April 10, 2013
Today’s Wednesday Work Wisdom…
Today I had the honor of seeing my good friend, Ed Gerety, speak to 200 junior high school students. He was amazing.
What I found most interesting was the response from the audience.
I am used to speaking to corporations where the average age is probably 40 – 50. Here the average age was 12 – 13. There is a marked difference between these groups!
When Ed asked the student to do something, 100% participated (well, several of the teachers sat and stared blankly). When he asked them to do something that an adult might think as “silly,” the audience went wild with laughter. When he told moving stories that might generate “crickets” from an adult audience, he received gasps, cheers, and awwwwws from the teenagers. There was an unbelievable energy in the room. Everyone was hungry for Ed’s message.
When did we, as adults, become so jaded? When did we forget how to participate and play in life? When did we decide that “looking good” in front of others was more important than full self-expression? When did we become so arrogant that we know more than everyone else? When did we stop truly learning and living?
I was inspired by these students. I was tempted to call them “kids.” But after spending an hour with them, I realized that they are more adult than many adults.
Today, I encourage you to look at the world through the eyes of a teenager. Play. Laugh. Participate. Clap. Gasp. Show your full range of emotions.
As Ed said during his presentation, tell people you love them. Be thankful, every day, for what you have. Help others. Stand up for yourself.
I’ve attended a lot of seminars and training over the years. But spending 60 minutes with Ed and a couple hundred students was the most valuable education I have received in years.
P.S. I had a similar experience a couple of years ago when working for a large organization. I presented to 400 executives in the morning followed by 200 high school students in the afternoon. The two audiences could not have been more different. I wrote about how to tap into your “inner innovation child” in an American Express OPEN Forum article. You can also read my article “Unleash Your Inner Innovator” (pdf). It appeared in a British Magazine 10 years ago.
March 22, 2013
Today’s Friday Fun Fact…
I was recently at a seminar where the instructor asked a very straightforward question of the participants; one that everyone in the room should have been able to readily answer. However, what followed was complete silence. Crickets.
Why is it that once we are assembled into a group such as this, despite having an answer, we often choose not to respond?
In my book Best Practices Are Stupid, I talk about collaboration versus competition, and how each is useful for different reasons as part of your innovation strategy. While collaboration is essential for success, if not managed properly, it can come with significant drawbacks. One of the reasons I discuss is something called social loafing.
Social loafing is a proven phenomenon where individuals within the group assume that someone else will pick up the slack therefore exerting less effort. In the case of the silence at my seminar, each participant knew that if they waited long enough, someone else would eventually respond. Or was the case, the instructor would give the answer,
This phenomenon has been proven out scientifically.
In an experiment conducted in the early 1900s, Max Ringelmann showed that individuals exerted more effort when working alone than when they worked collectively. When he asked a group of men to pull on a rope, they did not pull as hard as a group, as they did when each was pulling on their own. While one plausible explanation was lack of coordination, subsequent research shows that it is more a function of motivation.
A study in the Journal of Management demonstrated that “at the individual level, increases in task interdependence and decreases in task visibility and distributive justice were associated with greater occurrence of social loafing. At the group level, increased group size and decreased cohesiveness were related to increased levels of social loafing.”
Another study examines the sucker effect, which “stems from the perceptions that others in the group are withholding, or intend to withhold, effort. Individuals who hold this perception then withhold effort themselves to avoid being played for a “sucker”.
This, like other studies, gives us a glimpse into what it takes to create productive teams:
- People feel that they can “get lost” in groups. Have each member stand out by dividing the workload in such a way that individuals can be evaluated on their own output. The less an individual feels his contributions will be noticed, the more likely he will participate in social loafing.
- The larger the group size, the more tendency for social loafing. Keep groups size to a minimum.
- Find activities that impact the intrinsic motivations of the individuals. People tend to work harder when they are participating in something that they enjoy.
Both competition (individual work) and collaboration can be useful parts of any innovation strategy.
March 11, 2013
Today’s Monday Morning Movie…
The military knows the dangers of something called “target fixation.” This is where you overly focus on the enemy, and as a result you subconsciously end up crashing right into them.
The same thing occurs in business. When we focus on the enemy (the competition) we subconsciously end up replicating what they do. This limits our thinking. Therefore, to be successful, we need to look elsewhere.
You can find the transcription here…
March 5, 2013
Here’s the transcription of my Monday Morning Movie…
Today, I want to talk about the power of, and importance of, being open to new ideas and feedback.
I just spent a weekend at a conference. It was a bunch of people learning about the speaking profession. I’ve been speaking for 20 years, and I’ve had my own business for over a dozen years. So I’ve heard a lot of advice over time.
We had breakout sessions where we got advice from the instructor and from others in the group about how we can improve our business. It was fascinating to listen and observe the way some people in the group solicited advice, and how they accepted that advice.
For example, there was one person in the group, her response to anything that was said was, “We thought about that before. We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work. We’re doing that right now.” In some cases, she’d say, “I knew you’d say that.” I found it really interesting because I wondered if in the time that this individual was receiving feedback, whether or not she received any value at all. Basically, every response to every idea was, “We’ve done it. We’ve thought about it. We’ve tried it; didn’t work. We’re doing it. Knew you’d say that.” Interestingly, this was a person who’s relatively new to the profession.
There was another person who took their time and talked the entire time. When the timer went off, everybody just looked at each other and thought, “That was interesting.” There was no opportunity, no opening for feedback; no opening or opportunity for input.
Then, it was my turn.
I asked my question and then listened to everything as though it was the very first time I heard any of the advice before. Even if I’ve tried it before and it didn’t work. Even if I’ve thought about it before and decided not to do it. Even if I’ve never tried it. It doesn’t matter, whatever was said, I was acting as though, and thinking as though, it was the first time I ever heard it.
I have to say, for me, it was a magical experience. Instead of my “being right” all the time, instead of having to be the expert who knows all the answers (which is what I tend to do in my profession), I acted as though I was the novice. I was the person who’s never thought of these things before. I gave up the need to have the answers. I gave up the need to look good in the eyes of others as the person who knows everything. Instead I just responded, “Wow. That’s a great idea. I have not thought about that before. Let me explore that.” This made it a very powerful experience for me.
Think about yourself. When you are engaging customers, colleagues, friends, or experts; how do you naturally respond? Are you the person who has the answers? Are you protecting what you look like by trying to always act as though you knew the answer already? Or, are you willing to be vulnerable? Are you able to put yourself out there and say, “I don’t know the answer; I really want advice”? If you’ve heard something before, really listen to it as though it was the first time you’re hearing it.
Are you a great listener or are you a great talker? Do you try to impress everybody with what you know, or do you sort of state your challenge, which is your vulnerability, and just sit back and say, “Please help me”?
I’m absolutely convinced that successful business owners get so wrapped up in what that know – their identity of being the expert, the person who solved the problems before – that they don’t allow themselves to open up to the input of others.
If you were to get a bad review on Yelp, is your natural inclination to say, “Man, that person’s an idiot. If we tried to fix every single problem like that, we’d be out of business”? Or, do you say, “That’s really interesting. Thank you for the feedback”? It doesn’t mean you have to do anything with it. You can’t solve every single problem; that’s the reality of business. But if you are appreciative of all input – good, bad, and ugly – that has to put you in a better position. It has to open you up to new insights. It has to allow you to see things that you would not see if you were closed and thought that it was your way or the highway.
Think about your business. Think about the way you run it. Think about your interactions with people. Are you open? Do you allow yourself to be vulnerable? Are you gracious when people provide input to you? Or, is your response, “I’ve done that, I know that, I’m the expert”?
When you’re engaging people, do you have to be the one who talks, or can you be the one who listens? Can you be the one who throws out one of your concerns and just wait for people to make a contribution?
When you’re in a social group, are you always making yourself look good, or are you making others look good? Although it’s a slightly different conversation, I think it’s all related. Get into the habit of making others be the heroes – our clients, customers, colleagues, and friends. Make them feel great. Make the people who give you advice, feedback, or criticism feel great. This opens you up to a whole new set of ideas. And it makes you much more attractive to be around, which means you will attract more people into your life.
March 4, 2013
Today’s Monday Morning Movie…
As an expert, or someone who is highly experienced in a particular field, it can be difficult to get advice from others. We have the bad habit of positioning ourselves as the individual who has seen it and done it all.
But this can limit our ability to receive valuable input.
Instead of having all of the answers, have better questions. Instead of talking all of the time, be a great listener. Instead of having to “look good” in the eyes of others, make others look good. Instead of having to be the expert, be the novice.
When you are open to any and all input, you will become even more masterful at your craft.
P.S. This video is a tad longer than most, coming in at 6 minutes. In the future, they will be between 2 and 4 minutes. You can read the transcription here.