Friday Five: Slow Learning

Godin

Friday Five is where I curate five articles (with excerpts)/quotes/tweets/visuals shared on my personal learning network that I found particularly useful, and hopefully you will find some of them valuable too!

This edition features insights on slow media, the downsides of speed reading, challenging our leadership beliefs and power of conflicts in elevating the art of storytelling.

Slow media – Seth Godin

When there’s unlimited shelf space allowing unlimited podcasts, which can be of unlimited length, the goal isn’t to get the show on the air faster or to make it noisier. Instead, the goal, like the goal of a good book, is to say something worth saying, and to do it in a way that’s worth waiting for.

I enjoy slow media – really good podcasts that I listen to while commuting, where two individuals have an insightful and layered conversation on a topic. No pithy quotes, no formulas, no shortcuts to wisdom. Insights just flow and you pick what resonates with you most. In a noisy world of information, slow media is nuanced way of learning.

Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound

When the reading brain skims like this, it reduces time allocated to deep reading processes. In other words, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings, to perceive beauty, and to create thoughts of the reader’s own.

It is hard to learn when we anxiously scroll our newsfeeds hoping to extract whatever insight we can. The truth is, it does not last longer. Reading is an immersive process where our brain creates (and visualizes) thoughts of its own. When we skim or speed read, we often miss the whole point.

Are You Sacrificing for Your Work, or Just Suffering for It? 

So if you find work worth sacrificing your self for, then do it right: Respect your limits, pace yourself, and get the help you need to give it your best, not just your all.

While we try to catch up with the pace at work, the pace catches up with us leaving us burned out and exhausted. If this is what you experience, do read this post. My key takeaway: We need to create an ecosystem where we can give our best, not our all.

5 Questions to Surface Your Leadership Beliefs 

What you don’t see CAN hurt you. . . and your team. Unexamined beliefs can undermine your good intentions.

In this post, Jesse Lyn Stoner offers five questions to surface some important leadership beliefs and consider how well your actions reflect them.

Stories Are About Change – Steve Pressfield

Stories give us the courage to act when we face confusing circumstances that require decisiveness. These circumstances are called CONFLICTS. What we do or don’t do when we face conflict is the engine of storytelling.

Stories are at the heart of enabling change. Stories we tell and stories we live are vital in building a culture and enabling change.

The-Change-Curve

Building a Culture of Excellence: Tom Peters

I created a series of sketch notes for Tiffani Bova’s “What’s Next” podcast where she meets brilliant people to discuss customer experience, growth and innovation. Tiffani Bova is a Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. I will post sketchnote versions of selected podcast episodes that enlightened me. Tiffani is also the author of a new book “Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices that Will Make or Break Your Business” due for release in August 2018.


It is safe to assume that every CEO would have priority building a culture of Excellence because ultimately excellence drives growth and makes a company memorable.

Today, we have a bunch of complex models to help organizations become excellent, but in the pursuit of implementing these complex capability models, organizations forget that excellence is as much about people as it is about the process. It is as much about the small things as it is about the big things.

In a world that is obsessed with complexity, Tom Peters advocates simple things to enable a culture of excellence. He says,

“Embracing new technology is incredibly important, but EXCELLENCE IS HUMAN.”

Excellence is all about being close to your customers, creating ecosystems where best people can do their best work, developing people, listening, caring, smiling and saying “Thank you” often enough. These are not complex things, yet for many leaders, these are the most difficult things to do. And these simple things are at the core of excellence.

Please listen to this episode of the podcast and I am pretty sure it will be thought provoking, as it always is with whatever Tom shares.

Here is my sketchnote summary of the key nuggets of wisdom Tom Peters shared in this podcast episode.

08_tompeters_950px

Also See:

On Disrupting Yourself

I created a series of sketch notes for Tiffani Bova’s “What’s Next” podcast where she meets brilliant people to discuss customer experience, growth and innovation. Tiffani Bova is a Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. I will post sketchnote versions of selected podcast episodes that enlightened me.


During 2001 dot com bubble, one of my friends, a competent software developer, was laid off because of lack of business in the technology he worked in. He was smart enough to understand that the company needed people in a new project that was to be developed on a totally different technology. He learned the new technology, re-skilled himself fast enough to face a client interview for the new project and was retained even before his notice period got over.

In my formative years, he stood as an example of someone who totally disrupted himself when he was forced by external circumstances. Obviously, today’s complex and fast changing world demands individuals to disrupt themselves based on internal drivers of change, before external circumstances compel them to change.

In a business context, there are many organizations like 3M, Apple, NetFlix and Google whose success can be attributed to their ability to disrupt themselves continuously.

In this episode of What’s Next podcast, one of my favorite authors and thinkers Whitney Johnson says,

“Not just products, services and companies, the fundamental unit of disruption is an individual.”

Individuals disrupt themselves when they take some risk, do things that they have never done before, learn constantly, connect the dots and think about intersections between current reality (what they have done so far) and possibilities (what they could do with all innovations around them).

One of her key advices in the podcast is:

“Play to your strengths, not just what you do well but what others don’t.”

The insights in this podcast are very relevant to individuals and businesses alike.

Here is a high-level sketch note summary of this excellent conversation, which I encourage you to check out.

Tanmay Vora Whitney Johnson Sketchnote

Related Posts at QAspire

Nancy Duarte on Storytelling in Business

I created a series of sketch notes for Tiffani Bova’s “What’s Next” podcast where she meets brilliant people to discuss customer experience, growth and innovation. Tiffani Bova is a Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. I will post sketchnote versions of selected podcast episodes that enlightened me.


When driving large scale change, leaders often fall in trap of presenting the current reality and future state in form of data, numbers and charts. Data and information may provide clarity to people, in itself, they fail to connect people emotionally to ideas.

That is an area where modern advancements like AI with all its information generating capabilities, will still not fill the human need to connect emotionally.

For that, leaders need an ability to empathize with current realities of people, tell stories that resonate, in a way that inspire thinking and provokes meaningful change in how people operate on a day to day basis.

In this episode of What’s Next podcast, Nancy Duarte, a communications and persuasion expert discusses ideas on how to use storytelling and emotional connection to engage people/customers better. Do check it out.

While I present the sketchnote summary of this excellent podcast conversation, I also encourage you to watch Nancy’s famous TED Talk, The Secret Structure of Great Talks, which is viewed over a million times.

NancyDuarte


Related Reading at QAspire:

Insights on High-Tech and High-Touch Customer Experience

I created a series of sketch notes for Tiffani Bova’s “What’s Next” podcast where she meets brilliant people to discuss customer experience, growth and innovation. Tiffani Bova is a Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. I will post sketchnote versions of selected podcast episodes that enlightened me.


Common perception is that people who face the customers are accountable for customer experience. Larger organizations often fall in the trap of defining customer experience KPI’s only to executive teams, sales, marketing and customer services teams.
 
What about those who build the products? And those who recruit people? And those in backend operations? And how all of them collaborate to achieve business outcomes?
 
We see things in parts and therefore, fix things in parts. And even when parts are (sub) optimized, the whole may not have improved.
 
This equation gets even more complex in an AI driven world where customers expect personalized services.
 
In this episode of Whats Next! podcast, Tamara McCleary (CEO at Thulium.co) shares some useful insights on how technology advancements like AI and machine learning can enable companies to learn rapidly about the customers and personalize the experience at scale. This is critical because marketers think about selling to ‘customer segments’ where as customers expect personalized services based on their individual preferences.
 
Companies have to leverage “high-tech” to achieve “high-touch”
 
For everyone to own customer experience within a company, leaders have to start with a vision of what amazing customer experience looks like, build a culture of leadership at all levels, define systemic metrics (like Net Promoter Score) that everyone can strive for and finally incentivize people for their contributions to customer experience.
 
When leaders look at the whole, they provide a way for all departments to work towards the same outcomes and for everyone to clearly know that their work impacts customer experience.
 
Here is a visual summary of insights from the podcast episode, which you can listen here.
 
tamara-mccleary

 


Related Reading at QAspire:

4 Skills Great Innovators Share by Greg Satell

If creativity is about having unique ideas and new ways to do things, innovation is all about making those ideas happen.

In that sense, the bridge between creativity and innovation is made from the bricks of execution. That is when the rubber meets the road.

One of the key characteristics of someone who innovates is that they run small pilots to test their hypothesis. When they encounter ideas (or interesting intersections of already existing ideas), they tinker with the idea, execute in small chunks and learn along the way to adapt. They understand that to make a few things work, they have to try, fail and learn from many other things. They have to collaborate and network with others. They have to be comfortable with ambiguity and chaos when they experiment.

In this context, I read a brilliant post (with some great examples) from Greg Satell about 4 skills that all great innovators share. I highly recommend you read the full post and here is a quick sketch note summary of key skills. Greg supports these skills in his post with excellent examples to make sense of it all.

Related Posts at QAspire:

The 9 Rules of Innovation by Greg Satell

Innovation is perhaps the most used word in corporate boardrooms today. Start ups are organized around a brand new idea but they often stumble when it comes to execution. Big companies have all the required resources, but also a lot of red-tape and resistance to change.

Add to this, the challenges of hyper-competitive landscape, organization cultures, shortage of talent and agility to move swiftly and the challenge of innovation compounds.

Moreover, innovation is not as simple as having fresh ideas and executing them well. It actually stems from having a deep and wide understanding of problem and domain at hand and it takes years to get to that understanding. Also, innovation doesn’t always mean a flashy new idea. Innovation can take many forms from operational innovation to business models and creating platforms.

In 2016, I had read an excellent article by Greg Satell that outlined “The 9 Rules of Innovation”. The post provides a rich context to the topic of how to innovate.

Here is a snippet from the post that underlines the fact that innovation requires us to pursue width of understanding and not just depth:

Darwin’s theory of natural selection borrowed ideas from Thomas Malthus, an economist and Charles Lyell, a geologist. Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA was not achieved by simply plowing away at the lab, but by incorporating discoveries in biology, chemistry and x-ray diffraction to inform their model building.

Great innovation almost never occurs within one field of expertise, but is almost invariably the product of synthesis across domains.

Greg cites example of Google to outline the 70/20/10 rule which I so agree with. He says,

The premise of the rule is simple. Focus 70% of your resources in improving existing technology (i.e. search), 20% toward adjacent markets (i.e. Gmail, Google Drive, etc.) and 10% on completely new markets (i.e. self-driving cars).

And finally, a nugget of wisdom that outlines the path to success in a networked world:

In a networked world, the surest path to success is not acquiring and controlling assets, but widening and deepening connections.

I encourage you to read Greg’s post and here is my sketch note synthesis of key ideas from the post. The post also has a wonderful sketchnote drawn my Mauro Toselli, who has been an inspiration in my own sketchnote journey:

Also Read at QAspire.com

Peter Drucker on The Effective Executive

Ultimately, leadership is all about ability to act on the ideas. In that sense, anyone who thinks of the self as a leader has to be good at executing things. Probably a reason why top leaders in organizations are referred to as executives – the one who executes, not just someone with a fancy title and corner office.

Leadership is a very broad term and leaders in organizations come in all shapes and sizes – from introverted to extraverted, charismatic to simple, people oriented versus task oriented and the differentiation goes on.

But Peter Drucker, whose work has played a defining role in my own growth as a manager and leader, identified eight practices of effective executive based on his observations over 65 years of his consulting career.

The June 2004 article by Peter Drucker in Harvard Business titled “What Makes an Effective Executive” is a must read, if you are a student  of leadership.

Here’s a short snippet of 8 characteristics along with a quick sketch note.

What made them all effective is that they followed the same eight practices:

  • They asked, “What needs to be done?”
  • They asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”
  • They developed action plans.
  • They took responsibility for decisions.
  • They took responsibility for communicating.
  • They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
  • They ran productive meetings.
  • They thought and said “we” rather than “I.”

The first two practices gave them the knowledge they needed. The next four helped them convert this knowledge into effective action. The last two ensured that the whole organization felt responsible and accountable.

– Peter Drucker, What Makes an Effective Executive

Related posts at QAspire

Future of Work: Ways to Prepare

At #SocialNow conference recently, Luis Suarez shared a slide by Thierry de Baillon on ways to prepare for the dark side of technology. I loved the ideas and decided to sketch the approach.

Once again these ideas reinforced my belief that leading organizations and self in the future is all about the stuff like connections, empathy, flow, learning and thinking differently. It is clear that these implicit and human/social elements of work are the real antidote to onslaught of technology.

The sooner organizations embrace these elements into their culture, the sooner they will start adapting. That is the way to ride the wave of technology changes rather than getting crushed under it. 

Related Visual Posts at QAspire.com

Sketchnote: What Rebels Want From Their Boss

At the heart of a meaningful change is someone who thought beyond the boundaries. Someone who challenged the status quo. Someone who exerted emotional labor to pursue, fight for their ideas and convince others. And then they bring about change. You can call them rebels or change makers and they are inevitable for growth and positive change.

Rebels may not be a very popular lot and many bosses I’ve seen work overtime to subdue the rebels. But great leadership is about providing right channels to direct this energy, nurturing a mindset of continuous improvement and supporting people as they execute their experiments and ideas. That’s what rebels expect from their bosses.

“…it’s just another one of those things I don’t understand: everyone impresses upon you how unique you are, encouraging you to cultivate your individuality while at the same time trying to squish you and everyone else into the same ridiculous mould. It’s an artist’s right to rebel against the world’s stupidity.”
E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

In this context, I love the work that Lois Kelly and Carmen medina do at Rebels at Work community. I have sketched their ideas here before and here’s a quick sketchnote of their recent blog post “What Rebels Want From Their Bosses”.

This may help you as a leader if you really intend to support rebels in your teams.

Related Sketchnotes/Posts at QAspire.com

Five Not-So-Radical Ideas For Nurturing Change

When everything around is constantly changing, it is easy to:

  • Get carried away by latest fads, best practices etc.
  • Execute changes that may not be significant in shifting results to positive direction
  • Implement solutions to half-baked problem statements
  • Isolate people affected by change in a rush to just change things
  • Get confused between change and transformation initiatives

We often see this happening all around us. There is so much conversation going on about change and transformation that it is easy to get carried away when the “Big WHY” of change is not clear.

In this context, I read Paul Taylor’s latest post titled “Three Simple Ideas To Stop Change Failing” where he offers not so radical ideas to ensure that change does not fail. He emphasizes on importance of mindset, getting influence devolved to people closest to change, change through small experimentation and not initiating change without a clear problem statement and some evidence that proposed solution will result in net positive business outcome.

These are simple ideas, but powerful ones. Simplicity after all is not all that flashy and it takes far more thinking and work to simplify things. Which is probably why we take the easier route of adding complexity, heh!

Here are a few excerpts from Paul’s post:

change is best served when we devolve power, and the institutions and hierarchy get out of the way

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Our change programmes rarely answer the question “Why are we changing?” in a truly coherent way.

This – combined with our cultural bias for execution over problem definition – is why change often fails. We may solve a problem – just not the right one.

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And here’s a quick sketch note summary of key ideas from the post:

Related Posts on Managing Change

How to Accelerate Team Learning

A team’s ability to learn quickly is at the heart of adapting to constant changes. In fact, it seems that constant learning is the only key to agility as a team and organization.

Jack Welch famously said,

“An organizations ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the greatest competitive advantage.”

On this blog, we have visually explored various facets of creating a learning organization. It all starts from understanding why organizations don’t learn. Peter Senge’s seminal work on creating a learning organizations outlines learning disabilities that plague organizations. To overcome these disabilities, we explored disciplines of a learning organization and the role of reflection in how we learn.

Along the same lines, I read Elizabeth Doty’s post titled “How to Accelerate Learning on Your Team” at Strategy+Business blog with great interest. It adds on to the ideas we have explored further and provides fresh perspective on how to catalyze learning within teams.

I encourage you to read the full post and here are my visual notes from the same article.

P.S: I wrote a post in 2011 that outlined 10 actions for leaders to create learning organizations and further outlined Three Rituals For Constant Alignment And Learning that just aligns with some of the ideas suggested in this post. Do check them out.

Peter Senge: How to Overcome Learning Disabilities in Organizations

As an organization grows, managing the flow demands work items to move from one team/department to another. In quest to make these teams accountable, very specific KPI’s are established and that breeds non-systemic thinking. People look at meeting their own numbers and push the work to next stage and often, what happens is that while people win (in short term), the system fails. Every team meets the KPI numbers and yet, customers remain disgruntled.

Peter Senge, in his book “The Fifth Discipline – The Art and Practice of Learning Organization” outlines 7 organizational learning disabilities. He says,

“It is no accident that most organizations learn poorly. The way they are designed and managed, the way people’s jobs are defined, and, most importantly, the way we have all been taught to think and interact (not only in organizations but more broadly) create fundamental learning disabilities. These disabilities operate despite the best effort of bright, committed people. Often the harder they try to solve problems, the worse the results. What learning does occur takes place despite these learning disabilities – for they pervade all organizations to some degree.”

It then becomes very crucial that we identify clearly these learning disabilities. Here is a sketch note summary of these 7 learning disabilities.

Critical question then is: How to we overcome these learning disabilities and truly create an organization that learns better? Peter Senge answers that question through his 5 disciplines of learning organizations that I have written about in the past. Here is a sketchnote summary of five disciplines:

More on Creating Learning Organization at QAspire:

10 Characteristics of Companies that Succeed

What differentiates companies that succeed over a long run from those that don’t? As the rate of change and disruption continues to accelerate, companies need a strong foundation of fundamentals that enable long term success and growth.

In this respect, I recently read Leandro Herrero’s post on characteristics of companies that succeed in long run. 10 characteristics are outlined in the sketch note below.

Also Read:

Organizational Leader as a Social Architect

Leadership success is largely governed by, amongst other things, one’s ability to create an ecosystem of engagement, meaning, performance and growth. A leader creates this ecosystem through conversations, communication (leading to clarity), connection, systems, rituals, processes and decisions.

Leandro Herrero, in his post, “Five spaces that the organizational leader needs to design and nurture”, calls leader a social architect. The idea resonated very strongly with me since social architecture (physical and psychological spaces) is a way to create the ecosystem of high performance. 

“Yes, leaders need to see themselves as architects, as space designers, creators, and implementors. This is an area where what the leader says counts less than what the leader does in this social engineering. It is therefore very silent, but the spaces will be very visible and the legacy will be enormous.” – Leandro Herrero

Here is a quick sketch note I created based on the ideas presented in the post.

Related Posts/Sketchnotes at QAspire:

Putting People First: Leading in an Era of Constant Transformation

Leading in an era of constant disruption, change and transformation is not easy. In such transformation efforts, soft aspects of leadership play as crucial role as the hard aspects like systems thinking, innovation and execution of change.

Last week, I saw an insightful TED talk by Jim Hemerling where he outlined 5 ways to lead in an era of constant changes. He says,

Let’s acknowledge that change is hard. People naturally resist change, especially when it’s imposed on them. But there are things that organizations do that make change even harder and more exhausting for people than it needs to be. First of all, leaders often wait too long to act. As a result, everything is happening in crisis mode. Which, of course, tends to be exhausting. Or, given the urgency, what they’ll do is they’ll just focus on the short-term results, but that doesn’t give any hope for the future. Or they’ll just take a superficial, one-off approach, hoping that they can return back to business as usual as soon as the crisis is over.

Sustainable change and transformation requires inclusive leadership that inspires through purpose, develops people and builds a culture of continuous learning.

Here are my sketch notes summarizing the key insights from the talk.

 

Related Posts/Sketchnotes at QAspire:

Making Work More Effective

Here is what leaders often do – when faced with a complex situation at work, they add more meetings, task forces, new procedures and governance structures that makes things more complex. What we need to handle complex challenges is simplicity that leads to effectiveness.

Simon Terry, whose thinking I really admire, wrote a short post titled “Five Ways to Make Work More Effective” offering vital ideas about efficient work.

Meetings, unending email threads, too much focus on consensus building, siloed thinking and lack of experimentation are some of the biggest wastes in an organization. They sap productivity, hurt engagement and kill accountability.

If you are a leader or a manager, this might just be a reminder you need often to ensure that you create an environment of effective work – smart work as they call it!

Here’s a quick sketch summary of the post!

Related Reading at QAspire

Six Rules to Simplify Work

Most re-organization efforts either focus on hard stuff (processes, strategy, structure, KPI’s) or on soft stuff (culture, values, relationships, feelings). I have seen very few reorganization efforts in my career that are focused on the most important aspect of how value is delivered to customers: Simplicity

Simplicity stems from decentralization of power. “New Power” as they call it, is all about empowering people, creating conducive ecosystems for performance, learning collectively and encouraging collaboration. Most complexity in organization is introduced in an attempt to centralize power. The focus then is on adding more checks, processes, structures, metrics, KPI’s, incentives, coordinating offices and such.

Yesterday, I saw a very interesting TED talk by Yves Morieux (Boston Consulting Group) where he says,

Complicatedness: This is your battle, business leaders. The real battle is not against competitors. This is rubbish, very abstract. When do we meet competitors to fight them? The real battle is against ourselves, against our bureaucracy, our complicatedness. Only you can fight, can do it.

The talk sets the context on how organizations increase complexity and offers useful ideas on how work can be simplified. Here are my notes from the talk and I recommend you watch this insightful and provocative talk to gain a more well rounded view.

More Posts on Simplicity at QAspire

Leadership: Assessing Organizational Health

Leadership in a business context is challenging because its effectiveness depends not just on a leader’s key traits but also on organizational decision making, competitive forces and constantly changing external situation.

On the other hand, people want to work in healthier organization cultures where they can maximize their chances of adding value – both to their own selves as well as to their organizations.

Beyond visible numbers, how do we assess the health of an organization?

I read 2016-1 edition of McKinsey Quarterly with great interest. It is a rich resource with insights on theme “Organizing for the Future”. In one of the sections on putting leadership in context, authors point to an interesting 2009 research from McKinsey’s Alice Breeden, Aaron De Smet, Helena Karlinder-Ostlundh, Colin Price, Bill Schaninger, and Eilidh Weir on “Building healthy organizations to drive performance: The evidence”.

To be sure, certain normative qualities, such as demonstrating a concern for people and offering a critical perspective, will always be part of what it takes to be a leader. But the importance of other elements, such as keeping groups on task and bringing out the best in others, vary in importance depending upon an organization’s circumstances. Organizational health changes over time. Effective situational leadership adapts to these changes by identifying and marshaling the kinds of behavior needed to transition a company from its present state to a stronger, healthier one.

The exhibit offers 9 rules of thumb to assess health of an organization beyond numbers. Whether you are a leader responsible for organizational health or someone responsible for building leadership culture within organization, these rules of thumb for assessing organizational health will certainly help you clarify behaviors that lead to better health.

Please read the full report here for more context and insights. Meanwhile, here is a quick sketch note version of the exhibit.

Related Posts/Visual Notes at QAspire.com

Organization Culture is a Reflection

You cannot change your reflection in the mirror if you want to change how you look and feel about yourself. YOU have to change and the reflection changes accordingly.

And to enable that change, you have to do all the right things based on what you wish to achieve.

Trying to change an organization’s culture is much like that too. Culture of an organization is a reflection – a by-product – of what people within the organization do.

If you want culture to change, you have to first change your intent, behavior, systems, processes, mindset and then narrative. Trying to change an organization’s culture only through narratives (tall mission statements, values on the wall and lip service) is like trying to change the reflection in the mirror. It doesn’t happen.

As Euan Semple so succintly puts it –

You can change things that affect people in the hope that doing so gives them a good reason to adapt their behaviour, but culture emerges from the collective behaviours of the people in your organisation over time.

Culture itself cannot be created – it just happens as a result of doing the right things.

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In the Photo: Mountains at the Dawn, Jhadol, Rajasthan, India (2013)