Saturday, 25 of October of 2014

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MindLab: We’ve been down this road before (part 2)

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As a young man history classes bored me. Now they fascinate me.

  • America’s first depression occured in 1819 when the government sold large tracts of land and provided “easy” credit. Hmmm, sounds like 2008.
  • We sing the praises of Silicon Valley (and worry about its competition) in the first part of the 21st century. Akron Ohio was a technolgy center at the beginning of the 20th century — for tires. Hmmm, maybe there is something to learn.
  • The sheet music publishing industry was rocked on its heel by the intrusion of the Victrola (record player) into homes around the country. The book publishing industry is being rocked by the intrusion of tablets into the homes and hands of people around the world. Hmmm, maybe they should lead the parade instead of watching the parade go by.

History isn’t so boring after all.


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MindLab: What gets in your way?

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I was reading some medical history over the weekend and came across a couple of interesting tidbits.

  • When the stethoscope was invented, many doctors refused to adapt it because it “got between them and their patients.” They liked the tried and true way of putting their ear to the patient’s chest.
  • Surgeons often rejected the early use of antiseptics because it slowed them down. It seems that the mark of a “good” surgeon in the early to mid-1800s was how fast they could perform an amputation.

Question: What new tool or technique are you rejecting because it “gets in your way?”

 


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MindLab: take time to (honestly) reflect

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The post-Christmas, pre-New Year time tends to be a bit slower for many of us. Take some time to reflect on the past year and honestly assess your role in both the successes and challenges of your team or business. What did you do (for better or worse) that impacted the performance of the people around you.

Reflecting is a hard-won skill found in people who are really trying to prepare for their future. It’s one of the eight skills I highlighted in my first book and it’s one of the top three skills least  used in most businesses. We have plenty of reasons for not reflecting (too busy is top-most) but no real excuses. It something we need to do if we want to improve.

The past is the past — spend a few minutes thinking about what you did right and wrong in 2011 and get ready for 2012. More adventures lie ahead of you. Happy New Year.


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MindLab: Hold a quarterly “surprise me” meeting

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I have a friend who regularly (about once per quarter) holds a team meeting with a single agenda item: Surprise me!

She knows that sooner or later she’s going to be surprised about her business. So she holds these meetings in order to get surprised by her team (and then do something about it) before she gets surprised by her competitors.

The meeting rules are pretty simple. She goes from team member to team member to see if they have something that might surprise her. If they bring up a topic that she’s aware of she simply thanks them and  then goes on to the next person. If someone surprises her (tells her something she doesn’t know about the business) she rewards them with a big bag of M&Ms.

The meeting is good for her — she learns something new — and the meeting is good for her team — they know she values their observations.

All of us have too much to do and, consequently, we often miss changes in the competitive landscape. Take a risk — get surprised by your team. It may be very valuable.


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MindLab: We’ve been down this road before

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George Santayana, the poet and philosopher stated: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Rufus Fears, my favorite history teacher, states: “One of the lessons of history is that we don’t learn from history.”

Unfortunately, both seem to be right on the mark. We’ve had tulip bubbles, dot-com bubbles, real estate bubbles, and, I’m sure, we will fall prey to another bubble in the future. Likewise, lifecycles are destiny and every product, every company, and every career will eventually mature and go into decline. And yet we are continually surprised when it happens.

Today’s Chicago Tribune has an article by Phil Rosenthal about the ten year anniversary of Enron’s bankruptcy. Ten years!!! Where does the time go and what have we learned?  Well, considering the reality of Tyco, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Bernie Madoff and MF Global, we’ve learned that George and Rufus are still right.

What might this mean for me and you? Well, as part of today’s MindLab exercise, let’s start by spending a few minutes on the following three questions:

  1. Do I spend time to even try to understand past events and “learn from history?”
  2. Can I list even three lessons that I need to apply to my thinking about today’s actions?
  3. How do these lessons affect my vision, values and goals?

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