Notes — retrospective 4

Ideas from the archive.

Notes started as a short-form newsletter on another platform. This post is a selection of some of favourite ideas from that archive.


The six paradoxes of leadership [Humble Hero, Strategic Executor, Traditioned Innovator, Technology-savvy Humanist, Globally-minded Localist, High-integrity Politician] are a lot for any individual to take on. We already expect a great deal from our leaders. They must have a mastery of business, understand complex systems, and communicate effectively. And the recognition of these paradoxes adds several layers of complication to the mix. It would be incredibly rare to find someone who embodies all of them. Leaders are human, after all — flawed, complex, and prone to failure and disappointment. But because of their humanity, they are also capable of learning and evolving at great speed. (strategy+business)

People-centred organisational change

The first imperative for putting people first is to inspire through purpose. Most transformations have financial and operational goals. These are important and they can be energizing to leaders, but they tend not to be very motivating to most people in the organization. To motivate more broadly, the transformation needs to connect with a deeper sense of purpose.

Take LEGO. The LEGO Group has become an extraordinary global company. Under their very capable leadership, they've actually undergone a series of transformations. While each of these has had a very specific focus, the North Star, linking and guiding all of them, has been Lego's powerful purpose: inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. Expanding globally? It's not about increasing sales, but about giving millions of additional children access to LEGO building bricks. Investment and innovation? It's not about developing new products, but about enabling more children to experience the joy of learning through play. Not surprisingly, that deep sense of purpose tends to be highly motivating to LEGO's people. (Jim Hemerling)

Ask a question no one else is asking

Understanding a customer’s motivations for using a product or service are important for developing something that works for the customer. Take, for example, a project IDEO conducted on diabetes management for a healthcare company. IDEO’s team found that more traditional goals like losing weight and controlling blood sugar in order to avoid health problems (which activate a prevention frame) weren’t successful in actually motivating patients to make healthy changes. But setting social and emotional goals—like gaining the ability to walk a 5K or dance with your daughter at her wedding—activated a promotion mindset and actually motivated people to change.

Armed with this knowledge and new frame, IDEO was able to help the company move beyond creating a new medical device. Rather, IDEO helped them build a customizable app that instead solved for a different challenge: How do we help people with diabetes live their best lives? (Kellogg Insight)

We must compete on imagination

A company that takes imagination seriously would be conscious of how mental models are choices rather than inevitabilities. The company would teach employees that the brain’s beliefs about reality are merely shifting probabilities, knowing that the collective capacity to entertain alternative views is aided by this awareness. The company would also articulate and share the core elements of the collective mental model on which the current business model rests. (BCG Henderson Institute)

Strategic thinking is gritty work

Deep thinking upfront is fundamental to success, especially before you get into implementation. But strategy is not something that you define once and cast aside to age and wither. You may need to revisit your findings periodically to ensure they are still accurate… making your strategy dynamic and evolving, bringing it into everything you do. (Aha!)

The “frictionless mind” in leadership

Having a frictionless mind doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have opinions, even strong ones that you believe are built on a solid foundation of fact and well-reasoned ideas. To me, it means you have a willingness to quickly and easily let go of your beliefs, adopt other perspectives, and question the validity of your underlying thinking. It also provides an effective self-awareness check to confront your own biases and blind spots: How willing and quickly are you able to shift to another point of view? You may return to your original thinking, newly convinced of its validity, but you’ve at least given other approaches a test-drive. (strategy+business)

Hire for character, train for mastery

In a bionic company, it’s especially important to hire for the intangibles: integrity, good judgment, creativity, and entrepreneurialism. “Apart from some core skills, I look for the integrators, the disruptors, the innovators, the steadfast deliverers. We need all of them,” said the CEO of an insurance company. (BCG Henderson Institute)

Erica Williams Simon on navigating your career

Best career advice that I can give: Don't ever attach yourself to a person, a place, a company, an organization or a project. Attach yourself to a mission, a calling, a purpose ONLY. That's how you keep your power & your peace. (Twitter)

Daily self-reflection questions

  1. What did I say I was going to do today in all dimensions of my life?
  2. What did I actually do today?
  3. What am I proud of?
  4. What am I not proud of?
  5. How did I lead people?
  6. How did I follow people?
  7. If I lived today over again, what would I have done differently?
  8. If I have tomorrow (and I am acutely aware that someday I won’t), based on what I do today, what will I do tomorrow in all dimensions of my life?

(Kellogg Insight)

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