Creating Great Choices

Title: Creating Great Choices – A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking

Authors: Jennifer Riel and Roger L MartinCGC Book Cover

Life is spent making “Choices”, or at least we believe so. At times we do not make choices and wait until only one option is left in front of us At times we make compromised choices. Rarely people are able to make the much needed “trade-offs” between options. While “making trade-offs” is what makes choosing options difficult, Riel and Martin suggest in this book that there is a third possible way – a method to mix the best of two opposing options and thereby create a third option.

Integrative thinking was introduced by Roger Martin in an earlier work. He suggested that integrative thinking was a useful solution when the trade-offs to be made was painful to make. But his earlier work had given an impression that integrative thinking was an innate skill possessed by a few. Building on Martin’s earlier work on integrative thinking, the authors break this myth by providing a four-stage approach to practising integrative thinking. While the various stages are filled with subjective actions, the overall approach gives a sense of order to an otherwise art-like activity. Part one of the book also provides the theoretical background to the four-stage model being developed in the book. Briefly the authors review design thinking and behavioural decision-making. They also provide some key works that interested individuals can look up if they wish to learn more about these two subjects. They build a case for why three missing components (metacognition; empathy; creativity), if built, can help overcome the inherent limitations in our decision-making. These also are the basis for the four stage approach.

I am a big fan of Martin’s writing. I have reviewed, used and recommended his book “Playing to Win” innumerable people. I think this book does to thinking, what “Playing to Win” did for strategy. The book details the four-stage approach to integrative thinking:

  1. articulating opposing models
  2. examining the models
  3. generating possibilities
  4. assessing prototypes.

The second part of the book details the four stages with clear instructions on the sub-stages involved, tools required and practices to be followed. The book provides numerous templates for practicing the specific sub-stages. There are also number of suggested exercises under the “Try this” feature.

The book has numerous stories of individuals and organisations who have practiced integrative thinking. This gives both credence and inspiration for anyone to try using this approach in their lives. In an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, when making trade-offs becomes painful, integrative thinking can be a handy solution.

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The One Right Answer

We are all taught from our schooldays that every problem has “one right answer”.

As good children we learnt it really well. As we grew up this was reinforced by the high school teachers; undergraduate lecturers; and even by our post graduate professors. So we formed this mental model firmly in our heads. We made it stronger every time by listening to only those who reinforced it. Every time someone would question it or force us to think (basically question it) we resisted it (unconsciously).

But pause and ask yourself this question: Do situations in life have one right answer (really)?

You know the answer but your mental model makes you go for the opposite. Why?

Ask? Question? Think? Redeem yourself!!

SMS India Conference 2018

The “Strategic Management Society” Special Conference in slated to be held between 15-18 December 2018 in Hyderabad, India. The Indian School of Business (ISB) will host this wonderful conference. The conference is not just for academics. It is also for SMS India Conference 2018practitioners, leaders and managers interested in “all things strategy”. It will also have number of interesting workshops aimed at pre-doctoral candidates, doctoral students, junior faculty, scholar-practitioners amongst others. It appears that anyone interested in strategy and entrepreneurship will find something in the conference.

Many good conferences are geographically distant for people in India. Good conferences are where the people whose papers we read, visit and spend time. This makes the above conference especially important for doctoral students and young scholars in India. It is a chance to meet some of these seasoned scholars of Strategy and Management.

It is special for me since I have been a member of the SMS since a long time and reviewed papers for the annual conferences. The “Entrepreneurship” track of the conference is especially interesting to me as it relates to my area of research. The chairs of the track are interesting scholars and good human beings. I met them recently at the AMJ PDW and it was really fun interacting with them. I am so sure that you will learn much through the interactions.

I hope many of you will make use of this wonderful opportunity. For conference related information please look up here: https://www.strategicmanagement.net/hyderabad/overview/overview

Best wishes!

Khalil Gibran’s “On Work”

A student of mine shared a poem with me early this morning. I started my day with a smile for two reasons: (a) a student thought to share it with her teacher (blessed); and (b) what i read was plain truth.

The below extract is from that poem. It is one of the many philosophical prose / poems of Khalil Gibran. Among the many famous works of Gibran, I am particularly a fan of “The Prophet” for it gives answers to many of our daily (so called) struggles. From the very interesting  piece titled “On Work”, I found myself reading the below passage over and over again. It captures in poetic form what many philosophers struggle to communicate. I couldn’t help but share it! Is that the power of Gibran has “on work”?

Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.

This is only a small part of the poem / prose “On Work”. If you are inspired buy a copy of Gibran’s work and immerse yourself in the truths of life.

But remember “Work is love made visible”

The Elephant Catchers

Book Title: The Elephant Catchers – Key Lessons for Breakthrough Growth

Author: Subroto Bagchi3-d-cover-Elephant-Cathers

Who does not want to scale? Almost every entrepreneur wishes to do what Mindtree (the organisation referred to in this book) did, take their startup through a successful Initial Public Offering (IPO). Since the stories of scaling are told by Subroto Bagchi (co-founder, Mindtree), it adds greater credence. Upon reading the book one can clearly understand why “scaling is not for the faint of heart”. As the author clearly suggests, it is not necessary to scale unless one wants it, the business needs it, and one is comfortable with the idea of magnitude.

The book covers considerable ground regarding the topic of scaling an enterprise. I especially liked the chapters on strategy, leaders, boards and consultants. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur you will first have to get comfortable with the notion of size, understand the variety of factors that contribute to scaling (boards, leaders, strategy, structure, consultants, sales, etc), be ready to learn from others and be willing to ask and take help from the right people. I think it is this idea of identifying, seeking and being ready to receive help on specific matters important to scale that makes all the difference. It is quite evident from the book that the founding team cannot scale all by itself. In one of the evenly laid out short chapters the author clearly highlights why those who start and those who scale have very different mindsets, knowledge, skills and attitudes. While some can learn both, most founders assume they have both. Could this be the reason why we have so many small and medium enterprises in India and very few who scale successfully?

The book presents number of interesting philosophical ideas for reflection. I loved some of the references to philosophers and books, especially the one from Khalil Gibran: “You children are not your children… They come through you but not from you… And though they are with you they belong not to you…” I think this extract from Gibran is particularly useful for entrepreneurs. Not understanding this is probably one reason they don’t allow their enterprises to blossom to potential. I also loved reading the four clusters of attributes that leaders ought to have when an organisation scales: Ninja; Coach; Thought Leader; and Rain-maker. The other interesting idea that caught my attention was the thoughts that Shombit Sengupta shared with Subroto Bagchi. I will leave it to you to delve into the book and figure these out for yourself.

In recent times I have been reading books written by researchers. To give myself a little break I chose to read a practitioners account. I think it was time well spent. If you are an entrepreneur / business owner (either attempting scale or scaled successfully or failed to scale) you will most likely resonate with the ideas in the book. I am sure it will make you stop and think. The book stops short of making suggestions on how you can use these learnings in your scaling endeavours – but that I think is best left to the reader to identify. The inspiration lies hidden, subtly, within the text.

As shared with you a little earlier I am presently teaching a new course titled “Designing and Leading the Entrepreneurial Organisation” for a group of second generation family business owners at The Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII). Since much of the course hovers around discussions on scale, I thought it would be appropriate to explore the views / opinions / learnings of someone who has successfully scaled from India. This will help me enrich the class with close to home examples and personal anecdotes of a seasoned entrepreneur. I look forward to sharing these interesting thoughts with my students in the coming classes.

If you wish to know more about this prolific practitioner-writer, check this out: http://subrotobagchi.mindtree.com/the-elephant-catchers/

AMJ PDW IIM Bangalore 2018

The Academy of Management (AMJ) conducted the first Paper Development Workshop (PDW) in India last month. The Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore hosted this program on its beautiful campus. The two day event (17-18 February 2018) saw about 40 papers (in progress) presented by aspiring scholars desirous of publishing in the AMJ. I am so glad I was one of them. Thanks to AMJ Editorial Team and The IIMB organising team for all conceptualising and successfully organising this event. It gave all of us in attendance a great opportunity to receive feedback from the editors of this prestigious journal. It also gave us a chance to learn much about publishing at the highest level by listening to the reviews / comments / observations and suggestions offered on so many other papers.

Overall it was great learning for any management scholar! IIMB also organised for a short nature walk as a breakout from the intense discussions. It was a welcome break which offered some relaxation and opportunity for bonding. We made some new friends in the process. Here are some memories captured and shared by the AMJ and IIMB teams:

Thanks to the AMJ Editors and IIMB for providing a wonderful learning opportunity for Indian researchers. Hope more such events take place in India.

Free Book on Entrepreneurial Cognition

Happy to share a 2018 book on entrepreneurial cognition! I have met both the authors of this volume (Professors Dean Shepherd and Holger Patzelt). They are inspiring academics! Both are well known scholars in the field of entrepreneurship. When they put together a book, it should be compulsory reading. For those interested in the psychology of entrepreneurs – this is a must have book.EC Book Cover

The book (in my opinion) is aimed at researchers, doctoral students and educators in entrepreneurship. It provides a good source of available knowledge and numerous future research areas.

This open access book is available for free download at the link below:

Link: https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-319-71782-1