Jennifer B. Davis
This great presentation outlines the Tribal Knowledge at Starbucks. My favorite starts on slide 13 where they talk about brand building and the difference between marketing, advertising, PR, and branding. Brilliant! They also have some great things to say about making employees ambassadors and believers in the brand.
Jennifer B. Davis
If you enjoy reading about cultural trends, globalization, and the future, you'll enjoy this presentation by Karl Fisch called Shift Happens.
Jennifer B. Davis
Guy Kawasaki's Garage Ventures popularized the concept of The Art of the Start. Now you can see a cool presentation online to reach your own inspiration point.
Jennifer B. Davis
Although provocative, this somehow sounded better than "life is roulette." Now that I have your attention, here is the concept.

Outside of the foundations of morals, ethics and integrity, almost everything else in business is a shade of gray. Every decision can be right or wrong in different contexts, as we all have experienced. There is no single model or path to success. I read an article in the McKinsey Quarterly the other day which piqued my interest. Here is an excerpt:

“Once you’ve internalized the concept that you can’t prove anything in absolute terms, life becomes all the more about odds, chances, and trade-offs. In a world without provable truths, the only way to refine the probabilities that remain is through greater knowledge and understanding.” Wise managers know that business is about finding ways to improve the odds of success—but never imagine that it is a certainty.

So, this puts Rick Tamlyn's comments in my earlier post in a new light: if you want to improve the odds, gain greater understanding or...

... you can change the rules of the game or change the game you are playing.

I leave you with one more excerpt from the McKinsey article:

Finally, clear-thinking executives know that in an uncertain world, actions and outcomes are imperfectly linked. It’s easy to infer that good outcomes result from good decisions and that bad outcomes must mean someone blundered. Yet the fact that a given choice didn’t turn out well doesn’t always mean it was a mistake. Good decisions don’t always lead to favorable outcomes, and unfavorable outcomes are not always the result of mistakes. Wise managers resist the natural tendency to make attributions based solely on outcomes. They avoid the halo bestowed by performance and insist on independent evidence.
Jennifer B. Davis
Do you remember the proofs that you did in high school geometry? I have been thinking about forecasting lately (as a topic of keep professional interest and personal curiousity) and am wondering if I could use this proof concept to make some connections. See if you can follow the following:

1. Each one of us has a bias.
It may be conscious or subconscious. It might be easily seen by others or by ourself. In any case, there isn't a person out there that is free from natural inclinations, pessimism/optomism, strengths / weaknesses, etc.

2. Bias create errors
A optomistic person may see the glass as half-full, and credit people with too much capability than they have demonstrated. A pessimistic person might be overly conversative and play out the "worst case scenario." Reality, in either case, will be different than the bias of the individual. Even a small error is still an error.

3. Bias manifest themself in every decision point.
Unless we actively fight it (often by overcompensating in the opposite direction), we demonstrate this bias at every point in our life where we are asked to make a choice.

4. Forecasting is all about making decisions.
Forecasting is an estimation process in unknown situations, which inherent relies on our ability to extrapolate our beliefs, data, and assumptions and make decisions. Whether forecasting financial results, anticipating the success of a new product, informing supply chain decisions, guessing when the train will arrive, or charting out your personal retirement savings, it is all about guesses, and educating those guesses as best you can.

5. The more decisions, the more error
So, if the above are true, each decision point in a forecasting process would give you an opportunity to illustrate your bias, introducing error. This error would multiply by every decision point to amplify your natural bias.

6. Corrolary: Fewer decisions, less error
Some forecasting processes having fewer decision points, thus would inherently be more immune to bias error as described above.

7. Conclusion: Forecasts based on limited data points are inherently more accurate than those based on multiple decision points.

Sounds logical, right? But think about this. This theory would say that forecasts based on historical trend data (one data stream) are more accurate than bottom's up forecasts which roll up the estimate sales targets from multiple sales territories. This is the counter intuitive part. When asked for a more accurate forecast, what do most general managers or business owners do? They go head first into bottom's up sales data to prove their assumptions, to show where the money will come from, and the like. This seems like it would be highly accurate and give them more confidence than simply extrapolating past performance. But I am coming to the conclusion that it isn't true. More analysis, leads to more error, which leads to more analysis, and forecasts get wildly out-of-whack.

So, what the is the true north for forecasting? I asked this question of several folks whose forecasting ability and experience I respect and they replied, "past performance is the single best indicator of future performance."

This phrase is very familiar to those who are experienced with behavioral interviewing techniques, which seek to illustrate a candidates competency and compatibility for a new job by matching the patterns of performance and styles of work from their past to the ideal for the position. This theory, in human terms, says that as you grow older and gain experience, you simply become a more refined version of the person you always were (a key point in Marcus Buckingham's new book entitled Go Put Your Strengths to Work).

If you are interesting becoming a better forecaster and trend observer, you'll like this post showing Paul Saffo's (Institute for the Future) Rules for Forecasting.

Enough philosophy. How do you forecast? How do you take out the bias, but ground your forecasts in reality? Are complex methods better than simple methods? How important is an understanding of the business (thus the passion that would lead to bias and to errors) or is it better to have a "pattern recognition" person that doesn't know the business? Your insights and experience greatly appreciated.
Jennifer B. Davis
Motto magazine, formerly Worthwhile, is looking for people to be "Motto Insiders," a program created to bounce ideas off their connected fans. This is a fun offer from a great magazine. If you are not a subscriber, you should check it out!

Their May/June issue featured great advice from some top-ranked executive coaches. These included Marshall Goldsmith, Andre Taylor, Dan Lier, Rick Tamlyn, Andrea J. Lee, George Johnson, Marcia Wieder, Steve Mitten, and Betty J. Harvey. Below are a few of my favorites:
  • Stop Adding Too Much Value: capable people often get personal satisfaction from the ideas and improvement they contribute, however according to Marshall Goldsmith, although "you may have improved the content of my idea by 5 percent, you have reduced by commitment to executing it by 50 percent because you've taken away my ownership of the idea."

  • Get to 5 Miles An Hour: When starting a business, launching a new change initiative, or the like it is important to make it real by getting it going. According to Andre Taylor, until the "business is real to the founder, he or she doesn't do the things necessary to make it grow."

  • Lose the Clutter: Although cleaning out your life and streamlining your stuff is really valuable, that is not what I am talking about. I am refering to the clutter that you accumulate in your mind that keeps you from achieving. This is something that I learned about from Michael Bungay Stanier, the guy behind "Box of Crayons" and the 8 Irresistable Principles of Fun. He calls it "Start Getting Rid of the Crap." Dan Lier calls it changing your mind. "What's holding you back right now? What's the disempowering belief that you have, that you must change to take your life or business to the next level?" The point is the same. Anything that isn't pushing you forward, you should spring clean.

  • Ask What not How: Rick Tamlyn says that "your life is all made up, so why not make it up the way you want." He refers to a concept that has gotten a lot of press lately in The Secret. The premise is that if you decide what you want, you'll start attracting co-players and support. The key is asking What you want, not How you are going to get it. George Johnson echoed this by saying "A HOW will ruin a good WHAT every time."

  • ...I am going to stop here, so that you have some reason to pick up their latest issue.
Jennifer B. Davis
Have you ever wondered where some of the amazing innovations of our time started? How the ideas even started to germinate in the minds of their inventors? I couldn't help but think of that when I saw this slide show about paper art. I love the sense of whimsy and want that in my own approach to my work, so let's break it down.

1. Choose Constraints Carefully

Who said paper needs to be 2-dimensional? If you see the hummingbird on slide 11, you might think differently. Don't accept a constraint or an assumption without thorough investigation and acceptance of the consequences. Sometimes restraint around resources, time, or the laws of physics can not be avoided...but sometimes they can.

2. Start with the End and Work Backwards

It was popularized by Stephen Covey and stands true: you'll do better if you start with the end in mind. Starting with a 2-dimensional sheet, a 3-dimensions of experience were created by thinking about the opposite, or the visual negative, of what was trying to be created. The butterflies on the first slide, and the dangling man on slide 19 (my favorite), are both negative images that create stunning display. They can also create brilliant strategy. If you have read the book Blue Ocean, than you know what I mean. Why not do something exactly the opposite of what your competition is doing? Why not take an original idea and find an alternate way to accomplish it? Why not change your perspective? I love the dangling man image because the same image in reverse shows both a person falling and a person trying to prevent someone from falling. Brilliant!

3. Cut the Puzzle Lines Afterwards

The castle on slide 9 illustrates this well. The castle stands tall with spires and thick walls. The raw materials used to create the castle are different. They take a larger horizontal footprint (in square inches). They do not look like castle walls. The pieces that become spires appear to be fans. The walls appear to be combs and so on. Creating innovative products and services require leaders with the ability to see beyond the puzzle of how things you already have will fit together, but rather on how the resources at hand could be brought together to create the vision. It is "tops down" and "bottoms up" in parallel. (Note: in my professional life, I spend a lot of time and energy completing organizational/operational "jig saw puzzles," gluing them together, and then recutting the jigsaw lines along departmental, functional, geographic, or efficiency boundaries; perhaps that is why this art really is resonating with me).

4. Look for Inspiration, Beware of Dangers

Don't stick with a single theme. Don't limit your input or perspectives, as they might help you avoid pitfalls later. There is nothing to say that you have to continue in the direction you are heading. See the waterfall (slide 17) facing the unsuspecting canoe adventurers in slide 16.

5. Tell a Story

Don't forget that stories that are easy to repeat, get repeated. See slide 6 for a great example of this.