About Chip Nickolett

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This blog is a little like the old Seinfeld show – “a blog about nothing (specific).” My personal focus is on continuous improvement, experimentation, and using lessons learned to get repeatable and scalable results. I like learning new things and often find that lessons learned in one area can also apply to other unrelated areas. While some posts and topics may seem tangential there is usually a relevant connection to a larger concept.

Life is somewhat like a puzzle, and being able to see the picture with the fewest number of pieces can be extremely helpful at times. Taking risks, helping others and being helped by others, success and failure, and above all trying to make a positive impact have shaped who I am and what I believe.

Most of the time I have been lucky enough to surround myself with people whose skills are complementary to my own, but whose backgrounds and beliefs often different. That combination tends to bring out the best in everyone. That is a great start to developing high-performance teams.

Back in early 2011 I and 15 other members of the Executive Team at Ingres (which was later relaunched as Actian) were making a bet on the future of our company. We knew that we needed to do something big and bold, and decided to build what we thought would be the standard data platform in 5-7 years. It was an experience that I am proud to have been a part of (and initiated with an unexpected extra slide in my “Geo Lead” presentation). The next few years exposed me to many things that were indeed unique, and that taught me quite a bit as well.

Prior to working there, I owned a consulting company (Comprehensive Solutions) that provided innovative, high-visibility, and mission-critical service offerings to several F1000 organizations. We had an amazing team that was always focused on raising the bar while lifting each other up. In the early 2000s, the power of the Internet helped a small company appear to be larger than it really was. That perception opened the door to some incredible opportunities and experiences.

Our success funded several medical research projects. Those projects helped launch a couple of careers and create new medical protocols that continue to help people today. And, it gave me the privilege of meeting and working with some of the most brilliant people around, and participating in activities that would normally exclude someone like me who lacked a medical background.

It is easy to take ownership of something, but there is a certain detachment required in order to really understand it and then honestly evaluate the success of your efforts. That level of detachment lets you make the best decisions while being focused on the best interests and outcomes for whatever that something is.

I have referred to this as Egoless Ownership. It doesn’t mean that you do not care about something but rather:

  1. It implies that you care enough to see what is happening even when it does not align with the intended outcome.
  2. You can acknowledge problems or faults without becoming defensive. This is key to making corrections on the fly and ultimately achieving your goal.

 

No matter what I am doing, what role I am performing, I still view life from the perspective of a Consultant. A little bit of detachment and looking at things in a different way can lead to useful findings. The trick is getting others to understand as well – something that goes beyond communication and explanation. It helps when everyone is focused on the same goal.

Compare and contrast with what you know, and research what you don’t know. Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions*.  And, don’t be tricked by an arrogant bully posing as a confident expert. All valuable lessons learned.

*  I once asked a team of people, “So what’s the big deal with having to shut down a nuclear reactor?” when I was brought in to find and fix a software bug that needed to be identified and fixed within the next 12 hours, or else they would have been required to shut down one of the nuclear reactors at that power plant. It turns out this is roughly a 30-day process and while it is occurring has the potential to overload the entire power grid in the U.S.

I’m sure they had the feeling of impending doom based on my naive (to them) question, but once I really understood the criticality of the problem I was able to organize very focused activities for the team. We found and fixed the problem later that day, tested it and the fix went in that evening. Problem averted and lesson learned.

Consulting really helped me understand the importance of simple concepts, such as how to identify, prioritize, and focus on the things that matter the most.

To learn more about my background please see my LinkedIn Profile.

“Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.” – Terry Pratchett

Thank you for visiting, and I look forward to your comments and feedback!

And now for the obligatory disclaimer:  My statements, opinions, and beliefs are mine and mine alone, and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else. Please note that all original works are Copyright (c) 2013-2019 Chip Nickolett.


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