The Art of Thinking Independently Together

The Art of Thinking Independently Together

The word "diversity" is thrown around in corporate circles on a regular basis, but like many such common corporate words (like "innovation", "synergy", "culture", or "strategy") the word itself doesn't carry a common meaning and so it loses a great deal of its power. Sometimes people mean diversity in terms of race, heritage, or origin. Sometimes it means diversity in terms of gender. Rarely does it meet the standard of diversity that I think it needs to. The most important fact about American liberty is that it has never been a single idea, but a set of different and even contrary traditions in creative tension with one another. This diversity of libertarian ideas has created a culture of freedom which is more open and expansive than any unitary tradition alone could possibly be. David Hackett Fischer While the quote above is focused on an American concept the foundation of the quote is universal. Diversity is a broad concept that requires leaders to...
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Leading to Outcomes

Leading to Outcomes

One of the more successful strategies I have seen managers take in their organizations has been shifting their focus from managing the process to managing for outcomes. In the age of employee empowerment one of the best ways to allow your team to feel like they have a say in the work is to allow them some flexibility in the process and approach provided that they are able to deliver the desired outcomes and meet the organizational targets. The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it. Theodore Roosevelt I would suggest that the act of simply managing for outcomes isn't enough in the current corporate environment. Setting goals and offering some flexibility in the process and approach is more effective than micro-managing every step of the work and is an improvement over older management science but if you retain the...
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Don’t Be Afraid Ask

Don’t Be Afraid Ask

Over the past couple of months as I have been looking for my next career challenge I have been lucky enough to enjoy a lot of amazing conversations, meet a lot of really interesting people, and learn a lot from both the people I am meeting as well as my own experiences going through this. One of the most important lessons I am drawing on though I learned through my last big career search: Don't Be Afraid To Ask I love meeting new people and I love great conversation, but ultimately neither of those things on their own are going to find me the right next opportunity. If I don't actually use those introductions and conversations to let people know what I'm looking for and how they can help then it is a wasted opportunity in the end. (more…)...
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Last Refrain – Humanity’s Poet

Last Refrain – Humanity’s Poet

Saturday night Canada shared a moment that will be burned into our collective history for years to come. We came together as a country to celebrate the life, talent, and most of all humanity of Gord Downie as the poet of our generation. September seventeen For a girl I know it's Mother's Day Her son has gone alee And that's where he will stay Wind on the weathervane Tearing blue eyes sailor-mean As Falstaff sings a sorrowful refrain For a boy in Fiddler's Green The lyrics from Fiddler's Green mourning the loss of a child feel fitting after a night where Canada was able to celebrate and mourn with someone who has done so much in his life to help paint our own identity as a nation. The Canadian humanity with which Gord Downie shared his lyrics instantly connected him to the whole nation, and simultaneously brought us all together in a way that no politician, no athlete, and no artist had done before. (more…)...
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Emotion Leads to Action

Emotion Leads to Action

I joined a group of Niagara professionals at IdeaShare yesterday for breakfast and met some very inspiring entrepreneurs who had some great stories to share. The IdeaShare concept is essentially a Mastermind group (think Napoleon Hill - Think and Grow Rich) where a group of business leaders and entrepreneurs get together to discuss issues that are relevant to their business and the rest of the members provide advice and/or thoughts that might help them work through their challenge. At the end of the meeting Dennis O'Neill shared something he was told by a mentor previously in his life which was resonating with him - and it definitely resonated with me: Logic leads to conclusion; emotion leads to action. (more…)...
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Change = Weakness?

Change = Weakness?

Last week I was in the car driving and listening to the Jeff Blair Show on Sportsnet 590 The Fan and while discussing the pitching situation with the Toronto Blue Jays coming out of the trade deadline he said something that really stuck out to me. He had recently changed his position and opinion on whether pitcher Aaron Sanchez should move to the bullpen or stay in the starting line-up and he was catching a lot of listener ire for that change in position. The thing that really caught my ear was the fact that the listener issues were largely with the fact that he had changed his mind, not with whether the listeners agreed with his position (new or old). People simply didn't like the fact that he had CHANGED his position. Somewhat flipantly Jeff said something that I think is a pretty profound statement on our society and one of the reasons that creativity and innovation is so hard in our organizations: Changing your...
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Innovation Requires a Solid Foundation

Innovation Requires a Solid Foundation

Those of you who know me won't be shocked by the fact that I have a serious passion for innovation. I believe you always need to be pushing your organization (and your life) forward, reinventing what you do and how you do it as often as possible to continually drive new value to your customers and your organization. Companies like GE or IBM who have consistently changed their business, sold off core components, reinvented their primary revenue base, and evolved how they execute based on the demands of an evolving market are great examples of companies that do innovation very well. (more…)...
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Connecting Strategy and Execution

Connecting Strategy and Execution

I will be speaking next week at the Bank-IT Conference on the topic of "Building a Full Stack Strategy: Integrating Strategy from Business Vision to Tech Execution" so I felt that I would share some of my thinking more broadly here. While I'm containing my discussion next week specifically to the Technology area the reality is that connecting strategy to execution is critical (and similar) across the organization. Too many organizations build their strategy in a silo, completely separated from the business lines and the supporting organizations that are required to execute the strategy. In many organizations you'll find "Strategic Management" offices or "CEO Strategy Board" functions which operate at the highest level of the organization and focus on the macro issue and strategy and then pass their plans and white papers off to the supporting teams on the assumption that will result in execution of those plans. (more…)...
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Breaking the Fire Fighting Cycle

Breaking the Fire Fighting Cycle

As traditional organizations look to address the new competition and rapidly increasing pace of change in today's competitive marketplace I am seeing some very interesting common struggles. Traditional markets and industries are seeing unprecedented changes to their customer's expectations, now competitors who are chipping away at their traditional profit centres, and even changes to their employee base with the emergence of the new millenial workforce and the retirement of many of their long standing organizational leaders. (more…)...
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Reality Checks

Reality Checks

I spoke last week at the Auro Bank IT conference here in Toronto on the topic of IT Transformation in an increasing complex and fast moving world and the feedback I got from my talk from the participants was not exactly what I was expecting. I hoped that people would be enlightened by my ideas for how to prioritize transformation work, and how to start small and expand, how to approach the complex environment without being overwhelmed (and perhaps they did take some of that away), but what I heard consistently was how refreshing it was to have someone articulate the problems we face in IT with a dose of reality. (more…)...
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