Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 4, Issue 41;   October 13, 2004: Personal Trade Secrets

Personal Trade Secrets

by

Do you have some little secret tricks you use that make you and your team more effective? Do you wish you could know what secret tricks others have? Here's a way to share your secrets without risk.

"Well, we're in deep, deep yogurt now — without a spoon," Trish said, smiling grimly. With tremendous effort, Brad stifled a laugh, because he had just sipped some coffee, and a laugh would have made a significant and painful mess.

He swallowed, and then pleaded, "Not while I'm drinking coffee, OK? Seriously, what on earth are we going to do now? Even with this emergency I bet we can't get a conference room till Wednesday."

The main reading room of the US Library of Congress

"Main Reading Room." US Library of Congress. Baker, Reid, photographer. 1991.

"No problem," said Trish, smiling. "We already have one."

Brad grinned. "You devil."

Trish had violated company policy by reserving a room without first scheduling a meeting. It was a little trick she had learned from having been down this road before.

In whatever role you play, you have and use "personal trade secrets." For instance, if you travel by air to make a presentation, you might carry with you a backup copy of the presentation on a flash drive, in addition to the one on your laptop, in case your laptop dies. Or maybe you call ahead to a pal in Purchasing and ask for help in filling out a req, to make sure it goes through on greased rails.

These personal trade secrets make you more effective. They help your teams perform at higher levels, and they make your company more competitive.

We all use little tricks
to make things happen.
Some are common, and
some are uniquely yours.
Look around you. The people who sit around the table with you in those endless meetings also have secret tricks. Everyone has them, and you'll probably never find out what they are, because personal trade secrets remain secret for some good reasons:

Job security
Many of us feel that if we revealed our secret tricks, we might be less valuable to the company, because then we could be replaced more easily.
Maybe, but think back. You'll probably find that your secret tricks have evolved over time. They tend to have a short shelf life.
Competition
Some of us fear that if others knew our secret tricks, they might out-compete us for status or promotion.
Perhaps, but your competitors will soon figure out secrets of their own, and some of those will be the same as yours. Your secret tricks might be invisible, but they aren't secrets for long.
Policy violations
Sometimes our secret tricks conflict with company policy. Revealing them could be dangerous.
This is truly tragic, because it prevents the company from understanding the true costs of those policies.

What if somehow we could share our personal trade secrets without these risks? If you knew some of the personal trade secrets of your peers, chances are excellent that you would adopt some of them yourself, and everyone would benefit.

Well, now you can. Contribute your personal trade secrets anonymously to a Library of Personal Trade Secrets, where you'll be able to read what others have contributed, too. It will be our little secret. Go to top Top  Next issue: When Leaders Fight  Next Issue

Rick BrennerThe article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More

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See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

The future site of 2 World Trade Center as it appeared in 2013Coming October 5: Downscoping Under Pressure: I
When projects overrun their budgets and/or schedules, we sometimes "downscope" to save time and money. The tactic can succeed — and fail. Three common anti-patterns involve politics, the sunk cost effect, and cognitive biases that distort estimates. Available here and by RSS on October 5.
A hummingbird feeding on the nectar of a flowerAnd on October 12: Downscoping Under Pressure: II
We sometimes "downscope" projects to bring them back on budget and schedule when they're headed for overruns. Downscoping doesn't always work. Cognitive biases like the sunk cost effect and confirmation bias can distort decisions about how to downscope. Available here and by RSS on October 12.

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