Mar 20, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

From fish tanks to fractals, these strange management tips will get your management gears turning more and grinding less.  Toss that management text aside for a few minutes and consider at these five strange-but-true management tips that not only work, but inspire.

You probably won’t hear about these in any of your classes…

 

1. Hostage Situation

There might not be a better way to hammer home the importance of self-reliance, trust, and communication in any department anywhere than to simulate a stressful situation that requires a clear head, the ability to delegate, and the understanding that everyone has something to contribute to solving a difficult problem. 

One London school did just that.  The Financial Times recently reported about a London management school that simulated a hostage situation for a leadership training for senior executives. One of the actors, a former NYPD police officer and London Metropolitan Police Officer, described his primary function as teaching “leadership in the context of a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.” 

It certainly does just that.  Participants say that they learn how to trust each other, rely on each other, and recognize that all the teams working on the case must work together without their egos getting in the way.

 

2. Painted Picture

CEO Mentor and Coach Cameron Herold uses the “Painted Picture” method to help leaders give their employees a visual representation of the path ahead.

Here’s how it works: each team member of a department writes their ideal work-related vision.  They define what the end of the year or project will look like including their successes, metrics, new initiatives, new hires, structure of the team or department. 

Department leaders then paint a picture of each person’s vision, which serves as a visual roadmap of what they’re all working towards.  This exercise focuses less on the “how” and more on the “what.”  It’s up to the team to figure out the how as they move along in their vision.

 

3. Philosophy

Read it.  Face it: management theory isn’t the most exciting stuff to read , and you can figure most of it out by working in the field for a bit.  But philosophy?  That’s a different beast entirely.  You can learn what you need about management theory by reading everything from Rousseau to Thoreau.  What’ll they give you that management theory won’t?  They’ll make you think—about how actions affect people, how people make decisions, the forces that shape power—and the ones that help you lose it. You’ll not only come away with negotiation skills, but the poetry and dialogue with which to persuade, to think, and to lead.

 

4. Aquarium

Install an aquarium in your office and encourage your employees to take a break and watch the fish. Scientific studies show that people who spend time watching fish swim in aquariums experience increases in general feelings of well-being and mental health.  Watching fish can even make a positive impact on lowering blood pressure and heart rate, and improve attention span. 

Your takeaway?  If you, your boss, or your employees run around like stressed out worker bees all the time, consider investing in an aquarium—your employees will relax, re-energize, and re-focus—and that means innovation in the workplace.

 

5. Fractals

Look at them. Watching fractal patterns can help de-stress and relax you—and give you some of that same mojo you might get by watching fish.  What is it about them?  The patterns.  How do they help us feel happier?  You focus your energy on following the patterns and bring your brain to a quiet, un-intruded upon space.  If you’re tackling a hard problem at work or at school, take a minute, go out and find a fractal in nature, or look at some in a book.  When you return to your desk, the problem will still be there, but you’ll feel refreshed and re-centered. 

While these tips may seem a bit off-the-wall, they work. 

We thought we should caution you about one strange management tip that doesn’t work at all.

Crawling.

A few years ago, a cosmetics firm in China made its employees—mostly women—crawl around a monument during their lunch break.  The purpose?  To teach employees how to work in stressful conditions. 

Don’t degrade others or let others degrade you.  Humiliation isn’t management—it’s wrong.

Learn more about earning your MBA.   

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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