Here is a brief article featured by Executive Women’s Networking Blog, sponsored by EpsteinBeckerGreen, in which Frances M. Green discusses someespecially interesting revelations provided in a recent MIT study. I also located a link the study. Please click here. To check out all the EWN resources and sign up for email alerts, please click here.
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Some new and interesting research by Anita Woolley (email@example.com) and Thomas Malone (firstname.lastname@example.org) has been cited in June’s Harvard Business Review. Woolley is an Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior and Theory at Carnegie Mellon University, and Malone is the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the founding Director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.
Their research of team behavior and problem solving makes an interesting business case for gender diversity, concluding that “there’s little correlation between a group’s collective intelligence and the IQs of its individual members. But if a group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises.” Thus, where strategic business decisions are being made at a group or team level, the inclusion of women spikes the quotient of intelligence, making a positive difference in decision-making outcomes. As Malone states, “The standard argument is that diversity is good and you should have both men and women in a group. But so far, the data show, the more women, the better.” Indeed, research shows teams with more women tended to fall above the average of the collective intelligence scores of the teams studied by Malone and Woolley; the teams populated by men were below average in the same regard.
It’s a no-brainer! If you want smarter boards of directors, corporate committees, or strategic business teams, Woolley and Malone’s research supports increasing the participation of women.
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Frances M. Green is a Member of the Firm in the Labor and Employment practice in the firm’s New York office, and is co-head of the firm’s nationwide Women’s Initiative. Fran’s experience includes advising management of multinational and domestic corporations on all aspects of employment law, and litigating on behalf of multinational corporations in federal and state courts and before the New York and various regional securities exchanges in all aspects of employment related litigation, including employment discrimination, sexual harassment, and wrongful discharge. She also lectures frequently to corporate executives throughout the United States and overseas. Please click here for Fran’s full biography.
According to the tribal wisdom of the Lakota Indians, the best strategy is to dismount.
But what do they know?
Few (if any) graduated from Yale, Harvard, or Princeton.
Few (if any) then earned an MBA degree.
What do they know about strategy?
If a major consulting firm were retained to conduct a comprehensive study of the situation, for a substantial fee, what would its recommendations be?
1. Buy a stronger whip.
2. Change riders.
3. Threaten the horse with termination.
4. Appoint a committee to study the horse.
5. Arrange to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
6. Lower the standards so that dead horses can be included.
7. Appoint an intervention team to reanimate (incent?) the horse.
8. Create a training session to increase the rider’s load share.
9. Reclassify the horse as “living impaired.”
10. Change the form so that it reads, “This horse is not dead.”
11. Hire outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
12. Harness several dead horses together to increase speed.
13. Donate the dead horse to a prominent charity, thereby deducting its full original cost.
14. Provide additional funding to increase the horse’s performance.
15. Conduct a time management study to see if lighter riders would improve productivity.
16. Purchase an after-market product to make dead horses run faster.
17. Declare that a dead horse has lower overhead and therefore greater ROI.
18. Form a quality focus group to find profitable uses for dead horses.
19. Rewrite the expected performance requirements for horses.
20. Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position.
The Experts Can’t Figure It Out – Now What Do We Do? (We Still Don’t Know What Caused the Financial Crisis of 2008)
What do we do when the experts simply can’t figure it out?
Here’s a simple question: are there failing companies? Yes. Are there less-than-excellent organizations? Yes. Do you do everything you could do, should do, as well as you possibly could – as well as it needs to be done? The answer, I’m pretty sure, is no.
So, “less-than-excellent” is all around us. As we reflect on failures and deficiencies, we ask the next question: why are we not better? Why are our companies, our organizations, our own lives, not better?
Atul Gawande hinted at it when he wrote:
We have just two reasons that we may fail.
The first is ignorance – we may err because science has given us only a partial understanding of the world and how it works. There are skyscrapers we do not yet know how to build, snowstorms we cannot predict, heart attacks we still haven’t learned how to stop. The second type of failure the philosophers call ineptitude – because in these instances the knowledge exists, yet we fail to apply it correctly.
(Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right).
Or, to put it in simple terms: we don’t know; or, when/if we do know, we don’t do. Back, yet again, to the “knowing-doing gap.”
Now, on the “we don’t know” part of this equation…. Sometimes, we have not yet learned. On the news last night, there was a report on an amazing breakthrough drug for lung cancer. It looks like it might actually work, and they profiled a woman (with two young children still at home) who was on her death bed, and she is practically back from the dead. We now know something we did not know, and she is alive, maybe for quite a while longer. Wonderful.
And there are, we suspect, so many more such wonderful discoveries around the corner.
But, as much as we have come to rely on the breakthrough discoveries and insights of “experts” – they simply don’t yet know everything.
Which brings me to the paragraph of the day. This came in on my AtlanticWire Five Best Columns e-mail this morning. The article referenced is: What Caused the Financial Crisis? Don’t Ask An Economist. I end this post with the paragraph summary of the article from the AtlanticWire. And I remind you that there are some questions for which we simply do not know the answers — yet. And the more complex the question, the bigger the problem this presents. It really is quite a paragraph on lack of consensus, the limits of experts and their expertise, and a little on the drawbacks of this contentious age we live in.
Mark Thoma on the disabling divide in macroeconomics “What caused the financial crisis that is still reverberating through the global economy?” asks Mark Thoma in The Fiscal Times. “Last week’s 4th Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany–a meeting that brings Nobel laureates in economics together with several hundred young economists from all over the world–illustrates how little agreement there is on the answer to this important question.” Economists offered all sorts of conflicting answers like “the banks, the Fed, too much regulation, too little regulation, Fannie and Freddie, moral hazard from too-big-to-fail banks, bad and intentionally misleading accounting, irrational exuberance, faulty models, and the ratings agencies.” This lack of consensus among the world’s most renowned economists is troubling, Thoma writes, because we cannot find a solution to a problem we do not agree on. Perhaps we could try to fix all the potential problems cited. “But that unnecessarily constrains a whole range of activities in the hope that we limit the particular behaviors at the root of the crisis. That’s an inefficient way to fix the problem. And in any case, how do you proceed when some of the causes cited by economists are at odds with each other?” The truth is, macroeconomists have not yet agreed on a single model for the economy. Because economic theories are applied to historical, not experimental, data, economists can come up with multiple theories that explain the past equally well. “This problem is not just of concern to macroeconomists; it has contributed to the dysfunction we are seeing in Washington as well. When Republicans need to find support for policies such as deregulation, they can enlist prominent economists–Nobel laureates perhaps–to back them up. Similarly, when Democrats need support for proposals to increase regulation, they can also count noted economists in their camp.” Thoma says he hoped that a cycle-interrupting cataclysm like the 2008 crisis would provide enough new macroeconomic data to support one theory over another–he thinks it supports demand side over supply side. In fact, economists have just used it to back up their previously held positions and “dig in their heels,” making our debates “larger and more contentious than ever.”
This book should be read in combination with A Whack on the Side of the Head…preferably after you have read that book. At least that’s my suggestion. In Kick, first published in 1986, von Oech introduces four stereotypes: The Explorer, The Artist, The Judge, and The Warrior.
Von Oech devotes a separate chapter to each. Also, he assigns to each quite different values, priorities, mindsets, predispositions, and parameters relative to creative thinking. This is a brilliant conceit. In varying proportions, each of us is (simultaneously) an Explorer, an Artist, a Judge, and a Warrior. Each plays an important role in the creative process. Von Oech explains how and why.
As in A Whack on the Side of the Head, he provides various exercises in combination with a rigorous analysis of each of the four stereotypes. As is true of Whack, Kick will be immensely valuable to executives in any organization that needs a culture within which to generate and then nourish fresh ideas and new perspectives. The same is true of all self-employed people (especially independent consultants) whose customers or clients expect them to address the same need. Finally, I think that school, college, and university classroom teachers can devise all manner of appropriate applications of von Oech’s ideas.
I strongly recommend both Whack and Kick. Also von Oech’s Creative Whack Pack card deck and the more recently published Expect the Unexpected (or You Won’t Find It): A Creativity Tool Based on the Ancient Wisdom of Heraclitus. Read and then re-read all three. Absorb and digest the material. Let the ideas percolate for a while. (The material in all three is remarkably cohesive…and intellectually combustible.) Then try this experiment the next time you and others in your organization get together to brainstorm. Whoever chairs the discussion is designated the Judge. Depending on the size of the group, designate one or two others to be (respectively) the Explorer, the Artist, and the Warrior. Require everyone to think and comment ONLY within the strict limits of each assigned role. After about 15-20 minutes of brainstorming, re-assign all roles. Same requirement: each must think and comment only within the strict limits of her or his role. No exceptions.(Once you read Kick, you’ll know exactly what I am suggesting…also why.) I’ll bet you a beverage of your choice that the results will surprise and delight everyone involved. Also, and more to the point, it will prove to be the most productive brainstorm session that anyone in the group had as yet participated in. Just think (creatively, of course) how much more will be accomplished at the next session!
In addition to von Oech’s A Whack on the Side of the Head, there are other excellent books also worthy of your consideration. They include those written by Edward De Bono, Guy Claxton, Michael Michalko, and Joey Reiman.
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Roger von Oech is the founder and president of Creative Think, a California-based consulting firm that specializes in stimulating creativity and innovation. He has given seminars and presentations to corporations worldwide, including Coca-Cola, GE, Disney, Intel, MTV, Microsoft, NASA, Apple, Citigroup, and the United States Olympic Committee. He is the author of two previous creative-thinking books, A Whack on the Side of the Head and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants, as well as the popular Creative Whack Pack card deck. He lives with his wife and children in Atherton, California.
The story is told of an admiring friend who charms a young mother, “My, that’s a beautiful baby you have there.” The mother replies, “Oh, that’s nothing — you should see his photograph.” In this obviously weird colloquy lies a sorely bitter truth.
Louis René Beres
Substance. When you communicate, (when you speak or write), have something of importance to say.
Here’s your substantive read for today: Nary a “philosopher king”: The long road from Plato to American politics by Louis René Beres. As happens frequently, I found it linked to on Andrew Sullivan’s blog. Written by a professor at Purdue, it hearkens back to Plato, and Neil Postman’s seminal book, Amusing Ourselves to Death – simply one of the most important books I have ever read.
Here are quite a few excerpts:
In Plato’s Republic, a canonic centerpiece of all Western thought, we first read of the “philosopher king,” a visionary leader who would impressively combine deep learning with effective governance. Today, almost 2400 years later, such leadership is nowhere to be found, either in Washington, or in any other major world capital.
In American politics, no one any longer expects what Ralph Waldo Emerson had once called “high thinking.” Rather, the celebrity politician draws huge audiences (and donors) although very few would ever expect to hear anything of substance. In our national politics of veneered truths, whenever a candidate’s spoken words seethe with vacant allusions and blatant equivocations, the crowd nods approvingly, and leaps with satisfaction.
Now, at a time when leadership incapability could pave the way to bioterrorism, “dirty bombs,” or even outright nuclear attack, our relentless transformations of politics into amusement has become far more than a mere matter of foolishness or bad taste.
When will we learn to look behind the news, to acknowledge that our fragile political world has been constructed upon ashes? The answer: Not until we learn to take ourselves seriously as persons; not until we begin to read and think with sincerity; not until we stop amusing ourselves to death; not until we seek rapport with genuine feeling; and not until we rediscover the dignified grace of real learning.
How to “unravel the mystery of what really affects workplace creativity”
The information, insights, and recommendations that Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer provide in this book are research-driven — based on real people in real-world situations — and thus have a legitimacy that would not otherwise be credible. The authors collected data from 238 professionals on 26 project teams who reported their day-to-day workplace experiences in seven companies. Analyzing the 12,000 daily electronic diaries they gathered, the authors obtained answers to two “burning” questions: “How do positive and negative work environments arise?” and “How do they affect people’s creative problem solving?” The revelations are shared in this book. Here are three that were of greatest interest to me.
First, what Amabile and Kramer characterize as “Inner Work Life” is the confluence of perceptions, emotions, and motivations that individuals experience as they react to and make sense of the events of their workday. “Inner work life is inner because it goes on inside each person…It is work because that is both where it arises – at the office – and what it is about – what people do…[and it is life] because it is an ongoing, inevitable part of the human experience at work every day.” The challenge for leaders is to determine how to create and then sustain workplace conditions — at all levels and in all areas — that will foster positive emotions, strong internal motivation, and favorable perceptions of colleagues and the work itself. “Great inner work life is about the work, not the accoutrements…As inner work life goes, so goes the company…Work-related psychological benefits for employees translate into performance benefits for the company…and the best way to motivate people, day in and day out, is by facilitating progress – even small wins.”
By now, those who are reading this brief commentary are no doubt curious to know what The Progress Principle is. (I certainly was when I began to read the book.) Its nature has already been suggested in the previous paragraph: The single most important event supporting inner work life is making progress in meaningful work. The book guides and informs efforts to facilitate progress, “even small wins.” All organizations need leadership at all levels and in all areas. Therefore, what Amabile and Kramer characterize as “the power of meaningful accomplishment” must be generated throughout the given enterprise. Setbacks are to be expected. In fact, if viewed and (key point) if taken full advantage of as precious learning opportunities, setbacks can be invaluable allies to progress, whatever its nature and scale may be. The three primary influences are events that signify progress (e.g. goal completion), events that support the work (e.g. setting clear goals that everyone understands), and events that support the individual worker (e.g. continuous indications of being appreciated). Progress offers evidence of achievement; setbacks offer evidence of what has yet to be achieved.
I was also keenly interested in know what the unique leadership challenges are for those who attempt to establish and sustain an “Inner Work Life Culture.” Almost immediately, in the Introduction, Amabile and Kramer share startling results from the research: “95 percent of the leaders [surveyed] fundamentally misunderstood the most important source of motivation [when ranking] `supporting progress’ dead last as a work motivator.” Amabile and Kramer provide a wealth of invaluable advice throughout their narrative about effective leadership, much of it in Chapter 6 (“The Catalyst Factor: The Power of Project Support”) and Chapter 7 (“The Nourishment Factor: The Power of Interpersonal Support”). In brief, the defining characteristics of effective supervisors and team leaders include: (1) Showing that they respect people and the work they do; (2) Recognizing and rewarding the accomplishments of those for whom they are directly responsible and also praising other associates; (3) When needed, provide emotional support to those who report to them; and (4) create opportunities for the development of friendship and camaraderie between and among team members.
Before concluding this commentary, I presume to note that during exit interviews of hundreds of thousands of highly-valued employees who are leaving to pursue their career elsewhere, the one reason cited more often than all others combined is their supervisor. More specifically, what they perceive to be an insufficiency of one or more of these from their “boss”: respect, encouragement, emotional support, and affiliation. It is no coincidence that these four fundamental human needs serve as the foundation of the Inner Work Life Culture.
A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative
Roger von Oech
Business Plus, 25th Anniversary Edition (2008)
Note: When preparing for some interviews, I re-read several books on the creative process and remain convinced that all are still among the best. This one is indeed a business classic.
This book should be read in combination with A Kick in the Seat of the Pants…and preferably read first. Just a suggestion. Von Oech demonstrates in his thinking and in his writing the same principles he advocates so eloquently. In Whack, first published in 1983, he identifies ten “locks” which that (if not preclude) creative thinking:
• The Right Answer
• That’s Not Logical
• Follow the Rules • Be Practical
• Play Is Frivolous
• That’s Not My Area
• Avoid Ambiguity
• Don’t Be Foolish
• To Err Is Wrong
• I’m Not Creative
How does each limit (if not preclude) creative thinking? How can each be “unlocked”? To what extent are these barriers interdependent? Von Oech devotes a separate chapter to each of the ten, answering these and other questions while providing various exercises in support of his explanations.
Whack will be immensely valuable to executives in any organization which needs a culture within which to generate and then nourish fresh ideas and new perspectives. The same is true of all self-employed people (especially independent consultants) whose customers or clients expect them to address the same need. Finally, I think that school, college, and university classroom teachers can devise all manner of appropriate applications of von Oech’s ideas. When you listen to Richard Feyman’s lectures on physics (now available on CDs and videos), you suspect that he has read all of von Oech’s books. He probably didn’t. Nonetheless, he and von Oech are kindred spirits.
In addition to von Oech’s A Kick in the Seat of the Pants, there are other excellent books also worthy of your consideration. They include those written by Edward De Bono, Guy Claxton, Michael Michalko, and Joey Reiman.
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Roger von Oech is the founder and president of Creative Think, a California-based consulting firm that specializes in stimulating creativity and innovation. He has given seminars and presentations to corporations worldwide, including Coca-Cola, GE, Disney, Intel, MTV, Microsoft, NASA, Apple, Citigroup, and the United States Olympic Committee. As indicated, he is the author of A Whack on the Side of the Head and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants, as well as the popular Creative Whack Pack card deck. He lives with his wife and children in Atherton, California.