Category Archives: Psychology

Intuitive Skill, Center of Emphasis, and Mutual Trust

Intuitive Skill, Center of Emphasis, and Mutual Trust

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

Mutual Trust. Who do you trust implicitly? And of that shortlist, who trusts you implicitly? You know how they’ll respond. You know what decision they’ll make. And you don’t have to keep tabs on them and you don’t have to manage them. You do your thing and they do theirs and, without coordinating, everything meshes.

When you have mutual trust, you can move at lightning speed. No second-guessing. No hesitation. No debates. Just rapid progress in a favorable direction. Your eyes are their eyes. Their ears are your ears. One person in two bodies.

If I could choose one thing to have, I’d choose mutual trust.

Mutual trust requires shared values. So, choose team members with values that you value. And mutual trust is developed slowly over time as you work together to solve the toughest problems with the fewest resources and the tightest timelines. Without shared values, you can’t have mutual trust. And without joint work on enigmatic problems, you can’t have mutual trust.

Mutual trust is a result. And when your trust-based relationships are more powerful than the formal reporting structure, you’ve arrived.

Intuitive Skill. In today’s world, decisions must be made quickly. And to make good decisions under unreasonable time constraints and far too little data requires implicit knowledge and intuitive skill. Have you read the literature? Have you studied the history? Have you drilled, and drilled, and drilled again? Did you get the best training? Have you honed your philosophy by doing the hard work? Have you done things badly, learned the hard lessons, and embossed those learnings on your soul? Have you done it so many times you know how it will go? Have you done it so many different ways your body knows how it should respond in unfamiliar situations?

If you have to think about it, you don’t yet have intuitive skill. If you can explain why you know what to do, you don’t have intuitive skill. Make no mistake. Intuitive skill does not come solely from experience. It comes from study, from research, from good teachers, and from soul searching.

When your body starts doing the right thing before your brain realizes you’re doing it, you have intuitive skill. And when you have intuitive skill, you can move at light speed. When it takes more time to explain your decision than it does to make it, you have intuitive skill.

Center of Mass, Center of Emphasis. Do you focus on one thing for a week at a time? And do you wake up dreaming about it? And do you find yourself telling people that we’ll think about something else when this thing is done? Do you like doing one thing in a row? Do you delay starting until you finish finishing? Do you give yourself (and others) the flexibility to get it done any way they see fit, as long as it gets done? If the answer is yes to all these, you may be skilled in center-of-emphasis thinking.

The trick here is to know what you want to get done, but have the discipline to be flexible on how it gets done.

Here’s a rule. If you’re the one who decides what to do, you shouldn’t be the one who decides the best way to do it.

Yes, be singularly focused on the objective, but let the boots-on-the-ground circumstances and the context of the moment define the approach. And let the people closest to the problem figure out the best way to solve it because the context is always changing, the territory is always changing, and the local weather is always changing. And the right approach is defined by the specific conditions of the moment.

Build trust and earn it. And repeat. Practice, study, do, and learn. Hone and refine. And repeat. And choose the most important center of emphasis and let the people closest to the problem choose how to solve it. And then build trust and earn it.

This post was inspired by Taylor Pearson and John Boyd, the creator of the OODA loop.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Why Greedflation Must End and How Consumers Can Make It So

Why Greedflation Must End and How Consumers Can Make It So

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

Greedflation — an insidious blend of greed and inflation — has silently been eroding the purchasing power of consumers, escalating economic inequalities, and tarnishing the trust we place in markets and institutions. This practice, where companies exploit inflationary trends to excessively hike prices, detaches from economic principles and delves into unethical opportunism. While inflation in itself, when moderate, plays a functional role in the economy, greedflation skews the balance, enriching the few at the expense of many. Here’s why this must end and how consumers can play a pivotal role in its demise.

Why Greedflation Must End

  1. Economic Inequity: Greedflation exacerbates economic disparities, widening the gap between the rich and the poor. While executives and shareholders prosper, average citizens struggle more to afford basic commodities. This vicious cycle traps lower-income families in a relentless financial squeeze, robbing them of opportunities for upward mobility.
  2. Erosion of Trust: Trust is the bedrock of a functional economy. When consumers perceive that companies are exploiting inflationary pressures to rake in excess profits, trust in those companies and the broader market erodes. This lack of trust can lead to decreased consumer spending, hampering economic growth and stability.
  3. Reduced Consumer Purchasing Power: As prices soar disproportionately, the real purchasing power of consumers dwindles. Households find themselves paying more for the same goods and services, which can lead to indebtedness and reduced quality of life. This reduction in purchasing power compounds the already significant challenges faced by middle and lower-income families.
  4. Market Distortion: Greedflation distorts market dynamics by creating artificial price structures that don’t accurately reflect demand and supply. This conflation of legitimate inflationary factors with opportunistic price hikes undermines true market efficiency and the ability to allocate resources effectively.
  5. Social Unrest: When people feel unfairly squeezed by relentless price hikes, social tension can build. Such unrest not only affects social harmony but can also lead to broader economic and political consequences. It’s a recipe for instability that we can ill afford in a complex global environment.

Identifying specific companies definitively engaging in “greedflation” can be complex, as it often involves nuanced economic analyses and data that may not always be readily available or clear-cut. However, certain sectors and companies have faced accusations and scrutiny over seemingly disproportionate price hikes, especially during periods of broader economic instability. Here are five examples based on public scrutiny and anecdotal evidence:

  1. Amazon: During the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon faced criticism for significant price increases on essential items such as hand sanitizers, masks, and other health-related products. While some of these price hikes were attributed to third-party sellers on the platform, the company was scrutinized for not doing enough to regulate prices during a global crisis.
  2. Pharmaceutical Companies (e.g., Martin Shkreli’s Turing Pharmaceuticals): One of the most notorious cases of alleged greedflation in the pharmaceutical industry involved Turing Pharmaceuticals, where the price of Daraprim, a life-saving medication, was increased by over 5,000% overnight under the leadership of Martin Shkreli. This incident highlighted how companies could exploit patent protections and market monopolies to drastically inflate prices unethically.
  3. Oil Companies (e.g., ExxonMobil, Chevron): Oil giants like ExxonMobil and Chevron have been accused of leveraging geopolitical tensions and supply chain disruptions to raise gas prices disproportionately, thereby generating record profits during periods when consumers are already struggling with inflationary pressures.
  4. Grocery Retailers (e.g., Kroger, Albertsons): Major grocery chains like Kroger and Albertsons have faced allegations of increasing food prices beyond what could be justified by supply chain issues and general inflation. With essential goods being a critical part of everyday life, such actions appear particularly exploitative.
  5. Telecom Companies (e.g., Comcast, AT&T): Telecom giants such as Comcast and AT&T have been criticized for raising prices on internet and cable services, despite relatively stable or reduced operational costs due to advancements in technology. Consumers often feel trapped because of limited competition in many areas.

While these examples showcase sectors and companies that have faced scrutiny, it’s important to note that conclusive evidence of greedflation can be difficult to establish due to the complexity of market forces and individual company strategies. This underscores the need for informed consumer activism to hold companies accountable.

How Consumers Can Help End Greedflation

  1. Shop Smarter: Consumers wield significant power through their purchasing decisions. By being more discerning and opting for alternatives when prices seem unjustifiably high, we can signal to corporations that unethical pricing won’t be rewarded. Supporting smaller, local businesses and cooperatives can also help counterbalance big players who may indulge in greedflation.
  2. Promote Transparency: Demand greater transparency from companies about their pricing strategies. When transparency becomes a social norm, it’s harder for businesses to hide behind inflated prices. Use social media and other platforms to press for clarity and accountability.
  3. Support Policies for Market Oversight: Advocate for stronger regulatory frameworks and more stringent oversight bodies that can analyze and address unethical pricing practices. By supporting politicians and policies that prioritize consumer protection and market fairness, individuals can influence systemic change.
  4. Educate and Mobilize: Consumer education is crucial. Share knowledge and resources about how to spot and combat greedflation. Community groups, educational institutions, and social networks can serve as platforms for educating others about prudent consumer practices.
  5. Leverage Collective Bargaining Power: Form or join consumer advocacy groups that can collectively negotiate for fair prices and better market practices. Unified consumer voices can be a powerful force for change, pushing corporations to rethink their pricing strategies.

Conclusion

The end of greedflation is not just an economic imperative but a moral one. It’s about creating a fairer society where prosperity is shared more equitably, trust is maintained, and economic stability is preserved. Consumers hold immense power as the primary drivers of market forces. By making informed, conscious choices and demanding greater accountability, we can collectively put an end to greedflation and forge a more just economic future.

As an independent thinker and human-centered innovation and transformation thought leader, I firmly believe in the power of consumers to act as agents of change. Together, let’s take that necessary step to ensure markets function with integrity, fairness, and a sense of shared prosperity.

#EndGreedflation #ConsumerPower #EconomicJustice

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Playing Both Sides of the Equation

Playing Both Sides of the Equation

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

If you want new behavior, you must embrace conflict.

If you can’t tolerate the conflict, you’ll do what you did last time.

If your point of view angers half and empowers everyone else, you made a difference.

If your point of view meets with 100% agreement, you wasted everyone’s time.

If your role is to create something from nothing, you’ve got to let others do the standard work.

If your role is to do standard work, you’ve got to let others create things from scratch.

If you want to get more done in the long term, you’ve got to make time to grow people.

If you want to get more done in the short term, you can’t spend time growing people.

If you do novel work, you can’t know when you’ll be done.

If you are asked for a completion date, I hope you’re not expected to do novel work.

If you’re in business, you’re in the people business.

If you’re not in the people business, you’ll soon be out of business.

If you call someone on their behavior and they thank you, you were thanked by a pro.

If you call someone on their behavior and they call you out for doing it, you were gaslit.

If you can’t justify doing the right project, reduce the scope, and do it under the radar.

If you can’t prevent the start of an unjust project, find a way to work on something else.

If you are given a fixed timeline and fixed resources, flex the schedule.

If you are given a fixed timeline, resources, and schedule, you’ll be late.

If you get into trouble, ask your Trust Network for help.

If you have no Trust Network, you’re in trouble.

If you have a problem, tell the truth and call it a problem.

If you can’t tell the truth, you have a big problem.

If you are called on your behavior, own it.

If you own your behavior, no one can call you on it.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Six Causes of Employee Burnout

GUEST POST from David Burkus

There’s this simple misconception when it comes to burnout. We tend to think that burnout comes from just working too hard—putting in too many hours per week, exerting too much energy, and tipping your work-life scale out of balance. As a result, leaders and companies have sought to combat burnout by offering “rest” as a generic cure-all for their drained and disengaged people.

They’ve added greater flexibility programs (even before the pandemic), brought self-care opportunities into the office, and some have even become more serious about vacation time. And these programs aren’t without benefit, but it became obvious fairly quickly that the returns on the rest investments were limited (again, even before the pandemic added new stress).

The reason is that burnout comes from many sources—and anti-burnout efforts need to address all of these sources to truly be effective. So in this article, we’ll review the six true causes of burnout and offer some practical tips for leaders to mitigate the damage from these causes.

1. Excessive Workload

The first cause of burnout at work is excessive workload—and at first glance excessive workload looks like too much work. But excessive workload refers to juggling multiple projects, not having clarity on which one to focus on, and not knowing what next steps are for some. It’s not about hours worked, but rather the feeling that no matter how many hours are worked, work isn’t getting completed.

Excessive workload often sneaks up on the best performing people, because as they do good work, more work gets assigned to them. To prevent this, leaders need to keep track of how many projects they’re asking their people to take on. And if adding more to the workload, leaders can make priorities clear—even going so far as to state which projects are no longer a priority can go a long way to reducing excessive workload.

2. Poor Relationships

The second cause of burnout at work is poor relationships. Even if the workload of employees isn’t overwhelming and the project requirements aren’t confusing, doing the work with toxic colleagues can quickly lead to burnout. Poor relationships not only trigger feelings of dread as people begin the workday, but during the workday toxic coworkers can trigger many of the other causes of burnout on this list by being too demanding, too critical, or too lazy and adding to the workload of their colleagues as a result.

That’s why smart leaders focus on the relationships and cohesion of a team even more than they focus on whether the team is stacked with talented members. They know that individual performance is a function of team dynamics and work to build bonds on those teams. Leaders can help repair some of the relationship damage by seeking to create shared understanding between the team around differences in personality, preferences, and other contextual factors of the team. In addition, creating shared identity among members reinforces the idea that they’re truly one team and need to put personal differences aside.

3. Lack of Control

The third cause of burnout at work is lack of control. Lack of control refers to how much (or rather how little) autonomy employees have over their work. When individuals get to have a say in what projects they take on, or at least how, when, and where they tackle those projects, they’re more motivated and produce better quality work. But when a micromanager is hovering over their shoulder (or virtually hovering via constant check-ins or monitoring software) then those same people become demotivated and burnt out.

Leaders can’t always decide what projects their teams work on, but there’s always creative ways to increase autonomy on the team. If the project itself is a must-do, then leaders can discuss with the team who does what to get it done. If the deadlines are nonnegotiable, teams can still decide what the checkpoints or smaller deadlines look like. It may not seem like much, but a little autonomy goes a long way toward soothing burnout.

4. Lack of Recognition

The fourth cause of burnout at work is a lack of recognition. When people feel like they’re good work isn’t noticed, it becomes harder and harder for them to motivate themselves to keep working. And when they’re juggling multiple projects through excessive workload or juggling multiple toxic coworkers because of poor relationships, a lack of recognition compounds the problem. It’s difficult to take the time each day or each week to recognize each person’s contribution, especially when the demands of the work keep rising.

But it’s essential that leaders find time to praise the people on their team and express gratitude for their contribution. Moreover, it’s vital that leaders connect that recognition to the work with as little delay as possible. Just keeping track of wins and sharing them later in the annual performance review may get those wins documented, but it won’t reduce burnout in the people performing the work unless those wins are praised in the moment as well.

5. Lack of Fairness

The fifth cause of burnout at work is a lack of fairness. Doing great work and having it noticed is important, but feeling like that work is not getting as much notice as mediocre work done by another person or team can quickly diminish any positive effect from recognition. Likewise, feeling like another person or team is cutting corners or breaking rules and not being sufficiently reprimanded can spike feelings of unfairness that lead to burnout.

Depending on their power or place in the organizational chart, leaders may not be able to do much about an overall lack of fairness in the company. However, that doesn’t mean they’re powerless. In situations of unfair recognition, leaders can fight for the team to get greater notice and make sure people notice the fight. But in situations of unethical behavior, sometimes the best thing is to lead their team to a more just organization.

6. Purpose Mismatch

The final cause of burnout at work is a mismatch between the company’s purpose and the personal purpose or values of the individual. We want to do work that matters, and we want to work for leaders who tell us that we matter. But often in the quest to define an organizational mission statement, grandiose visions about stakeholders and society can actually blur an individuals’ ability to see how their work contributors to something so big. Or, if they see it, they may not feel as inspired about it as the senior leaders who wrote it during a consultant-led offsite and the lavish retreat center.

Smart leaders know their people’s values and what aspect of the work resonates most with them, and they know how to reinforce how the day-to-day work meets that personal desire for purpose. Most often, this is best done by connecting the team’s tasks to the people who are directly served by the team. We often think of purpose as “why we do what we do” but for many people, purpose is better stated as “who we help through the work that we do.”

Conclusion

Looking at the full list, it becomes apparent why merely reducing hours worked or adding a few self-care programs falls short of banishing burnout. Leaders need to take care of more than just the physical when it comes to keeping people productive and healthy. They need to talk about purpose, and make sure that purpose is being served in fair way. They need to make sure people have a clear picture of expectations and are recognized when they meet those expectations. By addressing all of these causes, leaders can turn their culture from one that drains people to one that leaves them feeling more energized than when they started. And that will make a huge difference in whether or not people feel burnt out or whether they feel like they’re doing their best work ever.

If you prefer a video version of this article, you will find it here:

Image credit: Pexels

Originally published on LinkedIn on December 21, 2021

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Is It Bad Behavior or Unskilled Behavior?

Is It Bad Behavior or Unskilled Behavior?

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

What if you could see everyone as doing their best?

When they are ineffective, what if you think they are using all the skills to the best of their abilities?

What changes when you see people as having a surplus of good intentions and a shortfall of skills?

If someone cannot recognize social cues and behaves accordingly, what does that say about them?

What does it say about you if you judge them as if they recognize those social cues?

Even if their best isn’t all skillful, what if you saw them as doing their best?

When someone treats you unskillfully, maybe they never learned how to behave skillfully.

When someone yells at you, maybe yelling is the only skill they were taught.

When someone treats you unskillfully, maybe that’s the only skill they have at their disposal.

And what if you saw them as doing their best?

Unskillful behavior cannot be stopped with punishment.

Unskillful behavior changes only when new skills are learned.

New skills are learned only when they are taught.

New skills are taught only when a teacher notices a yet-to-be-developed skillset.

And a teacher only notices a yet-to-be-developed skillset when they understand that the unskillful behavior is not about them.

And when a teacher knows the unskillful behavior is not about them, the teacher can teach.

And when teachers teach, new skills develop.

And as new skills develop, behavior becomes skillful.

It’s difficult to acknowledge unskillful behavior when it’s seen as mean, selfish, uncaring, and hurtful.

It’s easier to acknowledge unskillful behavior when it’s seen as a lack of skills set on a foundation of good intentions.

When you see unskillful behavior, what if you see that behavior as someone doing their best?

Unskillful behavior cannot change unless it is called by its name.

And once called by name, skillful behavior must be clearly described within the context that makes it skillful.

If you think someone “should” know their behavior is unskillful, you won’t teach them.

And when you don’t teach them, that’s about you.

If no one teaches you to hit a baseball, you never learn the skill of hitting a baseball.

When their bat always misses the ball, would you think the lesser of them? If you did, what does that say about you?

What if no one taught you how to crochet and you were asked to knit scarf? Even if you tried your best, you couldn’t do it. How could you possibly knit a scarf without developing the skill? How would you want people to see you? Wouldn’t you like to be seen as someone with good intentions that wants to be taught how to crochet?

If you were never taught how to speak French, should I see your inability to speak French as a character defect or as a lack of skill?

We are not born with skills. We learn them.

And we cannot learn skillful behavior unless we’re taught.

When we think they “should” know better, we assume they had good teachers.

When we think their unskillful behavior is about us, that’s about us.

When we punish unskillful behavior, it would be more skillful to teach new skills.

When we use prizes and rewards to change behavior, it would be more skillful to teach new skills.

When in doubt, it’s skillful to think the better of people.

Image credit: Pexels

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Why Quiet Geniuses Excel at Breakthroughs

Why Quiet Geniuses Excel at Breakthroughs

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

When you think of breakthrough innovation, someone like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk often comes to mind. Charismatic and often temperamental, people like these seem to have a knack for creating the next big thing and build great businesses on top of them. They change the world in ways that few can.

Yet what often goes unnoticed is that great entrepreneurs build their empires on the discoveries of others. Steve jobs didn’t invent the computer or the mobile phone any more than Jeff Bezos discovered e-commerce or Elon Musk dreamed up electric cars. Those things were created by scientists and engineers that came long before.

In researching my book, Mapping Innovation, I got to know many who truly helped create the future and I found them to be different than most people, but not in a way that you’d expect. While all were smart and hardworking, the most common trait among them was their quiet generosity and that can teach us a lot about how innovation really works.

How Jim Allison Figured it All Out

At least in appearance, Jim Allison is a far cry from how you would normally picture a genius to look like. Often disheveled with a scruffy beard, he kind of mumbles out a slow Texas drawl that belies his amazingly quick mind. Unassuming almost to a fault, when I asked him about his accomplishments he just said, “well, I always did like figuring things out.”

When Jim was finishing up graduate school, scientists had just discovered T-cells and he told me that he was fascinated by how these things could zip around your body and kill things for you, but not actually hurt you. The thing was, nobody had the faintest idea how it all worked. So Jim decided to become an immunologist and devote his life to figuring it all out.

Over the next few decades, he and his colleagues at other labs did indeed do much to figure it out. They found one receptor, called B-7, which acts like an ignition switch that initiates the immune response, another, CD-28, that acts like a gas pedal and revs things up into high gear and a third, called CTLA-4, that puts on the brakes so things don’t spin out of control.

Jim played a part in all of this, but his big breakthrough came from the work of another scientist in his lab, which made him suspect that the problem with cancer wasn’t that our immune system can’t fight it, but that it puts the brakes on too soon. He thought that if he could devise a way to pull those brakes off, we could cure cancer in a new and different way.

As it turned out, Jim was right. Today, cancer immunotherapy has become a major field unto itself and, in October 2018, he won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of it. Yet the truth is that it wasn’t one major breakthrough, but a decades-long process of slowly putting the pieces together that made it all possible.

How Gary Starkweather Went From Blowup To Breakthrough

Gary Starkweather is every bit as quiet and unassuming as Jim Allison. Yet when I talked to him a few years ago, I could still hear the anger in his voice as he told me about an incident that happened almost 50 years before. In the late 60s, Gary had an idea to invent a new kind of printer, but his boss at Xerox was thwarting his efforts.

At the time, Gary was one of the few experts in the emerging field of laser optics, so there weren’t many others who could understand his work, much less how it could be applied to the still obscure field of computers. His boss was, in fact, was so hostile to Gary’s project that he threatened to fire anyone who worked with him on it.

Furious, the normally mild mannered Gary went over his boss’s head. He walked into the Senior Vice President’s office and threatened, “Do you want me to do this for you or for someone else?” For the stuffy, hierarchical culture of Xerox, it was outrageous behavior, but as luck would have it, the stunt paid off. News of Gary’s work made it across the country to the fledgling computer lab that Xerox had recently established in California, the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC).

Gary thrived in the freewheeling, collaborative culture at PARC. The researchers there had developed a graphical technology called bitmapping, but had no way to print the images out until he showed up. His development of the laser printer was not only a breakthrough in its own right, but with the decline of Xerox’s copier business, it actually saved the company.

The Wild Ideas Of Charlie Bennett

Charlie Bennett is one of those unusual minds that amazes everyone he meets. He told me that when he was growing up in the quiet Westchester village of Croton-on-Hudson he was a “geek before geeks were cool.” While the other kids were playing sports and trading baseball cards, what really inspired Charlie was Watson and Crick’s discovery of the structure of DNA.

So he went to college and majored in biochemistry and then went on to Harvard to do his graduate work, where he served as James Watson’s teaching assistant. Yet it was an elective course he took on the theory of computation that would change his fate. That’s where he first encountered the concept of a Turing Machine and he was amazed how similar it was to DNA.

So Charlie never became a geneticist, but went to work for IBM as a research scientist. It proved to be just the kind of place where a mind like his could run free, discussing wild ideas like quantum cryptography with colleagues around the globe. It was one of those discussions, with Gilles Brassard, that led to his major breakthrough.

What the two discussed was the wildest idea yet. They proposed to transfer information by quantumly entangling photons, something that Einstein had derisively called “spooky action at a distance” and was adamant couldn’t happen. Yet the two put a team together and, in 1993, successfully completed the quantum teleportation experiment.

That, in turn, led Charlie just a few months later to write down his four laws of quantum information, which formed the basis for IBM’s quantum computing program. Today, in his eighties, Charlie is semi-retired, but still goes into the labs at IBM research to quietly discuss wild ideas with the younger scientists, such as the quantum internet that’s continuing to emerge now.

For Innovation, Generosity Is A Competitive Advantage

My conversations with Jim, Gary, Charlie and many others made an impression on me. They were all giants in their fields (although Jim hadn’t won his Nobel yet) and I was a bit intimidated talking to them. Yet I found them to be some of the kindest, most generous people I ever met. Often, they seemed as interested in me as I was in them.

In fact, the behavior was so consistent that I figured it couldn’t be an accident. So I researched the matter further and found a number of studies that helped explain it. One, at Bell Labs, found that star engineers had a knack for “knowing who knows.” Another at the design firm IDEO found that great innovators essentially act as “knowledge brokers.“

A third study helps explain why knowledge brokering is so important. Analyzing 17.9 million papers, the researchers found that the most highly cited work tended to be mostly rooted within a traditional field, with just a smidgen of insight taken from some unconventional place. Breakthrough creativity occurs at the nexus of conventionality and novelty.

So as it turns out, generosity is often a competitive advantage for innovators. By actively sharing their ideas, they build up larger networks of people willing to share with them. That makes it that much more likely that they will come across that random piece of information and insight that will help them crack a really tough problem.

So if you want to find a truly great innovator, don’t look for the ones that make the biggest headlines are that are most inspiring on stage. Look for those who spend their time a bit off to the side, sharing ideas, supporting others and quietly pursuing a path that few others are even aware of.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog and previously appeared on Inc.com
— Image credits: Pixabay

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Iterate Your Thinking

Iterate Your Thinking

GUEST POST from Dennis Stauffer

One of the things that all sound innovation processes have in common is some way to iterate. To repeatedly work through a process that allows you to refine whatever you’re trying to create.

That might be building a prototype, testing it and building another version based on what you’ve learned. It might be gathering customer feedback and making adjustments that are more appealing or solve a problem more effectively. It might be exploring more than one business model or marketing strategy until you find one that works.

We tend to think of those iterations as making refinements to a product or strategy, but more than anything, it’s refining your own thinking. It’s being willing to change how you understand the world, by challenging your assumptions and beliefs—your mindset.

We’ve grown accustomed to thinking of learning as mastering a set of already well-defined concepts, like how to solve a math problem or memorizing facts from history. But innovation—and life in general—requires a different kind of learning. More like gradually mastering how to play a sport or musical instrument, or drive a car. This kind of learning is a more incremental process. One that prompts questions like:

  • How might I be wrong, and need to correct myself?
  • What do I not understand as well as I could?
  • What are some alternative beliefs and opinions, to the ones I have?
  • How might someone else see things differently and what could I learn from them?

The ability to iterate your own thinking, by being open to new interpretations of what you experience, is crucial to innovation. It’s also a good strategy for ordering your life, so you don’t lock onto a mindset that may not be the most effective for you.

Mental iteration is a powerful life skill—and healthy innovation habit—that also helps you innovate yourself.

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Image Credit: Pixabay

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Embrace the Art of Getting Started

Embrace the Art of Getting Started

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

What do we do next? I don’t know

  • What has been done before?
  • What does it do now?
  • What does it want to do next?
  • If it does that, who cares?

Why should we do it? I don’t know.

  • Will it increase the top line? If not, do something else.
  • Will it increase the bottom line? If so, let someone else do it.
  • What’s the business objective?

Who will buy it? I don’t know.

    • How will you find out?
    • What does it look like when you know they’ll buy it?
    • Why do you think it’s okay to do the work before you know they’ll buy it?

What problem must be solved? I don’t know.

      • How will you define the problem?
      • Why do you think it’s okay to solve the problem before defining it?
      • Why do you insist on solving the wrong problem? Don’t you know that ready, fire, aim is bad for your career?
      • Where’s the functional coupling? When will you learn about Axiomatic Design?
      • Where is the problem? Between which two system elements?
      • When does the problem happen? Before what? During what? After what?
      • Will you separate in time or space?
      • When will you learn about TRIZ?

Who wants you to do it? I don’t know.

      • How will you find out?
      • When will you read all the operating plans?
      • Why do you think it’s okay to start the work before knowing this?

Who doesn’t want you to do it? I don’t know.

      • How will you find out?
      • Who looks bad if this works?
      • Who is threatened by the work?
      • Why do you think it’s okay to start the work before knowing this?

What does it look like when it’s done? I don’t know.

Why do you think it’s okay to start the work before knowing this?

What do you need to be successful? I don’t know.

Why do you think it’s okay to start the work before knowing this?

Starting is essential, but getting ready to start is even more so.

Image credit: misterinnovation.com

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Trust as a Competitive Advantage

Trust as a Competitive Advantage

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

One of the most rewarding things about writing my book Mapping Innovation was talking to the innovators themselves. All of them were prominent (one recently won the Nobel Prize), but I found them to be the among the kindest and most generous people you can imagine, nothing like the difficult and mercurial stereotype.

At first, this may seem counterintuitive, because any significant innovation takes ambition, drive and persistence. Yet a study at the design firm IDEO sheds some light. It found that great innovators are essentially knowledge brokers who place themselves at the center of information networks. To do that, you need to build trust.

A report from Accenture Strategy analyzing over 7,000 firms found this effect to be even more widespread than I had thought. When evaluating competitive agility, it found trust “disproportionately impacts revenue and EBITDA.” The truth is that to compete effectively you need to build deep bonds of trust throughout a complex ecosystem of stakeholders.

From Value Chain To Value Ecosystem

In Michael Porter’s landmark book, Competitive Advantage, the Harvard professor argued that the key to long-term success was to dominate the value chain by maximizing bargaining power among suppliers, customers, new market entrants and substitute goods. The goal was to create a sustainable competitive advantage your rivals couldn’t hope to match.

Many of the great enterprises of the 20th century were built along those lines. Firms like General Motors under Alfred Sloan, IBM under Thomas J. Watson (and later, his son Thomas Watson Jr.) as well as others so thoroughly dominated the value chains in their respective industries that they were able to maintain leading positions in their industries for decades.

Clearly, much has changed since Porter wrote his book nearly 40 years ago. Today, we live in a networked world and competitive advantage is no longer the sum of all efficiencies, but the sum of all connections. Strategy, therefore, must be focused on widening and deepening links to resources outside the firm.

So you can see why trust has taken on greater importance. Today, firms like General Motors and IBM need to manage a complex ecosystem of partners, suppliers, investors and customer relationships and these depend on trust. If one link is broken anywhere in the ecosystem, the others will weaken too and business will suffer.

The Cost Of A Trust Event

The study was not originally designed to measure the effect of trust specifically, but overall competitive agility. It looked at revenue growth and profitability over time and then incorporated metrics measuring Sustainability and Trust to get a larger picture of a firm’s ability to compete.

The Accenture Strategy analysis is wide ranging, incorporating over 4 million data points. It also included Arabesque’s S-Ray data from over 50,000 sources to come up with a quantitative score and rate companies on their sustainability practices, as well as a proprietary measurement of trust across customers, employees, investors, suppliers, analysts, and the media.

Yet when the analysts began to examine the data, they found that the trust metrics disproportionately affected the overall score. For example, a consumer focused company that had a sustainability-oriented publicity event backfire lost an estimated $400 million in future revenues. Another company that was named in a money laundering scandal lost $1 billion.

All too often, acting expediently is seen as being pragmatic, because cutting corners can save you money up front. Yet what the report makes clear is that companies today need to start taking trust more seriously. In today’s voraciously competitive environment, taking a major hit of any kind can hamstring operations for years and sometimes permanently.

Where Trust Hits The Hardest

When the issues of trust come up, we immediately think about consumers. With social media increasing the velocity of information, even a seemingly minor incident can go viral, causing widespread outrage. That kind of thing can send customers flocking to competitors.

Yet as I dug into the report’s data more deeply, I found that the effect varied widely by industry. For example, in manufacturing, media and insurance, the cost of a trust incident was fairly low, but in industries such as banking, retail and industrial services, the impact could be five to ten times higher.

What seems to make the difference is that industries that are most sensitive to a trust event have more complex ecosystems. For example, a retail operation needs to maintain strong relationships with hundreds and sometimes thousands of suppliers. Banking, on the other hand, is highly sensitive to the cost of capital. A drop in trust can send costs surging.

Further, in industries like high tech and industrial services, companies need to stay on the cutting edge to compete. That requires highly collaborative partnerships with other companies to share knowledge and expertise. Once trust is lost, it’s devilishly hard to earn back and competitors gain an edge.

Building Resiliency

The trust problem is amazingly widespread. Accenture found that 54% of firms in the study experienced some kind of trust event and these can come from anywhere: a careless employee, a data breach, a defective product, etc. Yet Jessica Long, one of the Accenture Strategy Managing Directors who led the study, told me that a company can improve its resiliency significantly.

“It’s not so much a matter of preventing a trust event,” she says. “The world is a messy place and things happen. The real difference is how you respond and the resiliency you’ve built up through forging strong foundations in the crucial components of competitive agility: growth, profitability, sustainability and trust.”

Think about Steve Jobs and Apple, which encountered a number of trust events during his tenure. However, because he so clearly demonstrated his commitment to “insanely great” products, customers, employees and partners were more forgiving than they would be with another company. Or, more recently, the scandal when two men were arrested at a Starbucks store. Because Howard Schultz has built a reputation for fairness and because he acted decisively, the impact was far less than it could have been.

Perhaps most crucial is to build a culture of empathy. One of the things that most surprised me about the innovators I researched for my book is that many seemed almost as interested in me and my project as I was in them. I could see how others would want to work with them and share information and insights. It was that kind of access that led them to solve problems no one else could.

What the Accenture report shows is that the same thing is true for profit seeking companies. The best strategy to build trust is to actually be trustworthy. Think about how your actions affect customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders and treat their success as you would your own.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog and previously appeared on Inc.com
— Image credits: Pixabay

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Companies Are Not Families

Companies Are Not Families

GUEST POST from David Burkus

It’s unclear where the metaphor got started. In fact, it probably didn’t start as a metaphor (“we are a family”); it probably started as a simile (“we are like a family”). Some well-meaning executive somewhere described the company culture as feeling like a family. (That a high-powered CEO would feel like the paternalistic chief of anything is a dilemma for a different article).

Over time, more and more corporate leaders started using “like family” until logically one decided to take it to the next level and skip the “like” altogether boasting “we’re a family.”

But a company is not a family.

And further a company shouldn’t be a family.

When companies began to overuse the family analogy, results are rarely positive. Instead, pushing for family levels of commitment can actually do damage to the culture. And in this article, we’ll outline the ways that the “family” metaphor can lead to dysfunction. As well as the steps team leaders can take to transform their dysfunctional fake families back into the thriving work teams they were trying to build in the first place.


[Watch the Video Above or Keep Scrolling to Read]

What Happens When We’re “Family”

Misusing the “family” metaphor at work can lead to several ways employees get abused. Three in particular stand out.

1. Work/Life Boundaries Get Blurred

Many of the organizations that emphasize the family feel end up taking actions that blur the lines between work and life for most employees. This was seen much more often before the pandemic, when companies flouted free food, dry cleaning, endless parties, and all sorts of amenities designed to make life as easy as possible—as long as you never left work. But that became a problem unto itself. Employees never left work, opting to spend more and more time with their “work family” but never getting the downtime needed to be sustainably productive.

Committed Employees Get Taken Advantage Of

When companies or even team leaders overemphasize the family metaphor, the next logical step is asking for family-level committed from employees. This creates a lot of opportunities for leaders to take advantage of employees. One project after another gets taken on, without considering existing commitments and making it difficult for employees to say no. Beyond overload, over-committed employees can also be asked to commit more and more unethical actions. When the survival of the company—sorry, the family—is a stake, employees can feel pressured to use any means necessary. See Theranos or WeWork for two recent examples.

3. Departing Employees Get Labeled as Betrayers

If those employees decide the don’t like blurry boundaries (around work and life or around ethics) and choose to move on—that creates a whole new issue. In organizations that overemphasize family, it becomes easy to label to departures as a form of betrayal. It’s not uncommon for companies to cut off all communication with former employees and instruct their people to do the same. Beyond being just plain wrong, this mindset can actually limit a company—since research shows former colleagues that stay connected become potent sources new knowledge for each other and their new employers.

What’s Wrong With Team?

The intent behind labeling a company as a family might have been noble. We want a strong culture or people bonded to each other and pushing each other to new levels of performance. But if that’s what we want, what’s wrong with just calling that a team? Strong teams deliver exactly that. And whether you’re in a company that’s abusing the family metaphor or not, here’s a few actions you can take to build a stronger team.

1. Redefine Purpose

One of the reasons for choosing the family metaphor was a poorly executed attempt at bonding teams and organizations together. But just saying you’re a family doesn’t build bonds. Instead, research suggests that one of the most potent ways to bond a team is by pointing to super-ordinate goals—goals so big they require collaboration. And for organizations, the super-ordinate goal is most often the stated purpose or mission. But even here, there’s work to be done. Most organizations write lofty mission statements that are difficult for employees to connect with. It falls on team leaders to translate that lofty purpose into one that bonds and motivates. And the best way to do that is to redefine it from a big and bold “why” (why do we do what we do?) to a specific “who” (who is helped by the work that we do).

2. Encourage Boundaries

Despite what it may seem like at first, committed employees isn’t always a positive. The line between committed and over-committed people is incredibly thin. Many managers think they want people who will work until the project is done—arriving early and staying late if need be. But the truth is that in a modern economy, work is never done. So, the only way to stay sustainably productive is to make sure every employee enjoys down time as well. More and more companies are experimenting with ways to encourage boundaries such as forbidding after hours email, moving to four-day workweeks, and even paying people to take their vacation time. And results all suggest the same thing: time away from work makes work better.

3. Celebrate Departures

No matter how committed employees are some of them will move on. New opportunities present themselves. Life changes happen. And so do plenty of other reasons for an employee to look elsewhere. In the face of this inevitability, treating departures like betrayals never made sense. Instead, departures ought to be celebrated. Employees who leave on good terms ought to be seen as alumni representing the organization even in their new endeavors. In addition to information, departing employees become a powerful new source of referrals for new hires too. There is no better recruiter than a satisfied former employee now working in a new company talking with their potentially dissatisfied new colleagues. In addition, treating employees well as they’re departing has a motivating effect on the employees who stay, as they watch how positively their former colleagues were treated and trust that they’ll be treated the same one day too.

Calling your company a family, may have been a well-meaning metaphor, but it hasn’t been a very useful one. Most employees don’t want a dysfunctional family. They want a team that’s bonded through purpose and built on trust and respect. They don’t want to be seen as family one day and divorced family the next. They want to know their contribution was valuable even after they leave. They don’t want leaders who over-commit and abuse them.

They want leaders who help them do their best work ever.

Image credit: David Burkus

Originally published on LinkedIn on December 9, 2021

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