Problem Solving in the Corporate World

Every business, irrespective of its publicly claimed vision and mission, has a sole purpose: to thrive financially. This fundamental ‘law’ of survival for any business small or large, although trivial, is easily forgotten by many of its employees.

With the entrepreneurship wave gaining more momentum, many authors have shifted their focus towards what I will call ‘corporate reform’ and the disruption of classical management models. One cannot but notice the growth in the number of books discussing how to start and grow a new enterprise, how to enhance one’s recruitment strategies, how to build better products for end-users, how to create and maintain a culture of creativity and productivity, how to provide better services, so on and so forth. And the focus on topics related to the corporate world has diminished.

Yet it remains a matter of fact that market dominance is still maintained by large enterprises in numerous areas and the probability of finding a job in a large institution is still much higher than finding one in a startup. At the end of the day, one of the main exit strategies for startups is an acquisition by a large entity.

This is all to say the following. If you work for a large entity, specifically if you are a manager at any level, you know quite well that 80% of your time is spent on politics and the remaining 20% on getting things done. Everyone is trying to climb the pyramid. Where you position yourself matters.

Indulge me for a moment.

blocker vs growth chart

Each company has a specific set of KPIs (Key performance indicators) that it religiously tracks over specific periods of time. The growth of a large enterprise cannot be rendered in such a simple manner as the chart above, but this is simply used to illustrate a point.

The up and down arrows linked to the growth line (in blue) represent 2 different types of managers or a single manager using 2 different strategies on 2 different occasions. One (arrow pointing down) refers to the manager who wants to implement a certain agenda that is in the best interest of the business but influences the short-term growth negatively (for example, pushing for a large investment in a cost center). The other (arrow pointing upward) refers to the manager who wants to implement an agenda that is in the best interest of the business and contributes positively to the growth.

Do not position yourself as the former manager. And by position, I mean do your homework to ‘sell’ the agenda in a manner that makes you look like you’re heavily invested in maintaining a positive growth. This is a tricky matter. Usually the dilemma presents itself when the project falls into the long-term return on investment (ROI) category.

No one wants to see a dip in his (her) charts.

Another scenario where the same situation presents itself is when a more senior manager is pushing for a project to fulfill a certain agenda without having a deep understanding of the technical details associated with it. If the reporting manager does not have the necessary persuasive or argumentative skills he will try to respond to them with a blocker. Usually, the blocker being additional superfluous cost. This play will position the reporting manager in the first category (showcased above by the arrow pointing down). He (or she) might be right, and the agenda, while valid from a business perspective, might have a large risk associated with it making the business aspect not worth pursuing. However, instead of proposing alternatives more creative solutions or graciously presenting the risks leading to a more informed decision by the senior manager, she (or he) presents a blocker instead.

This is how corporate battles are lost before they even start.

Is this choice of a strategy indicative of poor management skills? Not necessarily. I’ve seen this happen numerous times with great managers. The poor play could be completely circumstantial or simply lack of experience. It could also be due to an overload in this manager’s bucket list or an underestimation of a senior manager’s power and influence.

As a rule of thumb, look at the offer you are presenting and assess in which category it makes you fall. Massage your response and enhance your selling skills. Do not respond to a problem-solving request with a blocker.

 

of Unison

Starlings

Many have experienced first-hand flocking birds moving in a state of utter unity. For those who haven’t, here’s what you missed.

This phenomena became the focus of numerous academic papers theorizing how and why this harmonious collective behavior occurs while other academics attempted to employ this concept in solving computational problems. Many do not attribute this behavior to a particular leader, or birds following a neighbor. Instead it is believed that each bird sees a movement down the line and anticipates what to do next.

I am not an expert on the topic, but I stumbled upon a video of a flock of ducks moving in what seems to be a rural road in an eastern country that sparked the following idea attempting to answer the ‘how’ question.

I believe that this behavior is due to the lack of ego in each active agent of this particular group. Therefore preventing this agent from contesting or going against the direction of its direct neighbor. This ego usually manifesting in human interactions by the need to lead, mostly reflected in teams lacking complementarity of skills, and attitude. Eventually leading to disorganization.

Within a flock, each agent follows, without questioning, as if they possess this ‘implicit’ understanding that the collective good is greater than the ambition of the one. That any misdeed befalling the group is equivalent in magnitude to the misdeed befalling the one.

In other words, I attribute this behavior to the lack or suppression of a conscious ‘need’ to lead.

I might be completely wrong, given that this is a mere assumption based on a very shallow observation. However, I believe there is some form of wisdom to be acquired from these creatures who we, human beings, deem primitive.

Cheap Media – Mashable and the IKEA print

Once upon a time, journalism was about reporting news, stories, investigations, making an impact, sharing opinions something of value to the consumers of a certain medium. Nowadays, it seems that the only agenda of some ‘cheap’ news outlets is harnessing clicks, shares and views. Once such fine example of degenerate news reporting quality is Mashable.

I’m not an expert in the field, nor a contributor. This post is written in an attempt to convey my personal levels of frustration with the ridiculous quality of stories disseminating from a specific group of so called media companies.

Very recently, I stumbled upon an article (not much of an article, just a page with a video) titled:

“Dutch pranksters display IKEA art in museum, fooling everyone”

(link)

The gist of the story is: A group of pranksters going by the name of ‘LifeHunters’ (more about the agency below) took an IKEA print, showcased it in museum of modern art (Museum Arnhem) and solicited feedback from the visitors on that day. Most of the people seen in the video portray an air of reflection and art appreciation and when asked, they value the work far more than what the video producers claim it to be.

I added the video for those who are too lazy to click the link.

The Problem

I cannot begin to describe what is wrong with the approach adopted, the message it conveys and the devaluation of a good piece of art simply because it had been licensed to IKEA.

Mashable-lifehunters-ikea-painting-modern-artThis is the piece in discussion. This is the work of two Swiss, street artists Christian Rebecchi and Pablo Togni AKA ‘NEVERCREW‘. These artists seem to specialize in surreal artwork in public places. They have hosted numerous exhibitions and won multiple awards throughout the years of their collaboration. This piece, on the left, while not reflecting complexity in the techniques adopted to produce it, it does show depth in terms of the message it conveys, the details of the illustration and does cause some level of reflection and contemplation while invoking deep thought and emotions about the subject matter. If this is not ‘art’ I don’t know what qualifies.

The simple fact that this illustration has been licensed for IKEA does not and should not make this work any less valuable than what is exhibited in that museum. Certainly, it does not devaluate the opinions of those visitors trying to connect with the work.

The second facet of this problem is that this critique of ‘art experts’ (not sure if they should be labeled as such, given that they are mere visitors of a museum) has been produced by an agency that proclaims itself as ‘specialized in awesome viral video content.‘ In other words, the sole purpose of their work is creating content that has the potential to go highly viral. Accuracy, analysis, depth, or any other form of critical thinking, reasoning or even research does not serve their mission. Correctness and validity of their proclamations have been bluntly dismissed, given that they do not serve the agenda.

This wave of promoting shallow, and dare I say, stupid content is not only unfair to those who are producing value in the world, but a clear indication of a widespread depression in the appreciation of true value for the sake of a few minutes of headless ‘entertainment’.

Fellow humans, who still have a shred of respect to intelligence, art, science and everything of value in this world, detoxicate yourselves from this form of content for it serves no one any good.

Invest your time in pursuing value, read some of the content published by Aeon Magazine and don’t take part in promoting intellectual numbness.

What are you thoughts on the matter?