While things are not always easy in the business world, I can’t fathom what it would be like to make a living in politics. It’s fascinating as the presidential election nears to observe the lengths candidates and parties will go to in an effort to persuade voters to their platforms. Each election cycle, the methods seem to get louder and more outrageous, with listening and consensus-building a thing of the past. Can’t we all just get along and work for a common good? What’s stopping progress to that end? Recently I found a few articles that do a great job of explaining what’s going on. Interesting reading, whether you’re politically inclined or not.
- “Most arguments about politics never seem to get anywhere.” This lead sentence from How to argue better, according to science addresses the question of why intelligent, passionate people are rarely effective in convincing others to their point of view. It turns out that passion is not enough. Our moral foundations run strong and deep, and it’s difficult to move someone off a position that is congruent. This article does an excellent job of describing the moral foundations of the two major parties, and how arguments could be reframed to appeal to those of differing opinions. One timely example is regarding gun control.
- The Key to Political Persuasion echoes the same theme: “In business, everyone knows that if you want to persuade people to make a deal with you, you have to focus on what they value, not what you do.” The authors also see reframing messages as the solution, but it needs to be more than a parlor game to be successful: “Maybe reframing political arguments in terms of your audience’s morality should be viewed less as an exercise in targeted, strategic persuasion, and more as an exercise in real, substantive perspective taking.” Interesting results are reported from experiments on same-sex marriage, increased military spending and making English the official language of the U.S.
- NPR asks Is Arguing With Passion The Most Effective Way To Persuade Opponents? Nope. Reframing (again) is the solution. This brief article also gives the examples of gay marriage and English as the country’s official language.
Reframing can certainly be applied in the business arena. Too often we argue from our expert or authoritative position. How often do we think about the audiences we are trying to address and carefully articulate a rationale that more closely maps to their underlying concerns or perspective?
It’s challenging and takes time, but I believe would be more effective in the end.
Many times I have heard colleagues throughout the business world say, “Our organization needs a mobile device strategy” or ask, “Should we have a bring-you-own-device policy?” Externally, I maintain a smile or neutral outward appearance, while I’m inside I’m scratching my head (metaphorically). Why, at this stage of technological advances hasn’t this become conventional wisdom: our focus shouldn’t be on devices, it should be on accessibility.
In the long run, chasing specific mobile devices is fruitless. There will always be more, different and better options, in multiple formats and from myriad vendors. Remember the Apple Newton, PalmPilot, Grid Pad Pro and others that have come and gone? There are always features and functions of one versus the other that people will discuss and debate ad nauseam. The arguments can’t be won, because the issue, again, is not the device.
Why do I say that? Simply because we’ve been here before. I recall the transition from a mainframe-centric environment to personal computing. The mainframers thought PCs and local area networks were a joke. Not fast enough or big enough. There was an assumption that people would never want to do that work themselves or learn something that complex. The scenario played out again when the Internet and e-commerce came about. The assumption was that people want to see what they are buying and talk with someone, and there was no way they would enter their credit card number into this new-fangled Internet thingamabob.
Ultimately, what led people to move in these new directions and adopt the changes? It wasn’t the device, technology or brand—it was about gaining easy access to ways of being more productive or capable.
Let’s apply this thinking to mobile devices and look beyond the operating system, high-speed data access, robust and intuitive apps and the myriad of other embedded features. The power of mobile devices lies in how we can partner with them to make our lives easier and function more smoothly. Here are a few examples, none of which are dependent on a particular device (mobile or otherwise):
- In the professional world, if I can access my information and share it with someone in real time, I don’t need to make a note and follow up later when I get back to my office. Being honest, I’m likely to forget to do it. Now, I can send a message or share a file with a couple of taps or clicks on a keyboard.
- Is anyone old enough to remember putting a “buck slip” on an article to route it around a workgroup to make sure everyone got the information? Now, a quick forward of a link, a “like”, twitter message, or post to a social media group does the trick.
- It wasn’t all that long ago that executives had administrative assistants to manage their manual calendars. They would make phone calls to book meetings and then physically mail out agendas and packets of information ahead of time. Today, most appointments are booked by simply proposing a time and confirming with an e-appointment invitation or by using a calendar matching application (such as vyte.in, calendly.com, meetme.com or needtomeet.com)
These are minor examples of on-the-go tasks to be liberated from large monolithic or manual systems. To get more of this done, we need digital work processes and tools that can augment or replace traditional systems. We need tools that allow the infrastructure to be accessible and responsive to security and sensitive to the types of data. We need approaches that focus on enabling people and process. The good news is these tools are available and becoming more mature. There is lots of work to be done to make it happen, but there are many successful case studies.
I believe the path is not having all functions available on all devices. In the early days of tablets, many a colleague said, “We’ll just provide a virtual desktop” so users can do anything they want. Technically that is correct, but the idea of the connectivity and clunkiness of using email or Word or Excel on an iPad was not going to be readily adopted.
As a leader, the greatest contribution may be helping colleagues do their job seamlessly, regardless of their available or preferred technology. How can they quickly and easily make an internal request, find an expert, look up a piece of information, access an internal reference document, collaborate with a peer, submit an expense item, inquire on the status of a task or approve a request? If we can figure out access, a mobile device strategy is irrelevant.
P.S. This is not a new theme for me. Check out It’s Not About the Device from November 2015.
The article Predicting the Future and Exponential Growth certainly caught my attention right from the beginning, by asking, “How many times would I have to fold a sheet of paper for the height of the folded paper to reach the moon?” It goes on to build on its thesis, “Human beings have terrible intuition for exponential growth.”
Looking in a historical rearview mirror can encumber our projections of the future, especially in a period of exponential growth. The article helped articulate my perspective on why now it is more important than ever to look at the business challenges of today and the factors contributing to those challenges, then create strategy based on what the emerging future might look like. The linear progression of the past may not be that relevant.
I am currently working on a technology plan for my organization. We find ourselves with a legacy architecture that has existed for a long time. Its not that we didn’t realized it needed to change—we saw that need several years ago. The factors contributing to the need for something different include new technologies, mobile workers, need for sharing work and a greater geographical reach of our business.
Perhaps what we didn’t see was how the change curve was continuing to accelerate. There’s a tricky bias in looking back. If you don’t look far enough, it’s easy to think you haven’t changed much, as any small portion of a curve look like a relatively straight line. We have to take a longer-term approach to be able to see the magnitude of change and how it accelerates over time. Here’s where logarithms come into play. In doing so, it becomes clear that if we don’t significantly increase the pace of change, we will fall further behind.
Breaking out of a comfortable speed limit of execution is really difficult. What must change to accelerate execution? It’s not just a headcount and funding solution, it’s revisiting historical approaches, beliefs and methods. The journey has just begun.
When I recently took inventory of my to-read list, I was surprised to find that I haven’t ordered a physical book since August. Meanwhile, my e-reader is getting a little overwhelmed. Here’s what is loaded up—we’ll see how much progress I make while on vacation this week. The titles below all have links to their Kindle versions.
Design Thinking: Business Innovation by MJV Press
143 Visuals To Inspire You to Take Action by Scott Torrance and Mirka Volakova
Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time by Jeffrey Pfeffer
24 Hour Mindfulness: How to be calmer and kinder in the midst of it all by Rohan Gunatillake
Leading Continuous Change: Navigating Churn in the Real World by Bill Pasmore
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations by Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone
Since I last reported on my reading habits, my pending pile—or what I affectionately call the guilt pile— is growing. Here’s a sampling.
The Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate Transformation by Josh Linkner delves in the pitfalls of failing to change and provides strategies for reinvention.
Six Simple Rules: How to Manage Complexity without Getting Complicated by Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman gets into the intricacies of dealing with complex situations and offers a solution for companies that is based on leveraging the potential of their human resources.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande shows how one’s end of life can be managed with more compassion and dignity than currently provided with today’s standards of care. His powerfully delivered message results in three important questions about your mortality: What is your biggest fear? What is your greatest hope? What trade-offs are you willing to make (or not make)?
A veritable cornucopia of new devices has recently been released (e.g. Microsoft Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, IPad Pro), as well as new phones, other tablets and updated laptops. I contend that their value is not in the device itself, but in the use case. Said another way, the magic is in how YOU use it, not about the nuanced technology features. Here are a few examples from my work life that show various devices in action in ways that meet my unique needs.
Capturing notes in a conference keynote setting
- Setting: Usual setup is rows of chairs with no tables.
- Devices: A tablet with stylus is ideal for electronic handwritten notes. I use my phone camera to take pictures of relevant slides or the speaker to help aid my memory.
- Process: Take rough notes, publish to PDF and place in electronic folder along with any pictures, handouts and a scan/copy of the conference agenda.
- Output: Summary document in electronic folder consisting of: a list of takeaways, further ideas to explore and/or additional resources (link to speaker’s website).
Facilitating a business meeting
- Setting: Conference room, in the office or offsite. I need access to multiple pieces of information and don’t want it to get in the way of the discussion. A laptop screen can be intrusive.
- Devices: Pen and paper in the form of a notepad or journal, plus tablet with OneNote app.
- Output: Notes and follow-up items. Additional documents are created or a summary of the meeting is created from handwritten notes, scans of any whiteboard or flip chart work. All items are placed in a electronic folder or in OneNote shared notebook.
Writing a monthly summary report
- Setting: Office.
- Devices: Laptop with multiple computer displays and three or four applications running.
- Output: A one-page word document. Ability to reference calendar, various emails, last month’s report and various other documents.
Two easy traps to fall into are: 1) thinking that one device will meet all of your needs and 2) the lure of the latest and greatest new shiny object in the marketplace. Before investing, consider this:
Being productive is about using multiple tools at hand in a way that works for you. Work process, collaboration and tools will continue to evolve. Devices will continue to proliferate and improve. There will never be a singular device for all situations and individuals.
The use cases dictate a combination of different features (technology and otherwise). My work situations are perhaps a bit more diverse than many. But the same rules likely apply to everyone—there are many tools and applications within your environments that can help personal productivity. Trying to make them all fit into once device is not practical, in my opinion.
Two weeks ago I attend the one-day conference “Best Practices and Emerging Technologies” put on by the UW E-Business Consortium. I have attended this annual event for several years and enjoy the fact that it cuts across technology, customer service, marketing and supply chain disciplines.
It was a treat to hear two inspiring keynote sessions, one from a London-based futurist and the other from lead engineer for the Mars Rover Curiosity.
A key takeaway from the conference was the continuing and varied influence of millennials on business. Here are a few points that stayed with me:
- McDonald’s corp opened offices in downtown Chicago, Silicon Valley and India for the sole purpose of attracting the young talent they needed to move information technology, marketing and related functions into the digital world. At that point, they changed from a very traditional dress policy to no dress policy.
- As discussed in an earlier post, your smartphone home screen is your new inbox. I am increasingly finding others contacting me via multiple channels (LinkedIn messages, text messages, Skype, Yammer, Slack, Spark, etc.) and with invitations to connect on social media (Twitter and others).
- Presentation styles have evolved to a TedEx-like standard (tell me a short and concise story). One outcome is that sometimes the younger speakers are often better than those more steeped in the traditional style of yesterday.
- Both speaker and attendee attire at business meetings has shifted away from the old norm of business wear or business casual. The new norm is to wear to a conference whatever style you wear to work, whether that is company logo wear (think Harley Davidson), fancy jeans/shirts/stylish jackets, golf club wear or traditional business attire. Anything goes…regardless of age or rank.
Another interesting topic was the role of emotion and empathy as part of the product experience. Companies that can understand, appreciate and create an emotional connection with their target audience will win in the marketplace. Making an emotional connection to your user applies whether you are clicking on your phone, at an event, or at a business meeting. Additional resources:
- Harvard Business Review, For Any Product to be Successful, Empathy Is Key
- Wall Street Journal (subscriber access only), The Importance of Empathy in Our Services-Centric, People-Oriented Economy
- Irving Wladawsky-Berger, The Importance of Empathy in Our Services-Centric, People-Oriented Economy
I’m already looking forward to next year.