Burning Platforms

One night in July 1988, a massive explosion rocked an oil rig off the coast of Scotland, killing 168. Andy Mochan, a superintendent who had been sleeping on the rig while off duty, awoke and made the instant, calculated decision to jump fifteen stories into the simmering water below. As he puts it, “It was either jump or fry.” Despite his injuries, it was a decision that saved his life.

Daryl Conner tells this story as a way of illustrating what it takes to bring about massive, transformative change at an organizational level:

People don’t have to face a life-threatening situation or organizational insolvency in order to support fundamental change. What is required is a deep level of resolve: the determination, fortitude, and steadfastness to stop paying what has become or will become an inordinate price for the existing conditions.

He goes on to proffer four motivations for changing at a fundamental level: current problems, current opportunities, anticipated problems, and anticipated opportunities.

A raging fire ball is a good motivation to make a change. But ultimately, peril alone isn’t sufficient. You must have resolve to take necessary action, regardless of the urgency of the circumstances. As Conner writes, “The burning-platform story is about having the tenacity to do whatever is necessary to no longer pay for the prohibitively expensive status quo.”

Getting The Clients You Deserve

If your business or organization has been in operation for any period of time, it is likely that  you have found yourself working with frustrating clients who don’t jive with your organizational culture or strategic objectives. Is this simply inevitable?

Author and web designer Paul Jarvis writes that for those with a clear purpose and a healthy organizational culture, frustrating client relationships should be the exception, not the rule.

One of the most important ways to mitigate client relationships that are ultimately time-consuming and demoralizing is to clearly and repeatedly communicate who you are as an organization. If your brand truly represents your organizational distinctives, and your content strategically serves to reinforce it, you’re far more likely to succeed in attracting the right clients—and repelling the wrong ones.

 

Less Is More

It takes discipline and intentionality to create and maintain content that is clear and concise. The web platforms of undisciplined businesses and haphazard organizations generally stand out not because they contain so little, but because they try to do too much. In the process, they lose potential customers and cause fatigue in over-stimulated supporters.

While many organizations assume an attitude of “the more the merrier” when it comes to content, believing this will naturally result in more attention, more engagement, and more sales (or donations), the precise opposite is more often the case.

Kristina Halvorson, founder of Brain Traffic and author of Content Strategy for the Web, suggests that anyone with a web platform needs to ask two questions to determine the value of content. First, does it support a key business objective? Second, does it fulfill your users’ needs?

Does the content on your platform hold up to those two criteria? An effective content strategy will enable you to confidently answer yes to both.

The Formula for Innovation

There is an undeniable connection between innovation and ideas, but ideas alone are insufficient for innovation.

“In most organizations, innovation isn’t hampered by a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of noticing the good ideas already there,” argues David Burkus, author of The Myths of Creativity. In other words, truly innovative organizations are the ones with mechanisms in place to identify the ideas that will set them apart from their competition.

But the recognition of good ideas still comes up short. It is also necessary to execute those ideas, and to do so without hesitation. One might think of the equation this way: ideas + recognition + execution = innovation.

Is your company poised to innovate in your specified field? If not, which component of the equation is holding you back?

The Art of Synthesis

We all appreciate experts. But one of the pitfalls of an expert is when he or she thinks deeply about only one narrow field of specialty. Of course, we need experts and masters. After all, it doesn’t matter what your brain surgeons’ golf handicap is; you need him to be good with a scalpel.

In the marketplace, however, a breadth of experience and the ability to think collaboratively are two essential ingredients to success. Synthesizing ideas is a prerequisite for innovations that matter, strategies that work, and products that ship. The word synthesis literarily means “one answer (-thesis) together (syn-) from multiple places.”

In centuries past, it was used in reference to the mixture of ingredients to form medicines. More recently, Steve Jobs got at the heart of it when he said, “Creativity is just connecting things.” Similarly, others have thought of synthesis in terms of “combinatorial creativity.”

How does your organization leverage a broad array of experiences and experts? How can you better employ the art of synthesis in your daily work?