Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Book Review: Outwitting the Devil

Believe it or not I read the latest book by Napoleon Hill. He is the author of Think and Grow Rich, which was written in 1937. He wrote the manuscript for his latest book in 1938, although he refused to publish it until 2011. He felt the book, called Outwitting the Devil, would be too much for the public to believe and could tarnish his name. 

Outwitting the Devil (Amazon)

In it, Hill says he interviewed the devil. The devil claimed he was the destroyer of dreams and ambitions. He revealed how he made people give up on life and settle. He said there were 2 types of people: drifters and non-drifters. He stated that 98% of the population are drifters. They are the people he derails with various tricks. The remaining 2% are the people who have a laser focus, and he has no way to deter them from success and happiness.

How can he so easily lure some people away from their dreams while others are immune? Although the devil outlines in detail the many ways of discouraging people, there are two that seem to hit everyone. They are fear and vanity. He said that he uses fear to make people avoid the things they say they want. He makes people fear success because many people do not want to be dominated by the responsibility of success. For some, the expectations accompanied by success appear overwhelming. There is a fear of failure; People are terrified of looking bad if they do not accomplish difficult ambitions, even though it’s their heart’s desire. It’s better to play it safe or small and avoid it than take the risk and look like a failure. People fear the unknown, the uncertainty of risk. Hill made a special point of saying that as long as people fear the devil he uses that fear to control them.

As for vanity, some of the most successful people are consumed by their own pride and selfishness. Vanity is just another self-deluding mindset that people embrace that eventually robs them of their dreams. 

On the other hand, when Hill asked the devil why he was not being controlled, the devil’s response was unbelievably simple and amazing. He told Hill that once he found great love with one woman he could not touch him. The devil said that once you and that woman become one mind he was unable to separate them. Imagine love as the greatest weapon. At the same time, it is one of the treasures in life that people fear. In fact, many people are afraid of being totally open with someone and allowing themselves to become one. People are afraid of losing their identity. People equate losing their identity with being controlled by the other. However, from the book, it is the fear and false sense of security to stand alone that causes the most damage to your identity. From the book, standing along leaves you vulnerable to have some of your most important dreams controlled and taken away from you because you do not share that single minded vision with another.

Perhaps life, success and happiness are much simpler than we imagine. I highly recommend the book. I suggest that you avoid wasting time trying to figure out if Hill is really interviewing the devil or is the entire conversation in his head. The content of the book has tremendous value. Would love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Paradox of Driving Innovation

If a company wants to grow organically by driving new revenue streams, innovation will be key. Innovation, however, can be disruptive and difficult for a company and its employees to make the adjustment. Consider Apple Computer, a company whose business model was built around selling computers. If you can imagine, one day Steve Jobs decided that they were going to find a way to make the Walkman obsolete. To employees, this may have sounded absurd. How does a computer company compete with a Walkman?

In hindsight, Steve Jobs looks like a hero and everyone thinks that it was so easy. Yet, creating the I-pod required Apple to look at their target market, their technology and resources differently.

Asking people to completely change their perspective of their job and their target market usually requires employees to develop new skills and competencies. However, the dilemma is people generally do not want to leave their comfort zones. We are taught change is hard. In fact, some people will try to resist the change because they rely on the stability of their current position. In the beginning, innovation can be disruptive to the organization’s existing business model. Except, the same disruption allows for new revenue growth, job growth and career growth for existing employees. The I-pod for example, targeted an audience that was a completely different from Apple’s existing customer demographic. Instead of selling $1,500+ computers to creative advertising agencies, they were selling I-pods to thirteen year-olds. Without question, this move required a transformation of the way staff and management thought about customers and competitors.  

In general, transformation is not a walk in the park. For most people, innovation that causes transformation can look risky. In addition to having to learn new skills and competencies, people are often hesitant because of the fear of the project failing. In other cases, perhaps one of the biggest fears is the set of presuppositions employees have about new projects, “If I launch this new initiative and I don’t develop the necessary skills and competencies, will I still be relevant to the organization?”

It is imperative that leadership be able to guide employees through uncomfortable yet potentially rewarding circumstances. One good way is to hold a town forum in small groups or divisions and ask people their concerns and address them. Find out what people’s fears and concerns are as well as the changes that appear uncomfortable. That allows people to voice, be heard, and have an opportunity to contribute to the new initiative. Otherwise, people could feel like they are going down a dark alley and they have no control and have made no contribution to the outcome.

To survive, companies need to be able to work around the risks and threats posed by disruptive innovation. The market will always give you the power to be innovative. Once Apple had the I-pod, they turned it into a phone. As an additional consequence, computer sales are up. They continued diversifying even though the company was doing well. Whatever the situation may be the greatest risk to the company is often standing still. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

How To Annihilate the Competition

If you lead a team or an organization, simply executing strategies to survive is not enough. You should be looking for ways to annihilate your competition – market dominance. While it may sound counter-intuitive, the best way to do this is to annihilate yourself first.

To do this, have your direct reports work in teams and individually. Ask them to create a