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Amanda Setili explains why the structure of a video game can be applied to business to attract and leverage top talent. 

There’s a reason that the video game industry is larger ($179.7 billion according to IDC data) than the movie and music industries combined: playing video games makes players feel good, and for reasons that are easy to document.

Todd Harris, founder and CEO of Skillshot Media, was the one who first made me realize this. For years, he has been involved first in video games and more recently in the esports space. 

Here are four key elements that define the video game experience:

The player has control/agency.

There are clear goals, with incremental levels of difficulty. Players can see themselves improving.

Players get instant feedback on the success or failure of their strategies. Games promote a growth mindset, in that players learn by failing.

Players are interconnected to a wider community.

When you step back from this list, it’s obvious that this isn’t just a list of what makes players happy; it’s a list of what makes most human beings happy.

So if you want to build a workplace that is truly motivating and productive, design these elements into your organization. Embed them deeply!

To put this another way, TV is to video games as a demoralizing company is to a highly engaging one. Watching television, most of us zone out; there’s no way to “win” or to add value. Whether you’re watching a rom-com or an action movie, there’s no path to self-improvement and no means of building a stronger community. But all those things are possible for video game players.

 

Read the full article, What Video Games Teach Us About Running a Great Company, on LinkedIn.

Amanda Setili provides business intelligence from a small business owner who found a solution to the issue of finding workers during the pandemic. 

“Like many businesses, Dan & Whit’s General Store in Norwich, Vermont has been having a problem finding enough workers. Out of desperation, they came up with an out-of-the-box solution.

One longtime customer recalls the email she received from the store’s owner. It said, “You want to do yoga? Come into Dan and Whit’s. Breath. Grab a can of peas, put it on the shelf. Reach, stretch, bend down, breathe. Do it again.”

Yes, the store asked its best customers to work a shift or two.

Betsy Maislen is one of over a dozen customers hired in the past month, working part time. Many are retired. Some have other full-time jobs and young kids. None resemble traditional employees.

“We are able to pick our own hours,” explains Dianne Miller. “We’re able to decide how many hours we want to work, when we want to work, what we want to do. So it’s not really a job.”

Dan Fraser is the grandson of the original Dan; he now runs the store. He came up with the idea to ask customers if anyone would be willing to work six hours over the course of a week, broken down in any manner that fit their schedule.

“If everyone does that little piece,” he figured, “Then together those pieces add up to a full person or a couple people that will help us get us through this.”

At the end of her first shift, Maislen found a typed note from Fraser wrapped around her timecard: ‘Betsy – Thanks for coming in for training today. It’s wonderful to have you here joining the team. You’re a quick learner and easily mastered all the tasks. Great job with customers, too. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks, Dan.’”

 

Key points include:

  • Employee appreciation
  • Customer communication
  • Customer innovation

 

Read the full article, A General Store Asks Its Customers to Work, on LinkedIn.

Amanda Setili shares how she started her podcast Fearless Growth with a little help from her friends and what she learned in the process. 

When my podcast guest Ginger (Virginia) Bowman was a waitress right out of college, she went to see Jurassic Park and instantly had the desire to create animated imagery like the creatures in that movie. Although she lacked any training or knowledge relevant to the entertainment industry, Ginger started telling anyone who would listen, “That’s what I want to do.”

And people helped. A fellow worker helped her acquire computer animation software, and Ginger began self-training after work each day. A few months later, a customer heard her dream and connected her with an internship. Ginger interned during the day, worked as a waitress in the evening, then practiced with the software into the early morning hours.

Before long, she landed a job with Sony Imageworks, where she voiced a desire to lead a team as technical director and was promoted in record time. Ginger went on to win four Oscars on those teams, working in the creative departments of Hollywood blockbusters including Spiderman, Chronicles of Narnia, Superman Returns, Aviator, Stuart Little, Castaway and Matrix Reloaded. 

This reminded me about one of life’s best lessons, which is: decide what you want, and tell other people. It’s the habit that often separates highly successful talented people from unsuccessful talented people.

Key podcasts include:

  • Greg White
  • Mitali Chopra
  • Sandra Hughes

 

Read the full article, What I Learned by Becoming a Podcast Host, on LinkedIn.

Amanda Setili shares a concise post on the perception of risk and how it affects the team. 

Karen perceives that competitors are moving very quickly, so she feels the leadership team has no option but to be even more aggressive. Jim sees the competitors as foolhardy, so he wants to take a slow and steady path while the competition defeats themselves. Curt keeps waffling back and forth; he wants to pump up revenue growth, but consistently balks at the price tag of every major new initiative.

When team members perceive different types and levels of risk, their organizations often wind up either frozen in place, or making decisions that result in bad outcomes. The differences of opinion can feel irreconcilable.

The smart move is to bring four elements out into the open. Ask each team member to share their…

Key points include:

  • Assessment of the degree of risk
  • Supporting data
  • Mitigation plan

Read the full post, Are Different Perceptions of Risk Weakening Your Team?, on LinkedIn.

If you feel guilty for reading fiction, Amanda Setili’s article on how fiction books can improve leadership skills will remove guilt. Put your feet up and enjoy.

I’m deep into The Expanse book series, and it never ceases to amaze me how many insights and inspirations I get from reading fiction, especially science fiction.

Fiction makes it easier to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and to understand different perspectives: how others feel, and how they solve problems that might have baffled you.

In The Expanse series, Naomi Nagata is a superb engineer who can solve virtually any technical problem. At the point I’m now at in the series, there’s a war going on between an authoritarian government and a resistance group. Naomi’s role is gathering intelligence and feeding recommendations to the leader of the resistance. This role seems perfectly suited to her skills and temperament. But then the leader is killed and Naomi finds herself suddenly thrust into his former role as leader of a group that spans many solar systems. She finds herself in a position where everyone is looking to her for guidance and instructions. She must learn to act like a leader, which is a role she never wanted. This happens often in business, but seldom do we get such a behind-the-scenes understanding of what it feels like to be forced into this kind of transition.

To share another strategy for leveraging fiction, one of my clients organizes book clubs among their employees, engaging a local literature professor to lead the discussion on a certain novel. One participant summed it up this way: “We learn how each other thinks, because we all read the same thing, yet have completely different observations about it.” What a great way to build trust and understanding.

Key points include:

  • Leadership learning
  • Visualization

  • Thinking beyond your own parameters

 

Read the full article, Why You Should Drop That Business Book and Read a Work of Fiction Instead, on LinkedIn.

Often the best-laid strategies of consultants come to a grinding halt at the people level. Amanda Setili shares a post that offers a few practical steps you can take to encourage others to take action.

The biggest obstacle to your progress is often something you can’t see, hear or even name. It is not something tangible and obvious. The biggest obstacle is… a quiet unwillingness—perhaps even reluctance—to do the things that you need someone to do.

You ask Engineering to create a better system for collecting payments from customers, and nine months in a row they have told you to wait “just one more month.”

The Sales team tells you (a Product Manager) that they will start selling your product at meetings with prospective clients, but week after week they come back from sales calls and say they ran out of time before bringing it up.

The reasons why this happens vary widely, but the essence of getting someone to do what you want basically comes down to three things:

 1.) Do they have the ability to do what you want?

You can’t expect a media buyer to audit financial results, and you can’t merely ask someone to double their performance. Pure and simple, the other person may lack the capability to do as you wish, and there are times when this could be too embarrassing to admit.

The first step is always to do a reality check to determine if someone has the skill, experience and knowledge to do what you wish.

If you determine they lack the skill, you have several options. You might, for example, help the person learn a new skill or you could turn to a different person or group.

Key points include:

  • Belief in assessment
  • Cost value
  • Reasonable risk

Read the full article, When Others Won’t Do… What You Need Them To Do, on LinkedIn.

Amanda Setili shares a short post on the value of trust.

Last weekend, Rob and I camped in a small family-owned campground 15 feet from Pamlico Sound on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. One night it stormed, hard. The wind was gusting to over 30 mph, and the rain was intense. It would have been easy to wonder if our tent would survive.

But I didn’t wonder.

We’d bought the tent from REI, the same company that had made the tent we had recently retired after 20 years of hard use in a variety of difficult conditions.

As we sat in the tent, listening to the rain and wind pummeling the tent, it became obvious to us that our new REI tent was as well-designed as the one we’d had for 20 years.

Companies talk a lot about earning their customers’ trust, and sometimes that talk can feel a bit overblown; after all, how much trust is involved when you buy, say, paper towels? But when a thin layer of material is all that separates you from a crazy-powerful storm, trust really matters. It’s then that you fully appreciate every aspect of your purchase: the materials used, its design and execution.

Key points include:

  • The importance of trust
  • Trust in business
  • Customer loyalty

Read the full post, When the Storm Gets Intense, You Have a Very Different Definition of Trust, on LinkedIn.

 

Amanda Setili offers a concise post to help team leaders provide feedback that motivates their team.

It amazes me how motivating I’ve found the feedback from the sensor I use while kiteboarding, which tells me how high I jump and how my jumps compare to other kiters around the world. That got me thinking about how when I change my technique or equipment, I can immediately see the impact on my results.

How, I wondered, can we make feedback at work this helpful, and energizing?

That thought led me to create six principles that can transform feedback from annoying to amazing: 

1) Feedback should come from the work itself: The best feedback comes from the work itself, rather than from an employee’s supervisor. Make it easy for employees to see the results of their work, every day. For example, funnel customer comments directly back to the employees involved.

2) Feedback should be close to constant: Employees need frequent feedback, so that people can see how they’re doing and so they can adjust course as conditions change. Think daily… rather than weekly, monthly or annually. That’s one reason you should design the work so that feedback comes directly from the work itself, with no intermediary (point #1, above) — as a manager, you won’t have the time to personally give feedback to every team member every day.

 

Key points include:

  • Frequency
  • Guidance towards goals
  • Going beyond results

 

Read the full post, Six Ways to Use Feedback to Energize Your Team, on LinkedIn.

 

 

In this post, Amanda Setili explains why taking risks may be the safest strategy.

The world is always changing, but lately the changes have felt faster and more extreme. In times like these, your ability to manage risk and uncertainty can give you a huge competitive advantage.

To put this another way, in volatile times, taking on too little risk is dangerous. You may be left in the dust as competitors invest in new arenas that you considered too uncertain.

Some of my most successful clients encourage their teams to swing for the fences AND to have a systematic plan to manage risk. They break the risks into distinct pieces and assign someone to manage each specific risk, such as the risk that suppliers will not be able to perform, or the risk that customers won’t understand the product.

They’re also very clear about the risks that they are willing to take that other companies will not. For example, an organization may choose to self-insure, because they better understand the risks they’re taking than insurers do.

To accept more risk in a responsible manner, it pays to break the risk down into smaller pieces. Then, manage each of these pieces. Set clear goals for what you need to learn in order to mitigate each risk.

 

Key points include:

  • The benefit of risk taking
  • Managing risk
  • Risk options

 

Read the full article, In Volatile Times, the Riskiest Strategy Is to Take Too Little Risk, on LinkedIn.

 

 

In this article, Amanda Setili explains why conflicting opinions are a necessary part of growth.

Back when I was applying for admission to Harvard Business School, one of the essays I had to complete was “when did you confront an ethical dilemma and how did you handle it?”

I remember being stuck on this question for quite a while, because as a young engineer, it seemed to me that every question had a correct answer. There are no ethical dilemmas, because once you find the right answer, everything is clear… or so I mistakenly thought.

Fortunately, I somehow managed to answer that essay question and get admitted. HBS quickly corrected my lack of understanding. Day after day, I sat in a classroom with 90 people who were all smart, and yet had completely different solutions to any given problem. Time after time, I thought: Wow. I would never have thought of what s/he just said.

The world, I learned, has many shades of gray.

These days, I worry whether too many businesses—and professionals—close themselves off from this sort of valuable learning. How many times in recent years have you sat in a room with other talented folks who think utterly differently than you do? How many times have you been encouraged to disagree and debate with your peers? My guess: not often.

 

Key points include:

  • Challenging consensus
  • Challenging bias
  • The value of different opinions

 

Read the full post, The Case for More Disagreements, on LinkedIn.

 

 

In this article, Amanda Setili explains why it’s necessary to dig below the surface of agreement to avoid the issue of last-minute naysayers.

Imagine a high-level team whose members represent different stakeholders. It might include representatives from a wide range of disciplines, divisions, companies or even communities. At first, they are all enthusiastically working together to define a common path forward.

As “consensus” nears, some members quietly begin to lose their enthusiasm. They start to wonder whether the direction in which the team is headed is even close to their original expectations. Will the path ahead be worth the time and effort? Is this still a good idea?

Such doubts often linger in the background. They may surface occasionally as polite, perhaps understated questions. But if you are leading the team and the “consensus” view is close to your own, it’s easy to miss entirely growing undercurrents of doubt.

This is a pivotal moment. If you push ahead without searching for silent naysayers, you may greatly misjudge your team’s potential. Instead of having a fully committed team that can draw on the resources of numerous groups, what you actually have is a small number of backers and a lot of doubters.

 

Key points include:

  • Avoiding dissolution
  • Consensus testing
  • Setting an initial trial

 

Read the full post, How the Top Secret Concerns of Its Members Can Sink a Team, on LinkedIn. 

 

 

Amanda Setili draws attention to the problems that arise when there is not a process in place to understand evolving customer needs and develop new offerings to meet those needs.

Have you ever been on a team that has spent weeks trying to solve a problem, and then one day it dawns on you that you are each trying to solve a different problem?

To illustrate, imagine a company whose leadership is frustrated by their lack of growth, so they assemble a team to come up with a solution. The Operations VP says the problem is, “We don’t hear about any new innovation until it’s already pretty much coming at us.” Sales says, “Our products are too expensive.” Marketing complains, “We’re undifferentiated in the marketplace.” And the CEO muses out loud, “The real problem is that our revenues are flat when our competitors are all growing at 7 to 10% each year.”

Those are all symptoms. None are the actual problem, which might be something along the lines of: they lack a process for understanding evolving customer needs and developing new offerings to meet those needs.

In the example I cited above, the team could have discovered this problem by going through a series of “why” questions something like this:

 

Key points include:

  • Flat sales 
  • Pricing
  • Product line-up

Read the full article, Before Your Team Tries to Solve a Problem, Make Sure You Agree on What It Is, on LinkedIn.