the top 20 on the major rankings lists. However, like about 75 other business schools in the world, it would very much like to reach that level. That is, the school would like to displace another school currently listed in the top 20. One problem with this new land- mark building is that it is so unusual, so avant-garde, that it is not even recognized as a building. Upon seeing a photograph for the first time, some people don’t even know what they’re looking at. On the other hand, it presents an opportunity to leapfrog other schools listed higher in the rankings if the institution is creative in its approach. The challenge, of course, is that no one is sure exactly how to make this happen.
Keith Dunn and McGuffey’s Restaurant
Keith Dunn knew exactly what to expect. He knew how his employees felt about him. That’s why he had sent them the questionnaire in the first place. He needed a shot of con- fidence, a feeling that his employees were behind him as he struggled to build McGuffey’s Restaurants, Inc., beyond two restaurants and $4 million in annual sales.
Gathering up the anonymous questionnaires, Dunn returned to his tiny corporate office in Asheville, North Carolina. With one of his partners by his side, he ripped open the first envelope as eagerly as a Broadway producer checking the reviews on opening night. His eyes zoomed directly to the question where employees were asked to rate the three owners’ performance on a scale of 1 to 10.
A zero. The employee had scrawled in a big, fat zero. “Find out whose handwriting this is,” he told his partner, Richard Laibson.
He ripped open another: zero again. And another. A two. “We’ll fire these people,” Dunn said to Laibson coldly. Another zero.
A one. “Oh, go work for somebody else, you jerk!” Dunn shouted. Soon, he had moved to fire 10 of his 230 employees. “Plenty of people seemed to hate my guts,” he says.
Over the next day, though, Dunn’s anger subsided. “You think, I’ve done all this for these people and they think I’m a total jerk who doesn’t care about them,” he says. “Finally, you have to look in the mirror and think, ‘Maybe they’re right.’”
For Dunn, that realization was absolutely shattering. He had started the company three years earlier out of frustration over all the abuse he had suffered while working at big restaurant chains. If Dunn had one overriding mission at McGuffey’s, it was to prove that restaurants didn’t have to mistreat their employees.
He thought he had succeeded. Until he opened those surveys, he had believed that McGuffey’s was a place where employees felt valued, involved, and appreciated. “I had no idea we were treating people so badly,” he says. Somewhere along the way, in the day- to-day running of the business, he had lost his connection with them and left behind the employee-oriented company he thought he was running.
Dunn’s 13-year odyssey through some big restaurant chains left him feeling as limp as a cheeseburger after a day under the heat lamps. Ponderosa in Georgia. Bennigan’s in
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