Saturday, August 16, 2008

If You’re Open to Growth, You Tend to Grow

WHY do some people reach their creative potential in business while other equally talented peers don’t?
Published: NTY July 6, 2008

This is a great read and was highlighted to me by one of our blog community -- Mark Podwysocki of AkzoNobel Surface Chemistry

After three decades of painstaking research, the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck believes that the answer to the puzzle lies in how people think about intelligence and talent. Those who believe they were born with all the smarts and gifts they’re ever going to have approach life with what she calls a “fixed mind-set.” Those who believe that their own abilities can expand over time, however, live with a “growth mind-set.”

Guess which ones prove to be most innovative over time.

“Society is obsessed with the idea of talent and genius and people who are ‘naturals’ with innate ability,” says Ms. Dweck, who is known for research that crosses the boundaries of personal, social and developmental psychology.

“People who believe in the power of talent tend not to fulfill their potential because they’re so concerned with looking smart and not making mistakes. But people who believe that talent can be developed are the ones who really push, stretch, confront their own mistakes and learn from them.”

In this case, nurture wins out over nature just about every time.

While some managers apply these principles every day, too many others instead believe that hiring the best and the brightest from top-flight schools guarantees corporate success.
The problem is that, having been identified as geniuses, the anointed become fearful of falling from grace. “It’s hard to move forward creatively and especially to foster teamwork if each person is trying to look like the biggest star in the constellation,”
Ms. Dweck says.

In her 2006 book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” she shows how adopting either a fixed or growth attitude toward talent can profoundly affect all aspects of a person’s life, from parenting and romantic relationships to success at school and on the job.

She attributes the success of several high-profile chief executives to their growth mind-set, citing an ability to energize a work force. These include John F. Welch Jr. of General Electric, who valued teamwork over individual genius; Louis V. Gerstner Jr. of I.B.M., who dedicated his book about I.B.M.’s turnaround to “the thousands of I.B.M.’ers who never gave up on their company”; and Anne M. Mulcahy of Xerox, who focused on morale and development of her people even as she implemented painful cuts. But Ms. Dweck does not suggest that recruiters ignore innate talent. Instead, she suggests looking for both talent and a growth mind-set in prospective hires — people with a passion for learning who thrive on challenge and change.

After reading her book, Scott Forstall, senior vice president of Apple in charge of iPhone software, contacted Ms. Dweck to talk about his experience putting together the iPhone development team. Mr. Forstall told her that he identified a number of superstars within various departments at Apple and asked them in for a chat.

At the beginning of each interview, he warned the recruit that he couldn’t reveal details of the project he was working on. But he promised the opportunity, Ms. Dweck says, “to make mistakes and struggle, but eventually we may do something that we’ll remember the rest of our lives.”
Only people who immediately jumped at the challenge ended up on the team. “It was his intuition that he wanted people who valued stretching themselves over being king of their particular hill,” she says.

People with a growth mind-set tend to demonstrate the kind of perseverance and resilience required to convert life’s setbacks into future successes. That ability to learn from experience was cited as the No. 1 ingredient for creative achievement in a poll of 143 creativity researchers cited in “Handbook of Creativity” in 1999.

Which leads one to ask: Is it possible to shift from a fixed mind-set to a growth mind-set?
Absolutely, according to Ms. Dweck. But, “it’s not easy to just let go of something that has felt like your self for many years,” she writes. Still, she says, “nothing is better than seeing people find their way to things they value.”

Monday, August 11, 2008

Organizing for value

These simple statements are profound since I saw this issue throughout my career. Part of being a successful manger in a large corporation was how to “hide” (we called it protecting)certain projects to keep them going and avoid the tough decisions. These actions often led to inefficient resourcing of the critical projects needed to meet both the long and short term goals. As this excerpt implies, our organizational structures often encouraged this activity.
I would strong suggest going to the full site

• When large companies are organized in the traditional division structure, strategic decisions too often fall to managers under pressure to meet budgetary demands. Success in one unit masks underperformance in others, while ventures that promise strong future growth go underfunded because they don’t contribute to short-term bottom-line numbers.

• One way to shake things up is to review the strategy and performance-management processes and to make decisions at the more granular level of value cells. Value cells are smaller units (20-50 for a large company) that represent the economics of the individual, simple businesses that any company is built of, such as customer segments, product groups, geographic markets, and new technologies.

By emphasizing these value cells rather than aggregated bottom-line division numbers, this approach sheds light on which activities should be the target of additional investment—and which should be divested entirely. Changing managers’ roles won’t be easy, but in the long run, it will be worth it.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Lincoln on Keeping Up With the Geeks
NYT, August 3, 2008

This excerpt of a Lincoln speech from 1859 was published in the NYT in an article totally irrelevant to this blog but I thought the message itself was quite reflective on innovation.

The great difference between Young America and Old Fogy is the result of Discoveries, Inventions and Improvements. These, in turn, are the result of observation, reflection and experiment. For instance, it is quite certain that ever since water has been boiled in covered vessels, men have seen the lids of the vessels rise and fall a little, with a sort of fluttering motion, by force of the steam; but so long as this was not specially observed, and reflected, and experimented upon, it came to nothing. At length, however, after many thousand years, some man observes this long-known effect of hot water lifting a pot-lid, and begins a train of reflection upon it. He says “Why, to be sure, the force that lifts the pot-lid will lift anything else, which is no heavier than the pot-lid. And, as man has much hard lifting to do, cannot this hot-water power be made to help him?” He has become a little excited on the subject, and he fancies he hears a voice answering “Try me.”

From “Discoveries, Inventions and Improvements,” a lecture from 1859