Leadership Development in the Age of the Algorithm

Now and then a book or paper comes along that supports one or more of the basic tenets of Time Management 2.0, the philosophy that underlies the work we do here at 2Time Labs. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review offers some similar ideas that we believe are coming from a very similar place.

The article, “Leadership Development in the Age of the Algorithm” was written by Marcus Buckingham and published in the June 2012 issue. It espouses the idea that leadership is a complex activity that cannot be reduced to a simple set of “best-practices.” It states the problem in this way:

As the personalization of content delivery becomes increasingly pervasive, it might even be that you begin to notice it most when it is absent–when there is a setting in which you should be identifiable as an individual, yet the information presented to you is strangely undifferentiated. I’ve noticed such a setting: your leadership development program.

Well, here at 2Time Labs have noticed another such setting: your time management / productivity program!

The article continues:

“Even a decade after leadership training began to recognize different styles and strengths, and even in organizations that have made cultivating high-potential talen a priority, the content served up is generic.”

Generic formulas are the bread and butter of all the time management books I have read up until now, hence the similarity between this article and what we have been saying. It’s only amazing that so few others are saying the same thing in a discipline (time management) that is much easier to quantity and observe than “leadership.”

Near the end of the article he says:

That old model of leadership development, the formulaic model, has an appealing simplicity, but it runs afoul of two realities: Each leder also leads differently, and the techniques used by one don’t necessarily translate to another.

(He calls this a problem of scale, just like we do.)

He imagines a future:

Soon there will be a place, somewhere in the cloud, that cotinually gathers the best techniques, tips, and pactical innvoations from high-performing leaders around the world; sorts them… ; feed you the techniques that fit you best… It will be your own personal leadership coach.

We can’t wait!

There are other points of similarity that he mentions and I strongly recommend the article if the ideas at 2Time Labs have resonated with you at all.  Let us know in the comments if you get a chance to read the article, and what you think.

A Training Simulation for Improving Coaching Skills

Our MyTimeDesign website that focuses on applications of the 2Time Labs ideas recently launched a training simulation for managers, coaches and professional organizers.  It gives the learner the opportunity to help a fictional character, Wilma, navigate a consulting relationship with Adam, her client.  She’s attempting to migrate from a focus on physical organization to one on time clutter / time management.

Try out this 15 minute learning opportunity here:  http://icd.mytimedesign.com/wilma and leave us a comment on the page.

From a training and development perspective, you can see the direction in which 2Time Labs is headed, as we look to provide the very best online training in time management in the world.

Thanks to Trivantis and it’s Snap programs for helping to make these goals possible with new affordable technology.


An Under-Used Way of Listing

I recently completed Atul Gawande’s book “The Checklist Manifesto” and thought so highly of it that I immediately changed my teaching materials to include the topic in every program that I lead.

He makes some powerful points about the need for doctors to take a leaf out of the book of pilots who make extensive use of this technique.  He has been experimenting with checklists for some time himself, and found that they reduce the errors that surgical teams make, and he even shares mistakes that he has avoided by using them in his practice.

It’s compelling stuff, and in the world we live in a checklist is one way to reduce the complexity that we deal with every day.  I have used one for some time at the start of each day, but didn’t quite appreciate the distinction “checklist” until I read the book and started to see places where I could implement them easily.

My first experiment was to set up a “sitting down to write my book” checklist.  It has only 4 four items, but it worked just as Gawande predicted.  I start my writing at 3:30am, and when I get to the computer in my office, my head is sometimes not at its sharpest.  (No, I don’t drink coffee.)

My checklist has helped me to reliably complete a little pre-writing routine that I use to get into the right frame of mind.  Without the checklist, I’ve likely to forget a few steps because there are too many things to remember too early in the morning, but when there’s only one thing, a checklist, I don’t have to think as hard.

I also noticed from the comments on Amazon, that reviewers were confusing checklists and To-Do Lists, so perhaps there needs to be some clarification of terms.  Here’s the definition I’m using:  A checklist is a repetitive list of actions that are initiated whenever a triggering event takes place.

For example, when a pilot loses an engine, there is a checklist to follow to ensure that all the steps taken to fly the airplane do, in fact, take place.  The non-flying pilot is the one who goes down the list, which is stored in the plane’s computer as well as in a binder.

The book has led me to see all sorts of applications, and given my focus this year on assisting  time management coaches, professional organizers, trainers and managers, I’m making checklists an important part of the process of consulting with a professional who is undertaking an upgrade.

P.S. There is an excellent summary of the book over at the New Yorker.