Archive for January, 2011

First of all, I would like to say I wish this concept had a different name.  I have heard it pronounced a number of ways:  MEH-de-chee, with the emphasis on the first syllable;  meh-DEE-chee; and  meh-deh-CHEE.   Finally, I went to a text to speech translator and picked Italian as the language.  I believe I heard the first pronunciation in the list with the Italian accent.  There was a long enough pause on the first syllable to enable the speaker to raise one or both hands in the air – I raised one.

Anyway, thanks to Frans Johannson for coining and popularizing the term in his book, The Medici Effect. Explanations and the story behind the the Medici family can be found on various websites and blog posts, so I will only address the concept. This is tickler Frans uses on his website.

What do termites and architecture have in common? Music records and airlines? And what does any of this have to do with health care, card games or cooking?

At the heart of effect is one simple yet profound insight: at the intersection of different fields, disciplines and cultures, there’s an abundance of extraordinary new ideas to be explored.

One of my favorite examples is the 2005 redesign of the standard amber-cast pharmacy pill bottle. The prescription bottle had remained virtually unchanged since its introduction after World War II.  Deborah Adler, a 29-year-old graphic designer, took up the challenge after her grandmother accidentally took her husband’s prescription.  Pharmacists had been using these bottles for 50 years and the only design change that took place was the addition of the child-safety cap in the seventies.

Here’s another example: African Locusts Improving Car Safety

Incite: How often do you read articles, magazines, or books not related to your profession? Attend conferences? Network with other professions? Do you encourage and support your employees in activities that the intersect with different fields, disciplines and cultures?


It’s not uncommon for companies, especially larger ones, to have performance rating systems.  Generally they include from 3 to 6 ratings, with the trend moving towards fewer rather than more. This is done for a number of reasons.  Financial planning is probably foremost because companies have to allocate funds for next year’s salary increases.  Consequently, distribution guidelines, or sometimes forced rankings are used for forecasting.  Secondly, low to high performance is an ingrained philosophy that is a result of our mindsets, i.e. belief systems.  After all, we’ve been exposed to the concept our entire lives, especially in school.

Also popular today are the concepts of teamwork and collaboration.  So let’s see, “I’m going to work with you on this project and later this year ‘they’ are going to compare my performance to yours.  Hmmm.”  Will you support me totally? Any inclination to hold back just a bit of information or knowledge to give yourself an edge?

What if we change the way we think about performance distribution?

Years ago, for the first time, I was given the head coach position of a boys basketball team (ages 10-11).  As the the head coach I finally had a chance to try a different approach to coaching. I enlisted two assistants who loved kids and didn’t mind them goofing off a bit and having fun.  Our job was not “to be liked by the kids” but rather to “like each kid” to help build their self-esteem.

While I had a number of rules, the most important one for the kids was – “Your goal is to make the other players on the team look good.” That meant that each kid had 9 other players trying to make them look good versus each one focusing on themselves.

When we talked about what that might look like, these were some of things we came up with over time.

  • Get the ball to someone closer to the basket so they can make an easier shot.
  • If someone gets the ball to you close to the basket, make the shot so it looks like a good pass.
  • If someone misses the shot, get the rebound so the shot looks better.
  • Get open so it’s easier for someone to make a good pass to you.
  • If someone gets open, pass the ball to them.
  • If someone makes a good pass to you, catch it so it looks like a good pass.
  • If someone makes a bad pass, try hard to catch it so the pass looks better.
  • Pick or screen for the ball handler so it’s easier for them to drive.
  • If someone with the ball gets trapped or stuck, run to help them out.
  • If someone is getting beat on defense, help them out.

Near the end of the season, the president of our area’s sports association, which includes all sports, received this e-mail and forwarded it to me.

Dear Dr. Marconi,

My husband and I have five sons, four over the age of 21, who have participated in the sports of football, soccer, basketball, baseball and wrestling over the past twenty-something years.  We have experienced good coaching and had a couple of horrible experiences.

Our youngest son, aged eleven, has played basketball with this organization last winter with Don Keys and Rick Phelps and this season with Rick Phelps, Mr. Jesse and Mr. Jones.  These fine men have provided by far the best experience that any of our sons has ever had.  They have molded a group of normal kids into an incredible team.  The kids have had so much fun.  I have yet to hear one word of criticism directed from one kid to another.  The kids support each other and try to make sure that everyone has a good time.  I may be wrong, but I believe that I heard that they had never coached basketball before. These guys should be teaching the coaching clinics.  The kids have all felt free to make mistakes and try things that they have not done before without fear that the result may not turn out perfectly.

Every boy has blossomed during the season into a competent basketball player.  The team as a whole is truly greater than its component parts.  They work together in a way that I have never seen in such young kids. My hat is off to these gentlemen! I don’t know how it could get any better than this.

Kitty B.

I believe that some of Kitty’s observations had to do with the rule mentioned earlier.  In hindsight, perhaps it would have been more accurate to say “Your goal is to help the other players on the team perform better.” Imagine if we used this approach at work without the fear of making others look better than ourselves.  I wonder if there could be a department with all  Top performers or maybe it’s more about a creating a Top performing department.

Incite: Is it possible to rethink how we evaluate and reward behavior?  What would it look like, feel like, and sound like if every one was focused on helping each other perform at their best?  If you are not constrained by a performance rating system, how can you begin to implement the concept in your organization or company?

Is Work a Mediaocracy?

Posted: January 9, 2011 in Performance
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Some people mistakenly believe that organizations are a meritocracy.  Those who view the people at the top as those in power believe it’s an aristocracy.  Perhaps, as in real life, it’s more of a mediaocracy.

Have you heard the phrase that perception is reality? If so, then it’s not what you do; it’s not necessarily who you know.  It’s really more about what people hear and believe about you.

If so, what and where are the media channels within your organization? Who are the reporters? Are you even in the  news?  If so, what do the headlines say?  How do actually make the news?  Is it for some wonderful accomplishment, or is it, as is more common today, some negative event?

Incite: Are you in the headlines or on the sidelines?  What can you do to be an enduring force versus simply having 15 seconds of fame or shame?

It’s a new year,  your organization has become a stock market and everyone now has their own ticker symbol.  Each person also has $10,000 to invest in others, but not themselves.

Who would invest in YOU and why?  Who would you invest in and why?

The concept of “Brand You” is not new, but now the focus is on performance and adding value.

What is your product or service, how much will you charge for it, and who will pay you for it?

Will your revenue exceed your costs?  Are you a “profit center” or a “cost center?”

What measures will you report to your shareholders in your quarterly reports?   What will your EPS (Effort Per Share) look like?

What will the business analysts ask you? What will they write about you?  What will their stock recommendation be?

Incite: There are many questions posed here using the stock symbol as a metaphor. Few if any people will actually try to answer these questions.  Hopefully, they will at least stimulate your thinking about who you are, what you do, and how you show up.