Arizona Economic Development Can’t Seem To Get It Right

It looks like Arizona Legislature is trying to get business friendly.  I applaud that they are trying to do something.  I just think they don’t get it.  Why is this state hell bent on simply attracting a multi-billion dollar manufacturing/production facility of a multi-national corporation?  Don’t get me wrong we should be willing to do this.  However, this should not be our ONLY strategy as it is not fruitful long term.

The best way to build an economic base is to support the local companies that already choose to call this their home.  As they rise on the success scale they will give back far more to the community than a production plant of a foreign company that simply employs people here.  Most importantly the executives of a company take the lion share of the income generated.  Having those executives native and supportive of Arizona means that they will invest back in spades.  Simply look at the PayPal mafia model for how this works.

So while House Bill 2250 seems great to attract companies doing $150 million in construction and adding 150 jobs by cutting their property taxes from 20% to 1% for 10 years, it doesn’t help build the real future.  It really only helps deals that are already under way.  Instead let’s get serious.  Let’s cut property tax for ALL owner occupied arizona businesses  from 20% to say 10 – 15%. (Offset this by raising Residential Property taxes which are FAR TOO LOW)

If you must keep it to only those reinvesting dollars in a property.  Lets make it reasonable.  $250,000 (instead of $150,000,000) and employs at least 10 people.  Don’t cut it down to 1% instead cut it to say 10 – 15%.  If you want to be serious about the economy you have to be serious about small business.  End of story.

Sunday Review: Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative by Ken Robinson

I have decided to do a dead simple book review every Sunday. Some of this is to just share what I’m reading. Rather than go with some complex rating system a book will either be a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Thumbs up means I highly recommend reading the book. A thumbs down means read something else unless you have free time on your hands. I will then do a one or two sentence at most comment on the book.
thumbs-upOut of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative
Take Away: Inspired by the Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, I picked this up for reading.  It has great content but Robinson is a much weaker writer than he is orator.

Sunday Review: Built to Last by Jim Collins

I have decided to do a dead simple book review every Sunday. Some of this is to just share what I’m reading. Rather than go with some complex rating system a book will either be a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Thumbs up means I highly recommend reading the book. A thumbs down means read something else unless you have free time on your hands. I will then do a one or two sentence at most comment on the book.
thumbs-upBuilt to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies
Take Away: If you are starting a company or have a relatively new company you should read this book. Learn what it takes to stick it out over time.

Sunday Review: Good To Great by Jim Collins

I have decided to do a dead simple book review every Sunday. Some of this is to just share what I’m reading. Rather than go with some complex rating system a book will either be a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Thumbs up means I highly recommend reading the book. A thumbs down means read something else unless you have free time on your hands. I will then do a one or two sentence at most comment on the book.
thumbs-upGood to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't

Take Away: Good historical view of some great companies over time. Wondering if some of the companies performance in last few years distracts from the book.

Oblivious To The Things You Do

Sometimes when you are in the heat of doing things you become completely oblivious to how things are being perceived by others.  At AgileOpenNorthwest we were talking about Agile software development and started to talk about Where Are Your Keys.  The discussion quickly became about understanding how we learn is so important to the skill set of the new economy.  Everyone started talking about the current broken educational systems.  At one point someone blurted out “What are we going to do? Change the educational system?”.  I answered, “Yes, we are.”.  Everyone at the table looked at me like I had three eyes.  I had just got on a plane to come to the conference directly from leaving our first Educational Unconference to change the educational system, so this seemed normal to me.

Take Away

When challenging the norm becomes your norm expect people to look at you funny.

Sunday Book Review: The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Motley Crue

Thumbs up means I highly recommend reading the book. A thumbs down means read something else unless you have free time on your hands.

thumbs-upThe Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band

Take Away: Completely decadent and way better written than expected. Why did I wait so long to read this?

Freedom In Being Focused

As mentioned on the Gangplank blog “What Exactly Is Gangplank?“, we recently went through the exercise of answering that question.  It seems stupid.  It seems simple.  It may even seem worthless.  The truth is that it was liberating.  Carrying a ton of thoughts in my head about all what Gangplank is to me left a jumbled mess.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have all that potential and can’t do those things, it just means that now that energy is centered and focused.  The thoughts are no longer fleeting and dashing.  The worrying has subsided and the revelation is starting to surface.

Gangplank is hard to explain, because we don’t currently have good examples of pure collaborative workspaces that challenge the very definition of what innovation is.  Where a fundamental organizational shift is being played out.  The focus is not on the product, process or output.  It is focused on how the people within function and collaborate opening new doors and unifying people and companies in ways that set in motion things greater than what we are used to seeing.  Unlocking chunks of serendipity between organizations that have never been thought about.  Never would I have expected the following statement to be so freeing.

To innovative companies and creative people, Gangplank is the collaborative workspace that provides infrastructure and community that creates the new economy.


Encouraging Institutional Innovation By Changing How We Educate

John Hagel’s Edge Perspectives has an excellent article on challenging mindsets from reverse innovation to innovation blowback. It reinforces our mindset in why we are passionate about how Gangplank is structured and why concepts brought out in Gangplank Jr are so necessary for our future.

Their research highlights that innovation in the next wave will not be one centered around products.

“We drew attention to a different form of innovation – institutional innovation… we saw entrepreneurs re-thinking institutional arrangements… offering all participants an opportunity to learn faster and innovate more effectively by working together. While Western companies were lured into various forms of financial leverage, these entrepreneurs were developing sophisticated approaches to capability leverage in scalable business networks that could generate not just one product innovation, but an accelerating stream of product and service innovations.”

They emphasize that it is fundamentally different than how we currently perceive innovation. Notice that it is focused on TRUST and FLEXIBILITY. It is not a coincidence that Gangplank Manifesto is centered around people trusting each other. Agility of an organization as well as it’s tools are a by product.

“Institutional innovation is different – it defines new ways of working together, ways that can scale much more effectively across large numbers of very diverse enterprises. It provides ways to flexibly reconfigure capability while at the same time building long-term trust based relationships that help participants to learn faster.”

We like to think that Gangplank is currently the only workspace of it’s kind. A truly collaborative workspace driving a new economy. That economy comes from the disruptive power of institutional innovation. I suspect you will see a lot more of it in the future.

“Institutional innovation has enormous power to disrupt and drive major new forms of economic value creation and capture. Much of its power stems from its ability to blindside incumbents who hold onto traditional mindsets.”

We believe the core of Gangplank Jr is teaching the next generation to embrace scalable collaborative approaches to the work they engage in and in forming the solutions to the problems they face. We believe they have more to teach us than we have to teach them.

“Until and unless Western executives begin to aggressively challenge these assumptions and awaken to the potential of institutional innovation, they will remain vulnerable to attack. They must begin to recognize that the most promising forms of innovation emerging in developing economies are not at the level of individual products or services but rather at a much deeper level – novel approaches to scalable peer learning shaped by institutional innovation.”

Sunday Review: The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson

Thumbs up means I highly recommend reading the book. A thumbs down means read something else unless you have free time on your hands.

thumbs-upThe Invention of Air: A Story Of Science, Faith, Revolution, And The Birth Of America

Take Away: Strong networks of smart people can change the world. Those that change the world have a deep understanding of science, politics and religion.

Dysfunctions of (Agile) Teams

Over the holiday break I read Patrick Lencioni‘s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable“.  The premise is that each dysfunction builds upon the dysfunction before it.  Much like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.   Below is an illustration of the dysfunctions with absence of trust being the building block of dysfunction.

Running multiple organizations and being part of an agile team gives me ample time to see team dynamics and participate in them on a regular basis.  This book really made me think a lot.  The information wasn’t particularly new, but it reminded me that much like agile, leadership of a team can be simple yet insanely difficult at the same time.

Absence of Trust
For some reason most teams think that if they all get along they have some super team work trust going on, but if there is any conflict what so ever that the team is some how not in harmony and that all is wrong with the world.  I remember early variations at Integrum where this certainly was the case.  The truth is that Trust is all about comfort in being vulnerable.  On an agile team this vulnerability is necessary because the only way to continually improve towards excellence is to be honest about your deficiencies.  If someone doesn’t feel they can be open and honest in their weaknesses and mistakes this can never happen.  What is your team doing to build trust and encourage vulnerability?

Fear of Conflict
The biggest smell of a dysfunctional team to me is one that agrees on everything and never has conflict.  Without conflict there are things being left unsaid.  In the end this is just unhealthy.  Willingness to have healthy conflict allows unfiltered and passionate debate about new and innovative ideas.   A good agile team is a “noisy” team.  I think the same goes for pair programming.  If a pair isn’t regularly in heated debate they probably aren’t trying very hard.

Lack of Commitment
I am starting to think that commitment is one of the most powerful words in agile software development.  Healthy teams don’t make excuses.  They don’t blame or shirk responsibility.  The get on the same page and drive towards completing the goal.  Deciding on what to commit to and then measuring to that commitment is key in building a strong team.  I have long thought that accountability was a major problem with no solution, but I am reminded that it’s probably a lack of commitment to blame.

Avoidance of Accountability
This is so so so so difficult.  As calling peers out feels so unnatural.  Who am I to tell you what or how to do something?  What authority do I have over you?  In reality if we have a shared commitment, I am doing both of us a disservice if I don’t speak up and hold you accountable.  It just never feels that way when it’s time to step to the plate and do it.  Recently I was told by someone to RTFM (Read The Fucking Manual) and it kind of stung.  It made me realize that I demand a lot, but at a bare minimum I wasn’t able to perform a basic function of one of the teams goals towards quality.  How embarrassing.  I wasn’t angry.  I was glad.  Their commitment to the goal and trust that I wouldn’t blow up over such a conflict ultimately improved what I was doing.  That’s how agile works right?

Inattention to Results
So often in the past people on our team were driven by ego, career development or recognition.  I childishly called them the “What about me’s?”.    Ultimately the one to blame is not them, but myself.  Failure to give them goals to commit to, left them no choice but to think selfishly.  It’s something that I painfully work on in everything that I am involved in, because frankly it’s hard work.  Guess I need to quit making excuses.

Patrick’s observation in the final summary seemed too fitting for an agile team to not share…
Ironically, teams succeed because they are exceedingly human.  By acknowledging the imperfections of their humanity, members of functional teams overcome the natural tendencies that make trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, and a focus on results so elusive.

For the first time I feel like Integrum has a team that is human.  It might just be that we are starting to achieve that right level of imperfection to function as a committed team.  Makes me feel pretty lucky and excited!