In military strategy and tactics, force multipliers are special units or capabilities that magnify the capabilities of basic fighting forces. They are a form of leverage. The core of any ground force consists of infantry, tanks, and artillery. However, there are other elements that can multiply the effectiveness of these, such as the ability to jam enemy radio signals, or listen in on them, aerial reconnaissance and bombardment, special operations forces, psychological warfare specialists, etc.

You can benefit greatly from the same approach in business. For instance, if you want to meet a key prospect, you can try a frontal approach by cold calling her. Or, you can find a way to get an introduction so you don’t come in as a stranger. A force multiplier is a kind of leverage. Think of how you can generate more strength by using a lever. The crow bar is a perfect example. You use leverage to pull out a nail that is deeply embedded in a piece of wood.

 

  • What internal capabilities do you have that can help you achieve leverage?
  • What external capabilities could you acquire through partnerships or other means to multiply your internal capabilities?
  • What are your leverage points to enable you to go around obstacles or to come at problems and challenges without trying a frontal attack?

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

It’s not what you do when you’re successful that counts, but rather what you do when you’re facing adversity and obstacles; this is the real test of morale.

Morale is different from mood, and is built on unity and cohesion. Strong morale is built upon unity of purpose and action, determination to succeed, and cohesion in the face of opposition, disruptions, uncertainty, friction, and obstacles.

Perseverance and courage come from faith in the mission. No one can call up the reserves of strength, courage, and motivation needed to persevere without total belief in their mission and vision, and in the nobility or validity of their cause. Powerful metaphors can rally people around the mission and vision.

People need to feel they are part of something bigger than themselves. Strength comes in numbers, but the group must be made up of the right people, and have a structure and purpose that resonates at all levels of the organization.

True motivation and discipline come from within. Individuals perform at their best when they are impelled to do so from within themselves. External rewards and punishments only go so far in influencing behaviour.

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his
military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk
.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Many businesses are facing a new threat to how they’ve traditionally positioned and delivered value for customers. This applies in particular to service businesses, where companies have tended to rely on providing access to data and information.

Take the investment business as a case in point (this applies to most other service businesses however). In the past, when people wanted to invest and grow their money, they had to go through a stockbroker or some other intermediary. When they wanted to make a transaction or decide on whether to keep a stock or sell, they were almost completely reliant on the intermediary to provide up-to-date pricing data. Newspapers published daily closing prices on stocks, bonds, commodities and currencies, but that was about it. Then along came the Internet and the amount of data and information went through the roof.

In parallel with this came an explosion in knowledge and information that was available to the average investor about how to invest for growth, retirement, or just plain security. Nowadays, investors are much more sophisticated about tax deferment and other investment strategies. Just browsing through the business and finance section of any bookstore gives an idea of the amount of information and knowledge available at minimal cost.

All this has had the effect of undermining the traditional value proposition for investment advisors. Before, people had to go through them to get basic data and information and also to actually make their transactions. Internet brokers and access to a galaxy of information online has given a lot more power to individual investors. This has undermined the information-knowledge hierarchy that gave the strong position to investment advisors.

The concept of information or knowledge hierarchy is a product of information technology and information science. The most basic form of information is data. These are simple figures or symbols that represent any “differences that make a difference” (to quote information theorist Gregory Bateson). A stock price quote is an example of a datum. A car’s speed as indicated on its speedometer is also another type of datum. However, data such as these must be put in context to make them understandable and relevant. A car’s speed doesn’t tell us much unless it’s transformed by contextual information, such as the speed limit, the driver’s habits, and whether the speed is dangerous or prudent given the road conditions. The same applies to a stock price. Out of context, it’s fairly meaningless. But in context, such as whether it represents a price rise or drop, whether the overall trend is up or down, and what other stocks are doing in similar conditions, all of this information provides the necessary context to understand the value and import of the data. The two bottom runs of the information ladder are therefore composed of basic data and interpretive information to set it in context.

The next level up is knowledge. This is where the data and information are given wider meaning in the more abstract framework of a system. Speed data and speed limits are part of the wider system of driving techniques. With proper knowledge and expertise, drivers know when to speed up, when to slow down, where to go, how to get there, etc. Investment pricing data and contextual information are part of a general investment and wealth management system. If an investor is trying to protect her wealth, then the system must be oriented to security and value investing rather than growth. I’m simplifying obviously, but I’m just trying to show how knowledge uses data and information to make decisions and orient action.

The final level in the information is wisdom. This is the ability to make general decisions while considering multiple concrete factors. For instance, wisdom tells us that adolescents below 16 or 17 shouldn’t be allowed to drive, as they tend to lack the judgment and prudence to drive safely (notwithstanding the fact that many adults don’t drive safely). Wisdom is also involved in the decision to take a driver’s license away from someone who has poor vision and slow reflexes, such as the very elderly, or people who drive intoxicated. In the financial realm, wisdom will enable a person to make investment decisions in line with their life course, their objectives, and their personality, risk temperament, and overall political and economic conditions. In other words, wisdom sits on top of the information hierarchy, because it provides the overarching framework for all decisions and actions.

What does this mean for business strategy? The following diagram shows the relationship between each of the levels in the information hierarchy and the types of transactions and relationships with clients. The vertical access represents the total number of interactions between buyers and sellers. This can be expressed as bulk numbers of interactions or total number of clients/customers. The horizontal access represents monetary or non-monetary value for buyers and sellers. This is usually expressed in terms of monetary value. The further to the left we are on the graph, the less valuable the products or services, but the higher the overall costs: transaction costs, commoditized pricing and many competitors. As we progress to the right, value increases exponentially while the total number of transactions and clients falls significantly. However, the overall value per transaction is much higher because, even though there are many less transactions, they are worth much more to buyers and sellers because they are based on knowledge and wisdom, rather than simply data and information, which can be had much more easily. In other words, transactions on the left are based on “know what,” in the middle on “know how,” and on the right on “know why” and “know when.”

Value Curve

So if a company is facing increasing commoditization of its products and services, this forces it to adopt a cost-leadership strategy. This is much more precarious than a company that bases its value on differentiation and quality. If you’re faced with this situation, you can try to compete defensively by reducing prices and/or increasing volume, but in the long run this will only continue to erode your relative value. The preferred strategy should be to move to the right, into the area of knowledge, i.e., providing know how, or even better, into know why and know when, i.e., close relationships based on wisdom and personalized services.

© Alcera Consulting Inc. 2014. We encourage the sharing of this information and forwarding of this email with attribution. All other rights reserved.

Business intelligence as it’s currently conceived is focused primarily on analysis of internal data and information. In reality, though, intelligence should be focused on understanding the EXTERNAL environment in depth and in scope. The idea is to observe what is happening outside the organization in order to draw inferences so you can exploit change, identify opportunities, and prepare for risks and threats.

Here are the principles of intelligence for business:

  1. Understand the difference between a risk and a threat.
  2. Look outside the “visual” spectrum and use all your “senses.
  3. Take time and distance into consideration.
  4. Uncertainty increases the further out your look and the less knowledge you have.
  5. Expect surprises.
  6. Expect to be fooled.
  7. Seek comprehensive understanding of the environment.
  8. Look up and down, not just left and right.
  9. Don’t assume competition is only commercial in nature: it can be political, social, cultural, etc.
  10. Don’t assume everyone uses honest means to gather intelligence.
  11. Data and information must be interpreted before being considered intelligence.
  12. Intelligence is everyone’s business.

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

“Command presence” is a term that is used in the military to denote the degree of respect, admiration, and confidence that people have in a leader. You know you have command presence through the following criteria:

  1. You are fully confident in your abilities as a leader and manager.
  2. You have integrity and lead ethically.
  3. People admire you and look to you to set the tone and attitude of the team.
  4. You are a reference for others for how to think and feel.
  5. You don’t feel threatened by questions, challenges, or conflict; in fact, you welcome them.
  6. Though you get great personal satisfaction and motivation from leading, your ego is under control.
  7. You don’t need others to validate your feelings and make you feel important.
  8. You welcome input from others and weigh it in the balance before making a decision.
  9. People look to you for inspiration, guidance and direction.
  10. You lead from the front and are not afraid to make tough decisions.

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

There is a famous essay by philosopher Isaiah Berlin, The Fox and the Hedgehog. In it he distinguished between authors who are “hedgehogs,” that is who see the world through one big idea, and “foxes,” who tend to see things through multiple lenses.

We can easily apply this idea to management and strategy. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against gaining special expertise and skill in a particular area of endeavour. However, being a “hedgehog” can become a problem if that is one’s only way of looking at things. To develop, we have to grow beyond parochial ways of doing and seeing things. Here are some tips on doing this.

  • Look for how your specialty has principles and methods in common with other areas.
  • Apply the methods of your specialty to problems in other spheres of endeavour.
  • Learn about the origins of your field, which usually show how it grew out of a common source.
  • Look at how your field’s methods are usually nothing but a specialized application of general problem-solving methods.
  • Look for projects and tasks outside your original field of expertise.
  • Find ways to lead multi-disciplinary teams and organizations.
  • Consider the points of view of people outside your discipline and how this would impact your decisions and actions.

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

This is my review of Talent Magnetism, by Roberta Matuson, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2013

This is the book any strategic business leader needs to position his or her organization to attract, select, and keep the best people possible. As a consultant myself, I work on a daily basis with companies and organizations that struggle with finding and retaining excellent employees. In fact, human capital is so important that it can actually make or break strategy and other business plans.

Matuson has taken a great tack. Instead of just throwing money at the challenge of attraction and retention, she has created an entire framework of strategies and tactics for positioning a company or organization as an employer of choice. Think of how Apple, Google, and other global success stories have become a magnetic pole of attraction for top-flight talent around the world. The author shows business leaders how to do the same thing for themselves.

This book isn’t just for HR types however. Senior executives, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and other core business operators will want to read this book so they can start applying their business savvy not just to their customers, but also to their employees. The chapters on branding and leadership as key attraction factors are fascinating and go well beyond the usual bromides about happy work places. People want challenge, advancement, and — YES — great leadership!

I recommend this book to anyone struggling with building great teams and human capital. I will also be recommending it to my own clients who are looking at ways to raise their employer brand.

© 2014 Richard Martin