Welcome to our final IDEA Box blog.
We’re working hard on new content concepts and are looking forward to sharing these with you very soon. We’ve really enjoyed researching and writing these blogs over the last year, and we greatly appreciate your feedback and engagement.
In November 2020 Fitzgerald Power kicked off a brand redevelopment project which led to a lot of soul searching as we tried to articulate and clarify exactly what it is that we do…. and why! This month’s blog discusses Purpose and captures some of the research that informed our brand redevelopment, which we are looking forward to sharing with you later this year.
As ever we would love to hear from you. Please do send in your comments and feedback.
Thank you for reading these meandering musings over the last 13 months!
Start With Why, Simon Sinek
Sinek believes that great leaders should inspire action rather than manipulate people to act. Leaders achieve this by articulating their Why; the purpose, cause or belief behind What they are doing.
Here are four takeaways:
- The Golden Circle: This is Sinek’s central thesis. Why is at the centre of The Golden Circle and is the purpose behind what we do. Why is followed by How; the actions taken to realise our purpose. Finally comes What; the product, service or job function. The problem, according to Sinek, is that most people start with What – i.e. let’s start a company that sells accountancy and financial advice rather than – let’s start a company that adds value to our clients every time they interact with us. As the title of the book suggests we should Start With Why. Here’s a picture of The Golden Circle. Myself and Sinek must have gone to the same art school.
- People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it: If you talk about what you believe, you will attract others who share these beliefs. This is an essential component in attracting early adopters, individuals who will hear, respond to and disseminate your message.
- Why vs. What: If Apple was like everyone else a marketing message from them might sound like this; “We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed and user friendly. Want to buy one?”. But because they start with Why their message goes something like this; “In everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making products that are beautifully designed and easy to use. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”
- Success is different to achievement: According to the author; “Achievement happens when we pursue and attain What we want. Success comes when we are in clear pursuit of Why we want it.” He goes on to point out that success isn’t an individual pursuit, it’s a team sport.
I recently began working with not-for-profit company GIY in a non-executive capacity. They really have their purpose figured out.
Check it out here.
Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose, Tony Hsieh
Link Exchange founder Hsieh was an early investor in Zappos. In 2000 he joined the company as CEO. Under his leadership, Zappos grew revenues from $1.6M to over $1 billion in 8 years by focusing relentlessly on customer service. Here are four takeaways:
- It’s all about culture: A company’s culture and a company’s brand are two sides of the same coin. Your brand is merely a lagging indicator of your culture.
- Customer service is not just a department: Customer service should be the number 1 priority for the entire company. This attitude needs to come from the top.
- Be humble and treat everyone with equal respect: As Winnie the Pooh once said; “It’s more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long difficult words but rather short easy words like – what about lunch?”
- Invest in relationships: Hsieh believed we should stop trying to network in the traditional sense. Instead, we should build meaningful relationships where the friendship itself is its own reward.
The second half of this book delves into culture and the factors that drove success for Zappos. It’s essential reading for anyone running a customer / client facing business.
Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
Written in 1946 by concentration camp survivor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning introduces the author’s conviction that the primary human drive is not pleasure but the pursuit of what we find meaningful.
Here are four takeaways:
- There is always a choice: Every person, spiritually and intellectually, can decide what becomes of themself. Despite the conditions of camp life, Frankl chose to maintain his human dignity. In an environment that removed all liberties and freedoms he found that this last inner freedom cannot be lost. This made his life purposeful.
- Have something to aim for: To survive the camps Frankl needed a future goal. In his case this goal was delivering a lecture on the psychology of the concentration camps to a packed auditorium. As Nietzsche put it; “He who has a why can survive any how.”
- What you do is more important than what you say: The immediate influence of behaviour is always more effective than words.
- The meaning of life: According to Frankl “life” ultimately means taking responsibility for finding the answers to its problems, and to fulfil the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual. These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from person to person and from moment to moment, thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way.
This book puts life in context. Well worth checking out.
The authors analyse what drives high-growth companies, focussing on the role purpose plays in their success. Here are two takeaways:
- Leaders are vital in setting an organisation’s purpose: The authors claim; “leaders and companies that have effectively defined corporate purpose typically have done so with one of two approaches: The retrospective approach builds on a firm’s existing reason for being. The prospective approach, on the other hand, reshapes your reason for being.”
- Purpose enables companies to broaden their mission, create a holistic value proposition, and deliver lifetime benefits to customers: The authors suggest that leaders should provide; “a compelling purpose (that) clarifies what a company stands for, provides an impetus for action, and is aspirational.” It should be more than just; “nice-sounding words on a wall.”
You can check out the article here.
Scaling Activism at Patagonia, Purpose 360 Podcast, 2020
Long considered the “gold standard” for purpose-driven companies, this podcast discusses how Patagonia scales community activism. Here are two takeaways:
- Consider purpose from the very start: When companies are at the early stages of development, they should seek to establish their purpose. Establish what issue is important to you and your community. Don’t focus on small issues and don’t make it about marketing.
- It involves the entire organisation: Empower people and make everyone part of the journey.
Listen to the podcast here.
Amazon Acquires Zappos, Jeff Bezos Video, July 2009
Amazon is a company that has always been very clear on its purpose; “To be the Earth’s most customer centric company.” Bezos found a kindred spirit in Tony Hsieh, so much so that he made this short video for Zappos employees when Amazon acquired the company.
Here’s two takeaways:
- Obsess over customers: According to Bezos this is the only reason Amazon still exists. When given the choice of obsessing over customers or obsessing over competitors they always choose customers.
- Invent on behalf of customers: Listening to customers is essential, but equally they don’t always realise what they need until they see it. The development of the iPhone is a classic example of this mode of thinking. We should therefore be willing to invent solutions on behalf of our customers.
Home is Where the Tree is
Earlier this year we began working with a social enterprise called Hometree. Hometree establishes and conserves permanent native woodland in Ireland, encouraging land regeneration and biodiversity through afforestation, restoration and education, which is kind of cool to be fair. Check them out here.
Thank you for reading our blog. Watch this space …….
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Welcome to our March 2021 IDEA Box blog.
In this month’s IDEA Box blog, we are discussing Gender Equality. One of the biggest surprises in writing this blog (second only to the fact that people actually read it) has been how much of the literature is dominated by white, male authors. On reflection, this stands to reason. If corporate leadership roles are dominated by men then clearly these individuals are more likely to be the subjects and authors of books and articles on leadership topics. It is a vicious cycle that perpetuates the status quo and presents a barrier to inclusion and diversity.
Here’s what we learnt this month …..
Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Caroline Criado-Perez
According to Criado-Perez, most of recorded human history is one big data gap. The lives of men have been taken to represent the lives of humans overall. When it comes to the other half of humanity there is often nothing but silence. This is the gender data gap and these are four takeaways:
- Different points of view lead to better outcomes: The female viewpoint is considered niche even though women make up half the population. Citing several examples, the author points out that most subjects are framed through the white male prism. Many of the ensuing inequalities are unintended, they come about as a result of the gender data gap. These inequalities are not just a moral concern, they are an economic concern too. As one might expect, excluding 50% of any market leads to poorer financial outcomes.
- We need more female leaders: It often takes a senior female team member to spot that a change is necessary. Because senior positions are often dominated by men, modern workplaces are riddled with design flaws such as doors that are too heavy. It took Sheryl Sandberg’s first pregnancy for Google to introduce designated car parking spaces for pregnant women.
- Listen: According to a 2015 study, women are the more interrupted gender. The author cites a US presidential debate where Donald Trump interrupted Hilary Clinton 51 times while she interrupted him 17 times. Although Trump may not be representative of men generally, Clinton was also interrupted more regularly by the host, Matt Lauer. As we discovered in Idea Box #10, empathetically listening to others is one of the habits of highly effective people.
- How do we close the gender data gap?: By closing the female representation gap. Criado-Perez believes we must increase female representation in all spheres of life. This recent Irish Times article discusses female representation in corporate Ireland. It’s worth a read.
Apparently, Sigmund Freud once declared; “Throughout history, people have knocked their heads against the riddle of femininity.” The author believes that the answer was staring Freud in the face all along. All “people” had to do was ask women. Criado-Perez’s thought-provoking book is available in all formats.
The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, Melinda Gates
Gates believes that gender equity lifts everyone. From high levels of education, employment and economic growth to low rates of teenage pregnancy, domestic violence and crime, the inclusion and elevation of women correlates with the signs of a healthy society. Women’s rights and society’s health and wealth rise together. Here are four takeaways:
- Distribute work evenly: Unpaid work is a vital enabler of economic progress, however, it is unevenly distributed between men and women.
- If you want to excel you need support from the people around you: Very few people can do it on their own. At Microsoft, Gates reported to a woman who supported her efforts to work in her own style in a culture that rewarded results. She believes that this is why she was able to get promoted and succeed. If she had tried to do it on her own, without colleagues who encouraged her and a boss who supported her, she would have failed.
- The power of peers, mentors and role models: We find the guts to make things work when we see them working for people we respect.
- It starts with culture: According to Gates an abusive culture is one that singles out and excludes a particular group. This is less productive because the organisation’s energies are diverted from lifting people up to keeping them down.
Of The Moment of Lift, Barrack Obama said; “I’ve called Melinda an impatient optimist and that’s what she delivers here – the urgency to tackle these problems and the unwavering belief that solving them is indeed possible.” It is available in e-book, hardcopy and audiobook.
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg
Ask most women whether they have the right to equality at work and the answer will be a resounding yes, but ask the same women whether they’d feel confident asking for a raise, a promotion or equal pay and reticence sometimes creeps in. Sandberg considers what women can do to change this. Here are four takeaways:
- Start at the start: Sandberg believes we often treat boys and girls differently; “The gender stereotypes introduced in childhood are reinforced throughout our lives and become self-fulfilling prophesies.” According to this argument the encouragement we give boys in childhood makes them more likely to seek leadership roles in adulthood. As a parent of two girls and one boy I understand the point, however, this Atlantic article suggests that such modes of thinking might be outdated and that gender diversity (rather than everyone just regressing to a homogenous mean) is essential in a functional, prosperous society.
- Sit at the table: According to Sandberg if you ask a man to explain his success, he will typically mention his own innate qualities and skills but if you ask a woman, she will attribute her success to external factors. Women, she believes, are often plagued by Imposter Syndrome. Sandberg encourages women to take their seat at the table even if they feel underqualified. The likelihood is that a lot of the men sitting at the table don’t know what they’re on about anyway. I added that last bit based on personal experience, but I’m fairly sure she would be ok with it.
- Finding mentors: The author believes that searching for the right mentor has become the adult equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming. If women can just find the right mentor everything will be ok. We’ve given the wrong message to young women. It shouldn’t be; “find a mentor and you will excel” it should be “excel and you will find a mentor”. She goes on to say that any male leader who is serious about moving to a more equitable organisation should make mentoring and sponsoring women a priority.
- The myth of doing it all: It isn’t possible. Instead of perfection we should aim for sustainability and fulfilment. Success is making the best choices we can and accepting them. The secret is there is no secret.
The author’s central thesis is that more women are required in leadership roles to break down barriers and deliver gender equality. While this book is dated in places it is well worth reading.
The Truth About the Gender Pay Gap, Sarah Kliff, Vox, September, 2017
Kliff discusses the gender pay gap noting that the causes are often counterintuitive, making them difficult to identify and remedy. Here are two takeaways:
- Wage discrimination works in subtle ways: Financial returns in the highest-paying jobs disproportionately accrue to those who can work the longest, least flexible hours, and as such; “These types of job penalise workers who have caregiving responsibilities outside the workplace. Those workers tend to be women.”
- Industries where certain work hours are more important than others have larger gender pay gaps: When jobs have more flexibility the gender wage gap declines; “Making hours more flexible — and workers more interchangeable — will lessen the economic benefits of the rigid work schedule.”
You can check out the article here.
The Importance of Mentorship, Valerie Jarrett and Michelle Obama, The Michelle Obama Podcast, September 2020
Obama and Jarrett (former advisor to President Barack Obama) talk about mentoring in the workplace and the importance of equality and diversity in leadership. Here are two takeaways:
- Diversity is about more than equality: As Obama puts it; “We don’t want women to be like men. That’s not what we are fighting for.” She believes that women bring a different perspective to the workplace that is both important and relevant.
- Make mentoring a priority: According to Obama; “Formal consistent mentoring can change the trajectory of a child’s life. We have seen it again and again and again, even if they don’t end up in a certain place, it changes the fabric of how they see themselves in the world……..if we could do it in the White House, under some challenging times, I know that every corporation, every bank, every office can think of a way to do something formalised like that, for the young people in their communities.” The same clearly goes for the people in our organisations.
Listen to the podcast here.
How to Design Gender Bias Out of Your Workplace
Equity expert Sara Sanford discusses gender workplace bias and how organisations can counter it. Here are two takeaways:
- Frequent evaluations matter: Annual evaluation reviews are “petri dishes for bias” as they increase the risk of personality criticism. On the other hand, personality criticism vanishes when shorter more frequent evaluations are adopted as these tend to focus on recent, specific projects.
- It is not about the optics: The percentage of women in leadership roles is not what matters. What matters is a workplace culture that promotes equal opportunities for everyone. Sanford notes; “When assessing a company’s culture, we measure the gaps between men and women’s experiences. The smaller the gap, the more equity is at the centre of the culture”.
Watch the video here.
A game of two halves
Check out this gender equality index game to see how your life might turn out based on your gender and country of birth. It literally takes 10 seconds.
Thank you for reading our blog. Next month we will be discussing Purpose.
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Welcome to our February 2021 IDEA Box blog.
This month we travelled to Mars with Elon Musk, discovered the benefits of The Creative Habit, and learned how to be more Original.
This month’s article suggests The Modern Office is Killing Our Creativity, the podcast tells us How to Be Creative Whilst in Lockdown while the video considers creative leadership lessons from a Topless Dancing Guy at a music festival.
Thanks for reading!
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, Ashlee Vance
“We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” So said PayPal founder and venture capitalist Peter Thiel of the rather depressing fact that the greatest technological minds of our generation are more interested in monetising our data, than advancing the species. The fact that tweets now extend to 280 characters is unlikely to impress Thiel. Elon Musk, on the other hand does. Here are four Muskian takeaways to help you inspire creativity in your team:
- Have a meaningful vision: Musk’s stated life goal is to colonise Mars. Let’s face it that seems a bit mad, but it is a clarion call that unifies all his projects and teams. Musk has developed a meaningful world view, which according to the author is something most Silicon Valley entrepreneurs lack. Zuckerberg wants to help you share baby photos, Musk wants to save the human race from annihilation.
- Hire great people: His bold and unique vision for SpaceX enabled Musk to attract the best young aerospace talent, many of whom were disillusioned with NASA. He personally interviewed every one of the first thousand or so employees, including the janitors.
- Commit to your vision: Musk pocketed approximately $200m from the sale of PayPal to eBay but by 2008 had ploughed half of it into Tesla and SpaceX. Both companies were floundering and the conventional wisdom was to package at least one for sale. Instead he doubled down, worked through the failed rocket launches, transmission issues and constant delays, and ultimately led both companies to success.
- Surround yourself with talented peers: Google own a secret apartment in Palo Alto where Larry Paige, Sergei Brin and Musk meet. “It’s kind of our recreation, I guess” said Paige, “it’s fun for the three of us to talk about crazy things and we find stuff that eventually turns out to be real. We go through hundreds or thousands of things before arriving at things that are the most promising.”
In researching this book Ashlee Vance was afforded unique access to one of the greatest innovators of all time. The result is a compelling study that’s packed with learnings and insights.
The Creative Habit: Learn it And Use it For Life, Twyla Tharp
According to the celebrated dancer and choreographer, Twyla Tharp creativity is not a gift from the gods, it is the product of preparation and effort and it’s within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it.
Here are four takeaways:
- Have a preparation ritual: Tharp begins every day the same way. She wakes at 5.30am, puts on her workout clothes, walks outside and hails a cab to the gym where she trains for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training she puts her body through at the gym. The ritual is the cab. The moment she tells the driver where to go, she has completed the ritual. She does this without thinking and believes the ritual a vital component of her creativity. One can only assume that the ritual itself is important and that substituting the gym for a Jumbo Breakfast Roll is unlikely to yield the same creative return.
- Be willing to learn: According to the author; “The person you will be in five years’ time depends on two things: the people you meet and the books you read.”
- Master the basics: The greatest composers are also accomplished musicians, the greatest authors read incessantly and successful entrepreneurs can do anything in their organisation as well as, or better, than anyone working for them. These people have all mastered the underlying skills of their domain and have built their creativity on the solid foundation of those skills.
- Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect: Perfect practice makes perfect. According to Tharp, top performers in any field of endeavour work harder and smarter than their mediocre peers. Practice without purpose is just exercise. She suggests concentrating on what you aren’t great at, focussing on it until it’s perfect and then moving on.
The Creative Habit is full of great suggestions to boost creative output and achieve one’s goals. On the topic of goals Tharp states; “How often do my goals feel out of reach? Always at the start but I reach anyway as sometimes I get lucky.”
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant
Wharton professor Adam Grant believes there are two routes to achievement; conformity and originality. He suggests that the hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and questioning whether a better option exists.
Here are four takeaways:
- Originals aren’t necessarily risk takers: Like the poet who keeps her day job, successful Originals take extreme risks in one arena and offset them with extreme caution in all other areas of their lives. In other words, Originals have a balanced risk portfolio. We have a romanticised, and apparently unrealistic notion of the risk appetite of successful entrepreneurs which Malcolm Gladwell challenges in this New Yorker article.
- Mistakes are inevitable: According to the artist Scott Adams; “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes, art is knowing which ones to keep.” Grant believes that Originals aren’t always adept at knowing which of their ideas will work. They focus on volume and output, having the confidence to accept that most of what they create will end up on the cutting room floor.
- Keep pushing the envelope: Our first idea is often the most conventional. It’s only when we’ve ruled out the obvious that we have the freedom to consider more remote possibilities and think outside the box. Rather than asking customers what they think of a revolutionary concept we should build it and then take their feedback. As Henry Ford put it; “If I’d asked consumers what they wanted they’d have said a faster horse.”
- The first mover disadvantage: The author cites research that considered the relative success of pioneer companies (first movers) and settlers (challenger brands). According to the research, pioneers are 6X more likely to fail and only captured 10% of the market when they did survive, compared to a capture rate of 28% for settlers. You don’t need to be first to be original, you just need to be better and different.
Grant examines how people can champion new ideas and how leaders can fight groupthink. The book is well researched and accessible. Well worth checking out.
Pilita Clark, How the Modern Office is Killing Our Creativity, The Financial Times, March 2019
In this 2019 Financial Times article, columnist Pilita Clark discusses how Roger Mavity’s work on creativity might be applied to open plan offices, and the negative impact modern work norms have on creativity. Here are two takeaways:
- Creativity is an individual rather than collective activity: Mavity uses the example of Isaac Newton to explain how solitude drives creativity; “The great thoughts that helped him go on to formulate the theory of gravity came after the Great Plague closed his university and he spent nearly two years shut away in his home in Lincolnshire.”
- It is a myth that creativity comes from teamwork and collective brainstorming: Mavity notes that; “group dynamics mean people trying to figure out a problem together tend to either show off to impress, or politely back each other’s thoughts no matter how rubbish they are. Either way, because responsibility is shared, the pressure to come up with solutions is reduced.”
You can check out the article here.
How to be Creative Whilst in Lockdown, Daniel Brookes, Creativity Podcast, 2020
Daniel Brookes is a British TV producer who has worked for BBC, ITV and Sony. This podcast is all about ideas – how to have more of them, how to have better ones and how they can inspire creativity.
Here are two takeaways:
- Kids inspire creativity: Albert Einstein believed; “To stimulate creativity one must develop the inclination to play.” We should strive to generate a wide range of ideas free of negative critique. Collaboration between generations can lead to the best creative output.
- Stay organised: Brookes suggests we organise ourselves and our environment in a tidy manner, offering our minds visual cues to support creativity. I must confess, it seems to me there’s an inherent dichotomy between playing creatively with the kids and keeping the house tidy. Maybe I’m doing something wrong. All suggestions welcome.
Listen to the podcast here.
Creative Leadership Lessons from a Guy Dancing at a Music Festival
Creative leadership comes in many forms. Here’s how to transition from lone nut to creative leader in less than three minutes:
- Treat your initial followers as equals: To create a movement you must nurture those who follow you.
- Followers emulate followers, not the leader: The happy go lucky festival goer provides the creative spark, but the initial followers are the key to growth.
I wonder what Twyla Tharp would make of this chap’s preparation ritual. Watch the video here.
Creativity is intelligence having fun
At least according to Albert Einstein. Assuming he’s right this creativity quiz from The Kellogg School of Management should test your creativity while providing some light relief.
Thank you for reading our blog. Next month we will be discussing Gender Equality.
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IDEA Box #10 – Habits
Happy New Year and welcome to our first IDEA Box blog of 2021 where we are discussing ‘Habits’. Over Christmas we learnt The Power of Habit, discovered the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and found out how Atomic Habits can help us build good habits and break bad ones.
This month’s article discusses The Science of Habits, the podcast discusses Behaviour Design and Tiny Habits while the in the video Charles Duhigg tells us how he stopped eating cookies during his 3pm break.
Thanks for reading. Here’s to a healthy, prosperous 2021 built on powerful, positive habits!
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, Stephen R. Covey
Covey’s book is the best-known work on the power of positive habit formation. We’ve decided to include seven takeaways rather than our standard four for two reasons; (1) It might start 2021 off on the wrong foot if we were to cut three habits from a book called; “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, and (2) Jamie reviewed this one. He’s clearly a more effective person than me. Here are seven takeaways:
- Be proactive: Use your Responsibility and Initiative, and don’t be reactive. Proactive people focus on their Circles of Influence, choosing to work on things that are within their control. Reactive people focus on their Circles of Concern, fretting over things they can’t alter. As Victor Frankl put it; “Between stimulus and response man has the freedom to choose.”
- Begin with the end in mind: To ensure the proverbial ladder is leaning against the right wall, step back and assess what you actually want to achieve. The more precise and realistic your picture of the outcome is, the better your execution will be. The author suggests writing a personal mission statement and incorporating it into our daily lives.
- First things first: Focus on doing the things that are essential to your mission statement … or put another way, do important stuff first and other stuff later. Simple.
- Think win-win: As this week’s tragic events in Washington DC highlighted most people’s world view is shaped by a Win:Lose paradigm. However, as we discovered in last month’s IDEA Box, Win:Win solutions are much better.
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood: Empathetically listen to others. Try to build an awareness of the other person’s perspective so you can understand them intellectually and emotionally. When you truly understand, seek to be understood through clear, honest communication. Win:Win solutions are created through empathetic communication.
- Synergize: By understanding and valuing the differences in other people’s perspective we have the opportunity to create synergy, which allows us to uncover new possibilities through openness and creativity.
- Sharpen the saw: If a lumberjack spent all his time sawing down trees without stopping to sharpen his saw he’d soon have dull tools that wouldn’t fell a single tree. Take time to recuperate and recharge focusing on physical, mental, spiritual and emotional renewal.
This book is a great read and is available in all formats.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change, Charles Duhigg
Duhigg, an award-winning New York Times business reporter, explains that habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to reduce effort. Left to its own devices the brain will try to turn any regular routine into a habit. Here are four takeaways:
- The habit loop: Duhigg believes there are three elements; (1) Cue, (2) Response and (3) Reward. Consider the following example: (1) Cue: Alarm clock rings. Your brain activity spikes. Your brain decides which habit is appropriate for the situation. (2) Routine: You march into the bathroom and brush your teeth with your brain on autopilot (or in my case you turn off the alarm and roll over). (3) Reward: Minty-fresh tingling sensation in your mouth. Your brain activity increases again linking the cue and the reward. In his blog Duhigg explains how toothpaste companies used the post-toothbrushing sensation to create an unbreakable habit. If you’re interested check it out here.
- Cravings drive habits: Cues and rewards are not enough. Cravings solidify habits. This applies equally to bad habits (such as the box of Roses I attacked every time I walked down to the Fitzgerald Power reception area in the run up to Christmas) and good habits (the endorphin rush you get after exercise).
- The Golden Rule of habit change: Don’t try to resist the craving, redirect it. The author suggests retaining existing cues and rewards but inserting new routines. He offers the example of Alcoholics Anonymous where the routine of having a drink is replaced by attending a meeting or calling one’s sponsor.
- Focus on Keystone Habits and small wins: Keystone Habits, such as making your bed every morning, exercising or meditating set forces in motion that lead to other small wins. This makes us believe that improvement is possible in other spheres of life, triggering a cascade of positive change. The point is neatly illustrated in two analogies, one involving Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and the other aluminium producer Alcoa where the CEO improved the company across a range of metrics by focussing almost exclusively on its safety record.
Duhigg’s book is engaging, actionable and accessible. It is available in e-book, paperback and audiobook.
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, James Clear
Clear builds on the work of Duhigg and others by providing a framework for creating good habits and dropping bad ones. Here are four takeaways:
- You get what you repeat: Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. They can compound negatively or positively.
- Forget goals, focus on systems: Goals are about the results you want to achieve, systems are about the processes that lead to results. When you solve problems at the results level you only solve them temporarily. To solve problems permanently you need to address them at the systems level, or put another way … fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves.
- Focus on your underlying beliefs: A change only lasts when it becomes part of our identity. Our behaviour is a reflection of our identity. The author therefore suggests we shouldn’t strive to run a marathon (goal focus), we should strive to become a runner (system focus). Running a marathon is merely something a runner does. We will find it easier to achieve this goal if running is part of our identity.
- The rules of habit change: Clear builds on Duhigg’s habit loop steps by offering a set of habit rules; (1) Make the Cue obvious, (2) Make the Craving attractive, (3) Make the Response easy, (4) Make the Reward satisfying. These rules can be inverted to break bad habits; (1) Make the Cue invisible, (2) Make the Craving unattractive, (3) Make the Response difficult, (4) Make the Reward unsatisfying.
A thoroughly useful and enjoyable book that is available in all formats. There’s also some useful articles on his website.
The Science of Habits, Susan Weinschenk Ph.D., Psychology Today, 2019
The author argues that habits aren’t hard to create or change if we focus on the research. Here are two takeaways:
- Making the action easy increases the likelihood that it becomes a habit: If the gym is on your route home (lockdowns permitting) you are more likely to go as planned. If it is in an inconvenient location you are less likely. The same can be said of healthy eating. If your place of work is surrounded by fast food outlets your new habit would be best served by taking a healthy meal with you to work, unless of course one of those fast food outlets happens to be a LEON in which case you have delivered a Win:Win outcome!
- Habits with auditory and/or visual cues are easier to create and maintain: One reason using your mobile phone is so habitual is that it lights up when you have a message, and buzzes when you have a notification. These auditory and visual cues grab our attention and increase the likelihood that we will develop a conditioned response.
Behaviour Design and Tiny Habits, BJ Fogg, Unlearn Podcast, 2020
BJ Fogg is the founder of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab which counts the founders of Instagram among its former students. He speaks to Barry O’Reilly about adapting our behaviour based on the challenges we want to solve. Here are two takeaways:
- How to make a lasting change: For behavioural change to have longevity it must help you realise what you want to achieve (so essentially it must align with your identity) and make you feel accomplished.
- Done is better than perfect: The aphorism; “Perfect is the enemy of good” is often attributed to the 17th century French writer and philosopher Voltaire. The sentiment is shared by Fogg who believes one should create a minimum viable product and distribute it quickly. This can be applied to habit formation where repetition is more important than perfection, or as James Clear puts it; “if you want to master a habit you need to focus on practice rather than perfection”.
How to Break Bad Habits, Charles Duhigg, 2015
We generally don’t include multiple pieces of content from the same individual but Charles Duhigg does seem to be the master in the field, so here are two further Duhigg takeaways:
- Breaking habits is a process of exploration: You must assess the root cause of a behaviour so you can effect change with minimal resistance. In this short video Duhigg explains the process behind breaking his junk food habit.
- If you can diagnose your habits you can change them: Duhigg found it was a desire to socialise rather than a desire to snack that drove him to the cafeteria each day. This allowed him to reposition the habit by changing the reward.
The Elevator to Success
According to Zig Ziglar there isn’t one, you have to take the stairs. With that in mind here’s a short Ted talk on how to set a 30 day challenge to nourish your mind, body and spirit.
Thank you for reading our blog. Next month we will be discussing Creativity.
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IDEA Box #9 – Negotiation
Welcome to our December 2020 IDEA Box blog where we are discussing ‘Negotiation’. This month we discovered the benefits of Getting to Yes, became Negotiation Geniuses (sort of) and learned why we should Never Split the Difference.
This month’s article shows that Donald Trump still has plenty to learn about negotiation, the podcast is from Stanford University professor Margaret Anne Neale while the video is a tense negotiation scene from the movie Nightcrawler.
Thanks for reading. We hope you enjoy it.
Getting to Yes: Negotiating an Agreement Without Giving In, Roger Fisher and William Ury
The most widely read book on the topic of negotiation, Roger Fisher and William Ury’s famous study suggests that the best way to approach a negotiation is by engaging in cooperative problem-solving. Here are four takeaways:
- Look for shared interests when negotiating: In many negotiations, more interests are shared or compatible than we realise; “Behind opposed positions lie shared and compatible interests, as well as conflicting ones. We tend to assume that because the other side’s positions are opposed to ours, their interests must also be opposed.”
- Having a deeper understanding of the other side will make you a better negotiator: The authors suggest separating the person from the problem when approaching a negotiation; “A working relationship where trust, understanding, respect, and friendship are built up over time can make each new negotiation smoother and more efficient.”
- Decide beforehand on your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA): As some conflicts cannot be negotiated the authors suggest developing a BATNA. In more recent times some negotiation experts have moved away from the BATNA strategy suggesting it creates a psychological resistance to pushing for the best deal.
- Try to avoid escalation and cycles of reaction: A negotiator should develop “negotiation jujitsu”, or as the authors put it; “When the other side sets forth their position, neither reject it nor accept it. Treat it as one possible option. Look for the interests behind it, seek out the principles which it reflects, and think about ways to improve it.”
This book, which is based on the work of the Harvard Negotiation Project, helped to develop the Win-Win approach to negotiation. It is available in all formats.
Negotiation Genius: How to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Brilliant Results at the Bargaining Table and Beyond, Deepak Malhotra and Max H. Bazerman.
Another product of the Harvard Business School assembly line, Negotiation Genius provides a detailed framework for developing negotiation skills. Here are four takeaways:
- You can overcome a weak BATNA: Having a weak BATNA is only an issue if your counterparty becomes aware of it. Consider the following example. During the 1912 US presidential campaign, Theodore Roosevelt’s campaign manager woke up to a blunder. They had printed three million pamphlets with Roosevelt’s photograph without seeking copyright permission from the photographer. If the photographer sued, the cost of the oversight could come to more than $3 million. The photographer, however, was unaware of Roosevelt’s weak position, and realising this the campaign manager sent the following telegram: “We are planning to distribute millions of pamphlets with Roosevelt’s picture on the cover. It will be great publicity for the studio whose photograph we use. How much will you pay us to use yours? Respond immediately.” The photographer fell for the bait and offered to pay $250 to get the photograph printed.
- Put yourself in your counterparty’s shoes: While the result of the Cuban missile crisis might seem unremarkable it is worth remembering that the advice of JFK’s generals was to attack Cuba. It only became evident years later that Cuba had enough nuclear warheads to obliterate the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and was authorised to deploy the missiles if they came under attack. Kennedy’s strategy was to methodically consider Khrushchev’s position. He was careful not to disgrace or back his counterparty into a corner. The result was a masterclass in brinksmanship and diplomacy.
- Be prepared: Most mistakes occur before the negotiation actually begins. The authors suggest taking the following steps to ensure preparedness; 1) Assess your BATNA, 2) Calculate your reservation value, 3) Assess your counterparty’s BATNA, 4) Calculate your counterparty’s reservation value, 5) Calculate the ZOPA (Zone Of Possible Agreement). Nothing prepares one for negotiation success better than a good acronym, it would appear.
- When it is ok to lie in negotiations: Never according to the authors. Lying is not worth the costs. Instead, we should focus our time and energy on honing our negotiation skills.
This book’s principal lesson is to gather as much information as possible and seek to create value (ideally for both parties) where possible. It is available in e-book, paperback, and audiobook.
Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It, Chris Voss
The Harvard stuff is all well and good but as Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator puts it; “have you ever tried to devise a mutually beneficial win-win solution with a guy who thinks he’s the messiah?” Indeed …. or in my world with a 4-year-old who won’t give you back the remote control. Here are four takeaways:
- Listen to your counterparty: Listening is the cheapest and most effective concession we can make. People want to be heard and understood. Listening intently demonstrates empathy and builds understanding. It is not how well you speak but how well you listen that determines the value of negotiation.
- You have more leverage than you think: A hostage’s family is the only customer for the commodity the kidnapper is selling, so they have more leverage than one might think. There are three types of leverage; 1) Positive: providing or withholding what the other side wants, 2) Negative: threat-based leverage that makes the other side worse off, 3) Normative leverage: Using norms and social standards to encourage consensus.
- Be open-minded: Hold multiple hypotheses and approach the process with a mindset of discovery. The goal is to gather as much as you can. According to the author; “until you know what you’re dealing with, you don’t know what you’re dealing with”.
- Prepare a negotiation “One Sheet”: This sheet should include; 1) The goal: focus on the best outcome, not the BATNA, 2) Summarise the known facts that have led to the negotiation, 3) Prepare a list of “Labels” (verbal observations of your counterparty’s feelings), 4) Prepare a list of calibrated questions, 5) Prepare a list of non-cash solutions.
Makes sense. Now to put all of that into action, reclaim the remote control and end the My Little Pony reign of terror. Available in all formats.
What Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand About Negotiation, Deepak Malhotra and Jonathan Powell, Harvard Business Review, 2016
In 2016 Jonathon Powell (former British chief negotiator in Northern Ireland) and Negotiation Genius author Deepak Malhotra predicted that Donald Trump’s combative negotiation style would see him fail to deliver meaningful political agreements. Here are two takeaways:
- Don’t use ultimatums: Ultimatums create unnecessary barriers to negotiation and often escalate tensions, entrenching positions and making it difficult to find common ground.
- Even the most generous proposals will be rebuffed if your opponent loses face by accepting them: Belittling and embarrassing counterparties ensure that they can never reframe your proposals as any type of victory. They are therefore more inclined to walk away from the negotiating table.
Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Lab: Margaret Anne Neale
Stanford professor Margaret Anne Neale believes; “If you really want to win at negotiation, stop fighting and start listening.” Here are two takeaways:
- Power plays a role: A 1960’s study found differences between male/female and minority/non-minority negotiators. The study was replicated in the 1980s and no differences were found. The researchers attributed this to societal developments and the presence of power as an unmeasured variable in the initial studies. Power, they suggested, plays a greater role than demography in explaining differences in negotiation styles.
- Complex negotiation is not a sum-zero game: Substantive agreements are based on both sides working collaboratively to find creative and mutually beneficial solutions.
This podcast is well worth a listen. Here’s the link.
Nightcrawler, 2014: Negotiation Scene
In this scene from the movie, Nightcrawler Lou negotiates the sale of exclusive footage to Nina, a TV station manager. Here are two takeaways:
- Start with an extreme anchor: All negotiations begin with a “No”. Getting to No is often the first step in getting to Yes. Lou sets his price at €100k and the negotiation begins.
- Be clear on your reservation price: The reservation price is the least favorable point at which you will accept a negotiated agreement. Based on his previous deals with Nina, Lou is very clear on what he feels his commodity is worth. He is willing to walk away if this reservation value is not met.
It’s been a very tough year for people running retail, food, and hospitality businesses. More than ever these local businesses need our support. If you’re looking for Christmas present ideas and plan to keep it local this list of 400 online Irish retailers will help to get the juices flowing.
Thank you for reading our blog. Next month we will be discussing Habits.
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IDEA Box #8: Influence
Welcome to our November 2020 IDEA Box blog where we are discussing ‘Influence’. This month we discovered The Psychology of Persuasion, we found out how to Use Our Brains to influence others and learned How to Win Friends and Influence People.
This month’s article tells us What Great Leaders Need to Know About Influence, the podcast features former Apple chief brand evangelist Guy Kawasaki while the video is a must watch from Derren Brown.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion; Robert B. Cialdini
Influence is the classic book on persuasion. Cialdini explains why people say “yes” and how we can apply these understandings professionally and socially. Here are four takeaways:
- The rule of reciprocation: Did you ever wonder why Hare Krishna’s used to give out free flowers at American airports? It was a simple trick to influence people’s decision to make a donation. Humans feel obliged to return favours. This rule allowed our ancestors to share resources safe in the knowledge that they would be reciprocated later. While this principle is still important, the author suggests we should ignore manipulation attempts in disguise. Favours warrant favours in return, tricks do not.
- When negotiating start with an outrageous request: If we make a concession when negotiating our counterparty feels obliged to reciprocate. This is known as the “rejection-then-retreat strategy”. While this strategy makes sense, research has shown that there’s a limit to how extreme your opening position can be. If it’s too outrageous you’ll be seen as a bad faith negotiator. I was planning to underscore this point by including a recent example from the world of politics but I am literally spoilt for choice, so please insert your favourite political analogy here.
- Social proof: When we are uncertain we look for social proof. Sitcoms include ‘laugh tracks’ to make us laugh longer and more often …. even at the awful jokes. This principle is present in all walks of life from barmen who “seed” the tip jar to companies who claim products are “best sellers”. Furthermore, people who are similar to us can greatly influence our choices. The principle of social proof is, therefore, a crucial consideration when launching new products, services or ideas.
- The harder we have to work for something, the more we value it: A story surfaced last year regarding “hazing” rituals in the Trinity College Boat Club. Why do some clubs put new members through these rituals before inducting them into the group? Quite simply, if people go through the pain and effort to attain something they tend to place greater value on it and are more committed to the group. This applies in a wide range of settings …… but I don’t think I’ll try to join the boat club anytime soon.
Cialdini is the seminal expert in the rapidly expanding field of influence and persuasion. This book is very accessible and is a fascinating read for people in client/customer-facing roles. It’s available in all formats.
The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others, Tali Sharot
The Influential Mind explains the phenomenon of influence, how we can change other peoples’ minds, and how to recognize when we are being influenced. Here are four takeaways:
- To change others’ minds we need to align ourselves with them: Sharot identifies seven core elements that regulate a person’s thoughts and behavior and states; “an attempt to change someone’s mind will be successful if it aligns with the core elements that govern how we think — (these core elements are) priors (as in prior beliefs), emotion, incentives, agency, curiosity, state of mind, and other people.”
- Building common ground is necessary when looking to influence others: Instead of trying to prove others wrong, which will only encourage people to revert to prior beliefs, we should aim to find common ground; “Our instinct is to try to alter people’s beliefs and actions by introducing data to prove that we are right and they are wrong. It often fails. Instead, find arguments that rely on common ground.”
- Hope is usually better than fear: By positively framing our views we have a greater chance of success; “If you want someone to act quickly, promising a reward that elicits an anticipation of pleasure may be better than threatening them with a punishment that elicits an anticipation of pain.”
- Enhance people’s sense of control over the choices offered: Sharot argues you limit your chance to influence someone when you reduce their sense of control; “Understanding the delicate relationship humans have with control is fundamental for understanding influence. In order to affect another person, we need to overcome our own instinct for control and consider the other’s need for an agency.” I tried to put this into practice this week with my son who kept getting his hand stuck in a water bottle. After the eight attempts, I took it off him. Getting the control: agency balance right is a long and iterative process, it would seem.
We really enjoyed reading Sharot’s book this month which provides an excellent research-based study into how we influence those around us. We also enjoyed her Ted Talks. Here’s one on the optimism bias which is worth a look. The book is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie.
How to Win Friends and Influence People is probably the most widely read text on the topic of influence. More than 30 million copies have been sold since the book’s initial publication in 1936. Here are four learnings:
- Become genuinely interested in other people: According to the author, we all love a good listener, especially one that encourages us to talk about ourselves. Most people are preoccupied with what they themselves want to say and so barely listen to the other person. True listening means making a conscious effort to give the other person your full attention.
- Arguments cannot be won: Arguing makes no sense. If you lose, you lose the argument. If you win, the other person will resent you for having hurt their pride, so you will not have truly won them over. Often they may become more entrenched in their position. Instead, we should try to understand the other person’s position and focus on areas of mutual agreement.
- Don’t criticize, condemn or complain: According to the author; “Any fool can criticize, condemn or complain, and most fools do.” Carnegie believed it takes character and self-control to be forgiving and that this discipline pays significant dividends in our relationships with people.
- Be generous with praise Charles Schwab, an American steel magnate is referenced at several points in the text. He is quoted as having said; “I have yet to find the person, however great or exalted in their station who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than they would ever do under a spirit of criticism.”
This New Yorker article by Jessica Weisberg is worth a read if you are interested in how Carnegie’s lessons can be applied today. How to Win Friends and Influence People is available in all formats.
What Great Leaders Need to Know About Influence, Rebecca Newton, Forbes, 27th July 2016
The author states; “It’s easy to think that some people are naturally very influential when in reality influence is about skills.” Here are two takeaways:
- It’s not about charm: Influence is not about charm it’s about adaptability. Successful influencers adopt a range of different styles and techniques to suit the situation at hand. They are versatile and adaptable.
- It’s also not ONLY about rational persuasion: According to Newton; “Logic and sound arguments go a long way in influencing others towards the thinking and actions you would like them to adopt. But we can over-rely on rational persuasion in business. We need more than just to convince others of the business case for doing something. People need to want to work with us personally”
The Art of Influence: Guy Kawaski
Guy Kawasaki is a world-renowned thought leader who has focuses on capturing the hearts and minds of consumers. He is the former chief brand evangelist at Apple and the current chief brand evangelist at Canva. This podcast discusses the keys to influencing others and evangelizing products, causes, and yourself. Here are two takeaways:
- “Enchant” people: win over hearts and minds and convert people into believers of your product or idea. To do this “evangelists” must be; trustworthy, credible and the product they offer must be credible.
- Communication in a Covid age: Good communication is the bedrock of influence. To communicate effectively over virtual channels Guy recommends the following; look directly at the camera rather than the screen, set the camera higher than your face, and using an external microphone.
This is an interesting podcast from a highly regarded author and business leader. Listen to it here.
Derren Brown Tricks Advertisers with Subliminal Messaging
“Psychological illusionist” Derren Brown employs the tools of persuasion to masterful effect in this short video. Subliminal messaging, misdirection and behavioral psychology are combined to create an almost supernatural display. If we included two takeaways it would spoil the video. It’s only 5 minutes long. Check it out here.
The Real Deal & Focus Ireland
In October 2020 Fitzgerald Power, Renatus, and Bank of Ireland hosted The Real Deal. Matt Cooper spoke to Pat McCann and while the circumstances were different the themes of resilience and positivity were consistent with previous years. You can view the highlights here.
Following the event, Fitzgerald Power and our Real Deal partners took part in the Focus Ireland Shine a Light Campaign to raise much-needed funds and awareness for people impacted by homelessness. It’s a great cause and if you would like to support it you can do so here.
Thank you for reading our blog. Next month we will be discussing Negotiation.
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Welcome to our October 2020 IDEA Box blog where we are discussing ‘Entrepreneurship’. This month we learned The Hard Thing About Hard Things, found out why The E-Myth distorts our view of business ownership and discovered a little known business called Amazon that sells books etc.
This month’s article takes learnings from serial entrepreneur Suzy Batiz, our podcast features Elon Musk while Alibaba founder Jack Ma shares advice for entrepreneurs as part of a video interview.
And later this month the third instalment of The Real Deal will take place. On 15th October at 11am Matt Cooper will interview Pat McCann, CEO of Dalata Hotel Group and one of Ireland’s leading entrepreneurs. This live broadcast is a free event brought to you by Fitzgerald Power, Renatus and Bank of Ireland. We’d love you to attend. Get Your Free Ticket Here
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, Ben Horowitz
Every entrepreneur begins her company with a clear vision for success. You will create an amazing environment and hire the smartest people to join you. Together you will build a beautiful product that delights your customers and makes the world just a little bit better. It’s going to be absolutely amazing. Then, after working night and day to make your vision a reality you wake up to find that things did not go as planned. The things about hard things is that they are …. well ….. hard. Here are four takeaways:
- Create a great place to work: If your company is a great place to work your team can focus on their tasks safe in the knowledge that if they do a good job good things will happen to them and the company. If your company is a bad place to work your people will leave when things go wrong. Inevitably things will go wrong.
- Focus on what’s important: Take care of people, products and profits in that order. Horowitz believes; “Taking care of people is the most difficult of the three by far but if you don’t do it the other two won’t matter.”
- Realise that nobody cares: Spend zero time worrying about what you should have done and 100% of your time figuring out what you WILL do. Nobody cares about the excuses so just get on with it and run your company.
- Don’t quit: According to Horowitz; “Whenever I meet a successful CEO, I ask them how they did it. Mediocre CEOs point to their brilliant strategic moves or their intuitive business sense or a variety of other self-congratulatory explanations. The great CEOs tend to be markedly consistent in their answers. They all say, ‘I didn’t quit’.”
Horowitz states; “The first rule of entrepreneurship is there are no rules” which makes it sound a little like Fight Club. That aside, this book is full of entrepreneurial lessons that can be applied to any business. It’s available in all formats.
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, Brad Stone
Amazon.com started off delivering books through the mail. But Jeff Bezos wasn’t content with being a bookseller. He wanted Amazon to become The Everything Store, offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices. Here are four lessons for entrepreneurs:
- Believe in yourself: Bezos’s personality was central to driving Amazon forward, but it also meant avoidable mistakes were made; “During those misadventures, Bezos seemed unperturbed. If anything the setbacks made him push the company even harder into new territory. The word bold was used repeatedly. ‘We will make bold rather than timid investment decisions where we see a sufficient probability of gaining market leadership advantages,’ they wrote. ‘Some of these investments will pay off, others will not, and we will have learned another valuable lesson in either case.’”
- Set your values: Bezos was a hard and driven leader who insisted his team had similar values to his own; “They agreed on five core values and wrote them down on a whiteboard in a conference room: customer obsession, frugality, bias for action, ownership, and high bar for talent. Later Amazon would add a sixth value, innovation.”
- Reinforce these values through talent acquisition: Bezos believed that the company could only prosper by attracting a certain kind of person, one who likes to pioneer and invent; “former employees frequently complain that Amazon has the bureaucracy of a big company with the infrastructure and pace of a start-up. The people who do well at Amazon are often those who thrive in an adversarial atmosphere with almost constant friction.”
- Don’t procrastinate: Bezos showed a capacity to change course when the company was in crisis, and encouraged decisive action amongst his team; “Bezos instituted the ‘Just Do It’ award – an acknowledgment of an employee who did something notable on his own initiative, typically outside his primary job responsibilities. Even if the action turned out to be an egregious mistake, an employee could still earn the prize as long as he or she had taken risks and shown resourcefulness in the process.”
A fascinating study of one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. It’s available in paperback, eBook and audiobook.
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, Michael Gerber
E-Myth \ ‘e-,’mith\ n 1: the entrepreneurial myth: the myth that most people who start small businesses are entrepreneurs 2: the fatal assumption that an individual who understands the technical work of a business can successfully run a business that does that technical work. Here’s four learnings for business owners:
- Systemise your business: The system runs the business, the people run the system. If a business is to be truly scalable; discipline, standardisation and order must be the watch words. Gerber believes in applying the lessons of franchised systems to all businesses.
- Work on your business: It is important to work ON as well as IN your business. According to the author you must work on the strategic direction and vision of your business as well as servicing your customers. He identifies three distinct business personalities; The Entrepreneur, The Technician and The Manager, all of which are required to make a business successful.
- Focus on what’s important: How your business interacts with your customers is more important than what you sell.
- Understand what you are selling: The commodity is what your customer walks out with in her hand. The product is what she feels about your business. Nobody cares about commodities. People buy feelings.
Michael Gerber’s classic is a clarion call for business owners. It’s available in all formats.
Suzy Batiz’s Empire of Odor, Carina Chocano, The New Yorker, 28th October 2019
Batiz built a multi-million dollar business on the back of a strong work ethic, capacity to take risks, and a counter intuitive idea. As she developed her business she built her own brand by inculcating her values into her company. Here are two takeaways:
- Keep trying: Batiz had many incarnations before she achieved success; “Here’s a non-exhaustive list of her gambits: She’s sold exercise equipment; started a clothing line; opened a clothing store, a beauty salon, and a tanning salon; and sold cheap lingerie at a markup to strippers, until a club owner with three missing fingers demanded a percentage of her profits.”
- Believe in your idea: Batiz built her company after years of struggle. She had an ‘alive idea’ which, she said, means that it had an “energetic resonance” that aligned with her own. The company made a million dollars in its first year validating her personal belief.
You can check out the article here.
Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders: Elon Musk’s Vision For The Future
Elon Musk, one of the world’s most iconic entrepreneurs, discusses his journey from his first internet start-up to his vision to colonise Mars. Here are two takeaways:
- Your vision must excite people: Whether its team members or customers, trying to convince people to do things isn’t easy. Ask yourself what message you are trying to convey and how you can encourage engagement.
- Profits should not be the priority: If your purpose is correct profits will follow. Musk discusses the benefits of a purpose-driven company offering the term “usefulness optimisation’’ – is what we’re doing as useful as it could be? Our aim should be to make people’s lives better, even slightly.
This podcast is well worth checking out. Listen to it here.
Seven Pieces of Advice for a Successful Career (And Life): Jack Ma, South China Morning Post
Alibaba founder Jack Ma offers some advice to entrepreneurs in this short video. Here are two takeaways:
- Be yourself AND be first: Everybody is unique and has something different to offer. Being the best is not important, it is being first that counts.
- Opportunities lie in challenges: There will always be challenges and opportunities. If you can solve the challenge you will be successful. The bigger the challenge the bigger the opportunity.
You can view the 4 minute video here.
Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso had more in common than a shared talent for artistic endeavour. Both understood the value of a good notebook. What better devices than a trusty pad and pencil when inspiration strikes?
Well plenty it turns out. If paper just doesn’t cut it anymore here’s a list of some of the best note taking apps to help you trap your entrepreneurial ideas for further dissection. Click here
Thank you for reading our blog. Next month we will be discussing Persuasion.
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Welcome to our September 2020 IDEA Box blog where we are pondering ‘Thinking’. This month we tried to think like Rocket Scientists, learned how to meditate like a Roman Emperor and discovered that social media is incompatible with Deep Work. Who knew??
This month’s article explains Transformative Experiences, our podcast tells us to Put Our Intuition on Ice while the video has us Thinking Positively.
We do love hearing from you so please keep sending in your suggestions. If you enjoy reading this blog, please follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn where we post additional nuggets of inspiration from the content we have reviewed each week.
Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life, Ozan Varol
We often laud rocket science as the pinnacle of humankind’s technological achievements but according to the author it’s not. It’s merely the result of a certain mind-set, a desire to solve the ‘unsolvable’ and imagine the ‘unimaginable’. Here are four takeaways:
1. Embrace uncertainty: Our yearning for certainty means we search for safe solutions, like the marketer who continually posts the same junk mail coupons expecting a different result. It is our ability to make the most of uncertainty that creates value.
2. Be different: The author believes that the five most dangerous words in the English language are; “everyone else is doing it”. Take a different path. There are more opportunities in the ditch than along the main road.
3. Moonshot thinking: Lions could easily catch mice but their calorific content doesn’t make it worthwhile. Catching an antelope is a moonshot but it provides food for days. We spend too much time chasing mice, playing not to lose rather than to win.
4. Near misses masquerade as successes: The Challenger shuttle crash, which resulted in the loss of seven lives, demonstrates that just because something has worked before doesn’t mean it will always work. Netflix realised this when they pivoted from sending DVDs by post to streaming content. The company’s DVD postal service was merely a tactic. The strategy was to dominate the home entertainment market.
So, eh … it’s not rocket science then. This is a great read with advice that is both accessible and actionable. It’s available in all formats.
How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, Donald Robertson
The author believes that reason is our greatest gift and our greatest burden. In the modern world we are in a constant state of fight or flight. Donaldson suggests that thinking like Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius can help to change this physiological response. Here are four takeaways:
1. Clarity vs. catastrophe: According to the stoic philosopher Epictetus; “What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.” Or to distil that sentiment – it’s not things that upset us but our judgement of those things. We determine the value we assign to objects and events which we should view objectively without catastrophizing.
2. Gratitude: According to Donaldson the wise person is grateful for the gifts she has, recognising that they are merely on loan. Marcus remained grateful for external benefits without becoming reliant and attached to them. This allowed him to focus clearly on what was important.
3. Accountability: Marcus always tasked someone within his inner circle with holding him accountable to his ideals. He was aware of his blind spots and regularly sought out constructive criticism.
4. Speak plainly: Plain speaking brings two profound changes in one’s thinking; (1) simple language leads to a better, clearer understanding of the truth, (2) plain speaking removes value judgments which may elicit emotional responses.
This book is packed full of clever quotes like; “only a madman seeks figs in winter” which I plan to annoy people with in my local pub when it reopens. I enjoyed this book so much that I actually reread it once I’d finished. It’s available in paperback, eBook and audiobook.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport
The author draws the distinction between deep work; tasks that create value and are hard to replicate, and shallow work; tasks that rarely create value, are easy to replicate and are often performed while distracted. He argues that to succeed in today’s information economy you need to produce your best work. Here’s how to think and work deeply:
1. Create a routine: The elements of a deep work routine are; (1) location, (2) duration, (3) structure (e.g. my phone will be turned off and I will write 1,000 words for IDEA Box), and (4) requirements (e.g. drinking water, headphones and concentration music).
2. Schedule your day: Arrange your day into blocks of time assigning appropriate activities to each block. You should aim to group shallow work tasks together, like answering email and returning phone calls while leaving sufficient time for deep work and thought.
3. Eliminate distractions: The author suggests that email is; “the quintessential shallow activity (and) is particularly insidious in its grip on most knowledge workers’ attention”. He has a similar view of social media. If you plan to think and work deeply you need to remove these distractions.
4. Practice productive meditation: Newport claims; “The goal of productive meditation is to take a period in which you’re occupied physically but not mentally—walking, jogging, driving, showering—and focus your attention on a single well-defined professional problem”.
The world is literally screaming for our attention. This book shows how we can regain focus and boost productivity. It also includes the line; “think like an artist but work like an accountant” which I’ll try to apply to this weekend’s finger painting. It’s available in all formats.
How Should We Make the Most Important Decisions of Our Lives? Laurie A. Paul, Slate, 5th March 2015
We often only learn what we need to know after we make big decisions and after the consequences of the decision has potentially changed us. Laurie Paul discusses the idea of transformative experiences and how we should think about decision making under extreme uncertainty.
1. Transformative experiences: A transformative experience, such as having a child or changing religion, is an experience that; “is both radically new to you and that changes you in a deep and fundamental way”. Paul notes that; “many of life’s biggest decisions involve choices to have experiences that teach us things we cannot know about from any other source but the experience itself.”
2. Making a rational decision about transformative experiences: Rather than focusing on a specific personal outcome, Paul suggests considering the value of “revelation” by weighing the value of becoming a different person against the value of remaining the same person.
The Knowledge Project: Putting Your Intuition on Ice, Daniel Kahneman
This interview with Daniel Kahneman, psychologist, Nobel laureate and author of ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’, reveals the actions we can take to overcome the biases that cripple our decision, dampen our thinking and limit our effectiveness. Here are two takeaways:
1. Intuitive views get in the way of clear thinking: We have intuitive views of almost everything. As soon as a problem is presented we have ready-made answers which make us wildly overconfident of what we know and reluctant to accept that we may be wrong.
2. We spend most of our time confirming our intuitions instead of collecting evidence: Kahneman believes we should delay intuition by focusing analytically on the separate dimensions of the problem. This will make us think in a more rounded way. Unfortunately society demands quick decisions.
Positive thinking: Alison Ledgerwood, Ted Talks
Social psychologist Alison Ledgerwood shares simple tricks to remove negative thinking and focus on the upside. Here are two takeaways:
1. Negative thinking is instinctive: According to Ledgerwood once we think about something negatively it is difficult to change this perception. It’s easy to go from good to bad, but far harder to shift from bad to good.
2. Overcoming our innate predilection towards the negative: Ledgerwood offers the following tips; (1) write for a few minutes each day about things that you’re grateful for, (2) share and discuss positive news with others, and (3) be aware that “bad tends to stick” so consciously focus on breaking the cycle.
Walk this way
According to Friedrich Nietzsche; “Only ideas won by walking have any value”. It is widely accepted that walking, and the shift it facilities to subconscious thinking, is a fundamental element of problem solving. With that in mind here’s a list of some of Ireland’s most beautiful walks, trails and hikes.
If you’re looking for a bigger list this app by Irish tech start up Hiiker is a great resource that covers pretty much every walk and trail in the country.
And while you’re out walking you’ll have plenty of time to think about who sang the original versions of the songs on our Covers playlist.
Thank you for reading our blog. Next month we will be discussing Entrepreneurship.
Rest and Recovery
Welcome to our August 2020 IDEA Box blog where we are discussing ‘Rest and Recovery’. We have reviewed books – Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, The Body by Bill Bryson and Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness.
This month’s article, which is from the Harvard Business Review, explains why we shouldn’t work on holiday. Our podcast looks at the science behind sleep and high performance while the video suggests that stress can be good …… because we do like these blogs to be balanced. We’d love to hear from you so please keep sending in your suggestions. If you enjoy reading this blog, please follow us on Twitter where we post additional nuggets of inspiration from the content we have reviewed each week.
Why We Sleep; Matthew Walker
I was given this book by my mother who thinks I don’t get enough sleep. She means well so I didn’t point out that if she really wanted to make a positive impact on my sleep, she would take my kids for the bank holiday weekend. Here are four takeaways:
1. Sleep more: According to the WHO there is a global sleep loss epidemic which is causing a myriad of health and psychiatric issues, particularly in developed nations. We never fully recoup the benefits of lost sleep.
2. Morning larks and night owls: Genetics determines whether we prefer to wake and work early or sleep late and work into the night. The problem for owls is that the modern world has been designed for larks. So, the next time you’re late for an early morning meeting blame your genetically predetermined chronotype.
3. Sleep deprivation: Allowing or dosage the impact of sleep deprivation on concentration and motor skills can be akin to alcohol.
4. Tips for a better night’s sleep: Walker believes that sticking to a sleep schedule is the most important change we can make to get a better night’s sleep. Limiting caffeine, alcohol and large meals before bed, getting more exercise and leaving your phone out of the bedroom also help.
This book proves that I should listen to my mother, which is probably why she gave it to me in the first place. It’s available in paperback, eBook and audiobook.
The Body: A Guide for Occupants, Bill Bryson
In his latest book Bill Bryson tours the human body showing that many unanswered physiological questions remain. Here are four takeaways:
1. The impact of lifestyle: We are now more likely to die from conditions connected to lifestyle than from communicable diseases.
2. Evolutionary mismatch: This might be in part due to an evolutionary mismatch from out hunter gatherer roots. We eat too much and exercise too little, which may be the result of evolving in a world of scarcity while now living in one of plenty.
3. Sleep is probably important: Bryson says that sleep; “consolidates memories, restores hormonal balance and resets the immune system” and that “If sleep does not serve an absolutely vital function, then it is the biggest mistake the evolutionary process has ever made.”
4. The role of modern medicine: Bryson believes that the empathy and common sense of medical professionals can be just as important as technologically sophisticated equipment.
Peak Performance, Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness
The authors believe that improving performance isn’t simply a matter of working hard. To be truly productive and to avoid burnout you also need rest, routine and purpose. Here are four takeaways:
1. Stress is good but mindset is key: Consider the weight lifter or university student who toil with physical and mental challenges before achieving growth. If you view stress as a positive experience you will be much better equipped to manage it.
2. Rest is essential: Why do we get some of our best ideas when walking, showering or sleeping? When we stop trying our subconscious mind kicks in allowing our brains to pull random information out of storage. This is where creativity is born.
3. The power of routine: A great performer will not merely hope to be on top of her game. She will actively cultivate an environment and routine that will help her to do her best.
4. Purpose: Having a sense of purpose can help you transcend self-imposed limitations
This book, which is grounded in research, has lots of ideas for improving performance. It is available in paperback eBook and audio formats.
Don’t Work on Vacation. Seriously, Laura M. Giurge and Kaitlin Woolley, Harvard Business Review 22nd July, 2020
The authors argue that working over holidays can lead to disillusionment and reduce productivity. This particularly pertinent given post-covid work/life balance disruption. Here are two takeaways:
- Intrinsic motivation is important: According to the authors; “spending weekends or holidays working undermines one of the most important factors that determines whether people persist in their work: intrinsic motivation. When they engage in work during time that they think of as leisure time, such as the weekend, they experience conflict between their expectations and reality, and as a result, they find their work less engaging and less meaningful.”
- Have time away from work: We should aim to build a wall between our free time and work time. “Whether we enjoy the work we do is shaped not only by the type of activities we engage in, but also by when we engage in these activities.”
HBR Ideacast: The Science Behind Sleep and High Performance
Marc Effron looks at the impact of sleep, exercise and nutrition on high performance. Here are two takeaways:
1. Lack of sleep leads to a fundamental skills deterioration: Inadequate sleep leads to the deterioration of fundamental skills like remembering names or where your car keys are.
2. Everyone has an ideal level of sleep which can’t be changed: The default position of a high performer is to do whatever he can to gain an edge. There are always shortcuts such as reducing sleep and “borrowing” these hours for work. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work like that!
This podcast is well worth a listen. Here’s the link.
How to Make Stress Your Friend, Kelly McGonigal, Ted Talk, June 2013
Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal discusses how stress can make us stronger, smarter and happier – if we learn how to change our perception of it. Here are two takeaways:
1. Harness the energy from stress: Stress causes your body to bring more glucose to your muscles and more oxygen to your brain. This reaction makes you more energetic and helps you think clearer if you can mentally shift your perception of stress.
2. It’s all about communication: Your body pumps out the hormone Oxytocin (also known as the cuddle hormone) when under stress which is a natural anti-inflammatory and helps protect your cardiovascular system. McGonigal claims; “Oxytocin is enhanced by social contact and social support. So when you reach out to others under stress, either to seek support or to help someone else, you release more of this hormone, your stress response becomes healthier, and you actually recover faster from stress”.
I think I’ll send this video to my mother. You can view the Ted Talk here.
Staycation: A clean getaway
So if you’re looking for somewhere to unwind here’s a list of the most unusual places you can stay in Ireland.
This staycation playlist might help you switch off as you travel to your destination.
Now ….. to try and offload my children on an unsuspecting family member for the weekend.
Thank you for reading our blog. Next month we will be discussing Thinking.
Planning in Uncertain Times
Welcome to our July 2020 IDEA Box blog where we are discussing ‘Planning in Uncertain Times’. We have reviewed books from Nassim Taleb, Philip Tetlock and poker superstar Annie Duke.
This month’s article, which profiles Angela Merkel, is from The New Yorker while the podcast is from the Cautionary Tales series and our video looks at the Eisenhower matrix. We’d love to hear from you so please keep sending in your suggestions. If you enjoy reading this blog, please follow our Twitter and LinkedIn pages where we post additional nuggets of inspiration from the content we have reviewed each week.
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Nassim Nicholas Taleb
According to Taleb when the gap between what we know and what we think we know becomes dangerously wide the ‘Black Swan’ is produced. A black swan is a highly improbable event that carries a massive impact. Here are four takeaways:
1. Confirmation bias: If you are a person living in Europe just before the discovery of Australia all the swans you will have seen in your lifetime will have been white. Hence you believe that all swans are white. One unfortunate day you are sent to Australia for stealing half a head of cabbage and you encounter a black swan. Your belief system is shattered. We have a tendency to believe what we see and create unconfirmed generalisations based on this evidence, such as all swans are white.
2. The narrative fallacy: We have a limited ability to look at sequences of facts without weaving them together in an explanatory narrative or forcing them together in a “logical” link. Consider my four year old. She believes that the virtual assistants Siri and Alexa are married and take turns answering her queries based on their childcare commitments. We create stories to explain what we don’t understand.
3. The impact of the black swan on planning: Generally speaking we are good at predicting the ordinary but not the irregular. The question, according to Taleb, is not how often you are right but by how much. Most forecasts overlook large outlandish events.
4. Planning for black swans: The author states; “I am very aggressive when I can gain exposure to positive black swans and when a failure would be a very small movement. I am very conservative when I am under threat from a negative black swan.”
This book is a fascinating study, particularly given the times we are living through. It is available in paperback and audio book.
Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t have all the Facts, Annie Duke
Drawing on her experience as a poker player, Annie Duke suggests a methodology for making better decisions. Duke believes poker, with its emphasis on time pressured, uncertain bets provides the perfect laboratory for discovering innovative approaches to effective decision making. Here are four takeaways:
1. Challenge your beliefs: The author believes we should be open-minded with those who disagree with us, take responsibility where it’s appropriate and try to counter our own biases. As she puts it; “Confirmatory thought amplifies bias”.
2. Acknowledge uncertainty: Dealing honestly with uncertainty means you will be less likely to succumb to motivated reasoning and so will make more accurate predictions.
3. Update your opinions for new evidence: According to Duke, poker teaches us to update our beliefs in real time as every decision we make has the potential to have material real time costs.
4. Making bets: Duke thinks we should approach decisions like bets. We should be willing to make a falsifiable prediction on an outcome while quantifying our level of uncertainty. The more objective we are, the more accurate our beliefs become; “An unwanted result doesn’t make our decision wrong if we thought about the alternatives and probabilities in advance”.
This is a great read from one of the world’s best known poker players. It is available in paperback and audio book.
Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, Philip E. Tetlock & Dan Gardner
Tetlock was responsible for the rather depressing discovery that the average expert forecaster is no better at predictions than a dart-throwing chimp. On a more positive note, however, he has also identified a group of forecasters that generally perform better than other primates. This book examines what makes the so-called Superforecasters better. Here are four takeaways:
1. Measurement: The authors quote Bill Gates; “I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. You can achieve amazing progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal. This may seem pretty basic, but it is amazing to me how often it is not done and how hard it is to get right.”
2. Perspective: Superforecasters take the outside view plus the inside view to create a synthesised view. They then seek different perspectives to challenge the hypothesis and avoid confirmation bias.
3. Active open mindedness: Beliefs are hypotheses to be challenged, not treasures to be guarded. When the facts change we need to avoid ‘belief perseverance’ and react accordingly.
4. The leader’s dilemma: How can leaders reconcile the requirement to be confident and decisive while showing the flexibility and humility required to accurately forecast? The answer, according to the authors, is to think like a Prussian general. Helmuth von Moltke coined the phrase “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. He trusted his team to adapt his plans to the circumstances they faced in the field.
This book is packed full of practical advice to make us better planners. It is available in paperback and audio formats.
The Quiet German: The Astonishing Rise of Angela Merkel, The Most Powerful Woman in the World, The New Yorker, 24th November 2014
For us Irish she’s a bit like the fussy metaphorical friend who insists on collecting you from the party before you get too drunk ….. which might be no harm. Merkel’s East German, Cold War upbringing and training as a scientist provided Germany’s first female chancellor with the skill set required to plan in uncertain times. Here are two takeaways:
- Take an analytical approach: Merkel adopts an analytical approach to problem solving. “She is about the best analyst of any given situation that I could imagine,” according to a senior official in her government.
- Be pragmatic: Life in East Germany made Merkel pragmatic. According to The New Yorker; “being East German gave her advantages: she had learned self-discipline, strength of will, and silence as essential tools”.
Cautionary Tales: You Have Reached Your Destination, Tim Harford
This excellent podcast series was recommended by an IDEA Box reader. In this episode Harford points to our over reliance on computer programs and math formulas to help us plan and navigate our world. Here are two takeaways:
1. Challenge preconceived ideas: Challenge yourself by asking “do I really understand the situation?” When challenged your understanding may be shallower than you realised. Harford calls this “the illusion of explanatory depth”.
2. Debate leads to better plans: Different individuals bring different perspectives. If differing views are aired, considered and debated a better solution may emerge.
The Eisenhower Matrix, Cody McClain
According to Dwight D. Eisenhower; “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything”. He developed a simple matrix which allowed him to focus on what was most important. Here are two takeaways:
1. Arrange and prioritise tasks: Distinguishing between ‘urgent’ and ‘important’ tasks helps us compartmentalise our thoughts and make better decisions.
2. Delegate: Suggesting a better person for the job means improved teamwork and more time for you to complete important tasks.
While sometimes considered an unsophisticated US president, Eisenhower was extremely effective. Had the Cold War period been marshalled by the current incumbent this newsletter would probably be in Russian. This video by Cody McLain explains how the Eisenhower Matrix works.
Fail to plan, plan to fail
Benjamin Franklin contributed that now hackneyed phrase to popular lexicon. One can only surmise what the former slave owner, turned slavery abolitionist, would think of America’s progress on racial integration in the 230 years since his death.
Effective planning may have been a barrier to progress. According to Martin Luther King Jr., writing in The Atlantic in 1967, America’s modern day race issues were partly caused by a chronic failure to plan for the mass migration of black Americans from rural locations to cities. The result was ghettoization, segregation, and discrimination.
That these incidents occurred 25 years before the savage beating of Rodney King, and 52 years before George Floyd’s death highlights just how slow progress has been.
This month our corporate finance manager Johnny, or more accurately his wife Oonagh, has put together a Protest Playlist …… we do like to drag everyone into our little projects!
Thank you for reading our blog. Next month we will be discussing Rest and Recovery.