Vol. 11, No. 5 – April 4, 2011

April 4, 2011


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Five Questions To Build Strategy

People make strategy much harder than it needs to be, Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management argues. On Harvard Business Review blogs, he advises that strategy is really about answering five questions:

  • What are our broad aspirations for our organization and the concrete goals against which we can measure our progress?
  • Across the potential field available to us, where will we choose to play and not play?
  • In our chosen place to play, how will we choose to win against the competitors there?
  • What capabilities are necessary to win in our chosen manner?
  • What management systems are necessary to build and maintain these key capabilities?

The questions are simple conceptually, although obviously not simple to answer. They are also interrelated. The trick, he says, is to come up with answers that are consistent with one another and mutually reinforcing.

Another trick is to avoid getting hung up on which question to answer first. He says most companies start at the top with some kind of mission or vision discussion that “drives participants around the bend. The reason it drives them crazy is that it is extremely difficult to create a meaningful aspiration/mission/vision in the absence of some idea Where to Play and How to Win.”

Instead, he suggests an iterative approach, thinking a little about all the various questions in turn, so your answers are harmonious and your strategies are not internally inconsistent.

2. Intelligence Multipliers

Some managers have the unfortunate tendency of demanding so much attention for their ideas and creating so much stress that their subordinates quietly retreat into their shells. Leadership consultant Liz Wiseman calls those leaders Diminishers.

But other leaders are the opposite, amplifying the smarts and capabilities of the people around them. “When these leaders walk into a room, light bulbs go on over people’s heads; ideas flow and problems get solved. These are the leaders who inspire employees to stretch themselves to deliver results that surpass expectations. These leaders are like Multipliers – intelligence Multipliers,” she writes on ChangeThis.com.

In isolating the practices that differentiate Multipliers and Diminishers, she found:

  • Multipliers are talent magnets: They look beyond their own capabilities to see the deep capabilities of others. They utilize people at their highest point of contribution.
  • Multipliers are liberators: They eradicate stress and fear from the organization and instead create an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work.
  • Multipliers are challengers: Instead of telling people what to do, they seed opportunities and lay down challenges that stretch people.
  • Multipliers are debate makers: Instead of making isolated decisions that leave others in the dark, they engage subordinates in debating high-stakes decisions up front. That leads to decisions that staff understand and can execute efficiently.
  • Multipliers are investors: Instead of getting things done by micromanaging, they invest in the capabilities of others and give those people the ownership for results.

3. Modern Marketing’s 20-1 Rule

Marketers relish the chance to broadcast their message to as many people as they can. Indeed, to some people that’s part of the appeal of Facebook and Twitter – you can send out messages to a swath of people, repeatedly and cheaply. But Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt, on his blog MichaelHyatt.com, says that’s wrong: Twitter and Facebook are relational tools, not transactional tools. Social media rewards generosity, other-centeredness, and helpfulness.

That leads him to pronounce a 20-1 rule, which can extend beyond social media: You have to make 20 relational deposits for every marketing withdrawal. He stresses that it isn’t scientific, based on hard empirical evidence. But over time he has noted that if you keep asking people to do something — buy a product, use a service, attend an event — they will ignore you. Instead, follow the 20-1 rule.

4. You Don’t Know Until You Ask

Often when we find ourselves in a dispute with another person, we assume we understand the other person’s motives. But consultant Guy Harris warns that often we’re wrong in those assumptions. Instead, on his Recovering Engineer blog, he points out you probably never know another person’s intentions unless you ask.

Instead of assuming someone did something to irritate you, he suggests beating back your assumption and asking yourself:

  • I wonder if they meant that the way I heard it?
  • I wonder what they see in this situation that I am missing?

We need to get over our own concerns and to get out of our own way when interacting, building relationships, leading, and communicating with others. Those two questions will help.

5. Zingers

  • When consultant Krissi Barr figures something will take her an hour, she gives herself only 40 minutes. By shrinking your mental deadlines, she believes you work faster and with greater focus. (Source: Inc.com)
  • If you’re out on a date – a date night with your spouse, or a blind date with a total stranger – how would you start the date if you really want to win that person over: by talking about yourself, or talking about your date? Extending that to business, when making a presentation, consultant Mark Murphy says always start by talking about the other person and their interests. (Source: LeadershipIQ.com)
  • Entrepreneur Seth Godin says you can add value in two ways: You can know the answers, or you can ask the questions. (Source: Seth’s Blog)
  • Dayna Steele had a lunch recently with 11 other women speakers. It led her to list the following reasons to have lunch with your friendly competition: new friends, motivation to improve, conversation with people who understand what you do for a living, new ways to solve old problems, ideas on books to read and events to attend, and a network to tap into in future. How much of that might apply if you had lunch with your competition? (Source: Fast Company Experts Blog)
  • Consultant Michele Miller divides the year into four quarters, and focuses on one quarter at a time, listing the top things she wants to achieve in that time frame. The second quarter of 2011 has just begun; what are your goals? (Source: Wonderbranding.com)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:
Ideas That Stick

Question: Is there anything I can do to punch through the communications clutter so my message really stays with people?

8020Info President and CEO Rob Wood replies:

You might consider the SUCCESs formula advocated by brothers Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. These two educators and idea collectors offer six principles to explain why some ideas thrive while others fade away:

  • Simplicity: Strip an idea to its core so that it is simple, compact and profound, like a proverb. The best ones are rich with meaning — “short sentences drawn from long experience” (which is how Cervantes defined proverbs). Some examples: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. It’s the economy, stupid! No plan survives contact with the enemy.
  • Unexpectedness: Surprise gets our attention; interest keeps our attention. Avoid gimmicks, but make an important unexpected point that reframes how your audience looks at your subject. Tickle their curiosity. Suggest a knowledge gap — something they should, but do not, know. Tease or jar them out of the comfort zone of thinking there’s nothing new to learn.
  • Concreteness: “Sour grapes” from Aesop’s story translates an abstract human behaviour into something we easily remember and understand. Teaching arithmetic is easier with concrete examples. Taking part in a role-play can help members of a group understand prejudice. Carrying a small block of wood in a pocket helped entrepreneurs understand how a Palm Pilot should be designed.
  • Credibility: We tend to rely on two types of authorities to add credibility to a communication — recognized experts and “anti-authorities” (who have nothing to gain personally but know from experience, like the wheezing smoker going for a second lung transplant who ignored advice not to smoke). Using vivid detail in your message and translating abstractions, such as statistics, into a human context will also help boost credibility.
  • Emotions: There are many options for triggering emotions, including appeals to self-interest, using associations (or not), and connecting with a sense of identity. You need to make other people care. Your message won’t stick unless your audience feels something.
  • Stories: The form of a story naturally connects with members of your audience. They identify with stories rather than mentally critique or argue with them. Stories may offer a mental rehearsal/simulation that is easily recalled. They may feature dramatic turning points that teach lessons. They may inspire, convey creativity, make a connection, or help the listener cope with a challenge. Stories stick because they engage your listeners as imaginative participants – your job is to spot great stories and then tell them.

If you can incorporate these six principles in your communications, your messaging will be much more likely to punch through and stick.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:
Kickstarting Projects

Sometimes an idea just sticks in your head. You catch yourself talking about it at different times with different people in different contexts. The April issue of Wired magazine injected us with one of those ideas: “crowdfunding” for arts and other entrepreneurial projects. (See Wired-19.04: Brothers of Invention by Carlye Adler.)

The founders of Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com) began their website in 2009 as an arts patronage project, where people post descriptions of their projects and ask complete strangers to chip in to fund them. The site says it offers “a new way to fund and follow creativity”.

Artistic entrepreneurs post time-limited project proposals and ways for patrons to participate — $5 may get you a sticker and name mention, for example, or you may pledge $50 to buy a pair of tickets if a show goes ahead, or commit $100 to help get a film produced and receive an associate producer credit. If the project doesn’t raise enough money by deadline to proceed, no money changes hands. If it does, the entrepreneur gets the cash (plus an engaged audience to support the project!).

The site has become a thriving laboratory for daring prototypes and ingenious products — not only arts-related. More than 14,000 people have now posted projects on Kickstarter, and more than 400,000 people have supported them, contributing $35-million plus. Eighty new projects are launched every day and $1-million is pledged every week!

Looks like a success in Manhattan. Could the concept work here?

8. Closing Thought                                                                 Top

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

— David Ogilvie