Illusion of Knowledge– The Wild Ass Guess (WAG) in Business: You Don’t Know as Much as You Think You Know…

Illusion of knowledge is the tendency to think that you have a better understanding than you actually do about any topic, issue, concept, problem…

According to Daniel J. Boorstin; greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance; it’s the illusion of knowledge… The term illusion refers to a specific form of sensory distortion, and although illusions distort reality they are generally shared by many people…

According to Barber and Odean; the illusion of knowledge is the tendency to make a stronger inference than is warranted by the data…  According to Montier; over-optimism and over-confidence tend to stem from the illusion of control and the illusion of knowledge… Knowledge is imperative for achieving– success in business, power in politics, celebrity status in society… but, when do you know if you have enough of the right knowledge?

According to George Bernard Shaw; beware of false knowledge; it’s more dangerous than ignorance… According to Dr. Daniel Simons; the tendency to think that we have a better understanding than we actually do, for example; one element of illusion is belief that basic understanding is actually deep understanding, when in fact it might be just superficial… According to Stephen Hawking; greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it’s the illusion of knowledge…

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In the article Knowledge Can Be Very Dangerous Illusion by Dr. Jeff Hester writes: Some of what you think that you know is fine, but some isn’t: Here’s the rub– you don’t know which is which! In a rapidly changing high stakes world this simple truth holds the key to your fate… In the business world the data that supports your insights can be compelling, for example;  research by Booz & Company found that 80% of the loss of shareholder value is the result of a single cause; mismanagement of strategic risk… More anecdotally, Jay Goltz writes in New York Times; it’s simply a matter of denial or of not knowing what you don’t know… it all boils down to the same thing: The pitfalls that are likely to undermine success are failures in knowledge that you should have seen coming!

But first and foremost, a leader’s job is to make the strategic decisions that carry an organization successfully into the future through what are often treacherous waters. But decisions can be no better than the knowledge upon which they are based… Bad knowledge leads to bad decisions, and bad decisions have bad consequences… When disaster strikes it’s usually because someone in charge didn’t recognize that the light at the end of the tunnel was, in fact, the headlight of oncoming train…

When Stephen Hawking talks about the ‘illusion of knowledge’, that’s far too polite a term for the brutal truth: Let me put it more bluntly… Some of what you think that you know is reliable, but some is nothing more than a ‘wild ass guess’ (WAG)… Your fate depends on ability to tell which is which.

As if the illusion of knowledge weren’t enough, and to make matters worse you hold onto your WAGs with everything you’ve got. You are quick to notice things that seem to confirm your ideas, but you are more than happy to overlook or rationalize away those inconvenient indications that you might be wrong. I’m not being judgmental, but ‘bias’ and ‘illusion of knowledge’ are wired into the brain; they are as natural as breathing.

In business, four-out-of-five failed businesses  are victim to their WAGs; whether small entrepreneur or Fortune 500 CEO… WAGs are the worst enemies you’ve got… According to Michael-Don Smith; greatest barrier to innovation and positive change is the illusion of knowledge…

In the article Predicting and Illusion of Knowledge by Daniel Simons writes: One aspect of illusion is that we often mistake surface understanding for deep understanding– we think we have deep understanding when all we really have is knowledge of surface properties. In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times it argued that the illusion of knowledge when coupled with technology presents information in– short, surface-level bursts, which can lead to a mistaken belief that we actually understand more than we do…

One practical consequence of the illusion of knowledge is the planning fallacy– we almost always assume that new projects will take less time and resources than they actually do. In part, because planning fallacy arises when we fail to take into account all the unpredicted complications that can arise, and we assume the simplest possible scenario. According to Darron Billeter, Ajay Kalra, George Loewenstein; the illusion of knowledge leads us to think that we’re more skilled or knowledgeable than we actually are and it leads us to underestimate how long it will take us to accomplish our goals.

According to Billeter et al; in a study of predictions for how long people would take to learn a new skill; people were generally overconfident in their estimates, just as you would expect from overconfidence in your own knowledge. However, as soon as they began to learn the skill, they realized that they couldn’t succeed without more practice; they then over-corrected their expectations and assumed it would take them longer to learn the skill than it actually did…

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In the article Do You Know What You Don’t Know? by Art Markman writes: You probably don’t know as much as you think you do. When put to the test, most people find they can’t explain the workings of everyday things they think they understand... Don’t believe me? Find an object you use daily (e.g., a zipper, a toilet, a stereo speaker…) and try to describe the particulars of how it works. You’re most likely to discover unexpected gaps in your knowledge.

In psychology we call this cognitive barrier illusion of explanatory depth. It means you think you fully understand something that you actually don’t. We see this every day in using ‘buzz words’– though we often use these words– their meanings are usually unclear.

They mask gaps in our knowledge serving as placeholders that gloss over concepts that you don’t fully understand… For example, several years ago, I attended a corporate meeting where the vice president spoke about streamlining business practices… During the talk, many executives in the room nodded in agreement. Afterward, though, many of them discussed-questioned what streamlining actually meant. None of people who had nodded in agreement could exactly define the mechanics of– how to streamline a business practice…

In the article Illusion of Knowledge by Nick Miltonat writes: The illusion of knowledge is behind the way we over-estimate how much we know… We all experience this sort of illusory knowledge, even for the simplest projects… We underestimate how long they will take or how much they will cost, because what seems simple and straightforward in our mind, but typically turns out to be more complex when our plans encounter reality…

Over and over, the illusion of knowledge convinces us that we have a deep understanding of what a project will entail, when all we really have is a rough and optimistic guess based on shallow familiarity… People think they know what to do, so they never ask for help and they never look for knowledge elsewhere… They think (mistakenly) that they have all the knowledge they need… So how do you deal with this problem?

To avoid this illusion of knowledge, seek out other views, and other opinions for a similar circumstance that others have completed (the more similar to yours the better, of course). When you consider other views that differ from your own, it might change how you see your circumstance… Keep in mind, as part of your overall ‘knowledge management’, three illusions; illusion of memory, illusion of confidence, illusion of knowledge…

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In the article Why We Make Things Up by Jeff Hester writes: When I speak to business audiences I always start by saying: If you want your business to thrive; ‘illusion of knowledge’ is enemy number one! That accusation begs the question, if the illusion of knowledge is so pernicious, then why do we have it? It’s simple. Without the illusion of knowledge we couldn’t get through the day…

I remember my first trip to Asia; even though I had travel extensively this was a new world to me; it was uncomfortable-disorienting… We’ve all found ourselves in situations that we weren’t certain of circumstances, where we didn’t know the rules. We all know the stress, anxiety and even fear and self-doubt those times can bring… Our experience of the world is inseparable from our conception of the world. I’ll give you an example; look at the following phrase:  如何你今天好吗.  I don’t read Chinese so I see nothing but meaningless symbols, but when someone translates its meaning, it’s a pleasant greeting: How are you today? (Or at least that’s what ‘Google Translate’ tells me they see!

That brings us back to the illusion of knowledge. We need ‘to know’ about things; because without knowledge and understanding we are worse than lost. We need to understand the world so badly that we will grasp at anything! In process we can fool ourselves, usually without even realizing it. Even when it’s not perfect, understanding of the world is what lets us make business decisions and move through the day…

However, if you want to move beyond the illusion of knowledge, start by identifying the knowledge and ideas that are most critical to the way you do business. Then do your level best to show that they are wrong (yes wrong)… That is what I mean when I say, ‘Never bet the farm on an idea that you haven’t tried to kill first… If your ideas can withstand scrutiny then you can sleep well at night. But if an idea can’t stand the heat, then its better that you find out sooner rather than later…. At least that’s if you want to stay in business…

No one is immune to the illusion of knowledge: Now that’s a scary thought considering that most of us rely on– information, input, ideas… from hundreds of people in our daily lives. For example; yes, your doctor suffers from the illusion of knowledge. Yes, your business management suffers from it. Yes, your stockbroker suffers from the illusion of knowledge too… How do you reduce your exposure from the effects of this illusion? The best way is to– do research, listen to multiple sources, get a second opinion or even third or fourth when it comes to business, finances, health…

According to Sabine Hossenfelder; we are faced with an incredible amount of information and it’s often necessary to use shortcuts to arrive at a conclusion, fast… these are illusions of knowledge that makes the world much easier when they are classifiable as simply; good and bad, right and wrong, friends and enemies…

According to John Hunter; you must be willing to question your beliefs but at the same time you need to make many decisions every day based on your beliefs, and making a huge number of assumptions everyday… But there are risks of assuming you know much more than you do. And that illusion of knowledge is something that makes people much less effective than they could be if they better understood what they knew, and the weight they should give to various beliefs… 

According to Crystal C. Hall, Lynn Ariss, Alexander Todorov; intuition suggests that having more information can increase prediction accuracy about uncertain outcomes. In experiments, we have shown that more knowledge can actually decrease accuracy and simultaneously increase prediction confidence…

Bottom-line: Don’t be over-confident, don’t think that you know it all because you don’t, maintain vigilance in learning… And, just like you shouldn’t assume you know it all, definitely don’t assume that others do either…

The Stupidity Index– Power of Stupid, Idiocy, Lunacy, Folly… Stupidity-Based Theory of Organization and Management…

Stupidity is a quality or state of being stupid, or an act or idea that exhibits properties of being stupid. According to Pitkin; the problems with stupidity is that nobody has a really good definition of what it is. In fact, geniuses are often considered stupid by a stupid majority (though nobody has a good definition of genius, either).

 But stupidity definitely is all around us and there is much more of it than our wildest nightmares might suggest. In fact, it runs the world – which is very clearly proven by the way the world is run.

According to Jaspreet Kaur; stupid management mistakes never cease to amaze me, and every day I hear stories from people who leave me wondering why smart managers can be so dumb, for example: Got a problem? Set-up a committee? Want someone to do something? Throw them in to the deep end with little training, then come down hard on them when they screw-up…

Ask your workforce for feedback, and then ignore everything that’s been suggested… Want to treat your staff like demented idiots who can’t think for themselves? Just micro-manage everything and talk down to them when they come up with ideas…

According to Susan Heathfield; organizations do dumb things to mess-up relationships with the people they employ, for example; failing to tell people what they’re supposed to do and then wondering why they fail, adding layers of paperwork and bureaucracy to stop things getting done, treating people as if they are untrustworthy, or telling employees to change the way they are doing things without providing good explanation why, and then sending them off to ‘change management’ training or Siberia, when they resist…

According to Carlo Maria Cipolla; there are five fundamental ‘laws of stupidity’, here are three: The probability that a given person is stupid is independent of any other characteristic possessed by that person… A person is stupid if they cause damage to another person or group of people without experiencing personal gain, or even worse causing damage to themselves in the process…

Non-stupid people always underestimate harmful potential of stupid people; they constantly forget that at– anytime, anywhere, and in any circumstance, dealing with or associating themselves with stupid individuals invariably constitutes a costly error…

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Stupidity Index: According to Nikhil; we are all born with a ‘Stupidity Index’ of 3. The scale is from 0 to 5, where 0 is the least stupid and 5 is the most stupid: I am at 4. What about you? Assess yourself. You’ll be surprised to know where you stand… Anyway, when Charles Darwin wrote ‘Origin Of Species’, he overlooked one major fact – The Stupidity Index… The scale is explained as follows:

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Wall Street Stupidity Index: The day Twitter went public not only was it profitable in the fiscal sense, but also illuminated a metric that has heretofore been under-appreciated by those attempting to comprehend and thereby profit from the laws that guide the market. We will call this potent new tool– The Wall Street Stupidity Index…

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In the article Never Underestimate The Power Of Stupid People In Large Groups by George Carlin writes: I’ve said it before– stupid people are dangerous. Sure they are amusing some of the time and annoying all of the time, but they are also dangerous a lot of the time too. Whether it be the stupid idiot who gets drunk and thinks it makes him a better driver, or someone in a company who has been promoted well beyond his or her level of ability just because the number of years of service he or she has accrued, or one of those despicable ‘jobs-worth’ morons you inevitably find in bureaucratic government non-jobs, their stupidity poses a danger to the rest of us…

A lot of the time the idiots get away with it, without anyone noticing much. The smart people get on with their lives and quietly accept the interference of the stupid. But recently idiots have been steadily encroaching on our private lives, into things that are clearly none of their business and things that pose no danger to society at large or to any individual within it: The idiots want power, but they don’t know what to do with it, when they get it. But they want it, and more and more of it.

My own theory is that at heart, although they try to appear superior, the idiots know they are idiots and actually feel inferior to normal people… We’ve been through the NSA fiasco when they were outed by a former employee. We know they look at our emails, listen to our telephone conversations, probably even snoop in our mail or scrutinize our blogs (gosh!)…

And we are currently in midst of one of the most idiotic standoffs in history: Washington with the President, Senate and House of Representatives seeing who can balance on one leg the longest while the country becomes the laughing-stock of the rest of the world. Yes folks, never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups to destroy society and drag the rest of us down along with them…

In the article A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organizations by Mats Alvesson and André Spicer write: Management and organization studies are a bound with positive-sounding reports of the importance of well-educated and bright-workers in knowledge-based firms that are at the forefront of the knowledge economy: There is broad consensus that modern economies is becoming increasingly ‘knowledge-intensive’…

Many assume that being able to put knowledge to work intelligently is the essence of what (successful) organizations do… However, we think that this consensus needs to be challenged; and perhaps modern economies and organizations should become more ‘stupidity-intensive’… To develop this challenge, we offer something different by drawing attention to significance of ‘functional stupidity’ in organizations– where functional stupidity can help to marginalize sources of friction and uncertainty…

However, in our view, what is crucial is that functional stupidity is not just an aberration in organizational life, but in many cases it’s central and supported by organizational norms and facilitates smooth interactions in organizations. Being clever and knowledgeable is fine and necessary, but so is refraining from being reflexive and avoiding asking for justifications for decisions, structures, minimizing substantive reasoning about values and goals. In this sense, functional stupidity can be helpful in producing results– for organizations as well as for individuals. It’s productive because it cuts short– costly and anxiety inducing questions and creates a sense of certainty…

But, like many things in organizational life it’s a mixed blessing: It’s ‘functional’ because it has some advantages and makes people concentrate enthusiastically on the task in hand. It’s ‘stupid’ because risks and problems may arise when people do not pose critical questions about what they and the organization are doing… We see functional stupidity as being created not through intellectual deficits but through political expediency and the exercise of power.

In other words, organizational members become functionally stupid through a series of cultural and institutional beliefs… reinforced by managerial (and self-managerial) interventions, such as; encouraging narrow action orientation, celebration of leadership, attachment to structure, strong belief in institutions… which discourage substantive reasoning and justification… This happens through a combination of indirect and more systemic stupidity management…

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Retail Sales– Metrics, Analytics, Seasonality’s Critical 20% to 40%: Robust Christmas Holiday Retail Sales– Really Do Matter…

Retail sales are the life blood for retailers and a big component of the ‘total gross domestic product’ (GDP)… Hence, any extended drop-offs in consumer spending can trigger serious economic issues, even a recession… and, at minimum, lower retail sales receipts can force companies to take drastic action, such as; reduce expense, lower head count, close stores…

While retail companies can use a mix of standard and specialized statistics, the industry often focuses on a few universal metrics, for example; the most common retail statistics include; sales revenue growth, gross profit percentage, sales returns and allowances, same store sales, employee turnover… These metrics can provide management and other stakeholders with an insight of the inner workings of the company and also the ability to benchmark against other companies…

Retailers survive and thrive on profit margins, but to meet financial expectations they must deliver exceptional customer service while striking a balance between workforce costs, customer demand… retail management is truly a balancing act… According to Quentin Gallivan; the use of analytics is a critical force in growing sales, and it help retailers stay in front of new breed of consumer, omni-channel  shopper, and avalanche of data… This transformation is in large part driven by advances in mobile, digital, social media and location-based technology.

Consumers are shopping across multiple channels from brick-mortar stores to catalogs, websites, mobile devices… The omni-channel shopping revolution has put consumers in charge, and retailers are scrambling to adopt a single, seamless approach with consumers– anytime, anywhere, across all channels... According to Craig Twyford; retail sales analysis provides insightful information for making the best decisions in highly competitive markets… Although the numbers might be scary… the data just might provide the information needed to make the right strategic sales adjustments– that will get you back on track...

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Understanding Retail Sales Data: The ‘Retail Sales Index’ is important economic indicator: On the 12th of every month, the U.S. Census Bureau releases the ‘Retail Sales Index’, which is a measure of retail sales from the previous month as determined by a sampling of stores both large and small across the country… The report actually lists two numbers: The first is ‘Retail Sales’ and the second number is ‘Retail Sales Ex-Auto’, or without automobile sales included. The reason is auto sales can skew the overall number since they are big-ticket items and subject to seasonal fluctuations…

Retail sales figures are considered very important because consumer consumption spending represents two-thirds of the total U.S. economic activity; and the ‘holiday season’ accounts for between 20% and 40% of typical retailers’ total annual sales and 20% of their profit. In order to understand holiday retail sales, it’s important to look at the ‘seasonal adjustment factors’ used by the ‘U.S. Census Bureau’s Advance Monthly Retail Sales Report’. The ‘seasonal adjustment factors’ measure the extent to which retail sales ‘usually’ change month-to-month by looking at the past. For example; when U.S. Census Bureau reports that retail sales increased 0.5% in October from September, that estimate takes into account what ‘usually’ happens in October.

So if sales in October ‘usually’ increases by 2.0%, and if sales ‘actually’ increase by 2.5%, then the U.S. Census reports 0.5% gain on ‘seasonally adjusted basis’ (most economic indicators released by the U.S. government is ‘seasonally adjusted’ including; GDP, employment, personal income, imports-exports of goods and services). However, removing seasonal effects makes it easier to assess the underlying trend in the data; whereas, looking at the ‘seasonal adjustment factors’ tells us what ‘usually’ happens to sales on a month-to-month basis…

In the article How Is the Happy Holiday Sales Going Anyway? by Steven Hansen writes: The last quarter of the year is the strongest period for retail sales – all due to ‘holiday gift giving’. Reading the Retail Sales Report headlines, e.g.; ‘November’s seasonally adjusted retails sales were up 0.7% over October’… may seem like some pretty strong evidence that holiday purchasing is growing… But, could this growth be a distortion caused by the U.S. Census in their ‘seasonal adjustment’ process? Most likely, retail sales are actually growing but probably not at the same rate as last year. The major exceptions are autos whose rate of growth is up, and department stores whose rate of growth has contracted almost by 5% from last year… Do I trust this data?

I trust nothing that is called ‘Advance’ (i.e., U.S. Census Bureau’s ‘Advance’ Monthly Retail Sales Report) from any government reporting agency. It could be too high, too low, but hardly ever just right. The only confidence level that I can assign to this is that the ‘unadjusted growth’ is within the expected range. It could be that the computer program is fudging the numbers a bit by fills in data, using the current trend lines when the data is not available.

This is how ‘advance’ data (and, e.g., the ‘U.S. Jobs Report’ which is released too far in advance…) miss economic turning points… Since I am in a complaining mode– you will note that I did not use the word– ‘Christmas’ in describing the Christian gift giving ritual responsible for the ‘holiday season’ retail sales increase. Christmas is religious and that’s bad, holidays are good. But without Christmas, there is no retail cheer in the period we now call the ‘happy holidays’.

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In the article Happy Holidays Online by Katie Evans writes: While the web enjoys a robust start to the holiday shopping season, the total retail sales fell by 2.7% compared to last year… According to figures from IBM; U.S. ‘online’ sales are up 14.5% compared with last year… mobile ‘sales’ are accounting for nearly 18% of total online sales. Tablets are driving 11% of all online sales, nearly twice that of smart phones, which are accounting for 6.8%… Mobile ‘traffic’ represents more than 30% of all online traffic. Smart phones account for 20.7% of all web traffic, compared to tablets at 10%… Also, tablet users also are averaging about $133/order, versus smart phone users who are averaging $117/order…

According to Akamai; retail web sites in North America are processing more than 9.1 million page views, up 283%, over a typical day… and estimates that e-commerce spending increased 20% over the same days last year… According to ComScore; EBay, Amazon, and Wal-Mart were the top three most-visited retail web sites… According to Paula Rosenblum; we’re coming ‘round the bend to the final lap of the 2013 Christmas selling season. On the surface, it appears sales are reasonably strong, with National Retail Federation (NRF) reporting that November sales up 3.9% against last year, and the expectations that this  season will net out at or above the trade association’s holiday forecast, which was also for 3.9% growth.

These numbers exclude automobiles, gas station and restaurant sales. On the surface, this is very good news for retailers and consumers alike, as retailers pulled out all their promotional stops, and consumers hopped on board to grab the great deals.  According to the U.S Census Bureau sales report; the most robust year-over-year gains were seen in big-ticket sellers like electronics and appliance stores (8% over last year), and furniture and home furnishing stores (9.4% over last year)…

In the article Surprising Stats About 2013 Holiday Shopping by Selena Maranjian writes: Ah, the holiday retail season– it’s when most of us scurry around shopping for gifts and trying to take advantage of the best sales we can find. You’ve been here before, and you know the score: Or, do you? Here are a few interesting details you may not know about this year’s winter spending dash:

According to the National Retail Federation; on ‘black Friday’ store sales were down $1.7 billion or 3%… also, ‘black Friday’ was this holiday season’s first billion-dollar-plus ‘online’ shopping day with the total ‘online’ take for the day of $1.2 billion or 15% over last year… also on ‘black Friday’ Walmart’s website had over 400 million pages viewed and 53% of those were perused from smart phones or tablets.

The number of purchases made via mobile devices tripled the previous year’s level… Here are a few ‘believe or not’ items that you might find interesting: Fully 57% of parents reported that they were going to take on debt over the holidays in order to buy gifts for their kids. Interestingly per a recent survey, those with household incomes of less than $35,000 said they were willing to take on an average of $700 in debt, while those bringing in $75,000 or more were thinking about $300…

Many Americans, 36%, in one survey said that buying gifts was more important than sticking to budget or not taking on more credit card debt… 90% in a survey of Americans planning to buy gifts this season, almost a third of them (31%), had no predetermined spending limit… Interesting because a fully 55% of adult Americans surveyed in September had not yet saved any money for the holiday shopping season…

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So, what are the most important statistics-indicators-measures for retail sales? The most obvious one is sales volume, and this needs to be measured against the same period in the previous year or years… Two other statistics that are commonly used by retailers are; ‘units-per-transaction’ (UPT) and ‘average-transaction-value’ (ATV). Essentially, UPT is the ‘number of units (SKU’s) sold during a set period’ divided by the ‘number of customers in that same period’, e.g. 650 units sold on a day that saw 223 customer transactions would give a UPT statistic of 2.91.

That is to say that the average customer bought 2.91 items. That would be disastrous if you were a grocery store, but excellent if you were a jeweler… ATV on the other hand is the ‘total sales for a period’ divided by the ‘number of customers in that same period’; so a day with sales of $4,325 and 87 transactions would give and ATV statistic of $49.71, i.e., the average customer spent $49.71… Other important measure of a retail sales are: ‘same store sales’, which is a key retail barometer retailers use to gauge the effectiveness of their stores…

This information can be used to gauge-compare the relative effectiveness and sales productivity of a retailer’s stores. Still another measure is ‘sales per square foot’, which shows how effectively a retailer is using store space to generate sales dollars. This is also a measure of sales efficiency and productivity… also; ‘sales per square foot’ is a key benchmark when comparing direct retail competitors, for example; comparing Walmart and K-mart: Walmart’s ‘sales per square foot’ is about $422.00 versus K-mart’s $235.00…

Still another measure of retail sales effectiveness is ‘gross margin return on inventory investment’ (GMROII), which is a ratio that measures a retailer’s ‘return on every dollar that is spent on inventory’. This formula measures the productivity of inventory and the relationship with total sales, gross profit margin, and dollars invested in inventory… GMROII can be used for the entire store, departments, or an individual merchandise items. With GMROII, you can compare the relative value of merchandise and draw conclusions about where the retailer should be targeting efforts to achieve maximum profitability…

Retailers collect huge amount of data, but– how is that data translated into actionable information and better decisions? According to some experts the key is analytics: The opportunity to achieve competitive advantage from better ‘analytics’ is enormous, and by using analytical tools retailers can:

Develop close relationships with customers based on a deep understanding of their behaviors and needs; Deliver the targeted advertising, promotions and product offers to customers that will motivate them to buy; Balance inventory with demand so you’re never out of stock or carrying excess inventory; Charge exactly the price that customers are willing to pay at any moment; Determine the best use of marketing investments; locate stores, distribution centers, and other facilities in optimal locations…

According to Kelly Kennedy; it’s Moore’s law of marketing: The aggregate amount of data available to retailers– doubles every two years… And, the big challenge for retailers is to gain insights for this data, which allows them to– find, target and retain their ideal customers…

Psychology Behind Business Holiday Madness: Dark Side of Holidays– Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa… Let Madness Begin!

Holiday madness and chaos has become a widespread phenomenon, globally… For many, holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Winter Solstice… are emblematic of global religious and cultural diversity that should be embraced with quite reflection, but instead for many, its madness. It’s the most wonderful time of year when marketing and advertising goes out of its way to be more idiotic and insane than usual.

Anything, and I mean ‘anything’, can be contorted, recontextualized, reconfigured, verbally massaged and vigorously manipulated to tie into– play on words, visual cues, reference to cultural traditions, religious references … there is madness that takes over both customers and businesses alike. Customers that throughout year are reasonable, easy to work with, polite, seem to change into ‘monsters’– demanding, unreasonable, and trans-fixed on having it all ‘now’–the biggest, best, fastest, cheapest… Whereas, traditionally these winter holidays are supposed to embody a certain ideal of that which is best in the hearts of human beings…

But according to Tyler Durden; those of us who pay attention are well aware of a trend of cultural decline, and this problem is disturbingly visible from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It’s not just the highly publicized Black Friday (now Black Thursday) riots over semi-cheap-made garbage– it’s idiocy, barbarism, madness that seems to span all economic ‘classes’– from the upper-middle-class snob screaming at bewildered cashiers over a coupon worth 50 cents, to the middle-class suburbanites brawling over flat-screen TVs, to the part-time employee who sold her soul for minimum wage and who now yells at people at the company holiday party to stop filming mindless brawls that the corporate masters encourage because such videos might ‘reflect badly’ on the company image…

According to Candace Plattor; the addiction to holiday chaos has become a widespread phenomenon– it happens in many countries the world over, often starting prematurely in October. Business owners and shopkeepers can hardly contain their excitement, as visions of wallets wide open and credit cards screaming to be swiped dance in their heads…

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In the article Dark-Side Psychology Behind Holiday Madness by Tyler Durden writes: The dark side truly knows no social or financial bounds… It was Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew, who taught the marketing world how to appeal to the basest instincts of human beings and to use those instinctual desires to covertly control them. Corporations used Bernays’ strategies to create an atmosphere of decadent consumption in America that has lasted since the end of World War II. The idea was simple: Convince the public that buying corporate products will satisfy their animal urges.

All commercialism to this day revolves around this method (which is why almost every beer commercial for several decades has included scantily clad women or sexual innuendo, for example). But Bernays was not only teaching corporations how to tap into existing human impulses, he was also teaching corporations and governments how to use psychological trickery to manipulate citizenry to ‘rely’ on their basest impulses.

Essentially, Bernays taught the establishment how to convince people, or shame people, into ignoring their greater selves and indulging their psychopathic and sociopathic urges. Bernays taught the establishment how to turn people into zombies. We see the clear results today all around us as we enter into the absurdity that Christmas has become. The ramifications are dire. The holidays have come to represent not hope, but despair; not reflection, but callousness; not compassion, but narcissism and selfishness…

In the article Countries Where Christmas Shopping is Bigger Than U.S. by Jason Karaian writes: In U.S., retailers are fretting about one of the shortest Christmas shopping seasons in recent history– there are six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year than last.

Given the fanfare around the holiday shopping season in the U.S., you could be forgiven for thinking that the weeks leading up to Christmas are a matter of life or death for retailers in the country. But according to analysis of retail sales data by Quartz, the U.S. shoppers are positively subdued in November and December compared with counter-parts in some other countries, for example:

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The Brits in recent years have spent some 14% more in November and 31% more in December than the average month in the rest of the year. This ‘full-on consumer orgy’ in the words of one retail analyst has been kicking off earlier each year in Britain, where the lack of a traditional starting point, like Thanksgiving in the U.S. or Advent in continental European markets, which gives retailers a freer hand to keep pushing holiday promotions earlier in the calendar. This may also explain Australians’ enthusiasm for shopping in November and December (in addition to summer weather). Varying gift-giving traditions could explain the differences in spending trends elsewhere.

The holiday season isn’t just about shopping binges, of course; there’s also binge eating and drinking. The Brits and Aussies distinguish themselves on this score, too. When comparing spending on food and drink services, essentially in restaurants and bars, in December– with the average month during the rest of the year few other countries come close…

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All of those Australians out on the beach and Brits hitting the booze at the Christmas office party make for a roaring trade, it seems. Revelers in other countries may be every bit as gluttonous during the holidays, just not in public. Perhaps it’s because they don’t spend so much time out shopping…

In the article Maximize Social Media Campaign For Holidays by Carolyn Rasley writes: It’s no secret that these holiday weeks are the biggest shopping time of the year… Being a standout in the holiday marketing frenzy may seem like daunting task but it’s absolutely critical to market to your audience on your social media platforms during this peak time.

It’s critical to shine bright to your crowd during the holiday season– engage customers with posts and promotions that strengthen your overall brand and contribute positively to the online community. Short on ideas? If you plan accordingly, integrate a few simple tips to help maximize social media and your brand is sure to flourish during holiday season, for example: Loyal customers love getting discounts from their favorite brands over holidays– it’s one of the best tactics to drive traffic…

Also, take advantage of holiday-related contests on Facebook and Twitter… Kindly ask fans for– shares, retweets, likes and comments so your message spreads far and wide… Engage your customers– adds an extra personal touch during holiday madness, which many brands forget or don’t make a priority– it will distinguish you as thoughtful when others simply self-promote… Showcase employees, holiday happenings, decorations, stories… it makes your brand unique. ‘Humanity’ does wonders for brand equity, so take off the corporate hat for a moment and relate to people…

In the article Feeling Dark Side of Christmas by Rick Blue writes: The Christmas season is an important sign-post each year and probably the biggest if retail sales are anything to go by. And for a short period, routine is suspended and we all observe special rituals of one type or another; rituals that have survived the test of time. But even though Christmas returns each year, the past does not; people and places disappear.

As Christmas provokes us to look back– it’s natural to feel nostalgic and if you allow yourself to be carried deep into it, it will open like an abyss: The past is like a big black hole that swallows the present. These intimations may be triggered by our senses that manage to short cut the intellect. There are familiar sounds of Christmas music, smells of a fireplace, taste of a Christmas dish…

Many people get uncomfortable and step back from this mood: They say that we should never live in the past, but to feel nostalgia doesn’t mean one is living in the past, just feeling it… Suddenly we are reminded of times gone forever; not just intellectually but more important– emotionally… It’s a bitter-sweet feeling; the sweetness is the memories the past has left us in the context and comfort of the Christmas season rituals. But, bitterness is the terrible realization of what the past actually meant– for many, this is the dark side of Christmas…

Your mom was right when she said that manners were important and we’re not just talking about table manners. Minding your P’s and Q’s in business can go a long way in helping you win over customers. So let me ask you, when was the last time you thanked your customers for being customers? In our busy lives, especially during this busy time of year, it’s often so easy to let the little things slide and saying thank you in one of those things that can get lost in the holiday shuffle…

But according to smallfoodbiz; a simple thank you can help you stand apart from your competitors who are constantly hounding customers to—buy, buy, buy… There are inexpensive ways you can reach out and thank your customers, for example; an old-fashioned thank you card. With so much technology at our fingertips, an old-fashioned thank you card – mailed with real old-fashioned stamp – will likely be a welcome surprise in customers’ mail boxes…

Give customers something– everyone likes to receive something special and now’s the perfect time to give customers something for all they’ve given you this past year– perhaps a percentage off their first order in the new year. Giving your customers something will give them a reason to keep coming back after the holiday madness has worn off… Give something to someone else– give to charity… Don’t make a big deal out of it, but just make a note of it in the company blog, newsletter… such that your customers will see and make it clear that you’re doing it because of them

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Toxic, Destructive Behavior in the Workplace– Bully, Harass, Dishonesty: Sapping Morale and Destroying Productivity…

Destructive behavior– abusive, hostile, dishonesty… are rampant in today’s work place: It can be displayed as subtle harassing, bullying… or, as aggressive, destructive, toxic and dangerous behavior which can sabotage an organization. As a result organizations are faced with increased turnover of high performers, increased absenteeism, decreased productivity… 

Toxic employees create an environment that is full of strife, angst, and destruction… For many leaders they know that it’s happening but they are not equipped to handle the bullies, and they hope that the problem will resolve itself, or just go away. But on the contrary, rarely does this type of behavior stop and in many cases they escalate…

However, before you can measure the impact of destructive behavior it’s helpful to have a definition, such as; destructive behavior is a systematic and repeated behavior by an individual that violates the legitimate interest of the organization by undermining and sabotaging the organization’s– goals, tasks, resources, effectiveness, motivation, well-being…

Some experts define it as; repetitive abusive behavior that devalues and harms other people on the job. Workplace destructive behavior may not be physically violent but relies on the formidable weapons of hostile actions and words… Many experts believe that workplace conflict is unavoidable: It’s simply human nature…

According to Bimal Parmar; it’s possible that the type of people you hire naturally foster conflict. You need to imagine how the hyper-competitive sales person is going to work with a more laid-back artistic marketing person, or the highly analytic member of the accounting team. If you’ve got team full of prima-donnas, strong competitive culture for customers  and commissions, then you’re bound to have conflict… competition can breed conflict…

Any way you look at your company’s people, processes, and procedures– the odds are great that there’s tension bubbling somewhere just beneath the surface… The best way to deal with conflict is to recognize and accept that it’s going to happen. But, remember that a clash of personalities is usually destructive when conflict becomes personal– it’s toxic. However, having a workplace where there is conflict of ideas, then that can be powerfully creative…

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In the article How to Stop Destructive Behavior by Renee Cocchi  writes: It’s inevitable, employees argue, ideas clash and departments lock horns… Some of that conflict breeds creativity but more of it breeds discontent, poor performance and hurt feelings, it’s a recipe for disaster in any workplace… Conflict in the workplace can be anything from petty fights and gossip to bad attitudes and violence, and it eats away at good organizations. The employees that are directly involved often lose valuable time stewing or worrying.

Those workers who witness conflicts often just waste time and energy gossiping about them… If these are not enough reasons for executives and supervisors to get a handle on workplace conflict, consider this: Employees lose almost three hours of work each week – at a national cost of about $360 billion a year – because they’re caught up in some kind of conflict… And most people who are victims of rude or out-of-line behavior at work will have a lingering dip in performance, and it’s likely they won’t treat the next people they deal with very well…

For sure you’ll never totally eliminate conflict in the workplace; in fact, some conflict is good it spurs innovation and creativity. But too much conflict affects employees, bosses and the company’s bottom line. So it pays for executives – supervisors to keep a watchful eye out for unhealthy conflict. Then they can step-in, manage the situation and help employees move on… Leaders can set the tone for workplace conflict by how they handle their own and how they treat their employees, for example; four best-practices for setting the right tone: Communicate well, listen better, create healthy boundaries, create behavioral consequences and follow through on them…

In the article Do You Have a ‘Cathy’ In Your Workplace? by Renee writes: Cathy wasn’t just your average bully – Cathy was known as a Queen Bully (capital Q and B). Cathy was a nurse and everyone was afraid of her – physicians too! Cathy used intimidation and overt criticism as her bully weapons of choice. If you asked her a question, she made you feel like an idiot. One of her frequent comments was; where did you get your nursing degree– in a Cracker Jack box? And would then mumble; I’m working with a bunch of idiots– as she walked away.

Everything about Cathy reeked of general disdain for people: Her body language (arms crossed, squinting eyes with fire shooting from them, lips curled back like an angry dog); her word choices (never positive – always negative); and her refusal to help others (even in a crisis) conveyed a message; you’re not worthy of me… Do you have a Cathy in your workplace? I hope not but unfortunately, she does exist in many workplaces.

But you might ask, with much organizational focus on eliminating destructive behavior in the workplace, how could someone like Cathy still have a job? Here are two reasons: 1). No person documented their experiences with Cathy and filed formal complaint. Everybody talks about Cathy, but talk is just that…talk. Without taking action Cathy can hide behind HR rules and avoid getting put on the disciplinary path… 2). The manager uses silence as a strategy, or the manager might be afraid of Cathy too, or the manager might not have the skill-set to appropriately address Cathy’s behavior…

Dealing with behaviors of employees is a skill that can be learned! Learn them! Remember, what you ignore – you condone…

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In the article Why the Workplace Is So Destructive by Douglas LaBier writes: In a Gallup poll of more than 150,000 U.S. workers 70% are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ and emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive… Moreover, only 41% of employees felt that they know what their company stands for and what makes its brand different from its competitors’ brands…

Gallup pointed out that—‘engaged’ employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward, while those ‘disengaged’ are essentially ‘checked out’, and they can have a negative influence on the organization… ‘Actively disengaged’ employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness with disruptive and destructive actions…

According to Lillian Cunningham; an organization’s productivity-profitability are directly tied to employee ‘engagement’. So when only 30% of the U.S. workforce is motivated that’s an economic problem as well as a morale problem– the two are interwoven… Other surveys show a range of damage to people and productivity: A survey by ‘Harris Interactive’ finds that about 83% of workers report feeling stressed out by their jobs, and the sources cited include; too much work, insufficient pay, not enough time for rest-sleep, too little leisure time, co-worker conflicts, general work-life imbalance…

But these surveys don’t tap into more pervasive, underlying sources, such as; boredom, lack of people skills, unsupportive management, absence of opportunities to learn and grow, outright abusive, arrogant and narcissistic bosses… A survey of 2,000 workers found that 47% said their managers made them feel threatened, rather than rewarded and 24% thought their bosses were poor communicators, lacking empathy… Demoralization increases when work isn’t very engaging or when opportunities for continued growth and expanding competencies are limited or blocked…

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In the article Destructive Behavior in the Workplace by Bonnie Swain Schindly writes: Don’t let destructive behavior go unchecked– employers are wrestling with destructive behavior in the workplace that stifles productivity, exhausts morale and drains company coffers. Organizations have limited control over many external  activities that can be detrimental to business, such as; loud, irritable customers… But for internal company behavior, managers can jump-out ahead of negative conduct before it seeps through an entire department…

First steps typically involve recognizing tell-tale signs that something is amiss in the office, and then figuring out how to deal with the problem, for example; bullying, theft, substances, bad habits… Destructive behavior does not always present itself in a single incident sometimes it starts small, through bad habits and evolves into a much bigger problem over time. For example, an employee might voice minor irritation over work duties until the behavior escalates into frequent temper tantrums and snappishness.

Another pattern that chews away at productivity is overuse of personal emails or social media on company time… An employee’s best hedge against these behaviors is to develop a strong sense of self-awareness and ask oneself whether their doing anything that takes value away from the company…

Research is very explicit; successful teams must establish and maintain trust in their relationship if they are to function effectively and sustain success. According to Dr. John Byrnes; trust may be thought of as an individual’s expression of confidence or optimistic expectation in the intentions and motives of others…

According to Patrick Lencioni; first and foremost team dysfunction is the absence of trust. Teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another. Lacking trust, relationships may be altered into adversarial attitudes: ‘me’ versus ‘you’, ‘us’ versus ‘them’... which often breeds deep and hidden animosities, rather than goodwill… The antithesis of trust is threat, and threat is the genesis of aggression.

An article in the Wall Street Journal began: A deep cynicism has settled over corporate America as many employees wonder how much, if at all they can trust their bosses. There are many dimensions to leadership, but focus on the element of trust, which many believe is a key to leadership in an age of uncertainty…

According to Sir Richard Branson; we… believe the world is at critical crossroads… global-business leaders need to come together to advance the well-being of people and the planet… but, the question is whether this effort to transform business goals and practices will include transforming the internal behavior and culture of organizations…

As the Gallup survey pointed out; managers are primarily responsible for employees’ engagement levels and organizations– must coach managers to take an active role in building engagement with employees, they must hold managers accountable, they must track manager’s progress and ensure that they continuously focus on actively engaging their employees….

 

Keeping Score in Business– Measuring, Scoring… Critical for Business Success: Not Measuring; Not Scoring; Not Competing…

Keeping score: Measuring and keeping score are critical for the success of a business– they are guides, they are indicators, they are numbers, they are the underlying activities that drive the business… According to Ronald Snee; failing to measure is like not keeping score in football, or any competitive sport… Translated into business terms: If you’re not measuring, you’re not competing…

Every business must keep score; successful businesses look at the numbers and see how they are doing– some days there are winning scores and other days there are failing, this is the way it is in business… But, without an adequate and appropriate scoring process it’s virtually impossible to know, understand, and improve the key drivers of business performance…

However, measuring badly can be even worse than not measuring at all, because it can be misleading– positive or negative– and create false sense of security or failure that can lead to disastrous actions… Whether you’re failing to measure, measure badly or measure the wrong things... the ultimate business consequence is the same: You are putting your business in jeopardy by not fully understanding your performance and positioning relative to the competition…

According to Bruce Rector; how many times have you sat through a great strategic planning session– even inspirational, where many  innovative ideas and plans were discussed– but nothing happened; it’s as if all the energy remained in the room after the participants walked out... I expect that this has happened to you, which is why when you use words like ‘strategic planning’, ‘mission’, ‘vision’, ‘value’, ‘goals’… everyone’s eyes glaze over and roll because they’ve ‘been there and done that’… These initiatives sound good but without identifying the associated key business performance indicators-measures… that drive the initiatives it’s very difficult to take planning sessions seriously…

Measuring and keeping score brings clarity-substance to the initiatives and enables employees, that are responsible and accountable, to effectively monitor and track the key performance drivers… and to take corrective action that may be necessary to achieve the desired business results...

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In the article Keeping Score Boost Employee Performance? by Lee Colan writes: You must keep score in order to know whether the business is making progress, but you should only track the most important metric, i.e., measure only what matters most– key drivers of business performance… There is no lack of things to measure but be selective– you can monitor many of your business performance indicators but only seriously track and keep score on the few important measures that really matter to the–

Bottom line, employees, customers… Of course, if you are going to keep score, you need a scoreboard: You should design one that’s simple, clear, easy to update, and that resonates with the team… Keeping the scoreboard up-to-date is critical… If your scoreboard doesn’t contain the current score or is not seen as a reliable reflection of current performance… progress will no longer serve as a motivator and the scoreboard will lose its power to boost results…

Be creative and use the scoreboard to tell a clear and compelling story in as few words-numbers, as possible. Consider some of these scoreboard formats:

  • Thermometer with rising mercury line to show progress.
  • Traffic light (e.g., red, yellow, green indicators to show– off-plan, slightly off-plan, or on-plan, respectively).
  • Jar of jellybeans to illustrate percentage of completion.
  • Emoticons or visual indicators such as thumbs up/thumbs down next to each goal.
  • Picture of an actual scoreboard to keep track of revenues, new deals, market share, customer referral… metrics that are most important to the team.

In the article Turn the Business Into a Game and Keep Score by Ron Carroll writes: It’s the combination of great people and great systems that produces great companies. When you add the elements of fun and competition– when you turn your business into a game and keep score– you discover the grand secret to developing a truly remarkable company. People will actually pay for the opportunity to ‘work hard’ when they enjoy what they are doing. Recreation and sports generate enthusiasm, energy and motivation not usually found in work-day activities…

So if you can transform employees feelings about their jobs from stressful, unrewarding, even boring… into a game-like atmosphere which is fun, engaging, fulfilling, competitive… while keeping score, then that has all the elements of a successful business… According to Charles Coonradt; management must turn resources into results and the more efficiently they do this the more successful the enterprise, which means focus attention on the most important resources and the most effective results, and keep score

Score keeping must be simple, objective, self-administered and provide frequent feedback during the process… Employees should not depend on a supervisor to tell them how well they are doing; they should know the score as the game progresses… Effective score keeping are comparisons between current performance, past performance, and an accepted standard… If you want to improve the quality of performance of any activity, you simply increase the frequency of feedback…

Without score keeping, there is no glory! Winning makes the game of work fun, brings the best out of players, and creates an extraordinarily profitable business… Take Action: Establish a measuring system that let’s you know ‘frequently’ how much closer you are getting to the goal. Focus attention on the 20% of activity that produces 80% of the results. Find and work the key numbers that drive the economic engine of your business. Compete, work hard-smart, expect to win, and have fun!

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In the article Myths of Performance Measurements by Pietro Micheli writes: Flawed assumptions undermine the success of much performance measurements… Investments in performance measurement systems have been steadily increasing over past two decades, and there is no sign this trend will change in the future. Leaders and managers in both private and public organizations regard such systems as a key means to implement and communicate strategy, support decision-making, align behaviors, and, ultimately, improve performance…

While measurement systems can, indeed, help organizations achieve all these fundamental aims, current practices show that managers are consistently making mistakes which prevent them from reaping the benefits of their investments. While their intentions are usually positive, research shows that, in fact, they often encourage exactly the behaviors their organizations neither need nor want:

  • Myth: Numbers are objective: Not necessarily. The quest for perfect, objective data is likely to leave us frustrated and disappointed. Performance data is, in fact, ambiguous and open to interpretation, and its use and impact on performance depend on      commonality of interpretations…
  • Myth: Accuracy and precision are paramount: The crucial question is not– Is our data as accurate and precise as possible? But: Are we getting data that is good enough for our purposes?
  • Myth: Data is value-added: Few would challenge the assumption that gathering and analyzing data is a value-added activity. But actually, those few would be right. Value is generated when data is used, but we know that performance data is very rarely used within organizations.
  • Myth: Top-down alignment produces good results: Sufficient  discretion should be left at every level to make decisions over which indicators to use and which targets to aim for.
  • Myth: Targets, rewards result in effective motivation: Performance  targets, indicators and rewards are often utilized to focus attention and motivate staff. On paper, it’s a great idea but in practice levels of engagement in many organizations are falling.
  • Myth: Tightly aligned performance measurement systems enable change: The use of new performance targets and indicators can, in fact, kick-start the implementation of new strategic objectives and promote different ways of working. While certainly the case for various organizations; measurement systems have often acted as obstacles rather than enablers. Particularly when a system is pervasive and consists of a large number of indicators, then organizational inertia may arise.

In the article Keeping Score by John Case writes: The idea of putting numbers on a score board has a checkered history. Ten or 15 years ago companies discovered (or rediscovered) a simple truth about human nature, summed up in the adage– What gets measured gets done! But the real truth about human nature is that ‘what gets measured does get done, but only for a while’. Then other human reactions are likely to cut in, such as– Who cares if we make those numbers, anyway?

A chart that tracks performance can come to feel like an edict from management; make the numbers or else… When people believe ‘big brother’ is watching them, they do exactly what they have to do, and no more… But, what happens when people see that information month-in and month-out? They learn the connections between– work-groups, department performance, and ‘big-picture’ results… as well as, the knowledge about why the ‘numbers’ matter…

Since there’s no law requiring practice of ‘open-book’ management, the ‘big-picture’ numbers may be something other than actual sales or profits. But, regardless of the actual numbers the message is the same: Employees understands that it’s the real measure– it’s the measure of the business’ relative success and thus an indication of job security and opportunity… According to Douglas Devlin; it’s the feedback that makes the difference; as employees learn not just to watch numbers but to take responsibility and ownership for them, and sense of responsibility for making the numbers turn out right.

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Many organizations spend thousands of hours collecting and interpreting data. However, much of this effort is nothing more than wasted time… in many cases an organization is analyzing the wrong measurements, which leads to inaccurate decision-making. According to Graham Brown; measuring everything is more damaging than measuring nothing– pinpointing the vital few important measures is the key to success…

According to Robert Follett; many business people don’t even fully understand the meaning of keeping score in business. For example, financial reports are scorecards but they don’t tell the whole truth about a business… Remember that financial reports are not the only or even the most important measure of what is valuable in business, for example; value of people or innovation or relationships… and, many other business intangibles are not represented by the numbers in a financial report. 

So, use financial reports as a tool to help achieve important and worthwhile goals, but don’t be dominated or mislead by the numbers in a financial report… According to F. John Reh; metrics are the scores that tell you if you are getting closer to your goals… they are guides, they are indicators, they are numbers, but you can’t change the numbers by managing the numbers; you change the numbers by managing the underlying business activity that contribute to the numbers…

Imagine attending a football game or any competitive sport and you find that no one is keeping score, which make the game seems pointless, uninteresting… the same is true for business– keeping score tell you how you are doing, where you going, what adjustments are needed to win– now that’s interesting…

Do-Nothing Style of Management– Manage by Minimalism, Omission, Passivity: Less is More, More is Less…

Great leaders– do-nothing– except when they; think, make key decisions, facilitate, orchestrate… Great leaders spend their time preparing for the future, taking a comprehensive view of the business landscape while also noticing key competitive details… so that they can confidently choose the right strategy for growth…

However, do-nothing also has a negative connotation and defined as– failing to achieve, not doing anything important, failure to make progress, lacking commitment, drive, ambition… but for many business leaders considering to ‘do-nothing’ has intention: Intention to let go of ineffective activities just to ‘do something’,  but don’t stop to determine if that ‘something’ really needs to be done at all. It’s about responding rather than reacting.

Do-nothing is positive choice to keep things simple, accepting things as they are and appreciating what already exists, even if just for now… Sometimes doing something is good: But, sometimes do-nothing is better… According to David Worrell; if you are ever going to build a successful business you need to recruit right people, doing right jobs, at right time… Sometimes the right job is to ‘do-nothing’. Let me say it again; find a way to ‘do-nothing’, ‘make yourself obsolete’… This frees you– the leader– to do the real job, which is to be the chief visionary, rain-maker…

According to Ron Feddersen; worst business advice ever handed out may well be, ‘when in doubt do nothing’… Sadly, not enough executives ask themselves one critical question: Did I make a decision to ‘do-nothing’, or did I just ‘do-nothing’? How often have you consider doing nothing instead of doing something? Why not give yourself the green light to stop and choose? According to Theodore Roosevelt; in any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing is do-nothing.

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In the book Do-Nothing! How to Stop Over-Managing and Become a Great Leader’ by J. Keith Murnighan writes: Great leaders don’t work they facilitate and orchestrate. They think of great strategies and help others implement them. They spend their time preparing for the future. They take a comprehensive view of their terrain while also noticing key details so they can confidently choose the right forks in the road…

In other words, great leaders– do-nothing– except think, make key decisions, help people do their jobs better, and add a touch of organizational control to make sure the final recipes come out okay. In sharp contrast, most leaders are too busy actually working to do these things– and their teams suffer as a result… contrary to popular opinion, leadership turns out to be as much about what you don’t do as what you do.

The best leaders today and in the future will look more like basketball coaches than great players; rarely engaging and letting great players run with the ball… Do-nothing leadership doesn’t mean that you can play golf every day, instead it means doing less than you did in your last job so you can focus your time and effort on facilitating and orchestrating.

Thus, ‘do-nothing’ leaders don’t really ‘do-nothing’ in a literal sense. Instead, they think of great strategies and help others implement them. They spend their time preparing for the future… Obviously, leaders might find it useful to pause and consider options when they really don’t know what to do, i.e., when they are faced with a novel situation that requires insights and skills that they don’t have.

These are times when it is critical to avoid doing anything until you can get relevant information… Recent research has identified another key time when leaders should literally ‘do-nothing’; it suggests that leaders who face moral decisions should stop and do-nothing– don’t rush into decisions. Instead, take the time and think about things for a little while and consider all the options… To ‘do-nothing’ may truly help you to ‘do the right thing’…

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In the article Business People Better Off– Did Less And Thought More by The Economist: There is never-ending supply of business gurus telling us how we can, and must do more… Yet the biggest problem in the business world is not too little, but too much– too many distractions and interruptions, too many things done for the sake of form, and altogether too much busy-ness. It’s high time that we tried a different business strategy, e.g., ‘lean-back’ and not ‘lean-in’…

There is a distinguished history of leadership thinking in the ‘lean-back’ tradition, for example; Lord Melbourne, Queen Victoria’s favorite prime minister, extolled the virtues of ‘masterful inactivity’… Herbert Asquith embraced a policy of ‘wait and see’ when he had the job…

The most obvious beneficiaries of ‘lean-back’ are creative workers– the people who are supposed to be at the very heart of modern economy, for example; leaders-managers at the top are best employed thinking about strategy rather than operations, and about whether the company is doing the right thing rather than whether it’s just sticking to its plans…

Jack Welch used to spend an hour a day in what he called ‘looking out of the window time’, Bill Gates used to take two ‘think weeks’ a year when he would lock himself in an isolated cottage, Jim Collins advises all bosses to keep a ‘stop-doing list’… Less is more-more is less.

Also, Keith Murnighan argues– that the best managers must focus their attention on establishing the right rules– recruiting the right people and establishing right incentives, and then get out-of-the-way. However, doing nothing may be going too far. Managers play important roles in coordinating complicated activities and disciplining slackers. And some creative people would never finish anything if they are left to their own devices.  However, there is certainly a case for doing a lot less. Leaning-in has been producing negative returns for some time now. It’s time to try the far more radical strategy of ‘lean-back’…

In the article Do-Nothing Bosses by Stephany Schings writes: Most employees can see the benefits of an effective boss and great deal of research has focused on effective leadership’s benefits to organizations… but, what about those bosses who take a more passive stance in their leadership roles? According to Brian C. Holtz; research shows that the ‘do-nothing’ bosses can have serious negative effects on their organizations and that, failing to lead, can have detrimental effects on organizational functionality…

Passive leaders– avoid engaging with their subordinates, fail to make decisions, and are generally ineffective. Passive leadership is defined as a combination of passive management by exception and laissez-faire leadership; where passive management by exception represents an avoidance of action until mistakes or problems can no longer be ignored, and laissez-faire leadership is defined as the absence of leadership all together…

The findings of the research suggest that employees of passive leaders ultimately perceive their organization as– not care about their well-being or provide the support necessary to succeed– it also suggests that work place incivility may flourish under passive leaders… It’s conceivable that well-intentioned supervisors could mistakenly perceive that passive leadership is an effective management style, for example; supervisors might wish to avoid being perceived as ‘micromanaging’ subordinates and by providing autonomy they empowering and foster motivation among employees.

This could lead individuals to assume that hands-off approach to leadership is optimal. However, providing employee autonomy and demonstrating effective leadership are not mutually exclusive… providing autonomy can be accomplished simply by allowing flexibility in– how, when, where… employees will accomplish particular work activities…

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In the article True Goal of Leadership by Geoffrey James writes: Many people believe that ‘leadership’ means getting out there and telling people what to do, how to do it, and when to do it… Nothing could be further from the truth. The true goal of leadership is to make yourself unnecessary. I know that sounds completely crazy but I’m very serious.

According to Mitchell Kerztman; I have finally risen to my level of competence, which is that I don’t do anything very well, but I do-nothing extremely well… The idea that the true goal of leadership is ability to do-nothing is encapsulated by the Taoist term ‘wu wei’ which has two meanings: ‘action without action’ and ‘action that does not have struggle or excessive effort’.

In the classic ‘The Art of War’ the author Sun Tzu expresses ‘wu wei’ by pointing out that great generals are reserved, calm and detached, rather than hotheads or busybodies. The same thing is true for great leaders. Great leaders recruit people who are very talented so that they don’t need guidance and can handle problems and disagreements on their own, without requiring the great leader to intervene…

To use a somewhat overused but nevertheless profound term, great leaders ‘empower’ people to make their own decisions. If you truly empower people, you are no longer needed as a decision-maker. You make yourself unnecessary, and do-nothing… When you’ve successfully accomplished this goal, only then you can expand your influence and take on new responsibilities, and once again strive to become unnecessary. If you don’t make yourself unnecessary, you’ll be stuck as a leader at the same level riding herd on the same people…

Can you achieve more by doing less? What if you actually were to donothing? We know the answer to this don’t we? As leaders, we know that work would stop and other things would come crashing down around you… Or, maybe the exact opposite would happen… The ‘act of doing’ and ‘strokes of leadership’ that propel incredible achievement, created by doing, can be very different and often in conflict with another… In order to do less, you must ‘trust’ more, and this entails letting go of ‘things’ that may at first would make you very uncomfortable…

As a leader, the job is ‘not to do’ but to facilitate, orchestrate and help others succeed in doing… To do-nothing and be successful, you must figure out who is exceptional at specific tasks and allow them to take over… According to Robert Tanner; sometimes the wisest thing you can do is nothing at all! For some managers, these words can be a source of great irritation. This is particularly true when the managers are highly motivated to get things done, quickly, or when they are set on a specific course of action… Moving too quickly to address organizational issues can be as destructive as moving too slowly. Sometimes the best solutions come when you delay the decision for a while… 

This might mean to take a break, do-nothing and engage in some thoughtful reflection and possible consultation, then revisit the issue-situation… It’s the difference between making a rash decision with consequences that may not be able to fix the matter, and making wise decision that allows you to preserve relationships and still meet critical goals.

Effective leaders make decisions and they get results, and effective leaders also know when they should delay making decisions, i.e., do-nothing– to get results… According to Aristotle; to avoid criticism– say nothing, do-nothing, be nothing…