Xerox and the Vision Quest

2 Pages Posted: 30 May 2017

See all articles by Nicholas Stewart

Nicholas Stewart

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Jenny Mead

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Andrew Wicks

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

Xerox Production Manager Jim Deese has an employee who is uncomfortable with the company's “vision quests” (creative and spiritual retreats). Xerox began conducting these vision quests as a means of invigorating production and innovation at the company, which had struggled over the years with product development and increasing competition. Some studies have shown that incorporating some element of spirituality helps to generate a happier and more creative workplace. Nonetheless, the employee questions the vision quests and the company's other mildly spiritual practices, and Deese must decide how to respond.

Excerpt

UVA-E-0367

Rev. Oct. 4, 2013

Xerox and the Vision Quest

At the close of a busy workday, Xerox Production Manager Jim Deese found himself thinking about a conversation he had had earlier in the day with Assistant Manager Mike Biggs, who had recently been hired right out of business school. Biggs had confessed to Deese that several aspects of the Xerox culture troubled him. Primarily, Biggs had been surprised to learn that all Xerox employees were strongly encouraged to participate in the company's creative and spiritual retreats, also known as “vision quests,” a Native American term indicating the journey one took to achieve higher spirituality. Biggs admitted to Deese that he was an atheist, a fact that he kept to himself, and that he was not comfortable with anything involving spirituality in the workplace. Deese had explained the origin and nature of these quests, emphasizing that religion was not involved, but Biggs was troubled that they even existed. As Deese thought about the conversation, he reflected back on his 20 years with Xerox and the company's culture of creativity, which often seemed to border on spirituality.

Starting in the early 1990s, Xerox began conducting these vision quests as a means of invigorating production and innovation at the company, which had struggled over the years with product development and increasing competition. In these vision quests, sometimes over 300 employees would spend 24 hours in remote locations such as New York's Catskill Mountains or New Mexico's deserts, equipped with only sleeping bags and water. Employees were encouraged to use this time to think about infusing greater creativity into the design and redesign of Xerox products. One legendary story was that, after seeing a Xerox paper carton floating in an oil puddle in the middle of a swamp, company engineers vowed to design and build more recyclable products. Deese had heard that this event was behind the creation of the 97% recyclable and highly successful Xerox 265 Digital Copier.

As a follow-up to these vision quests, Xerox incorporated other Native American customs, such as talking circles in which a stone was passed around and only the person holding the stone could talk, thus emphasizing the power and importance of listening and being receptive to others' thoughts. So successful had Xerox been in utilizing these Native American customs to foster creativity that several other companies had visited the company's Rochester, New York, headquarters to learn more.

. . .

Keywords: business ethics, ethical situations, stakeholder management, religion, spirituality, vision quest, Xerox, leadership, diversity, Native American practices, sustainability, workplace environment

Suggested Citation

Stewart, Nicholas and Mead, Jenny and Wicks, Andrew, Xerox and the Vision Quest. Darden Case No. UVA-E-0367. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2974171

Nicholas Stewart

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Jenny Mead

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Andrew Wicks (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/wicks.htm

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