26th January 2018
Sam Dods

Do intelligent people make better decisions?

At work and home, we’re making decisions all the time; sometimes making simple decisions by ourselves and sometimes working with groups to make complex decisions with significant implications.

While a number of approaches have been developed to improve decision making many fallacies still exist including:

  1. Intelligent people make better decisions
  2. Groups make better decisions

The evidence suggests that highly intelligent people are more prone to “bias blind spots“, and while groups can make better decisions under the right conditions, “groupthink” often results in poor decision making.

The ideal approach for more complex decisions therefore involves groups with members that feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, challenging the thoughts of others and managing the emotional dynamics at play that can lead to groupthink; groups in which members trust each other.

The challenge is in getting teams to this point. I’ve been working with Gareth Marlow of eqsystems.io, and Cambridge Wireless to put together a short programme to help CEOs and leadership teams of growing companies work through the issues – both the rational, and the irrational – and build alignment and better decision making within their organisations. We’ve called it “Driving Huskies or Herding Cats?” and it will run over two afternoons in February and March 2018, at The Bradfield Centre in Cambridge.


To find out more or register interest in the programme, click here.

17th January 2018
Sam Dods

Driving huskies, or herding cats?

Instagram’s thirteen employees created 27 million users and a $1Bn valuation at acquisition within 15 months.

Paypal’s thirty employees created 13 million customers and a $1.5Bn valuation at acquisition, beating Billpoint, a joint venture between eBay and Wells Fargo.

Both companies prevailed against larger, better-resourced competition – but they succeeded through focus – laser-sharp alignment of their teams. Having great technology – and great people – is insufficient. Team alignment is the difference which makes the difference.

Does your team seem to be working flat out, but still not getting very far? Do discussions about what to do go around in circles, without ever being resolved? Or worse – are there no discussions at all?

If so then this short, two-step programme will help. It’s aimed at helping CEOs and senior managers of tech startups and scaleups to develop the skills to bring clarity and focus to their organisations – driving huskies, not herding cats.

If you would like to know more or to register for the programme, please follow this link.

13th September 2017
Sam Dods

Scaling-up: a working conference on motivations, challenges & solutions


“Competitive advantage doesn’t go to the nations that focus on creating companies, it goes to nations that focus on scaling companies.”
Sherry Coutu, The Scale-up Report, Nov 2014


In her 2014 report, Sherry Coutu describes the range of challenges that are encountered by companies attempting to scale their businesses. But every company experiences a unique path to growth which is influenced by factors such as the motivations and interests of founders, the industry sector of the business and the ability of leaders to develop the skills, finance and facilities necessary to grow.


This free half-day event explores how business leaders can overcome the inevitable challenges on the path to growth. The event is suitable for leaders who are considering or in the process of scaling their companies. It offers the chance to work with a select number of other business leaders in exploring the challenges to growth in several different learning environments.


Delegates will hear from a panel of seasoned business veterans including Charles Cotton, Gareth Marlow, Tony Milbourn and Andrew Orrock. This will be followed by a series of workshops that will allow delegates to roll up their sleeves and debate common challenges and their solutions. Towards the end of the afternoon there will be an open plenary session for delegates to explore together how to navigate their own paths to growth.


If you would like to know more or to register for the event please follow this link.

15th June 2017
Sam Dods

Talking organisational development, culture and Koru on Cambridge TV


What is organisational development, how does culture and a sense of purpose impact performance, what is organisational design and what does Koru mean?


These and a number of other issues around improving organisational effectiveness are discussed in Sam Dods’ interview with Alina Trabattoni.


Have you had any experienced with OD or is it an area that you’d like to know more about? If so then please share, send me a LinkedIn connection request or let me know if you’d like to discuss.

20th April 2017
Sam Dods

A simple model for organisational culture

What does “culture” mean to you?


Is it some sort of “excellence” in the arts like a night out at the opera? Is it the traits associated with a historic period like Roman culture? Or is it what we take to be the characteristic behaviours and beliefs of an ethnic group or country?


When I was at school in New Zealand putting on an upper class English accent and saying something like “I say old boy” somehow described England; but so did the phrase “whinging poms”.


In politics today we see increasing fragmentation and intolerance with populist leaders like Trump, Putin and Erdoğan appealing to their voters with dreams of returning to a golden age in their countries’ history: Make America Great Again.


Is there any truth in these simplistic ideas of common culture? No – well almost none. And where there is some truth it normally only exists/existed for a very small percentage of the populations being described in a specific time and place: So while many may continue to aspire to the “American dream” of prosperity and upward mobility very few achieve it.


And of the few that do succeed what percentage live the dream imagined by those aspiring to get there?


Put simply; culture is complicated.


The same is true for organisational culture. There is limited consensus on a number of aspects including what it is, how it influences behaviour, whether it can be changed and if so then what the key factors are that affect it.


I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise since each of us is complex; we’re only aware of about 5% of what’s going on in our mind and while some of our non-conscious or unconscious mental activity like involuntary control of heart beat doesn’t affect our behaviour other factors such as repressed memories certainly do affect behaviour – unconsciously.


So when a number of us work together in organisations our unconscious minds communicate unconsciously creating more complexity.


And when you include the impact of the other organisational factors that affect culture such as purpose (or lack of), values, organisational design, physical setting, clothing / uniform, as well as the non-organisational factors such as families, friends, other groups and wider society you get true complexity.


When engaged with effectively this complexity and the unconscious activity behind it can generate amazing results. It can also generate devastating results that affect both organisational performance and people’s quality of life.


As a result, considerable effort has been put into trying to understand culture and how / if it can be changed. As part of this drive models of varying complexity have been developed to help understand and work with culture.


I have developed a simple model to help people understand where their organisations are in terms of culture and where they might aspire to be.


The model is based primarily on the level of trust within an organisation and includes aspects of the thinking of Melanie Klein, Abraham Maslow, Douglas McGregor and Frederic Laloux.


It is a two pole spectrum from “survival” to “evolution” as illustrated below.


Koru organsational culture model



Most organisations operate nearer the survival end of the spectrum which has a number of common attributes: they are more hierarchical and rely on authority and control to get things done. Since decision making is concentrated with relatively few people at the top of the hierarchy these organisations tend to struggle with the increasing complexity and ambiguity of our world, often reacting relatively slowly. They also tend to struggle with high levels of employee disengagement.


While they may be slower to react they can be very efficient, with well-developed processes and systems to maximise productivity and minimise variability.


These organisations may have values but they are typically not lived, with the prime motivator being financial success.



Organisations at the evolutionary end of the spectrum are characterised by high levels of trust and have more in common with self-organising natural evolution since initiative is often bottom up and there is little or no centralised authority imposed on the system.


Hierarchies are typically flattened in favour of self-governing teams and centralised administrations are significantly reduced and exist to support the teams.


Since there is no centralised decision making, mechanisms are required to maintain a common purpose and culture as well as manage conflict and the generation / implementation of bottom up ideas.


These organisations tend to live their values and share a common purpose.


While the vast majority of organisations operate nearer the survival end of the spectrum there is increasing interest in the evolution end of the spectrum, with an increasing number of organisations adopting the principles to some degree.



Organisational culture is undoubtedly complex and has a significant impact on performance. While this complexity has resulted in many transformational programs failing to deliver desired results it is clear that culture can be evolved given the right conditions – in many respects the same sorts of conditions that give rise to successful human relationships: a determination to make it work, a willingness to take responsibility for our contribution to the culture and an understanding that it takes time.


This blog is the final in a series of three on the key areas of organisation development that was introduced in an earlier blog.


What do you think? I would welcome feedback; is this sort of simple model useful, where are the holes in the thinking and