Tag Archives: international business

thoughts on thinking

I’ve been thinking a fair amount about thinking lately. How much time do I spend doing it? How much time do other people spend doing it? How much of a given day, week, or month should be dedicated to the simple process of reflection and/or thought?

In an era of pushing productivity to the limit, where more is better, and engaging in a constant state of being “over busy” seems to be valued above all else, thinking may be deemed to be a rather unproductive activity … but is it? The assumption is that you need to have a tangible output in order to be productive, as if producing thoughts or ideas isn’t as valuable as producing widgets. On the other hand, we can obviously all recognize the tremendous value of that great idea that allows you to double the number of widgets you produce, or cut in half the amount of time it takes to produce them. So why the ambivalence over setting aside time to think?

In reality, any good leader, anyone in charge of organizational strategy, or anyone responsible for any kind of business development or growth must learn to value and make time for reflection and thought on a regular basis. If they don’t, they might be in trouble when competitors move forward and their business is left behind, or when they miss out on that big opportunity because they were too busy being busy to see it come up. Execution of an effective strategy may indeed be the key to organizational success, but without reflection and thought, how do leaders create strategy? Furthermore, how do they continually reassess to ensure that the strategy remains effective as the external environment continually shifts and changes?

In the following HBR article, Freek Vermeulen, an Associate Professor of Strategy at the London Business School, cites a number of the most successful business leaders of our time who have understood and promoted the value of thought and taking time to think. He then tackles the five strategic questions he believes you should be using your “think time” to answer on a regular basis. In his own words “strategy, by definition, is about making complex decisions under uncertainty, with substantive, long-term consequences. Therefore, it requires substantial periods of careful, undisturbed reflection and consideration. Don’t just accept the situation and business constellation you have arrived at. Leadership is not just about doing things, it is also about thinking. Make time for it.”

read here

5 Minutes Early Is On Time; On Time Is Late; Late Is Unacceptable

Watch --- Image by © Image Source/Corbis

Watch — Image by © Image Source/Corbis

I couldn’t agree more with this author’s take on being late. It feels like running late, and last minute cancellations, have become the rule rather than the exception in business. I can’t stand it. I don’t like it at the doctor’s office, I don’t like it in a meeting, and I don’t like it socially either. No matter how you frame it, being chronically late is a selfish act; you are somehow, whether by accident, time mismanagement, or sheer inconsideration, deeming other people’s time and schedules as less important than your own. And it feels as though it’s becoming more and more acceptable and expected when, in fact, it should be becoming less and less so.

One of my favourite quotes from the following Forbes article, listing the realities of what being late really means, is the following.

“Megalomaniacal. While most grow out of this by the age of eight, some genuinely believe they are the center of the universe. It’s not attractive. Note, this is also called Donald Trump Syndrome. Do you want to be compared to Donald Trump?”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

The next time you are booking that 11:00 am meeting uptown, on the back of a 10:00 am meeting downtown, and thinking to yourself “I’m sure I can make it on time”, take a moment to consider the impact on other people’s schedules if you don’t.

read the article here

According to HBR… The Sharing Economy Isn’t About Sharing at all


In 2011, Time magazine lauded the “sharing economy” as one of their “10 Ideas that Will Change the World”. By providing customers with an alternative to traditional ownership, this business model was proving itself to be profitable. It was an apparent win-win as consumers were offered a way to save money through resource sharing, each individual accessing the goods or services they required on a part-time needs-based basis only. Zipcar and AirBnb were two of the original big name players in this field, and they were soon joined by competitors offering everything from the ability to share cars, accommodations, tools, designer accessories, and other tangible goods.

At the time, Time magazine suggested that the emergence of a sharing culture, also referred to as collaborative consumption, was largely socially driven, was popular because it allowed individuals to make meaningful connections with others, and to participate as part of an enlightened community of sharers. Time cited research suggesting that people “get a spike of the pleasant neurotransmitter oxytocin when they’re entrusted with another’s goods”. Perhaps society had finally come to a place where we could see the wastefulness of our mass consumptive past, and were moving towards a more kumbaya future.

In 2015 however, Harvard Business Review presented an opposing view of the sharing economy in the article “The Sharing Economy Isn’t About Sharing at All”. HBR suggests, from a marketing perspective at least, that businesses should be focusing entirely on the price and convenience of their product or service, and that the language of a sharing economy may be more detrimental than helpful in achieving business success. As an example, HBR sites the company Lyft. Have you heard of it? I hadn’t, but I’ve sure heard a lot about its direct competitor, Uber, lately. The difference in marketing between the two companies? Uber has positioned itself squarely around pricing, reliability and convenience, whereas Lyft attempted to capitalize on the social sharing concept without nearly the same scale of success.

Unfortunately, it would seem that the value of sharing may not be as altruistic as Time magazine had hoped for. The sharing economy, or as HBR suggests is more appropriately described as “the access economy”, is successful because it provides a means for consumers to save money, period. The value of making connections to others, or feeling as though you are part of a sharing community, is not the primary motivation for consumers, nor should it be the marketing angle that businesses should take if they wish to be successful in this field.

read the entire article here

Mastering Intelligent Opportunism

There is a distinct emotion that accompanies the arrival of a great business opportunity. It is part adrenaline, part fear and part excitement. It is the same emotional high that comes with being close to inevitable victory in a season ending hockey game. It is the point at which everything around slows down, your vision becomes crystal clear and things seem to be effortless, because you can taste victory. In business, moments like these are all too rare. They may be found, from time to time, in the thrill of concluding an acquisition, the inauguration of a new manufacturing plant, the opening of a new store, (or a Game 7 overtime win) but seldom are they part of an organization’s day-to-day experience.

Personal Credibility & Trusted Judgement

Decision Making Intelligence is the second credibility builder and it is the ability to solve problems, resolve issues and come to conclusions that satisfy the various stakeholders and leave them feeling fully and clearly committed to the decision. It is about personal credibility and trusted judgment. In order to be credible, leaders must combine their Emotional Intelligence with a proven track record of superior decision making under a wide variety of circumstances and across a wide portfolio of business matters.

A leader must have the ability to understand and master the complex elements involved in the decision-making process, including the rational and interpersonal components, as well as the divergent and convergent phases. These abilities embody the essence of decision making within what is known as the field of Behavioural Economics. Our current understanding of this science comes from a growing pool of notable experts, such as Daniel Kahneman and Daniel Ariely, who have helped us better understand the mechanics of decision making and the phases we go through as we make business decisions in particular

Together, the powerful combination of Emotional Intelligence and Decision making Intelligence represent the fundamental building blocks upon which leaders develop their legitimacy. In other words, as Barbara Kellerman points out in her book Followership, leaders will not able to lead effectively unless their followers have determined them to be worthy. Legitimacy, defined in this way, is something granted to the leader by their followers. As such, it could be argued it actually puts the followers in control.

Understanding the Future: Bold Imagination

The innovation we need to transform our organizations is not developed by digging for the provable facts and empirical evidence hidden deep in the well of our retrospective data banks. It is not the deep analytical source of insight that will somehow help us make sense of the future. It is quite the opposite. Our ability to understand the future will come from the more intuitive, fluid, experimental process of looking forward, visualizing and anticipating the many changes that are just out of sight, around the corner and over the horizon.

Transformational leaders have a certain bold imagination that fuels their creative genius and combines it with a distinctive flair and a rebellious, revolutionary zeal to make something different, and to do so on their own terms. These are the types of leaders who reorder and reshape the pieces of the puzzle to arrive at solutions the rest of us hold in awe and envy. These are the leaders who violently shake the Etch A Sketch® to clear the old image and then proceed to draw a new one.

Navigating Direction : Mastering Pivot Points

Throughout history, the truly great leaders have known when and how to pivot when the situation and the context change. They seem to have a sixth sense and know exactly the right moment at which to abandon what is no longer working and comfortably embrace new tools more suited to the conditions they find themselves in. It is part experience, part intuition and part luck, but successfully identifying and then navigating these crucial inflection points is the responsibility of leaders. The average leader can perhaps do a respectable enough job when conditions are normal, but it takes an exceptional leader to navigate confidently in uncertain, uncharted and turbulent waters.

It seems as though the dangerous, pivotal moments of transformational change have been presenting themselves with increasing frequency in recent years. The more interconnected global economy, rapid technological advances and constantly evolving social, political and demographic changes have all come together to alter the once reliable maps we used to guide us in the post-WWII period. The question that should concern and even haunt us all is why, in the face of these changes, so many leaders, organizations and nations have not been brave enough, vigilant enough or just plain smart enough to switch tack from what may have been right and relevant in one set of circumstances to a new course, better suited to the changing conditions of the future.

Lies We Tell Ourselves

A common and all too often fatal flaw business leaders fall victim to is the tendency to focus on the immediate rather than the important. This is especially true when it comes to the really big things and the truly difficult problems in our lives or businesses. Unfortunately, the hidden costs, consequences and risks of distortion, denial and misalignment are like those of an iceberg. They can be ignored or underestimated for a short period of time, but if they aren’t dealt with, the risks will inevitably appear as if out of nowhere and overwhelm even the hardest working, most charismatic and most determined leader.

In organizational life, the leader of a huge multinational or a small independent business has the same set of responsibilities to their customers, employees and community. A major responsibility is to face up to, and deal directly with, the misalignments and gaps that conspire against the ability of the organization to perform at the highest level. Leaders must make it their absolute priority to constantly be on the lookout for the discordant signs and troubling signals that reveal things are not exactly as they should be. This requires a strong inner resolve, confidence and a balanced emotional temperament as find a way to run toward those situations with a solution in hand, not away from them in an effort to avoid conflict.

Why Write ‘Straight Talk on Leadership.’ Part 2

Some more reasoning behind my decision to write ‘Straight Talk on Leadership.’