Why You Need to “Kill the Company” Before It Kills You

At first I hesitated when asked if I wanted to take a look at Lisa Bodell’s new book.  Her somewhat startling title, Kill the Company: End the Status Quo, Start an Innovation Revolution, made me wonder whether or not the topic would fit here. Well, it did that and more!

As employees, we’re often assigned new work methods that were designed without our input.

As managers, we’re often expected to implement work process improvements with one goal–to reduce costs.

As executives, we’re expected to develop more and more innovative ways to improve market share and share owner value.

No matter what your job, you play a killer role in the the company’s future and your own.

Take aim.

Lisa Bodell reveals in her new book, Kill the Company, what she does with corporate clients to shake up their thinking and bring real innovation to light. What’s unique here is that Bodell, as CEO of futurethink,  “gives away” her model and numerous tools that liberate fresh thinking.

She proposes uncovering, in specific terms, how a competitor could “take the company down.”  It’s a matter of asking employees and the leadership, given all the insider information they’re privy to, what it would take to “kill the company.”

It’s that knowledge that readies the company to take internal and external actions to survive!

Bodell writes:

The challenge for most companies isn’t how to get people to be more innovative; it’s how to stop paying lip service to innovation and create a structure and culture in which it can actually flourish and deliver results.

The traditional organizational structures…have innovation in a choke hold.

Too many change initiatives simply add another layer of processes to the to-do lists of already overwhelmed and tired employees….Innovation is supposed to make things better, not worse, easier, not more complicated.

Does this sound like your company? The way you’ve handled or experienced change? If so, it’s time to get serious about turning things around.

Protect yourself.

Not everyone gets to sit in the room where strategies to kill the company are identified and the remedies devised. Each of us, however, needs to make sure that we have what it takes to add value in our jobs for the future.

A stagnant job in a stalled company will kill our careers. Our resistance to innovation in a growing company will kill it too. That means we have to be ready to recognize and take advantage of the changes, both obvious and subtle, in our work environments.

Bodell makes this significant observation:

Soft skills are the new hard skills. You can see evidence of this everywhere…many CEOs and leaders now hail creativity and creative problem solving as the most important business skills.

Just what soft skills will employees need to possess and will organizations need to seek in the coming years? They will be the skills that help organizations challenge the status quo and look into the future, the ones that turn employees into visionaries and help them seek out opportunities and growth in new ways. They will be the skills that enable dedicated learners to handle the blessing and burdens of change.

Bodell identifies these five as the most valued skills in successful employees of the future:

  1. Strategic Imagination“dreaming with purpose”–the ability to recognize the “driving forces changing our world and imaginative enough to harness this potential in a business context”
  2. Provocative Inquiry–“the ability to ask smart, even disturbing questions” that “stretch their own thinking and that of others”
  3. Creative Problem Solving–applying “best practices from offbeat sources and unrelated industries, making connections that others wouldn’t think of.”
  4. Agility–the ability “to think on their feet and nimbly change directions…to be resourceful and confident in their own abilities to handle unexpected situations.”
  5. Resilience–tenacity and “courage to overcome obstacles and push on undeterred” giving their organizations an advantage in good times and bad.”

Reexamine yourself

The same principles that underpin a stagnant company create a stagnant employee, career, and life. The approaches, strategies, and insights that Bodell uses with companies can be put to use by you, whatever your circumstance.

We all need to kill the preconceived notions that we are currently living by if we want to take that next step forward.

There’s no time to kill when it comes to ensuring our future success, only complacency.

Image Source: Gen Connect and Amazon

Disappointment Got You Down? Dig In. Bounce Back.

Things don’t always go our way at work. Sometimes it’s because we haven’t: 

  • Mastered all the skills we need
  • Performed well at the right time
  • Solidified our support system
  • Been realistic about our readiness

That leaves us open to disappointment when we don’t:

  • Get hired for a job we really want
  • Promoted to a position when we believe we’re the best candidate
  • Hear our name mentioned as a key project contributor
  • Get included in issues discussions around our areas of expertise

These letdowns make us feel like we’ve fallen short.  So we:

  • Berate ourselves with a pile of negatives that make us feel worse
  • Let our performance decline by slowing our pace, losing our creative energy, and allowing our drive to wane
  • Give up putting ourselves “out there” for future opportunities
  • Ignore the lessons about what we can do better and how we can bounce back

Everyone gets discouraged. 

We often forget that everyone gets smacked with disappointment. Some hide it well and others make a drama out of it.

The big lesson is that disappointment is the cause of performance decline. Successful people don’t let that decline hang around very long.

Professional sports let you see, literally, how disappointment hurts performance:

I’ve heard Patrick McEnroe, ESPN commentator and former U.S. Davis Cup Team captain, report that losing the first set in tennis often causes a temporary lowering of player performance.

Some professional golfers who have blown leads in major championships fail to make the cut at their next tournament.

Basketball players who miss key shots at the end of tight games will often pass the ball rather than shoot in subsequent games.

It’s about attitude and confidence.

Winners know how to manage disappointment and preserve their confidence. They quickly come to terms with disappointing situations by putting them in perspective. They:

  • Analyze the contributing factors—their knowledge, skill, experience, the environment, situational politics, and/or relationships
  • Examine their choices—what they did and said, their timing, strategy, and plan
  • Consider their expectations—how realistic were they, how appropriate,  how egoistic, and how balanced
  • Weigh the results—how important are they in the short and long-term, what are the implications on their careers, what will it take to get another opportunity

We tend to give our disappointments bigger significance than they deserve. We feed ourselves negative lines like:

  • I’ll never get another shot at that job.
  • I blew that promotion interview, so that hiring manager will never consider me again.
  • I must not have what it takes to succeed in this company.

For some reason, we think we have the inside track on why things aren’t going our way. If that’s you, then here’s your next step:

Ask your boss or HR or your mentor or a trusted coworker what the real issue is. 

Believe it or not, sometimes our expectations aren’t met because of business situations that we simply don’t know about. Things don’t always have to do with us.

In our careers, we can only control what we can control, and that’s our performance. 

You can’t allow your disappointment to cause your productivity to decline, your creativity to slump, or your attitude to darken.

The people in your organization who disappoint you know it. They don’t like it any better than you do. That’s just how things happen in business and in life.

But they do watch how you bounce back from it. Showcasing your can-do, will-do, want-to-do attitude in the face of disappointment is a sign of what you’re made of.

Athletes complete the game no matter how far behind they are. That’s what the crowd pays to see—not quitters who walk off the field of play.

Our employers hire us to work in good times and bad. They expect us to stay in the game with them.

There’s no pride in giving up or beating yourself up when things aren’t working out your way. Instead, show your bounce.

Photo from CJ Isherwood via Flickr