Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Innovation Irony

In a prior post I pointed to Nell Minow's preference for people who are precise in their communication. It reminded me that in the past year I have caught myself being less precise in how well I choose words. One phrase I have caught myself using when talking about innovation is "creating an innovation mindset." I use the phase because I have heard so many other people talk about an ‘innovation mindset’. But "mindset" is a bad choice of words; moreover, it's ironic.

According to wikipedia: "A mindset... is described as mental inertia, "groupthink", or a "paradigm", and it is often difficult to counteract its effects upon analysis and decision making processes." "Mindset...refers to a phenomenon of cognitive bias..." It gets in the way of truth.

Mindset is a contributor to what Adam Hartung calls a Lock-in behavior. It leads a company to rigid adherence to a historic success formula, even when it no longer works well.

For companies to be good at innovation, to be good at problem solving, getting to the truth is crucial. Usually the biggest hurdle to overcome is the entrenched mindset among decision makers. A bias gets in the way of being able to see truth.

I think people know what I am trying to say when I utter something about "creating an innovation mindset." But "mindset" is not correct. It is so WRONG that it’s ironic. "Penchant" would be better.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

CEO and TEE Leadership

The CEO has the main leadership responsibility to build and maintain employee Trust, Engagement, and Empowerment (eTEEsm). If you are going to run a good problem solving company, you must be good at creating eTEE. Building employee Trust, Engagement, and Empowerment requires leadership, not management.

Great CEO leadership isn’t about being soft. Great CEO’s set high standards. They are tenacious and persistent. The great CEO pays attention to detail and focuses upon efficiency. Such a CEO demands deep thinking and clear-headed analysis. A great leader doesn’t just exhibit these traits. A great leader gets the people he or she leads to set high standards for themselves, to be persistent, to think deeply for themselves, to thoroughly analyze, to pay attention to detail, to be efficient, and to always strive for excellence.

First-rate CEOs see this responsibility as their primary responsibility. Second-rate CEOs spend the bulk of their time managing. They are busy making decisions and evaluating performance. Frequently, second tier CEO’s spend no time at all working their eTEE responsibilities. They are managers. Managers try to get the most out of their employees. Leaders give their colleagues the opportunity to be their best.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Nell Minow's Catching Ideas

This morning my business partner Dan Wallace sent me to a site about management pointing to Nell Minow's insights:

What Nell Minow, co-founder of the Corporate Library looks for when hiring people, “I really look for a kind of a passionate curiosity. I think that is indispensable, no matter what the job is. You want somebody who is just alert and very awake and engaged with the world and wanting to know more … Another thing that’s important to me in hiring somebody is the ability to become very fully engaged with the company, and that is a real challenge when you get past a certain number of people. The fourth person you hire is just a different kind of person than the 25th person you hire … And this is where it starts sounding like I’m looking for someone to date, but I also look for a sense of humor, because that’s really the best indicator of some kind of perspective about the world. And ultimately I won’t hire anybody who can’t write … It’s just tremendously important, their precision, their vocabulary, their sense of appropriateness of communication.”

See more from Ms Minow in the piece 'The Importance Of “We” In Managing People'
Ms Minow points to characteristics which are also very useful if you're looking to build a problem solving team. She recognizes that within that criteria, you can hire very different people. She is not saying you need people with high EQ. High EQ does not equate with engagement. You hire curious people who can think clearly and express those thoughts through precise language. Not everyone uses language with precision.

For example, I downloaded a whitepaper over the weekend partially based on this content claim: "This report will attempt to answer how social media marketing benefits businesses." I am interested in how people utilize social media. How do you use a blog to close a sale? That you claim to use a blog to close a sale is not very interesting without understanding how it is accomplished.

But the report actually was just full of charts and graphs around a survey result. The data only showed 'that' respondents claimed social media marketing benefits businesses, not a word on 'how' the benefits were achieved. It is like saying I am going to show you how you can build a wood house, and then show you a wood house.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Hard Work of Memory

WIRED magazine reported in their April 2009 issue about something extraordinary.

Jill Price is a woman with an incredible memory. She's been written up in press from the scientific Neurocase, to USA Today, to the Wall Street Journal. She's also run the television circuit -- appearing on NPR, 20/20 with Diane Sawyer, Good Morning America, and Oprah

She can remember virtually every day of her life from 1974 to today.

But, the point of the Wired article, written by Gary Marcus a cognitive psychologist at NYU, is that her memory is not derived from some unique property of her brain. Most of us are just as physically capable as she is to remember such detail, if only we put as much energy and effort into it.

In my upcoming book I talk about how rats learn a maze. If a rat runs a maze fifty times it will remember the maze for about a year. But if it runs the maze 200 times, it will remember the maze for its entire life.

Ms Price does the same thing. She wasn't born with this memory, she works hard at it, perhaps compulsively. She repeats her memories over and over again. She reviews and reviews and reviews her autobiographical experiences until they are deeply grooved into her memory. She thinks about it, writes journals, and collects person memorabilia.

In some ways, what Jill Price does is analogous to Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours rule in his book Outliers. Mr. Gladwell says that to be extraordinarily good at anything, you must put in about 10,000 hours of practice. Jill Price has probably put in many thousands more hours than that, imprinting her personal memories into her brain and that is why she is so good at it.

Gustavo Dudamel: Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela

On Friday night my son Charlie and I went to see this incredible young conductor and the amazing Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra. If you have not seen Gustavo conduct you’re in for a treat. Check out this link to see him earlier this year and get a sense of what we experienced.

The music was fantastic and the two encores were joyful since the kids playing had some fun, jumping up, spinning their instruments and yelling. It was extraordinary and truly wonderful!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I just received notice that the International Journal of Innovation Science Released!!! It contains an article by me entitled “Building new knowledge and the role of synthesis.”

The journal is finally out! The Journal has been launched to develop and promote science and engineering of innovation in order to mature the field of innovation, and improve success of new products for profitable growth. Feel free to recommend the Journal for your office or local library with the link to its publisher.
If you’d like to read my article, let me know. Cardpuzzle21@gmail.com

Monday, April 6, 2009

Stupid Research Conclusions

Fairly often as I research for stuff I am writing I will come across something that makes me hope people are critical in their thinking. Here is an example:

This is a story on sales incentives -- headline, and conclusion reads: “Any Incentive Is Better Than No Incentive at All”

Here is the short version of the study which led to this conclusion:
The 45-person sales organization was divided into three groups of equal size and took part in a sales contest but with a different reward.

Key findings: “The results indicate that the group with the travel/entertainment incentives performed best, followed by the group with the cash incentive and, lastly, by the merchandise incentives. However, say the authors, “Although the merchandise incentive did not produce as large an increase in new clients as the trip/entertainment and cash incentives, it is clear that any incentives are better than nothing at all.”

Really? It may be true that "any incentive is better than nothing at all", but this study certainly did not show that since none of the groups had no incentive. Bad research!!