Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

I would like to submit to you that leaders and executives do little more than solve lots of big-hairy-complicated-messy problems and collect huge pay checks. So, if you don’t like problem solving then maybe leadership just isn’t for you. Or…………. maybe you just need to find a better way to solve your problems.

The problem with problem solving
I love to be creative and come up with answers on my own. It’s very satisfying to know that I applied my brain to a scenario and thought of the best solution all by my “big boy” self. I do this at school, at home, while driving, playing a game/sport, and just about every other conceivable situation. The only problem with doing this is that it’s a massive waste of time and energy. It’s like trying to re-invent the wheel every time a problem arises.

A better way
I’ve been realizing lately that I’m not the first person to be a husband, or a father, or a student, or……… anything for that matter (It’s been a hard realization). There are so many experts on every topic that it’s silly to think that my problems are unique to me alone. Why not consult these experts and learn about the wheels that have already been invented?

Examples
I’ve been trying to recognize and practice this concept lately with some interesting results:

1. Whenever my wife and I go to a new restaurant I feel overwhelmed by the number and variety of options on the menu. I take it upon myself to diligently research every option so that we can make informed decisions on this important edible investment. This takes up precious time and brain energy and is difficult to do before the server wants to take our order. I end up tired and stressed, while my sweet patient wife tries not to get annoyed at my anal retentiveness. Lately I’ve made an effort to change my methods and it has greatly improved our culinary experience. Now I simply ask the server what the two or three most popular dishes are and choose one. The results? My decisions are made much faster and easier, and the meals generally much tastier too. I’ve decided that it’s important to give the server and the other customers credit for having taste buds and brains even if they’re not as superior and intelligent as mine (that was joke).

2. I just saw the awesome movie Moneyball and really enjoyed it. I loved the creative problem solving that is used to re-evaluate baseball players’ relative value. I did some research and found that, interestingly, Billy Beane was not the creator of sabermetrics, nor was he the first manager to utilize sabermetric principles. In fact, his predecessor, Sandy Alderson, had been using them for three years before Beane became the general manager of the Oakland A’s. However, Beane is credited as the father of sabermetrics. He does speaking engagements all across the country, and had an awesome movie made after him (Brad Pitt’s finest work.) But all he did was take an existing and proven theory and put it to work.

So What?
The next time you have a problem to solve, first find out if it’s been solved before. Who knows, you might become a hero just by doing what’s already been done.

Scriptural support
1 Thessalonians 5:15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

Comments: Agree or disagree? Have you ever solved a problem this way before? How did it go for you?

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The Business of Spaghetti Sauce

Is there anything better than your favorite spaghetti sauce? Ok maybe. But, spaghetti sauce has to be in your top 10 at least! The only question is ……. Prego vs. Ragu?

Check out this informative (if not life-changing) Ted Talk by Malcolm Gladwell and see what conclusion you come to.

Malcolm Gladwell on Spaghetti Sauce

Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith”

Martin Luther King, Jr: The Great Communicator

Leadership Principle
He’s known throughout the world as THE great civil rights leader. He influenced presidents, politics, media, education, and the entire way we think about freedom and equality. As a result we have a holiday and about 10,000 roads (ok maybe that’s an exaggeration) named after him. No matter how you slice it, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an incredible leader. But why was he such an effective leader? He wasn’t the only educated leader of the day, and he certainly wasn’t the only one who suffered in a pre-civil rights America. The answer is, in part at least, his ability to communicate. He caught our imagination and painted a picture of how things COULD be. He inspired us when he spoke and made us want to take action. We can learn a lot from Dr. King and how he communicated.

Communication is a vital (and often overlooked) ingredient for success. Dr. James Wetherbe of Texas Tech University asserts that eighty percent of our problems (individually and collectively) are not problems at all, they’re just MISUNDERSTANDINGS! Think of it, if you could communicate perfectly you would eliminate EIGHTY PERCENT of your problems. The American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) asked the most successful graduates from the top ten schools of business what the single most important leadership skill that lead to their success was. Their answer: interpersonal communication skills.

Scriptural Support
If something is important for leadership then you’ve got to assume that Jesus was amazingly good at it. And that is exactly the case with His communication skills. His teachings, stories and parables were timely, illustrative and inspiring. So much so, that we still quote them two thousand years after His life. And they are as relevant now as they were back then. I’d say that He definitely passed the communication test.

So What?
If you want to be an effective leader, you HAVE to be a great communicator. A fantastic resource for this topic (and my favorite book ever) is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Comments: What do you think? Is communication really that important?

Why are we so QWERTY?

Business Principle

Are you familiar with QWERTY? No, I’m not talking about the inanimate character in the Veggie Tales movies (yes, I have small children); I’m talking about the standard letter distribution for 99.9% of computer keyboards. QWERTY was developed in the late 1800’s for primitive typewriters. These typewriters commonly got jammed if the typing was too fast. To remedy this problem the letter distribution was modified TO SLOW TYPISTS DOWN. This design was soon accepted into mainstream culture, even though typewriters and computers are no longer plagued by this jamming problem. Today we all use QWERTY without even thinking twice about it (look at the top left-hand corner of your keyboard and notice the Q-W-E-R-T-Y.) Did you know that there is alternative model that is faster and more productive? It’s called the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard and it was developed in 1936. In this model the most commonly used letters are more conveniently distributed. This allows for greater typing speeds and fewer repetitive strain issues like carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact, the world record holder for speed-typing clocked in at 212 words per minute using the Dvorak model. Sounds like we really missed the boat on that on right? What? You’ve never heard of any of this? That’s okay it’s not your fault. This is just an example of what happens when we blindly follow the status quo and assume that what has been done for years is the best, most effective method.

This is a common problem for businesses and leadership. We get in a routine where we do what has always been done because …… That’s the way it’s always been done. It’s important to think critically (not cynically, there’s a big difference) about everything we do. Assumptions are everywhere and they hold us back from our true potential.

Scriptural Support

These kinds of assumptions are common throughout history and have always kept us from realizing our potential. Such was the case with the “flat world” hypothesis which discouraged growth and exploration because no one wanted to fall off the edge of the Earth. The scriptures are also filled with examples of these kinds of assumptions. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament contain stories and teachings warning us against the false “traditions of men” (see Lev. 18:30, Jer. 10:3, 2Chr. 30:7, Matt. 15:3, Mark 7:8). Sometimes these assumptions led to really tragic events, like the crucifixion of a completely perfect person.

So, as an enlightened leader be on the lookout for the false assumptions of the status quo within your organization. A “QWERTY” could be anywhere and chances are it is significantly slowing you down.

Comments: Do you think this is an important concept? Have you seen any examples of a real world “QWERTY?” What kinds of things do you think fit into this category?