Why The Biggest Issue In Learning Something New is Un-Learning

Pre-Employment Screening and assessmentEver since the publication of Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline, 25 years ago, companies have sought to become “learning organizations” that continually transform themselves. In our era of digital disruption, this goal is more important than ever. But even the best companies still struggle to make real progress in this area.
This is a great article from the Harvard Business Review. Some important insights when taking an honest look at your organization.
One problem is that they’ve been focused on the wrong thing. The problem isn’t learning: it’s unlearning. In every aspect of business, we are operating with mental models that have grown outdated or obsolete, from strategy to marketing to organization to leadership. To embrace the new logic of value creation, we have to unlearn the old one.

Unlearning is not about forgetting. It’s about the ability to choose an alternative mental model or paradigm. When we learn, we add new skills or knowledge to what we already know. When we unlearn, we step outside the mental model in order to choose a different one.

As an example, last summer I rented a car to travel around Great Britain. I had never driven this kind of car before, so I had to learn the placement of the various controls. I also had to learn how to drive on the left side of the road. All of that was relatively easy. The hard part was unlearning how to drive on the right. I had to keep telling myself to “stay left.” It’s the reason crosswalks in London have reminders for pedestrians to “look right.” It’s not easy to unlearn the mental habits that no longer serve us.

The same thing happens in business. Many of the paradigms we learned in school and built our careers on are either incomplete or ineffective.

In strategy, an entire generation grew up with Michael Porter’s five forces. In this model, competitive advantage is achieved by driving costs down, driving prices up, locking in customers, and locking out competitors and entrants. In Porter’s view, “the essence of strategy is that you must set limits on what you’re trying to accomplish.”

But in a networked economy, the nature of strategy, value creation, and competitive advantage change from incremental to exponential. Companies like Google, Uber, Airbnb, and Facebook focus on how to remove limits rather than set them. They look beyond controlling the pipe that delivers a product and instead build platforms that enable others to create value. They look to create network effects through ecosystems of customers, suppliers, and partners.

The Porter model of strategy isn’t obsolete. But it is decidedly incomplete. It takes unlearning to see the model as only one possibility rather than canonical truth. As the saying goes, “The map is not the territory.”

In the field of marketing, our thinking is permeated by the mental model of mass communication. The world has become many-to-many, but we still operate with a one-to-many mindset. Everything is linear and transactional. We segment into discrete buckets even though people are multidimensional. We treat customers as consumers even when they want to be cocreators. We target buyers and run campaigns that push messages through channels even though real engagement increasingly happens through shared experiences. We move people through a pipeline that goes in one direction even though the customer journey is nonlinear.

We need to unlearn the push model of marketing and explore alternative models. For example, instead of using relationships to drive transactions, we could be building brand orbits and embedding transactions in relationships. Instead of customers being consumers, we could have relationships with them in a variety of roles and social facets. Beyond delivering a value proposition, we could be fulfilling a shared purpose.

In the area of organizational design, we are seeing an evolution from formal hierarchies to fluid networks. But this requires a substantial amount of unlearning. Our instincts are to think of an organization as an org chart. We automatically escalate decisions to the boss. I often hear executives talk about being “more networked,” but what they really mean is collaborating across the silos. To truly become a networked organization, you need decision principles that create both alignment and autonomy. But this requires unlearning in the areas of management, leadership, and governance.

The process of unlearning has three parts.

  • First, you have to recognize that the old mental model is no longer relevant or effective. This is a challenge because we are usually unconscious of our mental models. They are the proverbial water to the fish. In addition, we might be afraid to admit that the existing model is growing outdated. We have built our reputations and careers on the mastery of these old models. Letting go can seem like starting over and losing our status, authority, or sense of self.
  • Second, you need to find or create a new model that can better achieve your goals. At first, you will probably see this new model through the lens of the old. Many companies are ineffective in their use of social media because they still think of it as a channel for distributing a message. They haven’t made the mental shift from one-to-many to many-to-many. Social is best thought of as a context rather than a channel.
  • Third, you need to ingrain the new mental habits. This process is no different from creating a new behavioral habit, like your diet or golf swing. The tendency will be to fall back into the old way of thinking and therefore the old way of doing. It’s useful to create triggers that alert you to which model you are working from. For example, when you are talking about your customers, catch yourself when you call them “consumers” — this corresponds to a transactional mindset. Find a word that reflects a more collaborative relationship. The shift in language helps to reinforce the shift in mindset.
The good news is that practicing unlearning will make it easier and quicker to make the shifts as your brain adapts. (It’s a process called neuroplasticity.) You can see this process at work in an experiment by Destin Sandler and his “backwards bicycle.” Toward the end of the video you can see the unlearning process at work. One thing to look for is how the process itself is exponential. One moment he can’t ride the bike, and then the next moment he can. So as you begin unlearning, be patient with yourself — it’s not a linear process. Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” In this time of transformative change, we need to be conscious of our mental models and ambidextrous in our thinking. Sometimes the incremental models of barriers to entry, linear campaigns, and hierarchical controls will be the right ones. But we need to unlearn these models and replace them with exponential models based on network effects, brand orbits, and distributed networks. The place to start is by unlearning how we think about learning.
If you would like learn more about how you can get adapt these strategies in your business call Coach Michael Stelter at Advanced Business Coaching, Inc. (262) 293.3166.

Customer Focused Organizational Chart For High Performing Companies

org chartThe flat organization is a concept in managing and motivating employees that has gotten a lot of interest. Instead of a traditional hierarchy with many layers of management, many companies are looking to create a more egalitarian structure. Flattening the hierarchy can allow employees from all levels of the organization to enjoy a work environment with greater freedom and creativity, and — hopefully — achieve higher levels of productivity.

A flat organizational chart does not mean lack of Leadership – on the contrary, it requires high levels of internal communication, focused interaction and a common thread of serving the customer… whether that is the external customer or the internal customer

A recent article in Slate describes what is happening at a few companies that are taking the flat organization concept to the extreme. The idea is called the “self-managed organization,” and it involves no managers. That’s right — no bosses. Employees in a self-managed organization all work as independent contractors, project managers and collaborators. Instead of reporting to managers, self-managed employees report to each other.

One example of a self-managed company is Morning Star, the world’s largest tomato processor with 400 full-time employees and $700 million in annual revenue. Employees there are all equals — there are no job titles and no higher ups. Instead, all employees work according to contractual agreements called Colleague Letters of Understanding (CLOUs) that outline the expectations and responsibilities for each worker.

A self-managed company structure is radically different from how most companies do things, but it comes with some unique benefits:

Better Efficiency

Self-managed companies can improve productivity because they enable faster innovation. Instead of asking their boss and their boss’s boss for permission to try something new or solve a problem in a new way, in a self-managed organization workers can simply consult a peer and get to work.

More Employee Autonomy

At self-managed companies like Morning Star, employees have a significant amount of freedom to decide how they work – and which projects to prioritize. Instead of taking orders from a higher-ranking boss, employees must gain consensus among their work teams.

For example, instead of having pay raises approved by bosses, employee compensation is handled by a review panel of coworkers. This fosters empowerment and initiative, as instead of waiting for a boss to give them direction, workers constantly evaluate their options and collaborate with the larger team to decide on which projects are most important.

Greater Adaptability

Because employees at self-managed organizations create their own sense of leadership and teamwork, there is often more flexibility and adaptability within the company. Instead of having designated departments for each business function, employees can be quickly reassigned to new projects that arise. Ideally, the self-managed organization might make it easier for companies to respond quickly to opportunities or deploy employees for new roles, regardless of the traditional idea of job titles or hierarchies.

Is a self-managed organization right for your business? Even if that’s too extreme an option, the idea of moving toward a flatter organization with more fluid job roles is worth considering. More companies are expecting employees to serve in a variety of capacities, manage numerous projects and contribute to multiple teams. The self-managed organization might not become commonplace anytime soon, but many companies can learn from, and hopefully capitalize on, some of the ways in which flatter organizations motivate employees and enhance productivity.

If you would like learn more about how you can get help to look at your business so that you can start creating a flat organization that is focused on customer satisfaction, call Coach Michael Stelter at Advanced Business Coaching, Inc. (262) 293.3166.

Innovate Your Business For Growth

I found the article below online this morning and wanted to send it your way

This article is an excellent example of how a company should be looking for ways to “innovate” itself and its processes based on its customer demands.

Chick-fil-A just fixed one of its customers’ top complaints
Chick-fil-A is rolling out a new app that will let customers skip long lines at the register

The app, called Chick-fil-A One, allows customers to order and pay for their food in advance then pick it up at a counter designated for online orders.

That’s big news for fans of Chick-fil-A, which is typically slammed with customers during regular meal times, making long lines inevitable.

The app will also allow users to customize and save their favorite orders.

Michael Lage, a veteran of Facebook and Google who helped develop the app, claims it will fundamentally change how customers experience and interact with Chick-fil-A — particularly for parents with young children.

“I have a 2-year-old daughter and I can’t imagine interacting with Chick-fil-A without the app anymore,” he said, commenting on the difficulty of managing toddlers while waiting in line.

To celebrate the launch of the app, Chick-fil-A is giving away free chicken sandwiches to everyone who downloads it between June 1 and June 11.

Customers will get their choice of a free original, spicy, or grilled chicken sandwich when they sign up.

The app will continue to give away free food beyond the launch through its built-in rewards program, which will randomly send customers free food offers based on what they typically order.

When customers get free treats from Chick-fil-A, they will have the opportunity to rate them. Those ratings will be factored into the app’s free food offers in the future.

Customers will typically get a choice between several items for their free food offers. For example, they will be allowed to choose between a free drink, dessert, or medium fry.

“We want to make sure the experience is based on personalization and choice,” Lage said.

Chick-fil-A is one of the first major fast-food restaurants to offer ordering and payment capabilities on its app. It follows in the footsteps of Starbucks, which has one of the most popular mobile order-and-pay apps in the industry, and Taco Bell, which recently launched its own app with those features.

McDonald’s is reportedly testing an app with ordering and payment features. Its app currently offers only a rewards program and a restaurant locator.

The app should help Chick-fil-A better manage the surge in traffic that its restaurants have experienced in recent years. The chain generated about $6 billion in sales last year, which is nearly double what it made in 2009.

End of article…

This type of innovation is what creates a “market-dominating position.”?
Unfortunately for Chick-fil-A, it’s a major player in a highly competitive fast food market where EVERY one of its competitors know what it’s doing and how it’s innovating.

Those competitors will simply copy and match the innovation, so their advantage will be short-lived.

However, if they did NOT do something like this, one of their competitors would have, so best to take the lead and be the first to market.

The key though is this – Chick-fil-A is considered by many in this industry to be a primary leader, and its sales indicate why (doubled their revenue in just 7 years – in a competitive industry like fast food, that’s an AMAZING accomplishment).

As you read in the article, long wait times during prime meal times was the single biggest customer complaint facing this restaurant chain.

By addressing it head on as they have, they will continue to attract new customers while keeping ALL of their current customers firmly on board with them.

THAT is how you build a successful business.?
One final point – think of ways you might employ this exact same process Chick-fil-A used for your coaching clients.

Let me give you an example that I think most of us can easily relate to.?
If you’ve traveled anywhere lately by plane, you know the NIGHTMARE that air travel has become.

You may have caught the news last week showing 3 hour plus lines at Chicago O’Hare airport.

Let me ask you this… would you GLADLY pay $75 dollars extra to be able to show up at the airport and walk immediately through security on your way to your gate??
No hassles… no wait times… just walk in and jump on your plane?

There are approved security firms today that for $75 could easily perform a complete background investigation on individual passengers… and provide a basic level security clearance for those who apply and would be willing to pay for this service.

There is NO reason the US government could not approve of this service and all but eliminate the long lines and the TSA incompetence.

The problem is that government has NO incentive to do this.

That’s why you’re hearing such an outcry today to privatize the TSA.

We can only hope it happens!!!

Wait times are going to kill the travel industry… it’s already happening.?
Just recently, the airlines themselves have started providing TSA with their own additional security personnel to speed up the security screenings.

They either absorb this additional expense or go out of business.

The article above highlights how Chick-fil-A has all but eliminated wait times at its restaurants.?

If you would like learn more about how you can find unique and effective ways to innovate your business, call Coach Michael Stelter at Advanced Business Coaching, Inc. (262) 293.3166.

To take a Test Drive on our system visit your success,Michael Stelter

P.S. Please remember that at any time you feel ready and qualified to move forward and acquire the professional help that can enable you to build the business of your dreams, just click here and check out our ABC E-Learning Marketing System™. It’s helping small business owners just like you get the answers and the help they need to build the business they have always wanted.

We created the ABC E-Learning Marketing System™ with the perfect combination of online resources, tools and support to get you out of any financial distress you’re presently experiencing… help you get laser-focused on your highest income-producing activities… and help you develop and then apply the fundamentals that build multimillion dollar businesses. click here to see for yourself.
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CX – Customer Experience – How Does Your Business Measure Up?

Big Business has seen the ever-growing impact of Social Media, Digital Marketing, SEO, Key Words and Pay-Per-Click.  And, over the past decade has invested time, energy and personnel to develop the process of getting all these tools and tactics to work together to  increase revenue, reduce costs and increase bottom-line profits.

For over 45 years, I’ve been the manager or owner of a small business of one type or another.  I thought social media was more of a phase (like the internet) – but I was wrong.

Since the early 1990’s, Ive searched for the Big Business ‘golden nuggets’ that can effectively work in the small business arena.  These golden nuggets are the tools, techniques and ideas that can be easily applied and have a positive impact  on small businesses- those with less than 50 employees.

Some of those nuggets…Just In Time delivery, Key Performance Indicators,Strategic Business planning, Exit/Transition planning, written hiring on-boarding processes, employee skills / behavioral assessments – just to name a few.

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