How To Succeed In Your Workplace: The Prometheus Effect

We all want some sort of success at work (unless if you absolutely abhor your job of course). Success in your workplace may probably mean getting promotion, a salary increase, bonuses, incentives, increased responsibility, and etc.

Getting those things are so dependent on your company and on your role within the company. One thing’s for sure — you’ve got to earn it somehow.

Now what I’m about to teach you is something I did in my current job and I was rewarded for it. I won’t go into the details of how I did it because it’s boring but there’s a simple principle I want to share to you: The Prometheus Effect (for the record, I named this myself).

According to Greek Mythology, Prometheus was a smart titan dude who stole fire from Olympus and brought it to humans. The human race then flourished because of his gift.

As a “reward” for his generosity, Zeus bound Prometheus to a rock and an eagle would then feed on his liver. Zeus was also extra-generous to him by making his liver grow back every night so the eagle would torment him daily by eating it again and again every single day.

Pretty nice huh?

Now forget about the second part.

The most important part of Prometheus story that I want to emphasize is not how he was punished but the effect of what he did to the humans. He gave them fire and with it, the human race progressed.

Just like how Prometheus brought fire to humans and gave them something that revolutionized their lives, you too should aim to bring in something that will fire up your role in your company.

You’re probably asking, how can I bring fire or revolution to my boring role?

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

You don’t have to do something big right out the gate.

Here’s a story that illustrates the Prometheus Effect.

In Shokugeki no Souma or Food Wars, there’s an arc wherein the protagonists were assigned as pairs to help restaurants all over Japan in their day to day operations. It’s also called their school’s Stagiaire system.

(Just a bit of a background. In this manga/anime, the characters are students of a top culinary school. Read Chapter 105 for reference.)

Now to pass their stagiaire evaluation, they simply have to fulfill a single criterion: leave visible results.

Two of the protaganosits, Hisako and Souma, were assigned to a restaurant who daily had trouble catching up to the sheer amount of orders. They left visible by slimming down the menu and only accepting reservations. This way, the restaurant was able to accommodate more customers and also gave service that left smiles on the diners faces.

Tadokoro, another protagonist left visible results with a simple but effective solution. As she was assigned in a high end restaurant, she was made to simply wash dishes depsite her cooking skills. After washing a lot of dishes, she noticed that in one of the main courses they serve, a lot of sauce is left on the plates. She suggested to let the customers place the amount of sauce they want on their dish.

Hisako and Souma brought radical change to the restaurant they were assigned to. Tadoko, on the other hand, had a simple but very effective solution to something that never felt like it was a problem until she pointed it out.

Big or small.

Radical or simple.

It doesn’t matter.

As long as you effect change just for the better, just like how Prometheus gave fire to the humans, you’re in a better spot to succeed.

All you need to bring is the secret sauce for the Prometheus effect.

Try not to be a man of success, but a man of value. — Albert Einstein

Wow. What an utterly ordinary concept.

You already know this.

The Prometheus Effect is even greater when the change you bring will positively affect your company’s bottom line right away. For example, you’ve found a great way to reduce costs or you innovated on something that can bring you more sales (or an extra stream of income).

But the next question you’ll probably have is “How can I bring in value to my role when it’s a routine job and it’s so ordinary?”

Here are some suggestions on how you can do this:

  1. Upskill yourself. Learn new skills related to your job or learn advanced concepts on what you’re currently doing. You can also learn about how other people in your company does their role and how your company does business.
  2. Suggest ways to make a process more efficient. Find a process that has a potential to be done more quickly and effectively. Present your solution to your boss and ask for a trial. If your method works, then you’ll keep doing that. If it won’t, then you’ll just go back to your normal routine. No harm done.
  3. Teach others. Be the kind of person who is willing to teach and who is willing to answer questions especially from newbies. The thing is, a lot of people has this mentality that “since I had it hard, others should too”. Be the exact opposite of that. Help others as much as you can.

The Prometheus Effect is just one of the many ways you can succeed in your workplace. Just like any other method, it doesn’t guarantee rewards (duh, take a look at Prometheus).

If you’re scared of suggesting something because it might not work, don’t be. Speak with your supervisor. Present a problem and how your suggestion can possibly make things better. If you’re doubtful, you can always to tell your supervisor to conduct an experiment for a limited period to see if it works.

Now, it’s possible that you’re stuck with a company filled with stubborn people who want to do things their way and won’t take any suggestions seriously.

It’s also possible that you’re in a company who already has complex yet efficient systems in place. It also might seem that they’ve got it all figured out and you can’t add to what they’re doing anymore.

Don’t be discouraged. For what it’s worth, you’re now more aware of what you can do to bring in more value to effect change.

So go try this out! You’ll never know how much you’ll be rewarded when you bring in more value than what’s expected of you.