It’s not about the document

What proportion of your working life do you spend working on documents? Reports, specs, plans, presentations, etc. The routine paraphernalia of knowledge workers. Paperwork.

It’s a trap. Isn’t it?

We become caught up in the trivialities of layout preferences, wrestling with MS Word settings, and distracted by inane presentation animations. And then there’s the dreaded group approval/sign-off process:

Can you change the font here please? I don’t like the grammar, a diagram, this detail, etc, etc…

We try to manage documents but they end up managing us.

Continue reading It’s not about the document

R&D: Rip off and Duplicate?

Our China visit in May challenged my ideas about what innovation really is.

Previously, I had lofty ideals of Edisoneque inventions. Men in white coats. Labs. Eureka moments. Products.

In China I learnt that innovation can be softer: an idea, a process, a business model. A variation rather than a big bang.

A Chinese company we visited with a Groupon business model even went so far as to to say that moving from one deal a day to multi-deals was an innovation for them.

This got me thinking. Who really innovates? I scurried back to my Henley MBA study guide on strategic innovation.

“innovation = invention + realisation of value”

So does Apple innovate? Is adding a touch-screen to an iPod innovation? What about if you then stick a smart phone inside? Or double the size and remove the phone?

Apple didn’t invent the components, these came from it’s suppliers. In fact, 26% of the component cost of the iPhone4 is supplied by Samsung (Economist graphic).

What Apple have done is take these individual inventions and configure them cleverly to realise value. $347 billion of value (Economist).  Invention + realisation of value = innovation.

The value creation machine doesn’t care what we call this. Evolution or revolution. Step change or incremental. We can get hung up on inventing game changers when applying an existing invention to a new context or business model would generate ample value.

I like this. As manufacturing is commoditized and IP rights difficult to defend the search for value must surely shift towards combining ideas / inventions / products / process in new ways.

I see an analogy with music; there are no new notes left to be invented but there are plenty of beautiful new unique combinations of notes still to come.

Defining leadership

Tonight the streets are filled with love.

These are the first words I heard from the radio alarm on Tuesday morning. Those seven simple words filled me with awe.

I had never heard of Crown Prince Haakon. I have no idea what sort of man he is. But his words spoke to me deeply.

The streets weren’t filled with anger or hatred. Not vengeance. Not negativity.

Love. Resilience. Humility. Defiance. Dare I say forgiveness?

What a colossal reframe of the situation! What a powerful perspective. What a bold statement to make.

We look to leaders in times of crisis to help us make sense of a situation. To provide guidance and reassurance. Leaders simplify things.

I was taken by Crown Prince Haakon’s reframe because it said so much in so few words. It also chimes well with the Jim Collins school of thought that the best leaders encapsulate humility and a quiet but steely determination, which resonates with me.

It wasn’t just Crown Prince Haakon. Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said, “Evil can kill a person, but it cannot kill a people.”

Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang said, “We will punish the guilty. The punishment will be more generosity, more tolerance, more democracy,”

Wow. What amazing courage and resolve.

Tonight the streets are filled with love

I have seen dozens definitions of leadership over the last fortnight but those seven words say it all.

Confusion: My new friend

I don’t understand. I’ve scrunched up my eyes and I’m even scratching my head. It just doesn’t make sense…

I have a shiny-new academic label for this feeling now, “cognitive dissonance“. An uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously.

I’ve been trying out a reframe of this uncomfortableness. What if, instead of confusion being a negative experience, it is a positive signal? A signal that an opportunity to learn has just arrived.

I’ll need to be quick to grasp the opportunity. What question can I ask to get to the core of the confusion? A sincere and humble question that is free from bias and judgement. Think quickly.

This works for me. Maybe because I treat it like a game and it appeals to my sense of curiosity.

Can I train myself to the point where my response to confusion isn’t discomfort? It will be fun finding out :)

Might this work for you too?