Monthly Archives: May 2019

New addition to The Library in St. Pete

Related imageThe latest addition to The Library in St. Pete is Unlocking Creativity – How to Solve Any Problem and Make the Best Decisions by Shifting Creative Mindsets, authored by Michael Roberto. As his interview in Forbes magazine explains, creativity doesn’t typically come from the lack of ideas, but from barriers in organizations that stifle creative thinking.

This is the 3rd of Professor Roberto’s books to join our library, and the first one for which you can find both a brief introduction and a trailer for the book at Youtube.

From among the many terrific insights in the book, we’d like to highlight two:

1 – Shaping team climate is more important than an “obsession” with reorganizations (p. 94-98).  

(H)e presumed that organizational structure drives performance, as many business leaders do. Unfortunately, that causal link is much more complex than many executives realize, as the studies of mountain climbers and sports teams illustrate. Leaders can adopt a variety of organizational structures, and each comes with its own costs and benefits. We cannot simply crank up an algorithm and select an optimal structure that promotes creativity, innovation, and growth. No such perfect structure exists, no matter the strategy, industry, or circumstances…

Leaders need to think about how teams perform their work, and how they can create the conditions that will enable those groups to flourish. The best leaders pay close attention to team climate, behavioral norms and ground rules, and the design of the work itself…

Julia Rozovsky’s People Analytics team collected data on 180 teams throughout Google.  She explains what they discovered:

“We thought that building a perfect team would be pretty algorithmic in nature, because at Google, we love our algorithms.  [However] What our research showed us was that it’s less about who is on the team and more about how people interact that really makes the difference.”

Google identified five attributes of their highest-performing teams, and “a climate of psychological safety proves to be the most important by far.”

We could not agree more. As we ourselves have written, systems and processes are important but what makes a team great are the ‘robust social systems’ in which the members’ informal modus operandi ensure that all those well-designed systems function properly.

 It can take time for creativity to pay dividends (p. 172).

Remember, though, that many creative breakthroughs occur when individuals make connections between seemingly disparate concepts. Those links and relationship s may not become apparent overnight. Sometimes, it seems as though these breakthroughs are simply the product of luck. On the contrary, Harvard scholar Ethan Zuckerman argues that, “Engineering serendipity is this idea that we can help people come across unexpected but helpful connections at a better than random rate.”

Here too, we are in agreement, having echoed this line of thought many times. The difference between luck and serendipity is that the latter involves seeing meaningful combinations where others do not and is a skill one can develop

Some organizations are “luckier” than others because they tolerate an optimal degree of wastefulness based on the assumption that serendipity relies on loafing and savoring the moment, of wandering and loitering and directionless activity of all sorts. Serendipity is a close relative of creativity and can be encouraged by a few organizational factors.

Lest anyone think we’ve given too much aid and comfort to sloth, inefficiency, and other bad habits, we’ll close with Gary Player’s thoughts on the subject:  “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

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NB:  We’d like to thank the good professor for comparing venture capitalists to Soviet planners (p.80). We’ve actually known and admired Professor Roberto for a long time, and in fairness to him, he is merely quoting an entrepreneur.  (Ahem, while not objecting…)

Here are a few other instances where we’ve cited the professor’s thinking here at Navigating Venture:

Why manners — and Southern etiquette — can make a difference in business

We saw this column by our friend, Frank Williamson of Oaklyn Consulting, in the Memphis Business Journal and thought it was excellent.  Frank captures well the way we, and many others in the Southeast, like to do business and both the importance and pleasure of focusing on building long term relationships.

 

Frank Williamson, Oaklyn Consulting

 

Source:  Memphis Business Journal

As a Southerner by birth, I grew up in a culture where manners were of paramount importance.

When interacting with authority figures and peers, I came to understand the social benefits of maintaining proper eye contact, saying “please” and “thank you,” and having a firm handshake.

Yet, out in the professional world, I’ve been struck by how the continued value of these and other niceties isn’t commonly discussed. According to some studies, social skills are 85 percent responsible for personal success, as opposed to 15 percent from learned technical skills.

Out of the 10 U.S. cities boasting the highest levels of business growth, seven are located right here in the South, according to a recent CNBC article. The past five years have seen huge levels of business and employment growth in Southern cities, including Nashville, Orlando, and Charleston, South Carolina.

I don’t think this is a coincidence. Although our region’s economic success certainly can’t be attributed to solely etiquette, as a Southern business owner, I feel that it has played a part in businesses deciding to establish themselves here.

With civility seemingly on the decline in our world, it’s worth thinking about how we can incorporate this general attitude of courtesy into both our work and personal lives.

Respect in the negotiation process

First impressions are everything. When you treat a business partner with a lack of respect during the process of making a deal, you shouldn’t count on the relationship continuing. But, by bringing a different attitude to the negotiation process — treating it as an opportunity for both sides to solve a problem rather than as a situation where only one side wins — you have the potential to build a relationship that extends beyond a single deal and may result in a more mutually beneficial agreement.

In my experience, those who adopt the attitude of a hard bargainer are being short-sighted, trying to extract some kind of immediate value from a deal instead of seeing it as the first step in a lasting partnership. Naturally, you have to prioritize your interests in any negotiation, but empathizing with what the other party hopes to achieve can make a huge difference in the way you relate to each other.

I saw this dynamic play out recently with a client, a family-owned business that was up for sale. One buyer stood out from the others by the level of consideration he showed toward the family, which was understandably concerned with continuing its legacy. The buyer’s approach took into account the benefits of maintaining a strong, lasting relationship, while keeping his own business interests in mind. In the end, both parties felt the sale was a positive experience.

Balancing work and life

Some business owners may disagree with me, but I believe that the time we spend away from work is as valuable as the time we spend building our businesses. It may not always seem wise to leave work undone just so you can make it home for a family dinner. But, there’s a good argument to be made that the Southern tradition of keeping a healthy work/life balance has the long-term benefit of setting up the next generation for success.

I’m not advocating giving short shrift to business matters. However, there is real value to leaving the office at 5 p.m., staying largely offline during dinner and through the evening, and letting your home life be your primary focus until the next morning.

A major part of Southern civility is our continued devotion to passing on our values to each successive generation, both in our families and through nonprofits. By putting time and effort into this, we raise up a new generation that will eventually enter adulthood with an understanding of how Southern etiquette can be applied to their personal lives and business relationships.

Memphis Business Journal Article:  https://bit.ly/2PQLV7v

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