Competence Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

I stumbled across a 10+ year old article from Seth Godin about getting too competent in your work. It’s a great reminder that getting really good at something can stop you from changing into what you need to be.

Do you work for a competent company? A company in which people are hired because they’ve done a certain job before, in which the upward path is slow and the sideways path is nonexistent? Such companies are especially frustrating to the internal (or the external) change agent.

Market Disruptions, Apple Style

Apple Insider has a thoughtful article on market disruption in the context of Apple products. Most interesting to me was how they broke down market disrupting products into 3 categories:

  • New Market Disruption: create a new product that no one knew they needed
  • Better Product: disrupts the high end of the marketplace by bringing new features that drive customers to upgrade
  • Lower Cost: disrupts the low end by decreasing the cost for customers who are already serviced in the marketplace

Their observation is that grabbing the low end is easier, but not necessarily more valuable. Apple has succeeded when they take new markets and make better products, then fill in the low end eventually.

Winners Keep Winning

The Harvard Business Review had a commentary on why winners keep winning. The gist of it is that a good win gives you access to things that make the next one easier. These can be broken up into a few groups

  • It feels good to win: your mood’s better, you better mood causes you to interact with people more, and you’re less defensive so you evaluate what you can do better more critically
  • You’re left alone to do better: when you’re winning, you get less interruptions to do the next thing. This is from yourself with negative self-talk, and then peers and bosses who intervene at moments of doubt.

Leadership Secrets

Forbes had an article on leadership secrets that folks don’t talk about. It was pretty well written a spot on as far as I can see. The writer wants to distinguish that the manufacturing style command structure is going away and to be a great leader, you have to be a great follower as well. Here’s their list:

  • Great Followers Seize the Initiative
  • Great Followers Create their Own Job
  • Great Followers are Coachable
  • Great Followers Anticipate
  • Great Followers are Great Communicators
  • Great Followers are Goal Driven
  • Great Followers Show Don’t Tell
  • Great Followers Earn Trust
  • Great Followers Offer Solutions
  • Great Followers are Compassionate
  • Great Followers are Loyal

Decision Fatigue

Late last year, the New York times ran a long expose on how people wear down under repeated decision making. If you spend all day shopping for stuff (evil, evil stuff), looking for a new house, all day meetings at work, and so on, your ability to make critical decisions wears down. From the article:

Once you’re mentally depleted, you become reluctant to make trade-offs, which involve a particularly advanced and taxing form of decision making. In the rest of the animal kingdom, there aren’t a lot of protracted negotiations between predators and prey. To compromise is a complex human ability and therefore one of the first to decline when willpower is depleted. You become what researchers call a cognitive miser, hoarding your energy. If you’re shopping, you’re liable to look at only one dimension, like price: just give me the cheapest. Or you indulge yourself by looking at quality: I want the very best (an especially easy strategy if someone else is paying). Decision fatigue leaves you vulnerable to marketers who know how to time their sales, as Jonathan Levav, the Stanford professor, demonstrated in experiments involving tailored suits and new cars.

The biggest take away is that if you’re going to be making lots of decisions, bring some candy with you.