Back to the Future

February 10, 2014

It’s been almost 3 years since my last post. I think I’ve procrastinated enough getting back on the writing spirit. We are so busy these days, that sitting down and think has become a luxury on its own.

Why the title “Back to the Future” well; it’s simply because I just finished this weekend a movie marathon with my 15-year-old daughter that had never seen the trilogy. It’s amazing that when I saw that movie back in 1985, I thought that everything in 2015 shown was actually possible. Here we are just 11 months away from 2015 and we are nowhere near to anything shown on the film. No flying cars, no hover boards, no self drying jackets, no dehydrated food processors, basically nothing. Why? Did we lose the spark to invent these things? Where did we stray off the path? We have become a very complacent society; just waiting for a few to invent and lead the way, maybe it’s a good thing to not be there yet because I wouldn’t even want to imagine how frantic our lives would be if all these inventions would have been in place by now. So now realistically I’m thinking that the year 2045 is when we might start seeing some of these wildly entertaining inventions, unfortunately I will be 76 by then, but my daughter will remember with laughter and say: “Hey I saw the future back with my Dad thirty years ago”.

Cheers

Carlos

The Wise Leader

May 9, 2011

I just read this interesting article in Harvard Business Review by Ikujiro Nonaka. It really digs deep into the differences between Japanese leadership culture and Western style leadership. His thesis is that today’s leaders aren’t even asking the right questions before they start any project or in their executive roles. Questions like

Where are we going?

Who gains, who loses?

Is this development desirable?

What should we do?

I was impressed by how powerful yet simple these questions were, mainly because I don’t know anyone asking these questions, it’s all about ROI, we talk in dollars. This is the where we are mostly different from our Japanese friends. This is why Toyota was able to withstand probably one of the biggest recalls in automotive industry hardly unscathed, they were able to acknowledge their deviation from their tested principles and correct it. Simply; they were being wise.

Ikujiro then identified the following six abilities of wise leaders:

  1. Wise leaders can judge goodness.
  2. Wise leaders can grasp the essence.
  3. Wise leaders create shared contexts.
  4. Wise leaders communicate the essence.
  5. Wise leaders exercise political power.
  6. Wise leaders foster practical wisdom in others.

After reading and reflecting on these abilities, I was startled of how simple these abilities are to learn, and I noticed how these abilities are not typically linked to organizations, shareholders, customers, etc. as I’ve seen in some of the western literature on leadership. To the Japanese leaders making a profit is a by-product of doing the right things, while in the west is everything.

I will close this post with this thought from Ikujiro:

“…Unless companies create social as well as economic value, they will not survive in the long run…”

Regards,

Carlos

I was revisiting a great book “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You there” by Marshall Goldsmith this weekend, and saw how these three simple words can kill almost every initiative. I renamed them the “The Three Assassins of Ideas”. They are also three of the most used words in our personal and professional lives and every time we use any of them we hinder our possibilities of establishing a true open conversation. Our nature is to discard anything that doesn’t fit our belief or knowledge system; it’s hard wired into our brains since the dawn of mankind. We are simply scared of change and the unknown, especially in the corporate world.

Assassin # 1: However

This word is the most powerful of the three, when it’s inserted into the conversation the real message is “My point of view is better than yours”, and typically is done in front of an audience where the person can show their “superiority” of ideas.

Assassin # 2: But

No matter how good an idea is, we think we can make it even better by adding our personal touch with the typical: “Yes great idea, but if we also do/change/add/modify…” this kills the initiative of the originator, since it’s not his or hers idea anymore and the credit will be taken by the person who added the extra part.

Assassin # 3: No

To be fair, the word “No” if used wisely can also be a relationship builder, unfortunately is mostly used as a powerful deterrent to new/radical/opposite ideas. Some companies are very risk averse, and when people notice that all ideas are rejected, they simply stop proposing them. How many “Dr. No” exist in organizations killing many good ideas from the onset?

You might be asking by now, How can we stop these assassins? Well it theory is pretty easy. All you have to do is “Shut up and listen” and then just say “Thank You”; the person will feel that you cared to listen without judgment of the idea, and after careful consideration the you can tell that the organization can’t pursue it because X or Y reasons. In practice, very few organizations or people actually do this.

Every journey starts with the first step, yours will be to think before you use any of these three words.

Cheers,

Carlos

Leadership and Management books come and go, and after 22 years since it first saw the light, this book never seizes to amaze me. This past long weekend I was doing some spring cleaning, and in one of the many boxes full of books I stumbled into this treasure. I flipped through my own notes and all the things that I wrote back in 1996 when I first read the book have happened.

Wow! And I thought I had deviated from my course; maybe a few degrees, but still on the same path. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of reading this book, these are the seven habits

Habits 1, 2 & 3 are about knowing yourself and reaching independence; once you master these habits you’ll have what Covey describes as “Private Victory”

Habit 1: Be Proactive…Taking responsibility for your choices and the next consequences that follow, don’t wait until things happen. Make them happen!

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind…Clarify your personal values and life goals, and think of the path you need to take to make your vision a reality, if you don’t know where you’re going…How do you know you got there?

Habit 3: Put First Things first…If you don’t prioritize everything will become urgent.

Habits 4, 5, & 6 are about you working with others, once you mastered these three you’ll will be interdependent and achieve “Public Victory”

Habit 4: Think Win-Win…This concept is clear to anyone by now. Mutual beneficial outcome is way better than personal benefit.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be understood…Put yourself in the other person’s position and understand their motives. Have an open mind, this will create empathy and it’s extremely useful in solving conflict.

Habit 6: Synergize…The sum of all parts is more than each individual component. Or in simpler words: Teamwork.

The last habit relates to self-renewal

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw…Keep yourself in balance, health, family, study new skills, keep up to date in topics of your interest, seek feedback and act upon it.

In this diagram it’s easier to see how all 7 habits are related.

I guess I have sharpened my saw the past year with the completion of my MBA, and I’m now back at the endless cycle of continual renewal. If you haven’t read the book, it will be worth it. Sometimes an old dog can learn new tricks. Trust me, it’s true.

Until next time…Cheers

Carlos

Death by PowerPoint

April 18, 2011

How many more PowerPoint torture sessions must we go through before the presenter realizes that 300 slides for a 2 hour presentation is too much? As I’ve gotten older my attention span for presentations has shrunken to about 5 to 10 minutes. But if the PowerPoint is all text and no images, then it’s reduced to about 30 seconds. By the second paragraph my mind is already numb.

I just happened to stumble a type of presentation that incorporates images plus storytelling; it’s called Pecha Kucha http://www.pecha-kucha.org/ and it was invented in Japan in 2003, and slowly has crept in North America. The beauty of Pecha Kucha is that you only have 20 slides and each slide can only be shown for 20 seconds, this makes the presentations very dynamic, since the presenter only has 400 seconds (6.6 minutes) to make his point across the audience.  The idea is to keep our attention to the story and the message, supported by the images. Steve Jobs has used storytelling for years in his presentations, and always uses minimalist slides with one word or one image. So next time you have to prepare a PowerPoint presentation, try this concept out; or at least think about one or two words per slide…Your audience will appreciate it…Say no to Torture by PowerPoint!

Cheers

Carlos

Business Intelligence

April 11, 2011

How many times do we hear a company CEO say these words: “We are customer driven/focused/oriented, or this one: “We thrive on customer satisfaction”, or “The customer is king” and then see these same companies file for bankruptcy a few years later?

Did theses companies really listened to what their customers had to say? To me what these companies failed to detect that their market was shifting right beneath their feet, while their “loyal” customers were changing their habits and tastes these companies stuck to their traditional tools like customer satisfaction surveys, customer focus groups, and paid market research studies, or even the good old “The customer doesn’t know what they want; we do”. These tools have their own merit, but are not enough to predict modern customer behavior patterns fast enough. We as customers have evolved; we are way more educated and have access to powerful tools that enable us to do our own market research in Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogs, Forums, etc. When I need to buy something I can find where, how much, how fast, customer reviews the whole shebang in less than an hour. I can ask my friends on Facebook, or send a tweet to get direct feedback; this is what Business Intelligence (BI) should really be about. To me BI is simply listening to your customer through his buying patterns and adapt quickly to meet these needs. Some big companies are already ahead of the pack in BI, it is now that some cheaper tools are available to do this huge data crunching at a smaller scale. As more affordable these tools become, we the customers will be the real beneficiaries, since companies will go the extra mile to offer us what we want before we even know that we want it.

So when you start getting invitations to attend concerts you would die to go, discount coupons for those killer shoes, or a discount seminar to learn that skill you’ve wanted to develop; is because some companies have studied our consumer behavior using BI tools, and tailored their offerings to our particular taste. Groupon.com is one perfect example of an organization that uses BI extremely well.

Until the next time, cheers…

Carlos

Poke the Box

April 8, 2011

I just finished reading the book Poke the Box from Seth Godin; first let me tell you that it’s an easy book to read, no jargon, or acronyms; plain English. I read it in just one weekend.

In a nutshell Seth wants us to Act! And the sooner the better! We wait too much expecting others to make tough decisions for us, to start innovating for us, to kick-start changes for us. We are under constant “Analysis Paralysis”. We are the royal subjects of King procrastination.

The phrase “Stop thinking about doing and start doing” is so simple, but yet so powerful. This blog is testament of how this book had a profound effect on me. I had been “thinking” about writing a blog for a very long time and always found a reason not to.

Maybe Seth will never read my blog, but I wanted to thank him anyway.

Great book, check it out!

Regards,

Carlos

I remember back when this slogan from AT&T came out in 1979, it made no sense to me at the time since I didn’t need to call anyone when I was 11. Now leap 32 years forward and I see how we are über connected; we text, we tweet, we update our Facebook/MySpace/Blackberry/iPhone status several times a day like cult fanatics, then we get home log in our laptops or desktops and send emails, which then we read the replies on our smart phones and start the cycle all over again.

Wow! Now everyone knows everything we do, everything we eat, everyone we meet, everyplace we go; or is this all an illusion? Do we really connect with 300+ friends in Facebook? or with 500+ in LinkedIn?, or with 1000+ Twitter followers? Really?

I realized that the more I was connected; I was farther apart from my real friends and family. So I started to use my phone again for what is was designed to do more than 100+ years ago; to speak to another person. It was so refreshing listening to real people again, listening to their voice, that their tone of voice told me what was their mood, and the most rewarding of all, listening these same people we track like zombies on the social network say to me:  “Thank you for taking the time and call me” I reached out and touched someone, and had 5 wonderful minutes of real interaction with a person; not a bunch of text characters with a profile picture.

Since I started this post with one powerful slogan, I will close with another: “Just Do It”

Regards,

Carlos

I have read so many articles, blogs, sites, magazines, and books lately that is hard to remember what is truly relevant and meaningful.

Accidentally I stumbled up with these rules, which are not new, they were written by Cherie Carter-Scott back in the 90′s and became famous due to Oprah. I guess I was too busy then to notice these rules, even though they would have been useful back in the day.

Once thing is for sure, that rule number 10 is absolutely true, that’s the beauty of being a Human Being, we can live, and forget.

Here are the 10 rules:

1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it’s yours to keep for the entire period.

2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, “life.”

3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately “work.”

4. Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.

5. Learning lessons does not end. There’s no part of life that doesn’t contain its lessons. If you’re alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.

6. “There” is no better a place than “here.” When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better than “here.”

7. Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.

8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

9. Your answers lie within you. The answers to life’s questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.

10. You will forget all this.

Cheers,

Carlos

Why is it that our kids believe their teachers more than us their parents? I’ve struggled with this fact since my daughter started school. Every time I tried to explain a concept to her; I got the usual reply: “My teacher told me this is the way to solve it” and that was pretty much the end of that discussion, I didn’t know what to do, except trusting that her teacher wasn’t teaching the kids how to make home-made napalm.

This year I had my Eureka moment when I started using one quality tool called “The 5 Why Technique”, this tool was designed by the Japanese to find the cause of a problem. But it also works wonders when you are trying to make a 12-year-old girl understand that buying a pair of $65 cut off shorts in Abercrombie & Fitch doesn’t make economic sense when she could buy 3 T-shirts from the same store for $66 and cut a pair of worn Abercrombie jeans and have the same short for free. All I did was ask Why, and she figured out by herself that she was better off with other options.

Cheers.

Carlos

Beware: Don’t use this technique on grown women, girlfriends, wives, sisters, cousins, etc. since there is no way known to men, that could explain that a $1800 Louis Vuitton handbag is not a sound investment.

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