Weekly Research and Commentary on the Future of Business and Technology.
Or You’ll Sink Like A Stone / Transformation – Your Next Leadership Skill / Meet radical Ally, Maxx Bricklin.
Jun 24, 2019
Welcome to the radical Briefing 0011. Here’s a powerful question to get you thinking – when was the last time you considered your biases? Even when we think we aren’t creatures of habit, we are. A dear friend of ours recently shared a mini-exercise with our clients. He asked the group to fold their arms in front of them. Then he asked them to do it again, but with the arms crossing in the opposite direction. It felt weird. Turns out we even have a default for how we cross our arms, and if we aren’t conscious of this minor default behavior – what else are we missing? Thankfully, so many of us have been getting better at recognizing our patterns and beliefs. We are trying harder to become more aware and change our behaviors. It is necessary for strong, diverse, and equitable contributions. And next time you think something can’t be done, try folding your arms and checking if you are holding onto a limiting belief!
Or You’ll Sink Like A Stone
On January 13th, 1964 American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan released his third studio album “The Time They Are A-Changin‘”. The title track quickly became one of Dylan’s most famous songs, capturing the spirit of social and political upheaval that characterized the US in the 1960s.
Not wanting to take away from the important political message of the song – it feels like an eerily well penned description of what the world at large and the world of business in particular is going through at the moment. The pace of technological change is ever increasing (remember: technology today is the slowest, least powerful it will ever be), the playing field is shifting on a daily basis (or maybe more accurately – on a tweet-of-the-moment basis) and market participants (from consumers to competitors) become ever less predictable.
We find that in this world it often is paramount to reason from first principles – the fundamental concepts or assumptions on which a theory, system, or method is based. By breaking down that which is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) into its principle components we gain a ground truth understanding of the world. One which is much more stable and less prone to shift on a whim. And one which allows us to avoid the fallacy of Amara’s Law: “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”
Whenever faced with a new technology/opportunity/shift in the market – ask yourself the question which successfully guided Steve Jobs in placing his bet on the iPod MP3 player: Can you envision a future where this is not true?
Years before the iPod we had other MP3 players. None of them became a success – they simply weren’t good enough. Steve saw these devices and ask himself the above question. The answer is, of course, “no”. Once you have confidence in your answer you can now determine what makes the product viable and successful – and start building.
Insights worth reading this week:
Maybe the best newsletter you can read about AI (and many other topics): Exponential View
Every leader today needs to be skilled at transformation. As well as developing technologies, driving innovation, and executing initiatives – it also means creating a culture of learning and empowerment.
So, what does that mean?
Startups succeed as they are small, nimble, and they live in a world of test, learn, repeat all day long. They know they must continually innovate to create their success. So why do we stop doing that inside large organizations? Transformation is indeed hard when the company gets to 1,000+ people, let alone 100,000. The solution to transform is, however, the same. It happens, one person by one person continually at a time. A dear colleague of mine reminded me a few days ago that if you want systems change, you won’t get the results you want from surface and tactical actions. You must find the ‘switch’ in the genetic code of your company to fundamentally make a shift. And for most organizations that is switching from fear of failure to embrace learning.
That brings me to me the second point. Permission. In my work with leaders from across the board, I find they more often than not are looking for a green light. Someone to say go. Someone to say we believe you. We support you. You may not think you do this, but some of your people most definitely are. For big projects, or course approval is needed. And for the most part in day to day work, looking for approvals wastes time, energy and resources. I used to work for the brilliant John Lilly, who always used to say “Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness (…if you mess up)” – oh, and we rarely messed up. We took ownership and pushed as far as we could. Another thing John did was to breed a culture of empowerment and openness. He led by walking around. He took time to move through the office, stop a while and talk with engineers, marketing people, legal, HR. He wanted to have the pulse of the org, and we all knew John trusted us and we could stop and ask him anything.
Learning and empowerment are at the root of transformation. And remember transformation doesn’t happen overnight it’s a continual process. Best begin now!
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