Barry Horwitz shares an article that extolls the benefits of reading and reading some more.
Students in my strategy classes at Boston University often ask: What applicant characteristics matter most when applying for positions with strategy consulting firms? Of course, there are some obvious ones — sharp analytical skills and strong communication capabilities among them. But one that is often overlooked — and yet quite valuable — is possession of a healthy curiosity.
As I wrote in an earlier newsletter, creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems often come from insights garnered outside of an organization’s specific field. A robust curiosity (despite its potentially negative impact on cats!) can lead you to seek additional information and generate creative insights.
Curiosity’s proven value is also why business leaders often design their offices with central gathering points (whether mailroom or kitchen areas), where individuals from different functional areas are likely to encounter one another. As Vinit Nijhawan used to say when he ran the office of tech transfer at BU, he wanted to “minimize friction and maximize collisions.”
Read, Read, and Read Some More
Of course, one of the best ways of gaining insights from a broad range of fields is to work in a broad range of fields. But what if you are early on in your career or if your career journey to date has kept you tightly focused in just a few areas?
The answer is simple: Read… broadly and a lot. Hopefully, that’s obvious. Less obvious, though, is what to read.
Key points include:
- A reading list
- Email newsletters
Read the full article, Curiosity Killed The Cat… But It Can Keep Your Business Thriving, on HorwitzandCo.com.
Xavier Lederer provides key steps on prioritization and action.
‘The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.’– Michael Porter
“I don’t have enough time in a day to work on the most important things!” I regularly hear CEOs complain. We all have a tendency to jump on the most urgent problems – because they are urgent and also because, let’s face it: we are addicted to fixing problems.
Why priorities matter – pebbles vs. rocks
The issue is: when we focus on fighting fires we don’t work on what really helps move our business forward. A year quickly goes by and we realize that we have missed some of our goals.
A key to breaking this vicious circle is to agree on 3 to 5 quarterly priorities with your leadership team. The key question is: which ones have the biggest impact on your company in order to reach your 1-year goal and move towards your 3-year goals? There are hundreds of things that you need or want to do to move your company forward. The key is to prioritize and to find the smaller number of possible activities that will make the biggest difference.
This short video with Stephen Covey is about picking what is important first. If you focus on the pebbles first (i.e. the daily fires), you will never make true progress towards your goals. It is only by putting the rocks in first, your 3-5 strategic priorities, that you can build sustainable, profitable growth. Debating annual or quarterly priorities is the opportunity for your leadership team to agree on what is important (and what your team should focus on) vs. what is urgent. By building an execution plan around your priorities and committing time to them, you can regain control over your calendar – instead of letting your inbox control your time.
Key points include:
- Defining priorities
- Results focused
Read the full article, How To Set Priorities That Move The Needle, on AmbroseGrowth.com
Anubhav Raina shares a series that presents a model for understanding how influencing works and how you can train yourself to excel at it. It combines his personal observations with the latest research in influencing.
Note this is a three-part series:
- Intro (this article)
- CIF — Core Influence Framework
- Building Trust
- Convincing people
- Using effective questioning
- Expanding the size of the pie
- Negotiation: sweetening the deal
- Using biases to your advantage
- Negotiation: When to walk away
Being able to influence someone on a key issue is the single greatest superpower you can have.
From convincing a client or boss to try out your idea, to being able to guide your family into seeing things your way.
Humans are influencing each other ALL the time, and similar to other activities –influencing is a skillset. In fact, it is one of the most useful skillsets you can learn.
Like many other behaviors, influencing too has a large evolutionary basis. We can use this knowledge to develop a gameplan for many situations that require influencing.
Building upon the work done in evolutionary sciences, psychology and management thinking, this short series sets a repeatable framework for building trust and convincing that will help you face each interaction with a solid plan of action!
How it started
I still remember the moment. I was 23 and had just found out what my division head’s year-end bonus was — a sum almost 10x my own bonus.
No one was surprised. It was expected and natural. I was told the discrepancy existed because the boss had “put in the time”, or “had taken more risk”, or “was rewarded for his expertise”, along with a number of other reasons.
But the question never stopped nagging me — what possible value-add could be worth 10x more than my own work?
Many people in my company seemed to have expertise and experience on their side. BUT they weren’t making the same money as my division head.
Could the division boss really be that much more effective at his job?
It took years (and more than a few grey hairs) of observing C-level clients, senior partners at prestigious banks, consultancies & law firms to finally figure out that the answer had to do with one thing alone — being able to influence others.
Let’s explore this thought in greater detail.
Key points include:
- Core influence framework
- Expanding the size of the pie
- Using biases to your advantage
Access the full series, Influencing others: The greatest superpower you’ll ever need, on Medium.
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
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.
Believe it whether you want to or not, exercise can improve your performance as a leader. Jeffery Perry explains how in this article.
John F. Kennedy once said, “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” There is arguably no greater dynamic and creative intellectual activity than personal leadership. Leaders have significant daily demands as they manage teams and engage with internal and external stakeholders. As such, leaders benefit from positive habits that can boost overall effectiveness. Incorporating physical fitness does just that—it can enhance personal leadership, especially in organizational environments fraught with disruption, uncertainty, and change.
While the link between enhanced personal leadership and physical fitness may seem logical, look no further than the general population to see that physical fitness is not universally embraced. According to Harvard Medical School research, over 50% of American adults don’t meet basic activity guidelines of at least 30 minutes most days a week, and over 25% devote no time to active pursuits. While the profile of leaders may not be as dismal, many leaders focus so much time on achieving that they neglect their physical fitness. Extensive travel, team dinners, client entertainment, long work hours, and tight deadlines are often cited as justification for physical fitness placed on the back burner.
Research from the Mayo Clinic and other sources highlight that regular exercise stimulates the body to release proteins, chemicals, and endorphins—the brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters. This stimulation enhances key leadership qualities such as energy, confidence, mental sharpness, and stress management. A physical fitness regimen also requires discipline—commitment to develop a plan, follow-through even during challenging times, and accountability. Building discipline muscle (no pun intended) is a metaphor for the demands of personal leadership.
Key points include:
Building discipline muscle
The process of physical fitness
Read the full article, Physical Fitness Can Enhance Personal Leadership, on LeadMandates.com.
Paul Millerd offers a new view on Maslow’s Pyramid and offers a different and more interesting lens on life.
‘The biggest losers, we suggest, have been management students’
This was the takeaway of three researchers who dug into the history of the invention of Maslow’s pyramid. We’ll get to that story but first let’s take a look at what has become one of the most sacred ideas in the management world, Maslow’s pyramid:
The conventional way of thinking about the pyramid is a series of steps that you progress through with the goal of eventually spending more time focusing on self-actualizing. It is often used when thinking about what motivates people at work and thinking about how to improve a culture to drive more productive employees.
The problem? The pyramid is an interpretation of Maslow’s research from the 1940’s which he spent the next thirty years second guessing and adding more nuance. By the end of his life, his investigations were well beyond any sort of neat and tidy pyramid that I had trouble trying to even describe and understand what Maslow thought about human motivation at all.
Let’s dive in.
A hierarchy, but not a pyramid
Maslow’s early research, presented in A Theory of Human Motivation (1943) presents something that feels familiar to someone who has seen the pyramid:
The ‘physiological’ needs: The bodily drives for homeostasis included warmth, coolness and hunger
Safety Needs: Protection from danger and harm such as crime, violence, wars, etc… Some experience this as a lack of money as well.
Love Needs: People have the desire to belong and be part of something
Esteem Needs: The desire to be respected by others and by yourself
Self-Actualization Needs: People that have satisfied their other needs and can spend time on fulfilling their “potential”
In writing about self-actualization, this is where he says that being self-actualization is about meeting the other basic needs first but then goes on to share that he doesn’t really know much about how this is done:
The clear emergence of these needs rests upon prior satisfaction of the physiological, safety, love and esteem needs. We shall call people who are satisfied in these needs, basically satisfied people, and it is from these that we may expect the fullest (and healthiest) creativeness. Since, in our society, basically satisfied people are the exception, we do not know much about self-actualization, either experimentally or clinically. It remains a challenging problem for research.
This is the question that would shape his future research.
Key points include:
- D-Psychology & B-Psychology
- Where the pyramid came from
- Later Research: D-Needs and The B-Realm
Read the full article, Maslow’s Imaginary Pyramid: Who really invented the pyramid?, on Boundless.com.
Self-doubt can stop the best talent from moving forward, but for all those who struggle with a negative voice, Rahul Bhargava provides practical steps that can be taken to deal with doubt.
We all have experienced self-doubts, especially when it came to undertaking significant life decisions. Whether it is the selection of a career or prospects of a current job, we all have been there.
There is that voice ringing in your head that constantly says that you cannot do it. But the remedy to that pessimistic voice is acting to the contrary and doing what you desire. Acting and getting your ambitions fulfilled is how you silent them forever. They are a part of our experiences as we grow up.
What causes you to doubt yourself?
The lack of confidence and the air of uncertainty gives space for doubts. There are things around us that we cannot control which often cultivates reasons for concern and anxiety. I will share my example here
I have always strived to be perfect at everything, like becoming the best artist, the meritorious student, the perfect wife, and so on. However, I never took a pause and thought, what is the definition of perfection?
For a long time, I was trapped in the self-doubt prison of my creation. Humans were not born to be perfect, we were born to be real, and to have emotions, to make mistakes and learn from them. The attribute of perfection belongs only to our creator.
Sometimes we fixate on a certain outcome which creates an immense level of fear.
Key points include:
- A healthy amount of self doubt
- Psychological means to justify behavior
- When self-doubt becomes depression
Read the full article, How To Believe In Yourself And Eliminate Self-Doubt, on PurpleCrest.co.
In this post, Peter Costa offers one man’s perspective on gender and leadership.
There are mountains of research on the importance of diversity in building high-performing organizations. There is at least as much insight on the nature of leadership, including that there is no one “right” leadership style. The most effective leaders are true to themselves, their strengths, and their values. At the same time, different situations call for different leadership styles. Are these conflicting ideas? Perhaps, but if the current situation shows us anything, it’s this – the women are getting it right.
Just my unscientific opinion, but female political leaders are performing far better than their male counterparts. Not to say that all the women are getting it right or that all the men are getting it wrong, but consider these facts:
72% of Germans approve of how Angela Merkel’s government is handling this pandemic (DW News).
88% of New Zealanders trusted the government (led by 39-year-old Jacinda Arden) to make the right decisions about addressing COVID-19 (The Atlantic).
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s approval rating is 68.5%, up from a nadir of 24.3% just over a year ago (Nikei Asian Review).
If you want to see what effective leadership in a crisis looks like, watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vT8e7lkjl8
All of these women moved decisively AND effectively; the results speak for themselves. Taiwan has had just 6 known coronavirus deaths in a country of 35 million. Germany has seen a far lower coronavirus death rate than most other developed countries and seems to be well past peak new infections. New Zealand has good reason to believe it has stopped community transitions. All three countries are starting to reopen their economies. (Business Insider, US News and World Report, The Economist).
These leaders are succeeding because they are very effectively drawing on what is traditionally considered to be “feminine” leadership traits: empathy, collaboration, and even humility – the humility to admit they don’t have all the answers and to draw on the people who do.
Key points include:
- Leadership traits as cultural artifacts
- Authenticity and empathy
Read the full article, Gender and Leadership – One Man’s Perspective, on Capmanllc.com
Paul Millerd shares an evergreen post on the challenges and benefits of following a self-employed path.
Over the past two and half years I’ve been navigating unknown territory, grappling with the deep philosophical questions of how to live life and wondering how my parents’ generation, the boomers, lived life as if they had a map.
For most of my life, I pretended I had a map. It seemed that was what you were supposed to do as an adult. In job interviews I lied about my career path and intentions to stay at that company. In my grad school interview I outlined a very specific plan that also happened to align with the goals of the program. The scary things is that I had almost started to believe my map was right.
Before I left my full-time job in 2017, I had the sense that things were going to be okay. That there was a plan. That life made sense.
Self-Employment Opened My Eyes & Made Me Curious
The truth was I had no idea and it took taking the leap to self-employment to open my eyes. Here is what I wrote a year into it:
A career is an artificial path which you must always manage, have a story for and be networking so that you can take the next step. The next step being up, of course.
Being self-employed, there are no promotions or paths to judge yourself against. Other people’s confusion with this fact comes out when people invariably ask “what’s your plan?” or “how’s business doing?”
While this question has no answer, I respond with what I know to be true: “I am following my creative energy and seeing where it takes me.” This tends to drive a lot of people who are deep into career thinking a bit mad.
As I’ve spoken to hundreds of people that have been carving their own paths and researched how people navigate life and stay sane along the way, a new kind of map has emerged. Not one that gives a perfect sense of certainty or comfort, but one that helps give language to feelings that are hard to name.
Key points include:
- Taking the leap
- A map for navigating the pathless path
- Embracing a “new train of thought”
Read the full article, Life Without A Map: Navigating The Pathless Path of Self-Employment, on Boundless.com.
Robyn M. Bolton shares an evergreen post on the benefits of thinking visually for business, and how to do it.
Last week, I wrote about Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), a process of using art to teach visual literacy, thinking, and communication skills.
Typically, used in primary school classrooms, VTS has made its way into the corporate setting, helping individuals and teams to build and strengthen their problem solving and critical thinking skills, ability to communicate and collaborate, and effectiveness in delivering and receiving feedback.
While I did my best to capture the Why, What, and How of VTS in that post, there’s no substitute for learning from an expert. That’s why I asked Suzi Hamill, former Head of Design Thinking at Fidelity and the woman who introduced me to VTS, to share her experience using the tool.
Hi Suzi. Thanks for sharing your VTS wisdom and experience today. I understand you’ve been doing a fair bit of VTS-ing lately.
Suzi: Yes! Just a few months ago I was at Oxford University coaching 30 Chief Marketing Officers from large global corporations on how to apply Visual Thinking Strategies to their work and their teams. And just last week, I led a session with a group of women on the West Coast of the US.
Key points include:
- VTS for business leaders
- How it helps people quickly internalize new insights
- Moving from knowing to doing
Read the full article, VTS with the Best: An Interview with Suzi Hamill, on LinkedIn.
Susan Meier shares a behind-the-design post from Workspace Studio. This week, in an interview with Amanda Hindlian, she discusses the form, function, and favorite aspects of her home office.
What do you do for work?
I’m the Global Head of Capital Markets at the New York Stock Exchange, which means that any time a private company is thinking about ways to tap into the public capital markets, I’m there with my team to help them through that process.
It’s fun because it’s global. I have a big pitch on Friday with the largest IPO of the year, and it happens to be a Chinese issuer. I have a team in China, and I’m spending a lot of time with them. Even though I can’t be in the meeting because it’s going to be fully in Mandarin, I want to make sure that they’re prepared.
Tell us about the space where you work.
I have an office in my apartment in the city. It’s one of my favorite rooms in the entire apartment. There’s a TV on one wall, where I have CNBC on all the time. There’s a cozy orange chair that I really, really wanted for whatever reason. It’s wide, it’s sweet, you can really curl up in it and read and think. In a job like this, you can get heavily into execution mode and forget that there are longer term things that you want to spend your brain cells on. I love the fact that my home office has that space for me to do that.
How would you describe your creative process?
Thinking and trying to creatively problem-solve is my favorite thing to do. I don’t enjoy executing as much – it’s not as fun. In my current role, the creative thought process is around the core business – what’s our pitch? what’s the value proposition that we’re selling to a private company? are we doing it effectively? I’m also trying to bring into my role the bandwidth to think about the general trends affecting the world, because I think it’s something that will be interesting to potential issuers and where we can have a thought advantage in the field.
Key points include:
- Protecting your time
- Sources of counterproductivity
- Daily rituals
Read the full post, The Grande Dame Of Wall Street, on WorkSpaceStudio.com.
Paul Millerd shares his understanding of hamsternomics: printing money, the future of work, and what we want or need in life.
Right now, as citizens of the United States we may become that hamster. Near term, we don’t really have a choice. Long term, we might have a choice.
A lot of people have asked us what printing money means. Like, what actually happens and why should we care? That simple question turned into a long investigation.
The result is this piece, which aims to give you a better understanding of the whole economy using hamsters. Hamsters are fun. They’re playful. We understand their need to run faster and faster on wheels.
But, my friends, the joke is on us. WE are the hamsters right now.
We’ll explain WHY we, U.S. Citizens participating in the global economy, are just like that hamster and explore WHETHER we want to remain on the hamster wheel.
It’s an ambitious agenda, requiring us to do a first principles explanation of a bunch of economic concepts, including:
What money really is
How it powers the economy and as a result, our hamster wheels
Why fast is never fast enough on the hamster wheel (hint: it’s greed!)
What happens when hamsters lose interest in the hamster wheel?
What does the future look like? Wheel or no wheel?
Key points include:
- Unleashing trillions of dollars into the economy
- The Hamster Prize
- The Hamster government
Read the full article, Hamsternomics: Printing Money, The Economy & Work Beliefs, on Boundless.com.
If you’re running low on motivation, Rahul Bhargava provides a post that explains how high achievers stay motivated, and it may just help you get back into work mode.
Few years back, I was part of a ‘merger/acquisition management’ project. These projects are unusually stressful. As a professional, you are not sure of your next role for weeks or months. It’s like the phase after an exam and before the results. One just waits, and waits.
The numerous failed attempts of mine always keeps me curious about the secrets behind successful weight loss journeys. This journey of persistence also seems interesting as decoding its secrets will give insights that can be applicable in being motivated for most business and life goals.
“How did you stay motivated throughout?”, I asked my friend.
“I have tried losing weight countless times. Trying almost every method in various phases, right from Keto diet, Yoga, Running, I realised that there was no problem with a particular method. All of them are good.”, he said.
Then with the looks of an authority on this topic, he added “Then one day I learnt about Motivated Manny, and Frustrated Frank and this time I knew I got the solution.”
“My understanding is that motivation is a myth created to give an excuse for no action” , he continued.
Cliche as it sounded, I thought my friend was getting philosophical. But then, he went on to tell the story of his transformation, and I had no second thought about believing the statement he made.
Ever since that conversation, I have adopted the principle for any goal that I pursue. The results are highly satisfactory, and I believe that most high-output achievers have a similar principle of operation.
Key points include:
- High-intensity efforts
- Motivated Manny, frustrated Frank
- The myth of motivation
Read the full article, How High Output Achievers Stay Motivated, on PurpleCrest.co.
Nils Boeffel shares a post that identifies how to ask the right questions to get the information you need.
Many managers are confronted with complex decisions to make, and not enough time in which to make them. One way to help make better decisions more quickly is knowing how to ask questions that get to the core of the subject, and not just tiptoe around the edges.
Let’s look at an example. If you ask what your marketing budget is being spent on, and you get the answer “We’re spending X amount and have a market penetration of nearly 38%”, do you just have more facts to remember, or does that really help you make a decision and act on the information?
Odds are, it really doesn’t help you. It doesn’t help you understand if the money is well spent or not, and it surely doesn’t help you make any critical business decisions. So how do we ask the right questions, and how do we know when we’ve got a good and helpful answer?
A good question seeks to understand, and a good answer helps to decide.
How do you ask a good question?
Asking good questions gets you halfway to a good answer.
Don’t stop at fact-questions, ask knowledge questions: Consider the questions “What is our marketing budget” vs. “how well is our marketing budget being spent?” The first question will get you an answer, but the second will help you understand what the answer means and what is significant about it
Focus on the penetrating “why” and “how” questions instead of the simple fact-seeking “what”, “when” and “where” questions
Ask “why” five times: many people are afraid to dig deeper into an issue, and will only provide relevant information after some “digging”. You will be surprised where the answers lead when you keep digging.
Key points include:
- Ask knowledge questions
- How do you know you’ve got a good answer?
- Getting to the bottom of the real issues
Read the full article, How to Ask the Right Questions, on NilsBoeffel.com.
Paul Millerd shares an article that comments on a capitalist system that has revived Calvinist attitudes towards those who may be less financially fortunate.
One thing I absorbed from the culture I grew up in was that someone who didn’t make a lot of money or that spent their time at something deemed a “low-skill” job was of questionable character. There were always carve outs for people you might become acquainted with, but generally people that had more money were better people.
If you only could understand one thing about American culture it’s that money is the most important thing. We say all sorts of other things about what matters but when it comes down to it the fastest way to get respect and admiration is to be rich. Our reaction to an infectious disease was to deliver four rounds of financial stimulus to the economy. Our biggest celebrities are now billionaires getting divorces rather than movie stars getting divorces.
People have a lot of feelings about money and I’ve written about how money is often just a placeholder for deeper anxieties about life. It seems people will amass millions of dollars before they try to stare the feelings that make them stressed in the face. Many people seem to get the money but never satisfy the worry. A successful real estate investor still worries about being poor1:
‘If somebody tries to screw me over, I think back to all the people who screwed my father out of money, and I react very viscerally to it because I am afraid of being poor still.’
Key points include:
- The hidden force of work: shame
- Guilt vs. Shame
- Who has the wheel?
Read the full newsletter, Money, Guilt, Shame & What Matters, on Boundless.com.
If your home office is a little lacking in motivational and inspirational energy, Susan Meier’s new project may help you redesign a creative space. The project she co-founded with photographer Hallie Burton showcases the inspiring home workspaces and the stories of those who work there. This post profiles the home office and insights of art director Marcus Hay.
What do you do?
I’m an art director or creative director, and my main focus is creating imagery for photoshoots. I also do interior design and prop styling. It’s a mixed bag of different fields, but they all interrelate, and I use the same skill set throughout the different areas of my work.
Tell us about the space where you work.
I work in the living area. It’s a small space. I used to have to move around with my computer to wherever the light wasn’t hitting, so that I could see what was going on on the screen. I finally got blinds installed last week, and it’s been a godsend, because I can actually sit at my designated “desk” now, which is the dining table. It’s a very simple Saarinen tulip table, and, for me, it’s perfect. I like to work on a desk that’s white, because everything kind of pops off it. It feels clean and harmonious. I regularly clear it, and it becomes a blank canvas each time I start a new project. I have foamcore pin boards with inspiration swipes and paint swatches and sketches. And then of course I love my sketchbooks. I love working with pen and ink, so I have a good collection of brushes and ink pens and black India ink, which is my go-to. I try to have everything so it can fold up and be put away at night.
How would you describe your creative process?
When I art direct a photoshoot, everything you do has to consider what the ethos of the company is and what impression they want to leave on their customer. Then I delve into research, and that could be Pinterest, books, movies, anything. It’s a gradual process of pulling together inspirational swipes, textures, color combinations.
It’s largely digital, but because I do have a large collection of things, so it can be very tactile. It’s an organic process. My job is to bundle everything up in a package, so it becomes a visual language that everyone on the photoshoot is going to understand. Then you hope the weather behaves.
Key points include:
- What helps Marcus be most productive
- The most important elements of his work environment
- How his workspace has changed as a result of the pandemic
Read the full post, The Interior Soul., on workspace-studio.com.
Barry Horwitz shares an article with a few key pointers on communication best practices that gain better results from research.
If you hope to develop an effective strategy, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of the external forces that impact your organization. Much of this, of course, can be learned through the inevitable Google searches — finding news items in mainstream press, public reports from organizations, or trade journals.
But to really gain a clear perspective, you’ll want to speak with people who are (or were) working in the field. Frequently, the best insights come from folks who are not part of your internal team or even your customer base. Rather, they are industry players or experts who are familiar with the space in which you operate… or, sometimes, “adjacent” or even different spaces.
But how do you get their attention? And, once you do, how do you get them to share the information and insights you seek? For the most part, it comes down to effective interviewing.
Some suggestions for doing this well…
What’s in it for me?
You’ve no doubt heard the catchphrase, WIIFM: “What’s in it for me?” Well, when reaching out to people who will not benefit directly from your work and asking for their time (whether in person, phone, or video), you need to consider WIIFM and incorporate that into your request for a meeting.
Fortunately, many people are naturally inclined to be helpful — but that alone is not usually enough. One thing that can tip the balance is an offer to share a generalized summary of what you learn in your research. People are often interested in discovering how others in their field answer certain questions, so they benefit by participating.
Key points include:
- Drafting a discussion guide
- The benefit of honesty
- Respect as a tactic
Read the full article, Research through Interviewing, on Horwitzandco.com.
With Mother’s Day comes memories of small moments that had a big impact. Robyn Bolton shares a wholly amusing, moving, and inspirational story on innovation found in unlikely places.
My Mom was a nursery-school teacher. It was more than her profession, it was her gift. Long after my sister and I were grown and out of the house, my mom chose to spend her days with 4-year olds, teaching them everything from the ABCs to how to use the WC.
Like all moms, she was an innovator. She was constantly creating something different that had impact. Admittedly, sometimes “different” was just weird and “impact” wasn’t always ideal, but it’s only just recently that I’ve realized how much my mom (probably accidentally) role-modeled the traits of a world-class innovator.
The genius of stealth prototyping
In an effort to save a bit of money, I spent the summer before business school living with my parents. One day, while folding the laundry (it took less than 20 minutes!), I found one of my Dad’s white athletic tube socks. But it wasn’t like the other white athletic tube socks. This one had three circles drawn on the bottom of it in what appeared to be black Sharpie.
“Mom, what’s up with this sock?”
“Oh, I needed a ghost puppet for school so I just used one of your dad’s socks.”
When my dad got home from work, I showed him the sock and asked if he had noticed the black circles on the foot. He had not.
Key points include:
- The infectious nature of optimism
- The life-changing power of empathy
Read the full article, Mom: Innovation’s OG, on MileZero.io.
Rahul Bhargava provides a post designed to help you think critically and develop better problem-solving skills, a skill that is crucially important in today’s daily deluge of news from a diverse range of sources.
Now and then, every individual comes face to face with some challenge or a problem, which requires them to make a decision. For an entrepreneur, it could be something as simple as deciding a name for their venture or something as crucial as choosing a location for the office. If you’re an employee working for an organization, you could be tasked with something as uncomplicated as picking out your workspace or something as critical as hiring recruits or choosing your team. For a student, some decisive tasks at hand would be, picking the correct career path, which subjects to study, which college to go to, and so on.
Life is full of such severities. Some problems may be complicated, and some may not be so difficult. Some issues may arise on the professional front, some on a personal front. Whatever it is, every decision you make, will have a crucial impact on your life. Hence, you must possess the problem solving ability and skills to think critically to tackle any situation better. Not only would it help you narrow down upon the best suitable option, but also facilitate its effective implementation.
A real-life situation where the skills of critical thinking would come in handy is in filtering out information. We live in a world of the internet and social media, where a truckload of information is available in a single click. Some of this information could be correct and accurate, whilst the majority of it is found to be untrue, commonly referred to as “fake news”.
Key points include:
- Benefits of critical thinking
- How to develop critical thinking
- How critical thinking can help problem solving
Read the full article, How to Develop Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills, on purplecrest.co.
David A. Fields shares a post on key steps to take to grow your business.
Clients hire your consulting firm in part because you know more than they do. You’re an expert. Wise in the ways of management, marketing or the musk beetle (or whatever your area of expertise happens to be).
How expert are you, though, and what are you doing to continuously upgrade your knowledge?
Domain knowledge is one of the three ingredients you mix together to whip up a consultant. (The others are consulting skills and s’mores.) Examples of a domain include: an industry, function, methodology, technology platform, geography, or particular situation, problem or aspiration.
New consultants at your consulting firm often need to polish their consulting skills and supplement their domain knowledge. Plus, of course, newbies need to learn your consulting firm’s IP and family recipes inside and out.
Ideally, you’ve developed onboarding and training materials to fling newcomers up the capability curve.
After that initial bolus of learning, however, the vectors of learning in many small consulting firms narrow down to one: experience.
Similarly, as a consulting firm leader, you’ve gained the lion’s share of your valuable wisdom from experience on projects.
Experiential learning is huge. It’s real-world, and directly relates to your clients’ needs.
Key points include:
- The true value of experiential learning
- Creating a domain knowledge ladder
- Identifying the knowledge source
Read the full post, The Ladder You Must Climb To Grow Your Consulting Firm, on davidafields.com.
Priyanka Ghosh shares an always valuable reminder on the importance of minding your assumptions and making sure others are reminded of your value.
Early in my career at a top Management Consulting Firm in New York my Senior Manager had asked me a question…”what is your brand, Priyanka”….that question had left me stumped! a) I had no idea what he was talking about; b) I always thought that when you do good work you get noticed for your work. The idea of managing your image and shaping a perception had never crossed my mind.
Through that experience I had learnt a valuable lesson…don’t assume anything. Don’t assume that your manager, your colleagues or the people who report to you know the good work that you are doing. Like politicians, one has to learn to manage not only one’s career but also manage perceptions and create an image of how you would like to be perceived by others.
Lesson No. 1: What matters is not so much what you do or have done, but what other people think you have accomplished. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean to say that you should ‘sound’ more than you ‘do’….but it is important to articulate what you have done. Otherwise, people do have short-term memories and they tend to forget. Which means that you need to manage your image as well as your real job.
Lesson No. 2: Don’t assume that people know what you are working on; take every opportunity to educate others. Making sure that you share the right and credible information can be a powerful tool in shaping your profile in the workplace.
Key points include:
- Managing expectations
- Managing perceptions
- The elevator speech
Read the full article, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall.…” on promelier.co.uk.
Kaihan Krippendorff shares an article that identifies how to take better control of your subconscious to become aware of valuable information.
We have heard the adages like “work on your business, not in it” and “come up to see the forest for the trees.” At McKinsey they urged us to continually take the “top management perspective” by zooming up to look at the business overall before jumping into the details.
But we know Bill Gates used to lock himself in a cabin for a week every year just to read and think during his “Think Weeks”. My friend Tony Crabbe, an organizational psychologist, has written two outstanding books with practical advice for clearing out the busy to give you time to think. Cal Newport goes deep into the need for us to clear space for “deep work” in his book.
Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, gets up to write at 4 a.m. 365 days a year. Stephen King clears his calendar to write 2,000 words every day before he allows himself to engage with the outside world. Great athletes envision the game before they get on the field (indeed, my friend and former roommate who served as captain of the US national rugby team told me he would spend hours envisioning every moment of the game before a match).
In other words, maybe the old adage should be reversed to “don’t just do something … sit there!
Key points include:
- Identifying what you want
- Instructing your mind
- Structuring your thinking process
Read the full article, Activating The Subconscious Power Of Strategy, on Kaihan.net.
If you are stuck in a rut, at a career crossroads, or just not moving forward as fast as you want to, Christy Johnson shares a blog from her website on the difference between a mentor and a champion and how each one can help you.
‘Where are your champions?
You’ve probably heard the hackneyed advice for career advancement: “It’s who you know, not what you know.” But how do you know who you should get to know? Figuring out who you should cultivate relationships with when time and energy is limited isn’t always straightforward.
After interviewing over 200 professionals from diverse backgrounds and industries for Project Ascendance, we found one relationship trumped the others when it comes to ROI: the champion. The individuals we spoke with described the people who advocated for them in and out of their own workplace—their champions—as pivotal to their career success.
What’s more, when we asked participants to reflect on their professional experiences and tell us what they wished they had done differently, the most frequent regret they shared was not seeking out champions sooner. While these champion/protégé relationships are rarer than mentor/mentee relationships, our participants showed us that they can be developed over time.
There are, however, fundamental differences between mentors and champions. In a mentor/mentee relationship, the mentee receives most of the benefits and the mentor expects little in return. In a champion/protégé relationship, both people make a greater commitment to each other and have more at stake. Championing is a deeper more reciprocal relationship that requires mutual trust. Below is a quick guide for distinguishing between your mentors and champions.’
Key points include:
- Reciprocal relationships
- Affinity and social proximity
- Constructive champions
Read the full post, Do you have a champion or a mentor? on artemisconnection.com.
Shelli Baltman reflects on creativity, and how you don’t have to be ‘creative’ to bring it in to your day-to-day working life.
‘But I’m not creative!’
Even today, it’s hard for me to write that. After almost 20 years as an Innovation Expert, a role where clients hire me for my creativity and fresh ideas, and a long track record of commercial success, there’s still a small, childlike part of me that wonders if I’m creative enough.
My journey to a career in the world of creative thinking and innovation was not the standard path through marketing or advertising. After an undergraduate business degree, I started my working life as a management consultant, building excel models and cutting my teeth in data and analytics. Even after my MBA I worked at McKinsey & Co. in London and was practicing a purely fact-based, analytical approach to the business world.
Then, while working on a pitch for a start-up, I met some amazing creative geniuses, who blew me away with their ability to think differently, their ideas that seemingly came from nowhere, and their unwavering belief in those ideas, however eccentric. And I couldn’t figure out how they did it. Where were they getting these incredible ideas? Did their brains just work differently? I was jealous, to say the least. I wished more than anything that I was creative, like them, since it looked like so much more fun than the world I was working in!
And so, in 2002, I decided to make it my mission to move into the creative working world. I set out developing my creative muscles and started reading and learning widely, all the while doggedly pursuing a career with an innovation agency. Then, finally, I convinced an agency to hire me, which marked the beginning of over 20 years of fulfilling creative work, and more than 400 successful innovation projects. Now, not only do my clients value and launch the ideas developed during those projects, but I truly love my career, and each and every one of the creative skills that I’ve been able to develop and weave into what we do at The Idea Suite.”
Key points include:
- State of mind
- New connections
- Embrace experimentation
Read the full article, “But I’m Not Creative!”: My Journey To Creativity, Confidence And A Career That I Love, on theideasuite.com.
Susan Meier asks us simply to think about love and how it works when we want to bring positive and productive energy into play.
“Think about love.
In the early days of running my own company, I was feeling nervous about a pitch meeting with a potential new client. My friend suggested matter-of-factly, “Just think about love.” I laughed at first, because love seemed like an odd thing to be thinking about while discussing digital media strategies in the pharmaceutical industry. But I decided to give it a try. I took a deep breath as I sat down to the meeting and called the word ‘love’ to mind. I felt my chest broaden and my shoulders release. It wasn’t romantic love, but rather the sensation of pure joy that comes when you hug your puppy, the feeling that anything is possible when the sun shines on your shoulders. I nailed the presentation and won the work.
It worked because love is what you bring to your very best work – the passion you feel for something you truly care about, the sense of integrity that comes with fulfilling your purpose, the patience and tenacity that get conjured up when you are determined to make good on a commitment.
Don’t think about robots.
While we may worry about machine learning and artificial intelligence taking jobs and dehumanizing work, we need not. It’s true that machines and algorithms have quick computing power and no pesky egos to contend with. However, the unique gifts of the human heart – empathy, vulnerability, emotional literacy – can’t be replicated.”
Key points include:
- Working without fear
- Aligning with passion
- Intrinsic motivation
Read the full article, How Love Works, on SusanMeierStudio.com.
Aneta Key shares a concise post that explains the purpose and benefits of her company’s GrowthKey programs.
One way to increase the leadership capacity of your organization is to invest in the development of your people and build organizational capabilities. The GrowthKey Programs help you do just that.
GrowthKey blended learning approach
The GrowthKey professional development programs develop critical strategic, problem-solving, and interpersonal capabilities to elevate the confidence and performance of leaders, high performers groomed for cross-functional assignments, up-and-comers, partners, project managers, and consultants.
The programs may mesh one or more of these elements depending on your unique needs:
Synchronous (virtual or in-person) “intensives” to galvanize learning — A core element that kick-starts learning. Custom content is developed based on client objectives and needs assessment for learners (e.g., High Potentials, Team Leaders, Project Managers, new hires). Durations last from multi-day “boot camp” formats to half-a-day “deep-dive” formats.
Key points include:
- The comprehensive global program
- The targeted local program
Read the full post, GrowthKey — Blended learning model for custom corporate training programs, on the Aedeapartners.com.
Caroline Taich shares a post on change and the skills you need to drive it forward.
In this blog, we have been exploring the McKinsey model for change. Last week I wrote about conviction as a driver of change. This week I’m thinking about the skills you need for change. Here is a big one – the ability to see your unique strengths.
This came up during the wonderful opportunity I had to learn from Councilman Matt Zone. Councilman Zone serves Ward 15, which includes Cleveland’s Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. Despite its strong roots, the 1960s brought de-industrialization to Detroit Shoreway, and the area began to decline. Matt Zone’s leadership helped revive the neighborhood, beginning in 2004 with the vision for the Gordon Square Arts District. Major reinvestment in the community, including 5 major capital projects totaling $30M, led to economic growth and neighborhood beautification that is celebrated here and around the world (read more here).
Councilman Zone stressed that one of the most important keys for change was to focus on Detroit Shoreway’s unique strengths. But, how do you identify these unique strengths? Here are two of my favorite approaches.
Story-telling approach. Go talk to people and gather stories of impact. For example, you can ask others, ‘When have you felt most proud of this neighborhood?’ Ask for a specific story, and then probe on the details that made the experience memorable.
Key points include:
- Identifying unique strengths
- Story-telling approach
- Analytical approach
Read the full post, Identify Unique Strengths to Drive Change, on KirtlandConsulting.com.
With the pandemic slowing the pace in how we live and work, many of us may feel stuck. Luckily, Mike Ross shares a quick tip to help set movement in motion.
I’m lucky to spend a lot of my time working with highly intelligent, motivated people; helping them think through decisions for themselves and their organizations. Some big decisions, some small ones, but these conversations often share a striking similarity – the people I’m speaking with usually already know what to do.
They know the answer. They’re just stuck.
And what makes them stuck is fear. Fear of getting it wrong, of making a mistake, of screwing something up and regretting it. And they come to me (and people like me) to validate their ideas. Sometimes we find a piece of evidence or a fact that they overlooked that helps them to re-think their idea and chart a new path, but in many cases, they would be just as well served by trying their ideas out (on a small scale to begin with) and learning as they go. And that’s usually the advice that I give them. Try it and see.
They don’t really need a consultant or an adviser or coach. They just need the starting point of a plan and permission to move.
So here’s a quick hit to help you get unstuck…
Key points include:
- Tackling risk
- Gathering ideas
- Breaking through fear
Read the full post, Permission to Change, on LinkedIn.
Robbie Baxter shares valuable advice on how to build and manage a network in a comfortable and authentic way.
A few years ago, my sister asked me to co lead a workshop to help a group of her fellow psychologists build their professional network.
Here’s how she opened the event: “I know most of us really don’t like networking, and I’m glad you’re here anyway. For most of us networking is worse than a sharp stick in the eye”
I heard murmurs of agreement and saw heads bobbing up and down. These people hated networking. But I came to learn that a big part of it was how they defined networking and the approach they believed they had to use to build and nurture their networks.
I have come to learn that for many people, networking feels inauthentic and cheesy, and seems to take them away from the real work of helping clients and doing the work.
And yet, your network can be a tremendously powerful tool in “doing the work” and your investment in building your network can be among the most authentic and meaningful parts of your day.
In my work building engaged communities and forever transactions for all kinds of organizations, I have spent a lot of time teaching people how to build their networks in an ethical and comfortable way.
Here are some tips that can help you build yours!
Key points include:
- Communication tips
- Strategies for segmentation
- Developing opportunities
Read the full article, 30 Days to a Stronger Network in 2021, on LinkedIn.
Christy Johnson shares a post from her company blog on how to make virtual learning a better experience for students.
In this panel, experts from Stanford and from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco discussed:
- Experimenting with synchronous and asynchronous classroom environments, flipped classrooms, and different online tools
- Helping students meet, network, collaborate, complete meaningful activities, and learn from one another
- Thinking creatively about using technology and designing online learning specifically for an online setting
- Staying positive and using what we’re learning now to improve education in the long run
- Working with and listening to students
Themes that Emerged During a Full Term of Online Instruction in Spring 2020
John Mitchell, a Professor of Computer Science at Stanford, and Maxwell Bigman, a PhD student at Stanford’s GSE, conducted a survey of the online experiences of Stanford’s CS program and revealed those results in a paper, “Teaching Online in 2020: Experiments, Empathy, Discovery.” At Stanford, and so many other universities, Mitchell said, everyone did what they could to adapt to circumstances in the emergency shift to online instruction. It was a seat-of-the-pants-effort. Most faculty spent several times as long as they normally would have to prepare and teach their courses.
Key points include:
- Reducing Zoom fatigue and facilitating student collaboration
- Comparisons with the massive online open course environment
- Using technology to measure and maintain attention
Read the full article, Enhancing the Virtual Learning Experience: Lessons from Stanford’s Transforming Learning Accelerator, on ArtemisConnection.com.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Hung Nguyen with OUTLAST Consulting. Hung recently joined OUTLAST Consulting, a purpose-driven professional development + strategy firm focused on fueling innovation and empowering diverse talent. Prior to OUTLAST, Hung headed the Digital Center of Expertise at BP, where she piloted user-centric ways to recruit, develop, and deploy talent. At McKinsey, she focused on organizational effectiveness and cultural transformations.
She has a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Economics from Harvard College and an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business. Her interest in diversity extends beyond work and into her love for travel. You can watch her globetrotting antics on CBS’s reality TV show, The Amazing Race, which premiered in Fall 2020. Hung looks forward to collaborating on projects involving professional development or diversity.
Paul Millerd shares insights from multiple sources on the future of work in these five conversations.
The future of work can mean anything. I’ve had many conversations and discussions around the idea of “future of work” where people talk past each other, often focused on different fundamental issues. In an effort to make sense of this complexity and create some common ground for the many people having these conversations, I propose differentiating between five future of work conversations:
Conversation #1: Macro Trends (consultancies, journalists, politicians)
This conversation is typified by looking at trends and then working backward to see what the implications are for people. Terms like “fourth industrial revolution,” “the end of work,” “post-work,” “artificial intelligence,” and “robots” are used prolifically. McKinsey writes in a report on the future of work:
‘Automation, digital platforms, and other innovations are changing the fundamental nature of work.’
‘Automation, advanced manufacturing, AI, and the shift to e-commerce are dramatically changing the number and nature of work.’
…and finally, The Brookings Institute:
‘Robots, artificial intelligence, and driverless cars are no longer things of the distant future.’
Key points include:
- One of the top three skills workers will need
- The Gig Economy
- Evolving Organizational Ecosystems
Read the full article, The Future Of Work Is Five Different Conversations, on LinkedIn.
Nora Ghaoui shares the top three ways she built her business as a solo consultant during the difficult year of 2020.
Building a consulting pipeline is tough in any year. In 2020, the uncertainty caused by the pandemic made companies cautious, so it was harder to get projects agreed and started. I tried out different actions to build my project pipeline, and some worked better than others. Here are the top 3 things that made a difference to building my business as a solo consultant. They might not be what you expect!
Spend your time wisely
Time gets away from you when your established routine is broken. Without strong deadlines or direct feedback, it’s easy for actions to be postponed, half-done or forgotten in the jumble of dealing with lockdowns and working from home.
So the most important success factor is: Be very intentional about how you spend your time. What you spend time on, and what you get done, makes the difference between building your business or seeing it languish. It sounds obvious, but it can be hard to do in practice.
As an “army of one”, all the work has to be done by you, although you can outsource parts of it. This work includes refining your positioning, creating and publishing your marketing, building and nurturing your network, prospecting for leads, pitching for projects, negotiating with clients, working on projects, doing administrative overhead, keeping your expertise up to date, and, last but not least, having fun and enjoying what you do.
Key points include:
- Questions to help you prioritize
- Reviewing progress to stay on track
- Expanding and maintaining connections
Read the full article, Keep building your consulting pipeline (in a tough year), on Veridia.nl.
Zaheera Soomar shares a post that explores the problem of prospective employees following an organizations’ assessment of their ‘cultural fit’.
I came across a few LinkedIn posts about candidate experiences and organizations requests in recruitment. I read through the comments to see how others felt and it didn’t leave me feeling comfortable.
I tried to reflect and dig deep about why I’m feeling uncomfortable. I reflected on my past experiences in both joining organizations but also in hiring individuals to join. I reflected on a fairly recent experience with an organization that I joined and then decided to move on from because of culture fit.
This is where I got to with my reflections:
When organizations hire, majority of organizations assess for culture fit. This has become increasingly important over the years where it’s not just about the skills set but about alignment with values, culture and principles.
But… it’s a two way alignment. Candidates should equally assess the fit from their end and be courageous enough to do it. At the end of the day… accountability should work both ways right? I think many individuals do – but not as we should. I reflected back on the experience I mentioned above and remembered having doubts/questions in my mind about culture fit. I didn’t do enough when signing up… even though I attempted to do more once in. But it wasn’t enough. It didn’t make a difference.
Key points include:
- Proceeding with authenticity
- Assessing your requirements
- Assessing company culture
Read the full article, Don’t let the organization be the only decision maker at the table, on LinkedIn.
Dan Markovitz shares a free workbook to accompany his latest book.
Response to my latest book, The Conclusion Trap, has been strong, but I’ve heard from some readers that they’d like a workbook to accompany it.
You can download the Conclusion Trap Workbook here. For free. Gratis. No charge. $0.00 dollars.
In it, you’ll find a recap of each of the four steps, along with questions, and recommendations you can use to experiment with the approach in your work (or personal!) lives.
Access the link to the workbook through the post, The Conclusion Trap Workbook Is Out (And It’s Free), on MarkovitzConsulting.com.
Tobias Baer draws attention to the danger of selective perception becoming the norm as the use of AI in online information and marketing limits the amount of information delivered.
There is a famous psychological experiment where participants intently watch a basketball game – but when asked afterwards about the gorilla that had danced around amidst the players, nobody has seen it. It’s the literal textbook example of selective perception – in this experiment, participants were tasked with counting the number of passes between the players and as they focused all their attention on the ball, their minds completely disregarded everything else going on on the court.
If you think of selective perception as a curtain that is partially drawn on our minds, thus narrowing our window into the world, AI is pulling more curtains from every side, leaving only a dwindling beam of light. If we don’t actively manage this and make sure we get enough exposure to mental sunlight, we risk making increasingly poor decisions and falling prey to manipulation by marketers. In the following, I will quickly describe how selective perception affects our beliefs and actions before reviewing some of the recent innovations in how AI is used that worry me for what they could do to our perception.
Our own selective perception is technically necessary but also a key way how our personality manifests itself. You all will have met anxious people who seem to always only see the risks of a proposal, or helpless optimists who seem to be blissfully blind to any risks or downsides.
Key points include:
- Facebook’s acquisition of Kustomer
- GPT-3, a language prediction model
- Side-tracked cognitive processes
Read the full article, How AI closes the curtain on human perception, on LinkedIn.
Susan Hamilton shares a thoughtful post on creative thinking and the pursuit of possibility.
September has always been my favorite month. The smell of new notebooks, the crispness in the still-warm air. A season full of unknowns, full of possibility. This year, the back-to-school season presents a different riff on unknowns to be sure, but I am still filled with a sense of excitement at the possibility that awaits.
People who are open to seeing possibility have a powerful competitive advantage. They notice opportunities others miss. They discover new ways forward that others may not have imagined or may have written off as impractical.
Tony Petito was a man who saw possibility.
While growing up in New Jersey, Tony’s love of theatre was a puzzlement to his family of plumbers. Undeterred, he organized extravagant musical productions, earning him a commendation from his town’s mayor. He went on to earn an MFA in directing from the Goodman School of Drama of the Art Institute of Chicago and pursued a theatre career in Chicago and New York.
When he was offered an unexpected opportunity to work in management consulting, he took the leap. While it drew him away from the theater, his time with Booz, Allen & Hamilton took him on adventures across Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore and provided a secure life for his growing young family.
In Singapore, a community theatre approached him seeking an artistic director. Where others might have dismissed the role, imagining nothing more than staging Gilbert & Sullivan musicals for local expatriates, Tony had a vision. What if it were possible to transform that theater, leveraging its staff and supporters, to create a professional, international company?
Read the full post, In Pursuit of Possibility, on SusanMeierStudio.com
Andy Sheppard explores the connection between business and spirituality and how one can feed the other.
In my work, I often help leaders to dismantle silos in their organisations. It’s so rewarding to see people thrive and gain new insights as they come together. Somewhat similarly, I have also found that new insights can be unlocked through making connections across different compartments in life. Lateral thinking across parts of life that are typically separate – like our professional life and our spiritual life – can help us to thrive. I believe doing so can help us to lead richer and more integrated lives.
This article shares three connections I have found helpful between my professional life and aspects of my Christian faith. I hope it might offer interesting and fresh insights, whether or not you would consider yourself religious.
Being Hypothesis Driven
I have sympathy for anyone who questions why a search for spiritual meaning should start with Jesus. Thousands of historical and current figures have claimed insight into what gives life meaning and/or how we can live it to the full. Shouldn’t we either listen to them all, or just figure life out for ourselves? And why should we start with anyone who taught a lot about “God” when we’re not even convinced that any deity exists?
When I became a management consultant with McKinsey & Company, I was encouraged to be “hypothesis driven”. This means starting with a hypothesis – an educated guess – of where value is and driving towards it. The idea is to benefit from experience and to make rapid progress. It remains rational because the hypothesis should be rejected or modified if disproved by the relevant data, and it is rapid because analysing this data represents only a fraction of the possible analyses. Nevertheless, as an engineer the idea still sat uncomfortably with me: it felt like jumping to a solution too early. My opinion changed when I witnessed what the expert in charge of my first engagement helped us all to accomplish. I would never have believed that so much positive change in processes and culture was possible so quickly – until I saw it happen.
Key points include:
- Six types of sin
- Toyota’s operational excellence
- The complexity of simplicity
Read the full article, Can Professional Insights Lead to Spiritual Insight?, on LinkedIn.
Paul Millerd shares the latest edition from his blog that explores the connections between the revolutionary and evolutionary writers in history with today’s dissemination of information on social media. He also shares a resource of links to today’s influential inter-intellect sites.
The meta-scenius and the future
Would Thoreau have convinced more people to move to Walden pond if he had Twitter?
That was the question I was thinking about as I read American Bloomsbury, a book about a “scenius” in the mid nineteenth century in Concord, Massachusetts.
“Scenius” was the term invented by Brian Eno that I became aware of because of Packy McCormick’s essay earlier this year. Packy was trying to understand what elements led to the emergence of famous “scenes” from history such as Scotland in the 1700s, Motown, and Silicon Valley.
As I read American Bloomsbury I was struck with how many now-famous authors happened to be living within a couple of blocks of each other.. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau and many others spent their days talking about their writing, carrying on about topics of the day and getting involved in a growing abolitionist movement.
However, most of the book highlights their shared turmoil and failure. Thoreau battled tuberculosis and died before 50. Emerson was kicked out of Harvard and the Church. Margaret Fuller died in a boat crash on Fire Island. Louis Marie Alcott had to start working to support her family because her fathers’ failed utopian communities.
Key points include:
- The digital Meta-scene
- Thoreau on Twitter
- Making the jump from online to offline
Access the links and read the full newsletter, #120: The Emergence Of The Digital Meta-Scene, Very Online People (VOP), Strangely Earnest Twitter, Digital Ambitions and Bold Offline Adventures, on the Boundless website.
Amy Giddon takes a look back at the past year to provide friendly insight and advice on how to make life better in five easy ways.
2020 has been a year like no other. As we’ve grown weary, depleted, and drained, the power of kindness to transform a moment, a day, a life has only grown. When people are asked to recall a kindness they received, they often recall a time when they were at their most fragile and a small generous act had an outsized and memorable impact. We’re all a bit fragile now. It’s been turbulent. The amazing thing is – an act of kindness leaves a lasting impression on both the giver and the receiver of a kind act, healing both.
Short on time? Short on funds? Quarantined? No worries. There are many ways to spread kindness right where you are. And you already have the most valuable kindness resource of all – the warm beam of your attention.
Here are some kind acts that are tailor-made for this year that’s been anything but kind:
1) See others, really see them. Smile at strangers (with your eyes if masked). Make contact with people you usually don’t acknowledge. Give a chance to someone that you might dismiss. Slow down and pay attention to people. Tell someone you’re thinking of them. Listen intently. Follow up. Smile some more. And just watch how people soften, straighten, blossom under your gaze.
Key points include:
- Providing relief
- The power of appreciation
Read the full article, 5 Ways to Be Kind In a Year That Hasn’t Been, on LinkedIn.
Susan Meier Hamilton identifies the need for solitude and how to find it in a noisy world.
Once upon a time, I spent 8 hours a day completely alone, working from home. I am an introvert who needs solitude to recharge my batteries and focus, and I enjoyed that. These days, the vast majority of my time is spent in the company of 4 other people who are, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, also now working from home.
It’s been an adjustment.
Of course, togetherness is good. But creativity experts and academic researchers agree that some amount of solitude is one of the key prerequisites for creative productivity.
I’ve developed some quirky hacks. Sometimes I work in the bathroom, because it has a door that locks. (It’s a large bathroom, so this is not as gross as it sounds.) I use my devices to create virtual boundaries – it turns out the very presence of earbuds is enough to deter all but the most tenacious of supplicants. Never mind that I can’t concentrate if I listen to music while I work. No one but me knows there is nothing streaming into my ears.
Solitude is really about autonomy. Autonomy is a particularly important precondition for creativity, because creativity is all about being independent in one’s thoughts and actions – even when we’re collaborating.
The quest for quiet is not unique to remote work in a pandemic, nor is it limited to introverts. Businesspeople of all kinds in all work settings often lack the solitude and autonomy necessary to think creatively. Interruptions from phones, meetings, and live humans continually impede the free flow of ideas.
In one large pre-pandemic study, 60% of people said they were most creative in private environments – calling into question all those open office plans. And let’s not confuse ‘solitude’ with ‘solitary.’ 30% of those who preferred private spaces said they were highly collaborative there.
You may not want to lock yourself in a bathroom or fake an obsession with Spotify. I get it. Here are some other ideas for how to find the solitude you need:
Key points include:
- Finding privacy
- Taking time out to “hear” ideas
- The creative benefits of relaxation
Read the full article, Searching for Solitude, on susanmeierstudio.com.
Jesse Jacoby shares a post that illustrates the importance of story, and why the corporate story is the key to engaging employees.
We all love a good story, whether our preference is for fiction or nonfiction.
It doesn’t matter if you’re reading a book, watching a movie, or listening to the news, expanding your mind watching a TEDx talk or listening to a podcast. All these media use stories to communicate their messages.
One reason is because it makes the message more interesting. We may miss the importance of a fact if the information is presented in a boring way; but when it is woven into a story, it can reveal a message that we otherwise would have missed.
The best storytellers make us feel that we are part of narrative. They make us laugh because of the circumstances or cry by getting us to experience the emotion that the characters do.
And it doesn’t matter if the characters are portrayed as human beings or animals, as George Orwell’s Animal Farm so aptly illustrates. Kids as well as adults identify with them because they recognize something of themselves in them, and often they desire to become more like them.
Another reason stories are told is because people will often take action as a result. It is why the authors of many non-fiction books create personas. They want their readers to be able to easily identify and personalize the principles that they describe.
Key points in this article include:
- The power of ‘why’
- Motivating behaviour
- Organizational stories
Read the full article, Why Stories Matter to Your Organization, on EmergentConsultants.com.
In this article, Robyn M. Bolton illuminates how our personal bias comes into play with the co-creator syndrome and how it can affect innovation.
When I was a senior in college, I took a pottery class.
One of our assignments, before learning to throw on the wheel, was to create a functional piece using slabs of clay. I designed an Alice in Wonderland-inspired vase and built something that somewhat resembled the design.
Obviously impressed by my innate talent, the instructor offered to teach me a special glazing technique that used highly toxic chemicals to create…well…I stopped listening as soon as I heard “toxic chemicals.” It was dangerous, so I was in.
The result was a rather misshapen (not Alice in Wonderland-inspired) vase that looked like it was made out of chunks of rusted metal.
I loved it!
My roommate hated it.
She declared it the ugliest thing she ever saw and forbid me from placing it anywhere in the apartment where she might have the misfortune of laying eyes on it.
To this day, she swears it’s the ugliest thing she’s ever seen.
I display it proudly on the bookshelf in my office.
It would be easy to explain our different reactions to my work of art as simply the result of different aesthetic preferences. And while there may be some truth in it, I suspect the better explanation is the IKEA Effect.
Key points include:
- The Ikea effect
- Meatballs and lingonberries
- Objective governance
Read the full article, The IKEA Effect is Creating Zombies. Here’s How to Fight Them, on the MileZero website.
Caroline Taich shares a concise post and one key tip on how to improve your client services.
Are you getting ready to start a planning process?
I help my clients bring new ideas to life. To do this work well, I believe that it helps to know what it’s like to walk in client shoes. So when the arts organization where I am Board President was ready to write a strategic plan, I jumped at the chance to be the client. Here’s what I learned about how to make the most of your planning experience:
You must invest in it. Full stop. Your job as a leader on the strategic planning team is to listen; contribute; reflect; rinse & repeat. Unless you invest, you won’t get the full benefit. When I volunteer my perspective and say out loud what I value (e.g., “part of the purpose of a community arts organization should include making new friendships”) – I build ownership, pride and accountability for realizing it.
Write out your most important questions at the start, and make them as specific as possible. An ok question might be, “How can we have greater impact?” A better question is, “What are the three most important things we can offer our community that they can’t get anywhere else?”
You have to make the length of the planning process work for you. Planning can be done in as little as 1 day or as long as a year. Choose the timeline that allows you to wrestle with the data and your vision – but not so long that you get lost in the process.
Key points in this article include:
- Strategic planning tips
- Building ownership
- Question planning
Access the article, On Being a Client, on the Kirtland Consulting website.
Tommy Kim provides an article that explains how rethinking your brand can help you grow.
The picture of a Lockheed Martin F35 at the opening of this article sends a very clear message. It demonstrates power, pride, quality, stealth, and dominance. Similarly, throughout your life, you will craft a very clear, personal brand for yourself. A brand identity that you want people to identify you with and to remember you by. As you grow and thrive, you will deepen the relationship you have with your brand and it will not only become a reflection of who you are, but also the characteristic by which others will associate with you and everything you do. This includes where you were educated and what you learned from there and who you met along the way that made an impact in your life.
Then, where you went to work and what you learned, contributed, and achieved there.
What you do now matters as you build yourself up and begin maintaining strong relationships with those you meet along your path. Your reward as you do so is a stronger personal brand equity at each junction in your journey. Remember, even “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Like this feat of this engineering marvel, your career will be built over a lifetime of dedication, incredible perseverance, and talent. From it, you will harvest fruit in the form of clearly defined identity and respect.
Key points in this article include:
- Building confidence
- Investing in growth
- Planning for progression
Read the full article, In Search of the Most Important Brand in Your Life, on LinkedIn.
Robyn M. Bolton provides key tips that you can take to motivate corporate executives into action.
Things we know we should do because they’re good for us:
Eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day
Floss twice a day
Get 10,000 steps a day
Consistently invest in innovation
Let’s be honest, the above list could also be titled, “Things we know we should do but don’t.”
Why? Why do we choose not to do things that years of research prove are good for us and for which solutions are readily available?
Because they’re inconvenient, uncomfortable, expensive, and, most of all, because we have not yet been burned by not doing them.
Experience is a better motivator of change and driver of behavior than knowledge. We don’t floss until we’ve had one (or more) painful and bloody dentist appointments. We don’t buy insurance until we have to deal with a break-in. We don’t invest in innovation until we’re desperate for revenue, profit, or growth.
The good news is that, at least when it comes to innovation, we don’t have to wait to be desperate or to get burned before we do what we know we should. We can create experiences that motivate change.
Key points include:
- Borrowing relevant experiences
- Creating experiences of success
- Immersing everyone in the experience
Read the full article, How to Get Corporate Executives to Walk Their Innovation Talk, on the MileZero website.
Maintaining productivity for you and your team is not always easy, but despair not; David A. Fields provides a list of productivity questions designed to make you assess, address, and activate a productivity system.
Puff your chest out and strike a superhero pose. You’re Super Productivity Person! Sigh, that’s not very catchy is it?
Also, to be fair, probably neither you nor your consulting firm are achieving legendary productivity day in and day out. You could, though, using the approach outlined below.
Productivity isn’t as sexy a superpower as x-ray vision*, stretchy skin, or spidey senses.*
On the other hand, sky-high productivity feels pretty darn good and rewards you and your consulting firm with high profits, meaningful work, and enviable work/life balance.
So, how do you step up to the Mt. Olympus of productivity?
If you run a quick search on time management and productivity techniques, you’ll surface dozens of approaches. (Hover your mouse here to see some examples.)
It turns out that virtually all of the many, many productivity approaches and systems are built to help you answer a handful of basic questions.
Key points in this article include:
- The Basic Productivity Questions
- The More Important Productivity Questions
- The Superhero Productivity Question
Read the full article, How To Make Yourself And Your Consulting Firm Super Productive, and access the questions, on David’s website.
Robyn M. Bolton shares why a business should always engage in customer research when innovating and explains why she doesn’t always follow her own advice.
If you’re innovating without involving your customers, you’re wasting time and money.
I believe this so deeply that I require all of my clients to spend time talking with and listening to their customers at least once during our work together. Investing in customer research, I explain, is the single smartest and best investment that any business can make. Just 5 or 10 customer conversations can dramatically alter the course of an initiative, positioning it for incredible success or killing it before too much time, energy, and money is wasted.
Understanding your customers, especially through Jobs to be Done, is the hill I will die on.
But I actively resist doing this for my business.
The idea of interviewing my customers, or investing to understand their Jobs to be Done, or altering aspects of my business based on their feedback triggers a cold sweat and a very real flight response.
So why is my business different? (It’s not)
Why am I such a customer research hypocrite?
Here are the thoughts that run through my head when I consider talking to my own customers:
I’m supposed to be the expert in this, what if they tell me something I haven’t thought of?
What if my customers say they don’t like or want what I’m doing and would like or want something I’m not?
What if I do try something new and it fails?
It is SO much easier, and it feels so much safer, to keep doing what I’m doing because it’s what I’ve always done and it’s what bigger and more “successful” firms do.
Key points in this article include:
- Why am I such a customer research hypocrite?
- How do we overcome these emotional barriers?
- How do we overcome the fear and take action?
Read the full article, Confessions of a Customer Research Hypocrite, on Milezero.com.
In this post, Robyn M. Bolton explores how working remotely can improve company culture and accelerate innovation.
The seasons may be changing but, for most, there is no end in sight for our new Work From Home (WFH) existence. The prospect of more months of working from the kitchen table, searching for a quiet spot for a Zoom call, and juggling personal and professional responsibilities on a minute-by-minute basis is frustrating and overwhelming for most.
It’s also raising questions about the future of work. Will companies still maintain large physical office spaces? What new symbols of power and status will take the place of the corner office? Will people need to relocate when they change companies? When, if ever, will co-workers gather together in person?
How will company culture form? Will innovation continue or stall?
It is those last two questions, about culture and innovation, that every single one of my clients, all executives with responsibility for growth and innovation at their companies, have been asking and struggling to answer for the past few months.
Key points include:
- Accepting new situation
- Empowering the introvert
- Creating new innovation approaches
Read the full article, How to Transform WFH into the Best Thing to Happen to Innovation in Your Company, on Medium.
Caroline Taich shares how to make the mindset shift from uncertain operator to confident corporate leader.
Dave was one of my first clients as a management consultant. He was in a rotational leadership program at the regional utility. He became the leader of procurement for the construction services category overnight – without any training or preparation. My job was to guide him through the procurement process to identify cost savings.
Dave was taking a risk. In this new role, he was going to be responsible for setting up the vendors and systems that his colleagues would have to use. He cared about the cost savings and he cared about delivering a good outcome for his trusted professional relationships.
I helped Dave by outlining the procurement process. We worked together to define what success looked like. We engaged the people that would be impacted – the line workers, warehouse managers, and vendors. And we got started, working together over ~4.5 months to implement.
Key points in this article are:
- Building capabilities
- Winning respect
- Growth mindset
Read the full article, How to go from uncertain operator to a confident corporate leader, on the Kirtland Consulting website.
Przemek Czerklewicz has been invited by the Hong Kong University chapter of ShARE (a global organization that connects students with international clients for pro bono, socially responsible consulting projects) to speak during their series of online training sessions.
The training will take place on October 12th between 7 and 8.30 PM Hong Kong time and will be titled:”Breaking into Innovation Consulting: What to Expect and Where to Look”.
He will speak to young, aspiring consultants about how innovation consulting differs from traditional management consulting, what are the key success drivers in the industry, how to prepare for the role and where to look for first opportunities.
For more information about the announcement visit the post, Virtual Training Series, on LinkedIn.
Sara Conte shares an article from the company archives that identified the increase in the use of expert networks with projections reaching into 2022.
Investors and others are increasingly utilizing expert networks like Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG) and AlphaSites to instantly get answers to key questions. It’s like calling a friend in the business, but these calls are highly regulated to ensure compliance with confidentiality requirements. The results are quick and actionable – particularly when paired with analysis on trends and market data (SGC Ventures provides this service).
Bloomberg published this article, “Investors Are Paying $1,300 Per Hour for ‘Expert’ Chats (click here)” earlier in the year, describing the process and its growing popularity. A few excerpts are included below.
Experts On Demand
Research spending on expert networks to soar past $1 billion in coming years. Now that banks have stopped giving equity research for free under a new European Union law, some money managers are opting instead to spend their cash speaking with experts in fields as trendy as artificial intelligence or as niche as sausage packaging.
Included in this article:
- Projections graph
- Increasing fees
- Link to resource
Read the full article, Investors Are Utilizing Experts At Increasing Rates, on the SGC Ventures website.
Paul Millerd helps make sense of things in crazy times with newsletters that deliver sage advice for the self-employed. This week, he discusses building a journey you want to be on, the traps of uncertainty, and the productivity trap.
My conception of the self-employment ‘game’ has evolved to be defined as creating a life that I want to keep living. This means that work is downstream from life decisions. Compared to how I was living until I left my job in 2017, this has been a dramatic shift and one that comes without a map.
The biggest challenge is not making money, though that is certainly hard. It is learning to be comfortable with uncertainty and knowing how to exist in a state of not knowing.
This is incredibly hard because at almost every step of the journey, there are tempting actions to take that will enable you to escape the weight of that uncertainty.
Let’s talk about six of these “traps.”
#1 The dopamine bomb of internet fame
I think it’s still early for creating on the web. If you are able to consistently create content, explore topics you are genuinely interested in and develop some way to improve as you go, you will inevitably get some version of 15 minutes of internet fame. This could come from a famous person promoting your stuff, getting published in a mainstream publication, economic success or or some piece of content going semi-viral for a few days.
To the self-employed creator that dances in daily uncertainty and self-doubt, this can unleash a satisfying dopamine bomb of approval. This can be so blinding and exciting that you might try to chase that same feeling over and over again, even if its not the work you actually want to go deeper on.
I got a dose of this when I posted a Twitter thread exploring the ‘40% of Americans can’t afford a $400 emergency bill’ myth. If you read the report and the data, you’d be doing some serious mental gymnastics to land on such a takeaway. However, I was looking at it from the perspective of a former consultant who is skeptical of how data is represented and didn’t realize I was walking into a political talking point. This exploration earned me the applause of right wing trolls and a twitter follow from Ann Coulter.
Topics of interest in this article include:
- The metrics of success
- The identity trap
- Squad culture
- Worker reclassification
Read the full article, Avoiding Hustle Traps, Squads, From Politics to Seminary & More, and access links on the Boundless website.
Barry Horwitz explains how confirmation bias hurts business and provides key tips on how to identify and avoid falling into the confirmation bias trap.
I’m often reminded of a line from Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, in which a character is asked how he went bankrupt. His answer: “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”
When dealing with change (bankruptcy-related or otherwise), there are often warning signs along the way — gradual shifts that are easy to dismiss as temporary or not yet consequential, until one day, abruptly, they arrive.
The point is that sudden threats to organizations are rarely truly sudden. The signs were there, but they were missed.
We’ve all heard of the examples: The streetcar company that didn’t appreciate the advent of cars; Kodak sticking with film until it was much too late (despite the fact that it was a Kodak engineer who invented the digital camera); Blockbuster turning down the opportunity to buy a struggling Netflix for a mere $50 million in 2000.
And yet, it keeps happening. Partly because our view of the world is a function of what we believe to be important. Blockbuster, for example, assumed that “movie night” was its main offer – the ability to pop into a store and instantly have a movie whenever you felt like it. Waiting two days for the mail to arrive seemed like an inferior alternative. As it turned out, Netflix, not Blockbuster, was the one to anticipate streaming as the next, best iteration.
Whatever the specifics, the human tendency to embrace evidence that supports our pre-conceived notions and dismiss that which does not (“confirmation bias”), can lead us to ignore the weak signals of change until it’s far too late.
So, how do we avoid getting caught in this trap? There are a few ways…
Key points identified in this post include:
- Checking your assumptions
- Listening to your constituents
- Keeping an eye on trends and results
Read the full article, Is Confirmation Bias Hurting Your Business?, on the Horwitz and Company website.
If you struggle to stay motivated when working from home, this post is for you. Jeremy Greenberg shares an article that explores the cons of working at home, and what you can do to improve your performance all by yourself.
Tens of millions of us — two thirds of all American full-time workers — are now working from home. This often means we’ve had little direct supervision or oversight in months, away from our colleagues’ (and our boss’s) watchful eye.
That may feel nice… but data shows that we perform better when we know we’re being observed. For example, in a study of 40,000 Virgin Atlantic flights conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, one group of captains was told that their fuel performance was being monitored, and the other group was not. The captains who knew they were being observed had better fuel efficiency throughout takeoff, flight, and landing. The principle that direct observation improves work performance is commonly known as the “Hawthorne effect.”
I’ve thought a lot about this lately, because I developed a podcast called Follow the Leader. I recorded a CEO during a pivotal moment in his business, and he later told me that the direct observation helped him focus. “I was more reflective and poised than I would have been having done this on my own,” said the CEO, Taymur Ahmad, of the company Actnano. Interesting! So how can we all gain that benefit, even if we don’t have a boss (or podcaster) watching?
Key points covered in this article include:
- Add self-observation to your routine
- Get an accountability partner
- Go public
Read the full article, You Work Better When You’re Being Watched. Here’s How To Monitor Yourself, on Entrepreneur.com
Susan Drumm provides an article that explains how knowing your Enneagram can help you grow as an individual and as a leader.
‘Okay, I know I’m a 3 and that’s been really helpful,’ my friend says over a plate of roasted vegetables. She stabs a sweet potato with her fork and points it at me. “But then what? What do I do with that information? How does knowing my Enneagram type help ? How do I use that to be better at work and life?”
This particular conversation might have happened in the corner booth of an Italian restaurant, but it’s one I’ve had a million times—in boardrooms, with HR, with the person sitting next to me on the plane.
Sure, knowing your Enneagram type is great—it helps with managing conflict, improves communication, makes teams more effective, etc. But does knowing your Enneagram help you grow as an individual and as a leader?
The answer is ABSOLUTELY! That is the beauty of the model.
Points in this article include:
- 2 ways to use your enneagram type for self-development
- Example of how the enneagram works
Read the full article, The Enneagram Applied: Charting Your Path Of Growth, on the Meritage Leadership website.
In the third post in a series on off-site leadership, Aneta Key addresses the substance dimension of event design.
I strongly believe that any event design has 3 important dimensions to consider:
Substance — This is the most important dimension of the 3. It is the “hardcore” look at the event and is what executives truly care about: What outcomes are we creating? What content are we discussing? What work are we advancing?
Structure — The second most important dimension addresses the logical and systematic approach that would allow the group to achieve its objectives. How are we breaking down and sequencing activities? How are we socially engineering alignment? How are we allocating time? How are we making decisions?
Style — If substance and structure determine what and when it needs to be done, style determines how it should be done. In general, this should be the third dimension to consider, as “form follows function” in off-site design as well. That said, the 3 dimensions are interrelated and the ‘feeling’ you want to create may impact the other 2 dimensions.
In fact, these 3 dimensions apply to speeches you give, presentations you develop, and even blog posts you publish.
Key points in this article include:
- Systems thinking applied to off-site design
- What are the desired outputs?
- What off-site modules do we need?
- What inputs do we need?
- Highlighting Design Choices
Read the full article, Leadership Off-Site 101: Part III — Substance design, on the Aedea Partners’ website.
Robyn M. Bolton explains why it’s important to cultivate emotional intelligence and move out of a ‘bad neighborhood.’
‘If you spend a lot of time in your own head, you’re spending time in a bad neighborhood.’
I was deep in a bit of worry and self-doubt when my friend uttered that sentence. Immediately, my mind conjured an image of falling down building, boarded up doors and windows, overgrown yards, and empty streets (basically downtown Cleveland in the 1980s).
‘Man, I do not want to be here’ I said, probably a bit too loudly.
Everyone I know spends a lot of time in their bad neighborhoods. It’s a consequence of the world we live in — more demands, responsibilities, and expectations running into greater uncertainty, fewer options, and weaker safety nets.
There are lots of ways to spruce up our neighborhoods, cultivating a Growth Mindset is one. In his book, Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential and How You Can Achieve Yours, author and executive coach Shirzad Chamine, lays out a powerful framework and action plan to build your Positive Intelligence by increasing your PQ (Positive Intelligence Quotient).’
Points of note include:
- Why Should I Care about Positive Intelligence?
- What is Positive Intelligence and PQ?
- How you can increase your PQ
Read the full article, Is Your Brain Friend or Foe? Make It Your Friend with Positive Intelligence, on Medium.
The power of writing a list should never be forgotten. Luiz Zorzella has compiled a six-point list of tools and approaches that improve efficiency.
If you ever thought:
‘Hmmm… wouldn’t it be nice if I had a one-pager list of the tools that people use to improve process efficiency?’
Then today is your lucky day!
I have listed below my compilation of the main tools and approaches I found which other executives and consultants use to directly or indirectly process efficiency.
And, even though this list is not exhaustive, I have never found anything more useful than it to make sure you are not overlooking anything important.
By the way: if you see anything missing, please send me a note and I will be happy to include it in the next edition of this list.
The six areas of efficiency on this list include:
- Managing demand
- Organization alignment
- Value creation
Read the full article, 6 ITEMS FOR YOUR EFFICIENCY LAUNDRY LIST, on the Amquant website.
Tirrell Payton explains why it is beneficial to shift from a project to a product mindset and provides seven tips that can help accelerate the process.
‘Digital’ continues to grow in importance as a first class business discipline, just as important as marketing, finance, or strategy. Therefore, product management has become more important as the primary lever to bring digital products and services to life. Given that, more organizations have begun to shift their thinking from a ‘project’ mindset to a ‘product’ mindset.
While the difference may seem semantic in nature, the implications can be substantial. A project mindset precludes a beginning, middle, and end of a project with a defined scope. A product mindset precludes orientation around the customer, and continuously evolving the offering to stay aligned with customer wants, needs, and opportunities to delight. The organizations that can best align themselves with customers are the organizations that win in the digital economy.
According to Gartner, ‘Digital product management is a blend of art and science, an emerging discipline that expands the scope of the product manager’s role. Organizations that embrace and invest in this discipline are better-equipped to capitalize on market shifts and changes in business dynamics, including disruptions.’
Tips in this article include:
- Think in problems, not solutions
- Think in experiments, not analysis
- Deliver value, not features
Read the full article, Seven Tips to Accelerate Product Mindset Shifts, on LinkedIn.
Surbhee Grover provides insight and inspiration in this article on the fortitude of spirit and mental strength.
The setting of the movie is the tiny town of Nome, Alaska, which is paralyzed by a deadly, fast-spreading disease. Despite a quarantine that was executed early on, the epidemic is expected to wipe out a majority of its inhabitants within days… unless they get speedy access to the appropriate medication (antitoxins) that needed to be transported more than 600 miles, amidst a winter blizzard, which made flights a non-option. Enter Togo, a Siberian husky who led a team of sled dogs and covered hundreds of miles at record-breaking speed in a deadly storm to (obviously) deliver the serum, and save the day.
The premise of this (real life) story from 1925 itself gives one an instant connection to the times we live in, even if it is almost a century removed from the present day. However, watching this Disney movie a few days ago, as I munched microwave-prepared popcorn, it wasn’t the epidemic that inspired me to pick this story as a reference—it was Togo, and what he could teach us, about triumphing in such turbulent times (WARNING: spoilers ahead).
Areas of interest in this article:
- The importance of home
- Operating processes
- Steering your business
Read the full article, The Heart of a Survivor, on the Thrive Global website.
Kaihan Krippendorff shares several online strategy and innovation tools and resources that can be downloaded from his website.
The tools include:
- Strategy Bot: So far, Kaihan’s strategic coaching has generated over $2.5b in new revenue for his clients. Use this strategy bot to experience a virtual coaching session with him.
- A Manual for Outthinking the Competition: A white paper that walks you through a step-by-step process for surmounting the seven critical hurdles that prevent companies from responding rapidly and creatively to new strategic challenges.
- Jack Welch – Passion Workbook – A collection of 14 exercises you and your team can use to connect with the passion and purpose of what you do.
- Building Creative Strategies with Patterns: An article originally published in Harvard Business Review.
- Seven Surprise Openings: An article originally published in Harvard Business Review.
- 30 Minute Strategy Workbook: Five steps to rapidly – in 30 minutes or less – design a strategic narrative for achieving your goals in work or life.
- Reverse Engineering Your Destiny – an even shorter version of my “30 Minute Strategy” workbook designed by Izzy Greenberg of Tekiyah Creative.
- Beliefs Workbook: Belief is Contagious. It wins supporters. It’s self-fulfilling. Here’s how to get there when nagging, negative thoughts are holding you back.
- Personal Strategy Tracking Tool: a simple matrix and daily practice to help keep you on the path to realizing your one-year strategy.
- Personal Strategy Refresh Tool – A 10 minute exercise to assess whether you are on track and identify what parts of your strategy you want to adjust to re energize, refresh, and reclaim strategic clarity.
Access the tools, articles, and whitepapers from Kaihan’s website.
Leadership is not a one-size-fits all position. Every leader adopts a different style based on their strengths, passions, and talents. Bernie Heine provides a process that can help you understand your strengths and leverage the overlap of passion and talent.
The Zone of Leadership explained
Get INTO Your Leadership Zone. What are YOU really good at? What are you passionate about? We are talking here about knowing yourself, knowing what’s really important to you, what you do very well, and what you love to spend your precious time at.
Here are 3 excellent tools to help understand your personal zone of leadership:
The Gallup Strengths Finder is a tried-and-trusted survey that gets you to list out the 5 top items from a number of comprehensive assessment areas. It is important to understand the support material that accompanies these assessment areas. For example, Bernie’s 5 strengths came out as ‘individualization’ (works well one on one), ‘learner,’ ‘achiever,’ ‘communication,’ and ‘maximizer’.
Areas covered in this article include:
- VIA strengths survey
- The Venn diagram
- The five-step process to create your zone
Read the full article, Get Into YOUR Leadership Zone, and follow the process on the Professional Business Coach website.
Ben Dattner and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic explain why the opinions of others shape our personal ‘brand’ and how to shape our digital personas for the best possible results in this article published in Harvard Business Review.
Who am I, really?’
Philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists – not to mention poets and artists — have been trying to answer this question for centuries. The good news for business leaders is that they don’t need to turn into armchair psychotherapists, or get an advanced degree in metaphysics, to figure it out. Nor do average employees need to dig deep into their unconscious, or unleash their inner Freud.
In the business world, there is a far simpler way of working out who we are, at least when it comes to our professional personas: just pay attention to how others see us.
Social science research says that who we are at work is predominantly defined by what other people think of us: how they measure the success of our behaviors and actions, how they perceive our characters and motivations, and how they compare us to others. Whether we get informal advice from our peers, or partake in formal assessment-related exercises, there is no better way to pinpoint who we are at work than to crowdsource evaluations of our reputations and personal ‘brands.’
Points covered in this article include:
- Understanding the algorithm
- Social media posts
- Manipulating the algorithm
Read the full article and access interesting links in, How to Curate Your Digital Persona, on the Harvard Business Review website.
Jared Simmons shares three quick tips that can improve relationships and move your career forward.
When you’re trying to build strong working relationships, sharing what you are hoping to achieve and get out of the work can be extremely helpful. What you get out of work is different from the project or meeting objectives. It’s not your departmental or functional mandate. It’s the professional development nugget that comes along with the entire working experience.
Perhaps you’d like to show that you’re ready to lead a global project. Or that you can work well with colleagues outside of your department. Perhaps you’re interested in learning about another part of the business.
Talking about your professional development goals builds strong working relationships in three ways:
Tips included in this article:
- How to establish trust
- How to make communication more efficient
- How to uncovers new ways to work together
Read the full article, Stronger Working Relationships and a Great Career, on the Outlast website.
Do you find yourself stressed about your consulting firm? David A. Fields provides the advice you need to adopt a healthy approach to business to ensure long-term productivity and prosperity.
These days, maintaining physical distance preserves your health and protects those around you.
News Flash: Mental and emotional distance between you and your business bolsters your health, happiness, and the success of your consulting firm.
All entrepreneurs tangle themselves in their businesses. As a consulting firm leader, this issue is magnified. The separation between you and your practice can narrow to nothing because your consulting business is an extension of who you are.
You promote and offer your own thinking, IP, approaches, brainpower, insights and skills. Your firm and you are conjoined, even if you employ a staff or team to tackle your projects.
When a prospect rebuffs your consulting firm’s proposal, it can feel like your contact is spurning you and passing judgment on you, personally. And that hurts.
Wait a second, though. Consulting is a personal business, and that’s one of the wonderful attributes of our profession. So, is linking yourself hip-to-hip with your consulting firm really so bad?
Benefits identified in this article include:
- Maintaining energy, enthusiasm, and excitement
- Gaining perspective
- Consistent leadership
Read the full article, Do You Practice These 7 Tips For Proper, Consulting Firm Distancing?, on David’s consulting website.
Robyn Bolton explains why Visual Thinking (VTS) sessions improve creative problem solving and critical thinking skills and provide major benefits to executives.
“It was quite a sight! A dozen senior executives from a big, conservative financial services firm, all sitting on the floor in front of a painting, talking about what it could mean and why they think that.”
On a typical dreary November day, and Suzi and I were sitting in the café inside Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. She had just left her job as Head of Design Thinking at Fidelity Investments and I was taking a sabbatical before deciding what would be next for my career. Introduced by a mutual friend, we decided to swap stories over lunch and a walk through one of the museum’s special exhibitions.:”
Included in this article:
- The benefits of VTS
- Visual thinking strategies
- How to do VTS
Read the full article, How Looking at Art Can Make You a Better Thinker, Communicator, and Leader, on Medium.
As we become increasingly aware of the prevalence of the conscious or unconscious racial bias, Tobais Baer provides a timely article that may help address and overcome sneaky biases that affect decisions, opinions, and actions.
The tragic death of George Floyd has triggered a global push to fight racial discrimination. There are many ways how each of us can contribute to this fight; one important way is to fight our own subconscious biases that can heavily influence our decisions – be it major ones like hiring or evaluating staff or making verdicts as a judge or jury member, or be it minor ones like deciding what we do or say when dealing with a sales clerk or customer.
The typical reader of my blog is intelligent, sophisticated, open-minded, and most likely already very supportive of equality and fighting discrimination. The snag: As Sheryl Sandberg powerfully confessed in a private talk I had the privilege of attending, even she, author of “Lean In” and an ardent fighter of gender discrimination, had caught herself espousing gender bias in evaluating her own female staff members.
Points covered in this article:
- Licensing and outgroup bias
- Monitoring body reactions
- Anchoring and signaling
Read the full article, How can you fight your own racial bias?, on LinkedIn.
If you have ever wondered why your messaging is misconstrued or find that you lapse into cliches at meetings, help is at hand. Bernie Heine identifies what not to say, why not, and what to say instead.
Two Must-Do Guidelines and Five Clichés to Avoid.
Strategic Review or any meeting
Your strategic review is a rare opportunity to take an objective overview perspective on your business. It is a time for questioning assumptions and a space in which to encourage creativity and involvement. It is not a place for rigid thinking or hackneyed business phrases. In the ideal business world, all meetings should accomplish one or more of four things. They should 1) Generate new ideas to add value. 2) Share information. 3) Build a common purpose and buy-in. 4) Plan what to do to solve current problems and roadblocks.
At your strategic timeout, you should focus on things 1 to 3 with these two goals in mind…
- Doing better before doing cheaper.
“Miracle worker” businesses consistently search for ideas to compete on factors other than price. See our newsletter 3 Rules for Exceptional Business Performance or the video below.
Typical factors, other than price, that take your business to exceptional profit are durability, functionality, brand, style, etc. Your customers don’t see it on the invoice, but they really appreciate getting it.
- Revenue before costs.
Cutting costs and or shedding assets are too often the default paths taken by “average Joe” businesses. At your strategic review, be sure to put revenue first. In the long run, “miracle worker” businesses can charge premium prices while giving greater apparent value to custom.
Phrases identified in this article include:
- Don’t bring me problems. I want solutions!
- I’ll get back to you on that.
- In my opinion…
- Keep doing what you’re doing.
- We need to think outside the box
Read the full post, Five Things NOT to Say at Your Strategic Review (or at any meeting), on the The Professional Business Coaches website.
Dan Markovitz shares a new video series on the root cause of CEO overwhelm and provides a downloadable PDF on why the best CEOs don’t feel overwhelmed.
As many of you know, I conducted a study of CEO overwhelm this winter. It wasn’t entirely surprising that CEOs (and other leaders) who embraced lean habits and principles in their work felt less overwhelmed by the demands on their time and attention.
In the study, I made a few brief suggestions about how to deal with the root cause of overwhelm. But the limits of a PowerPoint format made it difficult to go into much detail. In response to requests for more information, I made a series of short (2-3 minute) videos in my state of the art video studio (i.e., my living room).
I’ll be posting one video per day over the next week on my YouTube channel. I’ll also be providing links to each video on Twitter and LinkedIn as they’re released. I hope you enjoy them.
Dan has recently published his latest book, The Conclusion Trap, which addresses the bane of problem solvers everywhere: jumping to solutions.
David A. Fields posts a positive reminder that everyone can promote purposeful change, including consultants.
Today’s an excellent day to briefly remind you of the good your consulting firm does, and the importance of understanding the “Why” behind your consulting firm’s engagements.
In all likelihood, your consulting firm doesn’t directly address widespread injustice, relieve oppression, or combat systemic prejudice.
Yet, your everyday actions leading a consulting firm are still a vital, positive contribution to the world.
A Force for Good
Amidst once-in-a-generation societal storms, your consulting firm’s work may sometimes feel inconsequential.
It’s not. You have every right to be proud of your consulting firm’s work, promote your offerings and continue to pursue consulting projects.
Read the full article, How Your Consulting Firm Can Be A Force For Good, on David’s website.
Geoff Wilson provides a reality check and a sage reminder to plant your feet firmly on the ground when looking to the future.
Times of crisis require a change of perspective and a call to action.
So, here we are, weeks into a bizarre world of isolation, uncertainty, and pain. If one thing is likely, it’s that after weeks of responsiveness, you may now start to see real signs of resignation and capitulation. But, you may also see signs of opportunity and–dare I say it–optimism. My sense is that both mindsets are probably “right” and “ok.” This is no self-help blog. I fully believe that there is plenty to fear in the environment beyond fear itself.
I also think it’s important to realize that in times of crisis or trial or despair it’s our imperative to reflect and chart a course. That course may be brand new and different, or it may be a retreat to the tried and true. In either case…it’s a course.
One of the more influential books in my life is Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Frankl was a Holocaust survivor and influential thinking on how people find meaning in life regardless of experience. His experience in the Auschwitz death camp sparked a globally influential view of how individuals find meaning in challenging and even hopeless circumstances.
Points addressed in this article include:
- Reflecting and charting a course
- Why me vs. what’s next
Read the full article, Finding meaning during crisis requires an answer, not a question, on the Wilson Growth Partners’ website.
Aneta Key shares a new video in her series on video conferencing. This week: brevity.
During the recent series of workshops about online meetings, I realized that as we reimagine how we lead meetings online, some fundamentals are unchanged. So, I give you the second video of what may become a series on the topic with simple ideas that apply for any type of meeting.
Enjoy and share with colleagues who may benefit from it.
Included in this video:
Watch the video, Simple Ideas for Better Meetings, on the Aneta Key website.
As many of us continue to hold a business together through online meetings, Susan Drumm provides expert advice on how to maximize the effectiveness of the virtual workplace, including tips on planning and running online meetings.
Effective virtual meetings? Ha! If they exist, I’ve certainly never attended one.” If this was your thought process when you read the title of this blog post: I get it.
With the COVID-19 crisis and its implications for remote working, it’s more important than ever for leaders to run effective virtual meetings. Teams need leaders who can facilitate impactful meetings that create community and accountability across time zones.
A virtual meeting is obviously different from an in-person one and there are several specific things you’ll need to pay attention to. Otherwise, you are likely to see a fair bit of multi-tasking, surfing the web, phone-in only, or team members turning off their mics to have outside conversations, leaving the team feeling even more disconnected.
I’m not just talking about team members — leaders do it, too. According to a Harvard Business Review study, managers who multitask during meetings are 2.2 times more likely to have direct reports who also multitask in meetings.
My own team is virtual and I’ve been facilitating leadership development programs virtually for years. I know what works and what doesn’t. Here are my best virtual meeting tips for executives.
- Creating connection
- How to handle tangents and derailers
- Using the DIS framework
Read the full article, “Incredibly Effective Virtual meetings: 10 Tips to Plan and Run Them,” on the Meritage Leadership website.
Robbie Kellman Baxter provides a few words of encouragement and valuable links that will inspire and motivate.
Now is a good time to sharpen the saw.
Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”According to recent data from Zuora, only 11% of subscription businesses using their billing platform have seen a decline in members vs 2019.
We all need a little inspiration right now. Whether our business is going well or not.
I’ve been talking with subscription executives that are worried and pulling back for sure. But many subscription businesses are growing, and practitioners working in those companies, the product managers, marketers, customer success teams and sales organizations, are busier than ever.
Organizations are dealing with new demands, and a new environment, which requires pivoting and fresh ideas. Those of us who are seeing a slowdown in business and in “to do” lists, are thinking about how things will be different in the foreseeable future.
- A Financial Planning Marketing playbook
- Leading Learning
- Read to Lead
Access links and read the full article, Sharpening the Saw for Subscription Practitioners & Entrepreneurs–FREE STUFF, on LinkedIn.