What Have You Changed Your Mind About Recently?:


075 – Season 4 Wrap Up: What Have You Changed Your Mind About Recently?

What Have You Changed Your Mind About Recently?:


075 – Season 4 Wrap Up: What Have You Changed Your Mind About Recently?

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Season 4 of the Innovation Ecosystem Podcast has been a long one, starting with episode 48, and ending with episode 74. As ever, we have been extremely fortunate to have been able to attract some remarkable guests from the worlds of business, academia, sports, science and the arts, and all of these guests are world-class in their chosen field.

We ask our guests the same three questions, which get to the heart of what it takes as a leader to create an innovation ecosystem in your organization, irrespective of what business you are in, and where you are located.  The guests are given these questions in advance so that they can reflect on them and the answers are invariably very insightful. The first of these three questions, “What Have You Changed Your Mind About Recently?” is the topic for this wrap up episode. The other two questions are featured in subsequent episodes.

The inspiration for the first question came from Charlie Munger, who in many respects constitutes one of the main wellsprings of inspiration for the Innovation Ecosystem.

Several years ago Charlie Munger made the following statement: “a year in which you do not change your mind on some big idea that is important to you is a wasted year”.  This question gets to the heart of the unconscious biases that we as individuals all suffer from. Many of us go through life seeking confirmatory evidence to reinforce our decisions. Sometimes however, we are able to overcome this confirmation bias and change our minds on something big. From a business point of view it is key that you are able to overcome the organizational biases like “not invented here” syndrome, groupthink, the halo effect, stereotyping: this is how we can start to look at the market differently,  to build our innovation muscles, to innovate around multiple value drivers,  to change our perspective and the perspectives of those around us. So this is why we ask our guests this question, and the answers are fascinating.

Summary

Season 4 of the Innovation Ecosystem Podcast has been a long one, starting with episode 48, and ending with episode 74. As ever, we have been extremely fortunate to have been able to attract some remarkable guests from the worlds of business, academia, sports, science and the arts, and all of these guests are world-class in their chosen field.

We ask our guests the same three questions, which get to the heart of what it takes as a leader to create an innovation ecosystem in your organization, irrespective of what business you are in, and where you are located.  The guests are given these questions in advance so that they can reflect on them and the answers are invariably very insightful. The first of these three questions, “What Have You Changed Your Mind About Recently?” is the topic for this wrap up episode. The other two questions are featured in subsequent episodes.

The inspiration for the first question came from Charlie Munger, who in many respects constitutes one of the main wellsprings of inspiration for the Innovation Ecosystem.

Several years ago Charlie Munger made the following statement: “a year in which you do not change your mind on some big idea that is important to you is a wasted year”.  This question gets to the heart of the unconscious biases that we as individuals all suffer from. Many of us go through life seeking confirmatory evidence to reinforce our decisions. Sometimes however, we are able to overcome this confirmation bias and change our minds on something big. From a business point of view it is key that you are able to overcome the organizational biases like “not invented here” syndrome, groupthink, the halo effect, stereotyping: this is how we can start to look at the market differently,  to build our innovation muscles, to innovate around multiple value drivers,  to change our perspective and the perspectives of those around us. So this is why we ask our guests this question, and the answers are fascinating.

What Have You Changed Your Mind About Recently?

What Was Covered

 

Hello this is Mark Bidwell. Welcome back to the innovation ecosystem podcast and if this is your first time listening, a very warm welcome. Season four of the innovation ecosystem podcast has been a long one, starting with episode 48, and ending with episode 74. As ever we have been extremely fortunate to have been able to attract some remarkable guests from the worlds of business, academia,  sports, science and the arts. I can genuinely say, hand on heart, that all of these guests are world-class in their chosen field.

Because the season has been so long, by way of wrapping it up we have chosen to do something a little different and showcase the diversity of our guests and the richness of their different perspectives.

If you are a regular listener you will know that are we ask the same three questions of our guests questions which get to the heart of what it takes as a leader to create an innovation ecosystem in your organization, irrespective of what business you are in, and where you are located.  I give guests these questions in advance so that they can reflect on them and the answers are invariably very insightful. The first of these three questions is the topic for this wrap up episode. The other two questions will be featured in subsequent episodes.

My inspiration for the first question came from Charlie Munger who is sometimes referred to in my interviews, and who in many respects constitutes one of the main wellsprings of inspiration for the innovation ecosystem. You might have heard me say in the past that rather than getting an MBA, instead I chose to study the work of Warren Buffett and his business partner Charlie Munger, Chairman and Vice chairman respectively of Berkshire Hathaway.  Several years ago Charlie Munger made the following statement: “a year in which you do not change your mind on some big idea that is important to you is a wasted year”.  My question gets to the heart of the unconscious biases that we as individuals all suffer from. Many of us go through Life seeking confirmatory evidence to reinforce our decisions. Sometimes we are able to overcome this confirmation bias and change our minds on something big, but only sometimes. From a business point of view it is key that you are able to overcome the organizational biases like not invented here syndrome, groupthink, the halo effect, stereotyping: this is how we can start to look at the market differently, to build our innovation muscles, to innovate around multiple value drivers, to change our perspective and the perspectives of those around us. So this is why I ask my guests this question, and as you will hear, the answers are fascinating. I hope you enjoy this week’s episode.

MARK: “So not surprisingly, many guests talked about the different choices they had made as a result of changing their minds.  But what was rarely discussed were emotions relating to decision making, until David Marquet came on the show and shared his thoughts on how one affects the other….”

DAVID: “I’ve really warmed up to emotions. I was a physics major, a nuclear submarine captain, and for a long time, emotions were sort of a symbol of weakness and distraction, that we were just cool, rational people.”

 

MARK:  David Marquet was the Captain of the nuclear submarine USS Santa Fe from 1999 to 2001 and is the author of the book, Turn The Ship Around!

DAVID: “Based on just what I’ve been reading and thinking about, I think emotions are actually your rational brain on fast forward. They’re based on thousands of years of experience and they’re critical to making decisions, and so, when we try and remove emotions from work we are making it harder for us to make decisions. The problem is emotions can lead us astray, so, we need to know when those emotions should be trusted and when they shouldn’t be trusted but removing emotions I don’t think is the right answer. We want to embrace emotions at work and make it safe to express, be vulnerable by expressing them ourselves, things like ‘I’m really worried, I’m concerned, I’m losing sleep over this’, and making it safe for the people around us to express their emotions.”

 

Now in the world of business we often hear about workplace safety in the context of health and safety i.e. minimizing loss time incidents. But creating a safe environment for people to explore things to ask challenging questions and to confront organizational biases is not easy to leaders but equally it is fundamental in order to create a culture of innovation. On the USS Santa Fe David creates an environment where the crew at all levels can open up and express themselves with courage and honesty and the fact that he does this in command of nuclear submarine makes his story all the more remarkable. My conversation with him is well worth a listen and that was an extract from episode 66.

And courage and honesty is also something my guest Annalisa Gigante spoke of back at the very start of season 4.

ANNALISA: “An honest debrief is the best thing you can ever do and it takes courage from leaders to be able to do that but I think we all have that responsibility to have people around us who can disagree with us, who can argue a point to the end because the outcome will be better, and I think we need to make that happen in more organizations.”

MARK: “and obviously, in order to do that, you need to surround yourself with the right people. As I often say if you are the smartest guys in the room you’re in the wrong room”

ANNALISA: “If you are surrounded by other ‘A-players’ you can achieve a hundred times more than you can in other ways. Sometimes it’s not possible but at least having that goal in mind I think helps select what the next project is to work on.”

 

MARK: “Annalisa Gigante there, who is the former Head of Innovation and R&D at LafargeHolcim, and is currently a Board Member and advisor to Global 500 companies, as well as an alumni of our leadership program the innovation leadership Circle. If you are interested in learning more about this program go to our website www. innovation ecosystem.com/ILC

MARK: “As Annalisa mentioned, choosing the next project to work on is always a big decision, and maybe too many of us say ‘yes’ to new projects when we perhaps should be saying ‘no’…?”

Here is Andy Billings, a leader at electronic arts with the wonderful job title VP profitable creativity answering my question.

ANDY BILLINGS: “So I think the thing I’ve changed my mind about recently is, you just can’t exponentially keep taking on more and more and more.”

ANDY: “I’m always just so interested in new ideas and new activities and Electronic Arts and this ecosystem I work in is very large so I’m always just trying to get involved with everything. You have to start to figure out where you really most want to concentrate and you have to start saying ‘no’ and so I never thought I would get to the edge of my energy resources or time but I guess I finally reached that place so what I’ve changed my mind about is, if you don’t say no once in a while you never really can say yes to things you most want to concentrate on.”

 

Many of us suffer from what is often called fear of missing out, FOMO, present company included. In fact this was one of the reasons that an earlier guest David Allen sat down and created the enormously successful time management program getting things done. He too suffered from fear of missing out, as he describes it being distracted from the task at hand by bright shiny objects. So he created this time management system which has been truly transformative for the millions of people who have adopted it. So Andy is in good company.

My conversation with him was notable for a couple of other reasons. I got to learn more about the games industry and about the very strong culture of learning in electronic arts, which grew out of the near death experience that the company suffered when they missed out on the move to online gaming. A number of you contacted me having listened to this episode to say how surprised you were that incremental small I innovation accounts for such a significant proportion, 80%, of the innovation activities in electronic arts. It is easy to imagine that big I, disruptive innovation is at the heart of how this kind of high tech, hits based company operates. But this is a myth, a myth that is propagated by the media, the VC community, academia and consulting; as a former anthropologist, I call this the creation myth, the myth surrounding the almost cultlike status of people like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Steve jobs but the truth, the reality is different.  Small I innovation, that is incremental and compounds, that’s the engine the drives this business forward, and this is the case for the vast majority of businesses. And its small I innovation focusing on a wide range of the Value drivers across the business versus rather than just on R&D, the folks in the white coats.

Anyway, Andy and I had a great conversation and I do urge you to take a listen to this episode which was number 54 entitled back in the game electronic arts near death experience.

In episode 64 my guest told me how he’d recently re-evaluated how decisions should be made….”

SCOTT: “What I’ve really changed my mind about recently is the importance of getting people to pause and think.

 

MARK: “Professor of Complex Systems, Political Sciences, and Economics at the University of Michigan, Faculty Member at the Santa Fe Institute, and author of the Diversity Bonus, Scott Page…”

SCOTT: “So, I think I used to prize quickness a lot more than I have over the last three or four months. I’ve recognized that people I know who exercise really good judgment – you mentioned Charlie Munger earlier, where you talked about arraying his experience on a lattice of models, as I’ve thought back on the people I think are just really amazing leaders and thinkers that I’ve met, is their ability to pause and in some sense embrace the diversity I’ve talked about and say, ‘OK, let me think about all the ways I can think about this and not rush to judgment’ and so I’m now less impressed when I used to be much more impressed even two years ago, people who right away would give you an amazing answer and think, ‘Wow, she is just so quick’, and now, I’ve changed my mind and now I’m kind of more impressive people who sit back for a second and you kind of see them think and then they say, ‘You know, here’s I’m thinking about this right’ or who’ll write me back two weeks later and say, ‘Here’s what I’m thinking about this’.

 

So if saying no is a challenge so is just slowing down to pause and reflect prior to making a decision. Scott’s recent book the diversity bonus explains how crucial it can be for individuals and organisations to take advantage of cognitive diversity in order to perform complex tasks like problem solving, decision-making, assessing outcomes, strategic planning. As Scott explains in our conversation, many companies fail to leverage the untapped value that exists in the cognitive diversity of their workforce and instead fall victim to what he describes as the siren call of sameness. Hiring the same kinds of people, falling victim to the same biases, relying on the same heuristics and algorithms to run the business. This cognitive diversity is a source of enormous value creation when it is managed and leveraged in the right way, at the right time.

 

MARK: “So we’ve heard about making quick decisions, slow decisions; deciding yes, deciding no. But one guest talked about the challenges of getting others to make decisions specifically the bias that many executives have for only doing things that are big and have scale out of the gate. In large companies often you end up being overoptimistic on a project to get the attention of the decision-makers perhaps by boosting the NPV, albeit against your better judgement, so as to get the project through the investment committee and as a result running the real risk of over promising and under delivering. not making any decision at all and failing to pique an exec’s interest in ideas unless the money and the scale is right…

FRANS: Even when executives inside of corporations truly understand these ideas, truly understand, and I’m talking about the notion of trying something in a small way, quickly, so again insight and then maybe pivot, this particular notion, they can’t execute it in that way because they’re so used to thinking big. Big numbers, projects, so it becomes a massive contradiction to attention.

 

MARK: “Here is author of the highly recommended book the Medici Effect, Frans Johansson…”

FRANS: “I used to think the way to overcome that is to have them maybe experience it, so they can be part of a team where they are doing this and indeed it is helpful to cement their understanding of that, but when it comes to successfully introducing this way of thinking in an organization, you still have to do it in a way where they can talk about millions of dollars or hundreds of millions even billions of dollars, numbers that they’re comfortable throwing around. It doesn’t make sense to talk about an idea that is started in a small way and you only put ten thousand dollars in. Nobody’s really impressed by that but if you can talk about an approach to ideas and maybe launching multiple of these and you can do so in the scope of ten million dollars or a hundred million dollars, all of a sudden, people get interested. And I’ve really had to rethink my entire approach to leading this conversation because I’ve been so steeped in this notion of moving fast, small numbers, but it doesn’t get the traction simply because every day they deal with numbers that are far, far larger. So, even if a ten thousand dollar test was extremely successful they still can’t understand what that means into their day to day, and so I have now been able to, and we’ve been looking to, and the way we talk to our clients is ‘All right, now you get the basic principle, let’s get into the world that you live in so you can actually move the needle’ and that world is run by millions and billions.

 

And we know from the work we do at the innovation ecosystem as well as from our previous careers in the corporate world that by looking a problem or a decision or indeed an opportunity from multiple perspectives accessing the full diversity of your ecosystem you really can move the needle in a company with billions of dollars of revenues. We’d tell companies that are working with us and are starting to exercise their innovation muscles on a regular and systematic basis in a so called preventative way, we tell them that they are likely to overestimate what they can achieve in the short-term and to underestimate what they can achieve in the long-term. As Frans said you really can move the needle by focusing on your innovation ecosystem

 

MARK: “Some company leaders will never change their minds, despite the compelling arguments that people like Frans makes.  This is often a reality in mature, publicly quoted B2B legacy companies focusing on their next quarters earnings.
“Scott Anthony is the Managing Partner of Innosight, the firm founded by Clayton Christensen, the well known Harvard Professor who coined the term disruptive innovation.  Part of my conversation with Scott during episode 58 centred on how companies need to transform on two fronts (the so called Dual Transformation described in his book of the same name) as well as the role played by private family businesses and governmental organisations in building innovative companies that sustain themselves over the longer term.

SCOTT ANTHONY: “So, when I came out to Asia I was well schooled in Western orthodoxy which is, professional managers and publicly traded companies are good, and family run companies are bad. So, that’s something that I think is a generally accepted belief if you learn economics or study business in a western school which I did.

I have changed my mind about that. I think it’s much more nuanced than that. I think, in fact, family run and government linked companies can be very beneficial for the industries and countries in which they operate because they can take a longer term perspective in many cases, they can place bigger bets, they can approach problems in a different sort of way, and this is hard for me intellectually to even say just because your trade, the invisible hand, the discipline of the market, the professional managers, that’s the best way for things to work, I don’t think that’s actually the case and in fact I think there are lots of problems to the way that many Western markets are organized and a little dose of family controlled businesses, private companies and even some government linked organizations run in the right way could actually be quite beneficial and that’s one place where I’ve changed my mind recently.

 

Now of course public companies are capable of this too. A company we work with is celebrating its 200th hundredth year anniversary this year.  Nestlé was one hundred and 50 years old recently.  In the US Berkshire Hathaway, a company we sometimes talk about in the context of its unique culture,  dates back over 50 years and is run on similar lines to a family business, albeit one with almost 400,000 employees. It prides itself on being an attractive acquirer for family businesses looking for a safe, secure, long term home. A permanent home for Warren and Charile’s acquisitions, if you like. So it’s not that these businesses don’t exist, it is just that they are increasingly rare.

MARK: “Moving out and travelling to Asia was the catalyst for Scott changing his mind on smaller-scaled businesses, and travel was also the topic of conversation with legendary venture capitalist, entrepreneur and, author Brad Feld in episode 63…”

 

BRAD: I used to think that I had to physically be somewhere to really accomplish something, and in the last few years I changed my mind about that and I spend most of my time now not traveling. I do travel some still and there are moments where I do, but I really came to the place where the physical interaction with other people was, in some specific cases, important was not a generalizable truth for me.”

So many of us spend time travelling to and from meetings in distant countries and sitting in meetings when we get there. And we show off our Gold status airline cards like badges of honor. And yet to hear from one of the most successful venture capitalists of our generation, the founder of Techstars which has had an enormous impact on helping large organisations Connect with start-ups, to hear Brad describe how he invested in an early stage start-up, worked with the team through a period of growth which ultimately lead to an exit without ever having met the founders in person was quite remarkable for me. As you can tell I am a huge Brad Feld fan. I highly recommend you check out his work listening to our pod cast interview, number 63, and see which of the many insights he shares might resonate with you

MARK: “So we had lots of fascinating answers to the question what have you changed your mind about recently. I would like to end with the final answer which comes from award-winning journalist, author and questionologist Warren Berger.

WARREN: “Oh, what I’ve changed my mind about recently, is that I should stop giving advice and I haven’t followed this yet, I’m not very good at it but I think I’m going to try to work on it. One of the things I discovered in my research was that giving advice is something we all do too much of and a lot of people don’t follow advice anyway. For instance, when you tell your

Co-worker ‘You should do this’ or when you tell your spouse ‘Oh, here’s what you should do about that problem.’ We all do that a little too much. A lot of times the advice we’re giving is not as good as it could be and, oftentimes, the person on the other end doesn’t really want to hear, they don’t really want to be told what to do. So, what I discovered is that it’s much more effective to use questions to help people find their own, give themselves advice. In other words, use questions to guide them through whatever the problem they’re having and say, ‘Have you thought about possibilities, ways to possibly approach this problem? and ‘What ideas have you thought of?’ and then the person will say ‘Well, you know, I’ve thought of A, B, and C’ and you can work them through their own ideas, you can lead them through their own ideas and it’s much more effective than giving them your ideas or your advice.
As you might have been able to tell, I always enjoy listening to people answer this question. It is powerful it forces you to reflect and very rarely do I get a dull canned answer. Of course it is a hard thing to do to change your mind like this.

Everything that what we do here at the innovation ecosystem is to explore the world with our guests, with you our listeners, with our clients, from multiple perspectives. This creates new insights, it encourages us to ask the new different and sometimes challenging questions that have the potential to rock the very foundations on which we make choices, take decisions and lead aspects of our lives. Let me close with the quote that I opened the episode with: “a year in which you do not change your mind on some big idea that is important to you is a wasted year”. Don’t waste another year.

I hope you enjoyed this new and different episode. This is Mark Bidwell changing perspectives, one podcast at the time.

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