From the time of Alexander the Great to the invention of the steam engine in the 18th century, there was almost no increase in people’s productivity.

The speed a soldier in Alexander the Great’s army could travel was limited by the speed of the horse he rode or the beasts pulling his wagon; and weapons they used were all hand forged. The same was true for Napoleon’s troops 2,000 years later. But with the invention of the steam engine, things began to change. Since that time, the nominal annual rate of productivity improvement in developed economies has been between 0.5% and 2%. This is approximately the same natural improvement rate that is found in most traditionally run organizations.

But what if you could improve faster, at a rate that outpaced your competitors? And what if you could maintain this rate year-after-year? The result would be a considerable competitive advantage.

We have studied a number of companies that have been able to increase their productivity by as much as 13% to 15% annually. (read more…)

The parental prompting to say “thank you” is a common childhood experience. Most of us remember when we were young, our mothers repeating over and over: “Say thank you”; “Don’t forget to say thank you”; “Did you say thank you?” And it was for good reason: to teach us to be polite and express sincere and heartfelt gratitude when it is appropriate.

The typical error I see presenters make when saying “thank you” is to use it more as a “filler,” something a presenter says as a default, not knowing what else to say in that moment. My advice to business leaders who are about to take the main stage? When it comes to “thanking,” don’t do it. Try these three alternatives instead.

Nix saying “thank you” as your opening comment. Frequently, business leaders open their presentation saying, “Thank you for …“and then quickly proceed to what they really want to say. (read more…)

How many times have you heard or even said, “Is that market attractive to us”? We look at the markets we’re in, the markets our competitors are in, maybe even some that are new and wonder if they are/could be good for our business. We may even think of creating or segmenting in a new way.

Stop and think of the hubris in that very question: “Is that market attractive to us?”

What is the real subject of that question? Us! Not the market! This is not as subtle as it seems. Subtleties reveal our organization’s basic assumptions and beliefs — our culture. Words — what, how, when, in which order we use them – mirror our culture. When I hear this question, which I do all the time in my line of work, I don’t hear a marketing question, I see a red flag. I see an organization that is internally focused, not outwardly focused on the customer. (read more…)

It’s mythical and alluring, that thing that you may secretly desire. It surfaces slowly and silently unseen, unheard and often unrecognized. It hides within the facade of your ego, growing larger with time while blinding you to its presence.

Make no mistake. It will destroy you and your organization even while it parasitizes your values and harms the spirits of those who once willingly followed you, but who now trudge along like sheep going to slaughter.

“Why aren’t our employees more innovative?” you exclaim, and the question “Why must I carry the burden of being all things to all people?” is keeping you up at night.

You’re blind to it when it surfaces, this thing named control. Yet it makes you feel powerful. The desire to control will surface throughout your leadership career. The trick to keeping control at bay is be aware when it surfaces and to let go of it (this is the hard part) when it’s appropriate. (read more…)

 Warning: Step away from the search engine!

Google is a great tool, but it’s not perfect for everything.

You can use it to learn the time difference between New York City and Hong Kong, or you can settle an argument with a friend about whether flies really vomit when they land on you. These kinds of questions — ones with a clear-cut, definite answer — are what Google is made for. But if you’re looking for answers to questions that will affect your company or help you make a decision on a professional matter, Google doesn’t quite cut it.

Why Google misses the mark

A Google search is both faster and easier than tracking down an expert to talk to, so why would you go through the trouble of finding a real-life person to answer your questions? Here are three reasons why it’s better to seek an expert’s opinion

You get content that isn’t available online. (read more…)