J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Best Productivity Book for Free

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    image"At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world." -- Satya Nadella

    We take productivity seriously at Microsoft. Ask any Softie. I never have a lack of things to do, or too much time in my day, and I can't ever make "too much" impact.

    To be super productive, I've had to learn hard-core prioritization techniques, extreme energy management, stakeholder management, time management, and a wealth of productivity hacks to produce better, faster results.

    We don’t learn these skills in school.  But if we’re lucky, we learn from the right mentors and people all around us, how to bring out our best when we need it the most.

    Download the 30 Days of Getting Results Free eBook

    You can save years of pain for free:

    30 Days of Getting Results Free eBook

    There’s always a gap between books you read and what you do in the real world. I wanted to bridge this gap. I wanted 30 Days of Getting Results to be raw and real to help you learn what it really takes to master productivity and time management so you can survive and thrive with the best in the world.

    It’s not pretty.  It’s super effective.

    30 Days of Getting Results is a 30 Day Personal Productivity Improvement Sprint

    I wrote 30 Days of Getting Results using a 30 Day Sprint. Each day for that 30 Day Sprint, I wrote down the best information I learned from the school of hard knocks about productivity, time management, work-life balance, and more.

    For each day, I share a lesson, a story, and an exercise.

    I wanted to make it easy to practice productivity habits.

    Agile Results is a Fire Starter for Personal Productivity

    The thing that’s really different about Agile Results as a time management system is that it’s focused on meaningful results.  Time is treated as a first-class citizen so that you hit your meaningful windows of opportunity, and get fresh starts each day, each week, each month, each year.  As a metaphor, you get to be the author of your life and write your story forward.

    For years, I’ve received emails from people around the world how 30 Days of Getting Results was a breath of fresh air for them.

    It helped them find their focus, get more productive, enjoy what they do, renew their energy, and spend more time in their strengths and their passions, while pursuing their purpose.

    It’s helped doctors, teachers, students, lawyers, developers, grandmothers, and more.

    Learn a New Language, Change Careers, or Start a Business

    You can use Agile Results to learn better, faster, and deeper because it helps you think better, feel better, and take better action.

    You can use Agile Results to help you learn a new language, build new skills, learn an instrument, or whatever your heart desires.

    I used the system to accidentally write a book in a month.

    I didn’t set out to write a book. I set out to share the world’s best insight and action for productivity and time management. I wrote for 20 minutes each day, during that month, to share the best lessons and the best insights I could with one purpose:

    Help everyone thrive in work and life.

    Over the coming months, I had more and more people ask for a book version. As much as they liked the easy to flip through Web pages, they wanted to consume it as an eBook. So I turned 30 Days of Getting Results into a free eBook and made that available.

    Here's the funny part:

    I forgot I had done that.

    The Accidental Free Productivity Book that Might Just Change Your Life

    One day, I was having a conversation with one of my readers, and they said that I should sell 30 Days of Getting Results as a $30 work book. They liked it much more than the book, Getting Results the Agile Way. They found it to be more actionable and easier to get started, and they liked that I used the system as a way to teach the system.

    They said I should make the effort to put it together as a PDF and sell it as a workbook. He said people would want to pay for it because it’s high-value, real-world training, and he said it was better than any live training he had ever taken (and he had taken a lot.)

    I got excited by the idea, and it made perfect sense. After all, wouldn’t people want to learn something that could impact every single day of their lives, and help them achieve more in work and life and help them adapt and compete more effectively in our ever-changing world?

    I went to go put it together, and I had already done it.

    Set Your Productivity on Fire

    When you’re super productive, it’s easy to forget some of the things you create because they so naturally flow from spending the right time, on the right things, with the right energy. You’ll naturally leave a trail of results from experimenting and learning.

    Whether you want to be super productive, or do less, but accomplish more, check out the ultimate free productivity guide:

    30 Days of Getting Results Free eBook

    Share it with friends, family, colleagues, and whoever else you want to have an unfair advantage in our hyper-competitive world.

    Lifting others up, lifts you up in the process.

    If you have a personal story of how 30 Days of Getting Results has helped you in some way, feel free to share it with me.  It’s always fun to hear how people are using Agile Results to take on new challenges, re-invent their productivity, and operate at a higher level.

    Or simply get started again … like a fresh start, for the first time, full of new zest to be your best.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    How To Get Smarter By Making Distinctions

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    "Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who'll argue with you." -- John Wooden

    There’s a very simple way to get smarter.

    You can get smarter by creating categories.

    Not only will you get smarter, but you’ll also be more mindful, and you’ll expand your vocabulary, which will improve your ability to think more deeply about a given topic or domain.

    In my post, The More Distinctions You Make, the Smarter You Get, I walk through the ins and outs of creating categories to increase your intelligence, and I use the example of “fat.”   I attempt to show how “Fat is bad” isn’t very insightful, and how by breaking “fat” down into categories, you can dive deeper and reveal new insight to drive better decisions and better outcomes.

    I’m this post, I’m going to walk this through with an example, using “security” as the topic.

    The first time I heard the word “security”, it didn’t mean much to me, beyond “protect.”

    The next thing somebody taught me, was how I had to focus on CIA:  Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability.

    That was a simple way to break security down into meaningful parts.

    And then along came Defense in Depth.   A colleague explained that Defense in Depth meant thinking about security in terms of multiple layers:  Network, Host, Application, and Data.

    But then another colleague said, the real key to thinking about security and Defense in Depth, was to think about it in terms of people, process, and technology.

    As much as I enjoyed these thought exercises, I didn’t find them actionable enough to actually improve software or application security.  And my job was to help Enterprise developers build better Line-Of-Business applications that were scalable and secure.

    So our team went to the drawing board to map out actionable categories to take application security much deeper.

    Right off the bat, just focusing on “application” security vs. “network” security or “host” security, helped us to get more specific and make security more tangible and more actionable from an Line-of-Business application perspective.

    Security Categories

    Here are the original security categories that we used to map out application security and make it more actionable:

    1. Input and Data Validation
    2. Authentication
    3. Authorization
    4. Configuration Management
    5. Sensitive Data
    6. Session Management
    7. Cryptography
    8. Exception Management
    9. Auditing and Logging

    Each of these buckets helped us create actionable principles, patterns, and practices for improving security.

    Security Categories Explained

    Here is a brief description of each application security category:

    Input and Data Validation
    How do you know that the input your application receives is valid and safe? Input validation refers to how your application filters, scrubs, or rejects input before additional processing. Consider constraining input through entry points and encoding output through exit points. Do you trust data from sources such as databases and file shares?

    Authentication
    Who are you? Authentication is the process where an entity proves the identity of another entity, typically through credentials, such as a user name and password.

    Authorization
    What can you do? Authorization is how your application provides access controls for resources and operations.

    Configuration Management
    Who does your application run as? Which databases does it connect to? How is your application administered? How are these settings secured? Configuration management refers to how your application handles these operational issues.

    Sensitive Data
    How does your application handle sensitive data? Sensitive data refers to how your application handles any data that must be protected either in memory, over the network, or in persistent stores.

    Session Management
    How does your application handle and protect user sessions? A session refers to a series of related interactions between a user and your Web application.

    Cryptography
    How are you keeping secrets (confidentiality)? How are you tamper-proofing your data or libraries (integrity)? How are you providing seeds for random values that must be cryptographically strong? Cryptography refers to how your application enforces confidentiality and integrity.

    Exception Management
    When a method call in your application fails, what does your application do? How much do you reveal? Do you return friendly error information to end users? Do you pass valuable exception information back to the caller? Does your application fail gracefully?

    Auditing and Logging
    Who did what and when? Auditing and logging refer to how your application records security-related events.

    As you can see, just by calling out these different categories, you suddenly have a way to dive much deeper and explore application security in depth.

    The Power of a Security Category

    Let’s use a quick example.  Let’s take Input Validation.

    Input Validation is a powerful security category, given how many software security flaws and how many vulnerabilities and how many attacks all stem from a lack of input validation, including Buffer Overflows.

    But here’s the interesting thing.   After quite a bit of research and testing, we found a powerful security pattern that could help more applications stand up to more security attacks.  It boiled down to the following principle:

    Validate for length, range, format, and type.

    That’s a pithy, but powerful piece of insight when it comes to implementing software security.

    And, when you can’t validate the input, make it safe by sanitizing the output.  And along these lines, keep user input out of the control path, where possible.

    All of these insights flow from just focusing on Input Validation as a security category.

    Threats, Attacks, Vulnerabilities, and Countermeasures

    Another distinction our team made was to think in terms of threats, attacks, vulnerabilities, and countermeasures.  We knew that threats could be intentional and malicious (as in the case of attacks), but they could also be accidental and unintended.

    We wanted to identify vulnerabilities as weaknesses that could be addressed in some way.

    We wanted to identify countermeasures as the actions to take to help mitigate risks, reduce the attack surface, and address vulnerabilities.

    Just by chunking up the application security landscape into threats, attacks, vulnerabilities, and countermeasures, we empowered more people to think more deeply about the application security space.

    Security Vulnerabilities Organized by Security Categories

    Using the security categories above, we could easily focus on finding security vulnerabilities and group them by the relevant security category.

    Here are some examples:

    Input/Data Validation

    • Using non-validated input in the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) output stream
    • Using non-validated input used to generate SQL queries
      Relying on client-side validation
    • Using input file names, URLs, or user names for security decisions
    • Using application-only filters for malicious input
    • Looking for known bad patterns of input
    • Trusting data read from databases, file shares, and other network resources
    • Failing to validate input from all sources including cookies, query string parameters, HTTP headers, databases, and network resources

    Authentication

    • Using weak passwords
    • Storing clear text credentials in configuration files
    • Passing clear text credentials over the network
    • Permitting over-privileged accounts
    • Permitting prolonged session lifetime
    • Mixing personalization with authentication

    Authorization

    • Relying on a single gatekeeper
    • Failing to lock down system resources against application identities
    • Failing to limit database access to specified stored procedures
    • Using inadequate separation of privileges

    Configuration Management

    • Using insecure administration interfaces
    • Using insecure configuration stores
    • Storing clear text configuration data
    • Having too many administrators
    • Using over-privileged process accounts and service accounts

    Sensitive Data

    • Storing secrets when you do not need to
    • Storing secrets in code
    • Storing secrets in clear text
    • Passing sensitive data in clear text over networks

    Session Management

    • Passing session identifiers over unencrypted channels
    • Permitting prolonged session lifetime
    • Having insecure session state stores
    • Placing session identifiers in query strings

    Cryptography

    • Using custom cryptography
    • Using the wrong algorithm or a key size that is too small
    • Failing to secure encryption keys
    • Using the same key for a prolonged period of time
    • Distributing keys in an insecure manner

    Exception Management

    • Failing to use structured exception handling
    • Revealing too much information to the client

    Auditing and Logging

    • Failing to audit failed logons
    • Failing to secure audit files
    • Failing to audit across application tiers

    Threats and Attacks Organized by Security Categories

    Again, using our security categories, we could then group threats and attacks by relevant security categories.

    Here are some examples of security threats and attacks organized by security categories:

    Input/Data Validation

    • Buffer overflows
    • Cross-site scripting
    • SQL injection
    • Canonicalization attacks
    • Query string manipulation
    • Form field manipulation
    • Cookie manipulation
    • HTTP header manipulation

    Authentication

    • Network eavesdropping
    • Brute force attacks
    • Dictionary attacks
    • Cookie replay attacks
    • Credential theft

    Authorization

    • Elevation of privilege
    • Disclosure of confidential data
    • Data tampering
    • Luring attacks

    Configuration Management

    • Unauthorized access to administration interfaces
    • Unauthorized access to configuration stores
    • Retrieval of clear text configuration secrets
    • Lack of individual accountability

    Sensitive Data

    • Accessing sensitive data in storage
    • Accessing sensitive data in memory (including process dumps)
    • Network eavesdropping
    • Information disclosure

    Session Management

    • Session hijacking
    • Session replay
    • Man-in-the-middle attacks

    Cryptography

    • Loss of decryption keys
    • Encryption cracking

    Exception Management

    • Revealing sensitive system or application details
    • Denial of service attacks

    Auditing and Logging

    • User denies performing an operation
    • Attacker exploits an application without trace
    • Attacker covers his tracks

    Countermeasures Organized by Security Categories

    Now here is where the rubber really meets the road.  We could group security countermeasures by security categories to make them more actionable.

    Here are example security countermeasures organized by security categories:

    Input/Data Validation

    • Do not trust input
    • Validate input: length, range, format, and type
    • Constrain, reject, and sanitize input
    • Encode output

    Authentication

    • Use strong password policies
    • Do not store credentials
    • Use authentication mechanisms that do not require clear text credentials to be passed over the network
    • Encrypt communication channels to secure authentication tokens
    • Use HTTPS only with forms authentication cookies
    • Separate anonymous from authenticated pages

    Authorization

    • Use least privilege accounts
    • Consider granularity of access
    • Enforce separation of privileges
    • Use multiple gatekeepers
    • Secure system resources against system identities

    Configuration Management

    • Use least privileged service accounts
    • Do not store credentials in clear text
    • Use strong authentication and authorization on administrative interfaces
    • Do not use the Local Security Authority (LSA)
    • Avoid storing sensitive information in the Web space
    • Use only local administration

    Sensitive Data

    • Do not store secrets in software
    • Encrypt sensitive data over the network
    • Secure the channel

    Session Management

    • Partition site by anonymous, identified, and authenticated users
    • Reduce session timeouts
    • Avoid storing sensitive data in session stores
    • Secure the channel to the session store
    • Authenticate and authorize access to the session store

    Cryptography

    • Do not develop and use proprietary algorithms (XOR is not encryption. Use platform-provided cryptography)
    • Use the RNGCryptoServiceProvider method to generate random numbers
    • Avoid key management. Use the Windows Data Protection API (DPAPI) where appropriate
    • Periodically change your keys

    Exception Management

    • Use structured exception handling (by using try/catch blocks)
    • Catch and wrap exceptions only if the operation adds value/information
    • Do not reveal sensitive system or application information
    • Do not log private data such as passwords

    Auditing and Logging

    • Identify malicious behavior
    • Know your baseline (know what good traffic looks like)
    • Use application instrumentation to expose behavior that can be monitored

    As you can see, the security countermeasures can easily be reviewed, updated, and moved forward, because the actionable principles are well organized by the security categories.

    There are many ways to use creating categories as a way to get smarter and get better results.

    In the future, I’ll walk through how we created an Agile Security approach, using categories.

    Meanwhile, check out my post on The More Distinctions You Make, the Smarter You Get to gain some additional insights into how to use empathy and creating categories to dive deeper, learn faster, and get smarter on any topic you want to take on.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    We Help Our Customers Transform

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    "Innovation—the heart of the knowledge economy—is fundamentally social." -- Malcolm Gladwell

    I’m a big believer in having clarity around what you help your customers do.

    I was listening to Satya Nadella’s keynote at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, and I like how he put it so simply, that we help our customers transform.

    Here’s what Satya had to say about how we help our customers transform their business:

    “These may seem like technical attributes, but they are key to how we drive business success for our customers, business transformation for our customers, because all of what we do, collectively, is centered on this core goal of ours, which is to help our customers transform.

    When you think about any customer of ours, they're being transformed through the power of digital technology, and in particular software.

    There isn't a company out there that isn't a software company.

    And our goal is to help them differentiate using digital technology.

    We want to democratize the use of digital technology to drive core differentiation.

    It's no longer just about helping them operate their business.

    It is about them excelling at their business using software, using digital technology.

    It is about our collective ability to drive agility for our customers.

    Because if there is one truth that we are all faced with, and our customers are faced with, it's that things are changing rapidly, and they need to be able to adjust to that.

    And so everything we do has to support that goal.

    How do they move faster, how do they interpret data quicker, how are they taking advantage of that to take intelligent action.

    And of course, cost.

    But we'll keep coming back to this theme of business transformation throughout this keynote and throughout WPC, because that's where I want us to center in on.

    What's the value we are adding to the core of our customer and their ability to compete, their ability to create innovation.

    And anchored on that goal is our technical ambition, is our product ambition.”

    Transformation is the name of the game.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Satya Nadella on a Mobile-First, Cloud-First World

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    You hear Mobile-First, Cloud-First all the time.

    But do you ever hear it really explained?

    I was listening to Satya Nadella’s keynote at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, and I like how he walked through how he thinks about a Mobile-First, Cloud-First world.

    Here’s what Satya had to say:

    “There are a couple of attributes.

    When we talk about Mobile-First, we are talking about the mobility of the experience.

    What do we mean by that?

    As we look out, the computing that we are going to interface with, in our lives, at home and at work, is going to be ubiquitous.

    We are going to have sensors that recognize us.

    We are going to have computers that we are going to wear on us.

    We are going to have computers that we touch, computers that we talk to, the computers that we interact with as holograms.

    There is going to be computing everywhere.

    But what we need across all of this computing, is our experiences, our applications, our data.

    And what enables that is in fact the cloud acting as a control plane that allows us to have that capability to move from device to device, on any given day, at any given meeting.

    So that core attribute of thinking of mobility, not by being bound to a particular device, but it's about human mobility, is very core to our vision.

    Second, when we think about our cloud, we think distributed computing will remain distributed.

    In fact, we think of our servers as the edge of our cloud.

    And this is important, because there are going to be many legitimate reasons where people will want digital sovereignty, people will want data residency, there is going to be regulation that we can't anticipate today.

    And so we have to think about a distributed cloud infrastructure.

    We are definitely going to be one of the key hyper-scale providers.

    But we are also going to think about how do we get computing infrastructure, the core compute, storage, network, to be distributed throughout the world.

    These may seem like technical attributes, but they are key to how we drive business success for our customers, business transformation for our customers, because all of what we do, collectively, is centered on this core goal of ours, which is to help our customers transform.”

    That’s a lot of insight, and very well framed for creating our future and empowering the world.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Empower Every Person on the Planet to Achieve More

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    It’s great to get back to the basics, and purpose is always a powerful starting point.

    I was listening to Satya Nadella’s keynote at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, and I like how he walked through the Microsoft mission in a mobile-first, cloud-first world.

    Here’s what Satya had to say:

    “Our mission:  Empowering every person and every business on the planet to achieve more.

    (We find that by going back into our history and re-discovering that core sense of purpose, that soul ... a PC in every home, democratizing client/server computing.)

    We move forward to a Mobile-First, Cloud-First world.

    We care about empowerment.

    There is no other ecosystem that is primarily, and solely, built to help customers achieve greatness.

    We are focused on helping our customers achieve greatness through digital technology.

    We care about both individuals and organizations.  That intersection of people and organizations is the cornerstone of what we represent as excellence.

    We are a global company.  We want to make sure that the power of technology reaches every country, every vertical, every organization, irrespective of size.

    There will be many goals.

    What remains constant is this sense of purpose, the reason why this ecosystem exists.

    This is a mission that we go and exercise in a Mobile-First, Cloud-First world.”

    If I think back to why I originally joined Microsoft, it was to empower every person on the planet to achieve more.

    And the cloud is one powerful enabler.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Skilled for Life

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    A while back, a colleague challenged me to find something simple and sticky for the big idea behind Sources of Insight.  After trying several phrases, here’s the one that stuck:

    Skilled for Life

    He liked it because it had punch.  It also had a play on words, and you could read it two different ways.

    I like it because it captured the big idea behind Sources of Insight.   The whole purpose behind the site is to help as many people improve the quality of their life as possible.

    With skill.

    I’ve found that skills can make or break somebody’s chance for success.   And, I don’t just mean from a career perspective.   To be effective in all areas of our life, we need skills across several domains:

    • Mind
    • Body
    • Emotions
    • Career
    • Finance
    • Relationships
    • Fun

    Skilled for Life is meant to be a very simple phrase, with a very intentional outcome:

    Equip you with the skills you need to survive and thrive in today’s world.

    It’s all about personal empowerment.

    Not everybody gets the right mentors, or the right training, or the right breaks.   So Sources of Insight is designed from the ground up to be your personal success library that helps you make your own breaks, create your opportunities, and own your destiny.

    How?

    By sharing the world’s best insight and action for work and life.  By providing you with very real skills for mastering emotional intelligence, intellectual horsepower, creative brilliance, interpersonal relationships, career growth, health, and happiness (yeah, happiness is a skill you can learn).  And by providing you with principles, patterns, and practices for a smarter, more creative, and more capable you.

    To give you one simple example of how happiness is a skill, let me tell you about the three paths of happiness according to Dr. Martin Seligman:

    1. The Pleasant Life
    2. The Good Life
    3. The Meaningful Life

    You can think of them like this:  The Pleasant Life is all about pleasures, here and now.  The Good Life is about spending more time in your values.  The Meaningful Life is about fulfillment by helping the greater good, using your unique skills.   It’s giving our best where we have our best to give, and moving up Maslow’s stack.

    When you know the three paths of happiness, you can more effectively build your happiness muscles.  For example, you can Discover Your Values, so that you can spend more time in them, and live life on your terms.

    That’s just one example of how you can improve your self-efficacy with skill.

    There is a vast success library of everything from inspirational quotes to inspirational heroes, as well as principles, patterns, and practices for skills to pay the bills and lead a better life.  Sources of Insight is a dojo of personal development, and your jump start for realizing your potential.

    I invite you to check out the following page on Sources of Insight, where I share what Skilled for Life is all about:

    Skilled for Life

    Skills empower you.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Dealing with People You Can’t Stand

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    “If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go Together” – African Proverb

    I blew the dust off some olds posts to rekindle some of the most important information for work and life.

    It’s about dealing with people you can’t stand.

    Whether you think of them as jerks, bullies, or just difficult people, the better you can deal with difficult people, the better you can get things done and make things happen.

    And the more you learn how to bring out the best, in people at their worst, the less you’ll find people you can’t stand.

    How To Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst (Including Yourself)

    Everything I needed to learn about dealing with difficult people, I learned from the book Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner.

    It’s one of the most brilliant, thoughtful books I’ve ever read on interpersonal skills and dealing with all sorts of bad behaviors.

    The real key to dealing with difficult behavior is more than just recognizing bad behaviors in other people.

    It’s recognizing bad behaviors in yourself, the kind that contribute to and amplify other people’s bad behaviors.

    The more you know, the more you grow, and this is truly one of those transformational books.

    Learn How To Deal with Difficult People (and Gain Some Mad Interpersonal Skills)

    I’ve completely re-written my pot that provides an overview of the big ideas in Dealing with People You Can’t Stand:

    Dealing with People You Can’t Stand

    Even better, I’ve re-written all of my posts that talk through the 10 Types of Difficult People, and what to do about them.

    I have to warn you:  Once you learn the 10 Types of Difficult People, you’ll be using the labels to classify bad behaviors that you experience in the halls, in meetings, behind your back, etc.

    With that in mind, here they are …

    10 Types of Difficult People

    Here are the 10 Types of Difficult People at a glance:

    1. Grenade Person – After a brief period of calm, the Grenade person explodes into unfocused ranting and raving about things that have nothing to do with the present circumstances.
    2. Know-It-Alls – Seldom in doubt, the Know-It-All person has a low tolerance for correction and contradiction. If something goes wrong, however, the Know-It-All will speak with the same authority about who’s to blame – you!
    3. Maybe Person – In a moment of decision, the Maybe Person procrastinates in the hope that a better choice will present itself.
    4. No Person – A No Person kills momentum and creates friction for you. More deadly to morale than a speeding bullet, more powerful than hope, able to defeat big ideas with a single syllable.
    5. Nothing Person – A Nothing Person doesn’t contribute to the conversation. No verbal feedback, no nonverbal feedback, Nothing. What else could you expect from … the Nothing Person.
    6. Snipers – Whether through rude comments, biting sarcasm, or a well-timed roll of the eyes, making you look foolish is the Sniper’s specialty.
    7. Tanks – The Tank is confrontational, pointed and angry, the ultimate in pushy and aggressive behavior
    8. Think-They-Know-It-Alls – Think-They-Know-It-All people can’t fool all the people all the time, but they can fool some of the people enough of the time, and enough of the people all of the time – all for the sake of getting some attention.
    9. Whiners – Whiners feel helpless and overwhelmed by an unfair world. Their standard is perfection, and no one and nothing measures up to it.
    10. Yes Person – In an effort to please people and avoid confrontation, Yes People say “yes” without thinking things through.

    I warned you.  Are you already thinking about some Snipers in a few meetings that you have, or is there a Yes Person driving you nuts (or are you that Yes Person?)

    Have you talked to a Think-They-Know-It-All lately, or worse, a Know-It—All?

    Never fear, I’ve included actionable insights and recommendations for dealing with all the various bad behaviors you’ll encounter.

    The Lens of Human Understanding

    If all this talk about dealing with difficult people, and having silly labels seems like a gimmick, it’s not.  It’s actually deep insight rooted in a powerful, but simple framework that Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner refer to as the Lens of Human Understanding:

    The Lens of Human Understanding

    Once I learned The Lens of Human Understanding, so many things fell into place.

    Not only did I understand myself better, but I could instantly see what was driving other people, and how my behavior would either create more conflict or resolve it.

    But when you don’t know what makes people tick, it’s very easy to get ticked off, or to tick them off.

    Here’s looking at you … and other people … and their behaviors … in a brand new way.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Inspirational Quotes, Inspirational Life Quotes, and Great Leadership Quotes

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    I know several people looking for inspiration.

    I believe the right words ignite or re-ignite us.

    There is no better way to prime your mind for great things to come than filling your head and hear with the greatest inspirational quotes that the world has ever known.

    Of course, the challenge is finding the best inspirational quotes to draw from.

    Well, here you go …

    3 Great Inspirational Quotes Collections at Your Fingertips

    I revamped a few of my best inspirational quotes collections to really put the gems of insight at your fingertips:

    1. Inspirational Quotes – light a fire from the inside out, or find your North Star that pulls you forward
    2. Inspirational Life Quotes -
    3. Great Leadership Quotes – learn what great leadership really looks like and how it helps lifts others up

    Each of these inspirational quotes collection is hand-crafted with deep words of wisdom, insight, and action.

    You'll find inspirational quotes from Charles Dickens, Confucius, Dr. Seuss, George Bernard Shaw, Henry David Thoreau, Horace, Lao Tzu,  Lewis Carroll, Mahatma Gandhi, Oprah Winfrey, Oscar Wilde, Paulo Coelho, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Stephen King, Tony Robbins, and more.

    You'll even find an inspirational quote from The Wizard of Oz (and it’s not “There’s no place like home.”)

    Inspirational Quotes Jump Start

    Here are a few of my favorites inspirational quotes to get you started:

    “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”

    Mary Anne Radmacher

    “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

    Dr. Seuss

    “It is not length of life, but depth of life.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by every moment that takes your breath away.”

    Anonymous

    “You live but once; you might as well be amusing.”

    Coco Chanel

    “It is never too late to be who you might have been.”

    George Eliot

    “Smile, breathe and go slowly.”

    Thich Nhat Hanh

    “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    These inspirational quotes are living breathing collections.  I periodically sweep them to reflect new additions, and I re-organize or re-style the quotes if I find a better way.

    I invest a lot of time on quotes because I’ve learned the following simple truth:

    Quotes change lives.

    The right words, at the right time, can be just that little bit you need, to breakthrough or get unstuck, or find your mojo again.

    Have you had your dose of inspiration today?

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Leadership Skills for Making Things Happen

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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:

    1. Coaching and Mentoring
    2. Customer Focus
    3. Delegation
    4. Effectiveness
    5. Monitoring Performance
    6. Planning and Organizing
    7. Thoroughness

    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:

    1. Do you know what good actually looks like?  Who are you role models?   What do they do differently than you, and is it really might and magic or do they simply do behaviors or techniques that you could learn, too?
    2. How much have you actually practiced?   Have you really spent any sort of time working at the particular skill in question?
    3. How did you create an effective feedback loop?  So many people rapidly improve when they figure out how to create an effective learning loop and an effective feedback loop.
    4. Who did you learn from?  Are you expecting yourself to just naturally be skilled?  Really?  What if you found a good mentor or coach, one that could help you create an effective learning loop and feedback loop, so you can improve and actually chart and evaluate your progress?
    5. Do you have a realistic bar?  It’s easy to fall into the trap of “all or nothing.”   What if instead of focusing on perfection, you focused on progress?   Could a little improvement in a few of these areas, change your game in a way that helps you operate at a higher level?

    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.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Startup Thinking

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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.

    Startups are Bound Together by a Sense of Mission

    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.” 

    Signaling Work is Not the Same as Doing Work

    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.

    Via Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future:

    “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.”

    New Thinking is a Startup’s Strength

    The strength of a startup is new thinking.  New thinking is even more valuable than agility.  Startups provide the space to think.

    Via Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future:

    “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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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Visionary Leadership: How To Be a Visionary Leader (Or at Least Look Like One)

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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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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Goofy Innovation Techniques

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    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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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Are You an Integration Specialist?

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    Some people specialize in a narrow domain.  They are called specialists because they focus on a specific area of expertise, and they build skills in that narrow area.

    Rather than focus on breadth, they go for depth.

    Others focus on the bigger picture or connecting the dots.  Rather than focus on depth, they go for breadth.

    Or do they?

    It actually takes a lot of knowledge and depth to be effective at integration and “connecting the dots” in a meaningful way.  It’s like being a skilled entrepreneur or a skilled business developer.   Not just anybody who wants to generalize can be effective.  

    True integration specialists are great pattern matchers and have deep skills in putting things together to make a better whole.

    I was reading the book Business Development: A Market-Oriented Perspective where Hans Eibe Sørensen introduces the concept of an Integrating Generalist and how they make the world go round.

    I wrote a post about it on Sources of Insight:

    The Integrating Generalist and the Art of Connecting the Dots

    Given the description, I’m not sure which is better, the Integration Specialist or the Integrating Generalist.  The value of the Integrating Generalist is that it breathes new life into people that want to generalize so that they can put the bigger puzzle together.  Rather than de-value generalists, this label puts a very special value on people that are able to fit things together.

    In fact, the author claims that it’s Integrating Generalists that make the world go round.

    Otherwise, there would be a lot of great pieces and parts, but nothing to bring them together into a cohesive whole.

    Maybe that’s a good metaphor for the Integrating Generalist.  While you certainly need all the parts of the car, you also need somebody to make sure that all the parts come together.

    In my experience, Integration Generalists are able to help shape the vision, put the functions that matter in place, and make things happen.

    I would say the most effective Program Managers I know do exactly that.

    They are the Oil and the Glue for the team because they are able to glue everything together, and, at the same time, remove friction in the system and help people bring out their best, towards a cohesive whole.

    It’s synergy in action, in more ways than one.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Task Management for Teams

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    I’m a fan of monthly plans for meaningful work.

    Whether you call it a task list or a To-Do list or a product backlog, it helps to have a good view of the things that you’ll invest your time in.

    I’m not a fan of everybody trying to make sense of laundry lists of cells in a spreadsheet.

    Time changes what’s important and it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, among rows of tasks that all start to look the same.

    One of the most important things I’ve learned to do is to map out work for the month in a more meaningful way.

    It works for individuals.  It works for teams.  It works for leaders.

    It’s what I’ve used for Agile Results for years on projects small and large, and with distributed teams around the world.  (Agile Results is my productivity method introduced in Getting Results the Agile Way.)

    A picture is worth a thousand words, so let’s just look at a sample output and then I’ll walk through it:

    clip_image002

    What I’ve found to be the most effective is to focus on a plan for the month – actually take an hour or two the week before the new month.  (In reality, I’ve done this with teams of 10 or more people in 30 minutes or less.  It doesn’t take long if you just dump things fast on the board, and just keep asking people “What else is on our minds.”)

    Dive-in at a whiteboard with the right people in the room and just list out all the top of mind, important things – be exhaustive, then prioritize and prune.

    You then step back and identify the 3 most important outcomes (3 Wins for the Month.)

    I make sure each work item has a decent name – focused on the noun – so people can refer to it by name (like mini-initiatives that matter.)

    I list it in alphabetical by the name of the work so it’s easy to manage a large list of very different things.

    That’s the key.

    Most people try to prioritize the list, but the reality is, you can use each week to pick off the high-value items.   (This is really important.  Most people spend a lot of time prioritizing lists, and re-prioritizing lists, and yet, people tend to be pretty good prioritizing when they have a quick list to evaluate.   Especially, if they know the priorities for the month, and they know any pressing events or dead-lines.   This is where clarity pays off.)

    The real key is listing the work in alphabetical order so that it’s easy to scan, easy to add new items, and easy to spot duplicates.

    Plus, it forces you to actually name the work and treat it more like a thing, and less like some fuzzy idea that’s out there.

    I could go on and on about the benefits, but here are a few of the things that really matter:

    1. It’s super simple.   By keeping it simple, you can actually do it.   It’s the doing, not just the knowing that matters in the end.
    2. It chops big work down to size.   At the same time, it’s easy to quickly right-size.  Rather than bog down in micro-management, this simple list makes it easy to simply list out the work that matters.
    3. It gets everybody in the game.   Everybody gets to look at a whiteboard and plan what a great month will look like.  They get to co-create the journey and dream up what success will look like.   A surprising thing happens when you just identify Three Wins for the Month.

    I find a plan for the month is the most useful.   If you plan a month well, the weeks have a better chance of taking care of themselves.   But if you only plan for the week or every two weeks, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, and the next thing you know, the months go by.  You’re busy, things happen, but the work doesn’t always accrue to something that matters.

    This is a simple way to have more meaningful months.

    I also can’t say it enough, that it’s less about having a prioritized list, and more about having an easy to glance at map of the work that’s in-flight.   I’m glad the map of the US is not a prioritized list by states.  And I’m glad that the states are well named.  It makes it easy to see the map.  I can then prioritize and make choices on any trip, because I actually have a map to work from, and I can see the big picture all at once, and only zoom in as I need to.

    The big idea behind planning tasks and To-Do lists this way is to empower people to make better decisions.

    The counter-intuitive part is first exposing a simple view of the map of the work, so it’s easy to see, and this is what enables simpler prioritization when you need it, regardless of which prioritization you use, or which workflow management tool you plug in to.

    And, nothing stops you from putting the stuff into spreadsheets or task management tools afterwards, but the high-value part is the forming and storming and conforming around the initial map of the work for the month, so more people can spend their time performing.

    May the power of a simple information model help you organize, prioritize, and optimize your outcomes in a more meaningful way.

    If you need a deeper dive on this approach, and a basic introduction to Agile Results, here is a good getting started guide for Agile Results in action.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Innovation Revolution (A Time of Radical Transformation)

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    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …

    It’s not A Tale of Two Cities.   It’s a tale of the Innovation Revolution.

    We’ve got real problems worth solving.  The stakes are high.  Time is short.  And abstract answers are not good enough.

    In the book, Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs, Larry Keeley, Helen Walters, Ryan Pikkel, and Brian Quinn explain how it is like A Tale of Two Cities in that it is the worst of time and it is the best of times.

    But it is also like no other time in history.

    It’s an Innovation Revolution … We have the technology and we can innovate our way through radical transformation.

    The Worst of Times (Innovation Has Big Problems to Solve)

    We’ve got some real problems to solve, whether it’s health issues, poverty, crime, or ignorance.  Duty calls.  Will innovation answer?

    Via Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs:

    “People expect very little good news about the wars being fought (whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or on Terror, Drugs, Poverty, or Ignorance).  The promising Arab Spring has given way to a recurring pessimism about progress.  Gnarly health problems are on a tear the world over--diabetes now affects over eight percent of Americans--an other expensive disease conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and cancer are also now epidemic.  The cost of education rises like a runaway helium balloon, yet there is less and less evidence that it nets the students a real return on their investment.  Police have access to ever more elaborate statistical models of crime, but there is still way too much of it.  And global warming, steadily produces more extreme and more dangerous conditions the world over, yet according to about half of our elected 'leaders,' it is still, officially, only a theory that can conveniently be denied.”

    The Best of Times (Innovation is Making Things Happen)

    Innovation has been answering.  There have been amazing innovations heard round the world.  It’s only the beginning for an Innovation Revolution.

    Via Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs:

    “And yet ...

    We steadily expect more from our computers, our smartphones, apps, networks, and games.  We have grown to expect routine and wondrous stories of new ventures funded through crowdsourcing.  We hear constantly of lives around the world transformed because of Twitter or Kahn Academy or some breakthrough discovery in medicine.  Esther Duflo and her team at the Poverty Action Lab at MIT keep cracking tough problems that afflict the poor to arrive at solutions with demonstrated efficacy, and then, often the Gates Foundation or another philanthropic institution funds the transformational solution at unprecedented scale.

    Storytelling is in a new golden age--whether in live events, on the radio, or in amazing new television series that can emerge anywhere in the world and be adapted for global tastes.  Experts are now everywhere, and shockingly easy and affordable to access.

    Indeed, it seems clear that all the knowledge we've been struggling to amass is steadily being amplified and swiftly getting more organized, accessible, and affordable--whether through the magic of elegant little apps or big data managed in ever-smarter clouds or crowdfunding sites used to capitalize creative ideas in commerce or science.”

    It’s a Time of Radical Transformation and New, More Agile Institutions

    The pace of change and the size of change will accelerate exponentially as the forces of innovation rally together.

    Via Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs:

    “One way to make sense of these opposing conditions is to see us as being in a time of radical transformation.  To see the old institutions as being challenged as a series of newer, more agile ones arise.  In history, such shifts have rarely been bloodless, but this one seems to be a radical transformation in the structure, sources, and nature of expertise.  Indeed, among innovation experts, this time in one like no other.  For the very first time in history, we are in a position to tackle tough problems with ground-breaking tools and techniques.”

    It’s time to break some ground.

    Join the Innovation Revolution and crack some problems worth solving.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    How To Get Innovation to Succeed Instead of Fail

    • 0 Comments

    “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” – Peter Drucker

    I’m diving deeper into patterns and practices for innovation.

    Along the way, I’m reading and re-reading some great books on the art and science of innovation.

    One innovation book I’m seriously enjoying is Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs by Larry Keeley, Helen Walters, Ryan Pikkel, and Brian Quinn.

    Right up front, Larry Keeley shares some insight into the journey to this book.  He says that this book really codifies, structures, and simplifies three decades of experience from Doblin, a consulting firm focused on innovation.

    For more than three decades, Doblin tried to answer the following question:

    “How do we get innovation to succeed instead of fail?” 

    Along the journey, there were a few ideas that they used to bridge the gap in innovation between the state of the art and the state of the practice.

    Here they are …

    Balance 3 Dimensions of Innovation (Theoretical Side + Academic Side + Applied Side)

    Larry Keeley and his business partner Jay Doblin, a design methodologist, always balanced three dimensions of innovation: a theoretical side, an academic side, and an applied side.

    Via Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs:

    “Over the years we have kept three important dimensions in dynamic tension.  We have a theoretical side, where we ask and seek real answers to tough questions about innovation.  Simple but critical ones like, 'Does brainstorming work?' (it doesn't), along with deep and systemic ones like, 'How do you really know what a user wants when the user doesn't know either?'  We have an academic side, since many of us are adjunct professors at Chicago's Institute of Design and this demands that we explain our ideas to smart young professionals in disciplined, distinctive ways.  And third, we have an applied side, in that have been privileged to adapt our innovation methods to many of the world's leading global enterprises and start-ups that hanker to be future leading firms.”

    Effective Innovation Needs a Blend of Analysis + Synthesis

    Innovation is a balance and blend of analysis and synthesis.  Analysis involves tearing things down, while synthesis is building new things up.

    Via Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs:

    “From the beginning, Doblin has itself been interdisciplinary, mixing social sciences, technology, strategy, library sciences, and design into a frothy admixture that has always tried to blend both analysis, breaking tough things down, with synthesis, building new things up.  Broadly, we think any effective innovation effort needs plenty of both, stitched together as a seamless whole.”

    Orchestrate the Ten Types of Innovation to Make a Game-Changing Innovation

    Game-changing innovation is an orchestration of the ten types of innovation.

    Via Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs:

    “The heart of this book is built around a seminal Doblin discovery: that there are (and have always been) ten distinct types of innovation that need to be orchestrated with some care to make a game-changing innovation.“

    The main idea is that innovation fails if you try to solve it with just one dimension.

    You can’t just take a theoretical approach, and hope that it works in the real-world.

    At the same time, innovation fails if you don’t leverage what we learn from the academic world and actually apply it.

    And, if you know the ten types of innovation, you can focus your efforts more precisely.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Story of a Digital Artist

    • 2 Comments

    I’m always on the hunt for people that do what makes them come alive.

    Artists in particular are especially interesting for me, especially when they are able to do what they love.

    I’ve known too many artists that lived painful lives, trying to be an artist, but never making ends meet.

    I’ve also known too many artists that lived another life outside of art, but never really lived, because they never answered their calling.

    I believe that in today’s world, there are a lot more options for you to live life on you terms.

    With technology at our fingertips, it’s easier to connect with people around the world and share your art, whatever that may be.

    On Sources of Insight, I’ve asked artist Rebecca Tsien to share her story:

    Why I Draw People and Animals

    It’s more than a story of a digital artist.   It’s a journey of fulfillment.

    Rebecca has found a way to do what she loves.  She lives and breathes her passion.

    Maybe her story can inspire you.

    Maybe there’s a way you can do more art.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Myths of Business Model Innovation

    • 0 Comments

    Business model innovation has a couple of myths.

    One myth is that business model innovation takes big thinking.  Another myth about business model innovation is that technology is the answer.

    In the book, The Business Model Navigator, Oliver Gassman, Karolin Frankenberger, and Michaela Csik share a couple of myths that need busting so that more people can actually achieve business model innovation.

    The "Think Big" Myth

    Business model innovation does not need to be “big bang.”  It can be incremental.  Incremental changes can create more options and more opportunities for serendipity.

    Via The Business Model Navigator:

    “'Business model innovations are always radical and new to the world.'   Most people associate new business models with the giants leaps taken by Internet companies.  The fact is that business model innovation, in the same way as product innovation, can be incremental.  For instance, Netflix's business model innovation of mailing DVDs to customers was undoubtedly incremental and yet brought great success to the company.  The Internet opened up new avenues for Netflix that allowed the company to steadily evolve into an online streaming service provider.”

    The Technology Myth

    It’s not technology for technology’s sake.  It’s applying technology to revolutionize a business that creates the business model innovation.

    Via The Business Model Navigator:

    “'Every business model innovation is based on a fascinating new technology that inspires new products.'  The fact is that while new technologies can indeed drive new business models, they are often generic in nature.  Where creativity comes in is in applying them to revolutionize a business.  It is the business application and the specific use of the technology which makes the difference.  Technology for technology's sake is the number one flop factor in innovation projects.  The truly revolutionary act is that of uncovering the economic potential of a new technology.”

    If you want to get started with business model innovation, don’t just go for the home run.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Life Quotes That Will Change Your Life

    • 1 Comments

    Life’s better with the right words.

    And life quotes can help us live better.

    Life quotes are a simple way to share some of the deepest insights on the art of living, and how to live well.

    While some people might look for wisdom in a bottle, or in a book, or in a guru at the top of a mountain, surprisingly, a lot of the best wisdom still exists as quotes.

    The problem is they are splattered all over the Web.

    The Ultimate Life Quotes Collection

    My ultimate Life Quotes collection is an attempt to put the best quotes right at your fingertips.

    I wanted this life quotes collection to answer everything from “What is the meaning of life?” to “How do you live the good life?” 

    I also wanted this life quotes collection to dive deep into all angles of life including dealing with challenges, living with regrets, how to find your purpose, how to live with more joy, and ultimately, how to live a little better each day.

    The World’s Greatest Philosophers at Your Fingertips

    Did I accomplish all that?

    I’m not sure.  But I gave it the old college try.

    I curated quotes on life from an amazing set of people including Dr. Seuss, Tony Robbins, Gandhi, Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Dean, George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, Confucius, Jonathan Swift, Henry David Thoreau, and more.

    Yeah, it’s a pretty serious collection of life quotes.

    Don’t Die with Your Music Still In You

    There are many messages and big ideas among the collection of life quotes.  But perhaps one of the most important messages is from the late, great Henry David Thoreau:

    “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” 

    And, I don’t think he meant play more Guitar Hero.

    If you’re waiting for your chance to rise and shine, chances come to those who take them.

    Not Being Dead is Not the Same as Being Alive

    E.E. Cummings reminds us that there is more to living than simply existing:

    “Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.” 

    And the trick is to add more life to your years, rather than just add more years to your life.

    Define Yourself

    Life quotes teach us that living live on your terms starts by defining yourself.  Here are big, bold words from Harvey Fierstein that remind us of just that:

    “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”

    Now is a great time to re-imagine all that you’re capable of.

    We Regret the Things We Didn’t Do

    It’s not usually the things that we do that we regret.  It’s the things we didn’t do:

    “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”  – John Greenleaf Whittier

    Have you answered to your calling?

    Leave the World a Better Place

    One sure-fire way that many people find their path is they aim to leave the world at least a little better than they found it.

    “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

    It’s a reminder that we can measure our life by the lives of the people we touch.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Boost Your Confidence with the Right Words

    • 2 Comments

    Confidence is one of those things that makes all the difference when it comes to realizing your potential.

    So many people have great ideas and great ambitions, but lack the confidence to follow through when it counts.

    They hold themselves back.

    Their amazing and bold ideas turn into lackluster ideas, as fear starts talking (if they talk at all.)

    A while back, a team in HR interviewed me on confidence, because enough people pointed back to me as somebody they saw as confident.

    What HR wanted to know is, where does my confidence come from?

    For me, it mostly came from a relentless focus on making impact.

    I put my focus on doing great things, creating raving fan customers, and taking on big challenges.

    Where you put your focus, instantly changes your confidence.

    If you’re too worried about how you look or how you sound, then you aren’t putting enough focus on the amazing thing you are trying to do.

    So it wasn’t confidence per se.  It was more like putting my focus on the right things.

    But there was more to it.  I was confident because of a few basic beliefs:

    1. I believed I’ll figure it out
    2. I believed that if I screw up, I’ll learn faster
    3. I believed that I don’t need to be the answer, but that I can always find the answer

    Another thing that helped is that one of our leaders was relentless about “exposing our thinking.”   He wanted us to always detach ourselves from our ideas.   He wanted us to present ideas without being attached to them so they could be criticized and evaluated in more objective ways.

    This sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how difficult it can be to detach yourself from ideas.   But the beauty is that when you are able to do this, your focus changes from defending your ideas, to really helping to create better ideas.   And this little shift takes you from fear or lack of confidence, to purposeful exploration, with full confidence.

    Anyway, I think we become the thoughts that we think, so I think it’s really important to fill our head with the right words on confidence.

    To that end, here is roundup of some of the greatest confidence quotes of all time:

    Confidence Quotes

    See if you can find at least three that you can use to help add more juice to your day.

    If there is one that I find myself referring to all the time, to remind myself to get up to bat, it’s this one:

    “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William Shedd

    I learned it long ago, and it’s served me well, ever since.

    While that one reminds me to do what I do best, it’s really this one that inspires me to expand what I’m capable of:

    “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” — Anaïs Nin

    I hope you find the right words that give your confidence just the boost it needs, when you need it most.

    JD

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Trends for 2015

    • 0 Comments

    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:

    1. The Age of Instant Gratification.
    2. It’s a Mobile Everything World.
    3. Businesses Look to the Cloud.
    4. Internet of Things (IoT)
    5. Design is everywhere.
    6. Economy Re-Imagined (“The Circular Economy”)
    7. Culture of Health.
    8. Money is Reimagined (“The Future of Payments and Currency”)
    9. Digital Personal Assistants are Everywhere.
    10. Renegades and Rebels Rule the World

    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.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    7 Habits of Highly Motivated People

    • 1 Comments

    Motivation is a powerful skill.

    It can lift you up from the worst of places, and inspire you to new heights.

    After all, nothing is worse than slogging your way through your days, or working your way through a bunch of mundane tasks.

    But, like I said, motivation is a skill.

    You need to learn it.   For many people it does not come naturally.   And chances are, many of us have had bad models, bad advice, and worse, bad habits for a lifetime.

    One of the most important insights I found was said by Stephen Covey long ago – satisfied needs don’t motivate.

    It’s why we need to stay hungry.

    Here’s how you stay hungry -- find a problem you hate, and focus on creating a solution you love.

    But how you light your fire from the inside out in a sustainable way?

    That’s where the 7 habits of highly motivated people comes in.

    I wanted to put together a very simple set of habits and practices that actually work for building your motivational muscle and finding your inner mojo.

    Here are the 7 habits of highly motivated people at a glance:

    1. Find Your WHY
    2. Change Your Beliefs About What’s Possible
    3. Change Your Beliefs That Limit You
    4. Spend More Time In Your Values
    5. Surround Yourself With Catalysts
    6. Build Better Feedback Loops
    7. “Pull” Yourself with Compelling Goals

    There is a lot of science behind the habits.  If you’re that motivated, you can research it through bunches of books, bunches of sites, and brilliant TED talks.

    But, I’d much rather that you spent the time simply adopting and applying the habits, so you can set your motivation on fire.

    It’s time to do more of what you were born to do.

    It’s time to live and breathe the things that you want to live and breathe.

    It’s time to rise again from whatever ashes might have burned you down, and let your phoenix fly.

    If you aren’t sure where to get started, first read 7 habits of highly motivated people, and then adopt habit #1:

    Find Your WHY.

    You’ll be glad you did.

    I can see your pilot light is on already.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Agile Results Refresher

    • 2 Comments

    We live in amazing times. 

    The world is full of opportunity at your fingertips.

    You can inspire your mind and the art of the possible with TED talks.

    You can learn anything with all of the Open Courseware from MIT or Wharton, or Coursera, or you can build your skills with The Great Courses or Udemy.

    You can read about anything and fill your kindle with more books than you can read in this lifetime.

    You can invest in yourself.  You can develop your intellectual horsepower, your emotional intelligence, your personal effectiveness, your communication skills, your relationship skills, and your financial intelligence.

    You can develop your career, expand your experience, build your network, and grow your skills and abilities.  You can take on big hairy audacious goals.  You can learn your limits, build your strengths, and reduce your liabilities.

    You can develop your body and your physical intelligence, with 4-minute work outs, P90x3 routines, Fit Bits, Microsoft Band, etc.

    You can expand your network and connect with people around the world, all four corners of the globe, from all walks of life, for all sorts of reasons.

    You can explore the world, either virtually through Google Earth, or take real-world epic adventures.

    You can fund your next big idea and bring it to the world with Kickstarter.

    You can explore new hobbies and develop your talents, your art, your music, you name it.

    But where in the world will you get time?

    And how will you manage your competing priorities?

    And how will you find and keep your motivation?

    How will you wake up strong, with a spring in your step, where all the things you want to achieve in this lifetime, pull you forward, and help you rise above the noise of every day living?

    That's not how I planned on starting this post, but it's a reminder of how the world is full of possibility, and how amazing your life can be when you come alive and you begin the journey to become all that you're capable of.

    How I planned to start the post was this.  It's Spring.  It's time for a refresher in the art of Agile Results to help you bring out your best.

    Agile Results is a simple system for meaningful results.  It combines proven practices for productivity, time management, and personal effectiveness to help you achieve more in less time, and enjoy the process.

    It's a way to spend your best time and your best energy to get your best results.

    Agile Results is a way to slow down to speed up, find more fulfillment, and put your ambition into practice.

    Agile Results is a way to realize your potential, and to unleash your greatest potential.  Potential is a muscle that gets better through habits.

    The way to get started with Agile Results is simple.  

    1. Daily Wins.  Each day, ask yourself what are Three Wins you want for today?   Maybe it's win a raving fan, maybe it's finish that thing that's been hanging over you, or maybe it's have a great lunch.  You can ask yourself this right here, right now -- what are Three Wins you want to accomplish today?
    2. Monday Vision.  On Mondays, ask yourself what are Three Wins you want for this week?  Imagine it was Friday and you are looking back on the week, what are Three Wins that you want under your belt.  Use these Three Wins for the Week to inspire you, all week long, and pull you forward.  Each week is a fresh start.
    3. Friday Reflection.  On Friday, ask yourself, what are three things going well, and what are three things to improve?  Use these insights to get better each week.  Each week is a chance to get better at prioritizing, focusing, and creating clarity around what you value, and what others value, and what's worth spending more time on.

    For bonus, and to really find a path of fulfillment, there are three more habits you can add ...

    1. Three Wins for the Month.  At the start of each month, ask yourself, what are Three Wins you want for the month?  If you know your Three Wins for the Month, you can use these to make your months more meaningful.  In fact, a great practice is to pick a theme for the month, whatever you want your month to be about, and use that to make your month matter.  And, when you combine that with your Three Wins, not only will you enjoy the month more, but at the end of the month, you'll feel a better sense of accomplishment when you can talk about your Three Wins that you achieved, whether they are your private or public victories.  And, if the month gets off track, use your Three Wins to help you get back on track.  And, each month is a fresh start.
    2. Three Wins for the Year.  At the start of the year, ask yourself what are Three Wins you want to achieve for the year?  This could be anything from get to your fighting weight to take an epic adventure to write your first book.
    3. Ask better questions.   You can do this anytime, anywhere.  Thinking is just asking and answering questions.  If you want better answers, ask better questions.  You can exponentially improve the quality of your life by asking better questions.

    A simple way that I remember this is I remember to think in Three Wins:

    Think in terms of Three Wins for the Day, Three Wins for the Week, Three Wins for the Month, Three Wins for the Year

    Those are the core habits of Agile Results in a nutshell. 

    You can start with that and be well on your way to getting better results in work and life.

    If you want to really master Agile Results, you can read the book, Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life.

    It's been a best seller in time management, and it’s helped many people around the world create a better version of themselves.

    If you want to take Agile Results to the next level, start a study group and share ways that you use Agile Results with each other around how you create work-life balance, create better energy, learn more faster, and unleash your potential, while enjoying the journey, and getting more from work and life.

    Share your stories and results with me, with your friends, with your family, anyone, and everyone – help everybody live a little better.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    10 Leadership Ideas to Improve Your Influence and Impact

    • 0 Comments

    "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.

    1. 3 Stories Leaders Need to Tell
    2. 10 Ways Leaders Hold People Accountable
    3. A Leader is the Trustee of the Intangibles
    4. Balance Connection and Conviction to Reduce Anxiety and Lead Effectively
    5. Boldness Has Genius, Magic, and Power in It
    6. Change Your Leadership Style Based on Capability and Motivation
    7. Guide Your Path with Vision, Values, and Goals
    8. Lead Yourself and Others with Stories
    9. Warrior Leaders Reveal Great Character
    10. What Executive Leaders at Microsoft Taught Me

    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.

    Enjoy.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Successful Digital Vision Starts at the Top

    • 0 Comments

    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.

    Employees Don’t Always Get the WHY, WHAT, or HOW of Digital Business Transformation

    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.”

    Only Senior Executives Can Create a Compelling Vision of the Future

    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.

    Via Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation:

    “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.”

    Digital Masters Have a Shared Digital Vision (While Others Do Not)

    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.

    Via Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation:

    “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.”

    Digital Vision is Not Enough (You Need a Transformative Digital Vision)

    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.

    Via Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation:

    “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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