Integrative Thinking for Leaders.

Today on a chilly tuesday evening, the Dean of Rotman school of Management - Roger L. Martin gave a talk about his new book at Bangalore International center,Bangalore. The book is called The Opposable Mind.

The talk was scheduled at 6.45 pm and the hall was filling up with many leaders of Bangalore. I expected a young crowd to be preset, but to my surprise more than half of the visitors were over 40 or 50 years old. Many leaders of B-schools, Business and professions such as Architecutre were present to listen to the talk about Leadership.

I was first of all intreguied, about what could, a Professor with degree from Harvard Business school have to offer to old and battle worn people sitting in the hall, to my delight he had some very insightfull ideas to share with us.

He mentioned, that he interviewed around 50 leaders of businesses and found remarkable similarity of thinking in most of the successful leaders. There are lots of books out there that talk about, how a particular leader was successful, but this Professor Roger mentions is mostly based on context. what does "Based on Context" mean?, it means that, if you find yourself in exactly the same situation as the one mentioned in the how-i-did-it books, the advise there might not be very helpfull to you, in you present circumstance.

So his work focuses on how these leaders think and not a how-to get same results book.

Next, he mentioned a what the opposable mind means, he drew his inspiration from opposable thumbs that humans have accuired that has give us an evolutionary advantage in survival. So the opposable mind is...

have the predisposition and the capacity to hold two diametrically opposing ideas in their heads, [and that they are] able to produce a synthesis that is superior to either opposing idea.

Professor then goes on to explain how we are thought in our education system to just work with models and not come up with creative solutions.

Here are a few interesting points

  • He defined success very well - the results that are got , to the actions that you have taken undertaken. i.e You are successful if you get the results that you set out to acheive.
  • Leaders have high aspirations and are highly successful.
  • Mastery and originality are the indicators of successful leaders. i.e in the long run, you get good at what you do - Mastery. But it is Originality that is mark of great leaders. Example: Piccaso. So ask your self every week end - Did i do something original?
  • The main purpose of leaders is to come up with creative solutions to models that are contradictory. A very good example he gave was of, ICICI chairman Kamalnath, he had to choose between growing the bank abroad by M&A , or growing locally in India. To his Kamalnath decided to grow with Indian dispora abroad. This was Integrative thinking.

This made lot of sense to me. The Opposable mind, is one of the finest business books that i have come to know of late. In the same league of - The halo effect, Fooled by randomness. I hope you enjoyed this writeup. open for comments.


Difference in Leadership style of Kumble and Dhoni

Today, Anil Kumble one of India's greatest leg spinner announced his retirement from International cricket. After taking 619 test wickets over an 18 year career, he called it quit at Ferozsha kotla statdium in Delhi.

It was a highly emotional moment for all the people who have seen kumble over the years. He has single handledly won many matches for india. Some of the words that were used to describe him were - commitment, giving 100% to the team and integrity both as a cricketer and a human being. The Australians also appreciated him for the competative sprit that he brought to the game.

A quotable quote mentioned today was by VVS lakshman. He said that "it was amazing to see Anil (jumbo) take a catch with broken fingers, while other members dropped sitters.". This shows that kind of commintment that Anil kumble brings to the field. 

This got me thinking, why does such a commited and competative player, who can raise to the heights of individual brillance, not be able to inspire and lead the India cricket team to victory?i.e The record of Kumble as Captian is not as good as Dhoni's.

I guess this is symptomatic of players of his generation, all the Sachins, Dravids, Guangulies and Lakshmans of our team are individually brilliant but have not been able to match the results of MS Dhoni and Co. I guess these players have come up throught the hard way by being individually brilliant and so have not picked up the skills that Dhoni and Shane warn have displayed to raise the performance of their teams above the individual skills of each member.

Dhoni represents the new India, where the leaders know how to raise the performance of thier teams above themseleves and above the combined skills of each members. Cheers to the New leaders of the new generation.

Looking forward to better results and performances from Team India.


which dealines are real?

Welcome back google euro and mountain view readers, also the Canadians.

Perfect team players, perfect designer, perfect employee ...it this a myth or reality. then why do I expect to get everything done in a perfect manner to meet the timelines? Yes there is product to be shipped, yes customers to be satisfied, yes there are deadlines. My question is, which is real?

Most of the times the deadlines are self-imposed, working backwards from the release date. Sometimes it's real, like when your under audit and your laundry is out in the open and you frantically try to clean up add a little bit of shine :).

I believe in emergent behavior, but most economic systems are based on carrot and stick to get things done on time.


how much should information should be shared?

Most teams work under project management guide lines. i.e. every body else in the team know what work every other person is doing and also the deadlines for each tasks.

But (a big but), most teams or groups don't work this way. The internal politics dictates that one does not know what his team-mate sitting next to him is working on. Also the priority of that task to the company is kept hidden. Now why does this happen? i.e even inside a professionally managed project, you have some people 'in the know' about everything and most of the workers are not at all aware. Is this a need-to-know basis management ?

while this kind of model perpetrates the status quo and the powers that be,it does hit the moral of the team members. I have seen this every-ware from the top multinationals to nimble startups.

I wonder what kind of team and task management is carried out in ING America,Southwest airlines, Toyota, threadless.com, 37Signals (they work only 4 days a week), Semco (Ricardo Semler).

after thinking about this for some time, i realized that, the kind of openness and trust that I was expecting being an employee is not available in 99.99% of the companies. Unless you are a founder, you will not know everything that is going on in your company.

I guess, I would like to create a culture where each employee is trusted and he brings his best work to work. A place where results matter as much as the people. does your work place have such a culture?



what does a manager need from his people

In the old work era managers used to assign work to his people and follow up till its done. Now a days , folks in IT know what needs to be done before a manager can assign the work.

Well I don't tell my folks what needs to be done in more than 50% of the time. So how can i track who is doing quality work? I guess the new age manger has to expect his people to 'keep him in the loop' :)

So the new workforce can help his manager by giving the following support ....

* what am i currently working on?
* how long will it take?
* how difficult or complicated is the job?
* what help do i need from my manager?

So instead of waiting for a report from your people to understand what they are working on, its great to find out at the beginning



Great Manager or Average Manager ?

Its easy to build just an ok team. All you have to do is not do the following things. Don't pick people with no talent for that job, Don't set unclear expectations, Don't ignore them when they excel, Don't play them off against one another. Now avoiding these behaviors and you will be less likely to chase your best people away. But this does not answer how do you build high performance teams?

Lets take a sports analogy: Evey sports team requires many different skills. No one is the best at everything. A winning team requires each one understand their specific roles and roles others play and how they all need to fit together to work as a winning team.

Every great manager finds what is unique about each of his people and makes the most of it.



what would you advise a FTM in under 2 mins?

You meet interesting people on flights. I met a Director of a medium sized telecom firm from Bangalore and asked him what should a first time manager know and do.
  • Your team should trust you and you should trust your team.
  • Each and every individual is different and is motivated by different things.
  • It is easier to get work accomplished when some one wants to do it.
  • You should fight for your team in the company.
While this advise is pretty much commonsense, Experts tell us that commonsense is not common.