Why You May Need A Wicked Strategy

3D Circular maze

 

What do you do if you face a problem so complex that it can only be described as wicked?

Is it possible to confound competitors?

 

How Companies Conquer Complexity and Confound Competitors

John Camilius, author of Wicked Strategies: How Companies Conquer Complexity and Confound Competitors outlines a number of ways that managers can handle the most difficult problems. Camilius is the Donald R. Beall Professor of Strategic Management at the University of Pittsburgh.

 

“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” -Winston Churchill

 

For those who don’t know your work, what is a wicked problem?

In the early seventies, Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, two professors of design and urban planning, recognized that there are certain problems that are not amenable to resolution by traditional, accepted problem-solving techniques. They evocatively labeled these problems as “wicked” and identified ten distinguishing characteristics. Ten characteristics are difficult to remember, and over the years, I have whittled them down to just five.  If a problem displays these five criteria, you can be pretty sure you are facing a wicked problem.Wicked Strategies John C. Camillus

The first characteristic is deceptively simple and requires some thought:  Is the problem one that is substantially without precedent, something that you have not encountered before?

Second, are there multiple significant stakeholders with conflicting values and priorities? You need to go beyond the traditional big three stakeholders—employees, customers and shareholders.  Non-government organizations, multiple layers of government, creditors, communities in which you are located, political parties in power and out of power are all becoming more significant and demanding.

Third, are there several causes and are they interactive and tangled?  For instance, the future of social media is driven by a complex brew of technology advancements in hardware and apps, changing demographics, evolving social and cultural mores, government regulations, privacy expectations, geopolitical developments, educational practices, disposable income, and economic and social mobility.

 

“If we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we’re going.” -Irwin Corey

 

Fourth, there is no sure way of knowing you have the right answer. Another way of phrasing this is that there is no stopping rule—you can continue searching indefinitely for a “better” answer.

Fifth, the understanding of what the “problem” is changes depending on the “solution” being considered.  In other words, the problem and the solution are interactive. For instance, entry into a country that does not permit foreign multi-brand retailers might be accomplished by creating a cash-and-carry model for small retailers or by being a minority partner with a local retailer or by entering an entirely new business employing a distinctive competency such as logistics. Each of these responses to the wicked problem of accessing the huge purchasing power of emerging economies’ populations creates a wholly different set of issues.

A note of warning may be in order. In the public policy arena, the wickedness of problems is hard to overlook. Problems such as immigration policy, violence against women, religious fundamentalism, and public education are overtly wicked. In the business world, however, the thing about wicked problems is that though they can show up anywhere, they are likely to be perceived as “tame” problems.

Wicked problems are certainly more common than most managers realize. Not recognizing that they were facing wicked problems, I believe, led to the dissolution of Westinghouse, the demise of Polaroid, and the decline of Kodak, RadioShack and Atari. Though wicked problems can occur anywhere, it is more likely than not that you will encounter wicked problems if you are a public company, operate globally, and are in a technology-driven business.

 

“Every threat to the status quo is an opportunity in disguise.” -Jay Samit

 

3 Megaforces Challenging Business

You talk about 3 megaforces that are challenging business. How do these trends help create wicked problems?

While there are a variety of forces and environmental factors that can create wicked problems, over the years I’ve identified three forces that are widely experienced which, in concert, are a major source of wicked problems. They are: the inevitability of globalization, the imperative of innovation, and the importance of shared value. The first two forces are well understood. Shared value, which has been brought to the attention of the managerial world by Michael Porter, is the notion that social benefit and economic value are synergistic. It also raises the issue of the appropriate sharing of value across diverse stakeholders.

The interactions of these three forces create strategic challenges that combine to create wicked problems. For instance, innovating to meet the needs of unserved, low-income customers across the world results—as the guru of disruptive innovation Clayton Christensen has affirmed—in disruptive technologies that can upend industries. Innovation also creates changes that differentially impact stakeholders, creating the likelihood of conflict between stakeholders as the organization transforms. The extreme complexity and uncertainty embodied in the global economy coupled with the conflicting priorities of multiple stakeholders creates unknowable futures. This roiling cauldron of disruptive technologies, conflicted stakeholders and unknowable futures is what spawns wicked problems.

I like to illustrate the interaction of these forces in a Venn diagram.

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Three Mega-Forces and their Strategic Challenge

These three forces can interact to create wicked problems in any context. Of course, other environmental forces can also breed wicked problems, but I have chosen to focus on these three because they are so ubiquitous and powerful.

I believe there are business contexts or “industries” that will be breeding grounds for wicked problems. Health, software, information technology, fossil fuels, water, automobiles, and public transportation are prime examples. Technological innovation, drastically changing regulations, geopolitical developments, and changing notions of social responsibility make these industries particularly prone to encountering wicked problems that demand that firms develop and deploy wicked strategies. 

 

“The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.” -William Ellery Channing

 

How to Deal With Uncertainty

100+ Quotes from Olympians for the Competitor in You

Olympic Quotes

Quotes from Olympians

There are so many lessons to be learned from the Olympics: the dedication to goals, the perseverance, the hard work and determination, the grit, the fight to overcome pain and challenge to finish.

Every Olympian has a unique story worth sharing. Here are 101 quotes from Olympians to inspire you today.

You may not be competing in the next round of the games, but each of these quotes offers a motivational opportunity to fuel your own goals.

 

“The hard days are the best because that’s where champions are made.” –Gabby Douglas

 

“When you see someone win gold, you want to get out there and do the same thing.” –Andy Murray

 

“Remember all things are possible for those who believe.” –Gail Devers

 

“Part of being a champ is acting like a champ. You have to learn how to win and not run away when you lose.” –Nancy Kerrigan

 

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” –Michael Jordan

 

“Working hard becomes a habit, a serious kind of fun. You get self-satisfaction from pushing yourself to the limit, knowing that all the effort is going to pay off.” –Mary Lou Retton

 

“Being an Olympian, I always have this strong belief in excellence.” –Debi Thomas

 

 “If you don’t have confidence, you’ll always find a way not to win.”–Carl Lewis

 

“I really think a champion is defined not by their wins but by how they can recover when they fall.” –Serena Williams

 

“I don’t run from a challenge because I am afraid.  Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.” –Nadia Comaneci

 

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit.  We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” –Wilma Rudolph

 

“True heroes are made of hard work and integrity.” –Hope Solo

 

“For me, it seems to help me take the pressure off if I don’t pay attention to what other people are telling me.” –Missy Franklin

 

“Rather than focusing on the obstacle in your path, focus on the bridge over the obstacle.” –Mary Lou Retton

 

“It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.” –Muhammad Ali

 

“Failure I can live with. Not trying is what I can’t handle.” –Sanya Richards-Ross

 

“The experience of being an Olympian is one that can never be taken away from you.” –Hannah Kearney

 

“As simple as it sounds, we all must try to be the best person we can: by making the best choices, by making the most of the talents we’ve been given.” –Mary Lou Retton

 

“Practice creates confidence.  Confidence empowers you.” –Simone Biles

 

“I work hard, and I do good, and I’m going to enjoy myself.  I’m not going to let you restrict me.” –Usain Bolt

 

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” –Michael Jordan

 

“The world never puts a price on you higher than the one you put on yourself.” –Sonja Henie

 

“Everything that I’ve ever been able to accomplish in skating and in life has come out of adversity and perseverance.” –Scott Hamilton

5 Ways to Listen Better

The Power of Listening

One of my goals is to listen better. It’s one of those perpetual goals that shows up in my end-of-year self-contemplation. I aspire to be a better listener. Previously, I wrote about some tips to be a power listener.

That’s why I was drawn to Julian Treasure’s work on listening. Julian is an expert who lectures extensively on communications.

In a world that is faster and louder than ever, it can be difficult to slow down and truly listen.

 

“Listen consciously to live fully.” –Julian Treasure

 

5 Ways to Improve Your Conscious Listening

Julian shares 5 ways to improve your conscious listening:

  1. Spend at least three minutes a day being completely silent.
  2. Listen to each distinct sound. If you are outside, close your eyes and consciously listen to the birds or the passing car.
  3. Listen to the sound of the mundane, the dryer or coffee maker, what Treasure refers to as “the hidden choir” all around us.
  4. Listening positions. This is active vs. passive listening. Passive listening is watching a movie while active listening is engaged listening in a conversation. Critical vs. empathetic listening. Critical listening is listening for the bottom line like in a lecture and empathetic listening lets the speaker know you are in line with them emotionally.
  5. He uses the acronym RASA for the art of listening:

R = Receive.

This is all about paying attention in order to receive the communication.

A = Appreciate.

This is when we make little sounds so the speaker knows we are listening.

 

“Conscious listening creates understanding.” –Julian Treasure

 

S = Summarize.

I use this one myself quite a bit. You echo back to the speaker, “So what you are saying is…” It is a wonderful check-in point to determine if you have heard what was said as intended.

A = Ask.

Ask questions. Not only does it show you are listening, but it helps to clarify points you may have missed.

 

Are you trying to improve your own listening skills? What tips work for you?

 

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Why Leaders Must Develop An Outward Mindset

The Outward Mindset

Develop the Outward Mindset

Your mindset is the key to your success, your happiness, and your ability to perform at exceptional levels. Your mindset is how you look at yourself and the world around you. An internal mindset is one blind to others, what they need, and how to create collective results.

Jim Ferrell, co-founder and Managing Partner of The Arbinger Institute is the author/co-author of multiple bestselling books, including Leadership and Self-Deception and The Anatomy of Peace. His latest book, co-authored with Mitchell Warner, is The Outward Mindset.

 

It’s as eye opening and important as his earlier work.

I recently spoke with Jim about his research on perspective and personal effectiveness. The ideas in this new book can improve performance, spark collaboration, and accelerate innovation.

 

“The secret to teamwork is an outward mindset.” –Steve Young

 

How to Change Lives and Transform Organizations

Would you introduce the concept of “The Outward Mindset”?

With an outward mindset, we see others as people like ourselves, whose goals, objectives, needs, and challenges matter to us. With an inward mindset, on the other hand, we see others as objects whose primary value to us depends on the extent to which we think they can help us with our own goals and objectives.

Our new book, The Outward Mindset, is about the key differences between these two mindsets and how to move to an outward mindset. The real-life stories in the book illustrate the dramatic difference in influence and results that individuals, teams, and organizations see as they shift to more of an outward-mindset orientation. The book details both how to personally make this shift and how to help others—individuals and whole organizations—to make it.

 

“Too many leaders assume that the role of leadership is to control.” –Jim Ferrell

 

Shift to the Outward Mindset

You share some powerful stories of shifting to an outward mindset. Are there “typical” difficulties and struggles in making this shift, especially if you found someone who was way off the scale on the inward side?

The biggest challenge is people linking their own mindset change to a change in others. When people have an inward mindset, they characteristically blame their struggles—and even their own mindsets—on others. They believe that they have to have an inward mindset in order to defend themselves against all the people around them who have an inward mindset. We demonstrate in the book how this belief is mistaken. We show that the most important move—both in organizations and in life generally— is for people to shift to an outward-mindset approach even when others around them persist in inwardness. This is a very powerful move, and the willingness to do it is one of the most important elements of transformational leadership.

As for someone being way off the scale on the inward side, most people are a mix of the two mindsets. Someone who is tyrannically inward in one part of their life, for example, may be quite different in other contexts. This means that people often are much closer to a change to an outward mindset than many people around them may believe.

 

“How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it.” –GK Chesterton

 

The Incredible Results of an Outward Mindset

What results do you see after the shift has occurred?

Wow, it’s hard to know where to begin. At its most basic level, a change to an outward mindset transforms the health and vitality of relationships. It’s easy to see why this would be the case. When we are connected to others in an others-inclusive way—where we see others as people who matter like we ourselves matter—we tend to do much better with others (and they with us!) than when we are self-focused and see others as objects or tools to be used for our own purposes.

As a result of this transformational effect on relationships, one of the interesting things we often find in our work with organizations is that even the non-work relationships of the people we work with dramatically improve. I can’t tell you the number of times people have told us that our work has saved their marriages or healed the rifts in their relationships with their parents, siblings, or children.

For the same basic reason, a shift to an outward mindset in the workplace dramatically improves the abilities of teams, departments, and whole organizations to work productively together. These improvements show up in organizational climate, engagement surveys, customer satisfaction scores, and in the bottom line results of organizations.

Jim Ferrell

How does the outward mindset manifest itself in individual and team goals?

Although people generally aren’t aware of this, most organizational systems, incentives, and goals are inherently inward in nature. They invite people to focus on themselves and their own activities and levels of performance rather on the impact of their activities on others.

As a result, the move to an outward mindset often dramatically changes the objectives and metrics that people and organizations pursue and utilize. You can imagine, for example, how a person’s view of his own job responsibilities would change if he knew that he was responsible not only for certain outputs but also for the impact of those outputs (and the way he went about delivering them) on others.

When individuals and organizations get serious about moving to more of an outward-mindset approach, they start paying attention to and measuring their impact, not just their activities or outputs.

 

“All action results from thought, so it is thoughts that matter.” -Sai Baba