Review Category : General

I Was Reading up on Your Solutions

I received an email from a conference organizer who invited me to address his or her conference. Here is what the email said. (I have edited it only to remove corporately identifying information. I have preserved the original formatting.)

unnamed

I shall not quibble with errant grammar, punctuation, and capitalization, odd word choices (subjects don’t have “opportunities”), lack of professionalism, and other bits that my friends know never bother me. I did, however, appreciate the enthusiastic formatting. Without it would hardly have known what parts to read.

Read More →

The Most-Absurd Strategies of 2014

Behind every strategy there is competition for something: votes, power, profit, fame, etc.

Behind every strategy there is also a rationale, a reason why someone thinks it will work better than the alternatives.

People succeed (and fail) with wildly different strategies. But some strategies go further. They don’t make you think wow, that’s out of the box. They make you think yikes, you’re out of your mind.

Here is our end-of-year, politically incorrect review of absurd strategies. Remember: you don’t have to agree with us. We don’t even agree with each other, except maybe on a couple.

Read More →

Camry Wins After Camry Loses

USA Today, MotorWeek, Cars.com, and an actual family tested and ranked family-sized, moderately priced sedans. The resulting article, originally published with the suspense-ruining headline “Winner is Hyundai Sonata Sport,” compared the Hyundai Sonata (who knew?), Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and Volkswagen Passat.

I rate the results merely semi-interesting. The real story, though, is not about the cars. The real story is about the manufacturers and consumers. So here is what I learned from that riveting story investigating back-seat space and “giant grilles,” among other things of cosmic significance.

Read More →

Succeeding without Competing

The success most important to you may come not from comparing yourself to others but from doing what you want. Succeeding without competing is possible when we look inward. 

_____

Look at your life. What’s the sweetest success you have experienced?

Bring up the memory of that event or feat. Savor it. Think of what you did to achieve it; think of how you worked, struggled, and risked; think of how you felt when your goal was finally in your grasp. Re-experience your glory, pride, and joy. Let your heart swell and your face smile.

I had an experience like that a few weeks ago. It taught me a lesson about competing.

Read More →

Evidence of Strategy Everywhere: “The Biggest May Not be the Best”

You might think I’m announcing that today there is strategy in the United States. Such a discovery would indeed be welcome but it’s not what I mean. I mean that you can see strategy in almost every newspaper article. All you need is to want to see it!
_____

Myth: to be number one you need to be the best. USA Today reported on a Consumer Reports survey of fast-food customers. They ranked McDonald’s last in burgers (The Habit Burger Grill, a regional chain, was first), KFC last in chicken (Chick-fil-A was first), and Taco Bell last in burritos (Chipotle was first).

It’s not that Taco Bell placed last in salads or McDonald’s had the worst egg sandwich. The chains were at the bottom with their core products.

Consumer Reports’ project editor explains the ranking as a result of Millennials caring about things other than mere value for money, such as quality and social issues. I wonder if it is because they still live with parents who pay their bills. That seems unlikely in light of analysis that shows most millennials living at home for economic reasons. Perhaps a few slackers go out to restaurants better than the bottom-feeder fast-food giants while their parents pick up their expenses, but most are probably still eating at the McDonald’s of the world while realizing it is not the best, it is the cheapest.

Read More →

An Interview with Professor Phil Rosenzweig, Author of Left Brain, Right Stuff

Ben Gilad: Your new book, Left Brain, Right Stuff, places a sharp focus on a distinction be­tween events we can influence — directly or indirectly — and events we can’t. Analytics has a role in improving judgments in the latter case. Strategic decisions belong to the former – the leader has an ability to influence the outcomes. Analytics should not be confused, as it is in some large companies, with strategic vision. Is this a fair characterization of your thesis?

Phil Rosenzweig: My main thesis is that decision research has been immensely valuable in shedding light on the mechanics of human cognition, and has done so largely by conducting experiments that ex­amine choices among options we cannot alter, or judgments about things we cannot influence. The primary lesson has been for us to be aware of our propensity for common errors, and try to avoid them.

That’s fine for some kinds of decisions, but much of life is very different. Often we can alter the options we face and improve their terms. We can also influence outcomes, and for that high levels of confidence are useful. Many real-world decisions call for a combination of skills: on one hand a capacity of detached analysis, free of biases, which we associate with left-brain thinking, and on the other hand a willingness to push boundaries and act assertively, which I call the right stuff.

Strategic decisions, in particular, call for both. Deciding on a good strategy surely has to take into account many things we cannot influence, like currency movements, geopolitical trends, technological breakthroughs, and the actions of rivals. But setting a strategic vision and then carrying it out through the actions of others is not a purely analytical exercise. We also have to make it happen.

Read More →

Thank You

“Thank you” is such a simple gesture, a daily occurrence, an acknowledgement of interacting with other humans. “Thanks!” says the person for whom you held the elevator. “Thanks, every­one” concludes the weekly staff meeting. “Thank you” writes the company in its holiday card.

All those thanks are important symbols and expressions of gratitude in our lives and livelihoods. “Thank you” is also part — often underused — of the skill of competing.

Competing and gratitude might appear contradictory. How can we be competitive and thankful at the same time? Isn’t the essence of competition to win or gain advantage? Competing would suggest that we put ourselves and the organization first, think less about others, and stay focus­ed on what we want. On the surface competing is more about “beat you!” than “thank you.”

I submit, though, that to compete well we must seek the help of many. Get­ting the job, on the job, and building the business, employees and employers alike should con­sider how a meaning­ful “thank you” impacts competitive edge both for their organization and for them personally. We’ve all heard (and said) the bitter complaint that someone “didn’t even say ‘thank you.’”  Likewise, people of all kinds, including senior leaders, must be willing to pro­vide support while expecting no more in return than a kind expression of thanks. It doesn’t work when strings are attached.

Read More →