Both Sides Now! How to Make Better Decisions

By Restoring the Soul of Business Archives
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The most successful organizations and leaders are rarely defeated.

They defeat themselves.

Three common symptoms of SDD or ‘self-defeat disease” are:

a) the inability to anticipate new competition,

b) a failure to see situation from another perspective,

c) self delusion due to a bubble of filtered thinking buttressed by sycophantic deputies.

One simple exercise to avoid this fate is to make it a point to see or demand to be shown or insist on trying other options and approaches opposite to ones recommended.

To always insist on both sides now!

Three simple exercises one can apply every time a key decision needs to be made are 1) to integrate outsider perspectives, 2) to unite two diametrically different models and 3) to balance roots and wings.

Think Like an Outsider/Immigrant.

Earlier this week a long time friend of mine, Lou Paskalis, was in Chicago. During a drive I shared some key themes from a keynote I had given earlier in the week to a legendary company aiming to be bolder to ensure their continued leadership in a changing world.

One key point I conveyed was the importance to look at things from an outsider’s perspective or that of an immigrant.

While not all of us are immigrants to a country we are always entering new companies, new jobs, new cities and when we arrive we come without the baggage of knowing and the wonder of fresh eyes and thinking. We wonder why certain things are the way they are and our acts of noticing and curiosity are acute. This allows us to bring in fresh perspectives. It is one of the reasons successful firms combine experienced individuals with long tenure with new external talent.

Lou mentioned that one of his bosses at American Express (the legendary John Hayes) had given him similar advice when Lou had just been hired by saying “Lou do not become one of us”.

It is important that individuals while they respect and align with a culture of a firm do not get assimilated by the Borg ( Star Trek!)

If one like the Mandalorian and begins to believe “This is the Way” we will be beaten by the Lawrence of Arabia’s who say “Nothing is written”

Combine an insiders understanding with the provocative thinking of an outsider.

Both sides now!

Only the Schizophrenic Thrive.

Andy Grove the late CEO of Intel once wrote a book titles “Only the Paranoid Survive”

Today we are living in a connected and constantly shape shifting world and paranoia is a recipe for decline as Intel has suffered from.

One cannot succeed without collaboration, partnering and trusted relationships.

Seeing all outsiders as the enemy to be resisted or defeated is a recipe for irrelevance.

Microsoft under Balmer followed this “Windows good everything else bad” paranoia approach and it took a partnering oriented “Linux is also critical” and it is “Azure no longer Windows” Satya Nadella to turbocharge Microsoft.

Companies need to optimize for today AND re-imagine for tomorrow sometimes with different teams with different incentives and goals to ensure continued relevance.

The biggest mistake is to somewhat focus on today with a leadership team incentivized for today while running “task forces” and “models 2.0” as a side project with a diluted focus on tomorrow ( a second class team with a limited budget and constraints told not to rock the boat or destroy the existing business model).

These optimize neither today or tomorrow but create a warm goo of board documents and sinecures for people the company does not know what to do with (notice how many tomorrow projects are run by individuals who did not do a good job running today ?).

Instead, empower some real superstar talent with real budgets and minimal constraints to do what it takes to win tomorrow or put today’s firm out of business while also having world class teams focused on delivering the margins and leadership needed today to fund tomorrow.

Two models acutely focused. The first on today and one on tomorrow both reporting to the Board and CEO.

Both sides now !

Roots and Wings.

If every individual and company is a story with a place we came from, every individual and a firm is also about a place we are going to.

The best leaders and firms all integrate the dualities of roots and wings.

Too rooted and we may wither way as changing times and climate bring drought to the place and way we were.

Too winged and we may be blown away in the gusts of change.

Too rooted and we may be seen as old school, hide bound to tradition and inflexible.

Too ready to fly with change may find us painted as unreliable, undisciplined, and short-term oriented.

Transformation is twisting ourselves and companies into new shapes with the clay of what we were and new skills and pieces we acquire.

To believe and better understand where you are going people want to know from where you are coming.

Heritage, provenance, legacy, story, first principles, and foundations are all critical.

So are re-invention, setting sail, taking risks, pioneering and re-imagining.

Roots and wings.

Both sides now!

Posted at MediaVillage through the Thought Leadership self-publishing platform.

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