The Art of Good Decision Making
A good decision that everyone owns and supports is better than a great decision that is only owned by the boss.
Even when the boss's conviction about a desired direction or solution is warranted, it is often insufficient to ensure a high quality decision.
Why? Because a critical part of a high quality decision is its implementation. Commitment to high quality implementation often requires discretionary effort -- the kind of effort that is the outgrowth of real belief and sustained ownership of the desired direction.
This belief and ownership of a given outcome is generally an outgrowth of the quality of the decision-making process, especially the degree to which all participants have had the opportunity to contribute to the outcome.
Good decision making is often a case of pay me now or pay me later.
If sufficient time is not devoted to including all key implementers in the decision-making process, time will be saved on the front-end (i.e. the time required for processing everyone's contributions) -- but lost on the back-end (i.e. the time required to deal with lackluster implementation efforts.)
If the person in authority wants to exert true leadership, what's required is creating context for effective dialogue in which all ideas are heard and appreciated... and a solution is reached... and a decision made that builds on a distillation of the best of all available perspectives.
When authority is used to create and maintain a high quality decision making process, the result is usually a high quality solution and a high level of commitment to the outcome.March 21, 2010
Honor Thy Father and Mother
I am an innovation consultant. But I am also a son -- or at least was a son.
My last remaining parent, my father, died on July 14th, at 94. During the last days of his life, it became clear to me that there was a lot about his life I had no clue about. Not just information about our ancestors, but what really made him tick -- his dreams, his fondest memories, and what wisdom he was leaving behind for the next generation.
As a professional facilitator of "human process," I thought it would be easy to get him to talk about this stuff. It wasn't. My questions drew blank stares or a quick change of topic. Then my sister handed me the book she'd been writing, Window to My World, and everything changed.
What she had done was create a very accessible "fill in the blanks" book for seniors -- a way for them to reflect on their life and capture the essence for those of us they were leaving behind.
I spent hours sitting with him, asking him questions I had never had the courage -- or opening -- to ask -- everything from the names of his favorite teachers to his reflections on the meaning of life. He spoke. I wrote. And we both laughed and marveled.
The time I spent with him doing this served another valuable purpose. It shifted his attention from fear, doubt, and worry to insight, wisdom, and love -- a BIG shift for a 94-year old man afraid of dying.
If your parents are still alive, I know they're aging. And I also know there will be a time when you will be sitting with them in a room, surrounded by pills and creams, and all the other flora and fauna of a person's last days. There will be a moment when you want to shift the conversation to something deeper, but want to do it in a way that's user friendly.
Window to My World is that way.Create Something Before People Know They Need It!
Here's a juicy definition of innovation from the almost omnipresent Guy Kawasaki. (Excerpted from a recent interview by Diann Daniel of CIO.com)
"Innovation is creating something before people know they need it. The process involves building upon the work of others -- i.e. "copying," grinding it out, and deleting what doesn't work to jump to the next curve. Innovation isn't a lightning bolt of inspiration in the middle of a muse. More often than not, it's a process of grinding, cogitating, and doubting. There truly is no shortcut to innovation. Over the course of a career, you come up with dozens, if not hundreds of ideas, and reject most, try some, and you are lucky if a handful succeed."
Real Innovation in Health Care
If your organization is interested in raising the bar for innovation and maximizing the creativity of its workforce, you might be interested in the following comment we just received from AtlantiCare's President of Health Care Services, Don Parker...
"AtlantiCare was searching for guides who could help us infuse our organization with creative genius. What we found in Idea Champions was the 'Lewis and Clark' of innovation. Over the past two years of our work with them, we have blazed trails in a number of new areas, including:
1. The seating of a system-wide Innovation Council charged with the responsibility of stimulating and guiding the application of innovation principles throughout our organization.
2. The selection and training of Creativity Champions deployed throughout our organization to assist in new process design, redesign, and remediation of performance problems.
3. The creation of a new, innovative program for random and focused idea submission. (All ideas are responded to, referred to the appropriate process owners, and rewarded when and implemented).
4. Management training and deployment strategies on innovation for more than 350 middle managers.
5. Innovation processes, practices, and knowledge embedded throughout our 5,200 employee workforce.
"No organization, especially those in Health Care, can expect to thrive -- let along survive -- without drawing on all of the collective talent and ideas of their workforce. Idea Champions helps us discover and apply those talents and ideas in a highly productive and practical system. With their guidance, we expect to continue to blaze new trails as we meet the challenges of Health Care Reform."March 04, 2010
The Third Eye of the Brainstorm
Nowhere in the human psyche is the conflict between the need for independence and the need for support more pronounced than in the creative act, especially the very specific act of generating new ideas in a group -- an activity that has come to be known as brainstorming.
Historically, most people have believed that ideas come to them like bolts from the blue, flashes of inspiration that descend from the
beyond -- a dimension free of the laws of Earth.
Even the modern dictionary speaks of ideas as "transcendent entities." The implication of this way of thinking is that people need to be highly attuned in order to attract new ideas -- becoming a kind of channel through which ideas flow.
The importance of other people, in this approach, is almost non-existent.
Thus the desire for many creative types to seek solitude, moon howling, and any number of artificial stimulants -- whatever it takes to increase their chances of tapping into the exoteric source of brilliance.
But there is another way to get ideas -- a way that does not require solitude, long walks, opium, or surprise visitations from the muse. Quite the contrary.
This approach requires people -- committed people who come together with a focused intention to collectively tap into the unknown, unseen, and untried.
For want of a better word, let's call this activity "brainstorming" -- the creative act by which exciting new ideas are generated through the catalytic action of one mind upon another.
Or, to put it more simply, two heads are better than one.
Unfortunately, the word "brainstorming" has become totally abused in our culture. Like the phrase "Web 2.0," it is applied to anything and everything until it means absolutely nothing.
Meeting with friends to talk about a business deal? "We're brainstorming."
Tossing a few ideas around over cappuccino? "Um... brainstorming."
Kicking around a concept for a screenplay? "Brainstorming, dude."
What most people call brainstorming these days is usually just a veiled attempt to impress others with their particular brand of "genius," a caffeinated opportunity to trot out pet ideas, foist opinions, or play out a lifelong ambition to dominate a group.
Brainmisting? Maybe. Braindrizzling? Sure. But not brainstorming. Uh-uh. No way.
Real brainstorming is different. Very different.March 02, 2010
The New Chairmen of Microsoft Europe
Bill Gates recently advertised for a new chairman of Microsoft Europe.
Five thousand candidates respond and assemble in a large room. One of them is Isaac Ginsberg, a little Jewish man from Israel.
Bill Gates thanks the candidates for coming, but asks all those not familiar with the JAVA program language to leave.
Two thousand people stand up and leave the room.
Isaac Ginsberg says to himself: "I do not know this language, but what have I got to lose if I stay? I might as well give it a try!"
Bill Gates then asks all those who have no experience managing teams of more than a hundred people to leave.
Another two thousand people stand up and go.
Isaac Ginsberg says to himself: "I have never managed anybody but myself, but what have I got to lose if I stay? What can possibly happen to me?"
Then Bill Gates asks all candidates who do not have outstanding academic qualifications to please exit the room.
Five hundred more people stand up and go.
Isaac Ginsberg smiles and says to himself, "Oy... I left school at 15, but what's the big deal if I stay?"
So he stays in the room.
Finally, Bill Gates asks everyone remaining who does not speak the Serbo-Croatian language to rise and leave. Four hundred and ninety-eight people get up and leave the room.
Issac Ginsberg chuckles and says himself, "So.. I don't speak Serbo-Croatian, but what the hell! I got nothing to lose!"
He finds himself alone in the room with only one other candidate. Everyone else has gone.
Curious, Bill Gates gets down from the stage, joins them, and says: "Apparently you are the only two candidates who speak Serbo-Croatian. I'd like to hear you converse with each other in Serbo-Croatian right now."
Calmly, Issac turns to the other candidate, clears his throat, and says: "Baruch atah Adonai."
The other candidate smiles, bows his head, and replies: "Eloheinu melech ha'olam."
Thanks to my sister, Phyllis Rosen, for this fine story.March 01, 2010
Go Beyond Your Inhibitors to Creation
For the past 25 years I've been fascinated by the phenomenon of why SOME people succeed with their creative ventures and OTHERS don't. There is no simple answer, of course, but there are definitely indicators.
If you are interested in increasing the odds of succeeding with YOUR latest venture, respond to this online poll. It will only take five minutes and MAY surface some big insights.
I will post the results in the next two weeks. Feel free to forward it to friends and co-workers, as inspired. Thanks!