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It's Time to Simplify Innovation

It's Time to Simplify Innovation

Innovation is one of the most popular topics in the world these days, with new books and articles on the subject appearing almost daily. (For example, there are over 70,000 book listings about innovation in Amazon). The problem is that nobody quite knows what the word actually means. Instead we’ve gotten tangled up in all of the variations, nuances, tools, techniques, models, frameworks, and paradigms of innovation. So what was once a simple concept – the idea of systematically finding, encouraging, and implementing new ideas – has become horribly complex. Unfortunately, by complexifying innovation, we’ve probably started to kill ...


If Your Boss Tells You to Get a Coach, Don’t Panic

 If Your Boss Tells You to Get a Coach, Don’t Panic

How does it feel when you’re told that you need a coach, whether it’s your boss or someone else? For many managers it feels like a kick in the gut, a clear sign that you’re doing something wrong and your job might be in trouble. For others, who might be resistant to coaching in general, it raises questions about whether you really need the extra help.

Having worked with dozens of managers who’ve been in this situation, these reactions are completely natural, especially if the request to work with a coach comes as a surprise. In ...


Attention Managers: Stop Being So Nice

Attention Managers: Stop Being So Nice

This post was co-authored with Lisa Bodell, founder and CEO of FutureThink and author of Kill the Company.

Most people want to be liked: It’s one of the fundamental tenets of human behavior. Because of that motivation, many of us have an unconscious desire to avoid conflict. We prefer to “get along,” “not make waves,” and “act as a team player.” We all want to be known as a great person to work with.

The only problem with this mindset is that creative ideas and better ways of getting things done often stem from constructive conflict. Organizations need it ...


How To Leave A Job Gracefully: Last Impressions Can Influence Your Career

How To Leave A Job Gracefully: Last Impressions Can Influence Your Career

A couple of years ago, a senior consultant left our firm to take a managerial position with one of our clients. Although sad to see him go, we were pleased that he had an opportunity to try something different in his career. Before moving on however this colleague took the initiative to develop a plan for transitioning his project work, hand off his contacts, and close off his administrative responsibilities. In addition he gave flowers to the support staff and personally thanked each person he had worked closely with over the years. In other words this colleague made it his ...


Don’t Ask for New Ideas If You’re Not Ready to Act on Them

Don’t Ask for New Ideas If You’re Not Ready to Act on Them

Companies that focus on innovation often worry about how to encourage people to contribute ideas. But what happens when you ask people to participate in an innovation effort, and then get flooded with too many suggestions?

That’s the dilemma that one of my clients described not long ago. Faced with a declining market and needing to ramp up growth, the company decided to tap into employees’ collective brainpower. Using an intranet-based crowdsourcing approach, management asked employees to suggest ideas for new products and services, how to increase sales, and how to improve customer satisfaction. A communications campaign also encouraged ...


How To Avoid the Trap of 'Hurry Up and Wait'

How To Avoid the Trap of 'Hurry Up and Wait'

Have you ever been asked to drop everything to complete a seemingly urgent task, and then found that the task wasn’t so urgent after all?

Not long ago, one of our clients gave us three days to put together a proposal to help with a very large and complex reorganization. Although we had been talking about the possibility of working on this project for months, the client suddenly felt that it was time to get started. We didn’t want to miss the opportunity, so we put in some late nights and did what was needed to craft a ...


We Still Don’t Know the Difference Between Change and Transformation

We Still Don’t Know the Difference Between Change and Transformation

It’s been almost 10 years since HBR published John Kotter’s classic article,”Why Transformation Efforts Fail.” And although his suggestions for how to improve the odds have been widely accepted, the success rate of major corporate change programs remains essentially unchanged – it still hovers at 30%.

 Given the amount of research that business schools have dedicated to understanding change management, the number of books and articles published on the subject, and the investment that companies have made in consultants and training, one would think that we would be doing better by now.

Based on consulting experience with dozens ...


How To Make Technology Your Friend At Work

How To Make Technology Your Friend At Work

Over the years I’ve talked with hundreds of managers about the reasons for complexity in their organizations – and in almost all cases they cite “technology” as one of the main culprits. But in the next breath, they also acknowledge that technology has revolutionized the way they work, increased personal productivity, and given them a whole new world of capabilities.  It’s an odd dichotomy: the notion that technology is a blessing and curse, a driver of improvement, and a source of frustration. This often leaves managers wondering what they can do to increase the benefits and minimize the pain ...


When a Public Mistake Requires an Old-Fashioned Apology

When a Public Mistake Requires an Old-Fashioned Apology

Everyone makes mistakes. We make bad decisions and insensitive statements, we speak before we think, and we let our emotions get the best of us. But since we hold very senior executives to a higher standard, when they mess up, it often becomes a public spectacle.

Consider the case of AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. On August 9, 2013 – a time of disappointing quarterly results – he held an all-hands conference call with 1,000 Patch (AOL’s hyper-local news division) employees. During the meeting, which was called to announce layoffs and site closings, Armstrong publicly fired Patch’s creative director for ...


It's January: Time To Sharpen Your Organizational Rhythm

It's January: Time To Sharpen Your Organizational Rhythm

We don’t often think about it, but life is based on natural, recurring rhythms: Days, years and even our own lives have predictable cycles that allow us to navigate through time. Our morning activities differ from our evening ones; we plan vacations around the seasons; and we focus our energy according to the stages of our careers. Without these cadences the music of life would be chaotic, and it would be hard to build a common social experience with other people.

The turning of the calendar year is a reminder that organizations also need rhythm. Some of it derives ...


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