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I had just released my first commercial book.
Yes, it's a big achievement. It's a cause for celebration.
Some call me lucky. Others tell me, "You had come a long way."
Some said, that I should start paying tribute to the people who helped me along the way.
They're very happy for me. I'm pleased that they're happy for me.
But this book, like any other things in life, is part of a process.
The book is a product of that long process. For me, it took me two decades of sharpening that process- the wisdom, discipline, lots of lessons learned, and eventual putting it down to bring more value out there for others to partake.
Like any other process, it was a product of other processes that came with, my consulting business founded in 2013 but operational in 2014. The business grew in 2015 and cocooned to accommodate my personal vicissitudes. Back in 2018 soft launch and massive work thereafter to grow where I am now. It followed by creating value and ensuring quality every step of the way. I means late nights work, weekend work when my baby was with the in-laws, meeting potential clients, lots of networking, pro-bono work, writing while cooking, cleaning, and chasing butterflies, and enjoying the ride. I also learned magnificently.
Life is about failing well and coming back up to straighten one's paths. To all of you creators, you know what I'm talking about.
Cheers for this first book, cheers to many more, beautiful and valuable creations.
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There's no denying that what we are seeing in Ukraine is the unleashing of brute force by the very few who thinks that they can subvert the modern world order without consequences. Here again, we see that the West and rest have combined forces again in a matter of days. Unprecedented.
But the best thing I see in this first online war was the power of ordinary individuals in full force. From donating online, going to the war zone as a choice, buying Ukrainian products, crowdfunding, fighting disinformation, fact-checking propaganda, reserving AirBNB, donating crypto, among others, these activities are decisive.
There are no limits to what ordinary Canadians and citizens of other states can do to support a country in great need. My book on global impact leadership focuses on the role of individuals, not institutions, in transforming their communities and acting based their values and principles.
I have no doubt that a hyper-globalized and interconnected world, normative forces usually enforced by states and institutions are no longer their purview. As more and more individuals are connected on a grand scale, they can not just vote, but take up moral stances and register their voices without leaving their homes. Before mobilizing for a cause takes time. Now, you can build a pipeline system in a matter of hours or days.
The challenge for us is to differentiate rationality with demagoguery, popularity versus principled action. Not every time that you will stand with thousands. To make a difference, you need to be different.
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To continue on the "big idea" discussion....
Big ideas generated from design schools and labs are great. They're ideas.
Everything we have right now, these tangibles were products of someone's imagination.
Some are dreamers, some are designers, some are investors of dreams, some are implementors. Some are borrowers, refiners, and even auditors of dreams and ideas.
From conceiving to implementing, many processes and actors will be needed.
Which one are you? What position will you take in this continuum? Where is your default position?
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As I wrote in my recent Strategy article for CSAE, long-termism is over. Look hard around you. Rules and instructions change quickly and contradict all the time.
"Focus your executives’ time on discerning where the pressure points and opportunities will be in the coming years, and identifying the most proactive approach. Review your plan every six months to a year, and be prepared to revise as driving forces (i.e. technology, regulations, consumer preferences, social mores) change rapidly without warning."
Key to this are three mindsets: agility in strategy (not just in operations and pouncing on opportunities), strategizing on the strategy, and the discipline to follow-through.
Agility in strategy is about absolutely turning conventional wisdom on long-term planning. It's about learning as you and improvising your subsequent steps rather than preoccupied with planning as if every ducks are in the row. Strategizing on strategy is ensuring that optimal use of resources of doing, measuring, and implementing your new strategy. Forget the 3-day strategy retreat in a nice resort or vacation destination. Try remote strategizing once a week for the next 3 months or so and be surprised as to how much you can accomplish with so little! And third, discipline is the modern-day effectiveness and efficiency combined as measures. Without the discipline and laser-focus commitment, your strategy becomes just a strategy, not a reality.
Consider this when you think about long-termism using a short-term perspective for the future- the post-pandemic future, that is.
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Last year, I discussed that Mission is not Enough. Being an on-purpose organization alone without exhibiting sufficient value for society through their target partners is a major degeneracy.
Few organizations behave differently in purpose sector and do not exhibit these following traits or tell these drama:
1) Self-privileged- We do good in the world, therefore you should....... us.
2) Poor us, we do God's work-We don't have money for investing with our talent, systems, and operational excellence. We don't have overhead, therefore, you should trust us to be excellent in delivery. Non-sequitur..
3) It's enough to do good- We don't need to innovate. Our mission speaks for our existence and that's enough for you to give as grants, donations, etc. Mission is not enough. Being good seldom works.
4) There's too much need out there, we are overstretched, please stop demanding more!- We don't need to do better than what we do currently.
These are lame excuses for organizations whose relevance has become antedated without them knowing.
Look yourself in the mirror, if these are the same words you are operating with in late 2020 as an executive, get out of the way or get your acts together.
Nobody will ever laud that your organization existed, they only care if you have performed well beyond society's expectations.
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Woody Woodpecker asked, "What's the big idea?"
To which the other fellow replied, "You and your milk!"
Big ideas grab headlines.
Big ideas move mountains and people.
Visionaries toggle between one big idea and on to the next.
The BHAG mindset gives us the excuse to think big and leave the mundane to others.
People love big ideas. They like being entertained with the fact that these big ideas are being funded by OPM-other people's monies and OPM-other people's machineries.
It's good to see the view at 20,000 feet altitude but going down: the view changes drastically.
Leaders cannot toy with big ideas without being unscathed by the realities of implementation.
The major fright comes from the fact that there are many hats to be worn and handshakes to make. There are investments to be made from resources that seem to deplete the moment the ink has dried. There are gazillion things to do to even get at basecamp.
Instead of coming with big ideas, why not start with the next-level ideas.
There are studies supporting that change isn't scary when presented with the next logical step-an easy implementable blueprint where followers are not asked a 360% transformation, but a gradual shift over the course of time.
Focusing on goals that you can realistically accomplish will ensure that there is enough fuel that keeps you motivated but also enough oxygen to get you through each day.
Overwhelm is a by-product of too much, too soon, too many -all at once.
Lastly, are you a delayer or early satisfier?
Delayer waits at the last minute to accomplish the big ideas by creating layers of complex rituals and processes that are not necessary or essential while satisfiers are good at completing the task in front them and slaying the proverbial dragon, one by one.
Creating impact is not after 5-10 years of hard work and sweat. It's right now.
What's your big idea?
How do you turn that 'big idea' into everyday wins and giant outcomes?
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A few weeks ago, I talked about Leading in Crisis and Beyond Resilience, two sides of the coin in the quest to rebound well in the post-pandemic environment. The last missing piece in this equation is impact.
LI + BR = IMPACT
Impact, in the broader sense, is the achievement of lasting effects that you want to see in your client/customer or stakeholder. If you are non-profit, we tend to look at the overall societal gains as a barometer for how far your results have achieved or contributed to these. In a post-COVID19 scenario, the stakes are high to put impact back as the centerpiece of your mission.
1. Impact is not cooked up in isolation
Impact is not something that you create on your own as an island. It is about building important relationships and connections in order to secure a broad base support for your work and increase the likelihood of its success. The triple bottom lines of planet, profit, and purpose emphasize a shared responsibility in creating, defining, and measuring impact at all levels of engagement with all partners concerned. Doing this alone is like walking through the tunnel in darkness and expecting a marching band to welcome you out.
2. Evidence doesn't come from big data
The biggest fallacy I have ever come across my desk in the area of impact is the fact that big data is the solution to the lack or incompleteness of the impact stories of governments, businesses, and the social sectors. Moreover, the overreliance to data is imbalanced. This time, there are more considerations and requirements in keeping with ethics, accountability with populations, and communicating strategically. All these, data can never tackle on its own. It needs the human element to interpret and make sense what data conveys.
3. Plan to fail
Despite the planning for success in measuring impact, failures are inevitable in the context of learning and re-learning to get things right. Obsession with success puts pressures on staff and management to be the first, the best, the most competent. These false measures only create frustration and bad precedents. Sometimes, it is not in your success that can tip the balance between being average and excellent. Failure provides tremendous opportunities that are not visible in the naked eye, either failures lead to real progress or give the impetus to redirect the actions to more fruitful areas.
4. Delivery is an art and a science
We judge a book by its cover all the time. Presenting your impact requires deliberate attempt to be concise, informative, and directive. Your audience deserves to know and best of all, to be engaged in exploring the future work that lies ahead. Sell them the vision but more than that, sell them how you are best positioned to lead them in that future through the results you are doing right now. Everybody loves a winner.
Leading in crisis and going beyond resilience will accelerate your impact in the post-COVID 19 climate. There is no substitute to doing good work. But why do you work hard when you can work smart.
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This is not a law but a phenomenon in the social sciences that people by human nature make decisions based on what they predicted or expected to be the outcomes, and ignore the unintended, unexpected, unpleasant, and accidental consequences of those actions.
In the evaluation community, evaluators are trained to view these consequences as possible impact areas or emergent issues that the organization (doing the evaluation) need to be more serious about.
With confirmation bias, this is very difficult. We always want to hear or publicized what we have done, achieved, accomplished, that we have solved the problems. We do not hear about the consequences of say, moving budgets around, due to scarce resources, ignoring the 'small needs of small group of people,' whereby we can create winners and losers on a day-t0-day basis.
I was talking to a general manager of a research-based organization. He told me that "the pendulum has swung too far, cut off their head- which means at least 60% of research budget will be eliminated."
Research is one of those things that do not have a quick, immediate, sensationalized, dramatic effect/result on issues. This is one of those painstaking, often laborious, untelevised, mundane types of jobs where non-dramatic results are expected. The next genetic discovery to feed the next generation of people will not going to be the top headline in a newspaper. This is not the 'stuff" that could compete in attention with the Trump impeachment or the local Wexit movement.
Unintended consequences also do not manifest in quick turn-arounds. It can take years and years, until the impact is generalizable, can be described, and can be traced to those interventions that were conducted many years ago. Who will be there to ensure, report, and write about it for the world to know? Taleb talks about the 'silent evidence.' Because we don't know what we don't know, we are at the mercy of the present and what is palpable.
We, humans, like immediate gratification. We are wired to have our cake now, and eat it now too! Despite the call to delay gratification, it is very difficult to resist the temptation to get something out there, fast and furious, even when it is deleterious and completely misguided. Not all are cut out for it. The rest of us fall easily for some things and not for other things.
Which leads me to the next point about what to do with unintended consequences.
What we study, gets magnified. What we ignore, tends to occupy less of our cognitive space. Aside from embracing this idea, we need to be open minded about how our intended and unpleasant consequences impact on the work that we do, and how we publicize our successes. With a grain of salt, we will be more sensitive about our actions, be accountable to those that we serve, and negative impacts should be part of the rigor of metrics we use to make critical judgements about our resources.
Yes, we would like new hospitals, new playgrounds for the kids, new schools, and new airport, all the nice amenities of city living. But who will pay for it and who will get less as a result?
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While trudging along highways in Alberta all the way to the BC border, there are sections that are badly maintained and those that are kept good.
Apparently a local contractor that was assigned for many years to manage these roads was no longer awarded the contract, instead a subsidiary of a larger company took it on. A few miles from these bad roads are well-kept highway that have a different road maintainer.
Typical siloed work increases more stress and aggravation which leads to more work and waste of time, resources, and energies. They need to work together as an eco-system instead of partitioning work in a piece-meal fashion to contribute to the bigger picture- better infrastructure, better economic conditions, better quality of life for citizens across the province.
Think about the fourth impact of your actions, initiatives, and initial feedback. Then you are really thinking big.
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There is a vast number of non-profits and start-up companies in the galaxy looking or searching for financial resources to enable them to do what they want to do.
Director A said: Well, we don't know what the government will do next, we just have to wait and see!
Director B said: We don't know what the government will do next, we will go ahead despite the uncertainty and forge a strong future so we can mitigate these vacillations.
Who do you think has a better fighting chance getting out of this stronger, better, and more successful?
All about mindset, my friend.
When every one is trying to defend their previous standing, those that are willing to invest in a longer term sustainability will have the likelihood of actually making it.