According to Roger Martin, efficiency has turned into a damaging obsession for business leaders. Instead, we need to seek a productive balance between the pursuit of efficiency and the nurturing of resilience.

Actions You Can Take Right Now

  1. Spend more time on the front lines – this is where competition is really happening. 
  2. To keep great people, treat everyone as an individual. The more they are treated generically, like just a number, the more likely they are to leave. 
  3. Remember that not all good decisions are based on data. Data is always trailing, and if all decisions were made this way there would be no innovation. 
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Episode Highlights and Excerpts

  • Competition takes place on the front lines, at the face of the customer. Executives can have plans and strategies, but the real results occur at the point-of-sale in all industries. 

  • Because of this, executives must spend a good amount of time at the point-of-sale. Long time CEO and Founder of Costco Jim Sinegal would spend most of his time with front line workers asking them their opinions. 

  • Front line employees need to understand their role and scope but have autonomy to develop strategy. This engages them, generates creative ideas, fosters collaboration and gets better results. 

  • The best companies in the world get front line information because they have a culture of psychological safety. All employees can speak out, and are never reprimanded for sharing an idea, perspective, or opinion. 

  • Leaders should talk to front line people to test their hypothesis. This doesn’t mean you ask them what the strategy should be – that’s not their job. Same with customers, don’t ask them what products they want, ask them what problems they have. It’s your job to then find products that solve those problems. 

  • The incumbent model taught in business schools is that all good decisions come from data. But data is always trailing. When the smartphone was introduced in 1999 by Blackberry, the data said there was no market for smartphones. Now the then leaders in cellular – Nokia and Motorola – are a shadow of what they were before. 

  • The best way for leaders to keep people is by treating each one of them as an individual at all levels of the company. 

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Roger Martin

In 2017, Roger was named the world’s #1 management thinker by Thinkers50, a biannual ranking of the most influential global business thinkers.

Roger is a trusted strategy advisor to the CEOs of companies worldwide including Procter & Gamble, Lego and Ford.

Roger Martin is a Professor Emeritus at the Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto where he served as Dean from 1998-2013, Academic Director of the Michael Lee-Chin Family Institute for Corporate Citizenship from 2004-2019 and Institute Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute from 2013-2019. In 2013, he was named global Dean of the Year by the leading business school website, Poets & Quants.

His newest book is A New Way to Think: Your Guide to Superior Managerial Effectiveness (Harvard Business Review Press, 2022). His previous twelve books include When More is Not Better (HBRP, 2020), Creating Great Choices written with Jennifer Riel (HBRP, 2017) Getting Beyond Better written with Sally Osberg (HBRP, 2015) and Playing to Win written with A.G. Lafley (HBRP, 2013), which won the award for Best Book of 2012-13 by the Thinkers50. He has written 30 Harvard Business Review articles.

Roger received his BA from Harvard College, with a concentration in Economics, in 1979 and his MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1981. He lives in South Florida with his wife, Marie-Louise Skafte.

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