Category Archives: Book Review

Guest Post – Diversity of Thoughts Raises Complexity By Sunnie Giles

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Our post today is from author and thought leader Dr. Sunnie Giles. Dr. Giles’ latest book, The New Science of Radical Innovation, provides a clear process for radical innovation that produces 10x improvements and has been endorsed prominent industry leaders such as Jonathan Rosenberg, Daniel Pink, Marshall Goldsmith and Sean Covey.

“As we have seen, harnessing the collective intelligence of people from diverse backgrounds can solve seemingly insurmountable feats, impossible to solve by one super expert. To curate various interdisciplinary functions within an organization, or even across diverse organizations, and produce extraordinary results, leaders must be open to divergent views and flexible enough to seriously consider the merits of opposing views. Valuing diverse opinions requires asking questions more than issuing orders. Collective error is equal to the average of individual errors minus diversity (variance) of the group.

“Scott Page also mathematically explains that collective error is almost always smaller than individual errors, because collective error is equal to the average of individual errors minus diversity (variance) of the group. From this equation, we can surmise that there are two ways to decrease collective error: reduce the average individual error, by hiring smart people; or increase the diversity of thoughts from many people. It also highlights a potential risk: if we adopt other people’s opinions or mental models too much, we might reduce individual errors, but the diversity (variance) of the group goes down, resulting in higher collective error. This is a mathematical explanation for what happens in groupthink; people make irrational or dysfunctional decisions in an effort to conform to each other (as was the case in the space shuttle Challenger disaster). Everyone on your team must be valued and given credence to minimize collective error. This, in turn, raises collective complexity.

“The reason diversity lowers collective errors is that people bring different heuristics and perspectives shaped by their unique life experiences. Those who grow up in the Siberian tundra have a much richer vocabulary and perspective on cold weather, ice, vodka, and caribou, and see the world through those lenses. Those who grow up in a thatch-roofed house built on Rio Dulce in Guatemala have a completely different perspective on rivers, boats, fish, swimming, and tropics, and see the world through those lenses. Life experiences from different environments provide different heuristics, or simple rules, to handle daily challenges in life. When two engineers from these two completely different environments are put together on a team to solve a problem about how to design space meals optimal for weight and reuse, the resulting output will be much richer than if the two engineers had both grown up in Titusville, Florida. For challenging problems, we need a team, ideally made up of people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse heuristics.”

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About Dr. Sunnie Giles:

Dr. Sunnie Giles is a new generation expert who catalyzes organizations to produce radical innovation by harnessing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA).

Her research reveals that applying concepts from neuroscience, complex systems approach, and quantum mechanics can produce radical innovation consistently. Her expertise is based on years as an executive with Accenture, IBM and Samsung. Her profound, science-backed insight is encapsulated in her leadership development program, Quantum Leadership.

An advisor to the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, she also is a sought-after speaker and expert source, having been quoted in Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Forbes, and Inc.

 

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Guest Post by Mark Miller – The Big Picture: Leaders Ensure Alignment

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Today’s post is courtesy of Mark Miller. Mark began writing about a decade ago. He teamed up with Ken Blanchard, co-author of The One Minute Manager, to write The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do (2007). More recently, he released Chess Not Checkers (2015), and Leaders Made Here (2017). His latest is Talent Magnet: How to Attract and Keep the Best People (February 2018). Today, over 1 million copies of Mark’s books are in print in more than two dozen languages.

 

What’s the hardest thing a leader has to do? Honestly, I’m not sure.

For me, it varies with the circumstances of the day. However, if I pull up and stop fighting fires and escape the entanglements of growing bureaucracy, I think I might vote for Ensuring Alignment.

Having seen our organization grow from less than two dozen staff to almost 2,000, I can say the task of keeping everyone aligned is mind-boggling. However, regardless of the difficulty factor, I believe Ensuring Alignment is one of the leader’s highest priorities – and one with incalculable returns.

For these reasons, I was not surprised when we began sorting through all we learned from our Top Talent research project about their expectations for their leaders, and landed on this idea of Ensuring Alignment as a leadership best practice. No organization drifts toward a big vision – you drift out to sea or over a waterfall, but you don’t drift to greatness.

Here’s an excerpt from the Talent Magnet Field Guide on this topic…

“When organizations work together, they set themselves apart. Clearly, alignment accelerates impact. Leaders who want to position their organizations to accomplish a Bigger Vision must Ensure Alignment; only then can they harness the collective energy of those they lead. Without alignment, energy, productivity, and impact will suffer.

Picture a tug of war. If leaders can get everyone in the organization on the same side of the rope pulling together toward the vision, their competition is in trouble.  When everyone is in sync, not only is the existing workforce energized, but potential talent will be drawn to the team.

Alignment permeates every aspect of a high-performance culture. Leaders know they must model the way and continually work to train team members to embrace the vision, mission, values, systems, and strategy if they hope to execute at a high level. If they succeed, everyone wins. Additionally, they position themselves to be an employer of choice for Top Talent.”

As a leader, you must choose where to invest your time. You can thrash away neck deep in the weeds of busyness or you can make a strategic decision to build an aligned culture. Choose to Ensure Alignment and you will be a step closer to becoming a place so attractive, Top Talent will be standing in line to work for your organization.

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About Mark Miller

Mark Miller began his Chick-fil-A career working as an hourly team member in 1977. In 1978, he joined the corporate staff working in the warehouse and mailroom. Since that time, Mark has steadily increased his value at Chick-fil-A and has provided leadership for Corporate Communications, Field Operations, and Quality and Customer Satisfaction.

Today, he serves as the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership. During his time with Chick-fil-A, annual sales have grown to over $9 billion. The company now has more than 2,300 restaurants in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

When not working to sell more chicken, Mark is actively encouraging and equipping leaders around the world. He has taught at numerous international organizations over the years on topics including leadership, creativity, team building, and more.

 

Governance: From Competition to ABC (Awareness-based Collective Action)

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Today’s post is written by Otto Scharmer. His new book, “The Essentials of Theory U” (March, 2018), is an inspiring pocket guide that focuses on three essential components: the core principles, the key movements that make the process of Theory U, and the practical applications that transform our economy from ego to eco.

Dr. Scharmer offers an excerpt from his book:

Historically, the 1.0 mechanism was hierarchy and centralization; the 2.0 mechanism came with the rise of markets and competition; and the 3.0 mechanism took the form of negotiation among organized stakeholder groups.

The most important and least understood institutional innovation today concerns the creation of a 4.0 coordination mechanism that is based on making the system sense and see itself: awareness- based collective action (ABC)—that is, acting from seeing the whole. Today we see the first examples of this mechanism in governance being adopted at the local level. In many cities and local communities, stakeholders are collaborating to rebuild the environmental, social, political, and cultural commons. But what is missing is an understanding of how this collaboration across boundaries can be aggregated and extended to larger systems— regions, countries, and continents.

4.0 Lab

In the summer of 2017 I visited the family farm near Hamburg where I grew up. (It is, by the way, no longer just a family farm, as we turned the ownership over to a foundation committed to bridging the three divides.) The purpose of my visit was to attend a meeting of founders and CEOs of green brands in Europe and Asia. Many of the major green pioneers and innovators sat in the meeting circle. It was an eye-opening conversation that taught me many things about the evolution of the food sector.

Looking into that circle, it was also clear to me that what made those leaders (and their companies) so successful in the 3.0 world will not help them succeed in the emerging 4.0 environment. And all of them knew that.

Seeing that, I explored an idea with the group. I proposed setting up a global innovation lab that would bring together pioneers and leading innovators from all four of the systems I just described—food, finance, health, and learning—to focus on co- creating a cross-sector 4.0 innovation lab.

In broad outline, the “4.0 Lab” would begin with regional labs in one or multiple geographies. Each regional lab would start with an agenda-setting workshop in which the key innovators and institutional partners would connect, get to know each other, and co-initiate the agenda and set the regional focus of each lab. The Presencing Institute would support these labs with methods and tools, as well as with our online-to-offine u.lab platform, and share the results via the joint multimedia platform on the new economy that we jointly curate with HuffPost.

Even though this idea came up only toward the end of the meeting, three or four of the founders in the circle instantly said “I’m in”—even without knowing exactly what they are in for. Nor of course do I. But I do believe that these kinds of cross-sectoral initiatives are needed now more than ever—in many places, regions, and geographies—because no one can create 4.0 platforms and eco-systems alone.

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More about Otto Scharmer
Otto Scharmer is a Senior Lecturer at MIT and co-founder of the Presencing Institute. He chairs the MIT IDEAS program for cross-sector innovation that helps leaders from business, government, and civil society to innovate at the level of the whole system. He is the author of Theory U (translated into 20 languages) and co-author of Leading from the Emerging Future, which outlines eight acupuncture points of transforming capitalism. His latest book, The Essentials of Theory U: Core Principles and Applicationsilluminates the blind spot in leadership today and offers hands-on methods to help change makers overcome it through the process, principles, and practices of Theory U.

 

In 2015, he co-founded the MITx u.lab, a massive open online course for leading profound change that has since activated a global eco-system of societal and personal renewal involving more than 100,000 users from 185 countries. With his colleagues, he has delivered award-winning leadership development programs for corporate clients and co-facilitated innovation labs on reinventing education, health, business, government, and well-being.

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