Archive for the 'Strategy' Category

The LIBOR Higgs Connection

Connecting the dots and the kaleidoscoping art is a muscle I practice. I watch what appears on the canvas and wonder about the relationships between these seemingly unrelated data points.

Connecting the dots, deciphering themes and applying these themes to your work is a critical component in developing your strategic innovation.

On July 4th I noted an unusual occurrence. For many days prior to July 4th, the top item on Google news, NPR news and PBS was in one of three categories:

  • Political, geopolitical or war related,
  • Economic, stock market or financial,
  • Accidents or disasters related.

But on July 4th the top news was about the god particle. Scientists believe they found the long-elusive Higgs Boson particle that could explain why particles have mass, and therefore, why stars, planets, you, me, and other objects in the universe exist at all.

The second item on the news was the LIBOR investigation, discussing how Barclays, and probably other banks, manipulated the benchmark for interest rates on trillions of dollars of loans to individuals and businesses around the world.

Each of these items is fascinating for different reasons but my practice in the kaleidoscoping art is asking: what’s the connection? Are these seemingly unrelated news items, seeing that they happened to converge on the same day, potentially related at a meta-thematic level?

It occurred to me that both, one in the realm of physics and the universe, the other in the realm of global finance, represent a transition from what was concealed to what is now revealed.

The next step is to ask: where else do I see the pattern of “from concealment to revelation?” And there are off course many more examples…

As I connect more dots to recognize the pattern, new explorations join the inquiry:

  • How would this pattern play out in other fields?
  • What else is this pattern, if it plays out in full, likely to influence?
  • Where are the opportunities?
  • Who will be the losers and the winners?
  • In what ways will this influence my work and my clients?

And more… this is the type of inquiry you engage as you explore strategic innovation.

Connecting the dots is a critical discipline at an even simpler and more pragmatic level. If you lead a department or organization, most of the challenges you deal with today are byproducts and secondary results of decisions made by other people, in other departments and organizations two weeks, two months, or two years ago. Big part of the most vital work is to connect the dots, see threats, identify opportunities and make wise decisions.

That’s what I enjoy about the consulting and coaching work. I get to work with smart people on these great challenges.

© Aviv Shahar

Reframe The Problem: Why I Left The Limo In Copenhagen & The Garden Hose Insight

Enjoy your Transform-to-Lead Strategy podcast message:
To come up with a new solution and create a breakthrough strategy you must first ask a new question.

To join our Transform2Lead circle and receive special insights and strategies not available elsewhere email me with subject line – Transform2Lead.

© Aviv Shahar

Mission, Vision & Purpose

Mission describes what ‘business’ you are in. It says what you do, who you do it with, and who you do it for.

A Vision is a compelling description of the future and of what you want to become in the future. It is something that excites you and causes you to become mission-ized. It is an inspirational and aspiration-al description of where you want to be.

Purpose is the reason to embark on the journey, the driving power to act on your mission. It is what your vision means to you and what it makes possible.

Purpose answers – why you do it – why you want to get there.

Mission answers – what you do to get there and with whom.

Vision answers – where you want to be, what it looks like when you get there, and how the world is different because of it.

© Aviv Shahar

Four Ways To Grow Your Business

Here are the four quadrants we often use in strategy and business development explorations. You can grow in these four ways:

  1. Stay within your core. Provide your core products, services and experiences to your current customers.
  2. Create new products, services and experiences for your current customers.
  3. Find new customers for your current products, services and experiences.
  4. Create new products, services and experiences for new customers. Create a new business.

Here are some of the considerations when choosing your next development path:

  1. Where is the current opportunity?
  2. What will provide the easiest path to growth?
  3. Which has the greatest potential?
  4. What’s the risk involved in each?
  5. Which path if successful will put you in the best position in 12 months, in three years?
  6. What’s going to be most fun? What will you enjoy the most?

    © Aviv Shahar

The Value Of A Strategy Summit

What Executives say about the experience and value of a Strategy Summit…

Roger Bhalla

Tom Mitchell

Carol Hess-Nickels

David Conrad

Jonathan Kaye

Melissa Bargainer

Matt Wagner

© Aviv Shahar

Where Do You Start – Life Strategies

Here are three ways to begin—three starting strategies.
1. Fly to the easiest spot
2. Face the toughest part head-on
3. Chunk the whale into parts

The first strategy is best applied when you face a new domain or task that may seem difficult at first. This strategy is useful in the following cases:
1. Crossword puzzles
2. Exams
3. Networking a room full of strangers
4. A visit to a new country
5. Tidying up a messy house
The first strategy is to find the easiest entry or starting point. Identify the least challenging entry point and quickly move towards it. It will help you warm up and relax into doing the rest. As you warm up, you begin to flow. New doors open up once you begin to engage. Next steps reveal themselves as you ease into action. The system’s intelligence begins to surrender to you and guide your next moves. The wisdom of this strategy is that it doesn’t matter where you begin, as long as you do.

The second strategy
is to address the greatest challenge head-on. You apply this strategy when dealing with matters of life and death, when it is critical to address the greatest threat and danger without delay. This works when the most urgent relates to the most important and you must face it head-on. There are other situations, where beginning with the toughest challenge is the way to go, even if a time factor is not involved.  Resolving a conflict is an example. The toughest thing in the world may be to get the two parties involved together in the same room. And that is exactly what you need to do. Faced with a communication breakdown, you begin at the toughest point.

For example, you could say: “look, I know you hate me, you might even want to kill me but we’ve got to be able to talk.” It can be difficult or scary to say but you present the other person with a choice: they can say: “I don’t hate you at all.” Or they can say: “It’s true; I hate you for what you’ve done” or they may say, “Don’t be ridiculous, I would not dream of hurting you in a million years.” Once you have said the worst, the toughest thing that can be said, it is not so difficult anymore. Plus, you are now talking. When two people are talking and listening to each other, hate and anger begin to melt.

The third strategy is used for large and complex projects where you can’t just begin right away because it is simply impossible to swallow the whole whale in one go or you can’t even see how big the whale is. Your approach then is to develop a plan, in which the big project is broken down into smaller projects and these are then broken out into more manageable tasks that can be planned as a series of activities on a time line. This approach is used for designing and building a house, for a large engineering project like building a bridge or an airplane and you may choose this approach for writing a book. If you need to plant a forest of trees, plant them one tree at a time.

The criterion to choosing your starting strategy is to find the point of greatest leverage. In certain situations the greatest leverage is the third strategy: Plan your work and then work your plan. In others, the greatest leverage is in addressing the toughest issue and facing head-on the biggest threat. And in some circumstances, your best leverage is the first strategy of finding the easiest entry point.
Reflect on what you have recently started. What strategy did you employ? Share with us your starting strategies and successes and what worked well for you.

© Aviv Shahar

Prepare For The Future – 10 Benefits

Anticipating the future has been a major preoccupation for people from the beginning of time. Creating scenarios as a way to anticipate the future has been popularized in recent decades. We engage in developing scenarios to increase awareness about possible outcomes and to understand the potential costs, benefits and consequences of any decision or action we may take.

In a business context, scenario-based planning is a creative, open-ended exploration of patterns that might emerge in your field. In our Future Scenarios Workshop we help executives anticipate and prepare for the future by exercising their ability to think about opportunities and challenges in context of what may happen in the next month, the next year, or in the longer term. It is a discovery process to help you evaluate uncertainties, triggers and the important forces that have the power to affect the future.

The value and benefits of developing your future scenarios for your organization are multiple:

1. You increase awareness to the range of plausible futures.
2. You challenge your assumptions.
3. You prepare and rehearse responses to specific scenarios.
4. You develop a framework for continued environmental scanning.
5. You create future options for your organization.
6. You identify specific decision points and triggers.
7. You cultivate in-depth understanding and insight about the inter-relationships of active forces in your eco-system.
8. You create a context with which to monitor and evaluate change.
9. You develop analytical tools to support strategic decisions.
10. You engage in a creative process that unleashes and forwards innovation.

© Aviv Shahar

The Three Decision Points

Every important decision has to be made three times. If you act on an important decision without a complete journey through the three yeses, your decision and action may not be as intact and strong as it can be.

Let’s take the buying of your house for example. First you had the instinctive ‘yes, I like this house’, on your first visit.

This first decision is a gut decision. Does it feel right or not?

Then, you asked yourself on the following morning – ‘do I still feel positive about this house?’ The subconscious mind is slower than your gut instinct. It brings forward its concerns the following morning. That’s why people say, ‘I need to sleep on it’. It’s a way of saying ‘I need to get to my second yes.’ This is the second decision point. In the case of the house, possibly you have gone to see the house for the second time, to find out what the neighborhood looks like at a different time of the day.

The second decision, your second yes is when you earnestly engage in the conversation.

You are then at the point of making an offer. Your offer is contingent on an inspection. The purpose of the inspection is to see all the things that you cannot see, to flag all the possible problems.  This brings you to the third decision point.  The third yes is reached by the elimination of all objections and possible stoppers. This is the yes found by completing your due diligence.

The first decision is at the point. The ‘first yes’ is instinctive and quick.
The second decision is upon reflecting the following morning, or after a couple of days. The ‘second yes’ is a little slower and takes a while to find.
The third decision is after having completed your due diligence. This ‘third yes’ is the slowest. It takes as long as it takes to remove doubts and find the assurance about the positive long term prospect of the decision.

Do not bring analysis-paralysis to the third yes. Due diligence is assessing and evaluating all the known factors and then quantifying the unknowables and guestimating their risk-reward ratio. Once you found the third yes, learn to take action and move forward without looking back.

Now you can use this insight in your internal dialogue and conversation with others. On important matters, ask yourself: “Have I completed my three yeses?”

© Aviv Shahar

Working With “Olympic Champions” – A Consultant Journal

One of the best things about my work is that I meet with brilliant people. They are world class; they are smart and intelligent; the “Olympic Champions” of their field. Real champions love truth, learning, wisdom and growth more than they love their last success. If you show them a way to become even better they will take it any time, any day and without a delay. Champions are simply more passionate about continuing to improve than they are about their accomplishments to date. That’s how they became champions. Here are lessons I learned from working with brilliant people.

1. The knowledge we seek is almost always already present in the room.

2. The work is to discover it. To remove what blocks it. To frame a context in which it reveals its meaning.

3. We are always more ready to move forward and envision a future when we are anchored in our strengths.

4. Love is the power of the heart. Inquiry is the power of the mind. Asking a question that opens up a new possibility is powerful. Inquiry fueled with the love of growth and new possibilities is the high octane energy of development.

5. Strategy formulation begins with asking the right questions. It helps the team unlock and ‘channel’ its collective intelligence.

6. Data, knowledge, wisdom, insight and intelligence are each a distinct thing.
Data is a collection of facts.
Knowledge is the capacity to read and understand the data.
Wisdom is the ability to create context and to place specific knowledge inside a broader frame of reference and experience wherein it reveals its meaning.
Insight is deciphering the portent, potential and future implication of what has been discovered.
Intelligence is the metabolic speed of this process; how well and how fast you turn data into knowledge, wisdom and insight.

7. A powerful framework can increase the available intelligence. It helps you accelerate the transformation of data to knowledge, wisdom and insight.

8. Knowledge is connecting the dots in the data to form a picture. Wisdom is placing the picture inside a series of pictures, to see the flow of what created the picture you are looking at and to decipher it’s meaning in the greater scheme of things. Insight is seeing and recognizing the invisible dimension and portent of all this.

9. Insight is found when you place yourself on the verge of the unknown. If your entire mental faculty is engaged in and focused on what you know, no new insight can find you. “A bucket full of water is a bucket full of water.”

10. When a team creates a unified vision they believe in and they trust each other inside it – they are positioned to go ahead and actualize it and make it into a reality. It is then that they would have the ultimate competitive advantage.

© Aviv Shahar

The Strategy Dilemma – Overshooting And Undershooting

I clearly remember my first landing practice in Fighter Pilot course. My flight instructor demonstrated the pattern around the airbase from take off, upwind, crosswind, downwind, base and final approach to landing. He then handed the control over to me. My first approach to landing the plane was a huge overshoot. I was so surprised that in my next attempt, I seriously overcorrected. My second approach resulted in a substantial undershoot. We needed to push the throttle hard to get to the runway and not land in the sand, six hundred yards short. Apparently, I was not very original in my miscalculations. In fact the Overshoot—Undershoot error seems to be a pattern for most people on many fronts. Perhaps it is human nature or the nature of our brains. I was reminded of my overshoot – undershoot landing experience by Paul Saffo, Six Rules for Effective Forecasting, July 2007 edition of Harvard Business Review who writes:

“Ironically, forecasters can do worse than ordinary observers when it comes to anticipating inflection points. Ordinary folks are simply surprised when an inflection point arrives seemingly out of nowhere, but innovators and would-be forecasters who glimpse the flat-line beginnings of the S curve often miscalculate the speed at which the inflection point will arrive. As futurist Roy Amara pointed out to me three decades ago, there is a tendency to overestimate the short term and underestimate the long term. Our hopes cause us to conclude that the revolution will arrive overnight. Then, when cold reality fails to conform to our inflated expectations, our disappointment leads us to conclude that the hoped-for revolution will never arrive at all—right before it does.”

In essence this is the pattern behind every boom and bust cycle. Here is what Richard Russell author of The Dow Theory Letters says about this: “In all history, stocks have always been subject to two major forces. These two forces are as follows – the first force is the one that takes stocks ever-higher to overvaluation. The second force is the one that reverses at the top, and then takes stocks down to undervaluation. How stocks get from undervaluation to overvaluation and then back to undervaluation, that’s what we struggle with. We call the move from undervaluation to overvaluation a primary bull market. We call the journey back to undervaluation a primary bear market.”

Luckily I’ve learned to land the Fuga and then the Skyhawk safely and had many good landings with an occasional little undershoot or overshoot. Still, I observe all around me the tendency of people to vacillate from over optimism to over pessimism. The auto industry followed this pattern in the early 20th century with companies appearing like mushrooms after the rain. Later, the story became how most of them failed and went bankrupt. Then, within a few years the Big Three (GM, Ford, Chrysler) had taken on a much bigger chunk of the American economy than anyone could have imagined just few decades earlier. The same identical pattern played out in the dot com bust.

Where is the cycle now? Are we now in an overestimating or an underestimating phase? What is mass psychology underestimating or overestimating today? Where are you overshooting or undershooting? Here are 10 areas to reflect on:

  1. Internet 2.0 – How will it change the nature and character of participative democracy? Are you underestimating the long term societal and geo-political change the Internet will bring?
  2. The Chinese Dragon – are we in the overestimation phase to be followed by a bust of the Shanghai stock market? Or is mass psychology underestimating the power of the dragon?
  3. The Indian Tiger – is the tiger’s ability to catch up with the dragon underestimated?
  4. The Commodities Bull market – Started in 2001 but is it still in its infancy?
  5. The crash of the dollar – is its impact and future deterioration underestimated or overestimated at this time?
  6. Peak Oil – is the energy crisis and peak oil an underestimated challenge? Are the innovation and economical opportunities these challenges will unleash under or overestimated?
  7. The Golden Years – are we over or underestimating the societal transformation and the redefinition of the golden years by the Boomers entering the fourth phase of life:
    1st: birth to 21
    2nd: 21-42
    4th: 65-105
  8. A New, “New Age” – What is the power of new pragmatic and integral idealism that is beginning to appear with young people all around the world?
  9. Peace in the Middle East – Is the possibility of peace and its power to transform the region and the whole world over or underestimated?
  10. Latin America – Is it currently highly underestimated in its social, economic and spiritual power?

Please add and share your thoughts about what we might be over or under estimating at this time.

© Aviv Shahar

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