Exercise the Curiosity Muscle for Personal Success

Exercise the Curiosity Muscle for Personal Success

A team developing a Web application named itself Curious George team. You know, the mischievous monkey who was adopted by The Man in the Yellow Hat. Curiosity defined its personality.

I thought, “How cool is that?” A constant reminder to work that particular muscle.

Ever notice little kids? Maybe from 1-1/2 to 4 or so? Take a walk with them. They are curious about everything. They’ll stop and study a leaf. Or a bug. Or a worm.

What about us? When we take a walk, do we puzzle over things we see?

What are you curious about? What would you like to learn?

What a great name for a team exploring new business ideas. Or expanded service ideas.

“I’m on the Curious George team. We’re always exploring for new ideas.”

That’s cool.

Exercise the Curiosity Muscle for Personal Success

Great Leaders

I’d heard about Jim Collins and perhaps even read one of his books. But I’d forgotten until I listened to a podcast interview with Tim Ferriss.

I bought a couple of his well-researched books. I mean, I write alone. He had 21 researchers for Good to Great. He pursued an answer to the question “can a good company (organization) become a great one”.

Short answer, yes.

After much research, the team identified 11 companies that filled the criteria of 15 years of so-so performance, an inflection point, followed by 15 years of great performance. Timelines long enough to allow for various short-term fluctuations.

They identified several characteristics. I’ve just finished reading about the first–one that surprised the team. Leaders.

But the type of leadership that build sustainable performance. The high-ego, publicly visible leader may drive performance in the short term, but seldom does that performance last.

The good to great leaders:

  • Publicity shy
  • Humble–always talking about company performance not personal
  • Builds a strong team first thing before strategy
  • Quiet, but strong
  • “We”, not “I”
  • Leads a simple lifestyle (no servants, large estates, and the like)

The team researched businesses, partly because there exists a wealth of data. I’ve observed the same thing in churches and other non-profits. The flamboyant, self-enhancing leader eventually flames out.

Exercise the Curiosity Muscle for Personal Success

Value Investing and Company Analysis

I have never been a fan-boy of Jack Welch. And the more we learn in retrospect, we see why he is not necessarily a genius to emulate. As a friend used to say, “You got your smoke; you got your mirrors.” It was growth by acquisition and using deft accounting.

Vitaliy Katsenelson is CEO of an investment company. His newsletter is on my list of informative and entertaining reads. (Plus he kicks in as a bonus a selection of classical music.)

This week’s essay—Welch vs Bezos.

Here are a few snippets to whet your appetite.

“Welch built a company with a “beat this quarter” culture. Welch’s GE was not in the business of building moats and investing for the long run; he was in the business of beating quarters. In his book, Welch raved that from the early 2000s GE always beat Wall Street estimates. He was proud of how managers of one division were able to “come up with” a few more cents of earnings if another division fell short of its forecast. I kid you not — reread that sentence, three times. If I was at the SEC I’d investigating GE’s accounting.”

Once upon a time I worked for a division of a conglomerate. For a while before collapsing it was Fortune 50. It had very few corporate staff. Executives wanted steady, reliable income for reporting to Wall Street. It invested in cyclical businesses. Go figure. Anyway, take this comment about GE:

“He was proud of how managers of one division were able to “come up with” a few more cents of earnings if another division fell short of its forecast. I kid you not — reread that sentence, three times. If I was at the SEC I’d be investigating GE’s accounting.“

Contrast with Bezos:

“Welch is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com. Bezos doesn’t even know how to spell quarterly earnings. Amazon’s founder once explained that Amazon makes decisions years out. So the current quarter’s report reflects decisions Amazon made several years ago.”

Investor viewpoint:

“There is another lesson here. As an investor, simplicity and transparency from a company is key. If a company’s business is complex and opaque, move on. One of the most important things in investing is what you do in-between buying or selling a stock. After you buy it is just a matter of time before your initial assumptions come under fire. Maintaining rationality throughout your ownership of the company is paramount, and to do that you need to understand the business well. That’s why I have no opinion on GE shares now.”

And your takeaway:

“Above all, never make a decision based solely on someone else’s research; use it as a starting point for your own investigation.”

Exercise the Curiosity Muscle for Personal Success

The Year of IT and OT

We should be so beyond talk of The IT/OT convergence.

This has not been a technology issue for years. If anything it is an organization and personal issue.

Executives continue to view their organizations as constructed of a variety of separate domains. This is often because there are all these SVPs running around who need an organization to lead. So, one has operations, another IT, another design, another marketing, and so forth.

When senior management wakes up to the fact that technology has broken the barriers long ago, maybe they can get their organizations to follow suit.

This year we should be talking about how all technology is meant to serve leaders and managers who are trying to build safe, productive, profitable companies.

The story should be about benefits of using technology; not about pitting one against another.

Exercise the Curiosity Muscle for Personal Success

Continuous Learning For Self Development

Continuous learning is essential for economic survival in this increasingly technological world. However, I believe it is also essential for growth as a human. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in technology and organizational success that we forget that our first duty is to improve ourselves.

Drawing as Thinking

When you take notes or think about a project, what do you write? Do you use pen and paper? Or some sort of notes app or outliner on your computing device?

How about drawing mind maps or sketching ideas? On listening to a recent podcast I jotted this note

Drawing is not an artistic process; it is a thinking process.

Math as Thinking

Reading Peter Diamondis’s newsletter recently, he once again talked about how worthless math was in school—“I have never expanded a polynomial in my life.” I bet he used the logical thinking instilled by working math problems his entire life!

Wishing for Certainty

When I was young I knew old guys who had worked for the same company for many years. There was a certainty about life. I, on the other hand, have never really known that certainty. Here is a thought that once again draws out that idea of clear, logical thinking

The antidote to uncertainty is not certainty—which is impossible—but clarity.

It’s all about passion

Henry Cloud—The fruitfulness of our lives will come from our hearts. Developing our inner selves helps us prioritize our lives. Our hearts will determine the “issues” of our lives.

Resources

Your most important resources are time and energy.

Leadership

Andy Stanley—Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.

Exercise the Curiosity Muscle for Personal Success

When IoT Projects Fail

Browsing LinkedIn, something I seldom do, I saw this image from a company called Seebo. “Where IoT Projects Fail.” Interesting, but can’t these be summed up in a word or two?

Try “management” or “leadership”.

The recurring theme I’ve found in my consulting and qualification process for a client concerns not really understanding what Internet of Things (IoT) means. Nor do they always understand realistically what benefits could accrue. Or what technologies fit.

A client one time hired me to justify a decision already made—in their minds at least—about acquisitions that would enter them into the IoT market. Another looked for use cases and settled on one not understanding the complexity of that use case.

On the other hand, a wise CTO once explained to me about themes for the company’s annual conference. One year might be IoT and another digitalization. He said they looked at the current themes in the market and then figured how their products fit, and presto—a theme.

If you are in an IoT project or contemplating one as a user or looking at a product and service plan as a supplier, step back and try using good basic management first. Organizing, defining, staffing.

Here is the list from the image:

  • Failure to capture business opportunities
  • Unclear and incomplete use cases
  • Systems are too complex to communicate
  • Missing critical data
  • Unable to extract actionable insights
  • Unable to identify root cause of product malfunctions
  • Ensuring market-fit and early buy-in
  • High cost of mistakes
  • Prototyping products not technically or financially feasible
  • Skills or capacity gap
  • Aligning and syncing teams
  • Detailed and complete spec docs and keeping them up-to-date