January 31, 2016


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs

1. How To Disrupt Your “Industry”

Every industry —and that extends beyond business to public, non-profit and other organizations— has certain long-held beliefs that may be worth challenging. Doing so can open up golden opportunities for your own organization.

On McKinsey.com, Marc de Jong, a principal with the firm, and Menno van Dijk, cofounder of the THNK School of Creative Leadership, offer a road map for pursuing such efforts:

  • Outline the dominant business model: What are the long-held beliefs about how you create value for clients and customers?
  • Dissect those beliefs into supporting notions: How do ideas about customer needs and interactions, technology, regulation, economics, and ways of operating underpin each core belief?
  • Turn an underlying belief on its head: Develop a radical new hypothesis that will astonish everyone else (they won’t believe it can be successful) but makes sense to customers and clients. Target did that by a heretical thought: What if people who shopped in discount stores would pay extra for designer products? Phillips Lighting asked whether LED technology might upend the lighting industry’s assumption that it was in the replacement business.
  • Sanity-test your reframe: “Many reframed beliefs will just be nonsense. Applying a reframe that has already proved itself in another industry greatly enhances your prospects of hitting on something that makes business sense. Business-model innovations, unlike product and service ones, travel well from industry to industry: Airbnb inspires Uber inspires Peerby,” they write.

If it makes sense, proceed, transitioning to the new way of operating in a logical manner?

2. Using Stress To Bond Your Team

We usually want to avoid stress. But author Shawn Achor believes stress can be helpful if we nudge our teams to view it as a group challenge, not an individual burden.

In a Harvard Business Review blog post, he recalls Michael Strahan, a former NFL defensive end, pointing out that his best year statistically came when he decided to focus on helping teammates excel, rather than worrying about whether he would get injured and have to retire. Achor also notes that many people drawn to help out at Habitat for Humanity —passionate to change the world— are shocked when they encounter red tape and a scarcity of resources, with many of them quitting out of frustration.

“But some people at Habitat for Humanity see the scarcity of resources from a different lens. The challenge of creating homes with few resources and an abundance of red tape actually fuels their passion. They feel bonded with the like-minded people who are engaged in the effort to create a better world. As a result, these individuals will remain with the organization for decades,” he writes.

Jonathan Reckford, the agency CEO, views his role as inspiring and training team leaders to help their folks see stressors as a meaningful group challenge. Like Reckford, Achor says we must reframe everyday stress to create a culture of meaning and high connection. “It comes down to perceiving stress as a challenge, and understanding that we’re all in it together,” he concludes.

3. Make Time For What’s Important

Google executive Jeremiah Dillon says we need to make time for making — doing the productive work that helps our organizations get ahead. And that will happen only by being purposeful. Towards that end, he shares on Fast Company some thoughts about energy levels and how you may want to revamp your work week.

  • Monday: Typically our energy will only be ramping up after the weekend. If so, schedule low-demand tasks like setting goals, organizing, and planning.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday: These will probably be peak energy days, so tackle the most difficult problems you face.
  • Thursday: He believes energy begins to ebb then so schedule meetings, especially when consensus is needed. Dulled passions might help.
  • Friday: This will often be the day with the lowest energy level. He recommends open-ended work, long-term planning, and relationship building.

Any day, where possible, schedule your important work for the morning, before you sink into the afternoon’s decision fatigue. Hold the late afternoon for more mechanical tasks.

4. Creativity, Entitlement & Unethical Behaviour

Experimental research suggests praising staff members for creativity can backfire. Maryam Kouchaki of the Kellogg School of Management and Lynne Vincent of Syracuse University found that if participants were told they were creative but creativity was common in the group, there was no adverse impact on behaviour.

But Kellogg Insight reports that if they were told that they uniquely were creative, bad behaviour ensued: They were twice as likely to lie to their partners in the experimental game. They also had a much higher sense of entitlement indicated in their scores on a post-game questionnaire.

Kouchaki says you want to encourage a culture of creativity rather than give special feedback and treatment of creative individuals.

5. Zingers

  • Supervisor Says: Consultant Julie Giulioni says supervision means you sometimes have to say: I was wrong; I trust you; I’ve got your back; I appreciate you; and, I’m sorry. (Source: JulieWinkleGiulioni.com)
  • Oversight & Task-relevant Maturity: The legendary co-founder of INTEL, Andy Grove, says how often you monitor a direct report should not be based on what you believe your subordinate can do in general. It should be matched to his experience with a specific task and his prior performance in it — what might be called his task-relevant maturity. As the subordinate’s work matures on that task —improving over time— you should respond with a corresponding reduction in the intensity of monitoring. (Source: GetLighthouse.com)
  • Better But Boring? A new Honda Civic is technically a better car than a vintage 1964 Porsche, notes entrepreneur Seth Godin. It’s more reliable, has better mileage, and will drive faster and longer. Still people gawk at and pay more for the Porsche because the Honda is boring. Similarly, a stay at the Hyatt is more boring than Airbnb. The message: A product that is reliably boring may grow in sales but will eventually fade in interest as the people who make waves value idiosyncrasy. (Source: Seth’s Blog)
  • Thank The Driver: When candidates fly to Las Vegas to be interviewed for a job at Zappos, they are picked up at the airport by a van. It’s a convenience but also a hidden part of the application process since the van driver is studying how the applicants carry themselves and view others. If the van driver is treated poorly, they can forget about the job. (Source: Business Insider)
  • Better To Give AND Receive: Trainer Dan Rockwell says short-sighted leaders love giving feedback but seldom seek it. When was the last time you said, “I’d like your feedback.” (Source: Leadership Freak)

6. Q&A with 8020Info: Developing Champions For Change

Question: I have a major change project coming up … how do I build an effective team to develop and advance the vision?

8020Info President & CEO Rob Wood responds:

In two separate studies a few years apart, change management guru John Kotter found that 70% of substantial change efforts did not succeed — some weren’t fully launched, or they failed outright, while others were in fact accomplished, but late, over budget and/or with great frustration. With change, as they say, there’s no such thing as a “pretty good” alligator wrestler.

Kotter’s classic eight-step model for successful change is still highly effective: Create a sense of urgency, recruit a coalition of powerful change leaders, build a vision and communicate it effectively, remove obstacles, create quick wins, and build on your momentum. Over the longer term, you’ll have to make a continuing effort to anchor those changes in the routines, practices and habits of your organizational culture. [For a quick briefing to walk you through the essential steps, take a look at the primer on MindTools.com.]

In our practice, we always stress how important it is to first convince people that change is necessary. But once that is accomplished (and sometimes the need for change is already perfectly clear to all!), you need to build your team of change champions — what Kotter calls Step 2: Form a Powerful Coalition.

Building a team of change champions:

To lead change, you need to bring together a coalition, or team, of influential people whose power comes from a variety of sources, including their position, role, status, expertise, and/or social or political importance.

Consistent with our own experience, the MindTools précis points out that you can find effective change leaders throughout your organization — they don’t necessarily follow the traditional company hierarchy. It can be a quiet but well respected peer on the front-line, rather than the boss, that others look to for confirmation before coming on board.

Once formed, your “change coalition” needs to work as a team, continuing to build urgency and momentum around the need for change. MindTools suggests the steps below to help your team develop:

  • Identify the true leaders in your organization, as well as your key stakeholders.
  • Check your team for weak areas, and ensure that you have a good mix of people from different departments and levels within your organization.
  • Ask for an emotional commitment from these key people.
  • Work on team building within your change coalition.

With that, the stage is then set for developing your vision for change, with a strong team ready to help advance it.

7. News From Our Water Cooler: Are You Managing The Conversation?

Any leadership team, especially those operating in the public realm, ignore word of mouth communication at their own peril. What makes some ideas, topics and issues so popular, while others just fizzle out? And why do we generally assume there’s not much we can do to manage it?

Many people think most word of mouth today happens online. Research by the Keller Fay Group found the percentage was not 50% or more, as most people guess, but only 7%. Thirteen times as much happens offline. In Contagious: Why Things Catch On (which we commend as a stimulating read), author Jonah Berger says we tend to overestimate online word of mouth because it’s so visible, unlike our offline conversations.

Berger goes on to identify six key factors driving word of mouth conversation:

  • Social Currency: How does your news make people look in a social context — smart or dumb? Cool? In the know? Fashionable? Helpful? Caring?
  • Triggers: What cues might trigger people to think about your message through close associations? (The way, for example, peanut butter might make you think of jam.)
  • Emotion: When we care, we share. How is your message connected to arousing emotions that drive action such as concern, inspiration, annoyance or humour?
  • Public Visibility: Does your idea or service visibly advertise itself? Something as simple as a lapel button/sticker shows that people support an idea or use a service.
  • Practical Value: People like to help their friends, acquaintances and family. Does your message have real practical value? Can they tell who would benefit from knowing about it?
  • Stories: Is your core message or idea embedded in a broader narrative that people want to share: memorable, easily repeated stories focused (often) on behaviours and identity?

Stimulating word of mouth isn’t easy, and outcomes can’t be controlled, but it’s a powerful and worthy option to consider when you need to build support to achieve your goals.

  • § ●

8020Info helps teams think better together as they develop and effectively implement research/stakeholder consultations, strategic plans, change and marketing communications. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries.

8. Closing Thought:

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

John Lennon