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Book Discussion - Rita McGrath's Seeing Around Corners

Monday, July 11, 2022 10:56 AM | Jennifer Poff (Administrator)

We had our second book club discussion on Rita McGrath's Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen.

Feborah Dixon led us on a great discussion centered around the key points of the book. If you have not read the book, you can get a summary of it here

The book focuses on three themes:

  • How do you see an inflection point?
  • How do you decide what to do?
  • How do you bring people along?

The author uses the analogy throughout the book of snow melting from the edges and that we must be present at those edges to see the change that is coming. There are eight practices she recommends that can help you identify potential areas of inflection before they disrupt your company.

  • Ensure direct connection between the people at the edges of your company and leadership
  • Include diverse perspectives in thinking about the implications of the future
  • Use deliberate decision making processes for consequential and irreversible decision. Use small, agile, empowered teams for reversible experimental decisions.
  • Foster little bets that are rich in learning, ideally distributed across the organization
  • Pursue direct contact with the environment
  • Make sure your people are incentivized to hear about reality
  • Realize when your people are in denial
  • Expose yourself and your organization to where the future is unfolding today

She also mentions looking at various indicators tied to your business while paying close attention to what she calls leading indicators. Oftentimes, we focus on lagging indicators (operating margins, revenue, turnover) and current indicators (what is happening now) and forget to look at leading indicators (pieces that are not yet facts, but rather qualitative thoughts about the organization). 

In order for an organization to make the shifts necessary and become innovative and forward-thinking, leaders need practices such as continuous reconfiguration rather than relying on stability. The ability to be nimble and focus on voices outside of the leadership team will be crucial as oftentimes the people in the trenches can see what is happening more clearly than leadership that is more hands off in the day to day hands on work of the company. The group discussed that one of the challenges around this is that associations tend to be more risk adverse than for-profit organizations. Members involvement in decisions and long histories with a level of stability provide challenges in today's environment of change. Don't worry though, the author outlines a plan for how organizations can move their people level to level when coping with inflection points.

  • Level 1: Create an appetite for innovation
  • Level 2: Get started and clear the way
  • Level 3: Local proof of concept
  • Level 4: Launch a few opportunistic wins
  • Level 5 and 6: Begin challenging systems, structures and routines
  • Level 7: Institutionalize
  • Level 8: Continuous renewal in innovation

At the end of the book, the author provides a chapter for how to use this method for seeing inflection points in your own life as well. 

If you would like more resources to study the themes in this book, you can visit the links below. 

If you would like to view the presentation, visit the Fridays@4 event archives. You must be a member to view previous events.

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