To Create Innovation, Avoid the Shiny Object Syndrome

To Create Innovation, Avoid the Shiny Object Syndrome

Technology is seductive. Take a look at the devices that we carry around in our pockets or attach to our bodies – phones, monitors, bands and watches – each collecting, distributing and analyzing data. Think about how many of these you have – and think about their purpose. We use them for efficiency and optimization – to get things done better, faster and more reliably. They provide us with something that is missing – flexibility or the chance to gain some insight about our behaviors and actions. As a New Year’s Resolution, a friend of mine purchased a FitBit and has been using it daily. He says it helps keep track of his activity. “I know how much exercise I get each day and each week. It monitors my heart rate and my sleep and reports back to me in a number of ways – from instant updates and reminders to email summaries and encouraging achievement badges. It gives me a focus on my health”, he explained. I loved the enthusiasm and excitement. When we caught up recently, I was interested to find out how the FitBit experiment was going. Had he reached his goals? Did the data help? Did the device deliver? To my surprise, he wasn’t even wearing the device. “Hey, what happened to your watch?”, I asked innocently. “Did you lose it?” “It’s not the watch, I lost”, he said. “It’s the motivation to track myself”. Sensing that there was something more going on here, I pressed further. When we met in early January he was excited about this idea and had spent a great deal of time setting...
The Growth Mindset for Leaders

The Growth Mindset for Leaders

I have recently been pondering the very personal way that leaders have to continually re-invest in their own capabilities. On the one hand it is as if we have a deep well of self-belief that we must constantly tend, maintain and nurture; while on the other it is this source that we continually call upon to achieve our goals. Interestingly, it seems that calling on these reserves is, in fact, a way of replenishing them. It’s very similar to physical exercise – like training for a long distance run. We set a goal, train towards that goal, and then test our capabilities and training by competing in that run. But it is only this last stage – where the full breadth of the challenge is clear – that we are truly tested. This was reinforced to me while reading Maria Popova’s great review of Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dweck’s book explains that our abilities and our talents account for only part of our success (in life, business and so on), and that the personal way that we use those abilities and talents also has a massive impact. She divides this into two separate mindsets – the fixed or the growth mindset. Those who have the self belief that intelligence is static may plateau early in life and not achieve all that could be possible, while those with a growth mindset experience a very different set of circumstances. This is shown in the infographic below. When I look at the growth mindset and consider the approach taken to challenges, obstacles, criticism together with...
Be Happy Now!

Be Happy Now!

As we enter the fourth quarter of yet another year, I’ve come to realize that I know many people who are currently going through a job change or, even more, a substantive career transition. Some are using this “between jobs” time to relax, spend time with family, travel and just take a life inventory of sorts. Others, however, are really struggling with not having a specific daily purpose. Because so many of us define ourselves by our job and work activities, finding ourselves without the affirmation and direction that comes from collaborating with colleagues, partners and customers can be discouraging. So, in such times, especially as we near the yearend holiday season, how can one stay upbeat, focused and generally happy, despite the lack of professional clarity looking forward? Jeff Haden’s Be Happier, 10 Things to Stop Doing Right Now reminded me that it really can be what we stop doing that leads to enhanced contentment. His 10 things are: Blaming Impressing Clinging Interrupting Whining Controlling Criticizing Preaching Dwelling Fearing Of the 10 points that Jeff enumerates, I think that Clinging, Dwelling and Fearing are the three that are most confronting for leaders. In terms of Clinging Jeff states, “When you’re afraid or insecure, you hold on tightly to what you know, even if what you know isn’t particularly good for you.” I’ve written about a very similar topic a few years back, but as today’s job market surely shows, “comfortable misery” persists. This is often what most of us struggle with first when in career transition. Staying in a job longer than we should is something many of...
Take a Risk – the Leader’s Career Path Dilemma

Take a Risk – the Leader’s Career Path Dilemma

As leaders we become used to making decisions. We study the facts, consult with our trusted advisors and  stakeholders, weigh up the risks – and then make up our minds. We use this process because it provides us with the most effective outcomes. But as Ron Ashkenas points out, when it comes to your career, taking a similar risk management approach can deliver a very unsatisfying result. As career success depends on happiness and attitude, he suggests we need to start with these first and then factor in risk later in our thinking process: Happiness criteria: At the end of the day, your career success is determined not just by tangible indicators (compensation, title, reputation) but also by the underlying enjoyment you derive from your work. Though highly subjective, this “happiness” factor often overwhelms all other career issues; to the extent that a person can have an apparently stellar career but still be miserable, or vice versa. The attitude factor: Also driving your career is your ability to learn and adapt over time — to deal with new situations, different personalities, and ongoing surprises — and make the most of them. Although people can paint logical pictures of their career paths in retrospect, in reality most careers are unpredictable — influenced by particular people, seminal moments, or unique opportunities. Having the attitude to grasp these surprises and leverage them is critical. Now, there is no doubt that any career choice involves an element of risk – but what if we follow Ron’s advice and put our appreciation of risk to one side? What if we do as he suggests,...
Be Careful What You Tweet For

Be Careful What You Tweet For

One of the most powerful benefits of social media is that – as a form of media – it brings us closer to our readers. It brings us closer to our customers. In fact, it seems to strip away layers and layers of process, red tape and hierarchy at the click of a mouse. On sites like LinkedIn, I can find, connect to and communicate with business leaders the world over. Here on my blog I can share thoughts and ideas and receive feedback from some of the brightest minds of the business world. And it is a relatively simple process. Deceptively so. For while we have never been more connected, we are also more exposed. With social media we find both success and failure within our grasp. Some time ago, when I wrote about the work-life balance, I was of the opinion that we all live on a continuum – where sometimes our work lives take precedence and at others that our personal lives do. But social media is complicating this spectrum – what we say, do and even believe in one part of our lives can impact other parts. And not just other parts. Other people. Take, for example, the situation where Brooklyn based journalist Caitlin Curran found herself unemployed after participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement. In How Occupy Wall Street Cost Me My Job, Caitlin came face to face with the contradictions and complexities of this new world. With every tweet, blog post, status update, photo, video or podcast, we push ourselves – our individual selves into spaces and situations for which we are...

The Eyes, the Voice and the Shoes of the Customer

Let me start by asking a question – how early did you check your email inbox this morning? And how did you do it? Did you login to your computer from your desktop in the office? Did you use your laptop while eating breakfast? Or did you turn off the morning alarm, roll over, grab your BlackBerry and scroll through the latest and greatest? Let’s move on from email – and ask about social networks. When and how often do you check Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn? Amazingly (to me), a report last year indicated that 53% of people surveyed check their social networks before getting out of bed. That is significant for business. It is significant because these people work in our teams. For me, it is yet another indicator of what I call the life continuum and the need for us all to manage outcomes, not process. But it is significant for another reason – because these people who check their networks, their email and source their news as a high personal priority are also our customers. As leaders, when we talk about leadership, we often talk about vision. We seem to think that leaders – real leaders – have the ability to peer through the chaos and hectic daily activity of business, perceiving a clear path towards a promised (and promising) future. But, in my view, we are seeing a new form of leadership emerge. One which is less reliant on that leader’s personal vision. This new leader engages in what I call customer-oriented thinking. But it’s more than just thinking – it is about the eyes,...