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Friday, December 30, 2011

Happiness Advantage: Post #3--A Competitive Advantage

Principle #1. The Happiness Advantage: How Happiness Gives Your Brain—and Your Organization—The Competitive Edge
a. We used to think that happiness “orbited” around success but found the opposite is true. Get happy and watch success happen. Martin Seligman (U. of Penn.) analyzed happiness in terms of three components: Pleasure, Engagement, and Meaning (watch him explain this on Simple pleasures of life are only part of the story. Positive emotions are at the core of happiness. Scholar Barbara Frederickson (UNC) identified the ten most common positive emotions: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love. Many studies demonstrate that happy workers are more productive, get higher performance ratings, take less sick time, and so on. And happy CEOs create a happier climate that fosters happier, more productive employees. In short happiness causes success, not the other way around.
b. The Nun Study: In a now famous longitudinal study of 180 Catholic nuns (all born before 1917) who were asked to write their bios when they originally entered the convent, amazing results emerged. Over five decades later, researchers coded and analyzed their bios to search for positive indicators in the text. They discovered the “happier” bios led to nuns who lived, on average, 10 years longer than their less happy sisters.
c. Elements of happiness: Scientists have proven that we can improve our happiness set point by doing the following—having purpose and meaning in life, looking for opportunities, developing optimism and a gratitude mentality, and having strong social relationships. Some ways to make that happen:
i. Meditate: Even just 5 minutes a day helps—though most, like me, prefer 20 minutes—breathe in and out deeply and notice how the oxygen calms your mind.
ii. Spend Money—not on objects but on experiences. Go to a great movie rather than buy a gadget. Spend it on a memorable vacation rather than buying a new gizmo.
iii. Find Something to Look Forward to: Planning to do to something you love in the future creates about the same joy and happiness as that of actually doing it.
iv. Commit Conscious Acts of Kindness: Commit random and deliberate acts of kindness and watch your happiness mount. Try to do 5 acts of deliberate kindness a week for good results.
v. Exercise Signature Strengths: Figure out what you’re strengths are and try to use them every day and watch happiness mount and depression decline.
vi. Exercise and fill your life with positivity—regular exercise can stave off depression. Also, keeping things around you that give you positive energy has the same effect. I keep a gratitude journal in my medicine cabinet and write down 5 things I’m grateful for each day. Makes a difference in my mindset.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happiness Advantage: Post #2--Introduction to Happiness

Introduction: Turning the Switch from Depression to Happiness
a. A 2004 study at Harvard found 4 of 5 students suffered from depression during the school year. Only 45% of workers are happy at their jobs. And depression is 10 times today what it was in 1960. For years, most research was focused on diagnosing illnesses that create depression and unhappiness. In 1988 the ratio of negative to positive psychological studies was 17-1.
b. Medical School Syndrome—You get what you concentrate on. First-year med students study symptoms of many diseases, and many are convinced they’ve come down with those symptoms/diseases!
c. That same year (1998) Martin Seligman (U. of Penn.) became the head of the American Psychological Association and strategically shifted the organization toward investigating “positive psychology.” In 2006, Tal Ben-Shahar and Shawn Achor (the author), both professors at Harvard, developed a course on happiness, and nearly 1 in 6 students registered for it…the largest in the school’s history. These most privileged of students sought—needed—to find simple happiness.
d. Researchers did a “meta analysis” (a study of over 200 studies) on about 275,000 people and found that happiness affects every part of our lives for the better, including work, family, friendship, health, energy…you name it. People need to focus on the positive to protect themselves, especially those in certain professions. Consider auditors and lawyers—who are taught to look for flaws all day long. The toll is significant: Lawyers have three times more depression than other professions and law students suffer from dangerous levels of depression. Good news is that people can and do change at EVERY age. Neuroplasticity is the study of how flexible our brains are. For example, blind people’s fingers become more sensitive as does their sense of hearing. In effect, they see and feel with their re-routed brain.
e. The author found 7 positive patterns of success: The Happiness Advantage, The Fulcrum and the Lever, The Tetris Effect, Falling Up, The Zorro Circle, The 20-Second Rule, and Social Investment.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happiness Advantage: Post #1--Overview

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor (Crown Business, 2010); review/summary by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., December 2011.

Overview: Early on, we’re taught to get an education, find a job, work hard, be successful, and we’ll find happiness. Turns out, like so many things, science and research say just the reverse. Figure out what makes you happy, pursue it, and you’ll find happiness, and a good living to boot. Shawn Achor, a researcher and teacher himself, has pulled together the research of some of my favorite people—Martin Seligman, Carol Dwek, Tal Ben-Shahar—and many others into an enjoyable, powerful text which posits that intentionally investing in what makes us happy might just be the most important investment we make in our lives. He offers seven (7) principles to help us do just that. Principle #1: The Happiness Advantage—How Happiness Gives Your Brain and Your Organization the Competitive Edge; Principle #2: The Fulcrum and the Lever—Changing Your Performance by Changing Your Mindset; Principle #3: The Tetris Effect—Training Your Brain to Capitalize on Possibility; Principle #4: Falling Up—Capitalizing on the Downs to Create Upward Momentum; Principle #5: The Zorro Circle—How Limiting Your Focus to Small, Manageable Goals Can Expand Your Sphere of Power; Principle #6: The 20-Second Rule—How to Turn Bad Habits into Good Ones by Minimizing Barriers to Change; and, Principle #7: Social Investment— Why Social Support is Your Single Greatest Asset.

This book is VERY important for employees, teams, leaders and companies to read. Send a copy to someone you care about.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lean Start Up: #7- Final Words

If you're starting up a company, innovating in a bureaucracy, or introducing something new to your company, I recommend you buy and read The Lean Startup. Also, check it out on Authors@Google.
a. Authors@Google: Eric Ries The Lean Startup

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lean Start Up: #6 - Innovation Accounting

Innovation Accounting

a. Accounting: originally invented to evaluate accountability across departments.
b. How to drive accountability with NO history, even no clients?
c. Innovation Accounting: Three learning milestones
i. Establish the baseline (avoid vanity stats…web site hits, etc.)
1. Build minimum viable product (MVP).
2. MVP: What’s the minimum that needs to be in product? In this new model, all we need is what we need to learn to see if our model is sustainable.
3. Measure per-customer behavior.
ii. Tune the engine
1. Experiment to see if we can improve metrics from the baseline towards the ideal.
2. Hypothesis testing: Using Split-Tests—offering two different versions of the product to same type audience to see which one works better.
iii. Pivot or persevere
1. When experiments reach diminishing returns, it’s time to pivot.
2. Schedule a meeting three months in advance to see if you hit predictions. Set a stake in the future to re-evaluate.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lean Start Up: #5 - Build-Measure-Learn


a. Goal of entrepreneurs: How to build a sustainable business. Need a system to evaluate and assess. All else is waste.
b. Value vs. Waste: Where learning is really the unit of progress. Cycle time: loop (in software development—turning ideas into code): 1. Ideas; 2. BUILD; 3. Code; 4. MEASURE; 5. Data; 6. LEARN. Can you make it through the sustainable cycle faster? Pivot is one turn through this loop. Minimize time through the loop for greater chance for success. So, what needs to be in version #1 of product is only what’s necessary (the MVP—Minimally Viable Product) to see if vision or plan is right.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lean Start Up: #4 - Validated Learning

Validated Learning

a. The old waterfall method of building something (especially in software development) requires a problem that is known and a solution that is also known. Easy when building the next iteration of something already built. But, not good for starting something from scratch.
b. How to Achieve Failure: Building something that nobody wants and building it on time, under budget! Essentially we are executing a bad plan.
c. Edwards Deming: “The customer is the most important part of the production line.” All we should do is gauge whether the customer cares about it.
d. Agile methods have their origins in IT departments. The problem is known, but the solution is unknown and uncertain. But, what if we don’t know who the customer is or what s/he wants?
e. Steve Blank (a mentor of Ries) tells us to know our customer and use a process, from creating a prototype, to testing it, to validated learning, to innovative accounting.
f. Case Study: What Ries learned at previous company: Customers did not want to use his product to connect with existing friends, they wanted to connect to new people and make new friends. PIVOT—had to make a major move.
g. Lots of code written: 25,000 lines. All had to be tossed because it didn’t appeal to teens—target market. PIVOT…created an IM network instead that attached to existing system.
h. Could have discovered this if he had simply experimented with creating a single webpage…to see if people tried it! Nobody wanted it…so, he didn’t need page 2.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lean Start Up: #3 - Management

Entrepreneurship is management

a. Goal: Create an institution, not just a product.
b. Frederick Taylor: Invented Scientific Management…in 20th century got us thinking about scientific process.
c. We need practices and principles geared to extreme uncertainty—like entrepreneurship that employs a scientific process.
d. The PIVOT: One foot planted in what we’ve learned and changing one thing in the business at a time—using the scientific experimental process.
i. What do successful startups have in common?
ii. Successful startups…had screwy ideas. They didn’t give up OR drive biz into the ground. They made a critical pivot.
iii. Speed wins: If you can reduce the time between making “pivots” you’ll increase the odds of success—before you go broke!
iv. So, how do you figure out how to make a move sooner…aka pivot faster?
v. Pivot: One foot in the known and moving the other foot in a different direction. Like basketball. Pivoting faster makes the difference between success and failure.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lean Start Up: #2 - Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are everywhere
-Ries’ definition of a startup: Human institution is designed to create something (deliver a new product or service) under conditions of extreme uncertainly—uncertainty about the customer, his/her wants, and about sustainability.

- Nothing to do with size of the company, the sector of the economy, or the industry genre.
- Entrepreneur is a career, a calling.
- Startup is an experiment.
--Science of entrepreneurship.
--Stop wasting people’s time!
--Waste: Building things that no one wants.
-Success: Which companies live up to their aspirations, dreams, plan, talent, energy of founders, investors and employees?
- All of us lack a theory of entrepreneurship
- It’s not can it be built, but should it be built. Software—we can build anything we can imagine—but should it be built?
- AND can we build a sustainable business around the product?
- GDP will be built in the future on the quality of our collective imaginations.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lean Start Up: #1 - Overview

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries (Crown, 2011) from a video of Eric Ries at Authors@Google. Reviewed/summarized by Steve Gladis, PhD, November 2011.

Overview: According to Eric Ries, a startup is “an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” As such, an entrepreneur can be anyone working in his/her basement, a team member in a small company, or someone in a Fortune 500 working on something new when conditions are uncertain. Thus, entrepreneurs are everywhere—not just two guys toiling in a garage with a great idea. Lean startup takes its origins from lean manufacturing and focuses on operating efficiently in a world of uncertainty. To do that, Ries points out that any entrepreneurial company tries to build a sustainable business by conducting “scientific” experiments that test elements of vision. Entrepreneurs hold faithful to a build-measure-learn mantra. Build a product, test it with customers and measure the results, and then modify it by pivoting or preserving—adjusting the product to meet customer needs or holding steady with the plan. Finally, innovation accounting helps startups measure and hold themselves accountable for steps moving them forward. Startups need not invest enormous amounts of money and time before making critical changes, thus reaching their vision sooner and remaining intact financially.
Five Principles of Lean Startup
- Entrepreneurs are everywhere
- Entrepreneurship is management
- Validated learning
- Build-measure-learn
- Innovation Accounting

Monday, December 5, 2011

Strengths: Post #7 - Back of the Book

Back of the book: The basic theory of the book is that we all have specific talents. With work and development, we can hone those skills to become real leadership strengths. And, taken together with others on the team, pooling skills results in strong, effective teams that foster engaged, productive and happy employees.

a. Developing Talents: One section in the back of the book describes the 34 themes (or talents) in the Clifton Strengths Finder. Not only do they describe the theme (talent), but they also give specific, customized direction about how that talent can be developed so that people will want to follow you. Thus, each theme is passed through four familiar filters about how to build Trust, Compassion, Stability, and Hope.

b. Research: This book is based on a lot of research, and the back of the book attempts to summarize that. I especially like the annotated references, which reinforced my confidence in the data. Using such an evidenced- based approach to team building only makes sense. And using this book as a central component of that strategy makes even more sense.

Buy the book, take the StrengthsFinder and have your team discuss it as if it were a roadmap to success—which it is, in my opinion.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Strengths: Post #6 - Follwers Needs

Followers’ Four Basic Needs: Gallup’s research focuses not just on looking at how leaders behave but also on followers. A leader charging forward without followers is just out for a walk! The good folks at Gallup looked at 10,000 followers and asked two questions: 1) What leader has the most positive influence in your daily life? 2) List three words that best describe what this person contributes to your life. The results were remarkably simple and profound. Here are THE 4 things followers want from their leaders: Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope. Actually, not far off from what our ancient friend Aristotle said 2,500 years ago—people want leaders to have Ethos (Trust), Pathos (Compassion) and Logos (Stability & Hope).

1. Trust: Employees who trust leaders are much more likely to stay around. Things get done far more quickly in high-trust teams. Respect, integrity, and honesty are the results of high trust. Trust happens through behaviors. And, in high-trust organizations there’s more a presumption of trust than a lot of chatter about it. Whereas on low-trust, struggling teams, there’s a lot of discussion about trust. Remember, trusted relationships will “trump” competence any time. Better to be trusted than be the smartest person in the room!

2. Compassion: People want leaders who care about them. It’s that simple and, for some leaders, that difficult. When 10,000 employees were asked what great leaders contributed to their lives, they said: Caring, friendship, happiness, and love. And when 10 Million (!) people were asked whether their supervisor or someone at work cared about them, the ones who answered yes were more engaged, productive and most likely to stick around (retention). Moreover, not only do leaders have to care, the culture of an organization has to “have a heart.” When that happens, employees do great things and hang around.

3. Hope: While people want stability on a day-to-day basis, they want hope in the future. People in the Gallup survey used words like direction, faith, and guidance. When asked if they had faith in their organization, the 69% who answered affirmatively were the most engaged employees in their companies, as compared to a miserly 1% of those who answered negatively about hope in their company’s future. Just the mere act of initiating something new can offer hope in the future for employees. Such hope and optimism gives employees something to live and strive for. Without hope, despair and paralysis take over. However, most managers work on day-to-day problems rather than hope-filled strategies of the future. It’s easier to take a phone call than to plan a strategy for financial growth into the future. Add to that the quarter-to-quarter mentality of many corporate boards and their CEOs and you see how establishing hope in the future is as difficult as necessary.

4. Stability: No one likes constant chaos. And most people like stability—especially in times of threat or crisis. A steady hand on the rudder of the organization calms people down and allows them to make better choices. Those surveys by Gallup used words like security, strength, support and peace. People want stability and confidence. Those who are particularly confident in a company’s financial future are nine times more likely to stay with the company, rather than jump ship. To ensure financial stability, make the numbers open to everyone….be transparent.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Strengths: Post #5 - Common Team Elements

Common Elements of Great Teams
--Conflict does not destroy strong teams because strong teams focus on results. Strong teams may well argue as they proceed toward the goal, but they’re all focused on the goal—together. Weak teams argue and tend to personalize their disagreements, thus fracturing groups and driving them away from the goal toward silos and personal interests.

--Strong teams prioritize what’s best for the organization and then move forward. Strong teams figure out what’s best for the organization’s health and welfare, focus on that, and subordinate their own interests for the greater good of the organization. This isn’t easy, but it separates the great teams from fair teams and companies.

--Members of strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to work. Members of strong teams commit to their work, their families and their communities. These folks seem to know how to get it all done—without falling into an obsession about work. They work on their families and the community as well—volunteering and making their communities better places to live and work.

--Strong teams embrace diversity. Diversity helps teams solve problems better and faster than homogenous teams, the members of which all see the world the same way. The more diverse the team in age, gender, and ethnicity, the research shows, the greater the level of engagement. And the greater the engagement, the greater the productivity and retention. Diverse teams look at people’s strengths, not their gender, race, or age.

--Strong teams are magnets for talent. The easy way to find a strong team or a weak team is to look at what people are doing to get on or off the team. Strong teams attract the best and brightest. Weak teams start looking like abandoned tenements as people flee to a better place.

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