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Top Posts of 2022

2022 December 18
by Greg Satell

At the beginning of this year, I wrote that the theme for 2022 would be Surviving Change and I think that’s been borne out. We’ve had so many shocks to the system that all of the happy talk about disruption has become not only juvenile and naive, but downright irresponsible. If anything, we’ve learned how hard change really is.

Still, it’s undeniable that big changes are underway. Certainly, we’re in the midst of a major generational shift as the Millennials begin to take over, with the Zoomers coming up right behind them. Also the CHIPS Act and other legislation passed represent the biggest investments in our future that we’ve made for generations.

When I look back at my most popular posts over the last year, two themes begin to shine through. First, that change is hard and we need to be much more methodical in how we pursue it. Second, that we have an incredible capacity to fool ourselves that we need to be vigilant about. Take a look through for yourself and let me know what you see emerge.

3 Strategies To Overcome Resistance To Change

Probably the biggest misconception about change is that it is an exercise in communication and persuasion. Consultants tell leaders that if they create a sense of urgency and help people understand the need for change effectively, they will embrace it. You just need to give them the tools to implement it effectively.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that humans build irrational attachments to people, ideas and things. So any time you set out to create a significant impact, there will always be those who seek to undermine what you aim to achieve in ways that are dishonest, underhanded and deceptive. Once you internalize that you are ready to move forward.

That’s why anticipating resistance should be an integral part of the planning for any change program. This post offers three proven strategies to overcome resistance to change that will serve you well.

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4 Reasons Why People Resist Change

People resist change for a variety of reasons, some rational, some not. Change always involves switching costs and there are often good reasons to choose the status quo rather than bear those costs. In other cases, an organization has a track record of failed change initiatives and change fatigue sets in.

One of the biggest mistakes change leaders make is assuming that resistance to change has a rational basis. Very often people oppose change because it offends their identity and sense of self. We all take pride in the way we go about things, whether that involves our actions or our way of thinking about the world.

The first step toward overcoming resistance is understanding where it will come from. This post offers a good inventory for you to go through whenever you begin a change initiative. Make no mistake, if you don’t have a plan to address these areas of resistance, you are not prepared to move forward.

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How The “Uber Economy” Is Killing Innovation, Prosperity And Entrepreneurship

Uber is, by almost any standard by which you would measure a business, an enormous failure. Given that more than $25 billion has been invested in the company since it was founded in 2009 and that even now it doesn’t seem close to earning a profit, it seems unlikely that the company will ever break even once you factor in the cost of capital.

That’s even more astounding once you consider that on its balance sheet Uber only lists 3.6 billion in net tangible assets. So essentially, $22 billion has gone up in smoke. Presumably it was used largely to undercut competitors that it was “disrupting.” For comparison, key competitor, Lyft has taken just under $5 billion in investment and has just over $1 billion in net tangible assets.

It’s not just Uber either, but a larger problem with the way Silicon Valley companies are funded. Increasingly, they seem to be having a negative effect on productivity by making otherwise viable businesses unable to compete, not because of innovation but because they are being undercut by “unicorns” with deep pockets.

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Good Management Is Not Good Strategy. Here’s What Is:

Good managers identify clear objectives, build a plan and direct action to achieve them. So it shouldn’t be surprising that when asked to devise a strategy that’s what they do, start with objectives, make some basic judgments and assumptions about how you get from the present state to some future state that’s more desirable.

But as strategy professor Richard Rumelt points out, good management isn’t good strategy. When you look back on legendary strategies, such as Ray Kroc’s development of the fast-food franchise, Charles Lazarus’s creation of the category killer or Thomas Watson’s bet on the System 360 at IBM, they didn’t rely on assumptions, they changed them.

Good strategy is less about planning than making good choices about which problems an organization chooses to solve in ways that, as Rumelt puts it, brings relative strength to bear against relative weakness.

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Schwerpunkt: The Killer Strategic Concept You’ve Never Heard Of (But Really Need To Know!)

The biggest strategic question leaders need to answer is where to focus their efforts. Unfortunately, most never actually make that decision and spread their resources too widely. By trying to win everywhere, they end up winning nowhere. That’s why the German military concept of Schwerpunkt, which means “focal point” or “center of gravity” is so valuable.

Probably one of the best examples of this concept in business is Steve Jobs’ return to Apple. By making a series of determined choices, he reshaped entire industries and had his competitors racing to adapt. Read this post and see how you can apply the same concept to your business and career.

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Change Isn’t About Persuasion. It’s About Power

In one sense change is pretty simple. If you can amass the power needed to bring it about, you will succeed. If not you won’t. Power, however, is far from monolithic. There are different kinds of power and they need to be accessed and wielded in different ways. Successful change agents learn how to do that effectively.

In this post, I explain three sources of power: hard power, soft power and networked power. To make a significant impact, you’ll have to learn how to use all of them.

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Why Smart People Are So Easily Fooled

Whenever a major fraud arises, like Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, Anna Sorokin whose story became the basis for the Netflix series Inventing Anna or most recently, Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX, it’s always surprising how many really smart and accomplished people are duped into not only believing things that aren’t true, but actively promoting them.

Yet what if they weren’t fooled in spite of their intelligence and accomplishments, but because of them? Smart people expect to see things others don’t and have learned to trust their instincts. People with accomplishments get used to having others defer to their judgments. Once they get convinced of something, it’s hard to dissuade them.

That’s why it’s not enough to be smart, you also have to be disciplined. You can’t just believe everything you think. Or, as the physicist Richard Feynman put it, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.”

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4 Myths That Are Killing Business Today

Mark Twain is believed to have said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so,” and that’s definitely true about conventional business wisdoms. When things get repeated enough, people tend to believe them without really thinking too much about it.

This post examines four widely believed business myths, including the idea that we live in a VUCA business environment, that empathy is absolution, that diversity should focus on enforcing rules and that you can control behavior through incentives. Take a look and see if you’ve been taken in.

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​​3 Ancient Wisdoms We Needed To Leave Behind To Create The Modern World

Sam Arbesman has pointed out that facts have a half-life. They degrade over time. We necessarily make up ideas about the world and, if they stick around for a while without being disproven, we assume that they are true. Over time, however, because of either new technology or new types of problems we need to solve, we get to see these “facts” in a new light.

For most of recorded history, Aristotle’s logic, Euclid’s geometry, and the miasma theory of disease guided much of educated thought. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that anybody began to question these principles in any serious way. When they did, however, it unleashed a torrent of new discoveries that helped to create the modern world.

The truth is that we can’t really embrace new ideas until we let go of some old ones. That’s actually incredibly difficult to do. Read this post and you’ll understand why it’s so important to question what you think you know.

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Here’s How You Build Transformative Teams

One of the most common questions I get asked by CEOs is, “how can we find better people.” The truth is that you don’t need the best people, you need the best teams and that’s something completely different. We need to learn to focus more on collaborative skills, such as active listening, than task-driven skills such as certifications or degrees.

As workplace expert David Burkus puts it, “talent doesn’t make the team. The team makes the talent.” This post offers an excellent guide for how to recruit, develop and manage transformative teams. Take a look and see how you can improve your team’s performance.

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We Need To Stop Cheerleading Change

These days, change has become gospel. Leaders take it as a matter of faith that change is good, and launch far too many initiatives. The vast majority of these fail, creating widespread change fatigue, which makes future initiatives even less likely to succeed and leaves everybody feeling even less motivated, undermining performance.

We need to have more reverence for the mundane and ordinary. For better or worse, it works and it’s what people know. To create genuine transformation we need to get out of the business of selling ideas and into the business of selling success. If we can help allies to make change successful, even on a small scale, they can bring in others who bring in others still.

Change is only good if it leads to positive outcomes. We need to approach transformation efforts with more gravity, seriousness and determination. That means fewer initiatives, pursued longer and focused on greater impact.

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So those are my top posts for 2022. Thanks to everybody for all your support over the years. I’m taking the next few weeks off, but will be back on Sunday, January 8th with my future trend for 2022, “Making The Shift From Disruption To Resilience.”

Have a safe and happy New Year!

– Greg


Photo by op23 on Unsplash

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