FF Daily #417: The world as your stage

July 7, 2021: Tina Seelig on changing our vision for the stage we are playing on; Reimagining work; The case against perfection; What Mark Zuckerberg feels

Founding Fuel

[Image by Tumisu from Pixabay]

Good morning,

In her book Creativity Rules, Dr Tina Seelig, Professor of the Practice in the Department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, encourages her readers to aim higher, have a grander vision. 

She writes, “we each make the decision—actively or passively—about the stage on which we will play out our lives. For some, the stage is their family, and for others it is their school or company; for some it is the local community, and for others it is a global stage. Each stage allows us to see the world differently, as well as our place in it. And at any time we can change our vision for the stage on which we are currently playing out our lives.

“For example, if you invented a brand-new cookie, you could bake some and enjoy them yourself and share them with your family. You could pack up boxes of cookies and give them to your friends. You could sell them at the local farmers’ market, open a cookie store in your neighbourhood, or even build a chain of cookie stores around the country or the world. Your stage will grow as you increase the reach and impact you want to have. The vision you have is a prerequisite for what you will achieve. If your goal is to have a successful cookie store in your community, then you will be satisfied with that result. Alternatively, if you have your sights set on running a global cookie business, then you will see and seize the opportunities to make that happen.

“This is exactly what happened for Nancy Mueller, who founded Nancy’s Specialty Foods in Palo Alto, California, in 1977. She began making large batches of mini-quiches for her own holiday parties. They were so tasty that she was encouraged by friends to sell them. Taking on their challenge, Nancy started selling quiches locally, distributing them in boxes out of a freezer in the back of her car. She could have stopped there, but she didn’t. Encouraged by her success, Nancy broadened her vision for the business, which continued to grow, along with her sales. By 1993, Nancy’s Special Foods employed 250 people, racked up sales of $30 million a year, and offered products through many national grocery store chains, including Safeway, Giant, and Farm Fresh. Eventually, Nancy sold the business to Heinz Foods, which continues to sell Nancy’s Quiches. Essentially, over time Nancy increased her vision of the size of the stage on which she was playing, allowing her to identify new opportunities she would never have seen on a smaller stage.”

However, Seelig warns that the journey won’t be comfortable, and people who are looking at the world as their stage aren’t confident from day one. She writes: “When you’re stretching to a larger role, or bigger stage, it’s helpful to acknowledge the things you don’t know, to ask for help, and to realize that everyone feels (or has felt) the same way. Confidence comes from experience, not the other way around.” 

In this issue

  • [Masterclass] Reimagining work
  • The case against perfection
  • What Mark Zuckerberg feels

Reimagining work

Soon after we finished reading Remote Work Revolution by Harvard Business School professor Tsedal Neeley, the first thought that crossed our minds was that we must study this closely. To do that, we reached out to Neeley and the senior leadership at ICICI Lombard who were among the first off the block to embrace a hybrid model of working. Everyone agreed to participate. And we had all the ingredients to craft a week-long programme in April this year that examines the workplace of the future. 

The finale was a conversation between Neeley and Bhargav Dasgupta, MD & CEO of ICICI Lombard. Some sharp insights emerged as they engaged in a live conversation hosted by Indrajit Gupta and Kavi Arasu of Founding Fuel.

  • How to monitor productivity is an issue leaders grapple with as people go into remote work mode. Their instinct is to resort to surveillance. But 30 years of data show that people’s productivity actually goes up with remote work. If it goes down, there are other reasons for it—that includes poor leadership.
  • It isn’t just leaders who must learn to trust people, but the group must think as well about how they gel with each other when working remotely.
  • The culture of your organization as you’ve always known it, is gone!
  • Those at the helm must reimagine what it means to be a leader in this digital world. 

Dig deeper

The case against perfection

In an insightful column, Morgan Housel, author of The Psychology of Money, talks about the perils of too much efficiency. 

A species that evolves to become very good at one thing tends to become vulnerable at another. A bigger lion can kill more prey, but it’s also a larger target for hunters to shoot at. A taller tree captures more sunlight but becomes vulnerable to wind damage. There is always some inefficiency.

It’s true for operations too, Housel points out. “Super-efficient supply chains increase vulnerability to any disruption. And history is just a constant chain of disruptions. So you can imagine that we’ll hear stories of companies who increased their earnings by, say, 5% by maximizing supply efficiencies only to see earnings fall 20% or more due to having no slack when trouble hit.”

And it’s true for cash, which when it’s in your locker, might seem as if it’s wasting away. “Cash is an inefficient drag during bull markets and as valuable as oxygen during bear markets, either because you need it to survive a recession or because it’s the raw material of opportunity.”

Dig deeper

What Mark Zuckerberg feels

(Via WhatsApp)

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Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there.

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel

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