Jane Edison Stevenson is Vice Chairman, Board & CEO Services at Korn/Ferry International, where she co-leads the firm’s Global CEO Succession Practice. She is located in Korn/Ferry’s New York and Atlanta offices. Previous to Korn/Ferry, she spent a decade as Global Managing Partner with another global leadership advisory firm and prior to that, helped to build several boutique search firms into competitive brands.
Ms Stevenson is known for her strong global relationships in Fortune 500 C-suites, and among boards of directors. She has been recognized by BusinessWeek as one of the “100 Most Influential Search Consultants in the World,” and is frequently consulted by Fortune, Forbes, BusinessWeek, and The Wall Street Journal to discuss trends and issues related to governance and innovation.
With her co-author Bilal Kaafarani, Ms. Stevenson wrote business bestseller Breaking Away: How Great Leaders Create Innovation that Drives Sustainable Growth, and Why Others Fail. Breaking Away was released by McGraw Hill last spring and defines the world’s first innovation framework, linking the importance of innovation, leadership and growth. In addition to the USA, Canada and the UK, the book was just published in Turkey, and will be coming out in China this fall.
Here is an excerpt from my interview of her. To read the complete interview, please click here.
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Morris: Before discussing Breaking Away, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth?
Stevenson: Probably my father, John D. Edison. He is the most selfless person I know, and early on, he taught me two profound lessons: happiness is a decision, and life is a series of trade-offs – always understand what you are trading for what you are getting. He also taught me that to keep growing you have to “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” He is 75 years old now, and is still evolving and growing every year. For example, he just published his first book a few months ago, God: Grace and Deception.
Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development
Stevenson: That is a tough question. I have been blessed to work with many great people, who have both impacted and inspired me.
• My first boss in the executive search profession, Gerry Reynolds not only saw my potential, he also helped me to believe in myself.
• My friend and mentor Gerry Roche, encouraged me to develop high trust relationships that bleed from professional to personal.
• There are a number of top women whose friendship and counsel has had a profound impact on me as we have shared our journeys. In particular I would mention Adrienne Fontanella, Angela Ahrendts, Judith Glaser, Cynthia McCague, and Melanie Kusin, but there are numerous others as well.
• My co-author Bilal Kaafarani has been a key partner in my current journey, challenging my thinking and providing key insights for the future. He convinced me that we needed to write Breaking Away, to share our experience “in the trenches of innovation leadership” with others.
Partnering to develop and share the Breaking Away innovation framework has forever changed my outlook on the future.
Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course that you continue to follow?
Stevenson: The epiphany that comes to mind happened shortly after my son was born 14 years ago. I can still see the room I was in and how the sun fell on the floor around me at the moment I realized I might never get over my insecurities, and that I was going to have to decide whether I would allow them to define my life, or whether I would decide to “play full out” anyway. I decided to play full out. That decision has empowered me to take on many new challenges, like writing a book on the importance of innovation leadership and sharing a framework that can open up new possibilities for today’s leaders.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education proven to be invaluable to what you have accomplished in your life thus far?
Stevenson: Your question makes me laugh because, in matter of fact, my undergraduate education was in elementary education. Apart from my practicum teaching for six months, I never taught a day in my life, as I was immediately drafted into administration and leadership. That said, perhaps the most valuable gift of formal education is to teach us how to learn and to stay open to new truths and insights. In that case, my formal education has definitely served me well.
Morris: What are some of the most common misconceptions about executive search that in fact is true?
Stevenson: The most common misconception is that we are trying to find jobs for people, when, in fact, we are hired by the corporation to ensure that they make the best leadership selection (from either inside or outside the company) for the role at hand.
Morris: When interviewing candidates for C-level positions, which tend to reveal the most valuable information, the questions they ask or the answers they offer in respond to the questions asked of them? Please explain.
Stevenson: Both. Interviewing C-level executives is as much about learning who they are as people as it is about what they have accomplished. The questions they ask give us important insights into the way they think about things and what their priorities are. Their questions can give us a good sense about their motivators as well. Both in asking questions and in hearing the questions that are asked, our job is to understand whether the fit is one that will have the strongest odds for success. The more we can get behind a candidates questions and answers, to understand his/her value system, motivators, ambition and ability, the better job we will do of assessing whether there is a good fit.
Morris: Percentages vary somewhat but the results of dozens of major research studies suggest that during face-to-face contact, about 80-85% of the impact is determined by body language and tone of voice. What are your thoughts about that?
Stevenson: Communication is achieved through a combination of things: choice of words, affect, body language, tone of voice, choice of dress, and last, but not least, how they shake hands. You can learn a lot about someone based on a handshake. I’m not sure I could put a precise percentage on each factor, but I will say that I am more interested in intuiting “who” the person is than I am about the words alone.
Morris: In your opinion, what is the single greatest challenge that CEOs will face during the next 3-5 years? Any advice?
Stevenson: Actually, I think there are two: the changing “rules of engagement” to capture the hearts and minds of your customers in a digitally-driven world, and the desperate need for innovation and growth. In some ways, I think the two are intertwined. We live in an age of unprecedented access, interaction and connectivity. The question is: How will you use that to your company’s advantage? How will you be the beneficiary of the digital revolution, instead of having it define you? This is a big question for companies in all industry sectors. One of my friends refers to it as learning to “speak social”. The speed at which things are changing is directly influenced by new levels of access and interactivity. This creates a natural tendency for us to speed up, moving faster and faster and faster….Not a good move. The best thing you can do is to stop, look and listen, then assess what will drive the most productive and strategic results and play there.
The ability to step back and understand how to use these new “rules of engagement” to advantage, will require innovation, and will create opportunities for growth. Advice? The secret weapon will always be your people. The CEO’s who understand the power of people, and who are committed to fully utilizing people’s diverse capabilities, will ultimately win the race.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
Jane cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites
Todd Henry is the founder and CEO of Accidental Creative, a company that helps creative people and teams generate brilliant ideas. He regularly speaks and consults with companies, both large and small, about how to develop practices and systems that lead to everyday brilliance. Todd’s work has been featured by Fast Company, Fortune, Forbes, HBR.org, US News & World Report, and many other major media outlets. His book, The Accidental Creative: How To Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice, offers strategies for how to thrive in the creative marketplace and has been called “one of the best books to date on how to structure your ideas, and manage the creative process and work that comes out of it” by Jack Covert, author of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time and founder of 800-CEO-READ. You can connect with Todd here, or learn more about how to hire him to speak at your event or train your team.
Here is my interview of him. To read the complete interview, please click here.
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Morris: Before discussing The Accidental Creative, a few general questions. First, Who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth?
Henry: I have a counter-intuitive answer to this. Probably the biggest influence on my personal growth was a 20th-century mystic and monk named Thomas Merton. It seems strange that a man who lived the biggest part of the late years of his life in isolation and contemplation would have much to say to a 21st-century, tech-immersed creative, but I found his writings to be deeply reflective on the nature of humanity, and also an illumination on the mechanics of doing important work.
If I were talking only about contemporary influences, I would have to say that I’ve been incredibly blessed to be around a group of mentors who, over a period of several years, really made it a project to develop me and help me understand both my capacity and my limitations. It was in this virtual incubator for leadership that I first discovered my voice and began reflecting deeply on the creative process.
Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course that you continue to follow?
Henry: I was a leader in an organization trying to scale a team while helping them handle the pressures and demands we were facing, and in my effort to do so I reached out to several other creative directors who I knew would be dealing with the same issues. My biggest question for them was, “How do you serve your team, and help them do their best work without burning them out?” They stared at me like I was from another planet. “What you mean?” they almost unanimously asked. In other words, it had never occurred to them that it might be possible to exist in any create on-demand environment and be simultaneously healthy in the way you approach your work. This began a long journey for me of exploring whether or not it was possible to be prolific, brilliant, and healthy simultaneously in life and work. This research eventually led to my company, which now shares these insights with teams around the world, and then eventually to the book, The Accidental Creative.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education proven invaluable to what you have accomplished in your life thus far?
Henry: It may be cliché but I believe that the biggest contribution formal education made to my career accomplishments is that I learned how to structure my uncertainty and questions into a format that could be pursued and digested effectively. I learned to deal with ambiguity and suffer through process. When I was in school, information wasn’t so readily available, and there was more risk involved in pursuing a specific avenue of research. It was much more difficult (and costly!) to pivot mid-course, so it forced me to stay focused while going about my work. This allowed me to develop the capacity of deep, intermittent focus that has served me in my work as a professional creative.
Morris: In your opinion, what are the most significant differences between creativity and innovation?
Henry: The definition of innovation I use is “progressive and useful change” which typically involves (or at least begins with) a creative act. Creativity, at the heart of it, is problem solving. A designer might solve a problem visually, while a manager might do so by thinking up a new system. But that creative act is only innovation once it’s applied and creates useful change.
Morris: What do you say in response to someone who says, “I’m just not creative”?
Henry: I would say they are wrong. We are all creative, because we all have the ability to solve problems and create value with our mind. I think the biggest reason people say “I’m not creative” is because they confuse creativity with art. The very act of holding a conversation – which most of us can do – is a creative act, because it’s based on improvisation! Once we re-frame creativity as problem-solving, it helps people see their own creative capacity in new ways.
Morris: Isaac Asimov once observed, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not Eureka! (I found it!) but rather, ‘hmm… that’s funny…’” Do you agree with him?
Henry: Yes! Steven Johnson has called this the “slow hunch” and I agree. Brilliant work is most frequently the result of focused, laborious effort punctuated by moments of insight, all of which is driven by curiosity sourced in the slow hunch. It’s only when we stay with the problem long enough to recognize those anomalies that we are positioned for breakthroughs. To do this we must develop the ability to ask incisive questions. The questions are – in my opinion – far more important than the answers. Every answer must lead to a new question.
Morris: Here is another quotation, this time from Oliver Wendell Holmes: “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” By what process can one get to “the other side of complexity”?
Henry: The trouble is that we get to the other side of complexity for a moment, only to find that there’s far more complexity to be conquered. The creative process is the perpetual assault on the beachhead of apathy, which means that we must fight a daily battle against our natural desire to stay in our comfort zone. Steven Pressfield calls this battling “Resistance” and I’m in 100% agreement. To get to those flashes of clarity – simplicity – requires persistent daily, and sometimes seemingly fruitless effort. At the same time, I don’t know that the illusion of simplicity lasts for long. Most creatives I know experience a brief, shining moment of satisfaction before they begin to see holes in their work. That’s what propels us to keep striving – the promise of greater clarity and simplicity.
Morris: Many major breakthroughs in creativity and innovation are the result of counter-intuitive thinking. For example, combining a wine press with separable type (Gutenberg and the printing press), removal of burrs from a pet’s hair with an attachment (George de Mestral and VELCRO), and leather softener with skin care (Mark Kay Cosmetics).
Here is my two-part question: What are the major differences between intuition and counter-intuition? What (if anything) do intuition and counter-intuition share in common?
Henry: I think intuition and counter-intuition are all about framing. A problem framed in a certain way leads to an intuitive solution. When framed in a different way, the same solution appears counter-intuitive. I believe that so much of this is determined by the focus of the individual solving the problem, and the stimuli that prompt their search for a solution. That’s why I believe it’s critical to maintain a proper level of focus on the true problems you’re trying to solve. If you don’t regularly define your work, you’re likely to drift and you’re less likely to notice those moments of intuitive or counter-intuitive serendipity.
Morris: Of all the books you have read, from which one have you learned the most about creativity and innovation? Please explain.
Henry: From an innovation standpoint, it’s really hard to top The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. He thoroughly nailed the dynamics of living and working in a marketplace that requires perpetual reinvention, and I believe also unintentionally defined the single biggest factors that cause creative professionals to feel frustrated, under-utilized, and disengaged in their daily work. Purely from a “mechanics of creativity” standpoint, I’d say that I learned the most from Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono. I also greatly enjoyed Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which is a synthesis of his research into creativity across multiple domains.
Morris: Within the last few years, there have been several excellent books published in which thought leaders such as Roger Martin, Chris Brown, and Roberto Verganti discuss the design of business. In your opinion, why has this subject attracted so much attention?
Henry: Over the past many years it’s become obvious that design can’t be an after-thought, because it’s actually good business as well. We are in an age where ideas flow freely and with less friction, and many of the traditional means of creating and distributing goods were based on creating friction rather than eliminating it. Great design is about eliminating friction so that consumers can identify, connect with, and consume what they want when they want it. Good design, from operations all the way through the final point-of-sale communication, is critical in eliminating that friction, especially now that consumers have so many choices.
Morris: What are the defining characteristics of a workplace environment within which creativity and innovation are most stimulated, nourished, and when necessary, protected?
Henry: There is no one-size-fits-all solution, though many still try to find it. In my experience, the most innovative and productive workplace environments have less to do with physical space than psychological space. Is there clarity of purpose? Are we rewarded for the things that move the needle, such as taking measured risks, asking good questions, and spending ourselves on behalf of the work? Do we foster an environment of conversation, or of secrecy? No one goes to work in the morning hoping to crank out a mediocre pile of misery, yet over time our work environments either reward continual growth, or encourage systemic mediocrity. You’re either growing or dying, there is no stagnancy. But growth is difficult and messy, and requires persistent effort. Many give up when it’s “good enough.” (One of the best examinations I’ve read of teams who accomplished great, innovative things is Organizing Genius by Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman.)
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
Todd cordially invites you to check out the resources at The Accidental Creative website by clicking here.
I agree with Donald Sull that most executives either do not recognize or ignore anomalies and even when they’re pointed out, the same executives underestimate their potential importance. True, they are easy to miss. Sull suggests that “the human mind is hardwired to reinforce existing maps [documentation of what is already known], even in the face of disconfiguring evidence.” So despite various obstacles to spotting anomalies, are there any steps to be taken to notice gaps they’re not looking for, even when the clues are subtle and the mind resistant”? Yes. Sull identifies 11 recurrent anomalies:
1. This shouldn’t sell…but it does.
2. There should be a product here…but there isn’t.
3. This shouldn’t be so bad, expensive, time-consuming, or annoying…but it is.
4. This resource shouldn’t be so cheap…but it is.
5. This must be good for something…but we’re not using it.
6. This should be everywhere…but it isn’t.
7. Customers should use our product this way…but they do.
8. Customers shouldn’t care out this…but they do.
9. This could work in our industry…but we don’t do it.
10. We should have this at home…but we don’t.
11. They shouldn’t be making so much money…but they are.
When concluding her latest book, Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, Margaret Heffernan observes, “As all wisdom does, seeing starts with simple questions: What could I know, what should I know, that I don’t know? Just what am I missing there?”
We are also well-advised to keep in mind what Isaac Asimov observed years ago: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny….’”
You can check out Sull’s brilliant analysis of anomalies and their potential value in his latest book, The Upside of Turbulence: Seizing Opportunity in an Uncertain World, published by HarperBusiness (2009).
The power of causal mechanisms that can drive a continuously self-improving system
Clayton Christensen’s high praise of Steven Spear and this book is well-deserved. Do not be misled by its subtitle, “How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition,” a claim made for dozens (hundreds?) of other business books published in recent years. Much of the material was previously published in a book whose title is Chasing the Rabbit: How Market Leaders Outdistance the Competition and How Great Companies Can Catch Up and Win (2008). (Those who wish to purchase a new hardbound copy of Rabbit will need to spend about $175 for one.) The remarks that follow focus on the most recent edition published about 18 months ago.
Christensen is quite correct when noting that companies that achieve a competitive advantage (if not market dominance) are led by those who “discover ways to be better at what they do and develop products and processes that are better than anyone else’s, operating with such velocity that pursuers are frustrated….[They] create and sustain unassailable rates of broad-based, internally generated improvement, innovation, and invention.”
Do not underestimate the significance of the reference to “internally generated improvement, innovation, and invention.” With rare exception, a company’s #1 competitor tomorrow will be who it is, what it does, and how it does it today. To paraphrase Marshall Goldsmith, not only will what got you here not get you there, it won’t even let you stay “here.” After explaining how to “get to the front of the pack,” how and why complex systems either succeed or fail, and then examining high velocity “under the sea [the U.S. Navy’s Nuclear Power Propulsion Program], in the air [Pratt & Whitney], and on the web [Avenue A…later known as aQuantive],” he shifts his attention to four absolutely essential capabilities that must be developed with continuous improvement, and devotes a separate chapter to each: System Design and Operation, Problem Solving and Improvement, Knowledge Sharing, and Developing High-Velocity Skills in Others.”
I was especially interested in what Spear has to say about how and why applications of those capabilities within a complex system either succeeded (Alcoa) or failed (the AEC’s Three Mile Island and NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia). “The argument of High-Velocity Edge,” Spear points out, “is that the way complex systems are managed has direct and predictable ramifications for performance. Manage systems so that there is a poor view of how the pieces fit together and insist (explicitly or implicitly) that people work around problems when they are encountered, and the results will range from disappointing to catastrophic.”
Hence the importance of being alert to anomalies when a system (especially a complex system) is operational. In this context, I am reminded of Isaac Asimov’s observation, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…’” Those involved in a high-velocity culture are constantly alert for anomalies, for whatever “just doesn’t seem right somehow.” One of Thomas Kuhn’s most important recommendations, in The Structures of Scientific Revolutions (1962), is that the best way to test a theory is not be accumulating evidence that it works but by seeking out any/all instances in which it does not work.
Only the continuous pressure of what I call a “crucible of scrutiny” will ensure the validity of “unassailable rates of broad-based, internally generated improvement, innovation, and invention.” Therefore, high-velocity also includes the speed with which we are prepared to complete verification as well as the speed with which we can expedite further development of what works and elimination of what doesn’t.
In 1971, Troy, Michigan opened its new library. The heroes are the librarian (Marguerite Hart — children’s librarian) who asked people to write to the children who would take full advantage of this great community resource, and the people who took the request seriously and wrote such thoughtful replies. People responded, including Ronald Reagan, Saul Alinsky, Pat Nixon, Spiro Agnew… In this excerpt on Letters of Note,
97 people did exactly that, and below are just four of those replies, all from authors: Isaac Asimov; Hardie Gramatky; Theodore Geisel; and E. B. White.
Here’s the quote Andrew Sullivan pulled:
”A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people—people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.”- E.B. White.
But here’s my favorite: (just click on the image for the full view)…
I worry about the future of libraries. Maybe I worry about the future of reading… But I know that I love to read, and if you read this blog, I suspect you do too.
So, to remind us all:
Entertaining as well as informative results from a world-class muller
Thus book is as difficult to describe as it is easy to appreciate. What we have here is a series of 52 mini-commentaries, each devoted to an insight or conviction that Alan Webber has formulated throughout his life thus far. As I worked my way through them, I was reminded of Isaac Asimov observation, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd…’”
Presumably Webber has encountered situations that struck him as odd and wondered about them, finally reaching conclusions that he characterizes as unofficial “rules” or “truths” about human nature. I suspect that are probably viewed by most people as guidelines.
Although Webber suggests that they can be applied to “winning at business without losing your self,” I think they are relevant whenever and wherever there is human interaction. After about the first 12-15, I began to connect rules to specific situations.
Rule #10: “A good question beats a good answer.” This offers excellent advice to job candidates whose questions tend to reveal more about their abilities than their responses to an interviewer’s questions do.
Rule #13: “Learn to take no as a question.” Sometimes, no means no. However, on frequent occasion, no is a tentative rather than terminal response. Politely request an explanation and be well-prepared to respond to the reasons offered.
Rule #18: “Knowing it ain’t the same as doing it.” This reminds me of a book with an eponymous title, in which Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton discuss what they call “The Knowing-Doing Gap.” Long ago, Thomas Edison said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”
Rule #43: “Don’t confuse credentials with talent.” Make no mistake, credentials can have substantial value but (as #18 suggests) they offer evidence of nothing more than what obtaining them required.
With regard to talent, I agree with Anders Ericsson and his research associates at Florida State University that its importance also tends to be overrated. Darrell Royal once observed that “potential” means “you ain’t done it yet.” In my opinion, the best credentials are redundantly verifiable accomplishments that are relevant to the given needs.
Rule #45: “Failing isn’t failing. Failing is failing to try.” I agree, presuming to add that that failing is also failing to learn anything of value from whatever is considered a failure. Back to Edison who cherished every setback in his Menlo Park research center as a precious learning opportunity.
After you read Alan Webber’s book, he invites you to formulate your own Rule #53 and then share it with him (email@example.com). I hope you do. Here’s the one I came up with: “You better be there when your name is called,” perhaps inspired by Woody Allen’s assertion, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
Ten Steps Ahead: What Separates Successful Business Visionaries from the Rest of Us
Portfolio/Penguin Group (2011)
Dreamers think about it…visionaries see it and then make it happen, at whatever cost
The material in Ten Steps Ahead is based on what Erik Calonius learned during his research (including interviews of various business visionaries) from which he gained a much better understanding of “what separates successful business visionaries from the rest of us.”
The word “successful” is critically important, reminding us of Thomas Edison’s observation, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” No one can deny what Walt Disney, Edwin Land, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Jeff Hawkins accomplished, not only within the business world but also in terms of the global impact they and their respective companies have had. Calonius also focuses on other visionaries such as Orville and Wilbur Wright, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, and more recently, Richard Feynman whose achievements also indicate that the brain is a visionary device whose primary function is to create pictures.
Throughout human history, innovator thinkers can usually be divided into two classes: dreamers and visionaries. Those in either group tend to be “ten steps ahead of others” in terms of what their brains “see” but only the visionaries are driven (by forces that Calonius explains brilliantly) to make what they “see” become a reality.
Readers will appreciate Calonius’ strategic insertion of insightful comments throughout his narrative. For example:
Former Apple CEO John Sculley: “Both of them [i.e. Edwin Land and Steve Jobs] had this ability to – well, not invent products but discover products. Both of them said these products have already existed, it’s just that no one had ever seen them before. We were the ones who discovered them.” (Page 52)
Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer on a term they defined: “Emotional intelligence involves the ability to perceive accurately, appraise, and express emotion; the ability to access and/or generate feelings when they facilitate thought; the ability to understand emotion and emotional knowledge; and the ability to regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth.” (Page 64)
“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, one that heralds the most discoveries, is not Eureka! (I found it!) but, ‘That’s funny.’” Isaac Asimov (Page 73)
Andy Hertzfeld on Steve Jobs’s “reality distortion field”: “It’s a confounding mélange of a charismatic rhetorical style, and indomitable will, and an eagerness to bend any fact to fit the purpose at hand. If one line of argument failed to persuade, he would deftly switch to another. Sometimes he would throw you off balance by suddenly adopting your position as his own, without acknowledging that he ever thought differently…We would often discuss potential techniques for grounding it, but after a while most of us gave up, accepting it as a force of nature.”
Time and again, Calonius cites an example of a visionary business leader who is willing to suffer and struggle, to put everything at risk, when pursuing a dream that Jim Collins and Jerry Porras would probably characterize as a commercial-strength BHAG (i.e. Big Hairy Audacious Goal). There are countless situations in which visionaries see what no one else sees but are oblivious to the serious dangers that are obvious to everyone else.
Few of those who read this book are or ever will be a successful business visionary (“ten steps ahead”) but all who read it can learn valuable lessons from the material that Calonius provides and be 3-5 steps ahead of where they were before. There are lessons about how to overcome what I characterize as “the invisibility of the obvious” in order to recognize – having developed imaging skills – the opportunities and possibilities that would otherwise be missed. Also, how to overcome resistance, rejection, and ridicule with courage and conviction. Like Tennyson’s Ulysses, they are determined “to strive, to seek, to find…and not to yield.” And as Calonius points out, one factor in success is under our control: “the number of at-bats, the number of chances taken, the number of opportunities seized.”
I congratulate Erik Calonius on a brilliant achievement. To those who read it, I presume to suggest that there are still lots of fat juicy dragons out there roaming around. Go get ‘em!
“One of the beauties of stopping to acknowledge your peak moments is that they can help you clarify your personal definition of success. They tap the power of subjective experience rather than objective accomplishments. When you think about your peak moments (as you are about to do), remember, recall how you felt, not what you outwardly accomplished (although the two can go hand in hand).”
1. Think back and remember three or four peak moments over the course of your working life thus far. “It’s something you’re proud of, something that has stayed in your memory and perhaps even now brings a smile to your face and a thrill to your heart as you remember what you did”…and how you felt.
2. If you wish, add one or two peak moments from outside your work life. “Id like you to focus on a moment that is all about you.”
3. Give each of those peak moments a title, and write down the titles down.
4. Now write a short description (only one or two sentences) what happened.
“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it) but ‘That’s funny….’” Isaac Asimov
5. Now look along the row of those peak moments. “Some of the themes will be about you – what you’re like and what you’re doing when you’re connected to Great Work. Some will be about the types of situations that tend to help you do more Great Work.”
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I urge you to visit Stanier’s Web site (click here) to check out a wealth of resources that include a free 13-week eCourse that requires only three minutes of course work each week, map templates for various exercises, and The Great Work Interview Series (e.g. David Allen, Guy Kawasaki, and Marshall Goldsmith).
1. What am I known for? (IDENTITY). “Abundant organizations build on strengths and abilities that strengthen others.”
Comment: It is equally important to know who you aren’t and what you don’t do. According to Michael Porter, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. ”
2. Where am I going? (PURPOSE AND DIRECTION). “Abundant organizations sustain both fiscal and social responsibility.”
Comment: What is the ultimate objective? How and why will achieving it define both me and my organization at our very best?
3. Whom do I travel with? (TEAMWORK). “Abundant organizations take work relationships beyond high-performing teams to high-relating teams.”
Comment: High or peak performance (however defined) is impossible without superior communication, cooperation, and collaboration.
4. What challenges interest me? (ENGAGEMENT) “Abundance occurs when companies can engage not only employees’ skills (competence) and loyalty (commitment), but also their values (contribution).”
Comment: We are well-advised to recall Isaac Asimov’s observation, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it) but ‘That’s funny….’”
5. How do I build a positive work environment? (EFFECTIVE CONNECTION) “Abundant organizations create positive work environments that affirm and connect people throughout the organization.”
6. How do I respond to setbacks? (RESILIENCE and LEARNING) “Abundant organizations use principles of resilience and learning to persevere with both people and products.”
7. What delights me? (CIVILITY and DELIGHT) “Abundant organizations not only attend to outward demographic diversity of what makes individuals feel happy, cared for, and excited about life.”
8. How do I navigate the transitions necessitated by change? (ENABLING TRANSITION) “Abundant organizations help individuals internalize the behavioral, cognitive, and affective transitions necessitated by change.”
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Dave Ulrich has been ranked the #1 Management Educator & Guru by BusinessWeek. He has written 15 books co erring topics in HR and leadership (his latest is HR Transformation co-authored with Justin Allen, Wayne Brockbank, Jon Younger, and Mark Nyman) and is a professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, and cofounder of the RBL Group (http://rbl.net/).
Wendy Ulrich, Ph.D, is the author of Forgiving Ourselves: Gertting Back Up When We Let Ourselves Down, and founder of Sixteen Stones Center for Growth in Alpine, Utah.
On June 4, 2010, McGraw-Hill will publish a book the Ulrichs have co-authored: The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations to Deliver Value for Customers, Investors, and Communities.