My 18-year-old nephew is a Plebe at the U.S. Naval Academy and wanted to spend spring break at his uncle's house in Miami Beach. After the brutal winter in the northeast, who wouldn't? The problem was he also wanted to bring his three high school buddies from Colorado. I dreaded the thought of four 18-year-olds for spring break but I relented as he is such a fine young man.
The first day, I overheard one correcting another for doing something wrong and the exchange went something like this: "You did that wrong, no offense." The response? "None taken."
My ears perked up. I had just done some work for one of the largest financial services firms in the world and do you know what their number one problem is? Someone will say something wrong or stupid in a meeting and everybody knows it's not right and yet they are too timid to say anything. What's worse, when it blows up four months later, everyone says "we knew that wasn't right but didn't say anything."
The solution this firm came up with was to create a program to fix the problem. They called it "tell it like it is." This firm brought me in to talk about how we created a climate of openness and respect on USS Benfold that encouraged my sailors to "tell it like it is" and not wait for four months for something to go wrong to say "I told you so".
I watched and listened to these 18-year-olds for two more days repeatedly hearing "no offense, dude" -- "none taken." I couldn't believe what I was hearing and was wondering how four 18-year-olds could solve a problem that a firm with trillions under management could not. I called my partner, Stacey Cunningham, and told her what was going on and I asked her how 18-year-olds could figure this out? Her response – "Why don't you just ask them how they came up with it?" Absolutely brilliant!!!!
So I asked them. Their answer: there's a line in the movie "Dumb and Dumber" where one character says to another... "Dude, you are such a loser... no offense." The response from the loser – "None taken."
Who would have thought that a line from "Dumb and Dumber" could be the solution to one of the most vexing problems in today's workforce!?
Organizations form task forces and committees to solve some of our toughest people problems. I have a better idea... just show "Dumb and Dumber" on the company intranet. If four 18-year-olds can figure it out, if the crew of USS Benfold can figure it out then maybe there's hope for business yet!!!! No offense....