Unbind Innovation with Workplace Democracy, says Greenleaf Book Group

Unbind Innovation with Workplace Democracy, says Greenleaf Book Group

Successful publishing company practices participatory decision-making, open-book management

Tanya Hall

When Greenleaf Book Group was growing so fast it could only pay attention to its core service, it called upon workplace democracy to foster and enable innovative new products and services.

Tanya Hall, Greenleaf Book business development director, says the creation of a free book audio download to accompany each book purchase in addition to a new suite of services to promote and support their authors came as a result of a staff innovation meeting.

Greenleaf Book staff were asked to come to the meeting with their ideas for innovation, ranging from new services, efficiencies and client relations. After staff members presented their ideas, each employee was able to vote on their Top 3 picks, with the winning ideas moving into implementation.

Not only did the wisdom-of-the-crowds model create valuable products and save time during the 14-year old publishing company’s growth phase, it also served to engage staff.

“We just saw so much positive change come from that, and a sort of a renewed level of engagement for people who were really contributing to helping build the business,” says Hall.

Greenleaf Book Group was names to the WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces 2011, and Hall credits its founder and CEO Clint Greenleaf for creating an open environment where each person’s opinions are valued.

“We are really good at hiring smart people, so I think that he puts a lot of weight into our opinions,” says Hall.

In addition to what is planned to become a quarterly innovation summit, Hall says the company creates a democratic environment by practising open-book management. Staff members have access to the company’s finances, which are also discussed during a monthly meeting. Hall says full transparency creates a shared-sense of ownership among the team.

“We don’t hide anything,” says Hall. “Because of that, everybody knows the impact of their role and their efficiency on the bottom line.”

There is participatory decision-making for all hiring decisions, and employees are encouraged to voice their opinions during Greenleaf’s daily meetings. For Hall, it’s this open culture she values most.

“It’s knowing that my opinions matter, and not just me personally, anyone on staff. Our opinions all matter and our voices are heard. It doesn’t mean that we always get our way, and that’s fine, but if anyone has a concern or question about a business decision, we know that our voices will truly be heard, and it’s not just lip service,” she says.

Hall says companies practising workplace democracy are helping create a cultural change in business, one she hopes spreads as a result.

“The best thing that we can do is to keep continuing what we do and nurture this environment where everyone’s opinions count and ideas are worth sharing,” she says, adding people experiencing this model will likely promote it in the future.

“Fostering that environment is critical for workforces to have a culture of innovation.”

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Writer Bio

Camille Jensen's picture
Camille Jensen

Camille Jensen is an employee share ownership consultant with ESOP Builders, Canada’s largest provider of employee share ownership plans (ESOPs) for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Prior to joining ESOP Builders, Camille was a generative journalist and team member at Axiom News. She credits her time at Axiom as fundamental to her understanding that business is one of the best opportunities to make a difference in the world.

Camille is a B.C. Partner for Social Impact and volunteer with Okanagan Changemakers.

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