What’s your behavorial architecture?

We spend a lot of time on strategy, technology, and operations planning exercises. And yet, the area that gets the least attention and that has perhaps the most impact is in planning behaviors, especially around decision making. Instead of really getting clear on the way humans make decisions, we revel in process flows and decision diagrams, as if robots were going through the motions and the decisions were bespoke.

Maybe we just don’t like the ‘idea’ of social engineering or defining behaviors in that way, but all change management programs or transformation programs contain an element of architecting behavior. The challenge is especially hard when the new behaviors require different decision making or when loci of power and control move – which happens in pretty much every transformation project!

By being explicit and intentional about the behavioral architecture associated with your transformation, I suggest you can see better results.  We know that behavior changes in adults when expectations are clear, when they are allowed to iterate through new behaviors routinely, and when they can learn by doing. Tying new behaviors to visible results is required as well. Thinqshift has done a good job of quickly hitting some of the highlights in this video, emphasizing the need to create a behavioral architecture that will drive success. Check it out !

Cultivating culture with intention

Growing companies are taking an increased interest in how to build culture with intention. Starting with the recruiting and on boarding process, they are looking as much for fit as for technical skills.  Thanks to the success of places like Zappos and DaVita, where culture is almost an obsession, we have seen the influence of culture on driving revenue, customer experiences, and employee retention.

The difference between these companies and others starts with intention. Culture is no accident – it is defined, understood, and reinforced continually at companies that use culture to drive results. The leaders in these organizations know how to build to suit the culture, and success comes first from within. It is almost an organic application of design thinking, because it forces management to ask a different set of questions when developing a new product, market, or service. Rather than starting with the technology, putting culture first creates a natural sequence of designing customer and employee experiences first, and then following with technology solutions that support that direction.

If you are in a growing company or division and you want to create culture with intention, consider how you personally understand and model the culture you’d like to see. Remember Kouzes and Posner’s disciplines of leadership – ‘model the way’ is core to everything leadership should do. Culture emanates not from what leaders say but from what they do – the decisions they make, the priorities they set, and the way they orient towards customers and employees. If you start innovation processes, operational solution sessions, or product development by asking ‘does this direction support us having the culture we want to have’ and ‘can we successfully develop this and be in alignment with our cultural commitments’, you will be on your way to building a culture with intention.

The World Cup as a universal language

Univision (a American Spanish speaking broadcast station) recently published that their non-Hispanic viewership is up 2/3rds since the last World Cup.  In a recent NYT vlog, one young American woman was quoted commenting on her preference of viewing the games on Univision, noting that even though she doesn’t know Spanish, it is more exciting to watch than the ESPN version because of the enthusiasm of the commentators. “When I listen to ESPN, it’s not quite the same” she said.  Another young  American guy explains why he goes to a primarily Mexican bar to watch on Univision: “The whole vibe of it is…. more like a party!”

What a beautiful articulation of the power of emotion and the transcendence of language! Excitement, enthusiasm, despair, and loyalty know no language barriers – they are transcendent and powerful in any voice. If you are watching the World Cup tomorrow, consider checking out a few minutes in Univision even if you don’t speak Spanish. You just might be caught up in the power of it all in a different way, and who knows what might happen then :)

Do you know why your business needs to innovate?

When I run innovation sessions for clients, we often have to spend a good bit of time up front talking about the objectives for the sessions – ‘what’ is it that we are trying to innovate.  Sangeet Choudary had a good article in Wired earlier this year where he talked about the differences between a “stuff” approach, a “optimization” approach, and a “platform” approach, or as he puts it:

  1. The “stuff” approach: How can we create more stuff whenever the problem crops up?
  2. The “optimization” approach: How can we better distribute the stuff already created to minimize waste?
  3. The “platform” approach: How can we redefine stuff and find new ways of solving the same problem?

He has some great examples of the differences between the three, pointing out that the “platform” approach is fairly new and depends on the technology enabling resources we now have at our disposal. One that everyone can relate to is hotel accommodations – big chains take the “stuff” approach to innovation by continually building out new and different types of properties, companies like Kayak make the finding of accommodations more efficient and accessible – the “optimizing” approach to innovation, and companies like AirBnB redefine the platform through which travelers understand and access accommodations altogether – the platform approach.

Check it out, and the next time someone says “we need to be more innovative around here”, stop and dive into what they mean by innovation. It might lead to some productive insights about how to progress your organization’s strategy and objectives.



The risk of ‘catastrophic success’ in a hyper connected world

A Slate writer, Farhad Manjoo, recently created quite a challenge for a young American garment manufacturer, American Giant.  He wrote an article that waxed poetic about the quality and design of their product – so much so that the company was overwhelmed with orders. His readers flocked to the site and orders quickly spiked.  American Giant produces all of its apparel in the United States, creating a high quality, mid-range price line, and they are worth checking out, but expect to wait if you want a hoodie – current backorders are at least weeks if not longer. This is a case study on “catastrophic success” – where sudden demand outstrips supply so significantly it challenges the entire business model.

American’s in particular expect instant gratification – . We live in a world where a game in the app store can go from one of millions to The One overnight, and the biggest challenges to scale are servers and pipes. But the realities of manufacturing a real, tangible, physical object like a garment remain what they are – cotton must be processed, dyes must be applied and set, cloth created, pieces cut and sewn.  Reconciling production challenges with the reality of trends, spikes, and the speed with which things ‘go viral’ and then fade away is a challenge for any company looking to manage a pipeline.

Traditional business projections typically follow either a steady growth, a spike and level, or a cyclical chart. Sometimes they can plan for an anomaly – for example Roots, the Canadian manufacturer who designed clothing for the Olympics could get ahead of that spike because it was predictable. Viral hits are something new for manufacturers, especially those that don’t come from a planned campaign or something like a major sporting event. Companies want to balance investment in infrastructure with long range revenue projections, so building production capability to meet the possibility of a sudden viral hit is tough for a company that has long lead times for commodities like cotton.

American Giant seems to be taking it in stride, and according to Manjoo has restructured to address the sudden viral hit and a revised ongoing business plan. Check out this follow up article for insight regarding how it all played out. It is both a great success story and an interesting case study for any internet based manufacturing company that can’t move at the speed of the internet.

Are you a liger…. or maybe a leadager?

Ligers are a hybrid male lion and female tiger mix.  They are very rare, occurring only in captivity, and are generally bigger and stronger than their purebred counterparts. They have attributes of both breeds, and are generally very healthy, demonstrating none of the speculated risks of cross-breeding species.

Every now and then I meet someone who reminds me of a liger, because he or she is a hybrid leader and manager. They don’t get caught up in which one they ‘really’ are – they embrace both roles and bring them together seamlessly.  If someone calls them a manager, they say ‘yep, I deliver’, and if someone calls them a leader they say ‘I’m fortunate that people choose to follow my lead’.

These are people who gets things done and therefore lead, and who lead and therefore gets things done.


What’s the hardest part of your day?

If you are a manager, you might feel like the hardest thing you do every day is try to convince people to do their jobs the way you want them done.  How often do you stop to consider why you want things done in a certain way and if it really makes sense?

Do that often enough, and it might become the hardest part of your day….. and convincing people to do it might become incredibly easy.

Remember Boston – The power of imagery

A year ago two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon. Four people were killed, hundreds were wounded, and thousands of lives were changed forever. Today marks the anniversary, and in taking a moment to remember, I visited Robert Fogarty’s amazing website, Dear World.  Robert uses images in pictures and video to capture the essence of what people want and need to communication.  Their stories are told so simply and so powerfully in his work.  It is a wonderful reminder that often in communication less is more, and that stories transcend in our memories.

Check them out and take a minute today to remember not just Boston, but those around the world who have been just going about their lives only to be caught up in something that has nothing to do with them. What they do then is astounding in its resilience, its hopefulness, and its testament to the power of the human spirit.

Robert Fogerty’s Dear World Series on Boston Survivors Robert Fogarty's Boston Pictures


Truth or power – can you tell the difference?

Today we have more transparency and access to information than ever before. Sometimes it is overwhelming, other times it is wonderful to have so much at our finger tips. It makes us feel we have all sorts of ways to find”the truth” about almost anything.

It is still challenging to find ‘the truth’  though, and perhaps it is bound up in the way we cling to a belief in “the truth” – a single, finite, ultimate truth about something that is “the last word”. Is there ever really a single truth, a final statement? Think about all of the truths that have been debunked or modified over the centuries as the political power structures have changed. Try to imagine for a moment the truths we believe in today that will seem quaint or even harmful in years to come.

Nietzsche said that “All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.” It may be tough to accept that our fundamental beliefs, our most deeply held truths, are influenced by functions of power. When we challenge power structures, we challenge truths, and that can be dangerous business. But, if we can’t be at least open to the possibility, our worlds are very narrow.

One of our biggest challenges as humans is to really see power at work in our worlds and to acknowledge how it influences our beliefs, what we hold to be true. We naturally tend to view truths provided by powers that privilege and reinforce us as ‘correct’ and truths provided by powers that challenge, disrupt, or threaten us as being ‘incorrect’ or ‘not true’ and we look for evidence to support that.  Science is as susceptible to this influence as any truth-making machinery ever invented, even with the controls it has in place – the constraint Nietzsche describes is everywhere.

Perhaps we can’t escape it, but don’t be afraid to question the ways in which power influences your interpretation of what is true and not true. Be bold in examining how your own power is supported by what you choose to view as true. It can be scary to think about what happens then – once you’ve stripped away some of the reassurances and gotten below the surface, but it can also help you to develop whole new views, attitudes, and approaches to the world, which is pretty cool to do.

From Crystal Coast Optometry, here's an optical illusion that will challenge you to think about how your eyes can deceive you from the truth - are the dots really moving?

From Crystal Coast Optometry, here’s an optical illusion that will challenge you to think about how your eyes can deceive you from the truth – are the dots really moving?


Are you a curious person?

A few posts back I talked about curiosity feeding innovation (see here).

I think that people who are known for innovation are naturally curious not just about their specific areas of expertise but about the world at large. They talk to people, they take an interest in what others do and think, and they naturally expose themselves to new ideas.

If you want to develop your curiosity, start with your immediate surroundings. What are three things in your  world that you take for granted, that you don’t understand, or that you might have wondered about? Maybe it is what the person three offices down really does, or how WiFi really works, or if those three different kinds of fuel at the pump really matter for your car. Whatever it might be, pick one and spend just a few minutes investigating and learning.  It doesn’t take signing up for a semester long course or some other big commitment to develop your curiosity – it can be as simple as asking a few questions every day. Soon enough being curious will be a habit you can’t live without, and wait until you see what happens then!

The other day I was curious about this sign at the local bagel shop. When I went in I had to ask….. wouldn’t you  ??

Do you drive through, or do you park? Hmm…..

Do you drive through, or do you park? Hmm…..