Monthly Archives: October 2013

Change Happens!

By Lou Quinto
Executive Coach and Speaker

Everyone has heard the phrase, “change is constant.” But yet when we are faced with change our first reaction is to cringe or loudly object. Why is that?

The reason for the reaction is because change indicates – more times than not – that we are going to lose something. It can be something as simple as just losing the comfort of doing your job the way in which you are accustomed. We are creatures of habit and don’t like forces which make us step outside our comfort zone. Most organizations implement change in a way that is perceived as cleaning out a basement. They get rid of things. This makes implementing change both personally – and in an organization – painful. And, the slower you take to actually implement change, the more painful it is because people cling to the false hope that in the end everything will remain the same.

In order to succeed change must occur, and often. The world is not standing still. Once successful and prosperous companies that did not embrace change have gone the way of the dinosaur. One does not need to look any further than Kodak. My children do not – and will not – know what a “Kodak Moment” is. Their Kodak Moments are now “Instagram Moments.”

Every smart business person understands that what worked last year, probably won’t work this year. If you’re still running your business, managing your staff or just doing your job using a “2008 Play Book” or strategic plan you will lose… and fast! Look at companies like, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter. They are reacting and changing at breakneck speed, and winning.

During your next meeting listen for the two phrases which shout that your organization and the people in it are not readily accepting of change and entrenched in doing business they way they always have. Those phrases are; “That’s not the way we do things here” and, “We have never done it that way before.” Be brave and shout back, “Why not?” Don’t cling to techniques, methods, management practices or product lines (see Kodak) that are “comfortable” because they were successful at one time.

In the future… Tomorrow… when implementing changes, consider the following in order to move through the rough patches and get back on solid footing.

1. Expect Emotion: Leaders are typically very good at planning the structural side of change, but ignore the people side. Realize that the brain’s natural response is to view change as a threat. People need time to accept change, so acknowledge their feelings by hearing them out. Give them time to mourn.

2. Validate Concerns: When team members share concerns, our natural response is to counter these concerns with how we plan to overcome them. This can be perceived as you are not listening. Instead, spend time acknowledging the legitimacy of the concerns before offering ideas for moving forward or the benefits of changing.

3. Don’t Expect Immediate Results: We often say there is a “learning curve” associated with any change. What we fail to acknowledge is that the curve always trends downward before finally showing the promise of a performance enhancement. Embrace discomfort and allow time for temporary failure. Otherwise, people may mistake the performance drop as a sign that the change was a bad idea. Improvement takes time. Be on the lookout for even the smallest successes and celebrate them to show progress.

Lou Quinto has been working with companies and their associates internationally for over the past 25 years primarily in the area of critical thinking and communication skills. He is a Master Coach and Keynote Speaker for Action Management Associates in Plano, TX and a Senior Consultant on the Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness team for Executive Development Associates in Oklahoma City, OK. You can read more of his insights on his blog Metacognition or you can contact him atlouquinto@gmail.com. Originally from New Jersey, today Lou resides in Indianapolis, IN.

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Filed under Group Effectiveness, Strategic Thinking

Drop the Anchor and Promote Creativity

When I’m working with a group of leaders who are looking for the secrets to innovation, I ask them two questions:

1. True or False? The population of Turkey is 7 million.
2. What is the population of Turkey?

Let me guess. You were expecting something more exciting. Perhaps you haven’t thought very much about the population of Turkey. In fact, for a particularly sorry, and funny, example of how little some people have thought about certain countries, checkout this video from “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader” (hint: NOT this person!)

The truth is the above questions about the population of Turkey have a lot to do with how you innovate.

Consider the groundbreaking research published in the journal Science back in September of 1974. Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman wanted to test a hypothesis. So, they asked two groups of people a slightly different question about Turkey’s population. To one group, the population in the true/false quiz was stated as 5 million.

For the second group, it was 65 million.

Researchers demonstrated that the number presented in Question #1 (True/False) greatly influenced the response to Question #2. In fact, the second group when presented with the higher figure in Question #1 (65 million) guessed the population to be twice as large as those presented with the smaller figure. This is a phenomenon that the researchers called “anchoring.”

The same phenomenon plagues our attempts at innovation today. We host brainstorming meetings under time pressure. As ideas are offered, we latch on to one of the first ideas that seem interesting. We might even discuss its ease of implementation. To get things back on track, the facilitator will ask, “OK. What other ideas do you have?”

But it’s too late. The group has already anchored on the idea that was discussed, innovation slows to a halt and the remaining ideas tend to stay similar to the idea that was discussed in detail.

If you would like to overcome the negative effects of anchoring in your organization, try these helpful tips during your next idea generation session:

1. Avoid Clarification – When ideas are offered during brainstorming, you may be tempted to ask someone to clarify their idea. Instead, move on to the next idea. Discussion is the precursor to anchoring, and you must establish clear separation between time devoted to offering ideas, and time devoted to discussing them.

2. Set A Goal – During your brainstorming sessions, establish a goal for how many ideas you would like to generate. This will keep you focused on speed, and reduce the likelihood you will stop and discuss the suggestions. For even complex problems, 30 ideas in ten minutes is certainly achievable.

3. Beware the “Fallacy of the Deadline” – When time is tight, brainstorming seems like a frivolous activity. Anxiety increases and we tend to latch on to the first idea that sounds feasible. The truth is, once a problem is well-defined, idea generation does not take much time. Set aside specific time for “out of the box” idea generation (15-20 minutes) where anything goes, and assure everyone that discussions of implementation and action planning will soon follow.

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Filed under Creativity, Critical Thinking Tools