Happy New Year

December 30, 2008

In just a matter of hours, 2009 will be upon us.  If you have not done so, please read my article on setting New Year’s Resolutions.  You may also be interested in some statistics about New Year’s Resolutions.

Happy New Year!

Interesting New Year’s Resolution Statistics

December 11, 2008

This article was originally published December 2008

Early this week I received an email from a researcher at a major national TV talk show.  They are doing a show on New Year’s Resolutions and saw my article on the topic.

They wanted to know if I had more details on the statistics referenced in the article.

I went back to the research we did with the help of Opinion Corporation of Princeton, NJ, and found the following interesting tid bits.  The survey has a margin of error of 3%.

  • 45% of Americans usually set New Year’s Resolutions; 17% infrequently set resolutions; 38% absolutely never set resolutions.
  • Only 8% of people are always successful in achieving their resolutions. 19% achieve their resolutions every other year.  49% have infrequent success.  24% (one in four people) NEVER succeed and have failed on every resolution every year. That means that 3 out of 4 people almost never succeed.
  • Of those who do set resolutions (these add to more than 100% because some people set multiple resolutions):
    • 34% set resolutions related to money
    • 38% set resolutions related to weight
    • 47% set resolutions related to self-improvement or education
    • 31% set resolutions related to relationships
  • It appears that the younger you are, the more likely you are to achieve your resolutions
    • 39% of those in their twenties achieve their resolutions every year or every other year
    • Less than 15% of those over 50 achieve their resolutions every year or every other year
  • The less happy you are, the more likely you are to set New Year’s Resolutions.  This is especially true for those who set money-related resolutions: 41% are not happy, 34% are moderately happy, and 25% are happy.
  • And here’s the punchline – There is no correlation between happiness and resolution setting/success.  People who achieve their resolutions every year are NO happier than those who do not set resolutions or who are unsuccessful in achieving them.

What Does This Really Mean?

Of course numbers only represent averages and do not reflect on YOUR personal situation. However, there are a few questions you may want to ponder as we inch closer towards New Year’s Eve:

  • What kind of New Year’s Resolutions do you typically set (money, health, self-improvement, or relationship-oriented)?
  • Why do you set these particular resolutions?
  • What do you hope to gain by achieving these resolutions?
  • What will you do to be more successful (than the typical person)?
  • Do you believe you will be happier in a year if you are successful in achieving your resolutions? If so, be aware that this is rarely the case – your attitude is more important than the results.
  • And finally, what could you do to improve your level of happiness TODAY, rather than believing your happiness lies in the future?

New Year’s Eve is just around the corner.  This year, instead of looking forward to what you want, spend your time reflecting on what you have.  This is especially important during these troubling economic times.  Listen to a brief MP3 I recorded on the topic of “Wanting What You Have.”

And if you do set a resolution, set a “theme-based” resolution rather than a “goal-based” resolution.  This will increase your level of happiness AND participation in the coming year.

I am formulating my theme for the New Year now.

What will be your theme for the New Year?

P.S. If you want to give a great gift that will change the life of a loved one, be sure to check out Goal-Free Living.  If you want signed copies, use the contact button above.  We can make the book out with a personal inscription.

How Do You Manage Your Innovation Pipeline

September 22, 2008

When I work with large organizations, they have sophisticated tools and processes for managing their innovation pipeline.  Well, at least some do.

But how do YOU manage YOUR innovation pipeline?  OK, for simplicity sake, you can just call it your “to-do” list.

I have so many different projects and ideas that I am working on at any given time that it is often hard to keep track of everything.  I find most traditional time management processes and software a bit limiting.  Some are just too rigid.  Others don’t depict projects and tasks in a way that my mind can process them properly.  And some tools are just not to my liking.

I have been asking around to see what other people use.  The responses have been interesting.  Most people still use paper and pencil, creating linear lists.  Some use web-based list-driven applications.  But I dislike these because I want quick access even when I am off-line.  There are quite a few to-do list management applications out there.  But again, most are list driven, with the fancier ones using hierarchical trees.  And some are so complicated only an engineer with a PhD could figure them out.

I am admittedly a bit disorganized.  Creative-types tend to be that way (for a variety of reasons that I won’t bother going into here).  Every time I play Personality Poker, I am always attracted to the “2 of diamonds” – the “scattered” card.  Fortunately I work with some great people who are “clubs” (the organizers).

And although I am “Goal-Free,” this does not mean I am structure-free.  I still need structure.  It just needs to be flexible enough so it can adapt as I “meander with purpose.”

Here’s how I manage MY innovation pipeline:  I use mind mapping software.  If you click on the graphic above, you’ll see a scaled down, simplified, and sanitized version of the one I use.  You will notice a few things:

  • Because I run a business, I tie nearly everything back to the four core processes of any business – Develop Products and Services, Fulfill Demand Generate Demand, and Plan & Manage the Enterprise.  If you run a business, you have these same processes.
  • Innovation happens everywhere, not just within Develop Products and Services.  I constantly scan all of the process to make sure I am doing a proper balance of work within each, and that I am innovating throughout my business.
  • I do have a catch-all bucket for “miscellaneous opportunities” that don’t yet fit neatly into a process.  Within that bucket I have a “could do” list which is VERY long and is a bunch of ideas I have that are not ready for prime time for a variety of reasons. I even have a list of things I should “stop doing.”
  • Any trees with a (+) indicates there is more detail in one or more sub-trees.  This allows me to organize my thoughts in any way I want, to whatever level of detail I want.  In the branches I also link to Word documents, websites, and other materials.  This enables me to keep all of my resources for a projects in one place.
  • Tasks that I need to work on now all have start and/or end dates.  The software automatically synchronizes these with my task list in Outlook.  This is nice because it keeps my “to-do” small and focused.

The process is far from perfect, but it works for me.  The software allows me to easily move projects and tasks around.  Mind Mapping is perfect for creative thinking and helps me generate and capture new ideas quickly.

What do you use to manage your innovation pipeline or to-do list?  What is the process?  What is the technology?  What has worked?  And what has not worked?  All suggestions are welcome…and appreciated.

P.S.  I just bought “Getting Things Done.”  I am told that this is the bible of time management.  I’m curious to see how this fits with my philosophies.

P.P.S.  I just received an email from someone who had a great suggestion: add a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) for the inspirational part.

Remembering Dr. Michael Hammer

September 12, 2008

I just learned a few minutes ago that Dr. Michael Hammer, the father of business reengineering and author of the best-seller, “Reengineering the Corporation,” passed away last week at the age of 60.

I worked closely with Dr. Hammer in the mid-1990 when I worked at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture).  Dr. Hammer and his (then) side-kick, Steve Stanton, helped me and my team develop our Process Excellence Principles.

One of his contributions was a video he developed for us.  While in his office, we turned a camera on, and he rattled off the most amazing 30 minute speech, without any preparation or any retakes.  This video, cut into smaller vignettes, became a highlight of our day long training sessions we delivered to over 20,000 people around the world.

I also had the great pleasure of sharing the stage with him on a couple of occasions.  His speeches were awe inspiring and content-packed.  I have yet to see a presenter who has impressed me more.  I always thought of him a role model.

I remember one time I introduced Dr. Hammer as the “father of re-engineering.”  When he took the stage, he quipped, “I often hear that I am the father.  My wife wants to know, who is the mother?”

In some respects, I should thank Dr. Hammer for the life I have now.  I was one of the leaders of Andersen Consulting’s reengineering practice.  If it weren’t for Hammer, that great opportunity would not have been created.  That work gave me the chance to travel the world giving speeches since 1992.  But it was only after spending time with Hammer a few years later did I really find my love of the stage. 

I remember back in November 1996, someone asked me where I wanted to be in 5 years.  I responded, “I want to be the Michael Hammer of the next business wave.”  5 years later, nearly to the day, my first book hit the book stores and I left Accenture for the life I have now.

Thank you Dr. Hammer.

Commemorating September 11th

September 11, 2008

My friend, Shari Harley, wrote a beautiful article commemorating September 11th.  For her it is very personal since she worked in the Twin Towers at that time, but was not in the office that day.

She asks some very thought provoking questions:

  • How is the world different because I lived on September 11th when others died?
  • What have I done in the last 12 months to make the world smaller and to build community each time I get on a plane, walk in a store, meet someone new and have a conversation?
  • Where have I played small…said yes when I meant no…said no when I wanted to say yes…or didn’t say anything at all?

I encourage you, as she does, to think about the contribution you are making to the world.  Her article has reaffirmed my theme for the rest of this year: “significance.”

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Play Like the Patriots – Win Like the Celtics

June 18, 2008

Regular readers of this blog know that I set New Year’s themes, not resolutions.  At the beginning of the year, after the incredible regular season performance by the New England Patriots (American football), I decided my theme would be “Play Like the Patriots.”  But, as many of you know, my beloved team lost the Superbowl back in February.  I was forced to write a clarifying blog entry explaining that my theme was “play like the Patriots,” not “win like the Patriots.”

Last night, another Boston team won the championship – the Boston Celtics (basketball).  Until 1986, the Celtics were a dynasty.  But they fell on hard times and last year were one of the worst teams.  But this year, they won the NBA championship in a decisive 131 to 92 rout of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Maybe my theme should be “play like the Celtics.”  Or maybe even “win like the Celtics.” 

In some respects, basketball is a better analogy for business success than American football.  The game is, for the most part, continuous.  All five players on the court must play both defence and offence.  They are a true team.  They play to the strengths of one another, yet are versatile enough to change roles when necessary.

Doc Rivers, the coach of the Boston Celtics, used the African word “ubuntu” as the unifying team motto.  As I understand it, this roughly means “I am, because we are.” Beautiful.

Do you play like a member of the Celtics?  Is your organization playing as a team as powerfully as it can? 

I suspect few of us – individuals or organizations – truly play (and win) like the Celtics.

Crazy Goals Drive Your Crazy

February 8, 2008

43Things.com,” a community-based online to-do list, allows you to list your top goals in life. A blog reader, Antony, culled  some interesting statistics from that website.

  • 5,716 people set the goal: “Decide what the hell I would like to do with the rest of my life.”
  • 21,100 people set the goal: “Stop procrastinating”

What’s funny about the second goal – stop procrastinating – is that I once quoted Paul Graham as saying, “The to-do list is itself a form of type-B (something less important) procrastination.”

Play Like The Patriots?

February 5, 2008

Readers of my blog know that my “theme” this year is Play Like the Patriots. For those of you who missed it, my beloved team was defeated by the New York Giants in a major upset Sunday night in the Superbowl. After winning all 18 games this year, the Patriots lost the big one. I expected all of my New York friends rub this in my face a bit. They didn’t let me down. Heck, I’d probably have done the same thing had we won.

One blog reader, Toli, commented:

“Stephen, you know I love your stuff, but you must reconsider something: live this year like the Patriots? Which means, basically doing your best and then failing to achieve at the most important moment? This is why I side with the Giants: achieving your goals is always messy, but you get there in the end.”

Thanks Toli, that made me smile!

Although (I assume) you are just poking fun at me, let me provide 3 reasons why I stand by my theme.

1. I said “play like the Patriots” not “win like the Patriots.”

In life – and in business – there aren’t “Superbowls” that determine winners (and losers). Success is not decided by one outcome or game. It is much more complex than that. Unlike sports, the season never ends. It is a continual journey of improvement.

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Can You Judge a Book By Its Cover?

February 1, 2008

In a previous blog entry, I discussed an Economist article that showed:

  1. There is a perception that particular traits are important to good leadership, namely competence, dominance, and facial maturity. Likability and trustworthiness are not.
  2. Just by looking at a picture, we can get a sense of someone’s leadership qualities and hence their personality.

In that earlier blog entry, I focused primarily on point #1 and its relationship to the Presidential elections.

Today I want to talk a bit about point #2. The correlation between looks and personality has always been an interesting topic for me.

I remember a friend of mine from high school. Everything about him screamed “nerd.” He wore polo shirts buttoned to the top (back when this was not popular). His hair was greasy and slicked to the side. He always walked around with a stack of books in front of him. And yes, he wore a pocket protector with a myriad of pens. It may come as no surprise that he was the captain of the math and chess clubs. His looks matched his personality.

This made me wonder…which came first: his looks or his personality/interests.

Do nerdy looking people choose nerdy endeavors? Or do people who enjoy nerdy endeavors groom themselves to look the part?

What’s the Causality between Appearance and Personality?

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Goals That Work

January 21, 2008

I recently received an email from a reader of this blog. He describes what he calls a “loophole” in the goal-setting process: either you achieve a goal and then invalidate it with counter-productive behaviors, or you see that a goal won’t be achieved so you give up totally. He then describes what works (something I suggest on this blog): setting a theme. Here are his thoughts.

I am still setting goals on 43things.com. Very difficult except for shopping list type goals like “buy a new hat”.

I’ve been sleeping 12 hours per day. I had set a goal to get up at 6am and have an afternoon nap. I’ve been doing exactly that, except I go back to bed at 7am until 11am! The other day I set a new goal: “have a morning productivity score of 80/100.” This all-or-nothing goal didn’t work because as soon as I knew I couldn’t reach 80 I let the whole thing go and scored 25.

Goals that have worked are like ongoing themes which are achieved when the first example of the theme is achieved.

One goal was “perform a miracle of friendship.” What I had in mind was that it would take a miracle for someone who wouldn’t make time for me to change their mind. However it was achieved in an immediate, unexpected way. Within a day I remembered a friend who keeps sending me his poetry and that I received some the day before. Previously I found it boring (and the opposite of “bored” in the Thesaurus is “caring”) then I realized I could write and send him a special poem just for him. It rhymed too.

I achieved the goal of performing a miracle of friendship and it will also be an ongoing theme.

This same concept holds true for organizations. Employees are not stupid. They will do what they need to in order to hit their performance targets – even if the end result is detrimental to the overall performance of the business. People are motivated by a clear sense of direction, purpose, vision, or theme. When individuals are incented to “do the right thing” rather than hitting targets, you will find increased creativity, improved performance, and a happier workforce.

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