April 2021 – on relaunching your team, more distinctions, languishing, and thinking about thinking

Sundry links I posted on my blog:

How Patagonia Learned to Act on Its Values – Patagonia’s path toward living up to its own commitment to sustainability has involved decades of acknowledging flaws, solving problems, and finding ways to bring along suppliers, employees, and customers. But by highlighting values and using environmental constraints as a source of innovation, the company has found profits.

The Pandemic Conversations That Leaders Need to Have Now – It’s time for leaders to rebuild the bonds that COVID-19 has shaken. First step: Start talking.

Self-awareness is what makes us human – Because of our ability to think about thinking, “the gap between ape and man is immeasurably greater than the one between amoeba and ape.”

Building Better Work Models for the Next Normal – Office-return planning offers a rare opportunity to transform lessons learned during the pandemic into a more sustainable work model.

Leader, know thyself – To improve executive performance, thinking about thinking is a really good idea.

Adam Grant in the NYT about the blah you’re feeling

It wasn’t burnout — we still had energy. It wasn’t depression — we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing.

Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.

It might be. You might also have chosen to be in a holding pattern, to hibernate or to be dormant.

Speaking of distinctions, actor Mads Mikkelsen in Vulture on stepping stones v. a career

My approach to what I do in my job — and it might even be the approach to my life — is that everything I do is the most important thing I do. Whether it’s a play or the next film. It is the most important thing. I know it’s not going to be the most important thing, and it might not be close to being the best, but I have to make it the most important thing. That means I will be ambitious with my job and not with my career.

That’s a very big difference, because if I’m ambitious with my career, everything I do now is just stepping-stones leading to something — a goal I might never reach, and so everything will be disappointing. But if I make everything important, then eventually it will become a career. Big or small, we don’t know. But at least everything was important.

If you’re interested in football – the one they play with their feet – here’s a recent case reminding us that we should always listen to our fans/customers.

A breakaway European Super League (ESL) was announced with six Premier League (U.K.) clubs among its 12 founding members.

The suggestion was that traditional home-based support is perceived by some club owners as a poor relation to an overseas armchair fanbase or “fans of the future”, as BBC Sport reported.


it was no secret that those clubs agitating to form a football cartel have become increasingly concerned at getting larger shares of broadcast rights and recognise the untapped potential of global markets.

That is essentially what the ESL was about – maximising profits through global expansion with like-minded invitation-only clubs. But at what cost? There was a gross underestimation of how big the backlash from politicians, governing bodies, sidelined clubs, and of course, fans would be.

The owners claimed the ESL was being created to “save football”.

Paradoxically, the league was killed within 72 hours of its unveiling.

As one journalist observed

Paradoxically, the performance standards required on the field are rarely matched by football executives. The failure of ESL owners and executives to command a basic understanding of those at the heart of their revenue model, fans, is staggering.

Speaking of distinctions 2: Complicated v. complex

Although a mechanical approach works well in situations with high stability and low complexity, such as a production factory, it has a number of characteristics that make it ill-suited to CASs. For instance, it assumes linear interactions and straightforward cause-and-effect relationships while ignoring higher-order effects, and it suppresses adaptive learning by minimizing tinkering and deviations from prescribed processes.

Mechanical management is becoming less and less effective in today’s business conditions, in which global competition and rapidly advancing technologies make both companies and their business environments more complex and less predictable.


To succeed over the long run, business leaders must not rely only on the traditional “mechanical” approach to management, which seeks to direct a company toward desired outcomes by engineering processes and controlling the behavior of its various components. They must also learn a “biological” approach, which acknowledges the uncertainty and complexity of business problems and so addresses them indirectly.

This “messy” form of management is informed by the following principles:

  • Pragmatism (rather than Intellectualism);
  • Resilience (rather than Efficiency);
  • Experimentation (rather than Deduction);
  • Indirect (rather than direct) Approaches;
  • Holism (rather than Reductionism);
  • Plurality (rather than Universality).

Reductionism here might be the biggest hurdle here, that is, a manager’s tendency to want to see things as simple and straightforward – that “it’s not that complicated”.

Re-launch your team. Every six to eight weeks

Launches and relaunches have long been established by pioneering sociologists as the way to start a team in the most effective way. (…) [W]hen you launch a team the right way -meaning you set it up- you are actually creating the conditions for that team to be effective. In fact, this will increase the likelihood of success for teams by 30 percent, which is significant.

The idea of relaunch is to make sure that we are realigned, focused on our shared goals, very clear about our capabilities, our contributions, our resources, and our constraints; that the norms we had established are still working for U.S., so that we can revise and update given the dynamic nature of all of our lives; and to ensure that there is psychological safety (…) in the work team.

I recommend you do this every six to eight weeks or so in a remote team because it’s so easy to get derailed when you’re not co-located. (McKinsey)


The New York Times on companies that laid off thousands of workers in 2020 but managed to double their CEOs’ pay. This follows a growing trend of CEOs leaving failing or economically crushed companies and still walking away with big payouts, like Gamestop’s CEO exiting the company with $290 million, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The New York Times and Fortune react to Basecamp banning political talk in their offices, echoing a similar move made by Coinbase last year.

Remote work is here to stay

  1. Because surveys report people do not want to go back entirely to what was.
  2. Particularly because of the expanded talent pool it gives employers.

According to researchers, a true purpose is one that is both personally meaningful and also makes a positive impact on the lives of other people—your family, friends, neighbors, city, country, or even the whole world.

How strong is your sense of purpose? To find out—and discover steps for strengthening it—take this quiz put together by researchers at Claremont University.

As per a new research briefing from the MIT Center for Information Systems Research, companies in the midst of digital transformation should aim to create and track three types of value:

  • Value from operations. Companies can benefit from digitizing business operations through reduced costs and increased efficiency and speed. Examples include developing modular components, automating processes, and becoming more agile.
  • Value from customers. Firms can create increased revenue from customers through cross-selling — selling different things to an existing customer — and new offerings. Companies also benefit from increased “customer stickiness” as digital initiatives allow firms to expand their knowledge about customers and offer them more choices.
  • Value from ecosystems. Companies create digital ecosystems by partnering with others to offer customers a single go-to destination. Value comes from digital connections and access to ecosystem data, the researchers wrote, noting that firms in their study were about 30% effective, on average, at creating value from ecosystems.


According to a survey by MIT Sloan Management Review and Cognizant of more than 4,200 managers and executives, only 25% of respondents strongly agreed that their organizations are as purpose-driven as their leaders believe them to be.

Now, for something completely different

Healing Grid is an optical illusion. If you stare at the center of the image for several seconds, the broken edges start to “repair” themselves in your peripheral vision.

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