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Are You Fashionable in Your Business Thoughts?

If you’ve been following the tweets for this week’s #kaizenblog topic, you are probably wondering what the bleep does Fashion Week have to do with business thinking? More than you cFashion and Business Thoughtan imagine! Have you noticed how there is an idea or a philosophy that everyone must have. Do you remember when everyone was searching for excellence? Or when W. Edward Deming theorized how quality made a difference in cost reduction and continual improvement was our goal? Peter Drucker’s Knowledge Worker, Robert Greenleaf’s concept of servant leadership and Seth Godin’s encouragement to build a Tribe are embedded in lots of discussion about leadership.

Then there are certain segments of the business community that become fashionable and we are urged to be like them. For a while, everyone was to be an entrepreneur. Even our children are to be trained in entrepreneurship. Jack Welch has made quite an impact with his explanation about how he led GE so that many corporations have tried to emulate the model. My friend, Kelley pointed me to this post, SMB Is the New Black as small business is the “It Girl” with attention from Congress, service providers, manufacturers, and people pursuing a long-held dream of owning a business.

And then the books…Jim Collins, Michael Gerber, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Regis McKenna, Daniel Goleman, Robert Townsend, Max Weber, Daniel Pink,  Konsuke Matsushita and so many other amazing minds have introduced discussions about business that make us rethink what we thought was true. Dare I say they encouraged us to think out of the box? We all have particular favorites that are must-refers for us.  Some authors are must-reads no matter what they write. Malcolm Gladwell comes to mind as one of those authors that people feel they ought to read.

There are fads and fashions in business too. It feels like one minute, everyone must develop emotional intelligence. In the next minute, one must write a book to be considered an expert or manage information strategically. The thing is, ideas need time to build that classic status like a LBD (the must-have in all women’s closets; the little black dress). Is all the discussion about innovation going to leave us with nuggets that we end up using every day? Social media has changed how we interact with our customers. We can actually have conversations with customers that are individualized leading to a different sort of seller/buyer relationship.  Whether there are terms (thought leader, change agent) or behaviors (Agile scrum, blogging) that we are so out of style if we aren’t using them somehow. There is always someone telling us what the must-haves are in business but not all of these must-haves have staying power.

What business thinkers do you believe are a must-have?

What do you consider a fad in business currently?

What is the height of fashion in business thought right now?

Join Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge) and me for an active discussion about “Business Thought Fashions-Latest Fads and Trends” on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog, on Friday, September 17, 2010 at 12pm ET. Hope to see you in the Tweetstream!


Using Doubt as Tool For Business Success-#kaizenblog Recap

Using Doubt For Good BusinessDoubt as a tool for success? This is probably not the first thing you think of with doubt. Most people try to avoid doubt or chastise themselves for even questioning their own abilities or their decisions. But what if this is really not about undermining your performance? What if there is something more going on here?

Valeria Maltoni (founder and co-host of #kaizenblog) and I got curious about doubt after reading an article by Dan Pink, Can We Fix It Is the Right Question. Dan Pink used Bob the Builder to show how introducing doubt help create a good answer for your business. Pink also cites a research study that explains that “interrogative talk” rather than “declarative talk” are more likely to produce better performances. So all those affirmations you tell yourself may not be the best way to do your best. It seems to be more effective to ask yourself, “Will I do this?”

Well, with all of this in the background, we knew just the people who could grapple with the idea that doubt was more than a paralyzing emotion so we let the #kaizenblog community have at it. (You can read the whole transcript Transcript for #kaizenblog – Doubt!)

What are the pros and cons of expressing doubt about ideas/strategies/methods? This question seemed to set the stage quickly for an active conversation.

  • Market Art (@X_youarehere) seemed to express humour and (maybe) some anxiety- “Is Dr. Fud here today? He is the authority on this too-common technique.,_uncertainty_and_doubt
  • Laura Crum (@LauraLCrum)- “A1 Pro: opens up process/goals for exploration and new ideas. Con: sows uncertainty about abilities.”
  • Anastasia M. Ashman (@Thandelike)- “A1 Expressing doubt about strategies/ideas/methods shows you have a grasp of downsides/ineffectualities.”
  • Anthony Liang (@liangtfm)- “Q1 Pro: it lets you re-think through the idea/strat/method and see if it’s really the right way to go.”
  • Christine Fife (@chrissfife)- “Well, one obvious point, expressing doubt makes you come across as negative.”
  • WDYWFT (also know as and @WDYWFT)- “Pro doubt-you might uncover some reasonable judgement, Con doubt-you might not get idea off ground. Look at what-then how.”
  • Jeannie Walters (@jeanniecw)- “A1-I think big PRO is authenticity. We all have doubts. It’s okay to express them”
  • Bruno Ceolho (@bcoelho2000)- “Just make sure don’t get paralyzed by doubt and use it as an excuse.”
  • Paul Pruneau (@Paul_Pruneau)- “Doubt is what needs to be overcome by data or evidence. Both take hard work.”

There was some back and forth throughout this part of the chat about whether expressing doubt was really about negativity or a more simple uncertainty. In the midst of these tweets were other thoughts that doubt could lay the ground for further understanding, better solutions, and humility.

  • MaryAnn Halford (@MaryAnnHalford)- “how you language your doubts can make it more proactive versus negative.”
  • Diane Court (dc2fla)- “With big stakes initiatives (& small too) there is always uncertainty. Good leaders encourage raising concerns, unknowns, risks.”
  • Bill Lublin (@billlublin)- “The devils advocate is doubt-without doubt we have mindless optimism and bad planning.”
  • Stephen Denny (@Note_To_CMO)- “To paraphrase Northrup, better to assume we’re 1 step above apes than 1 below angels. Doubt gives room to grow.”

Despite how fascinating this part of the conversation was, it was really time to take a look at the possibility that there is a dark side to positive thinking. With positive thinking being urged on us all, how are we creating a taboo for having/expressing doubt? Even within the #kaizenblog chat, you could see people trying to determine whether or not doubt sucks our motivation and leaves us with a poor sense of self-efficacy or even paralysis.

  • Sian Phillips offered this concern,”…Surely if you doubt yourself that brings in negativity which is not good?”
  • MaryAnn Halford- “I think it is more than being self-critical – I think it is more likely healthy skepticism.”
  • Laura Crum- “A2 – we sometimes eliminate forums for expressing doubt, making it difficult/socially sanctioned”
  • Stephen Denny- “Q2 Positive thinking isn’t always smart, is it? You need critical questioning w/o the personal attack that often accompanies it.”
  • Rich Becker (@RichBecker)- “Doubt is the wrong word. I prefer a path of extreme openness to prevent us from becoming entrenched.”

There seemed to be a reframing that doubt could mean nothing more than uncertainty or perhaps even reflection. Doubt, in and of itself, seems to be hard to tolerate.

How does doubt introduce conversation about how specific business problems could be handled?

  •  Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI)- “Doubt can be balanced view ~ not so much you stopped from doing anything”
  • Valeria Maltoni- “You need to use biz resources wisely. Cannot always try/do all to know if it works”
  • Patty de Larios (@PattydeLarios)- “Doubt in business (should) open the door for different points of view”
  • MaryAnn Halford- “the “doubt” conversation needs to focus on the analysis and how to leverage it to make things possible”
  • Craig Wiggins (@CraigWiggins)- “First is “Should we”, then smart people can figure out the “how”. Start with the q: ‘is it worth doing?’ “
  • Lois Martin (@LoisMarketing)- “Having such a conversation opens minds for fresh ideas, identifying weak links in the chain”

There was an interesting thread in this section about how BP could have responded differently if they used doubt in their internal conversations with more regularity. If someone in a different section of your business (ex. engineers at BP) provides information that might illuminate how things could go badly, would you allow that into your thinking and conversation before the final decision is made?

In the final part of the chat, humility was introduced as a a piece of how one might be able to use doubt. What is the link between humility and doubt? This turned out to be a tough question to answer in 14o characters.

  • Craig Wiggins- “Real humility can accept the doubts of others without defensiveness, and be open to being ‘wrong.’ “
  • Anthony Liang- “You have to know how to bring up questions for conversation rather than arguing/plain disagreement”
  • Diane Court- “Humility means one openly listens, considers questions/doubt & credits team for resulting improved process”
  • Patty de Larios- “Humility is like saying “Many roads lead to Rome.” It’s knowing there is more than one “right” way”

This chat was remarkable! It was something to see everyone play, experiment, and discuss the idea that doubt does not automatically mean a negative and using it effectively actually betters the business. While writing this recap, it was difficult trying to decide which tweets to use as there were so many important points made. Read through the transcript (posted above) to see all of the ideas.

How is doubt really another part of critical thinking?

What do you believe about doubt and how do you use it in your business?

Embedded in this #kaizenblog chat was the suggestion to do a Tweetup. If you would like to do this, leave a comment and let’s see how we can organize this geographically. Can’t wait to meet you all in person!




Is Doubt Really Okay?

Doubt has been on my mind lately. Interestingly enough, Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge, founder and co-host of #kaizenblog) emailed me with the idea of discussing doubt as a tool for building a thriving business.  Since we both find Dan Pink interesting, she sent me a link to this article, Can We Fix It Is the Right Question To AskDoubt is useful for business. Aside from loving the theme of Bob the Builder (there are young people in my life), it was interesting to see someone suggesting that doubt is useful and not to be avoided. Hmm…

Dan Pink writes, “Instead of puffing up himself and his team, [Bob the Builder] firsts wonders whether they can actually meet their goal. In asking his signature question -Can we fix it- he introduces some doubt.” This leads to a conversation of possible options and then a decision is made. The key piece here is the conversation, whether or not it is a “self-conversation”, that is started by doubt.

To me, this is most intriguing! An internal conversation, a “self-conversation” could allow doubt to be used productively. Why do we avoid doubt? I worry that positive thinking, The Secret, the Law of Attraction may be creating an unfortunate taboo. If we keep focusing on how we’re so special, so wonderful, so magnificent, how do we deepen who we are as people?

There is power in recognizing when we are onto something really big in our work. I see this all the time with my small business clients as they step into new roles that combine the roles of visionary and manager. They wonder deeply if they have the talent, the “right” vision, the best way to communicate with their direct reports. At the same time, they don’t doubt that they will do it. They use coaching to go through the process of asking themselves the questions that clarify their thoughts, emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. There is a humility here knowing that you don’t have all the answers and that asking “can we fix it” creates the opening to see the best way forward.

 Are we truly alive if we avoid negative emotions?

Is doubt that negative?

What if it is really doubt, in addition to belief, that makes executing our strategies possible?



The Necessity of Creativity in 21st Century Business-#kaizenblog recap

CreativityThere is a lot of talk about creativity and innovation. Everyone’s got to have these to build these amazing businesses! Be new! Be original! Be…what really? Is this truly necessary?

Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge, founder and co-host of #kaizenblog) and I decided to take on the idea of creativity in 21st century business for our #kaizenblog chat. In preparation for the chat, I did a little research and discovered 2 videos that talked about the importance of creativity in the 21st century. There are some who say that the “knowledge workers” are morphing into something else while others focus on how we will use the abilities of the right half of our brains more so than ever before. It’s worth checking out Dan Pink’s take on creativity here. Another person who has a lot to say about creativity is Ken Robinson who says the current education system kills creativity. If you are curious about how the conversation evolved, read this Transcript for #kaizenblog – Creativity.

It seemed to make sense to start at the beginning and ask, how do you describe creativity? More than just thinking up new ideas, it seemed important to find out what we all embed in our definitions of creativity. 

  • Lizzie Pauker (@lizziepauker)- “Creativity to me is all about innovation, new perspectives & thinking ‘outside the box.’ “
  • soumyapr (@soumyapr)- “Creativity is the ability to add disruptive change without losing the core value of an idea”
  • John Reddish (@GetResults)- “Creativity is going beyond or within to find new/innovative ways to expand consciousness /work-and we always need that.”
  • Andrew Fowler (@guhmshoo)- Remarkable content”
  • Joey Strawn (@joey_strawn)- “Creativity is the ability to show old things in a new way and the desire to create something from nothing.”
  • Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI)- “Creativity is continuous innovating ~ looking for new and better ways 24/7 365.”
  • Laura Crum (@LauraLCrum)- “I think creativity is the ability to not be so focused on the path ahead that you lose the scenery options.”

The descriptions at time seem to contradict each other  and that is what is intriguing about creativity in general. Perhaps it is one of those things we know it if we see it? Another aspect that almost everyone made a comment or retweeted another participant’s comment regarding how action is integral to the creative process. Linda Naiman (@alchemize) seemed to capture this when she tweeted, “If you have ideas, but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.”

I suppose we could have continued the discussion that described creativity as there were references to how target markets define the value of the creative idea, if passion plays a role, and if challenge does provide the spark for creativity to occur.

So we came back to the idea that the 21st century will demand we use the skills of the right brain. If you are not familiar with these skills, let us pause for a moment to review them. The left brain is responsible for analyzing, logic, sequencing, objectivity, and looking at parts. The right brain is responsible for noticing patterns, connections, intuition, and subjectivity. If right brain skills are truly more dominant now, how does that shape the use of creativity?

The responses seemed to reflect the tension that can polarize many into being in the right brain camp versus the left brain camp. While there doesn’t have to be an either/or answer, the tension is worth noting.

  • Amber Cleveland (@ambercleveland)- “W/ more right brain dominance, creativity should increase, but you still need left brain skills to support.”
  • Joey Strawn- “I agree! There needs to be marriage of the halves, while ideas need to come, there must be logical uses.”
  • Richard Becker (@richbecker)- “Creativity is seeing from a unique perspective. The right brain stuff is the boundaries we do it in.”

There are boundaries to right brain thinking? It seemed natural to ask how is the application of creativity the same or different in the 21st century? This part of the discussion picked up on the earlier theme of challenge perhaps providing the spark needed for creativity to occur.

  •  Amber Cleveland- “Creativity in 21st cent. is different b/c we have more tools, the same b/c we push our boundaries just like those b4.”
  • Joshua Pearlstein (@jpearlstein)- “It is the same, you have to be creative faster.”
  • “Richard Becker- “Creativity today isn’t all that different from Iron Chef. Limited ingredients often make for more interesting dishes.”
  • Caroline Di Diego- “Failing is def an ingredient for creativity ~ too much fear of failure NO creativity.”
  • Stanford Smith (@pushingsocial)- “In the Whole Mind World – Management=Knowing how to inspire creativity and how the heck to get out of the way.”

It doesn’t seem like we got any particular answers. It is clear from everyone’s responses that creativity is a necessity in  business, maybe even as we go forth as a society. It was also clear that we embed a lot of ideas into the concept of creativity.

What is your description of creativity?

What is the intersection between 21st century thinking and creativity?