The Art of Turning Uncertainty into Possibility

DON’T STOP AT THE EDGE OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE

We are not rewarded for not knowing, write veteran consultants Steven D’Souza and Diana Renner in their fascinating book Not Knowing. We are not expected to  not know. People look for certainty in their leaders. But beyond the expectations of others, there is our own comfort, the authors explain: not knowing is uncomfortable, and it’s better to know. And when you don’t know, the answer, for the sake of ourselves or for the sake of those who believe in us, is to fake it. We pretend to know.

Another danger of the tyranny of certainty is, according to the authors, to have unwavering faith in the experts. For 1,400 years, the ancient Greek physician Galen of Pergamon was the ultimate authority in medicine; it wasn’t until the mid-16th century that Flemish physician Andreas Vesalius finally dared to question Galen, whose mistakes and discrepancies should have been apparent to all by that time (the authors note that a medical school professor holding up a human heart after a dissection would comment on the three ventricles as described by Galen, although there were clearly four in the heart he was holding).

Darkness Illuminates

In truth, the authors explain in the second part of Not Knowing, “darkness illuminates.” D’Souza and Renner tell the story of the tragic Burke and Wills expedition in Australia. Robert Burke and William Wills were the first men to cross the continent but died of starvation on their way back home. They died of starvation despite the fact that the Aborigines in the area had thrived for thousands of years and did everything they could to help the white men. But Burke and Wills didn’t want their help; they didn’t, in their opinion, need the people whom they considered savages to tell them what to do to survive.

Burke and Wills died staying at what the authors call “the edge” of their knowledge, refusing to go no further. It is the willingness to not stop at the edge that allows artists to create, scientists to discover and entrepreneurs to launch their enterprises. How does one find the value in the unknown, especially when in so many domains — areas such as business, politics or even social situations — not knowing is viewed as a weakness or a barrier?

The answer lies in what the authors call “negative capability.” This is the ability to “negate” rather than add: the ability to clear the mind rather than fill it. “This idea of negative capability,” the authors write, “is powerful because it captures the need for making space in the mind to allow new thought to take root. It clears the mind of existing knowledge, clichés or existing assumptions.” The concept also emphasizes that clearing the mind is as much a “capability” as filling it. Building on academic research, the authors note that silence, patience, doubt and humility are all examples of negative capabilities.

Empty Your Cup

In the final section of their book, the authors group negative capabilities under four headings (each earning a separate chapter):“empty your cup,” “close your eyes to see,” “leap in the dark” and “delight in the unknown.”

“Empty your cup” is a metaphor for seeking to make room in a mind that is filled with knowledge. Experts are rarely revolutionaries because their minds are already filled with what they think they need to know. Thus, it was a non-banker who revolutionized the industry with microbanks. Grameen Bank founder Mohammad Yunus didn’t know that it was wrong to do what he was doing, including lending to the poor instead of the rich and focusing on women instead of men. If his cup had been full, he would have known and abided by the rules, and never launched the microbank revolution that made him famous.

“Close your eyes to see,” is the art of observing, listening and questioning. Improvising, experimenting and embracing mistakes are some of the activities associated with “leap in the dark.” Finally, the authors encourage readers to “delight in the unknown” by, among other ideas, unleashing their curiosity and creativity and not being afraid of foolishness and play.

A learned mix of academic studies and scores of compelling stories from a wide variety of domains, this brilliant, inspiring book will have readers leaving their desks (figuratively, one hopes), finding their way to the edges of their own world, closing their eyes and opening their minds, and waiting for the ideas and insights that will come from “not knowing.”

New Summaries to Transform Your Business

Today in the United States, entrepreneurship and innovation are driving economic growth. Creativity, entrepreneurs and innovation are all important. Entrepreneurs have a passion for business and focus on their products. To develop these products, they need to apply creativity and innovation to their processes. Learn how ideas, talents, and skills are developed and transformed into commercial and social ventures with these three new Soundview Executive Book Summaries.

The_Responsible_Entrepreneur

by Carol Sanford

The Responsible Entrepreneur by Carol Sanford

Responsible entrepreneurs seek to transform industries, requiring them to think and do beyond what is require of business leaders. Carol Sanford provides the frameworks to build a business and to evaluate and direct investments to create the greatest benefit for all stakeholders. She presents the four archetypes for entrepreneurs to use to learn how to grow their businesses. The Responsible Entrepreneur is not just for entrepreneurs or investors, but anyone who wants to make a difference in their organization.

How_the_World_Sees_You

by Sally Hogshead

How the World Sees You by Sally Hogshead

To set yourself apart from the crowd, you must develop your own personal brand. Sally Hogshead gives you the tools to describe your personality’s highest value to others in How the World Sees You. You will be able to create better relationships, grow your business, and become more valuable once you understand how to leverage how the world sees you at your best. How the World Sees You will guide you to make a great first impression always.

 

Overfished_Ocean_Strategy

by Nadya Zhexembayeva

Overfished Ocean Strategy by Nadya Zhexembayeva

When resources are depleting rapidly, businesses need to make resource scarcity, also referred to as the overfished ocean, their top strategic consideration. In Overfished Ocean Strategy, Nadya Zhexembayeva shows how businesses can find new opportunities in what were once considered useless by-products and develop ways to rapidly refine these new business models. She offers five essential principles that define the Overfished Ocean Strategy, along with several examples of how companies across the globe are implementing this strategy effectively.

Good Leaders Ask Great Questions

WHY YOU NEED TO ASK QUESTIONS

The reason that effective leaders ask questions, writes bestselling leadership author and speaker John Maxwell in his new book, Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, is that questions are the most effective means of communicating with people. They also allow leaders to unlock doors that would normally be closed, build better ideas, gain different perspectives, and break free of the “mental laziness” of comfortable, unchallenged mindsets — just to name a few of their advantages. As Maxwell explains, “If you want to make discoveries, if you want to disrupt the status quo, if you want to make progress and find new ways of thinking and doing, you need to ask questions.”

Questions Leaders Need to Ask Themselves and Their Teams

In the first part of Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, Maxwell focuses on what questions leaders should ask themselves and what questions they should ask of the team. Leaders, Maxwell explains, must ask themselves the tough questions if they want to be responsible and proactive leaders. These questions cover areas such as, among others, personal growth (“Am I investing in myself?”); motivation (“Am I genuinely interested in others?”); stability (“Am I grounded as a leader?”) and effectiveness (“Am I staying in my strength zone?”). Each question is an opportunity for Maxwell to explore key leadership issues. “Am I grounded as a leader?” for example, leads to a discussion of three important qualities that all leaders need to exhibit: humility, authenticity and calling.

In addition to questioning themselves, leaders must also question their team members. Good questions will show team members that they are valued and will inspire others to “dream more, think more, learn more, do more and become more,” Maxwell writes. There are numerous questions that need to be asked if leaders want an open, effective team. These questions range from “How can I serve you?” “What do I need to communicate?” and “What am I missing?” to “Did we exceed expectations?” “Did we add value?” and “How do we make the most of this opportunity?”

“I Told The Ding-A-Lings What To Do”

In the second section of the book, Maxwell presents the questions that leaders have asked him over the years. These myriad questions are expertly grouped into seven key leadership-related issues, captured as questions of course. These issues include “What must I do to lead myself successfully?” “How can I successfully navigate leadership transitions?” and “How can I develop leaders?” Each issue is then broken down into 10 more specific questions, which allows Maxwell to develop an insightful and concise tutorial on the issue.

One chapter, for example, is entitled “How do I resolve conflict and lead challenging people?” This is a recurring and often frustrating problem for many leaders. Maxwell breaks the issue down into specific questions related to resolving conflict and leading challenging people. For example, “How do you raise the bar when people have gotten used to settling for mediocrity?” “How do you motivate an unmotivated person?” “How do you deal with people who start things but never finish?” “At what point do you turn your energy away from dissenters and low performers and focus on those who want to grow?”

In some cases, the answers to these questions come in the form of other questions. For example, some people may not be aware that they are settling for mediocrity. Thus, questions such as “Are you reaching your maximum potential?” and “Would you like to do better?” can help people see possibilities that they had been ignoring.

For motivation, on the other hand, Maxwell offers straightforward advice beginning with, hire motivated people. He also suggests rewarding people for the desired behavior and giving people a reputation to uphold — that is, the more leaders validate people for the good things they do, the more people will want to continue to do them. Leaders must also understand the connection between relationships and motivation. One leader continuously referred to his staff as the “ding-a-lings,” saying such things as “I told the ding-a-lings what to do, but of course they didn’t do it.” His contempt was apparent to his employees, who were, not surprisingly, unmotivated.

As with his many other leadership books, Maxwell’s latest is clearly written, clearly organized and filled with insight engagingly captured through precise and illuminating questions.

Book Review: Out Think

by G. Shawn Hunter

by G. Shawn Hunter

The keys to competitive advantage in leadership used to be etched in stone. A leader was expected to be relentlessly dedicated to a specialty and use intelligence and drive to separate a company from its competitors. Today’s leaders operate in a different environment. It’s one that requires a combination of flexibility and a willingness to work with others. In each chapter of Out Think, author and executive learning expert G. Shawn Hunter presents a key component and techniques to show how to implement ideas that drive the change leaders want in their organizations. This book is now available as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

Hunter urges leaders to implement a new process that can accelerate new-product and value-creation pipelines. This is to counteract the “marketquake,” a term coined by Hunter to describe the volatile economic conditions of the current business climate. In Out ThinkHunter provides a number of key ideas, each of which is reinforced by takeaways drawn from the author’s access to top-level executives around the globe.

While subjects such as trust, exploration and collaboration are presented in new ways, executives may want to pay close attention to ideas that don’t normally receive as much coverage in business books. Hunter’s chapter on aspiration is one such example. By enabling team members to combine optimism with a well-articulated goal, Hunter provides leaders with the knowledge to turn their employees into company heroes.

Beyond learning why and how innovation has become the primary driver of successful companies, executives will also learn the key components of innovation and how to implement them in their organizations. With Out Think, any leader can make a measurable difference within their organization to outthink the competition.

Find the Sideways Path to Success

It takes 10 years of hard work and persistence to become an overnight success. Or so says the conventional wisdom. But if you’re going to insist on paying your dues, writes Shane Snow in the book Smartcuts, move to the slow lane because there are people who are going to pass you by. In his book, New York-based journalist Snow insists that the smartest people are the ones who refuse to follow the traditional paths to success. Snow uses examples from a wide range of domains, including entertainment, medicine, sports, politics and history, to prove that anyone can propel their way to success in a fraction of the time that others will take.

The secret of Smartcuts (which Snow explains lead to “sustainable success achieved quickly” not the “rapid but short-term gains” of shortcuts) is lateral thinking: knowing how to scramble sideways rather than steadily climbing the ladder of success. Even most presidents of the United States didn’t become president by slowly moving up from political offices to more important political offices until they reached the most powerful political office in the world. Instead, it often took just a couple of bounces from careers in such non-political arenas as acting (Ronald Reagan), the military (Dwight Eisenhower) or academia (Woodrow Wilson) to reach the White House.

Shorten, Leverage or Soar

In his book, Snow identifies nine patterns of lateral thinking, which he divides into three classes evocatively entitled: “shorten,” “leverage” and “soar.”

Instead of gamely following the prescribed path to a destination, some people deliberately shorten the path.

There are, Snow explains in the first part of the book, three ways to do so: “hacking the ladder,” which involves climbing a career ladder in unconventional ways; “training with masters,” which requires developing deep relationship with mentors; and “rapid feedback,” through which ambitious people constantly receive and act on feedback to what they are doing.

Leverage, as the name implies, is the process of using some tool or mechanism to propel yourself toward your goals.The three leverage tools that Snow features are “platforms,” which, as with physical platforms, make you stand out and above the rest of the crowds; “waves,” which, if you place yourself in the right location, can be caught and ridden, much as champion surfers know to which spot they should paddle to catch the best next wave; and “superconnectors,” which involves both getting help from the right people but then offering help once you’ve made it.

Snow’s final category of lateral thinking is to soar, which involves finding the way to keep “momentum”; striving for “simplicity” (a surprising element of sustainable success is the ability to focus on what’s important and simplify the rest; even President Obama has suits in only two colors, explaining to one interviewer that he had enough decisions to make); and 10x thinking — a goal that, unlike the incremental 10 percent improvement thinking, requires starting over doing something completely different.

Nearly every page of this book tells another compelling and inspirational story of someone who has been able to smartcut his or her way to phenomenal success. This is a book for anyone who feels that they are not where they want to be — and don’t have the patience (and perhaps the time) to slowly climb the ladder rung-by-rung.