September 11, 2022




In this 8020Info Water Cooler we look into losses that can go hand in hand with new strategies, seven rules of power, the impact of identities, pitfalls when presenting bulleted lists, and the importance of authority, warmth and energy in achieving success. Enjoy!

1. Own Up to Losses Linked to New Strategies

A new strategy aims to make gains for the organization. But most new strategies involve losses of some kind. And failing to own up to them is often the reason strategies fail, according to IAE Business School Professors Natalia Weisz and Roberto Vassolo.

“Some parts of the organization, some people, functions, values, and traditions will be downgraded or even abandoned in the name of progress,” they write in Harvard Business Review.

“Corporations trying to implement strategic initiatives typically trumpet the benefits and ignore these losses, treating implementation as a straightforward technical challenge.”

That offers the illusion of a pure win. It misses impacts on other priorities and hidden losses. But strategic planning, at its best, involves more informed conversations about the organization’s future.

“For any strategy to be successful, executives need to identify, understand, and allocate time, attention, energy, and money for the losses the organization will face in pursuit of its new priorities,” they insist.

For a stronger approach, they recommend these tactics:

  • Strengthen a safe space where executives can talk openly. Nurture discussion about what they don’t know and need to learn, and where deeper values will come into play (making them explicit).
  • Establish a formal moment to discuss losses. “Remember that systems, including organizations, can develop the capacity to handle all kinds of challenges — but only those they can name,” the professors write.
  • Map the affected groups and losses for each strategic priority. Analyze the adaptive challenge for each group, including both what is essential that should be preserved and also what must be left behind.

Considering the losses linked to new strategies will increase the odds of success.

2. Presenting Bulleted Lists Effectively

Bullet points break up large blocks of text, making digital content easier to grasp.

Hoa Loranger, a vice-president at Nielsen Norman Group, notes bullets can attract attention to the information, support scanning, shorten text, and reveal the relationships among items. On the Group’s blog, she offers these tips for using bullets more effectively:

Introduce the list with a clear, descriptive sentence or phrase. That lets the reader know what the list is about and why it is important.

Write list items to have similar line lengths. Avoid something like this, for example, in what must be packed for camp …

  • Sleeping bag
  • Bathing suit for our outing to the waterfalls
  • Sunblock

Use numbered lists only when the sequence or count of items are important.

Use parallel sentence construction for list items. Avoid inconsistent structure, as in this example listing rules for a park…

  • Put trash in designated bins.
  • Animals might be startled by loud noises.
  • Yellow lines mark where you can stand.

Avoid repeating the same word(s) at the beginning of each list item, as in this advice for picking a ripe pineapple (for each bullet, delete “give it a …”):

  • Give it a sniff. It should smell sweet.
  • Give it a squeeze. It should feel firm, yet soft.
  • Give it a look. It should be golden-yellow.

Keep formatting consistent.  If the list items are sentences, capitalize the first word of every list item and use ending punctuation. If the items are sentence fragments, don’t use any end punctuation.

Finally, she warns not to overuse bulleted lists since they can lose their effectiveness.

3. The Power of AWE

Steve Herz, who consults on sports and entertainment talent and marketing, advises his clients they need “aggressive humility” for success.

He also urges them to follow the 85/15 rule, taken from a Carnegie Foundation study in 1918 that determined only 15% of success comes from technical or professional skills. The other 85% is determined by emotional intelligence and the impressions you make on others.

On the Next Big Idea Club blog, he suggests focusing on three factors he labels AWE:

  • A stands for Authority: It’s your voice, your body language, your ability to make eye contact with people and, from that, the competence you convey.
  • W is for Warmth: It’s your ability to engender trust and make a connection with another person.
  • E is for Energy: How are you making other people feel? “Are you making people feel good about you and about themselves, or are you deflating them?”

To amplify your emotional intelligence, think AWE as you meet with people through the day.

4. People Pushing Off-Topic Narratives

Consultant Robert Glazer has noted some people have a tendency to respond to a given subject with a tangential but strong opinion that isn’t open to interpretation or debate. He calls it “narrative shopping”.

“People tend to approach everything they read or hear by looking for places where they can insert their [own] narrative, whether it is vaguely related, tangential or in some cases not related at all.”

That’s common in politics where off-topic comments are often used to advance personal gain, but it also carries into the attitudes of organizational leaders who may prefer their own narratives over engaging with what others have to say.

The warning sign for him, he says on his blog, is when he catches himself quickly shifting many different conversations, with different people, to the same endpoint.

5. Zingers

  • Grow Your Experimental Mindset: Teach competency in prototyping; it provokes reactions that in turn reshape and refine the original idea.  In his weekly quote, management guru Tom Peters says you should create a culture of prototyping in your organization.  (Source: com).
  • Are You Player or Coach? Consultant Donald Cooper says one of the biggest challenges for a growing business is for the founder or boss to make the important transition from being a “player” to being a “coach.”  Players take initiative while coaches support initiative.  (Source: com).
  • Focus on the Money: Strategy professor Sally Blount and consultant Paul Leinwand find corporate statements of purpose often miss the point. Where environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives are touted, the language is not tied to what the company actually produces. They urge you to focus purpose statements on how you make money — the core of your operations — rather than how you spend it.  (Source: strategy+ business).
  • Keep it Playful and Fun: Hedonic messaging on social media seeks to evoke fun, playfulness, enjoyment and excitement. New research has found it increased sales more than utilitarian messaging, which emphasizes the product’s functionality.  (Source: Insead Knowledge).
  • Act Now: Many problems are minor when you solve them right away but grow into an enormous conflict when you let them linger, observes Atomic Habits author James Clear. As a rule of thumb, fix it now. (Source: com).

6. The List: The Seven Rules of Power

In his new book, Seven Rules of Power, Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer shares prescriptions he offers students to help them flourish in their organizations and achieve positions of power:

  • Get out of your own way: Don’t cling to an attitude that power is evil and presume seeking it would be contrary to your better self.
  • Break the rules: To stand out, be willing to break the rules at appropriate times. Be like Elon Musk or Rosa Parks.
  • Appear powerful: Display competence by avoiding the use of notes in presentations. Display presence through your body language. Choose a wardrobe that accentuates your appearance and makes you look taller and thus more dominant.
  • Build a powerful brand: Consciously create a personal brand that helps you to stand out from the crowd. Associating with other people and organizations that are themselves prestigious can help.
  • Network relentlessly: Work is increasingly social, interdependent, and based on knowledge and skills. That makes the willingness and ability to build social ties even more important.
  • Use your power: Power is not a scarce, limited resource that gets depleted by being used. The more you use it to get things done, the more power you will have.
  • Success excuses (almost) anything: Power makes many problems mostly disappear — including what one did to acquire the power.

7.  Around Our Water Cooler


Reflecting on Our Identities

Along with the old adage that “culture eats strategy for lunch”, it seems identities are playing a more significant role in social and marketing strategy, employee motivation, and collaborations with partners. But who are we really? What defines us and makes us who we are?

Here, from Farnam Street (in a post about The Illusion of Destiny by Nobel prize winner Amartya Sen), are some questions that may help stimulate reflection on the impact of your identities in your life and leadership roles.

  • How do you construct your own identity?
  • Pick someone you would normally think you would dislike based on their most prominent identity and do a little research. What identities might you have in common?
  • What identity label might others put on you that you feel doesn’t fit you at all? Why?
  • How is your identity different now than at 18?
  • How can having a plurality of identities be a form of resilience?
  • How can we resolve conflicts between our valued identities?

Every week we see clients adapting to the impact of identities on strategy development, workforce recruitment, staff motivation as well as how they work in collaborations with different partners. Reflecting on these questions may help you consider the role of identities in your own situation.

What We’re Reading:

  • Harvey’s Pick: Both/And Thinking by Wendy Smith, a professor of management at the University of Delaware, and Marianne Lewis, dean of business at the University of Cincinnati. She explores the role paradoxes commonly play in our organizational challenges and sets out ways to navigate those tensions by engaging with both sides of competing demands.
  • Rob’s Pick: You’ll find pithy principles for clear and effective thinking in Maxims for Thinking Analytically: The wisdom of legendary Harvard Professor Richard Zeckhauser. Author Dan Levy marries practical applications with one-sentence nuggets of wisdom — for example:  when trying to understand a complex real-world situation, think of an everyday analogue. Don’t take refuge in complexity. When you are having trouble getting your thinking straight, go to an extreme case. Uncertainty is the friend of the status quo. There are some things you just don’t want to know. If you focus on people’s shortcomings, you’ll always be disappointed. Don’t be limited by the options you have in front of you.


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8020Info helps senior leadership teams and boards develop, clarify and build consensus behind strategic priorities. Our services support strategic planning and change processes, marketing communications and research / stakeholder consultations. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries.

8.  Closing Thought

“You are precisely as big as what you love and precisely as small as what you allow to annoy you.”

Robert Anton Wilson, author and futurist