March 25, 2018


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


In this issue of the 8020Info Water Cooler we highlight a treasure trove of mental models, how to foster a culture of innovation, capture ideas, and learn from failure. Review your mix of eight key leadership dimensions and consider the value of pre-need recruiting practices. Enjoy!


1. Mind Tips

Mental models help us to think through issues. Pick the right model and it can help illuminate the path ahead.

On The Farnam Street blog, Shane Parrish has accumulated 113 mental models, some familiar and others perhaps new for you. Here are some to consider:

  • Inversion: Think about a situation in reverse. Thinking of what to avoid rather than what you want to get, for example, may provide a better solution.
  • Circle of competence: We each have an area of expertise. But it’s important to understand there are areas where we are ignorant, and particularly those where we are ignorant about our ignorance.
  • Occam’s razor: This is the principle of parsimony — pick the simplest explanation with the least moving parts.
  • Hanlon’s razor: Don’t attribute to malice what is more easily explained by stupidity.
  • Thought experiment: This tool involves testing an idea in your head that would be difficult or impossible to perform in real life. Parrish gives the example of Einstein imagining himself traveling on a beam of light in order to solve the problem of relativity. The thought experiment helped him solve a problem with intuition and logic that could not be demonstrated physically.
  • Scale: Systems are sensitive to size. Properties or behaviors tend to change when you scale them up or down.
  • Law of diminishing returns: At some point the incremental value of a larger investment will decline.
  • Margins of safety: We profit by allowing a margin of safety in case things go wrong.


2. Always Be Recruiting

The sales catchphrase “always be closing” has been jettisoned by most organizations today. But they might be wise to consider a similar phrase: Always be recruiting.

Recruiting specialist John Sullivan says it’s smart for organizations to adopt a “pre-need strategy” — looking for good talent even before the need arises. Your effort doesn’t stop with finding them. You also want to assess them and sell them on working for your firm.

On his blog, he notes that in 2016 Nestlé Purina PetCare used its talent database to fill 43% of their job opportunities before those positions came open. The company has a million prospects in its database, something beyond most organizations, but the idea of filling positions quickly should be appealing.

Developing a potential talent pool (which includes boomerang possibilities for people who leave your organization and return later) can lead to higher quality hirings and diversity — the company can be more selective operating from a position of strength. Because there is more time to build a relationship with the individual, acceptance rates are higher. And he says it can work across a range of jobs.

He found a key element of Nestlé Purina’s system was tracking the return on investment by sources: identifying which sources of candidates provide the most qualified, interested, and available candidates.  Also important was projecting hiring needs for the coming year to be better prepared.

So consider how a pre-need strategy might work, even on a modest scale, for your own organization.


3. Lessons From Failure

Here are three lessons that journalist John Brandon says leaders learn only after they fail. We should:

  • Always over-communicate: “If you don’t over-communicate, you will fail,” he writes in Inc. “You have to be intentional about it, explaining things with just the right amount of detail, then explaining them again.”
  • Spell out the process: You need to be clear about directions, as well as available and willing to teach and train. The details need to be presented in a way that makes sense to the employees. But don’t stop there. Stick with them throughout the process to make sure they know what to do.
  • Reminders work wonders: You need to provide the occasional reminders about attitude, work ethic and priorities so employees know you are concerned about them. “A reminder is a powerful tool. It’s a reinforcement, it’s a push… and it’s a sign of good leadership,” he says.

None of that will be surprising. But too often we gloss over these important practices.


4. Getting Things Done:  Capture Your Thoughts

Productivity guru David Allen asks: “How many thoughts and ideas do you have daily which represent useful things to do or potentially enhance or improve projects, situations, and life in general? How many have you had and forgotten, and forgotten that you’ve forgotten?”

To avoid this, he says on his blog you need:

  • A collection tool with you at all times, to mark down those ideas. Simple, small tools are essential — whether analog or digital.
  • A commitment to moving these thoughts through your processing system soon, and completely. If you leave the notes scattered about, the process — and your motivation — falls apart.

Mark that down!


5. Zingers

  • Be direct: Here are three communication strategies that consultant Guy Harris says are guaranteed to irritate others: insinuation, innuendo, and implication — they all suggest something without saying it directly. (Source: RecoveringEngineer.com)
  • The glass is full: The glass is 100% full, insists best-selling author Ken Blanchard, so don’t seize on the negatives, which will hard-wire your brain circuitry in favour of pessimism. He notes that the proverbial glass of water is 100% full — half with water and half with air. So look at the bright side; your brain will thank you for it. (Source: HowWeLead.org)
  • Solve the customer’s problem: Research shows that prolonged use of customer service behaviours such as smiling, apologizing, or repeating positive phrases can have a negative impact on customers. Instead, focus on solving the customer’s problem. “Apologies don’t move things forward,” says University of Missouri marketing professor Detilina Marinova. “If you’re dependent on a service agent to solve an issue, getting that issue solved is your first concern. Hearing that you’re a ‘valued customer’ does not solve the problem.” (Source: MU News Bureau)
  • Be patient with innovation: The next big thing always starts out looking like nothing because it arrives out of context, says innovation expert Greg Satell. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, but it didn’t become commercially available until 1946. Although we think things move faster today, it usually takes 30 years to move from discovery through engineering to transformation. (Source: Digital Tonto)
  • Smartphone tensions: Smartphone use during family time may lead to poorer performance on the job, a study suggests. A survey of married couples found that partners who watched spouses use a smart device during family time rated themselves as weaker performers at work and reported lower job satisfaction. The distraction of smartphones at home may create relationship tensions that spill over into work. (Source: The Ladders)


6. Q&A With 8020Info:  Fostering Innovation

Question:  Innovation has been a hot topic lately, but my organization hasn’t been doing much about it. What can I do as a leader to foster a more innovative environment?

8020Info Associate Matt Wood responds:

An article by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), shared by Ernst and Young as part of their disruptor series, identifies the following employee traits and company attributes that lead to innovative success:

Creating an innovative team:

The first step in creating a disruptive team is to hire and promote the right people. Understanding why people choose to work at your organization and what motivates them at work is crucial to finding out if they’ll be an asset for innovation.

EIU identifies five different types of employees. While the first three types may fit well enough for some roles and a lot of jobs, their perspective on work doesn’t contribute strongly towards disruptive breakthroughs or innovation:

  • Some employees don’t view work as a priority — merely as something to support their life outside of work.
  • Some are motivated by a sense of stability and progress.
  • Some are more team-oriented and motivated by collaboration.

Instead, to foster a more innovative culture, they suggest you focus on the two other types:

  • Those who care deeply about the social purpose of their work and creating meaningful change.
  • Risk-takers — employees who want to be pushing the edge and are motivated by the idea of winning big.

Creating a culture to nurture innovation:

Profit after purpose:  This may not be a common mindset in many private companies, but EIU notes that being completely profit-driven will stifle innovation by stopping employees from taking risks, searching for new ideas,  and spending their time thinking creatively.

Some companies (such as Google, Coca Cola, and UKTV) give emphasis to projects based on purpose and passion by creating innovation teams, or allowing all employees to participate in creative projects and competitions.

It is also important to recognize and give team members credit for their work and, just as importantly, help employees see the impact of their work. This is not only a motivator for innovation, but also good practice in any type of work and will energize your team.

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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.


7.  Around Our Water Cooler:
     Eight Dimensions of Leadership

In our practice, we work with many different types of leaders, all of whom have their own special blend of leadership styles.

You might reflect on how your own leadership approach maps to the following eight dimensions, developed by INSEAD professor and author Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, and shared on the CareerJoy blog:

  • The strategist: Leadership as a game of chess. You are good at providing vision, strategic direction, and fresh thinking.
  • The change-catalyst: Leadership as a turnaround activity. You love messy situations, and use re-engineering skills to create new organizational ”blueprints.”
  • The transactor: Leadership as deal You are great at identifying and tackling new opportunities and thrive on negotiations.
  • The builder: Leadership as an entrepreneurial You dream of creating something and have the talent and determination to make it come true.
  • The innovator: Leadership as generating creative ideas. You are focused on the new and possess a high capacity to solve extremely difficult problems.
  • The processor: Leadership as an exercise in efficiency.You like organizations to be well-oiled machines, and are especially effective at setting up the appropriate structures and systems.
  • The coach: Leadership as a way to develop You know how to get the best out of people, thus creating high-performance cultures.
  • The communicator: Leadership as stage You are a strong influencer and have a considerable impact on your surroundings.


8.  Closing Thought 

“There is nothing which we receive with so much reluctance as advice.”

— Joseph Addison