Good Enough to Great

Good Enough to Great

Perfect is the enemy of good is an old proverb from Voltaire which asserts that a drive for perfectionism can actually prevent you from accomplishing a task at all when a good result could be achieved with significantly less effort.  Perfect results are limited by the law of diminishing returns, so setting the bar at perfection will generally result in escalating costs and timelines in execution. This reality runs contrary to the natural tendencies of many people and many organizations who constantly drive for the perfect result or absolute completion of a task.  Unfortunately in a world of increasing pace, competition, and disruptive innovation a drive for perfection is more likely to result in negative returns and a toxic blaming culture than have any positive benefits. While I am a firm believer in outrageous goals as a mechanism to drive new thought patterns, one has to be conscious that often a good result that doesn't achieve an outrageous goal is far better...
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Shooting Arrows at the Moon

Shooting Arrows at the Moon

About a week ago stories started surfacing about the possibility of resurrecting the Avro Arrow as a potential replacement for the troubled F-35 Stealth Fighter purchase for the Royal Canadian Air Force. For those who don't share my adoration for the Arrow (otherwise known as the CF-105) I'll provide a brief summary of its short life as the world's most advanced fighter jet. In 1952 the RCAF submitted the Final Report of the All-Weather Interceptor Requirements Team to Avro Canada - an aircraft manufacturing company located in Malton, Ontario. In it they outlined the features that would be required to protect against the threat of jet powered high altitude Soviet bombers capable of dropping nuclear weapons on North American targets. The resulting design achieved what was considered to be impossible at the time with test flights starting in March 1958. Through the pilot and test process the aircraft achieved a top speed of Mach 1.98 (although that was not the limit of...
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Walking the Fence

Walking the Fence

When I was working for myself and leading a small company things were much easier.  The 60 hour work-weeks, lack of vacation time, and total consumption in the work and building of the company were hard, but in a small company in a leadership position you never had to worry about what you said or did because your job was to drive hard and fast, make hard decisions, and move forward. In general the people who join small companies are similar minded - they get that driving hard means sometimes working with ambiguous information, making hard decisions quickly, and being up front with communication.  Feedback from fellow employees and the market wasn't always easy to hear, but it was at least direct and actionable. When you move into many bigger organizations you find something new pops up that you need to manage that has nothing to do with profit and loss, market share, or growing your business, but has everything to do...
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Commit to making Errors of Commission

Commit to making Errors of Commission

According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, when it comes to innovation the big mistakes are “generally not errors of commission”.  Put another way a former boss used to say “if you’re not failing you’re not trying”.   Ultimately they both mean that it’s actually the lack of innovation that is the most risky approach to doing business. So if the riskier approach is to do nothing and avoid innovation, then why are so many leaders and companies sitting on the side lines waiting for someone to invite them into the game? I believe that the answer lies in two primary factors.  First, many business owners and leaders perceive innovation as the act of taking big chances, risking on big projects with big financial costs that have low odds of success in hopes of eventually hitting one home run that will compensate for the costs of all the losers.  Second, most people are not typically programmed for a high tolerance for differences or change so...
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The Slipping Point

The Slipping Point

At some point in the evolution of even the most successful companies, an interesting thing happens – growth stalls.  Even the brightest and most experienced Entrepreneurs and managers are perplexed as the things they did to create the initial growth in the company no longer drive new revenues.  In fact if they stick with old methods and ideas things go from bad to worse as revenues and profits start to fall.  I call this moment of change a ‘slipping point’, and no business is immune to them. The reason that slipping points happen is that as companies grow their needs and markets change, but due to the slow and incremental nature of these changes they are hard to recognize until things have stalled out. The leadership skills that take a company from inception to $5 million in revenue are different than the leadership skills that are required to take a company from $5 million to $15 million.  The process of creating...
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Out Of The Box Opportunities

Out Of The Box Opportunities

There is a great article in this week's BusinessWeek magazine entitled 'Fertile Ground for Startups' that illustrates the opportunities that are at hand for truly innovative ideas in today's economy.  The article outlines that investment by angel investors and venture capitalists is up significantly over the first half of this year, and that as many as 50,000 new businesses will obtain some form of angel or venture investment in 2009 in the US. The article also highlights some of the ideas that are getting money, and there seems to be a pretty consistent theme - innovation gets investment. After the past 18-24 months of economic turmoil it shouldn't surprise anyone that it is innovation that is leading the way out of the mess.  Innovation has been a great buzzword for the past 10-15 years, but only a few of the really great companies have been able to really harness its power within their existing corporate frameworks, leaving much of the opportunity for the development...
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Appropriate Management Controls for Small Business

Appropriate Management Controls for Small Business

For those that read this blog regularly or who have spoken with me at one of the various networking events that I regularly participate in you know that my passion is in creating growth through value innovation, but I have had a couple of conversations in the past week with colleagues in other businesses about management controls so I thought I'd share my thoughts on specifically management controls and small business. One of my pet peeves (and one of the main reasons I haven't spent a lot of time in larger more bureaucratic organizations) is process for the sake of process, and I truly believe that management controls used poorly constitute exactly this problem.  One of the most innovation stifling innovations is the standard operating procedure, specifically if it implemented before there is a specific need for control or before an organization has grown to a size that would justify requiring that level of control. When speaking with one colleague he demonstrated for...
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