When You Innovate Either Iterate or Eliminate

Innovation is back in vogue. Everyone is talking about it. That’s the good news. The bad news is it can be just as confusing as ever to know how to do it in a way that generates better sustainable, profitable growth and not in a way that wastes time.

Think of innovations in two buckets: iterations and eliminations. Iterations are when you improve an existing product or service so that it provides greater value for your customers and desired customers. Eliminations are when you create a new product or service that eliminates the need for an existing product or service. This could be your competitor’s existing product or service or your own.

In the end, it is critically important to continually create iterations and eliminations.

Recommending “How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clayton Christensen

I’ve always found the intersection between business concepts and personal lives an interesting place to study. Unfortunately, I think a lot of business literature seems to want people to live one way at work and another way at home.

Recently I read, twice, a book called How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen. I really enjoyed it. He explained seven or eight powerful business concepts and then applied each one to an individual’s career, relationships, and/or behaviors. It was simple and powerful.

I believe that useful lessons flow from our activities at work to our activities at home and back and forth like the waves over a wall that is beneath the surface of the water. We don’t have separate lives. We have one life with separate moments in the day. I think this book helps effectively link one part of our life to another.

Study the Best in People, There are No Perfect Role Models

I studied Johnny Carson for his easy-going humor, Jack Welch for his creation of common-sense management approaches, Walt Disney for his creative mind, Warren Buffet and Steve Jobs for their focus, Oprah Winfrey for her ability to listen, Barbara Walters for her ability to ask, Steven Spielberg for his passion to build new worlds, and Ben Carson for his ability to think big.

I admire my dad for his commitment to his family, my mom for organizing and guiding six kids, my in-laws for their sixty years of laughing together in marriage, my wife for pulling people together with no drama, my son for his excitement of life, and my daughter for her big laugh and intense passions.

No one is perfect. Don’t miss out on all the value that you can gain from observing other people just because they are not perfect in every area of life. Neither am I and neither are you.

Understand Individuals, Not Personality Types

Despite the millions of dollars spent each year on trying to figure out what personality label fits a co-worker, a boss, an employee, or a supplier, the number one complaint inside virtually every organization is communication.

People feel they are not heard, not respected, and not listened to.

Why does this happen? Too often it’s because people try to communicate to a personality label instead of to an individual. They follow the advice handed out in workshops on how to “deal with” an ENFP or an ISTJ or an Alpha Male instead of working to understand where the other person is at that moment in terms of emotions and circumstances.

When you interact with other people, listen to where they are at. If they want some time to talk about the weather or their family life, give them that time. If they want to get right to the business issue at hand, then do that. If they need a moment to vent, let them do it.

Don’t try to figure out what label you’re dealing with. Work to understand where the other person is at the moment you are talking with him or her. Then work to meet their needs in order to lay a foundation for an effective business conversation.

Intervening Does Not Equal Leadership

Business leadership means influencing how people think so they make decisions that improve results for the organization in a sustainable way.

If you wait until the moment a decision has to be made to intervene and ask questions or give people specific advice on what to do, then it’s too late for you to provide effective leadership. At that point you are essentially making the decision for other people.

Think ahead, decide how people should think in order to achieve and sustain success, and then teach those thought processes before the person is in a situation where a decision has to be made. Effective leadership gets out ahead of the curve of activities.

Protect Your Brand

Does your organization have a brand that you’re proud of?

A brand is the value customers think they receive when they buy from a particular organization. What about the value customers think they receive from your organization are you proud to have your name associated with? No brand is perfect, but what about yours are you excited to be associated with?

Now protect that part of your brand. Influence people throughout your organization to always keep that value top of mind when making decisions on operations, marketing, talent management, research and development, and financial investments.

If your business is known for and appreciated for speed, then make sure to weave that into every discussion. If you’re known for incredibly high quality, then protect that legacy you have built up over the years.

The Importance of Recovery Time

There are two traps that business leaders can fall into. They are good times and bad times.

In good times, business leaders can be tempted to keep working harder and longer hours because they never know how long the good times will last. In bad times, business leaders can be tempted to keep working harder and longer hours because they feel they have to work their way through the bad times.

Don’t do that.

Work reasonable amounts of time as well as you can and then stop. Recover. Recharge your batteries. Regain your perspective. Take care of your body. Do this often. Don’t wait until you’re wiped out to start to recover. Don’t wait for mediocre times. Make recovery a proactive event, not a last-ditch effort to survive, in both good times and bad times.

Here’s an article called The Making of a Corporate Athlete. It has some great points on this topic.