Are you a consultant, trainer or coach loving or living in Barcelona (Spain)? You are welcome to this open networking group for consultants.

Barcelona is an attractive international city. There are many reasons to decide moving here as the mild climate, rich culture, easy-going city and the exceptional architecture dominating life. Furthermore, perhaps you would prioritise the high-quality health services, good flight connections, top business schools and universities or start-ups.

Whatever the reason could be, many consultants are living in Barcelona with high professional level, great talent and specific knowledge or skills. Most of them are not Spanish or they even not work in Barcelona but internationally.

Altogether, we cover a vast variety of fields. This group aims to create a collaborative cluster and business ecosystem with a critical advantage. Because we live here, we have the opportunity to meet personally. This is what we call the Barcelona connection.

Some of the activities we boost at the group

  • Brainstorming and contrasting ideas
  • Peer evaluation of projects
  • Test of products/services with low-risk audience and expert feedback
  • Specific business projects coming up between members

Furthermore, interaction always generates an output. We frequently see common projects and cross-collaborations between members. This is just as a short list of advantages of a collaborative ecosystem:

  • Business perspective. I will never know everything.
  • Company size. I can always join others.
  • Product portfolio. I cannot cover all clients’ needs.
  • Sales Support. I could do much more if supported. Let’s share!
  • We altogether cover many countries, languages and cultures.
  • As a group, we can compete much better.
  • I should not be working on administrative tasks. Let’s share!
  • Investment projects. I would invest if I were not alone.

From occasional mingling to more serious professional collaboration, whatever you prefer, you are more than welcome to join this LinkedIn group at https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8616910 or even better, join our Meetup group at https://www.meetup.com/Barcelona-Consulting-Cluster.

We believe in open networks providing support for collaborative interactions to boost new opportunities.

Join us now!

Harvard Business School

A few weeks ago I was with Manel Peiró PhD, Academic Vice-Dean of ESADE Business School. On his desk was a copy of the new book by Michael Beer, professor at the Harvard Business School, “High Commitment, High Performance: How to Build a Resilient Organization for Sustained Advantage”. Since his doctoral thesis had discussed the commitment in medicine, we started to talk about the topic.

Many researchers based on the premise that a high level of performance is a direct result a high level of commitment. In Beer’s research focused on the commitment of leaders, may be true. But not so when we talk about teams.

In my research on the cooperation model in complexity “Cooplexity”, I show that after an initial individual dimension of knowledge acquisition, cohesion is a definite key factor in the development of the group. When the group becomes conscious of itself as a unit with its meaning, we call them a team. However, a cohesive and highly committed team doesn’t get the best results just only by those facts. When the group becomes a team in the full sense, we still need something more. It is the self-coordination function as a natural and spontaneous process to achieve coordination in a decentralised manner, sharing alerts, visualising cross opportunities and focusing on a common goal. At this level, two factors help getting results, equal relationship and the establishment of criteria for action.

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So when we talk about high-performance teams, commitment is a necessary but not sufficient. Without cohesion, self-coordination is not reached, but it is the latter which ensures a high level of performance.

I’m proud to share my research inviting you to:

  1. EVALUATE: preview and download the second edition for free at Google Docs.
  2. BUYTHE BOOK in pdf (€6.99), ePub (€9.99) or paperback edition (€24.00).
Ali G

Ali G

A Quiz & Satire

The current fashion for things entrepreneurial is at risk of clouding the day-to-day realities and challenges that you may face when deciding if a life of an entrepreneur is for you . Too many vested interests from educational institutions, to employment ministries , through to venture capital, private equity and wealth offices plug the notion that starting or growing an existing business in an entrepreneurial way is for everybody.

It is Not.

The plethora of suppliers and information provided to the entrepreneurial eco-system makes it increasingly difficult for us to decide if setting our own destiny as entrepreneurs is for us.

  1. We’d like you to take this short quiz inspired by Scott Shane and see how  consumed by entrepreneurial mythology you are. Be honest and let us know how you do.
  2. And after that we’d like you to enjoy the slightly dated, admittedly profane, yet acetic insights offered by the Ali G video. Satire and comedy can sometimes reveal hidden truths in phenomena. Even a younger Donald Trump makes a guest appearance in the video. We hope you enjoy and learn from both.
  3. Share some of the myths that you think surround entrepreneurship? For example, How do the the quiz & video make you feel about being an entrepreneur as a life choice? What things about being a Founder does the video throw up for you? What do’s and don’ts for example can we learn from the quiz and video?

 

 

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Executive Decisions In Radical Uncertainty

Entrepreneurs: Masters of the Unknown

“Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing.”  William Congreve, 1670–1729, playwright.

 A Rational Trap

For two centuries the underlying assumptions behind much decision-making theory have been enshrined in the idea of rational economic wo/man’s ability to control and manage profitable future markets by choosing preferences from a given environmental spectrum of risk-weighted expectations. Executive training and learning programs have followed these assumptions blindly and reinforced the portrayal of business decision-makers’ behaviour as rational and a practice that can be disseminated in simulated, normative workshop experiences.

In recent times and immediately after the demise of that most rational Master of the Universe i the financial capital marketplace- we have begun to search for alternative explanans of executive decision-making. Explanans that diverge and challenge the partly failed and classic economic view of business decision-makers as rational. Heuristic and behavioural economists have begun to find acceptance and develop valuable insights into the financial marketplace for example, by offering valuable ideas and accounts of the stochastic character of capital market agency ii.

The Uncertain Turn

Central to a number of these new ideas is the notion that future markets are uncertain, unknown, at times unknowable, and that business decision-makers needn’t be rational in order to succeed. They go one step further to suggest that uncertainty itself is a pre-condition for economic opportunity and growth. The economic notion of uncertainty dates back to ideas contained in Knightian Uncertainty iii that make a distinction between risky and uncertain futures. Current manifestations of this argument are found in the Black Swan Hypothesis iv.

Neuroscientists have also begun to decipher this distinction and are recognizing the fundamental role played by uncertainty in human learning and value-based decision making. The distinction made in neurology is between unexpected uncertainty (unknown and unknowable futures), estimation uncertainty (knowable futures) and expected uncertainty (risk) v.

Despite these contemporary developments and increasing support for an uncertain view of the world, one that is unpredictable, random, bounded-rational and unexpected vi , the vast majority of executive-level development designs continue to be locked in a deterministic and rational explanandum of business decision-making.

We have argued previously vii that Business Schools reinforce this view with programs and MBA offerings which assume that tomorrow’s leaders and executives need to enhance their capacities either in the risk calculus of unknown futures or in assimilating future scenarios based on recent samples of data and experience. Our argument is that too little attention in executive development design is given to decision-making for uncertainty.

Entrepreneurs Have It

We believe that entrepreneurial decision-makers offer a paradigmatic route out of this malaise. Entrepreneurs re-construct uncertainty as a force for opportunity and value, and therefore, their orientations are a must-have in any executive-level, decision maker’s toolkit.

The Effectual Method of Entrepreneurship viii and the Cooplexity Model for High-Performing teams ix adopt uncertainty as a central premise in arguing for a reform of executive and leadership decision-making development programs.

Effectual Cooplexity

Uncertainty_Effectuation

Both these approaches conceive successful entrepreneurs as Masters of the Unknown.

Effectuation evokes reasoning at the individual level through which entrepreneurs control their immediate resources and capabilities and thrive in uncertainty because they have no innate desire to predict futures. Instead, they create/make future markets in the unknown. Effectuation provides an immediate contrast to the dominant causal reasoning prevalent in most executive learning designs.

 

 

Cooplexity evokes communicative rationality x at the Cooplexity Modelteam-level, to demonstrate how, using experiential play designs xi  we might simulate entrepreneurial activity where leaders in high performing teams create and generate future markets from immeasurable and subjective heuristics in “unknown” unknown situations.

Play Time

It is the spirit and substance of entrepreneurial play that we present in a future post as offering a significant and timely opportunity to design alternative decision-making programs for the early 21st Century’s Corporate Executive to whom unknown and uncertain, rather than risky or known markets, offer the most exciting business opportunities.

 

Author’s Note: To learn more about our playful approaches to Executive decision-making in Uncertainty & Ambiguity you may want to Sign-Up to the Cooplexity Institute’s Open Program in Barcelona this September

References

i Jones, Daniel Stedman. Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics. Princeton University Press, (2014).

ii Dachel, Jaroslav, Eva Duchácková, and Jarmila Radová. “A Criticism of the Paradigm of Rational Choice in Uncertain Conditions through the Lens of Behavioral Economics.” (2016).

iii Saes, Maria Sylvia Macchione, André Cavalcanti Rocha Martins, and Paula Sarita Bigio Schnaider. “Entrepreneurial Decision-Making Using the Knightian Uncertainty Approach.” Revista de Administração (São Paulo) 48, no. 4 (2013): 716–26.

iv Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Random House, New York, (1998).

v Payzan-LeNestour, Elise, Simon Dunne, Peter Bossaerts, and John P. O’Doherty. “The Neural Representation of Unexpected Uncertainty during Value-Based Decision Making.” Neuron 79, no. 1 (2013): 191–201.

vi Pushkarskaya, Helen, Xun Liu, Michael Smithson, and Jane E. Joseph. “Beyond Risk and Ambiguity: Deciding under Ignorance.” Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience 10, no. 3 (2010): 382–91.

vii Gonsalves, Edward, and Ricardo Zamora. “Cooplexity: Entrepreneurial & Executive Play for Complex Environments.” Redmond, 3rd Serious Play Conference, Washington, (2013).

viii Sarasvathy, Saras D., and Sankaran Venkataraman. “Entrepreneurship as Method: Open Questions for an Entrepreneurial Future.” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice 35, no. 1 (January 2011): 113–35.

ix Zamora, Ricardo. Cooplexity: A Model Of Collaboration In Complexity For Management In Times Of Uncertainty And Change. S.l.: lulu.com, (2012).

x Habermas, Jurgen, D. E, and others. The Theory of Communicative Action, Vol. 1: Reason and the Rationalization of Society. Beacon Press, (1984).

xi Mainemelis, Charalampos, Yochanan Altman, Alice Y. Kolb, and David A. Kolb. “Learning to Play, Playing to Learn: A Case Study of a Ludic Learning Space.” Journal of Organizational Change Management 23, no. 1 (2010): 26–50.

 

Café Rouge Oxford

Some months ago I went to the Café Rouge Restaurant in Oxford and we had one of the most interesting service encounters ever.

I was having dinner with my wife. This was not the first time we’d visited it and on previous occasions we had tried a very nice wine that was recommended by one of the waiters. We couldn’t remember the name so we tried a different one. In the middle of the meal, when we had consumed half the bottle we recognised the waiter from our last visit and asked for the same bottle of wine. He approached us from his area (waiters have a designated area of responsibility) and told us that yes, he remembered us and the wine was a Malbec, a kind of wine originally from the south west of France (Burdeos and Cahors). In fact, he remembered even where we had been sitting at the time. I don’t have a very good memory for names and places so when these things happen they impress me a lot.

After a while our waiter came and asked us if everything was ok or whether we needed anything. The question was obvious because we had just been talking with this other waiter and he probably noticed. We explained the situation and how we’d mistakenly chosen the wrong wine because we hadn’t been able to recall the name. What happened after was not so straightforward. He went to ask something to our known waiter and immediately after he talked to another person that we couldn’t identify at that time. Then he came and offered to change the bottle for the Malbec, but we declined because the current wine was also good and we had already drunk half of it. But he insisted so much that we finally accepted. In a moment we were drinking our preferred wine.

The level of satisfaction was very high and the associated feelings extremely gratifying. The situation was so unusual that made me think deeper. My first analysis was from the waiter’s perspective. I made an association with the situation and the John Poindexter(1) Model (Zamora Enciso, 2011 pag. 68). For those who are not familiar with it, his model, based on the Knowledge Pyramid (DIKW) from Russell Ackoff (Ackoff, 1989) distinguishes between:

  • Data. This is gross data. In this case the bottle of wine we had.
  • Information. Data in context. Understanding the situation. We wanted a different wine.
  • Knowledge. Understanding what the information means. We had a kind of feeling of frustration. That is why we asked the waiter who had served us before.
  • Options. We decided what to do according to the constraints. Clearly in this case change the bottle or pass.
  • Action. Execution. Asking for permission from the boss who was the person we initially didn’t identify and change it.
  • Finally we had an interaction that produced a great satisfaction.

But then I began to consider a couple of simple questions from the business perspective. How was it possible to have workers so involved? What was the underlying policy? The first thing we have to notice is the waiter’s proactivity, which means a lot. The Oxford Dictionaries define proactive as an adjective “(of a person or action) creating or controlling a situation rather than just responding to it after it has happened”. Proactivity is central to the Cooplexity model (Zamora Enciso, 2011), a model of collaboration in complexity for management in times of uncertainty and change. Complexity is related to emergent behavioural patterns and human interrelations are clearly complex because of our capacity to make different decisions. According to the model, “proactivity oriented to results” and “proactivity oriented to relations” are key factors of the first level or knowledge level. In both cases we recognize the activities of the model (data gathering, decision making, control of the objective first and interaction, interchange, relation after) in relation to the waiter’s actions.

At this point it is worth thinking about their objectives? For sure it is not profitability because it was possible to avoid the expense. Instead it is easy to assume the option of emotional satisfaction and therefore loyalty (we have repeatedly gone back since then). When I remember the situation I can still visualise a kind of emotional connection. It couldn’t just be acting. I know what is called Emotional Labour, a term coined by the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild as “the management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display” (Hochschild 1983). His work, explained from the perspective of theatre where the customer is the audience and the service provider the actor, proposes that managing emotions is one way for employees to achieve organizational goals. Thus, there are two processes involved, surface acting (managing observable expressions) and deep acting (managing feelings).

Not enough. It cannot be so simple. When the waiter that attended our table went to ask his colleague, it seems he was checking the wine we wanted. This approach must only be done based on a trusting relationship. Any other situation of mistrust would result in a lack of action. We can clearly find again a parallelism with the second level of the Cooplexity model, which is related to cohesion. In this case the awareness of a common project, and the two factors “group integration” (cooperation, implication) and specifically “trust generation” are present.

Finally, in order to ensure the emergence of self-coordination (third level of the model), it must be a policy oriented to people, supporting initiatives, encouraging ideas, creating a decentralized environment, giving them a certain level of autonomy, demanding results instead of procedures, asking for responsibility and not just the standard expected performance, etc. When the situation is complex, an executive cannot manage the whole business, cannot be everywhere, cannot make all the decisions and cannot be aware of everything. The identification of “local” opportunities and risks depends on the people who are in contact with a situation which demands the last two factors of the model, “equal relationship” (mutual consideration, respect) and “criterion of action” (definition of a criterion). The definition of a criterion is not only a problem of defining the objective (already done) but also the way it can be reached. Therefore acting and empathizing are two key dimensions of this criterion.

That is when I can clearly apply the concept of high performance team to all of them as “a small number of interdependent persons that are spontaneously and naturally coordinated, with the motive of a common project, thanks to a feeling of membership resulting from a determined level of cohesion, making decisions based on shared knowledge” (Zamora Enciso, 2011 pag. 7).

But if I include us having dinner then we were a system considered as “a series of parts that interact with each other to work as a whole. Nevertheless, a system is more than the sum of its parts; it is the product of its interactions (Kauffman, 1980).

And it works. I can assure you!

 

(1) John Poindexter was director of the Information Awareness Office (IAO), an official body depending of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), responsible of the development of projects like ARPANET, the first information transmission network by packets, predecessor of the present Internet.

 

References:

Ackoff, R. L. (1989). From Data to Wisdom. Journal of Applied Systems Analysis 16, 3-9.

Hochschild, A. R. (1983). The managed heart: Commercialization of human feeling. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Kauffman, D. L. (1980). Systems One: An Introduction to System Thinking. Mineapolis, MN: Future Systems.

Zamora Enciso, R. (2011). Cooplexity: A model of collaboration in complexity for management in times of uncertainty and change. Lulu.com.