Maverick written by Ricardo Semler in Brazil published in 1993. A transformational business book from start to finish. Completely counter what you’d come to expect from a Brazilian industrial tycoon. I think Mr. Semler is one of the most thought-provoking, honest, most humble leaders I’ve ever come across.
Semco, a heavy duty industrial manufacturer has no rules to live by. You pick your own hours, pick your own pay, pick your own vacation times, heck you even vote on your own managers regularly! Twice a year you fill out a 30 question questionnaire about your management and division you work in.
No one has a long term contact. No one is employed longer than 6 months. Everyone’s salary is openly known by anyone who cares to know.
Semco is the most democratic company I’ve ever read about, and they did it in a 1980’s Brazilian economy. Not the beacon of sought after economies you once thought, on the contrary, Brazil was avoid by many businesses because of the government, high inflation rates, and a fast growing unpredictable future. It’s astounding what Ricardo and Semco accomplished during this period in Brazil.
He was courageous in his decisions but the theme throughout his career and the book was that he cared (and still cares) dearly about people. It’s so refreshing to see in someone like him in a leadership role, putting people before profits.
Telling, forcing, commanding, never works. Inspiring, helping, listening, always does.
When we start projects at StratLab we like to understand the organization we’re working with, the best way we’ve found is to be what David Kelly would call The Anthropologist.The most success we’ve had (and still have) is really getting to know an organization. Going to the Annual General Meeting, Christmas Party, Golf Tournament, Fundraising dinner, basically anything they will invite us to we’ll go. You get to know people on a different level when you see them out of the office in the “wild”. Don’t ever be afraid to get out from behind your laptop to do some hands-on research.
One of the most successful projects we worked on was with the Regina Police. It was an internal marketing strategy where we were to change their core values, vision and mission to better reflect their current culture. It took Six months longer than we thought because we really didn’t want to rush the research process of interviewing every level of different Police officer. It was amazing
To observe without judgement. To develop an empathetic understanding of the organization. You must look at the tiniest of details, the most mundane things can have a major impact on what the end consumer takes away in their experience.
From the book:
The Anthropologist is rarely stationary. Rather, this is the person who ventures into the field to observe how people interact with products, services, and experiences in order to come up with new innovations. The Anthropologist is extremely good at reframing a problem in a new way, humanizing the scientific method to apply it to daily life. Anthropologists share such distinguishing characteristics as the wisdom to observe with a truly open mind; empathy; intuition; the ability to “see” things that have gone unnoticed; a tendency to keep running lists of innovative concepts worth emulating and problems that need solving; and a way of seeking inspiration in unusual places.
Look into a company as if you were Sherlock on a case
Asking questions, becoming very curious, always asking “why” and never excepting “that’s just the way it is here.” The Anthropologist needs to uncover the hidden story behind what the client isn’t telling them. Remember what Sherlock Homes said, “the devil is in the smallest of details.” -or something thing like that. The little things matter. Pay attention to the little things.
Create a company “idea wallet”. Much like your wallet that you carry money around in, your companies idea wallet is where you think and pitch ideas.
How do you get to really know an organization?
By asking questions of course you silly nilly!!
Any question that leads you closer to the central purpose of that organization, generally it’s not your run of the mill questions that are going to get to the bottom of things. People never simply open up to you, you must gain their trust first. Be positive, listen to their answers, and be very respectful (no judging). You need to get creative, the more out there the question is, the more people have a chance to show you their personality. See some ideas on research questions you could use.
Seeing a problem for the first time, through a new lens. The definition of Deja Vu is seeing something you’ve seen before in a ridiculously clear manner. Vuja De thinking is approaching problems like you’ve never seen them before. Trying to solve your organizational problems with novel solutions we’ve never thought about trying. The next time you want an “expert” to solve the problem instead why not ask a beginner to take a stab at it, you may surprise yourself!
We don’t have one. Over deliver, care more, work harder. At Strategy Lab we believe in being so good at what you do that you don’t have to rely on telling others about it. We want to ensure the work we do is remarkable enough that people will inherently want to talk about it. Permission based marketing.
1. How To Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big – Scott Adams
Counterintuitive thinking on how one attains success. It’s a fun read, he’s a cartoonist so you can imagine how much fun Scott has in a book. My favourite part was the first time reading through, he gives you some piece of contrarian advice and then follows it up with “remember, you are the one taking advice from a cartoonist”. He’s not afraid to make fun of himself.
The hard thing isn’t usually what you think it is. In the entrepreneurial journey there are a lot of emotions, life gets down right shitty some days. There is hope though. You’re on a journey only the greatest minds of our world start out on. A journey that most won’t try make. The journey of a true entrepreneur is plagued with disappointment, triumph, and even more let down. As long as you stay a little more positive than those negative thoughts you’re going to come out the other side a winner.
When you’re in it, it sucks. There’s no way to describe it. It’s a necessary evil, without the years of failure there is no learning, and no learning means no company.
What is the struggle?
Something every entrepreneur human being goes through. The longer you can last, the further you will go. A lot of people don’t last. The Struggle eats them up, destroys their soul, and all they’re left with is a scared, hurtful attitude towards anything outside of what is expected. Protectionism sets in the status quo is the only way of doing things.
Why do we have to struggle?
Simple, the universe doesn’t give you anything for free. Nothing in life is easy. The more you struggle, the better the reward.
There’s a famous quote from Bill Gates “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”. You have to struggle, there’s no easy way about it. You have to go through the bad to appreciate the good.
How long has the struggle been around?
The struggle has been around since the dawn of civilization. Our ancestors went through it. Anyone who has done anything worth talking about has been through it. Anyone who has that crease near the corner of the eye, you know the one, the one that lets you know they’ve been through a lot.
When we’re in the struggle our minds are our greatest enemy. We tell ourselves lies, we’re delusional, we create a reality in our heads that’s just not true. Humans are amazing at finding every possible way a plan can fail. We find every loophole that might come back to bite us in the ass. In this horrible state of mind we never look for the positive horizon with the attitude of it gets better. No instead we try to warn our subconscious with these thoughts, it’s a defence mechanism sounding the alarm bells.
This week Eddy and I are talking about perspective. Why do we trust designer? What do create professionals see that others do not? What’s so special about having taste?
Trust your designer
There’s a reason they are a designer, they have perspective. Trust them. Any creative needs some free reign over what they’re doing, they are artists after all. Don’t micro manage any creative process, that’s a great way to create something extremely mediocre.
When ever someone says “I’m too busy” I’m always reminded of a story I heard about from a Volleyball coach I look up to. In grade 11 leading into grade 12 I wanted to get better at Volleyball. I told my coach I wanted to play pepper (simple volleyball drill) more and he offered to come in the morning twice a week to play pepper at 7:30 in the morning. We did this for a couple months and I really think it helped my Volleyball skill in the long run. But more importantly, he was willing to volunteer MORE of his time to make me better. That’s dedication.
The most underrated thing you can do for your life is exercise. There are so many positive side effects to physical activity that it’s almost insane how we live our lives sitting at a desk for hours on end. We learned that in school, businesses thought it was a good idea too, “hey put everyone in cubicles!”. What a terrible idea that was.
Every time I speak I get some interesting questions, this one really got me, “you said when you’re in a bad place, you had some books you recommended, what were those books?”. It caught me off guard, they were obviously not in a good place and were looking for help. With little deliberation I came up with my top three books you have to read (specially if you’re in a bad place).
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma
Robin Sharma also wrote the amazing book The Leader Without a Title. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is a tale that I believe everyone needs to read. The story of the big hotshot lawyer who wakes up unhappy too many days in a row. He had to make a major change.
Going through highschool and university money is a big thing. You can’t argue that money gets you a lot in life. It’s the goal for most coming out of school, make money, money, make money, money. But the only rap song that tells the truth about money is Mo Money, Mo Problems.
There’s something bigger in life to focus on, something that will make up much MUCH happier than money ever can. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is like a secret weapon, to put the odds in your favour. You’re going to be more confident, less argumentative and you’ll be able to reflect on what you really care about in your life.
Life’s about something big, something you’re going to do. Read this book, it’ll help.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
A magical fable about following your dream. A worldwide bestseller, Paulo Coelho takes you on a journey through finding your life’s purpose.
I read this book when I was on the fence about what I was to do with my life. After reading the Alchemist somewhat of a peace came over me, I knew what I had to do.
“When you’re doing your life’s work, the universe has a funny way of helping you.” When you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing the star align. When you follow your heart it can be risky, when you risk it all to follow a dream, there lies a potential reward in your decision. This book is about those tough decision in life and why you should follow your heart.
This would be a perfect book to read in grade 11. By grade 11 you know what you like and you have one year left to change your horrible habits. Read the Alchemist, start brainstorming what you should be doing with your life. Then spend grade 12 preparing to do your life’s work.
Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Everyone has bad days, everyone has bad weeks, no one has a perfect life and no on has completely no control over their life. You always have, and will have control over your attitude no matter what.
Viktor Frankl wrote this book before he went into an Auschwitz concentration camp in World War two. There, he survived, unlike many of the people around him. He made it out and rewrote the entire book. It’s a remarkable account of how powerful the human mind can be, and what we humans are truly capable of.
In life, we’re governed by triggers and responses. No matter how bad the trigger or how terrible your response, there is always a moment in between where you can decide how to react. We always have a choice.
Do you know how powerful that is to a child? No matter what, they can remain positive in the face of extreme adversity. They just need to hear it from people who had it as bad as they do, or in Frankl’s instance, much, much worse.
We all have bad days
It’s never about the bad day you have, it’s about what you do to make tomorrow better. It’s always having that growth mindset that no matter what, tomorrow will be better. Reading will help you through the tough times. Another thing you have to start doing that will actually manufacture happiness is volunteer. Well, not just volunteer, help people, the more people you can create a positive impact for, the better. Start small, make one person feel awesome every day and I guarantee you’ll be a happier person.
In Jim Collins’ Great By Choice he tells the story of the famous discovery of the South Pole. Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott were both vying to be the first explorer to plant their country flag at the South pole. Amundsen did a lot of prep work. He learned about extreme cold, he lived with Eskimos to see how they deal with the cold, he researched the trip, he stashes much more supplies than he needed, just in case something happened along the way.