I present synopses of at least 24 business books a year. One begins to see recurring themes across many books.
Here are some current thoughts about what may be most important concepts, based on these recurring themes that perpetually crop up.
Let me first put it in paragraph form:
To succeed in business, you need to know this: what worked yesterday, and what is working today, will likely not be what works tomorrow. Therefore, you need new ideas – lots of new ideas – all.the.time! You need to be coming up with these new ideas; you need to be trying out some of these new ideas; you need to fully implement the best new ideas. And, by the time you implement your next new idea, you need to be coming up with the next, next new idea. To pull this off, you need creative and inventive people, who brainstorm frequently. And, they need to feel free to speak their ideas out loud, without fear of ridicule or judgment or rejection. Creating the atmosphere to speak their mind freely requires a genuine commitment to psychological safety.
In other words, be very inventive, by doing a lot of brainstorming, within an environment of psychological safety.
#1 – Learn to cultivate and practice creativity, inventiveness, innovation.
You need to cultivate an inventive, creative, innovative workplace. People need to always be asking: “What could be done better; what could work better? What could make this better?”
Ed Catmull, former CEO of Pixar, has a quote that has cropped up in a number of books:
“All our movies suck at first,” Catmull says
And here is how he put it in his own excellent book Creativity, Inc.:
Pixar films are not good at first, and our job is to make them so—to go, as I say, “from suck to not-suck.”
So, come up with a lot of ideas! The many ideas lead you to come up with a few good ideas; and then you put the best of the good ideas into practice; with constant improvement (because, they suck at first), and perpetual inventiveness.
A short reading list. Read:
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull
(And, to be honest, this short list could be much longer…as could all such lists for all areas of business endeavor).
If having a lot of good ideas matters – and it does – then you need ways to come up with more ideas; many, many more. IDEO, the famous West Coast design firm, has rules for brainstorming. like: nobody ever badmouths an idea during a brainstorming session. All ideas get added to the list. Put the good ideas on a white board or flip chart, so all can see. Number the ideas, to make it easy to identify the idea you want to talk about. (“Let’s look at #14 on the list”).
It’s the long list of ideas that leads to the very short list of best ideas that should be tackled.
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson.
The Art of Innovation (Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm) by Tom Kelley.
#3 – Therefore, provide an environment of true psychological safety.
For people to share their ideas, they have to be, and feel, safe to share their ideas. They need…psychological safety.
This may be the biggest of the big themes these days. Psychological safety seems to crop up in book after book.
The woman who pioneered the work on this is Amy Edmondson, and she has written an entire book on it: The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth.
I first read about the concept of psychological safety in Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg. And, in my most recent synopsis that I presented, Remote Work Revolution, Tsedal Neeley wrote:
Psychological safety, the condition that allows coworkers to take risks and admit mistakes without fear of reprisal or shame, is key to productive teamwork. …If psychological safety is not present, people’s fear of expressing dissent or uncertainty to colleagues—especially superiors—cripples team success. …Leaders and their teams must actively foster an atmosphere that makes everyone feel safe speaking up and asking questions.
A short reading list:
The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth by Amy Edmondson
Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brené Brown
Of course, there are other themes that crop up also, from execution, to strategy and tactics. to always be on the lookout for the next big problem (the next “black swan”), to…
But my sense is that if you get good at these three, you could be moving ahead of the game.
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