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Sep 20th, 2021 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

Doing A Job

For all you people managers out there — here is a great article from the late Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. It summarizes Rickover’s leadership principles and starts with a somewhat trite but nonetheless incredibly important observation:

“Human experience shows that people, not organizations or management systems, get things done.”

It sounds so trivial and obvious — but the number of times I have observed leaders act as if it’s all about “the system” is staggering. Normally, it starts out well-intended enough: A leader spots room for improvements, processes which are out of whack, have grown either stale or mutated into a Winchester House of epic proportions. He then goes on to bring processes and systems to his organization.

And this is where things tend to go wrong.

Instead of taking a step back, thoroughly analyzing the challenge and opportunity at hand, and consulting his people, the system will be blindly implemented as it is “a class-leading best practice”. In the process, common sense often gets thrown out of the window, people become disenfranchised, and work will be done for the sake of “following the process.”

Here is an example: I have been part of too many organizations where the annual “restructuring” was both a recurring rite of passage, a fixture on the calendar, and a (typically) completely nonsensical endeavor. Not once in my whole career was any of those restructurings based on conversations with the people who were getting restructured… You can imagine the effectiveness of these measures. And instead of taking a step back and asking “what went wrong” and “how do we make it better”, companies instead opted for yet another restructuring.

Make no mistake — I am not saying that companies don’t need to, nor shouldn’t adapt to their changing environment (both internally and externally). But doing so by not starting from the core of every organization — people — is a grave mistake.

Sep 16th, 2021

Common Sense

Years ago, at a session with the leadership team at Pearson, one of the participants showed a slide which read:

“It is not complicated. It is just hard.”

It is a good reminder that in many situations, common sense really ought to prevail. But as the saying goes, “common-sense ain’t common practice”, we often have a tendency to go for the complicated and/or complex. This might be due to our educational upbringing (“it can’t be right if it’s easy”), a sense of importance and value we get from devising something elaborate, or an insecurity around standing one’s ground based on...

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Sep 13th, 2021

The One Thing

I finally got around reading “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller — and yes, the irony is not lost on me that it took me quite a while to make the book “the one thing”… 😆

That being said, it is a quick and good read. I don’t think you will learn much new here, but the opening question is a good one to ponder over — especially as it is Monday morning when I write these lines:

“What’s the one thing you can do this week such that by doing it, everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”

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Sep 9th, 2021

Disruption is a State Change

As part of our work at be radical, and specifically the research we are doing on “disruption” (whatever that term actually means — but that’s a story for another post), we have come to believe that most disruptions tend to be “state changes”: A different (better/cheaper/faster/more convenient) way to fulfill a customer need — with the underlying need not changing all that much over time.

Take the (in)famous Blockbuster example: The former leader in home entertainment, decimated by Netflix. Alas, all that changed was the medium: From VHS videotapes to DVDs, and now streaming — the underlying...

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Sep 2nd, 2021

The Hardest Part of Doing Anything Is…

How do you complete the sentence “The hardest part of doing anything is…?” It’s an interesting and important question to mull over. I have asked this question many, many times — of successful entrepreneurs, founders just starting out, CEOs, students. As varied as the folks I asked that question, as varied were the answers: Starting. Pushing through the ups and downs. Knowing when to stop. Knowing when not to stop. Selling. Folding.

I have come to believe that the true answer might very well be: Everything — The hardest part of doing anything is everything.

Every part of the journey...

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Aug 30th, 2021


Watching this year’s Olympics (or was it last year’s Olympics — as it was indeed Tokyo 2020…), and some of the terrific performances, made me think about confidence. Confidence as in “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.”

Clearly a quality you need to have to compete at the highest level. But also a quality we all need to possess, to be successful at what we do. And as you certainly have heard the phrase “fake it, till you make it” — we often extend confidence into the ream of abilities or qualities...

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Aug 26th, 2021

On Success and Failure

You heard me talk about my disdain for the word “failure” before (for example, here and here).

Don Norman, author of the wonderful book “The Design of Everyday Things”, wrote this about failure:

We need to remove the word failure from our vocabulary, replacing it instead with learning experience. To fail is to learn: we learn more from our failures than from our successes. With success, sure, we are pleased, but we often have no idea why we succeeded. With failure, it is often possible to figure out why, to ensure that it will never happen again.

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Aug 23rd, 2021

Listen. Truly Listen.

Do you find yourself in a situation where you are competing with an (often) well-established incumbent? One who typically has more resources, access to the market, and established market share?

For most of us, this is the reality of startup life. Rarely do we get to play on a green meadow, swim in a blue ocean, or get to leave our mark on a white space (pick your metaphor of choice here).

Much has been written about how to compete in such situations — the proverbial David vs Goliath. Many companies have successfully navigated these waters, many more have not...

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Aug 19th, 2021

Smaller And Smaller

During my most recent Disrupt Disruption podcast with Dave Goldblatt, where talked about the disruptive potential of all things crypto (the podcast episode will drop in about two weeks), he recited the Prego story: Prego is a rather large maker of pasta sauce. In the 1980s Prego tasked a famous market researcher Howard Moscowitz with finding the perfect pasta sauce for the American market. Moscowitz created 45 varieties of pasta sauce — ranging from chunky to smooth, sweet to spicy, and anything in-between and took them to households across the country. All with an aim to find the...

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Aug 16th, 2021

Newton’s Third Law of Motion

In 1686 Sir Isaac Newton presented his groundbreaking three laws of motion in the “Principia Mathematica Philosophiae Naturalis” and changed science forever. Recently, while walking down the main shopping and dining street in our hometown Boulder, Colorado, I was reminded of Newton’s third law of motion:

“Whenever one object exerts a force on a second object, the second object exerts an equal and opposite force on the first.”

Action and reaction — a principle which not only holds true for the physical world but also our relationships: Be grumpy, unhappy, annoyed and the world will react in the exact same...

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