Leadershop Leadership

Entrepreneur: Are You A Mad Genius?

Guest post by Rodger Dean Duncan

An entrepreneur, it’s been said, isn’t someone who owns a business. It’s someone who makes things happen.

Arguably, successful entrepreneurship is less about venture capital and more about bringing good ideas to fruition. It’s less about college pedigrees and more about envisioning better solutions (just ask dropout Bill Gates).

Think about it. Hewlett-Packard started in a garage. Facebook was born in a dorm room. Amazon was hatched by people who saw possibilities with a retail system that had nothing to do with brick and mortar.

In short, successful entrepreneurs view life through a different lens.

To explore some provocative thinking on the subject, I talked with Randy Gage. He’s the author of Mad Genius: A Manifesto for Entrepreneurs.

Rodger Dean Duncan: You reject the notion that“genius” is just a function of IQ. In a nutshell, what are the key ingredients of “genius” thinking and behavior?

Randy Gage: It’s doubtful anyone would deny that Amy Winehouse, Ernest Hemmingway or Ginger Rogers were geniuses. But I don’t know that any of them possessed a genius IQ. Their brilliance—like many of us—came not from a cognitive intellectual measurement, but the way they expressed their unique gifts to the world.

Duncan: You note that even brilliant entrepreneurs sometimes create breakthrough products or concepts—only to devolve into mediocre practices of the market space they want to disrupt. Why is the mediocrity trap so seductive?

Gage: The mediocrity trap is so seductive because you slide into it without even realizing you have. So an entrepreneur creates a breakthrough product, gets his team together and asks everyone how they should take it to market. Someone says, “Well, this is how products are usually launched…” or “This is how our competitors launched theirs…” and suddenly you are back in the land of mediocrity.

Duncan: Really successful organizations seem to encourage their people to behave more like entrepreneurs than like lock-step employees. What are the keys to creating a culture that consistently produces “mad genius” results?

Gage: You have to be willing to let people fail without fear of losing their job or your confidence. In fact,you have to encourage them to be bold and know that they will sometimes fail.But it’s a mistake only if you don’t learn from it. And you have to work relentlessly to kill the politics that invariably spring up in large organizations. It’s vital to create a “safe space” for creative people to be brilliant.

Duncan: When asked if Apple did focus groups for the iPad, Steve Jobs famously replied that it wasn’t the customers’ job to know what they wanted. You say it’s the entrepreneur’s job. How does that philosophy fit into the Mad Genius paradigm?

Gage: Your clients or customers sometimes know the end result they wish to receive, but not how to achieve that. And often they don’t even know the result they want to get; only what they want to avoid.

Our role as entrepreneurs is to solve problems, add value and most importantly, see possibilities. When we are willing to do the intellectual and creative work of foreseeing possibilities for our customers and clients, we can sometimes envision a product they have no idea they want—until they actually see it.

Duncan: You suggest that “the smarter you are, the greater the likelihood you are intellectually lazy.” Why is that, and what can smart people do about it?

Gage: Unfortunately, my experience here comes from myself. Sometimes we are too clever for our own good. When we are smart in an area, we start to think we can take shortcuts. But there is always a process that has to be followed from a sound premise to a logical conclusion. We have to be smart enough to realize we’re not that smart!

Rodger Dean Duncan is bestselling author of LeaderSHOP: Workplace, Career, and Life Advice From Today’s Top Thought Leaders. Early in his career he served as advisor to cabinet officers in two White House administrations and headed global communications at Campbell Soup Company. He has coached senior leaders in dozens of Fortune 500 companies.

Leadershop Leadership

This guest post originally appeared on Forbes

Impact of Culture on Global Businesses

Like a personality is to an individual, is culture to organizations. Culture impacts every aspect of an organization from its top executives to its newest employee to its latest office environment in India. Organizational Behavior author and Management Professor John Schermerhorn asserts organizational culture is the collective values, beliefs and norms that develop over time and guide the behaviors of those who are part of the organization. Another way to make concrete an abstract concept is to think of culture as the glue that binds and shapes how employees execute the organization’s vision and mission and how customers and communities perceive the organizations value. With the explosion of the global business environment the impact of culture is even greater than before. Therefore organizations that are conducting business in global locations must work to become a local company and integrate the local culture into their business practices. When they succeed they can reap huge rewards, but when they fail they may leave a mark that may be unrepairable to the members of that culture and their own business.

In order for organizations to reap rewards and potentially increase their value, leaders of the organization must focus on becoming a localized organization. When leaders adapt their business practices to match the culture and exert effort to avoid any potential misinterpretations of cultural customs, they are demonstrating a level of respect to the culture and building a foundation of trust. When organizations make the decision to go global, the impact on organizational development (OD) is just as imperative as sales or logistics. In a training capacity, OD should take into consideration language barriers and cultural differences in the context of how content is delivered. Change management also becomes a major element for OD, they must taking into consideration how the culture deals with and delivers change. According to Dr. Dan Denison, Chairman & Founding Partner, Denison Consulting, organizations that value culture and respect members’ participation may generate a return on their investment almost twice as high as those organizations that fail to consider culture.

Organizations that recognize and value culture, especially in a global business environment tend to have exponentially better performance in their respective markets. Organizational culture directly affects performance management in large part due to the climate the culture creates. Dr. Benjamin Schneider, professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, shares that climate focuses around two critical areas 1) how the organization behaves on a daily basis and 2) what the goals are of the organization, these then reveal and make visible how employees understand policies, practices, and rewards. Blake Ashforth of Wayne State University, reinforces that culture, a collective idea of values, beliefs and norms, determines the climate’s policies, practices, and rewards that are considered relevant by its members. An example of this would be if an organizational culture supports a climate of providing a reward, such as a bonus, for a high level of performance. However, in the global business environment, organizations must ‘customize to the culture’ their performance management and rewards, for instance employees in many European countries prefer to receive time off from work, where in Asia employees may prefer additional monies.

For business leaders to continue to be successful in a global environment there are many strategies they can use to develop and manage their organizations. On such strategy this must include the recognition of not just one corporate culture, but their host country culture and that there are many subcultures. Author Guy Saffold suggests that when recognizing the many subcultures, business leaders recognize the varying cultural features spread throughout the organization and their cross-sections of interactions. Saffold adds, it is critical for leaders to understand that culture creates the climate of the organization and climate also acts in a way to modify culture. Claremont Graduate University Professor of Management, Vijay Sathe, shares that with a better understanding of an organization’s culture, management can appropriately enter, deviate from, and change the culture needed to continue their success in the global business environment. While organizational culture remains an abstract concept to many, it’s important for business leaders and employees alike to embrace the culture or find one that is best suited to meet and challenge their professional and personal goals.