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January 2018

3 posts from February 2018

Why, why, why... a strategy for focusing innovation to what matters most

#MonkeyFirst refers to the strategy of focusing on the biggest challenge of an innovation project. ("If you want to get a monkey to recite Shakespeare on a pedestal, you start by training the monkey, not building the pedestal.")

"Why, why, why" is a strategy for identifying the big challenges. 

Inc.: Google's Genius Productivity Hack Will Change How You Innovate, 2018-Jan-14 by Greg Satell

Talia Milgrom-Elcott of 100Kin10 points out that we have to change the way we approach problems. "You have to keep asking 'why?' Keep asking why and you start to see connections that lead to root causes that have enormous leverage and that's where you need to focus your efforts," she says.

And that's why taking a #MonkeyFirst approach is so important. Tackling the hardest problems first forces us to ask better questions and those questions can lead to vastly different approaches. Some of these will be blind alleys that lead to nowhere, but others will be game changers and permanently shift our ability to compete.

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Loyalty versus fealty

When I became more interested in marketing to customers instead of attracting new customers, I began to study the concept of loyalty. I wanted to understand what motivates people to be loyal and how their behavior can change over time and circumstances. I've come to the conclusion that loyalty can improve our lives, making support easier to find and decisions easier to make. 

Reciprocal benefits for both parties in a loyalty relationship are key. We find it difficult to be loyal to someone who has been disloyal to us. However, simple tit-for-tat behavior is not loyalty. Loyalty implies trust and commitment that enriches a relationship. Family members have a private history that builds loyalty (or not). When people make sacrifices for one another, then loyalty gets stronger. 

Fealty, or guaranteed faithfulness, demands supportive behavior from the follower toward their leader across all circumstances. We don't expect this is business, and we shouldn't in politics, either. Coerced loyalty is a nice name for blackmail, but someone who demands fealty will not hesitate to use it. 

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Get better job feedback by asking "What can I do to contribute more?"

Several years ago I tried to get a co-worker to share some feedback about my performance, but he avoided it like the plague. I now realize that I made the whole process too risky for him. To find out how others see us, we need to ask simple, frequent questions that allow them to help us. "Why" and "how" can be too confusing and emotionally charged. "What" questions are easier to answer and more likely to produce information we can use. 

HBR: What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It), 2018-Jan-4 by Tasha Eurich

My research team scoured hundreds of pages of interview transcripts with highly self-aware people to see if they approached introspection differently. Indeed, there was a clear pattern: Although the word “why” appeared fewer than 150 times, the word “what” appeared more than 1,000 times.

Therefore, to increase productive self-insight and decrease unproductive rumination, we should ask what, not why. “What” questions help us stay objective, future-focused, and empowered to act on our new insights.

For example, consider Jose, an entertainment industry veteran we interviewed, who hated his job. Where many would have gotten stuck thinking “Why do I feel so terrible?,” he asked, “What are the situations that make me feel terrible, and what do they have in common?” He realized that he’d never be happy in that career, and it gave him the courage to pursue a new and far more fulfilling one in wealth management.

Similarly, Robin, a customer service leader who was new to her job, needed to understand a piece of negative feedback she’d gotten from an employee. Instead of asking “Why did you say this about me?,” Robin inquired, “What are the steps I need to take in the future to do a better job?” This helped them move to solutions rather than focusing on the unproductive patterns of the past.

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