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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Your Brain@Work: Pos #6--Self Awareness

Self-Awareness: Kevin Ochsner at Columbia (NY) is one of the fathers of social cognitive neuroscience. He says, “Self-Awareness is the ability to step outside your skin and look at yourself with as close to an objective eye as you possibly can.” Dan Siegel, a leading researcher at the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA, says this of mindfulness: ”…it’s our ability to pause before we react…to consider various options and choose the most appropriate ones.” When you’re in heavy traffic and you turn off the radio, you’re being mindful. When you hold back making a comment in anger, you’re being mindful.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Your Brain@Work: Post #5--Distractions

Distractions: External distractions come from your surroundings—computers, music, cell phones, emails, texts, you name it. Distractions are frustrating and debilitating. Shifting attention takes a great deal of energy to get back on track. So, turn off everything you can. What about internal distractions? The medial PFC deals with thinking about yourself. It’s called the “default network” because when your brain is on “idle,” it starts to think about YOU.  Staying focused on a task depends on how you inhibit distractions, not how hard you focus. Self-control is a shallow pool and it dries up fast. And inhibiting things quickly keeps them from bypassing the braking system. For example, once you open your email or Facebook, it’s harder to stop yourself. So keep them closed. Again, when you get stuck, take a break. Perhaps this explains why great solutions come while we’re sleeping, running or taking a shower!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Your Brain@Work: Post #4--Interference

Dual-task Interference: Researchers show that when people try to do two cognitive functions, one of them suffers measurably. The PFC takes a lot of energy to sustain, and though it can hold up to four conscious thoughts at a time, it can only effectively focus on one mental process at a time (understanding, deciding, recalling, memorizing, and inhibiting). Split attention is exhausting. Constant emailing and texting has the effect of missing a night’s sleep or the same debilitation as smoking pot! Such strain increases your “allostatic load,” your level of stress hormones, and this “always on” state has a significant impact on brain functioning.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Your Brain@Work: Post #3--Conserving the PFC

Conserving the PFC: To clear away the clutter of the PFC and allow it to solve the biggest problems first: Prioritize issues when your brain is fresh, use your most alert times for the toughest issues, use visuals to tap images embedded in occipital lobe, and get it on paper or on a white board. Also, find your time of day that works best for deep thinking, and give your brain a break/rest (take naps, walks, etc.).

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Your Brain @ Work: Post #2--Problems

Problems and Decisions: The brain has real limits that would surprise most of us, so there’s an epidemic of mentally overwhelmed people. Ask anyone facing a busy meeting or travel schedule, a stack of daily emails, and a demanding young family. To help manage all this activity, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) serves as the brain’s executive center where conscious thought and decision making takes place. But the PFC itself gets overwhelmed with too much information flooding it too fast.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Your Brain@Work: Post #1--Overview

Overview: David Rock has written an immensely entertaining and readable classic book for the layperson about how the brain works. Pulling from mounds of neuroscience research and using a powerful play/stage analogy, Rock shines a light into the less obvious corners of the brain. He helps us understand the delicate dance between the limbic brain and the prefrontal cortex (PFC). He shows us how quickly we get overwhelmed by data and emotions; how to control our concentration when it starts to slip away; how to practice being more mindful; and how to use the SCARF model to move others toward change. A read well worth the effort.

Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, & Working Smarter all Day Long by David Rock (HarperCollins, 2009), reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., January 2013.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Surviving Disruption--Post #11--Kotter on Accelerating Change

Bonus from November 2012 HBR Issue: “Accelerate: How the most innovative companies capitalize on today’s rapid-fire strategic challenges—and still make their numbers,” by John Kotter, the man who invented “change management.” Literally, John Kotter is the “dean” of change.  In this article, he adapts his change management model to today’s hyperactive world of change and disruption. Kotter (a member of my personal dream team) invokes three other members of my “team,” Daniel Kahneman (author of Thinking, Fast and Slow), Clay Christensen (author of The Innovator’s Dilemma), and Michael Porter (Competitive Strategy) as he makes his strong argument for creating two operating systems within the same organization. One operating system, a more traditional operating system to maintain, adapts and even optimizes the core business as it adjusts to accelerated change. A second operating system, he argues, is also critical to develop an agile, networked change system that adapts to hyperactive, disruptive change in the market. These two strategies—operating systems—protect the core and grow the transformational. Kotter offers an adaptation of his classic 8 steps for change (from his classic, Leading Change, see p. 52 November 2012 HBR Issue):   1) Create a sense of urgency around a single big opportunity; 2) Build and maintain a guiding coalition; 3) Formulate a strategic vision and develop change initiatives designed to capitalize on the big opportunity; 4) Communicate the vision and the strategy to create buy-in and attract a growing “volunteer army”; 5) Accelerate movement toward the vision and the opportunity by ensuring that the network removes barriers; 6) Celebrate visible, significant short-term wins; 7) Never let up. Keep learning from experience. Don’t declare victory too soon; and, 8) Institutionalize strategic changes in the culture.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Surviving Disruption--Post #10--Kiva

“Kiva the Disrupter: A young company changed its customers’ views of automation. But it took an army of robots—and more,” by Mick Mountz. This article chronicles Mountz’s big idea that mobile robots could disrupt how warehousing might operate far more efficiently. But he found out it took much more than just a great idea. He had to remove risk, take on end-to-end production of the bots, and provide outstanding service and more (HBR/Dec/'12)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Surviving Disruption--Post #9--Getting Full Value

Generating Full Value: “The Capabilities Exchange.” Both Transformations A and B need to be nourished and grown and therefore require support. To ensure that the upstart (Transformation B) gets what it needs, companies must consider the following: Leadership, Shared Resources, Exchange Teams, Boundaries, and Scaling.
i.    Leadership—you need the Chairman, CEO, or a very senior-level person to head this new initiative, or it may not get the vital support it needs during its infancy.
ii.    Shared Resources—determine what Transformation B can borrow from the mother ship to gain competitive advantage—brand, production, etc.
iii.    Exchange Teams—joint teams from Transitions A and B need to work out resources allocation.
iv.    Boundaries—keep both teams A and B from interfering with each other. Both should act as if their company’s life depended on them alone—because it does!
v.    Scale—To get to a new and potentially larger market in the future, scale comes from the more disruptive upstart—Transformation B. Yet this is hard to sell to conservative investors. CEOs have to sell this concept hard. Examples: Xerox moved from a product to a services company and Barnes and Noble is moving from paper to pixels with its Nook.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Surviving Disruption: Post #8--Transformation B

Transformation B: “Building the Future” prods a company to create its own market disruption.  Transformation B rests on the question, “What unmet needs do customers have in today’s environment?” Such an initiative has its own budget, culture, and processes so as to avoid being hamstrung with legacy systems, processes, and people. B&N did exactly this when it conceived of its e-commerce model in Palo Alto, California (not at its NYC headquarters), that ultimately invented the Nook (the first color e-book and a big money maker for B&N).

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Surving Disruption: Post #7--Transformation A

Transformation A: “Repositioning the legacy business” adapts the core business to the changing environment. This does not simply depend on slashing expenses, though much of that is needed. Further, they argue for a hard look at the landscape to see how the current business continues to add value. They use several examples including Xerox and Barnes and Noble (B&N). For example, they discuss how B&N repositioned their legacy business to make stores cool places to hang out with children—while reading and shopping. One fundamental question this transformation asks: Why do our customers come to us?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Surviving Disruption: Post #6--Rebuild and Reinvent

“Two Routes to Resilience: Rebuild your core while you reinvent your business model,” by Clark Gilbert, Matthew Eyring, and Richard Foster
If Paul Revere were around today, he’d be warning not that the British are coming, but that the disruption is already here! The question these authors try to answer is—How do companies survive (with resilience) the inevitable disruption? To ensure survival, the authors suggest creating several strategies: Transformation A: Repositioning the legacy business; Transformation B: Building the Future; finally, Generating Full Value: The Capabilities Exchange (HBR/Dec/'12).

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Surviving Disruption: Post #5--Offense and Defense

Examples in this article show the scope of disruption going on: Streaming video vs. DVDs, on-line book buying (Amazon) vs. bookstores, and car sharing vs. car buying. Critical in this battle for market share is that businesses determine what jobs customers want your service or product to perform—such as with grocery stores (above). Then, smart businesses must assess what products or services will be disrupted and attempt to stay ahead of that disruption while protecting other services or products not under attack. It’s a bit like playing offense and defense at the same time, but more like rugby than football—messier (HBR/Dec.'12)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Surviving Disruption: Post #4--Egrocers

E-grocers provide a great example for the authors. The e-grocer disruption is targeted at replenishing perishables in the home—a core service of big grocers. E-grocers have not yet targeted customers who are getting dinner for the night or picking up emergency items—two other core functions of grocery stores like Safeway and Giant. As e-grocers get better and faster, they will continue to challenge big grocers, who may want to focus on protecting the other two core services which are not yet threatened (HBR/Dec. '12)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Surviving Disruption: Post #3--Defending

The authors give several examples including the widening spread of e-learning—now as sophisticated as traditional (brick and mortar)  universities but with a huge price advantage AND without the commuting! Just look at the geometric growth of the University of Phoenix. Simply put, if a disruptive business targets your market, unless you do something to retain your market, you lose. So, if you can identify what products or services of yours that a disrupter could co-opt, you can easily find your company’s vulnerabilities. You may not be able to defend entirely against every disruption, but you can protect what’s not threatened.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Surviving Disruption: Post# 2--Defining

Disruptive innovation “…stems from technological or business model advantages that can scale as disruptive businesses move upmarket in search of more-demanding customers (Raynor, Investor’s Manifesto, 2011). The disrupter’s advantage starts with its “extendable core” as it seeks out new clients with its lower costs (HBR/Dec. 2012)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

HBR--Surviving Disruption: Post #1 Definition

“Surviving Disruption: It’s not enough to know that a threat is coming. You need to know whether it’s coming right for you,” by Maxwell Wessel and Clayton Christensen.
 Disruptive innovation “…stems from technological or business model advantages that can scale as disruptive businesses move upmarket in search of more-demanding customers (Raynor, Investor’s Manifesto, 2011). The disrupter’s advantage starts with its “extendable core” as it seeks out new clients with its lower costs.

Harvard Business Review, December 2012 Issue: Spotlight on Surviving Disruption, reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D.

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