September 5, 2016


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


1.  Marketing Myopia Still Exists

Marketing Myopia is probably the best-known and most influential marketing article ever written — the foundation of modern marketing.

In 1960, Harvard Business School Marketing Professor Theodore Levitt wrote in the school’s magazine about how companies were too focused on producing specific goods and services. Through that near-sightedness, they were missing what consumers really need over time.  Railways thought they were in the train business, when in fact their customers wanted transportation.

Levitt suggested that leaders ask: What business are we really in?

But Harvard professor John Deighton recently told the magazine the best answer is to be found by asking another question: What are we really doing for the customer? You need to focus on customer needs, not your products and services, since the latter can always be replaced by competitive alternatives.

He points to publishing. “There seems to be a myopic attachment to the word ‘publish’ that is a production-oriented take on the industry,” he says. But customers don’t want newspapers or magazines. Instead, he feels they want to be entertained, informed and stimulated by people who are more interesting than their friends and acquaintances. The form of delivery is less critical than the experience delivered.

The concept of an “industry” has also been challenged recently. The industry a company is in today may not be the same next year: “In today’s very fluid times, it’s more accurate to say ‘eco-system.’ Disruptions are constantly challenging the stability of industries,” Deighton notes.


2.  Understanding Motivation

To motivate employees, it helps to understand the different forms of motivation. Generally, the focus has been on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. But consultant Susan Fowler says we should also pay attention to two lesser-known concepts: aligned and integrated motivation.

On Smart Brief Blogs, she notes that extrinsic motivation — from outside factors like incentives — can flop outright or limit results, creativity, innovation and well-being. And extrinsic incentives can undermine internal motivations, even if the ideal would seem to be intrinsic and extrinsic together.

But she talks positively about aligned and integrated motivation, which leaders can encourage.

Aligned motivation occurs when people connect their personal values to the work they are doing. That can lead to flow, well-being, and high performance. But people need to know what they value and how their personal values translate into values at work.

“Most organizations do a decent job of identifying organizational values, then stop the process, failing at the individual level,” she warns.

Integrated motivation occurs when people link deeper meaning and personal sense of purpose to a work activity, to the point it becomes part of their self-identity.

“When powered by purpose, people do amazing, creative, and innovative work for extended periods of time — and thrive while doing it,” she says. A difficulty can be that people may claim to have a life purpose but not consider how an activity plays into their work or life purpose.


3.  What Your Employees Really Want

In his e-newsletter, Toronto-based consultant Donald Cooper shares a top ten list of what employees want from their working environment, as tabulated by The Public Agenda Foundation:

  • Work with people who treat me with respect.
  • Interesting work.
  • Recognition for work well done.
  • An opportunity to develop my skills.
  • Work for people who listen when I have ideas about how to do things better.
  • An opportunity to think for myself rather than to carry out instructions. Not to be micro-managed.
  • Seeing the end results of my work.
  • Working for efficient managers who provide clear and consistent communication and don’t waste a lot of my time redoing work.
  • A job that’s not too easy.
  • Feeling well-informed about what’s going on.

“So, how could you improve your business culture in each of these 10 areas?” he asks. “Sit down with a few of the best minds and hearts in your business and get specific about what you’ll do to attract, engage, challenge, and retain top performers.”


4.  The Two Risk Mistakes

Entrepreneur Seth Godin says we make two fundamental errors in dealing with risk:

  • We think that risk means failure: So when facing low-risk events, we avoid taking any chances and ignore the high potential upside. Whatever is uncertain is viewed as bad.
  • Low risk events don’t happen: This is to some extent the opposite, ignoring the possibility that low-risk events can happen. Even if the risk is low, sometimes you don’t get what you are hoping for. So don’t be blind to risk.

“Most of the things that we do have two possible outcomes: They might work or they might not. Being able to live with the possibility of either is essential if we’re going to move forward,” he writes on his blog.


5.  Zingers

  • Can we talk? In recruiting, activity is king. In particular, says consultant Tim Sackett, you must interact with the live person you are considering hiring – not by email, or messaging, or text, but by speaking to that individual. (Source: The Tim Sackett Project)
  • Avoid a quick no: Learn to say yes as a leader, says Lisa Gersh, chief executive of Goop, a wellness company. It’s easy to say no when something new is proposed and often smart people in discussion kill proposals. Signal you are willing to listen and play with the idea ­— even if in the end you decide not to do it. (Source: The New York Times)
  • To listen, be quiet: The quieter you become, the more you can hear, advises consultant Lolly Daskal. There are workshops and programs that teach executives to speak concisely and clearly. But they don’t teach you how to actually listen, how to be silent in your mind when somebody else is speaking — so you can listen to understand rather than reply. (Source: LollyDaskal.com)
  • Are you centred? Centred logos are appearing more and more on the web these days, but getting back to the home page is about six times harder when it’s placed there instead of in the top left hand corner, research indicates. (Source: NielsenNorman Group)
  • Try small solutions: Entrepreneur Michael Alden says to spend 5% more time with your current customers, increase product-service prices by 5%, do something 5% differently from your competitors, or motivate your team 5% more. (Source: Eric Jacobson On Management)


6.  Q&A With 8020Info:  First-time Project Team Leaders

Question:  I have been asked to lead a project team for about eight months. It’s my first time as a team leader. Any advice?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

Start slow to go fast.

The tendency will be to plunge in. But first you have to build a sense of team and joint purpose.

You have, I assume, been assigned the specific team members. You may or may not know them well. But you have to take time to improve your understanding and also to have them learn about each other. And if you have all worked together before, that’s probably even more important. After all, familiarity can breed contempt. You want to breed a sense of commonality and trust.

Gather the team and have each person speak about themselves, in turn. Just that act — in which everyone gets a few minutes and all the others listen — starts to build trust and a sense of equality. Down the road, some members may play more important roles or be the stars, and they or others may dominate discussions. Today, equal time for everyone.

What people talk about specifically can depend on their shared past history. It can range from three-minute nutshell bios to sharing “three things you didn’t know about me.”

There could be a round in which individuals say what they most feel they can provide to the team, which starts to edge into assignments but gives them a say. You might also want to invite people to talk about their own work-life balance situation or limits they would prefer (such as no emails after normal work hours).

Next, at another meeting, you will want to take time for what is increasingly called problem finding. Usually, we rush to solve problems. But it helps to understand the nature of the problem(s) you are being asked to solve before seeking solutions and to get agreement on what it is you need to do.

There’s obviously more, but I’ll just stress critical path. Set a deadline for earlier than you have been given. Outline the major steps you will need to achieve and a logical time frame. Also consider what or who will be barriers to achieving each step, so you can keep an eye on those factors.

Good luck!

● § ●

8020Info helps strategy 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.


7.  From Our Water Cooler:  Shaking Some Tiny Bad Habits

While it’s been said before, the little things you do out of habit generate most of the outcomes in your work and life.

Nicolas Cole notes on Inc.com that if we develop bad daily habits, “we find we wake up in deep holes while at the same time wondering how we got here in the first place.”

As we move out of a more relaxed summer tempo, it may be an ideal time to examine any self-defeating little habits that may have slipped into our routines. Cole identified 17 tiny habits that make our days a little more difficult — here are some of our favourites:

  • You don’t follow through. Deliver on what you promise to do, and finish your work. It will take a lot more time to finish the work if you have to go back later and get into the assignment all over again.
  • You check email every three seconds. To be most productive, you need to give “deep work” your full, uninterrupted attention. Which pretty much means shutting off your email for a while.
  • You don’t study your craft. Put in the effort and you’ll feel good about your growing mastery of the work — and feel energized by it.
  • You try to do too much at once. The ideal is to be comfortably busy in a “flow” state, but not so busy that you’re overwhelmed and buzzing around tasks without making progress.
  • You “have to be right”. Cole wryly notes that there’s nothing like an endless argument.

The nice thing about focusing on “tiny” bad habits is that it doesn’t take much to just pick one and start changing it.


8.  Closing Thought:

“We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.”

— Alan Turing