The world was never flat (and why this is good for you).

Ideas are always waiting to be displaced.

It was once believed that the world was flat and if ships sailed too far, they would fall off some imaginary cliff. All contrary opinions were treated to the latest methods of torture. This suggests that man has always seen things not as they are, but as he preferred to.

Again, it was once believed that twins were to be killed because it was the “right” thing to do. Why was it the right thing to do? Because they were supposedly possessed by “evil” spirits. And those who carried out the executions were possessed by what exactly?

Some held the idea that there would never be need for more than 5 computers in the world and others that sound could never be successfully transmitted over a distance. Again, certain ailments were held as incurable – until summarily dispatched by the most basic of remedies.

It is a distinctive quality of the environment to strongly suggest where the barriers are, what the limits should be, and what is likely to happen if they were crossed. In some cases, this is correct in that jumping out of a moving car will have consequences irrespective of any ideas held by the subject.

However, there are times where it is of absolute importance that these rules be re-written for the sake of a future worth living in. A future of sharing the new, communicating the best and raising the bar on the way life is lived. To replace the existing with the better.

The best way to predict the future is to create it. Peter Drucker

Thing is, today’s box (of “think out of the box” fame) was yesterday’s breakthrough idea that has overstayed its welcome. Stepping out of the box is necessary, for that was how the present box was entered – by stepping out of the previous box, displacing the reigning idea of the day.

Going beyond this charge to step out of the box, it is equally important (if not more so) to stay the course of a new idea, process or strategy irrespective of the roadblocks ahead. Ideas must also be challenged so that they get stronger, more refined and so that the innovators build the internal fortitude necessary to spread the idea once fully developed.

Of course, there are instances where objections to an idea should be completely disregarded. But then there are also instances where objections should be curated and seen for what they are – constructive feedback.

Every idea is waiting to be displaced. Make sure it’s not yours.

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Why ideas are important

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Working in teams

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Why quality is important and what your organisation can do (Re-Mastered)

Here’s a summary of what we’ll be looking at

Introduction

How quality affects efficiency

How quality affects the Product

Customer engagement

Conclusion

Introduction

The Chartered Quality Institute defines quality as “…an outcome – a characteristic of a product or service provided to a customer and the hallmark of an organisation which has satisfied all of its stakeholders…”

Of importance in this definition is the satisfaction of all the stakeholders.

This is even more so in today’s connected and competitive marketplace where missteps spread quickly. Brands live on their ability to consistently deliver as promised. This ability to deliver is a function of quality.

Taking this further, the concept of quality assurance lies in ensuring that the products or services being delivered meet the customer’s requirements, as wide as they might be. This is done by following a series of processes that cover the client’s needs, broken into emotional, psychological and technical aspects.

Putting it differently, to every cause there is an effect and when we reverse same, we find that for an effect of high quality, a cause of high quality is required.

Put quality in, and quality will come out. The impact of this concept becomes more critical as the projects become more significant, either from a perspective of cost or sensitivity. Some economic applications of quality assurance include:

How quality affects efficiency

Reorganising processes so that they align with an organisation’s strategic direction is a focus of quality assurance.

This reorganisation improves the firm’s time to market, resolution of customer complaints, improvement of staff morale and the consequent creation of an energized work environment.

This energized environment becomes the breeding ground for innovative solutions. In effect, profit rests on process efficiency.

How quality affects the Product

The improved processes adopted by have brought customers to a point where a high level of quality is expected.

Toll free numbers, personalised service, money back guarantees and instant replacements are all service and product quality standards regarded as commonplace in today’s business environment. Years ago, this was not so.

Customers don’t just want an item – they want the highest quality money can buy, and they want it as quickly as possible. And all this with a smile!

Customer engagement

The customer is the ultimate decider as to whether an organisation lives to see the next quarter.

While there exist businesses in which the customer doesn’t have a choice (think Utilities), many firms would do well to improve the level of quality experienced by the customer.

Every employee should have a working understanding of the customer’s psyche and how effective interactions add to the bottom line. Organisations should go beyond customer complaints and establish preemptive strategies for keeping the customer satisfied.

A quick survey of some of the strongest brands will show that customer engagement is considered a priority, not just at strategy meetings but at budget sessions too.

Having good processes, good products and engaged customers lead to healthy organizations. This in turn attracts and retains key talent, thereby making the organization better positioned on the competitive landscape.

Conclusion

Investments in quality should not be considered as a secondary use of resources where an organisation is thinking for the long term.

Costs avoided now, being assessed as ‘avoidable’ would be paid later in terms of defective market offerings and the attendant recalls, clients lost, and consequent brand depreciation.

The right investments should be made in time to reap the benefits of quality assurance.

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Why ideas are important

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Working in teams

Two options for your future in leadership and how to decide.

auth

Here’s what we’ll be looking at;

  1. With every decision.
  2. Turning water to ice.
  3. What leaders know.
  4. See no evil, hear no evil; just keep talking.
  5. What got you here…
  6. …won’t take you there.
  7. What the need is.

With every decision.

With every decision comes two options; “run and hide”, or “over and beyond”. In between both are several illusions of direction but in the end – a leader is deciding along one of both lines. Moving up the ladder of influence in any organisation can be challenging and as such, the tendency is to guard a position, reputation or office such that hard earned influence is not lost. This is referred to as the “run and hide” strategy and the overriding objective is to avoid loss.

Turning water to ice.

This strategy ensures stability but gradually builds an unwillingness to take actions perceived as risky reducing the chances for innovative leadership. For the leader it contributes to a steady decline in peer group relevance strategic for advancement to higher levels of influence. Leaders with high standards, if in the same organisation tend to conclude that such peers can’t be trusted with significant levels of responsibility.

Still, there is a sense of awe a leader radiates when able to retain the respect gained through past victories – the downside being referred to mostly in the context of past accomplishments from dated campaign; a record book.

What leaders know.

Leaders at the highest levels know that true innovation requires a willingness to take risks, moving ahead, improving in their capacity to lead teams and organisations. These leaders are known as “over and beyond” as they push for the new, taking necessary action to build a world worth living in.

Both leadership types believe in company goals, efficiency and the like – their difference is in mode of achievement. The run and hide leaders seem to have achieved seniority playing by the rules, taking no such leaps into the unknown, and rarely (if ever) questioning the system. Battle scars early in their careers seem to have been marked: “NO MORE RISK”.

See no evil, hear no evil; just keep talking.

In practice, such leaders remain attentive and sometimes supportive in conversations on new ideas but side with safety when it comes to taking concrete steps. Once there’s a possibility of loss, a whiff of smoke, the run and hide gene kicks in and the bunker is sealed shut. Nothing comes in, nothing goes out and status quo holds sway.

These leaders are important for freshmen wide eyed with dreams of corporate leadership and unaware of the numerous pitfalls. They teach wilderness survival tactics from how to dance with wolves without being eaten to surviving Armageddon. The down side is that a perfect defense doesn’t discover new territory and is destined to fade once current markets are exhausted after which is extinction.

Again, run and hide leaders are easier to replace when compared with the over and beyonds. No wars for introducing innovation have been won. No over and beyond victories, except a successfully defended career castle. Still the fall of the Roman empire is instructive – a position can only be defended for so long.

What got you here…

That element of fear of loss inherent in every run and hide stalwart stands as their greatest strength and undoing. As new ideas are not easily accepted, risks key to growth are not taken. Leaders stick to this system for safety reasons and as such it remains popular till date. Only the living can write history. The run and hides are key for the short term, necessary for the mid-term but mildly relevant in the long term.

The result of mastering the run and hide system is an opportunity to join the over and beyonds. These leaders, whether as a result of lessons learned, personal observation or natural inclination, have come to the conclusion that there is no future for the run and hide strategy.

…won’t take you there.

Over and beyond leaders are open to new ideas, willing to take risks, independent in their thinking and are preferred to the run and hide group. These are the ones remembered because they went beyond the normal in fighting for their beliefs – irrespective of mistakes along the way. Being over and beyond means that there is a focus on results either in business numbers or in developing teams.

Stories worth passing on are mostly about over and beyonds – who they were, what they did, how they fought, and how they lived. Ultimately, run and hides come to depend on over and beyond leaders irrespective of their positions in the organisational chart.

What the need is.

The run and hides keep things is safely in the present while the over and beyonds make it clear that the present cannot hold for too long. Both have important aspects, but one group creates the future and would likely be important for much longer.

The world and indeed business need over and beyond leaders because they take the risks necessary to create a future worth living in. Progress often depends on them and it could be said that the world would still be using horse drawn carriages as standard transportation if not for their efforts.

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Why ideas are important

Why decisions matter

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Working in teams

What to do when things don’t go according to plan.

Pisa

Here’s what we’ll be looking at;

  1. The unusual suspect
  2. The question of perfection
  3. Business exists for the customer (and how to be in business tomorrow)
  4. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel

The unusual suspect.

Not many things become famous and remain so for being imperfect. Standing at 567 feet, bending to an angle of 3.99 degrees and having a total of 296 steps (on the north side) and 7 bells is the leaning tower of Pisa.

Built in 1173 to show the city’s importance and celebrate economic growth, the tower was planned to be upright at 183.27 feet but the ground on which it was built was soft and the tower started to tilt in 1178 at the 3rd floor. Work continued even as plans were developed to rectify the tilt – only stopping twice due to war.

Today, the tower leans a full 5 meters from the perpendicular and is one of the most visited tourist destinations thanks to the staying power of the construction team.

Serendipity: the arrival at a goal without the direct plan to achieve it.”

Merriam Webster’s dictionary

There is a value in pressing on, staying the course of an endeavour despite challenges. Sometimes, market leadership is on the other side of pain, defeat and delayed results. This would apply especially to new products and services. It might make sense to allow the process run as far as it can go before pulling the plug as the customer might prefer the output of risky development.

The question of perfection.

Much of industry thrives on perfection, or at least the pursuit of it; “Only the best is good enough”, “precision engineering” and “design at its finest” are among the tag lines of market leaders. There’s so much value placed on perfection that a leaning tower on the list of global tourist attractions is in itself an attraction. The tower is world famous precisely because it leans, that is, because it is imperfect.

There are routine standards established to produce definite results; error free processes, seamless customer service, great product experience. There are established bodies dedicated to the elimination of error and the improvement of quality – six sigma, Kaizen and the rest of that family.

There are important in fields as air travel – where pilots are expected to fly without error, eschewing any form of mid-flight innovation or surgery where performance is expected to be flawless, with knowledge bases continually updated and years of experience on the increase. The last thing a patient wants is an untested hand in a life or death situation.

When it comes to getting it right at all costs, the idea remains “the best or nothing”.

Business exists for the customer (and how to be in business tomorrow).

Still, when attempting the new (on which most growth depends) it should be understood that things might not go as expected. Embracing the curves on the journey to ‘the product’ remain a good way to find key products.

Customers know the full range of existing products but are only impressed by what comes next. How different is it from the pack, how will it change the way their lives are lived, and in what ways will it make them live differently?

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Whether it’s in the areas of healthcare saving millions of lives, sport, entertainment or in learning, it should be considered that many inventions were not the original intent of their discoverers.

So, look for the goals and do what is necessary to achieve, and even exceed customer expectations – but keep in mind that the best ideas are sometimes arrived at by accident.

Here’s a lesson; what is accepted by the customer ceases to be an accident.

How to make the most of today’s connection economy.

Bike

Here’s what we’ll be looking at;

Motivated by competition

What is important?

What happens when you don’t fit in…and don’t want to?

The need to look far and wide

Wrapping up – Doing what is demanded

A welcome from the auto industry

With 1,800 moving parts, the capacity to run at 431.072 km/h and an average weight of 295 kg is the internal combustion engine. A further look would show that the engine has many parts, different uses, and different capacities with more computing power than the first guidance system that took man to the moon.

As any (emergency) medical personnel or car crash investigator would confirm, every part of low quality or operating below par could lead to loss. That is; each part is important and should be treated as though the entire system depended on it – because it does.

Motivated by competition

Initially, the engine was a much simpler contraption, only able to move at a low speeds and that for a short period of time.

But the need to be faster, lighter and more elegant than the competition forced increasing levels of innovation. Entire industries became dedicated to ensuring that the best parts connect in the most efficient ways to give the customer the best driving experience.

This need to give the customer the best experience is the golden thread that weaves the future of an enterprise in combination with expertise, teamwork, and a relentless focus on the customer.

When making purchasing decisions, customers usually consider the elegance of a car alongside engine efficiency, that is, every part must be the right shape, size, quality and fit. Leaders in the auto industry are known to embark on extended media campaigns emphasising product design, comfort, convenience and a unique experience – yet there is never a failure to mention engine strength.

What is important?

Business theory over time has alternated between opinions as to who (or what) are the most important parts of a team. Some have suggested leadership as the all in all, the reason for all progress, deal breaker. The stronger the leader, the farther the team would go.

“Greater is an army of sheep led by a lion, than an army of lions led by a sheep.”                 Daniel Defoe

Other have placed all hopes of enterprise success on followership. As the theory goes, without good followership, there is no one to execute the direction of leadership.

“He that thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk.”          John C. Maxwell

Followership could be divided into ‘A’ players, ‘B’ players, square pegs, round pegs, depending on the organisation. There are also age divisions; Baby boomers, Millennials, etc. which make for easier management of followership.

What happens when you don’t fit in…and don’t want to?

Then, there are parts that don’t fit into any of these boxes and are known in some instances for the ability to reinvent existing products and services or create the new and when such parts are in sufficient quantity they create new movements that go on to upend the existing order.

There is yet another camp that insists the customer is King. “If there is no sale, there is no business” and “if the customer didn’t want our products, we wouldn’t be here” are common rallying cries. Doing what the customer wants and then some makes perfect sense to this group.

Without the customer, there is no sale, without which there would be no profit. Where there’s no profit, there is no business.

But then what happens when the customer is given an option they didn’t know they would like so much?

The need to look far and wide

Casting the talent net beyond what qualifies as the ‘right’ part for an engine in today’s enterprise is a road worth talking for organisations that place a premium on innovation. Without a comprehensive talent strategy that places a premium on every hand, organisations are not likely to reach full potential.

This is so in part because suggestions from B players have been known to challenge group direction, causing an important shifts in thinking that irrevocably alter the structure of the firm. Startups are a great example at showing that talent not valued can still do great things.

Maybe the challenge is in managing them all and the usual occurrence is to manage for efficiency and place premium on a few “key” parts. This strategy (80/20 principle) has its merits. However, times have changed and management would do well to change with it.

Wrapping up – Doing what is demanded

In today’s economy, every part has the potential to influence the outcome of the entire enterprise. All parts have a part to play especially in today’s innovation driven culture – where the best ideas are known to come from any part of the enterprise.

Firms owe it to their very survival to look for ideas, wherever they may be found and a good starting point would be to remember that every part is important.

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Getting to yes in negotiations.

Here’s what we’ll be looking at;

  • The up side of negotiating
  • Play nice and work with the best, or else…
  • Types of negotiations
  • Getting the upper hand AND keeping the relationship
  • Wrapping up – prepare for pressure and be ready to walk.

Introduction

It had been the end of a series of long negotiations– about 8 years by some accountswhen both parties signed their names in 1867 on the documents that would transfer the entire territory of Alaska from Russia to the United States.

The US had come to realise that they could improve in international reckoning and possibly discourage the advancement of the British once they closed this deal. For $7.2million, the land mass of Alaska – all 1,717,856 km2 was secured.

Interestingly, many would come to deride the deal as a waste (for various political and economic reasons) and would never come to appreciate what it took to make it happen. Such is the story the world sometimes; analysis of outcomes without an in depth look into the prevailing circumstances to discover the hidden lessons.

The up side of negotiating

Negotiations are known to save as much as 60% on the purchase price of items.Research by Accenture shows that corporations and Governments are known to centralise their procurement functions to better negotiate deals usually in the multi-billion dollar range.

It is often said that you don’t get what you are worth, you get what you negotiate – hence the increased interest in the subject.

Still, the general advice is to negotiate from strength and why this certainly has its merits, care must be taken that the business relationship is not damaged in the process.

Moderating explicit demands for an outcome is advisable in the interest of building a long term relationship.

Play nice and work with the best, or else…

This is because there are long term effects where one side believes they’ve been left holding the short end of the stick. Asides souring the relationship (and those so connected) there is the risk of rework, invoking clauses, leading to protracted legal battles known to last for decades.

This is also why significant investments are made in signing on the best negotiators seeing that they have perfected the art of combining sound character, technical knowledge of the subject matter as well an understanding of the industry andmanagement of relationships.

When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.                                                                                                                       Billy Graham

Negotiation according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary is defined as “a formal discussion between people who are trying to reach an agreement: an act of negotiating”. That is, the gulf between what is wanted and what is available makes negotiations necessary.

Negotiations are said to be the bridge between available inputs and desired outcomes – a connector of sorts; and in the process, a relationship building exercise.

William Warby Flickr

Starting well, looking ahead

Negotiations usually start out with a target, a desired outcome and so the objective either to maximise limited resources to get the best possible quality of an item without having to pay so much.

It might be the need to present ourselves as being competent or the expectation that things can bet obtained at a better price.

Negotiations are done for a couple of reasons, some of which include; Resources might be insufficient to achieve desired goals as it is pertinent to keep an eye on running costs so that the firm remains a going concern.

In some instances, the parties involved might share varying levels of distrust and negotiate for further assurances. There is also that possibility of getting more value for money even as economies rise and fall.

Types of negotiations

Negotiation techniques include the heavy hand, the win-win/long view, each with their unique advantages and drawbacks. In the heavy hand, the basic idea is to maximise a position gibing little or no concession to the other side of the table.

In the win-win being the most popular per management text ensures that both parties go back after negotiations with key demands met. This is usually with doses of compromise by both/all sides of the deal.

There is debate as to whether this is the most effective form of negotiations in that all parties sacrifice enough to question whether the deal was worthwhile.

Close to this is the BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) is used where the idea is to get a kind of one size fits all, with the objective of keeping all parties on the table happy.

This makes the way for strong relationships and is ideal for long term business relationships. The downside is that critical demands might not be met.

Getting the upper hand AND keeping the relationship

Getting the upper hand is a worthy goal in many scenarios but must be used with care, again to keep the existing relationship intact. Firms with large budgets usually have the upper hand where the commodity/service in question is commonplace or not too differentiated from the pack.

Hence, to reverse this, a product or service must be unique.

Where the service type or product is unique, the balance completely reverses and those with the big budgets are compelled to make adjustments in favour of the service or product provider.

Players in the tech sector understand this concept and pay significant amounts – in some cases more than the perceived value of the target acquisition.

What this means is that the higher the perceived value of an item, the more likely it is to have a favourable starting position in a negotiation.

Wrapping up – prepare for pressure and be ready to walk.

Preparing for a negotiation means there are definite targets, non-negotiable negotiations and conditions for compromise – a must for both parties for the negotiations to be beneficial to all parties concerned.

It helps a great deal where there is as little pressure as possible when negotiating and a good way to achieving this is being able to walk away from the table at any time, with no hard feelings.

Where compromises cannot be made, it may be advisable that both parties separate amicably.

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People management – What you need to know.

It was the end of a long march through the marshy and insect infested fields of 18th Century America on the way to a battle ground that would prove significant.  And after open field fighting that lasted hours it was clear that even freshly arrived reinforcements would be insufficient to ensure victory.

The enemy army had aligned with native warriors known for a deliberately evasive style of warfare and this made the battle all the more difficult. Lt. Col. George Washington (at the time) would go on to lose one of his earliest battles to a better organised opposition.

A lesson to be learnt

The argument could be made that he was inexperienced and out of his league but would also wonder if the course of events would have been different had he better soldiers, or was a better leader at the time. The soldiers, severely lacking in motivation from low pay, malnutrition and poor gear could barely maintain concentration, let alone fight well enough to win. It is plausible that the soldiers could have lasted longer in battle had they better equipment.

There is much to be said in favour of the willingness to dare, explore and innovate in today’s world of business. It is only advisable to reserve a seat for experience when it comes to leading a group, an organisation or even one’s self.

In another vein, Napoleon and his Grande Armee had conquered much of Europe in his quest for world domination and moved to conquer the people of Russia. With a standing army of 600, 000 soldiers he advanced with the expectation of a win. However, he was up against a people that were prepared to burn their lands, houses farms and assets in the hope of depriving the advancing army of much needed resources for survival.

What is required to make a change?

This willingness to lose in part in the short run was somewhat innovative considering the circumstances and difficult for the French to understand. As it turned out, the French campaign to Russia was a disaster and would mark the beginning of the end of Napoleon’s military career.

Throughout history, the thoughts, decisions and actions of people have always had an impact on the outcome of things. So, here again as in other times where the survival of a people was at stake, the ability to undergo difficulty for the common purpose, made the difference.

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.

 Margaret Mead

Fast forward a few hundred years, the world witnessed mass uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East that would change the balance of power across nations. In unprecedented fashion, mass protests toppled governments that had been accused of corruption, human rights violations and a thorough mismanagement of their respective economies.

These Governments had been established for years and had pretty much done whatever they liked until people got tired of being pushed around. Of course, it is debated whether the uprising was engineered, or was the will of the people and if it accomplished its objectives, considering the casualties involved.

With inflation as high as 30.5% poverty levels and perceptions on corruption were abysmally low and the people had decided to act against oppression.  Connecting this to the world of business, it should be said that the best levels of performance cannot be expected where talent is not given the enabling environment.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

Abraham Lincoln

People felt that the leadership of the day was culpable in allegations of unfair treatment, graft, nepotism and the like. And through the communities created by social media, an entire region was brought to a standstill even as the world looked on in shock, yes, this was the mass uprisings that coalesced in Tahir square.

Even today, Twitter and Facebook still refer to this event as part of their contribution to the perpetuation democracy. But then, what is the best technology without the people to use them? What is communication without the people actually communicating? That there is the centrality of people management to the world we live remains key should be taken more seriously.

people

The banking and entertainment industries have something to say.

Leaving the world of democracy, we come to financial services where Barings bank had been in existence for 233 years, and had weathered market storm after storm. Still through the efforts of one trader, all the years of successful investment went up in smoke.

It is clear that people have a certain potential for either creativity or destruction that should be critically looked into. It is also key to define and effectively manage the direction of potential as early as possible – where there’s still a chance of exerting the right influences.

Ever heard of the key to property value? Well I have – location, location, location. The thing is, property is only as valuable as people think and agree it to be. If no one decides to buy, it is reasonable to conclude that that property stays in the market – a legacy from the days of trade by barter, where value was ascribed to an item based on what both parties agreed it to be.

The entertainment industry bases its value on the fact that people agree it to be so and this is irrespective of constant criticism give negative assessments for peoples. Again, cities, states and nations are formed largely because people agree to come together and remain so.

People (or talent) management make a significant difference in whether companies grow or not, whether initiatives see the light of day, and in the end, whether nations fail or not.

He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a stroll.

John Maxwell

The best kind of intelligence is to understand what your opponent will think tomorrow, not find out what he thought yesterday.

Olufemi Awoyemi

People are key to the realisation of vision.

It should also be understood that the bigger the vision of a leader the more the influence on people is required. When we say we have organisations, the full import is that we lead organisations of people that create products or services that people find valuable.

It is interesting to find that organisations tend to execute product development by starting from their passion and then hope that the consumer will bite. It might be better to start product development from what the customer needs and then move on from there.

I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.

Wayne Gretzky.

Except of course you’re in the ranks of the ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky or Steve jobs in that there is clear knowledge as to what the next move should be, it may be best to look first at developing a product or service based on what the customer will find useful. The very idea of innovation depends on the uniqueness of people – their backgrounds, current circumstances and aspirations.

Wrapping up – People have value, so invest.

Looking over the major historical events, one thing is clear: People can be depended on to innovate as is necessary, create new cultures and make enduring changes to the very way life is lived. These are the kinds of people that ensure organisations never fail but rather produce great products and services.

Therefore, if these kinds of behaviours are not encouraged in organisations, it might be a good time to start asking the right questions. Have investments been made in building environments that encourage idea development?

Can the difficult questions be given audience long enough for healthy disagreements ensue? Is dissent allowed anywhere in the decision making landscape because, there comes a time when the dissenting voice is right.

Consciously deciding to invest in people is a right decision.

Here’s a summary of what we’ve looked at;

  1. A lesson to be learnt
  2. What is required to make a change?
  3. The banking and entertainment industries have something to say.
  4. People are key to the realisation of a vision.
  5. Wrapping up – People have value, so invest.

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Why ideas are important and what they do to you.

 In 1911, Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen, prominent explorers in the heroic age of Antarctic expedition were in a much publicized race to reach the South Pole. The world watched as two teams led faced some of the most difficult natural conditions including temperatures as low as -82.8°C. For various motivations, each wanted to get there first, to win for country, to be the first man to conquer the South Pole.

As we have in the world of business today, many risks were taken, sacrifices endured in a bid to make good their promise to investors who had been sold the idea that the impossible could be achieved. There is the idea that humanity can, against all odds beat the circumstances, however challenging they might be and in the South Pole expedition, each team wanted prove this by being the first to cross the finish line.

At the beginning, each team wanted to win and was ready to put in the requisite effort. There had to be sufficient planning for the expedition else neither would make it back alive. There were comparisons as to who was the better leader, who was going to make it first and, per a Harvard Business Review article, who had better prior experience. In retrospect we know how both men ended their quest. Roald Amundsen made it first. Robert Falcon Scott didn’t.

light bulb

Historians agree that Roald used a better tested strategy combining focus on a singular objective (to get to the south pole first), the right tools, well-bred dogs and well-suited hands with rations painstakingly planned ahead of the trip. It is also said that he used tools and hands more familiar with him and also with expeditions of this kind. And after he won, it was on to the next challenge.

Robert Falcon Scott by some accounts is said to have underestimated the enormity of the task, had a much wider scope for the expedition (including picking up rocks for scientific research) and didn’t research in sufficient detail what it would take to succeed. This led to needless suffering over an extended period of time, and the eventual loss of his life and those who he led. From this we see that it is useful to have a healthy respect for the challenges of the journey to the goals we have set.

Whether it’s working to create that killer app, closing a key sale or building a winning team. This healthy respect ensures more thorough preparation to fight longer and will assist in avoiding presumptuous errors that prematurely end otherwise promising endeavours.

But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?

       Jesus Christ

There will be the need to redesign products – not only because the first versions of a product or service tend to need updates, but also because customer needs are ever changing. There will be unreasonable demands from the customer sometimes (some would argue most times, depending on the industry), the delivery of parts might not always be on time and the competition won’t sit on its hands while they lose market share.

These challenges, if expected and carefully prepared for would not catch the team off guard. In his book, The First Mile, Scott D Anthony analyses what innovators can reasonably expect as they try to go to market with a new product, and how to consistently succeed with a new idea. Seasoned business leaders know that the customer is no fool and always has reasons for every decision, however illogical or otherwise they may be.

It is also important to develop an ability to carefully navigate the pitfalls that end many ideas even as viable alternatives remain in the cooler. That is; if plan A doesn’t pan out, there should be a plan B and if that doesn’t work out, then a plan C should be in place.

Entrepreneur: someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down.

        Sir Richard Branson

Put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket.

     Mark Twain

There is the conversation in many organisations by individuals genuinely interested in making things better and changing things by benchmarking with some better performing organisation, amongst other growth strategies. So meetings are held, the latest research is shared and competitor information is discussed and analysed extensively. When a new direction as a result of the aforementioned, we face the inevitable – the need to embrace risk and come to terms with the facts that our ideas might not work and the customer might reject yet another concerted attempt to improve their lives.

It helps when an innovator is prepared for a wide range of eventualities and a demonstrated ability to navigate complexity makes innovators stand out. Not just getting the great idea (a feat in itself) but the ability to dance with a quick succession of tunes, getting back on one’s feet when knocked down.

The risk always the risk of failure, the risk of loss but also the risk, yes, of being highly regarded by the leading voices of the day and the consequent increase in level of expectation (which should) drive for further achievement.

And so we are sometimes tempted to take the easier option of not speaking up, not looking objectively at the system for necessary changes all leading to a life of tagging along, following the market without thinking “is there a better way”. In the end, systems that do the hard work of following an idea through from start to finish will win. They might make mistakes, but they will win.

I shall be telling this with a sigh,

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

      Robert Frost

In the end, Amundsen would go on to disappear in a rescue mission and was never found. After conquering the South Pole, what else is there to do, other than to sit back and attempt challenges of comparatively lesser difficulty? Thing is, what many know but don’t say is that after a while, chasing the idea of achieving the impossible becomes who you are, even as it leads one to embrace the increasing possibilities of loss.

Ideas edge us on, taking us over the edge (if allowed), getting us to go beyond the limits – so that the world can go farther still. Chasing the idea is ultimately what stands a leader out from the crowd where many have decided to play it safe (and maybe justifiably so), or have tried, failed, and for the most part have refused to try again.

But then, are there not better ways to live?

Why decisions matter

Decisions

During World War 2, there were countless stories that contributed to deciding who won the war. The trajectory of these stories were guided primarily by the decisions made some of which were made under the most inhuman conditions, with leaders having to decide between the devil and the deep blue sea. Under those circumstances, decisions had to be made on how to manage communicationssupplies and what battles to fight next – or even to fight at all. As we know today, these decisions made the difference between life and death, between those who made it home and sadly, those who didn’t.

Why decisions are important

So much of who we arewhat we do and what we become are a product of the decisions we take, and outcomes are almost guaranteed once a decision is taken. Again, this is irrespective of any supporting or contradictory circumstances. The decisions we take determine how far we go in our pursuits, however excited we were when we started. Connecting this to the world of business, decisions around hiring and letting go of talent are known to influence everything from brand perception to referrals for business.

Decision making also influences our careers

Most career counsellors would advise that one of the best ways to know what a firm is like is to ask someone who’s worked there before. This is also a reason for the popularity (in part at least) of sites as glassdoor and payscale. Still, decisions as to what markets to exploit are key in determining if a company would exist in the next ten years. Statistics on startup survival rates tend to omit this fact: they sometimes do not succeed due to an inability to make the right decisions within a given time frame. Research from McKinsey & Co. and work from the founder’s mentality by Bain & Co. show that companies able to consistently make the right decisions about the key areas of their business can expect consistent growth.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Viktor E. Frankl

There are other situations in life and business where decisions are key in determining the terms under which the coming years would be lived. What to do about your customers’ pain points, how to respond when defamed, and what to wear for that special occasion. Also keep in mind that the reactions from the environment are not always easily predictable which only increases the fear of decision making.

There are fears connected to decision making, but they can be dealt with.

Taking decisions off the course of what is familiar is a source of fear and for all the talk about change and innovation (which I do support), there is the possibility of complete failure. There is never a decision without a consequence hence the need to hedge against risk, insure and the like. The importance of taking decisions correctly is so key that firms like Google invest so much in CEO pay – and with good reason too. In another light, firms like Oracle risk engaging two CEOs to possibly double their chances of making the right decisions. Taking decisions will always be better than standing still even as we see some sense in decisions being reappraised periodically as things, people and circumstances change.

Things change, so we need to decide well ahead of time.

“Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil – and no buyers. Oil will be left in the ground. The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.”

Sheikh Yamani

The horse and carriage gave way to the automobile and while the horses remain elegant beasts, they can’t get us to our destination faster than cars can. Holding on to old ways of doing things is a recipe for extinction. There is also the danger of letting people contribute to the decision making process. Even though advisers, mentors and peer groups have their advantages the final decision must be taken by the individual because the consequences (whether good or bad) will be borne primarily by same.

Dealing with fears on the way to getting it right.

We must be prepared to embrace the risk of the decision going south – a price in part for getting things right. The fear of making the wrong decision is welcome when it drives further verification of facts and detailed reviews of possible consequences for every proposed line of action. Needless to say every organisation stands today because someone decided to look on the other side of fear.

To conclude, the UK recently decided to leave the EU (#Brexit) and this raised concerns all over the world. This might be because we have come to believe that decisions have to be taken with us in mind, almost like we have somehow become the centre of the system, seeing as ‘we’ depend so much on ‘them’. Now, whether this ‘dependence’ is their fault or not is subject for another conversation. As a people, the UK retains the right to decide what they want as they would ultimately bear whatever benefits or losses that may come with their decision.

Maybe the rest of us are free to do likewise.

 Here’s a summary of what we looked at;

  1. You have to decide.
  2. Decisions are important.
  3. Decision making also influences our careers.
  4. Fears connected to decision making can be dealt with.
  5. Things change, so we need to decide well ahead of time.
  6. Dealing with fears on the way to getting it right.

 

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One last tool for your moving ahead – Preparation.

Ever wondered why some win and others don’t – whether it’s in the field of sports,entertainment, the sciences or the academia? On the face of it, the motions appear to be the same with everyone seemingly doing the same things. Take for example soccer where both sides play for 90 minutes deploying some of the most advanced strategies, even as they field some of the most expensive players in sports history (going bytransfer fees, or weekly pay) still go on to produce very different results. Among the possible factors responsible for the differences in performance, we’ll be looking closer into the concept of preparation.

Preparation_huffing_

(Harry E. Walker/MCT via Getty Images)

What is preparation?

According to Merriam-Webster, preparation is the activity or process of making something ready or of becoming ready for something.” This may also include the mental, physical and psychological approach to any endeavour. But then, the question presents itself; don’t all professionals prepare? Still, whether through years of study, significant hours of practice or both, it appears that there are different levels of preparation required to achieve perfection. This sometimes leads to the development of unusual disorders even as some sportsmen are known to never stop preparing.

Preparation keeps things simple – and predictable.

With innovation hubs the not-so-new-normal and management gurus espousing the values of innovative (or out-of-the-box) thinking, it does seem strange to root forpredictability. But then I will because, well, some things absolutely have to be predictable due of their nature – the consequences of being unpredictable leading only to loss. Much of the business world – the presentations, plans and meetings are an attempt to keep things as predictable as possible and rightly so. The flight plans of a mission to space must be predictable. Contracts and payment terms for goods and services must be predictable. Not many are overjoyed at surprise additions to their schedule, last minute presentations and the like. Preparation clarifies assumptions and is effective in reducing the number of unforeseen circumstances.

Preparation improves performance.

In some fields as competitive sports, a break in concentration, a distance of one – sixth of an inch or a time of 0.014 seconds is known to make the difference between winners and also-rans. Even where there are skills inborn, preparation makes weak points less so and highlights areas for improvement. As Mark Twain said;

“it ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so”.

Adequate preparation ensures that real scenarios are repeatedly simulated, removing all blind spots while producing higher levels of achievement. As the world gets used to a life of higher quality, consumers will come to expect more from service providers. What is regarded as cutting edge today will be considered minimum requirement for entry tomorrow. This surge in service delivery levels would further drive up demand for those great at their craft. So, this might be a good time critically assess current skill sets and refine in alignment with desired goals, keeping in mind the current industry standards and expectations for the future.

The top 1% in any field prepare, and heavily too.

There is the argument that in every field of endeavor, the highest levels of success are reserved for the top 1% – the “A list” actors in Hollywood, the top Formula One drivers, the best performing CEOs, their organisations and the best school systems. It is not a coincidence that heavy investments in preparation play major roles in their stories. This further ensures that they are able to go beyond what is expected when delivering value. Such levels of dedication also increase the ability to manage unforeseen circumstances as these are better handled by a prepared mind. Preparation ensures performance ahead of the curve, a readiness to deliver higher standards and fewer errors in judgement. Preparation is the way to go.

Here’s a recap of what we’ve looked at;

  1. What is preparation?
  2. Preparation keeps things simple – and predictable.
  3. Preparation improves performance.
  4. The top 1% in any field prepare, and heavily too.

The author can be reached on @ayoibaru or here

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