Innovation

Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and venture capital firm, Andeessen Horowitz gives us insight to youthful visionary leaders and innovators in his new book Zoom.  Highlights from the Foreword are mentioned here.

Don’t look to the past to dictate the future.  That is a key trait for anyone transforming business today.  Building a business is crazy hard.  Things always go horribly wrong.  And most companies fail.  Only a very few win big.  In venture capital, for instance, just 10 to 15 companies funded a year are responsible for 97% of the returns.  We glorify the ones that create new products and industries, but startups are really more like sausage factories.  People love eating sausage, but no one wants to watch the sausage get made.  Even the most glorious startups suffer crisis after crisis after crisis.

Companies that succeed  do so because of someone at the helm with an irrepressible vision – a leader (or leaders) with principles, courage, and maniacal drive.

That’s imperative.  Without that kind of conviction and commitment, innovative businesses would never survive long enough to make their mark.  The visionaries fostering a new future are constantly questioned by the many who prefer to live in the status quo.  That’s why throughout history the greatest innovations were never widely understood at the time they were introduced.

We are in a world or rapidly accelerating technological change.  Mobile is under-hyped.  Social is underestimated.  The enterprise is being reinvented.  The world is being transformed.  But the nature of innovation is that it’s hard to predict.

It would have been impossible for Facebook to exist 15 years ago.  We therefore cannot prejudge anything; the best way to move the world ahead is only to trust the process of innovation – and to feed it.

The most significant value of any company is not its current products or services, but its legacy as an innovation factory for years to come.  Encouraging the overall spirit of questioning, inventing, and doing good – more than emulating the details – is what will lead to the creation of miraculous things we haven’t though of yet, and it is what will make the future a marvelous place.

Get In Over Your Head

Almost everyone in business has to make an uncertain move at some point – a step that seems high-risk, but potentially high-reward.  Then there are those who make a career out of such leaps of faith.  Risk is scary and uncertain, but it’s also where inspiration can come to you, and it’s where, if your skill matches your ambition, you

can succeed.  Outside your comfort zone, you’ll question what you find and think of fresh ways to approach the status quo.  Several modern leaders have made it a habit to get into ventures that seem overwhelmingly challenging.  Their example is emboldening.  Pursue your wildest-dream ideas, and you might find that it pays off a lot more than playing it safe.

 

Are you a Multiplier or Diminisher?

Good information on Liz Wiseman’s book The Multiplier Effect. She provides great insight into how best to manage people.

What is a Multiplier? A person that uses their intelligence, skills, etc. to amplify the intelligence of people around them which in turn makes team members provide their best work. The opposite is a Diminisher. Multipliers create pressure while Diminishers create stress. What is the difference between pressure and stress?

  • Example: William Tell had to shoot an apple off his sons head to save his life.
    • William feels pressure – He is in control
    • Son feels stress – He is not in control
  • What do you do with the control you have as a leader?

Based on Liz and her team’s research of 150+ managers across multiple cultures, countries, continents, and industries, the follow statistics arose.

Diminshers only get 50% of people’s capability. They have the view that people won’t figure the problem out without their help. Diminishers are:

  • Empire builders, talent hoarders
  • Know it all, tell people what to do
  • Decision makers: decide then debate, big decisions made behind closed doors
  • Micromanagers

Multipliers get 90-100% of people’s capability. They have the view that people are smart and will figure out the problem on their own. Multipliers are:

  • Talent Magnet: attract and optimize talent
  • Liberator: create space for best thinking
  • Challenger: extend stretch challenges
  • Debate Maker: debate then decide (Don’t spend their time getting buy in, spend it debating, people then feel apart of the decision)
  • Investor: instill ownership & accountability (Boss just gives you 51% of vote, boss backs you up, you have all the accountability)

Sometimes we can be a Diminisher and not realize it. Liz calls this the Accidental Diminisher. What is an Accidental Diminisher? The good manager who wants to be good leader but is having a diminishing impact. Usually the greatest diminishing impact will occur while holding greatest intentions. Below are 6 ways we can beAccidental Diminishers and how to mitigate these situations.

Idea guy:

  • Thinks: “My ideas spark creativity in others!” In reality, it shuts out other people’s ideas.
  • Mitigate: Ask only questions to get ideas from others. Liz gave the example of putting her kids to bed. It was always a struggle of her giving orders. Instead she only asked questions (What time is it? What comes first? Who needs help with PJs? Who will brush their teeth first?) and it worked! The kids had ideas and knew what to do.

Always-on:

  • Thinks:” My energy is contagious!” In reality, people are just waiting for him/her to be quiet or just avoid/tune out the person. People feel like they take all the space and shut down other people.
  • Mitigate: Play your chips. Dispense opinions in small doses. Like 5 chips in a meeting.

Rescuer:

  • Thinks: “I must ensure people are successful!” In reality, too much help can hurt. Employees can then rely too much or get frustrated with all the help.
  • Mitigate: Give it back. Help the person but make sure to give them the control/baton back.

Pace setter:

  • Thinks: “If I set the standard, others will follow!” In reality, what happens when the leader gets a car length ahead? People slow down, not speed up.
  • Mitigate: Supersize a role, 1 size bigger. (Example: toddlers shoes, you buy them 1 size bigger)

Rapid Responder:

  • Thinks: “My fast decisions will keep us moving quickly” In reality, employees may feel they have to respond just as quickly which may not be realistic for them.
  • Mitigate: Make a debate/conversation, stop on the vital issues don’t just breeze by them.

Optimist:

  • Thinks: “With the right attitude we can do this!” In reality, sometimes it is an unrealistic expectation and makes employees feel undervalued. (Example: Manager – “How hard can it be?” Employee – “Well, actually it really is hard.”)
  • Mitigate: Create mistake space, risk and iterate space. Encourage people when they have completed the challenging problem.

Are people smart around you? What does your intelligence do to those around you? Make a simple shift. We know how to lead like multipliers, but we sit comfortably in our ways. If we shift our weight who else will?

Where do you think you fall on the spectrum? Take the Multiplier Effect Quiz!