Think Again – why good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep It From Happening to You

Think-Again-bookThis book fundamentally changed my understanding of the decision making. The authors explained that even highly knowledgeable and very experienced decision makers can make obviously bad decisions. Though in some cases the decisions may not look ethical, there is a possibility that the decision maker could be unaware that he or she is not objective.

Based on the research described in the book, human evolution assured that we are equipped with the decision-making system that works well – most of the time. However, there are times, when our nature is working against our own interests. We can learn to identify these “red flag” situations and use “safeguards” to minimize “red flags” influence.

Red Flags

Misleading experiences (our subconscious search for pattern in the past – pattern could be found incorrectly, but the mistake won’t be clear to the conscious mind).
Example: a proposed acquisition looks similar to several successful acquisitions made in the past; however the situation is different, what is not recognized.

Misleading pre-judgments (previous decisions that mislead current decisions).
Example: a decision made several years earlier leads the decision maker to execute the long-planned strategy when he acquires needed power; the situation has changed and the strategy is no longer reasonable.

Inappropriate self-interest (self-interest that may not be recognized consciously by the designs maker as affecting his or her judgment).
Example: an incompetent employee remains in the organization because firing the employee could create short-term difficulties for the manager

Inappropriate attachments (decision makers can be attached to people, places, or things without realizing that this attachment can cloud their judgment).
Example: a business unit leader resists a new logo consistent with the corporate image because he was personally involved into creating the previous logo

SafeguardsThink-Again-book-safeguards

Experience, data, analysis
Example:
encourage the decision maker to do additional research on the area involved into the decision

Debate and challenge
Example:
introduce a person with necessary experience to the decision team who can challenge the decision maker (if the decision maker can be challenged)

Governance
Example: create a process of decision making that would involve other people without a particular bias (however, too much process can stall any decisions – the process needs to be appropriate)

Monitoring
Example: if the wrong decision is made the error should be identified quickly; in some cases people tend not to communicate “bad news” if they know that the leader is partial to the decision – this should be avoided.

Wonderful example of applying a safeguard to counterbalance possible pre-judgments:

In one company, the CEO was concerned that his managers appeared to be anchored to the status quo. So he started the planning process by asking each manager to compose an imaginary article to appear in the Financial Times in ten years’ time describing the adherents of the current management team over the “past” ten years. The goal was to get each individual to generate creative ideas of how the business might be developed, and so provide a good platform for a debate over a wide range of options. After the exercise, one member of the management team commented that the new plan was “the first time we have had a real strategy.”

More resources are available on the book’s web site.

Wonderful book – highly recommend.

Twebinar – Twitter distraction or useful extension?

twebinar-titleToday I attended a Twebinar the first time and it was a very unusual experience. At first, I could not access the Twebinar at all, but then I realized that something might be not working in IE (am I the only dinosaur who uses IE occasionally?) and switched to Firefox. It worked! 😉

The Twebinar was on an interesting topic and was provided by Radian6, which I admire greatly. However, at first, I felt something was missing…  there was no image of presentation, or video… only twits… and audio. I felt a little disappointed and retweeted a question of somebody else wondering about the video.

I definitely missed some visual cues… and thought that I could send a few e-mails while listening to the audio…  not a good idea – I missed a few points. 😉

twebinar

Twebinar advantage that I saw was the list of all participants’  Twitter contacts and linked web sites imported into the webinar – wonderful opportunity to connect to others.

However, the main Twebinar disadvantage (from my personal perspective) was the lack of anything visual (maybe unusual for Twebinars – I am just lucky 😉 ) and too many opportunities for destruction.  I usually have Twitter open during regular webinars (in the different window), but pay attention on it only when I need to ask a question, or something is wrong (or webinar’s information is not useful). The rest of the time, I am concentrating on the presentation…  even if it is two slides 😉

The perfect answer from my perspective would be a regular webinar (nice PPT, in-depth topic) and a place on Twitter (different window?) where I can see the participants… maybe after the webinar.  But, I will definitely check out other Twebinars… 😉

Being Strategic

being-strategic-bookBeing Strategic   is a very practical and wonderfully organized book. I followed Chris Brogan’s recommendation   and read it. He noted that the book was “like going through a lesson plan instead of an enjoyable read.”  “Perfect!” I thought, and I was not disappointed 🙂  

The author, Erika Andersen,  noted that understanding of the word “strategy” is not always correct and hardly consistent. I could not agree more – on two different jobs I was considered “too strategic” and “not strategic” for asking exactly the same question “what are we trying to achieve?” I still love strategy books 😉  

Being Strategic  – interesting points:

Being strategic means consistently making those core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future. 

Strategy: core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future.

Tactics: specific actions that will best implement your strategies.

          Being Strategic
Define the Challenge, then
          Clarify What Is
(An exploration of the current situation and how it came to be.)
          Envision What’s the Hope (How can we…?)
(The hoped-for future: clearly defined, realistic, inspirational.)
          Face What’s in the Way
(An objective understanding of what’s blocking movement from “what is” to the hoped-for future.)
          Determine What’s the Path
(The Plan to overcome obstacles and achieve the hoped-for future.)

          Excellent Tactics
          Arise from strategy

          Are FIT (feasibility, impact, timeliness)
          Define what, who, and when

The book pays specific attention to “being strategic” in a group and facilitation. An absolutely remarkable recommendation on what to do when everybody is arguing solutions without understanding what is the goal:

being-strategic-authorAs soon as I realize that we’re arguing solutions without having defined the challenge, I ask the group’s permission to share an idea. Then, when they say yes (they are generally so surprised that I did not just start lobbying for my own solution that they almost always say yes), I say something like, “I’m not sure we are all trying to solve the same problem. What do we think the problem is?”

Most often, somebody will state his or her version of what the problem is in a kind of isn’t-this-obvious tone of voice and at least a couple of other people in the room will look surprised and disagree. Before they can start a new argument – about what the problem is – I break in and say, “How about if we all just say what we think is the problem and look for overlaps?” … if you can get the group focused on the task of creating a shared picture of what is not working or what needs to be addressed or accomplished (the challenge), you will have gone most of the way toward shifting their attention.

The best explanation of SWOT I ever found (as part of “clarifying of What Is”):

Example for “How can we ensure our after-school program stays fun, safe, and cost-effective?”

Strengths: Strengths of the group relative to the challenge.
Example: Kids like the program, the person in charge has great financial skills, etc.

Weaknesses: Weaknesses or deficits of the group relative to the challenge
Example: we are not clear about what we want to program to provide, we are lax about emergency procedures, etc.

Opportunities: Traditional SWOT can focus on “possible things we could do going forward.” Could be better define as “circumstances around us that support our success.”  Opportunities are considered as strengths – external to the group that are relevant to the challenge.
Example: other schools have figured out how to do this well and their learning is available to us, community is supportive of our success.

Threats: Weaknesses external to the group.
Example: School is not in a very safe neighborhood, expected budget cuts, etc.

being-strategic-castleSWOT is similar to helpful and unhelpful staff within the group and helpful and unhelpful staff outside the group, relative to the challenge.

Particularly interesting section on facilitation – one person can be a facilitator and if needed offer an opinion.

          Facilitator Skills
          Clarify
          Protect
          Keep on Track

being-strategic-proteusExcellent book!  The book includes a few real examples of clients of Proteus International, Inc. and detailed descriptions of hypothetical examples to clarify the ideas.

MIMA – Joe Kutchera – Localization and Internationalization – Spanish-Language Markets

dotGlobalJoe Kutchera  gave a very insightful presentation  about developments and challenges of Spanish-language markets.

Ideas from the presentation:

Term “g-commerce” – global e-commerce

Touch of globalization: HomeDepot created a web site in Spanish and took it down after several months. Most of the visitors were coming from the outside of the US and could not purchase anything. Best Buy also has a Spanish language site, where it sees visitors from Latin America who do not necessarily buy; however, some show up in the stores with printouts from the site. Many Spanish language US sites receive significant portion of traffic from abroad.

Where Hispanics live in the US? An interesting advertising campaign – In an Absolute World

Absolut

The obstacle: Spanish speaking people throughout the world find attractive goods on American web sites (and the goods are cheaper than in their countries); however their credit cards can not be used for purchases and shipping is very expensive if possible at all. But people abroad also want to shop!  Some do purchase and ship the goods to their American relatives addresses (to pick up when they travel to the US).

Global trends

Current map of internet penetration of the world  does not represent population numbers and most common spoken languages.

internet-penetration-map

However, the price of computers is trending down and soon the current “map” will change. At that point different cultures and languages will become more important.

Practical advice: for some businesses specifically targeting people who live in Mexico and coming to the US to shop might be very beneficial.

Joe Kutchera’s company site dotGlobal  is an excellent resource for anybody interested in international e-commerce.

PortadaAnother resource: Portada – Latin advertising, marketing, and media magazine.   The magazine was available at the event.

Twitter Job Search – Will Slow Economy Speed up Adoption of Social Media?

Twitter-job-searchAre you using Twitter to search for the next job?  Oh, yes!  Or maybe you are inviting everybody you remotely remember to join you on LikedIn and Facebook?  Sure! Just in case – nobody knows when the next layoff is coming. Would some of us be so engaged in social media if the economy was better?  Unlikely.

My guess: the fact that we are searching for jobs on Twitter and trying to build networks on LinkedIn, Facebook (and other niche communities) will speed up adoption of social media. The economy is encouraging us to use all available tools to handle the challenges of rising unemployment. Conveniently, social media offers quite a few opportunities and all of them are free.

How slow economy stimulates adoption of social media: 

  1. Almost 10% of the population is actively looking for work. Twitter has a range of job related hash tags and job search specific applications appear (for example Twitter Job Search ). They may not be perfect at this point, but looking for work on Twitter is routinely discussed by outplacement companies. LinkedIn is growing; those who have not heard about the site are being introduced to it through outplacement organizations and encouraged to create a profile.
  2. Those who still have jobs (and worry about possible layoffs) are also expanding their networks just in case, to assure that former co-workers and clients can be reached if needed. Plus, they receive invites from currently unemployed friends who now have time to devote to their LinkedIn profile, Facebook contacts, and post status update everywhere, including Twitter.
  3. Those who could not find suitable jobs for some time are attempting consulting or trying to start small businesses. Social media presents the most cost-effective opportunities to promote these services. LinkedIn Answers, blogging, twittering, or posting presentations on SlideShare  do take time, but because of the economy, time is easily available resource.

Google

Would all these twittering public forget about social media when the economy recovers?

I believe people who were introduced to social media during economic downturn would not abandon their LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other networks. Yes, we all forget about our Monster.com accounts as soon as we are happily employed, but social media is different. Social media is much more than just a job search; this new form of communication won’t be abandoned. Social media seem to reflect dynamic of the society rather than perform a narrow utilitarian function.  

Job search activity is urgent and involuntary, but it is just a first step. Interesting: some HR departments leading their company’s foray into social media, because Twitter and Facebook help HR to fill jobs…  and it is measureable… and it is cheaper than previously known methods.

iPhoneThe only part of emerging media that might be hurt by the recession is mobile. Though Home Broadband is a Must in Downturn  mobile internet and smart phones are not considered that important.

A better day will come for mobile too… What would happen when everybody who fell in love with social media during their job search would be busy again?  This would be a perfect time to turn to a smart phone… 😉