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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Little Bets: Questions--Post #8

Questions, the New Answers: The story of Muhammad Yunus who founded Grameen Bank (micro-lending to poor people) and won the Nobel Prize. Yunus was an economics professor who finally became a field researcher of poverty and essentially an anthropologist of the people, just outside his protected university lecture hall. When he started asking questions of local poor people (taking a “worm’s” eye view, not  bird’s eye view), he discovered that only 22 cents could make a difference between poverty and financial health in Jobra, a poor Indian village. Yunus discovered an unintentional path toward the Nobel Prize by asking questions, not giving answers.  Whether it’s Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, A.G. Lafley (of P&G), or Jerry Seinfeld, creative people all have one thing in common: Inquisitiveness. Taking an anthropologist’s inquiry point of view (worm’s eye view) will uncover answers and insights through good questions.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Little Bets: Play--Post #7

Play: Experiments with musicians discovered that when they played improvised jazz, they somehow shut off the self-censoring part of their brains. In other words, they turned off unhealthy perfectionism and stayed open and available to the creative process. Creativity starts when restraint ends. Getting into the state of “flow” ( Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) where time flies and delight flows—comes when we “…do work that appeals to our intrinsic interests that’s also aligned with our personal strengths.” Improvisation principles include: 1) “Yes…And.” Accept every idea (without judgment), and build on it with more ideas; 2) Playfulness in the environment creates a safe place to express new ideas; 3) Humor improves quantity and quality of communications, steps up creativity by creating trust; successful humor breaks down the power structure and HiPPO…highest paid person’s opinion (people think that higher paid people are smarter and more insightful—not so!).

Friday, September 28, 2012

Little Bets: Perfectionism--Post #6

Perfectionism: This trait can be both unhealthy and healthy. When unhealthy it is externally driven, caring too much what others think, needing approval, ruminating over past failure, and fear of failure. Whereas, healthy perfectionism is internally driven, excellence driven, quality focused, and learning from failure…failing forward toward a more perfect product/service. One writer, Anne Lamott, talks about starting her writing with a “shitty first draft,” which I have been doing for years!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Little Bets: Growth Mindset--Post #5

Growth Mindset: Sims discusses the work of Carol Dweck, a social psychologist at Stanford. She developed the theory of Fixed vs. Growth mindset. According to Dweck, fixed-mindset people avoid challenges, give up easily, avoid too much effort, ignore constructive criticism, and get threatened by the success of others. Growth-mindset folks are the opposite. They invite and embrace changes, bounce back from setbacks, equate effort as necessary to mastery, accept and learn from criticism, and find motivation from the success of others.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Little Bets: Big Numbers--Post #4

The Tyranny of Big Numbers: Using Hewlett-Packard (HP) as an example, the author tells the story of how after HP grew up from its humble experimental beginnings, they only went after big bets—billion-dollar bets. Essentially, they allowed other, smaller, more nimble companies to discover the technology, rather than create new discoveries themselves. They followed their big plan—into failure. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara placed the same sort of big bet in Vietnam. He bet that millions of dollars in bombing would bring the Viet Cong to its knees. But the Cong’s extensive tunnel system shielded them from the bombs and marked the end of this big bet, failed strategy.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Little Bets: The Process--Post #3

Little Bets Process: Sims describes his process early on. He also explains that it takes a real shift in mindset—discovering the best answer rather than starting with the “right answer.” Here’s his Little Bets creative process in brief: Experiment, play, immerse, define, reorient and iterate:
a.    Experiment: Learn by doing. Jump in try, fail, try again, discover new ways of solving problems.
b.    Play: Stay open, relaxed and in a humorous state that allows ideas to flow and not get stuck in seriousness.
c.    Immerse: Dive into the pool and swim around in the subject. Get wet!
d.    Define: Clearly understanding the nature of the issues prevents an elegant solution to the wrong problem. Define the problem carefully first.
e.    Reorient: Don’t be afraid to take a pivot right or left to adapt to new information you get. Stay flexible.
f.    Iterate: Work, revise, rework. It’s what comedians like Chris Rock and all good writers do—revision (reiteration) is where the gold is.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Little Bets: Introduction--Post #2

Introduction: In the intro chapter Sims talks about what Chris Rock, the comedian, and Jeff Bezos of Amazon, among others, have in common. They make little bets along the way…they experiment. Chris Rock for example, literally takes a notepad into little off-the-path comedy clubs and “tests” out his jokes with small, die-hard comedy audiences. And only when he gets his jokes perfected does he use them on TV or in front of large groups. Very calculated. Bezos at Amazon started his whole business on a bet and had several failed bets along the way. For example, his failed partnership with Sotheby’s, when he went head to head with eBay, stands out as one of his biggest failed bets. The author’s theory of experimental innovation actually comes from a number of seemingly unrelated places: the military, creative artists, entrepreneurs, software developers, and more. He uses “design thinking” based on building up answers (from experimenting and observations) rather than starting with the correct answer.
3.    Little Bets Process: Sims describes his process early on. He also explains that it takes a real shift in mindset—discovering the best answer rather than starting with the “right answer.” Here’s his Little Bets creative process in brief: Experiment, play, immerse, define, reorient and iterate:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Little Bets: Post #1--Overview

Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries (Free Press, 2011) by Peter Sims and reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., September 2012.

Overview: “The best entrepreneurs don’t begin with brilliant ideas—they discover them.” This quote comes early on in the book and sums it up. Sims uses example after example of creative geniuses such as John Legend, Thomas Edison, and Jeff Bezos as examples of people who placed a number of small bets to test their ideas early on. They all used what can be called an emergent design. Indeed, discovery is not a linear process, nor is knowledge static—even though textbooks might have us believe those notions. To quote Sims, “As Richard Wiseman’s research shows, chance favors an open mind, receptivity to what cannot be predicted or imagined based on existing knowledge.” In short, when you stay open to the universe, more comes your way!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Being Global: Post #5--Global Citizenship

Global Citizenship: Global leaders don’t make profits on the backs of poor or disadvantaged people in other countries. They act as “citizens of the world.”
a.    This one is tough because competition pushes some people to give up the wide view in favor of personal gain—in place of personal integrity. True global leaders resist the pressure of shareholders to pursue solely financial gains. They do not condone bribery, skirting the law, or dancing on the edge of ethics. Rather, these leaders take one giant step toward the side of decency and global concern.
b.    Social Mission:  Even the most business minded of companies must be socially minded and involved if they want to become global citizens.  In short our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is global, not just local.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Being Global: Post #4--Global Entrepreneurs

Global Entrepreneurs leverage their mindset to create value for themselves, investors, customers and global business partners. They are “boundary spanners and bridgers.” These global entrepreneurs create value several ways.
a.    Tap commonalities, for example, to use technology to enter into a new market and divergence to adapt to supply chain variability.
b.    Tap networks to scale up in telecommunications, transportation or in business platforms.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Being Global: Post #3--Global Mindset

Global Mindset: A worldview that looks at problems or issues in such a way that a solution emerges through a collaborative multicultural approach involving global psychological capital, intellectual capital, and global social capital.
a.    Global psychological capital: Leaders look at problems from a wide angle, including multiple points of view. They suspend judgment to understand others’ points of view.
b.    Global intellectual capital: Leaders have strong political and economic understanding of the complexity of international affairs. They see international trends, industry risks and potential rewards.
c.    Global Social Capital: Leaders develop networks beyond local comfortable boundaries. They’re emotionally and socially astute, listen well, and assimilate a variety of viewpoints.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Being Global: Post #2--Making a Global Leader

Global Leaders Can be Made
a.    What is a global leader? Global leaders figure out how to use differences (social and cultural) as ways to pull people together, not separate them. They function to build bridges among global resources and talent to create value.
b.    Why do we need Global Thinkers? The authors use the fascinating example of blue jeans—nothing is more American or more global. From Peru for cotton, to China for finishing, then to Malaysia to be spun, to Thailand to be woven, Singapore to be cut, Indonesia for sewing, to India for labels….the list keeps going! Thus, our jeans are global jeans. We need global leaders to deal with this level of complexity to “leverage its fundamental forces to have a positive impact.”
c.    Global Leaders for all sectors: “Being Global” involves a personal intention to focus on being global. Companies don’t exist in silos but within systems, especially global ones. Being global is about crossing not just borders but also cultural divides between business, government and social sectors. The UN is doing this with Millennium Development Goals. Global leaders see problems in context and with a wider lens that leads to more worldwide sustainability and not simply parochial interests.
d.    Global Leaders have a global mindset, practice global entrepreneurship and engage in global citizenship.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Being Global: Post #1--Overview

Being Global: How to Think, Act, and Lead in a Transformed World by Angel Cabrera and Gregory Unruh (Harvard Business Press, 2012), reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., September 2012

Overview: Being Global by Angel Cabrera and Gregory Unruh is itself a global business leadership primer. “The world today is truly global: Inclusive, multidirectional, interlinked, and hugely complex.” Getting managers ready for a global experience is more than blitz language training and a short course on culture. Walmart discovered this when it tried to penetrate Brazil with Walmart’s big-box concept in a Brazilian mom-and-pop culture. Cabrera and Unruh met at Thunderbird School of Global Management (started in 1946 to focus on training managers for international trade) in Glendale, Arizona. According to the authors, “Being Global” needs to be part of an organization’s (and a person’s) DNA. This book shares and promulgates Thunderbird’s philosophy to help leaders become more global. The authors make their purpose known up front: “Our interest is in how you can actually transcend culture, become effective across cultural settings, effectively interact with culturally diverse individuals and organizations and create value.” Finally, Angel Cabrera is the incoming president of George Mason University in Virginia. It will be interesting to see how he brings his global mindset to this major U.S. University. I wish great success for him, George Mason University, and the global community at large.
[Note: The author of this review teaches at George Mason University.]

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Advantage: Post#12--Meetings

Great Meetings: Extracted from his book, Death by Meeting, there’s nothing new here but very important stuff well worth considering. Lencioni recommends four types of meetings for healthy organizations.
a.    The Daily Check-In: Held in 5-10 minutes, while standing up, participants get 30 seconds to share any administrative stuff going on. This is a quick, boots-on-the ground meeting.
b.    Weekly Tactical Staff Meeting: 45-90 minutes, “agenda-less” meeting; in a very quick (30-second) burst everyone lists (not discusses) their top 2-3 priorities. The leader then drills down with questions and the team maps progress toward the Playbook matrix that includes the Thematic Goal, Defining Objectives, and Standard Operating Objectives. In a sense, they evaluate the scorecard—how are we doing?
c.    Monthly  Strategic Meeting: Take 2-4 hours a month to tackle the big vision, strategic/directional questions that take time to solve. Send the agenda out ahead of time and allow time to clarify and debate issues to resolution.
d.    Developmental Meetings: Quarterly (1-2 days) offsites allow teams to revisit the Playbook (thematic goal, defining objectives, etc.), discuss industry trends, threats and opportunities.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Advantage: Post #11--Reinforce Clarity

Discipline #4: Reinforce Clarity—Checking on the six clarifying questions ensures clarity will be established and held by the team. So, an organization has to weave it into its DNA without creating a bureaucracy.  Certain human systems can be used to reinforce these clarifying questions. New hires at an organization provide the opportunity to teach and ensure that they know and will focus on and live by the questions. Using a simple yet consistent plan throughout the organization is key. Interviewing can also provide an opportunity for any leaders to probe new hires for their fit with corporate values. Keep performance management simple, but make sure the right conversations are about the 6 clarifying questions. If your corporate values matter—especially the permission-to-play (fundamental issues)—you should hold every employee to them, and those who simply cannot play by those fundamental rules should be let go.

The Advantage: Post#10--Overcommunicate Clarity

Discipline #3—Overcommunicate Clarity: Anything worth saying is worth saying 7 times—that’s how many times employees have to hear something from a leader to start believing that the leader really means it. Unfortunately, for a host of reasons (time, not wanting to be redundant, etc.), many leaders don’t repeat themselves. The result is a garbled message, inconsistent execution and often frustration. Lencioni asks leaders to become Chief Reminding Officers, responsible for reminding people of important issues like the vision and values of the company. One way to ensure communication is to engage in “cascading communications” a pouring down the organization of key information from all supervisors to all employees. Lencioni suggests three tactics: Message consistency, timeliness of passing on the word, and real-time communication. And while the author argues for upward and lateral communication channels, he notes that in very healthy organizations, when there is cohesiveness at the top, communication gets even better. The final test of cascading communications is whether employees can articulate the six clarifying questions (like, why do we exist? And, how do we behave?)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Advantage: Post #9--Create Clarity--Behavior

 Question #2: How do we behave? Values drive behavior. If we value collaboration, we will help other teams when they need help…not ignore the need. Developing a core set of values (based on what we will hire and fire on) is a critical step for great organizations. The author outlines several different types of values, integrated into a plan—Core, Aspirational, Accidental and Permission to Play. Core—hire or fire values. Aspirational—what the team wants to have. Accidental—evolve but are not necessarily good. And Permission-to-Play—baseline values like honesty and respect. In the end, core values matter the most. They define the DNA of who we are as a team. Sometimes using an original metaphor helps. The author uses a corporate example used by one company— “willing to sweep the floors”—to describe a concrete example of a value in action.

Note there are 4 other questions to be answered...see the book for the rest.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Advantage: Post#8--Create Clarity

Discipline #2—Create  Clarity: Clarity around goals depends upon creating alignment. However, any misalignment at the top of an organization creates confusion, conflict and strife below. Small gaps at the top translate to huge divides lower in the organization. Mission statements can become a ball of wax full of platitudes and buzzwords that confuse, not clarify.  So the author offers six clarifying questions: Why do we exist? How do we behave? What do we do? How will we succeed? What is most important right now? Who must do what?

Question #1: Why do we exist? High performing teams want and need a noble and aspirational goal. They need to answer the ‘not what we do’ but ‘why we do it’ question. But it’s not a slogan or tagline—more our real purpose.  So a hotel might provide excellent service, but why? To help patrons escape and recharge so they can go back to work with renewed energy. And the focus of that purpose can be industry, community or customer driven (among others). But knowing why we do what we do drives us toward a higher calling—a purpose.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Advantage: Post#7--Build Team on Results

Focus on Results: The ultimate goal of a team is to get results. No goals accomplished, no effective team. “Teams that lead healthy organizations… come to terms with the difficult but critical requirement that its members must put the needs of the higher team ahead of the needs of their departments” (p.69). This is a BIG point. Loyalty to the team you’re a member of is more important than the team you lead. Why? Because alignment at the higher level has a much deeper impact. Shifting a team’s priorities from individual to collective ones is essential for making good decisions for the entire organization. The author aptly calls it “One team, one score.”

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Advantage: Post#6--Build Team w/ Accountability

Embrace Accountability: Peers holding other peers accountable makes for great accountability and great teams. Commit to a decision and confront others who don’t live up to the agreement—not easy but a sure sign of caring about the person and the team. A drop in measurable metrics is almost always traced back to a lack of desired behavior. “Conflict is about issues and ideas, while accountability is about performance and behavior” (p. 60).

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