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Business Saviness

April 29, 2024

Book Review – The Infinite Game – Simon Sinek

“We cannot choose the game. We cannot choose the rules. We can only choose how we play”

So the back cover of Simon Sinek’s new book goes. This book is a superb follow-up to Leaders Eat Last which you’ll find on our recommended reading list on the website, please feel free to check it out. Anyway, back to the book in question. According to Sinek himself, it’s surprising that this new book of his even exists given the stupendous amount of examples of infinite mindsets existing – great societies, scientific and medical advances, and the exploration of space to name just a few. All of these required large groups of people to come together not for a finite thing such as an annual monetary profit but for something bigger than ourselves, a Just Cause.

 

“In any other game, we get two choices. Though we do not get to choose the rules of the game, we do get to choose if we want to play and we get to choose how we want to play”.

The problem with human beings is that we seem pre-determined to seek out immediate solutions to problems and prioritise quick wins to fulfill ambition over longer-term gains. The default finite mindset in business often results in knee-jerk reactions to bad financial news, such as mass layoffs, survival-based cultures, subservience to the shareholder rather than the needs of the employees and customers, dishonest and unethical business practices, the reward of high-performing but toxic leaders whilst turning a blind eye to the damage they cause. All of this according to Sinek ‘contributes to a transactional and impersonal approach to business but he says it doesn’t have to be this way.

“The only choice we get is if we want to play with a finite mindset or an infinite mindset”.

The default needs to change but it’s not easy and this book as Sinek himself says, does not set out to change the minds of those who defend the status quo with their finite mindset, it is instead a rallying call for those who are ready to challenge that status quo and replace it with a reality that is vastly more conducive to our deep-seated human need to feel safe, to contribute to something bigger than ourselves, and to provide for ourselves and our families.’ This is why this book exists.

It’s probably worth listing the chapters:

Finite and Infinite Games
Just Cause
Cause and No Cause
Keeper of the Cause
The Responsibility of Business
Will and Resources
Trusting Teams
Ethical Fading
Worthy Rival
Existential Flexibility
The Courage to Lead

True to form, as in other books from Sinek, there’s a lot of real-world anecdotal evidence based around companies that have had disasters because they were mostly led by people with a finite mindset versus those successful leaders with an infinite mindset because if which they changed their company’s path (and there are some old favourites in there such as Apple v Microsoft, or Kodak). There’s a sprinkling of military anecdotes as well which always gives a solid nod to the commonsense approach in Sinek’s books but what I liked most about this particular book is its position on where the finite mindset in the modern business world has arrived from.

Sinek draws attention to Adam Smith’s seminal work, The Wealth of Nations, being usurped in the 1970s by an article written by the Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. You see, Adam Smith recognised the power of the consumer but also realised that humans had a predilection for self-interest (he termed it the Invisible Hand), so a butcher would only sell the finest cut of meat to get the sale which by default grew his business more than a butcher who sold lesser quality cuts, and likewise the baker and the brewer, but ultimately this was acceptable because the consumer benefited probably the most, and this holds true in a balanced system. What Smith hadn’t reckoned for was a time where entire groups of outside investors could exert massive pressure on a butcher, baker, or brewer to use cheaper ingredients to cut costs with the sole purpose of maximising the investors returns, which is where Friedman comes into the story.

Forgive me a little, if I paraphrase Sinek here. In his seminal work, Friedman, laid out the theory for shareholder primacy that is at the heart of so much finite business today. Friedman wrote:

“In a free-enterprise, private property system, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers. That responsibility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in the ethical custom”.

According to Sinek, this means that the sole purpose of business is to make money and that money belongs to the shareholders. Sinek uses the analogy that shareholders don’t own the car they’re just renting it and when it starts to slow down they dump it and move on. Therefore, they can never be truly engaged with a company in the long-term because their finite mindset is looking for the end, their out, and it’s this that destroys the infinite mindset which ultimately drags a company down leaving the employees and the local community to deal with any fallout.

We get taught a lot at business schools, conferences, online tutorials, and from our countless books about business but have we ever stopped to think about what was before? Could we get back to an infinitely minded business world centred around the consumer that Adam Smith wrote about, or are we I wonder so far down the ‘shareholder primacy’ path that we accept the finite mindsets presented to us today as the norm?

The jury will be out for some time I think, but I’ll leave you with perhaps the most powerful quote from, The Infinite Game.
Sinek quotes Larry Fink the founder, Chairman, and CEO of Blackrock Inc, one of the largest if not the largest money management firms in the world. In 2018 Fink wrote an open letter to the CEOs of America:

“Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential. It will eventually lose the licence to operate from key stakeholders. It will succumb to short-term pressures to distribute earnings, and, in the process sacrifice investments in employee development, innovation, and capital expenditures that are necessary for long-term growth”.

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Management & Development

April 29, 2024

‘Andragogy and our Learning Culture’

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”
Albert Einstein

Adult learning was studied by Malcolm Shepherd Knowles in the 1960’s and ‘The Modern Practice of Adult Education: Andragogy v’s Pedagogy’, released in 1970. The term ‘Andragogy’ (the science of adult learning) was initially coined by Alexander Kapp and then adopted by Knowles. He stated that there are 5 assumptions and 4 principles related to adult learning. Firstly, the assumptions…

• Self-Concept
As a person matures his/her self-concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human being.

• Adult Learner Experience
As a person matures, he/she accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning.

• Readiness to Learn
As a person matures his/her readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of his/her social roles.

• Orientation to Learning
As a person matures his/her time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application. As a result, his/her orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject-centredness to one of problem-centredness.

• Motivation to Learn
As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal (Knowles 1984).

Knowles’ 4 Principles of Andragogy

Knowles suggested 4 principles that are applied to adult learning:

 Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
 Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for the learning activities.
 Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact on their job or personal life.
 Adult learning is problem-centred, rather than content-oriented.

The first involvement and insight I had on the world of adult learning in business was ‘training’ approximately 15 people into a call handling, Customer Service, 'Jack of all Trades' role in a Customer Contact Centre, or, a Call Centre as it was called way back then. The delegates were with me for 4 weeks, during which time they would learn products, process, call-handling skills, complaint handling, accounts, system use etc. My extensive learning to take on this role… I had been a pretty decent Advisor (if I say so myself) in the same Call Centre just a few weeks earlier. That was it.

Looking back, I really had little to no awareness of what task I was involved in. I saw this as ‘training’. My job title was ‘Trainer’ and I had the ability to clearly relay a message from a PowerPoint screen, that someone else had designed, to the delegates and then answer their questions. An important addition: my attitude was to enjoy the role and genuinely help people start their career with the company, however, the terms presenting, facilitating, coaching, and training were all merged into one; ‘training’.

Whether all, or any of the delegates actually learned, or how much they learned; who’s to say, as it was never measured. This lack of embedment is likely to have been a result of speed of the business, high attrition of employees, and busy managers, in addition to a lack of awareness on my part or that of the small training team. Conversely, the quality of training/education was also likely to be part cause of the same attrition level.

With hindsight, it’s likely my knowledge at that point says more about the norm of internal adult learning in organisations than it does about my limited awareness and skills at the time. However, I, and no doubt many like me were/are given this huge responsibility without fully understanding it. The impact of this on genuine learning is surely staggering. Is it any wonder that other people and departments can point the finger at the quality of learning? Let’s be honest; sometimes that pointing finger has been warranted.


“Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself”

Chinese Proverb

For those of us who work in a learning-related role for any organisation, we are working with adults, from millennials to sixty-somethings and we should consider how to cater for all. The question and challenge for me is not only about understanding how adults learn (I think we generally have a grasp on this) but even more pressing; how do we, in organisations, ensure that adults who are in the learning process are effectively managed through this process?

In a large number of organisations; I’ve seen employees who are ‘sent’ on a course in good faith by their Manager. It may be online, classroom, or virtual, as part of the company Learning & Development offering. Rarely is there an adequate set-up of this. Even less frequently is there a ‘real’ learning experience involved where the change of behaviour, process, or system knowledge is given appropriate embedding and support, and a recognised and measured outcome recorded.

Frequently, Learning & Development functions can be criticised and are effectively seen to be ‘ticking a box’. Less often is it accepted as vital to the success of the organisation, its culture, and its employees. Surely learning can’t be a ‘stand-alone’ function or simply positioned within a larger Organisational Development team? For me, learning has to be involved in and connected with every part of the business, share the same goals, measurable output, and work in tandem with those on the ‘shop floor’.

For Managers of people as well as other L&D professionals, let’s ensure that we meet the needs of the adult learner as well as the business. My own visualisation of the needs to ensure ‘real learning’ is simple (see below), but also important to remember that if you miss one step… you’re then leaving it to chance and on shaky ground. This diagram is also based on the belief that learning is the result of all of these steps; not just what happens in a classroom…

The considerations on each of these steps to effective learning may vary in each organisation and the reader may be able to add more to each one, however, as a Manager of people or L&D Professional, consider the foundational building requirements for effective learning in any organisation, and at any level, as noted below…

Receptive

 Have we, the organisation or the Manager, discussed this with the learner? Not just… ‘You’re going on a course’
 Do we know the employee understands why they’re included in learning?
 Do they know, and have they ‘bought into’ the benefits of learning?
 Are they ‘in the right place’ to learn? If not, how do we overcome that?

Understanding

 Is the learning content designed correctly and appropriately?
 Are we using the method of delivery with the highest impact, not just the cheapest or quickest?
 Is the facilitator capable?
 Does the content genuinely meet the learner needs and the needs of the organisation?
 Does the learner have the appropriate pre-requisites (knowledge, education, or experience) to understand the content?

Acceptance

 Is there resistance to learning? If so, it needs to be recognised and overcome.
 Does the culture of the business accept and embrace learning and change?
 Does the learner see and feel that they are learning and that it is worthwhile?
 Does the facilitator have the credibility and detailed knowledge for the learners to believe?

Retention

 When the learner leaves the session, will it stick? How do you know?
 Can they start using the information quickly?
 Does the content and/or facilitation have oomph?!
 Does their Manager/Coach have the knowledge, time, and desire to reinforce learning?

Application

 If you don’t use it, you lose it…provide the opportunity to use the learning quickly.
 Gain agreement up front where the learner will apply the learning to real-life scenarios.
 Doing something different can be scary – let’s recognise and face the output of that fear.
 It’s easy and tempting to fall back on previous habits (I’ve always done it this way) so confront the resistance!

Learning

 Do we expect and allow for mistakes to happen?
 Are there ‘check-ins’ where the learner can update us, and us them, on progress and challenges?
 Are we providing measurements of success?
 Do we challenge when it’s not working?

“The single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organisation’s learning culture”
Josh Berzin (Berzin by Deloitte)

When we consider how learning impacts on, fits with, drives, or becomes the culture of the business; it can go a number of different ways…

The method, process, and effectiveness of adult learning in our business (good or bad) can become the norm; the way things are done around here…the culture. Operational Managers and the shop floor will embrace learning if they see and feel a benefit from the role that they have. A successful learning function will be an integral component to the product quality of the business, will be a ‘must have’ in ongoing people development, as well as change; new products, pricing, structure etc.

If they don’t see or feel a personal benefit, in an ideal world; they will positively and constructively communicate this and work with the L&D Departments to an improved, more effective solution. In my experience, that doesn’t always happen as challenging the norm isn’t the norm! Confrontation will be avoided for a number of reasons and perceived thoughts… they won’t respond well to this, that’s not my job to worry about, I have enough to do looking after my own patch, or even… I can relate, or blame operational under-performance to the quality of training etc.

Operational areas and learning areas can gradually drift apart (if ‘departmental drift’ isn’t already a known business term, it certainly should become one) and result in departments working hard, but not together.

If we examine the culture of our organisation, where does learning fit? Is there a genuine learning culture? Not simply a culture of sending people on workshops or counting how much training we do, a genuine culture of learning and improvement.

My own thoughts at this point in time is that there could and probably should be a shift in positioning of L&D within organisations, not necessarily out of the traditional HR/OD department altogether, but certainly closer and more aligned to the Operation.

My question and challenge for all; do we know that learning in our organisation is effective and that we have a genuine culture of learning?

If you are starting a career in Learning & Development; this blog is a summary of the knowledge and awareness that I didn’t know I didn’t know. I hope it helps. For those more experienced Managers of People or L&D Professionals, hopefully this is a useful reminder or thought-provoking read.

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People Performance

April 26, 2024

Talent Retention: What is your plan?

In 2021 the ‘lack of quality talent’ was named as the largest internal obstacle, second only to pandemic-related disruption.

People are the heart, head, and muscle within every high-performing organisation with empirical evidence directly linking HR practices and ‘superior firm performance’ (Boselie & Paauwe, 2009, p.424). Talent retention is evidently a widespread issue with consequences detrimental to the success of an organisation.

We interviewed senior management leaders from a multitude of industries to understand their perspectives on this problem. Within the retail industry, one leader commented the ‘key focus (is) on retaining top talent. Help(ing) managers and leaders have better conversations. We’re not good at sharing the tricky stuff.’

Fortunately for you, Masters in Minds are good at the tricky stuff.

We have proven time and time again the effectiveness of both our team and methodology. We have increased productivity within our clients’ organisations by 118%, increased business retention by 200%, and reduced staff turnover by 6%.

A key way to address the ongoing talent retention problem is through learning and development. This engages, motivates, and increases the productivity of staff meaning employees feel valued and content with their career progression within the organisation. Tech companies in the US have embodied this tactic by funding their young people through university. However, this training and development can be effective with any employee at any age, out-with academic education.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself;

  1. Are you feeding your colleagues intellectually?
  2. Are you caring for their well-being?
  3. Are you supporting your colleagues emotionally?
  4. Do they have a detailed glidepath? (personal and career)
  5. Or are you just supplying some fruit and have the customary ping-pong table?

So what are your organisation’s talent retention strategies?

If none spring to mind, you’re probably not doing enough and this may be why you are losing your best people to others who will.

To retain superior talent, choose superior consultants.

Get in touch today and let’s explore the opportunities together.

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Multi-Generations

April 26, 2024

Gen Z: The Most Unique Generation

Are you ready for Gen Z: The Most Unique Generation?

The Diary of a CEO episode with Simon Sinek emphasised Gen Z will be facing many issues in their careers. What are those issues? 

We have said it before, and we are saying it again, Gen Z is the most unique generation. The advent of both the smartphone and social media is arguably this generation’s greatest single defining feature. It has affected every single aspect of their life, from socialising to schoolwork, entertainment to exercise, and so on, often spending 8 hours on screens a day, more than any other generation. Resultantly, they communicate digitally 74% of the time, meaning face-to-face conversations are more likely to be outside their comfort zone. 

Gen Z is also the most diverse and inclusive generation ever. 91% of Gen Z believe everyone is equal and should be treated so. They feel most passionately about social justice issues and consequently tend to support free speech restrictions more than other generations, often disinviting speakers from their university campuses who hold beliefs out with their own. Moreover, this diversity is not limited to race. Gen Z also tends to be more supportive of gender-neutral terminology and choices, with this generation containing the highest ever recorded percentage of transgender individuals.  

So, how have their lives influenced their working culture? 

Due to Gen Z’s lack of work experience, childhood within a safety culture, and extensive experience with mental health issues, they have a higher level of fear and uncertainty about the workplace. Employee well-being is also crucial to this generation. Despite the world being safer, Gen Z is 21% more prone to anxiety than previous generations, which has led to higher levels of self-harm, suicide, and confidence issues like the ones discussed above. For this reason, Gen Z expects its employers to take these issues seriously, and prioritise them. 

The safety culture that Gen Zers tended to grow up in is also very different from their older counterparts. More overprotective parents have encouraged their Gen Z children to adopt a ‘slow life strategy’ due to a reduced financial need for modern teens to transform into adults. Growing up slower, alongside parental protection from life’s adversities, has detrimentally impacted the generation’s development and ability to cope. Older generations were allowed to fail, thus, building character and resilience, which is hugely beneficial in the working world where not everything is a straight road. Gen Z tends not to be accustomed to failure. 

However, Gen X, Millennials, and Boomers have an obligation as leaders to help the younger generation build these skills. It is down to the leaders to create a culture where Gen Z feels safe and empowered. Older generations must work with Gen Z through the storms to feel supported. 

Watch The Diary of the CEO episode feature Simon Sinek here.

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