Best reads: May 2020

With the world in lockdown and stepping into the dual world of; dealing with the COVID19 outbreak and also trying work out the ‘next normal’; there has been a lot of uncertainty, anxiety and also, which is good to see, a large degree of thought around the future being better for humankind.

This extends to the business world, so lots of the best reads I have selected for May, are on the positive and future looking side of the dial.

The Simplicity Principle

This piece from Julia Hobsbawm (from her essay The Simplicity Principle: Six Steps Towards Clarity in a Complex World (Kogan Page, 2020).) has stuck with me and, as the principles of ‘keep it simple’ and ‘learn from nature’ ring very true to me. These have been the key principles I have applied to my leadership in digital product, corporate innovation and also building high-performing teams.

“The business cost of complexity is huge, in both financial and emotional terms. Even before COVID-19 changed the way we live and work, the sheer disruption caused by automation and the need to constantly upgrade systems and skills had increased workplace stress significantly.”

“How to simplify the complex will be a constant challenge unless we consciously change the way we think and act. As Steve Jobs said, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.””

This is going to be a critical principle for all businesses, large or small, to have as one of their key focus areas as we move out into the ‘next normal’ and aligns with the thinking of ecosystems across people, processes, platforms and products.

Ecosystemic Evolutions

Aligned to the principle of ‘learn from nature’ this piece from Simone Cicero (@meedabyte), from Boundaryless, which is an abstract from the upcoming book, “Ecosystems Inc. — Understanding, harnessing and developing organizational ecosystems” resonated with me in relation to how nature has at it’s core, the ability to quickly respond to change (rejuvenation after bushfires, murmurations of starlings etc.) and that this needs to be at the core of how business responds to customer expectation change, the need to be ‘future-ready’ and also how to therefore shape people in teams which allow you to adapt and flex.

“More than thinking about the evolution of a single organization in an ecosystem, it appears that — accelerated by the pandemic, and more generally by the resurgence of unpredictability in our economies — we may be witnessing the dawn of a new age of organising. The developments of this new wave will happen within a firm but also in the space between them, from individuals to communities to bioregional playgrounds, states, and civilization and in the realm of fluid cooperation for a world in constant flux more than at the scale of single market opportunities and in the groove of competition.”

Conway’s Law is prevalent within many organisations and is the antithesis of customer-focused, and this view of ensuring that your organisational design and how teams come together around problems/outcomes allows for: “Clear and well-structured communication (which) becomes essential to allow teams to carry out their work efficiently, which may further result in increased autonomy and distributed work. This leads to thinking that as organisations go fully online and remote this may end up re-shaping them beyond simply a matter of on- or offline work.”

The book will be an interesting playbook for those who are looking to build an Evolutionary Edge (to tip the hat to Bud and the team at NOBL) into their organisation …that is something I will continue to do, I know that for sure.

Why Innovation Needs Legitimacy and Power to Flourish

Having worked with Alex Osterwalder and his team (now Strategyzer) whilst at Yahoo! in Switzerland, their great work is still something I refer back to in relation to how to bring the gap between a corporate mindset, an innovation mindset and how an entrepreneur would think about a problem.

This great piece hits the nail on the head in relation to where innovation is lead from within a ‘traditional’ organisation (not ‘owned’, as that is a job for all).

This jumped out at me, as it was also a discussion on LinkedIn during May in relation to how corporate innovation needs to look to embed startup investments to thrive, otherwise it can just be seen by the board/c-suite as ‘innovation theatre’ and playing around the edges.

“One of the reasons why companies fail to manage the balance between Explore and Exploit is that these different portfolios do not have an equal status in the company. In almost all companies, the Exploit portfolio dominates. If companies want the ability for constant reinvention they need to allocate sufficient resources, bandwidth, and budget to the Explore portfolio. In order to be able to make those allocations, you need innovation leaders with power and influence in the organization.”

Some more articles that have made me think in May:

What Can Nudge Theory Teach Us About Organizational Change?

Trillion Dollar Coach, great book, so good to see this abstract for those who want to keep the key thinking in their pocket: Leadership Lessons from Bill Campbell, the Trillion Dollar Coach

4 rules for identifying your life’s work

From March, but thought I would add it in: 8 Principles for Building a High-Performance Innovation Team (innovation team = product team)

Enjoy reading


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