Posts Tagged ‘Creativity’

Continuous Improvement Is Dead

Continuous Improvement – Do what you did last time, just three percent better, so none of your people can try new things.

Discontinuous Improvement – Make a radical step-change in performance at the expense of continuously improving it.

 

Continuous Improvement – Do what you did last time so you can say “no” to projects that are magical.

No-To-Yes – Make the product do something it cannot.  That way you can sell a new value proposition to new customers and new markets.  And you can threaten those that are clinging to your tired value proposition.

 

Continuous Improvement – Do what you did last time so no one will be threatened by meaningful change.

Less With Far Less – Reduce the goodness of today’s offering to free up design space and create an entirely new offering that provides 80% of the goodness at 20% of the price. That way, you can sell a whole new family of offerings to customers that cannot buy today’s offering.

 

Continuous Improvement – Do what you did last time so we can rest on our laurels.

Obsolete Your Best Work – Design and commercialize new offerings that purposefully make obsolete your most profitable offering.  This requires level 5 courage.

 

And how do you do all this? Mobilize the Trust Network.

 

“fear — may 9 (day 9)” by theogeo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Innovation Mantra

We have an immense distaste for uncertainty. And, as a result, we create for ourselves a radical and unskillful overestimation of our ability to control things. Our distaste of uncertainty is really a manifestation of our fear of death. When we experience and acknowledge uncertainty, it’s an oblique reminder that we will die. And that’s why talk ourselves into the belief we can control thing we really cannot.  It’s a defense mechanism that creates distance between ourselves and from feeling our fear of death.  And it’s the obliquity that makes it easier to overestimate our ability to control our environment.  Without the obliquity, it’s clear we can’t control our environment, the very thing we wake up to every morning, and it’s clear we can’t control much. And if we can’t control much, we can’t control our aging and our ultimate end.  And this is why we reject uncertainty at all costs.

Predictable, controllable, repeatable, measurable – overt rejections of uncertainty. Six Sigma – Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control – overt rejection of uncertainty.  Standard work – rejection of uncertainty. Don’t change the business model – a rejection of uncertainty. A rejection of novelty is a rejection of uncertainty. And that’s why we don’t like novelty. It scares us deeply. And it scares us because it reminds us that everything changes, including our skin, joints, and hairline. And that’s why it’s so challenging to do innovation.

Innovation reminds us of our death and that’s why it’s difficult?  Really? Yes.

Six Sigma is comforting because its programmatic illusion of control lets us forget about our death? Yes.

The aging business model reminds us of our death and that’s why we won’t let it go? Yes.

That’s crazy! Yes, but at the deepest level, I think it’s true.

I understand if you disagree with my rationale. And I understand if you think my thinking is morbid. If that’s the case, I suggest you write down why you think it’s so incredibly difficult to create a new business model, to do novel work, or to obsolete your best work. I’ll stop for a minute to give you time to grab a pen and paper. Okay, now put your pen to paper and write down why doing innovation (doing novel work) is so difficult. Now, ask yourself why that is. And do that three more times. Where did you end up? What’s the fundamental reason why doing new work (and the uncertainty that comes with it) is so difficult to do?

To be clear, I’m not advocating that you tell everyone that innovation is difficult because it reminds them that they’ll die. I explained my rationale to give you an idea of the magnitude of the level of fear around uncertainty so that, when someone is scared to death of novelty, you might help them navigate their fear.

Trying something new doesn’t invalidate what you did over the last decade to grow your business, nor will it replace it immediately, if it all.  Maybe the new work will add to what you’ve done over the last decade. Maybe the new work will amplify what’s made you successful. Maybe the new work will slowly and effectively migrate your business to greener pastures. And maybe it won’t work at all. Or, maybe your customers will make it work and bury you and your business.

With innovation, start small.  That way the threat is smaller.  Run small experiments and share the results, especially the bad results.  That way you demonstrate that unanticipated results don’t kill you and, when you share them, you demonstrate that you’re not afraid of uncertainty. Try many things in parallel to demonstrate that it’s okay that everything doesn’t turn out well and you’re okay with it.  And when someone asks what you’ll do next, tell them “I don’t know because it depends on how the next experiment turns out.”

When you’re asked when you’ll be done with an innovation project, tell them “I don’t know because the work has never been done before.” And if they say you must give them a completion date, tell them “If you must have a completion date, you do the project.”

When you’re running multiple experiments in parallel and you’re asked what you’ll do next, tell them you’ll do “more of what works and less of what doesn’t.” And if they say “that’s not acceptable”, then tell them “Well, then you run the project.”

We don’t have nearly as much control as our minds want to us believe, but that’s okay as long as we behave like we know it’s true. Uncertainty is uncomfortable, but that’s not a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s a good thing.

If people aren’t afraid, there can be no uncertainty. And if there’s no uncertainty, there can be no novelty. And if there’s no novelty, there can be no innovation. If people aren’t afraid, you’re doing it wrong.

As a leader, tell them you’re afraid but you’re going to do it anyway.

As a leader, tell your team that it’s natural to be afraid and their fear is a leading indicator of innovation.

As a leader, tell them there’s one thing you’re certain about – that innovation is uncertain.

And when things get difficult, repeat the Innovation Mantra: Be afraid and do it anyway.

“Mantra” by j / f / photos is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

It’s time to start starting.

What do we do next? I don’t know

What has been done before?

What does it do now?

What does it want to do next?

If it does that, who cares?

 

Why should we do it? I don’t know.

Will it increase the top line?  If not, do something else.

Will it increase the bottom line?  If so, let someone else do it.

What’s the business objective?

 

Who will buy it? I don’t know.

How will you find out?

What does it look like when you know they’ll buy it?

Why do you think it’s okay to do the work before you know they’ll buy it?

 

What problem must be solved? I don’t know.

How will you define the problem?

Why do you think it’s okay to solve the problem before defining it?

Why do you insist on solving the wrong problem? Don’t you know that ready, fire, aim is bad for your career?

Where’s the functional coupling? When will you learn about Axiomatic Design?

Where is the problem? Between which two system elements?

When does the problem happen? Before what? During what? After what?

Will you separate in time or space?

When will you learn about TRIZ?

 

Who wants you to do it? I don’t know.

How will you find out?

When will you read all the operating plans?

Why do you think it’s okay to start the work before knowing this?

 

Who doesn’t want you to do it? I don’t know.

How will you find out?

Who looks bad if this works?

Who is threatened by the work?

Why do you think it’s okay to start the work before knowing this?

 

What does it look like when it’s done? I don’t know.

Why do you think it’s okay to start the work before knowing this?

 

What do you need to be successful? I don’t know.

Why do you think it’s okay to start the work before knowing this?

 

Starting is essential, but getting ready to start is even more so.

 

Image credit — Jon Marshall

Wrong Questions to Ask When Doing Technology Development

I know you’re trying to do something that has never been done before, but when will you be done? I don’t know.  We’ll run the next experiment then decide what to do next.  If it works, we’ll do more of that.  And if it doesn’t, we’ll do less of that. That’s all we know right now.

I know you’re trying to create something that is new to our industry, but how many will we sell? I don’t know. Initial interviews with customers made it clear that this is an important customer problem. So, we’re trying to figure out if the technology can provide a viable solution.  That’s all we know right now.

No one is asking for that obscure technology. Why are you wasting time working on that?  Well, the voice of the technology and the S-curve analyses suggest the technology wants to move in this direction, so we’re investing this solution space.  It might work and it might not.  That’s all we know right now.

Why aren’t you using best practices? If it hasn’t been done before, there can be no best practice.  We prefer to use good practice or emergent practice.

There doesn’t seem like there’s been much progress.  Why aren’t you running more experiments? We don’t know which experiments to run, so we’re taking some time to think about what to do next.

Will it work?  I don’t know.

That new technology may obsolete our most profitable product line.  Shouldn’t you stop work on that? No. If we don’t obsolete our best work, someone else will. Wouldn’t it be better if we did the obsoleting?

How many more people do you need to accelerate the technology development work? None.  Small teams are better.

Sure, it’s a cool technology, but how much will it cost?  We haven’t earned the right to think about the cost.  We’re still trying to make it work.

So, what’s your solution? We don’t know yet.  We’re still trying to formulate the customer problem.

You said you’d be done two months ago.  Why aren’t you done yet? I never said we’d be done two months ago. You asked me for a completion date and I could not tell you when we’d be done.  You didn’t like that answer so I suggested that you choose your favorite date and put that into your spreadsheet. We were never going to hit that date, and we didn’t.

We’ve got a tight timeline.  Why are you going home at 5:00? We’ve been working on this technology for the last two years.  This is a marathon.  We’re mentally exhausted.  See you tomorrow.

If you don’t work harder, we’ll get someone else to do the technology development work.  What do you think about that? You are confusing activity with progress.  We are doing the right analyses and the right thinking and we’re working hard.  But if you’d rather have someone else lead this work, so would I.

We need a patented solution.  Will your solution be patentable? I don’t know because we don’t yet have a solution. And when we do have a solution, we still won’t know because it takes a year or three for the Patent Office to make that decision.

So, you’re telling me this might not work?  Yes. That’s what I’m telling you.

So, you don’t know when you’ll be done with the technology work, you don’t know how much the technology will cost, you don’t know if it will be patentable, or who will buy it? That’s about right.

Image credit — Virtual EyeSee

Two Sides of the Equation

If you want new behavior, you must embrace conflict.

If you can’t tolerate the conflict, you’ll do what you did last time.

If your point of view angers half and empowers everyone else, you made a difference.

If your point of view meets with 100% agreement, you wasted everyone’s time.

If your role is to create something from nothing, you’ve got to let others do the standard work.

If your role is to do standard work, you’ve got to let others create things from scratch.

If you want to get more done in the long term, you’ve got to make time to grow people.

If you want to get more done in the short term, you can’t spend time growing people.

If you do novel work, you can’t know when you’ll be done.

If you are asked for a completion date, I hope you’re not expected to do novel work.

If you’re in business, you’re in the people business.

If you’re not in the people business, you’ll soon be out of business.

If you call someone on their behavior and they thank you, you were thanked by a pro.

If you call someone on their behavior and they call you out for doing it, you were gaslit.

If you can’t justify doing the right project, reduce the scope, and do it under the radar.

If you can’t prevent the start of an unjust project, find a way to work on something else.

If you are given a fixed timeline and fixed resources, flex the schedule.

If you are given a fixed timeline, resources, and schedule, you’ll be late.

If you get into trouble, ask your Trust Network for help.

If you have no Trust Network, you’re in trouble.

If you have a problem, tell the truth and call it a problem.

If you can’t tell the truth, you have a big problem.

If you are called on your behavior, own it.

If you own your behavior, no one can call you on it.

Image credit – Mary Trebilco

Bringing Your Whole Self to Work

Do you bring your whole self to work? If not, how do you feel about that?

When you demonstrate your unique goodness and it’s met with “You don’t fit in.” they may say they want you to fit in, but, really, that’s objective evidence that they need your unique goodness.

Witches were burned at the stake because their special powers frightened people.

If it’s a good idea, don’t block it because people call it heresy.

The Universe doesn’t care if it’s heresy, as long as it’s a good idea.

The Universe doesn’t discriminate against witches.

If you’re a plumber that fixes pipes and fixes potholes, they’ll expect you to fix pipes and fill potholes.

Sometimes you’ve got to withhold the solution If you want the organizational learning to happen.

If you fill all the potholes, the company never learns that someone’s not doing their job.

A plumber who fixes pipes and fills potholes should be paid more than a plumber that just fixes pipes.

When no one listens to reason, the only thing left to do is let the wheels fall off.

And if you really care about the long-term success of the company, you’ll let them fall off.

If you see things differently, you’re obligated to say so, even if you’re wrong.

When you speak truth to Power, does Power thank you or kick you?

If after speaking unsayable truth to Power, they kick you, that says a lot about Power.

When you’re satisfied with what you have, striving-based motivation tactics have no power.

It’s easy to mentor down into the organization, but it takes a special person to mentor uphill.

Never do your boss’s job.

When successful thinking becomes geriatric, it’s time for hospice.

Successful business models change only after they become unsuccessful.

Change happens only after exhausting all other possibilities. And it takes special people to make it happen.

If you ‘re afraid and hold back because you’re concerned about being burned at the stake, you should put your magic wand in your pocket, jump on your broom (or vacuum cleaner), and find another job.

Image credit — Jerzy Kociatkiewicz

Want to succeed? Learn how to deliver customer value.

Whatever your initiative, start with customer value. Whatever your project, base it on customer value. And whatever your new technology, you guessed it, customer value should be front and center.

Whenever the discussion turns to customer value, expect confusion, disagreement, and, likely, anger. To help things move forward, here’s an operational definition I’ve found helpful:

When they buy it for more than your cost to make it, you have customer value.

And when there’s no way to pull out of the death spiral of disagreement, use this operational definition to avoid (or stop) bad projects:

When no one will buy it, you don’t have customer value and it’s a bad project.

As two words, customer and value don’t seem all that special. But, when you put them together, they become words to live by.  But, also, when you do put them together, things get complicated.  Here’s why.

To provide customer value, you’ve got to know (and name) the customer.  When you asked “Who is the customer?” the wheels fall off. Here are some wrong answers to that tricky question. The Board of Directors is the customer. The shareholders are the customers. The distributor is the customer. The OEM that integrates your product is the customer. And the people that use the product are the customer. Here’s an operational definition that will set you free:

When someone buys it, they are the customer.

When the discussions get sticky, hold onto that definition. Others will try to bait you into thinking differently, but don’t bite. It will be difficult to stand your ground.  And if you feel the group is headed in the wrong direction, try to set things right with this operational definition:

When you’ve found the person who opens their wallet, you’ve found the customer.

Now, let’s talk about value. Isn’t value subjective? Yes, it is.  And the only opinion that matters is the customer’s. And here’s an operational definition to help you create customer value:

When you solve an important customer problem, they find it valuable.

And there you have it.  Putting it all together, here’s the recipe for customer value:

  1. Understand who will buy it.
  2. Understand their work and identify their biggest problem.
  3. Solve their problem and embed it in your offering.
  4. Sell it for more than it costs you to make it.

Image credit — Caroline

The Most Important People in Your Company

When the fate of your company rests on a single project, who are the three people you’d tap to drag that pivotal project over the finish line? And to sharpen it further, ask yourself “Who do I want to lead the project that will save the company?” You now have a list of the three most important people in your company.  Or, if you answered the second question, you now have the name of the most important person in your company.

The most important person in your company is the person that drags the most important projects over the finish line.  Full stop.

When the project is on the line, the CEO doesn’t matter; the General Manager doesn’t matter; the Business Leader doesn’t matter.  The person that matters most is the Project Manager.  And the second and third most important people are the two people that the Project Manager relies on.

Don’t believe that? Well, take a bite of this. If the project fails, the product doesn’t sell. And if the product doesn’t sell, the revenue doesn’t come. And if the revenue doesn’t come, it’s game over. Regardless of how hard the CEO pulls, the product doesn’t launch, the revenue doesn’t come, and the company dies.  Regardless of how angry the GM gets, without a product launch, there’s no revenue, and it’s lights out.  And regardless of the Business Leader’s cajoling, the project doesn’t cross the finish line unless the Project Manager makes it happen.

The CEO can’t launch the product. The GM can’t launch the product. The Business Leader can’t launch the product.  Stop for a minute and let that sink in.  Now, go back to those three sentences and read them out loud. No, really, read them out loud.  I’ll wait.

When the wheels fall off a project, the CEO can’t put them back on. Only a special Project Manager can do that.

There are tools for project management, there are degrees in project management, and there are certifications for project management.  But all that is meaningless because project management is alchemy.

Degrees don’t matter. What matters is that you’ve taken over a poorly run project, turned it on its head, and dragged it across the line. What matters is you’ve run a project that was poorly defined, poorly staffed, and poorly funded and brought it home kicking and screaming. What matters is you’ve landed a project successfully when two of three engines were on fire. (Belly landings count.) What matters is that you vehemently dismiss the continuous improvement community on the grounds there can be no best practice for a project that creates something that’s new to the world. What matters is that you can feel the critical path in your chest. What matters is that you’ve sprinted toward the scariest projects and people followed you. And what matters most is they’ll follow you again.

Project Managers have won the hearts and minds of the project team.

The Project manager knows what the team needs and provides it before the team needs it. And when an unplanned need arises, like it always does, the project manager begs, borrows, and steals to secure what the team needs.  And when they can’t get what’s needed, they apologize to the team, re-plan the project, reset the completion date, and deliver the bad news to those that don’t want to hear it.

If the General Manager says the project will be done in three months and the Project Manager thinks otherwise, put your money on the Project Manager.

Project Managers aren’t at the top of the org chart, but we punch above our weight. We’ve earned the trust and respect of most everyone. We aren’t liked by everyone, but we’re trusted by all. And we’re not always understood, but everyone knows our intentions are good. And when we ask for help, people drop what they’re doing and pitch in. In fact, they line up to help. They line up because we’ve gone out of our way to help them over the last decade. And they line up to help because we’ve put it on the table.

Whether it’s IoT, Digital Strategy, Industry 4.0, top-line growth, recurring revenue, new business models, or happier customers, it’s all about the projects. None of this is possible without projects. And the keystone of successful projects?  You guessed it.  Project Managers.

Image credit – Bernard Spragg .NZ

When It’s Time to Defy Gravity

If you pull hard on your team, what will they do? Will they rebel? Will they push back? Will they disagree? Will they debate? And after all that, will they pull with you? Will the pull for three weeks straight? Will they pull with their whole selves? How do you feel about that?

If you pull hard on your peers, what will they do? Will they engage? Will they even listen? Will they dismiss? And if they dismiss, will you persist? Will you pull harder? And when you pull harder, do they think more of you? And when you pull harder still, do they think even more of you? Do you know what they’ll do? And how do you feel about that?

If you push hard on your leadership, what will they do? Will they ‘lllisten or dismiss? And if they dismiss, will you push harder? When you push like hell, do they like that or do they become uncomfortable, what will you do?  Will they dislike it and they become comfortable and thankful you pushed? Whatever they feel, that’s on them. Do you believe that? If not, how do you feel about that?

When you say something heretical, does your team cheer or pelt you with fruit? Do they hang their heads or do they hope you do it again?  Whatever they do, they’ve watched your behavior for several years and will influence their actions.

When you openly disagree with the company line, do your peers cringe or ask why you disagree? Do they dismiss your position or do they engage in a discussion? Do they want this from you? Do they expect this from you? Do they hope you’ll disagree when you think it’s time? Whatever they do, will you persist? And how do you feel about that?

When you object to the new strategy, does your leadership listen? Or do they un-invite you to the next strategy session?  And if they do, do you show up anyway? Or do they think you’re trying to sharpen the strategy? Do they think you want the best for the company? Do they know you’re objecting because everyone else in the room is afraid to? What they think of your dissent doesn’t matter.  What matters is your principled behavior over the last decade.

If there’s a fire, does your team hope you’ll run toward the flames? Or, do they know you will?

If there’s a huge problem that everyone is afraid to talk about, do your peers expect you get right to the heart of it? Or, do they hope you will? Or, do they know you will?

If it’s time to defy gravity, do they know you’re the person to call?

And how do you feel about that?

Image credit – The Western Sky

The Giving Cycle

The best gifts are the ones that demonstrate to the recipients that you understand them. You understand what they want; you understand their size (I’m and men’s large); you understand their favorite color; you know what they already have; you know what they’re missing, and you know what they need.

On birthdays and holidays, everyone knows it’s time to give gifts and this makes it easy for us to know them for what they are. And, just to make sure everyone knows the gift is a gift, we wrap them in colorful paper or place them in a fancy basket and formally present them. But gifts given at work are different.

Work isn’t about birthdays and holidays, it’s about the work. There’s no fixed day or date to give them. And there’s no expectation that gifts are supposed to be given.  And gifts given at work are not the type that can be wrapped in colorful paper. In that way, gifts given at work are rare. And when they are given, often they’re not recognized as gifts.

The gift of a challenge. When you give someone a challenge, that’s a gift. Yes, the task is difficult. Yes, the request is unreasonable. Yes, it’s something they’ve never done before. And, yes, you believe they’re up to the challenge. And, yes, you’re telling them they’re worthy of the work. And whether the complete 100% of the challenge or only 5% of it, you praise them. You tell them, Holy sh*t!  That was amazing.  I gave you an impossible task and you took it on. Most people wouldn’t have even tried and you put your whole self into it.  You gave it a go.  Wow.  I hope you’re proud of what you did because I am. The trick for the giver is to praise.

The gift of support. When you support someone that shouldn’t need it, that’s a gift. When the work is clearly within a person’s responsibility and the situation temporarily outgrows them, and you give them what they need, that’s a gift. Yes, it’s their responsibility. Yes, they should be able to handle it. And, yes, you recognize the support they need. Yes, you give them support in a veiled way so that others don’t recognize the gift-giving. And, yes, you do it in a way that the receiver doesn’t have to acknowledge the support and they can save face. The trick for the giver is to give without leaving fingerprints.

The gift of level 2 support. When you give the gift of support defined above and the gift is left unopened, it’s time to give the gift of level 2 support. Yes, you did what you could to signal you left a gift on their doorstep. Yes, they should have seen it for what it was. And, yes, it’s time to send a level 2 gift to their boss in the form of an email sent in confidence. Tell their boss what you tried to do and why you tried to do it.  And tell them the guidance you tried to give. This one is called level 2 giving because two people get gifts and because it’s higher-level giving. The trick for the giver is to give in confidence and leave no fingerprints.

The gift of truth. When you give someone the truth of the situation when you know they don’t want to hear it, that’s a gift. Yes, they misunderstand the situation. Yes, it’s their responsibility to understand it. Yes, they don’t want your gift of truth. And, yes, you give it to them because they’re off-track. Yes, you give it to them because you care about them. And, yes you give the gift respectfully and privately.  You don’t give a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum. And you don’t make the decision for them.  You tell them why you see it differently and tell them you hope they see your gift as it was intended – as a gift. The trick for the giver is to give respectfully and be okay whether the gift is opened or not.

The gift of forgiveness. When someone has mistreated you or hurt you, and you help them anyway, that’s a gift. Yes, they need help. Yes, the pain is still there. And, yes, you help them anyway. They hurt you because of the causes and conditions of their situation. It wasn’t personal.  They would have treated anyone that way. And, yes, this is the most difficult gift to give. And that’s why it’s last on the list. And the trick for the giver is to feel the hurt and give anyway.  It will help the hurt go away.

It may not seem this way, but the gifts are for the giver. Givers grow by giving. And best of all for the givers, they get to watch as their gifts grow getters into givers. And that’s magical. And that brings joy.

And the giving cycle spirals on.

Image credit – KTIQS.LCV

Disruption – the work that makes the best things obsolete.

I think the word “disruption” doesn’t help us do the right work. Instead, I use “innovation.” But that word has also lost much of its usefulness. There are different flavors of innovation and the flavor that maps to disruption is the flavor that makes things obsolete. This flavor of new work doesn’t improve things, it displaces them. So, when you see “innovation” in my posts, think “work that makes the best things obsolete.”

Doing work that makes the best things obsolete requires new behavior. Here’s a post that gives some tips to help make it easy for new behaviors to come to be. Within the blog post, there is a link to a short podcast that’s worth a listen. One Good Way to Change Behavior

And here’s a follow-on post about what gets in the way of new behavior.  What’s in the way?

It’s difficult to define “disruption.” Instead of explaining what disruption is or isn’t, I like to use “no-to-yes.” Don’t improve the system by 3%, instead use no-to-yes to make the improved system do something the existing system cannot. Battle Success With No-to-Yes

Instead of “disruption” I like “compete with no one.” To compete with no one, you’ve got to make your services so fundamentally good that your competition doesn’t stand a chance.  Compete With No One

Disruption, as a word, is not actionable. But here’s what is actionable: Choose to solve new problems. Choose to solve problems that will make today’s processes and outcomes worthless. Before you solve a problem ask yourself “Will the solution displace what we have today?” Innovation In Three Words

Here’s a nice operational definition of how to do disruption – Obsolete your best work.

And if you’re not yet out of gas, here are some posts that describe what gets in the way of new behavior and how to create the right causes and conditions for new behaviors to emerge.

Make it Easy

The Most Powerful Question

Creating the Causes and Conditions for New Behavior to Grow

Seeing What Isn’t There

The only thing predictable about innovation is its unpredictability.

For innovation to flow, drive out fear.

Image credit — Thomas Wensing

Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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