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The East African : Oct 6th 2014
48 The EastAfrican BUSINESS OCTOBER 4-10,2014 MANAG E R Can Google’s fo≥mula be applied to all businesses? By STEVE LOHR New York Times Service CAN GOOGLE’S WINNING ways be applied to all kinds of businesses? The authors of How Google Works, Eric Schmidt, Google’s former chief executive, and Jonathan Rosenberg, a former senior product manager at Google, firmly believe that they can. The critical ingredient, they argue One exercise that enhances this skill has you examine the importance and congruence of your various roles and responsibilities in life. scribe ourselves today. In an age of constant communication and economic pressure, everyone is struggling to have meaningful work, domestic bliss, community engagement and a satisfying inner life. A commitment to better “work- A wo≥k-life balance is a myth O vercommitted, dis- tracted, stressed out, stretched too thin. This is how many of us de- COMMENTARY STEWART D. FRIEDMAN “A more realistic and more gratifying goal is better integration between work and the rest of life through the pursuit of four-way wins.” life balance” isn’t the solution. It’s a misguided metaphor because it assumes we must always make tradeoffs among the four main aspects of our lives: Work or school, home or family, community, or self. A more realistic and more gratifying goal is better integration between work and the rest of life through the pursuit of four-way wins, which improve performance in all four dimensions. Such integration starts with em- bracing three key principles: Be real, be whole and be innovative. It takes certain skills to bring those principles to life. In my 30 years as a professor, researcher, consultant and executive, I’ve found 18 specific skills that foster greater alignment and harmony among the four life domains. Skills for being real Act with authenticity by clari- fying what’s important. That requires you to: • Know what matters. • Embody values consistently. • Align actions with values. • Convey values with stories. • Envision your legacy. • Hold yourself accountable. One exercise that enhances this skill, called “four circles,” has you examine the importance and congruence of your various roles and responsibilities in life. You start by drawing circles representing the four domains — work, home, community and self — varying the sizes to reflect how much you value each. Next you move the circles to show whether and to what degree they overlap. Think about the values, goals, interests and actions you pursue in each domain. Are they compatible? Could you change how you work without diminishing the personal value you derive from it? Could you help your family to better see how your business life benefits them so that they would be more supportive of it? A complementary exercise, called “conversation starter,” encourages people to embody values consistently. This involves bringing an object from your nonwork life (such as a family photograph or a trophy) into the office. If a colleague mentions it, you explain what this part of your life means to you and how it helps you at work. You might also take something from your work to your home and talk to your roommates, spouse or kids about it. Skills for being whole Act with integrity. Respect the fact that all the roles you play make up one whole person and encourage others to view you the same way. To do that you must be able to: • Clarify expectations. • Help others. • Build supportive networks. • Apply all your resources. • Manage bounda- ries intelligently. • Weave disparate strands. One of the most im- portant skills here is knowing how to apply all your resources in the various domains of your life to benefit the other domains. An exercise that helps you do that is called “talent transfer.” Write a résumé listing all the skills you’ve developed and think of how each might be used to achieve different ends. Another way to do this is to reflect on something that makes you feel good — a work accomplishment, a fruitful friendship — and then consider an area of your life you’d like to improve. How might the skills you used to achieve the former help you in the latter? To manage boundaries intel- ligently is another key challenge. I advise people to practise something I call “segment and merge,” and then decide which strategy works best when. First, think about ways to create separation (in time and space) between your different roles. You may try setting limits on yourself. For example, if your job keeps monopolising your evenings, you could experiment with a “no smartphones at the dinner table” policy. Now do the opposite: Think about opportunities to bring together two or more parts of your life. After you’ve tried a new way of segmenting and a new way of merging, jot down your insights about what worked and what didn’t. Skills for being innovative Act with creativity in identifying and pursuing more four-way wins. To do so, you need to: • Focus on results. in their new book, is to build teams, companies and corporate cultures around people they call “smart creatives.” These are digital-age descendants of yesterday’s “knowledge workers,” a term coined in 1959 by Peter Drucker, the famed management theorist. But the new breed is a far cry • Resolve conflicts among do- mains. • Challenge the status quo. • See new ways of doing things. • Embrace change courageously. • Create cultures of innovation around you. “Scenario” exercises increase your capacity to focus on results, especially on the quality of your contributions rather than the amount of time or energy you spend on them. Scenarios involve identifying a specific goal you want to achieve and then listing three alternative ways to get there, including the resources you’ll need and the challenges you’ll face. Another method is experimenting with new patterns of behaviour, trying activities at new times or in different places. What were the pros and cons of switching up your routine? “Crowdsourcing” is an exercise that helps you practise how to see new ways of doing things. Gather some of your most creative friends and describe a problem you’re facing. Then ask for ideas about potential solutions and record what you hear. Select the one you think wisest, draft a plan and try to make it happen. Stay in touch with your advisers and after a month or so review your results with them. If the approach you tried didn’t work, or if you need more time to solve the problem, tweak your behaviour or try another idea altogether. Leading the life you want is a craft. As with music, writing or any athletic endeavor, you can always get better at it by practising. Understand the skills you need to accomplish each. And then commit to doing the fun and fruitful work of making them part of your leadership repertoire. Stewart D. Friedman is the Practice Professor of Management at the Wharton School from the staid, organisation men of the past. Smart creatives, the authors write, are impatient, outspoken risk-takers who are easily bored and change jobs frequently. They are intellectually versatile, typically “combining technical depth with business savvy and creative flair,” the authors note. “They are a new kind of animal,” Mr Schmidt and Mr Rosenberg write. “And they are the key to achieving success in the Internet Century.” Their book, written with Alan Eagle, a speechwriter and communications employee at Google, is filled with instructive anecdotes of Google lore. One early story, from 2002, is presented as a distillation of Google’s distinctive culture. Larry Page, the co-founder, was chagrined at how terrible the ads were that were being served up alongside many searches - random and irrelevant. He printed out the searches with the offending ads, marked them, and wrote on top, “THESE ADS STINK.” He pinned the pages to a bulletin board in the company kitchen, and left for the weekend. Five engineers worked on the The new breed is a far cry from the staid, organisation men of the past. Smart creatives, are impatient. ad programme over the weekend, without any direct prompting, and solved the problem. That became the essence of Google’s “ad relevance score,” which presented search-related ads based on their relevance rather than how much the advertiser was willing to pay or how many clicks the ads received. The five “problem-solving ninjas,” the authors write, were not even on the Google ads team. It’s a neat and telling story. But it’s also true that similar stories of smart, creative entrepreneurial teams solving thorny problems are nothing new.
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