Mindfulness and Team Meetings

In an article in Strategy + Business, Charlotte Roberts and Martha Summerville review the components to a mindful board of directors. Their wisdom has direct application to how you run your team leader meetings and entire company meetings as an audiologist.

To begin each meeting, the authors suggest you have a “connect to purpose” moment, like showing a video or telling a short story. Each time we hire new employees, we bring them through a traditions course and on-line training that reviews our company story, why we do what we do and why it has to be done in alignment with the “AuDExperts’ Rule.”

Without first establishing a common purpose, I’m just a mad man telling everyone to do things in an incredibly specific way and asking employees to crawl through broken glass for no reason. However, when new employees see the impact we make in the lives of our patients, our foundation recipients and in the lives of our coaching clients and their employees all over the world, they immediately “get it” that we must do things very differently than other doctors offices if we wish to get such dramatically-different results in so many areas.

Take a moment and review how you bring your team and your team leaders together. Never assume because you talked with them once about your company mission, vision and overall purpose that they still remember it or feel as strongly as you do about it. You must remind them over and over again and sincerely mean it when you talk about why your practice does what it does and why. Without this core mission and common purpose, you’re practice is adrift at sea, affected by any wind that blows. Set your course by starting each meeting with renewing the connection of everyone at the table with your reason for existing as a company. Then, watch your results soar.

A Century of Wealth in America

Weighing in at 880 pages, Edward Wolff’s A Century of Wealth in America is no light read for the beach. Like Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the book is dense, packed with equations and statistics, citing more references than ten books in the same category. Yet, it is important and timely. Any smart business owner who wants to understand the economic trends that shape our world should put this book in his or her library.

Wolff makes counterarguments to Piketty, who argued that wealth inequality is much higher than it actually is. Although Piketty erroneously stated inherited wealth accounts for as much as 90% of the wealth in economies like the United States, Wolff has found that number to be much lower. From 1989-2013, it averaged 23%, not 90%.

Stated more clearly: over three-quarters of all wealth in the United States is created anew each generation. Is it possible the top 1% of wealth holders in any economy also display an inequality of hours worked, responsibility, creativity, investments and risks made or liabilities shouldered?

Wolff puts to rest the myth that rich people simply inherit their wealth. Surprinsingly even to this author, Wolff shows that inherited wealth is much more important to those who have low net worth, than it is to those who are wealthy. From 1989 to 2013, the top 1% had only 17% of their assets inherited, while those with assets of only $25,000-$50,000, inherited over 52% of their assets.

Dr. Wolff is a professor of economics at New York University. He has a liberal background, but tends to write with much less bias than his contemporaries, especially Piketty, who is now coming under scrutiny for many of his failed theories and assumptions.

Wolff was a rare polar bear in a forest filled with grizzlies when he spoke out against problems in academia that are leading to  college graduates being underemployed. Although this book is not for the faint of heart, I highly recommend it if you have even a remote interest in economics and political tax policy. It’s required reading for anyone who wants to have open, serious and honest debate about wealth and productivity in our economy without regurgitating soundbites heard on Fox News, CNN or MSNBC.

How to Test Your Assumptions

Jon Fjeld is the executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. He’s a professor of strategy and philosophy and used to work at Align Technology, where he helped the company prevent some serious cash burn in the 1990s.

His latest article in the MIT Sloan Management Review looks at the best ways to test your assumptions. He kicks the old myth “learn from your failures” to the curb. Fjeld says, “Failure alone does not teach. If there are an infinite number of bad ideas, eliminating one gets us no closer to a good idea.”

As small business owners, doctors and entrepreneurs, we’re engrossed in assumptions. What treatment options to offer, at what price points, during what days and hours of the week, in which part of town, to which target audience, to accept insurance or not. According to Fjeld, big assumptions like “patients will pay X for audiology treatment,” must be broken down into discrete, manageable assumptions so that we can test them at a level of detail allowing for efficient learning.

Perhaps this is why so many audiologists’ eyes glaze over when I start talking about scientific split testing of advertisements in our multi-step, multi-media, multi-channel marketing campaigns. It’s easier to simply confirm our assumptions and biases.

Fjeld’s work with Align and Rent the Runway has proven his concepts of testing assumptions tremendously successful.

Once you identify the assumptions, your next step is to factor the probability of the assumption being true. Most people want to test the more likely assumptions first. Fjeld warns this is wrong. “It is counterintuitive, but you want to first test the assumptions that have a lower probability of being true.”

If your goal is to minimize the time and money expended before a key pivot or the decision to abandon the venture, then the assumptions that are least likely to be true should be addressed first.

In Rent the Runway’s example, they mailed PDF photos of dresses to 1,000 prospective customers. The response was overwhelmingly positive. People would rent dresses from a website. Thus, the cost of validating this assumption was the low cost of direct mailing, not the potentially high cost of building out a complicated website.

As a small business owner, you will move forward in a constantly-changing environment. There will continue to be unknowns and you will be forced to make decisions with insufficient information. Fjeld’s strategy of testing the least-likely assumptions first and learning in small steps is brilliant.