Feeds:
Posts
Comments

teens

In the last 100 years, 16,307,243 men have been inducted (drafted) into the military: WWI – 2.8 mil., WWII – 10.1 mil., Korea – 1.5 mil., and Vietnam – 1.9 mil.  In 1970 the Selective Service System went to a lottery system based on your birthday.  In that year, the first 195 birthdays were drafted; my birthday was #82.  It didn’t matter to me since I was already in the U.S. Marine Corps.  The last man drafted entered the Army on June 30, 1972.

No one that I knew wanted to be drafted, but off they went to serve their country.  As the years passed, I’ve bumped into very few individuals that served in the military, including those drafted, that didn’t consider it a life learning experience.  We learned responsibility, commitment, loyalty, discipline and the experience of “serving” our country.  We learned how to work with individuals with vastly different backgrounds and perspectives.  And, we experienced some things that we would like to forget.  Most of us can still talk about it as if were yesterday.

Let me put this into perspective.  Today we have 1.4 million individuals serving in the military protecting 323 million of us; or 0.4 percent of our population.  So very few individuals will acquire that “serving your country” experience.

I realize that everyone can’t serve in the military.  In a ‘We Are the Mighty’ article in 2015, it was reported that there were 34 million individuals between the ages of 17 – 34.  Of that group 71% wouldn’t qualify for military service due to physical, behavioral and emotional issues.  Of the qualified group, only 1% had an interest to serve in the military.  We, as a country, have become disconnected from the idea of serving our country.

Here is my thought-provoking proposal.  Every young person, starting at age 18 must serve their country in one of the following services.

  • Military (two years active, or 6 years reserve)
  • Conservation Service (National Parks, recreation, energy programs, etc.)
  • Medical Service (Veterans hospitals, health service, etc.)
  • Peace Corps (as is)
  • Educational Service (Programs for supporting primarily at risk schools, preschool programs, maintenance, etc.).

There would be two commitment choices for non-military service; a two-year full-time commitment, or a four-year commitment of two active weeks each year and two days a month.  Pay grades and ‘service’ benefits would be like those for military personnel.  How about earning funds for college, college credit, help with buying a house and medical benefits?

While the service requirement starts at 18, full-time student deferments (college, trade schools, etc.) would make sense for filling certain positions; however, the deferment would have a set period.  Also, the non-military service options would provide a great opportunity for those individuals with some physical limitations that could not serve in the military.

The future of our country will be determined by how well we prepare our young people.  However, too many of them today are struggling to find a path forward or a purpose; or in street terms, a way out.  I believe this would provide a valuable building-block for growth, and it would greatly benefit our country.

 

 

orignal-thought

One of the great benefits of the rapid development and integration of computers in our lives is that information/data is ubiquitous.  It is basically available to anyone who wants to discover it.  So, some say, original thoughts are simply a compilation of existing information; a new recipe of existing ingredients.  It reminds me of a quote I ran across years ago:  Charles H. Duell was the Commissioner of US patent office in 1899 when he said that “everything that can be invented has been invented.”

Think of the journey the Wright brothers traveled to develop the foundation of manned-flight.  Remember the term “wonder drugs?”  They were ‘magical’ discoveries.’  I remember the conversations I had with my Uncle Frank, who was born in 1914, about some of the discoveries he experienced in his lifetime.  Even as an engineer, he marveled at the atomic bomb, and in later years personal computers.  Society couldn’t begin to understand the substance of these early discoveries.

For me, I remember in 1964 when I was at the World’s Fair in New York City; we were young kids.  Several of my friends and I walked into a room to get something to eat.  We were directed to a cooler that had hot dogs in small plastic bags.  Quite surprised, we turned to the clerk and said “these are cold.”  He pointed to a machine of some kind and told us to put the hot dogs in it and press the hot dog button.  Sixty seconds later we had steaming hot dogs out of a machine that didn’t get hot.  It was magic.  We couldn’t wait to get back to Kentucky and tell our friends about this magic box.  The funny thing is that we couldn’t adequately explain it.  The magic – a microwave oven.

So, what has changed?  Is original thought dead?  My answer, a resounding NO.  What has changed is the “expectation” of discovery.  Just a few decades ago, society did not expect some of the inventions that have become part of our lives.  Now society recognizes the power of the technology/information/data we have at our fingertips, and how it is going to change our future.  Original thought is not seen as ’discovery;’ it is simply an expectation.  Even to the point where you hear “Why is it taking so long?”

 

 

victory-boy-silhouette

For almost forty years (1961 – 1998) ABC’s Wide World of Sports held a special place in sports broadcasting.  Who could forget those iconic words “The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat” coupled with clips of spectacular sports feats and unbelievable calamities.  My favorite was the ski jumper that crashed as he got to the bottom of the 90-meter jump flying off into the crowd; truly the agony of defeat.

As the years have passed by, I am amused by the change in perspective of losing.  Back then, the thought of losing was a great motivator not only in sports but in life in general.  Losing made you feel bad; and it made you want to work harder to win the next time.  I can still remember the time I didn’t make a little league baseball team when all my friends did; I wasn’t good enough.  What a motivator; it was the last time I didn’t make a team.  At the end of the season, there were no “participation” ribbons and plaques.  In fact, there were very few trophies in youth sports.  When the season was over, everyone knew how they did; that’s it.

We have gotten to a point where, in society, losing is not a big deal.  So what?  I lost!  No shame, no regret, no big deal, no disappointment.  A great business example is filing bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy use to carry a bad stigma, now it is just another option in an array of possible actions.

I worry about the standards we are setting for our children when we don’t expose them to the setbacks resulting from failure.  Setbacks they can learn from, setbacks that become the impetus for growing into something better.  Failure should hurt.  Failure should make you feel bad.  The feeling of coming up short should be a building block for improvement.  It should not be masked over with a feel-good participation trophy, a ‘get out of jail free’ card, or societal cuddling.  I worry about young people entering the workforce not knowing the pain of failure; i.e., the agony of defeat.

Some of the strongest people I know experienced great failures in their lives, overcame insurmountable odds, and became incredibly powerful people.  When you ask them about their success, somewhere early in the conversation they talk about their setbacks and how they had to fight their way out of a dark place. – No excuses.

mistake

I find it somewhat amusing that the term “unintended consequences” has been surfacing in the political discourse of the presidential campaigns.  It has been introduced as a new discovery.  Wow, look what happened when ‘they’ did that.  That’s awful.

There are always unintended consequences to a decision; some good and some bad.  It is not just recognizing that there will be unintended consequences to your decision that is important; it’s also thinking about how these consequences might occur.  – And, planning what to do if they do emerge.

In two earlier posts The Second and Third Order Consequences (https://thinkinthingsover.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/the-second-and-third-order-consequences-8/) and The Second and Third Order Consequences – Part II (https://thinkinthingsover.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/the-second-and-third-order-consequences-part-ii/) I give examples of how unintended consequence occur.  They are not random, and they should, in most cases, not be a surprise.  You have to think beyond your decision about possible reactions outside of what you are trying to accomplish.  I am not talking about decision science or some predictive algorithm; it’s “common sense.”

By now you have probably figured out where I’m going with this.  Political discourse → unintended consequences of government decisions → lack of common sense.  Yep!

 

Numbers

Math 2

Recently, I was having a conversation with a young manager about what the future would look like fifty years from now.  I was surprised by the “certainty” of his perspective.  He delved into everything from computer technology, medicine, manufacturing, education and communication.  Each of his projections was based off of what is happening today.  They were logical and made sense.  Why wouldn’t you expect these things to happen?  It made me think of ‘numbers.’

Over forty years ago, my first math course in college was called Modern Math.  The course was about binary mathematics and set theory.  Pretty cool stuff, huh.  Yeah, that is what I also thought.  But, who would ever use this crazy stuff?

For those of you who are a little rusty on your math, binary mathematics is the world of 0’s and 1’s.  Ah, you are getting the picture.  In today’s digital world, 0’s and 1’s rule.  Simply put, we would not have computers today without binary math.  In my wildest dreams back in that class, I could have never imagined the impact binary math would have on our society fifty years later.  Neither can this young manager project with confidence what the world will be like in fifty years.

Let me put this into perspective.  Back in my class we were doing binary math problems by hand.  Next, in the late 1970’s, I started using the ‘new’ personal computers, which seemed like magic at the time.  Now, Intel (Visit their website: “Guide to the Internet of Things”), estimates by 2020, over 200 billion devices will be connected through the Internet creating in excess of 500 trillion gigabytes of data each year.  Think about it; a gigabyte = 1 billion bytes, a byte = 8 bits, and a bit is either a 0 or 1. They are saying over 500 trillion ‘gigabytes’ of data. – That is a lot of 0’s and 1’s.

Trying to imagine a future world fifty years out is fun, but unrealistic.  What is important is to be keenly aware of the technological advances taking place today, and thinking about where they might be headed a few years out.  While you may be right sometimes, most often you will be surprised at what surfaces.  Most important, however, is that you will start to see patterns; which are the early images of things to come.

I will leave you with one of the projections I made about five years ago.  Nano technology → Medicine → med-bots, or robots → in my blood stream → my “in-house” doctor.  I think the holdup is that they can’t figure out how to bill me.

The Boardwalk

Laguna Beach Boardwalk

It was a beautiful sunny day in Southern California.  We were on a weekend pass from Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base strolling along the boardwalk at Laguna Beach.  As on most summer days, the boardwalk cooks in the afternoon sun.  Without shoes, it becomes a sprint versus a stroll.

We discovered, without much effort, a little bar/restaurant with a spectacular view of the ocean.  We were done strolling; we settled in to enjoy our type of R&R.  All of a sudden the door burst open and in charged a young woman who blurted out something about the heat and the boardwalk.  She was our new bartender.

Over the next hour we occasionally chatted with her.  At one point she said this; “You look like a smart bunch of Marines, so let me ask you a question.  What five letter word causes more harm and destruction than any other word.  For about the next five minutes we tried to come up with the word she was looking for.  Finally, we gave up.  She then told us her story.

I have never forgotten this experience and often reflect back on that beautiful day and the conversation with the bartender.  While this might not be the most destructive word, it is right at the top of possibilities.  Over the past thirty years in business, I have seen businesses, families, and relationships be absolutely destroyed by this insidious and seductive siren.  In the end, everyone that is touched by it becomes a causality.  What was the word?  GREED!

This old encounter came back to me again earlier this year when I was working with a senior official of a large organization.  The relationship started out as expected but gradually started moving in a different direction.  The pattern became clear when the demons came out of the closet; it was a classic example of someone chasing that great monster called more; i.e. greed.  In the end, the objective of the initial endeavor failed; six people were negatively impacted with three leaving the organization.

The official suffered a greater setback than had they played it straight and still failed.  I am not sure that they will ever recognize this.  Unfortunately, the second order consequence of the monster chase was that the organization also damaged its reputation.

Contrary to Gordon Gekko’s (Wall Street) comment “greed is good,” I have never seen a winner.  Just ask the bartender.

 

Reinventive Thinking  (R) Bus Card

Over the past thirty plus years, I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of business owners ranging from mom-and-pop stores to multi-million dollar international companies.  Regardless of the industry or size of the business, the one common issue CEO’s and owners are concerned with is effective decision-making.  In effective decisions are very costly to a business, so any improvement in this competency vastly improves the performance of their company.  The following is a very brief discussion about my ReINVENTive Thinking®, The Art of Decision-making process.

Peter Drucker once said, “…. the root cause of many of today’s business crises is not that things are being done poorly, or even that the wrong things are being done.  In most cases, the right things are being done – but fruitlessly.  The problem; the assumptions on which the business has been built and being run no longer fit reality.”  Peter Drucker said this in a 1994 Harvard Business Review article, The Theory of the Business, and it is still a big issue for businesses today.

What influences our decisions?

What influences our decisions

To the decision-maker all of these influences can be perceived as reality.

I have said for years that “Most people make decisions based on the first-order consequence of the decision.”  Do you know the second, third or possibly the fourth-order consequence of your decision?  Do you need to?  In life there is almost always a second and third-order consequence to a decision.  Coupling this with not recognizing the reality of your situation, can be very costly to the decision-maker.  So, how do you make more effective decisions?

An effective decision process consists of three unique components that are dynamic, and interdependent.

The decision process

The following schematic shows how the decision process works.

The decision process mechanics

The triangle represents three components of a decision-maker, Decision-making (leadership), Knowledge (competencies) and Action (capabilities).

In this case let’s assume that the schematic represents “how” a business makes decisions.  As outside issues impact a business, the business must be ‘programmed’ to effectively assess the issue.  Is it something that can negatively impact the business?  Is it an opportunity?  Is it meaningless?  To determine this, an organization:

  • Must be receptive to identifying issues that can impact the business. (Blue cloud)
  • Next they must test (through knowledge) the potential impact of the issue. (1)
  • Then they must identify, or design, a reaction/response to the issue. (2)
  • Next, they must test that reaction to the issue. (3)
  • Finally, they must monitor the reaction of the issue. (4)  Adjustments to the response may, or may not, have to be made.

It is important to note that the triangle does not represent an organizational structure.  It is a mindset, and competency, that is automatically applied throughout an organization.  The process can be lightning fast or applied over time.  It all depends on the complexity of the outside issue.  For example, a disruptive product entering the marketplace would require a more intense process than a routine sourcing issue for a product component.  Recognize that the decision-process is not just about operating issues, it’s about all important decisions.  For example, the blue cloud issue could represent an ownership situation that has the potential to change control of the business.

Going back to Peter Drucker’s comment on reality, let’s see how the decision process applies.

The decision process perspective

The blue circles in at the bottom represent the components of the business’s changing environment.  The circles move around, change size, disappear and new circles form.  It is the dynamic external environment within which the business operates.  You have to develop and apply knowledge to your decision process from this perspective.  It is your reality.

The following schematic shows how a business stays connected to the reality of their environment.

The decision process changing environment

The triangles at the right and center indicate that “the assumptions upon which the business has been built and being run no longer fit reality.”  Reality has moved to the left.  Doing the right things (you think) when your reality has shifted, is fruitless.

What do you do now?

There are several critical steps to get you started.

  1. Establish a sound understanding of decision-making responsibility within the organization.
    1. The focus is on the process of decision-making. It answers my favorite question, “tell me the process you used to make the decision.”
  2. Formalize your management process for distributing responsibility by providing direction.
    1. Provide a clear description of the direction, how it is connected to the strategic objectives of the organization, and the expected results.
      • Time frames are important.
    2. As a decision-maker, make clear distinctions between direction for knowledge development and direction for implementation, and manage each accordingly.
    3. Make the decision-making process dynamic, real-time, and on-going.
      1. Make it systemic to the organization. No matter what issue you are dealing with, you have an efficient way to manage it.

Why is effective decision-making so important?

  • About 70% of family businesses fail or are sold before the second generation can assume control.
  • Only 10% of the family businesses make it to the third generation.
  • Most family, and private, businesses are managed by the same ownership control, individual(s), for many years.
  • A major cause for failing is the inability to adapt to a changing environment.
    • A business must be as dynamic as their environment.
    • Assumptions about your business must fit reality. – Drucker
    • In times of drastic change, it is the learners who will inherit the future. – Eric Hoffer

So again, “Tell me the process you used to make the decision.”

 

 

%d bloggers like this: