Tackling the Uncertainty Paradox – An Introduction

Uncertainty can drive opportunity. Uncertainty can also drive you mad and destroy your company. Bummer. Bill Welter (Adaptive Strategies), Kay Plantes (Plantes Company) and I have been discussing how the uncertainty caused by stronger, less predictable and more frequent disruptions can be as large a source of opportunity as it is a threat. We’ve been considering why such uncertainty tends to freeze some and free others. And we’ve been thinking about where companies and individuals can find solid traction for progress even when they feel trapped by uncertainty. The three of us have worked with a wide range of organizations from the very large Fortune 500 to the very small entrepreneurial start-up and we tend to agree that standing still is about the only option NOT open to you today. You are either planning your moves or circumstance will do the moving. Sound scary? It should, but maybe in more … Continue reading

Ways To Kill Business Innovation Through Analysis

Want to kill a good innovative idea? Analyze it in some obviously logical yet inappropriate way. It would be murder but you are unlikely to get caught.  When thinking about this I always remember an old accounting example where we try to help the owner of a diner decide if it would be a good idea to add a rack of snacks to his cash wrap.  By working with $/foot and other wonderfully useful tools we prove that it would be an unprofitable innovation. Of course that ignores the fact that the snacks were add-on sales – wrong analysis, lost opportunity. Umar Hamique presents a great list of ways to inappropriately analyze innovative ideas. Traps you can easily fall into because the methods are logical, but the results are disastrous due to strategic and other circumstances that require a more open. Great quote of the piece: “The fundamental error is simple, managing is more than counting…” … Continue reading

Executive Compensation And Unemployment | Mark Cuban’s Proposition

As this month’s unemployment figures were breaking (8.5%), Mark Cuban weighed in on fixing executive compensation. The ideas are related. As the discussion on executive pay continues, my message is simple.  Give credit to those executives who bust their asses to avoid layoffs except in cases where its an absolute necessity. Pay ‘em a premium vs those who cut jobs in profitable companies.  Look to private companies as guides to what a well managed company can accomplish, and how executives are compensated. Blogmaveric.com – Mark Cuban His post is a great reminder that in many ways layoffs are an admission of failure by executive management – the investment in human capital they made has not paid off and must now be written off.  This devastating blow to the emotional health of a firm and its knowledge base is not improved by an impression that the executive ranks are rewarded for causing so much pain. … Continue reading

“Catering To Past Patterns of Power”

What a great way to sum up one of the key roadblocks to successful innovation. I heard this term used by Robert Johnson while speaking with Bill Moyers about fixing the international banking crisis. (Johnson is currently serving on the U.N. Commission recommending reforms for the international monetary and financial system.)  It was a warning, a fear, an observation of how politics tends to work. And a reminder that the higher the stakes the more forcefully past patterns of power try to assert themselves – no matter what system is being re-engineered. Past Patterns Of Power have several things going for them that innovation does not –  Security – “Hey, It’s always worked this way before.” Money – Both money too lose and money to donate. Changing systems means changing fortunes. Momentum – If the herd is stampeding North, and you want to take a jog to the West – well, it … Continue reading

Successful Failure – Creating The Next Platform

If you haven’t been part of a major failure in your career then you’re not trying hard enough. As a Scoutmaster I’ve seen adults and children learn faster and more efficiently from their mistakes than from their successes. “Well I won’t do it that way again,” holds a lot more weight than “Aren’t I clever.” Leading a risky, innovative project automatically ensures that things will go wrong. So the relevant question is how to lead through difficulties to ensure innovation continues. Whining does not work — “We didn’t have enough resources. It was out of my control….” Pointing does not work — “The division didn’t step up. The research was wrong….” Excuses don’t work. If the point of failure comes as a complete surprise to your management then you have already missed a key element of leading a risky project — Managing Expectations.