Future Proof Your Thinking

Stop the World I Want to Get Off opened on Broadway in the 1960s, and decades later the cliché still takes center stage in our quest to maintain the status quo as changes engulf us at a dizzying pace. Adopting an “everything is fine” mentality creates the illusion that we can safely hide, ostrich style, while dynamic changes transform our world. Jack Welch, retired CEO of General Electric, declared this challenge: “If the rate of change within an organization is not equal to or greater than the rate of change surrounding that organization, the organization will die!” Firms that fail to keep pace with change do not thrive.

Success without change is a myth. How many would have imagined that one of the largest lodging companies owns no property (Airbnb), or one of the largest transportation companies owns no vehicles (Uber)? The winds of change are relentless despite our resistance to the speed at which they are advancing. We grasp for the familiar and hold on to what we know. Regardless of our desire to not “mess with success” without change our future evolvement is lost.     

The Mayo Clinic has a well-earned reputation for patient care. Despite accolades and praise, they recognized the value of fixing what is not broken. In 2008, the same year Lehman collapsed, the Mayo Clinic Board of Trustees launched an initiative to restructure their programs for adolescent care, reducing the average time to diagnosis illness. They also discovered ways to reduce the use of anesthesia and imaging. Doctors bristled at some of the modifications that impacted their routines, including cardiac surgery practices. However, they saw the handwriting on the wall indicating that without new methodologies, the future would include increasing costs while reimbursements would be reduced.

Mayo Clinic could have proudly accepted their status as one of the top clinics and ignored options to dig deeply and adjust to changing realities.

Instead, they burst through the “we are great” bubble to broaden their perspective and search for new opportunities. As Daniel Kahneman reported in Thinking: Fast or Slow, “We tend to think that what we see is all that there is to see. We adopt blinders to shield us from contradictory information.”  We skim over, or discount, data that does not support our beliefs. We get stuck in the narrow space of present reality instead of creating space for broad innovation.

To counter our tendencies to rely solely on information that matches our assumptions and to depend on information from known sources, we can act to expand narrow thinking. Consider the following options for avoiding confirmation bias:

  1. Allocate time for reflection, analysis, and imagination. The KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) has only an element of truth in it. Dynamic factors and new realities are rarely simple. H. L. Mencken captured this truth by saying, “There is always an easy solution to every human problem” neat, plausible and wrong.” We must go beyond what has always been done if we are to stretch our capacity and secure our future.
  2. Identify “motivated reasoning” where rational analysis twists to substantiate current practices. Retaining existing procedures offers comfort, but blinds us to wiser alternatives. Smart choices mean we must consider new ideas to address the cresting waves of change. Standing still in a quicksand environment is terminal. As Einstein stated, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking we used when we created them.”
  3.  Recognize the importance of asking probing questions. As Dr. E. Edwards Deming remarked, “If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.” Wisdom requires the search for new possibilities and alternatives. Expand your mindsets to see around corners, detect trends, examine implications and identify new opportunities.
  4. Accept the fact that the greatest obstacle to our future is not ignorance, but the illusion that we already know all that we need to know. Greater specialization has produced benefits but it also introduces problems. Specialists often adopt a narrow frame of reference and lose sight of interdependencies embedded in the big picture. We must dig deeper and search more broadly to detect new knowledge and insights by asking what is new, what have we learned and what novel resources or business models should we tap. Mark Twain observed, “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It is what we know for sure that just ain’t so.
  5. Resist peer pressure and the temptation to go along with the crowd. We may become caught up by enthusiasm for a new initiative but step lightly and don’t just go with the flow, because group-think usually conceals flaws. For a secure future, go outside the established parameters and strategically consider all mindsets to fully understand alternatives, risks, and opportunities.

We cannot stop the world–and we should not. Our future lies in embracing possibility thinking, adopting new mindsets, and leveraging change instead of watching from the sidelines. We can learn to see events as they are, address our mental traps, apply critical thinking practices and commit to casting aside status quo thinking in favor of proactive wisdom. The future is where we will spend the rest of our lives. We must study to understand trends that position us for continual success.

This article was first published at BizCatalyst360.

First Things First: Tips to move you forward

When you have a to-do list the size of Montana, how do you tackle it? Do you have a fail-safe practice that garners favorable results consistently? Today’s tasks seem to multiply yet the hours in each day are stuck at 24. These tips can help get you centered and on track toward getting things done. What else can you add to help readers who struggle with too much to do? This could be the help you’ve been looking for.

When I whittle down my To-Do list, it feels terrific. However, the joy disguises the unpleasant fact that those finished items may not have been the ones most important to complete. On a list, everything appears equally important and it is easier to tackle a simple or non-essential task. In my pressing desire to get something done, I frequently overlook what is critical, what is outdated, or what has lost its importance. I justify diversions as motivational momentum to keep going, but that’s not what should dictate task selection.

Too often the time I spend on minor tasks sidetracks me from doing what is most important. I accept admonitions of “keeping your eye on the prize” or Stephen R. Covey’s (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) to do “first things first.” Yet, I can procrastinate. While Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind can decide to think about things tomorrow, I should not. The pace of change in the 1860s was leisurely.   Certainly, this is not the case today. Now, time matters since windows of opportunity close rapidly and risks mount. Quick response to critical issues is a necessity. Would you want a doctor to address a patient’s broken finger before attending to a blocked windpipe? Priorities and sequencing action are critical. Triaging a situation is not only good medical practice, the discipline works for all of us.

We all need to reassess what must be done first to ensure delivery of the desired result. This means resisting the temptation to quickly dash off a response without a full analysis. United Airlines CEO, Oscar Munoz’s, first reaction to a passenger being dragged off a plane on April 9, 2017, was incomplete, insensitive, disrespectful and later regretted. He damaged the brand and spurred Congressional hearings.

Consider the following triage concepts for your To-Do list:
  1. Confirm information and assumptions to prioritize what must be done first. Not everything is a number one priority.
  2. Take a proactive role to prevent significant issues from escalating into a crisis. Early intervention pays dividends.
  3. Recognize recurrent firefights and search for a cause, rather than repeatedly addressing symptoms. While it feels good to put out fires, preventing them is much wiser.
  4. Accept that you cannot successfully multi-task challenging issues. Critical issues deserve your full attention and creative thinking.
  5. Know what to cut from your To-Do list and challenge the necessity of new tasks. Many issues are mundane and should be delegated or canceled.
  6. Concentrate on adding value for the long-term. Attention to customers must come before busy work or administrative trivia.
  7. Employ out-of-the-box thinking and mental agility. Today’s problems cannot be solved by yesterday’s solutions.
  8. What would you add, that has worked well for you?
There are only 24 hours in a day, so use them wisely. Concentrate on achieving your goals and the actions that move you toward them. Learn to say no to wasteful pursuits and distractions so that your time is optimized. You will reduce stress and achieve better outcomes.

This article was first published by BizCatalyst360.

INTRODUCING: Brilliant or Blunder Action Guide

INTRODUCING … Brilliant or Blunder Action Guide (2017) the learning manual for putting Success Mindsets to work for your organization. This recently published companion to the original text, Brilliant or Blunder: Navigating Uncertainty, Opportunity, (2014) brings detail and clarity for implementation of the methodology and processes unique to developing Success Mindsets.

Businesses today are under pressure to make better decisions, and make them quickly against a backdrop of dynamically changing environments. Leaders are called upon to confront challenges that challenge their ability to deliver results. Breakthroughs surface from this new framework built on situational mastery. To confront changing realities, leaders must learn to think critically and become mentally agile. Do we need smarter thinking? Our dynamic work environments offer new opportunities, and new risks, that were largely unknown just a few decades past. Clear analysis is more vital than ever.

The Brilliant or Blunder Action Guide comes at the request of professors who adopted the original book as the text for their courses, and by leaders who needed a manual to aide in implementing Success Mindsets in their organizations.  It outlines the steps to master situational awareness, critical analysis and breakthrough thinking to ensure that the right decision is made at the right time for the right results. Both Brilliant or Blunder and the companion guide are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all your favorite book sites.

Please visit www.brilliantorblunder.com to get a free chapter and watch a one minute video on the Success Mindsets Framework. For further information, please contact Mary Lippitt, Founder, Enterprise Management Ltd. via email info@enterprisemgt.com.

 

Success Mindsets For Astute Scanning

By: Dr. Mary Lippitt | March 20, 2017

We all recognize that better decisions follow reliable data collection. However, obtaining it remains a challenge. Too often we accept a penetrating glimpse of the obvious or past practice since it is safe and efficient to keep doing what we have always done.  Unfortunately, this tendency keeps us in an echo chamber where old assumptions reside and reverberate.mindsets

Generating valuable current information requires a new approach. We just cannot wish for insight, we must adopt practices that ensure that we really know what has happened, what is happening and what will happen. Otherwise, we pay a heavy price for being blindsided, surprised or shocked by events. Volkswagen’s emission control software or Wells Fargo cross-selling requirements illustrate the dangers of siloed thinking and superficial analysis.  These failures were not a matter of low IQ or inexperience. They were created by constrained frames of reference or restricted mindsets. Just as looking only one way before crossing the street is foolhardy, relying on one slice of information before making an organizational decision is wrong.

The term mindset has various interpretations. My definition centers on a willingness to investigate all situational facets when confronting complexity.   Let me give an everyday example, if you saw raining pouring down outside, you will likely decide to wear a raincoat rather than a wool jacket.   Your decision is independent of personal style or education.   Your choice depended on current information or realities. Certainly, organizational conundrums are more complex than picking outerwear but the process of assessing conditions before acting applies to both personal and business decisions.  We must collect and weigh information to make smart decisions. Lazy thinking is risky behavior. We need to keep on top of events to excel.

Exploring six organizational mindsets deliver success and avoid blunders.  The six mindsets cover what:

  • new or innovative offerings can be launched;
  • customers want and need;
  • systems, infrastructure, and policies improve alignment;
  • processes improve the bottom line;
  • staffing and culture support sustained excellence; and
  • trends and alliance create new opportunities.

Understanding and using six operational aspects does not require a Ph.D.  Instead, we need a willingness to collect information and this collection can be easily guided by a checklist of questions for each mindset. While checklists appear simplistic, professionals rely on them. Surgeons, lawyers, and pilots consult checklists to confirm all aspects have been covered. Leaders who use a success mindset checklist develop a complete environmental scan.

Success follows a “ready, aim, fire” sequence, where being ready requires a complete investigation, aiming evaluates alternatives and firing is the decision on action to take. Certainly reducing the process to “ready, fire” appears tempting but it hides a high cost. Complexity and change demand full reality check. And, it pay-offs by avoiding having to spend time recalling, re-issuing or repairing misguided decisions. Astute scanning advances your reputation conserves resources and ensures delivers desired results.

First published at:  https://www.bizcatalyst360.com/success-mindsets-for-astute-scanning/

Hidden Figures Reveal How To Be A Continuous Learner

By Dr. Mary Lippitt | February 10, 2017learning

The movie Hidden Figures has justifiably won acclaim not only for the story and acting. Octavia Spencer’s portrayal of Dorothy Vaughan also depicted the need to keep her skills up to date. She realized her job as a mathematician was likely in jeopardy when NASA installed an early IBM computer. She saw the handwriting on the wall and prepared for her and her staff’s future by learning FORTRAN.    When programmers were needed, she and her staff transitioned seamlessly into new higher paying positions.

We can also be proactive and prepare for our future by:

  1. Scanning and staying alert to trends both in and outside the organization and discipline. If you are a professional driver, what do drones, driverless cars, and automation mean for your job?
  2. Observing trends in your organization. Who was promoted and why were they promoted? What career paths have worked for others? Will greater specialization or general managerial skills be in more demand?
  3. Finding mentors who can serve as reality testing sounding board and source of career guidance. In addition, those outside your chain of command cab share their experience and suggest new paths.
  4. Proposing improvements to existing processes or practices. Displaying initiative and creativity increases visibility, while also expanding your skill set.
  5. Building a professional network as well as a personal network. Join your professional association to learn what skills are being sought. In addition, professional associations have job boards that obtain early identification of opportunities.
  6. Preparing a developmental plan for the next six months. Record your goals and milestones to increases the likelihood they will be accomplished. Update it regularly with your manager.
  7. Seeking honest feedback from peers, managers, customers and direct reports. Feedback not only can reveal our blind spots but it lets others know of your interest in improvement.
  8. Attending developmental special events, seminars, and workshops. Valuable nuggets can be gained from both topic and participant exchanges.
  9. Learning from your mistakes as much as your successes. The only failure is life is not to learn from a disappointment or misstep.
  10. Developing your strategic thinking ability. While daily pressures consume our schedules, we may overlook the importance of planning for our future.

The title, Hidden Figures, refers both to uncovering new space flight data and the racial bias that concealed talented people. And it also reveals the importance of recognizing emerging trends and preparing for our future. After all the future is where we will all be spending the rest of our lives.

First Published by: https://www.bizcatalyst360.com/hidden-figures-reveal-how-to-be-a-continuous-learner/

People Make Up Their Own Minds At Elections And In Organizations

By Dr. Mary Lippitt | January 30, 2017

Winning support requires more than packaged positions and slogans. Building a ground swell or promising does not equate to a strong conviction. Emotions ebb as well as escalate based on personal assessments.

Persuasion tactics such as promising a prosperous outcome, warning of impending disaster, stoking excitement at rallies and calling on loyalty are flawed tactics. People do not blindly accept a message at face value. They scrutinize the content to see whether it is beneficial or not. And, repeating a message over and over again silences dissent but it does not win agreement. Leaders need to shift from employing persuasion tactics to practicing influence. Influence is based on knowing what the audience wants.

Influencing concentrates on the audience’s wishes, rather than what the leader seeks. Addressing audience concerns and struggles fuels enthusiastic support. The 2016 election illustrates the power of influence over persuasion. Donald Trump highlighted supporters concerns and promised to rapidly change deliver on change. Secretary Hillary Clinton’s well-crafted message focused on past accomplishments, her opponent’s weaknesses, her potentially historic candidacy and offered consistency. She misread the desire for jobs and the dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Polished delivery is secondary to delivering a resonating message. To gain committed support a leader must know what is top of mind. Political candidates confront a multitude of factions but focus groups, interviews, feedback and town hall meetings disclose their concerns.

The ability to influence stems from weaving these issues into a compelling message that sways thinking. At times, simultaneously satisfying all concerns is not possible. However, recognizing a viewpoint as valid and agreeing to address it at some point in the future wins support. Breaking the glass ceiling was not as important as boosting employment. Secretary Clinton won the popular vote but her goal was to win the White House.

Leaders need to listen to audience concerns before speaking to them. Knowing what your audience thinks beats charisma and showmanship every time.

First Published at:  https://www.bizcatalyst360.com/people-make-up-their-own-minds-at-elections-and-in-organizations/

Preparing For What’s Next: Leveraging Your Company’s Life Cycle

By Dr. Mary Lippitt | December 15, 2016business lifecycle

What are you focusing on now? After a successful launch, entrepreneurs have a choice. They can sit back and continue to do what they have done so far or they can recognize the need to prepare for what comes next. Too often entrepreneurs make the wrong choice to stay the course using the logic “why mess with success.” However there is good reason to refocus based on changing realities. Mark Twain’s comment that even if you are on the right track you will get run over if you just sit there. And we know that 50% of new businesses fail. To ensure sustained success, leaders must adopt a strategic perspective based on industry trends and their organization’s life cycle. Everyone knows the value of using the product or project life cycle and overlook the impact of the organization’s cycle. Learn how to leverage the six organizational stages to seize new opportunities and avoid pitfalls. Here’s my recent Interview on this important topic, as conducted by Marcia Zidle, host of The Business Edge:

Preparing for What’s Next: Leveraging Your Company’s Life Cycle

First Published at:  https://www.bizcatalyst360.com/preparing-for-whats-next-leveraging-your-companys-life-cycle/

Distorted Perceptions

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Perception: Disconnects, Distortions and Deficiencies

We often hear that seeing is believing, but should we always believe what we see? Our distorted perceptions can be superficial and unduly influenced by past experiences.  Architects, IT professionals and security personnel can “see” the same office, but what registers and remains with them varies significantly.  We see through our filters.  We select a narrow slice of reality under the guise that we already “know” what is key.  Even if we collect a broad scan, we typically retain only 90% of what we see.

To compound our distorted perceptions problem, what we do retain is not always accurate.  These perceptional deficiencies can be addressed in several ways:

    1. We have a perception deficiency that is best addressed by asking others what they see. Visual allusions, like the one below, illustrate that there are multiple correct views of see the same reality.  Some may focus on the vase, while others see two profiles.  Accepting that there is another point of view increases our ability to understand current realities.perception
    2. We can overcome perceptual distortions by avoiding stereotypes. Generalized judgments gloss over distinctions and offer the false illusion of uniformity. Stereotypes also encourage simplistic thinking and undue confidence that things are under control. Stereotypical labels also reduce the potential for respect. Kierkegaard captured this reality when he stated: “Once you label me, you negate me.”  Labels transform the other person into one of “THEM,” which is an impersonal abstraction. Stereotypes blind us.perception

Perception disconnect are also based on fixed perceptions. Our world is becoming more complex, integrated and agile, and that fixed perceptions limit our ability to collect information and recognize interactions. Holding a fixed or narrow view means that we misapply our perceived knowledge. Convinced that our perceived knowledge we refuse to pivot or adjust our views. Instead of listening we merely seek agreement. When others recognize our stubborn view, they fail to introduce new perspectives since it seems wise not to not “rock the boat.” Fixed views produce overlooked opportunities and alternatives.

We get our eyes examined to ensure that we see clearly.  We must also test our perceptions.  For as Thoreau noted: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”  We must continually test our perception before we accept what we see at first glance is all that there is to see.  To paraphrase Pogo:  we have met the enemy and he is us.

Are You Rewarding A While Requiring B?

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Reward SystemsReward systems

I decided on my doctoral thesis topic after reading Steven Kerr’s 1975 article, The Folly of Rewarding A When Hoping for B, in the Academy of Management Journal (volume 18, pps.769-782). In the decades since this published, one might assume that organizations revised their reward systems to match their current strategy. Unfortunately, many have not.

In my consulting work, I still see organizations holding on to outdated metrics and systems. Many still promote individual stars despite needing teamwork. These organizations focus on short-term measures overlooking long-term impact. Despite a desire for openness and transparency, in some organizations providing honest feedback results in your being labeled a “non-team player.” Just as offering innovative ideas in response to requests can either advance or hinder a career. So it should come as no surprise that employees monitor and value actions more than pronouncements.

Check how well your organization’s recognition practices encourage desired outcome to meet current goals by asking the following:

  • Are promotions given to those who have clearly contributed to current strategies? Did a promotion announcement accurately depict the person’s accomplishments?
  • Is there an effective balance between individual and team measures?
  • Have strategic goals been translated from vague terminology into specific outcomes? Are performance metrics tied to today’s desired outcomes?
  • When a mistake occurs is the first question: who is responsible or what can we learn? What happens to those who take a risk but miss the target?
  • Do problems stay hidden until they become a public nightmare?
  • Is communication filtered or massaged before it travels up the chain of command? Are problems and challenges hidden?
  • How quickly is teamwork, outstanding service or initiative recognized?
  • Is reward system re-alignment a key part of the strategic planning process?

The good news is that some companies recognize disconnects within their recognition systems. Proctor and Gamble revised their reward systems to target what they wanted: product line sales growth.

First published: http://bizcatalyst360.com/are-you-rewarding-a-while-requiring-b/#sthash.0IvpmiXI.dpuf

 

Invisible Fences: Limiting Constraints