AMI Consultancy Blog



Seth Godin on resistence: quieting the lizard brain

Lizard image linchpin istock How can I explain the never-ending irrationality of human behavior?
We say we want one thing, then we do another. We say we want to be successful but we sabotage the job interview. We say we want a product to come to market, but we sandbag the shipping schedule. We say we want to be thin but we eat too much. We say we want to be smart but we skip class or don't read that book the boss lent us.
The contradictions never end. When someone shows up and acts without contradiction, we're amazed. When an athlete just does the sport, or when a writer just writes the words, we can't help but watch, astonished at the purity of their actions. Why is it so difficult to do what we say we're going to do?
The lizard brain.
Or as Steven Pressfield describes it, the resistance. The resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise. The resistance is writer's block and putting jitters and every project that ever shipped late because people couldn't stay on the same page long enough to get something out the door.


Project management: project office types

High-flying PM Aces & TV Weather People

The whole project office concept gets a lot of bad-mouthing, particularly from the high flying aces in the project management squadron. Besides multi-hyphenated curse words, we hear various complaints:

* Some PMs complain of mindless paper shufflers who achieve nothing but taking up everybody else's time.
* Other PMs grouse about project office know-it-alls who tell everyone else how to run projects but never have to climb in the cockpit themselves.
* Top executives point stern fingers at the project office after a project crashes and burns. Between crashes, these execs usually refuse to look at any of the PO 's reports.

Who is right and who is wrong? Is it best to just avoid a transfer to the project office?


Researcher: Money makes people happy, especially if they're paid by the hour

Money makes people happy, and more so for workers paid by the hour than by salary, according to researchers at Stanford and the University of Toronto. The relationship between and happiness is stronger for people paid by the hour because they are more often reminded of how much they earn, and this makes money more salient in their thinking.
"If you are paid by the hour or account for your time on a timesheet, you begin to see the world in terms of money and in terms of economic evaluation," said Jeffrey Pfeffer, the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. "To the extent that time becomes like money and money becomes more salient, the linkage between how much you earn and your happiness increases."

Overcome Resistance With the Right Questions

Found on

Managers meet resistance every day. The way they handle it often is counterproductive.
The resistance can come from a boss who won't approve a project, a management peer who refuses to provide resources, a customer who flatly rejects a proposal — anybody blocking you from meeting a goal.
The typical manager's default response when somebody keeps saying no is to keep selling the idea. The manager trots out more evidence to support the idea and describes the payoffs for the other person. And the person keeps saying no.
There's a better way.


Unrealized projects: learning from failure

From Seth's blog:

 When I was at MOMA last week, I saw a list of director and artist Tim Burton's projects. Here's the guy who's responsible for some of the most breathtaking movies of his generation, and the real surprise is this: almost every year over the last thirty, he worked on one or more exciting projects that were never green lighted and produced. Every year, he spent an enormous amount of time on failed projects.
A few: Catwoman, Conversations With Vincent, Dinosaurs Attack!, The Fall of the House of Usher, Geek Love, Go Baby Go, Hawkline Monster, Lost in Oz, Mai the Psychic Girl, Mary Reilly, Superman Lives, X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes.
One key element of a successful artist: ship. Get it out the door. Make things happen.
The other: fail. Fail often. Dream big and don't make it. Not every time, anyway.
Tim got his ideas out the door, to the people who decided what to do with them. And more often than not, they shot down his ideas. That's okay. He shipped.


Giving a High Performer Productive Feedback (Amy Gallo)

Giving feedback, particularly constructive feedback, is often a stressful task. As counterintuitive as it may seem, giving feedback to a top performer can be even tougher. Top performers may not have obvious development needs and in identifying those needs, you can sometimes feel like you're being nitpicky or over-demanding. In addition, top performers may not be used to hearing constructive feedback and may rankle at the slightest hint that they're not perfect.

However, giving your stars good feedback is essential to keeping them engaged, focused, and motivated. Luckily, feedback discussions do not need to be unpleasant, especially with top performers. Instead of dreading your next review session with your star, think of it as an exciting opportunity to celebrate success and discuss what's next.


VS Ramachandran: The neurons that shaped civilization

Fascinating insight on the human learning capacity and on the power of observation.


Dan Gilbert on decision making and expectations.

The lesson from two lemonade stands

posted by Seth Godin on January 12, 2010

Lemonade The first stand is run by two kids. They use Countrytime lemonade, paper cups and a bridge table. It's a decent lemonade stand, one in the long tradition of standard lemonade stands. It costs a dollar to buy a cup, which is a pretty good price, considering you get both the lemonade and the satisfaction of knowing you supported two kids.
The other stand is different. The lemonade is free, but there's a big tip jar. When you pull up, the owner of the stand beams as only a proud eleven year old girl can beam. She takes her time and reaches into a pail filled with ice and lemons. She pulls out a lemon. Slices it. Then she squeezes it with a clever little hand juicer.
The whole time that's she's squeezing, she's also talking to you, sharing her insights (and yes, her joy) about the power of lemonade to change your day. It's a beautiful day and she's in no real hurry. Lemonade doesn't hurry, she says. It gets made the right way or not at all. Then she urges you to take a bit less sugar, because it tastes better that way.
While you're talking, a dozen people who might have become customers drive on by because it appears to take too long. You don't mind, though, because you're engaged, almost entranced. A few people pull over and wait in line behind you.
Finally, once she's done, you put $5 in the jar, because your free lemonade was worth at least twice that. Well, maybe the lemonade itself was worth $3, but you'd happily pay again for the transaction. It touched you. In fact, it changed you.
Which entrepreneur do you think has a brighter future?
[PS a few hours after I posted this, Elizabeth sent in this photo of her daughter doing exactly what I imagined. She said, "she made a fortune."]


The KISS principle

Implementation is the ability to get a grip on difficult issues by breaking them down and making them manageable. We refer to this as the application of the "KISS principle." (Keep It Short and Simple). You don't solve difficult issues with difficult answers. For the KISS principle, we adhere to the following premises:
  • A complex problem never exists in a vacuum. It is always a tangle of interrelated problems, and it can only be dealt with by reducing its complexity to comprehensible units.
  • A complex problem is difficult both in terms of content and in "feel." A person faced with overwhelming complexity is not capable of acting rationally.
  • The more people see a problem as "difficult," the more entrenched the problem becomes. As long as we keep thinking of a problem as complex, we will never understand it. Complexity is a phase in the thinking and solution process.
  • The history of the problem is useful and interesting. It is part of the context of the issue. The longer the problem has gone on without a solution, the more serious it is. A cooperation problem also arises, because cooperation has failed to reach a solution.
  • There are a number of different perceptions of the problem, all of which may be equally valuable. There is no such thing as the perfect solution to a complex problem. Combinations of ideas and proposals help to move things along towards a solution.
  • A solution process, once started, is a solution in itself.
A thorny issue that is experienced as difficult bogs everything down. Look for simplicity and action. Look for the way to find a solution.

Raymond Maas is managing partner of AMI. 


Twelve Leadership Questions for 2010, by Gayle Lantz

Found on

Start the new year by asking yourself these simple yet profoundly important questions about yourself as a manager
If you're like most business leaders, you spent much of 2009 feeling down and just about out—an often-inescapable result of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Odds are, you grappled with numerous challenges, uncertainties, and "don't want to, but have to" decisions. As one weary bank CEO confided, "We're barely hanging on, just trying to survive." He wasn't alone, either. Many executives and leadership teams shared similar sentiments with me. It was a difficult year, period.
Now, 2010 is here, and in the earliest days of the economic recovery it's time to take the bull by the horns. Smart leaders will bypass the predictable New Year's resolutions and, instead, start the decade with 12 essential questions:


Column: The Long-Term Effects of Short-Term Emotions by Dan Ariely

From Harvard Business Review.

The heat of the moment is a powerful, dangerous thing. We all know this. If we’re happy, we may be overly generous. Maybe we leave a big tip, or buy a boat. If we’re irritated, we may snap. Maybe we rifle off that nasty e-mail to the boss, or punch someone. And for that fleeting second, we feel great. But the regret—and the consequences of that decision—may last years, a whole career, or even a lifetime.
At least the regret will serve us well, right? Lesson learned—maybe.