Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An Innovation Challenge: Would You Implement the "30-Day Rule?"

It's one thing to say, "I'm all for innovation." It's quite another thing to demonstrate true commitment. Let's take a look at how one CEO approached this.

As she speaks, employees are muttering to themselves, "Okay, we've heard this before!"

More muttering, "Yeah, yeah, committed and serious..."

"Holy brainstorm, Batman! Did our CEO just say that?"

What do you think of the "30-Day Rule?"
  Would you implement it? Why or why not?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kill New Ideas with the Idea Shredder!

In an earlier post (A Few Good Ideas) about innovation, I concluded by stating: if you don’t how to respond when someone brings you a new idea, you aren’t ready to launch an innovation initiative in your organization.
Why? If you announce, "We want innovation!" but are unable to act when new ideas are brought forth, you are wasting your people's time, energy, brainpower and enthusiasm. People will feel as if their good suggestions are being dumped into the waste bin. The impact on moral is likely to be about the same as having the fictitious Idea Shredder illustrated below.

The Idea Shredder

Let's imagine this device really exists!

For Managers Who Haven't the Time for Input

It looks just a like an ordinary suggestion box...


But inside there's a miniature
but very powerful paper
shredder! Every suggestion is
obliterated in the time
it takes to cry, "EUREKA!"

Twenty Things You Can Say to Kill a New Idea

It's vitally important to avoid the perception that ideas and suggestions are being ignored (i.e., the metaphorical idea shredder). That's why a number of innovative organizations go so far as to train their managers what not to say when someone brings them a new idea. They are taught twenty idea killing, enthusiasm deadening phrases that must be avoided.
  1. Every one knows this!
  2. We have never done this before, no point trying it.
  3. I know it won’t work
  4. This isn’t up-to-date.
  5. Is this within budget.
  6. Too many things to do – will see this when I have time.
  7. Some other time.
  8. Let’s wait & watch for a while.
  9. Why do you want to change things?
  10. Against the rules.
  11. Not technically feasible.
  12. Management will never agree.
  13. Not done in our company.
  14. Makes more work for another department.
  15. Real world is more complicated.
  16. Do you really understand the situation?
  17. Can’t afford it.
  18. This will create too many problems.
  19. Even my advice won’t help.
  20. Can’t you make it better?
The Bottom Line: Saying any of the above in response to a suggestion can be just as discouraging as the Idea Shredder.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

An Engaging Member Conversation

One of the key challenges for staff and volunteers is to engage members, especially new members, to help them find satisfying ways to participate in the association.

So let’s try a little test. 
Imagine you’ve just joined an association - as a “newbie” you’re trying to figure out what the association has to offer and whether to attend a meeting or get more involved in some other way. Which of these three approaches will most likely engage you?


"I will now describe every single program, benefit
and event the association offers!"

This laundry list” approach tends to be endemic among association staff who have developed the habit of reciting everything the association has to offer. It's like going to a restaurant, listening to the waiter recite a long list of specials, then feeling embarrassed when you ask to have the list repeated.


"What? You haven't attended a meeting or served on a committee?"

This is an approach common to the long-time member (someone who has volunteered multiple times  to serve on committees, task forces and even the Board). He can't imagine why every member isn't doing the same. Alas, this approach is frequently off-putting - it has that "in your face" feel - to those who have neither the time nor inclination for such intimate involvement with the association.


"We have all sorts of members who participate in different ways..."

With this approach, you begin the conversation by saying: "Some of our members don't have much time, so they're happy with our publications and participating on the listserv. Other members find they want to attend our annual meeting and some really enjoy making presentations. A smaller number of our members are more 'hands-on' - they like to serve on our various committees and special interest groups. Do any of these options appeal to you?"

This approach reassures the new member, making it clear there are a variety of "valid" ways to participate and benefit from the association. More importantly, it allows the member to feel comfortable with whatever option is chosen.

'nuff said!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Baseball Brainteaser

The new baseball season is upon us and that leads to today’s brainteaser: What is the absolute fewest number of pitches a starting pitcher could conceivably throw in a complete baseball game? The game is not rain-shortened or called early for any other reason. In addition, no runners advance due to a balk.

Think about it.

What is your answer?

Is it 27 pitches? Is that correct or is there is another answer?  Let’s examine the situation.

Inning One: The Toledo Mudhens versus the Secaucus Sluggers

Top of the First: The Toledo Mudhens are the visiting team; that means they bat first or at the top of the inning. The pitcher for the Secaucus Sluggers is Billy “Sticky Fingers” Killigrew and he retires the side without anyone scoring.

Bottom of the First:  Jack “Nine Fingers” McDougal is pitching for the Mudhens. Here’s what happens when the Sluggers come to bat:
  • The first pitch is to Ernie “Iron Arms” Ferbisher who hits it out of the park for a home run. The score is 1 – 0 in favor of the Sluggers.
  • McDougal’s second pitch is to Bill “Wide Bottom” Jackson who flies out.
  • McDougal’s third pitch is to Reggie “No Nickname” Eldorado who grounds out to the shortstop.
  • McDougal’s fourth pitch is to Etrius “The Gladiator” Demiskey who flies out to center. 
 The side is retired and McDougal has thrown four pitches.

The score is 1 – 0 in favor of the Secaucus Sluggers.

Inning Two

Top of the Second: Killigrew pitches the top of the second, facing four batters from the Mudhens. No runners score.

Bottom of the Second:  McDougal pitches the bottom of the second inning as follows:
  • One pitch to Harmon “Burpmeister” Pinella who grounds out.
  • One pitch to Stevie “Fuel Injector” Torre who flies out.
  • One pitch to Harry “Dust Mite” Ferrigno who also flies out.
McDougal has thrown seven pitches so far. 

The score is still 1 – 0 in favor of the Secaucus Sluggers.

Innings Three through Eight

At the top of each inning: Killigrew continues to shutout the Mudhens.

At the bottom of each inning: The pattern repeats as McDougal continues to throw but one pitch to each batter (who either flies out or grounds out).  

At the end of eight innings McDougal has thrown faced 25 batters (remember the leadoff homerun) and thrown 25 pitches. 

The score is still 1 – 0 in favor the Secaucus Sluggers.

Top of the Ninth

The Mudhens come to bat. They must score at least one run or the game is over (the home team doesn’t bat in the bottom of the ninth if it is leading). However, Killigrew retires the side – the Mudhens have been shut out and the game is over.

Therefore, McDougal does not throw any pitches in the ninth inning. He has faced 25 batters and thrown 25 pitches!

The final score is 1 – 0 in favor the Secaucus Sluggers.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Brief History of Desktop Publishing

Just for fun!



Sunday, March 6, 2011

"A company that needs business suits to prove its seriousness probably lacks more meaningful proof."

I have never been a fan of dress codes: there's no empirical evidence it leads to higher levels of performance (after all, not a single study on high performance organizations shows a correlation between performance and dress codes).

Furthermore, I am in total agreement with the philosophy of Ricardo Semler, as outlined in his wonderful article, Managing Without Managers. He speaks eloquently to the "rule of common sense" and notes:
“…we replaced all the nitpicking regulations with the rule of common sense and put our employees in the demanding position of using their own judgement.

“We have no dress code, for example. The idea that personal appearance is important in a job – any job – is baloney…A company that needs business suits to prove its seriousness probably lacks more meaningful proof.”

'nuff said!      

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Technology May Not be the Cleverest Thing About the New iPad!

After watching this video, I'd buy the new iPad just for the cover. It is soooo friggin' clever and soooo bewitchingly simple.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Decision-Impaired Board

"It appears we need a better way to make decisions..."

Boards – not to mention committees, task forces and almost any group –  often struggle when it comes to decision-making. Here are two helpful questions to ask:

1.  Is this decision “Board Worthy?”

“Congratulations, in the last five hours we've made three important decisions affecting the future of our organization:
  • What hors d'Ĺ“uvres to serve at the next Board meeting.
  • That Garamond will be the official font for all brochures.
  • We'll put something to do with that 'strategy thing' on the next agenda, time permitting."

Alas, the situation depicted above is all too familiar! Countless issues, both trivial and irrelevant, are brought before the board; issues that could and should have been decided by someone else. So ask yourself: does my organization have a clear set of criteria by which to evaluate what issues should (or should not) be decided by the board? (Suggestion: If you don’t, I would put that on my “to do” list).

2.  Can we use a task group? Or delegate?

Some decisions require the entire board's involvement, from the initial discussions and fact gathering to the final vote. However, not all decisions require that level of involvement. Often, boards fail to take advantage of these two options:

 Sometimes a task group should be used to do the "advance"
work, researching the topic and making a
recommendation for consideration by the entire board.

Other times, the board should delegate the
decision-making to a committee or the staff.

'nuff said!

Recommended reading; Stop Wasting Valuable Time
Recommended workshop: Decision Making Workshop.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Working Just Hard Enough Not to Get Fired

               A wonderful insight from the movie Office Space.                 Are you working just hard enough not to get fired?

Okay, let's listen in the following dialogue as Peter Gibbon (left) speaks with the two Bobs who supervise him:

Peter Gibbons: The thing is, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care.

Bob Porter: Don't... don't care?

Peter Gibbons: It's a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don't see another dime; so where's the motivation? And here's something else, Bob: I have eight different bosses right now.

Bob Slydell: I beg your pardon?

Peter Gibbons: Eight bosses.

Bob Slydell: Eight?

Peter Gibbons: Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That's my only real motivation is not to be hassled; that, and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.

In real life, most of us do not have eight bosses. However, most people find they have too many "priorities" on their plate - as many as eight priorities, if not more - and the effect is the same. Let's walk through this:
  1. Your boss has given you a laundry list of important, "must do" items: each is a priority.
  2. There's just not enough time to do an excellent job on each one.
  3. Therefore, you go to "I don't want to be hassled" mode - do just enough on each item to avoid mistakes.
  4. Congratulations! You're working just hard enough not to get fired!
If you're honest, you'll admit the above scenario is the reality for way too many people, they are buried under laundry lists of tasks and responsibilities. (FYI: In an earlier post, I cited a study that showing that a mere 10% of managers spend their time in a committed, purposeful, and reflective manner. So in reality, most of us work for bosses who are not very focused.)  What's more, the above scenario is a classic recipe for mediocre performance.

'nuff said!