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Exactly thirteen years ago in March of 2000, Rob McEwen, who had just become chairman and CEO of a mining operation in Ontario Canada decided he had a problem too big to solve by conventional methods. His company GoldCorp, was in distress.
The price for gold was at an all-time low, and his operating costs were extremely high. Red Lake mine was producing only one-third as many ounces as his neighboring competitor and the miners were restless and ready to strike. It was proving to be as difficult to search Red Lake ’s 55,000 acres as it is to find Flight 370, the Malaysian airliner lost somewhere in the 28 million square miles of the Indian Ocean.
What McEwen did to solve his problem was unprecedented. He decided to publish all of Red Lake’s proprietary data on the web and committed to giving a cash price up to $105,000 to anyone who could tell them where they’d find the next 6 million ounces of gold. He nicknamed this project “The GoldCorp Challenge” and the response was big. Over 1400 scientists, engineers and geologists from 50 countries decided to participate.
The winner ended up being a collaboration between two firms in Australia who had agreed to split the prize. Neither firm had physically visited the mining site but instead had analyzed the data to produce a 3D graphical depiction of the dig sites.
When the winning team members were interviewed, they said that they didn’t compete because of the prize money. In fact, the prize money barely covered the hours invested in their research. Yes, they had wanted the recognition that would come from solving the puzzle, but most of all, they wanted to open the eyes of their industry to a new way of doing exploration. In short, they invested the time because they wanted to make a difference. In the words of the winning team leader, “This has been like a beacon (of hope) in a sea of darkness,” for the mining industry.
August 2012 Decision Accelerator
This story, published in Fast Company Magazine, is yet another example of what James Surowiecki calls the “Wisdom of Crowds.” About 18 months ago, Community used crowd-sourcing, by bringing together 250 employees to discuss and debate what kind of culture and benefits we need in order to attract and retain the brightest minds, the most committed and loyal hearts and souls, and the most highly-engaged employees on the planet. Like McEwen, we struck gold and these ideas generated a powerful action plan that turned into measurable outcomes. [Click this link to see the list of accomplishments since August 2012.]
We know that we need to continue to innovate though so we are going to tap employee input once again, on May 14, 2014, when we host an “Engagement Accelerator.” We’re randomly choosing 160 employees to attend this event to discuss how the PTO/sick time policy works and how to improve it, as well as brainstorm other changes to create an innovative, transparent, mission-oriented, results-driven culture. We’ll be reporting back about the nuggets of wisdom we gained from this session and of course the action steps, so stay tuned.
If you would like to share a comment or observation about how our PTO policy works, or what you’ve experienced at other workplaces, please reply. We greatly appreciate everyone’s insights!