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What are you waiting for?

Change: Realize Your Greatest Potential

It’s pretty clear the world is changing at a remarkable pace. And this pace, as overwhelming as it feels today, is poised to steadily increase – many say it will continue to double every five years. So if you thought the last 20 years were something, the next 20 will be something else.

For example, within three years there will 10 billion “things” connected to the internet, everything from your keys in case you lose them, to streetlights and garage doors so you can control them. Remote controlled air ambulances, cars that drive themselves and package-delivering drones were science fiction just a few years ago, but today they are real and tomorrow they will be commonplace.

The change is naturally spilling out everywhere, in culture, strategy, service, product development, communication, manufacturing and on and on. As evidenced by Kodak and Blockbuster and many more, those who fail to see to the change and course correct will find themselves at a distinct disadvantage – or even gone.

As Eric Shinseki said, “If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less.”

Today’s world is often defined as VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Volatile because challenges are unexpected and situations are unstable; uncertain due the lack of predictability and the likelihood of surprise; complex because situations have so many interconnected issues that chaos and confusion are often the norm; ambiguous because we have not been here before – precedents don’t exist for many of the opportunities and challenges staring us down today.

Yet in the midst of this appears to be the greatest panacea of opportunity the world has ever seen.

We take for granted how much is available to us now. We know where population is distributed and where it’s growing, we have unprecedented access to capital, knowledge, innovation and technology, and we have the ability to combine them to create value. The question is: will we?

Will we push to find new ways to create value, to connect with people and share ideas? Will we move away from what worked yesterday if it looks like it won’t work tomorrow? Will we push ourselves past what is in pursuit of what could be? Will we realize the potential that comes with change – in ourselves and in the organizations we serve – or will we settle for the status quo?

I am convinced that most of us are missing out. That far too often we become lulled into a false sense of security and the belief we should wait, accept the role, status or result we have been assigned.

That we should let things work themselves out as opposed to getting out there and making them work. That we should wait for permission or approval before taking action. The question, as David Lazarenko put it, is, “Are you a waiter or a creator?”

So, while many accept the notion that we should stand in line and patiently wait while someone else decides the next opportunity or right move, we know that day has come and gone. And it is no longer up to anyone else.

We have an opportunity to think differently and go beyond what “is” today to find the potential in people and organizations, and be intentional about making it a reality. We combine intentionality and potential and call it “potentionality.” It’s what drives us, and it is at the heart of why we go to work every. It is a made up word, but it’s apropos to the idea of seizing opportunity in change.

If you don’t see an opportunity, just create one!

Shift in Thinking is a monthly article from chief storyteller David Baker with a call to action for organizations and individuals. Using engaging narratives and probing questions, he seeks to provoke a new way of thinking around brand, culture and leadership, and to help readers intentionally realize their potential – Potentionality!

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Changing dental insurance with a connected toothbrush

From Fortune:

…a dental insurance company, giving connected toothbrushes to policy holders makes all the sense in the world. Knowing that your policyholders brush their teeth on the regular means they are less likely to develop cavities and other issues associated with high claims. The insurer might even be able to promote more brushing or even flossing using incentives from the app associated with the connected toothbrush.

Source: Beam will change dental insurance one connected toothbrush at a time – Fortune

I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I think it is a creative and exciting way to use advanced technology to improve dental health and ultimately to improve the human condition.

On the other hand I am not at all happy to have an insurance company monitoring my brushing and adjusting my benefits based on how often I brush my teeth with their bluetooth toothbrush. Way too creepy like the “Big Brother” dental plan is watching. 1984 was supposed to be a cautionary tale not an instruction manual.

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Mediocrity Invited: how to encourage high performers

In most of our companies we have a big sign with bold letters over the main door into our building. It has been there a long time and is such a regular part of the fixtures that we have lost sight of it. Although we diligently practice what the sign says, few of us, if any, notice it as we walk in and out of the building each day. We probably can’t even remember what it says, so let me remind you: “Mediocrity Invited.”

We do many things to ensure that mediocre employees feel totally safe and secure and are not made uncomfortable. This month’s article illustrates examples of things we do to ensure that we stay true to our promise on the front door.

Accountability is uncomfortable, so ignore it.

Most companies have difficulty creating a culture of holding people accountable. When somebody has not done an action item from the previous meeting, we merely note it and move on. Holding that individual accountable on the spot is uncomfortable – both for ourselves and for the delinquent. So, instead, we don’t hold him or her accountable. By the way, who in your company would prefer that you hold people accountable? Clearly, those who are accountable. Who would not prefer it? Of course, those who are not accountable. Oh yes, I forgot the signage on the front door: Mediocrity invited. We wouldn’t want to make the unaccountable uncomfortable, would we?

Put off performance management a little longer.

Most managers who have let go of an employee will confess, when asked, that they waited too long to take action. At the same time, they acknowledge that the peers of the non-performing employee had noticed the lack of performance long before the manager even became aware of it, much less took action on it. So, the performing employees, who picked up the slack of the non-performing, have been waiting patiently for management to take action. Let’s ask ourselves who in your company would like management to take quick action on non-performing employees? Of course, all the performing ones. Who would prefer that you be cautious, deliberate and slow in taking action? I suppose the non-performing ones. Oh yes, the signage on the front door!

Don’t celebrate one person if it’s going to ruffle others.

We all like to recognize employees for good deeds done, particularly deeds that are beyond the call of duty. We want to acknowledge them publicly, but fear its impact on somebody left out. The fear of giving recognition is the fear of upsetting those unrecognized. So, we include a few more people in the recognition.

The other day one of the senior managers came back from a great industry gathering where our advertising work was featured prominently and received a lot of accolades. True to our culture of celebrating success he sent out a company-wide email sharing the joy and recognizing a half a dozen people. Just in case he had missed a few others who might have contributed, he added a caveat that he was rushed in sending the email and promised to send another with any names he may have missed. And yet, I suspect that there were probably one or two individuals who really stood out in making that advertising campaign a success. Would we be comfortable pointing out just one person? Instead, have we not diluted that recognition by including all?

In many companies where management recognizes individuals at their monthly all-hands meetings, executives work hard to ensure that everybody gets a turn to be recognized. They don’t want one name called out too often, and many names never called out at all. Who would prefer this approach? The people who otherwise would not be recognized. Oh I forgot, the signage on the front door.

Pay over-performers and under-performers the same salary.

Recently, the Director of HR in our company sent a memo to the executive team asking for input on the annual salary review process that we will undertake in a few months. Compensation has been a frequent topic in these Food for Thought articles. Although most companies espouse “pay for performance” they practice “pay for pulse.”

If you truly believe in paying for performance, ask yourself this: Does the spread of salaries among comparable employees resemble anything close to the spread of their individual performances?
Most managers will concede that a highly performing employee contributes manyfold the amount that a poorly performing employee does. Yet, is the star performer rewarded with pay that is a manyfold multiple of the poor performer? It is tough to spread the salaries of poor- and high-performing employees through meager annual salary increases. So, how can we spread the salaries to reflect their relative performance? I offer a collection of ideas, though admittedly most of them are bizarre, and end with the only practical idea that I have actually used.

Option 1: Guarantee a raise or resignation

What would happen if you announce to your employees that you are abandoning the practice of annual salary reviews and corresponding salary adjustments? From here on you will practice a flat salary model unless the employee requests a salary review. Tell your employees: “If you want a salary increase, just come and ask. All you have to do is ask! Come on over, anytime. All I require is that you bring your resignation with you. I will guarantee one of the two. Just come and ask. Come anytime. Come often!”

What kind of employees in your company would like this approach? The high performing, confident ones. Who would fear this approach? The non-performing employees lacking in confidence. So, why won’t we do this? Oh yes, the signage on the front door.

Option 2: Take from poor performers to reward high performers

Annual salary increases usually average a small percentage increase, say 3 or 4 percent, reflecting movement in the market and the company’s financial appetite. That small a number leaves little room to really recognize the high performer with a distinctly higher salary.

That leads us to our next bizarre idea. What if you had all employees, upon employment, sign an understanding that the offered salary is for the remainder of the calendar year? At the beginning of each year every employee’s salary will be automatically reduced by 10 percent. Furthermore, indicate in the agreement that you commit to contribute the 10% savings from the entire payroll to the pool of money available for annual salary increases. So now each year an employee’s average salary increase can be 13 or 14 percent! Of course, you intend to reach that average by distributing much larger percentages to the high performers and very low percentages to the poor performers. Again, who would like or dislike this idea? Yet alas the signage.

Option 3: No increases below 5%

Finally to something more practical, and something at least tried out by me. When management conducts salary reviews and plans out annual salary increases for each employee, they are always cognizant of the total payroll impact. It’s usually measured in terms of the (weighted) average of all of the salary increases given to the entire workforce. Seldom, if ever, does management examine the standard deviation of that distribution. Would you prefer a high standard deviation or a low figure? A high figure indicates a wide spread in the increases – some employees (hopefully performing ones) receiving large increases and others (hopefully, non-performing ones) receiving low increases. You would want a high spread.

How do you get a high standard deviation, yet keep the mean at the, say, 3.7 percent you have budgeted? Well you have to give a lot of zero increases to afford a 15 percent increase for your star performers. How can you force that? A practical idea: Require your management to achieve the 3.7 percent average with the caveat that nobody can be granted an increase between the amounts of 0 and 5 percent. So, all the increases have to be either 0 or 5 percent and above. Yet, the average must compute to 3.7 percent. You will get your desired result. Tempting as it is, I will not ask the question of who would like this approach and remind you of the sign. And so I did.

Next time you enter the front door of your building, take a look at that sign. How long has it been up there? Who takes note of it? How institutional has practicing the words on the sign become? If you want to change the signage and are wondering what to put up instead, here is a suggestion: Put up a real sign over the door that reads, “The sign that used to hang here has been intentionally removed.” Cause your employees to come and ask you what the new signage means. You will intentionally cause a conversation.

We welcome your comments on our Food for Thought mailings and encourage you to explore the Food for Thought archive. We hope your business is doing well. We’re happy to chat about the content in this article or anything else with which you’d like assistance.

Food for Thought is our way of sharing interesting concepts on corporate leadership and management with others who might find it useful. The thoughts offered are intended to be controversial and thought-provoking. They are intended to help our readers intentionally realize their potential, what we call >Potentionality.

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Third Generation Online Referrals

Third Generation Online Referrals
First generation attempts to create digital referral slips simply recreate the paper form in an electronic format, usually pdf. The referring dentist needs to download and print the form then fill in the information (patient name, practice information, tooth #, diagnosis etc.) by hand. The patient takes the form to the specialist and the data is entered just as if the patient had come in and was handed a form to fill out.

Second generation online referrals can be filled in online, no paper. However the referring dentist or the patient still needs to fill in the information by hand using a keyboard and mouse. Once the information is filled in the specialist office could access it from the Internet and create a new patient record with no additional data entry.

Third generation digital referral slips will be smart and interactive. The system will upload data directly from the electronic record without the dentist or dental staff member re-typing or pasting the data. It will include the basics we have done in the past as well as a complete medical history, patient demographics and insurance information.

When the patient shows up at the specialists office there will be no clipboard and forms they will already have complete electronic record waiting for them ready to go.


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3 Reasons You Can’t Just Ask Customers What They Want


From TechCrunch:

“The first reason you can’t just ask customers what they want is that they aren’t always attuned to what they really need. Steve Jobs famously said, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

via 3 Reasons You Can’t Just Ask Customers What They Want | TechCrunch.

I first linked this article as an example of  “A car is not just a faster horse.” but found another gem as well.

Typically, it is easier for people to review and comment on something that is placed in front of them rather than asking to imagine something that doesn’t yet exist.

But first the faster horse. One of the biggest mistakes dentists make with technology is that they fail to use it well because they simply do not know what is possible. People tend to stay where they are comfortable, and we find comfort in doing things over and over just as we did them before. The linked article has some very interesting comments on this phenomenon and the research behind it. If you just want technology to do what you have always done you will never get much value from it.

Dental tech vendors have the same problem. Asking dentists what they want has limited utility. Presenting them with something really different is likely to be rejected. The challenge is to provide just enough value to get them to try it and then click and drag them into the future.

The second comment quoted above is the best argument I have ever heard for cosmetic imaging. If you have the software to show people what their smile will look like after treatment they are much more likely to understand, become emotionally committed and to buy in than if you just ask them to imagine it.



what customers want,  business management

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