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It worked for them. Will it work for me?

April 17th, 2012

During a recent meeting, I was asked about an early viral video campaign I developed way back in 2006. My client loved what we had accomplished and asked whether he should do the same thing. My answer: “Maybe, maybe not. You’re asking the wrong question.”

Marketing discussions should never start with execution. Is mobile marketing a good idea? A new TV commercial? Twitter campaign? All are useful tools if used in service of the correct objective. But there’s the rub: unless tactics are designed in service of a specific goal, a great tactic may lead you in the wrong direction. “What’s the objective?” should always be the first question of any marketing discussion. Read the rest of this entry »

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Street Fighting Strategy

January 11th, 2012

[excerpt from our ebook, The 13 Deadly Sins of Marketing]

On the mean streets of marketing, where thugs lurk in every alley and aisle, your choices are few. Five strategies, that’s it. Of those, only two of those are worth pursuing. Of those, neither will succeed if they haven’t been built with a keen understanding of the competition as they will exist tomorrow. Read the rest of this entry »

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What’s Your Innovation Sweet Spot?

January 9th, 2012

It is fashionable among innovation writers to scorn Sustaining Innovation (what this blog calls Organic Growth) – the kind of incremental product changes that allow ads to scream “New! Improved!” These writers generally applaud Apple’s ability to create new markets via Disruptive Innovation, conveniently forgetting that Apple is also masterful at Sustaining Innovation.

We have argued that the only rational innovation strategy is to balance effort behind both organic sustaining growth  and disruptive innovation. However, Clay Christensen, Harvard’s innovation theorist, points out that companies have a greater chance of success by specializing in one or the other. Specifically, he argues that Read the rest of this entry »

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What Seth Godin Got Right – and What It Means for Management

May 9th, 2011

“The easier it is to quantify, the less it’s worth.”

- Seth Godin, Linchpin

Seth Godin has built a terrific career by giving us new lenses through which to view ourselves and our culture. He shown us all how to be marketers, leaders, and artists. I disagree with many of his generalizations and simplifications, but sometimes I read something from him that takes my breath away. The quote above certainly did.

Early in my career, I ran across Peter Drucker’s famous dictum “What gets measured gets managed.” Over the past many years, this has proven true more times than I can count. And yet, it begs some crucial questions: Read the rest of this entry »

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But Is It Innovation?

May 5th, 2011

The trouble with talking about innovation is that we’re dealing with the opposite of potatoes. The old Gershwin song reminded us that whether we call it a po-tay-to or a po-tah-to, it’s the same tuber. With innovation, however, the same word has two very different meanings. You say innovation and I say innovation, and we might as well call the whole thing off.

Because it’s not a trivial miscommunication. Read the rest of this entry »

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Getting Out of Your Own Way

May 2nd, 2011

What he had taught me was…that if I let myself go, did not slow myself down by thinking so much beforehand, I could achieve many things I would never have dreamed possible.

Per Petterson, Out Stealing Horses

Recently, a successful CEO client told me, “I’m not good at decisions. I get caught up in possibilities.” Later that day, I ran across the above quote in Petterson’s remarkable novel, and I thought, “How often do we make ourselves our own biggest obstacle?”

Petterson’s character is talking about learning as a boy to become reckless, but his learning equally applies to becoming creative, decisive, empathetic, more communicative, a better listener – all the skills related to Leadership. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Makes a Great Organization?

April 18th, 2011

My friend Dan Rockwell writes a terrific blog, LeadershipFreak, which regularly challenges me to better define my thoughts about key leadership issues. A recent post titled “Six Steps to Organizational Excellence” based on work by Dr. Muriel Asher provoked me to come up with my own list. Here are my Six Drivers of Organizational Excellence: Read the rest of this entry »

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360′s: The Right Way and Wrong Way

April 14th, 2011

Strong leaders have an odd blend of self-confident self-sufficiency and insatiable curiosity. They have the self awareness to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, yet also know that what they think about themselves is less important than what the people they serve – customers, vendors, employees, shareholders – think about them. They regularly seek feedback on their performance. Think of former NY Mayor Ed Koch who would continuously ask, “How am I doing?”

Many organizations have institutionalized the practice of periodically requesting 360 degree feedback as part of their review and development processes. There are many ways to do this. Some work better than others. Some are dangerous. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Change Is So Hard

April 7th, 2011

I have a business coaching client – a highly competent manager who has never found the success he desires – who has struggled with clinical depression since his early teens. Over the years he tried many different therapies and medications. Nothing worked. His condition continued to destroy his relationships and career, and, he feared, threaten his life.

I suggested that while we often cannot choose the conditions of our lives, we can choose how we relate to our conditions.

“That’s facile,” he replied. “How does that apply to me?”

“Have you ever considered,” I asked, “what you get from your depression?” Read the rest of this entry »

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Two Questions that Lead to Growth – for Everyone

April 4th, 2011

Are you creating the opportunities you’ll need for a highly successful career? In Insights for the Journey, John Lucht suggests asking yourself two questions in order to stay on a growth path:

  • “How can I re-distribute my work in order to provide a more richly developmental experience for each subordinate?”
  • “What can I offer to take over from my boss that will give him or her helpful support and, at the same time, give me needed stimulation and growth?”

Why are these two questions critical? Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Doesn’t Leadership Training Work?

March 31st, 2011

While listening recently to an excellent audiobook by James Hunter (The Servant Leadership Training Course), I was not surprised to learn that on average only 10% of corporate leadership training attendees implement sustained behavioral change. This factoid confirmed what I have observed over the past 30 years: that training programs often get people’s heads nodding about the need for personal change, but then fail to drive change.

Now I find a fine article by Marshall and Kelly Goldsmith that argues that the problem is not with the training, but with attendee’s level of caring and commitment. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Great Leaders Have in Common

March 28th, 2011

There is a pretty clear consensus among writers and researchers on Leadership that great leaders do not come in one flavor. Still, there do seem to be important qualities that most have. Importantly, these qualities can be learned and developed. That means that anyone can learn leadership. Read the rest of this entry »

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Get Better Results by Adapting Your Style

March 24th, 2011

Leaders have an arsenal of useful tools to help them better understand themselves, ranging from Meyers-Briggs (which suggests our personalities are pretty much hardwired through life) to DiSC (which suggests who we are at any given moment depends on the situation). In between there are models such as Big 5, Birkman, CRG, and many others. Each one lets you look at yourself from a different perspective.

What they all have in common, however, is the assertion that when we are aware of our dominant behavioral style, we can choose to adapt to the situation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lessons from Libya: When to Do Nothing

March 21st, 2011

Sometimes, your best choice of action is to do nothing, and sometimes that is not an easy decision. I was reminded of this during the world’s recent challenge to decide how to deal with Gadhafi in Libya.

Julie Straw in The 4-Dimensional Manager discusses when doing nothing is your best choice. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Trouble with Fact-based Innovation

March 14th, 2011

Here’s a fact for you: my most successful new product, out of well over a hundred that I’ve launched, had the worst qualitative and quantitative test results of anything I ever encountered. People hated it. Then it sold a quarter of a billion dollars in its first year. My second most successful new product, which won awards on three continents and became a 70-year-old company’s biggest new product ever, was similarly panned in early testing. Is there a pattern here?

The trouble with most innovation methodologies and processes is that they look for “facts” to guide decisions. Read the rest of this entry »

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Engaged, or Merely Checked-In?

March 10th, 2011

[reprint of previous post, and once again I am in the same situation]

Today is the last day of a lovely vacation. I am well tanned, well fed, and emotionally, well, chaotic. This is how I get during transitions: swirling. Half distraught about leaving the beach so soon, half delighted about the coming challenges. Today I am the putty pulled between these two poles.

I know this territory. I’ve visited it often over the decades. And I’ve learned that how I feel over the next week or two has everything to do with how I manage my energy on Monday morning.

When I assess a new client’s – or my own – well-being, relational energy is a major KPI. We have only four ways of relating to our challenges. We can be:

  • Checked-out
  • Checked-in
  • Engaged
  • Obsessed

Read the rest of this entry »

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Leadership, Learning, and Maturity

March 7th, 2011

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am an advocate of other-orientation, or service, as the foundation of effective leadership, also known as the Servant Leadership school of thought (expounded by Greenleaf, Covey, Senge, Blanchard, et al.). This week I’ve been listening to an audiobook by James Hunter called The Servant Leadership Training Course, and have learned a number of powerful concepts.

Hunter examines the implications of the following facts: Read the rest of this entry »

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Why You Need a Strategy for Innovation

March 4th, 2011

Companies that believe they must choose between organic growth and innovation will inevitably fail – it is a false choice. In a recent post, we defined organic growth and discussed what it can and cannot accomplish. Here, we continue with innovation. Sustainable success is all about balancing the two.

Innovation was last decade’s business buzzword, and for good reason. Real innovation is hard, but the potential payoff is huge. High risk, high reward.

We define innovation as the commercialization of a marketplace discontinuity. By definition, then, innovation has unpredictability built in – no one is good enough to truly disrupt with planned regularity. And that makes many managers uncomfortable Read the rest of this entry »

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Create Innovation Opportunities by Changing Your Glasses

March 2nd, 2011

Often the best way to understand something is to forget what you understand about it. Look at things from another angle. Borrow someone’s glasses and view distortion. Or as Peter Murane of BrandJuice writes in Lessons From the Vinyl Sofa, “Getting stuck in information samesness forces people to only look at the world as it currently is, not think ahead to how it could be different.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Why You Need a Strategy for Organic Growth

February 25th, 2011

Some managers are lucky. They passively coast to growth inside high growth markets – the market drives their growth. Eventually they’ll fail, of course, but for now, it’s great to be them. Most managers, however, face the difficult decision of how to allocate resource between the other two available growth drivers: 1) organic growth, and 2) innovation.

Many leaders believe they must choose one or the other, that it is not possible to execute both successfully. In fact, it’s become quite fashionable to claim that only “white space strategies” – disruptive innovation – can drive growth.

We disagree.

Read the rest of this entry »

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