April 17, 2017



The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


In this issue of the Water Cooler we touch on the fears that undercut creative, innovative ideas; the four key dimensions of trust; dealing with “drifters” who drain meetings; and the slow death of old paradigms. Enjoy.


1. The Four Dimensions of Trust

Consultant Jesse Lyn Stoner says trust is like a bank account. You start a new relationship with a certain amount of trust and then over time keep adding to that foundation. But like a bank account it can be emptied overnight if you don’t take care.

“People follow leaders by choice. If people don’t trust you, at best you’ll get compliance,” she writes in her blog.

She outlines four dimensions of trust to build and preserve your investment:

  • Integrity: Are you honest and ethical? Honesty is the most important element of trust; without it, the other dimensions won’t matter. Deceitful people are not trusted.
  • Competence: Do you know what you’re doing? People who hire you or work alongside you need to feel you can handle the job well. If you are in a leadership role, you must be capable of leading your team to success.
  • Reliability: Can you be counted on to meet your commitments? Colleagues need to feel you will be there when needed; you will dependably carry out the tasks you have been assigned; and you will meet deadlines.
  • Concern: Are you genuinely concerned for the well-being of others? “When we believe someone genuinely cares about our well-being, we are willing to open our hearts and become vulnerable. This is the deepest level of trust and is not to be taken lightly,” she writes.

The chemistry of trust can seem vague. But her four dimensions make clear what you need to do to be trusted.


2. Faulty Thinking About Alternatives to Negotiation

In negotiations, it is vital to know your best alternative to a negotiated agreement,  commonly known by the acronym BATNA. The concept was initially described, in the book Getting To Yes, as your fallback position if discussions don’t go well.

But Harvard Business School Professor Jim Sebenius, in a recent HBS Working Paper, says we have been making some errors in how we use this notion.

Could it be another deal?  There has been a tendency to imply that a BATNA is what you get if you simply walk away from talks — that your best alternative could not itself be some other negotiated agreement. In fact, it will often be an agreement negotiated with another party.

Watch dependencies:  BATNAs based on walking away have been framed as a best alternative independent of the other party in the negotiation. But in an age when companies often are interlocked, your best alternative might be to keep negotiating with the same counterpart while continuing to say no to a deal until your bargaining situation has improved.

(For illustration, he points to a sole supplier of an essential component negotiating with a customer who is the only producer of a highly profitable product that relies on the component.)

Enhance your options: You should stop thinking of your BATNA as a last resort. In preparing for every negotiation you should outline your best alternative right from the start and then look carefully at how to enhance that possibility — it may be your winning strategy.


3. Deal With Meeting Drifters

The likelihood you run productive meetings is roughly equivalent to a coin toss, says leadership trainer Dan Rockwell. As you consider that chilling comment, also consider your high performers, who hate the fact meetings can be hurt by drifters and passive observers.

“Drifters drain teams. When you tolerate low commitment and lack of follow-through, you dishonour effort,” he writes on his blog.

He suggests:

  • End attendance by title. Make it a policy that only people directly involved in agenda items take part.
  • Set an expectation that all attendees will participate in equal proportion to others, on average. “If they aren’t going to participate, they shouldn’t be there,” he says.
  • Invite people who feel they “need to know” to conference in to the session but don’t let them be seen or be heard.
  • Invite key frontline employees to meetings that can affect their area.

“If you want people to respect your leadership, run meetings high performers love to attend,” he says.


4. How To Amplify Your Offer’s Appeal

In marketing, contrast can be a key to success. To amplify the appeal of your offer, compare it to a less attractive alternative, copywriter Tom Trush says on his blog.

That’s done through discount pricing for example. A marked-down price seems more attractive when we see a slash through the original price.

More generally, you need to present an unappealing alternative — perhaps an existing pattern in the prospect’s life, not necessarily a competitor’s product — and then sell your offering. And keep to that order: when two options are presented, people expect the second to be more favourable.


5. Zingers

  • Don’t skimp on design:  The one investment most start-up founders don’t make early enough is spending on good design, trying instead to get it on the cheap, says marketing consultant Arianna O’Dell. (Source: FastCompany.com )
  • Where the wind blows:  When we face a problem or difficult challenge, research has found that most of us overstate the forces working against us (headwinds), and underestimate the things working for us (tailwinds). For example, when the wind blows in our face we notice it, but when it’s at our back we forget all about it and think we’re sailing along on our own accord. Show gratitude for the tailwinds. (Source: LaurieRueittimann.com)
  • Fast, virtual and safe:  Three things are new in the world of teams, according to Columbia Business School Professor Rita Gunther McGrath — velocity, since everything seems to be moving faster; people working virtually; and growing awareness of the importance of psychological safety to how well a team functions. (Source: RitaMcGrath.com)
  • Huddles with a theme:  If your workplace has daily huddles, consultant Michael Kerr suggests assigning a theme to each day, such as top three priorities of the week on Monday, sharing a piece of good news on Tuesday, discussing a challenge on Wednesday, and so on. (Source: Humor at Work)
  • Bigger bang from big data:  Digital expert Michael Schrage says artificial intelligence will change the 80/20 rule, which dates back two centuries. It states roughly that 80% of impact comes from 20% of the input. Big data already has allowed analytically aggressive firms to see ratios closer to 10/90, 5/50, 2/30, 1/25 and even 1/50. Machine learning will make for smarter algorithms and even greater understanding of possibilities. (Source: Harvard Business Review)


6.  Q&A With 8020Info:  Fears That Undercut Innovation


Question:  How can my organization improve its capacity for innovation?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

Stop thinking you want innovation. You don’t. You’re actually afraid of the risk involved, and are probably using the wrong decision-making system for evaluating possibilities.

That’s the takeaway from a dramatic, challenging book, Creative Change, by University of San Diego Professor Jennifer Mueller, a social psychologist who has focused on creativity.  She says our ability to recognize and to embrace creative solutions is dysfunctional.

“The irony is that we are more likely to reject an idea because it is creative than to embrace it,” she writes.

Risk and uncertainty instill fear. And so when evaluating new possibilities, we become obsessively analytical, negative, poking holes at the idea, demanding a solid economic return. She calls that so-called rational mindset “how/best” thinking, since it focuses on the most feasible and appropriate option now, with intolerance towards uncertainty.

Here’s the key point: We aren’t really out to solve the problem, even if we think we are. Instead, we are intent on evaluating the proposed solution, which is far different from solving the problem. When we evaluate, we assume the idea being evaluated won’t change or improve.

But it will. Creative ideas aren’t static. If they aren’t killed, they will be reshaped and improved in the journey of implementation. So we need what she calls “why/potential” thinking, focused on learning the future value of something. This mindset is much more accepting of uncertainty.

Try it. Shift your focus from finding problems to solving problems. Don’t view complications with innovative ideas as red flags. Look at how to solve the issues they raise. Figure out what the potential is.

More broadly, accept that you and your colleagues are susceptible to bias — being more likely to reject an idea because it is innovative. Talk about Mueller’s ideas and where you may have fallen victim to faulty “how/best” thinking. Challenge yourself and teammates —and have them challenge you— when you are succumbing to humanity’s anti-innovation bias.


7.  From Our Water Cooler: Marketing to Individual Minds

When new methods come to marketing, we may be slow to change our thinking.

Some of us come from a long broadcast/publishing tradition of communicating a common message to mass audiences. Think traditional radio or newspapers. Now we must adapt to a new psychology-driven framework that delivers communications tailored to individuals.

In May 2016, Wired Magazine explained how Cambridge Analytica, a big data company, surveyed hundreds of thousands of people across the US to generate a statistical model that predicts the degree to which people are open, conscientious, extroverted, agreeable, or neurotic (the so-called OCEAN scale of five key personality traits used by psychologists).

The firm uses this model, combined with other data, to craft and target messages: “So for someone who’s neurotic, the message would play to fears about a subject. Agreeable people, on the other hand, gravitate toward information about how a given product or idea will benefit society.”

But it’s more than just another methodology that tailors psychographic messaging for specific audiences — when it’s applied at an individual level.

Everything we do as individuals, both on and offline, leaves a digital trace — every purchase, every search, and especially every ‘like’ — which provides fodder for big data analysis.

The Data That Turned the World Upside Down, an article first published in Germany, notes that an early researcher in the field, Michal Kosinski, developed models that could evaluate a person better than the average work colleague, merely on the basis of ten Facebook “likes”. And 70 ‘likes’ were enough to outdo what a person’s friends knew, 150 what their parents knew, and 300 ‘likes’ what their partner knew.

These techniques are now being used in marketing and election management, most notably for voter data modeling in the Brexit and Trump campaigns.

Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix claims: “We were able to form a model to predict the personality of every single adult in the United States of America… we can address villages or apartment blocks in a targeted way. Even individuals.”

We know messages are personalized on social media or digital TV. Ad targeting is personalized advertising. But think of it aligned as accurately as possible to the personality of each individual consumer — that idea shakes the mass publishing / broadcasting way of thinking to its core.


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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.


8.  Closing Thought

“The problem with communication is the illusion it occurred.”

George Bernard Shaw