I ran across this article in Harvard Business Review by Schlesinger, et al that deserves a quick reading. To paraphrase: the way we have been trained to think using predictive reasoning doesn’t work well in situations with a lot of uncertainty and that’s a big problem with innovation. They recommend when leading innovation efforts, try duplicating the way entrepreneurs attack a problem; take a small step, learn from it, and then take the next step based on that learning. Pretty simple. This does not say that predictive reasoning should be abandoned, just that you need to be adaptable in your thinking and problem solving approach. Now, stop getting in the way of innovation!
I was intrigued by a recent post on the worst part about working at Google. An awesome company; what could be bad? Some common themes…here are a few excerpts:
"When it’s standard to be awesome, and the work isn’t particularly tough to begin with, it’s hard to differentiate."
"Too many great people, doing work that just doesn’t matter…"
"They’ll pay well. It’s relaxing. But what they are actually doing is paying you to accept a much lower intellectual growth rate."
"I was vastly overqualified for the work they wanted me to do – this is not a unique experience to Google, but actually sometimes this is good if one wants to take it easy."
I’ve never worked for Google but I have to say, I can relate. Most large corporations do not challenge their people sufficiently, failing to push them beyond their self-perceived limitations, Rather, they keep it safe and easy which can make you lazy and complacent. In order to achieve, you need to push your boundaries and play at a higher level. Sports teams often practice with others who are much better than they are. Why? Because it forces them to up their game. Its time to get your employees to up their game; expect more of them; empower them, for their own sake!
'Leading' an organization can be compared to driving a car. You first need to provide that 'spark' of inspiration to get it running; you then need to provide the ‘fuel’ of aspiration that commits everyone to the common goals; and then you need just the right amount of ‘oxygen’ of empowerment for it to run at its optimal performance. Too little will stall the engine while too much will damage it. Finally, you need to provide that loving and purposeful ‘maintenance’ to keep it healthy with adaptability to keep pace with changing circumstance.
"Integrity" and "Respect for the Individual" are two core values many US Corporations profess but do not always demonstrate, particularly if public controversy abounds. The recent controversy in Arizona provides a lesson in leadership where corporate leaders can make a difference for the public good based on their core values.
The Arizona bill would have allowed businesses to discriminate against Gays and Lesbians. It is the latest attempt to roll back the clocks to the “good old days” when businesses were free to unfairly discriminate against others, this time in the name of religious freedom. Fortunately, about 80 business leaders spoke out against the bill, pressuring the Governor to veto it. Perhaps they recognized the injustice or perhaps they recognized that doing the “right thing” was good for their business. Regardless, they openly demonstrated where they stood on their core values and made a difference. What stand did your company take?
Martin Luther King stated, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Too many corporate leaders remain silent in times of controversy when “doing the right thing” is trumped by self interest and cowardice. Fortunately, enough corporate leaders had the courage to stand their ground on the Arizona issue.
What many companies fail to realize is that their “silence says everything” to their employees. Perhaps this is why employees often describe their corporations as “soulless”. Employees, more and more, want to see meaning in their work and believe that their company contributes something good to the world beyond returns to their shareholders. Companies such as Google, Apple, ATT, and Marriott, among others, recognize this. Doing good is good for business!
— Martin Luther King
— Mike Tyson…. on strategy and the role of uncertainty
"If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on."
This advice from Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is one of the standout lines from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. The Fortune 500 COO says it’s some of the best career advice she’s ever received — after all, it landed her at Google and then Facebook. ….taken from Lauren Drell’s "What It’s Like to be one of the First 10 Employees at a Successful Startup" on mashable.com
My company is certainly no startup with its roots extending back over a 150 years. Still, it’s going through its own “start-up” through reorganization and therefore presents opportunities for impassioned and driven souls to create something new. What’s needed? Drell’s testimonies of early start-up entrepreneurs highlight some of it:
"Passion Drives Everything, Evolving Roles, Wearing Many Hats, Doing the Impossible, Damn Hard Work, Humbling, I was Inspired, An Amazing Evolution, Trust Your Team, A Lean Team, Flexibility, and Aligned with my Personal Interests"
Mature companies, and especially the employees working within, have lessons to learn on reinvention; and they can be found in the commentaries of these young impassioned start-up pioneers.
— Buckminister Fuller
— Laszlo Bock, Sr VP of Google’s People Operations … on Google’s Secrets of Innovation: Empowering It’s Employees