Six things mangers know… that are dead wrong

With or without the benefit of MBA coursework, professional manager tend to follow a maxims that simply their professional lives. Sayings like “Keep your manager in the loop” and “It’s sometime better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission” are good examples. Unfortunately, some of the old reliable tents don’t work anymore. Here are six common management myths that will definitely make your life more difficult.

Myth 1

Don’t ask a question you don’t know the answer to.

This one is borrowed from trail lawyers, and it traveled into main stream business because it always seems career-enhancing to look smart. Unfortunately, growth opportunities do not yield easily to leading questions and preconceived solutions. A better maxim for growth leaders is:

Start in the unknown.

Myth 2

Think big.

There are always pressures to be sure an opportunity is big enough, but most really big solutions began small and built momentum.
How seriously would you have taken eBay or PayPal? In an early era, FedEx looked like a niche market. To seize growth opportunities, it is better you start small and find a deep underlying human need to connect with. A better maxim for growth leaders is:

Focus on meeting genuine human needs.

Myth 3

If the idea is good, then the money will follow.

Managers often look at unfunded idea with disdain, confidant that if the idea were good it would have attracted money on its own merits. The truth about ideas is that we don’t know if they are good; only customers know that. Gmail sounds absurd: free e-mail in exchange for letting a software bot read your personal messages and serving ads tailored to your apparent interests. Who would have put money behind that? The answer, of course, is Google. In that light, a better maxim for growth leaders is:

Provide seed funding to the right people and problems, and the growth will follow.

Myth 4

Measure twice, cut once

This one works fine in an operations setting, but when it comes you creating an as-yet-unseen future, there isn’t much to measure. And spending time trying to measure the immeasurable offer temporary comfort but does little to reduce risk. A better maxim for growth leaders is:

Place small bets fast.

Myth 5

Be bold and decisive.

In the past, business cultures were dominated by competition metaphors (sport and war being the most popular). During the 1980s and 1990s, mergers and acquisitions lent themselves to conquest language. Organic growth, by contrast, requires a lot of nurturing, intuition and a tolerance for uncertainty. Placing bold bets falls well short of our proposed maxim:

Explore multiple options.

Myth 6

Sell your solution. If you don’t believe in it, no one will.

When you are trying to create the future, it is difficult to know when you have it right. We think it is fine to be skeptical of your solution, but be absolutely certain you have focused on a worthy problem. You’ll iterate your way to a workable solution in due time. In this case, we propose two design based maxim:

Choose worthwhile customer problem.
Let other validate.

From a book called: Designing for Growth, by Jeanne Liedtka & Tim Ogilvie.

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