Pam & Scott’s 2016 Holiday Book Pairing − Adapting to Seismic Changes in the Business Environment
Listen to Episode 94:
Episode 94 Transcript:
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of success. On the web at www.BusinessAdvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated, and right across from me as always is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi Pam. It’s great to be joining you again for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. If you’re listening for the first time, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to accelerate themselves − and their companies − to the next level of growth and success. So Pam, what are we talking about today?
Pam Harper: It’s time for our holiday book pairing for 2016. This time we have selected two books that will be especially relevant to all of us as we deal with potentially seismic changes in the business environment over the next year.
Scott Harper: That’s right. We’ve just had the 2016 presidential elections in the United States, and no matter which side of the politics you’re on, we can all agree that this qualifies as an event that is likely to be a real game changer in the U.S. and possibly in the rest of the world as well.
Pam Harper: Absolutely. Think about this − there are policy changes that are likely to come in healthcare, trade, immigration, the environment, financial regulations, and more. All of this is going to create both new opportunities and new challenges − often both at the same time. As a result, our companies, markets and customers are likely to also have new needs. Entire new markets will open up, some will close, and some will shift. If you think about that, this means it’s likely that how our own company’s services and products are developed, priced, marketed, manufactured (if that’s applicable), sold and serviced will also need to change.
Scott Harper: A whole host of things, all coming in rather rapid order. And the thing is, we don’t really know yet what’s going to happen. So the question is, how can we as leaders take advantage of opportunities and minimize challenges as they emerge?
Pam Harper: There’s two ways. First we need to be even more focused on increasing our awareness of both the big changes and the small ripple effects that go with them, so that we can become more resilient and pivot effectively. You remember in episode 93, last week, we talked about how you need to pivot as the business environment changes.
Scott Harper: Right. One of the points you made there was that to effectively pivot, you have one foot firmly planted in your values, for instance, and in your company’s idea and reason for being − then you turn as appropriate. Pivoting is absolutely important, and new thinking is going to be critical for that.
Pam Harper: The other thing is that we need to be able to lead ourselves and our organizations so that we all have the courage and ability to recognize the status quo as it is and think about whether there’s a different way to move forward. Maybe take the road less traveled, raise those original ideas and then make them happen, and have the passion and that perseverance that it takes to achieve success. That’s why we’re pairing two books for this episode, Originals by Adam Grant and Grit by Angela Duckworth.
Scott Harper: Both of them excellent reads, recently published in 2016. For those of you who may not have heard one of our previous book pairing episodes, let me explain it for a moment. Just as pairing wine and cheese can bring out nuances in the flavors of the two together that might be missing when you taste them separately, pairing two books that are different but have some overlap in their nuances can really enhance your understanding of the issues that they cover.
Pam Harper: They’re complimentary books. Well, we’re going to take a quick break right now, and when we come back, we’ll talk about Originals and Grit. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: We’re glad you’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. We’re brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − on the web at businessadvance.com. We focus on enabling visionary leaders to dramatically increase momentum in their companies for game changing results.
Pam Harper: Does this topic resonate with you? We have more. Check our related episodes to expand your perspectives and take away even more immediately actionable ideas. Go to growthignitersradio.com, episode 94, and scroll down to resources.
Scott Harper: And while you’re there sign up for our weekly alert of upcoming episodes so you’ll always be up to date.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Today Scott and I are talking about two books that paired together, can provide some compelling insights on adapting to potentially seismic changes in the business environment. You can look at resources for this episode by going to growthignitersradio.com and scrolling down to “resources.” Scott, you are going to talk about our first book, which is…
Scott Harper: Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, written by Adam Grant. He’s been recognized as Wharton’s top-rated teacher for four straight years, and is one of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers.
Pam Harper: So what exactly is an “original”? How does Adam Grant talk about this?
Scott Harper: He starts out talking about the whole concept of originality itself and then moves into original thinking and original thinkers. Originality in his definition involves introducing and advancing an idea that’s relatively unusual within a particular domain − in other words, new thinking, a new idea. If you want new results, especially in a changing uncertain environment, you have to think differently.
Pam Harper: You can’t be a conformist.
Scott Harper: You can’t be a conformist; you have to get curious and take the initiative to make a new vision, a new idea of reality, into the actual reality itself.
Pam Harper: That’s what an original is?
Scott Harper: Right. This book is about how we can become more original and take those new ideas into the world and bring them to life. A big hallmark of originality is to start out by being curious about how things are now.
Pam Harper: The default I guess.
Scott Harper: The default − we talk about the “status quo” a lot. “This is what we’re doing now.”
Pam Harper: But why are we doing it?
Scott Harper: Right; why are we doing it? An example of that comes to mind as I reach back years ago now, when I used to commute to my job about 20 miles west of where we live here in New Jersey. For those of you who know New Jersey, I would travel west on Interstate 80; the traffic was really bad almost all the time.
Pam Harper: It was terrible.
Scott Harper: Stop and go; it was awful. I went through some towns that weren’t that scenic as well. After I’d been commuting for about five years, the state of New Jersey actually opened up Route 287, which went up through the Ramapo Mountains. It was a bit longer, so I never really bothered to change my route, until there was a really severe accident on Route 80. A gasoline truck crashed under a bridge, burned up the bridge, and they closed Route 80 for at least a week. I finally started to say, “I’ll take this other route.” What I found out was, yes it was a few miles longer but because the traffic moved better it actually cut 20 minutes off my commute almost every single day. And it was a much more scenic route. I had never questioned the habit that I had established.
Pam Harper: The status quo was in place and finally got shaken up.
Scott Harper: Right, but here’s the thing − if I had questioned the status quo sooner I could have made the beneficial change sooner. Now the question is, how can we best stimulate ourselves and apply principles of original thinking to bring that benefit about as soon as appropriate? Is there a better way to do it?
You don’t necessarily want to say, “Intuitively let’s do it this way,” because especially when things are changing, intuition can actually be a detriment because this can lead us to jump to conclusions that may not actually be warranted in reality. We have to really think critically and then move onto getting ourselves engaged and getting others engaged in dealing with how can we pace this? How can we get supporters who can help us take this forward?
Pam Harper: That’s true. That is the challenge for so many visionary people. They’re out ahead of the pack; “we want to do this; we’re going to do this.”
Scott Harper: “It makes sense to me.”
Pam Harper: But the organization is going, “You want what? We’re going to do what?”
Scott Harper: That’s for the visionary leader − sometimes they can actually get way out ahead, as you say. There are also the visionaries within the companies who have great ideas, but they don’t necessarily get surfaced and turned into reality because there’s a challenge in connecting the dots between the different original idea and what it’s going to take to bring it to pass.
Pam Harper: This book enables a reader to go through that whole process, then?
Scott Harper: That’s right. From ways of generating the original idea, sorting through ideas, getting buy-in and bringing an organization along, and managing the inevitable uncertainty and discomfort that original thinking can generate, whether you’re a leader or whether you’re somewhere in an organization.
Pam Harper: Okay. Before we move onto the next book, what is about this book that particularly struck you as being especially relevant for leading through potentially seismic changes?
Scott Harper: One of the things that I particularly was struck with, because it resonates with a core belief that we have, is the example of a company where the CEO was an original thinker but he wasn’t the sole, or even the principal, original thinker. In fact, he made it his mission for the company to emphasize and exemplify and reward in many different ways that everyone in the company − from the top all the way down to the front line − was accountable for thinking differently, for challenging how things were done in a respectful way, for having conversations that fostered original ideas.
If there were different ideas, instead of stuffing them down or withholding or having “after the meeting meetings” to undermine ideas, they would speak up. He made it so clear that people had to listen with respect, and then keep talking until the idea and the way forward became clear. This company had a very strong culture, but it was able to adapt to changing conditions because there wasn’t just one change agent, there was a whole company full of them.
Pam Harper: This speaks to the power of the organization.
Scott Harper: Right. The power of the organization in thinking differently and bringing new ideas and new value to life. A really nice and enlightening read.
The second book talks about, “Okay you have ideas, but the trip from an idea to bringing it to life isn’t always straight forward. What does it take to stay the course?”
Pam Harper: It takes grit. The book isGrit: The Power Of Passion And Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. Angela is a 2013 MacArthur fellow and professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her passion and life’s work is around the psychology of achievement. You can see already that there’s a great relationship between these two books. Especially when there are seismic changes that are going on, it takes grit to make new things happen, because we’re going to run into obstacles. We’re going to run into things we’ve never dealt with before.
Scott Harper: Especially if there’s a lot of uncertainty, a lot of not knowing if this is really going to pay out.
Pam Harper: Yes. It takes extraordinary commitment; it takes a willingness to get knocked down repeatedly, to find detours to get to where you’re going to go. That level of resilience and resolve − that’s grit. What Angela Duckworth says is the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent or luck, but a special blend of passion and persistence − grit. Her point is that although we have limits in talent and opportunity, we don’t necessarily venture as far as we might have. That’s what this book is all about.
Without calling it “grit,” I’ve actually seen this a number of times over the years. I remember one person at one of my clients − he was actually an aircraft mechanic. As we were talking − he was part of a larger group − he shared with the group that one of his passions was playing the ukulele.
Scott Harper: Okay, nothing to do with aircraft.
Pam Harper: No, and in fact, his real goal was to become a professional ukulele player. An unusual passion.
Scott Harper: Right…
Pam Harper: He was driven, and he said that the reason that he took this job was that there were a lot of things he liked about the company, and in addition to that he also liked the fact that it gave him resources so he could pursue his long-term dream of playing the ukulele.
Scott Harper: He had a long term love and he was sticking with this other job.
Pam Harper: Yes; he was committed to this job because he really enjoyed it for its own factors as well. Now what’s funny about this story is that, years later, remember we went to a concert.
Scott Harper: That’s right.
Pam Harper: It was an open air concert, and we looked on stage and there was this man. He was playing the ukulele.
Scott Harper: His passion and persistence paid off.
Pam Harper: His dream came true.
Scott Harper: Okay. So the question is, how can you get a feeling for how much grit you have, or how much grit it takes to actually stick it out and finally achieve that long-term dream?
Pam Harper: One of the things that Angela Duckworth has in her book is a “grit scale.”
Scott Harper: A grit scale − okay…
Pam Harper: Yes; you take these two dimensions − the passion which again, is not passion as in intensity or love, but passion as in commitment on a long-term basis − you could almost think of it as dedication. At the same time looking at perseverance − when you get knocked down what happens? Do you give up? Do you keep going? You find another way. She’s developed a profile tool so that you can actually find your grit score. That’s an interesting guide that can anchor a reader. It’s captivating.
Scott Harper: She also has a saying that I particularly like when she’s talking about perseverance, “On the journey of growth, expect detours.”
Pam Harper: Right, and that sure is the case. When we’re talking about seismic changes, and especially unknown potential seismic changes, we have to be ready to go and zig and zag and do things in new ways − to be originals until we get where we’re going.
Maybe the bar keeps raising, but the point is that there’s always a way; that’s what we have to bear in mind.
We’re going to take another quick break now. When we come back, Scott and I will talk about immediately actionable ideas for applying principles from Originals and Grit to the goal of fostering original thinking, passion and perseverance in your organization in the face of potentially seismic changes in the business environment. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − on the web at businessadvance.com. We want to thank you out there who’ve reviewed and rated our podcast series on iTunes. It helps people find us and get the message out. However, some people have told us that they’re not quite sure how to post a review; that’s why I’ve created a short video that removes the mystery from the process.
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Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Today Scott and I have been talking about our 2016 holiday book pairing for adapting to potentially seismic changes in the business environment. You can find resources for this episode by going to growthignitersradio.com, episode 94 and scrolling down to “resources.”
Scott Harper: Now in this section, Pam we like to get down to some of the nitty gritty, take the concepts we’ve been talking about and figure out how can we apply them in some immediately actionable ways that really make a difference. Now, we’ve taken these complimentary books, we’ve blended them together, we’ve got a nuanced idea in our minds. What’s the first thing that we could do that can put it to work?
Pam Harper: The first one’s easy − buy the books and read them. And while you’re at it, take the grit assessment.
Scott Harper: [laughing] Good suggestion. But what if we don’t have time to read the books cover to cover? So many of us are completely slammed with so many things.
Pam Harper: Absolutely. One of the best ways that I found to quickly get the best out of a book is to read the book jacket, the front flap, the back flap, the introduction, the preface, the conclusion, the beginning of each chapter and the end of each chapter. It fills you in; it’s not going to give you the richness that reading every single work would give you, but it gives you the key points and a general idea.
Scott Harper: Okay; in many ways even if you just do that, it’s better than say buying somebody else’s abstract of the book, because then you have the book and you can dip into it as you have the time or as something particularly stands out for you. Excellent idea, and especially in Originals, the last chapter has an outline of the main concepts and a little bit of advice on how to put it to work. That’s a very good suggestion.
Pam Harper: A lot of books also have sections at the very end for additional resources and tools. Don’t miss that.
Scott Harper: That’s right. Now we’ve talked about “read the books or dip into them and get the essence”; what can we do now to put some of these ideas into actual practice?
Pam Harper: The next three ideas are all things that some of our most successful clients do on a regular basis.
The first is to get curious; take a cue from Originals and look at the election outcomes and the changes as an opportunity to see your business with fresh eyes, as if you were coming in from a totally different place. Look at what your company is about and why you’re doing what you’re doing in different areas. Really see it as objectively as you can.
Scott Harper: You’re saying, “Okay, this is how we have been doing it. Is this really the best way? What are challenges that could pop up? What are opportunities that could emerge? How can we anticipate that and respond in an original way?”
Pam Harper: That’s right. Looking at your organization with fresh eyes is fundamental to original thinking.
The next idea is to go beyond your immediate organization and talk with other stakeholders, ranging from customers, strategic partners, vendors, advisors − getting a whole range of different perspectives so that you can see where changes are showing up. That’s going to give you a direction to be able to say, “This is something that is starting to happen over here” with say, my customer. “Could it also be impacting our suppliers? Could it be impacting our strategic partners?” Putting that all together and doing it frequently enough so that it starts to make sense gives you a real advantage.
Scott Harper: Absolutely right. In fact, one of the points that Adam Grant makes in Originals is that the more diversity of ideas and diversity of looking at things you can tap into, the richer the fount of knowledge and wisdom you’ll have. You can make much better judgments about what those impacts could be, what the challenges could be, what the opportunities could be. Okay; what’s the third piece of actionable advice?
Pam Harper: Create an environment where people can ultimately discover their interests and their passion.
Scott Harper: Tell me about that.
Pam Harper: Just as I was talking about earlier with the ukulele player, the whole reason that it came out that his interest was even relevant in his case was because we were talking about, how can your interest play a role in what it is that you do on the job? Not every interest translates directly, but sometimes it translates indirectly. I found out for instance that there have been people who are very passionate about organizing events. I found out that there are people who are passionate about meeting new people, bringing ideas from outside into the company. There are a lot of ways that people’s passions can make a big difference on the job.
Scott Harper: If you actually take some time to get to know people and get people to know each other in a company, as conditions change, especially as you have these big shifts, something that has laid dormant perhaps in terms of the job could actually be a passion that that person can bring into the new work environment and put to use for the benefit of the company.
Pam Harper: That’s right. Talent takes on a new meaning. We can find talent in unexpected places.
At the same time, I want to make the point that it’s important to develop and offer developmental opportunities for people. That doesn’t mean necessarily sending people out to training, but as an immediately useful idea, think about somebody that’s in your team, how could you develop them? How could you mentor them or coach them so they could develop their passions and also their perseverance, so that when they make the inevitable mistakes or there’s a challenge that’s very tough, how could you help them through it?
Scott Harper: Great advice Pam. Are there any last thoughts for this book pairing episode on cultivating original thinking and grit in the face of really big changes?
Pam Harper: While we can’t know what’s going to happen, the opportunity starts now to develop ourselves and people in our organizations so that we’re thinking in more original ways, we discover more about our passion and develop the perseverance it takes to succeed, regardless of the conditions ahead.
Scott Harper: Thanks, Pam. And thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To get show notes and resource links for this week’s episode go to growthignitersradio.com and select episode 94.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continuous success and leaving you with this thought:
Scott Harper: As the impacts of change continue to ripple out from where we are now, what are we going to do to stay alert to opportunities, stay alert to risks, stimulate our original thinking, and develop the grit it takes to see it through to the end?