We hear the phrase “think outside the box” a lot. If “the box” is something that is stifling creativity, it sounds like something to avoid. But when “the box” is a framework that smart leaders use to get better results from their teams, it is something to embrace.
“Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies–it happens when society adopts new behaviors.” Clay Shirky, author of the book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, provides an eye-opening look at how technology is changing the way we think, work and live. The book helped me understand more clearly how the Internet has changed the way we interact and get information. Here are several ideas I found incredibly insightful:
“The tools that a society uses to create and maintain itself are as central to human life as a hive is to bee life.”
“The basic capabilities of tools like Flickr reverse the old order of group activity, transforming ‘gather, then share’ to ‘share, then gather.'”
The Internet is allowing amazing things to happen: “Large decreases in transaction costs create activities that can’t be taken on by businesses, or indeed by any institution, because no matter how cheap it becomes to perform a particular activity, there isn’t enough payoff to support the cost incurred by being an institution in the first place.”
“The Web didn’t introduce a new competitor into the old ecosystem, the Web created a new ecosystem.”
“In the same way you do not have to be a professional driver to drive, you no longer have to be a professional publisher to publish. Mass amateurization is a result of the radical spread of expressive capabilities, and the most obvious precedent is the one that gave birth to the modern world: the spread of the printing press five centuries ago.”
Regarding Wikipedia: “If even only a few people care about a wiki, it becomes harder to harm it than to heal it.”
On forming groups: “The net effect is that it’s easier to like people who are odd in the same ways you are odd, but it’s harder to find them.”
“The most profound effects of social tools lag their invention by years, because it isn’t until they have a critical mass of adopters, adopters who take these tools for granted, that their real effects begin to appear.”
“What is likely to happen to society as a whole with the spread of ridiculously easy group-forming? The most obvious change is that we are going to get more groups, many more groups, than have ever existed before.”
“The dramatic improvement in our social tools, by contrast, means that our control over those tools is much more like steering a kayak. We are being pushed rapidly down a route largely determined by the technological environment.”
“Anything that raises the cost of doing something reduces what gets done.”
Changes are happening at a breakneck pace; we can either embrace them and use them to our advantage, or ignore them to our peril. If you want to gain a much deeper understanding about how society adopts new behaviors, Here Comes Everybody is a must-read.
— The Product Management Perspective: What can you say when your boss walks in and throws a new book on your desk? My answer was something like “sure, I’ll read it when I have some time.” And soon after I started, I found the time. Shirky’s book is an excellent read for product managers. He challenges assumptions such as how you make money on products: “If a large enough population of users is trying things, then the happy accidents have a much higher chance of being discovered.” He causes you to dig a lot deeper to find answers to your perplexing product problems: “In business, the investment cost of producing anything can create a bias toward accepting the substandard.” He tells us (something we already know of course) about our product: “it must be designed to fit the job being done, and it must help people do something they actually want to do.”
This last quote sums up nicely the role of product manager: “Because of transaction costs, organizations cannot afford to hire employees who only make one important contribution–they need to hire people who have good ideas day after day.” That’s our job…good ideas day after day.
One of the most amazing sports records in the history of all sports is 401 wins and 9 losses. This is the career record of Larry Gelwix, coach of the Highland High rugby team (Salt Lake City) for more than three decades. This team was featured in the recent movie Forever Strong. Larry recently recorded a podcast with my friend Dr. Paul on Live on Purpose Radio. During this conversation Larry shares the strategies that have made his teams successful through the years.
What struck me the first time I listened to this podcast is how beautifully these principles apply to product management, to leadership and to life in general. They have obviously worked for Larry and his rugby teams throughout the years.
Here are the five championship strategies:
Choose what team you’re going to play for. Decide what ‘jersey’ you’re going to wear in life, in love, in business, in relationships. Where is your loyalty? Where is your heart? Figure it out, make a decision and don’t look back.
Don’t play with snakes. Every situation has a right and wrong; choose the right.
Hit the field running. Attitude and effort are more important than natural ability. Attitude and effort are more important than natural smarts. Attitude and effort separate the champs from the chumps. Attitude follows behavior; if you want to change your attitude, change your behavior.
Expect to win. Larry spells ‘win’ as an acronym, W.I.N., which stands for “what’s important now.” Look at every situation and ask, “what do I need to accomplish?” Then ask, “what’s important now?” We need to look ahead and have goals for future success, and make choices right now that take us in that direction.
Focus on the final score. Focus on the end game; focus on who you want to be; focus on what you ultimately want to achieve. In life we all write the script of the final person we want to be. If my final score is who I want to be — a man or woman of integrity, of honesty, of virtue, of hard work, of ethics — then I can sustain setbacks and difficulties that come.
Living these five championship strategies will make an incredible difference in your success. As Larry says: “these strategies work!” He has proven this as a coach and as a successful CEO. Don’t miss this podcast; you’ll be glad you listened.
The recent theme at Lead on Purpose is trust. This focus has come primarily from reading The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey. He discusses the concept of building a trust account, which is similar to a bank account. By behaving in ways that build trust you make deposits, by behaving in ways that destroy trust you make withdrawals. The ‘balance’ in the account reflects the amount of trust you have at any given time. You have a unique trust account with every person you know, and all deposits and withdrawals are not created equal.
Trust is built or destroyed by behaviors. Covey teaches 13 Behaviors of high-trust people and leaders worldwide. These behaviors will increase trust and improve your ability to interact effectively with people in every aspect of your life. Here are the behaviors that will help you build trust:
Talk Straight: Be honest. Tell the truth. Let people know where you stand.
Demonstrate Respect: Genuinely care for others. Respect the dignity of every person and every role.
Create Transparency: Tell the truth in a way people can verify. Get real and genuine. Be open and authentic.
Right Wrongs: Make things right when you’re wrong. Apologize quickly. Make restitution where possible.
Show Loyalty: Give credit to others. Speak about people as if they were present. Represent others who aren’t there to speak for themselves.
Deliver Results: Establish a track record of results. Get the right things done. Make things happen.
Get Better: Continuously improve. Increase your capabilities. Be a constant learner.
Confront Reality: Take issues head on, even the “undiscussables.” Address the tough stuff directly. Acknowledge the unsaid.
Clarify Expectations: Disclose and reveal expectations. Discuss them. Validate them. Renegotiate them if needed and possible.
Practice Accountability: Hold yourself accountable. Hold others accountable. Take responsibility for results.
Listen First: Listen before you speak. Understand. Diagnose. Listen with your ears…and your eyes and heart.
Keep Commitments: Say what you’re going to do, then do it. Make commitments carefully and keep them at all costs.
Extend Trust: Demonstrate a propensity to trust. Extend trust abundantly to those who have earned your trust. Extend trust conditionally to those who are earning your trust.
Mastering the 13 behaviors requires a combination of character and competence. You can (and should) work to improve your abilities in each of these areas. Focus on the ones you consider to be your weaknesses and take the attitude that you will improve. Building trust is not something that happens overnight. As Warren Buffet said: “It takes twenty years to build your reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
Study these principles, then master them. Study Covey’s book and practice the principles he so eloquently teaches. Every aspect of your life will improve.
The Product Management Perspective: Trust is the most important characteristic a product manager can possess. To effectively work with development, sales and other teams in your organization you must gain their trust. Trust is key to understanding your customers and your market. Trust is a two-way street: you need to carry out your tasks in such a way that the team members will trust you. You also need to trust that the team members will do what they have committed to do. The 13 behaviors listed above provide an excellent roadmap to developing and extending trust with others.