Bob Selle

Breaking Glass

Bob Selle

Breaking Glass

I’ve never thought of myself as a “disruptor” but more recently found my footing as an entrepreneur, which perhaps by default gives me some street cred in the disruptor space (I’ll take it!). Since this is my first article, I’m going to throw a few things in here, with the intent of taking a deeper dive in subsequent submissions (a little foreshadowing if you will).

Although I’m an introvert (at least according to Myers Briggs), and I am largely practical and deliberate in terms of how I view and respond to things, I like to move at a pace that is slightly faster than most.  At the age of 4 I recall flying down my grandparents vertical driveway on my Big Wheel, my mom yelling at me to stop as I headed for a neatly manicured row of bushes (which luckily broke my fall). Twelve years later that turned into a few speeding tickets (and many warnings), followed by a college career that spanned slightly (a lot) longer than 4 years. Then along my professional life, came fairly consistent feedback from well-intentioned managers who insisted that I be more “patient” when navigating corporate processes (read: corporate politics or anything else that slowed me down).  Insert several broken personal items (iphones, coffee mugs, rear view mirrors) and the occasional fall (almost always in public and twice in a dress), and you start to get a clearer picture.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a bull in a china shop (I am a Capricorn after all). But I am motivated by taking quick action on ideas (big and small) and I am not afraid to take risks and push boundaries. I pride myself on the willingness to try and fail and have worked hard to let go of any expectation of perfection (thank you, Brene Brown). Generally it’s accurate to say I’m the “ask for forgiveness, not permission” type or perhaps better stated the “likely to proceed until apprehended” kind.

I tend to view risk as subjective (unless you’re talking about heights, then I’m out). You may think moving across the country, 3,000 miles from my family was a risk; to me it was liberating (sorry mom and dad). Some people thought I was taking a huge risk moving from the comfort of an 18 year career in corporate HR to take the position at NEHRA; I viewed it as an opportunity to lead an organization and help influence a profession I love . Others likely wonder why, with a challenging job, two kids and zero tech expertise, I would jump in to the gig/tech world with both feet; the truth is these actions did scare me, but not enough to avoid them and certainly no enough to make me slow down.

Having said all of that, I believe in being intentional about my decisions. I’ve learned from those around me that being fast paced without intention and transparency can be dangerous and if you’re not careful, the result can be a lot of broken glass in your trail. I recognize as a leader that my pace can also be a weakness and can (and has) hindered my ability to get buy-in and support from those around me. I’d like to think I’m pretty persuasive and I know I’ve developed a lot of great relationships, but I’m also very clear that it will only take me so far if my stakeholders are unclear where I’m headed. I am working hard to be more conscious of that as a leader.

On a final note, I’ll share with you a great article a colleague recently sent to me (clearly we are cut from the same cloth), titled “The 70 Percent Rule: Why You Should Move Fast and Break Things” written by Taylor Nelson and published on the First Republic website, December 2016).

The first line hooked me with a quote from Mark Zuckerberg “If you’re not breaking stuff, you’re not moving fast enough.” The article presents the Efficiency Thoroughness Trade Off (ETTO)¹, a concept born out of the 20th  century industrial economy when it was often more favorable to be thorough given the cost of breaking things. The ETTO Spectrum, as shown below, offers a scale vs. an either/or model, highlighting the tradeoffs between moving fast and being more thorough. It challenges you to ask yourself “Are you willing/able to break some glass to be the first to market, to launch an initiative or idea before its fully baked?”


Source: Hollnagel, Erik (2009). The ETTO principle: efficiency-thoroughness trade-off: why things that go right sometimes go wrong

The fundamental concept of the 70-percent principle is this: What feels risky is safe. What feels safe is risky.

As you can imagine, this resonated with me on a few levels.

First, it reinforced my belief that pace is important. We live in a fast paced world and you can be left behind in your career and in business if you don’t adapt. If you can’t be at the head of the pack, at least be in the pack. Secondly, it allows for imperfection. To try and fail deliberately.  There is a give and take to all of this and intentionality is key. Sometimes you have to be slow and deliberate because the risks are too great and that is ok too. I suppose the learning is to be clear about what you can afford to break and what needs to be handled with more thoughtfulness, evaluate your perception of risk and maybe (just maybe) slow down sometimes.

¹ The efficiency–thoroughness trade-off principle (or ETTO principle) is the principle that there is a trade-off between efficiency or effectiveness on one hand, and thoroughness (such as safety assurance and human reliability) on the other. In accordance with this principle, demands for productivity tend to reduce thoroughness while demands for safety reduce efficiency.