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Ryan’s Journal: How To Establish Culture With Asymmetrical Information

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevecorey/14292160302/Public image for both companies and people has always been important and even more so with the availability of information at our disposal. But even with these tools we are still dealing with asymmetrical information when making decisions and establishing culture.

I spoke to a friend over dinner the other night who travels overseas for work quite a bit. As a result he is not up to speed on current US events and was unaware of the string of crisis that have impacted Uber.

He was shocked to learn that they were involved in lawsuits, scandals and more. It was actually a bit like hearing it for the first time myself as I had a chance to see his emotions as he learned the news.

His opinion of Uber was shaped on asymmetrical information.

I had mentioned in a previous post that some local companies that tout their high employee reviews are not as shiny from the inside. Again, asymmetrical information.

The director of the FBI has been fired, we as the public are dealing with asymmetrical information for the reasons behind it.

I state all of this to say that we must constantly strive to learn, ingest and understand as much as we can when making decisions about the companies we deal with and people we hire.

I recently took part in a process where a new employee was terminated. It was unfortunate but they were not a good fit for the role, exaggerated a bit during the interview process and then didn’t make up for it after being hired.

This person is someone that I wouldn’t mind being friends with, but they were not suited for the role they were in. The hire was a result of asymmetrical information.

I have looked back on my own life at times when I made foolish mistakes due to my lack of information. Rash decisions that cost me time and money. How do we learn from them?

Here are a few ways I have dealt with this moving forward.

  • Have trusted friends or mentors to bounce ideas off of.
  • Take a day or two when making big decisions.
  • Try to remove emotion from the decisions to ensure you’re not swayed.

These all may be basic (I am not as lofty as I would like), but they can make an impact for the positive.

Image credit: Steve Corey

Where Collaboration Pays (and Doesn’t)

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/planeta/5438442613/

It’s impressive when a market set to double from roughly $4+ billion to $8+ billion by 2019 doesn’t really solve the problem it claims to solve.

Huh?

The market is collaboration software and, based on new research, it only works for half the problem.

Unfortunately, it turns out that inducing more collaboration may hinder the most important part of problem-solving: actually solving the problem. While connecting employees does increase the ability to gather facts during the early stages of tackling a problem, it also inhibits the ability to analyze those facts and find a solution.

The 21st Century approach that’s been pushed by academics and the collaboration industry has been supported only by research done separately on the two halves.

Solving any problem requires two distinct steps,

  1. Collecting data
  2. Analyzing and using the data.

The first responds well to collaboration; a variety of people with different experiences and world-views are less likely to homogenize their information-gathering.

… the most-clustered groups gathered 5 percent more information than the least-clustered groups…

However, the gain didn’t carry over to a solution.

Clustering also seemed to inhibit the breadth and number of answers that the players proposed. The least-connected networks came up with 17.5 percent more theories and solutions than did the most-connected networks.

17.5% is a significant number — especially when it’s your organization.

Collaboration is a marvelous tool, but it’s not a silver bullet.

As with most good tools it needs to be used where and when it works.

Flickr image credit: Ron Mader

Entrepreneurs: The Power of Open Communications

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/thecomnetwork/15233422717

Remember Sun Microsystems? In 1998 they had a great ad that should bed on the wall of every startup and the goal of every manager, especially founders. It said, “Information shall circulate as freely as office gossip.”

Open communications is the basis of an enlightened workforce and enables world-class performance, unleashing creativity, and promoting a good working environment.

Great leaders/managers start with three basic assumptions:

  1. People are intelligent, motivated, and want to help their company succeed.
  2. People are required to act with initiative.
  3. People’s performance is directly impacted by the quality and quantity of the information they receive.

Open communications means

  • managers providing employees with all the information they need to do their job
  • sharing knowledge between employees. The double goal being to encourage employee growth and substantially reduce the time they spend reinventing the wheel.
  • eliminating one of the two pillars of political power.
  • documenting. Good documentation plays a role in every part and process of a company. Without the knowledge of what has been done in the past, it is difficult to fulfill the demands of the present, let alone make viable decisions for the company’s future. Documenting is as much attitude as action, so it is critical to continually develop the mindset among employees that no project is finished until it is documented.
  • making sure that people can easily understand information. Visuals, from a manager’s quick sketch, to the detailed drawings used by engineering to describe a product to manufacturing, are the fastest and easiest way to present information to busy people. Processes and information that can not be represented visually are probably too convoluted and bureaucratic.

Make open communications one of the core values on which you base your company’s culture.

Image credit: Communications Network

Quotable Quotes: Info for Better Living

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

‘Tis the season to reflect and consider better motivation and actions, so I thought I’d share some good info for you to add to whatever you’re cooking up.

This great advice was a tweet from Drake.

Live without pretending
Love without depending
Listen without defending
Speak without offending

(Hat tip to Dmitry Vergeles, CEO, Solveig Multimedia for sharing the quote.)

There’s way too much ‘I’ in the world today; most everything improves when you replace ‘I’ with ‘we’, as shown in this anonymous meme shows.

When ‘I’ is replaced by ‘we’
Even ‘illness’ becomes ‘wellness’
.

During a conversation, someone asked me why I thought the term ‘friend’ had lost its meaning. I responded that today’s definition didn’t match what I called friends. They said “what’s the difference?” Here is what I said.

Friends who have time vs. friends who make time.
Friends who click to like vs. friends who act to like.
Friends who share vs. friends who care.

www.flickr.com/photos/adulau/2990656711/Finally, in case you’re wondering what I did about last night’s burn, I put crushed, raw onion on it (number 7 at My Home Remedies:) and it was immediately fine. I also added more onion on a light bit of cotton, wrapped it with plastic wrap and put a piece of Scotch tape around it. I wrote Saturday’s blog and it stayed on all night. No pain, no problems since.

How about that.

Image credit: Alexandre Dulaunoy

Ducks in a Row: Sharing Information Yields Innovation

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Think about all the information that comes your way, especially if you are an executive.

It’s usually shared at peer level and (maybe) one or two levels down.

But full sharing of that information should be embedded deeply in your company’s culture.

In fact, when information, particularly competitive and market intelligence, is widely disseminated throughout the organization it juices innovation and boosts productivity.

Why?

Because increasing the number of people with access to the information increases the odds for breakthrough thinking and reduces the risk of wheel-spinning.

  • An article on a competitor’s product can spark an engineer’s original design idea;
  • gossip about changing industry dynamics can prevent a stumble in marketing;
  • an investment report on a new service offering can suggest an innovative sales approach to a desirable customer.

Highly visible industry developments circulate swiftly and prompt immediate strategy meetings and fast responses, but the rest of the information often languishes; instead, it needs to be easily accessible by everyone.

Think about it, everybody in your company picks up valuable industry intelligence along with potentially valuable gossip.

  • CEOs receive strategy reports by investment firms, management consulting companies, along with high level information and gossip from the Board.
  • Managers receive reports from hired industry experts and publications.
  • Marcom and others interact with the media.
  • Salespeople gain information from customers.
  • Engineers and others observe competitive equipment at trade shows.
  • Admin and other support people hear and overhear stuff, often because they are ignored by those at higher levels.

People talk—at tradeshows, networking events, industry conferences and seminars, as well as at social events, bars, restaurants, etc. Most people spend at least part of that time talking about business-related topics.

Unfortunately, some managers derive their power through information control.

Smart managers make sure that the information is shared, up, down, and horizontally, by using internal blogs, intranets, wikis, etc. Further, they actively work to encourage everybody to read and discuss it.

Since the goal is to encourage everybody to share everything, no matter the source, all posts should include attribution; a public thank you to the person who took the time to share it.

Whether formal (reports, white papers, news) or informal (conversations, hearsay, gossip) the content needs to be accurately assessed and valued.

There is no way to predict what bit of knowledge will spark the creative process, so be sure that your people have full access everything available in an easily searchable format.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedbee/103147140/

Ducks In A Row: As You Think, So Shall You Lead

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

I’ve mentioned from time to time that there are the two basic principles that you need to believe in if you want to implement the kind of culture that I and most other pundits describe.

Here’s the first one.

People are intelligent, motivated, and they genuinely want to support their company in achieving its objectives.

Sadly, many managers don’t believe this. They may say they do, but deep down their thoughts run more along the lines of ‘people are stupid, lazy and don’t really give a damn’.

I’ve know managers who would actually say this out loud, while in others it’s buried so deeply they may not even realize it themselves—but they all manage accordingly.

The second principle is even more open to distortion.

People are most productive when they receive all the information needed all at once to do their job efficiently.

Based on the games so many managers play perhaps we should rewrite it—

People are most productive when they receive all the information needed all at once to do their job efficiently.

Not dribbled out over the course of the project, given grudgingly or only when asked and then only the narrowest parameter forcing the employee to return over and over.

You would think that managers would do everything in their power to create an environment that enabled the highest levels of creativity and productivity.

But for better or worse, what they produce in fact is a reflection of their MAP.

Your comments—priceless

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