May 19, 2020

Five effective tips to learn how to think rather than what to think

tips and advice
expert advice
Michael Vaughan
Bizclik Editor
3 min
Five effective tips to learn how to think rather than what to think

By Michael Vaughan

Starting at an early age, the accepted “standard” both of teaching and learning focuses on what to think. In some cases, this approach proves sufficient and even appropriate. But it can fail spectacularly in the complex environments of today’s business world. In these complex systems, learning how to think—how the pieces fit together—is as important as (or more important than) the pieces themselves.
 
Understanding how to think is vital today. As organizations and workers, we are faced with complex problems and situations on a daily basis in which what-to-think solutions are no longer effective. Here are five practices that can help shift our thinking.
 
1. Seek to understand the big picture.
 

Most of the training and tools leaders receive are good at assessing and fixing a piece of the organizational system. Fixating on one thing may improve that one thing, but most likely it will create multiple new unintended issues.  Leaders who establish a big-picture perspective not only reduce unintended issues, they improve collaboration among their teams because they will work together to understand the system instead of finding someone to blame.
 
2. Seek to understand the underlying behavior.
 

The harder a leader pushes the system, the harder it will push back. The faster a leader goes the longer it will take her get there. Things tend to get worse before they get better and the cure is often worse than the disease. These underlying system principles explain why leadership is difficult and why those leaders who seek to understand them are better equipped to address their team’s needs in new and emerging situations.      
 
3. Seek systemic change.
 

If a leader tries to change something in the direct, obvious way, the system is going to treat those efforts like any other outside influence and do its best to neutralize them. Leaders should understand that genuine solutions require careful consideration of the possible short- and long-term outcomes to avoid the pitfalls that drain both the emotional and intellectual energy from their teams.
  
4. Seek to surface limiting beliefs.
 

A leader’s ability to make quality decisions and solve problems is directly proportional to her ability to suspend her judgment. If we look for the root cause of failed efforts or unproductive meetings, it is often tied to the biases, flawed mental models, or fears of those involved. The more that a leader surfaces her limiting beliefs, the more productive and supportive she will be at serving her teams and making the tough calls.
 
5. Seek to evolve a shared vision.
 

An idea can only gain momentum if others believe in it. That is, their hearts and minds need to be invested in the idea for it to take root and grow. Too often, leaders are moving too quickly and overlook the need for their team to evolve a vision together. When a leader seeks alternative perspectives and incorporate insights from others, only then do leaders realize the sustainable power of their team.
 
These practices are meant to help teams shed light on a situation by reframing it from different perspectives. Ultimately, these different perspectives improve thinking and increase the value that we—as a team or an individual—can bring to an organization.
 
Michael Vaughan is the author of The Thinking Effect: Rethinking Thinking to Create Great Leaders and the New Value Worker. He is the CEO and Managing Director of The Regis Company, whose leadership programs are designed to fundamentally change the way leaders think. Vaughan is a leading authority on serious games and business simulations and holds degrees in cognitive science and computer science from Colorado State University. For more information, please visit www.thethinkingeffect.com and www.regiscompany.com.

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Jun 13, 2021

Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl

CMO
Kyndryl
IBM
Leadership
Kate Birch
5 min
Former CMO for IBM Americas Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl. Maria talks about her new role and her leadership style

Former Chief Marketing Officer for IBM Americas, and an IBM veteran of more than 25 years, Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl.

Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.

With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.

You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?

I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.

We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.

What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?

I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.

The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.

I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.

What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?

When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.

What does success look like to you?

I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.

What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?

I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.

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