Digital Darwinism

The Nine Laws of New Business Strategy


1. A room is always smarter than the one person standing in front of it. The challenge for leaders, coaches, teachers, and managers is taking advantage of connectivity, to inspire the pack to do the right thing. To inspire the tribe to keep reaching for more. To see their combined potential, to push them further than what any one of them could do on their own. To help internal communication. To improve culture. Read Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger  

2. Your Brand is what Google tells you it is.  With a click of a button anyone in the world can find everything they can about you. If they don’t find very much they’re going to find your competitors and hire them instead. It’s a different world we live in, a world where we like to “meet people” online first before in person. What’s your Twitter handle, what do they look like on Facebook, where have you worked-checking the LinkedIn profile, and finally what does Google say about you? These are all questions you should be asking yourself before a competitor or a sneaky friend of yours finds those pictures of you from that Halloween party in University. Your Mother would not be proud of that picture.

3. You’re only as strong as your people.  Jim Collins’ analogy of ‘getting the right people on the bus’ couldn’t be more true today than ever(if you want the full story read Good to Great by Jim Collins. I propose a challenge, can you name me an organization that started small and grew to create an amazing impact on society without hiring and retaining great people? I don’t think it exists. Behind every visionary enterprise is a crackpot team of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. You may not need amazing people, but you do need your people to accomplish amazing feats. Feats never thought imaginable before joining your team. Focus on your people and the results will come.

4. There’s no such thing as the carrot or sticks approach. It’s only carrots. If every time an employee tries something and fails at it and you come down on them, it won’t be long before they don’t try anything new, ever. You have to encourage the behaviour you are seeking. Understanding the relationship between signal and response (specifically the signals you’re giving off and the response you’re receiving) will help you understand why your staff talk behind your back.

In a now famous story of how to get a killer whale to jump 30 feet in the air, the author explains why you can’t discipline, only encourage. When the whale jumps just an inch out of the water at first the trainer pats Shamoo on the head and five him a delicious fishy treat. Next Shamoo jumps 2 inches then 3 and all of a sudden the trainer has created a positive feedback loop. When dealing with generation y and millennials you can’t disapline them too many times before they tune you out and start the new job search. In Saskatchewan jobs aren’t hard to come by any more and organizations are yearning for star employees. If you want to attract the best of the best you had better understand the change of the carrots and sticks approach to management.

5. No one has time to pay attention to you, deal with it. The Internet has stolen the most precious asset we all seek, attention. To Standout, to be heard, to be recognized, you have to have a strategy that’s unique in the approach to acquire attention. Gimmicks, blatant sales pitches, promotions, are all types of business communication that we love to ignore. Stop telling me how amazing your company and products are and start showing me why I would want to buy into your brand.

6. People are completely irrational.  The sooner you realize and acknowledge this the better off you’ll be. Do not base your plan or strategy on a rational belief. Humans aren’t logical, companies aren’t rational, stop trying to base your systems on an “ideal outcome” it won’t happen that way. Don’t ever base your strategy or tactical approach on something that assumes your potential customers are making a logical decision. No one makes logical decisions other than Spok off Star Trek. People are emotional, irrational, sometimes crazy in their decision making. Start here. Don’t create the most logical argument for me to buy, determine the emotional connection to your product and exploit that feeling. Want to learn more about how we’re irrational? Try Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational.

Quote-Woulda-coulda-shoulda7. Ideas and Plans are worthless. Systems and execution are priceless. A plan without execution is a pipe dream. An idea without a system to implement within is a useless suggestion. We used to pay a lot of money for a consultant to come in and write a brilliant plan. The problem was by the time the organization implemented the plan it was rendered obsolete and the consultant was on a beach in Cabo enjoying their spoils. The best companies of tomorrow will reward execution and smarter systems. Ideas are endless, people willing to execute their ideas are priceless.

8. You’re only as smart as the feedback you’re getting. Does anyone really tell the boss how they feel? Really? Most employees are too worried about job security to disagree with the person who signs their checks. If you are in charge, if you feel like your staff can give you feedback, hire a third party and interview them. Employees won’t lie to a trusted third party and the information you receive may in fact save your company. Usually the lowest paid person in the organization has the best ideas on how to make the company better. But being the least paid employee ensures no one with any real power asks “if you were in charge, what would you do differently”. Try picking up The Ultimate Question 2.0 by Fred Reichheld and maybe implement Net Promoter Score (NPS) in the new year.

9. Paradoxically, the more you know, the worse you are at predicting the future. Based on research by Phillip Tetlock (Psychology Professor at Penn), he asked 300 Political Experts a to make a variety of predictions over the course of a 20 year period. Tetlock tracked the accuracy of approximately 80,000 predictions over 20 years and what did he find? As a political scientist progressed further and further in their profession (became more of an expert) their ability to predict world politics became worse and worse. They were much more confident in their predictions than one ought to be as well. Here’s a great quote from Tetlock that sums it up: “there was a systematic gap between subjective probabilities that experts were assigning to possible futures and the objective likelihoods of those futures materializing.” In other words, experts are too confident in their predictions coming true. Paradoxically when you know more on a topic than most people, you tend to think you know more about future events occurring within your topical area. You’re overconfident in your predictions, you don’t leave every stone unturned anymore, after all, you are the expert.

Be careful, don’t bank on absolutes, don’t try to predict the future, and assume everyone under you is smarter than you. If you do this, people will feel much less intimidated to share their opinion, you’ll build better relationships and you’ll be a leader that people love to work for.