Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
If your team or company isn’t thriving with innovation, it’s not a big surprise.
In the book, Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs, Larry Keeley, Helen Walters, Ryan Pikkel, and Brian Quinn explain what holds innovation back.
Goofy innovation techniques are at least one part of the puzzle.
What holds innovation back is that many people still use goofy innovation techniques that either don’t work in practice, or aren’t very pragmatic. For example “brainstorming” often leads to collaboration fixation.
Via Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs:
“Part of the Innovation Revolution is rooted in superior tradecraft: better ways to innovate that are suited for tougher problems. Yet most teams are stuck using goofy techniques that have been discredited long ago. This book is part of a new vanguard, a small group of leading thinkers who see innovation as urgent and essential, who know it needs to be cracked as a deep discipline and subjected to the same rigors as any other management science.”
The good news is that there are many innovation techniques that do work.
If you’re stuck in a rut, and wondering how to get innovation going, then abandon the goofy innovation techniques, and cast a wider net to find some of the approaches that actually do. For example, Dr. Tony McCaffrey suggests “brainswarming.” (Here is a video of brainswarming.) Or check out the book, Blue Ocean Strategy, for a pragmatic approach to strategic market disruption.
Innovate in your approach to innovation.
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“Remember this: Anticipation is the ultimate power. Losers react; leaders anticipate.” – Tony Robbins
Have you ever noticed how some leaders have a knack for "the art of the possible" and for making it relevant to the current landscape?
They are Visionary Leaders and they practice Visionary Leadership.
Visionary Leaders inspire us and show us how we can change the world, at least our slice of it, and create the change we want to be.
Visionary Leaders see things early and they connect the dots.
Visionary Leaders luck their way into the future. They practice looking ahead for what's pertinent and what's probable.
Visionary Leaders also practice telling stories. They tell stories of the future and how all the dots connect in a meaningful way.
And they put those stories of the future into context. They don't tell disjointed stories, or focus on flavor-of-the-month fads. That's what Trend Hoppers do.
Instead, Visionary Leaders focus on meaningful trends and insights that will play a role in shaping the future in a relevant way.
Visionary leaders tell us compelling stories of the future in a way that motivates us to take action and to make the most of what's coming our way.
Historians, on the other hand, tell us compelling stories of the past.
They excite us with stories about how we've "been there, and done that."
By contrast, Visionary Leaders win our hearts and minds with "the art of the possible" and inspire us to co-create the future, and to use future insights to own our destiny.
And Followers, well, they follow.
Not because they don't see some things coming. But because they don't see things early enough, and they don't turn what they see into well-developed stories with coherence.
If you want to build your capacity for vision and develop your skills as a Visionary Leader, start to pay attention to signs of the future and connect the dots in a meaningful way.
With great practice, comes great progress, and progressing even a little in Visionary Leadership can make a world of difference for you and those around you.
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“Startups don't win by attacking. They win by transcending. There are exceptions of course, but usually the way to win is to race ahead, not to stop and fight.” -- Paul Graham
A startup is the largest group of people you can convince to build a different future.
Whether you launch a startup inside a big company or launch a startup as a new entity, there are a few things that determine the strength of the startup: a sense of mission, space to think, new thinking, and the ability to do work.
The more clarity you have around Startup Thinking, the more effective you can be whether you are starting startups inside our outside of a big company.
In the book, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, Peter Thiel shares his thoughts about Startup Thinking.
It’s the mission. A startup has an advantage when there is a sense of mission that everybody lives and breathes. The mission shapes the attitudes and the actions that drive towards meaningful outcomes.
Via Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future:
“New technology tends to come from new ventures--startups. From the Founding Fathers in politics to the Royal Society in science to Fairchild Semiconductor's ‘traitorous eight’ in business, small groups of people bound together by a sense of mission have changed the world for the better. The easiest explanation for this is negative: it's hard to develop new things in big organizations, and it's even harder to do it by yourself. Bureaucratic hierarchies move slowly, and entrenched interests shy away from risk.”
One strength of a startup is the ability to actually do work. With other people. Rather than just talk about it, plan for it, and signal about it, a startup can actually make things happen.
“In the most dysfunctional organizations, signaling that work is being done becomes a better strategy for career advancement than actually doing work (if this describes your company, you should quit now). At the other extreme, a lone genius might create a classic work of art or literature, but he could never create an entire industry. Startups operate on the principle that you need to work with other people to get stuff done, but you also need to stay small enough so that you actually can.”
The strength of a startup is new thinking. New thinking is even more valuable than agility. Startups provide the space to think.
“Positively defined, a startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future. A new company's most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size affords space to think. This book is about the questions you must ask and answer to succeed in the business of doing new things: what follows is not a manual or a record of knowledge but an exercise in thinking. Because that is what a startup has to do: question received ideas and rethink business from scratch.”
Do you have stinking thinking or do you beautiful mind?
New thinking will take you places.
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"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." -- John C. Maxwell
How many people do you know that talk a good talk, but don’t walk the walk?
Or, how many people do you know have a bunch of ideas that you know will never see the light of day? They can pontificate all day long, but the idea of turning those ideas into work that could be done, is foreign to them.
Or, how many people do you know can plan all day long, but their plan is nothing more than a list of things that will never happen? Worse, maybe they turn it into a team sport, and everybody participates in the planning process of all the outcomes, ideas and work that will never happen. (And, who exactly wants to be accountable for that?)
It doesn’t need to be this way.
A lot of people have Hidden Strengths they can develop into Learned Strengths. And one of the most important bucket of strengths is Leading Implementation.
Leading Implementation is a set of leadership skills for making things happen.
It includes the following leadership skills:
Let’s say you want to work on these leadership skills. The first thing you need to know is that these are not elusive skills reserved exclusively for the elite.
No, these are commonly Hidden Strengths that you and others around you already have, and they just need to be developed.
If you don’t think you are good at any of these, then before you rule yourself out, and scratch them off your list, you need to ask yourself some key reflective questions:
I’ve seen far too many starving artists and unproductive artists, as well as mad scientists, that had brilliant ideas that they couldn’t turn into reality. While some were lucky to pair with the right partners and bring their ideas to live, I’ve actually seen another pattern of productive artists.
They develop some of the basic leadership skills in themselves to improve their ability to execute.
Not only are they more effective on the job, but they are happier with their ability to express their ideas and turn their ideas into action.
Even better, when they partner with somebody who has strong execution, they amplify their impact even more because they have a better understanding and appreciation of what it takes to execute ideas.
Like talk, ideas are cheap.
The market rewards execution.
What is Agile Results all about? What are the most important keys to using Agile Results to master productivity, time management, and work-life balance?
If you've ever wondered what Getting Results the Agile Way is all about, or want to know how to make the most of the book, this is it. I answer these questions and more in my interview with The Entrepreneur's Library on Getting Results the Agile Way:
Interview with The Entrepreneur's Library on Agile Results
In this interview, Wade Danielson, the creator of The Entrepreneur’s Library, asks me the following questions:
Wade also gives me a chance to give a walkthrough of the book, Getting Results the Agile Way, where I explain how to make the most of the book, and what each section is really about.
It’s a unique chance to get the philosophy behind Agile Results and why it’s really a personal results system for work and life. It’s not a system that you break yourself against. Instead, it’s a simple system for meaningful results that supports you and the way you work. It helps you optimize your productivity by focusing on the wins that matter, playing to your strengths, and using your best energy for your best results.
An amazing thing happens when you become more focused and productive …
You get more out of life.
And you can get more done in a day than other people get done all week.
A while back I put together a comprehensive collection of leadership quotes. It’s a combination of the wisdom of the ages + modern sages. It was time for a revamp. Here it is:
The Great Leadership Quotes Collection
It's a serious collection of leadership quotes and includes lessons from the likes of John Maxwell, Jim Rohn, Lao Tzu, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and more.
John Maxwell said it best when he defined leadership as influence. Tom Peters added a powerful twist to leadership when he said that leadership is not about creating followers—it’s about creating more leaders.
I like to think of leadership in terms of incremental spheres of influence starting with personal or self-leadership, followed by team leadership, followed by organizational leadership, etc. Effectively, you can expand your sphere of influence, but none of it really works, if you can’t lead yourself first.
I also like to think about the various aspects of leadership, such as Courage, Challenges, Character, Communication, Connection, Conviction, Credibility, Encouragement, Failure, Fear, Heart, Influence, Inspiration, Learning, Self-Leadership, Servant-Leadership, Teamwork, and Vision. As such, I’ve used these categories to help put the leadership quotes into a meaningful collection with simple themes.
I’ve also included special sections on What is Leadership, Leadership Defined, and Leading by Example.
While I haven’t counted the leadership quotes, there are a lot. But they are well-organized and easy to scan. You’ll notice how the names of famous people that said the leadership quote will pop out at you. I bolded the names for extra impact and to help you quickly jump to interesting people, to see what they have to say about the art and science of leadership.
I bet you can find at least three leadership quotes that you can use on a daily basis to think a little better, feel a little better, or do a little better.
For those of you that think that leadership is something that other people do, or something that gets done to you, or that leadership is a position, I’ll share the words of John Maxwell on this topic:
“A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” — John Maxwell
In fact, if you’ve never seen it before or need a quick reminder that everyone is a leader, this is a great video that makes the point hit home:
Everyone is a Leader
It’s one of those cool, simple, cartoon videos that shows how leadership is everyone’s job and that without that philosophy, people, systems, organizations, etc. all fail.
The world moves too fast and things change too much to wait for somebody at the top to tell you what to do. The closer you are to where the action is, the more context you have, and the more insight you can use to make better decisions and get better results.
Leadership is a body of principles, patterns, and practices that you can use to empower yourself, and others, with skill.
Just like a Jedi, your force gets stronger the more you use it.
But always remember the surprise about leadership – the more you give your power away, the more power that comes back to you.
It’s not Karma. It’s caring. And it’s contagious.
(As Brian Tracy would say, the three C’s of leadership are Consideration,Caring,and Courtesy.)
Well, maybe it is like Karma in that what goes around, comes around, and leadership amplifies when you share it with people and help everyone become all that they are capable of.
Stand strong when tested, and lead yourself from the inside out.
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“Knowing others is intelligence. Knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” -- Lao Tzu
A while back I put together a comprehensive collection of personal development quotes. It’s a combination of the wisdom of the ages + modern sages. It was time for a revamp. Here it is:
The Great Personal Development Quotes Collection
It's a serious collection of personal development quotes and includes lessons from the likes of Buddha, Covey, Emerson, Gandhi, Robbins, Ziglar, and more.
Personal development is a process for life where you improve your awareness, your skills, your abilities, and your potential. Personal development shapes your growth by developing your strengths, reducing your liabilities, and expanding what you’re capable of.
You improve your potential through self-awareness, habits, practice, and feedback.
A big part of personal development is simply awareness. For example, when you know your Myers & Briggs Personality Type, you gain insight into whether you outwardly or inwardly focused, how you prefer to take in information, how you prefer to make decisions, and how you prefer to live your outer life.
Aside from better understanding your own patterns, you can also use it to understand other people’s behavior preferences, and you can adapt your style. If you see somebody staring blankly at you during your presentation, it doesn’t mean they aren’t engaged. They might just be an introvert processing the information in their own quiet way.
If you know your Conflict Style, you can tailor and adapt it to the situation, as well as better understand the mode that others are operating in.
There are many models and tools for self-awareness, but the goal is the same: learn how to be more effective in more situations based on your individual strengths, abilities, and experience.
Personal development is a verb. You need to take action. All the knowledge in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t apply it. Even thoughts are habits that we haven’t learned how to measure. When you apply what you learn, you can adjust what you learn based on feedback and results.
If you keep in mind that personal development is about continuously improving your thinking, feeling, and doing, then it’s easier to stay focused and to evaluate your results.
You can also approach personal development in a number of ways. Just like martial arts, there are hard-styles and there are soft-styles. In my experience, it helps to balance and blend hard-core skill building along with building the soft skills, especially interpersonal skills and your emotional intelligence.
If you want to grow, you have to believe you can.
If you adopt a Growth Mindset, you can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area of work and life.
In the book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, author Carol Dweck shares a lot of science and stories around how our mindset limits or enables our growth. If we believe that our abilities are fixed traits, and that we are either good or bad at something, then we have a Fixed Mindset.
If, on the other hand, you believe that you can get better through skills development, then you have a Growth Mindset.
If you’ve ever been in any sort of elite training, or specialized skills development or had a great mentor that provides deep feedback, it should be more than obvious to you how much growth and greatness is possible.
So if you have a Growth Mindset, and you practice personal development, and you develop your self-awareness, then what will hold you back?
Simple. The inability or lack of willingness for you to change your approach.
Darwin taught us that nature favors the flexible and Einstein said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.
And yet, how many people get stuck in a rut or hold themselves back through limiting thought patterns or behaviors?
One of the greatest things you can possible do for your future success is to learn how to change your approach with skill.
I could say so much more about personal development but at this point, I’d rather share what some of the greatest giants in personal development have had to say.
Use The Great Personal Development Quotes Collection to stand on the shoulders of giants, and see further, as you look inward and upward.
And if you want a jumpstart in agile personal development, check out my best-selling book on productivity: Getting Results the Agile Way. It’s a simple system for meaningful results, and it’s a way to use personal development to think better, feel better, and do better in all areas of your life.
When you need to make things happen, motivational quotes can help you dig deep and get going.
I put together a very comprehensive collection of the world’s best motivational quotes a while back.
It was time for a refresh. Here it is:
Motivational Quotes – The Great Motivational Quotes Collection
Imagine motivational wisdom of the ages and modern sages right at your fingertips all on one page. I included motivational quotes from Bruce Lee, Tony Robbins, Winston Churchill, Waldo Emerson, Jim Rohn, and more.
See if you can find at least three motivational quotes that you can take with you on the road of life, to help you deal with setbacks and challenges, and to unleash your inner-awesome.
I’ll start you off. If you don’t already have these in your personal motivational quotes collection, here are a few that I draw from often:
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” — Winston Churchill
“When it’s time to die, let us not discover that we have never lived.” -Henry David Thoreau
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”— Howard Thurman
How’s that for a starter set?
You can train your brain with motivational mantras. Our thoughts are habits. If you want to build better thought habits, then feed on some of the best motivational quotes of all time.
“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Positive thinking won’t let you do anything but it will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” -– Zig Ziglar
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you train yourself well, you won’t entirely eliminate motivational setbacks, but you’ll be able to defeat procrastination, and you’ll be able to bounce back faster when you find yourself in a slump. Motivation is a skill you can build, and it will serve you well, in work and life.
The most important motivational concept to hold on to is the idea that you create your future. Or, as Wayne Dyer puts it:
“Go for it now. The future is promised to no one.”
So go for the bold, and get your game face on.
If you need some help kick-starting your fire, stroll through the motivational quotes a few times until something really sinks in or clicks for you. Life’s better with the right words, and there are just the right words already out there, just waiting to be found.
Enjoy and take your time sifting through the Motivational Quotes – The Great Motivational Quotes Collection.
Also, if you have a favorite motivational quote that I don’t have listed, let me know.
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I was reading the IT Showcase’s page on the Cloud platform.
I really liked the simple little story around why we are moving to the Cloud:
“Three words: Agility, economics and innovation. Cloud technology satisfies the CEO's desire for greater business agility, the CFO's desire to streamline operations, and the CMO's desire for a more innovative way to engage customers.”
Some people move to the Cloud because they see an ROI play. Others move because they see opportunity cost. Others move simply because they don’t want to be left behind.
The most common reason I see is business agility and to stay relevant in today’s world.
People are using the Cloud to re-imagine the customer experience, transform the workforce and employee productivity, and to transform operations and back-office activities.
In all cases, these transformations lead to business-model innovation and new opportunities to create and capture value.
Value is a moving target and the Cloud can help you stay in the game.
Are you in the game?
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How has the Cloud changed your world?
One of the ways we challenge people is to ask, do you want to move to the Cloud, use the Cloud, or be the Cloud?
But to answer that well, you need to really be grounded in your vision for the future, and the role you wan to play.
The Cloud creates a brave new world. It enables and powers the Digital Economy.
Businesses need to cross the Cloud chasm (and some don’t make it) in an effort to stay relevant and to be what’s next.
Businesses need to re-imagine themselves and explore the art of the possible.
Business leaders and IT leaders need to help others forge their way forward in the Digital Frontier.
And it all starts with a story.
A story that inspires the hearts and minds so people can wrap their head around the challenge and the change.
I think Satya says the Microsoft story for the Cloud in a very simple and compelling way:
"We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more." -- Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO
That’s a pretty simple and yet pretty powerful and compelling story of why do we do what we do.
It’s a great way to re-imagine and inspire our transformation to a productivity and platform company in a Mobile-first, Cloud-first world. And, it’s a very simple story around productivity and empowerment that inspires and drives people in various roles and responsibilities to co-create the future in a profound way.
What is your simple story for how you re-imagine you or your business in a Mobile-First, Cloud-First world?
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“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” -- Zig Ziglar
Here is my collection of 101 Proven Practices for Focus. It still needs work to improve it, but I wanted to shared it, as is, because focus is one of the most important skills we can develop for work and life.
Focus is the backbone of personal effectiveness, personal development, productivity, time management, leadership skills, and just about anything that matters. Focus is a key ingredient to helping us achieve the things we set out to do, and to learn the things we need to learn.
Without focus, we can’t achieve great results.
I have a very healthy respect for the power of focus to amplify impact, to create amazing breakthroughs, and to make things happen.
Long ago one of my most impactful mentors said that focus is what separates the best from the rest. In all of his experience, what exceptional people had, that others did not, was focus.
Here are a few relevant definitions of focus: A main purpose or interest. A center of interest or activity. Close or narrow attention; concentration.
I think of focus simply as the skill or ability to direct and hold our attention.
Too many people think of focus as something either you are good at, or you are not. It’s just like delayed gratification.
Focus is a skill you can build.
Focus is actually a skill and you can develop it. In fact, you can develop it quite a bit. For example, I helped a colleague get themselves off of their ADD medication by learning some new ways to retrain their brain. It turned out that the medication only helped so much, the side effects sucked, and in the end, what they really needed was coping mechanisms for their mind, to better direct and hold their attention.
Here’s the surprise, though. You can actually learn how to direct your attention very quickly. Simply ask new questions. You can direct your attention by asking questions. If you want to change your focus, change the question.
Here is a list of the 101 Proven Practices for Focus:
When you go through the 101 Proven Practices for Focus, don’t expect it to be perfect. It’s a work in progress. Some of the practices for focus need to be fleshed out better. There is also some duplication and overlap, as I re-organize the list and find better ways to group and label ideas.
In the future, I’m going to revamp this collection to have some more precision, better naming, and some links to relevant quotes, and some science where possible. There is a lot more relevant science that explains why some of these techniques work, and why some work so well.
What’s important is that you find the practices that resonate for you, and the things that you can actually practice.
You might find that from all the practices, only one or two really resonate, or help you change your game. And, that’s great. The idea of having a large list to select from is that it’s more to choose from. The bigger your toolbox, the more you can choose the right tool for the job. If you only have a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.
If you don’t consider yourself an expert in focus, that’s fine. Everybody has to start somewhere. In fact, you might even use one of the practices to help you get better: Rate your focus each day.
Simply rate yourself, on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is awesome and 1 means you’re a squirrel with a sugar high, dazed and confused, and chasing all the shiny objects that come into site. And then see if your focus improves over the course of a week.
If you adopt just one practice, try either Align your focus and your values or Ask new questions to change your focus.
At the bottom of the 101 Proven Practices for Focus, you’ll find the standard sharing buttons for social media to make it easier to share.
Share it with friends, family, your world, the world.
The ability to focus is really a challenge for a lot of people. The answer to improve your attention and focus is through proven practices, techniques, and skill building. Too many people hope the answer lies in a pill, but pills don’t teach you skills.
Even if you struggle a bit in the beginning, remind yourself that growth feels awkward. You' will get better with practice. Practice deliberately. In fact, the side benefit of focusing on improving your focus, is, well, you guessed it … you’ll improve your focus.
What we focus on expands, and the more we focus our attention, and apply deliberate practice, the deeper our ability to focus will grow.
Grow your focus with skill.
The Great Motivational Quotes Revamped
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Business change is tough. Just try it at Cloud speed, and you’ll know what I mean.
That said, digital business transformation is reshaping companies and industries around the world, at a rapid rate.
If you don’t cross the Cloud chasm, and learn how to play in the new digital economy, you might just get left behind.
Sadly, not every executive has a digital vision.
That’s a big deal because the pattern here is that successful digital business transformation starts at the top of the company. And it starts with digital vision.
But just having a digital vision is not enough.
It has to be a shared transformative digital vision. Not a mandate, but a shared digital vision from the top, that’s led and made real by the people in the middle and lower levels.
In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share how successful companies and executives drive digital business transformation through shared transformative digital visions.
You need a digital vision at the top. Otherwise, it’s like pushing rocks uphill. Worse, not everybody will be in the game, or know what position they play, or even how to play the game.
Via Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation:
“The changes being wrought through digital transformation are real. Yet, even when leaders see the digital threats and opportunity, employees may need to be convinced. Many employees feel they are paid to do a job, not to change that job. And they have lived through big initiatives in the past that failed to turn into reality. To many, digital transformations is either irrelevant or just another passing fad. Still other people may not understand how the change affects their jobs or how they might make the transition.”
Digital business transformation must be led. Senior executives are in the right position to create a compelling future all up, and communicate it across the board.
“Our research shows that successful digital transformation starts at the top of the company. Only the senior-most executives can create a compelling vision of the future and communicate it throughout the organization. Then people in the middle and lower levels can make the vision a reality. Managers can redesign process, workers can start to work differently, and everyone can identify new ways to meet the vision. This kind of change doesn't happen through simple mandate. It must be led.
Among the companies we studied, none have created true digital transformation through a bottom-up approach. Some executives have changed their parts of the business--for example, product design and supply chain at Nike--but the executives stopped at the boundaries of their business units. Changing part of your business is not enough. Often, the real benefits of transformation come from seeing potential synergies across silos and then creating conditions through which everyone can unlock that value. Only senior executives are positioned to drive this kind of boundary-spanning change.”
As the business landscape is reshaping, you are either a disruptor or the disrupted. The Digital Masters that are creating the disruption in their business and in their industries have shared digital visions, and re-imagine their business for a mobile-first, Cloud-first world, and a new digital economy.
“So how prevalent is digital vision? In our global survey of 431 executives in 391 companies, only 42 percent said that their senior executive had a digital vision. Only 35 percent said the vision was shared among senior and middle managers. These numbers are surprisingly low, given the rapid rate at which digital transformation is reshaping companies and industries. But the low overall numbers mask an important distinction. Digital Masters have a shared digital vision, while others do not.
Among the Digital Masters that we surveyed, 82 percent agreed that their senior leaders shared a common vision of digital transformation, and 71 percent said it was shared between senior and middle managers. The picture is quite different for firms outside our Digital Masters category, where less than 30 percent said their senior leaders had a shared digital vision and only 17 percent said the shared vision extended to middle management.”
It’s bad enough that many executives don’t have a shared digital vision. But what makes it worse, is that even fewer have a transformative digital vision, which is the key to success in the digital frontier.
“But having a shared digital vision is not quite enough. Many organizations fail to capture the full potential of digital technologies because their leaders lack a truly transformative vision of the digital future. On average, only 31 percent of our respondents said that they had a vision which represented radical change, and 41 percent said their vision crossed internal organizational units. Digital Masters were far more transformative in their vision, with two-thirds agreeing they had a radical vision, and 82 percent agreeing their vision crossed organizational silos. Meanwhile, nonmasters were far less transformative in their visions.”
Where there is no vision, the businesses perish.
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"In a battle between two ideas, the best one doesn't necessarily win. No, the idea that wins is the one with the most fearless heretic behind it." -- Seth Godin
One leadership idea can change your life in an instant.
Like the right key, the right leadership idea can instantly unlock or unleash what you’re capable of.
I’ve seen some leaders lose their jobs because they didn’t know how to adapt their leadership style. I’ve seen other leaders crumble with anxiety because they didn’t know how to balance connection and conviction.
I’ve seen other leaders operate at a higher level, and influence without authority. I’ve seen amazing leaders in action that inspire others through their stories of the art of the possible.
Here are a handful of leadership ideas that you can put into practice.
None of these leadership ideas are new. They may be new for you. But they are proven practices for leadership that many leaders have learned the hard way.
The nice thing about ideas is that all you have to do is try them, and find what works for you. (Always remember to try ideas in a Bruce Lee sort of way, “adapt what is useful”, and don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.)
If you want to get hard-core, I also have a roundup of the best business books that have influenced Microsoft leaders:
36 Best Business Books that Influence Microsoft Leaders
You’ll find a strange but potent mix of business books ranging from skills you learned in kindergarten to ways to change the world by spreading your ideas like a virus.
10 Free Leadership Tools for Work and Life
Leadership Development in a Box
It’s time to blow your mind with the amazing things going on around the world.
Each year, I try to create a bird’s-eye view of key trends. It’s a mash up of all the changes in technology, consumerism, and ideas that seem to be taking off.
Here are my trends for 2015:
Trends for 2015: The Year of Digital Transformation
I call it the year of Digital Transformation because of the encroachment of technology into all things business, work, and life.
Technology is everywhere (and it’s on more wrists than I’ve ever seen before.)
What’s different now is how the combination of Cloud + Mobile + Social + Big Data + Internet-of-Things are really changing how business gets done. Businesses around the world are using Cloud, Mobile, Social, Big Data, and Internet-of-Things to leap frog ahead of their competitors and to differentiate in new and exciting ways.
Businesses around the world are using technology to gains insights and to shape their customer experience, transform their workforce, and streamline their back-office operations.
It’s a new race for leadership positions in the Digital Economy. With infinite compute and capacity, along with new ways to connect around the world, business leaders and IT leaders are re-imagining the art of the possible for their businesses.
While Cloud, Mobile, Social, Big Data, and Internet-of-Things might be the backbone of the changes all around us, it’s business model innovation that is bringing these changes to the market and helping them take hold.
Here is a preview of 10 key trends from Trends for 2015: The Year of Digital Transformation:
As a tip, when you read the post, try to scan it first, all the way down, so you can see the full collection of ideas. Then circle back and slow down to really absorb the full insight. You’ll find that you’ll start to see more patterns across the trends, and you’ll start to connect more dots.
I designed the post to make it easy to scan, as well as to read it end-to-end in depth. I think it’s more valuable to be able to quickly take the balcony view, before diving in. This way, you get more of a full picture view of what’s happening around the world. Even if you don’t master all the trends, a little bit of awareness can actually go a long way.
In fact, you might surprise yourself as some of the trends pop into your mind, while you’re working on something completely different. By having the trends at my fingertips, I’m finding myself seeing new patterns in business, along with new ways that technology can enhance our work and life.
Trends actually become a vocabulary for generating and shaping new ideas. There are so many ways to arrange and re-arrange the constellation of ideas. You’ll find that I paid a lot of attention to the naming of each trend. I tried to share what was already pervasive and sticky, or if it was complicated, I tried to turn it into something more memorable.
Use the trends as fodder and insight as you pave your way through your own Digital Transformation.
A while back I put together a comprehensive collection of love quotes. It’s a combination of the wisdom of the ages + modern sages. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I gave it a good revamp. Here it is:
The Great Love Quotes Collection
It's a serious collection of love quotes and includes lessons from the likes of Lucille Ball, Shakespeare, Socrates, and even The Princess Bride.
I organized the quotes into a set of buckets: Beauty Broken Hearts and Loss Falling in Love Fear and Love Fun and Love Kissing Love and Life Significance and Meaning The Power of Love True Love
I think there’s a little something for everyone among the various buckets. If you walk away with three new quotes that make you feel a little lighter, put a little skip in your step, or help you see love in a new light, then mission accomplished.
If you think of love like warmth and connection, you can create more micro-moments of love in your life.
This might not seem like a big deal, but if you knew all the benefits for your heart, brain, bodily processes, and even your life span, you might think twice.
You might be surprised by how much your career can be limited if you don’t balance connection with conviction. It’s not uncommon to hear a lot of turning points in the careers of developers, program managers, IT leaders, and business leaders that changed their game, when they changed their heart.
In fact, on one of the teams I was on, the original mantra was “business before technology”, but people in the halls started to say, “people before business, business before technology” to remind people of what makes business go round.
When people treat each other better, work and life get better.
Here are a few of my favorite love quotes from the collection …
“Love is like heaven, but it can hurt like hell.” – Unknown
“Love is not a feeling, it’s an ability.” — Dan in Real Life
“There is a place you can touch a woman that will drive her crazy. Her heart.” — Milk Money
“Hearts will be practical only when they are made unbreakable.” – The Wizard of Oz
“Things are beautiful if you love them.” – Jean Anouilh
“Life is messy. Love is messier.” – Catch and Release
“To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.” – Unknown
For many more quotes, explore The Great Love Quotes Collection.
The Great Productivity Quotes Collection
Ten at Ten are a very simple tool for helping teams stay focused, connected, and collaborate more effectively, the Agile way.
I’ve been leading distributed teams and v-teams for years. I needed a simple way to keep everybody on the same page, expose issues, and help everybody on the team increase their awareness of results and progress, as well as unblock and breakthrough blocking issues.
When people are remote, it’s easy to feel disconnected, and it’s easy to start to feel like different people are just a “black box” or “go dark.”
Ten at Ten Meetings have been my friend and have helped me help everybody on the team stay in sync and appreciate each other’s work, while finding better ways to team up on things, and drive to results, in a collaborative way. I believe I started Ten at Ten Meetings back in 2003 (before that, I wasn’t as consistent … I think 2003 is where I realized a quick sync each day, keeps the “black box” away.)
I’ve written about Ten at Ten Meetings before in my posts on How To Lead High-Performance Distributed Teams, How I Use Agile Results, Interview on Timeboxing for HBR (Harvard Business Review), Agile Results Works for Teams and Leaders Too, and 10 Free Leadership Tools for Work and Life, but I thought it would be helpful to summarize some of the key information at a glance.
Here is an overview of Ten at Ten Meetings:
This is one of my favorite tools for reducing email and administration overhead and getting everybody on the same page fast. It's simply a stand-up meeting. I tend to have them at 10:00, and I set a limit of 10 minutes. This way people look forward to the meeting as a way to very quickly catch up with each other, and to stay on top of what's going on, and what's important. The way it works is I go around the (virtual) room, and each person identifies what they got done yesterday, what they're getting done today, and any help they need. It's a fast process, although it can take practice in the beginning. When I first started, I had to get in the habit of hanging up on people if it went past 10 minutes. People very quickly realized that the ten minute meeting was serious. Also, as issues came up, if they weren't fast to solve on the fly and felt like a distraction, then we had to learn to take them offline. Eventually, this helped build a case for a recurring team meeting where we could drill deeper into recurring issues or patterns, and focus on improving overall team effectiveness.
Here is more of a step-by-step approach:
You’d be surprised at how quickly people start to pay attention to what they’re working on and on what’s worth working on. It also helps team members very quickly see each other’s impact and results. It also helps people raise their bar, especially when they get to hear and experience what good looks like from their peers.
Most importantly, it shines the light on little, incremental progress, and, if you didn’t already know, progress is the key to happiness in work and life.
How I Use Agile Results
How To Lead High-Performance Distributed Teams
Here’s a simple visual that I whiteboard when I lead workshops for business transformation.
The Sweet Spot is where customer “demand” meets Microsoft “supply.”
I’m not a fan of product pushers or product pushing. I’m a fan of creating “pull.”
In order for customers to pull-through any product, platform, or service, you need to know the customer’s pains, needs, and desired outcomes. Without customer empathy, you’re not relevant.
This is a simple visual, but a powerful one.
When you have good representation of the voice of the customer, you can really identity problems worth solving. It always comes down to pains, needs, opportunities, and desired outcomes. In short, I always just say pains, needs, and desired outcomes so that people can remember it easily.
To make it real, we use scenarios to tell a simple story of a customer’s pain, needs, and desired outcomes. We use our friends in the field working with customers to give us real stories of real pain.
Here is an example Scenario Narrative where a company is struggling in creating products that its customers care about …
As you can see, the Current State is a pretty good story of pain, that a lot of business leaders and product owners can identify with. For some, it’s all too real, because it is their story and they can see themselves in it.
In the Desired Future State, it’s a pretty good story of what success would look like. It paints a pretty simple picture of what would be an ideal scenario …. a future possibility.
Here is an example of a Solution Storyboard, where we paint a simple picture of that Desired Future State, or more precisely, a Future Capability Vision. It’s this Future Capability Vision that shows how, with the right capabilities, the customer can address their pains, needs, and desired outcomes.
The beauty of this approach is that it’s product and technology agnostic. It’s all about building capabilities.
From there, with a good understanding of the pains, needs, and desired outcomes, it’s super easy to overlay relevant products, technologies, consulting services, etc.
And then, rather than trying to do a product “push”, it becomes a product “pull” because it connects with customers in a very deep, very real, very relevant way.
Think “pull” not “push.”
How Business Leaders are Building Digital Skills
How To Build a Roadmap for Your Digital Transformation
Big Data Analytics and Insights are changing the game, as more businesses introduce automated systems to support human judgment.
Add to this, advanced visualizations of Big Data, and throw in some power tools for motivated users and you have a powerful way to empower the front-line to better analyze, predict, and serve their customers.
McKinsey shares a framework and their insights on how advanced analytics can create and unleash new business value from Big Data, in their article: Unleashing the value of advanced analytics in insurance
The exciting part is how you can create a new world-class capability, as you bake Big Data Analytics and Insights into your business.
Via Unleashing the value of advanced analytics in insurance:
“Weaving analytics into the fabric of an organization is a journey. Every organization will progress at its own pace, from fragmented beginnings to emerging influence to world-class corporate capability.”
McKinsey's transformation involves five components. The five components include the source of business value, the data ecosystem, modeling the insights, workflow integration, and adoption.
Big Data Analytics and Insights is a hot trend for good reason. If you saw the movie Moneyball you know why.
Businesses are using analytics to identify their most profitable customers and offer them the right price, accelerate product innovation, optimize supply chains, and identify the true drivers of financial performance.
In the book, Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning, Thomas H. Davenport and Jeanne G. Harris share examples of how organizations like Amazon, Barclay’s, Capital One, Harrah’s, Procter & Gamble, Wachovia, and the Boston Red Sox, are using the power of Big Data Analytics and Insights to achieve new levels of performance and compete in the digital economy.
You can read it pretty quickly to get a good sense of how analytics can be used to change the business and the more you expose yourself to the patterns, the more you can apply analytics to your work and life.
Will you have a job in the future?
What will that job look like and how will the nature of work change?
Will automation take over your job in the near future?
These are the kinds of questions that Ruth Fisher, author of Winning the Hardware-Software Game, has tackled in a series of posts.
I wrote a summary post to distill her big ideas and insights about the future of jobs in my post:
Fisher has done an outstanding job of framing out the landscape and walking the various arguments and perspectives on how automation will change the nature of work and shape the future of jobs.
One of the first things you might be wondering is, what jobs will automation take away?
Fisher addresses that.
Another question is, what new types jobs will be created?
While that’s an exercise for the reader, Fisher provides clues based on what industry luminaries have seen in terms of how jobs are changing.
The key is to know what automation can and can’t do, and to look at the pattern of work in terms of what’s better suited for humans, and what’s better suited for machines.
As one of my mentors puts it, “If the work can be automated, it’s not human.”
He’s a fan of people doing creative, non-routine work, where they can thrive and shine.
As I take on work, or push back on work, I look through a pretty simple lens:
I find that by using this simple lens, I tend to take on high-value work that creates high-impact, that cannot be easily automated. At the same time, while I perform the work, I look for way to turn things into repetitive activities that can be outsources or automated so that I can keep moving up the stack, and producing higher-value work … that’s more human.
I wrote a roundup of the best books I read in 2014.
I read a lot of books, and not all of them are worth sharing. I’m a believer that leaders are readers, and as Bill Gates says, “reading is how I learn best.”
Here are a few of the books that made my list:
For the full list and some quick perspective on each book, you can read my post on the best books I read in 2014.
Microsoft and Virgin help land Santa on top of a plane at 30,000 feet. If you’ve been wondering where Santa’s been, he landed on top of a Virgin Atlantic plane and did a photo shoot with the passengers.
Microsoft teamed up with Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantic to bring the magic of Christmas to life. In the world’s first 4D experience in flight, Santa Claus appears to land on top of a Virgin Atlantic plane at 30,000 feet.
How’s that for some fancy flying with modern technology?!
Each passenger was also given a Windows tablet so they could track Father Christmas and chat with him during the flight.
Here’s the video of Santa landing on top of the plane and visiting with the passengers:
Video: Santa Lands on Top of a Virgin Atlantic Plane at 30,000 Feet
Here are a few scenes that show Santa in action …
Here’s one of Santa’s reindeer peering down into the cabin from on top of the plane:
Here’s Santa peering down into the cabin from above the plane before he goes inside:
Santa sees somebody he recognizes:
Santa boards the plane and walks the cabin:
The kids are excited to see Santa:
Adults are happy, too:
Santa has time for some photo shoots:
Santa leaves to get back to his sleigh on top of the plane:
Virgin Atlantic and Microsoft wish everybody a very, merry Christmas:
Here’s Richard Branson’s post on the story:
Santa Lands on Virgin Atlantic Plane at 30,000 Feet
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
10 Big Ideas from a Christmas Carol
25 Holiday Classic Movies and Lessons Learned
Microsoft Cloud Case Studies at a Glance
I’ve put together a roundup of the best productivity books that have helped me get better results in work and life. It contains many of the same books that I recommend to people and teams that I mentor. Here is the list:
It has a lot of books. To be productive, it takes a lot of skills, and a lot of self-mastery. And, you never know which book is going to do it for you.
I organize the productivity books in a scenario-based way:
At the end of the list, I included all the books in a simple, flat A-Z list so you can quickly check against your own productivity book collection to see if I have mentioned books that you don’t have or don’t know about.
I’ve put this list of productivity books together to give you an unfair advantage. Competition can be fierce. Remember that the best person to always compete against is you—find ways to be better, faster, or cheaper, when it comes to making things happen. It’s how you stay in the game, and it’s how you change your game.
In fact, productivity is a backbone for surviving and thriving. Yeah, it’s a big deal.
Also, bear in mind that the big idea behind extreme productivity, or effective productivity is to focus on learning and growth. If you have a growth mindset, you’ll win in the long-run, because you’ll get better over time, and you can compound your effort. Also, learn to embrace the effort, and to love the work you do, or love the way you do it.
Your work is the ultimate self-expression, and the legacy you leave behind, can be an inspiration for yourself, as well as for others.
My Productivity Books page will be a living catalog of the books I draw from, and it’s part of my bigger Great Books collection, where I share the world’s best books for insight and action on business, career, leadership, personal development, and more.
I know there are a lot of productivity books on my list. If I can only recommend one, I start people off with Getting Results the Agile Way. I wrote it specifically to help people get better results in work and life with a simple system I developed over time in extreme scenarios. It integrates proven practices for personal productivity, as well as positive psychology, project management, sports science, and more in terms of achieving high-performance with flow. And, it’s easy to get started (Here is the Agile Results QuickStart.)
I believe in the power of books to change lives. Productivity is just one area, but it’s an area that impacts all the other major areas of our life.
If you can master productivity, you can know more, be more, and achieve more.
And, if you balance that with living your values, making an impact, and enjoying the journey, that is the key to living la vida buena.
This is a follow up to Santa Lands on a Virgin Atlantic Plane with 4D Technology. It turns out that you can measure the magic in the air.
Here is the page that’s tracking the festive magic:
There’s Magic in the Air
Here is a snapshot of the page:
How are we measuring the festive magic? Using cloud-based Dynamics social analytics software.
Via the There’s Magic in the Air site: ”At Virgin Atlantic we love the festive season and so do lots of our customers.
So this year, we wanted to see how much ‘festive magic’ our customers and employees are creating around the world.
Partnering with our friends at Microsoft, we're using cloud based Dynamics social analytics software to calculate the volume and sentiment of social posts on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. We’re analyzing the posts for positive mentions of keywords like ‘Christmas,’ ‘magic’ and ‘reindeer.’ So we can understand how much of that festive magic is being generated every day until 7January, 2015.
We're doing this in a totally anonymous way, and we're not storing any personal information. We just want to understand how much magic we're collectively creating during this period.”
What a fun and festive way to show software in action, and use technology to light up the holiday season.
Santa Lands on a Virgin Atlantic Plane with 4D Technology
The Mission of Microsoft Enterprise Services
“Another year over, And a new one just begun.” – John Lennon
Ready to get your game on?
January is a great time to focus on what you want out of this year. As you close out last year, you can reflect on what went well and what things you could improve. Focus on the growth.
January is also a great time to build some momentum. January and December are the bookends for your year. It’s interesting how they are both a month apart and a year apart.
What you fill that year with, is your opportunity.
If you’re having a hard time remembering what it means to dream big, I put together a collection of dream big quotes to rekindle your imagination.
I’ve also put together a set of posts to help you create goals with skill:
One of the most helpful things I’ve found with goal setting, is to start with 3 dreams or 3 wins for the year. I learned this while I was putting together Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life. As my story goes, I got frustrated and bogged down by a heavy goal process and lost in creating SMART goals. I finally stepped back and just asked myself, what are Three Wins or Three Outcomes that I want out of this year? The first things that came to mind were 1) ship my book, 2) get to my fighting weight, and 3) take an epic adventure.
It wasn’t scientific, but it was significant, and it was simple. But most of all, it was empowering.
In retrospect, it seems so obvious now, but what I was missing in my goals was the part that always needs to happen first: Dream big. We need to first put our dreams on the table because that’s where meaningful goals are born from. It’s the dreams that make our goals a force to be reckoned with. Really, goals are just a way to break our dreams down into chunks of change we can deal with, and to help guide us on our journey towards the end in mind. That’s why we have to keep pushing our dreams beyond our limits. That way we don’t try to push ourselves with our goals. Instead, we pull ourselves with our dreams.
If you want to know how to get started with Agile Results, before you get the book, you can use the Agile Results QuickStart guide. You can use it to create your personal results system. It’s a simple system, but a powerful one. Individuals, teams, and leaders use it to bring out their best and to make the mot of what they’ve got.
To give you a quick example, if you want to rise above the noise of your day, just take a quick pause, and write down Three Wins that you want out of today. If you’re day is pretty tough, you might say, “great breakfast, great lunch, great dinner.” We have those days. Or, if you’re feeling pretty good, you might say, “ship feature X” or “clear my backlog” or “finish my presentation” or “win a raving fan”, etc.
It sounds simple but by having Three Wins to hold onto for today, it helps you focus. It helps you prioritize. And it helps you get back on track, when you get off track. It also gives you a quick way to feel good about your achievements at the end of the day, because you can actually name them. They are your private victories.
So, if you want to practice Agile Results, just remember to think in threes: Three Wins for the Day, Three Wins for the Week, Three Wins for the Month, Three Wins for the Year. It will help you funnel and focus your time and energy on meaningful results that matter. And, you’ll build momentum a moment at a time, as you respond to challenges, exercises your choices, and drive your changes in work and in life.
I did a major cleanup of my post on lessons learned from John Maxwell:
Lessons Learned from John Maxwell
It should be much easier to read now.
It was worth cleaning up because John Maxwell is one of the deepest thinkers in the leadership space. He’s published more than 50 books on leadership and he lives and breathes leadership in business and in life.
When I first started studying leadership long ago, John Maxwell’s definition of leadership was the most precise I found:
“Leadership is influence.”
As I began to dig through his work, I was amazed at the nuggets and gems and words of wisdom that he shared in so many books. I started with Your Road Map for Success. I think my next book was The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Ironically, I didn’t realize it was the same author until I started to notice on my shelf that I had a growing collection of leadership books, all by John Maxwell.
It was like finding the leadership Sherpa.
Sure enough, over the years, he continued to fill the shelves at Barnes & Nobles, with book after book on all the various nooks and crannies of leadership.
This was about the same time that I noticed how Edward de Bono had filled the shelves with books on thinking. I realized that some people really share there life’s work as a rich library that is a timeless gift for the world. I also realized that it really helps people stand out in their field or discipline when they contribute so many guides and guidance to the art and science of whatever their specific focus is.
What I like about John Maxwell’s work is that it’s plain English and down to Earth. He writes in a very conversational way, and you can actually see his own progress throughout his books. In Your Road Map for Success, it’s a great example of how he doesn’t treat leadership as something that comes naturally. He works hard at it, to build his own knowledge base of patterns, practices, ideas, concepts, and inspirational stories.
While he’s created a wealth of wisdom to help advance the practice of leadership, I think perhaps his greatest contribution is The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. It’s truly a work of art, and he does an amazing job of distilling down the principles that serve as the backbone of effective leadership.