Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Monday, September 5, 2016

"Ditch the past, create the future"/ "The secret to peak performance"

Jul. 6, 2016 "Ditch the past, create the future": I found this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail today.  I really like the picture of a light bulb floating above an open box, with boxes surrounding it.  Look below for the picture and I cut out the picture:

The Three-Box Solution
By Vijay Govindarajan
(Harvard Business Review Press, 240 pages, $36.99)

Leaders instinctively know they must achieve a delicate balance, maintaining existing operations at peak performance while also innovating for the future. But renowned innovation expert Vijay Govindarajan, a professor at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, says it’s even more complicated than that: You must forget the past, manage the present, and create the future.

To help, he asks you to think of three boxes, representing the past, present and future. You need to be thinking of all three, all the time. “The Three-Box Solution requires an ability to think and act simultaneously in multiple time frames,” he writes in The Three-Box Solution.

While difficult to accomplish, it’s quite simple conceptually and appealing because the logic is readily apparent to any executive. Each box demands different managerial approaches. For example, when managing for the present, everything begins with strategic clarity; when managing innovation for the future, you are actually searching for strategic clarity.

The boxes also can compete with one another. The greater your success in the present, the more difficulty you will have in executing breakthrough strategies for the future – a problem he calls “the success trap.” As for ditching existing activities, we all know how difficult that can be, yet failing to address the matter can limit your success today and tomorrow.

In Box 1, you run the core business at peak efficiency. Innovation occurs but it’s linear, taking place within the existing business model to extend brands and improve product offerings. The focus is on short-term customer needs and optimizing operations for efficiency and cost. Leaders set challenging goals, analyze data to spot and address exceptions, and create a culture for high-level execution.

The future is actually built in Box 2, he says, where you let go of past practices, habits, activities and attitudes. That creates space and frees up resources that can be used to support unusual, non-linear ideas. But the past always fights back, he warns, and you will need to be prepared to make tough calls about the values you need to leave behind for success in the future, while remembering that some values are still needed for Box 1.

Box 3 is for experimentation and innovation, looking for a non-linear breakthrough that can take you to new heights. It involves learning new things and hedging risks, testing assumptions not only on the product you have in mind, but also the business model and market you hope to develop.

“It’s not always obvious which ideas to pursue first – you need a method to gauge relative value and priority,” he notes. Success rates will be low, so expect that. And don’t trim your sails on Box 3 projects in a downturn, he warns. Judge how you are faring in this box not by revenue but the quality and pace of discovery from experiments.

To keep it simple, he offers these guiding principles:

  • You should engage in both linear (Box 1) and non-linear (Box 3) innovations to ensure success in the future.

  • Success in Box 1 is the primary inhibitor of taking bold action in Box 3. “You must develop the discipline of selectively forgetting the past (Box 2) or the past will prevent you from creating the future,” he writes.

  • Organizing current business models in Box 1 and creating new business models in Box 3 must be pursued simultaneously. That’s tricky, since they call for different activities, skills, methods, metrics, mindsets, and leadership approaches.

  • Managing the three boxes is not a flavour-of-the-month project but a long-term journey. It’s endlessly cyclical – you are always preserving the present, destroying the past, and building the future if you want to be successful. “Businesses fail at it when they are sporadic rather than continuous in seeking balance. Like gardens that need regular watering and weeding, each box requires ongoing attention,” he notes.

  • Don’t think of the future as far in the distance. It’s today. You are building it, through Box 3 efforts, day by day.

  • Don’t distract those who work in the core Box 1 from what should be demanding performance goals. “Box 1 cannot execute Box 3 innovations. And that is OK. Remember that Box 3 cannot exist without Box 1. Also, what must be forgotten for the purpose of Box 3 may be vitally important to Box 1,” he says.

  • Box 2, forgetting the past, is the most indispensable element of the three-box effort. Using a football analogy, he describes Box 2 as the offensive line, providing time and flexibility for the quarterback – Box 3 – to read the defence, improvise, and execute.

“The Three-Box Solution imposes on leaders a requirement for humility because it is essentially a strategy for taking action through continuous learning,” he said.

The book is clearly presented, with illuminating case studies from a variety of organizations helping to explain the ideas. While the opening chapter will suffice for some readers since it gives the essence of the model, those planning on adopting it will benefit from the later chapters, which offer more depth on each of the boxes and achieving balance between them.


Joel Peterson, chairman of JetBlue, shares The 10 Laws of Trust (Amacom, 126 pages, $22.49), written with media consultant David Kaplan.

Retired U.S. Air Force colonel JV Venable calls on his military background to help leaders gain higher performance by Breaking the Trust Barrier (Berrett-Koehler, 189 pages, $27.50).

Consultants Peter Stark and Mary Kelly explain the kinds of behaviour that could sabotage your success in Why Leaders Fail (Bentley Press, 158 pages, $9.99 Kindle) and offer seven prescriptions for success.

In Intentional Relationships (Familius LLC, 159 pages, $24.95), consultant Ken Tucker explores how to work with others and succeed.

Globe and Mail comments:

Nanakanda 5 hours ago
2 + 2 = 6 !

gemini101 19 hours ago
Ditch the past, create the future! A great battle cry, you should show this to the first nations people.

Jul. 20, 2016 "The secret to peak performance": I found this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail today:

  • By Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool
  • (Viking, 307 pages, $26.75)

Anders Ericsson has spent a lifetime studying peak performers. Why was Mozart so adept a composer? When seven digits are considered the norm for us to remember, how can some people recall a string of hundreds of digits? What makes a violin virtuoso?

A professor of psychology at Florida State University, his research hit the zeitgeist when journalist Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers, referred to him when declaring it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master in most fields. Unfortunately, that isn’t entirely true. It was an average, based on a study of violinists, with half of them falling short of that number. The book also referred to their progress by age 20 – yet when they began to win international music competitions at the age of 30, they had put in 20,000 to 25,000 hours of practice. Most important, Prof. Ericsson points out, you can practice for far more hours than that and be ineffective if your effort is unfocused.

In Peak, Prof. Ericsson, with journalist Robert Pool, sets the record straight. He debunks the notion that success comes from natural ability, providing many examples that seem to typify that belief, but where the amount of hard work to achieve success has been missed or underestimated.

To be successful, we need a growth mindset – a belief that more is achievable – and the determination to shape our brain to learn, and perfect, the new skills required. Adult pianists have more grey matter in certain regions of the brain than non-musicians, with the difference resulting from practice in childhood. London taxicab drivers, who must travel the complex roadway structure of that British city, have a larger rear part of the hippocampus than the average person, the hippocampus being crucial to spatial navigation.

Experts perceive patterns in their field better than others. A chess grandmaster has an edge because he or she can glance at the board and see how the game will play out under different situations. These patterns, or mental representations as Prof. Ericsson calls them, result from years of practice that change the neural circuitry of their brains.

“In pretty much every area, a hallmark of expert performance is the ability to see patterns in a collection of things that would seem random or confusing to people with less developed mental representations. In other words, experts see the forest when everyone else sees only trees,” he said.

But these advances don’t come from just any type of practice. The gold standard is deliberate practice, which involves a coach drawing from a highly developed body of knowledge about the best way to teach the skills, focused effort by you in the practice sessions, feedback and long, gruelling sessions that push you past your comfort zone.

That isn’t available in all fields – he cites management as an example – but you can still try purposeful practice, applying as much of the formula as possible. This will usually involve identifying expert performers and figuring out what makes them so good, and then coming up with training techniques to improve on those skills. But he stresses the importance of clarity: “Be careful when identifying expert performers. Ideally you want some objective measure of performance with which to compare other people’s abilities.”

Stories abound in the book of performers in music, the arts and sports. One person – commercial photographer Dan McLaughlin – decided at age 30 to become a PGA golfer, despite never playing much golf. After 6,000 hours of deliberate practice, he now has a decent handicap fluctuating between three and four. But most of us would be more inclined to apply the ideas to our duties at work. That starts with questioning the consultants and coaches eager to come to your aid. “Of all the myriad approaches out there, the ones most likely to succeed are ones that most resemble deliberate practice,” he stressed.

Succeeding means pushing past beliefs that your abilities are limited in some way. You may believe you’re not creative. But you can be, with deliberate practice. “Anyone can improve, but it requires the right approach. If you are not improving, it’s not because you lack innate talent; it’s because you’re not practising the right way. Once you understand this, improvement becomes a matter of figuring out what the ‘right way’ is,” he said.

My opinion: I'm putting the "succeeding means" part in my inspirational quotes.

Business people are very busy and often believe there is no chance to practice their skills. But it is possible to treat everything from making presentations to interviewing job candidates as practice sessions, setting out goals for improvement, pushing beyond your comfort zone and arranging for feedback to ensure continuous improvement. Keep in mind that improvement comes from more polished skills rather than more knowledge. Too often our training reverses that, focusing on knowledge at the expense of skills.

The book is easy reading and richly detailed, taking you step by step through the elements of deliberate practice with ample examples, and ending with a look at how this might be applied in schools and universities. It’s thought-provoking, and might allow you to improve your skills and help others do the same.

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter


Negotiating The Nonnegotiable (Penguin, 320 pages, $31.35) by Daniel Shapiro, founder and director of the Harvard International Negotiation Project, promises to help you resolve your most emotionally charged conflicts.

Jim Dewald, dean of the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, shows how firms can prosper through entrepreneurial thinking in Achieving Longevity (Rotman-UTP Publishing, 204 pages, $32.95).

Innovation psychologist Amantha Imber provides 14 science-based keys for creating an innovation culture in The Innovation Formula (Wiley, 206 pages, $25).


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