My day is just meetings, meetings, meetings…

By Richard Evans

Does this sound like a familiar problem? Too many of us find ourselves spending many hours a day in meeting after meeting, which all too often fail to reach any sort of positive outcome, even after hours of debate.

The implications of long, unproductive meetings can be hugely detrimental, not only for the individuals involved but also for their organisation as a whole. It can create an environment where conflict and negativity reign, and those who shout the loudest, most often, are the only ones who get their opinions heard, and others fear speaking up.

Traditionally, very little new thinking is achieved in group discussion, with a lack of structure and focus, meaning attendees revert back to ideas they have had before. Each individual concentrates on their own agenda, rather than exploring all aspects of a problem to come up with a quick and effective solution.

With time being the scarcest, yet the most precious resource most of us have, shouldn’t we all be trying to make all the meetings we attend much shorter and more productive? Isn’t it much more powerful to harness the full thinking power of a group, whilst eliminating the default stance of some individuals – the defence, and attack, where possible, are how the strongest survive?

The solution is Dr Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats™. It is a very simple, yet a powerful way of improving both group and individual thinking by quickly, but fully, exploring a subject. Only by looking at each aspect of a problem, can we hope to make that step forward to a next action and positive outcome, rather than limiting the opportunity available, by just arguing around it.

This one day workshop teaches delegates how to think together in parallel. Using human energy in a much more efficient and effective way is the aim, making the best use of the most powerful asset we all have – our minds. It looks at what ‘can be’ rather than traditional thinking, often adversarial and negative in stance which lacks any constructive and creative energy, or end result.

When a group thinks all in the same way at the same time and co-operates, using the Six Thinking Hats™, the result is a fast but robust solution, where everybody participates and each of the perspectives has their place. It is about changing our behaviour and attitude to not just thinking but communicating, shifting our thoughts from negative to positive and turning disagreement into real opportunities, or actionable alternatives to examine further.

Thinking in this way is a skill, which, when given a simple but powerful framework, allows anyone to use it to look at different approaches, separate fact from opinion and stimulate creativity which can surprise everyone! Only in this way can we all evaluate ideas productively and make the right decision faster.

Original article posted by Indigo Business Services Limited.

Can your organisation afford to ignore the Six Thinking Hats™? Contact us at info@brg.co.za or visit our website to find out more.

Innovate or Die

by Nicola Tyler 

“The entrepreneur upsets and disorganizes…his task is ‘creative disruption.” – Peter F. DruckerInnovation and Entrepreneurship

The age of digital disruption and rapid agile development requires that we think differently.  It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity.  It’s not an option, it’s a mandate.  So why are organisations still teetering on the brink of innovation, failing to make the leap of faith required to think differently and take action? Fear is a debilitating emotion.    

Innovate or die is a strong statement. Innovation is an option, death is not. Many companies do everything in their power to avoid death. But great companies know that for something new to be born, something has to die. In fact, the best companies know that the right time to destroy value is on the up, never on the down.  Change when you’re winning if you want to get ahead; that’s the role that innovation can play.

Nothing New

This isn’t anything new.  Like many concepts in business, this message has been around for years. Clayton Christensen from Harvard speaks about it in his book The Innovators Dilemma.  Edward de Bono wrote about it in 1968, when he first exposed us to the concept of lateral thinking – suggesting that there was a scientific and mathematical need for creativity. Alvin Toffler, who has made a Harry Potter-esque comeback, wrote about it in Future Shock, way back in 1970. Charles Handy wrote about it in the 1980s in The Age of Unreason.  Jack Matson wrote about it in 1996, in Innovate or Die. How much more evidence do we need? How many more thinkers do we need to ask? We cannot create new value if we are not prepared to destroy some value in the process. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, something has to die to give birth to something new. It’s the same in relationships, it’s the same in business, it’s the same in life.  

The Sigmoid Curve Says It Best

In the book The Age of Unreason, Charles Handy talks about the Sigmoid Curve.  The premise is that organisations have a life-cycle, moving from Inception through Growth to Maturity and then Decline.  The theory suggests that you need to destroy value to create value, and that you have two primary opportunities to do that.  You can change at Point A (during the Growth phase) or at Point B (in the Decline phase).  Both points represent change and pain.  But it hurts more to change at point B, than it does to change at Point A.  Changing at Point B can also be catastrophic – it requires more energy to change in decline, and sometimes the momentum of the change around you is greater than the energy or the will you have in the business to execute on the change.  Changing at Point B can be too late – ask Kodak, I’m sure they will tell you.

Think Differently | Act Differently

Wherever you are in your organization’s life-cycle, take innovation seriously.  Innovation is not only about thinking but about thinking in action. Innovation is the successful exploitation of a new idea. If you haven’t made the investment yet, make it now. If you haven’t taken that leap of faith, take it now. If you are debilitated by fear, go for therapy. Innovation isn’t an option – in fact, it’s the life force of your organisation.

Nicola Tyler, is a highly respected strategic thinker. With over 20 years of experience in Strategy, Consulting, Leadership, Development and Coaching, she is an Associate of the Gordon Institute of Business, a Master Trainer in a full range of de Bono Thinking tools. Working both locally and internationally, she delivers her own “Strategic Conversation” methodology to senior teams committed to innovation and driving sustainable results.

Nicola has shared the stage with world renowned thought leaders such as Tom Peters, Robert Kaplan, Ricardo Semler, Edward de Bono, Dave Ulrich, Martin Seligman, Richard Koch and Martin Lindstrom. 

 

Serious About Simplicity

Ron Ashkenas, author of Simply Effective, suggests that complexity in business has emerged due to a combination of product mitosis, product proliferation, process evolution and poor managerial habits. These factors combine to land many businesses in a world of complexity and silo thinking and complicated work processes.  Ashkenas also suggests that one of the biggest, and often hidden, causes of complexity is the individual. Yes, that’s right – you!  It’s all your fault.  You did this!  But the great thing is that if you created the problem, then you surely have the talent to solve it.  Cue ‘Simplicity.’

If you’re ready to take the topic of simplicity seriously, and consider adopting it as a core business strategy (not a “we really should” but a deliberate, strategic focus for your business), then read on.

Ashkenas suggests you start with these four areas, which he believes to be primed for delivering value.  

  1. Streamline the organisation, or as Norman Kobert once said ‘Cut the fat, not the muscle”.  Companies are often resource heavy, process burdened, and policy proliferate.  Cut out what you don’t need, and make a deliberate effort to combine products, reduce lines, stick to the core.  
  2. Prune products, services and features to focus on those that are profitable and have the biggest growth potential.  Get rid of dead weight “stuff” that isn’t bringing in value.  Can you really turn 2% of revenue business into your biggest opportunity, or can you cull those things that don’t deliver, and get focused back on your core?
  3. Process – disciplined process.  Build pragmatic processes into your business that drive the right behaviours for your leadership and your teams.  Make what you capture relevant, useful and support fact-based, informed decision making.  Take a rigorous look at your processes and ask the question: is this necessary?  Do we really need this or could we do without it?
  4. Improve managerial habits.  Life would certainly be simpler (but so much sadder) were it not for other people. For the value of simplicity to realize benefits, it’s important to drive it home in behaviour. Ritualistic repetition, and supporting the value through consistent change and communication, are the factors most likely to reap rewards.  In short, consider making simplicity a cult if you want to make it part of your culture.  The gift is that everyone wins as the benefits reap rewards for both the business and the people who live in it.

Simplicity as a Strategy

New strategic business values emerge over time.  In the 1980s, it was all about quality. In the 1990s, it was about cost cutting. By 2000, innovation had peeked its way through the clouds. What was once new has become the norm: quality and innovation are now widely accepted as common business practice. In fact, if either is not on your business radar, then you’re a laggard, and possibly in trouble. As we witness ever-increasing levels of business complexity, where a plethora of data and information prevails, a new set of values is emerging: the theme of “simplicity” is now pushing its way onto the corporate radar.  How do we make things simpler, for ourselves, for our customers, for our people? If you’re not easy to do business with, the customer will rapidly click somewhere else.

Simplicity is emerging as the next wave of strategic thinking.  Businesses and governments are preparing to make our lives easier.  Paperless offices used to be a pipe dream, but not so today. How can we harness technology to support simplicity? How can we use technology to reduce information overload rather than increase it?  Simplicity, just like quality, will eventually find a home, it will become embedded in other business processes. We need to give it full attention. The next wave is coming, and simplicity will be key to staying on your surfboard!

 

The Paperless Panacea

Before the dawn of the internet, companies were paper prolific and the idea of the paperless office was considered a radical innovation.  Heralded by Lars Kolind of Denmark’s Oticon as a prime business strategy, the concept that businesses could operate without paper seemed like a far-off dream.  Kolind, whose turnaround strategy was coined “Mission Impossible”, created a stand-up-only office on his  building’s top floor.  Employees would review their mail, magazines, etc and then hand it in to be scanned before venturing down to their desk.  Through the center of the building was a  transparent tube through which all things paper were shredded.  Radical.  At the time, it truly was.  

Today a “paperless” world is not only a reality, but an accessible option for all. Or is it? Two recent events have told me otherwise.  Renewing my mobile phone contract was a 1.5 hour process involving no fewer than 27 pieces of paper, (multiplied by two!)  including a copy of my driver licence.  It seems strange that despite having been a customer for over 20 years, they’re still not sure who I am.  Later, an attempt to open a new facility at what I considered to be a world-class bank, involved no fewer than 12 pieces of paper. Two transactions, 66 slices of tree!  Needless to say, these transactions are the company’s way of managing risk and for dealing with the new F word in finance – FICA!  Today, fortunately, there is an opportunity to leverage our advances in technology to support simplicity as a strategy.  Forewarned is forearmed.  

 

Information Overload

There is more content on YouTube today than the history of television ever produced. There are more books written and published in a year than you could read in several lifetimes.  There is more data, and more information, but perhaps less knowledge.  Are we really informed or are we over-informed?  For the most part, my clients cite “information overload” and “too many emails” as being big issues today.  Sometimes it creates acrimony in the corporate dialogue:“Why didn’t your reply to my mail?  I sent you that?  Find out for yourself.  Google it!” are all common conversations.  

What we lack are tools for how to deal with such vast amounts of information.  We need filters so that we can pay attention to what is relevant, rather than be distracted by the shiny and the new.  If there were an addict group for “Shiny Penny Syndrome”, I would have long since been a member.  On the one hand it’s marvelous: we have access to so much new, exciting information; learning is available to us all, quite literally at the swipe of a finger.  But is life really simpler, or is the weight of information a burden on our shoulders?  Does simplicity have a role to play in helping us convert data to information, and information to knowledge?

 

Simplicity as a Strategy

In short, simplicity is emerging as the next wave of strategic thinking.  Businesses and governments are preparing to make our lives easier.  Food manufacturers are reducing their brand SKUs to reduce choice, technology companies are introducing “ease of use” departments to ensure that users don’t have to figure out their complex models, and business engineers are using simplicity as a new way of re-engineering business processes.

Other simpler businesses – your competition – may be just a click away for your customer.  While it is good to ponder on the past, think forward to the future.  The next wave is coming, and simplicity will be key to staying on your surfboard.  Enjoy the ride.

Could you be doing something more smartly, more efficiently and more profitably. We can teach you how to streamline business processes and the world of work. Click HERE for more information or contact us at info@brg.co.za to book a needs assessment.

 

Ricardo Semler – Maverick or Lateral Thinker?

By Nicola Tyler | 31 July 2013

“If we have a cardinal strategy that forms the bedrock of all these challenges, it’s “Ask Why?”.    Ask it all the time, and always ask it three times in a row.  This doesn’t come naturally.  People are conditioned to recoil from questioning too much.  First, it’s rude and dangerous.  Second, it may imply we are ignorant or uninformed.  Third, it means everything we think we know may not be correct or true.  Fourth, management is usually frightened by the prospect of employees who question continually.  But, mostly, it means putting aside all the rote or pat answers that have resulted from what I call ‘crystallized’ thinking, the state of mind where ideas have so hardened into inflexible and unquestioned concepts that they are no longer of any use.  Employees must be free to question, to analyze, to investigate, and a company must be flexible enough to listen to the answers.  Those habits are key to longevity, growth and profit. 

We don’t know if Semler ever attended a lateral thinking seminar, but what we do know is that Edward de Bono introduced us to a deliberate lateral thinking tool called Challenge.  A tool that asks the question “why?” – three times!  The challenge tool is brilliant for questioning businesses’ processes and systems, but can be applied to any traditional thinking.

Challenge is designed to question the status quo in a deliberate way but without attacking it.  The technique is simple to learn, yet despite its simplicity, we still tend to give up before the end.  In the de Bono approach, we would list our traditional thinking about a situation, what he terms a “Checklist of Current Thinking”.  Once you have that, you then ask Why in the same style that Semler does, but in a slightly more deliberate manner.

The first approach is to ask Why C?  The C stands for Cut.  Here we are questioning the necessity of something – do we really need it or could this be “cut” out so to speak.  If you consider a chair, you might challenge the legs of the chair.  Can we “cut” the legs?  In my work, I generally find that there are few things people are comfortable cutting:  often the Why C naturally leads the thinker to the next Why in the process.

Why B?  The B stands for Because and is intended to highlight the reasons why something is done in a particular way.  We do this ‘because…’.  Considering the chair example, chairs have legs because they provide support for the seat:  it’s a way of keeping the seat off the ground and creating height for comfort and style.    In the Challenge process, de Bono also encourages us to question the validity of these reasons.  Is style a valid reason?  Perhaps not.  Is a way of creating a height a valid reason?  Yes it is.  If it weren’t for the legs, the chair would be called a cushion.  It would just be a seat on the floor, and if it was a moulded seat, might even be more uncomfortable.

Which bring us to the last Why – Why A?  Here the A stands for Alternatives, and de Bono asks us to question is there another way – is there an alternative to legs, or could we seek to satisfy the reason in a new, different or better way.  The deliberate search for an alternative requires a positive mental attitude, (the basic belief that there may be a better way), as well as deliberate effort.  All too often we don’t even consider alternatives, for the same reasons that Semler states – you may be proven wrong, or perhaps even right.

João Vendramin, our 60-year old director emeritus, once asked a worker if he’d ever considered a different approach to his job.   ‘He answered that his boss told him to do it that way,’ Vendramin remembers.  ‘So I insisted.  He told me that once he had done this job differently, but his boss reprimanded him.  While trying to explain to his boss what happened he said, “I was thinking that….” To which his boss instantly replied, “Thinking?  You are not supposed to think.  I am the one who thinks here.”’

Source: The Seven-Day Weekend by Ricardo Semler

Want to know more?  Ricardo Semler, Author of The Seven-Day Weekend and Maverick and CEO of Semco, one of Brazil’s top performing, privately owned companies, will be sharing his innovative thinking.  Visit www.theprogressconference.com for more information or call Ingrid on 011 463 9898.

Ricardo Semler – Maverick or Lateral Thinker?

by Nicola Tyler | 31 July 2013

 

“If we have a cardinal strategy that forms the bedrock of all these challenges, it’s “Ask Why?”.    Ask it all the time, and always ask it three times in a row.  This doesn’t come naturally.  People are conditioned to recoil from questioning too much.  First, it’s rude and dangerous.  Second, it may imply we are ignorant or uninformed.  Third, it means everything we think we know may not be correct or true.  Fourth, management is usually frightened by the prospect of employees who question continually.  But, mostly, it means putting aside all the rote or pat answers that have resulted from what I call ‘crystallized’ thinking, the state of mind where ideas have so hardened into inflexible and unquestioned concepts that they are no longer of any use.  Employees must be free to question, to analyze, to investigate, and a company must be flexible enough to listen to the answers.  Those habits are key to longevity, growth and profit. 

 

We don’t know if Semler ever attended a lateral thinking seminar, but what we do know is that Edward de Bono introduced us to a deliberate lateral thinking tool called Challenge.  A tool that asks the question “why?” – three times!  The challenge tool is brilliant for questioning businesses’ processes and systems, but can be applied to any traditional thinking.

 

Challenge is designed to question the status quo in a deliberate way but without attacking it.  The technique is simple to learn, yet despite its simplicity, we still tend to give up before the end.  In the de Bono approach, we would list our traditional thinking about a situation, what he terms a “Checklist of Current Thinking”.  Once you have that, you then ask Why in the same style that Semler does, but in a slightly more deliberate manner.

 

The first approach is to ask Why C?  The C stands for Cut.  Here we are questioning the necessity of something – do we really need it or could this be “cut” out so to speak.  If you consider a chair, you might challenge the legs of the chair.  Can we “cut” the legs?  In my work, I generally find that there are few things people are comfortable cutting:  often the Why C naturally leads the thinker to the next Why in the process.

 

Why B?  The B stands for Because and is intended to highlight the reasons why something is done in a particular way.  We do this ‘because…’.  Considering the chair example, chairs have legs because they provide support for the seat:  it’s a way of keeping the seat off the ground and creating height for comfort and style.    In the Challenge process, de Bono also encourages us to question the validity of these reasons.  Is style a valid reason?  Perhaps not.  Is a way of creating a height a valid reason?  Yes it is.  If it weren’t for the legs, the chair would be called a cushion.  It would just be a seat on the floor, and if it was a moulded seat, might even be more uncomfortable.

 

Which bring us to the last Why – Why A?  Here the A stands for Alternatives, and de Bono asks us to question is there another way – is there an alternative to legs, or could we seek to satisfy the reason in a new, different or better way.  The deliberate search for an alternative requires a positive mental attitude, (the basic belief that there may be a better way), as well as deliberate effort.  All too often we don’t even consider alternatives, for the same reasons that Semler states – you may be proven wrong, or perhaps even right.

 

João Vendramin, our 60-year old director emeritus, once asked a worker if he’d ever considered a different approach to his job.   ‘He answered that his boss told him to do it that way,’ Vendramin remembers.  ‘So I insisted.  He told me that once he had done this job differently, but his boss reprimanded him.  While trying to explain to his boss what happened he said, “I was thinking that….” To which his boss instantly replied, “Thinking?  You are not supposed to think.  I am the one who thinks here.”’

Source: The Seven-Day Weekend by Ricardo Semler

 

Want to know more?  Ricardo Semler, Author of The Seven-Day Weekend and Maverick and CEO of Semco, one of Brazil’s top performing, privately owned companies, will be sharing his innovative thinking.  Visit www.theprogressconference.com for more information or call Ingrid on 011 463 9898.