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#69 Ignore Your Job Description
Years ago I worked at a company with a widely used internal employee directory/org chart. Like most employee directories, you could look someone up, see their title, location, reporting chain - the usual. At the time, a small group of us were enamored with the Internet’s ability to connect people - inspired by MySpace and Facebook. So we decided to build what we saw as a more modern version of the company directory. Less webpage, more community.
We dodged the red tape, bought a dell server online using my AMEX, plugged it in underneath my desk, and proceeded to code using Ruby on Rails. None of this was asked for or approved. We wanted a better directory and thought it would be fun.
We didn’t consider that there was an existing team who ‘owned’ that internal system. In hindsight, we could have been more diplomatic in bringing our vision to life, but new things rarely fall within an officially circumscribed job.
The truth is, our naivety was a feature, not a bug. If we had tried to ‘align and coordinate’, we’d still be in drab conference rooms explaining folksonomies and follow models with an endless stream of PowerPoint. Instead of spending energy on internal meetings, we chose to build, and in a matter of months, over 70k people were using some software dreamed up by a small team without any mandate or responsibility.
Too often we let our formal job define not only what we a required to do, but also what we are not allowed to do. We assume that if it’s not explicitly listed under ‘job responsibilities’, it’s off our plate and presumably on someone else’s. Even without being told, our mind finds the guardrails for our work and thinking. How quickly we fall in line - no drill instructor needed. Perhaps conformity is an unfortunate side effect of our heritage as social animals.
If you work at a company, consider that no one in a leadership position wants an employee who does exactly what is asked. Worse, the market doesn't want it either. In the future, a routine, easy to define job is not a good place to be. Move beyond the narrow job description and feel empowered to let go of the way things have always been done.
If you have an idea - work like hell to bring it into reality. Slides don’t count. Once people see it taking shape, they just might jump on board. And when they do, welcome them with open arms - this isn’t about how smart you are, it’s about getting something better into the world and you can’t get very far alone, but it starts by ignoring your job description.