All in Strategy

When You Need A Burning Platform

Change doesn’t tend to come easily to most of us.

For the most part, we don’t typically choose to change. More often, change - or at the very least, the need for it - is thrust upon us due to some exterior event, shift or development. When profits are severely impacted, when a competitor introduces a revolutionary new product or when an external environmental shift occurs, shifting the steady state we’ve become so comfortable with.

Lessons From Springsteen On Broadway

By the time Bruce Springsteen released his first album, Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, in 1973, he’d already had almost a decade of playing experience under his belt. He’d started playing back in 1964 with a band called The Rogues, then another, then another, ultimately morphing into the now famous E Street Band.

That first album met with critical acclaim but little commercial success. The one after (The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle) fared pretty much the same, and he didn’t really achieve commercial success until Born To Run was released in 1975.

What Is Your Ambition Based In?

I think most of us accept that ambition is a necessary ingredient for success.

Whether we’re growing a business, launching a new initiative or pushing forward on a creative project, ambition is needed to not only get the project going, but more importantly to take it to fruition. It’s a foundational requirement for creating lasting, meaningful change.

So the important question to ask is not whether or not we have the ambition needed to succeed. That’s a hygiene factor. If we don’t, there’s no point even getting started.

When AOL Tanked (Or Paying Attention To The Right Metrics)

Sometime between late Spring and early Fall, 1996, AOL’s stock fell from a high of $70 all the way down to $24.

These were the early days of the internet. The space was booming: startups were popping up everywhere, investors’ ears were perking up, and the big, established players were taking notice and/or beginning to get involved.

Creativity Is About Being Fearless

As someone who grew up on Queen’s music, I remember how good they were in their prime. I especially remember their performance at Live Aid back in 1985, as I watched it on TV in my living room in Hong Kong. When Mercury and Queen came on, they electrified the crowd - both those sitting in the audience at Wembley, as well as the millions who watched from their living rooms around the world. In fact, there were two acts that really stole the show that day and Queen was one of them.

Fight - Even When You Want Flight

Sunday morning, I woke up to watch the Arsenal-Spurs game, famously known as the North London Derby. It’s a game where form goes out the window and these two arch-rivals go all out for bragging rights as to who is the best team in North London.

It’s a game that hasn’t gone our way in recent years and as I anticipated the stress and emotional rollercoaster I would go through over the next couple of hours, I briefly debated staying in bed and waking up when it was all over. To just not have to deal with it all.

Just Focus On What's Next

Sometimes, the goals we set for ourselves are overwhelming. The bigger the goal or the more challenging the objective, the harder it can be to fathom how we will get there.

We get caught up in the sheer scale of our idea, or we start setting all sorts of impossible timelines and expectations that we think we need to achieve on our path there.

"It’s Like A Pizza..."

Many years ago, I worked with a senior consulting partner who liked to talk in puzzles. Instead of giving us specific marching orders, he’d talk around the issues and then ask us to put together a deck for his review.

For example, as we’d talk through a proposal we were working on, he’d talk about the client situation, the range of issues they were facing as well…

The Thing About Politics...

…Is that there really isn’t any such thing.

In popularity contests of any significance (where a sizable population is asked for its endorsement of an individual or a subject or an action), the landslide win is not a common occurrence. More prevalent (in my admittedly unscientific assessment) is the close race, where the margin of victory is in single digit percentage points.

The Thing About Mandates...

…Is that there really isn’t any such thing.

In popularity contests of any significance (where a sizable population is asked for its endorsement of an individual or a subject or an action), the landslide win is not a common occurrence. More prevalent (in my admittedly unscientific assessment) is the close race, where the margin of victory is in single digit percentage points.

No One Likes Surprises

When it comes to the work we do, no one likes surprises.

It doesn’t matter which part of the organization you sit in - client management, operations, marketing or elsewhere - one of the fundamental tenets of corporate performance is predictability. We want to know what’s happening, why and, if necessary, what we need to do about it.

Using Your Anger

There’s a couple of stages we go through when we’re angered by a particular situation we’re faced with.

First, we lose our cool and debate and question our predicament. We turn the situation over and over in our heads, incredulous, bemused and upset that this is happening to us. We wallow in the ‘why me’s’.  This is sometimes inevitable but always unproductive.

To Inspire or To Intimidate?

Think of the most exciting job you’ve done, the best initiative you’ve been part of, the most rewarding experience you’ve had. What was the underlying basis of that experience, the focus of the leadership in that situation? Were you excited? Were you focused on moving towards something? Were you inspired?

"Turn Them Off and See Who Complains..."

How many newsletters do you get in your inbox every day? How many emails do you get with an update on some issue or department or project? How many notifications do you get on your phone with the latest piece of “must-have” information?

Now, how many of them do you actually read?

The Myth of The Top Ten List

There are at least 15 colleges that deserve a place in the top 10 best colleges in the country. There are 20 restaurants that can credibly argue that they are one of the 5 best restaurants in your city. And if you and I were so inclined, we could absolutely name 25 guitarists who could reasonably stake a claim to being among the 10 best guitarists ever.

The Point Is Productive Struggle

We crave clear cut answers. We love How-To’s. We keep looking for the ultimate 10 Step Process.

Why? Because we’re always on the hunt for clarity, predictability and, more to the point, security. It’s a natural human desire.

The problem, though, is that when we’re creating (a team, a piece of output, a business), that’s not often possible or realistic.

The Myth of The All Rounder

In school, we’re taught a range of different subjects - from history to math to science to art to music to physical education. We’re tested, judged and evaluated on our proficiency in each of these disciplines, and by the end of it, given a numerical average of our performance across all of these areas, otherwise known as our Grade Point Average (GPA).