Quick Notes

Brief, intermittent notes on mindsets and skill sets that help you become a more innovative and effective leader. Written to be easy to absorb and apply.


innovation and leadership insights

Experimenting with Success

February 21, 2009

Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that, "All life is an experiment; the more experiments you make the better."

Emerson also said, "Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you."

kaleidoscopeThe link between these two thoughts: when you have something important to accomplish, but are not quite sure how to achieve it, try a few experiments.

Create a hypothesis, or even just an interesting idea, and test it - with the goal of learning something new and useful. Identify what you learned and let that shape your next experiment.

This strategy can reduce your level of risk and break big challenges into a series of more manageable queries.

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Generative Strengths

February 21, 2009

Our strengths are the things we consistently and easily do better than most. We tend to be drawn to situations that require them, because they challenge us in ways we like to be challenged. As we learn how to use certain strengths to accomplish what's important, they become generative strengths.

Generative-StrengthThis applies on both a personal level and a business level.

Think about your best successes to date. What strengths supported each of them? Which strengths cut across most of them?

Corning has produced life-changing technologies for over 100 years. Their process for sustained creativity is a generative strength. This strength enabled them to create the first successful light bulbs for Thomas Edison ... and then a machine to mass produce them. They mass-produced glass color-TV tubes, dominating the market to the point the U.S. Justice Department got involved. They moved on again - to make...

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Failing Well

February 19, 2009

Big ambitions and big achievements require a resilience honed by setbacks, new learning, and a commitment to your version of success. In his commencement address at San Francisco State University, Mayor Gavin Newsom highlighted setbacks navigated by some notable achievers:

  • Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team ... because he wasn't good enough.
  • Elvis Presley got an F in Music.
  • Winston Churchill finished last in his class ... and later remarked that the secret to success was "going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm."

Another notable Churchill observation: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." What historical heavyweight do you think persevered through the following?

1831: failed in business.

1832: lost his bid for a legislative seat.

1834: failed again in business.

1835: sweetheart died.

1836: had a nervous breakdown.

1838: lost his second political race.

1843: defeated for Congress.


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