June 14, 2015



The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs

1.  Finding Creativity

Most of us assume great ideas come serendipitously, like Newton and the falling apple. But innovation consultants Mohanbir Sawhney and Sanjay Khosla, in Harvard Business Review, argue innovation can be approached in a systematic way, canvassing the following seven categories:

  • Anomalies: Organizations are awash with data, but often swim around just the averages and totals. Pay attention to results that deviate from the norm, and learn why.
  • Confluence: When several trends come together, their intersection can be fertile ground for insights. Mobile telephony growth, social networking, and increasingly short attention spans spurred the creation of several popular social media applications.
  • Frustrations: Solutions to life’s irritations can be powerful. Confounded in his search for an engagement ring, Mark Vadon founded Blue Nile, which has tutorials for men like him who need assistance.
  • Orthodoxies: When things have always been done the same way in your organization, imagine how it could be done differently. They write: “Ask yourself: What beliefs do we all hold sacred? Why do things have to be this way? What if the reverse were true? What opportunities would be opened up if we abandoned those assumptions and beliefs?”
  • Extremities: Sometimes it pays to move away from the mainstream and appeal to those at the extremes in a market.
  • Voyages: Feeling stale? Immerse yourself in your clients’ lives, understanding how they live, and work and behave.
  • Analogies: Sometimes other teams or organizations have great ideas that can be applied to your own situation after some creative adaptation.

2. The Cost Of A Bad Hire

A single bad hire can be costly. On About.com, leadership development specialist Dan McCarthy cites these five costs:

  • Impact on the rest of the team: No man, or woman, is an island. When somebody is underperforming or has a bad attitude it can have a devastating effect on the rest of the team, who have to pick up the slack and correct mistakes.
  • Impact on customers: Bad hires will upset customers with their inattentiveness or sour ways. “The cost of gaining a new customer is way more expensive than keeping existing customers, and one negative interaction with a bad hire may cause that customer to walk away. Eventually, your brand and reputation will suffer,” he writes.
  • Impact on performance management: Instead of coaching and developing others, your managers will get sucked into dealing with the bad hire, giving corrective feedback and micromanaging. “Trying to get a bad hire to meet even minimum expectations is like playing management whack-a-mole,’” he suggests.
  • The manager’s reputation: Anybody can make a bad hire, but a manager who does so too often will get a reputation for incompetence, perhaps endangering his own job.
  • The cost of turnover: When the employee is jettisoned, you’re in for more recruiting, training, and perhaps relocation costs.

“It doesn’t matter if you are hiring an entry level minimum wage employee or senior executive, the cost of a bad hire is significant, and can bring down a team, manager, or entire organization,” he concludes.

3. The Smartest Person In The Room

Are you often the smartest person in the room? If so, that can get you into trouble, consultant Art Petty says. You need to be alert to the tendency towards wanting to prove your brilliance and combat that behaviour. Here are three ways he suggests on his Leadership Caffeine blog:

  • Ask more than tell: Questions are powerful leadership tools — far more effective in most circumstances than orders.
  • Cultivate the courage to shut up and let others decide: Most of the time, through questioning and building upon others’ ideas, you can adapt somebody else’s proposals without throwing your weight around.
  • Work hard to look for the beauty in ideas, not the flaws: It’s not enjoyable to be around a micro-managing boss who always showcases the flaws in efforts and pokes into every little detail. “The effective manager acknowledges the beauty inherent in ideas and focuses questions and efforts on realizing that beauty. Discussions about flaws can be isolated to a simple discussion around risks,” he advises.

4. Delegation Mistakes To Avoid

When delegating, one of the biggest mistakes managers make is not defining success, according to leadership coach David Dye. “Effective leaders are clear about what success looks like. Be clear about what a successful outcome looks like, feels like, smells like; what it does and when it is due,” he writes on the Lead Change Group Blog.

Another mistake is not building accountability into the process. You don’t just delegate and forget about the matter. Instead, when you delegate, schedule an appointment where you will receive the assignment back from the other person.

5. Zingers

  • Respond To Your Reactions: If it isn’t love at first sight when you are interviewing a candidate for a job —if you aren’t enthralled— continue looking, says HR consultant Tim Sackett. If the person scares you because they are so talented they could take your job, that’s great. You should want the incentive to work harder. (Source: The Tim Sackett Project)
  • Use No To Get Creative Time: Creative people say no. They turn down needless requests. British technology pioneer Kevin Ashton says time is the raw material of creation. (Source: Medium.com)
  • Share To Strengthen Ideas: As Alexa von Tobel’s financial planning service LearnVest grew from five people to 150, she has become more thoughtful about her own opinions. About 100 times a week she will say, “Here’s my bad idea; make it better.” (Source: New York Times)
  • Master These Tools: Here are some things consultant Wally Bock suggests you master: Your smartphone, the Swiss Army Knife of the digital age; checklists, which can organize routine things so they happen smoothly; scorecards, to know how you’re doing; and the art of concentration. (Source: Three Star Leadership)
  • Stand Up For Authority: If you sit down when presenting to a group —even in an informal session of colleagues— be aware you are giving up authority, which is determined by relative height. “Standing up takes authority naturally without having to be pushy. Sitting down gives it up,” says presentations coach Nick Morgan. We’re also more focused when standing. (Source: Public Words)

6.  Q&A with 8020Info:  Challenge Your Own Thinking

Question:  Our team seems to come up with strategy and operational plans quite easily — maybe too easily!  Are there ways to double-check that our thinking is sound?

8020Info President & CEO Rob Wood responds:

While human minds are a wondrous thing, our thought processes are also predictably prone to various types of inherent biases, mental pitfalls and warps in thinking.  Here’s a short checklist we’ve culled from various books (like The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman) to help challenge your team when making a plan:

  • Have we assumed too much that tomorrow will be like the past?
  • Have we settled for easy consensus over hard discussions of other options?
    (Groupthink Bias)
  • Are we valuing immediate rewards at the expense of long-term gains?
    (Bias Towards Present)
  • Have we ignored signals or evidence contrary to our conventional way of thinking?
    (Confirmation Bias)
  • Do our proposed strategies reflect a bias towards “availability” (easy to think of, recall or do)?
  • Has our thinking placed too much value on past investments or what we “own”?
    (Sunk Cost and/or Endowment Effects)
  • Do our goals reflect an exaggerated fear of loss vs. missing gains from new opportunities?
    (Loss Aversion)
  • Are we over-valuing our own experience? (Perspective Bias)
  • Have we overestimated our chances of success or our ability to take action? (Action Bias)
  • What are we giving up (trade-offs/opportunity costs) in favour of these proposed priorities?

There are dozens of other typical biases like these —the false-consensus effect, having an illusion of control, missing what’s missing from your plan, cherry-picking the evidence, having an aversion to ambiguity, the misleading effects of hindsight, or survivorship bias and so on— but meeting the challenge of these 10 questions will help steer you around many thinking errors that lead to weak plans.

7.  News From Our Water Cooler:  What Kind of Engagement?

The terms “community engagement” or “stakeholder engagement” come across warm and comforting as apple pie. But in our practice we often notice those general terms can be interpreted in quite different ways, leading to confusion or conflicts when executing a consultation or engagement plan.

Some take engagement to be the job they do every day — working with the community or specific stakeholders. Others see it as a form of consultative outreach, interaction or relationship development. Around the 8020Info Water Cooler this week, someone compared the intentions behind engagement with the work styles typical of CRG’s Personal Style Indicator, the Myers-Briggs model and other personality frameworks.

  • Behavioural: This results-oriented style is characterized by a strong tendency towards action and altering the environment in ways that will achieve goals. Reflected in an “engagement” process, for example, a board or senior leadership team may seek to negotiate a new framework to collaborate with stakeholders and achieve their objectives. Or front-line staff may want engagement so they can work more effectively, internally or with their counterparts in other organizations.
  • Cognitive: Engagement for purposes of research, learning and gathering information is quite different from taking action or “doing things together”. This type of outreach involves a more analytical approach, paying attention to details and being on the alert for potential issues, dangers or inconsistencies.
  • Affective/Expressive: This personal style involves a strong tendency to intuitively explore the environment, interact with stakeholders, and influence others through spontaneous exploration and expression of ideas and feelings. The analogy for an engagement process would be more of a focus on interactions than on information analysis or joint action to achieve desired outcomes. It may also spice the engagement with a “sales” flavour.
  • Interpersonal: This personal style focuses on harmony. The corresponding approach for an engagement initiative would emphasize interactions that support others and help your team adapt to other people, organizations and surroundings in order to promote harmony and comfort.

Each style involves different collaborative purposes, types of interaction and choice of who should be engaged. Being clear about your intentions will establish a clear framework for those working on your community or stakeholder “engagement” projects.

8.  Closing Thought:

“The world is changed by people who passionately, relentlessly care — sometimes, unreasonably so.”

— Sally Hogshead