Best Practices Are Stupid on BNET’s The Live One

August 30, 2011

Today I was interviewed on BNET’s The Live One. Check out this 20 minute video for some perspectives from my new book, “Best Practices Are Stupid.” This book will be available on September 29, 2011.

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How I Used Crowdsourcing The Wrong Way And What You Can Learn From It

August 27, 2011

We often hear the expression “Wisdom of crowds.” And if you have read my articles, it will be apparent that I am an ardent fan of crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing makes the argument that the aggregation of information produced by groups, result in decisions that are often better than those that are made by a single individual. However, to get better results, it is critical to use the right crowds in the right way.

I decided to use crowdsourcing to help develop the title for my book that is being released next month. To better enable the group conversation, I first developed a large number of potential titles that I felt may be appropriate.

To provide some context, the book contains 40 counterintuitive and controversial strategies for making innovation a repeatable process in any organization.

One of the tips is titled “Hire People You Don’t Like.” Due to its seemingly counterintuitive perspective, the publisher thought this might make a good title. To test out their theory, they mocked up a cover design that was as provocative as the title itself (see the graphic). In large letters, they showcased the obvious viewpoint of “Fire People You Don’t Like,” but then crossed out the term “fire” and replaced it with the more surprising word-twist “hire.”

It was time to get input from the “crowd.” In this case, I turned to my 1,000 Facebook followers to solicit their opinions. I posted the above-mentioned cover along with my list containing a number of other potential titles and requested the feedback of my friends.

Despite the many options submitted for consideration, 95 percent of the people immediately gravitated toward “Hire People You Don’t Like,” quickly dismissing the rest.

In that moment, the title was determined. Or was it?

Upon further review, I noticed that the responding crowd was composed of long-time friends, fellow speakers, a few innovation experts and a broad range of other people.

Although the vast majority selected the “fire/hire” name, it was determined that a title containing those specific words would appeal to human resources professionals who focus on recruiting. The few responding innovation experts duly noted that most companies looking to innovate would likely pass on this title. It would not appeal to my target audience: innovation experts. While provocative, it doesn’t speak to their needs.

Had I asked a more specific and targeted crowd—innovation experts, book industry experts, book marketing experts—I might have gotten a very different answer. And perhaps a more useful one. However, at this point, that was not an option.

So we eliminated “Hire People You Don’t Like” from the list and went back to the crowd. Again, we asked them to vote for the titles that they liked best, but sadly there was little convergence. No one could agree on which title would work.

But based on comments, we started to see an interesting pattern: there was convergence on which titles did NOT work. Therefore, instead of using the crowd to identify the winning title, we used them to help eliminate the duds. They were extremely effective at this.

This allowed us to reduce our long list to a much shorter one that could then be reviewed by a small, yet select team of experts.

In the end, I enlisted the help of two individuals who had a solid understanding of book marketing, innovation and my objectives. Both independently agreed on one of the previously suggested titles: “Best Practices Are Stupid.” This still possessed the controversial edge we were seeking, but seemed to appeal more to my target market. The publisher agreed.

In this scenario, I had initially identified an inappropriate crowd for my needs. Although this particular group’s opinions proved to be less effective in determining the best title, they were in fact quite helpful in eliminating the bad ones. This insight could lead to some very beneficial practices for businesses to consider as many still succumb to crowdsourcing pitfalls similar to what I had experienced.

When companies use internal voting systems, they are, in essence, asking a generic crowd for their opinions. Yes, employees may have some background on the organization, but these individuals often see only small slices of the big picture and may not be best at determining what will be most effective…

Read the rest of this article on the American Express OPEN Forum

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Balance of Work and Life is a Myth

August 10, 2011

Many years back, I led classes on Stephen Covey’s “Principle Centered Leadership” for Accenture’s managers. Over 75 percent of the attendees said that achieving balance in their life was their number one reason for taking the course. This is not surprising given the fast pace of life today. But what does balance mean?

Balance implies two opposing forces that reach equilibrium. This is not easy to do. Remember when you were a kid trying to balance with someone else on a seesaw? Either you were up or you were down. But rarely were you balanced. In life, either we are working hard or playing hard at any given moment. But we rarely are in balance. And when most refer to work/life balance being out of alignment, it is typically not because they are enjoying too much play and not enough work.

Maybe balance is not the solution. So what’s the alternative? Integration.

Find ways of integrating your work and personal life together. In doing this, you free up more time, you gain new interests, and your life becomes whole rather than piecemeal. One simple example is that of a professional speaker who loves golf. He now includes golf lessons as one of his client offerings. He gets to do what he loves while making money.

This concept applies to increasing time for relationships. Find ways of doing things together with your partner: Hobbies, interests, chores, or even work. A husband and wife I know never had time for one another. But when they learned about integration, they began to get actively involved in each other’s interests. He now takes cooking lessons with her, and she goes golfing with him. They created time by integrating their activities, enabling them to have more time for their individual pursuits.

How can you begin to integrate the pieces of your life?

First, look at what things interest you most. Next, ask how you can shift your daily schedule to embed these activities into what you do regularly. This will require some creative thinking. Finally, have the courage to ask for what you want.

Many years ago, I decided I wanted to be a professional speaker and an author. Instead of leaving the security of my consulting job, I decided to shift my responsibilities to include writing and speaking as part of my job. Unfortunately, this role did not exist. I needed to create a position that was of value to the organization—and then have the courage to ask for it and make it happen. I did and my idea grew into a 20,000-person organization. As part of my job, I wrote a book that was sold to 40,000 consultants and clients. I was giving as many as 100 speeches a year to tens of thousands of people. This eventually led to a book deal with a major publisher, which I used to launch my professional speaker career.

I know of a young couple that radically integrated their passions with work. Gary is a door-to-door salesman. While enjoyable for him, admittedly his job was not his passion. His passion is travel, and like most Americans, he squeezes this love into one, maybe two weeks over the course of a year.

One night, after a particularly difficult day on the job, Gary and his wife Deb, engaged in a conversation as to how he could create more passion within his career. It was unacceptable for them to wait for retirement or a windfall of money to land in their account. They wanted to live their dreams now, while they could.

Read the rest of this article on the American Express OPEN Forum

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