11 Metaphors for Entrepreneurs

11 Metaphors for Entrepreneurs

A metaphor compares one thing to another for rhetorical effect.  I hope the following metaphors will make the journey of entrepreneurship easier to understand.

  1. Flow.  Do what absorbs you.  Consider Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s concept of “flow:” find that activity in which you are a fully immersed, feeling energized, and experiencing joy.
  2. Birds of a Feather.  Who you are, what you know, and who you know are the means of your entrepreneurial endeavor.  According to Saras Sarasvathy, the founders of Starbucks did not study market trends but their own need for quality coffee; Facebook began as a sophomoric (pun intended) social comparison tool among friends.
  3. Bird in the Hand.  Expert entrepreneurs follow an inductive approach.  Surprisingly, they don’t begin with a “situation analysis;” rather, according to Saras Sarasvathy, they begin with who they know and what they know.  Ring Cam began as a group of college students with an idea to solve a problem they understood.
  4. Jockey.  In Good to Great, Jim Collins writes it’s first Who, then What.  Idea pitch and business plan competitions, even Shark Tank have it wrong.  The quality of the people matter more than the quality of the idea.  He wasn’t alone in giving this advice. In 1957 Arthur Rock was instrumental in the creation of Fairchild Semiconductor.  In 1961 he created the first venture capital firm, and was an early investor in Intel, Apple Computer, and Teledyne.  In 2003 he gave a $25 million gift to Harvard Business School for a center for entrepreneurship. One of Arthur Rock’s maxims was that it was more important and better to invest in people than ideas.
  5. Soul.  The entrepreneurial journey is a mountain to climb.  To stay in for the long-run you need to feed your soul.  In other words, you work is bigger than you and realizing that, ironically, is not overwhelming but motivating and freeing.  Which of the world’s needs are you meeting?  What is that “still, small voice” suggesting you do?  How are you engaged in transforming culture for God’s Kingdom?  Is this a calling?
  6. Pain.  One of the tests of a calling is whether it costs you something.
  7. Patch-Work Quilt Maker.  Expert entrepreneurs are quilt-makers, according to Saras Sarasvathy.  They create their work with others, who also contribute their ideas.  Creating businesses is a tight-knit communal project.  To use another metaphor, they are business fabricators. In contrast, puzzle-makers are opportunity arbitrageurs.
  8. Building.  The most difficult thing for many people is to stop planning and to start doing.  Specifically, according to Steve Blank, one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs is talking with potential customers, suppliers, channel members, investors, etc.  The expert entrepreneurs studied by Saras Sarasvathy immediately created partnerships with customers who even helped finance their business project.
  9. Lemonade.  Expert entrepreneurs leverage contingencies.   Ivory soap and 3M sticky notes were mistakes.  Amway’s founders failed when they attempted to operate hamburger stand, air charter service, and sailing businesses.
  10. Marriage.  It is impossible for two people to do enough due diligence before marriage.  Success in marriage is less about planning and more about adaptation.   Nothing is more valuable than learning and communication.  The phrase for learning and communication in business is rapid iteration.  Failure is not “not an option,” it is a reality.  You are going to make mistakes.  We don’t set out to make mistakes, but we welcome them for learning purposes.
  11. B Student.  Expert entrepreneurs thrive on EI (emotional intelligence).  The Wright Brothers may have been geniuses, but what made them so is that they never quit trying.  Want to get inspired?  Read David McCullough’s biography.

Overcoming Five Dysfunctions

Five Dysfunctions

“Not finance.  Not strategy.  Not technology.  It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage” (p. vii).

The Five Dysfunctions

  • When we fail to Focus on Results, we

    • fail to grow
    • fail to win
    • lose achievement-orientated people
    • encourage people to focus on themselves
    • are distracted
  • When we Avoid Accountability, we
    • cause resentment
    • encourage mediocrity
    • miss deadlines
    • burden the team leader
  • When we Lack Commitment, we

    • create ambiguity about goals and priorities
    • contribute to a lack of confidence
    • ignore “the elephant in the room.”
    • revisit previous discussions
  • When we Fear Conflict, we

    • conduct boring meetings
    • encourage a political environment
    • ignore controversy
    • fail to engage team members deeply
  • When we Lack Trust, we
    • hide weaknesses
    • are slow to ask for help
    • are slow to contribute
    • hate meetings

Overcoming The Five Dysfunctions

BUILDING TRUST

Trust is not the ability to predict the behaviors of others.  “Trust is all about vulnerability.  Team members who trust one another learn to be comfortable being open, even exposed, to one another around their failures, weaknesses, even fears…Vulnerability-based trust is predicated on the simple—and practical—idea that people who aren’t afraid to admit the truth about themselves are not going to engage in the kind of political behavior that wastes everyone’s time and energy, and more importantly, makes the accomplishment of results an unlikely scenario” (p. 14).

“The idea of putting themselves at risk for the good of others is not natural, and is rarely rewarded in life…” (pp. 16, 17).

“The key ingredient to building trust is not time, it’s courage” (p.18).

Trust-building Tools

Personal histories.  “At a staff meeting or off-site, go around the room and have every member of the team explain three things: where they grew up, how many kids were in their family, and what was the most difficult or important challenge of their childhood” (p. 19).

“When team members reveal aspects of their personal lives to their peers, they learn to get comfortable being open with them about other things.  They begin to let down their guard about their strengths, weaknesses, opinions, and ideas” (p. 20).

The personal history exercise helps everyone overcome “one of the great destroyers of teamwork:” the fundamental attribution error.  “The fundamental attribution error is simply this: human beings tend to falsely attribute the negative behaviors of others to their character (an internal attribution), while they contribute their own negative behaviors to their environment (an external attribution)….“As a result [of going through the personal histories exercise], there is a far greater likelihood that empathy and understanding will trump judgment and accusation when it comes to questionable behavior” (p. 21).

UTILIZING CONFLICT

Conflict: “productive, ideological conflict: unfiltered debate around issues of importance to the team” (p. 37).

“If team members are never pushing one another outside of their emotional comfort zones during discussions, then it is extremely likely that they’re not making the best decisions for the organization.”  Conflict is the median between “artificial harmony” and “mean-spirited personal attacks” (p. 38).

Tools for Constructive Conflict

“The best way is simply to talk about it.”  What is their conflict profile based on Myers-Briggs?  How was their view of conflict “shaped by their childhood or maturation process?”  “The point is that when people self-identify and publicly declare their outlook on conflict, they become much more open to adjusting it to whatever the team norms need to be established”  (p. 42).

ACHIEVING COMMITMENT

“Let’s be clear about something: commitment is not about consensus….It’s about a group of intelligent, driven individuals buying in to a decision precisely when they don’t naturally agree.  In other words, it’s the ability to defy a lack of consensus” (p. 51).

Tools for Getting Buy-in

Commitment Clarification.  “With five minutes to go at the end of the meeting—any type of meeting—the leader of the team needs to call a question: What exactly have we decided here today?…By being extremely explicit about what has been agreed upon, a team will be able to identify discrepancies before a decision has been announced” (pp. 54, 55).

Commitment to Key Principles.  “Teams must commit to rules of engagement around timeliness at meetings, responsiveness in communication, and general interpersonal behavior.  But beyond behavior commitment, there is the commitment to other principles such as purpose, values, mission, strategy, and goals” (p. 57).

Commitment to Thematic Goals, a Common Cause.  “At any given time, all the members should know what its top collective priority is, and how they can each contribute to addressing it” (p. 57).

EMBRACING ACCOUNTABILITY

Accountability is “the willingness of team members to remind one another when they are not living up to the performance standards of the group…. For peer-to-peer accountability to become part of the team’s culture, it has to be modeled by the leader…. That means being willing to step right into the middle of a difficult issue and remind individual team members of their responsibility, both in terms of behavior and results” (p. 61).

“The most important challenge…is overcoming the understandable hesitance of human beings to givre one another critical feedback….When teammates stop holding one another accountable, what ultimately happens over time is that they lose respect for each other, and those good feelings begin to fade” (p. 63, 64).

Tools for Practicing Accountability

Team Effectiveness Exercise.  “During an off-site meeting, or any other session where you have well over an hour available, have everyone on the team write down their answers to two simple questions about every member of the team, excluding themselves: ‘

  • What is the single most important behavioral characteristic or quality demonstrated by this person that contributes to the strength of the team?
  • What is the single most important behavioral characteristic or quality demonstrated by this person that can sometimes derail the team?

Once everyone has finished jotting down their answers, the facilitator starts by putting the leader of the team up first” (p. 65).

Meetings and Accountability.  “First, team members must know what each of the others is working on in order to hold them accountable.  The best way to do this is…asking team members to each take no more than thirty seconds to update the team about their three top priorities that week….Second…the team must track progress against its goals and highlight any shortcomings before they become problematic” (p. 67, 68).

FOCUSING ON RESULTS
“What is it about us that makes it so hard to stay focused on results?  It’s this thing called self-interest.  And self-preservation.  We have a strong and natural tendency to look out for ourselves before others, even when those others are part of our families and our teams.  And once that tendency kicks in on a team, it can spread like a disease, quickly eroding the roots of teamwork until eventually even trust has been destroyed.  How do we avoid this?  The key lies in keeping results in the foreground of people’s minds” (pp. 69, 70).

Some Leadership Biology

Quotes from Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek:

Leaders Eat Last

Good Leadership

“Good management is clearly not enough to sustain any organization over the long term…there are real reasons why some organizations may do well over a short period of time but eventually fail: The leadership has failed to create an environment where people really do matter” (George J. Flynn, p. x).

  • “Leaders are the ones who run headfirst into the unknown.
  • They rush toward danger.
  • They put their own interests aside to protect us or pull us into the future.
  • Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours and they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs.

That is what it means to be a leader. It means they choose to go first into danger, headfirst into the unknown. And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them and work tirelessly to see their visions come to life and proudly call ourselves their followers” (inside book cover).

Employees are People

“True human leadership protects an organization from the internal rivalries that can shatter a culture.  When we have to protect ourselves from each other, the whole organization suffers.  But when trust and cooperation thrive internally, we pull together and the organization grows stronger as a result” (p. 14).

“If certain conditions are met and the people inside the organization feel safe among each other, they will work together to achieve things none of them could have ever achieved alone” (p. 15).

“Those who have the opportunity to work in organizations that treat them like human beings to be protected rather than a resource to be exploited come home at the end of the day with an intense feeling of fulfillment and gratitude” (p. 16).

“Every single employee is someone’s son or someone’s daughter.  Parents work to offer their children a good life and a good education and to teach them the lessons that will help them grow up to be happy, confident and able to use all the talents they were blessed with.  Those parents then hand their children over to [an educational institution and then] a company with the hope that leaders of that company will exercise the same love and care as they have” (p. 17).

“We need to build more organizations that prioritize the care of human beings.  As leaders, it is our sole responsibility to protect our people and, in turn, our people will protect each other and advance the organization together” (p. 18).

Free From Danger

“Intimidation, humiliation, isolation, feeling dumb, feeling useless and rejection are all stresses we try to avoid inside the organization.  But the danger inside is controllable and it should be the goal of leadership to set a culture free of danger from each other.  And the way to do that is by giving people a sense of belonging.  By offering them a strong culture based on a clear set of human values and beliefs.  By giving them the power to make decisions.  By offering trust and empathy.  By creating a Circle of Safety” (p. 22).

Money A Means To An End

“[The leaders of great organizations] see the money as a commodity to be managed to help grow their people.  This is why performance really matters.  The better the organization performs, the more fuel there is to build an even bigger, more robust organization that feeds the hearts and souls of those who work there” (p. 17).

“[The] strength and endurance of a company does not come from products or services but from how well their people pull together.  Every member of the group plays a role in maintaining the Circle of Safety and it is the leader’s role to ensure they do” (pp. 22, 23).

“Letting people into your organization is like adopting a child and welcoming them into your home” (p. 23).

“[Having] a job we hate is as bad for our health and sometimes worse than not having a job at all” (p. 28).

What Bosses Shouldn’t Do

“[When] our bosses completely ignore us, 40 percent of us actively disengage from our work.  if our bosses criticize us on a regular basis, 22 percent of us actively disengage.  Meaning, even if we’re getting criticized, we are actually more engaged simply because we feel that at least someone is acknowledging that we exist!  And if our bosses recognize just one of our strengths and reward us fro doing what we’re good at, only 1 percent of us actively disengage from the work we’re expected to do” (p. 28).

“Leaders, the [Whitehall Studies] showed, have overall less stress levels than those who work for them….The lower someone’s rank in the organizational hierarchy, the greater the risk of stress-related health problems, not the other way around….Those who feel they have more control, who feel empowered to make decisions instead of waiting for approval, suffer less stress” (pp. 29, 30).

People As Social Animals

“We are all social animals….The time we spend getting to know people when we’re not working is part of what it takes to form bonds of trust.  It’s the exact same reason why eating together and doing things as a family really matters….The more familiar we are with each other, the stronger our bonds.  Social interaction is also important for the leaders of an organization. Roaming the halls of the office and engaging with people beyond meetings really matters” (p. 36).

[Resume] Chemicals*

“Two chemicals — endorphins and dopamine — are the reason we are driven to hunt, gather, and achieve.  They make us feel good when we find something we’re looking for, build something we need or accomplish our goals.  These are the chemicals of progress” (p. 39).

Endorpins

“Endorphins serve one purpose and one purpose only: to mask physical pain….The biological reason for endorphins…has to do with survival” (pp. 39, 40).

“We can actually develop a craving for endorphins.  That’s why people who are in the habit of regular exercise sometimes crave going for a run or getting to the gym to help them relax….” (p. 40).

Dopamine

“We are very visually-oriented animals….This is the reason we are often told to write down our goals….This is the reason we like to be given a clear goal to achieve to receive a bonus instead of being given some amorphous instructions….Give us something specific we can set our sights on, something we can measure our progress toward, and we are more likely to achieve it….A good vision statement…explains, in specific terms, what they world would look like if everything we did was wildly successful” (pp. 42, 43).

“But there is some fine print at the bottom of the bottle that is often missed.  Dopamine is also highly, highly addictive….Cocaine, nicotine, alcohol and gambling all release dopamine.  And the feeling can be intoxicating….There is another thing to add to that list of things that can hijack our dopamine reward system: social media” (p. 43).

“Accomplishment may be fueled by dopamine.  But that feeling of fulfillment, those lasting feelings of happiness and loyalty, all require engagement with others.  Though we may not reminisce about that goal we hit a decade ago, we will talk about the friends we made as we struggled to make it.  The good news is we also have chemical incentives that reward us with positive feelings when we act in ways that would earn us the trust, love and loyalty of others.  All we have to do to get those feelings is to give a little” (p. 44).

“Finding, building and achieving are only part of our story.  It is the manner in which we make progress that is core to our ability to do well in a dangerous world.  It is the selfless chemicals that make us feel valued when we are in the company of those we trust, give us the feeling of belonging and inspire us to want to work for the good of the group.  It is the selfless chemicals that keep the Circle of Safety strong” (p. 45).

[Eulogy] Chemicals*

Serotonin

“There to encourage pro-social behavior, serotonin and oxytocin help us form bonds of trust and friendship so that we will look out for each other….When we cooperate or look out for others, serotonin and oxytocin reward us with the feelings of security, fulfillment, belonging, trust and camaraderie” (p. 46).

“Serotonin is the feeling of pride.  It is the feeling we get when we perceive others like or respect us….Serotonin is attempting to reinforce the bond between parent and child, teacher and student, coach and player, boss and employee, leader and follower” (p. 47).

“It is because of serotonin that we can’t feel a sense of accountability to numbers; we can only feel accountable to people….This helps explain why it feels different to cross a finish line alone, without spectators, compared to when a crowd cheers as we break the tape” (p. 48).

“The more we give of ourselves to see others succeed, the greater our value to the group and the more respect they offer us.  The more respect and recognition we receive, the higher our status in the group and the more incentive we have to continue to give to the group” (p. 48).

Oxytocin

“Unlike dopamine, which is about instant gratification, oxytocin is long-lasting.  The more time we spend with someone, the more we are willing to make ourselves vulnerable around them.  As we learn to trust them and earn their trust in return, more more oxytocin flows.  In time, as if by magic, we will realize we have developed a deep bond with this person.  The madness and excitement and spontaneity of the dopamine hit is replaced by a more relaxed, more stable, more long-term oxytocin-driven relationship” (pp. 49, 50).

“My favorite definition of love is giving someone the power to destroy us and trusting they won’t use it” (p. 50).

“Not only does the person performing the tiniest act of courtesy get a shot of oxytocin, not only does the person on the receiving end of an act also get a shot, but someone who witnesses the act of generosity also gets some chemical feel good.  Simply seeing or hearing about acts of human generosity actually inspires us to do the same” (p. 51).

“Oxytocin is also released with physical contact” (p. 51).

“Oxytocin boosts our immune systems, makes us better problem solvers and makes us more resistant to the addictive qualities of dopamine” (p. 52).

The Dysfunctional Chemical

Cortisol

“Unfortunately, many of us work in an environment where members of the group don’t care much about one another’s fate….This is a serious problem.  For one thing, cortisol actually inhibits the release of oxytocin, the chemical responsible for empathy.  This means that when there is a weak Circle of Safety and people must invest time and energy to guard about politics and other dangers inside the company, it actually makes us even more selfish and less concerned about one another or the organization” (p. 56).

“A constant flow of cortisol isn’t just bad for our organizations.  It can also do serious damage to our health….It wreaks havoc with our glucose metabolism.  It also increases blood pressure and inflammatory responses and impairs cognitive ability….Whereas oxytocin boosts our immune system, cortisol compromises it.  That our modern world has seen high rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other preventable illnesses may not be a coincidence” (p. 57).

Implications

“There is a reason we are so offended by the exorbitant and disproportionate compensations of some of the leaders of investment banks.  it has nothing to do with the numbers.  It has to do with this social contract deeply ingrained in what it means to be human.  If our leaders are to enjoy the trappings of their position in the hierarchy, then we expect them to offer us some protection” (p. 65).

“The leaders of organizations who rise through the ranks not because they want it, but because the tribe keeps offering higher status out of gratitude for their willingness to sacrifice, are the true leaders worthy of our trust and loyalty” (p. 67).

“The goal for any leader of any organization is to find balance.  When dopamine is the primary driver, we may achieve a lot but we will feel lonely and unfulfilled no matter how rich and powerful we get.  We live lives of quick hits, in search of the next rush.  Dopamine simply does not help us create things that are built to last.  When we live in a hippie commune, the oxytocin gushing, but without any specific measurable goals or ambition, we can deny ourselves those intense feelings of accomplishment.  No matter how loved we may feel, we may still feel like failures.  The goal, again, is balance” (p. 71).

Trust

“We don’t just trust people to obey the rules, we also trust that they know when to break them.  The rules are there for normal operations.  The rules are designed to avoid danger and help ensure that things go smoothly.  And though there are guidelines for how to deal with emergencies, at the end of the day, we trust the expertise of a special few people to know when to break the rules” (p. 74).

“We cannot ‘trust’ rules or technology” (p. 74).

“The responsibility of leaders is to teach their people the rules, train them to gain competency and build their confidence.  At that point, leadership must step back and trust that their people know what they are doing and will do what needs to be done.  In weak organizations, too many people will break the rule for personal gain.  That’s what makes the organizations weak.  In strong organizations, people will break the rules because it is the right thing to do for others” (p. 75).

“The responsibility of a leader is to provide cover from above for their people who are working below.  When people feel they have control over what is right, even if it sometime means breaking the rules, they will more likely do the right thing.  Courage comes from above.  Our confidence to do what’s right is determined by how trusted we feel by our leaders” (p. 75).

*http://blogs.trnty.edu/businessdept/2016/04/25/eulogy-and-resume-values/

Mission, Hedgehog, Flywheel

 

Good to Great in the Social Sector

For a summary of notes on company building from Jim Collins’ Good to Great, click here.

“During my first year on the Stanford faculty in 1988, I sought out Professor John Gardner for guidance on how I might become a better teacher.  Gardner…stung me with a comment that changed my life:  “It occurs to me, Jim, that you spend too much time trying to be interesting,” he said.  “Why don’t you invest more time being interested?” (Author’s Note)

“When you compare great companies with good ones, many widely practiced business norms turn out to correlate with mediocrity, not greatness” (p. 1).

Defining Great:  Calibrating Success Without Business Metrics

“[The] distinction between inputs and outputs is fundamental, yet frequently missed” (p. 4).

“A great organization is one that delivers superior performance and makes a distinctive impact over a long period of time” (p. 5).

“For a social sector organization…performance must be assessed relative to mission, not financial returns” (p. 5).

“It doesn’t really matter whether you can quantify results.  What matters is that you rigorously assemble evidence–quantitative or qualitative–to track your progress” (p. 7).

Level 5 Leadership–Getting Things Done Within a Diffuse Power Structure

“‘You always have power, if you just know where to find it.  There is the power of inclusion, the power of language, the power of shared interests, and the power of coalition'” (p. 10).

“In executive leadership, the individual leader has enough concentrated power to simply make the right decisions.  In legislative leadership…no individual leader–not even the nominal chief executive–has enough structural power to make the most important decisions by himself or herself.   Legislative leadership relies more upon persuasion, political currency, and shared interests to create the conditions for the right decisions to happen” (p. 11).

“Level 5 leaders differ from Level 4 leaders in that they are ambitious first and foremost for the cause, the movement, the mission, the work–not themselves–and they have the will to do whatever it takes (whatever it takes) to make good on that ambition” (p. 11).

“Level 5 leadership is not about being ‘soft’ or ‘nice’ or purely ‘inclusive’ or ‘consensus-building.’  The whole point of Level 5 is to make sure the right decisions happen–no matter how difficult or painful–for the long-term greatness of the institution and the achievement of its mission, independent of consensus or popularity” (p. 11).

“If I place a loaded gun to your head, I can get you do to things you might not otherwise do, but I’ve not practiced leadership: I’ve exercised power.  True leadership exists only if people follow when they have the freedom not to” (p. 13).

First Who–Getting the Right People on the Bus, Within Social Sector Constraints

“The great companies…focused on getting and hanging on to the right people in the first place–those who are productively neurotic, those who are self-motivated and self-disciplined, those who wake up every day, compulsively driven to do the best they can because it is simply part of their DNA” (p. 15).

“First, the more selective the process, the more attractive a position becomes–even if volunteer or low pay.  Second, the social sectors have one compelling advantage: desperate craving for meaning in our lives….Third, the number-one resource for a great social sector organization is having enough of the right people willing to commit themselves to the mission” (pp. 16-17).

The Hedgehog Concept-Rethinking the Economic Engine Without a Profit Motive

“The essence of the Hedgehog Concept is to attain piercing clarity about how to produce the best long-term results, and then exercising the relentless discipline to say, ‘No thanks you’ to opportunities that fail the hedgehog test.”  When we examined the Hedgehog Concepts of good-to-great companies, we found they reflected deep understanding of three intersecting circles: 1) what you are deeply passionate about, 2) what you can be the best in the world at, and 3) what drives your economic engine” (p. 17).

“[A] fundamental difference between the business and social sectors [is that the] third circle of the Hedgehog Concept shifts from being an economic engine to a resource engine” (p. 18).

I submit the resource engine has three basic components: time, money, and brand.  ‘Time’…refers to how well you attract people willing to contribute their efforts for free, or at rates below what their talents would yield in business (First Who).  ‘Money’…refers to sustained cash flow.  ‘Brand’…refers to how well your organization can cultivate a deep well of emotional goodwill and mind-share of potential supporters” (p. 18).

“The critical step in the Hedgehog Concept is to determine how best to connect all three circles, so that they reinforce each other.  You must be able to answer the question: ‘How does focusing on what we can do best tie directly to our resource engine, and how does our resource engine directly reinforce what we can do best?” (p. 22).

Turning the Flywheel–Building Momentum by Building the Brand

“By focusing on your Hedgehog Concept, you build results.  Those results, in turn, attract resources and commitment, which you use to build a strong organization.  That strong organization then delivers even better results, which attracts greater resources and commitment, which builds a stronger organization, which enables even better results” (pp. 23, 24).

“[Building a great organization requires a shift to ‘clock building’–shaping a strong, self-sustaining organization that can prosper beyond any single programmatic idea or visionary leader” (pp. 24, 25).

“[A] key link in the social sectors is brand reputation-built upon tangible results and emotional share of heart–so that potential supporters believe not only in your mission, but in your capacity to deliver on that mission” (p. 25).

“Every institution has its unique set of irrational and difficult constraints, yet some make a leap while others facing the same environmental challenges do not….Greatness is not a function of circumstance.  Greatness…is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline” (p. 31).

What Does It Mean to Find Your Calling?

1st and 2nd-year college students ask: What program do I major in?

3rd and 4th-year college students ask: What type of job do I pursue?

College alums ask: Am I in the right job? The right career?

For many people the question ultimately becomes: Am I called to do something? What am I called to do?

The answers aren’t clear. And the questions don’t end. They don’t end because many times our jobs, careers, and lives don’t jive with our deepest beliefs and values, or God’s Word.  You might say, at an archetypal level, we always feel a bit lost because we were created to work and we can’t find work that completely fulfills us; in short, we are looking for a way back to Eden — where we live in perfection relationship with God, humanity, and creation. The truth is that we won’t find it in this world, but in the next. So our quest in faith continues. It has to. We are wired to seek God’s blessing. It is our journey of faith.

What We Are Called To Do

The Gospel of Matthew calls us to be blessed. What does that mean?

It means to be pure of heart. It boggles the mind to think it is a blessing to be pure of heart. To be pure of heart seems so boring. It doesn’t seem like living that way would be any fun. But that is our good culture perverted by sin making us feel that way, not the Word of the Gospel.

So what does being holistically counter-cultural mean for our daily lives?

Three Levels Of Calling

Gordon Smith also tells us that in addition to being called to believe, we are called to a mission and to immediate responsibilities. In other words, I believe that when we choose to accept God’s Word we choose to strive to be pure of heart.  To be pure of heart means we accept an invitation to follow Jesus, seek our purpose in life (vocation), and perform our day-to-day work (occupation), forever trying to integrate our occupation with our vocation, which is the key to spiritual growth and happiness.

So choosing to follow Jesus is a fundamental, critical decision. Following that, a fundamental critical decision is discovering our mission, purpose, vocation.

Vocation vs Occupation

These days, when we hear the word calling, we hear it in the context of our job. Or, it refers only to the ministry. Both interpretations are extreme. Our calling is not our occupation, and it is not narrowly limited to working for a church; our mission is bigger than any job. Our occupation may be only a means to an end; or, it may be more. But more than likely we have a greater purpose, a more holy purpose. Even though we can argue that work is part of God’s good creation (Adam and Eve worked in the Garden before the Fall), our work life, the economy, etc. are also part of the fallen world. Our calling may be more pure, yet never (in this life anyway) practiced with moral perfection and purity of heart.

An analogy may be helpful. In our job, we tend to seek upward mobility. That is the way of the world. But Jesus calls us to downward mobility — to be a servant of all, a Good Samaritan. To get a job and career, we tend to advertise our “resume virtues.” We emphasize what we did according to an economic model. Yet when we die, people remember us for our “eulogy virtues,” for who we were according to a moral model. To put it another way, Adam I is the Adam of occupation. Adam II is the Adam of calling. The culture of occupation tends to be one of scarcity and upward mobility; the culture of vocation tends to be one of abundance and downward mobility.

  • “Adam I — the creating, building, and discovering Adam — lives by a straightforward utilitarian logic. It’s the logic of economics. Input leads to output. Effort leads to reward. Practice makes perfect. Pursue self-interest. Maximize your utility. Impress the world….To nurture you Adam I career, it makes sense to cultivate your strengths.
  • Adam II lives by an inverse logic. It’s a moral logic, not an economic one. You have to give to receive. You have to surrender to something outside yourself to gain strength within yourself. …In order to fulfill yourself, you have to forget yourself. In order to find yourself, you have to lose yourself….To nurture you Adam II moral core, it is necessary to confront your weaknesses” (David Brooks, The Road to Character, p. xii).

Other Myths About Vocation

In addition to equating our job to our occupation, we may have accepted other myths about calling.

  • Calling (vocation) is not something we find alone. God blesses us through other people. Calling requires accountability and feedback from our community. This reflects or primary, general calling; Elizabeth Newman writes that our primary calling “is to be a people who live in communion with our triune God” (“Called Through Relationship” in Kruschwitz, Vocation: Christian Reflection).
  • Calling (vocation) is not something we choose. What we choose is whether to accept it. Calling starts with listening, listening to what grieves us. To be called requires hearing. For example, “Moses did not invent or determine his vocation, he receives it from God….’Vocation’ differs from ‘career’ in this regard; while ‘career’ (related to a Medieval Latin word for ‘race track’) refers primarily to human effort (as in ‘What do you do for a living?’), vocation points in another direction. The initiative resides not with us, but with the One who calls and invites” (Newman, ibid).
  • Calling (vocation) is more than “finding our talents and figuring out what to do with them. Rather and more fully, it is discovering and living out of the infinite and gratuitous abundance of God” (Newman, ibid). Think of Moses: sometimes our calling may not match up with our talents.
  • Calling (vocation) is more than meeting market needs in a profitable way; calling pulls us into unprofitable situations. Vocations are revealed through grieving about the market’s shortcomings. Bill Hybels writes that calling begins with experiencing “holy discontent.” What in the world we grieve about is something God places on our heart.  For example, does economic injustice make you sad? Does racism? Segregation? Sexism? Poverty? Lack of childcare in your church or community? Lack of care or concern for the elderly? Lack of care and concern for the marginalized? The people in prison? Lack of good educational options? Food deserts? The inability to share information among friends and family? Cancer? Alcoholism?  The parts of the world’s brokenness that make you sad are those parts that are worth paying attention to.

Richard Goosen and R. Paul Stevens summarize nicely a positive perspective on calling in Entrepreneurial Leadership:

Dimensions of Vocation

  • God takes the initiative. “[Calling] is not generated from within a person but from the outside, and the outside comprises not merely our parents and our society, but God….All calling is based on the reality of a God who takes initiative, who seeks to include human beings in his grand project of transforming everything” (p. 111).
  • We are called to be others-focused. “We are called to a way of life…as other-oriented values and goals as the primary source of motivation. The calling is to life — relationships, civic responsibilities, church membership, family, neighboring and work — not just to work….we are called not only to invent, innovate and accomplish, but to do this in a particular way, the way of faith, hope and love, the way of justice, compassion and self-control” (pp. 111, 112).
  • We are called to be purpose-driven. “Calling…directs people to approach a particular life role (e.g. work) in a manner oriented toward demonstrating or deriving a sense of purpose or meaningfulness….The English Puritans brilliantly distinguished between the ‘general’ calling, by which people are summoned into a relationship with God to become children of God, and the ‘particular’ calling, by which people are guided into particular occupations, such as magistrate, homemaker, pastor or merchant” (p. 112).
  • We are called to a contribute to a Grand Purpose, to be part of the Grand Narrative. “Life and work are not merely for our own advancement, not even simply to provide for our families, but we are caught up in a grand purpose, in the grand story of God’s plan for creation and people. The entire notion of calling is rooted in the meta-narrative of the Christian faith and subsumed by it” (p. 113). Thus, “‘Calling is a transcendent summons, experienced as originating beyond the self, to approach a particular life role (e.g., work) in a manner oriented toward demonstrating or deriving a sense of purpose or meaningfulness, and that which holds other-oriented values and goals as primary sources of motivation'” (Philip Wu, as quoted in Entrepreneurial Leadership, pp. 109, 110). The Grand Narrative? Creation, Fall, Redemption.

A Process For Discerning Our Vocation

So if we believe God has given us a purpose for our lives as a way to bless us and call us to purity of heart, how do we discern that purpose? Goosen and Stephens give us some advice in the form of self-reflection questions.

  • What are our passions and motivations? What gets us our of bed in the morning? What makes us feel fully alive? “‘We ask to know the will of God without guessing that his will is written into our very beings'” (Elizabeth O’Connor, as quoted in Entrepreneurial Leadership, p. 120). “What do we daydream about? In what kind of activity do we lose all sense of time? When do [we] feel fully alive? What are the things [we] obsess about, wish [we] had more time to put energy into? What needs doing in the world that [we’d] like to put [our] talents to work on? What activities reflect deep and consistent interests? This is from God, built into us by the Creator” (p. 120). For Bill Hybels, this list should also include that part of the broken world that causes of grief. It will likely be something we experience personally. You might say, then, with Henri Nouwen, that we are called to be “Wounded Healers.”
  • What are our gifts and talents? What are we naturally good at doing? Where might there be an overlap between our skills and opportunities (to serve others and make a living) and our deepest motivations? “God calls us by equipping us to serve in a specific way” (p. 121). However, “God does not have a wonderful plan for our lives as is often proposed….God has something better than a wonderful plan: a wonderful purpose. A plan is terrifying, especially if we make a mistake in reading the directions. A purpose is evocative. A purpose is like a fast-moving stream that carries us along and allows for some mobility from side to side…” (p. 119).
  • What is our unique personality? There are many accessible tools to assess this and coaches to help us interpret the results. I have found Myers-Briggs and free on-line knockoffs (“16 Personalities”) to be helpful. Also, I have found Peter Drucker’s class article “Managing Oneself” to be valuable.
  • What values and virtues do we cherish? Values are “cherished ways of behaving.” E.g., living with integrity can be a value, as is living according to a vision and purpose. Virtues are ingrained personality traits, such as faith, hope, and love, that determine how we function. Virtues, in contrast to values, have opposites — vices.  Christian virtues include the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23)” (p. 122). [Vices might result from our need to be needed, a need for status and approval, a need to be in control — called “blocks and dysfunctionalities” (p. 123).]
  • What providential circumstances have led us to this point? It turns out that where we were born and the family we were born into and the one we created are important, as are the messy things in life we experienced. Henri Nouwen wrote a great book, Wounded Healers, to make the point that Christ was wounded to heal us. We too have experienced wounds which help us understand the circumstances of others. Parker Palmer also speaks best to this point. He says, “Let your life speak.” We don’t make the call. We listen to what God is already doing in our lives. Calling is something we see by looking in the rear-view mirror.
  • What is God saying about our purpose? Some people hear from God directly. Most of us don’t. “Some locutions or words come from without; they are corporeal and are heard in the ear even if no one else is able to witness the sound. Some come from the inmost parts of the soul. They are imaginary, though not in the sense of fabricated. They are not heard in the ear but experienced as an impression received by an imaginary faculty. And some locutions are intellectual and spiritual as God imprints a message in the depth of the person’s spirit and understanding” (p. 124).

Where do those questions overlap for you?

Re-framing the Questions

As you can see, the questions are not:

  • What program do I major in?
  • What type of job do I pursue?
  • Am I in the right career?

The question is What am I called to do? Or, better, the question is will I accept God’s calling to believe and then choose serve God and love my neighbor? And then, How? That evolving how can be a guiding policy for your life. Your major, job, and career will then take care of themselves. The tension will then be in trying to integrate the your calling (vocation) and occupation together.

There will be tension between your vocation and occupation. Christians live in two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of humanity. God is forever sovereign but those kingdoms won’t perfectly overlap until Christ returns.

Vocation-Discovering Practices

Elizabeth Newman outlines some spiritual practices to facilitate the discovery of our calling (vocation).

  • Hospitality: “the practice of welcoming another person — even a stranger — into our lives, trains us to be open to surprise.”
  • Meditating on God’s Word: the practice of lectio divina, or “holy reading…enables us to grow in dependence not only on the Bible (and thus the earliest Christians) as a rich resource for forming us, but even more on God.”
  • Spiritual Direction: “the practice of meeting with a spiritual friend who listens to our stories and joins us in discerning how God is working in our lives….trains us, like lectio divina, to resist the idea that we must discern our vocation alone. Rightly understood, Christian vocation is about growing in our ability to be vulnerable, about listening to and with others for the guidance of God’s spirit.”
  • Fasting and Sabbath-keeping: the practice of sabbath-keeping “trains us to participate in the rhythm of work and rest, as we set aside time to rest in God.”
  • Prayer: “the practice of prayer helps us resist the idea, so common in our culture, that waiting is of little use….The rich kind of waiting we practice in prayer trains us to be patient with ourselves, others, and even God” (Newman, ibid).

Patience, prayer, and reflection, so counter-cultural to the culture of occupation, are a critical part of the discerning process.

A Prayer for Discernment

So what do I major in? What type of job do I want? “What am I called to do?”

The answer requires patience. Seeking to hear requires prayer. Goosen and Stevens suggest this prayer by Thomas Merton:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire in all that I am doing. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone” (Thomas Merton, as quoted in Entrepreneurial Leadership, p. 125).

Lord, help us listen and may our major, job/career, life, and calling/purpose significantly and holistically overlap so that we may experience the blessing of purity of heart.

 _____________________

Photo credit: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/251628

This article first appear on LinkedIn.

Drucker on Non-Profit Management

Product Details

Preface

“[Non-profit] institutions are central to American society and its most distinguishing feature” (p. xiii).

“[Non-profits] do something very different from either business or government….[A non-profit’s] product is neither a pair of shoes or an effective regulation.  Its product is a changed human being.  The non-profit institutions are human change agents.  Their ‘product’ is a cured patient, a child that learns, a young man or young woman grown into a self-respecting adult; a changed human life altogether” (p. xiv).

“[Non-profit ] institutions themselves know they need management all the more because they do not have a conventional ‘bottom line.’  They know they need to learn management as their tool lest they be overwhelmed by it.  They know they need management so that they can concentrate on their mission” (pp. xiv, xv).

The distinct characteristics and needs of non-profits (p. xv):

  • keeping accountable to their unique mission and measuring results
  • developing and implementing strategies to market their services and obtain funding
  • introducing innovation and change to volunteers
  • engaging the board and keeping it from meddling
  • attracting, training, and managing volunteers for performance (results)
  • addressing individual burnout

Two distinct challenges (p. xvii):

  • Converting donors into contributors — into people who experience self-realization and look at themselves in the mirror and see someone “who as a citizen takes responsibility”
  • Giving a sense of community and common purpose

The Mission Comes First

The Commitment

“What matters is not the leader’s charisma.  What matters is the leader’s mission.  Therefore, the first job of the leader is to think through and define the mission of the institution” (p. 3).

“A mission statement has to be operational, otherwise it’s just good intentions.  A mission statement has to focus on what the institution really tries to do and then do it so that everybody in the organization can say, This is my contribution to the goal” (p. 4).

Three Things

“[So] one asks first, what are the opportunities, the needs?  Then, do they fit us?  Are we likely to do a decent job?  Are we competent?  Do they match our strengths?  Do we really believe in this?…So you need three things: opportunities, competence, commitment (p. 8).

Leadership is a Foul-Weather Job

“The most important task of an organization’s leader is to anticipate crisis….One has to make the organization capable of anticipating the storm, weathering it, and in fact, being ahead of it.   That is called innovation, constant renewal.  You cannot prevent a major catastrophe, but you can build an organization that is battle-ready, that has high morale, and also has been through a crisis, knows how to behave, trusts itself, and where people trust one another….for without trust they won’t fight” (p. 9).

“The starting point is to recognize that change is not a threat.  It’s an opportunity” (p. 11).

What To Look For In A Leader

“If I were on a selection committee to choose a leader…what would I look for?

  • First, I would look at what the individuals have done, what their strengths are.
  • Second, I would look at the institution and ask: What is the one immediate key challenge?
  • Then I would look for–call it character or integrity” (p. 16).

Basic Leader Competencies

“Most organizations need somebody who can lead regardless of the weather.  What matters is that he or she works on the basic competences.

  • As the first basic competence, I would put the willingness, ability, and self-discipline to listen.
  • The second essential competence is the willingness to communicate, to make yourself understood.
  • The next important competence is not to alibi yourself [humbleness]
  • The last basic competence is to understand how unimportant you are compared to the task….The worst thing you can say about a leader is on the day he or she left, the organization collapsed” (p. 20).

Balancing

  • “One of the key tasks of the leader is to balance up the long range and the short range, the big picture and the pesky little details….
  • Another, which I think is even harder to handle, is the balance between concentrating resources on the goal and enough diversification….
  • The even more critical balance, and the toughest to handle, is between being too cautious and to rash.
  • Finally, there is timing….You know the people who always expect results too soon and pull up the radishes to see whether they’ve set root, and the ones who never pull up the radishes because they’re sure they’re never ripe enough….
  • Then there is the balance between opportunity and risk….Is it reversible?…Is it a risk we can afford?” (pp. 24, 25).

From Mission to Performance

Converting Good Intentions Into Results

“[You] need four things.

  • You need a plan.
  • You need marketing.
  • You need people.
  • And you need money” (p. 53).

Rules

  • “Don’t put your scarce resources where you aren’t going to have results.  This may be the first rule for effective marketing” (p. 55).
  • “And then, the second rule, know your customers” (p. 55).

Strategies

  • “So, the design of the right marketing strategy for the non-profit institution’s service is the first basic strategy: the non-profit institution needs market knowledge.
  • It needs a marketing plan with specific objectives and goals.
  • And it needs what I call marketing responsibility, which is to take one’s customers seriously.  Not saying, We know what’s good for them.  But, What are their values?  How do I reach them?” (p. 56).
  • “The non-profit institution also needs a fund development strategy….Fund-raising is going around with a begging bowl, asking for money because the need is so great.  Fund development is creating a constituency which supports the organization because it deserves it.  It means developing what I call a membership that participates through giving” (p. 56).

“The first constituency in fund development is your own board” (p. 56).

Winning Strategies

“In non-profit management, the mission and the plan–if that is all there is–are the good intentions.  Strategies are the bulldozers.  They convert what you want to do into accomplishment” (p. 59).

“One prays for miracles but works for results, St. Augustine said” (p. 59).

  • “First, the goal must be clearly defined.
  • Then that goal must be converted into specific results, specific targets, each focused on a specific audience, a specific market area….
  • Next, you will need a marketing plan and marketing efforts for each target group….
  • Next comes communication–lots of it–and training….
  • Then you need logistics….What resources are required?…
  • Finally, you ask: “When do we have to see results?” (pp. 63, 64).

Successful Innovation

  • “The first requirement for successful innovation is to look at a change as a potential opportunity instead of a threat….
  • The second question is, Who in our organization should really work on this?…
  • Then think through the proper marketing strategy….Look into the possibility of developing a niche” (pp. 68, 69).

Defining the Market

“The most important tasks in marketing have to do with studying the market, segmenting it, targeting the groups you want to service, positioning yourself in the market, and creating a service that meets needs out there.  Advertising and selling are afterthoughts” (p. 74).

“The answer marketing gives is that you must formulate an offer to put out to the group from which you want a response.  The process of getting that answer, I call exchange thinking.  What must I give in order to get?  How can I add value to the other party in such a way that I add value to what I want?  Reciprocity and exchange underlie marketing thinking” (p. 76).

Building the Donor Constituency

“It’s just more efficient to organize with a notion that you are going to have a long-term relationship with your donors, that you’re going to help them increase their support of the organization” (p. 86).

“First of all, what you want to do is acquaint donors with what you are as an organization, what you are trying to get accomplished, so they can identify with your goals” (p. 86).

“Development means bringing the donors along, raising their sights in terms of how they can support you, giving them ownership in the outcome of your organization” (p. 87).

“So you market research tries to identify two things, to use technical terms:  both market segmentation and market value propositions” (p. 93).

  • “You have told us, first of the central importance of the clear mission, and the importance of knowing your market, not just in generalities, but in fine detail.
  • And then of enabling those volunteers of yours to do a decent job by giving them the tools that make it almost certain that they can succeed.
  • And finally, what I heard you say loud and clear is that you don’t appeal to the heart alone, and you don’t appeal to the head alone.  You have to have a very rational case, but you also must appeal to our sense of responsibility for our brethren” (pp. 96, 97).

Managing for Performance

What is the Bottom Line When There Is No “Bottom Line”?

“Performance means concentrating available resources where the results are.  It does not mean making promises you can’t live up to” (p. 108).

  • “Performance in the non-profit institution must be planned.  And this starts out with the mission.  Non-profits fail to perform unless they start out with their mission.  For the mission defines what results are in this particular non-profit institution.
  • And then one asks: Who are our constituencies, and what are the results for each of them?” (p. 108).

Goals

  • “The first–but also the toughest–task of the non-profit executive is to get all of these constituencies to agree on what the long-term goals of the institution are….What I learned was that unless you integrate the vision of all constituencies into the long-range goal, you will soon lose support, lose credibility, and lose respect” (p. 110).
  • “[Non-profits] have to distinguish between moral causes and economic causes.  A moral cause is an absolute good….In an economic cause, one asks: Is this the best application of our scarce resources?” (pp. 111-112).

Don’t’s and Do’s–The Basic Rules

  • “In every move, in every policy, the non-profit institution needs to start out by asking, Will this advance our capacity to carry out our mission?” (p. 114).
  • “Dissent…is essential for effective decision-making.  Feuding and bickering are not.  In fact, they must not be tolerated.  They destroy the spirit of an organization” (p. 114).
  • “Don’t tolerate discourtesy” (p. 115).
  • “In the information-based institution, people must take responsibility for informing their bosses and their colleagues, and, above all, for educating them” (p. 116).
  • “Organizations are built on trust.  Trust means that you know what to expect of people.  Trust is mutual understanding.  Not mutual love, not even mutual respect.  Predictability” (p. 116).
  • “Everyone believes in delegation.  But it needs clear rules to become productive.  It requires that the delegated task be clearly defined, that there are mutually understood goals and mutually-agreed upon deadlines, both for progress reports and for the accomplishment of the task.  Above all, it requires clear understanding of what the person who delegates and the person who takes on the assignment expect and are committing themselves to.  Delegation further requires that delegators follow up (p. 117).
  • “An appraisal should always start out with what the person has done well.  Never start out with the negative:  You’ll get to it soon enough” (p. 120).

The Effective Decision

  • “The most important part of an effective decision is to ask: What is the decision really about?  Very rarely is the decision about what it seems to be about.  That’s usually a symptom” (p. 121).
  • “The next question in decision making is opportunity versus risk.  One starts out with the opportunity, not with the risk:  If this works, what will it do for us?  Then look at the risks.  And there are three kinds of risks:
    • There is the risk we can afford to take…
    • There is the irreversible decision, when failure may do serious harm.
    • Finally, there is the decision where the risk is great but one cannot afford not to take it” (p. 123).

“You do not prevent disagreement, but you do resolve conflict” (p. 127).

“Businesses usually define performance too narrowly–as the financial bottom line….In a non-profit organization, there is no bottom line.  But there is also a temptation to downplay results….That is not enough” (p. 139).

“One sometimes has to remind them of the Parable of the Talents in the New Testament:  Our job is to invest the resources we have–people and money–where the returns are manifold” (p. 140).

People and Relationships

People Decisions

“Those who have a batting average of almost 1.000 in [people] decisions start out with a very simple premise:  that they are not judges of people.  They start out with a commitment to a diagnostic process” (p. 145).

Stage 1: “The right questions are:

  • How have these people done in their last three assignments?  Have they come through?
  • Then…look at people’s strengths.  What have they shown they can do in their last three assignments?
  • Once you come to the conclusion [that you have the right person], go…to two or three people with whom she has worked” (p. 146).

Stage 2: “The second stage comes ninety days later, when you call the newly appointed person in and say….Think through what you have to do to be successful, and come back and tell me” (p. 146).

  • “First, one doesn’t try to build on people’s weaknesses….But if you want people to perform in an organization, you have to use their strengths….
  • A second don’t is to take a narrow and short-sighted view of the development of people.  One has to learn specific skills for a specific job.  But development is more than than: it has to be for a career and for a life” (p. 147).
  • “The old rule is, if they try, work with them.  If they don’t try, you’re better off if they work for the competition” (p. 150).
  • “Effective non-profit organizations also have to ask themselves all the time: Do our volunteers grow?  Do they acquire a bigger view of their mission and greater skill?” (pp. 150, 151).

Stage 3: “The more successful an organization becomes, the more it needs to build teams.  In fact, non-profit organizations most often fumble and lose their way despite great ability at the top and a dedicated staff because they fail to build teams” (p. 152).

“Once the right match is made, there are two keys to a person’s effectiveness in an organization.

  • One is that the person understands clearly what he or she is going to do and doesn’t ride off in all directions.
  • The other is that each person takes the responsibility for thinking through what he or she needs to do the job.
  • That done, the person goes to all the others on whom he depends–the superior, the associates, the subordinates–and says, “This is what you are doing that helps me.  This is what you are doing that hampers me.  And what do I to that helps you?  What do I do that hampers you?” (p. 153).

“Are we, in other words, building for tomorrow in our people decisions, or are we settling for the convenient and the easy today?” (p. 155).

The Key Relationships

“To be effective, a non-profit needs a strong board, but a board that does the board’s work.

  • The board not only helps think through the institution’s mission, it is the guardian of that mission, and makes sure the organization lives up to its basic commitment.
  • The board has the job of making sure the non-profit has competent management–and the right management.
  • The board’s role is to appraise the performance of the organization.
  • And in a crisis, the board members may have to be firefighters.
  • The board is also the premier fund-raising organ of a non-profit organization–one important role it does not have in the the for-profit business” (p. 157).

“Wherever I’ve seen a non-profit institution with a strong board that gives the right kind of leadership, it represented very hard work on the part of the chief executive officer–not merely to bring the right people onto the board but to meld them into a team and point them in the right direction.  In my experience, the chief executive officer is the conscience of the board” (p. 158).

From Volunteers to Unpaid Staff

“[Quality] control is maintained because of the common vision” (p. 164).

“Emphasis in managing people should always be on performance.  But, especially for a non-profit it must also be compassionate….People work in non-profits because they believe in the cause.  They owe performance, and the executive owes them compassion.  People given a second chance usually come through.  If people try, give them a second chance.  If people try again and they still do not perform, they may be in the wrong spot” (p. 183).

“A person is never gong to have a sense of his own, her own, dignity unless they are able to fulfill the expectation of completing the tasks and discharging the responsibilities that they take on” (p. 168).

[There] is no greater achievement than to help a few people get the right things done.  That’s perhaps the only satisfactory definition of being a leader” (p. 169).

The Effective Board

“I think a CEO has two primary areas of service.

  • I have to care for the vice-presidents, whom I supervise, and who have no other boss than me.
  • And I have to care for the trustees, who have no other direct and immediate or ongoing contact with the institution besides me and what my office staff does” (p. 174).

“We tell bad news at 110 percent and good news at 90 percent in order to compensate for our tendency to cheat, almost unconsciously, because we want to tell the board all the good news and we want to minimize the bad news” (p. 175).

Developing Yourself

You Are Responsible

“The first priority for the non-profit executive’s own development is to strive for excellence.  That brings satisfaction and self-respect” (p. 189).

“You cannot allow the lack of resources, of money, of people, and of time (always the scarcest) to overwhelm you and become an excuse for shoddy work….Paying serious attention to self-development–your own and that of everyone in the organization–is not a luxury for non-profit executives…Volunteers, particularly, who don’t get a great deal out of working for the organization aren’t going to be around very long” (p. 189).

“You want constructive discontent” (p. 190).

“And each of these volunteers sits down twice a year and write a letter to himself or herself (a copy to the [CEO]) answer the questions: ‘What have I learned?  What difference to my own life has my work…been making?” (p. 190).

“Leadership is not characterized by stars on your shoulder; an executive leads by example.  And the greatest example is precisely the dedication to the mission of the organization as a means of making yourself bigger–respecting yourself more” (p. 193).

What Do You Want To Be Remembered For?

“To develop yourself, you have to be doing the right work in the right organization.  The basic question is: “Where do I belong as a person?”  (p. 195).

  • “The first step toward effectiveness is to decide what are the right things to do.  Efficiency, which is doing things right, is irrelevant until you work on the right things.  Decide your priorities, where to concentrate.  Work with your own strengths….You identify strengths with performance.  There is some correlation between what you and I like to do and what we do well” (p. 198).
  • “I’m always asking that question:  What do you want to be remembered for?  It is a question that induces you to renew yourself, because it pushes you to see yourself as a different person–the person you can become” (p. 202).

“Developing yourself begins by serving, but striving toward an idea outside of yourself–not by leading.  Leaders are not born, nor are they made–they are self-made.  To do this, a person needs focus.  Michael Kami, our leading authority on business strategy today, draws a square on the board and asks:  ‘Tell me what to put in there.  Jesus?  Or money?  I can help you develop a strategy for either one, but you have to decide which is the master” (p. 222).

Which Prodigal Are We?

Which brother are we?  The younger or the older; the “aesthetic” or the “ethical”?

Or are we the father?

These are the intriguing questions Tim Keller asks us in The Prodigal God.

First, What Does “Prodigal” Mean?

Prodigal has two meanings: “wayward” and “recklessly spendthrift,” meaning to spend all one has.

Second, Who Is Prodigal?

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), we generally think of the younger brother as the prodigal son; therefore, we think of prodigals as those wayward souls who live what Kierkegaard terms the aesthetic lifestyle — the pursuit of sensual pleasures, the hedonists.

But Tim Keller wants to see that the elder son is also a prodigal son.  He is wayward for living a life of ethical strictness.  Like his younger sibling he is wayward because “he resented his father’s authority and sought ways of getting out from under it” (p.42).

In other words, both the younger and older brothers were prodigal sons.  “They each wanted to get into a position in which they could tell the father what to do” (p. 42).  The tragedy was that each loved not their own father but their father’s wealth.  Why?  They believed obtaining their father’s wealth was the secret to their own happiness.  The elder son tried to earn it by playing according to the rules and then trying to keep the upper hand over his father and brother by manipulating justice in his favor (i.e., gaming the rules); the younger son tried to test the limits of his father’s love by doing the opposite.  Like Adam and Eve, they each tried to displace the authority of the father.  “Because sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge” (p. 50).

The Prodigal God

Finally, Tim Keller wishes us to see that the father was prodigal — a wayward, recklessly spendthrift Savior, Lord, and Judge who sought to deeply change hearts.

  • Regarding the rebellion of his younger son, the father “maintains his affection…and bears the agony when the son asks for his father’s things, the son’s inheritance, so he can leave.  In effect, according to the culture of the time, he wishes his father were dead.  Yet when his son returns, the father immediately restores his standing in the family (symbolized by offering his son the best robe in the house) and throws an 0ver-the-top feast to which the whole town is invited.
  • Regarding the rebellion of his elder son, the father “responds again with amazing tenderness when the son refuses to join the feast and confronts his father in a disrespectful manner, ‘My son,’ he begins, ‘despite how you’ve insulted me publicly, I still want you in the feast.  I am not going to disown your brother, but I don’t want to disown you, either.  I challenge you to swallow your pride and come into the feast.  The choice is yours.  Will you or will you not?’  It is an unexpectedly gracious, dramatic appeal” (p. 33).

So Which Prodigal Are We?

  • Negative: Do we seek power for ourselves by breaking the rules?
  • Negative: Do we seek power for ourselves by playing by, even gaming, the rules?
  • Positive: Do we seek to be radically dependent on God and accepting and lavishing grace?

To be honest, I identify more with the sons than the father, especially the elder son.  And I see reflections of the two sons in my own life and industries.  In both there is a constant tension between the innovators/entrepreneurs and bureaucrats, each competing to capture an organization’s wealth.  I am the same way.

Having read Keller’s book I also better understand what Jesus means when he says the first shall be last and the last shall be first (Matthew 20:15).   In this story the last was the younger brother and the first was the older brother.  The story ends with a party for the younger brother to which the older brother is invited but hesitates to attend.  The older brother was not grace-full while the younger brother was grace-empty.  But the younger brother knew it.  He came back home seeking to be forgiven and reconciled.

How Does The Story End?

We don’t know how the story ends, but my guess is that the younger son lavishes grace on someone else, maybe his older brother, and his older brother eventually does the same.

This book can be read in a day.   The challenge is not to displace God’s authority in my own life and industries.

 

A Social Science Perspective of Influencing With Power

Influencer

By Grenny et al.

The Serenity Trap

“The reason most of us pray for serenity rather than doggedly seeking a new solution to what ails us is that, left to our own devices, we don’t come up with the big ideas that solve the problems that have us stumped.  We fall into the serenity trap every time we seek solace when we should be seeking a solution.  To bring this problem to its knees, we first have to see ourselves as influencers” (p. 7).

Coping Vs. Influencing

“People tend to be better copers than influencers.  In fact, we’re wonderful at inventing ways to cope” (p. 8).

“To cite an often-spoken metaphor that helps us understand what’s happening….it’s as if a steady stream of automobiles is hurtling toward a cliff and then plunging to destruction.  A  community leader catches sight of the devastating carnage and springs into action.  However, instead of rushing to the top of the cliff and finding a way to prevent drivers from speeding toward disaster, the bureaucrat parks a fleet of ambulances at the bottom of the cliff” (p. 9).

Focus on a Few Vital Behaviors

“The breakthrough discoveries of most influence geniuses is that enormous influence comes from focusing on just a few vital behaviors.  Even the most pervasive problems will often yield to changes in a handful of high-leverage behaviors.  Find these, and you’ve found the beginning of influence” (p. 23).

“When faced with a number of possible options, take care to search for strategies that focus on specific behaviors” (p. 26).

“Discover a few vital behaviors, change those, and problems — no matter their size — topple like a house of cards” (p. 28).

Study the best (“positive deviants”)

E.g., the best teachers: “One of the vital behaviors consists of the use of praise versus the use of punishment.  Top performers reward positive performance far more frequently than their counterparts.  Bottom performers quickly become discouraged and mutter such things as, ‘Didn’t I just teach you that two minutes ago?’  The best consistently reinforce even moderately good performance, and learning flourishes.  Another vital behavior they found is that top performers rapidly alternate between teaching and questioning…(p. 33).

E.g., the best teams: “[They] behaved in ways that kept them from becoming cynical.  Their ‘recovery behaviors’ involved stepping up to conversations their peers avoided.  Team members vigorously but skillfully challenged their supervisor.  They were candid with peers who weren’t carrying their weight.  And finally, they were capable of talking to senior management — the same senior managers more cynical peers avoided — about policies and practices that they believed impeded improvements” (p. 39).

Value and Confidence

People choose their behaviors based on what they think will happen to them as a result” (p. 49).

Many thoughts are incomplete or inaccurate, leading people to disastrous, unhealthy, and inconvenient behaviors that are causing some of the problems they currently experience” (p. 49).

The factors influencing whether people choose to enact a vital behavior are based on two essential expectations….First, it is worth it? (If not, why waste the effort?)  And second, Can they do this thing? (If not, why try?)” (pp. 50, 51).

The most common tool we use to change others’ expectations is the use of verbal persuasion….When it comes to resistant problems, verbal persuasion rarely works….The great persuader is personal experience” (pp. 50, 51).

Personal Motivation

“[Intrinsic satisfaction] asks the question: Do individuals take personal satisfaction from doing the required activity?  That is, does enacting the vital behavior itself bring people pleasure?….The point?  If we could only find a way to make a healthy behavior intrinsically satisfying, or an unhealthy behavior inherently undesirable, then we wouldn’t need to keep applying pressure — forever.  The behavior would carry its own motivational power — forever” (p. 84).

New Behaviors and New Motives

“Actually, there are two very powerful and ethical ways of helping humans change their reaction to a previously neutral or noxious behavior: creating new experiences and creating new motives” (p. 88).

“The ‘try it, you’ll like it’ strategy can be further aided by the use of models” (p. 91).

Unpleasant Tasks, Internal Motivation

“Unpleasant endeavors require a whole different sort of motivation that can come only from within.  People stimulate this internal motivation by investing themselves in an activity.  That is, they make the activity an issue of personal significance” (p. 93).

Why Are We Morally Disengaged?

“Often humans react to their immediate environments as if they were on autopilot.  They don’t pause to consider how their immediate choices reflect their ideals, values, or moral codes….[Albert] Bundura has repeatedly looked at the question, How can we stimulate people to connect their actions to their values and beliefs? and has turned it on its head by asking, How is it that people are able to maintain moral disengagement?  That is, how do people find ways to enact behaviors that appear so clearly at odds with their espoused values?…These strategies that transform us into amoral agents include moral justification, dehumanization, minimizing, and displacing responsibility” (pp. 95, 97).

Moral Disengagement Relates To Corporate Silos, Dysfunctional Behavior

“Now for a corporate application.  If you’re a leader attempting to break down silos, encourage collaboration, and engage teamwork across your organization, take note.  Moral disengagement always accompanies political, combative, and self-centered behavior.  You’ll see this kind of routine moral disengagement in the form of narrow labels (‘bean counters,’ ‘gear heads,’ ‘corporate,’ ‘the field,’ ‘them,’ and ‘they’) used to dehumanize other individuals and groups.  To reengage people morally — and to re-humanize targets that people readily and easily abuse — drop labels and substitute names.  Confront self-serving and judgmental descriptions of other people and groups.  Finally, demonstrate by example the need to refer to individuals by name and with respect for their needs” (pp. 103, 104).

Change Of Heart Can Only Be Chosen

“What Miller teaches us is that a change of heart can’t be imposed; it can only be chosen.  People are capable of making enormous sacrifices when their actions are anchored in their own values.  On the other hand, they’ll resist compulsion on pain of death.  The difference between sacrifice and punishment is not the amount of pain but the amount of choice….When you surrender control, you win the possibility of influencing even addictive and highly entrenched behaviors.  And you gain access to one of the most powerful human motivations — the power of a committed heart” (pp. 106, 107).

Practice Makes Perfect Vs. The Skill of Practice Makes Perfect

“Many of the profound and persistent problems we face stem more from a lack of skill (which in turn stems from a lack of deliberate practice) than from a genetic curse, a lack of courage, or a character flaw.  Self-discipline, long viewed as a character trait, and elite performance, similarly linked to genetic gifts, stem from the ability to engage in guided practice of clearly defined skills.  Learn how to practice the right actions, and you can master everything from withstanding the temptations of chocolate to holding an awkward discussion with your boss….The critical factor is using time wisely.  It’s the skill of practice that makes perfect” (p. 121).

Social Motivation

“[Savvy people] ensure that people feel praised, emotionally supported, and encouraged by those around them – every time they enact vital behaviors. Similarly, they take steps to ensure that people feel discouraged or even socially sanctioned when choosing unhealthy behaviors” (pp. 141, 142).

“To harness the immense power of social support, sometimes you need to find only one respected individual who will fly in the face of history and model a new and healthier vital behaviors” (p. 143).

“Smart influencers spend a disproportionate amount of time with formal leaders to ensure that the leaders are using their social influence to encourage vital behaviors” (p. 145).

Diffusion of Innovative Behavior

“What predicted whether an innovation was widely accepted was whether a specific group of people embraced it.  Period. [Everett] Rogers learned that the first people to latch onto a new idea are unlike the masses in many ways. He called these people innovators….The key to getting the majority of any population to adopt a vital behavior is to find out who these innovators are and avoid them like the plague….The second group to try an innovation is made up of what Rogers termed ‘early adopters’….But they are different from innovators in one critical respect: They are socially connected and respected” (p. 148).

“If you are interested in engaging opinion leaders in your own change efforts, the good news is finding them is quite easy. Since opinion leaders are employees who are most admired and connected to others in the organization, simply ask people to make a list of the employees who they believe are the most influential and respected” (p. 152).

Opinion Leader Characteristics

“People…pay attention to individuals who possess two important qualities. First, these people are viewed as knowledgeable about the issue at hand. They tend to stay connected to their area of expertise, often through a variety of sources. Second, opinion leaders are viewed as trustworthy” (p. 153).

“Teachers learn more than students, mentors more than mentees, and trainers more than trainees…” (p. 187).

Structural Motivation: Rewards Come Third

“In a well-balance change effort, rewards come third. Influence masters first ensure that vital behaviors connect to intrinsic satisfaction. Next, they line up social support. They double check both of these areas before they actually choose extrinsic rewards to motivate behavior. If you don’t follow this careful order, you’re likely to be disappointed” (p. 194).

“Organizational scholars have long found that many employees leave corporate award ceremonies not motivated and excited as intended, but with exactly the opposite reaction. They exit demotivated and upset because they themselves weren’t honored. In fact, many see the whole ceremony as a sham. Interviews reveal that typically half of those who attend corporate awards programs believe that they were far better qualified than the person who was honored but that they didn’t get picked for political reasons” (p. 196).

Incentives Don’t Compensate

“Don’t use incentives to compensate for your failure to engage personal and social motivation. Nevertheless, let’s be clear. Influence masters eventually use rewards and punishments” (p. 198).

Symbolic Messages

“Once again, it wasn’t the cash value of the reward that mattered. It was the symbolic message that motivated behavior. It was the moral and social motivation that gave the token award supreme value” (p. 203).

“Reward small improvements along the way. Don’t wait until people achieve phenomenal results, but reward small improvements in behavior” (p. 205).

“When you reward performance, you typically know that the reward will help propel behavior in the desired direction, but with punishment you don’t know what you’re going to get. You might get compliance, but only over the short term” (p. 211).

“The point isn’t that people need to be threatened in order to perform. The point is that if you aren’t willing to go to the mat when people violate a core value (such as giving their best effort), that value loses its moral force in the organization” (p. 216).

Change The Environment To Change Behavior

“Rarely does the average person conceive of changing the physical world as a way of changing behavior. We see that others are misbehaving, and we look to change them, not their environment. Caught up in the human side of things, we completely miss the subtle yet powerful sources such as the size of a room or the impact of a chair. Consequently, one of our most powerful sources of influence (the physical environment) is often the least used because it’s the least noticeable” (p. 222).

“The influence masters we just cited had one strategy in common: They affected how information found its way from the dark nooks and crannies of the unknown into the light of day. By providing small cues in the environment, they drew attention to critical data points, and they changed how people thought and eventually how they behaved” (p. 230).

Seminal Theories for OPS and MKTG Applications

Inward (Operations Perspective)

Value =

Throughput (TP)/Inventory (I)+Operational Expenses (OE) =

TP/I+OE =

  • Increasing Throughput (TP): “the rate at which the system generates money ($) through sales”…“the $ coming in….
  • Decreasing Inventory (I): “all the $ the system has invested in purchasing things which it intends to sell”…“the $ inside of the system….”
  • Decreasing Operational Expenses (OE): “all the $ the system spends to turn inventory into throughput”…“the $ we have to pay to make throughput happen” (pp. 73,74 in The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt).

Strategy

  1. “Identify the system’s bottlenecks….
  2. Decide how to exploit the bottlenecks….
  3. Subordinate everything else to the above decision…
  4. Elevate the system’s bottlenecks
  5. If, in a previous step, a bottleneck has been broken, go back to Step #1″ (p. 301 in The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt).

Thus, sometimes “cost-saving” decisions can reduce TP more than I or OE and therefore reduce success!

 

Outward (Customer Perspective)

Value =

Perceived Quality/Perceived Sacrifice =

PQ/PS =

  • Increasing Perceived Quality
  • Decreasing Perceived Sacrifice

Thus, sometimes decisions about marketing cues (e.g, pricing) can reduce perceived quality more than perceived sacrifice and therefore reduce perceived value; on the other hand, sometimes decisions about marketing cues can increase perceived quality more than perceived sacrifice and therefore increase perceived value (Zeithmal in “Consumer Perceptions of Price, Quality, and Value…”).   Which cues do what to which segment of customers is the art and science of consumer behavior!

Strategy

  1. Identify the consumer cues and how they influence perceived quality and perceived sacrifice
  2. Decide how to exploit the cues….
  3. Subordinate everything else to the above decision…
  4. Elevate the system’s cues
  5. If, in a previous step, a bottleneck has been broken, go back to Step #1

And here’s the trick regarding perceptions: people have reference points that anchor their perceptions.  People believe a price is high or low depending on the last price or last average of prices they saw; same with perceptions of the quality of whatever they are seeing or experiencing.

A Seminal Lean Start-Up Process Book

Running Lean

By Ash Maurya

“What separates successful startups from unsuccessful ones is not necessarily the fact that successful startups began with a better initial plan (or Plan A), but rather that they find a plan that works before running out of resources.  Running Lean is a systematic process for iterating from Plan A to a plan that works, before running out of resources (p. xxi).

Why are startups hard?  [They are] built on several incremental innovations (and failures), “the classic product-centric approach front-loads some customer involvement during the requirements-gathering phase but leaves most of the customer validation until after the software is released,” and, “even though customers hold all the answers, you simply cannot ask them what they want….given the right context, customers can clearly articulate their problems, but it’s your job to come up with the solution” (p. xxii).

Customer Development is a term coined by Steve Blank and is used to describe the parallel process of building a continuous feedback loop with customer throughout the product development cycle….The key takeaway from Customer Development can be best summed up as Get out of the building” (p. xxiii).

“[Bootstrapping] is funding with customer resources” (p. xxiii)

Three core meta-principles: Document your Plan A [BUILD], Systematically Test your Plan [MEASURE] and Identify the Riskiest Parts of your Plan [LEARN] [NOTE change in sequence vs. book.]

Meta-Principles

Meta-Principle 1: Document Your Plan A

Reasonable smart people can rationalize anything, but entrepreneurs are especially gifted at this [Steve Job’s REALITY DISTORTION].Most entrepreneurs start with a strong initial vision and a Plan A for realizing that vision.  Unfortunately, most Plan A’s don’t work (p. 4).

“The first step is writing down your vision and then sharing it with at least one person” (p. 4).

  • Business Model Canvas

Your job isn’t just building the best solution, but owning the entire business model and making all the pieces fit (p. 7).

Lean Canvas helps deconstruct your business model into nine distinct subparts that are then systematically tested, in order of highest to lowest risk” (p. 7).

Meta-Principle 2: Systematically Test Your Plan  [Note change in sequence vs. book.]

“Startups are a risk business, and our real job as entrepreneurs is to systematically de-risk our startups over time” (p. 7).

The biggest risk for most startups is building something nobody wants” (p. 8).

  • Stage 1: Problem/Solution Fit: Do I have a problem worth solving?
    • [Do I understand the problem?  Is it severe enough to motivate action?]
    • Is the solution something customers want?  Will they pay for it [market desirability]
    • Can the problem be solved [technical feasibility]
    • [Can I make money? [business validity]
    • [Is this solution scalable?]
  • Stage 2: Product/Market Fit: [Have I built something that will work that people will  want badly enough they will pre-order at a price I can live with?]
  • Stage 3: Scale: How do I accelerate growth?

“Before product/market fit, the focus of the startup centers on learning and pivots.  After product/market fit, the focus shifts toward growth and optimizations….Pivots are about finding a plan that works, while optimizations are about accelerating that plan (p. 9).

“[The] ideal time to raise your big round of funding is after product/market fit, because at that time, both you and your investors have aligned goals: to scale the business” (p. 10).

“Selling to investors without any level of validation is a form of waste” (p. 11).

Meta-Principle 3: Identify the Riskiest Parts of Your Plan

“With your Plan A documented and your starting risks prioritized, you are now ready to systematically test your plan” (p. 11).  Experiment: Build-Measure-Learn.

  • DOCUMENT YOUR PLAN A
    • Create Your Lean Canvas
    • Brainstorm possible customers
      • Distinguish between customers and users [customers pay]” (p. 24)
      • “Split broad customer segments into smaller ones…You can’t effectively build, design, and position a product for everyone” (p. 24).
      • Sketch a Lean Canvas for each customer segment…I recommend starting with the top two or three customer segments you feel you  understand the best or find most promising” (p. 25)
    • Problem and Customer Segments
      • List the top one to three problems…Another way to think about problems is in terms of the jobs customers need done” (p. 27).
      • List existing alternatives…how you think your early adopters address these problems today….Do nothing could also be a viable alternative” (p. 27).
      • Identify other user roles…[customer, user, decision-maker, influencer]
      • “Hone in on possible early adopters…. Your objective is to define an early adopter, not a mainstream customer (p. 28).
    • Unique Value Proposition
      • “Why you are worth buying and getting attention” (p. 29
      • “Be different, but make sure your difference matter” (p. 29).
      • “Target early adopters” and “focus on finished story benefits” (p. 30).
      • [Answer WHY, HOW, WHAT — the “Golden Circle”]
      • “Create a high concept pitch” [10-second pitch using “like”]
    • Solution
      • “[Don’t] fully define your solution yet” (p. 32)
    • Channels
      • “Failing to find a significant path to customers is among the top reasons why startups fail” (p. 33)
    • Revenue Streams and Cost Structure
      • “Your MVP should address not only the top problems customers have identified as being important to them, but also the problems that are worth solving” (p. 37)
      • “I believe that if you intend to charge for a product, you should charge from day one” (p. 37)
      • “It’s hard to accurately calculate [operational costs] too far into the future.  Instead focus on the  present:
        • What will it  cost you to interview 30 to 50 customers?
        • What will it cost you to build and  launch your MVP?
        • What will your ongoing burn rate look like in  terms of both fixed and variable costs?
    • Key Metrics
      • Acquisition: “Acquisition describes the point when you turn an unaware visitor  into  an interested prospect” (p.  40) {Leads}
      • Activation: “Activation describes the point when the interested [prospect] has his first gratifying user experience” (p. 40) {Prospects}.
      • Retention: “Retention measures ‘repeated use’ and/or engagement with your product” (p. 41) {Customers}
      • Revenue
      • Referral
    • Unfair Advantage
      • “A real unfair advantage is something that cannot be easily copied or bought” (p. 43).
  • SYSTEMATICALLY TEST YOUR PLAN
    • Get Ready to Interview Customers
      • “Build a frame around learning, not pitching….Before you can pitch the “right” solution, you have  to understand the “right” customer problem.  In the learning frame, the roles are reversed: you set the context, but then you let the customers do most of the talking” (p. 73).
      • ‘“Stick to a script” (p. 74).
      • Cast a wider net initially” (p. 74).
      • Prefer face-to-face interviews” (p. 74).
      • Start with people you know” (p. 74).
      • Take someone along with you” (p. 75).
      • “Pick a neutral location” (p. 75).
      • Document results immediately after the interview” (p. 75).
      • Prepare yourself to interview 30 to 60 people” (p. 76).
    • The Problem Interview: “Your first objective is measuring how customers react to your top problems” (p. 81)  [Can also supplement by using social media to post problems and gauge reaction.]
      • Welcome (Set the Stage)
      • Collect Demographics (Test Customer Segment)
      • Tell a Story (Set Problem Context)
      • Problem Ranking (Test Problem)
      • Explore Customer’s Worldview (Test Problem [and how customers address the problem today]
      • Wrap Up [Hook and Ask]
      • Document Results
    • Debrief of Problem Interview:  “You are done when you have interviewed at least 10 people and you…
      • Can identify the demographics of an early adopter
      • Have a must-have problem
      • Can describe how customers solve the problem today” (Running Lean, p. 91)
    • The Solution Interview: “The main objective here is to use a ‘demo’ to help customers visualize your solution and validate that it will solve their problem….You want to build enough of the solution (or a proxy, like screenshots, a prototype, etc) that you can put in front of customers for the purpose of measuring their reaction and further defining the requirements for  your minimum viable product (MVP) ” (pp. 95, 96).  “Use old prospects” and “Mix in some new prospects” (p. 103).
      • Welcome (Set the Stage)
      • Collect Demographics (Test Customer Segment)
      • Tell a Story (Set Problem Context)
      • Demo (Test Solution)
      • Test Pricing (Revenue Streams)
      • Wrap Up [Hook and Ask]
      • Document Results
    • Debrief the Solution Interview
      • Share results of solution interviews, treat feedback as data, and reflect on what you will do
      • “You are done when you are confident that you…
        • Can identify the demographics of an early adopter
        • Have a must-have problem
        • Can define the minimum features needed to solve this problem
        • Have a price the customer is willing to pay
        • Can build a business around it (using a back-of-the-envelope calculation)” (Running Lean, p. 108).
    • The MVP Interview: “Your objective is to sign them up to use your [product] and, in the process, test out your messaging, pricing, and activation flow” (p. 127).
      • Welcome (Set the Stage)
      • Show Landing Page [or Prototype] (Test MVP)
      • Show Pricing Page (Test Pricing)
      • Signup [Pre-order] and Activation (Test Solution)
      • Wrap Up (Keep Feedback Loop Open)
      • Document Results