Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Everything Else Comes After

Can you match the S.M.I.B.S.F. (Single Most Important Business Success Factor*) on the left with its description & source on the right?

  1. PASSION = John Hagel, et. al, The Power of Pull
  2. OWNERSHIP & SELF-ACCOUNTABILITY = Les McKeown, Predictable Success
  3. GUMPTION = Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
*a little clunky, no?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wasted 15 Minutes

30 MINUTES. That’s how much time I alotted the other day (“so long as nothin’ else goes sideways”) to learn as much as I could by perusing the ABOUT pages found at and respectively. I wanted to understand the objectives of the people involved, how their interests do or don’t jibe with mine, and how their overall approaches compare one-to-the-other.

Going in, I knew that the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX) and Unstructure were online platforms for exchanging ideas having to do with ‘speeding up’ the evolution of management. And that’s about it.

What I discovered is that the two groups /projects are similar in just about every significant way: 
  • ISSUE: Management is an important social technology, but one that needs a facelift – pronto.
  • RESPONSE: Provide an open source, i.e., democratic, environment in which anyone can contribute to new thinking about management's evolution.
  • HOPE: That actionable, helpful ideas will emerge.
There were a few differences. (One of the MIX Team Members, for example, is Gary Hamel – a rock star, as management thinkers go. The fact that discussions there are centered around his “Moonshots for Management” stands out.) But none of the differences were so earth shattering as to keep me from bookmarking both sites and thinking about participating. I was impressed.

The Rest Of The Story

My 15 minutes at were up, but there was one more link that had my attention. It lead me away from its ABOUT page onto one of its discussion forum pages and –

Boy, was I surprised to find out that the most recent post was well over two hundred days old! On further review, it now appears as though the whole site’s inactive. I don’t know what the deal is. Was there a merger with MIX? A stoppage? If Unstructure is no more, I’m sorry about that. Seems like a lot of effort and good intentions went into building it.

I s’pose there are many morals to the story. The first that comes to mind is this: 

I knew from the start I was taking a slight risk. I should have asked upfront: Are there tools or strategies I can deploy that'll prevent me from squandering up to 30 minutes unnecessarily? Had I done that, I would have remembered what the authors of The Power of Pull point out, that there are ways “to sort through the noise to find the signals that can guide us.”

Their advice? If you want the time and effort you invest in focusing on stuff to pay off, make return on attention a top priority. There are search and serendipity tools that can assist. Their book does a nice job of introducing some of them.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Imagined Conversation*

Guy in Charge [G]: Every single thing about our company is broken and I don’t know how to fix it.
Me [M]: Care for some advice?
[G]: I s’pose it couldn’t hurt.
[M]: I’m happy to give you my best guess as to what you need to do.
[G]: Well, I have fifteen – make that fourteen – minutes.
[M]: Okay then. Here goes. All good companies make tactical adjustments all the time to keep on track. But they have to have good tracks in the first place...
[G]: Huh? Could you be more cryptic?
[M]: Let me rephrase that. You undoubtedly need to make changes to your systems or processes to start heading in the right direction. Based on what you've told me before, though, I’m also willing to bet that the foundations of your business, the fundamental ways in which you and your team approach things, could use some shoring up. That's what I'm most interested in and where I can help.
[G]: Alright…
[M]: Le’ me ask you: How do you go about focusing on the quality of how your whole business operates as a system?** 
[G]: I’m not sure what you mean.
[M]: The most successful companies, it seems to me, cover all the bases. They stay on top of and adequately address everything that matters. They improve continually. And they do these things systematically.
[G]: You're talking about Fortune 500 companies?
[M]: Not only. Your company could do the same. I’d like to explore that possibility with you.
[G]: (Half nod in agreement)
[M]: May I show you something I’ve been working on? It’s not finished; there are some things I like about it and some things I don’t…
[G]: What is it?
[M]: I can't decide what to call it: a structural bookwork?*** a movable book? It uses paper engineering and specialty printing techniques. It's meant to be interactive and interesting to look at. For now, it represents the best way I can think of to facilitate the kinds of conversations I want to have with managers.
[G]: Go ahead and lay it on me. We have ten minutes. 
[M]: Cool. Say, do remember those paper fortune teller thingamajigs from when we were kids?

Top: view of the inside of my structural bookwork. Underneath (clockwise from upper left): paper fortune teller, scratch-off game card, pop-up cube (it's rubber band activated!) and wheel chart. Other fun components used but not pictured: magic window shade and circular pages hinged together in unexpected ways.

*based on actual conversations
**borrowed phrase from Chuck Cobb
***To see amazing and inspiring examples of structural bookworks and the like, check out book artist Julie Chen's portfolio at: -- or pop-up book master Robert Sabuda's site: