Category Archives: Management

Should you encourage your employees to take risk to innovate?

General management’s injunction to employees to take more risks to innovate usually has no effect. This is because what blocks innovation is not lack of risk taking but counter-productive mental models.

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Building the Organization for Uncertainty: Lessons from The German Army’s Prewar Leadership Model

[version en français ici]

How can an organization not only protect itself from uncertainty, but more importantly take advantage of it? The question is a hot one these days. It preoccupies many strategists, jumping from one crisis to another in a world that has become highly unstable and full of surprises. One source of inspiration, perhaps unexpected, is the German army, which built, from the end of the 19th century, a very powerful leadership model from which we can learn a lot.

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Is Meta the new Kodak? Eight history lessons on the necessity and risks of big innovation bets

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, is doing badly. The announcement of its poor results was very badly received by the stock market. The company lost 25% of its value in one day. The weakness of Facebook and the doubts about the relevance of the colossal investment made in the metaverse, a system creating a virtual world, question the strategy of the company. The weakness of the legacy activity, and the difficulty to launch a new activity, the situation of Meta is not unlike that of Kodak twenty years ago. A look at the history of the major bets made by companies to launch or renew themselves is useful to better understand the issues facing Meta and avoid hasty judgments.

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How declining organizations get used to mediocrity

[version en Français ici]

Companies rarely collapse all at once. The collapse is often only the visible phase of a decline that started long before and developed insidiously. Like the famous frog that does not react when the temperature of the water in which it is placed rises, this slowness makes it more difficult to react: the signs of decline seem disparate and it is difficult to link them together to build a picture of danger. At the heart of this difficulty is the silence about the situation within the organization, and the tacit acceptance of mediocrity.

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Innovation: why the distinction between exploration and exploitation is problematic

In the field of innovation, the distinction between exploration and exploitation is universal. It is clear, it seems obvious, and it has become gospel in the world of innovation. Yet it is counter-productive, as it rests on questionable assumptions. It illustrates how the way we formulate a problem, i.e. our mental model, determines our ability to solve it. The wrong mental model locks us in, while the right one opens up possibilities. It’s time to let go the exploration/exploitation distinction.

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Do you need to build a cathedral to give meaning to your employees’ work?

Our era is in search of meaning; at least that is what we hear over and over again in companies and in society as a whole. The absence of meaning leads to disengagement, and the human resources departments of large companies are engaged in a great race to “recreate meaning” under the leadership of visionary leaders. The idea is that an ambitious vision, a noble purpose, a great narrative, will give meaning to wandering souls. This idea is illustrated by a famous tale, that of the stonemason who builds a cathedral, motivated by something greater than himself. However attractive it may be, this tale plays on questionable beliefs, and the fact that it has become a reference for motivational seminars is regrettable. In fact, it is not necessary to build a cathedral to give meaning to one’s work.

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In uncertainty, what can you control?

Uncertainty is anxiety-provoking in many ways, and often with good reason. Defined as the absence of information about a given phenomenon, it often means that we don’t know what to expect, leaving the door open to unpleasant surprises – loss of job, illness, accident, war, etc. – and leaving us helpless. Because the main fear linked to uncertainty is that of loss of control, where we can no longer foresee or plan. But this fear is based on a belief that only prediction allows control. This is not necessarily the case, and the two notions can be dissociated, with important consequences for management.

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In uncertainty, be a vulnerable leader

Decision-making in uncertainty is a difficult art. One of the reasons is that the tools and concepts we use are, for the most part, design for risk, i.e. for clearly defined and repeated situations. Such tools assume that uncertainty is something to protect against. This mental model of protection, which seems so logical, is in fact counterproductive. What if, on the contrary, we should not protect ourselves (too much) from uncertainty?

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Entrepreneurship and human action: Why the award received by Darden’s Saras Sarasvathy is important

Saras Sarasvathy, the originator of the entrepreneurial theory of effectuation, has just received the prestigious Swedish Global Award for Entrepreneurship Research. Organized since 1996 by the Swedish Foundation for Small Business Research (FSF) and the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, the award recognizes researchers who made major contributions to entrepreneurship research. She joins such great researchers as Sidney Winter, Shaker Zahra, Kathleen Eisenhardt, Scott Shane, Israel Kirzner, William Gartner, William Beaumol or Zoltan Acs and David Audretsch. The prize is the recognition of more than twenty years of efforts to promote a radically different approach to entrepreneurship. But its significance goes far beyond that, as effectuation is above all a vision of human action and freedom.

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The three (wrong) reasons why you want to motivate your employees in uncertainty

We live in a world marked by uncertainty and punctuated by major surprises that call into question many of our beliefs. This questioning can be very anxiety-provoking as it seems that we can no longer rely on anything stable to move forward in life. This is particularly true in companies: the situation can go as far as a form of paralysis, caused by the feeling that whatever we undertake, an unforeseen event will call everything into question. This can lead to a loss of motivation. And yet, there is no reason why uncertainty should be demotivating.

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