Minggu, 16 Desember 2012

Innovation Is About Arguing, Not Brainstorming. Here’s How To Argue Productively

At Continuum, innovation’s secret sauce is deliberative discourse. Here’s how you do it.

Turns out that brainstorming--that go-to approach to generating new ideas since the 1940s--isn’t the golden ticket to innovation after all. Both Jonah Lehrer, in a recent article in The New Yorker, and Susan Cain, in her new book Quiet, have asserted as much. Science shows that brainstorms can activate a neurological fear of rejection and that groups are not necessarily more creative than individuals. Brainstorming can actually be detrimental to good ideas.

To innovate, we need environments that support imaginative thinking, where we can go through many crazy, tangential, and even bad ideas to come up with good ones. We need to work both collaboratively and individually. We also need a healthy amount of heated discussion, even arguing. We need places where someone can throw out a thought, have it critiqued, and not feel so judged that they become defensive and shut down. Yet this creative process is not necessarily supported by the traditional tenets of brainstorming: group collaboration, all ideas held equal, nothing judged.

So if not from brainstorming, where do good ideas come from?

Big Idea 2013: Learning Fast From Failure

The philosopher John Dewey once wrote that “the person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”

As president of the World Bank Group, where we work every day for a “world free of poverty,” I come face to face with the problem of how to turn failure into learning. Every mother or child who dies of a preventable disease, every country that can’t feed its people, reminds us that when we fail, often tragically, we don’t learn from it as much as we should.

In the last decade, many international leaders have put great emphasis on measuring results and learning from success and failure. At the Bank, the challenge now is to develop tools that accelerate our ability to learn from mistakes and successes. I’m convinced that revolutionary advances in communications and information processing, when linked to an enlightened approach to failure, can help transform our pursuit of ability to achieve development results, even in the poorest countries.

Let me give you two examples. Not long ago, I was in South Africa. There, leaders spoke to me at length about their struggle to improve the education of young people. They said that they had attained great success in enrolling nearly all eligible schoolchildren in primary school, but they also said that too many children fail in school, and that they are not preparing young people well enough for the job market. I was impressed with their openness, and I left Johannesburg feeling hopeful that South Africa would make progress in improving education. They were determined to learn from their mistakes and find solutions that would work in their country.

Another country I visited recently is China, which is experiencing a historic migration of rural villagers into cities. This has led to significant problems like pollution and traffic congestion. Still, China has made enormous innovations in urbanization that should be shared more broadly, and the Chinese leaders I spoke with also were eager to learn from other countries’ experiences, particularly in the transportation sector. Like the South Africans, the Chinese were eager to learn from the success and failures of others and were both justifiably proud of their achievements in urban planning and very much aware of areas in which they needed to make more progress.

To help China, South Africa, and all of our member countries, the World Bank Group will be setting up what we’re calling delivery knowledge hubs, which will begin by collecting and distributing case studies of both success and failure in tackling the most important development challenges from throughout the world.
When I was president of Dartmouth College, a CEO of a Fortune 500 company gave me some advice that has stayed with me. When thinking about tackling complex, difficult problems, he told me: “It’s not how much you know, it's how fast you learn.”

Learning from failure is hard, complicated work. But all leaders could be well served if they admit what they don’t know and learn from their own and others' experiences. We at the World Bank Group stand ready to work with leaders in both the public and the private sector to learn from success and failure. To take a page out of Google’s playbook, if we “fail fast and learn fast,” we will have a much better chance to end extreme poverty and build shared prosperity in every corner of the world.

Minggu, 18 November 2012

Social Media Is Making You a Smarter Leader

It's easy to point to the problems with social media: lost productivity from employees checking Facebook at work, new "personal branding" responsibilities to tend online, and a general deluge of information that's impossible to keep up with.

When we do hear about the benefits of social media, it's usually in a business context (praising the rise of "viral marketing on steroids") or focused on a macro, societal perspective (NYU professor Clay Shirky has famously cited the "cognitive surplus" resulting from online tools like Wikipedia, which allow people to contribute small amounts of time or effort, but in the aggregate create vast new informational resources).

There's less focus on the individual benefits of social media. But I believe it's actually prompting us to become better people and smarter leaders. Here are three often-overlooked results I've seen in my own life, and in professionals I admire.

We sell better. In my previous career, I was a journalist. Every week, I'd pound out a 3,000 word story — and leave the title to someone else. Coming up with a snappy headline wasn't my responsibility, I figured, so I let the copy editor handle it. But today, we're forced to understand that the packaging — the title — matters. Without a good one, no one will even bother to click on your link.

Thanks to the Internet, we've all become data scientists, assiduously measuring what works and what doesn't, and what will pique a customer's curiosity. (The website Upworthy is actually founded on the premise of spreading meaningful news through the use of sexy, curiosity-inducing headlines).

I'm not simply saying, however, that social media has forced us to focus on surface-level concerns. Rather, it's sharpened our awareness of a fact that has always been there: to succeed in life, we have to know how to persuade and intrigue others. Now we have the tools to do so.

We listen better. What's the sign of a top-notch social media user? I recently conducted a workshop for a client seeking to build relationships with elected officials. Together, we trawled the web examining their targets' online habits.

Some traditional pols weren't on Twitter at all. Others had dipped their toes in the water, using the service as a PR message board, blasting out links to press releases and favorable news coverage. The most sophisticated users, and not surprisingly the ones with the most followers, had twitter feeds littered with @ replies — evidence of their engagement, responding to and commenting on others' posts.

It's hard to quantify your listening skills in the real world: do your employees feel heard? Does your spouse think you're paying attention? But online, every comment you respond to, retweet you send, or question you answer is a structured form of practice for one of the most important skills a person can have: listening, and truly engaging.

We move faster. Some would question whether moving faster is actually better. What about the value of reflection? Or the danger, as Stephen Covey put it, of mistaking the urgent for the important? Those are real concerns, of course. But there's also a real benefit in, for the first time, being able to participate in (and add value to) the news stream as it unfolds.

One recent example was the massive number of Twitter messages about Hurricane Sandy, which allowed individuals to share updates and help others, cognitive surplus style. (It's true there were a malicious few who used the opportunity to spread false rumors — but are there any environments that can guarantee the absence of bad seeds?)

This summer, upon hearing the news that Marissa Mayer had just signed on as Yahoo's new CEO, I immediately wrote a blog post about it. Clicking the "refresh" button and seeing, every few seconds, that hundreds more people had read it was a powerful example of being able to add to the conversation in those critical first moments when people were actively seeking information and guidance.

When you're able to delight a customer by responding right away on Twitter, help a colleague by crowdsourcing an answer to a problem they're having, or simply "fail faster and iterate," as HBR blogger Len Schlesinger and his colleagues write about, that's the same phenomenon: the benefits of speed.

Any tool is only as good as the person operating it. Of course you can fritter away time on Facebook, or descend into a rabbit hole of clicking Wikipedia links. But I'm convinced the very structure of social media — the skills it requires — is prompting us to develop valuable leadership strengths. And if social media really can make us more nimble, more interactive, and more persuasive, we should stop wringing our hands about whether to let employees watch YouTube at work, and focus on ensuring all of us are leveraging social media to become our best selves.

Dorie Clark

Dorie Clark is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the National Park Service. She is the author of the forthcoming Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press 2013). You can follow her on Twitter at @dorieclark.


Rabu, 07 November 2012

Change Consumer Behavior with These Five Levers

Any consumer goods company trying to reduce its environmental impact faces this challenge: your footprint is largely determined by what customers do with your products, not what you do directly. At Unilever, nearly 70% of the greenhouse gas impact of our products occurs when consumers use them to wash their hair or do their laundry.

The success of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan — our strategy for sustainable, equitable growth, tied to 50+ time-bound targets we've set for ourselves — depends on external factors like these, where we only have so much influence. While we can drive down the energy and water consumption of our factories directly, an entirely different approach is needed to reduce the greenhouse gas impact of our products across their lifecycle.

Fortunately for us, we engage directly with consumers through our brands, and it is these brands that have huge potential to be agents for change. As the renowned environmentalist Jonathon Porritt argues: "Brands are so much better placed to narrow that frightening 'values-action' gap that politicians have to confront (where voters say one thing and promptly do another) and are somehow more trustworthy precisely because they are so clearly in the business of making money out of doing the right thing."

This point is illustrated by our Lifebuoy soap brand, which spearheads our efforts to reduce childhood mortality through the simple act of handwashing at key hygiene moments throughout the day. Handwashing promotion is an extremely cost-effective intervention: a $3.35 investment in handwashing brings the same health benefits as an $11 investment in latrine construction, a $200 investment in household water supply and an investment of thousands of dollars in immunisation.

But it is the fact that this brand is critical to our business's future growth that gives NGOs and governments the confidence that our handwashing programmes are not flash-in-the-pan philanthropy. As for consumers, as our Global Social Mission Director for Lifebuoy, Myriam Sidibe, pointed out recently on this blog, "using local brands that people know and trust can actually be one of the most comfortable and easily accepted approaches to educate them about a topic like hygiene."

Brands can be even more powerful agents for change when we understand exactly how people use products, and what values, habits or motivations influence this use. We synthesized our own knowledge and experience as a marketing company with insights from experts from psychologists to academics and those out meeting the people who cook, clean and wash with our products every day. The result was Five Levers for Change, a set of principles brought together in a new approach we believe can increase the likelihood of achieving sustained behavior change:

The five levers are:

Make it understood. Do people know about the behavior, and do they think it is relevant to them? This lever is about raising awareness and encouraging acceptance. Lifebuoy soap's 'glo-germ' demonstration uses ultra-violet light to help children understand that washing hands with water alone isn't good enough to get rid of invisible germs.

Make it easy. Do people know what to do and feel confident doing it? Can they see it fitting into their lives? This lever is about convenience and confidence. In many parts of the world, laundry is washed by hand, but it is typically in these countries that water is scarce. Our Comfort One Rinse fabric conditioner only requires one bucket for rinsing, not three. But it took live demonstrations and samples, not just TV commercials, to establish consumer confidence that one bucket of water was really all that was needed for effective rinsing.

Make it desirable. Will doing this new behavior fit with their actual or aspirational self-image? Does it fit with how they relate to others or want to? We are social animals, and we tend to emulate the lifestyles and habits of people we respect, and follow social norms. Recycling has reached a tipping point in some countries because the bag or box outside the house is so visible. To tackle infant mortality, Lifebuoy taps into desire of new mothers to be a good mum, and to be seen that way by others.

Make it rewarding. Do people know when they're doing the behavior 'right'? Do they get some sort of reward? This lever is about demonstrating 'proof' and pay-off. Our Suave shampoo brand encourages people to turn off the shower while they lather their hair and showed how families could save up to $150 a year through cutting their energy bills.

Make it a habit. Once people have made a change, what can we do to help them keep doing it? This lever is about reinforcing and reminding, 'refreezing' people in their new habits so it becomes unconscious again. Lifebuoy's handwashing campaigns run for a minimum of 21 days and include quizzes, posters and songs to encourage repetitive behavior.

Using these five levers, marketers have an incredible opportunity to positively shape the lives of consumers and their impact on the rest of the world. But can brands do it all? We would argue no. Whilst brands are perfectly placed to tackle some of the five levers, such as "Make It Desirable," they can struggle to tackle others alone, because there are still so many factors that are out of our control.

It is difficult for a brand to help make recycling easy, for example, if there is no recycling infrastructure for a consumer to use. Similarly, while we've tried to make the case to customers that shorter showers can save them money, it is a hard sell because consumers' energy bills are difficult to understand, and it isn't clear to them what sorts of activities cost them the most money.

Brands will have the most positive influence when they work with these 'structural' factors, rather than against them. This is why we are also working to influence the broader factors that shape our behaviour: the presence of good hygiene education in the school curriculum; the availability of recycling infrastructure; and energy and water policy that incentivizes efficient use. These are just some of the things we believe would enable our brands to act as multipliers to achieve the transformative changes needed for a sustainable world.

Keith Weed

Keith Weed is Chief Marketing and Communication Officer for Unilever, a role that also includes leading Unilever’s sustainability work, its drinking water business (Pureit) and the Unilever brand. Prior to this he was Executive Vice President for Global Home Care & Hygiene.


Selasa, 30 Oktober 2012

Memo To Micro Managers: STOP! The 10 (Hardest) Steps To Effective Delegation

Memo To Micro Managers: STOP! The 10 (Hardest) Steps To Effective Delegation:
image thumbnail - see full story for attributions
Stop it! In my world as an investor, I find entrepreneurs who can?t let go of any task.  For various self-declared reasons, they alone can complete a given assignment.  Or even worse, they micro manage someone else?s work.  Sadly, this personality type frequently delegates a task to a subordinate only to

Top 5 Management Lessons I Learned While Doing Burpees

Top 5 Management Lessons I Learned While Doing Burpees: When my trainer Vanessa asked me to do 10 burpees during our first session, I had visions of those white rectangle cloths I used when my kids were infants. Vanessa was talking about the squat-push-up-n-jump burpees that go by the same name, but the reference was apt since the last time I worked with a physical trainer was when my second son was born nearly five years ago. Losing the baby weight was the justification I needed for what can otherwise seem like the unnecessary expense of hiring a professional trainer ("just do it" comes tauntingly to mind). This time the training sessions resulted from a bet with myself, “If you raise the the venture capital for Little Pim, you’ll get a trainer for 8 weeks.” I wasn’t exactly sure if this was a motivator or a deterrent to raising the capital, but either way, the capital had been raised and now I was stuck doing burpees at 7:15 on a Wednesday morning.

Minggu, 14 Oktober 2012

Business Plans Are a Waste of Time. Here's What to Do Instead

Business Plans Are a Waste of Time. Here's What to Do Instead:
Throw your business plan in the recycling bin. Instead, focus on your team and on getting to market as quickly as you can.
If you're taking time to carefully perfect a business plan to help ensure your company's model is sound and that it will be a success--stop. That's the word from William Hsu, c0-founder and managing partner at start-up accelerator MuckerLab.
Hsu, who's been both a successful entrepreneur and an executive at AT&T and eBay, says that starting a company is "a career for really irrational people. In all probability, whatever the idea is will fail. Building a reality distortion field is how entrepreneurs convince themselves and their employees that this is a good idea."
With that in mind, he advises:
1. Think people, not ideas.
A great team trumps a great idea every time, Hsu says. "None of us is perfect, and entrepreneurs are usually great at a couple of things, such as having vision and being willing to take risks." Entrepreneurs--especially tech entrepreneurs--come in one of two flavors: Either they're like Steve Jobs, visionaries who understand the market but aren't technically proficient, or they're like Steve Wozniak, technical geniuses who don't understand how to market to customers.
In either case, having great team members can fill in any areas where the entrepreneur lacks strength, he says. "We look for three things in a potential start-up: market, team, and concept. The team is by far the most important element, and the second is market. The idea itself is the least important."
2. Think speed, not perfection.
"Whatever hypothesis you have about the market, it's probably wrong by definition," he says. "One out of every 30 venture start-ups succeeds--and that's after getting funded. What that means is that entrepreneurs need to take a product to market as fast as they can in any form, even if it's 10% of the original vision. They have to test it to see if it's a market fit, if it resonates with customers, and is something they'd eventually pay for."
Then, he says, pivot and reconfigure on the basis of that market response. "You have to iterate as fast as you can. I don't mind if a batter has a .100 average--a 10% success rate--if the batter gets 10 or 20 at bats. The more chances you have, the better. So the team that can execute the fastest and build the most relationships with customers by listening to them will win."
Because of this need to iterate quickly, Hsu advises building an in-house team that will have all the design, technical, and product capabilities you need. "You don't want the entrepreneur outsourcing these types of functions, because it means there will be a cost in dollars to each new iteration that will drain capital. Every pivot should get you closer to success, rather than closer to failure."
3. Think vision, not plan.
"A lot of entrepreneurs have a perfect deck of slides, a perfect business plan, and a perfect financial model. But that's all they have," Hsu says. "They think starting a business is having a business plan. But being an entrepreneur is about creating the future one step at a time."
Does that mean you should never look ahead? Not quite, he says. "Where you have two or more co-founders, it's important for them all to put down on a piece of paper, or a whiteboard, the canonical things they all agree on. They need to agree what the vision is and what the path to success will be. But don't spend time trying to put that into a 40-page document. I'd rather you take that time and talk to 10 more customers instead."