Greater Approximations

This morning, I read about convergence in my favorite book of 2019 so far. I found the following paragraph to be extremely useful in structuring a reflection about organizational change over time, namely a few projects that have worked and a few projects that have not worked:

Natural or human-made systems that best approximate optimal strategies afforded by the environment tend to be successful, while systems exhibiting lesser approximations tend to become extinct. This process results in the convergence of form and function over time. The degree of convergence in an environment indicates its stability and receptivity to different kinds of innovation.

Universal Principles of Design, 2nd edition

For leaders, situational or otherwise, I recommend a simple exercise, based on the above:

Take out a sheet of paper and make three columns. In the far left column, make a list of organization-wide change initiatives you have overseen or lived through over the past 5 – 10 years. In the middle column, quickly assess which initiatives are still alive and well, which ones are on life support, and which ones have passed on to your organization’s afterlife. In the right column, slowly assess which ones comply to the terms set forth in the paragraph above, re. convergence. Which ones, over time, have best approximated optimal strategies afforded by your organization’s environment?

Suggesting vs. Questioning

On his blog today, Fred Wilson wrote about two kinds of coaches or advisors.

Type 1 often asks:

Why don’t you try this?

Type 2 often asks:

Why do you want to do that?

He broke out these types of coaches as way to remind founders and CEOs that they need to think about the kind of coach they might want or need. I think it’s also important — for founders, CEOs, and other leaders — to think about the kind of coach they want to be.

Name the Silence

I’ve mentioned this before, but it never ceases to amaze me — my “most read” post, probably the “most read” thing I have ever written, is a technical piece about the Bcc function in email. Not exactly what I had in mind when I used to dream about being a writer! At any rate, I’m adding a related post today.

Most of the responsible professionals that I know respond to email in a reasonable amount of time. For some, this means almost instantaneously. For others, this means a day or three or even a week. But they are all responsive. They consider replying to email part of their work as effective communicators.

Sometimes, though, even the best email managers receive an email that is important but not urgent in the midst of a stretch of work (or life) where they simply do not have the bandwidth to respond.

In that case, here’s a move I’ve seen, experienced, used, and liked:

Dear ___________,

I just read your email, and it’s going to take me at least a week or two to look into the matter and get back to you. I’ve added a reminder to my calendar to work on this and respond, but if you don’t hear from me by __________, then please send me a reminder.

If you know the person well, or have the time, you can give them more context about whatever else is occupying your attention. Regardless, when someone sends you an email and you don’t respond for a very long time, or at all, you risk that he or she will fill the silence with just about any interpretation, including a negative one about you or your feelings about him or her. I suggest “naming the silence” as a default practice. It’s a way to be responsive even when that’s not — officially — an option.

The Dream 100

Reshan and I interviewed Dan Martell last year. We’re still readying the transcript for publication, but here’s one tidbit that resonated with me when he said it and again when I reread the transcript several months later.

When I work with an entrepreneur, the first thing I get them to do is to write down their “Dream 100,” which is their 10 mentors, their 30 advisors, and their 60 peers. It might take them a year or two to create this Dream 100, but that’s okay.  The list matters.  

For as long as you’re building a company, it’s important to acknowledge that you will need mentorship and you will need to fill the gaps in your knowledge. So you will need certain people in your life on a weekly or monthly basis; you will need to spend time with people who are on the same journey, ideally two or three years ahead of you, that can inspire you, that can teach you, and to whose lives and careers you can contribute.

Source: Personal Conversation

I love that the Dream 100 begins from a humble place — you can’t know everything — and that it ends with contribution to others. Reshan and I are hoping to publish the full interview, equally chock-full of insights, later this year.