Move From Consensus to Alignment

March 26, 2007

Here is another tip from my new “innovation tips” book.

There are two extremes of innovation culture. One is “the right of infinite appeal.” This is a culture where anyone, anytime, has the right to veto any suggestions, bring the process back to the starting point. In this environment, very little gets done, and innovation is completely stifled, as everything is reduced to the lowest common denominator. This is the most common culture – the consensus culture.

The other extreme is “run and gun.” These are companies with lots of people with lots of ideas, all of which seem to be getting implemented simultaneously. The good news here is, there is in fact quite a bit of action. Unfortunately, no one is talking to anyone else, and everyone is doing work in his little corner of the universe. It creates more anarchy than progress.

A company needs to strive for a combination of these two: well-thought-out ideas that get incubated and propagated rapidly through an organization.

The solution?

Organizations should strive for alignment. Using this philosophy, people in the organization say, “Even though this is not my solution and is not the way I would implement it, I will support it as though it were my idea.”

This is a simple, yet wildly powerful tool for gaining momentum with teams. Instill this mindset early in the process and you will find incredible gains throughout your innovation journey.

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Quote of the Day

March 21, 2007

In particular, he sought to restore to his life several qualities he had shunned as a businessman — spontaneity, patient acceptance of the uncontrollable, and an uncluttered awareness of each moment. To his surprise, this new mindset seemed to slow time down. Rather than rushing through life fixated on goals, he gained a richer perspective from savoring the present, especially uncluttered small, everyday times.

- Maggie Jackson, columnist for the Boston Globe, in a review of Eugene O’Kelly book, “Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life.” O’Kelly, former head of the accounting firm KPMG, wrote his memoirs during his last few months before passing away from brain cancer.

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Why It’s So Hard to Be Happy

March 19, 2007

Have you noticed more and more literature supporting the goal-free concept? I have. And nearly every day, someone writes to tell me about an article they read that touts the benefits of “not focusing on your goals.”

One such article entitled,”Why It’s So Hard to Be Happy” by Michael Wiederman, appeared in the Feb/Mar 2007 issue of “Scientific American Mind.”

In the article, Wiederman discusses 5 tips for being happier. Numbers 1 and 5 may seem familiar:

#1 – Do Not Focus on Goals. …you must be vigilant against that internal voice that whispers, “But I would be a bit happier if only…” (He goes on to explain why achieving a goal does not necessarily bring happiness. I am reminded of my goal-free statistics: 58% of people admit to willingly sacrificing their happiness today in the belief that when they achieve their goals they will be happier. Unfortunately, 41% of Americans say that achieving their goals has not made them happier and has only left them disillusioned.)

#5 – Practice Living in the Moment. Start small by focusing on your sensory experience while engaging in a routine task. Over time, spend less energy thinking about the past or the future. (Being present is key to being goal-free)

The other 3? #2 – Make Time to Volunteer, #3 – Practice Moderation, #4 – Strive for Contentment

There is also a section in the article labeled: “Goals + Achievement = Happiness?” The question mark at the end is critical. As you might suspect, the equation is not true. Wiederman provides more evidence that money can not buy happiness. He quotes one study done by Michael R. Hagerty of the Graduate School of Management at U Cal Davis. Hagerty discovered that “the greater the income disparity within a community, the less its residents were satisfied with their lives.” Wiederman concludes, “When we are aware that others are better off than we are, our own satisfaction suffers.” (This conclusion is supported by other studies from my blog)

The article also cites psychologists Williams D. McIntosh of Georgia Southern University and Leonard L. Martin of the University of Georgia who theorize that “people who repeatedly focus on attaining goals are less likely to be happy.” Wiederman concludes, “Psychologists have found that we humans are good at deceiving ourselves about the future. We tend to believe that our prospects for increased happiness are better than our current circumstances.” Of course, this is not true.

The most interesting study was by Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at U Cal Riverside, who looked at the correlation between happiness and success. She observed that, “Happy people were not necessarily happier after their success than they were before, but they tended to be happier than others who were less successful.” Her conclusion? “Success is related to happiness – but as a consequence, not a cause, of mood…happy people have other personality traits that facilitate success.”

It’s a good article, so I recommend you buy this issue of Scientific American Mind. Better yet, subscribe to the magazine.

P.S. Michael Wiederman just agreed to do a podcast for Stay tuned.

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When a Map is a Compass

March 16, 2007

In Goal-Free Living, the first secret is “Use a Compass, Not a Map.”  Today, someone sent me an interesting article by Donald Berwick (President and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement) that recounts a story told by Karl Weick in his book, The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch Disaster.

Weick tells the story of a reconnaissance group of soldiers lost in the Alps on a training mission. It was winter, they had no maps, and they seemed hopelessly lost. They were preparing to die, when one soldier found a map crushed down at the bottom of his pack. With the map in hand, they regained their courage, bivouacked for the night, and proceeded out of the mountains the next day to rescue. Only when they were recuperating in the main camp did someone notice that the map they had been using wasn’t a map of the Alps at all; it was a map of the Pyrenees. Weick uses this story to point out that sensemaking is an act of its own, valuable in itself, and independent of any notion of reality. “This story raises the remarkable idea,” he says, “that, when you are lost, any map will do.”

The person who sent me the article, Brad Kolar, (a former Accenture colleague of mine, now with the University of Chicago Medical Center) commented, “While the story doesn’t specifically talk about a compass, isn’t that what this is about?  The soldiers probably had a vague sense of direction and certainly an implicit understanding that they were ‘up’ and needed to be ‘down.’  The map turned out to be more of a proxy for a compass than it was an actual map.”

This is such a powerful concept.  I know of too many people who wait to take action until they have all of the facts.  They intellectualize their decisions.  Unfortunately, this rarely leads to the desired outcome, because immobility is the often result.  Taking steps – in any direction – will lead you down new paths, giving you new experiences and insights.  If you choose to learn from these experiences, every step taken is a step taken forward.  Even if you don’t have a map in hand, what actions can you take today that will move you forward?

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Quote of the Day

March 9, 2007

It stands to reason that if we direct all our efforts towards reaching a goal, we stand in grave danger of losing everything on which we have based our daily activities. For when a goal is superimposed on an activity instead of evolving out of it, we often feel cheated when we reach it… If we are trained only for success, then to gain it we must necessarily use everyone and everything for this end; we may cheat, lie, crawl, betray, or give up all social life to achieve success. How much more certain would knowledge be if it came from and out of the excitement of learning itself.

- Viola Spolin, Improvisation for the Theatre

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Ethos, Pathos, Logos

March 7, 2007

Today’s blog entry is from my new “innovation tips book.” But this is also an extremely useful concept in every day life. In fact, anyone who knows me eventually hears me say: “ethos, pathos, logos.” Selling is fundamental to your success – personally and professionally. Ethos, pathos, logos is a simple recipe for selling anything – products, services, or ideas.

Ethos, pathos, and logos are the three corners of Aristotle’s “Rhetorical Triangle” – the use of language to persuade. Ethos is credibility, pathos is empathy, and logos is logic. I find that selling your ideas using this construct, in that order, leads to more persuasive arguments.

Ethos: First, establish your credibility. You need to get people to listen to your ideas. They will only listen if you have credibility. Why should they believe you? So, before trying to sell your ideas, make sure people believe you, trust you, and want to listen to you. Maybe you can start with a story that establishes your credibility. When someone hears that I was the cover story in O, The Oprah Magazine and I am one of Tom Peters’ “Cool Friends,” they listen to me differently. Testimonials and trusted references build credibility. Do this first, without sounding like you are hyping yourself, because at the end of the day, you are there to create value for others. This leads to the second step…

Pathos: Create an emotional bond with others. Speak their language. Address their needs. Tell them what they will get out of paying attention. Why should they care? This is all about context. Remember, people rarely listen to the emergency procedures when an airplane is taking off, but they are highly attentive when the plane is about to crash. You must get people to the point where they really want to hear what you have to say about the proposed solution.

Logos: Finally, after addressing credibility and empathy, you get to the solution. Features and functions. How will the change be implemented? How will it affect them? What do they need to do differently? What actions do you want them to take?

Want a successful change effort? If so, you must be able to sell your ideas. In order to sell your ideas, you need to understand how people make decisions. People rarely make decisions intellectually, they make them emotionally. Ethos, pathos, logos is a powerful, emotionally-driven, non-manipulative formula for persuading others to take action.

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Feature in Newsweek

March 1, 2007

I was recently featured in Newsweek as part of an innovation roundtable. The online article can be read by clicking here.

Another roundtable member, Susan Baird from Quill Corporation, is a client of mine.

And be sure to click on “Creating Innovation Through Technology” in the related articles section. I am quoted there too.

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Move Your Innovators to the Front-Line

March 1, 2007

I am writing a new book on innovation that contains over 100 tips for turning creativity into profitability. Every tip is bite sized (typically one page in length) in order to be easily digestible. Each week I will post at least one tip from the book. Organizations who are interested in creating a culture of innovation can request an early draft of the book by writing us at

Here is tip #1 from the book:

Move Your Innovators to the Front-Line

A study carried out at Eckerd College in Florida challenges traditional “back-room” innovation models. Managers at the school were tested to determine whether they were “innovators” (those who do things differently and break the rules) or “adapters” (those who do things better within the rules).

The managers were then broken into teams to solve a given problem. Each team was comprised of two groups: 1) the “planners” who had to work out a solution to the problem, and 2) the “implementers” who were charged with making it work. There were three teams, each made up of planners and implementers.

Team #1: The planners were made up of the “innovators” and the implementers group was comprised of “adapters”.

Team #2: The planning group had both “innovators” and “adapters,” as did the group of implementers.

Team #3: The planning group contained only “adapters” and the implementers group contained only “innovators”.

Which was most effective? Although most organizations use the first model, the third model was most effective. The “adapters” were able to come up with a design very quickly. The innovators were then able to take that design and build something from it, correcting and improving as they went along.

Move innovation out of the back room and bring it to the forefront of your organization. This creates greater speed, responsiveness, and flexibility.

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