Harvard Business Review Repost: What it takes to think deeply about complex problems

The problems we’re facing often seem as complex as they do intractable. And as Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” So what does it take to increase the complexity of our thinking?

Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of The Energy Project, outlines the steps his team takes to tackle difficult and complex questions. As auditors, we are sometimes tasked with examining gnarly, high-stakes problems that have no apparent and straightforward solutions. This requires that we cultivate the kind of thinking that allows us to approach the problem from more than one angle.

Simple answers make us feel safer, especially in disruptive and tumultuous times. But rather than certainty, modern leaders need to consciously cultivate the capacity to see more ­— to deepen, widen, and lengthen their perspectives. Deepening depends on our willingness to challenge our blind spots, deeply held assumptions, and fixed beliefs. Widening means taking into account more perspectives ­— and stakeholders — in order to address any given problem from multiple vantage points. Lengthening requires focusing on not just the immediate consequences of a decision but also its likely impact over time.

Read more here.

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Harvard Business Review Repost: Why diverse teams are smarter

Striving to increase workplace diversity is not an empty slogan — it is a good business decision. A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean….

In recent years a body of research has revealed another, more nuanced benefit of workplace diversity: nonhomogenous teams are simply smarter. Working with people who are different from you may challenge your brain to overcome its stale ways of thinking and sharpen its performance.

David Rock and Heidi Grant at the Neuroleadership Institute make the argument in this article that diverse teams can not only improve outcomes, but are actually better at making complex group decisions.

Read more here.

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Harvard Business Review Repost: Why ethical people make unethical choices

Despite good intentions, organizations set themselves up for ethical catastrophes by creating environments in which people feel forced to make choices they could never have imagined.  Former Federal Prosecutor Serina Vash says, “When I first began prosecuting corruption, I expected to walk into rooms and find the vilest people.  I was shocked to find ordinarily good people I could well have had coffee with that morning. And they were still good people who’d made terrible choices.”

Employees that make unethical decisions are not necessarily “bad” or even poorly intentioned. Sometimes making- or not making- the unethical choice hinges on there being too few good choices available, or from the pressure to constantly perform at unrealistic or unsustainable levels.

Ron Carucci outlines some of the reasons behind unethical decision making in organizations, and suggests ways to head off some risky behaviors before they happen. Read the post here.

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Harvard Business Review Reblog: What great listeners actually do

While many of us have thought of being a good listener being like a sponge that accurately absorbs what the other person is saying, instead, what these findings show is that good listeners are like trampolines. They are someone you can bounce ideas off of — and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, energize, and clarify your thinking. They make you feel better not merely passively absorbing, but by actively supporting.

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman bypass assumptions about listening skill and dig into the specific attributes of good listeners in this illuminating post from Harvard Business Review. Auditors and others that regularly perform agency interviews can take note of how actively engaging their interviewees in collaborative discussions, rather than the more traditional back-and-forth, could lead to better understanding on the part of listeners.

Read more here!

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Harvard Business Review RePost: The data-driven case for vacation

We love reading blogs on productivity research, but one of our running jokes is how each article gives you a list of three more things you have to be doing to be successful. You read three articles and you now have nine more “to-dos” each day. But the conclusion of this article and all of our research isn’t complicated: Go on vacation. If you take all your vacation days and plan ahead for trips, you will increase your happiness, success rate, and likelihood of promotion, and you’ll lower your stress level to boot.

So here’s one easy takeaway for you: Go away.

Break out the sunscreen, plan out your road trip, decide between a relaxing beach holiday or an invigorating week hiking through one of our gorgeous national parks- doesn’t matter! It’s time to get out of the office. It’s summertime, and that means it’s time to take a vacation!

HBRdogpoolOr rather, that’s what it meant in 1978. Unfortunately for many working Americans, vacation time seems to be slowly going the way of the dodo and the passenger pigeon. American workers are taking approximately 1/3rd less vacation time than they were taking in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and the decline shows few signs of reversing course. Our more technologically advanced and uber-efficient workplaces have not translated to having more free time.

Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan over at Harvard Business Review lay out of the case for taking that free time, for your own personal good as well as the good of your business or place of work. Of course, not all vacations are created equal. To really get the full benefit of time off, HBR recommends:

…if you plan ahead, create social connections on the trip, go far from your work, and feel safe, 94% of vacations have a good ROI in terms of your energy and outlook upon returning to work. Just make sure you plan the trip at least a month in advance, as one of the key predictors of vacation ROI is the amount of stress caused by not planning ahead….

Read more here!

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