Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What Pi Has to do with Innovative Management

Every week, we publish an exciting summary of the best articles, videos, events, and posts that relate to innovative management. This week, check out these 8 articles that inspire better management. Enjoy! 

Find your human middleware

Gartner’s Mark McDonald
Where is your human middleware?  Every organization has it, but few people see it for what it is – a sign of distortion. Human middleware are the people in your organization whose responsibilities revolve around greasing the skids to keep things moving.  Just like their technology counterparts, human middleware sits in the gaps between processes, they coordinate corporate messages, and they are both the grease that keeps things moving and the glue that keeps things from falling apart. Human middleware can be difficult to see in your organization.

Celebrate Pi Day – this week!

Pi, Greek letter (Description: π), is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi Day is celebrated by math enthusiasts around the world on March 14th. Pi = 3.1415926535…
With the use of computers, Pi has been calculated to over 1 trillion digits past the decimal. Pi is an irrational and transcendental number meaning it will continue infinitely without repeating. The symbol for pi was first used in 1706 by William Jones, but was popular after it was adopted by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1737. Learn more about Pi.

The Difference Between Management and Leadership

In the new chapter to the paperback edition of his book, Good Boss, Bad Boss, Bob Sutton asserts that there is a difference between management and leadership, but focusing on it is dangerous (p, 263). He concurs as I do with Warren Bennis that “managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing.” Bob thinks this distinction is accurate; however, focusing on it is dangerous because:
“It encourages bosses to see generating big and vague ideas as the important part of their jobs – and to treat implementation, or pesky details of any kind, as mere “management work” best done by “the little people.” Even if left unsaid, this distinction reflects how too many bosses think and act. They use it to avoid learning about people they lead, technologies their companies use, customers they serve, and numerous other crucial little things.” (p. 264).

Do Your People Trust You?

When we talk to managers, we often ask, "Do your people trust you?" Most are taken aback. It's not something they're often asked or a question they've even asked themselves.
After some thought, most eventually say something like, "Well, I think so. I hope so. No one's said he doesn't." In fact, as they ultimately admit, they don't really know for sure.
It's a question worth asking. Do your people trust you?
Chances are, you don't know for sure, either. If so, that's potentially a problem because your ability to elicit people's best efforts depends on their trust in you — their confidence that they can count on you to do the right thing.

When nobody (and everybody) is the boss

Few figures are simultaneously as reviled and revered as "the boss." The problem isn't with the people who fill the role (that's another story), but the role itself. The "modern" organization was founded on the principle of control--a central authority sets direction, corrals information, curtails decision-making power, and punishes deviations from the norm.

That might have worked in a world in which standardization, predictability, conformity, and discipline were enough to mass produce profits. But it doesn't work in a world of constant change, competition from everyone and everywhere, and commoditized knowledge. And it certainly doesn't work in a world in which there is so much hunger for greater humanity, freedom, voice, and meaning.

We've reached a real inflection point when it comes to how we organize human effort. The most inspiring organizations today are actively experimenting with what gets people out of bed in the morning--and what fires up their imagination, initiative, and passion. And the best bosses understand that their power comes not from maintaining control, but from devising ways to unleash more freedom, creativity, and contribution.

MasterCard's Chris McWilton: Embracing 'Thoughtful' Risk-taking

Growing up in upstate New York, Chris McWilton witnessed the rise and fall of local icon Eastman Kodak due to executives' resistance to change. Now president of U.S. markets for MasterCard, McWilton noted during a recent Wharton Leadership Lecture that the same fate could have easily befallen the credit card company. MasterCard has been able to thrive, he said, by revamping its culture from one of complacency in the face of high margins, to one that promotes more creative risk-taking.

Successful people are successful

One interesting observation I've made over the last few years is about the myth of the overnight success. This is a persistent idea in the startup world (much like in any star-dominated field) - the idea that someone is unknown and unsuccessful for many years, and suddenly they shoot to fame through a combination of luck, timing, hard work, perseverance, and other assorted goodies.  The problem with this myth is that it's true, but it's also misleading. For most of my working life, I was under the spell of this "some day it will all change" myth. Having observed both myself and other successful people around me, I found that this is not true.  Rather than having a long history of self-sacrifice followed by a sudden rise to fame, successful people (even those that shoot to fame) seem to have a long history of building bigger successes on top of smaller successes. In other words, as the title puts it, successful people are successful - for a long time before you get to hear about them. Success seems to be a lifelong habit.

A Multiverse of Exploration: Magic and Neuroscience

Recently, IFTF's Technology Horizons Program hosted a conference where we presented our new map, titled A Multiverse of Exploration: The Future of Science 2021 (featured on CNN's What's Next and BoingBoing). The map focuses on six big stories of science that we think will play out over the next decade: Decrypting the Brain, Hacking Space, Massively Multiplayer Data, Sea the Future, Strange Matter, and Engineered Evolution. As we were conducting the research that informed the map, I was constantly reminded of Arthur C. Clark's famous quote, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." After all, we were exploring real science around invisibility cloaks, quantum consciousness, designer lifeforms—I'd say those are pretty magical concepts.