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Disrupt Disruption

Oct 4th, 2022 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

Best Practices Are (Usually) Temporal

Here is a heretical thought: When so much of our understanding of the world is based on “best practices” — or, to be more precise: what people do and think is best practice — does that mean that all our insight is simply “off the moment”?

This question was brought forward to me by Bill Pasmore, Professor at Columbia University when I shared the draft for my upcoming book Disrupt Disruption with him.

It is a good and fair point. If you would have interviewed the same practitioners we talked to for the book twenty years ago, you can bet they would have responded differently. And ask them twenty years from now, and they will respond with something different again.

Just this morning, I spoke with a friend who told me that his organization is implementing holacracy. My first reaction was, “wait, haven’t we moved on from this a good ten years ago?” Then I remembered colleagues of mine touting holacracy as “the definitive future of organizational systems” in 2015. Since then, we (and the world) have moved on. And many of us, having experienced holacracy in the wild, almost certainly have moved on.

In our email exchange, Bill kept reminding me: “We have to appreciate the discoveries that practitioners have made but also question them.”

Spot on.

Sep 4th, 2022

I Used To Think

Here is a fun and insightful exercise. I learned this from my friend Frederick Pferdt until recently, Google’s Chief Innovation Evangelist: When it comes to change (and all Heretics embrace change, of course), we often skip reflecting on what has changed. It is too easy to go from A to B to C without locking in the learning, which one can gain from pausing, thinking about, and sealing in the wisdom we took from getting from A to B to C. Sadly, much is lost when we hurriedly rush through our lives and careers and the best leaders I met had...

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Aug 28th, 2022

To Become a Better Leader, Become a Better Human

Last week we talked about the vital difference between leaders and managers and the necessity of becoming ambidextrous — our ability to seamlessly switch between these two modalities.

Shortly after I posted the dispatch, my friend and long-time Heretic reader, Mark Moore, remarked in an email that management is a business skill. If you want to become a better manager, read books about it, take some courses and think rigorously about it. Leadership, on the other hand, is a human skill. To become a better leader, you need to be determined to be a better human, primarily by hanging...

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Aug 20th, 2022

On Leaders and Managers

When it comes to leadership and management (both of paramount importance to the success of your endeavor), people seem to either mix the terms and treat them essentially the same, or consider them to be positional: Leaders are the select few at the top, providing “leadership”, whereas the managers are located somewhere in the middle of your organization providing “management”. This certainly is true for big (and bigger) organizations, but also plays out even in small startups where leadership comes from the founders, the rest of us are here to manage.

Let me briefly clarify these roles: Leadership is about...

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Aug 12th, 2022

Don’t Be That Guy

The other day I found myself grabbing a bite to eat at the airport. Opposite me sat a family of four: He, nicely groomed, button-down shirt in a discreet plaid pattern, top button open, sleeves carefully pulled up to just below his elbows. She in a black dress, not too casual, not too formal, some tasteful earrings and golden rings, small Rolex watch. Kids straight out of a J Crew billboard ad. I have seen this family before. As a matter of fact I have seen them many, many times — as they are the stereotypical well groomed, affluent family.

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Jul 25th, 2022

Der Fisch Stinkt Vom Kopf

The Germans have a strange, and probably very typical German, saying: Der Fisch stinkt vom Kopf — the fish rots from the head.

I know, it’s gross. But it’s also true. Not just in a biological sense — as the brain is typically the first part of a decomposing fish to go smelly (you can thank me later for putting this image into your head), but also in the meta sense: Germans use this saying to describe the challenge that when the leadership inside an organization is dysfunctional (the proverbial head), the rest of the org follows.

I’ve been using...

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Jul 17th, 2022

Nothing Matters — Everything Matters

A common occupational hazard for anyone I know, who is building something that matters, is to get stuck in a mental loop of “how does this thing I currently do matter in the grand scheme of things?” Playing a computer game to chill out a bit? Get back to work, slacker — the world’s problems won’t solve themselves. Procrastinating by doom-scrolling through TikTok? How could you — there is work to be done! Taking a day off to do — gasp! — nothing? Can’t do!

The guilt of being trapped in the “everything has to matter”-loop is real, and gets exaggerated...

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Jul 7th, 2022

Do One Thing

Quite a while ago a friend of mine remarked that if we would only read one (good) book on, say, productivity and spend our time and energy on implementing the insights from this one book, we would all do well. Instead, many of us read ten books on a given subject (and, of course, subscribe to ten more newsletters, listen to ten more podcasts, and watch, at least, ten YouTube videos on the topic) and implement none of the advice — or all of the advice but don’t stick to any particular one for more than a day.

I was...

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Jun 24th, 2022

Embrace The Tension

A little while ago, I interviewed’s CEO David Siegel for our Disrupt Disruption Podcast (here is the episode in case you are curious). In our interview, when talking about the tension which arrises for a leader by making necessary, but unpopular decisions, David admitted that “earlier in my career I needed to be loved by everyone. Even it that meant not making the right decision. […] As a mature leader, you become more comfortable with this. You embrace tension.” David goes on to say that “tension is an inevitable result of working with humans —...

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Jun 13th, 2022

The Simple Secret To Running a Productive Brainstorm

You know the scene: A group of people, excitedly, storms into a meeting room, whiteboard markers in hand, to start a “brainstorm”.

{brainstorm} : to try to solve a problem or come up with new ideas by having a discussion that includes all members of a group : to discuss a problem or issue and suggest solutions and ideas

And of course, it never works. Rather than getting the best ideas and insights from every member of the group, you end up with a few people dominating the discussion. Inevitably, one person jumps up, stands in front of the whiteboard,...

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