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 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/

Discarding before starting again

Before planning new projects (something that gets done during this time of the year) it is important to clear up the table (physical, electronic, and mental) before starting anything new.

A good way to do it is to “tidy up” your place – keep what’s useful; give away what you may not need any longer (but someone else may); and discard what is useless.

I tried doing this over the last weekend and I was surprised !!

Never realised how so many things got accumulated. So many papers, books, stationary, clothes and other things which I had not even looked up for months on end lay right there on my shelf and around my room. Removing them needed time as I had to look at each of them and decide if I would use it going further (in the next year). Honestly, a difficult question to answer. I felt like keeping every single one of them (telling myself how important it was). Thank God I had recently read a little book called “The art of discarding” by Nagisa Tatsumi (‘Suteru Gijyutsu’ in Japanese) and this helped me happily reason to myself and become freer in life.

Interestingly a day after the tidying project I find myself immensely productive. So if you are wondering how to spend your last week of the year – “decluttering your home or office” by discarding what may be unnecessary could be a great way to finish the year — and an even greater way to enter 2018. It might help you find a lot of things that could be more useful to others.

Think about it!

Searching for books to read?

I am sure many of us listen to TED Talks very often and struggle to note down the titles that the speakers refer to. Here is an amazing list put together based on various talks and speaker recommendations. I loved the variety in the list – it lives up to the statement: ‘there is something for every one here’.

I picked a few which I liked and then realised that they would be the ones I would have anyways picked. So went back to the list and picked a couple that I normally would have never picked up to read. I think its a way of opening up your mind to new possibilities.

Try it! Happy Searching and Happy Reading too!!

 

A huge list of TED speaker-recommended books, with all the diversity of titles and topics you might expect — we’ve got you covered for every mood, preference and occasion. When you’re lying in the sun Any book by Isaac Asimov I have stacks of collections of science-fiction short stories. I grab these before getting on…

via 101 books to dive into this summer: a massive reading list — ideas.ted.com

Book Reviews in Academic Journals

I always get asked why I read so many books!

I always get asked what I get by reviewing so many books!

Most people think I waste a lot of time writing book reviews for academic journals – since it does not really add up to my ‘academic currency’.

As with most other aspects of life, I felt I got an answer last week. A fellow doctoral student of mine walked up to me and said – ‘Thanks for your review of this title in The Journal of Entrepreneurship‘. It helped me with my questionnaire construction.’

Most people told me very few read reviews and most of them never get cited. So thats reason enough why one should not waste time writing them. But the above statement from a friend gave me some argument against all those voices who are against wasting time writing reviews. I am beginning to feel that this is a kind of commitment to the profession. I am sure ‘reviews’ themselves will be of different levels – some letting others know that a books exists to the other end of the spectrum where a review places the book in a continuum of existing knowledge.

Whatever be it, as a bibliophile, avid reader, and lover of everything books, I am delighted that my book reviewing efforts have borne fruit (tangibly). Though I have reduced the frenzy with which I was writing reviews, I still do a few every year. I now want to raise the level of the reviews I write. It will help me and my fellow explorers with some compasses to tread the ground.

I’d rather read

Book Title: I’d Rather Read – Your favourite authors on their favourite booksid-rather-read

Authors: Various

It is a cute little book. Kudos to Rupa & Co (Rupa Publications) on making yet another lovely product, a book. As a bibliophile this book caught my attention for many reasons – its a well made book; its a book about books; its a collection of write-ups by various authors (who are all book lovers).

I kind of enjoyed every piece, soaking in the love for books that every writer possessed. It looks like there are many crazy ones (book lovers) around here. We may not meet them too often, simply because they would rather read than talk!

The book highlights the fact that people read books for many reasons. Reading without a purpose is probably the best way to read. Reading widely is another good trait to pick up. While we make our own little libraries (difficult to maintain these days); going to local libraries and breathing that ethereal air makes for great joy. The sheer variety in the approaches the authors of this volume have taken to loving books itself shows creativity and provides inspiration.

If you are a bibliophile and an avid reader – you should pick this book up. It will tell you that it is not the rich and the famous who collect and read books; it is those who collect and read that become rich and famous in their own ways.

Don’t think much about it, simply pick up the book, you may start enjoying the company of books too. Try it!

World Book Day 2017

Happy World Book Day!

While almost every day on the calendar has a reason for celebration – today is special. Because if you do ‘celebrate reading’ on this day, even a little, it can open you to a whole new world. The world will never be the same again!

I love books. I am glad that I got so many of my students (over the past year) to read books. On this day, I wish and pray that they keep this habit going, so that they will be constantly exposed to so many more worlds that exist in this world.

Happy to be a book lover. I will buy one more book today. WiI will also gift one to another.

Celebrate Reading!