Drops from the Fire Hose – September 27, 2012

How to Minimize Your Biases When Making Decisions — Harvard Business Review

To minimize their impact, we must:

  • Search relentlessly for potentially relevant or new disconfirming evidence
  • Accept the “Chief Contrarian” as part of the team
  • Seek diverse outside opinion to counter our overconfidence
  • Reward the process and refrain from penalizing errors when the intentions and efforts are sound
  • Reframe or flip the problem on its head to see if we are viewing the situation in either a positive or negative framework
  • Redefine the problem from here on out and ignore the old problem to avoid escalation of unnecessary commitment
  • Develop systemic review processes that leave you a committed “out” possibility when trying to “cut the losses”
  • Avoid the potential for escalation or further emotional investment in faulty decisions engendered by premature “public” commitment.

Metrics are Easy; Insight is Hard — Harvard Business Review

Big data is great. But we should consider that we’ve actually had more data than we can reasonably use for a while now. Just on the marketing front, it isn’t uncommon to see reports overflowing with data and benchmarks drawn from millions of underlying data points covering existing channels like display, email, website, search, and shopper/loyalty — and new data streams such as social and mobile engagement, reviews, comments, ratings, location check-ins and more.

In contrast to this abundant data, insights are relatively rare. Insights here are defined as actionable, data-driven findings that create business value. They are entirely different beasts from raw data. Delivering them requires different people, technology, and skills — specifically including deep domain knowledge. And they’re hard to build.

How To Nurture Your Company’s Rebels, And Unlock Their Innovative Might — Co.Design

In his book The Opposable Mind, the management guru Roger Martin argued that the ability to hold opposing truths was a critical quality for business leaders. Or in the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The mark of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts in its mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” If it is true that tension is a hallmark of our complex society and requires complex solutions, and that the “most enduring institutions” are contradictory, as David Brooks contends in a recent New York Times column about the Olympics, then creative opposition inside companies is nothing but the tangible manifestation of it. With a strong and self-organized in-house opposition, companies can cover the entire breadth of their corporate character. It allows them to acknowledge that they are complex and multipolar, that they have multiple truths, and that, through this tension, they can become capable of stretching themselves, expanding, and realizing their full potential.

How To Manage When You Hate Being A Manager — Fast Company

Managing others requires doing what I call flexing your style. That means meeting others where they’re at. Just to stave off boredom, each person you manage comes equipped with his or her own specific personality. Such fun! Go ahead and assume none of them are capable of meeting you where you’re at–few people are that gifted. In fact, feel free to expand that assumption to your peers and supervisors as well. Although we’ll save that Pandora’s Box for another time.

Brother, can you spare $829 billion? — Remapping Debate

So how much pump-priming could America’s largest corporations achieve if they were to dig into their cash and cash equivalents as well as their short-term investments? Remapping Debate examined the relevant quarterly Securities and Exchange Commission filings of the 100 largest corporations by revenue as ranked by the Fortune 500 in 2012 (looking only at publicly-held corporations, and excluding those in the financial sector). We looked at filing data for the period closest to June 30th in 2012, 2006, and 2000.

The results are available to you in the data viz below, with each of three numbers calculated as a percentage of total assets for each of the three years: cash and cash equivalents (CCE) separately, short-term investments separately, and CCE and short-term investments combined (for 10 companies in 2000, comparable data were not available).

It turns out that more than 70 percent of the corporations listed in both 2012 and 2000 showed an increase over time in CCE and short-term investments combined as a percentage of total assets, including 15 corporations where the percentage point increase was 10 points or more.

The viz allows you to sort companies by their relative Fortune 500 rank; by the dollar amount of their CCE, short-term investments, or CCE and short-term investments combined; and by the percentage of total assets represented by CCE, short-term investments, or CCE and short-term investments combined. All figures have been inflation-adjusted to 2012 dollars.

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