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Reward Failure

Yup, you heard me.

Nice Try

But why?

Well, first, we need to define terms:

Reward: celebrate, congratulate, give praise.

Failure: making the effort and not succeeding.

You get what you reward, right?

Dead right.  So, if you only reward success, people will succeed more, yes?  Of course yes.  But to achieve that, what behaviours will you get?

Protective, cautious behaviours that are calculated to minimise the risk of failure of course.

So what will change?  Very little – too much risk.  In fact, all you will get is ‘safe’.

But what if you reward failure?

Well, if you just reward failure, that would be silly.

But if you reward the effort,

… and if you include in your evaluation of effort the good judgement that leads to well calculated risks

… and if you assess ‘well calculated’ against the evidence available at the start, and eschew ‘hindsight bias’

Then maybe your team will realise that success is not easy, but that striving for real, hard-fought, worthwhile success is something you value – and so should they.

Reward good judgement and effort – not success, which may, after all, have little to do with either, and everything to do with luck.

Don’t reward luck.

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What’s All the Hype About?

There is a well known model of technology adoption that suggests a small number of us (the ‘Innovators’) adopt a new technology as soon as it is available.  Then enthusiasts called ‘Early Adopters’ get a hold of it and create a real buzz.  This leads to the ‘Early Majority adopting, followed by the ‘Late Majority’.  Finally, when there is no doubt left that this is the new prevailing orthodoxy, the ‘Laggards’ will catch up.

Technology Adoption Model

Diffusion of Innovations

This model has been around since the late 1950s, when it was developed by Joe M. Bohlen, George M. Beal and Everett M. Rogers at Iowa State University, building on earlier research conducted there by Neal C. Gross and Bryce Ryan.  The original authors were interested in how farmers adopted new seed stock.  It was then generalised to all technologies by Everett M Rogers in his book, ‘Diffusion of Innovations’, in which he examined different technologies and different cultures.

This model is widely used, but I recently came upon a newer model that captures something of the flavour of the world of more rapid change we live in.

Gartner’s Hype Cycle

The Gartner Group specialises in analysing technology and technology businesses to provide business intelligence.  They have developed a number of proprietary models, like the Magic Quadrant and the Hype Cycle.  Let’s have a look at the latter.

Gartner's Hype Cycle

This suggests that new technology goes through five stages.

Technology Trigger

Some new breakthrough offers the promise of something good.  The press get hold of it (in any number of ways) and they – or its inventors – start to promote it towards…

Peak of Inflated Expectations

It is now the next BIG thing that will change the world.  Some commentators get carried away and some otherwise rational (or maybe prescient) investors place big bets.  Then reality kicks in…

Trough of Disillusionment

Early promise is unfulfilled or things just take longer than anticipated.  Research and development is like that.

Of course, the technology may well fall off the curve here and never realise the promise of the hype that once surrounded it.  If it doesn’t, it moves on to…

Slope of Enlightenment

Now development is bearing fruit and interest is building again – but now at a more realistic pace.  Products are becoming available at mainstream prices and Early Adopters are jumping onto the Technology Adoption curve.  The rest of us start to follow as the product reaches…

Plateau of Productivity

With mainstream adoption comes a realistic assessment of the products true potential and level of impact on the world.  Has it lived up to the hype?  Few ever do.

See a lot of familiar products charted onto this curve by Gartner, here.

You Might Like…

The Nurturing Innovation Pocketbook

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Crazy Times again

FW TaylorFrederick Winslow Taylor was the first management thinker to try to analyse an organisation, test his ideas with experiments, and document the results.

Today we recognise him as the father of ‘Scientific Management’, a term coined by lawyer Louis Brandeis and used by Taylor in the title of his book, ‘The Principles of Scientific Management’.

Taylor became famous for one experiment – and at the same time, invented the ‘piece rate’ – payment per item made or task completed.

Midvale Steel Works

Taylor was working at the Midvale Steel Works in Philadelphia when he realised that factory processes could be optimised from the fairly random state he found them in. If he could find the ‘best’ way to fulfil a task, he could maximise efficiency.

The first problem he directed his attention to was the cutting of steel. At the Midvale Steel Works, Taylor tried out a whole range of experiments to find the best way to cut steel, and to shovel coal. Later, at the Bethlehem Iron Works, he took up the challenge to increase the amount of 32 inch iron bars a man could shift in a day.  He measured the rate of work before starting his experiments at 13 tons per day.  As well as suggesting alternative methods, Taylor offered ‘piece rates’ to the men.

Midvale Steel Works

The Victory of Incentives

One worker, called Henry Noll, was particularly motivated by incremental payment, because he was also building a house. Noll shifted an astonishing 47 tons of iron a day.  As a result, he got to take home 60% more in his wages: $1.85 compared to $1.15 which his fellow workers got.

The Story Shifted

Of course, Scientific Management was not the last word, and researchers like Elton Mayo – who set out to provide further evidence for Taylor’s theories – were to counter it powerfully with a radical alternative: ‘Democratic Management’.

‘The change which you and your associates are working to effect will not be mechanical but humane.’

Elton Mayo

And now we are in Crazy Times… again

One modern management thinker has done more to rail against Scientific Management than any other.  And he does so with a charisma and a showmanship that eclipses any of his peers.  Love him or hate him (and many do each), it is hard to ignore the influence of Tom Peters.

Tom PetersTom Peters has come to speak and write in demotic, didactic, explosive language that makes it hard for some to take him seriously.  Academic and dry, he is not.  So many criticise what appears to be his flippancy and glibness.  However, he has been way ahead on just about every management and organisational trend in my lifetime. [21 years? Ed]

Tom Peters is capable of solid research and a more dusty style, and has written much in that format, but his more recent works have adopted a distinct style of challenging his readers and audience to think.  He will stretch your concepts beyond breaking point and hope that, when you mend them, they have given up a measure of slack.

One of his most astonishing seminars and books was Crazy Times call for Crazy Organisations – in the mid 1990s.

Well, things are going crazy again folks.  Time to dust off some Tom Peters, and challenge today’s orthodoxy, if you want to stay ahead for tomorrow.  Here’s some classic Peters…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UyvJgOCS1w]

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A Bigger Bite

What is management without vision and inspiration?

The sad news about Steve Jobs’ untimely death has spurred more blogs than anyone has the time to read, so a shorter than usual pocketblog and a simple observation.

A bigger bite out of Apple

Making the complex seem easy and the sophisticated, a doddle to use: this is more than talent, or skill: it’s art.

Last week, for the first time in my life, I heard a major news story first, not on the radio, not on the TV, not in the press, nor even from a colleague, friend, or acquaintance.  I heard it on Twitter.

… on an iPad.

The world is a better place for everyone who is bringing us new technology and more effective communication.  Yes there are compromises and a price to pay, but who would trade it?  Very few.

Steve Jobs brought us the Mac, Pixar, the iPod, iTunes and more.  But here’s the big one for me: without him, we may still think of a mouse only as a small mammal.  Without Steve Jobs, what would the move to touch screen mean?

This image is the landing page of the Apple website, as I write this blog.  (c) Apple 2011

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Going round in circles: Problem Solving Simplicity

There are some business books I refer to again and again.  Often they are also (no coincidence) those that are recommended by many people I know as part of your essential business bookshelf.

Getting to YesFor general negotiating skills, I am yet to be persuaded that any book has overtaken ‘Getting to Yes’ by Roger Fisher and William Ury.  It is one of those books where ideas are densely packed and none are laboured.  So despite being a short book, it has more in it than many twice its size.

The lowest review on Amazon UK gives it 3 stars – saying there’s not much new in it.  A triumph for a book that is 30 years old and has therefore been imitated and borrowed from heavily over the years.  I am fairly sure it was Ury and Fisher who first introduced negotiators to the BATNA.

Not about Negotiation

However, I am not writing this Pocketblog about negotiation and you can learn more in Patrick Forsyth’s excellent Negotiator’s Pocketbook (one of my personal favourites).

Sitting among the many gems in Getting to Yes (at page 70 of my 1986 hardback edition) is the circle chart.  This is presented as a tool to help negotiators ‘invent options for mutual gain’.  I see it as one of the best generic problem solving tools – and also, by the way, as a pretty good model for the consulting process.

The Circle Chart

image

What a wonderfully simple model for problem solving this is.

  1. Problem
    We ask what is wrong and gather the facts
  2. Analysis
    We diagnose the problem, seeking to understand causation
  3. Approaches
    We generate multiple options to resolve the problem
  4. Action ideas
    We evaluate the options and develop plans

All things are connected…

‘It’s the circle of life, Simba’

The Circle Chart has always reminded me how simplicity and robustness come from a few great insights, and the model-maker’s skill is in presenting them in new and relevant ways.  In particular, this model is a close relative of another, designed for a very different purpose: Bernice McCarthy’s 4MAT method for instructional design.

Although the sequence is slightly different, the four questions that McCarthy argued that we need to answer are all here:

  1. Problem – ‘what?’
  2. Analysis – ‘why?’
  3. Approaches – ‘how?’
  4. Action ideas – ‘what if?’

So here’s the deal

The circle chart may not be the most sophisticated problem solving model available, but it covers all of the basis for me.  A great resource for managers, project teams, consultants and trainers.

Some Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

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Follow-up on Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge

If you enjoyed the post earlier this week, on W Edward Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge, then you may also enjoy these two short (under 3 mins) videos on YouTube, from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

These explain the need for and interpretation of  the four parts of Deming’s system:

  1. Appreciation for the system
  2. Knowledge about variation
  3. Theory of knowledge
  4. Psychology

Part 1 sets out the problem of cause and effect

.

Part 2 gives an example of the
four parts of Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge

.

.

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Adapting and Innovating

Whether at work or at play, in a social setting or alone, we all have to solve problems.  As soon as we frame something as ‘a problem’ however, we create a barrier for ourselves.

How do you go about solving a problem?

To be successful, we need to remove the barrier.  We’ll look at a simple yet powerful way later.  But let’s start with the question of how you solve a problem.  Dr Michael Kirton identified a continuum of styles that people use, when tackling problems.

Kirton_A-I_Continuum

At one end of the spectrum is an Adaptive Style.  People whose preference is towards this end like a structure within which  to solve their problems.  They will favour a formal problem solving process like the Eight Disciplines, the Simplex Method or DMAIC.

Adaptive Problem Solvers

Discipline and incrementalism characterise these problem solvers.  They like to ‘do it by the book’ and avoid taking risks.  They are less likely to find the radical solution, but also less likely to crash and burn with a way out solution that fails disastrously.

Radical solutions are more likely to be found by people who favour the Innovative end of the spectrum of styles.

Innovative Problem Solvers

Innovative problem solvers like risk, experimentation and radical solutions.  A formal process will leave them feeling constrained and all they will want to do is subvert it.  They will question anything and often do things differently just for the sake of it.  Irreverence is their middle name!

Commonly, Adaptive problem solving goes along with careful attention to detail, whilst at the other end of the spectrum, an Innovative style shuns detail in favour of a wider view.

Creativity

Innovative problem solving often looks like ‘creativity’.  This is perhaps a false equation.  Styles across the whole spectrum can be creative; the continuum helps us understand the conditions that best foster that creativity for each of us.

The Best of Both Worlds

Is there a way of working on problems that can allow people who favour both Adaptive and Innovative styles to work together and thrive.  Jonne Cesarani is an expert on helping stimulate creativity and his Problem Solving Pocketbook, may well hold the answer.

ProblemSolving Throughout the book, Jonne makes good use of a very powerful approach to problem solving, called Synectics.

Developed from observation of what does and does not work in problem-solving groups, Synectics offers a clear nine-step process for solving problems that will certainly appeal to the Adaptive thinker in any of us.

But the way that it does so is to foster stages of controlled challenge and radicalism.  It offers flexibility and a variety of tools that stimulate thinking in metaphorical, absurd and imaginary ways that will also appeal to the Innovative thinker in you.

The Nine Step Model

It is well worth checking out the nine step process, which Jonne sets out and documents extremely clearly.  As a taster, there is Step 1.

Task Headline

This is an astonishingly simple way to overcome that barrier of ‘having a problem’. In Synectics, we start by re-writing our problem in the format:

‘How to …’

What this does is focus you, right from the start, on the solution, rather than the problem.  Brilliant!

So here’s the deal

Don’t force a problem solving process on people with an Innovative style, but do offer one to people who are more Adaptive.  For teams, favour an approach that allows members to combine a clear process with the freedom to subvert it.

Other Management Pocketbooks you may enjoy

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