Monday, October 29, 2012

This is Your Brain on Organizational Change
by Walter McFarland  |  11:00 AM October 16, 2012

Very interesting on how to drive change. It is a beginning of a broad new approach. I urge you to read the posting and followup with references in the article.

Why can't we change our organizations? Year after year, the list of companies that no longer exist because they were unable to evolve continues to grow. ….
…This is bad news for 21st century organizations. Increasing competition, globalization, technological changes, financial upheaval, political uncertainty, changing workforce demographics, and other factors are forcing organizations to change faster and differently than ever before. Worse, there is little reason to believe the field of organizational change can be of much help. Not only is the track record of change efforts dismal — it may not be improving. Experts have reported similar results for organizational change efforts since the 1980s. Clearly, new insight is needed into how organizations can better adapt to their environments and change.
Although myriad factors are cited, the inability to engage people is the factor noted longest and most often…
…One source of insight may be the field of neuroscience…..
….Keep in mind that there is no accepted general theory of change but rather traditional "best practice" clusters around a series of activities that have contributed to the continuing poor performance of change initiatives. These include:
Perpetual underpreparation: change is always dreaded and a surprise to employees
A perceived need to "create a burning platform": meant to motive employees via expressed or implied threat
Leading change from the top of the organization down: only a few individuals are actively involved in the change and either under communicate or miscommunicate with others
Most of these ideas have implications in the field of neuroscience. For instance, the need to create a burning platform atmosphere at work can trigger a limbic response in employees. Instead of motivating people to change in a positive way, a burning platform makes them uncomfortable — thrusting change upon them. In another example, driving change from the top can trigger fear within employees because it deprives them of key needs that help them better navigate the social world in the workplace. These needs include status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness — the foundation of the SCARF model. If out of synch, these five needs have been shown in many neuroscience studies to activate the same threat circuitry activated by physical threats, like pain.
Keeping all this in mind, let us propose one idea we haven't explored yet. We strongly believe that we need to think about change differently. To begin, let's think about people differently — not as commodities to be hurried and pushed around but as sources of real and powerful competitive advantage. A second step is to see change differently — not just as a perpetual crisis, but as an opportunity to be better prepared and equipped to manage organizational shakeups as a normal part of doing business, and as an opportunity to personally develop and grow.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What Leaders Can Learn from Wild Animal Trainers
Daniel Goleman

We often suggest looking at experts in non-related fields to gain insights into best practices. I thought this was a very interesting example

A command and control leadership style may have its time and place. But at the negotiation table? You may find concession-making skills will work more in your favor. When I last spoke with negotiation expert George Kohlrieser, he eloquently compared the delicate dance between an animal trainer and animal to managing concessions during negotiations. 
Concession making can be material or it can be in the relationship. If we're in a heated debate in negotiation and you suddenly answer my question or you ask me a question, that's a concession. I have to take time to reward that concession. It’s almost Pavlovian.
How do I train the person I'm talking with to respond to the law of reciprocity, being able to make concessions and be able to recognize when they're given one? It may be a little concession, just answering questions, or by being cooperative.
My friend Alfredo is a wild animal trainer; he's third generation. When he goes into that cage and cracks that whip, he wants to get their attention. Then the negotiation starts. He's the boss. He's in charge but he doesn't dominate. It’s not command and control.
When he goes forward, the lion steps back and when the lion stops, Alfredo has to stop and step back. And then the lion relaxes and comes forward. And if Alfredo then moves forward one step, two steps, the lion steps back the same.
He can take those lions anywhere in that cage through the law of reciprocity; it’s a dance. 
It’s all about the bonding. How you respect the animal? He has this whole philosophy of knowing the animal’s names, knowing their mood. Knowing what is going on in the group of lions that are there, or whatever wild animals he's training.
But if he steps forward and the lion stops -- he doesn't make a concession -- and Alfredo moves again, he's likely to be attacked. It’s an act of aggression. It is what's called iatrogenic (describes a symptom or illness brought on unintentionally by something that a doctor does or says)  violence. This very often happens with leaders. They push and they push. They don't recognize concessions, and they don't use this dance of give and take, the dance of bonding. The dance of flow.
Negotiation is a fun thing. It should be an enjoyable and it should be an exchange. It doesn't have to be where you're trying to destroy and get everything. It’s the ability to look for mutual gain.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The No. 1 Enemy of Creativity: Fear of Failure
by Peter Sims  |   9:00 AM October 5, 2012

This is GREAT and sums up what must change in the corporate world to sustain innovation driven growth!!

For me, the most important insight from design thinking was that you have to make sure you've defined the right problem before you try to solve it. So, you act like an anthropologist to understand human needs and problems before jumping to solutions. Most of us in business, if we need to discover how to do something new, use PowerPoint or Excel spreadsheets to rationalize our approach. This is what I call "the illusion of rationality." Whether motivated by a lack of insight arrogance, or stupidity, the illusion of rationality is a waste of time and resources — yet one that keeps a lot of people employed in management consulting, as I learned first hand. 
Instead, if you don't have the data, you have to create the data. That does not mean plugging random numbers into your spreadsheet. It means generating real insight, from nothing. Designers and bootstrapped entrepreneurs I've worked with use rapid low cost experiments to create data. I refer to these "affordable losses" in the interest of learning, creativity, and discovery as "little bets." 
This seems like common sense; so why is it so hard? Three words: fear of failure.
If you're an MBA-trained manager or executive, the odds are you were never, at any point in your educational or professional career given permission to fail, even on a "little bet." Your parents wanted you to achieve, achieve, achieve — in sports, the classroom, and scouting or work. Your teachers penalized you for having the "wrong" answers, or knocked your grades down if you were imperfect, according to however your adult figures defined perfection. Similarly, modern industrial management is still predicated largely on mitigating risks and preventing errors, not innovating or inventing.
But entrepreneurs and designers think of failure the way most people think of learning. 
Darden Professor Saras Sarasvathy has shown through her research about how expert entrepreneurs make decisions, they must make lots of mistakes to discover new approaches, opportunities, or business models

Monday, October 08, 2012

Rethinking Sleep
Published: September 22, 2012

This fascinating article is worth reading as an individual and parent. Traditional myths are challenged. It does also have an impact on the business world and your company on its impact on productivity.

Gradual acceptance of the notion that sequential sleep hours are not essential for high-level job performance has led to increased workplace tolerance for napping and other alternate daily schedules…
….researchers at the City University of New York found that short naps helped subjects identify more literal and figurative connections between objects than those who simply stayed awake….
…Robert Stickgold, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, proposes that sleep — including short naps that include deep sleep — offers our brains the chance to decide what new information to keep and what to toss….
....Employees at Google, for instance, are offered the chance to nap at work because the company believes it may increase productivity. Thomas Balkin, the head of the department of behavioral biology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, imagines a near future in which military commanders can know how much total sleep an individual soldier has had over a 24-hour time frame thanks to wristwatch-size sleep monitors. After consulting computer models that predict how decision-making abilities decline with fatigue, a soldier could then be ordered to take a nap to prepare for an approaching mission. The cognitive benefit of a nap could last anywhere from one to three hours, depending on what stage of sleep a person reaches before awakening.
Most of us are not fortunate enough to work in office environments that permit, much less smile upon, on-the-job napping. But there are increasing suggestions that greater tolerance for altered sleep schedules might be in our collective interest. Researchers have observed, for example, that long-haul pilots who sleep during flights perform better when maneuvering aircraft through the critical stages of descent and landing.