Speed eclipses Intellect

Intellectual Property (IP) is often a waste of valuable time and resources. The choice to get your IP locked in before developing your product or service makes no sense, when reducing your ‘time to market’ is the other alternative, especially in industries with rapid technology changes. Sometimes it’s best to clip on your skis and get going.

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The best products and services available to humanity are the result of people copying already great ideas and improving on them and taking them to market sooner. Xerox PARC developed the GUI (Graphical User Interface) that Steve Jobs copied and improved on to give the world the Mac. Left to it’s own devices, Xerox could have taken decades to commercialise its GUI and Jobs would never have been able to improve on it if the GUI had been locked out by a restrictive IP.

We routinely work with businesses to help them see clearly which items are critical path items and which are not. Do you have a great idea you’d like to take to market fast but aren’t sure how to proceed? Then contact us. We can help.

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Building Confidence

The foundation stone of teamwork is TRUST.  The absence of trust between your team members sets the team up for a cascade of problems. Trust is not automatic. For most of us there is a real a sense that trust must be earned.

Often we bestow trust on those who demonstrate working knowledge or competence. Over the years, you have probably heard the saying, “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing!” Today, there is evidence and research to support this.

Dunning-Kruger

Dunning and Kruger researched the relationship between confidence and experience.  They showed why incompetent people have trouble recognizing their own incompetence (think Homer Simpson!) and why quite competent people often feel lack confidence (think Lisa Simpson!).

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Knowing that such a curve exists can be helpful when you, one of your people or even your father is suffering from a bout of self-grandiosity or low confidence.

Are leaders typically more confident and less competent than their staff?  Why?

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Doing Leadership Differently

Ethical leaders ask three questions:

1. Is my next step legal?  2. Does my next step maximise shareholder value?  3. Is my next step ethical?

If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these, they do NOT take the low road.

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Another variation along the road is where the proposed profitable action is legal and it would be unethical not to act. e.g. Where food labelling laws do not require certain ingredients like sugar, additives and harmful fillers to be declared. In some countries Genetically Modified (GM) foods like Corn go unlabelled. It may be more profitable for a company to substitute bug resistant protein (toxic to humans) or cheaper harmful ingredients and not act ethically.

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A legally sound ethical imperative to act may well erode shareholder value. The ethical leader chooses consciously to erode shareholder value for the sake of ethical conduct.  When faced with this situation, the ethical leader must go ahead with the action and also disclose the effect of the action to the shareholders.

Do you have any examples where ethics was sidelined for profit, with or without legal conflict? What was the result?

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Time for Options

Options are superior to Strategy. Most often companies create strategic plans based on fixed mindsets that are built on past patterns of business, which is why these plans rarely have any teeth. Other times, companies include their values, vision and mission in their plan and use their strategic plan as a pseudo employee attitude and behavior change tool, which at least gives it some potency in relation to day to day activities.

The most potent quadrant in a SWOT analysis is the Opportunities quadrant, however, I prefer to use the word OPTIONS, so clients are looking at Strengths, Weaknesses, Options and Threats.

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Traditional Strategic Planning tends to makes Corporations and Businesses ‘Option Blind’ and locks them into predictable and non-opportunistic courses of action.

When employees are allowed or even better, paid to tinker and incur small financial losses in the process, they inevitably stumble on something rather significant!

– Coke started as Pharmaceutical.

– Noikia as a Paper Mill and Rubber Shoe Maker.

– Dupont went from Explosives to Teflon Frypans.

– 3M was a failed Quarry Mining Business.

– Avon as door to door Book Sales.

– Apple made circuit boards for Home Computer Builders.

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In term of strategy, your next steps could be:

  1. Rank everything you do by optionality – i.e. how well does this activity lead to new things.
  2. Look for open ended, not closed ended payoffs.  Apple could have built supercomputers, but they choose phones and now… iWatches!
  3. Do not invest in business plans.  Invest in great people who create even greater open-ended options.
  4. Look closely at the Weaknesses and Threats in your SWOT analysis to minimize your downside risks.  In other words, provide for the worst scenario and let the best scenario take care of itself, rather than provide for the best scenario and hope that the worst will take care of itself!  The later is a time honored and statistically certain recipe for failure.

What are some of the questions that arise when thinking about options?

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Lighthouse Leadership

‘Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.’  This tag line formed our February message to clients. We also added, ‘Be a lighthouse rather than a lifeboat’.  As we embrace another year and the tough financial realities of the world economy, the image of the faithful lighthouse seems to illuminate matters for me.

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Since the 2008 crash, we have seen governments around the globe throw all sorts of ‘lifeboats’ at our sinking financial markets to keep them afloat. Lifeboats to protect the banks from collapse (most aren’t aware that CBA, Westpac and Australia’s Reserve Bank all received bailout money along with Goldman Sachs from the US Fed in 2008), unsustainable levels of quantitive easing and now record low interest rates to keep us spending money we don’t have.

We were also told that any depositor in Australia’s four major banks, now only has a $250,000 government safety guarantee!  A stark reminder that when the stock market hits the rocks again, the number of lifeboats will be limited.

Unlike a lifeboat, a lighthouse shows the way.  Sometimes we receive calls from business owners and executives asking me, “What is happening to my business?  Please help me.  Please shed some light on this problem.”  Sadly, even more executives, some with big salaries and perks, who never call me (or anyone) for advice, are asleep.  And they are asleep to the fact that they are asleep.  They don’t really know what is happening in their business, until it’s gone or they are!  This is why we believe 60% of a CEOs time should be spent shining a light into and on the future.

No one will thank you as a CEO for manning the lifeboats and taking care of today, if you fail to provide for tomorrow.  So here’s the executive coaching ‘take home’ from this month’s conversation.  If you are a business owner who only works ‘in the business’ and not on it, or if you are a leader spending more than 50% of your time handling urgent matters instead of vital ones, then it’s time to start thinking like a lighthouse, rather than a lifeboat.

Are you a Business Owner or CEO?  What % of your time are you able to be a Lighthouse?

What % of your time do you feel you should be?

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