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How the Adidas CEO and A Continental executive improve their decision-making.

A young friend tells you he is studying to be an interior home designer. He says he plans to do this by only looking at kitchens. You look at him, confused. He assures you he’s serious. He’s already looked at kitchens in IKEA, in the local hardware store, in design magazines, and in small design studios. He’s seen 20 kitchens.

Still confused, you try to clarify. Is he interested in interior design in general, or specifically kitchen design? He says interior design in general. You smile because his plan is bonkers. The friend is trying to widen his perspective and knowledge by looking in one room. This plan is crazy. But it happens to us all the time in other areas of life.

The algorithms in music services, like Spotify, widen our perspective in one area of music. If you like jazz, the algorithm gives you more jazz. It’s not going to take you from Duke Ellington to AC/DC. In this case, nobody believes that we are actually expanding our knowledge of music, when it is obvious that we are only expanding our knowledge of jazz.

Know your assumptions and the worldview they create
We all look at the world in different ways – call it your worldview. The problems for global functions and managers start when they struggle to see the assumptions underneath their worldview. If you can’t objectively see the assumptions, you can’t see that anyone else could be right (or wrong).

That’s why it wasn’t a surprise this week to read that Adidas CEO, Kasper Rørsted, prioritizes spending time with people. Rørsted dedicates up to 180 days a year to getting out there, talking to managers, employees, customers, and suppliers. The relationships he builds up through those trustful dialogs gives him access to information that easily gets that filtered out through management layers.

A senior manager from Continental, who I know, recently joined the night shift to get a better idea of what is going on. This humble, curious approach wins people over far faster than endless reports and documents. By changing his view, the senior manager can modify his assumptions and take better decisions. And better decisions is the key goal.

Good decisions in business have two criteria: high quality and high speed
How do we get high-quality decisions if we don’t question our assumptions? Many managers are finding out right now that it is possible to run a business with their teams working from home. Fewer people now assume that home-working is somehow avoiding work or taking it easy.

With digitalization, more (but not all) information will flow towards employees. If you’re running a manufacturing organisation, how do you take fast decisions on the shop floor? It’s almost certain that you’ll have to look at your power structures. (Empowerment or full democracy at work is a misnomer. Psychological experiments show that if you put a bunch of people together, without assigning a leader, a more dominant person will emerge to hold power and dominate.) So there’s clearly a balance between decision-making by everybody versus decision-making at a snail’s pace going from the shop floor supervisor to shift manager to plant manager and back down again.

The answer lies in continually getting out of your bubble. Long ago, my enlightened professor told us to read a wide range of newspapers – The Times, The Guardian, The Mirror and The Sun. Why? He wanted us to challenge our thinking, to challenge our assumptions so that we'd be more confident of the positions we were taking… and our decisions. After all, this is exactly what Kasper Rørsted and the senior manager at Continental are doing everyday.

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Client Testimonials

You have brought a direct positive impact on our sales… because people work more customer-oriented. Our efficiency levels... are continuously growing.

AL Managing Director

Leading this product launch has taught me to be effective doing what I find naturally easiest – using trust and supporting people each step of the way. It augments my chances of making sure future product launches are as successful as this one.

MN Vice Director - Medical Marketing Europe

This process allowed people to re-appraise how this [senior team of managers] group was functioning or, rather, not functioning correctly. The tendency for each member of our group to see himself as an isolated beacon of excellence – which acted against the vital need for cooperation between members – were eased and communication is already becoming more 'normalised'.

RS Senior Director

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