Thought Piece

‘How to Avoid Traditional Think Post COVID-19?’

by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®

‘As companies grow, they pump out more innovations. The problem is that they lose motivation to innovate once they become a monopoly.’ Christopher Mims, Technology Columnist at Wall Street Journal, June 2019

Scores of articles have already been written shouting-out the COVID-19 silver lining: the chance to break with the past and come up with fresh approaches to so many key issues. Scores of us have become momentarily excited as we contemplate our hope that so many things could and should change for the better. Why not? But then we move toward the realization that they don’t and will likely not have changed much when we look back in a year from now.

In typical people fashion we yearn for change and then quickly have second thoughts when we give so many ideas further scrutiny. We quickly get cold feet or shrink from the effort involved. Often this is because when we ponder change, we then come to the conclusion that we have to change, too. Our nature is that we want everyone else and every other thing to change except ourselves. Are you familiar with that thinking?

Ironically the same thing happens within our organizations. There are lots of things we believe could be changed for the better, although inspiring people to embrace such advances is a major deal. It brings to mind a piano teacher who hails from Ukraine and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. She obviously fled to the US, with her husband and many others from her generation, owing to persecution and other challenges in her homeland. Even so, at times she still wishes that she could return to her home town under the former communist regime, where jobs were secure for life even if the salaries weren’t great and she had very little say in society. Every day, every week was predictable and her job was secure. You couldn’t become wealthy unless you were a party boss.

Your writer regularly contemplates the many fresh organizational ideas he’s proposing in his forthcoming book – Incisive Leadership Breakthrough – but then doesn’t underestimate the challenges of encouraging enterprises to take advantage of them. Consider the very recent response of a management professor to this writer’s book outline: “Looks like you’re proposing some serious disruptions for organizations, Peter.’ Let’s just take two key examples:

» Problem Solving versus Option Solving – Traditionally we have solved our problems through a rational elimination process until we’re left with ‘either-or.’ That leaves you with a 50/50 chance of being wrong or partly wrong. With ‘option solving’ you are expected to come up with at least five alternatives, which likely means you will reduce your chances of error to 20%. That’s particularly probable as you will fully involve your intuitive capabilities that are reportedly 22,000 times more powerful than your rational capabilities. Your intuition gives you a much greater chance of being right based upon all your life’s experiences to date…all your life’s experiences are stored somewhere in that 3lb computer you possess, known as your brain.

» Strategic Planning versus Strategic Positioning – We continue to rely upon Strategic Planning (SPl) and its associated SWOT analysis. In Henry Mintzberg’s view, who was among the early founders of SPl around 50 years ago, he ultimately recognized Strategic Planning as an oxymoron: that is, you cannot conceptualize (strategize) and analyze (plan) simultaneously.

          By pursuing Strategic Positioning (SPo) and its use of a powerful, four-dimensional ‘Strategic Framework’ – Vision &Purpose, Knowhow, Resources and Outcomes – we stimulate our minds to visualize our journey and potential destination. (NOTE: For dynamic organizations their destinations are constantly evolving.)

There are a number of other key areas where we need to abandon our traditional approaches and take on fresh leadership thinking like:

» How we motivate people? Through intrinsic (inspiring) modes versus extrinsic (driving) modes

» How we utilize people? Through pairing people together in your workplace, where they have a multiplier effect rather than work as individual operators. The right two people combined frequently produce more than two people working alone.

» How we organize people? Instead of using hierarchies, which are an anathema as they only grow from top-down unlike every other organic item on our planet, we turn to heterarchies. ‘Heterarchies’ allow leaders to orchestrate their teams or enterprises from the center rather than from the pinnacle, which brings everyone much closer together.

» How we focus and monitor our progress? We currently tend to utilize a step-by-step, goal oriented process, which can have a stop-start effect and impede our momentum. Alternatively, we can apply a phased streaming and flow approach to build continuous momentum.

There are many more fresh leader-oriented ideas emanating from this book. Even so they require determination, fortitude and goodwill to encourage people to switch over and reap the benefits. Like anything else that’s worthwhile pursuing, it requires enlightened leaders to shine the light and then insightfully educate and encourage people to observe desired changes until they materialize. Once fully installed, everyone will feel enhanced possibilities, more empowerment, and greater fun in advancing their vision and journey.

While so many things have changed over the past hundred years relatively speaking, not much has changed in the way we organize ourselves. We don’t allow all those involved to demonstrate their full talents. By sticking with ‘traditional think,’ society is more likely to choke on the dissonance created by so many new world ideas held together by old world, organizational traditions. It’s time to introduce an ‘Incisive Leadership Breakthrough.’

Hiring by Computers or Humans?

by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®

“The whole process seems to need human skills that computers lack; like making conversation and reading social cues.” Article my Claire Cain Miller: NY Times, June 2015, ‘Can an Algorithm Hire Better than a Human.’

     Past years spent interviewing thousands of people over 30 plus years caused this author’s hackles to rise as he read the above article. It reminded him of the standing joke between him and his about to graduate MBA daughter: “You won’t meet any humans at any prospective employers until you’ve completed your initial job orientation. Until then all their hiring activities will be computerized!”

Setting humor aside, we’re fast going that way judging by the above article’s five plus quoted software-based companies that are aiming to automate the hiring process. In many ways they are onto a potential, golden racket because most employers and their staffs hate the traditional hiring process and interviewing. They would much rather just be negotiating a hiring deal with the perfect candidate. And this thinking is no less prevalent within the insurance industry…”Just present me with a top producer to hire. Forget all the interviewing!”

This all a pipe-dream of course because top producers are usually not available for hire. They’re doing very nicely where they are thank you! This leaves agencies and carriers to ferret out the high potential individuals who are the future top producers. Regrettably they will too readily be lured by the automation fraternity to computerize their hiring process.

Raising this topic is an important leadership and management issue because without good people around them neither insurance industry leaders nor managers can succeed. People expenditures absorb the majority of any agency or carrier’s  revenues.  And yet, the fact that there are serious current efforts being pursued to automate hiring activity, there is pause for serious concern about the future quality of many workforces. They will either be dysfunctional or bland with look-alikes at every turn.

Increasing numbers of insurance firms or agencies expect people to apply on-line, which can be a nightmare fitting into their exact protocols. A client recently spoke with me about his highly educated and personable son-in-law, who is frequently being turned down by automated systems for some reason that he doesn’t understand. I advised him to apply personally to the CEO or agency manager instead. At least these latter folks might get the message that their automated system is suspect.

This probably means the best candidates give up rather quickly and only the more desperate ones will hang in there. Woe betide if you have a foreign education because that won’t fit their protocols either. So a talented, well-educated, overseas insurance expert is lost as well. All in the name of automation.

Being a person with more than 10,000 hours experience within the hiring-selection field, this writer set the above article aside for a week or two to calm down; so as to become a little more objective about the automated-hiring proposition.

His own expert observations, combined with the interviewing horror stories his daughters have brought home, highlight a field requiring a full four year degree course in itself. Interviewing probably needs to be a field that is licensed rather like insurance agencies, CPAs,  physicians, dentists, etc, to be sure proper attention is being paid to such a crucial task. Not only are candidates exposed to shoddy interviewing standards, but insurance industry operatives are losing untold amounts of money based upon poor hiring decisions. And yet the amateurism persists.

 Placing square-pegs into round holes is rampant. As a reader by now, you’re probably feeling desperate because you pray for a quick and easy formula for hiring good insurance industry people. This writer regrets to disappoint you. One reason why good leaders succeed over the more traditional manager, is because they instinctively spend more time trying to hire the right people. The latter manager group are more apt to rely upon efficient systems to do it for them.

One of the biggest fallacies, off the bat, in the whole hiring process, is the belief that you can make good hires based upon resumes alone. That is the first sign of an amateur recruiter. It’s the equivalent of the amateur producer, who believes he-she can land an insurance contract every time they venture out on a cold call..

Being objective, there is a certain valid argument for using software programs for screening resumes against some key criteria. Although care needs to be taken to avoid the next leap of faith that computers can pick the winners. Even if you utilize screening tests, they have no validity unless you interview the person to find out if the results are more or less accurate. Some candidates do not have a valid picture of their of feelings and personality, which invalidates the profiles results right up front. Amateur test users fall foul of the fallacy that profile results are sacrosanct. They are not.

 Mind you, things are becoming increasingly more perilous in the US, aided by the tough job environment. Many States are now legislating that criminal records are no longer a legitimate basis for not hiring someone. Candidates must be given an opportunity to explain any judgments against them; this is over and above existing equal opportunity laws. This will create special headaches for insurance industry companies, since fiduciary issues are extremely important.

Reality shows, based upon many years of interviewing experience, that hiring organizations are challenged by the trade-off between a person’s experience and their personality (the latter being everything about them that distinguishes them from another person). Most organizations, for pragmatic hiring reasons, opt for experience over personality. Experience is much easier for them to assess and can also provide the promise of  early contributions toward  a particular position, as well as minimize training and orientation investments.

Such an expedient approach comes with a big potential cost. Personality always trumps experience at any point. This writer can point to countless examples of highly experienced executives and others, who are marginal in effectiveness, and would be regarded by colleagues as having personalities worthy of a big ho-hum yawn or as a pain-in-the-neck.

Just consider all the really successful career people. They all have personalities that are quietly or overtly memorable in some way or another. Even the quieter ones possess a certain subtle authority about them and probably have much hidden personal resolve under the surface. The question is, ‘How do you spot this up front?’

Enter the professional interviewer, rather than the genius with a hot software program that can do it all for you. We’re so tempted by the quick and easy solution, even though there are no easy answers when it comes to selecting the right people. Anymore than there’s a quick and easy answer to choosing the right insurance risks. There are plenty of examples of insuring the wrong person based upon their track record alone.

What does the professional interviewer do?

» Preparation – They really do their homework. They develop a picture of their carrier or agency and team’s culture and values, through it’s history, purpose, strengths, resources, team and leadership talents, as well as its future intentions.

» Recruitment Options – Based upon the picture profile that emerges from this preparatory step will determine different recruitment options. Included among these will be the most proven approach: personal introductions by people already within your team or enterprise – a “bounty” approach can help in connection with this mode.

» Interview Questions – These should be prepared for a three-step approach: initial, second and final interviews.

Initial – Looking at basic position-organization match. The same focused, “open-ended” ended questions should be asked of all candidates to determine approximate fit, since your mind can make useful comparisons, if you utilize exactly the same framework.

Second – Is almost entirely focused upon personality “fit” with highly targeted, “open-ended” questions related to your organization’s culture and role-staircase. You probably require an expert assist to formulate these.

Final – Presents an opportunity for both parties to pursue unanswered issues. It is strongly recommended to include a breakfast, lunch or early dinner to observe candidates in a more relaxed setting; especially for senior hires.

» Orientation – Effective “on-boarding” is a key step to successful hires. Taking new hires away for 2-3 days for “imprinting” can be especially beneficial for key or senior level hires. Effective ‘on-boarding’ is too often overlooked.

Again, effective hiring is a vital leadership and management function. Automation, used in a wise way can prove helpful, although you need to appreciate its biggest drawback – overlooking unorthodox potential. This writer can offer countless stories where the more unorthodox person has been hired and produced tremendous results. Your organization or agency has many of them today.

There’s something to be said for having a blend of personalities within any organization. Such a blend gives our organizations “character.” Try to avoid an over-reliance on automation of the hiring process, otherwise you might be in serious danger of overlooking talent and having a “characterless” insurance entity…all with the same litany of experience only. Computers cannot read personalities.  

This article is authored by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Founding Principal at Leadership Solutions, Inc®, New York –                                                                                   

Forget your Big Data Crush because you need Small Data, too!

by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc

“Just trying to get a single, easy-to-measure number…(as per Big Data)…doesn’t actually help us make the right choice. For this reason, the key question isn’t ‘What did I measure?’ but ‘What did I miss?’.”Article NY Times, May 2015, entitled: ‘How Not to Drown in Numbers,’ by Alex Peysakhovich (behavioral economist and data scientist at Facebook) and Seth Stephens-Davidowitz (economist and former data scientist at Google).

    Big Data is driving us nuts. We’re spending $millions on it in the hope of finding a lot of quick and easy answers. Maybe we will. But it’s also possible that it may be a big pipe-dream.


Data scientists and economists, like the ones who authored the above quoted Times article, are at last beginning to question our stampede in this direction. They also went on to make another point: “If you’re trying to build a self-driving car or detect whether a picture has a cat on it, big data is amazing. But here’s a secret: If you’re trying to make important decisions about your health, wealth or happiness, big data is not enough.”


There’s a special “sauce” they also say is necessary to make big data work: consisting of surveys and the judgment of humans. They regard these latter two italicized components as old fashioned ingredients called small data.

Facebook author ‘AP’ above was obviously able to relate to his data experiences of monitoring member reactions  to particular newsfeeds. Facebook can quickly determine whether the newsfeed was ‘liked, clicked, commented on or shared.’ But it cannot determine the answers to opinion questions like – among others – ‘What was your member experience like?’ or ‘How did it make you laugh?’

Such examples begin to show likely holes in the pursuit of big data. Consider some alternative, typical workplace examples: ‘How do my people actually feel about their work environment?’, “To what extent are they inspired by it?’, ‘What could make it even more inspirational?’ Big data cannot measure these soft, small data issues. This goes for customer opinions, too.

That’s why this writer always includes opportunities for verbal comments in staff satisfaction surveys. Such comments  are vital for providing texture and insight to any survey data.

Managers are particularly drawn to big data because they are captivated by analysis, logic and rational reasoning. All of those are valid, although are not the only thing. Leaders, on the other hand, are more interested in people’s feelings, intuitive ideas, and soft expertise. Owing to our business history and conventional practices, we have more managers in our midst than leaders, hence the majority attraction toward big data. So, if we’re not careful, we’re in danger of becoming slaves to this latest craze.

What will it look like when we’ve become big data slaves? Well, we’ll definitely be slaves to numbers because big data relies on numbers. You’ll end up as a pure number and so will your colleagues; plus your family members, too. If you don’t have a number, you just won’t exist…just like prisoners or military personnel. Every object around you that you utilize will have a number, so you will refer to that object by its number instead of its name. All items on menus will have numbers, as well, as will so many other things that have names today.

If something doesn’t have a number associated with it, we won’t be able to make a decision related to it. Just look at store item bar codes and their associated numbers right now. It will become really boring to look at barcodes and numbers all day in our workplaces. Everything will become increasingly mundane, since our opinions won’t count unless they are related to numbers. Twitters, texts, emails, and other social media forms, are increasingly likely to be filled with acronyms or numbers. These formats will all fill our big data numbers craze. This writer apologizes for using prose in this article as opposed to a string of numbers J

What’s the alternative? Perhaps readers and executives will turn to small data before it’s too late. Maybe some elusive smart leaders among us will continue integrating small data into their decisions and steal a march on those big data folks. Such leaders will be far more accurate decision makers and better able to tune into their people’s passions. And so their ventures are likely to be more durable and dynamic and will literally fly past the stumbling big data entities.

So, if you view yourself as a leader, don’t feel diminished by the big data managers. As you can appreciate from the opening quote, there are increasing reservations out there. That’s likely to grow. You just keep plugging away in the small data zone, such as:

» Give your people a strong sense of role and enterprise purpose.

» Make them feel valued and well respected.

» Tune into their own sense of achievement; not your own.

» Encourage a feeling of camaraderie across the board.

» Show that you trust them and are willing to empower them.

» Give them every opportunity to master their particular role and tasks,

When making strategic and tactical decisions, look behind the numbers and find the small data by asking such questions such as:

»Why do people prefer to buy our products or services?

»What sort of packaging will attract buyers?

»What kind of new markets are out there for our products?

These are just some of the questions that big data cannot answer, since they are qualitative in nature rather than quantitative. Hence the limitations of big data versus small data. Use the former where you can, but don’t be mesmerized by it either.

Don’t forget: by better communicating with and engaging your people through small data activities, you’ll experience at least another 20-30% better overall performance than relying upon big data. Why is that? Because the positive environment you create will generate the goodwill for encouraging your people to produce more.

“Natural flow” or “Linear flow”?
by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®
“…our recipes have to be clear enough and applicable enough so everyone in our organization can use them, yet flexible enough so they can be adapted to any situation.” P70 in book “Building a Great Business” by Ari Weinzweig at Zingerman’s, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Ari was referring to business recipes, even though his nine interrelated businesses are built around a highly successful deli. But when you usually think about recipes, you naturally think about home baking – right?

What do you do? More often than not, you throw all the suggested ingredients into a mixing bowl or mixer and then blend them. You put that blend into a baking pan or saucepan and allow it to bake or stew. If your recipe was correct, timing was right, and your heat appropriate, you will be beaming with success. This concept is simple and we’ve been using it for centuries.

However, since the emergence of Frederick Taylor and the industrial age, and now hugely reinforced by the absolute logic of the computer age, we have increasingly focused on linear systems. We have become slaves to linear sequences to most challenges within our organizational and personal lives. We take item A, then bolt-on item B, then add item C, then D and so on, and hope the linear sequence will give us a great outcome. This is called “linear flow.” And we’ve become addicts at a huge cost; all in the name of control…absolutely minimizing “risk.”

Admittedly, it surely makes things easier to understand, if we can lay everything out in a rational, linear sequence. But the real world doesn’t work like that. Pretty near everything that we see around us is a synthesis of many things. Life’s forces bring a recipe of certain things together and then synthesize them into a brick, a building, a flower, a roadway, a picture, a human being, beautiful Fall foliage, and so forth.

A recent article by a nationally known bioscience writer cum non-profit societal nudge, was lamenting our inability to solve the ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) puzzle. My intuitive reaction was that this lack of success is simply brought about by our reliance on logic and numbers to solve everything. We’re quickly losing the conceptual and synergistic way to approach and solve things…all pushed along by digital data and the computer age. It’s hardly surprising that we haven’t been successful with artificial intelligence yet, either, because we’ve taken a computerized, linear approach rather than a synthesized, holistic one. Some expert commented, when you look inside our brains, they’re a mess. No logic boxes.

When it comes to organizations, we need to put the right, commonsense ingredients into them, based upon the “purpose-driven” vision and culture we desire. We then have to blend those ingredients over a reasonable period of time – likely to be at least nine months, rather than an overnight silver bullet. We then provide “heat” in the form of leadership and management – hopefully more of the former, if we want the best results – until the right outcome emerges. This can be described as “natural flow.”

Take the example of an enterprise that wishes to be a premier software house. It’s “purpose-driven” vision is to produce on-time, error free and reliable software for clients needing complex programs. It intends to give all its stakeholders an extraordinary experience because it knows, if it can accomplish that, it will earn all the money that the market-place will allow.

Its project pairings meet with their customers every week to ensure they are satisfied with progress and have the opportunity to make adjustments. Its programmers work in “pairs” so as to stimulate their inner quality bug as well as learn from each other. This more than compensates for the extra investment, especially as they are always on time and hardly any projects are shelved…almost unheard of in the software business.

All staff have a daily huddle every weekday to share progress, connect with each other, and hear about company developments. Because of their effectiveness, their people don’t have to work any more than a 40 hour week – to the relief of friends and family – and their vacations are totally uninterrupted and made possible in conjunction with others. Other than owner-partners, project leaders, and “natural flow,” little day-to-day supervision is required.

Put all the above powerful organizational ingredients into a blender consisting of three portals – ‘purpose-driven” vision, people power and enlightened leadership – and then give it a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly spin. At the same time, you apply heat in the form of leadership and management, again with the emphasis on leadership. Now you end up with a
rather profitable business that never needs outside financing. People also clamor, by word-of-mouth, to join it. This company is known as Menlo Innovations.

Across town is another successful, “purpose-driven” company that has developed into a cluster of interrelated businesses all in the same community. One of its enterprises actually trains outsiders on its “purpose-driven” approach. Its people feel highly connected to its current 2020 vision and discuss it on a regular basis. No blaring banners around.

Staff meet on a weekly basis with their individual business leaders to talk about successes and adjustments. They regularly attend training sessions with its training venture, which often includes exposure to the founders. This ensures its people are regularly refreshed and updated. Such training includes healthy financial disciplines, so that everyone ensures the company continues to remain profitable. But not that profitable, where “making money” is the only reason for being in business.

Again, all these positive ingredients are put into the group’s blender, with the same three portals described earlier, where enlightened leadership and cultural “heat” is then applied for brewing a profitable business with superior levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty. So successful has this “purpose-driven” company been that it received nearly two pages of editorial coverage in the prestigious New York Times, Sunday Business section – front page news, too – in July 2014. That article shows how it puts the right recipe together and then lets “natural flow” do the rest. It’s known as Zingerman’s…see the opening quote.

As organizations, we’re challenged to learn more from nature and natural flow in building our businesses, as opposed to let them become “command and control,” “linear flow” entities as they grow. Command and control units become somewhat stultified, much in the same way our jaws become numb when dentists apply cocaine to an infected tooth. This numbness, brought about by a fixation on unnatural, linear thinking and numbers; interferes with the entity’s spirit and natural flow, and so the enterprise doesn’t work at its best.

In the same New York Business section, there was a non-profit article entitled, “Giving Donors a Sense of Belonging.” Not only was it advocating ways to give donors a stronger sense of purpose, but the author (well known economist Robert Shiller) went on to write: “I work at Yale University and the higher purpose of education is a major reward for me. Many teachers…have chosen to make less money than they could in the private sector, because they feel they are contributing to the greater good.”

Such an attitude is becoming increasingly prevalent among the Gen Yers, Millennials and Gen Cs: the increasing backbone of today’s workforce. In other words, these people increasingly crave a more compelling purpose, and not just becoming slaves to “making money.”

Once today’s organizations understand this, they will build recipes for taking advantage of “natural flow.” They will move beyond the strain and drive of “making money” within the confines of stultified, command and control cultures, which are so often counterproductive.

Automation: How it Dummies Us Down!
by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®
Human intelligence is withering as we rely more on the artificial variety. We need a new approach to technology – one tailored to the needs of people, not robots,” by Nicholas Carr, author of article ‘Automation Makes Us Dumb,’ Wall Street Journal Review, November 2014.

Carr’s article went on to declare, ‘Computers are taking over the kinds of knowledge work long considered the preserve of well-educated, well-trained professionals: Pilots rely on computers to fly planes; doctors consult them in diagnosing ailments; architects use them to design buildings.’

Against that are Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) worries that pilots are not developing the skills to handle a plane in an emergency. Pilots have become ‘accustomed to watching things happen and reacting, instead of being proactive’ a FAA panel warned; otherwise known as ‘skill fade.”

Architects are relying upon computer aided design (CAD) for building structures, even though there are increasing numbers of design flaws. Architectural schools are now encouraged to move students back to the initial pencil and paper sketches once more to overcome the troubling CAD trend. Doctors who are all too often accused of not having the personal touch, are now being enticed to use impersonal computer protocols.

To what degree are people in your organization depend-ing on computerized protocols rather than being stimulated to think?

Stack all this against Sir Joshua Reynolds’ view – 18th century philosopher- that: “There’s no expedient that man will not go to avoid the labor of thinking,” and we have the perfect storm. Software applications that offer many prompts and tips are often to blame for errors, as opposed to less accommodating programs that push people harder to think, act and learn.

An upstate New York professor apparently interviewed a significant number of primary physicians who were using computerized systems. These same doctors felt their computers were undermining their ability to make informed decisions around diagnosis and treatment.

In the recent death of a West African man, who died of Ebola in Dallas, digital templates were used and probably aided “tunnel vision” by their users. Such highly constrained tools – without an adaptive brain – caused medical staff to “miss the forest for the trees,” rather like architects with their CAD systems.

Carr’s article reported on a Miami based architectural professor, who praised CAD for producing 3-D renderings with incredible speed,…”but also bred more banal, lazy, and uneventful designs that are void of intellect, imagination and emotion.”

Apparently, we have followed the path of technology-centered-automation, where as much capability as possible is delegated to the software. Human operators then take what is left – entering data, following templates and monitoring displays: otherwise known as “de-skilling.”

An alternative is recommended – human-centered-automation – where preserving and enhancing people’s talents take precedence. In such cases recipes/systems are designed to keep humans in “the decision loop, where they bring action, feedback and judgment-making to the situation.” Such an approach encourages involvement and challenges people in ways that will strengthen rather than diminish skills and therefore software plays an essential but secondary role.

In other words, computers take over the mundane work and become the user’s partner rather than the person’s replacement. Computer designers-initiators need to change their focus from idolizing their machines and defaming their human users. Those designers need to take a more balanced view.

This writer has seen skilled milling-machine operators turned into bystanders, rather than retain a status of master machinists. How does that impact the human ego, as opposed to challenge minds to contribute higher order input? No wonder there are greater societal ills as talented people become marginalized by the latest technology gizmos.

What to do?
» Human-Centered-Automation – Get your IT teams to investigate an adaptive-automation approach, which employs cutting-edge sensors to monitor workplace people’s current states and then shifts the mental load back-and-forth between users and their computers.. When they sense users are struggling with an activity, they shift more tasks to their computers to free-up their operators. When they sense an operator’s interest is waning, they ratchet-up the users workload to increase attention and enhance skills. (NOTE: You may get the reaction from your IT team when they hear about “human-centered or adaptive-automation” to query: “What’s that all about?”…deflecting the scenario rather than embracing it. Sounds like Sir Joshua Reynolds, again, and avoiding the thinking part.. Besides, this will disturb your team’s lofty technology-centered-automation status in some way?)
»Further Reading- Challenge your IT team to read Mr. Carr’s other books: “The Shallows: What the Internet Is doing to our Brains,” or “The Glass Cage: Automation and Us.” From these your IT team should get the message and then make recommendations on approaches that will avoid converting your work teams into “dummies.”.
» Wrong Direction – In essence, our technology professionals have unwittingly led us in the wrong direction. They’ve sold their skills on making our lives simpler and easier. Those same milling-machinists who stood-by and pressed buttons all day gradually became the most troublesome teams in their company…they had to utilize their imaginations in some way! Others probably switched-off, coasted through their days, drew a pay-check, and then scurried home to use their real talents on their hobbies.

Who said leading people was a slam-dunk? However, it can be considerably more rewarding when you have them
fully engaged and utilizing their diverse talents in adding value to your organization. That’s where leaders thrive.

All too often, managers give their people the easy way out to buy their loyalty and keep the peace. But then invariably they are corralling a mind-numbed workforce – all in the name of automation and dummying down their people over the longer term. Ultimately it kills meaning to their people’s work.
What is Motivation: Do we really need Incentives?
by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®
“…instrumental (externalized) motives are not always an asset and can actually be counterproductive to success.” Amy Wrzesniewski and Barry Schwartz, NY Times article (July 2014) entitled ‘The Secret of Effective Motivation.’

This writer hung onto the above article because its insights would be startling to clients, although were unsurprising to him. It posed research into 11,320 West Point cadets and compared performance levels between those who were internally motivated and those instrumentally (externally) motivated. For cadets: internally – desire to become a competent leader; instrumentally – to get a good job later in life.

What they discovered – to a really significant degree – was that those who were internally motivated did a whole lot better, both at West Point and in their army career, than the instrumentally motivated ones. They also studied those cadets who were clearly strong in both. Even more surprising, they discovered that this group performed worse
than all others by every measure – even more than those who had strong internal motives, but had weak instrumental ones.

Based upon their studies, these researchers went on to find that every effort should be made to “structure activities so that instrumental (externalized) consequences do not become motives.” In other words, enabling your people to concentrate on the purpose and impact-outcome of their work, rather than financial incentives, will likely enhance the quality of their work AND their financial success – even though that sounds counterintuitive. Dan Pink, in his book “Drive,” drew similar overwhelming conclusions.

Such findings would be music to the ears of the late Fred Herzberg, as the founding father of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. He called extrinsic motivators “hygiene factors” because they would require attention on a regular basis…just as his mother had to re-dust their house every day. Such motivators include: incentives, goals, structure, measurement, “driving” people, and so forth. Whereas, he termed intrinsic motivators, like personal challenge, learning, helping society, involvement, relationships and empowerment, the real motivators.

Equally, this writer has found that PEACAM factors: where P= compelling purpose; E= equality, fairness and decision involvement; A= sense of achievement; C= camaraderie with workplace colleagues; A= degree of autonomy and empowerment; and M= mastery in one’s domain. All are significant internal motivators because they “light fires within people.” In addition to this writers extensive observation, the strength of internal motivators are confirmed in research by Dan Pink (mentioned earlier) and David Sirota in his book, ‘The Enthusiastic Employee.’

Motivators like these run counter to our traditional CIGFAM approach: where C= competition, I= incentives, G= goals, F= fear, A= accountability, and M= measurement. All of these are instrumental or consequential motivators and therefore are more likely to undermine performance over time, since they are designed to “light fires under people.” The heat placed under people has to be regularly ratcheted up over time, to the point where it becomes counterproductive. CIGFAM, unless used wisely, can destroy the spirit within any organization, since it makes people more mercenary.

In their article, the researchers also made the point that, where “the desire for military excellence and service to country fails to attract all the desired recruits;” – that is, using internal motivators – recruiters typically resort to offering money for college, career training, or opportunity to see the world…which are instrumental motivators. Apparently, while the new inducements might increase recruitment, they may well draw less capable soldiers. Similarly, they contend that while offering pizza parties or financial incentives may increase student class attendance, it may also result in less well educated students.

Points like these raise another important issue in the researchers’ article, namely the use of “accountability.” It is a heavily used term when CIGFAM begins to wear thin. If not handled with finesse, accountability becomes more of a threat than a motivator.

Consider holding office staff accountable for customer service, invoicing and staff support. If this isn’t going well, you can hold them accountable by giving them specific measureable goals, policies and procedures. You can also put teeth into the accountability by sharing that they will be censured, demoted, get poor performance appraisals, have their salary or benefits downgraded, or be fired if they fail to meet accountability requirements. How long do you think such a regime will last before people in the office team either quit or look for a position in another department?

Far better would be to have an adult conversation with the office team. Encourage them to review the various stakeholders they serve – customers, alliances, suppliers, staff, their leaders, regulatory agencies, and owners-shareholders – and get them to imagine each stakeholder-group’s expectations. Then they can figure out what impact-outcomes would make their stakeholders smile. What extraordinary performance would be required to encourage their stakeholders to show their appreciation?

For the most part, that office team would now give it their best shot to get the smiles. And, subject to receiving some positive feedback during the near-term, the course would now be set for producing impact-outcomes better than their stakeholders’ expectations. They would hold themselves accountable, rather than someone else doing it for them.

So, coming full-circle to the question: “What is motivation?” – it becomes clear that we have to refresh our approach toward this topic. Senior executives constantly vex over the issue of motivating younger generation workers. Executives are concerned that younger folks are not motivated to the same degree as their forebears.

Is it likely that the Gen Xs and Millennials are motivated differently in a way that the older folks don’t understand? Are they looking for meaning and impact in their work rather than financial returns? Maybe they don’t feel as empty handed as their forebears? Do they feel more connected with greater access to information and resources, therefore can work smarter rather than harder?

According to a very recent New York Times article (Sunday Styles section) entitled “The Millennials Are Generation Nice:” ‘Almost two-thirds (64%) of Millennials said they would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring.’

In the final analysis, the quoted researchers want us to conclude that, making “an activity more attractive by emphasizing both internal and instrumental (externalized) motives is understandable;” but it may well unwittingly produce a reduction in your people’s all important internal motivation. Consequently, if the right internal motivators exist, do we really need individual incentives, too?

Overcoming E-Mail Madness!
by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®
“I fear the day when technology surpasses human interaction; then the world will have a generation of idiots.” Albert Einstein
” One morning last week, I sat at my desk and stared at my Gmail in-box; 40,000 unread emails stared back.” Jenna Wortham, NY Times article: ‘When E-Mail Turns From Delight to Deluge’ – February, 2013
I’m the last one to be extolling the virtues of e-mails, since I believe, like Einstein, the virtuality of e-mails is killing our ability to properly interact with each other. So many channels of virtual media will deny younger gener-ations of the huge benefits of in-person relations: such as, sensing a person’s true thoughts, enjoying someone’s comp-any as well as their babble, seeing the grey in someone’s behavior versus just black or white, and so on.
However, faced with the e-mail phenomena and people’s stories about their inability to cope with its torrents, as per the above author, I can only draw one conclusion: Those who struggle with a loaded e-mail in-box are poor prioritizers in the first place. Lured by e-mail and other social channels, users thought they would be able to “control” their communications with the outside world: to find they’ve solved nothing because they didn’t have a good handle on their priorities in the first place.
Any good project leaders worth their salt, will advise you that, to benefit from a system enhancement, you will only get your bang for your buck if your current system is in fairly good shape.
And so, for those crazed e-mailers, they need to get their prioritization act together. For me, there’s a selfish motive with this advice, as well as an intellectual one. By resolving their priorities issue, I will actually receive timely responses to my e-mails. Yes, I do send e-mails, begrudgingly, because in many cases I have no other option. I can also spot those who have priority issues by the time it takes them to respond.
With their personal challenge in mind, I would recom-mend the following – as someone said in the NY Times art-icle above, “Checking e-mail is like performing a triage”:
• Copy E-Mails – Get your IT team to provide you with a COPY filter in exactly the same way they provide a Spam filter. You can then skim your Copy folder daily and either delete or archive the less important or relevant “copy” items…rely on your intuition for doing this and you will be at least 80% right in your selections. You can then read those that are still relevant and act upon them “then and there.” Good prioritizers deal with most things only once. They try to not go back twice.
• Direct E-Mails – Reserve one or two times a day to deal with those emails addressed to you directly. Your first move is to eliminate any remaining SPAM or alien/unknown addressees. With what’s left, first read the ones which are obviously essential and relevant. As much as is possible, answer them “then and there.”
Where an e-mail requires a more comprehensive and thoughtful reply; unless it is absolutely time-sensitive, leave it and return to it later. Your mind will work on it sub-consciously during the meantime and provide you with a ready, sensible answer when the time comes.
Time permitting at the end of your day; return to your less essential e-mails and either answer them “then and there” or leave them to be dealt with another time within your week. Where you decide on the latter, just send a note to say you’ll catch up with the mailer later. Again, your intuitive mind will have ready replies by the time you return to these on another day.
• E-Mail Etiquette- Every organization should establish a code of e-mail etiquette to burnish its communication image. This could include:
– Don’t send emails of substance to colleagues who are within reasonable walking distance.
– Don’t deal with personally sensitive issues by e-mail, such as firing people, admonishing someone, personal critiques, second-guessing, and so forth.
– Don’t try to sell something to someone via e-mail, when you have neither met nor spoken to them by phone beforehand.
– Don’t express opinions about colleagues by email unless they are positive.
– Don’t waste time with ten back and forth e-mails to arrange something, when one phone call will do.
– If you cannot respond to an important associate within 24 hours, send them an acknowledgement.
Ultimately, to deal with e-mail madness, we have to learn better ways to handle it until a more common under-standing evolves for making it a better tool. For the addicts, they may need some special schooling, too.

To build a better e-mail framework, please contact:
Andreas Verykios –Europe – (+352)621 37 25 06 or
Chris Garratt –Europe- (+352) 2631 3384 or
Denise Lalonde – New York- (212) 974 1438 or
Ed Frontera – Florida – (561) 715 0447 or
Jim Leonhard –California – (916) 550 7075 or
Olger Draijer –Europe-(+352) 45 88 35 or
Paul Schonenberg – Europe – (+352) 621 23 3131 or
Peter A. Arthur-Smith – New York- (212) 332-8907 or © 1994-2013 Leadership Solutions, Inc (MALRC) All rights reserved“The Virtues of Face-to-Face, Voice-to-Voice and Word-to-Word: Which has the greatest impact on Innovation?” by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®
“(Mervin Kelly’s) fundamental belief at Bell Labs was that an institute of creative technology like his own needed a critical mass of talented people to foster an exchange of ideas. But innovation required much more than that. Mr. Kelly was convinced that physical proximity was every-thing: phone calls alone wouldn’t do.” NY Times Review article, February 2012, “True Innovation” by Jon Gertner.

Mervin Kelly ended up as Chairman of the Board at Bell Labs having started at the bottom in 1925. He retired in 1959. Bell Labs was pretty much the premier innovation center on the planet before its demise in 1988. It invented the transistor (forerunner to the chip), the cell phone and the solar cell: all societal breakthroughs.
The question is: Will our increasing reliance on word-to-word, virtual communication substantially kill innovate-ion because we increasingly want to deal with each other from a distance? This writer craves to talk with his daughters in person, while they crave to use texting because it’s the hip thing to do. The stand-off continues.
Innovation is of prime importance right now, since so many sectors of industry and society have to be reinvented to recover stellar growth after the Great Recession. Similar fundamental changes occurred as a result of the Great Depression… banking, new products/services, organization methods and communication to name but four.
Clear advantages exist for all three modes of commun-ication, face, voice and word, although it would be interesting to know how many of the pros and cons are understood by the different generations across the comm-unication spectrum.
Face-to face meetings are still preferred by many in older generations because of the richness they derive from such interaction. Alas, younger generations seem to avoid it like the plague with anyone outside their own immediate circle. They prefer to do everything remotely. Anything to avoid travel or any meaningful in-person discussion, where it is likely they will discover so much more: “Just email it to me or set up a Webinar, so I can keep the relationship simple and distant,” is their refrain.
In-person sessions allow for utilization of all our senses: senses that can detect signals for developing relations, trust and innovating something worthwhile.
When Mervin Kelly talked about innovation, his view was: ‘Innovation is an important new product or process, deployed on a large scale and having significant impact on society and the economy that can do a job “better or cheaper, or both.”’ Many times we think about innovation as those small incremental steps that enhance products or services over time. Maybe texting can manage that part, but not the fundamental changes that society and our economy require to take us beyond our current difficulties.
Phone conversations are the half-way house that helps pick up on many nuances needed to inspire breakthrough questions essential to innovation. They are so much more time efficient than texting due to simultaneous dialog. To beat this enormous advantage, communication companies dramatically reduced the cost enticement for emails or texting to tip the balance in their favor. When you add it all up, texting and email can absorb untold amounts of time, owing to their simplex, one-way nature.
Indeed, apart from the opportunity to hide behind our computer, cell-phone or iPad, a perceived advantage of using email or text is that we can pick and choose what interests us. This writer is as guilty as anyone else. But have we thought about how many opportunities we allow slip away each day because we cannot assess the true value behind that written word. It’s about as successful as picking the right candidate from a bunch of resumes: which is impossible, despite many pundits to the contrary.
Perhaps word-to-word, rather than face-to-face, enables us to live up to a quote by Sir Joshua Reynolds, famous 18th century philosopher and painter, that Thomas Edison prized above a doorway in his laboratory: “There’s no expedient that man will not go to avoid the labor of thinking.” Mervin Kelly would no doubt buy that one.
We need to find ways to re-engage the word-to-word generation before it’s too late. Without that, it may take several generations of economic decline for someone to wake-up and announce, “We need to be involved in face-to-face dialog to find the best solutions and see our way forward.”
If you wish to beef-up the advantages of face-to-face dialog within your organization, please contact:
Andreas Verykios –Europe – (+352)621 37 25 06 or
Chris Garratt –Europe- (+352) 2631 3384 or
Denise Lalonde – New York- (212) 974 1438 or
Ed Frontera – Florida – (561) 715 0447 or
Jim Leonhard –California – (415) 482 7766 or
Olger Draijer –Europe-(+352) 45 88 35 or
Paul Schonenberg – Europe – (+352) 621 23 3131 or
Peter A. Arthur-Smith – New York- (212) 332-8907 or

©1994-2012 Leadership Solutions Inc.® (MALRC). All rights reserved


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