Tag Archives: Innovation


Extract More Value from Meetings with Effective Questions

Shane Snow

Shane Snow

Shane Snow, co-founder of Contently.com  advocates asking incisive questions to extract more value from meetings, mentors’ guidance, and chance encounters with thought leaders and influencers.

He notes that expert journalists, researchers, innovators, and therapists are trained to ask effective questions, and their common “best practices” include:

  • Listening more than talking
  • Asking open-ended questions to avoid suggesting responses: “Who?”, “What?”, “When?”, “Where?”, “How?”, “Why?”
    They use closed-ended questions sparingly: “Is?”, “Would?” and “Do?”
  • Posing one concise question at a time.
    They avoid multiple choice questions
  • Waiting for an answer without interjecting more questions or comments.
    They rarely interrupt themselves or others
  • Tolerating the other person’s silence for several seconds before talking
  • Directly, repeatedly probing for insightful, revealing replies
  • Nodding only when the response is intelligible, logical, and understandable
  • Interjecting questions or rephrasing the original question to redirect tangential responses
  • Cross-checking information and following up possible inconsistencies with more probing questions
Sakichi Toyoda

Sakichi Toyoda

Nearly a century earlier, Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota Industries introduced an iterative problem-solving approach based on posing “Five Whys” to uncover the root cause of an issue.

The Lean StartupThis technique is now-widely applied in Lean Manufacturing, and is advocated by Eric Reis in The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses .

‘”Five Whys” were reduced to “Three Whys” to uncover customer objections in sales situations, and was modified Judith Beck in cognitive therapy to identify underlying Core Beliefs that lead to negative automatic thoughts.

Judith Beck

Judith Beck

Beck softens the “Five Whys” by repeatedly asking “If that were true, what would it mean?”
Her model that suggest connections among:

Early experience->Core beliefs (schemas) ->Underlying assumptions (if/then – conditional) ->Automatic thoughts-> Physical Experiences->Self-Limiting Behaviors

Five Whys to Uncover Core Beliefs

Lois Frankel

Lois Frankel

Therapist and writer Lois Frankel illustrated the similarity of effective questions in psychotherapy sessions with those used to spur inquiry and innovative breakthroughs.
She advises interviewers and consultants to:

  • Use questions to define your purpose:
    What do you want to gain from this conversation?

    • Help
    • Advice
    • Information
    • Commitment
    • New ideas
    • Clarification of opinions or attitudes
    • Decision
      Overcoming your strengths
    • What is the “real” problem? Engineers and business people answer this question using a “Root Cause Analysis”
      • What are the options?
      • What are the likely consequences?
      • What results will justify the invested time, effort or money?
      • Ask specific questions:
        • What could we do differently?
        • Why is this important?
        • How can we best meet our objective?
        • What do you want to happen?
          • What don’t you want to happen?
          • What is the best thing that could happen?
          • What is the worst thing that could happen?
          • How will you react if you don’t follow this course of action?

Frankel advises to

  • Maintain eye contact:
  • Focus full attention on the interviewee
  • Repeat and summarize important points to verify accurate understanding
  • Listen for:
  • Content (facts)
  • Intent (feelings)
  • The way these are expressed (process).
    Warren Berger

    Warren Berger

    Journalist Warren Berger applied refined questioning in Design Thinking processes to produce innovative solutions in Glimmer: How Design Can Transform Your World .

    He advocates continued exploration of meaningful “big” questions in his blog, A More Beautiful Question.

-*What effective questioning practices have you found most helpful in achieving business results?

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Health Benefits of Positive Emotions, Outlook

Barbara Fredrickson

Barbara Fredrickson

Barbara Frederickson of University of North Carolina posits that negative emotions aid human survival by narrowing and limiting people’s perceived range of possible actions, whereas positive emotions enhance survival by “broadening and building” options for action.

She detailed her lab-based research in Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life and her talk at UC Berkeley Greater Good Science CenterPositivity

Her lab’s findings suggest that positive thinking expands awareness and perception of the surrounding world, so can lead to innovative solutions to problems.

She suggests intentionally implementing a “broaden-and-build” approach to emulate this expanded view: Choose a degree of focus and perspective depending on requirements.

For example, to garner more clout in a discussion, she suggests involving more people who will provide support.
Similarly, to mitigate negative thinking or “tunnel vision,” think more broadly by viewing “the big picture.”

Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School referred this perceptual shift as “zooming in” and “zooming out”, depending on the perspective requires.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Frederickson found that people who experience positive thinking are:

* Healthier
* More generous
* More productive
* Bounce back from adversity more quickly
* Are better managers of people
* Live longer
than those with a bleaker outlook.

Fredrickson’s research implies that positive emotions can mitigate the cardiovascular effects of negative emotions and stress.

In these activated conditions, people generally have increased heart rate, higher blood sugar, greater immunosuppression.
These conditions tax physical systems and can lead to life-threatening illnesses like coronary disease.

To mitigate these negative health consequences, Fredrickson recommends observing positive emotional experiences of joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love.
Besides noticing these experiences, she advocates writing and meditating about these to increase grateful awareness.

In addition, Frederickson echoes common wisdom:

  • Spend time in nature to appreciate the natural world
  • Develop interests
  • Invest time in relationships
  • Reduce exposure to negative news
  • Practice kindness
  • Dispute negative thoughts and replace them with more positive, realistic thoughts.

Frederickson extends her research agenda on positive emotions in her latest book, Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. Love 2-0

She broadens the concept of love to suggest that love – or an intense connection – occurs when people share positive emotion.
This lead to alignment between people’s biochemistries,  particularly the release of oxytocin and vagal nerve functioning.
Related emotions and behaviors synchronize and mirror each other, resulting in shared interest in mutual well-being  in a three-phase  “positivity resonance.”

She argues that love “literally changes your mind.
It expands your awareness of your surroundings, even your sense of self.
The boundaries between you and not-you – what lies beyond your skin – relax and become more permeable.
While infused with love, you see fewer distinctions between you and others.”

Fredrickson argues that this intense connection requires physical presence, and cannot be replaced by existing digital media — reinforcing her recommendation to invest in relationships with others.

-*What practices enable you to cultivate and sustain positive emotions?

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“Productive Pause”, Intuition for Better Decisions

Everyday wisdom offers familiar advice to curtail impulsivity through slowing down and reflecting:

  • “Go slow to go fast”
  • “Sleep on it”
  • “Wait before sending an emotional email”
  • “Count to 10, think again”
Frank Partnoy

Frank Partnoy

Former investment banker and lawyer Frank Partnoy’s Wait: The Art and Science of Delay provides empirical evidence on the value of delay to increase the quality of decisions and performance across investment, sports, comedy, and other disciplines.Wait

Creativity experts have demonstrated the importance of an “incubation period” in developing innovative solutions, and Partnoy suggests that similar principles provide and advantage: gathering maximum information in uncertain situations, by executing decisions and performance close to the last opportunity.

University of San Diego’s Partnoy recommends a three step approach to decision-making:

1) Determine the maximum time available to gather information and take the decision
2) Consider, reflect, “incubate” on the information as long as possible
3) Act quickly at the last possible moment

Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell

His approach could be summarized by referring to Malcolm Gladwell’s best-seller, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking : “Don’t just blink but think.”

Nalini Ambady

Nalini Ambady

Gladwell argues that people with expert experience and insight are often skilled at using ‘adaptive unconscious’ intuition to “thin-slice” subtle cues to filter relevant information from “noise,” a concept based on Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal’s research at Harvard.

Justin Albrechtsen

Justin Albrechtsen

Christian Meissner

Christian Meissner

Research by Justin Albrechtsen, Christian Meissner, and Kyle Susa  of University of Texas at El Paso demonstrated “thin-slicing” when they found that intuitive processing can lead to more accurate judgments of deception when compared with deliberative processing.

Kyle Susa

Kyle Susa

Gladwell and these researchers acknowledge that non-experts, and even experts, can be make erroneous decisions due to bias and prejudice that comes from automatic thinking and habitual cognitive heuristics like the halo effect.

Gerard Hodgkinson

Gerard Hodgkinson

Gerard Hodgkinson of Leeds University found that biased intuitive judgment may be mitigated by “devil’s advocacy” and applying analytical tools like multi-attribute decision analysis and root cause analysis.

He suggests that informed intuition or ‘intelligent-unconscious’ results from subconscious information storage, processing and retrieval, and has conducted several empirical studies to evaluate its mechanisms applied to developing business strategies.

Intuitive judgment was positively correlated with quality and speed of decisions, organizational financial and non-financial performance in at least five studies.

Hodgkinson’s team summarized recent advances in neuroscience, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies to explain complementary intuitive and analytical approaches to decision making  instead of the overly-simplified notion of left brain vs right brain processing  strengths.

He synthesized intuition attributes:

  • Instantaneous insight after incubation period
  • Subjective judgments
  • Based on experience, tacit knowledge, “knowing without knowing
  • Arise through rapid, non-conscious holistic associations
  • Affectively-charged: “feels right”, experienced as ‘‘inklings’’ or ‘‘glimmerings’’
  • Lacking verbalization or conscious awareness of problem solving.

Cognitive neuroscientists have differentiated intuition from instinct and insight using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques.

Instinct refers to hardwired, autonomous reflex actions, whereas insight involves recognizing and articulating a problem’s structure, and may follow from intuition.

Hodgkinson’s research suggests that intuition can be enhanced by increasing:

  • Expertise (“prepared mind” or ‘‘deep smarts’’)
  • Self-awareness (feeling and cognitive style)
  • Reflection
Akio Morita

Akio Morita

His team’s research supports an assertion by Akio Morita, co-founder of Sony and driving force behind its successful Sony Walkman, that ‘‘creativity requires something more than the processing of information. It requires human thought, spontaneous intuition and a lot of courage.’’

-*How have you used pauses or intuition to strengthen decision-making and advance business innovation?

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Pattern Recognition in Entrepreneurship

Steve Blank

Steve Blank

Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur (E.piphany, Zilog, and more) and Stanford consulting associate professor, argues that entrepreneurs need two types of “wisdom” or cognitive processing:

  • Pattern recognition based on a “constrain stream of data processing in the background”
  • Epiphanies that “serendipitously snap together”, outlined in Four Steps to the Epiphany.

He provides examples of pattern recognition in each of the four phases toward “epiphany” in building a business:The Four Steps to the Epiphany

  • Customer Discovery, which assesses market potential and customer preferences
  • Customer Validation, in early sales
  • Customer Creation, including strategy definition, startup launch, and iterative product  experimentation
  • Company Building, which prepares to “Cross the Chasm” in Geoffrey Moore’s model.
    Robert Baron

    Robert Baron

    Crossing the Chasm

Robert Baron of Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute echoed Blanks emphasis on pattern recognition in his Academy of Management Perspectives article,

Opportunity Recognition as Pattern Recognition: How Entrepreneurs “Connect the Dots” to Identify New Business Opportunities” which he said enables entrepreneurs to evaluate:

  • Economic value
  • Newness
  • Desirability

by comparing existing “mental models” or cognitive prototypes and real-world exemplars to new offerings.

Soren Kierkegaard

Soren Kierkegaard

He quoted Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “…I should …wish…for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which. . .sees the possible…”

Venessa Miemis

Venessa Miemis

Venessa Miemis says that pattern recognition is a critical skill for in intelligent decision making, and cites Tor Nørretranders’s The User Illusion-Cutting Consciousness Down to Size to point out that most cognitive processing is outside of normal awareness.

In fact, his research suggests that over 99.99% of the processing in the brain happens at a subconscious level, and is therefore beyond our “control.”

Tor Nørretranders

Tor Nørretranders

She added to Blank’s description of “processing in the background” that synthesizing past
experience, intuition, and common sense and sorting out the “noise” can equip people with relative accurate “best guesses” about future occurrences.

The User Illusion-Cutting Consciousness Down to Size-Tor NørretrandersHowever, if the filter is overzealous, individuals may overlook opportunities because “cognitive dissonance” makes it uncomfortable to integrate information that doesn’t fit with an existing mental model.

Another cognitive bias is overlooking the potential impact of “wild cards” refer to low-probability, high-impact events.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduced the related idea of black swans: unforeseen rare, difficult-to-predict, high-impact, rare events – such as financial crises, natural disasters.

He observed that these occurrences are often explained away when hindsight reveals individual and collective “blindness” to uncertainty and its large role in these rare historical events.
His book recent book, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, posits that randomness  enables strengthening processes under pressure and can catalyze positive change.

AntifragileHe celebrates volatility as a sign that recalibration may be more achievable than after long periods of stability enable risks to accumulate until a catastrophe.

Applied to career choices, he argues that a seemingly “secure” corporate job disguises dependency on a single employer – often an “at-will” employer, though he discounts the value of “economies of scale” in this work arrangement.

As a result, the unlikely possibility of unemployment leads to cataclysmic reduction in income.
In contrast, occupations with variable earnings, like sales or professional services, acclimates the individual to cyclic or unpredicted income reductions, and practice enables mitigation planning.

This perceptual bias impairs people’s accurate anticipation adaptation to changing.

Pattern recognition can be increased by mindful attention to thinking processes, and frequent self-reminders to scan for perceptual bias and unconscious cognitive processing.
However, other people’s unconscious cognitive processing can be an advantage for marketers, according to Douglas Van Praet, who suggests taking advantage of these via six steps to robust marketing in Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) MarketingUnconscious Branding

  1. Interrupt the Recognized Pattern
  2. Create Comfort
  3. Lead the Imagination
  4. Shift the Feeling
  5. Satisfy the Critical Mind
  6. Change the Associations
  7. Take Action.

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How Can Dance Inform Business Thinking?

Peter Lovatt

Peter Lovatt founded the Dance Psychology Lab at the University of Hertfordshire, which combines his performance experience as a professional dancer with his training as a research psychologist.

In several TED talks, he marvels at his career trajectory because he “was rubbish at school,” and was relegated to Special Education classes, probably due to his undiagnosed ADHD.

His career demonstrates an innovative synthesis of disciplines with his current research agenda investigating the impact of dance on problem solving using divergent thinking and convergent thinking strategies.

Peter Lovatt at TED

Lovatt’s experiments demonstrated that volunteers who engaged in improvised dance movements solved divergent thinking problems more quickly than when they performed more structured dance maneuvers, or no movement at all.

Similarly, his work showed these volunteers increased their speed of solving convergent thinking problems after they engaged in choreographed dance moves.

These findings may not imply that innovation teams should engage in structured and unstructured movements at work, but it does support the positive impact of dance movement on neural processing speed and problem solving.

Lovatt extended this work to patients with Parkinson’s disease, known to disrupt divergent thinking processes, to validate his findings with normal volunteers.
He demonstrated that Parkinson’s disease patients improved the divergent thinking problem solving after they engaged in improvised dance sequences, and hypothesized that these patients develop new neural pathways to “work around” dopamine-depleted blockages.

Peter Lovatt leading dance experiment

Lovatt’s group found increases in self-esteem among participants in dance styles that:

  • Include more improvisational elements (“high degree of tolerance for not getting it right”),
  • Are gender or culturally neutral
  • Raise the heart rate
  • Are repetitive
  • Encourage looser fitting clothes (in contrast to ballet)
  • Are non-competitive

Related Post on impact of dance:
Oxytocin Increases Empathic Work Relationships, Workplace Trust, Generosity 

Twyla Tharp

MacArthur Fellowship and Tony Award-winning choreographer Twyla Tharp discussed innovation and collaboration through the lens of dance in two books with lessons applicable to business.

In The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life she asserts that creative expression requires perseverance, practice, hard work, “showing up,” and cultivating systematic habits to act upon innovative initiative.

This echoes the action-orientation advocated by Malcolm Gladwell in his observation of 10,000 hours of practice to develop virtuoso performance and by sports psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, summarized in these related posts:

Tharp’s The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together discusses both how collaboration can change the participants, and practical approaches to collaborative creation – which she acknowledges has not been completely smooth in some of her work with luminaries including Richard Avedon, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Bob Dylan, Milos Forman,  Norma Kamali, Frank Sinatra.
Two related posts on Collaboration are:

Dance provides a fresh perspective and metaphor for business challenges including problem solving, innovation, and collaboration.

-*How do you react to Lovatt’s and Tharp’s application of movement in problem solving, collaboration and innovation?

How and Who of Innovation

Many innovation experts urge overcoming roadblocks by “doing something different”, and Alex Cornell joins the chorus in his Breakthrough!: Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination 

In contrast, Tom Kelley offered more specific guidance in the stages of “how” innovation is managed at IDEO in   
  The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm:

•              Analyze the market, potential client groups, technology, and constraints for each innovation problem
•              Observe people in typical life situations
•              Visualize novel concepts and their intended customers
•              Evaluate and refine prototypes during rapid iterations
•              Implement new concept for commercialization

Steven Johnson offers seven non-linear principles of innovation in Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation:                                                          

•              Adjacent possible: Timing is essential for innovation to be accepted

•              Liquid networks: Connections between different disciplines to enable ideas development and implementation

•              Slow hunch: Insights incubate, germinate over time before becoming executable

•              Serendipity: Spontaneous, chance juxtaposition of ideas applied to other

•              Error: Outcomes considered “failures” from numerous trials  may lead to – and be required – to successfully implement ideas

•              Exaptation: Reusing existing ideas, technologies for a different purpose

•              Platforms: Adapting, recombining existing knowledge, components, implementation approaches to develop something new

Expert innovators seem to follow these guidelines and have developed skill through what Geoff Colvin calls “Deliberate Practice” in “What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else”, the sub-title of his book, Talent is Overrated.

He notes that Deliberate Practice is not considered “fun”, but is a highly demanding and repeated mental challenge, systematically designed to improve performance with consistent expert monitoring and feedback.

Colvin’s premise is based on K. Anders Ericsson’s classic Harvard Business Review article, “The Making of an Expert“, which outlines three contributors to superior performance across disciplines:

•             Deliberate Practice to improve existing skills and to extend the reach and range of skills
•             Expert coaching with consistent monitoring and corrective feedback
•              Support from family and mentors

Kelley of IDEO focused more recently on the “who” of innovation in The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization, organized by Learning, Building, and Organizing capabilities:                     

•              Experience
•              Set Designer
•              Caregiver
•              Storyteller
•              Anthropologist
•              Cross-pollinator
•              Hurdler
•              Experimenter
•              Collaborator
•              Director
Meredith Belbin offered similar analysis of eight team roles in his Team Roles at Work  and Management Teams: Why they succeed or fail  to ignite collaborative strategy definition and execution.   

These findings suggest that processes and practices can help shape innovation, but consistent, focused and attentive practice increases capacity to innovate more than “natural talent” — validating the well-known homespun advice to “work hard” and demonstrate a “strong work ethic.”

-*What processes and roles do you use to increase innovation at work?

Related post:  
It’s Mostly Random, So Just Do Something: Suggestions to Guide Innovation, Creativity

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It’s Mostly Random, So Just Do Something

Several recent books showcase Big Ideas in innovation:

  • Success often has random elements
  • Active experiments and reflective “incubation” are required for effective innovation.
Frans Johansson

Frans Johansson

Frans Johansson argues that most success “comes from things we cannot predict and plan: serendipitous moments, unexpected and spontaneous approaches, unusual combinations, and lucky breaks,” in the form of “click moments”, which can move people and ideas to a new, unexpected direction” in in Click: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World.

Leonard Mlodinow

Leonard Mlodinow

Johansson, Leonard Mlodinow and Nate Silver (“American statistician, sabermetrician, psephologist”) all demonstrate that events are more random than people typically acknowledge, and Johansson recommends specific actions that individuals and organizations can take to favorably focus this randomness

Nate Silver

Nate Silver

Follow your curiosity:  Capitalize on interests and “passions” to drive creative explorations

  • Use cross-disciplinary, “inter-sectional” thinking to break “associative barriers”
  • Examine surprises and unintended consequences for possible inspiration and re-usable ideas
  • Be aware of opportunities everywhere, requiring a mindful engagement rather than living “automatically”, and explore “all” opportunities
  • Scan for momentum and align to it
  • Choose a less predictable, or more “contrarian” solution
  • Act: Place many “purposeful bets” to try many options, with no expectation or guarantee of “success”
  • Minimize bet size to reduce the impact of loss
  • Take the smallest executable step (measured by time, money, partners)
  • Calculate acceptable loss rather than focusing on return on investment
  • Create “large hooks” to scaffold and leverage creative “borrowing” from existing sources
  • Shift focus from the problem to enable cognitive “incubation” of ideas
  • “Double down” when opportunities are not obvious

Many of these recommendations are more similar to behaviors intended to increase creativity and innovation than to quantitative finesse maneuvers.

For example Johansson’s recommendation to engage in “purposeful bets” draws from Peter Sims’ recommendations to place Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, which are low-risk experiments to discover, develop, and test an idea.

  • Experiment to “fail quickly to learn fast”  – see post on Eddie Obeng
  • “Play”  by establishing a fun environment to cultivate innovation
  • Immerse  by interacting with customers
  • Reorient by make celebrating small wins and undertaking improvement “pivots”
  • Iterate by frequently testing, refining and improving-*How do you detect and optimize opportunities?
    -*How do you manage uncertainty in your career?

See more recommendations to boost innovation and creativity at: How and Who of Innovation  LinkedIn Open Group The Executive Coach

Related posts
Cognitive Biases in Unconscious Automatic Mental Processing, and “Work-Arounds”

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Five Steps and Exercises to Drive Breakthrough Creativity

Josh Linkner

Josh Linkner

Entrepreneur, columnist for Fast Company and Inc. Magazine, and former jazz guitarist, Josh Linkner asserts that creativity is sustainable differentiator  in today’s rapidly-changing business landscape, in his book Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity

He outlines a five-step process to develop creativity, which he notes, can be increased with focused effort and practice:

1. ASK: Define objectives for creativity or innovation
2. PREPARE: Become ready – mentally, physically, before  generating creative solutions
3. DISCOVER: Employ techniques to explore new cognitive territory and ideation:

• Asking “Why?”, “What if?”, and “Why not?”
• Developing a Long List of 200 creative idea
• “Role Storming” in which ideas a presented “in character”.

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

For example,  creative ideas may be presented from the role of Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs or another respected innovator

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

4. IGNITE: Focus. using  methods such as his technique of “Doing the Opposite” of the expected
5. LAUNCH: Select work target, set metrics, and begin implementation

Linkner’s website recommends the best books on developing creativity and innovation

-*What steps help you create innovate solutions to business problems?

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Integrating Natural Sciences and Business to Consider Strategy as “Structured Chaos”

Shona Brown

Shona Brown

Former Google Senior Vice President of Business Operations Shona Brown and Stanford Engineering Professor Kathleen Eisenhardt assert in their best-selling book, Competing on the Edge: Strategy as Structured Chaos, that “the key driver of superior performance is the ability to change. Success is measured by the ability to survive, to change, and ultimately to reinvent the firm constantly over time.”

The book investigates matched pairs of anonymized companies in the computer industry as an example of strategy in fast-moving, unpredictable, competitive markets.

It draws upon concepts from the natural sciences, such as evolutionary theory and natural selection, as an analogy to change in businesses.

The authors state that decisions on what to structure or not, draw on:


These considerations set the pace of change by “balancing on the edge of time” from the past to the future.
They assert that these five phenomena enable a “semi-coherent” strategy, that is “unpredictable, uncontrolled, inefficient, proactive, continuous, diverse.”

Kathleen Eisenhardt

Kathleen Eisenhardt

Brown and Eisenhardt define natural science concepts in business terms:

• Complexity Theory
• Evolutionary Theory
• Dissipative Equilibrium
• Coadaptation
• Natural Selection
• Mutations
• Complexity Catastrophe
• Error Catastrophe
• Repeated Layering
• Genetic Algorithm
• Recombination
• Rearchitecture
• Modularity
• Entrainment

The authors advise to move to “the edge of time” and “the edge of chaos”, and offer guidelines including:

• Prune to reveal the core of the business
• Build the business through growth, not assembly, of modular parts
• Recognize that the business’s starting point and the order of implementing change strategies, are among outcome determinants
• Devote 15% of the product portfolio to experimental probes
• Apply successes from experimental probes in new ways
• Institute regular planning meetings focused on the future
• Exploit current capabilities in new ways
• Develop time-pacing through regular benchmark reviews
• Watch for missing linkage between key processes and innovation elements
• Use “patching” to match the best people resources with required tasks

This book offers an original examples and metaphors for change strategies in business, including jazz improvisation, The Tour de France, American Baseball.

-*What models do you use to understand and execute business strategy?

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“Smart Failure” to Manage in a Fast-Changing World

Eddie Obeng

Eddie Obeng

Eddie Obeng’s dizzyingly rapid-fire TED talk asserts that we live in a “New World” in which “the local environment of individuals, organizations and governments changes faster than we can learn.”

As a result, he contends that most commonly-used concepts, best practices and assumptions to plan, manage and lead, organizations are obsolete.

He refers to this “New World” as the “World After Midnight” and shares discussion and observations.

To offer a forum to discuss and advance this approach with a “continuous link between learning and implementation”, he established Pentacle (The Virtual Business School), which offers tools and courses, with an emphasis on executing strategy through project management best practices.

Obeng draws on his experience as an engineer at Royal Dutch Shell, then Professor at the School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Henley Business School, and a Council Member at the UK Design Council in his books:

Like the Silicon Valley mantra “Fail Fast” to capture relevant learning experiences, Obeng urges “Smart Failure” through multiple experiments or trials, and rapid prototyping.

-*Where have you seen “Fast Failure” aid workplace innovation?

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