Category Archives: Decision Making Skills

Musings on Leadership – Planned Serendipity

Jurassic Gargoyle, Dorset

Image by flatworldsedge via Flickr

In this Musings on Leadership I look at Planned Serendipity – break throughs that lead to chance, or chance leading to creativity a definition orginally from neurologist James H. Austin. In Wendy Lea‘s interview with Thor Muller and Lane Becker co-authors of Get Lucky: How to Put Planned Serendipity to Work for You and Your Business they explain Planned Serendipity as luck you have created not just “dumb luck” we all say we had at some point. More importantly it is what companies like Google and 3M attribute success to. So how can leaders encourage this mindset? Here is what Muller and Becker had to say…

What are some tips for leaders who want to communicate the “get lucky” attitude to their employees?

Leaders need to encourage employees to have outside interests and give them reason to keep learning and be passionate about work. Take Google, which gives employees time to work on unrelated projects while they’re at work. That type of freedom always pays off. Beyond that, leaders need to make it clear that new ideas will be heard. That’s easy at smaller companies. At larger companies, the message needs to be very clear that employees are encourage to speak up, be creative and offer suggestions. That’s when structure comes into place. You might need to create a system or software that makes it easier to communicate. Whatever it takes, make sure that hotel lobby includes your customers, employees and maybe even the random mad scientist who could be harboring the next billion-dollar idea….more at Who Needs Luck? Try Planned Serendipity

So what is the biggest obstacle in planned serendipity?


“I’m scared” “I’m not trusting my instinct” “What if I fail?”    That voice inside your head  -it’s dangerous.   It never forgets anything, all the way back to when you messed up in Kindergarten and got called out by the teacher in front of everybody.  All those embarrassments and insecurities, buried beneath your dreams.  That’s the YOU you need to always be aware of, and the awareness itself it what will save you.   Because your instincts ARE good, and as a dreamer, you’ve already taken some of the hardest steps.    For us, it’s “coming to terms” with our fear that will keep it at arms length.  I wrote a letter to fear that really helped me, and I would encourage you to do the same thing, as crazy as it sounds.  Trust yourself,  and all of those internal barriers will fall away….More at The 3 People That Stand In Your Way Of Business Success (and How To Push Them Aside)

It wasn’t luck that created the light bulb it was the thousands of creative ways Thomas Edison tried before his success. He had the choice to focus on his obstacles or to focus on what he wanted to create. He chose forward focus, putting his efforts and choices towards his focus of providing us with the light bulb not the obstacles in his path. Forward Focus is a great way to look at planned serendipity. I would further Muller and Becker’s definition of planned serendipity - to luck we create through forward focus on our ideas.

Check back for the next Musings on Leadership - in the mean time find the focus for yourplanned serendipity.

And I always found that the harder I worked, the better my luck was, because I was prepared for that.


More Reading




7 Benefits to Leading Change Through Forward Focus

In our earlier posting on Leading Creativity Through Forward Focus I talked about some experiences of play and creativity, how only about 20% of us retain that creativity, and asked how we can maintain or find it again. Today I want to focus on a few ideas for play or creativity at work and 7 benefits to leading creativity through forward focus.

Deer Hand Puppet ~ 1 of 6 photos
A few ideas that Leo Babauta had for bringing play into your life…
  • Make a game of computer tasks — see how fast you can get your inbox to empty (set a timer)
  • Give yourself points for checking off your tasks, and see how many points you can get each day
  • Skip instead of walk
  • Imagine you are in a movie when you walk into a meeting
  • Give yourself challenges
  • Make bets with friends when it comes to doing things you don’t normally like doing…More at Infusing Play into Mundane Tasks :zenhabits

What are the benefits of leading creatively through forward focus?

  1. Vision – the big picture becomes clear, gains more buy-in, grows with new ideas. Allowing others to let down their guard opens their mind to the wonders of the future instead of closed to the moment with no hope of a better future.
  2. Improved problem solving – creative thinkers see more options than reactive thinkers do. In reactive mode we see a limited set of options or worse yet only one. Creativity allows a brain-storm of ideas to flow and a mix of ideas that if used alone are not enough.
  3. Knowledge growth – share the creativity. Ideas and knowledge flow from different trains of thought and backgrounds. Sharing that knowledge allows others to grow, to begin to explore new ideas. You and your followers will grow.
  4. Mindset change – followers begin to see creativity. This can bring a more open environment. A more welcoming environment, not stuck in “this is how we do it” mode. Ideas previously shelved in the back of someone’s brain leaps to the front to improve productivity and morale. The projection of play and creativity can be contagious and create a better mindset for those around you.
  5. Better, more effective communication – explanation and expansion of ideas opens new pathways and allows us to see the way others communicate. If we know how different people communicate, communications can be modified to make the message more effective and easier to follow.
  6. Better service – from different ideas on how to best assist the client or customer. Whether it is an internal customer or an external one, if served by someone with the ability to use creative approaches to their need, they will feel better served.
  7. Influence – when handled as an individual with unique needs and preferences to approach, people will be more influenced. It is an opportunity to develop new relationships and further your reach with customers, coworkers or direct reports. They begin to look to you for guidance and feedback.
Bringing an element of play into your environment, your leadership. Open the doors to creativity and a future of what is possible.
We would love to hear how you are leading creatively through forward focus.



The Importance of a Highly Adaptable and Anticipatory Mindset in a Great Leader

In our book on Enlightened Leadership, we highlighted 6 change-friendly principles and one of them was the importance of a highly adaptable and anticipatory mindset in a great leader. While in theory we tend write about Organizational Leadership, sometimes we see all too clearly how our principles translate into real world, life or death situations. In the article below, posted on Bloomberg Business Week, Alison Damast shares an inspiring story.

The Importance of a Highly Adaptable and Anticipatory Mindset in a Great Leader

Daniel Balcauski was leading a team of Kellogg School of Management MBAs through Patagonia, a wild, isolated region on the southern tip of South America, when he realized a blizzard was quickly approaching. The five students and their guide had just reached the top of a picturesque Andes mountain pass and ahead was what Balcauski dubbed the “granite slab of death,” a path that would be especially treacherous to go down as whiteout conditions and visibility worsened. Says Balcauski: “It was imperative to get off the mountain as soon as possible.”

As the appointed Leader of the Day, he helped the team find an alternative route off the mountain, backtracking up a cliff and eventually finding a spot in a river valley where his team, some of whom were in the early stages of hypothermia, could set up camp. For Balcauski, then a first-year MBA student, the most valuable part of the experience happened that evening, when his classmates, wrapped in blankets and sipping hot drinks, gave him their opinion on how he performed as a leader in a set of challenging conditions.

“I got immediate and direct feedback on my leadership style and performance that day, which was extremely valuable,” says Balcauski, now in the second year of his MBA program.

The importance of a highly adaptable and anticipatory mindset in a great leader is some times more than just making decisions that benefit an organization – sometimes it is a matter of life and death. Keep this story in mind when you feel resistance to change.


Sensible Decision Making Skills

Sensible Decision Making Skills

All too often when we make important decisions (in our lives as well as in business), we allow our judgment to bias our final answers.  Essentially we subconsciously seek answers that merely confirm the conclusions we had already come to.  It’s the ‘I knew it” or “I told you so” way of thinking.  There is a way to avoid that biased way of thinking and improve your sensible decision making skills.  Consider this article, written by Ken Tysiac for CMGA Magazine, where he outlines five key decision making skills.

Sensible Decision Making Skills

Many faulty business decisions can be traced to “confirmation bias” that leads people to unwittingly seek information that bolsters what they want to believe, says Brigham Young University accounting professor Doug Prawitt…

Prawitt identified confirmation bias and a phenomenon the white paper calls judgment “triggers” as two particularly damaging “traps” that lead to poor judgment and decisions. He said considering other points of view is essential to avoiding confirmation bias and making good decisions…

“As you evaluate information, always sit back and take time to make the opposing case,” Prawitt said. “… If I’m [a lawyer who’s] going to go into the courtroom, I want to know my opposing attorney’s case better than he knows it.”

Judgment triggers often result from a possible solution’s being misidentified as a problem that needs to be overcome, the white paper says. When a problem is improperly defined, decision makers sometimes move forward without considering other, better alternatives.

Prawitt said that, about 2½ years ago, he and co-author Steven Glover, also an accounting professor at Brigham Young, began working with KPMG to create a professional application for their research on business judgment and decision making. What emerged was a professional judgment framework put into practice by KPMG, which also co-authored the COSO white paper. The framework describes a five-step process for decision making:

  • Define the problem and identify fundamental objectives.
  • Consider alternatives.
  • Gather and evaluate information.
  • Reach a conclusion.
  • Articulate and document rationale.

Original Story Here.

The five sensible decision making skills presented in this article are extremely basic.  In fact, they are too basic to imagine executive teams or executive boards would take them seriously.  When writing an academic paper I could see using these tips, but for business and important decisions in life, I think much more strategic information would be needed.


Strong Decision Making Skills

Strong decision making skills are important for good leadership.

To be a good leader you need to have strong decision making skills. Some people have this ability naturally and others need some guidance to learn how to make the best decisions. One technique I’ve discovered and use all the time is described below by James Manktelow & Amy Carlson and published on Mind Tools. 

Develop Strong Decision Making Skills

‘Six Thinking Hats’ is an important and powerful technique. It is used to look at decisions from a number of important perspectives. This forces you to move outside your habitual thinking style, and helps you Continue reading