Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

March 26, 2016

I’ve come to realize that as modern professionals, we’ve largely inherited a view of leadership built on an era long gone – the industrial age.  That age taught us to value incremental improvements (make the car a color other than black!) as well as efficiency (how can we crank out 10 more axles per hour?). Our “strategic planning” efforts involving giant 50-page Word documents filled with untested assumptions are testament to the way things used to work. The problem with all of this is, of course, increasing complexity and rate of change. This increased pace of change and knowledge creation puts us in an era where the old rules don’t cut it. Instead, we need creativity. We need ideas. I’ve found that many modern professionals don’t know how to inspire great ideas. Instead, the knee jerk reaction is to analyze the problem until it relents. But it never does. Richard Buchanan from Carnegie Mellon University does a good job of explaining why: “We […]

Walk A Mile In Their Journey

March 13, 2016

I recently had a chance to get a business contract with a non-profit that has teamed up with USAID and the American Refugee Committee to build sustainable businesses in the Eastern Congo area of Bukavu. I was there to do a situational analysis of the project. I knew in advance that they had hired an organization called IDEO, who has popularized the idea of customer journey, all over the world. Before I tell the rest of the story, let me give you one definition of customer journey I like: customer journey is the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just a snapshot on time, but through the entire arc of being a customer. It actually had its start in the product design world where one way of saying it simply is this – if you are going to design a chair, design it with an understanding of how the person who is going to sit […]

Business Strategy before Digital Strategy

March 5, 2016

Do you have a digital strategy? It’s a loaded question that gets asked frequently these days. Before we can jump into this question, we have to ask the question before the question. What does “digital strategy” mean? If you ask 10 professionals this basic and fundamental question you’ll likely get 11 different answers. What do some of those answers sound like? Here are some examples: It’s a way to find more leads using paid search advertising It’s selling products and services online It’s banner ads desperately trying to get people to click on them It’s an digital CRM system that allows my sales team to track prospects and turn them into clients It’s developing a website that naturally draws traffic through organic search and quality content It’s mobile technology that allows users to find restaurants and quickly read reviews and ratings It’s equipping a salesforce with tablets and personalized presentation content so they can better conduct face to face selling […]

Winning is Different in a Connected World

February 20, 2016

A question on the mind of all business leaders on an ongoing basis is how will we win? In turns out that winning is changing a lot in this interconnecting world. The most recent Harvard Business Review article entitled: “The biology of Corporate Survival – natural selection ecosystems hold surprising lessons for business” details that companies are losing much faster than they were forty years ago. One in three public traded companies will be de-listed in the next five years, which is six times as fast as it was forty short years ago. From a large study of many organizations, they have concluded that companies are identical to the way complex adaptive organizations in nature in how they act in an ecosystem. Secondly, system thinking matters and those companies that fail to adapt to the complexity of the changing environment cease to exist quickly. The reality of thinking of business through the lenses of living systems, specifically the human body, […]

How Do We Grow?

February 6, 2016

One of the numbers that many people watch closely about the short term future of business is the annual growth rate in the U.S. This year, at least unadjusted, we saw a slowdown in 4th quarter, and slow start at the beginning of the year. These kind of statistics always bring up the question on many business people’s minds – how are we going to grow this year? Typical answers include more sales, better products, cutting edge services, expanding marketing channels, etc. These are still critical to growth, but a very different set of ideas for growth is emerging because we are in an interconnected world. Let me explain. My first business leadership position was managing a greenhouse nursery, therefore growth of plants was as important as growth in revenues and profits in this place. When you grow things in greenhouses, what becomes important are the external conditions necessary for each type of plant to grow, which they will do […]

Leaders ask Great Questions

January 13, 2016

In my leadership consulting practice over the past couple of decades I have found that helping leaders ask the right question gives them more powerful insight, direction, and clarity than providing what I think is the  appropriate solution for their issues. Why is this so? Asking a great question, many times, focuses leaders on the right information, right analysis, or the needed decision-making framework to move their organization forward, or bring clarity to a lot of what seem to be random or disconnected issues they face at any one moment in time. When I wrote my book, Christ-Based Leadership, I found that the organizing structure of some of the best business thinkers of our day centered on great, revealing questions. Here are a few examples: What is the truth of your ambition? Jim Collins asks this in Good To Great to separate level 4 leaders from level 5 leaders in organizations that want to be great, and not just good. […]

Kairos vs. Chronos Planning

Kairos vs. Chronos Planning

December 29, 2015

The Greek had two very different words for our word “time”. The first is the word “chronos” from which we get the English word chronology. It means times, dates, and places – regular time as we experience in western culture. The second word for time from the Greek is “kairos” where we get the phrase “kairotic moments” which means “the fullness of time”, “at the right time”, “at the appropriate time”. There are plenty of cultures around the globe which prefer this type of time. So what? What does this have to do with business? I see at least two important reasons to think about these two types of time as it relates to you and your business. First off, inside our walls, we tend to (over) value chronos time. Everything has to be planned, scheduled, calendarized, reduced to individual tasks, etc. And this isn’t bad, in fact, it’s necessary to a good degree to operate a business. But we […]

Planning in a VUCA World (wait, what?)

Planning in a VUCA World (wait, what?)

December 23, 2015

Planning. To some it’s a four letter word. To others, it’s an activity that never happens in their organization. No matter how you think about planning, you’ve probably noticed that to be effective, it needs to be done in a much different way than it used to. Why is that? Well. In a word. VUCA. Actually, that’s an acronym. And it stands for the Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous environment we find ourselves and our businesses in. In a world changing so fast, we can’t rely on the rigid and financial-only-centric methods of our past. So what does the planning organization of the future (and the present, if they’re good) look like? It looks agile. Here are five key dimensions to an agile planning organization. Begin with purpose. Farmers have a 20 year vision but react to today’s weather. They begin with the purpose of their farm and all decisions are viewed through that lens. It should be no different […]

We Plan Better Together

December 23, 2015

If I had a nickel for every time people groaned when I used the words “Strategic Planning” with company leaders, I would be a rich man. To begin with, I want to separate the word “Strategy” from the word “Planning”. Strategy was defined well by Roger Martin in his article “The big lie of Strategic Planning” that appeared in the Harvard Business review earlier in 2014. He says: “Good Strategy makes leaders uncomfortable and apprehensive because it is about strategic decision making where they are placing bets and making hard choices. The objective of strategy is not to eliminate risk but to increase the odds of success. Planning, on the other hand, is also necessary, and requires hours of careful research to identify which initiatives are affordable with our existing resources. It involves cost control and maximization of investment as well as development of core competencies and strategic capabilities.” We will focus on planning in this post, and tackle strategy […]

Marketing is a Social Animal

Marketing is a Social Animal

December 18, 2015

I recently conducted a focus group for a non-profit organization and I had divided the various groups by age. This particular group was made up of people between 28- 38 years old, which is the top end of the millennial generation. I asked many questions about various impressions of this particular organization, and gained a lot of insight about how this organization could better meet the needs of the community. I then asked about marketing ideas that they would suggest for the organization, and an explosion of energy like a geyser erupted all over the group. It is like I had mentioned the bad word that no one wanted to hear. They talked about “being marketed to” everyday, all week, and they do not want to be marketed to in their off time. They spoke of the cheesy give away or free refreshments that nonprofits use to bring people to their locations. “Allergic to marketing” is not an understatement for […]