Posts Tagged ‘results’

Time for a Change #25: Improvement through Optimization

by William Reed on September 20, 2012

When you think of the word Optimization, does it call up images of pushing yourself to make efforts to achieve, or of imagining a better situation and pulling yourself toward it? How you think about it determines how you go about it. You can plant your feet in the past and push uphill, or you can picture yourself in the future and pull yourself where you want to be.

The Principle of Optimization is really the Principle of Optimism, the belief in positive outcomes. One reason why successful people make it look easy is because they feel easy. They stay focussed on the goal, and do not get mired down trying to push the rock uphill.

Say farewell to Mr. Murphy

The Principle of Optimization could shed light on the Principle of Pessimism, Murphy’s Law, the peculiar assumption that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Perhaps this should be amended to read, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, if you expect it to.

People joke about having a Plan B, because Plan A never seems to work. Ironically, it often turns out that Plan B is no better than Plan A, and as a battle veteran once said, the only thing left to do is run like hell.

All too many people, frustrated by unfulfilled dreams and difficult circumstances, become exhausted in trying to push the rock uphill, only to find it roll back down again, a story as old as ancient Greece in the Myth of Sisyphus. Pessimists are very good at proving their point, which in the end is pointless.

You may find you have two inner voices, one encouraging your to move on to higher heights, and one telling you to get on with the grunt work. The quality of your life depends on which voice you listen to, and which way you turn.

The real meaning of the Principle of Optimization is that once you have understood where you are, and know where you want to be, you can place a mental hook at your goal and pull yourself toward it with an Optimistic attitude. In this sense, you are on a constant quest to make things better.

Positive Psychology starts with a calm mind

And so does negative psychology. Each one is an application of the same principle, that actions tend to follow intentions, the body follows the mind. Spending hours playing violent video games is not likely to lead to random acts of kindness.

Positive Psychology works because it points you in the right direction. The problem is that the negative inner voice also wants to be heard, and is not easily silenced. The key is to calm your mind through meditation first, and then realize that you have a choice. Even 15 minutes of meditation can change your day for the better. Click here for an excellent introduction to Zazen Meditation, with video and an iPhone App called Undo 雲堂 (literally cloud hall, a place where monks meditate).

Engaging in this simple practice will help clarify for you the meaning in messages and events, and make you more aware that your own attitude and thoughts are either part of the problem, or part of the solution. It will also make you less subject to distraction, and more master of your thoughts.

Optimism gets results

Dr. Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism, and one of the leading lights in the field of Positive Psychology, conducted a study for Metropolitan Life to follow the performance of new hires after measuring their levels of optimism. Among the new hires were those who actually failed the insurance company’s screening test, but scored as super-optimists on Dr. Seligman’s test. They were hired anyway, and the super-optimists outsold the pessimists in the regular group by 21% in the first year and 57% in the second year. According to HR Magazine, after Met Life began screening job applicants for optimism, in less than two years the company expanded its sales force by 12,000 agents, and increased its share of the personal insurance market by 50%. You can download here a PDF of the MetLife Case Study.

The Optimists achieved Optimal results, because they remained focused on a positive outcome, and did not look for excuses to explain why things weren’t going well. Moreover, optimists appear young even when they are old in years, and pessimists appear old even when they are young in years.

Samuel Ullman (1840~1924) was an American businessman, poet, and humanitarian, best known for his poem on Youth, which was a favorite of General Douglas MacArthur as well as Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of Panasonic, and still considered to be one of Japan’s greatest philosophers of management. Years before the MetLife Case study, Konosuke Matsushita was hiring people on the basis of one fundamental question, “Do you consider yourself to be an optimist?”

How can you get started?

There are four fundamental things you can do to turn yourself into an optimist, or to become a super-optimist if you already are one.

  • Practice daily Meditation. A calm mind is a clear mind. Self-awareness gives you more freedom to make a choice, and a better vision of where you want to go.
  • Sketch your ideas and experiences. Many of our best ideas fade with the morning dew because we fail to write them down or illustrate them. Make a habit of capturing your thoughts in a notebook, and continue to shape them in a positive direction.
  • Use positive encouraging language. This applies to what you say to others, as well as what you say to yourself. Words have power, so choose positive words to create a positive outcome.
  • Repeat how Lucky you are. A simple mantra recommended by my Aikido teacher Koretoshi Maruyama, is to repeat aloud and often, “I’m Lucky, I’m Lucky, I’m Lucky.” Try it and you will see it works in small and important ways. And you will help others to become Lucky too.

For a summary of the ideas in this article click here to download the OPTIMISM MANDALA

Time For a Change #15: Finding Your 80/20 Path

by William Reed on May 18, 2012

The unlikely economist turned philosopher

It seems unlikely that an economist would have an insight that ultimately inspired a philosophy of living, but that is exactly what happened. In 1906 an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the population, and that this ratio seemed to recur with regularity even in nature. This observation was picked up by management consultant Joseph M. Juran, who named it the 80-20 Rule, or Pareto Principle. Also know as the law of the vital few, it has become an accepted phenomenon that in business 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.

This was taken up as a core theme by Richard Koch, a successful management consultant, entrepreneur, and author, who wrote a series of books such as Living the 80/20 Way, centering on the law of the vital few as a Way of Life. He provides lots of anecdotal evidence on how the principle occurs and recurs in business, in nature, and in our experience, but also provides practical advice on how to get better results for much less effort.

The promise of his philosophy is a way to work less, worry less, succeed more often, and enjoy life more. It is a practical philosophy, one which focuses on getting results, not through the conventional approach of working harder or more efficiently, but by thoughtfully focussing on the 20% of your ideas, contacts, and activities that will yield 80% of your results. He speaks convincingly to business audiences on how most people work too hard for meager results, when they could accomplish and enjoy more by learning how to find and focus on the vital few.

Avoiding digital distraction

It is hard to fathom the degree to which digital technologies and computers have transformed our world. We can now virtually transcend space and time. New economies of scale bring goods from the world to our doorstep the same day. Computers give us windows on the world and affordable access to information, education, media, and entertainment. Through our smart phones and tablets the digital window points in so many directions, it feels as if we have the world at our fingertips.

For all of its fascination, fun and convenience, we should not forget that the world at our fingertips is actually a world under glass, a virtual reflection of what actually exists elsewhere in analog form. Moreover, since we are not actually there, we can easily go somewhere else. We are always just a click away from zillions of choices! Even if your mind is only preoccupied with 3 or 4 choices, that is already enough to cause you to become digitally distracted and lose your 80/20 bearings, losing sight of the vital few.

Bret Victor wrote A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design, an article which raises questions few people seem to be asking; about what we are giving up when we limit the many dextrous functions of our hands to the simple action of swiping our fingers or tapping on a screen. He believes that our future is in our hands, our ability to feel, manipulate and make things, and not in pictures under glass.

In our digital dreams we should not forget the importance of focus, the analog world of sensory experience, the world of sensory serendipity, the world which to appreciate you have to have been there.

Finding fun in focus

In his book, The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success, Carmine Gallo attributes the success of Steve Jobs in part to his ability to “Say no to 1000 things.” Apple’s ability to focus has resulted in game changing innovation, making it one of the most profitable companies in the world today.

For most of us it boils down to the art of time management, which in fact is really the art of self-management. Edwin Bliss is an internationally known consultant on time management, and although his books were written in the 1970s, they as timely today as they were when they first came out. Written in brief chapters with practical advice on everything from managing your schedule to increasing your energy and focus, they are also illustrated with amusing illustrations that depict the dilemmas that we all face in time management. For a wealth of tips on how to manage your time and increase your productivity, is well worth reading his two classic titles on time management, Getting Things Done and Doing it Now.

Your path of least resistance

It is not only digital distraction and poor time management that take us off of the 80/20 Path. One of the most fundamental mistakes that you can make is to spend your precious life energy working hard on something that does not come naturally to you. Sadly, many people find themselves stuck in  a job or career in which they spend years developing an average level of competence, when they could truly excel at something else in a much shorter time if they found the right path.

This is not just the classic dilemma of the would-be artist who works at a detestable day job just to pay the bills and get by. It can apply equally well to anyone in any line of work. It is more a matter of finding your flow, according to Roger J. Hamilton your Wealth Dynamics profile. There is no sense in putting this off. It is one of the most important things you should know about yourself, if you wish to succeed on the 80/20 Path.

One of the hardest lessons to learn is that only a few things matter. How tragic if you look back at the end of your career or life, and feel as if you frittered away your life pursuing things that did not really matter. Take an 80/20 inventory of your life now, and focus on your few true friends, gifts, and goals.

For a visual summary of these ideas and approaches download here the 80/20 MANDALA. Catch up on other articles and Mandala downloads in this series by accessing the Time for a Change file on GOALSCAPE Connect.

Have you ever invested years of your life pursuing a goal that turned out to be a trap? You work very hard to get a degree, only to find on graduation that you are overqualified, or unemployable. You sacrifice in order to achieve career success, only to find that what you really sacrificed was your health. You invest money to start a new business, only to go deeper in debt.

Chances are that you know people for whom the pursuit of a goal was not all that it promised.

There are so many quotes by wise and accomplished people that speak in favor of having goals, that it seems sacrilegious to say anything against the idea. Yet through experience we find that goals are not always golden at the end of the rainbow.

Goal-Free Living is a highly acclaimed bestseller by Stephen Shapiro, an international business consultant with an impressive list of clients and testimonials. Shapiro says that excessive focus on achievement leaves us ever hopeful for a future that never comes, and  he demonstrates through the lives of real people that you can have an extraordinary life without traditional goals, schedules, and plans. Featured in Newsweek, The New York Times, Entrepreneur Magazine, and on the cover of O-The Oprah Magazine, he has clearly tapped into a mother lode of sentiment regarding the limitations of a goal-oriented life.

Goal-oriented living may be a by-product of Western culture’s thinking about progress. It has brought us much good, and much damage at the same time. Single minded-pursuit of goals has upset the balance of life, interrelationships, and our environment.

There are three common patterns in goal-oriented thinking which are self-defeating in the end-result.

Distracted Pursuit

Chasing after whatever appears on your screen, whatever looks best at the time. Like a kid in a candy store, you grab whatever is in reach, and try to fill your pockets. But in the end you have nothing to show, and no real sense of satisfaction. Succumbing to suggestions that lead you anywhere and nowhere, you don’t stay with anything long enough to create lasting value. You end up empty-handed as a result of losing the big picture.

The mark for distracted pursuit is the memo pad.

Single-Minded Focus

Going for the goal no matter what or who gets in your way. Like a bull bent on destruction, by sheer force of determination you actually reach your goal, only to realize that other people have abandoned you, as you have abandoned them. You end up alone, as a result of single-minded pursuit, without considering the consequences.

The mark for single-minded focus is the checklist.

Stepladder Thinking

Pursuing the traditional path of education, leading to a career, followed by retirement. Like a cabin dweller chopping wood for the long winter, you patiently pursue the tasks set out before you, putting off immediate gratification for the sake of a secure future, only to find that your best laid plans don’t turn out as expected. You walk through life with blinders, as a result missing out on the broader view.

The mark for stepladder thinking is the calendar.

There is another approach which enables you to follow your instincts, get things done, and get results over time, without falling into the traps of common goal-oriented thinking.

Flexible Focus

Being able to see the big picture, focus on the details, and catch all of the connections, with a free and flexible mind that can achieve goals without being goal-oriented. In Asian philosophy this is known as working without being attached to results. It is a fundamental mindset that has spiritual roots, but delivers material results. It is wise, because it recognizes that things are not as fixed as they appear, and that flexible focus frees your mind to discover, to create, and to innovate. The tool of choice for flexible focus is the mandala chart.

Caught in the traps of the first three goal-oriented patterns of thinking, you may be aware of the limitations, but unsure of how to avoid them. You can make efforts to achieve life-work balance, to spend more time with your family, to go to the gym a few times a week, or to eat a more balanced diet. But unless you fundamentally change your thinking about goals, you will simply repeat the same patterns and fall into the same traps, even as you pursue the goal of life-work balance.

The mandala chart can help you achieve flexible focus. It works like a 3 x 3 viewfinder, with 9 frames. Putting yourself in the center, automatically gives you 8 surrounding windows, a field for flexible focus.

On the mandala chart as in life, you are surrounded by issues and goals related to health, business, finances, home, and other important concerns, but none of them dominate because you are at the center. Moreover, the center is not fixed but flexible. The center is wherever you are, and the field is whatever surrounds you. You are not so much goal-free, as free of your goals.

Download a visual reminder of the four approaches to goals. Where are you in relation to your goals? To keep your goals in balance, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I taking consistent focused action to move closer what is important to me?
  • Do I regularly consider the impact of my actions on others?
  • Are my plans flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances?
  • Can I see the big picture, the small detail, and the connections all at once?
  • Which of my current goals are potential traps, and which are opportunities?

No matter what anyone says, Results are binary!

by Himanshu Jhamb on December 21, 2009

Results are binaryResults are binary… it’s either done or not done.

Having been a part of many projects since I started working (about 15 years ago), I have heard, seen and even said “these” so many times – that I have no doubt it is one of the most common conditions of being human. Not a very favorable one (since it hardly does us much good), but common, yes. I am talking about the common answers we mostly get when we ask the question “Is it done”? Here are some of the common answers to this question:

  • Almost
  • Yes, but…
  • Not Yet
  • I need a little more time
  • Its more complicated that I thought
  • The traffic was too bad…
  • I was not well, so…
  • What?
  • Well, you know…
  • Not really

Well, all these answers belong to one category – Not done. The only other answer is Yes, it’s done. Look, we all know that stuff happens: situations unfold, the world goes round, it rains, we make mistakes, the dog eats your homework, customers change their mind, hardware breaks, software does not perform as expected… the list is endless. The point is: Whatever the reason, the result is either – Yes, it’s done OR it’s not done.

The natural way of being for humans is to look into the reasons before facing and addressing the result. What’s worse is, we usually start with reasons or explanations (… alright! I will use the word, finally) or excuses before acknowledging if it’s done or not. Truthfully acknowledging the result before anything is said is the starting point to restoring the integrity of not keeping up to the commitment you gave in the first place… because once you make that acknowledgment, you bring forth a world where you are ready to take the responsibility of what went wrong – and the world of responsibility is just what reasons and excuses hate to be in!

You will also notice that it’s also a pleasure to deal with people who acknowledge the results they produce (or not) quickly, don’t give reasons or excuses and take responsibility for the situation and NOT repeating it. You’ll also notice the pain of working with people who make excuses all the time, don’t acknowledge the impact of the results they produced (or not) on the person/people working with them… I should know; I still go to my “land of reasons” from time to time – Rather, I still happen to FIND (since it’s not intentional, it just happens) myself in that land from time to time and when I do… I Boot out of it as fast as I can!  I suggest you do, too.

Result Orientation

by Himanshu Jhamb on November 13, 2009

resultsI was privy to an interesting exchange between two of my business associates the other day which led me to reflect upon what is it that people work for and how often they lose sight of what they are doing. The exchange went something like this:

P1: You don’t communicate clearly.

P2: Really? How come?

P1: Right now you are agreeing with what I am saying but that was not the case in your email.

P2: Yes. And what is the problem with that?

P1: You need to communicate clearly in your emails.

P2: Please understand that sometimes <whatever justification is being offered>

P1: Yeah, but it only happens in YOUR emails.

P2: Isn’t it also possible that it might be happening only to you?

Clearly, this is a typical disagreement conversation that is taking place between two people that is going downhill as quickly as a 100 tonne truck rambling down the downgrade with the brakes not working. There is obviously nothing wrong with the above conversation – It’s just that it is a Weak conversation. Weak because it is not oriented towards producing any result – it’s just a game being played between two individuals about who is right, wrong, superior etc. Notice how the conversation took a turn in the 3rd sentence – “Right now you are agreeing with what I am saying but that was not the case in your email”. Once the two folks have reached an agreement, what is left to talk about? The conversation is really over. Dissecting what was missing, incomplete or flawed in the email suddenly becomes irrelevant in the moment when it is declared “Right now you are agreeing with what I am saying”. PERIOD!

These are the conversations that take teams on a path of self destruction. It is important to understand and always bear in mind the question “For the sake of what.. are you doing… what… you are doing?” and use this question as the guiding light whenever you find your mind taking you into the dark tunnels of personal “Rights”, “Wrongs”, “Validations” and “Invalidations”. The same conversation becomes a powerful conversation had it simply gone like this:

P1: It was not clear from your email that <whatever it was that was not clear>

P2: Really? How come?

P1: That’s not really important because right now since you are agreeing with what I am saying and it seems to be sorted out…

P2: Great. I’d be open to hearing about what was unclear in the email at a later time, if you want to share.

Notice the stark difference.  The power comes from the fact that:

  1. The conversation is short and to the point.
  2. There is a mutual respect for each other and the two people seem to be “Sensitive” to creating a workable environment, even in the face of disagreement.
  3. The conversation is centered around “Producing a Result” and not on personal desires, beliefs, wants or preferences.
  4. The tone and the mood of the conversation remain positive and pleasant.

Take a moment to reflect upon the conversations you are having with others (… and also, yourself!). Are they oriented towards results or something else?

Start Early, Drive Slowly And Reach Safely

by Naveen Lakkur on September 7, 2009

If you are thinking that I am referring to a journey, then you are right! I am referring to the journey of an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurial journey has 3 parts to it:

  • The Start;
  • The Drive and
  • The Finish.

All the stated 3 parts are important to be a winner.

Early/good start provides great possibility to win a car race event (any event, for that matter).

ent-startWhile there’s no age bar for entrepreneurship, early start in one’s life has its own advantages. The risk taking appetite is higher, flexibility curve is better and they are in the listening & doing mode. While experience brings some advantages, it also equally brings in constraints/mind sets. If you study a wide spectrum of very successful entrepreneurs, majority of them had started their journey of entrepreneurship early in their life.

While speed determines the fate of a race event, the preparation phase is time consuming or slow as the process could be elaborate…. as activities such as the car selection, tuning of the car performance, fitness training of the driver, etc., is all time consuming/slow and elaborate.

ent-journeyWhile the business needs to happen at the speed of thought, it’s important or it’s a prerequisite to provide a lot of care in building an organization. Things take time to build and manage the right team, to fulfill the Vision/Mission of the organization; inculcate and live right values set forth for the organization and to build great brand value for an organization. There should be no hurry or compromise on these aspects.

The finish determines the result. The enjoyable moments on the podium receiving the winning medal is determined by the finish you have.

ent-finishWhile you have built a good organization, it can be great only if it translates into an enterprise (it’s true if an organization is either built to last or it’s built to sell). Great entrepreneurs give equal care to handing the business over to safe hands as much as they do to starting and operating an organization.

“Start Early, Drive Slowly and Reach Safely” – that’s the winning formula for entrepreneurship.

Help – it’s just more ROI!

by Guy Ralfe on July 29, 2009

Help maximize the return on investment

Description of Help (v):  to give or provide what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need; contribute strength or means to; render assistance to; cooperate effectively with; aid; assist:

Help is surely something that you would like to have in abundance in your personal and your business endeavors. Have you reflected on how much help is around us, and what it is to us?

Last week I led a value workshop for, hopefully, a future client. Our sales lady has been in communication with this organization for over a year now and in an effort to offer them help to facilitate moving forward with a deal a one day Value Workshop was suggested to help them identify their solution needs. We used a method called Pain ChainsTM developed by Keith M. Eades. This organizational assessment method enables you to evaluate the impact and value of an organizations pains. The concept is that pains in an organization are felt by individuals within the organization. These pains are often as a consequence of some other interdependent individual’s pain within the organizational process chain.

As an outcome of the value assessment, one of the pain chains the participants estimated, increased the costs at around 7% of payroll and another contributed to the loss of revenue in the order of 8-10% of revenue in a primary division. This accumulated cost, in a single year, far outweighs the solution costs and to think that they have lost a year already in indecision and likely another year between making a decision and realizing the benefits of which ever solution they choose. Ironically this organization helps their clients through their product and services offering in a very similar way.

At the end of the value workshop we asked for feedback and all responded very favorably to the exercise and how it had opened their mind to the impact of their problems and the urgency with which they needed to address the situation. However one particular individual’s feedback really stood out – while very enthusiastic about the outcome of the workshop and what had been revealed to him he concluded that “ …there was nothing in the session that we couldn’t have done ourselves!

That assessment is 100% correct, but what it doesn’t take into consideration is at what cost to you and your organization. Yes anyone can do just about anything given enough time, but time is the one thing we have no control over which makes it scarce and expensive. That is why we need help and that is why when we get help acknowledge it and realize how much it is contributing to your Return On Investment (ROI)!