Strategy, Brand & Innovation – Achievers, Problems and Headaches

Great strategy and fantastic innovation, two of the biggest ideas out there, yet they are so difficult and illusive to actualize.

 

Strategy      

Strategy in its simplest form is nothing more than taking what you know right now, or even after you’ve done your due diligence and research and looking at what the market and economy is like for your area – your region. Then, projecting down the road, three months, six months or two years to see what your possible outcomes could be. You are strategizing to see if you can be successful at some point in the future.

And, yes, you do have to consider who will be your competition. That competition could be other direct competitors or it could come from firms who could, once they see your success, create a new division within their organization solely to compete with your business.

Having a very good Predictive Analysis (or Visual Analysis) solution will help immeasurably with this effort so you can see what you can do using a good Dashboard component. But if you cannot get your hands on that kind of software, then good ole thinking and brain storming is going to be your salvation.

You have to take your thinking seriously, very seriously. And make no mistake about it – it will be some considerable thinking on your (and your team) part.

 As you go through your thought processes, you have to plan ahead as far as feasible, while considering the multiple, possible stumbling blocks you ‘might’ come across. Part of the problem however, is getting buy-in from others on the team or a champion/sponsor from management and/or the executive staff.

Sometimes however, you will come across people who will ‘only’ want to use their thoughts and ideas. And this may occur at times when that ‘other’ will know that they are in the minority or are just wrong in some venture.  These individuals may be part of a culture of people who do not want to collaborate or be part of a team – they just ‘might’ prefer to see only their name on this or that project and are not willing to share any credit.

Beware of people who:

 — Do not want to collaborate

 — Intentionally lie to you just to get your input and ideas and do not share the ensuing credit

 — Listen to you (to patronize you) and then just throw your ideas out the window while continuing on with their own ideas

On the other hand, “ALWAYS” look for people who ‘want’ to strategize and collaborate together to maybe work on some innovative ideas. These are individuals who:

 — Are always asking others for thoughts and ideas to see if they are beneficial for an ongoing project

 — Do share the credit of success

 — Are willing to take on new team members

 — Are willing to listen (more later on)

 

Thinking

But let’s talk about thinking for a moment.  Thinking is a significant section of everything you do and it desires its’ rightful place.  You must think about what people are telling you, think about what you see and read – then form your conclusions based on what you have gathered.

What you’ve gathered may be conjecture, fanciful thoughts, concrete examples and rock solid facts – they will all add up and it falls to you, and your team, to remove the chaff from the needed bits of data.

You will need to have some periods of quietness, amidst the chaotic storms of many open-pit workplaces today, to do your solid thinking, free of distractions and disruptions. Very, very few people, these rare folks, are able to concentrate and block out everything around them for hours at a time. You might need to go to a quiet zone, if you are lucky enough at your firm to have these, or outside to a meditation area (again, lucky). But if you do not have access to these kinds of areas, it makes it difficult to have “quality” periods of thinking. You may have to wind up going to the lunch room or cafeteria, taking some supplies (pen and paper for sure) with you to work with. When you do go to the cafeteria, you will need ear plugs… Lastly, you are going to have to break in other employees that you want to be left alone if they see you are working and not there to shoot the breeze.

 

Critical thinking    

Then there is the necessary area of critical thinking. Not only do you have to do some quality thinking about what you see, hear and read – you have to do critical thinking at times.

You have to think, not just from your own viewpoint but also from the perspective of someone else.  You will at times need to put yourself in the shoes of others and then see:

 — What are the pros and cons of making decision A or decision B or decision X?

— Or, can we afford this, can we not afford that?

— What are the effects tomorrow, next week or a year from now?

— Roadblocks – are there any impending blockages that could rear up in the form of recalcitrant or contrarian people, a work environment not conducive to success or the lack of available tools needed for staff to be successful in getting your product out the door

You have to consider, critically, how the surrounding environment of wherever you work or where your product is intended for – what will the ensuing effect on creating your product or finishing your product.

You have to consider who is going to receive your product, the environment of where that customer(s) works and what that customer does in their daily lives. You do not want to create something that does not jive with the customer(s) expectations. You have to create your product specifically with that customer in mind. You have to be critical in thinking about what goes into your product.  Will that customer want a:

  — High level product or one full of details – will they appreciate it if you give/sell them both versions

  — Glossy, slick product that is eye catching

  — Product with a good balance of images and info or no

  — Product with only the exact requirements they requested or do you take a risk and provide more – this is a fine line here and you had best know your customer in order to get them the product they want or believe they want

 

Listening

Yes, you absolutely must listen with serious consideration to everyone around you rather than with just giving others a miniscule amount of attention or lip service to what they are saying or putting forth.

You need to listen to the experts as they give you their learned advice but – you need to take that advice and information with a grain of salt. The reason is that there are experts and there are experts, each of them may have a different perspective as to their knowledge. Their advice may vary little from other experts or it may vary radically. Sometimes, they do come together for one conclusion on some topic.

Then, there are others who may not be an expert in that field but may still have valuable information to share if you are willing to listen. It may be enough to tilt an entire decision process because that person may have sparked an even better idea.

Listening is an art form. If you look someone in the eye and are giving them your undivided attention as you listen to them – well, that makes you a winner. People want to be heard, even if you listen to them for two minutes. Those two minutes might mean the world to them and yes, the two minutes may have to come out of your busy schedule…

 

Creativity & Innovation

What can I say here?  Hmmmm…. 

How about this?  You have to push yourself to think differently. You have to recognize that you will need to get out of your comfort zone to gather ideas which could be counter to what you are used to.

You have to think of ways you can improve the work you are doing, the way you are doing it and how you engage with others in getting yours AND their tasks completed.  Sometimes you can gen up multiple ideas on your own – if you have a broad world view and have been exposed to many things throughout your life. But it may not be easy at first as you try to breech those thick, built up walls that have congealed over a lifetime.

You just need to start looking at things differently, thinking of ‘What if’ for what you see. Go watch a sci-fi movie or a zombie flick and let your mind wonder and ponder the possibilities of what you can take away from that movie, in using some piece of some scene you saw.

Or go to a park and watch how people go about their lives and look for something that someone is doing and see if a light bulb goes off in your head.

Get outside your usual zone and become serendipitous – visit other web sites you don’t normally go to, watch news programs you never go to in order to gain different perspectives, listen to some of the various shows on
TED or TEDx (science, sci-fi, educational, art, music, global environmental issues) – or go to museums to see what can spark your fancy to get your juices flowing…

You simply have to work at generating ideas – as many ideas as you can. Many good (and bad) useful and beneficial products come out of this cornucopia of ideas. It does not matter if they are good or goofy, as long as you generate them. Sooner or later one or three of them will be something worthwhile.

Being creative or innovative means you are not constrained to some previous idea and you only want to stick with it because you, YOU, are comfortable with it. That or your bosses are the ones who are holding things back… You have to have divergent thinking or be willing to work at having divergent thoughts and ideas to see what shakes loose from that money tree.

 

Image          

I include image because the idea that one “must” dress up in a suit and a tie, or skirt, blouse and jacket combo to be professional, well, I just find it preposterous (yep, an archaic and ancient word but it is one that is most apt).

One can be a successful professional in jeans and t-shirts, yes, you really can. But not torn jeans, fishnet t-shirt or tank tops.

It is about what you, you as an individual, convey in your mannerisms and your attitude as you go about getting things done and working with others. Clothing is only a small part of who you are. If others are focused on how you dress and how you look (good looks versus less than good looks) rather than how well you perform – the person doing the looking (and judging) is losing out on your productiveness and what your company can gain. Hopefully of course, you are not dressing up as a bum or a punk in ratty, torn clothing…

It is up to the company to convey to the customers how important your productivity is to the firm, more than how well you can dress – that makes the firm so successful.

 

Brand

In addition, it is also about your brand, your own brand – your reputation.  It is about how credible you come across to others in your professional and personal life. If you manage to come across with the attitude of:

 — Being confident, 

— Getting the job done,

— Being aggressive (not overbearing aggression) and

— Doing what you say you can do (and then doing a bit more than promised)

you will “always” be successful in making your image that much more credible and marketable.

If you are a productive and successful individual, it should never matter whether you are:

  — Older

  — Younger

  — Male or female

  — Of a different race or culture

  — Not as attractive

  — Gay or straight or even if

  — You talk differently (accent or not as educated as others)

None of these traits should matter if you are successful or if you show you are a high caliber worker / employee / staff member / team member. All that matters is if you can successfully engage with others or if you are willing to try to engage, continually trying to engage…

While you, the individual, have made your own brand successful, you in turn, will also make the firm you work for successful. That simply adds to a favorable brand for the firm…

 

Bottom Line

The bottom line is, is that you are all successful. Some people are more successful than others, in all kinds of situations. But to me, the most successful people are those who help others become successful. The successful bring others along with them on the successful ride, with the clear hopes and aspirations that it will continue for a long, long time.

All aboveboard, free of any and all subterfuge, free of any chicanery that many like to foist on others.

Being smart and/or having an Ivy League education are only part of the battle in strategy and innovation. You can have community college level education and still be successful. It is also about how you use what you know, what your team mates know and what the community knows of which you can borrow from mistakes already encountered and of knowledge already gained and put it to use in your firm.

Do not let the idea of you ‘not’ being creative or innovative slow you down; this is only a minor obstacle or problem you need to overcome. If you work at it, it will happen. You can be an achiever, you just need to work at it and show it in whatever you do. Failing at some task or project is only a minor impediment (or it should be). What is important is that you learn from that failure so you don’t do it again but can put it to great use the next time around.

Value

Value, or some method of valuation, is what should be the end result. You should show something that everyone can see the value of, even if others cannot see the value tomorrow – they may see it for what it is worth next month or next year.

However, sad as it is to say, it would be best if others can see the value of your strategic and innovative efforts tomorrow.

Successful Leadership

Strategy 

Creativity

Leadership

Type A individuals

Communication

Respect

Leaders

 

Successful Leadership

What does it take to be a successful leader eh? Is it being:

  • autocratic,
  • dictatorial,
  • never listening to anyone but yourself or
  • looking down your nose and patronizing everyone else

The answer as you might well know – is none of the above.

 

Being a successful leader encapsulates many, many things, too many to enumerate here. I am only including some of the more well-known and best indicators, in my eyes that is, from years of watching and observing other successful leaders.

Many people have written books on this topic and I only wanted to jot down brief notes on this. I do know there is far more that could have been included here.

 

Strategy 

Successful leaders need strategies to remain such a person for years to come. The best strategy is to listen to those around you, which is the very reason why you hired others.

  • Listening is the best medicine (strategy) but you could possibly adapt but you have to do it judiciously and with an open mind. You should listen, intently, to what others have to say but you must take everything with a grain of salt and judge whether what you heard makes any kind of sense and is potentially useful. You do not just dismiss everything others tell you. Listen to your junior staff members as well as your more experienced members – they just might surprise you with a relatively new or unique way of solving a problem or improving a product line.
  • Collaboration (a very favorite theme of mine) – a lot of folks talk a good game about this and working together with others but don’t wholeheartedly and actually follow through in the mistaken belief that they do not need anyone else to be successful, as if they always know the answers and solutions to problems/issues. Surprise, you do not, no one knows all the answers and here is where I say again, go back to the first bullet in this section – listen to others. But when you do collaborate, share the credit, better yet, parse out that credit to all the other members, let them have the lime light for the success and on the flip side, take the fall for failures – shield your team, your company from the bad spotlight, protect them.
  • Learning from failure – this one goes without saying or it should. We do not just become successful by being lucky, we also become successful when we fail and learn from that failure. As a leader, you have to let people fail and hope they ‘do’ learn from that failure rather than failing time after time and not learn anything, causing a serious loss of operating expenses… People sometimes need to fail and you, the leader, may have to bite your tongue and let it happen
  • Stop being reactive and try very, very hard to be proactive in all matters. Getting ahead of the curve, in as many areas as possible, is the best scenario to undertake.
  • Being innovative in as many ways as possible to boost your firms bottom line will show significant dividends in ways you may not have forecasted. Yes, you may have to spend more money upfront but – do you want to ‘not’ spend money upfront and waste your staff members’ productivity? If you provide for more ergonomic chairs, keyboards, more powerful PCs, better networking infrastructure (100Gbps links, better WAN optimization, document de-duplication [instead of everyone sending and resending the same doc to each other wasting bandwidth and server space], better lighting [full-spectrum instead of the mind and soul sapping depressing yellowish florescent and dull white] – I can just keep going on this one. Being innovative also means, for the brave, being disruptive to gain that edge – not reckless disruption but disruptive innovation that brings good, solid exponential growth
  • Being innovative might even mean, treating your staffs to surprise breakfast pastries now and then to perks such as training classes [the good classes and not just the plain vanilla boring CBTs they already know and not helpful to their careers]
  • Being empathetic to others who work for and with you is another perfect strategy – and not being standoffish, aloof or whatever else you may believe yourself to be
  • Look for creative sparks in others – in addition to when you are attempting to ignite creative juices of your own. Many believe they not do have that potentiality of being creative at times but they do, they all do. They, or you, just do not know what that moment of creativity will occur. You have to go with the flow and let serendipity take its course and encourage creativity

 

Creativity

Light up your creative juices and bring along all of the cognitive diversity skills that you can bring along. I mention this in the preceding section; get the creative juices flowing in your teams. Try to get them (and you too!) to be thinkers as well as doers in solving problems.

If you see people at their desks with their eyes closed, please don’t automatically assume they are sleeping… They might be trying to get to a sweet spot of thinking and creativity for whatever they are working on.

As it is, many, if not most, firms do not have quiet rooms or nap rooms where employees can take a break to get rejuvenated, away from hectic and chaotic environments.

 

Leadership

Leading is about listeningand being in charge, smartly.  It is about communication, insight, respect, integrity and ethics.

Leading is also about courage and by this I mean a leader must be willing to learn from others around him/her (I’ll just be using ‘his/he’ after this point). It is about being the ‘buck actually does stop here’ when things go wrong. Then too, it is about sharing the credit when things go right! Leading is about setting the right example! If you do a good job, those around you may like it and will attempt to emulate the examples you are setting. Trust me on this count, it does work – just do a good job. Don’t tell people to do what you do, just do a good job and others will likely follow your example(s).

Yes, you are the leader but, if you as a leader cannot learn from those around you, believing that you know all the answers – you have already failed. No one knows all the answers and you should not be afraid to listen and learn from those around you. This is your team. They are your backstops, just as you are theirs. You must also not blow smoke, beat around the bush, mislead or lie about things going on that affect your team, your customers. I am not saying your team is always right, of course not but, they may have an aspect that you could use. They, or you, may have an insight that could be useful for that project, that task or some effort down the road.

Being a good to great leader means being a thought leader too. You are what you present to the company, to your teams and to the public. It is in your demeanor, your character – the way you hold your head up when you walk and look others in the eye. And being loud, brash and outspoken is not always the best way of leading – many successful leaders are quiet and understated…

Being a successful leader means that you are not afraid to listen to those who may be smarter than you, in multiple areas, yet you still listen to their input. And it should not matter who these folks are, whether they: have a different sexual preference than you do, are older/younger, nerds, of a different race or male or female. They all have a voice and a voice that might mean the difference to success for the organization.

Being a leader means that your handshake and word is your bond – at least that is what it means to others I have encountered over the years and for myself. It is too bad that so many people around the world have sullied that aspect, reducing it to lip service, rendering it meaningless in lots of circles.

By this I mean those folks who say they have an MBA to gain a leadership role in some firm when they do not, they only lied about it and were eventually found out later. Or those who state they have a Masters’ or even a Doctorate when they only made it up and printed out the certificates at home. These individuals make promises that they have no intention of keeping or knowing full well that they cannot come close to some successful agreement. These people are simply braggarts.

You may have read or heard me talk about integrity and ethics before (many times) but I cannot emphasize these enough. These two are corner stones of what makes an individual and leaders specifically must have these two aspects. To me, they are not only corner stones but are the foundational bedrock of a person.

For the time being, as we all observe daily, we still have ethics issues around the country… In all levels of life!

 

Type A individuals – we don’t always need or want an individual who will drive themselves into the ground, or worse, drive those around them into the ground needlessly (or worse still – intentionally). Sure, some of them end up being very successful, while many do not. And look at the cost of these folks.

Many of us have seen and worked for this type of person. We have far too many Type A’s ruining the lives of others or causing those team members to leave that company for what is hopefully a better workplace elsewhere. These Type A’s are individuals who think they know all the answers while no one else does. Or that no one else really matters. To these Type A’s, the end goal is everything – no matter what transpires in getting to the goal.

As a result, the staff working for that leader may end up providing answers the leader wants to hear and not the answers that should have been provided. Just to keep the leader happy.

Why can’t we have more Type A leaders who actively use moderation? We need leaders who are willing to critically listen to feedback and possible answers and use that information, not just toss it out when that team member leaves the room. We need leaders that can recognize when they are stressing out their team and others around them. We need leaders that can recognize when to slow activities down and when there is the need to move things along a bit faster.

 

Communication

All good leaders have got to learn or know how to communicate, whether it is speaking or writing – a good leader has “got” to know how to communicate to the team; subordinate, equals and that person’s own leadership.

Good communication means that that leader conveys valuable, timely and effective information to all who needs it by ensuring that:

a) The communication has “got” to include enough nuances to ensure the message is coming across as intended.

b) That leader knows his audience and is aware of how he crafts his message(s) to ensure it is received as intended (see below).

c) That leader needs to determine how best to craft and send his message because some people in the audience prefer written information, while others prefer getting that same info verbally – or even visually.

Sometimes, saying more is too much. Sometimes, saying too little is bad. The point is, one has to be aware when one is talking too much as well as being aware when the message is not coming across to the various levels of the audience.

By that last statement, I mean that, as much as is possible, one has to know who they are addressing;

1) Educational levels of the audience,

2) Cultural backgrounds,

3) Age ranges,

4) Economic levels,

5) Gender

6) Etc.

Sometimes, delivering bad news info requires that a leader will also need to know how to do that eloquently, elegantly, respectfully and with dignity…

 

Then we come to Respect.

Respect is a two way street but it has to be earned. I personally am happy with everyone using first names, regardless of titles, as long as everyone respects the position they are in and that others hold. Respect should be earned and not used without any forethought.

I ‘do’ realize these are my own observations and desires but they are ideas and ideals I prefer. As a result, I continually try to get those around me to try to follow these principles:

a) Show respect to each other, and yourself, as much and as often as possible – do not take others for granted,

b) Listen, constantly and consciously, not as an afterthought,

c) Show courage, especially when you have failed in some task or endeavor – you only learn from your mistakes, you ‘must’ learn from your mistakes to grow

d) Provide insight, useful insight, whenever possible to ongoing tasks – use some of that cognitive diversity that each of us has (we all have different learning’s, different backgrounds and different experiences) that can prove beneficial and most of all

e) Leaders encourage others to speak up, especially the shy team members, the non-confident team members so their voices too can be heard.

 

Leaders

Leaders also know right from wrong – or they should, even though we continue to see so many leaders in the news around the world with their hands in the cookie jar or doing something so egregiously wrong.

We probably need more ethics classes, not just in college but in high school, junior high and likely, even grade school. It should be a mandatory class/course – and repeated a couple of times along the educational track, using real world examples. And yes, I need to say it, we need to expand ethics classes/courses in the workplace – private companies, city, state and federal organizations too, that is, those not currently doing so.
Successful leaders are not made up of liars and those who do not give 100% of themselves. These successful leaders engage and share and collaborate (yep, I used it again) and they look to the future and not just the right here and right now…

GREAT leaders have ethics and character and useful charisma, the type that encourages others from all walks of life to follow them without asking them to. Not the fake charisma where the individual in question is only looking out after their fortunes and not helping others.

GREAT leaders tell you the truth, even when it is bad news. GREAT leaders make time to talk to the mail room clerks, the front desk receptionist and even have good words with the cleaning staff.

GREAT leaders treat all those around them with dignity and respect because others are people too, people who like being respected and listened to.

GREAT leaders help others become successful.

Change – the world, yourself and others around you

Originally posted July 29, 2013 @ http://patrick642.wordpress.com/ Change. Improve. Innovate. Be better.
~ Pressing issues, from cyber security, to strategy, to innovation, to improvements (self, others, organizations)

Today is the day that everyone needs to start changing their mindsets. There are too many problems in the world we need to focus on rather than ever so many individuals pointing to themselves and saying “look at me, I’m important – I’m the hottest thing going!”

There is health care, even if you are a 20something in super shape – are you prepared for an unknown catastrophic emergency that you cannot pay for? All because you believe you’re invulnerable. This is not about right now, but rather, it is down the road when you ‘will’ need health coverage. Are you willing to take that gamble of not paying for health care because you ‘believe’ you will not need it? Then when something happens, are you willing to grovel and beseech those around to give you a helping hand with health care….?

There is education, we have to improve education for all and ensure that the low end of the spectrum can access that education and catch up with others who were privileged from day 1 to have access to the best education.

We have low wage earnerswhen corporations are raking in profits fist over fist, to satisfy shareholders. Don’t get me wrong, shareholders should earn a profit for their investments. But don’t the workers also deserve to share in that bounty since it is their efforts that is making the business in question successful? It seems like we’re going back to the days of Henry Ford, when he had to look after his workers so they could afford to purchase what they were producing.

Fracking. Hydraulic Fracturing. It seems that natural gas drilling is spreading around the world. Now, I’m no expert but from everything I’ve been reading and viewing, we’re letting companies kill off communities and contaminate the ground water tables (from all the various chemicals being forced underground) and contaminating the air we breathe (escaping methane from well heads). At one point, I had believed that because the wells were being drilled so far underground that there would be no possibility of escaping chemicals. But, little did I know that the cement casings around the wells fail, and fail often, allowing chemicals to leak through at various depths. The oil and gas companies are forcing families and communities to sign NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) to keep a lid on the problems resulting from the leaking chemicals and gases. I don’t believe one needs to be an expert to see the dangers of this occurring around the world, all one has to do is look at the evidence. These companies are taking over vast acreages of our countryside to drill all these thousands of wells and bringing in water by truck to replenish families drinking water… Green land and tracts of trees are being destroyed so these companies can drill their wells. And we, the people of this country (or other countries) do not get to see a reduction in gas prices because they are shipping the gas outside the U.S. to other more profitable markets so they can increase their own profits (oh, and shareholders).

Cybersecurity– we have got to improve our country’s Internet security and those of our allies to stop cyber crime. How hard is it for ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to throttle or just kill off (drop in the bit bucket) traffic that should only remain within internal networks. That is, IPs with leading octet of 10. or 192. – any traffic beginning with that address range should remain within the internal network and should never cross the Internet at large. That would kill off massive amounts of spam and other malicious traffic. Having a national clearing house of malicious threats, in the cloud for everyone to pull from, would help everyone learn of malicious activity immediately and in turn allows for some smart individual(s) to get a fix and post it to the cloud to circumvent that malicious threat immediately. This is not  a pie in the sky fix. There has been talk of cloud cyber security for some years now, starting with talk from college research students using a Beowulf network set up. This is catching on somewhat with companies like McAfee and Immunet(sp?).

Equality– women and minorities. We have to get to the point of paying everyone what they are worth and that starts with equal pay. If two people are doing the same job, they should be getting the same pay, especially if they have similar educational backgrounds and experience. Just because someone is a different gender, race or even sexual preference – that should not stop them from receiving the same pay. The days of any ‘ole boys network’ is over. It really should be over….

Innovation. We have individuals like Bill Gates who is willing to give up money to save the lives of others around the world. Why can’t we innovate in this country to improve our infrastructure (roads, bridges, power plants), or to lower the cost of energy. Why can’t some wind turbine (wind mill) company (somewhere) combine solar cell technology with the wind mills? If the nacelles around the top of the wind mill could house some of the more super efficient solar cells on the market (flexible and efficacy) – the wind mill blades could provide power all day. When there is no wind, the solar cells could provide the necessary energy to power the blades. There is wind, the blades spin. How hard could this be? Of course the blades should have the super-efficient lubricant that is used in the LBT (Large Binocular Telescope) that allows one person to easily move the LBT. And then too, the wind mill should have super-efficient gearing to allow for better torque. To me, this seems a no-brainer but this has to start with some wind mill/turbine manufacturer, someone bold enough to innovate this tech.

We also have to be innovative in how we work, in how we travel, in how we communicate. There is a great deal in we can successfully do to innovate and improve our lots in life.

Race. Well, on this topic alone I could go on for a while but I’ve put enough here for now.  Suffice it to say, we have to move beyond race in our daily lives.