Monthly Archives: September 2009

Learning Decision Making from Alessi

Explaining the decision making skills of a professional or experienced manager to newcomers to the role, is one of the most difficult challenges I face as a learning designing, and the most satisfying when it is done well. Long ago, I learned that people are frustrated when they hear “it depends” but that’s usually what experienced people offer as an answer.  So even though it’s true – good decisions do depend on assessing a number of factors in the situation – the key is to simplify those factors, without creating simplistic formulae that don’t actually work.

A recent Fast Company article describes how  Alberto Alessi, the Head of the Alessi design house, analysed over 300 of his “gut feel” decisions to create a mathematical model he called “The Formula”, which predicts the reaction (i.e. likely buying volumes) of customers. Continue reading

How / can we learn from our creative mistakes?

We all know the supposed benefits of learning from our mistakes.  However, movie producer Nora Ephron – producer of chick flicks such as Sleapless in Seattle and When Harry met Sally – questions whether we can learn any lessons from the duds.  In an article by Gerald Wright in the SMH, Ephron’s argument is: if, after a movie she realises that an actor was miscast, she can’t say she’ll never miscast again, because at the time she thought she was casting well.  Similarly, as a a writer she cannot learn not to write bad scripts in the future, because at the time she didn’t think she’d written a bad script.

Ephron’s quotes raises some important issues about evaluating the business outputs of the creative process and raises implications for managing performance when creative outputs are not delivering the desired outcomes.

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Are your people smart or do they work hard?

Lots of useful ideas in Roger Dooley’s Neuromarketing blog on how to use the workings of our brain to enhance our marketing persuasiveness.  Most of the ideas are also translatable into the management context.  E.g. a reference to the research of one of my favourite educators – Carol Dweck – on praise, can be translated from the parental and teacher situation into performance praise.

According to the research, we should expect that managers who praise staff for the effort they put into getting results rather than praising them for their natural intelligence will find their staff tend to engage in more efforts to improve, whereas employees who are told that they are smart have no incentive to work to improve.

Why is organisational change so difficult?

I am working on a large scale organisational change initiative and was talking with a colleague about what matters most – strategy or implementation?   The issue is that we were asking the wrong question, because they are so interrelated that neither can succeed without the other.

Today I came across a paragraph from John Roberts’ book, The Modern Firm, which sums up the issue nicely and which I trust will give some relief to the new managers in this organisation – that implementation will can be successful, even though there seem to be many roadblocks in the way.

“Strategy can be changed relatively quickly. In principle, a new strategy can be developed and announced in a short time. Organisations, however, show a lot of intertia…organizations cannot be changed as surely and quickly as can strategy. While it is easy enough to change the formal architecture, it certainly takes real time to change the set of people in the firm and the networks among them, to redefine the fundamental beliefs they share, and to induce new behavioural norms. Yet these may be the most important elements to the realization of the strategy.  Thus, effective implementation may not be immediately possible.”