Don’t be “innovative”, be disruptive

8449828582_1d1a29010e

Talking about being innovative doesn’t make you innovative. So many people and companies today talk about being innovative and disrupting things. Guess what – most of it is just talk. When push comes to shove true disruptive innovation is tough and attempts often fail. On the other hand iterative product development is easy and comfortable and easy for executives to pat themselves on the back.

There are four key aspects in my book to be disruptive:

  1. Think different: you can’t think the way everyone else does and be disruptive — ask the tough questions be the contrarian.
  2. Stay nimble: you must keep my mind and skills nimble — don’t get bogged down in one industry, one skill set or even one geography.
  3. Think big: never let something seem to great — everything must be on the table.
  4. Act, act, act: there is nothing like acting — you will certainly make mistakes but the biggest the proverbial line is failing to act is guaranteeing failure.

These things along won’t make you disruptive but put you in a better position to be disruptive. Take the opportunity to be disruptive. It does not have to be at your company if it is not supportive and it probably isn’t. There are tons of tough problems the world faces but it is easier than ever to make big impacts with software, analytics, IoT, and much more.

Find out about disruptive innovation at:
-Clayton Christensen’s Site: http://www.claytonchristensen.com/key-concepts/
-HBR: https://hbr.org/topic/disruptive-innovation

About WorkLearnPlay: WorkLearnPlay.com is about helping information workers live better lives and supercharge their success in the workplace. Please let me know how I can continue to make this site better and help you and others supercharge your success.

photo credit: Bitcasa at TechCrunch Disrupt 2011 San Francisco via photopin (license)

Zig when others zag

1

The safe thing to do is go with the crowd – look at politicians, stock fund managers, and likely your boss. Going with others will ensure you never are wrong because you were following others. You can certainly go around life zagging with others.

True leaders zig when others zag. There is almost no single solution to any problem. Leaders identify other solutions and execute. So next time you see everyone saying one thing be leery and ask if yourself if this is the opportunity to be bold and zig when others zag.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

About WorkLearnPlay: WorkLearnPlay.com is about helping information workers live better lives and supercharge their success in the workplace. Please let me know how I can continue to make this site better and help you and others supercharge your success.

photo credit: Easy Living via photopin (license)

0

Is this too formal?

We live in interesting times where the traditions of the past are more quickly becoming the traditions of the past. Things change so fast but some things don’t.

Each of us has certain conceptions of what is appropriate in a given situation. Most of us would not show up to an interview in shorts and a t-shirt but do you need to where a three-piece suit and tie.  When crafting an email to an executive the message should generally focus on being clear and concise but does that mean you need to include a formal salutation and sign-off?

I still see many different perspectives on formalism and I think the answer is relatively simple:

1. Understand the situation: This is pretty common sense but think about your situation. Are you in a job interview? Are you talking to college students on a college campus?  Do you know the reputation of the person you are meeting with? What is the reputation of the person you are communicating with? What are other people doing in a similar situation? The more important the conversation, meeting or presentation is the more you should really seek out an understanding of the situation.

2. Adapt:  You want to relate to your audience and be context appropriate no matter if it is a sales call, job interview, formal presentation, or fundraising. So once you understand the situation then adapt. You might not like to wear a suit and you might think it is not your image but do you want the job or do you want the audience to respect you. On the other hand you might have your input discounted if you seem too formal and your audience does not relate.

3. When in doubt, be a traditionalist: I am always a believer that when in doubt edge on the side of formalism. Whether it is dress or communication style, being formal if in doubt usually will not penalize you. However, not being formal enough will still often penalize you.

BTW — my preference is to be less formal if you are seeking me out and looking to understand my preference.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

About WorkLearnPlay: WorkLearnPlay.com is about helping information workers live better lives and supercharge their success in the workplace. Please let me know how I can continue to make this site better and help you and others supercharge your success.

0

Gaining organizational influence

Gaining organizational influence is one of the most challenging things for employees and contractors today. People generally like to take pride in their work and their opinions but often times feel this is discounted in today’s companies. This challenge for gaining influence is not only in the realms of big companies either — many people face the same challenge in small companies.

Organizational influence challenges are influenced by organizational hierarchy, players and incentives. Where you play in things and how you interact and develop relationships will mean the difference from being a highly successful person to a mediocre performer. Before getting into this discussion it is important to note that whatever you do you need to do it with relationship building, empathy, and genuineness. If you do so, then you will be significantly more effective than just acting.

Organizational hierarchy: There is simply too much hierarchy in today’s companies but saying this is not going to change it. In reality to gain influence you need to understand the hierarchy and how it works together. Which departments influence what? Which departments are final deciders on what? The organizational hierarchy map is a place to start but that rarely gives the whole picture.

Your role in the hierarchy: Once you understand the hierarchy you need to analyze and map out how your current and future goals align in this hierarchy. For example, if you are a product manager your role will touch most if not every area of the organization including sales, marketing, operations, and R&D.

Organizational players: Understand key organizational players in each of the areas you interact now with or will in the future. Further, make good contacts in these organizations and grab coffees and lunches with people. You will not have time to know everyone but take the time to learn and develop relationships with at least one and better yet two people in each of these aligned organizational areas.

Organizational incentives: In the words of any good economist, it is all about the incentives. What are people incentivized to do? Are they incentivized to work well together? Are they incentivized to make their team members stand out or to have themselves standout? While you may not be in a position to establish broader company incentives, you can incentivize others in getting items you needed completed to reach your goals. Sometimes this incentive may intrinsic and sometimes extrinsic. However, understanding people and their motivations will assist you in efficiently incentivizing others to help you.

Over the next week take an effort to better understand your organizational hierarchy, your role in that hierarchy, the key organizational players and the organizational incentives. Once you start honing resources related on work that focuses on driving increased organizational influence you will be more successful.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

About WorkLearnPlay: WorkLearnPlay.com is about helping information workers live better lives and supercharge their success in the workplace. Please let me know how I can continue to make this site better and help you and others supercharge your success.

0

Conference Success Lessons

Embedded image permalink

This year I took on leading the organization of a large local analytics conference focused on the financial and retail industries. The conference was called MinneAnalytics FAR Con and there were a number of things that I learned throughout the process but there were a two key things that I thought important to emphasize because no matter if you are organizing a good sized conference, starting a big project at work, or organizing your local youth baseball league they apply.

Before getting into these lessons a little perspective about MinneAnalytics FAR Con. This event was an all day event with 50+ sessions with 60+ speakers and 700+ attendees. This event included both a VIP function the evening before the event and a happy hour after the event along with breakfast and lunch provided at event. The other key thing about an event like this is it is sponsor funded so there is not only recruitment of speakers and marketing of event to potential attendees but also recruitment of sponsors. To learn more about what was presented at FAR Con and participants go to http://minneanalytics.org/event/far-con/ or search #FARconMN.

Couple key reminders throughout the FAR Con planning and execution included:

  • Expect and Plan for Change: Life is full of constant change and you need to be prepared and plan for it. I think back always to strategic planning courses talk about Shell Oil and Scenario Analysis and the need to be prepared for different scenarios.

In the case of this event there was the need to find people to help organize the event, people to speak at the event, people to sponsor the event, and people to volunteer at the event, and people to attend the event. All these require different levels of trust but there is the health level of skepticism that we should all have. For example, we had over 1,000 people registered for the event but approximately 720 people attended. Further, there were a number of people that were originally going to speak that dropped out of speaking at different times. There were a number of companies that indicated high interest in sponsoring that didn’t eventually come through. I certainly expected this to happen and had planned what would be next move if things occurred.

  • Trust the team: Nothing that really matters in the world happens without a team effort and the bigger the effort the bigger the team needed. Putting together a good team around a common goal and trusting in the team is essential to make things work.

FAR Con required a lot of people to make successful. This required a level of trust for the people filling each of the roles. Sometimes I did this better than other times, but I always appreciated the team and their passion. The one thing I tried to stress throughout was our mission of coming together to make the Minnesota analytics community stronger through learning, sharing, and networking together.

Remember that you need to plan for change and trust the team whenever you are doing something big.

Thank you again for everyone that worked together with me in making MinneAnalytics FAR Con a success and look forward to having you and others participate in future events.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

photo credit: @MinneAnalytics, @Danalytics

About WorkLearnPlay: WorkLearnPlay.com is about helping information workers live better lives and supercharge their success in the workplace. Please let me know how I can continue to make this site better and help you and others supercharge your success.

0

Email – love it or hate it but get better at it!

344569624_569d9f78b1

No matter what your job as an information worker is you probably have a large part of that job spent looking at a screen sending emails. Ok, I will start off by admitting that email is a love hate thing for me. Email is great because you can have the ability to communicate with people all over the world and at all times of the day. But, email also encourages poor communication habits because it is easy to send email and there is virtually no cost.

Whether it is your personal life or your professional life email has become a necessary evil. Before getting into how you can get better with email, let me put an observation out there. I understand that Gen Y (aka Millennials) and Gen Z don’t use email like Gen X and Baby Boomers but many of these communication themes apply across the board. Good communication is just that. However, no matter what generation you are part of email is still a staple in professional life.

Getting to the heart of the matter at hand email is something that we will likely have around for a long time and having good email practices is important to being an effective communicator and a successful information worker. Here are five tips to take into account and practice when crafting emails:

  • Good subject lines: The subject line of an email is one of the most important things to get right. Subject lines are what get people to open up your email and pay attention or to gloss over it and ignore. If you get a reputation for poor subject lines then your emails will be the one ignored.

Other tips for subject lines include: if a response is needed by a certain date then indicate as much in the subject line along with a clear indication of what the topic email is about. If an email is regarding a certain project name then include that or some other indicator at the beginning. If an email is important then state “IMPORTANT” in the subject line but don’t be the person that does this all the time.

  • Clear and concise: We all know people that ramble on in emails and it is frustrating. More often than not when I see a long email from someone that has rambling emails I will either ignore it or just end up calling the person asking them to summarize. Do not have rambling emails. Respect people’s time and make every word count.
  • Start with priority and asks: Start with what is most important in your email at the beginning of the email and then proceed in order of importance. This will help ensure that your most important item is most likely read. Further, if you have a specific ask in an email then make sure that is noticeable and at the beginning and indicate the date you are asking it to be completed.
  • Email recipients: Some people have the tendency to reply all to all emails or have the tendency to always include a person’s manager and other senior leaders on emails. Both these things should be cautioned. Not everyone needs to be on every email. Think about whom the recipients should be and limit your email to those people. Additionally, if some people should receive the email for information purposes but they are not the person being asked to perform something then make that clear at the start of the email.

One thing to especially avoid is copying the person’s boss and other important people all the time. This comes off poorly and I see the same people doing it over and over again. Guess what most bosses and other senior people know this modus operandi also and it is not viewed well. There are certainly times when an email to the senior level people is warranted but it should be highly limited.

  • Don’t email when you are emotional: We have all been upset from a meeting, phone call or email. There is a tendency to go and draft an email and press send. Avoid this emotionally driven digital speak.

Sure go ahead and draft that email but do not press send and do not even have the intended recipients in the “TO: line”. Any emotionally driven email should be reviewed by another person prior to sending and delayed from being sent one day.

Instead of just quickly replying all to your next email and shooting off some words into the digital ether – take some time and craft a sensible email geared at the message you would like to convey. Doing so will ensure you are more likely to have your message received and respected.

Learn More: This post is about using email effectively as a tool but there are also a lot of challenges with just keeping up with email and being productive. There are tons of other great resources on email productivity. One of popular note is Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero at www.43folders.com, which aims at quickly addressing email and efficiently categorizing and addressing email.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

photo credit: 1337 Gmail Inbox via photopin (license)

About WorkLearnPlay: WorkLearnPlay.com is about helping information workers live better lives and supercharge their success in the workplace. Please let me know how I can continue to make this site better and help you and others supercharge your success.

0

Where does your communication roadmap lead?

8739599312_106d291dc6

Communication is one of those things we all know is important. No matter if you are a manager or individual contributor we all must communicate daily. Communication is easy but good communication is tough. What is more difficult is there is no right way to communicate with everyone.

People are different and communication styles are different. Some people prefer direct, in-person communication while others prefer indirect, text message communication. How often do you tell others how you prefer to communicate or ask others how they like to be communicated with?

You can be the person that is a take it or leave it communication style or you can adapt to others and meet them halfway. The more you improve your communication with others the more your success will increase.

So next time you have a new employee, new manager, new friend, or new relationship, start out and ask her for her communication roadmap and provide her yours. This communication roadmap should indicate things like:

  1. Communication style: There are different communication styles. Some people prefer the direct and short style of communication. Not everyone can take being direct and having short communications with some people will make them jump to conclusions that you are unhappy with them. Others prefer the drawn out, beat-around-the-bush style. Whatever a person’s style is try to adapt your communication to it and watch how it pays off.
  2. Communication format: Communication can come in many different forms. I am a face-to-face communicator or at worse on the phone. Sure I respond to emails and voicemails but it is not my preferred format. Knowing the preferred format of people you frequently communicate and trying to engage in that format as it makes sense will help you be more successful in your communications.
  3. Communication frequency: People need different levels of communication frequency. Some people talking with them once a week is plenty while others need to communicate twice a day. Some of the communication frequency is certainly job dependent but much of it is a communication preference.
  4. Communication pet peeves: Some things just piss us off. Letting people know those pet peeves helps people not fall into those communication pitfalls.

Having the communication roadmap for your colleagues, friends, employees, relationships, and manager and providing them your communication roadmap will increase your communication effectiveness. Once you have that roadmap then utilizing it to effectively engage with others will increase your chances for success.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

photo credit: w20 – Paul Meyer via photopin (license)

About WorkLearnPlay: WorkLearnPlay.com is about helping information workers live better lives and supercharge their success in the workplace. Please let me know how I can continue to make this site better and help you and others supercharge your success.

1

Don’t let sunk costs sink you

medium_6981874789

A popular term in economics, accounting, and finance is “sunk costs” which basically means costs that have already been spent. These costs may be from software purchased, processes redesigned, machines purchased, consultants hired, etc. Whatever the costs are it has been spent and there is no getting it back.

Instead of looking at what has been spent you need to do a fresh analysis right now to determine what decision you would make looking at things are fresh. This might mean going a completely different direction in software or equipment used.

Of course there are political dynamics here because somebody made that decision to spend money previously and if the course changes there are always questions that arise and there are people that will defend actions. In a later post we will discuss this and other potential things to take into account when making decisions counter to past decisions.

The following are things to remember when making a decision that could be impacted by “sunk costs”:

  • Analyze fresh: Remember sunk costs are just that – sunk. Do not include them in your calculations and make fresh decisions whether it is on changing a process, software, or hardware.
  • Do not get emotional: Avoid that emotional tug you and others may have to feel bad about money and time previously spent. Getting someone involved that does not have emotional baggage on the particular item is best.
  • Understand history: Oftentimes new people come into a department and are quick to find things that are “wrong” and should be changed. Getting fresh perspective is vital. However, understanding history and why decisions were previously made will help you ensure your new analysis takes into account all needed items into the calculation at hand.

It is important that you as an individual contributor or leader understand sunk costs and how to take a fresh lens to a problem and ignore these sunk costs in making good decisions will ensure that sunk costs do not sink you.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

photo credit: *Amanda Richards via photopin cc

0

Do you follow the 80/20 rule?

1062888681_95b2de25e7

A catch phrase that is often mentioned is the “80/20 rule” but rarely do people really spend time living it. This rule is phrased in different ways but most often means that 20% of your efforts result in 80% of the benefits. In a sales environment for example 20% of your clients result in 80% of revenue and the other 80% of your clients result in 20% of your revenue. Generally speaking the analogy goes is that those same 20% of clients result in using only 20% of your resources so they are way more profitable – 10x or more.

The 80/20 rule is geared at asking how do you identify and focus on those 20% of items that result in highest level of value and, in turn, minimize the 80% of things you do that result in lower value? This is easier said than done for sure.

In order to take advantage of the 80/20 rule you should take note of the following:

  • Know your 20’s and 80’s: Until you know the 20 that produces the 80 you are nowhere. Start by understanding your clients’ profitability, understanding your team’s effectiveness, and understanding all else you can. Many things you don’t realize you are spending time and resources on until you focus on identifying what is generating what. It is easy to lie to yourself here.

Ask yourself if the data you have is really capturing what is needed to make the determination on identifying what is generating what. For example, are you factoring all the costs that your whole team spends servicing your clients? If you have good data to work with then the analysis becomes easy.

  • Make hard decisions: Just because you identify your 20 that produces your 80 does not mean that you are willing to fire the 80% of clients that generate 20% of profits. However, following this analogy, this lets you ask questions of how you can get your 80% of clients more profitable. Some of these decisions will indeed be to fire clients. Other decisions will be to stop projects. Yet other decisions will be to cancel ongoing meetings. All of these are valid decisions. It will give you an opportunity to deploy those resources in a more effective manner.

Be careful of the 80 that eats up your resources and only gives you 20. If you know your 20’s and 80’s and make the hard decisions, you will be living the 80/20 rule and increasing the effectiveness of your organization, profitability of your clients, happiness of your employees, and much more.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

photo credit: Stenciled 80 via photopin (license)

About WorkLearnPlay: WorkLearnPlay.com is about helping information workers live better lives and supercharge their success in the workplace. Please let me know how I can continue to make this site better and help you and others supercharge your success.

0

Solving problem solving

2450911647_b5c2ae6ae1

The world is full of problems to be solved. If you are lucky your day is full of problems as an information worker. Some problems are more fun than others to solve but all problems require solutions – even if that solution is ignoring the problem.

While people generally consider themselves good problem solvers, they rarely are as good as they think. The better a person becomes at problem solving the quicker her career will progress.

While some aspects of being a problem solver are natural aptitudes, everyone can and must solve problems as an information worker and it is something you can and will get better at by following some simple rules:

  • Positive attitude: Start with a can do, positive attitude to every problem that is before you. It is amazing how problems get easier and ideas come quicker when you have a positive attitude. When your manager talks about a new problem needing to be solved say, “Yes, I will solve that”.
  • Ask questions: Finding solutions to problems requires a good understanding of the problem and its root cause. Asking questions and getting facts is a key part of solving problems.
  • Think long term, not short term: Often times the root cause of a problem is hard to determine but without finding it the problem will persist. People are often tempted to find the short-term solution but that often only results in another problem arising. Instead make sure to think long term and try to identify the root cause of problems and best way to resolve.
  • Learn from others: You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. But, you need to be able to ask for help and get advice from others. Many times others will have seen similar problems and have ideas to help.
  • Be creative: Creativity is something everyone is capable of but as we get older often we don’t focus on this important skill. When approaching a problem take a look at many angles and do the proverbial “out of the box” thinking. Not all solutions will be creative but often times the most challenging problems will mandate it.
  • Try, try, and try again: Hard problems are hard for a reason. Your first solution will not always be the cure. Just like a good scientist applies the scientific method and has a theory and tests it so to will an information worker solve a problem. There will be trail and error but in the end persistence and grit will lead to success.

Next time a difficult problem arises at work or home take it and apply the steps above and get better at solving problems. Just like most activities you can and will get better at problem solving with practice and applying the rules above.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

photo credit: Filling In a Crossword Puzzle via photopin (license)

1 2 3 4