The Olympics always bring out the competitive spirit in me. I find my heart racing along with the athletes as they put their lifetime of training to the test for their shot at Olympic glory. For some the difference between a gold medal and despair can be as little as a few hundredths of a second. After this week’s tie for the gold medal in Women’s downhill skiing, a first in Olympic Alpine skiing history, many were suggesting that they needed to start measuring times in the thousandths of a second. Swiss watchmaker Omega has been measuring Olympic time since 1932 and claims that their technology can be accurate to the millionth of a second but the level of accuracy for each sport is determined by the corresponding federation. Whatever the measure of time, success or failure for each of these athletes can come down to the slightest nuance during their final performance.
With a new year brings the annual cycle of personal New Year’s resolutions. Frequently these resolutions include losing weight, reading more, spending less, or getting more involved. Many of us want to change from our current course to something that is more desirable but statistically 88% of the time we will fail at our resolutions. Oftentimes failure comes early in that we say we want to make changes but we never even take the first step.
Driving corporate innovation is far more complicated than most observers realize. During my Innovation Development days I knew that successfully launching a new initiative was a long shot. but looking back I had greatly underestimated all of the forces at play, especially the internal politics. As many organizations are mining “big data” to make better business decisions some companies are looking to mine their “innovation data” to better understand these internal and external forces that determine an initiative’s success or failure.
Much was made this last week over United Parcel Service’s (UPS) failure to deliver packages before Christmas. The media seemed to border on delight in sharing the stories of customers who were upset that their packages didn’t arrive in time. As I heard these stories played over and over again I kept wondering how we got to this point. Last minute shoppers who were Amazon Prime members could order their gifts on December 22nd and still expect them to be delivered anywhere in the country before Christmas with free two-day shipping. But when some gifts didn’t arrive in time who’s to blame – the retailer, the shipper, or us, the consumer?
Over the last few years I have frequently helped friends and colleagues in their search to find new work opportunities. Every time I start our conversation by asking how they are building their personal brand. I know that it sounds a bit ridiculous but in the age of an abundance of job candidates, how are they going to stand out? How are they building their exposure to their professional network to improve the odds that they are found?
The truth is that nonprofits experience failure just like every for-profit business: new initiatives fall short of expectations, the synergy of partnerships fails to materialize, or expansion plans overburden an organization’s cash flow. But because nonprofits are so reliant on donations and grants to fund their operations even mentioning the word failure can be lethal. The perception, and perhaps reality, is that no donor wants to think that their contribution is being wasted and no foundation wants to report back to their board on “failed” investments. The result is that “safer is better” and failures are frequently covered up.
As families gather in the United States this week to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday there will likely be a common inconsistency in their stories. Many will likely be thankful for the job that they currently have even though they are considerably dissatisfied with that job. With the economic downturn organizations have been so focused on squeezing out costs from their operations that most have neglected investing in their people. The result is that most employees are at a historically low level of engagement with their employers.
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