What A Caterpillar Can Teach You About Growing Your Business

Master Near Constant Change

 

Many people think that businesses should develop a strategy and stick to it at all costs.

But Sid Mohasseb, serial entrepreneur, investor, venture capitalist, and former the Head of Strategic Innovation for KPMG’s Strategy Practice teaches an entirely different approach: It’s the ability to adjust your strategy, almost constantly, that brings success. The environment is uncertain and changing, and changing with it is vital.

Sid teaches that we must push for more and evolve from one approach to another.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with him about his new book, The Caterpillar’s Edge: Evolve, Evolve Again, and Thrive in Business.

 

Prepare for Constant Flux

Why a caterpillar?

The caterpillar evolves many times over before it becomes a butterfly. It changes form until it turns into a completely different species. The caterpillar teaches us the wisdom of constant and incremental evolution and offers the promise of flying.  To compete, to advance and to win, in our businesses and in our personal lives, we must evolve constantly and purposefully, always.

 

“Things do not change. We change.” -Henry David Thoreau

 

How is the game changing? And how do leaders prepare for the constant flux?

Innovation is constantly approaching from every corner of the world. The speed of change fueled by unprecedented technological advancements and constantly increasing customer expectations are challenging companies to “stay relevant” – competitive advantages are temporary. The game has changed from, “How do I gain an advantage and defend it?” to “How do I change to stay relevant?”

To win in a state of constant flux, leaders must shift their minds and change their actions. First, by realizing their addictions (old assumptions, orthodoxies, biases, etc.). Next, by aligning with uncertainty – no plans can be permanent and no decisions are certain. Leaders must learn to live with probability and a portfolio of related plans – always ready to take the path that offers the most likelihood of success. They should also appreciate the reality of their capabilities and aim to build the future in increments; success cycles must be shorter and capabilities (people & systems) have to be created accordingly. Last, leaders must constantly look for the next advantage and aspire for more “Aha’s.” They should look for and discover the next challenge or opportunity, always; innovate, always (create new value), and evolve, always.

 

“To win in a state of constant flux, leaders must shift their minds and actions.” -Sid Mohasseb

 

How to Embrace Change

Why do we so often refuse to deal with change and uncertainty?caterpillar-cover

The refusal is more natural than intentional. We refuse to deal with change because of our fears of unknown (what is on the other side of change) and comfort with the status quo (comfortable routines we are used to and have served us well in the past). Most people embrace change when they i) realize the severity of the problem they face and ii) gain trust that what they can change to is a better state. We often refuse to change because we believe that the status quo does not present a major danger and/or we don’t trust the alternative paths offered by our leaders.

At business school and later at work, we are trained to look for certainty to plan to and execute against – assuming reduced risk. In our personal lives, we are comfortable living with probability and operating in uncertainly – there is a 40% chance of rain, and we decide, based on our risk tolerance, to take an umbrella or not. In our professional lives, we are expected to be certain and execute with confidence in outcomes. People, on a personal level, can innately adjust to uncertainty. However, they are reluctant operating with uncertainty at work because corporations expect and reward the illusion of certainty.

 

“The only thing that is constant is change.” -Heraclitus

 

3 Categories for Leaders to Plan in a World of Change

Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders

Empowering Millennial Leaders 

On a trip in the Rockies, Jon Mertz experienced the wonders of aspen trees and walked away with a strong perception that the Millennial generation and these aspen trees shared many of the same qualities. He saw them both as “connection-rich, purpose-filled, and community-centered.”

Jon is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders and he blogs at Thin Difference. He recently shared some of his concepts and his research into the Millennial generation with me.

 

Survey: 6 in 10 Millennials want a sense of purpose at work.

 

Facts About Millennials

You write about Millennials. Share some facts on this generation.

In the United States, Millennials are the largest generation, standing tall at over 80 million, and they make-up over 30 percent of the workplace today. They are quickly becoming the majority. Millennials cannot be ignored and should not be stereotyped. After all, Millennials are the next generation of leaders. Period!

Some statistics that energize me about this next generation of leaders are:

  • 64 percent of Millennials say they regularly keep up with what is going on in the world.
  • 75 percent of Millennials claim businesses are more focused on personal agendas than helping society, and 6 in 10 want to feel a “sense of purpose” in working for their organization.
  • 87 percent believe business success should be measured in terms of more than just financial performance—elements to include are employee satisfaction and retention, customer satisfaction and retention, and contribution to local communities.

What Millennials have the opportunity to create is a new digital citizenship. The new digital citizenship has the potential to enhance trust, transparency, purpose, accountability, and sustainability within and across organizations. I know this sounds lofty, but I believe in what Millennials are bringing to politics, business, and charitable organizations.

 

“Clarity is the fuel to make collaboration work.” -Jon Mertz

 

Millennial Misconceptions

What’s are the biggest misconceptions about them?

The biggest misperception about Millennials is that they are an entitled generation. New influences were present through societal and technology changes, no different than previous generations. Intensity of change accelerates, though. What I have found is not a sense of entitlement but a sense of how can we make things better. Embedded in this is a strong sense of purpose and problem solving. These are the traits Millennials are using.

An example of this is the Food Recovery Network. Two college students volunteered at a nearby homeless shelter. Back on campus after lunch, they saw good food being thrown away. How can people a few miles away have little food and good food is being thrown away here? They set out to solve this problem by working with the university to deliver the food to nearby shelters. Today, this social good initiative is active in over 160 chapters and has recovered over 1 million pounds of food across the United States.

Millennials are not entitled, but they are blazing a trail of renewal in solving real problems with purpose-filled solutions.

 

Survey: 87 percent of Millennials believe business success is more than just financial performance.

 

Find the Right Tempo

Let’s talk about patience. You say it cultivates growth. There are other times that we need a high sense of urgency and drive. How do you know what is needed?

There is no stock answer to finding the right tempo between patience and impatience. What patience engages is a visual of pace and stride. Patience embodies doing the work, learning our craft and honing our skills. Being patient is not wasted time. It is as Steve Martin said, “Being so good they cannot ignore you.”

Copyright Jon Mertz, Used by Permission Copyright Jon Mertz, Used by Permission

On the order side is stride. To achieve bigger missions and purpose, we need to step up to start a company, change jobs, move on, or re-start. Getting this timing right takes the right alignment of heart and mind. More specifically:

27 Practices Resilient Leaders Use to Thrive

Struggles, Difficulties & Challenges

Someone once told me that people identify more with your struggles than your successes. It’s true for me, too. It’s hard to identify with those who have seemingly had win after win with no knowledge of the effort it took to make it happen. If you talk with any successful person long enough, you start to uncover the difficulties, the challenges, the struggles, and the failures that happened along the way.

One of my entrepreneurial friends, Faisal Hoque, has a new book out about resilience. Faisal and his co-author, journalist Lydia Dishman, share what they learned studying leaders who have thrived in the midst of adversity.  Survive to Thrive: 27 Practices of Resilient Entrepreneurs, Innovators, And Leaders is a journey into resilience.

Faisal recently shared with me more about his latest work.

 

LEARNING TO BE RESILIENT

What is your definition of resilience?

Resilience is the universal human capacity to face, overcome, and even be strengthened by experiences of adversity.

 

“Resiliency is the belief that you can conquer anything.”

 

 survivetothrive

 

Is it possible to learn to be more resilient?

Along with our own life experiences, Lydia and I have examined the stories of a variety of leaders who faced ill health, professional setbacks, emotional loss, and a host of other life-changing events, in order to illustrate how each achieved personal transformation and success by mining their own resilience.

Each story focuses on one of nine essential principles needed to overcome adversity and seize opportunities:

I AM:

  • A person people can like and love
  • Loving and empathetic
  • Willing to be responsible for what I do

I HAVE:

  • People I trust and who love me, no matter what
  • Role models
  • Health, education, and support

I CAN:

  • Communicate
  • Manage feelings and solve problems
  • Seek out trusting relationships

Offered as affirmations for success, we outline take-away lessons and daily practices that can be incorporated in your own professional journey.

 

THE MUST DO’S

Of all of the daily practices you outline in the book, what three are ‘must do’s’ for everyone?

Skip, as you know from your life’s journey, each person’s experiences and challenges are uniquely theirs. And life – personal as well professional – hardly has a formula. What we tried to do is provide contextual learning.

For example, in one of the chapters, we have summed up three key concepts necessary to becoming more authentic and resilient through self-acceptance:

  • self-love
  • self-expression
  • self-confidence

faisal.hoque300dpi2013By practicing self-acceptance, we discover the complexities of our emotions, vulnerabilities, and imperfections. And this is what creates our true authenticity. When we decide to embrace our authentic self, we give ourselves the opportunity to grow.

In an attempt to make these daily practices sustainable for our readers, we have also created a resiliency app.   The Survive To Thrive free app can be accessed at www.SurviveToThrive.pub.

 

“Reinvention is the essence of the resilient mindset.”

 

REINVENTION AND RESILIENCE