Charles Steinmetz, the “Wizard of Schenectady,” was
sometimes seen in his office with his feet on his desk, staring into space. This was an unsettling vision to General Electric workers who were used to more conventional managers.
But Steinmetz, a mathematical and electrical engineering giant respected by such contemporaries as Einstein, Tesla and Edison, was a genius who made major contributions in his field. GE was content to allow him to perform his job in his own way because it was in its best interests to do so.
Are we limiting ourselves and our employees with unnecessarily rigid boundaries, leaving little room for the Steinmetz kind of inspiration needed to develop creative ideas? Have we forgotten how to encourage imaginative thinking that might lead to innovative products and more efficient processes? Are we guilty of allowing relatively unimportant details to distract us?