultivated its ability to improvise, to create a continuing internal dialogue that leads to better products and stronger profits. Oticon views a creative culture as the linchpin of its corporate strategy.

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