Executive Leader Coach


November 6, 2013

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Dave Kinnear, Executive Leader Coach

As I'm writing this month's newsletter, there are several interesting "things" going on in our business environment. First, it seems as though our elected officials have once again managed to do the impossible and lower their ratings in the public polls. Who would have guessed that could actually happen?

Continuing in the same vein, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) act rolled out while all the shenanigans were happening with shutting down our economy. Because of the shutdown, there was little to nothing said about the difficulty of the roll out. When finally things got back on track and people started paying attention to the ACA roll out, they were "astonished" to find out it didn't work out of the chute. <sarcasm> Imagine that!  What "astonished" me was that all of them ("them" would be politicians and talking head newscasters) had become overnight experts in how to roll out a hugely complicated information technology system. Right. They couldn't pass a budget or come to agreement on paying our bills but they know how to criticize others rolling out a complex system. Does any of that strike you as odd? </sarcasm>

All of which brings me to the first article in this issue of our newsletter. I think that we often get ourselves in trouble because we oversimplify our complex economy, business systems, market data, etc. and think that we can make one change and assume ceteris paribus (all things being equal.) Well, it just isn't so and to assume that it is just gets us in trouble. And I was so vexed by all the chatter and recriminations that I found myself writing a second blog post that will publish after this newsletter goes to press.

Let's change topics. This month I share a review of the excellent book naked statistics by Charles Wheelan. In this interesting treatise Wheelan explains how we misinterpret and misuse statistics in our everyday lives as well as our businesses. Some of that misuse is truly ignorance, but one can easily see how much of the misuse of polls and surveys is purposeful obfuscation.

I was having an interesting conversation with a colleague about our economy and how I thought jobs were just never going to come back or this recovery be like any others in terms of job creation. He made the statement, rather heatedly, that he simply refused to give up. As the conversation continued, I began to realize that what he was really saying was that he wouldn't give up on the model of business and the economy that he believed was in play prior to the recession. Yet things cannot possibly remain the same. Between an ever increasing need for improved skills and automation, our workforce is hard pressed to keep up. In addition, there is a continuing trend toward using contingent workers to keep overhead down. I refuse to give up too. But what I refuse to give up on is finding ways to help people re-train, finding new ways to provide for their families (entrepreneurship) and bringing as much manufacturing back on shore as makes sense for our economy. I refuse to give up finding new business models. I've long ago given up on the "old" model. I explore this some more in the third article below.

And then, there are those who would take advantage of the unsuspecting public whenever they can. I ran afoul of a large and well known company when I used an image which they claim is their copyrighted image. Of course, I have no way for knowing if that is true or not. Since I never intended to use their image, I found another "free" image to use that was even better and immediately took the image they claimed as theirs down from the site and used the new one in its place. However, they insisted that I pay usage fees and penalties. Since this is a family newsletter, I won't put in writing what I shouted out loud when I received their obnoxious letter. You can read more, if you like, in the Nullius en verba column.

And speaking of our economy, I came across Ray Dalio, of Bridgewater Associates, who has an engaging 30 minute video that explains our complex economic machine in simple terms: Economic Principles. It's a unique perspective worth watching and sharing.

As Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity." Dalio has given us simplicity on the other side of complexity.


Dave Kinnear

CCE-Board Certified Coach
Vistage Chair

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Ceteris Paribus

We often assume "all things being equal," but they never are!

Here’s the challenge. We live in a complex world. Things are getting more complex every day. We try to figure out how to interact with that world; how to manipulate it. We build big complex systems in an attempt to model that world and make predictions based on the results. We analyze the data, and then, make a bold statement such as – Our new drug will be a hit in the oncology space, ceteris paribus (all things being equal.)

Therein lie the seeds of disaster – ceteris paribus is almost never applicable in our world. All things “never” stay the same while we manipulate one particular parameter.

Read the full post . . .

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naked statistics by Charles Wheelan

striping the dread from the data

How many times have you wondered how two different people looking at the same report managed to draw totally opposite conclusions? How many times have you looked at a set of data yourself and decided that the data must be wrong because it doesn’t show what you “know” to be true? Well, I suspect that you aren’t alone. I suspect that you also have an aversion to “doing the math” necessary to convince yourself that the data is actually correct.

Wheelan claims that “Statistics is like a high-caliber weapon: helpful when used correctly and potentially disastrous in the wrong hands.”

Read the full blog post . . .

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I refuse to give up

But what do you refuse to give up?

I have heard that statement many times in the last couple of years. Our economy, institutions, companies, families and individuals have been through some tough times. Many folks have become resigned to a fate not of their choosing. They want to work, can’t find work and so struggle to make ends meet as best they can. In general I find there are two groups of people – those who are resigned and those who refuse to give up. The latter group is broken into two parts. One part will survive; the other will not and join the ranks of the resigned.

I refuse to give up! The group that will survive is the one that means: “I refuse to give up. I will continue to try new things, change my business and evolve new products and service(s) until I find what is going to work in this new marketplace.”

Read full blog post . . .

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Nullius in verba

Trolls are Trolls and Bullies are Bullies - some companies are both.

Recently I received a very official letter from a company I can only describe as a troll. Before I go any further with this bit of a <rant>, I should make it clear that I am all for protecting creative works. I certainly want to protect my own writing, pictures, etc. Anyway, this very legal looking document claimed I was using a copyrighted image on my website and it demanded payment right away. I’m willing to stipulate that I made a mistake and that I somehow – I know it was inadvertent –  managed to use an image that needed to be licensed. However, I have no real way to prove that such is the case. And even if I agree, the penalty they demanded is absurd. A take-down notice and knowing that “they” are watching should be sufficient for a first offense. I’m not the only one that “hates” trolls.

Read the full post . . .

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