Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Book review: Business Model Generation

As an incoming member of Seth Godin’s altMBA program and a self-confessed book nerd, I was excited when I received a set of eight books provided to program participants as a pre-read.  

One of the books in the package was called Business Model Generation written by Alexander
Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur.  Business Model Generation is a handbook created to defy the thinking settled in outmoded business models and help individuals design tomorrow's enterprises.

This was one of the first books that I picked up and read for 3 key reasons:

1) I like the fact that the book was co-created by over 470 practitioners from 45 countries.   It speaks to the future of work concepts with the advent of the “gig” economy on the rise

2) Concepts in the book really appealed to the architect side in me – with a set of predefined building blocks, identified business models, business designing, overall strategy, and process flow concepts. 

3) The authors provide a simple framework to conceptualize, design, and execute a large scale change transformation initiative through the use of storytelling and purposeful adoption.

While the book is called a handbook, it feels more like a primer on the building blocks of a business operating model and a re-framed version of Porter’s Five Forces.  The concepts are simple, clear, and easy to follow along.  I particularly like the business model canvas template and various business case studies really bring the book’s concepts to life.  
The key drivers on the business canvas template are:

  • Customer Segments: Who are the customers? What do they think? See? Feel? Do?
  • Value Propositions: What’s compelling about the proposition? Why do customers buy, use?
  • Channels: How are these propositions promoted, sold and delivered? Why? Is it working?
  • Customer Relationships: How do you interact with the customer through their ‘journey’?
  • Revenue Streams: How does the business earn revenue from the value propositions?
  • Key Activities: What uniquely strategic things does the business do to deliver its proposition?
  • Key Resources: What unique strategic assets must the business have to compete?
  • Key Partnerships: What can the company not do so it can focus on its Key Activities?
  • Cost Structure: What are the business’ major cost drivers? How are they linked to revenue?

As a strategic management and entrepreneurial tool, this book will help quickly frame a business idea, prototype, and brainstorm on ways to innovate, improve, or transform business operations.  

It’s great method to create meaningful conversations with a client or internally within a firm - keep it handy as a reference guide!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

21 inspirational quotes to lead by the strength of your values and not by fears

What is interesting about life is that somehow along the way, we have been led to believe we are not supposed to face challenges, have problems, or have fears in life. I’m not sure what happened between childhood to adulthood, but if you are like me, somehow a narrative of life entails a fairy tale like ending, one without problems, failures, or imperfection. 

So when problems strike or challenges arise, we sometimes allow the fear of the challenge to consume us rather than taking on problems head on.  Some life experiences are put in our path to force us towards a path of leadership. 

When we begin to accept that overcoming obstacles and challenges are the very fabric of the human journey, we begin to look at our life as one full of vibrant lessons and stories instead a life full of doubts, failures, and fears.

 We begin to take control.   

We begin to lead.

Lead from the strength of your values and not by fear. We are each uniquely brought into this world to create, design, and challenge. There is a reason why we are not able to choose who our parents are nor what type of upbringing we experienced.

"Success is not final nor failure is not fleeting." Our past does not dictate our future. We each serve a purpose to one another and it is only in leading our lives with certainty that we begin to see the world and embrace our path for what it was truly designed to be. A beautiful journey in humanity. 

Below is a snapshot of some of the most inspiration quotes on how to be a better leader, sorted by the leadership attributes they describe.  I hope you find inspiration in one of these quotes. 
Leadership begins within…leadership begins with you.

  • "Every time you have to speak, you are auditioning for leadership." James Humes
  • "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." Kurt Vonnegut
  • "Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult." Warren Bennis
  • "Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar." Orrin Woodward
  • "Earn your leadership every day." Michael Jordan
  • "Successful leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity."- Reed Markham
  • "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." John Quincy Adams

 Leaders are courageously imperfect…but lead anyway.

  • "Don't follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you.  Margaret Thatcher
  • "Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you'll be criticized anyway." Eleanor Roosevelt
  • "The price of greatness is responsibility." Winston Churchill
  • "Great leaders are not defined by the absence of weakness, but rather by the presence of clear strengths." John Zenger.  
  • "If the path before you is clear, you're probably on someone else's.”  Joseph  Campbell
  • "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." Winston Churchill
  • “A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” Max Lucado
  • “Leaders spend 5% of their time on the problem & 95% of their time on the solution. Get over it & crush it!” Tony Robbins

Leadership is not about you…it is about the people you serve.

  •  "The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers." Ralph Nader
  •  "A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves."  Lao Tzu
  • "You manage things; you lead people." Grace Murray Hopper
  • "Real leadership is leaders recognizing that they serve the people that they lead." Pete Hoekstra
  •  "To lead people, walk behind them.” Lao Tzu
  •  "To add value to others, one must first value others." John Maxwell

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Why only the paranoid survive


 “The lesson is, we all need to expose ourselves to the winds of change” Andrew S. Grove 

I was recently watching an episode of the hit TV show Scandal and was asked what I liked most about the show.  My love for the show went deeper than it being a hit TV show; it took a while for me to ponder:  Why did I like Scandal so much?

I love the show for the rubric cube-like interconnectedness of the plots and the seemingly endless array of multi-dimensional chess gamesmanship across the characters and the stories.   If you are a Scandal junkie, you have most likely become slightly paranoid watching the show at times in attempts to decipher certain symbols or code words in conversations or gestures; one never knows what’s lurking on the other side of a comment, glance, or decision.

While emotions of paranoia span a spectrum of actions and beliefs, those that live on the “slightly paranoid” side of disruptive change sometimes have an edge.  The slightly paranoid typically embrace disruption, whether that is disruption is positive or negative, whether it is in a particular industry, or within your own organization.   

Think about some of the most disruptive events in history and how the slightly paranoid individuals who saw it coming were able to anticipate, prepare, and embrace the new normal before others even knew what was going to happen.   

  • When digital media disrupted the music industry, some people initially gaffed at the idea of “having 1000s of songs in your pocket” as Steve Jobs once envisioned.  The slightly paranoid began leveraging the early versions of this idea hence the creation of illegal peer to peer sharing sites such as the infamous Napster to what eventually led to today’s digital media culture.  

  • The U.S. mortgage housing crisis of 2005 disrupted the housing market and began the financial crisis; many people spiritedly debated about how strong the markets were and commercial construction projects across the US were in full swing, a handful of slightly paranoid American financial experts predicted and profited from the build-up and subsequent collapse of the housing market and subsequent credit bubble in 2007 and 2008.

Think about how these examples apply to your organization…who are some of the slightly paranoid individuals in your firm that may be trying to get your attention on what seems like a minor, non-urgent, manageable threat? Whose warnings do you keep brushing off?    

In the book, “Only the Paranoid Survive”, author Andy Grove call these employees “Helpful Cassandras” after Cassandra who in Greek mythology was cursed so that no one ever believed her prophecies.   

Helpful Cassandras are slightly paranoid individuals in an organization that are acutely aware of the emerging shifts and trends.  They usually are the first to fire warning shots towards a pending disruption before the average person even recognizes anything is even happening.  Unfortunately, sometimes their guidance and warnings fall on deaf ears or even ridiculed…until it is too late.  

Being slightly paranoid is not a bad thing when it comes dealing with exponential 100X change within your organization.  Change can become more tangible and opportunistic when it is embraced rather than feared.  The slightly paranoid make decisions and take action from a place of strength, courage, and power to reap the full benefits of the pending disruption.  

If you want to prepare, anticipate, and embrace disruptive change around you, pay closer attention to the world around you.    

Stop and read the signposts - particularly the silent, subtle trend lines that no one else maybe paying attention to. 

Listen and investigate the warnings.  

Ask questions during critical inflection points. 
Challenge the status quo. 

Connect the dots.  

Plan and pivot.  Don’t be afraid to take action; if the first action doesn’t work, change your approach.   
Just keep moving. 

…or, build up your paranoia muscle by watching Scandal.     Because in disruption, only the paranoid survive.