Coming: Dips, Rocks and Thunderstorm

Joseph Pistrui's post from his blog really resonated with me and I thought it would with you!  Jospeh is a friend, colleague and wise man. He diverse background and expertise gives him the credibilty to speak on our very dynamic world.  So read on and please ponder.  And thank you, Joseph, for letting me repost your words here!
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A recent tweet by 7billCORPORATE (@7billcorp, part of @7billionideas) really nailed the truth about innovation and business. On 30 January 2015 via Twitter, a brilliant graphic was added to a post that contrasted the perception many people have about the path to progress and what it’s really like. Here ’tis:

Path to Progress

So many think that innovation happens quickly, smoothly, without roadblocks or bumps. And that may be true, for a few. If you are operating in a business environment in which there is a reasonably clear — and straight — line to who your future customers will be and what products and services you need to develop for them, first count your blessings and then get on the accelerator. Assuming you have the technology and know-how to make it happen, these are precisely the conditions when speed is critically important. Start. Go fast. Keep going. Don’t stop.

In these rare moments in the world of enterprise, getting to your destination as fast and efficiently as possible must be your paramount goal. The business world has countless tools for planning and eking out process improvements for such journeys, and you probably already know how to use them well.

In such cases, think of the time you may have watched with envy that shiny red Porsche Carrera speeding off down the highway with the driver pushing “pedal to the metal”. Recall the roar of all that horsepower as it reached top speed and peak performance, unchallenged by anything or anyone on the road.

Unfortunately, such an analogy isn’t the reality for most firms. “The future” for most businesses and organisations I encounter will be the kind of path that 7billCORPORATE displays. There will be dips, rocks, wobbly bridges over unknown chasms and deep water where you expected smooth pavement. Oh, and don’t forget the thunderstorms.

For most of those I meet, their future operating environment is uncertain, ambiguous and even (heaven forbid) unknowable. During their journey in time, many of the time-tested tools and techniques at their disposal will prove to be, well, not very helpful.

That does not mean that what’s needed is a new car and a new driver. Think now of that same Porsche, only this time keeping in mind its other performance capacities, such as cornering, shifting, braking and speed. This exceptionally well-engineered automobile is both ready for the high-speed straightaway as well as the curves, redirections and sudden changes of speed required to drive the rocky road to tomorrow.

Yet, if you lack the mindset to power up and power past unpredictable obstacles, you might as well be on skateboard with only one set of wheels. You’re not going to move far, fast or fearlessly. Which is why, as I work with companies large and small, I find that what’s most needed is a new leadership mindset, skillset and toolset. Too many leaders have great cars, but they lack versatility. The 21st century leader must be able to move fast when he or she knows the right direction, be cautious when the terrain is unknown or threatening, be willing to change directions when new and compelling information becomes available, and be able to stop quickly — even altogether — should the conditions for progress prove impossible.Porsche Carerra

Becoming more versatile (or ambidextrous) as a leader is no small task; but, in my experience, it is now an imperative for survival, and even more an imperative for growth. Our Nextsensing Project is about working with the mindset of any leader facing an uncertain future. No matter what kind of car he or she drives, moving into the future requires an understanding of the unique challenge at hand, the identification of the appropriate tools to use for the situation, and the building of confidence that only rough roads truly test the abilities of the vehicle — and the driver.


Porsche image from http://www.porsche-mania.com


For Whom Do We Innovate?

If you ever wondered about the power of innovation to radically change lives, wonder no more.  Anish Sarma, a volunteer at SpeakYourMind Foundation (SYMF) and research engineer at Braingate, tells us. SYMF spun out of the BrainGate lab at Brown University and Massachusetts General Hospital to develop communication technologies for people who can't communicate effectively because of neurological injury and disease.  You see why I love working with Millennials?? Please consider donating here.

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For Whom Do We Innovate?

I didn't really "get" tablets for a long time. There wasn't much I could do on a tablet that I wouldn't rather do on a laptop. The main advantage of the tablet seemed to be that it made streaming video and social media look nicer.

Then I saw someone use a tablet to type "Hello."

The typist was a woman who is paralyzed from the neck down and unable to speak. Technology developed by the SpeakYourMind Foundation has enabled her and others with severe disabilities to communicate, when other, costlier technologies have been less successful. The growth of tablets as a platform has helped make SpeakYourMind's technology practical and affordable. (Disclosure: I'm a volunteer and unabashed shill for SpeakYourMind.)

As an engineer, I'm as enthusiastic about innovation as anyone. I'm waiting for my jetpack, too. Sometimes, however, I wonder what exactly we're reaching for. The sleek, frictionless future sold by our most successful tech-media companies says, "You deserve better than to lift a finger." But for people who can't use their fingers or their arms or their voices, the technology designed to help is paleolithic compared to common consumer gadgets. I'm learning to measure the success of an innovation not by its profit margins but by its benefit to people on the margins. Ubiquity is not the same thing as progress.

That's why I've been so excited to volunteer with SpeakYourMind. The core technology of SpeakYourMind is simple. But the group's real innovation is its commitment to using that technology to advance the basic rights of people with severe disabilities: to involve them in fundamental decisions about their own health care, to bring them into the workforce, and to give them the freedom to express themselves to their loved ones and the world.

Every new tech startup claims to be about people, not gadgets. SpeakYourMind has me convinced.

What’s Your Leadership Narrative?

In the midst of getting back from Bangkok, heading to Las Vegas and officially launching her new book,  Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, Dorie Clark took the time to guest post! As I mentioned in my review, this is a Must Read book for anyone at any stage in their career.  Please pay it forward and buy a copy for yourself and one to give away! 

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As a leader, it’s painfully easy to be misinterpreted. Some people aren’t paying that close attention to you; they’ll take a few impressions and haphazardly fill in the blanks. Others may overanalyze or try to “read tea leaves” that may not even exist. If you want your message to get out intact – whether it’s about who you are as a leader, or the vision you have for your company – you need take a step too few executives bother to do: create your leadership narrative.

As I recount in my new book from Harvard Business Review Press, Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, when Toby Johnson graduated from West Point, her first job out of college was the furthest thing possible from entry-level paper-pushing: she became an Apache helicopter pilot, the only woman in a class of 30 trainees. Her performance – over seven years in the Army, including a tour in Iraq - won raves. She was lauded by her supervisors and was even featured in an Army advertising campaign. But when she decided to leave the military to attend business school, she faced one big disadvantage compared to her classmates, many of whom entered with corporate experience: “The only big organization I’d ever worked for was the United States Army.”

So how do you compete for job offers with talented peers who have clear, compelling stories to tell about their time in the corporate world? After all, flying a helicopter may not seem directly relevant to corporate success. Toby knew the lessons were transferable, but she’d have to connect the dots for potential employers. Her mission was to create a narrative that both made sense and captivated them. “I used my military experience as an advantage,” she says.

She had to craft a story that made sense to skeptical hiring managers, stressing the management experience she’d gained in the military (at 24 years old, she was in charge of eight $30 million Apache helicopters, plus the 30 people who managed them) and the rapid learning made possible by her early leadership experience. Many of her peers, trying management out for the first time, wouldn’t yet have found their unique style – and could make some costly mistakes in the interim.

In other words, Toby took charge of her story and ensured that what was clear to her (she’s building on her management and leadership experience and taking it to a new arena) was also understandable to others (who might otherwise question what a helicopter pilot could bring to a corporation). Her strategy worked; today, she’s a fast-rising executive at a multinational consumer goods company.

Similarly, all executives need to think through fundamental narrative questions, for themselves and their companies: where did we start, where are we going, and how are the lessons we learned making a difference in that journey?

You don’t have to have a leadership narrative; plenty of executives and companies get by without one. But what they’re missing is the sense of meaning a narrative can bring. It shows how our past, present, and future connect – an arc that makes sense of everything we’ve experienced before. And perhaps the most inspiring and comforting message a leader can give is that our past hasn’t been for naught; the lessons we’ve learned can help us find the way forward.

Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of the newly released Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant and speaker who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the World Bank. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Business Administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.

How To Stay Relevant & Have Impact

We are in an age of immense disruption: industries, societal codes, politics, demographics, you name it.  If we are going to handle this continually changing the world, we have to adapt ourselves.  All we can really control is how we react, and more importantly, pro-act to our world.  While we should hold our principles and values dear, we need to reinvent the how, where, and why we live those out.  Grateful to call her a friend, Dorie Clark’s new book, “Reinventing You” is an indispensible guide to just that – reinventing ourselves, continually, to adapt to and thrive in the 21st century.  Many of you may familiar with Dorie’s view on the subject through her Forbes and Harvard Business Review blog posts.

Dorie’s book is a practical, applicable, actionable guide on how we can reinvent our role in the world, and hence our impact.  One of the powerful aspects of the book is Dorie’s ability to go from very specific, tactical details on how to network and reach out to others (e.g., when to call, how to find out nicknames, etc.) to more the more strategic issues around why we need to reinvent ourselves in the first place.  Dorie gives us very actionable advice on how to identify our starting point, why we are starting from there and then discovering possible destinations.  She continues with a ‘how to’ plan that is so easy to follow and execute on our own. 

Since reinventing ourselves can be daunting, Dorie uses a ‘lean startup’ approach to help us experiment and prototype (as she says, “test drive”) our path and develop the skills we might need.  As someone who loves mentoring, and being mentored, her chapter dedicated to finding and learning from a mentor hit home.  Reinventing You shows us how to find our value, communicate our value and continue enhancing our value to others.

Dorie’s book is a much-needed guide among the noise of books on career development, personal development and ‘how to’.  This is a book of truth and practical advice, based on Dorie’s experiences and those of others she shares in the book.  It is a book leaders and managers should share with their people and encourage and support them in pursuing.  It is a book students in college should read as they think about what they may want to do.  It is a book even those of us fully satisfied and complete in our current positions should read. It is a book you will read, mark, re-read and want to loan out to others, so buy a few copies to give away – because paying it forward is part of the book!