Why Should Anyone Work Here? – Interview with Gareth Jones


Today’s interview is with Gareth Jones, Visiting Professor at the IE Business School, Madrid, and a Fellow of the Centre for Management Development at London Business School. He is also a founding partner of Creative Management Associates (CMA), a consultancy focused on organisations where creativity is a source of competitive strength. Gareth along with co-author Rob Goffee recently published a new book called Why Should Anyone Work Here? that explores what it takes to create an authentic organisation. Gareth joins me today to talk about the book, the research behind the book and the ideas within it.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Customer experience begins with the empowering of people to affect outcomes – Interview with Ian Fitzpatrick of Almighty – and is number 163 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to their customers.

Note: This interview took place in a local cafe as Gareth and I live close to each other and the recording is interrupted by the Barista steaming the milk for coffees. I’ve tried to minimise the noise from this activity and, hopefully, it does not spoil the recording. Bear with it as there is some good stuff in there.

Highlights of my interview with Gareth:

  • Gareth is a sociologist by training and his specialism has always been the sociology of work and organisations.
  • He has enjoyed a varied business and academic career (more details below in his bio).
  • Why Should Anyone Work Here? – is a great question that every leader, executive, owner and manager should ask themselves.
  • This is a follow up to a previous book called: Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? – developed out of an article in the Harvard Business Review which won the McKinsey prize.
  • The reason that that article and book were so successful, Gareth believes, is because it has a good ending, where it concludes that to be an effective leader you should ‘be yourself more with skill’.
  • However, the refrain to that conclusion is that leaders often say that they will be themselves more when they work in more authentic organisations.
  • That, therefore, was the genesis of the new book which looks at what it takes to build an authentic organisation.
  • The book is built around a mnemonic: DREAMS, which stands for:
    • Difference beyond diversity — ‘I want to work in a place where I can be myself, where I can express the ways in which I’m different and how I see things differently’;
    • Radical honesty — ‘I want to know what’s really going on’;
    • Extra value — ‘I want to work in an organisation that magnifies my strengths and adds extra value for me and my personal development’;
    • Authenticity — ‘I want to work in an organisation I’m proud of, one that truly stands for something’;
    • Meaning — ‘I want my day-to-day work to be meaningful’; and
    • Simple rules — ‘I do not want to be hindered by stupid rules or rules that apply to some people and not others’.
  • The book is full of case studies and stories to illustrate each of the elements of the DREAMS mnemonic as well as diagnostic elements to help organisations gauge how they are doing against all of the elements.
  • At the heart of the book is what it is to be authentic. In the US, the common view is that to be authentic is to be yourself. However, Gareth argues that a more European and sociological view is that authenticity is actually contextual. Hence, the conclusion from the previous book: ‘be yourself more with skill’.
  • Being authentic is not being the same all of the time.
  • Gareth cites one story from the book about New York Life, whose strapline is ‘Built For Times Like These’. They heard about a man who just as he was about to sign his life insurance paperwork died of a heart attack. However, they decided to honour the unsigned policy and paid out the life insurance policy to his family.
  • Systematisation is when you know what the rules are for and bureaucratisation is when you don’t know what the rules are for.
  • Often we see situations where there are so many rules that no one enforces them because if they did then they wouldn’t make any progress.
  • DREAMS is an aspiration and not a description as there are not many firms that meet all of the criteria.
  • One of the best performers in the book is Novo Nordisk, a global healthcare and pharmaceutical firm. However, they struggle with ‘Difference beyond diversity’. For example, 25 of their 30 top execs are Danish. They are aware of this but their very Danish culture is a big part of what makes them so authentic.
  • So, it’s not that an organisation can’t achieve a high performance on all of the DREAMS elements but that sometimes there also has to be trade offs.
  • Gareth advises not to start with everything but to pick a couple of the DREAMS elements that you think you can make the biggest difference with and get started there.
  • Gareth cites two really interesting stories for the book:
    • 1. Ducati – because of the nature of their customers, their community and their obsession with their bikes and their engines, they actually get their customers involved in designing future engines as they tend to know more about Ducati engines than their mechanics and designers do; and
    • 2. Novo Nordisk, who are the largest supplier of insulin in the world, go out out and speak to people suffering from diabetes and ask them one simple question: How can we make your life more tolerable? This puts them streets in front of most other pharma companies as many of them spend most of their time taking to doctors and health professional etc and not to end users.
  • The reason why we don’t seem many ‘DREAMS’ organisations is complex but the challenges of achieving such an organsiation include:
    • The modern form of capitalism and the obsession with quarterly reporting and short-termism;
    • Screwed up governance systems; and
    • The inexorable rise of bureaucracies.
  • However, if you build an organisation that aspires to meet the DREAMS mnemonic then you will become a beacon for talent.
  • People have been kind enough to say that the book is full of complex ideas that are written simply.
  • You will spend the bulk of your waking life at work so it better be a place where you can be yourself because if it isn’t you will likely lose yourself.
  • Do check out Gareth and Rob’s new book: Why Should Anyone Work Here?

About Gareth (taken from his Creative Management Associates bio)

Gareth Jones

Gareth Jones is a Visiting Professor at the IE Business School, Madrid, and a Fellow of the Centre for Management Development at London Business School. Gareth’s career has spanned both the academic and business worlds. He began as a University academic in Economic and Social Studies at the University of East Anglia before moving to the London Business School, where he joined the Organisational Behaviour Group.

During this period he directed the School’s Accelerated Development Programme. At this point the attractions of a “real” job in business proved too great and he joined Polygram, then the worlds largest recorded music company. Appointed as Senior Vice President for Polygram’s global human resources, his responsibilities covered more than thirty countries. In 1996 he reverted to academia when he became the BT Professor of Organisational Development at Henley where he also served on the Board of Governors. His most recent job was as Director of Human Resources and Internal Communications at the BBC.

Gareth’s research interests are in organisational design, culture, leadership and change. He has published several books, including “The Character of a Corporation: How Your Culture Can Make or Break Your Business” co-authored with Rob Goffee and “Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?”, also with Rob Goffee, and published by Harvard Business School Press in February 2006 This latest leadership title was based on an article of the same name which won the prestigious McKinsey Award for the best article in HBR in 2001. The theme of authenticity was developed in another HBR article, “Managing Authenticity” which appeared in the December 2005 issue. Their latest article, which deals with the special challenges of leading in the knowledge economy, “Leading Clever People” was also published in HBR and was awarded runner-up for the 2008 McKinsey Award. Gareth’s and Rob’s book “Clever; leading your smartest, most creative people” was published by Harvard Business School Press in September 2009 and deals with the peculiar challenges of leading individuals and teams with the capacity to create disproportionate amounts of value, many of whom are to be found in the knowledge economy. Other articles have appeared in the European Management Journal, in Human Relations and in the Harvard Business Review. Gareth serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of People Management Magazine and has recently published in Management Today.

He is a founding partner of Creative Management Associates (CMA) a consultancy focused on organisations where creativity is a source of competitive strength and is the proud owner of an honorary doctorate from his home County of Glamorgan.

You can check out all of the books that Gareth has written with Rob Goffee here and you can connect with Gareth on LinkedIn here.

Photo Credit: Steve Rhodes via Compfight cc

4 comments On Why Should Anyone Work Here? – Interview with Gareth Jones

  • Pingback: The only person that everyone has in common is the customer | Adrian Swinscoe ()

  • Adrian, I think the point that I’d have liked Gareth to elaborate on further is why do organisations struggle with the approach?

    Why wouldn’t an organisation be Radically honest? Few are, but what do they have to lose?


    • James,
      That’s a good point and one I now wish I had explored further with Gareth.

      However, I have asked him to explain more here and he has promised to do so. Watch this space.



    • Dear James,

      Your question is a good one and has both a theoretical and pragmatic answer. The best theory for explaining the distorted nature of communicating comes from the German sociologist Jurgen Habermas. Put simply his contention is that power relationships distort communication – between parents and children, doctors and patients and for our purposes, most significantly, between managers and their subordinates. More pragmatically, executives report the following sorts of pressures on communication.

      – They feel an obligation to put a positive spin on events out of loyalty to the organisation
      – Some executives see knowledge as a source of power – (c f Machiavelli)
      – Yet others seem reluctant to share information out of a misplaced sense of benign paternalism
      – And finally, there are HR directors who think that hoarding organisational secrets is the basis of their power – “I know where the bodies are buried”

      But we live in an age of freedom of information acts, WikiLeaks and the explosion of social media. The old age of corporate secrets is over!

      I do hope you enjoy the book.

      Best wishes,


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