Cheryl offers: This week at Take Your Brain to Lunch, Randy Mayeux delivered a synopsis of Susan Scott’s new book, Fierce Leadership. In his remarks, he included a few from her “Memo to Managers” which I loved as soon as I heard them. The one item that I was most excited to hear was “Do not, under any circumstances, tell a lie – of either commission or omission. Do not stretch the truth, exaggerate, or make __ up to get out of trouble or make yourself look good.” I love that! Scott has captured exactly what I believe is one of the most important aspects of leadership. Tell the truth, the whole truth. I recall conversations with my own teenagers on this very topic. I wasn’t trying to make them into leaders at the time; I just wanted them to learn the valuable lesson of telling the truth. If you bend or omit the “facts” in any manner, it’s manipulating the truth to suit a purpose, almost always one that benefits the storyteller. Since either telling or not telling leads to the same result: manipulation of the facts to benefit the teller, it’s the same egregious act: lying. The link I see from being transparent to being a leader is clear. We can’t legislate integrity, ever, no matter how many seemingly clever laws we pass. However, if a leader is honest and acts consistently in an honest manner, they will be of integrity. And they will likely be successful and admired. No laws necessary!
Back when I was in graduate school, a textbook on rhetoric and public address (it was too many years ago, the book is in storage – I remember what it looked like, but not the title or the author) argued that the best place to learn history was not the “important” speeches, but the every-day speeches and sermons of an era. I don’t disagree.
Howard Zinn is most famous for his book A People’s History of the United States, which told our history through the eyes of the “every-day” people, the forgotten, those not always heard… It generated fierce passions, much controversy. He said this in a 1998 interview:
“There’s no such thing as a whole story; every story is incomplete,” Professor Zinn said. “My idea was the orthodox viewpoint has already been done a thousand times.”
Zinn was an unabashed progressive, a vocal critic of war. But, this much is sure – his was a voice to pay attention to.
Here is a quote from an essay by Zinn, Changing Minds, One at a Time, from 2005, worth pondering:
This would seem to lead to a simple conclusion: that we all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas.
Seth Godin’s new book, Linchpin, is making waves. He launched it with his own blogger assisted 2.0 media blitz (our own blogging team member Bob Morris was part of that – read this post, and this post), and he used the large megaphone of The Huffington Post with his own post, Is Control the Answer?, to provide a key concept of the book. It has to do with control – and control is simply not going to work in a world focused on ideas. Here’s part of what he wrote:
If you run a big factory, of course you need control. Control over when your workers come in, what they do, what they make, what happens to your inventory, where it’s sold, how it’s priced, everything. More control equals more profits, at least if the market is stable.
But if your business deals in ideas, control will stifle them.
Worse still, a rapidly changing competitive environment means that control is a losing strategy. Record companies tried to control technology and they lost. AT&T thought they could control how people used a telephone and they lost as well.
Is there any doubt that the world is going to go faster, not slower?
Now, power comes from connection and leadership and respect. The way you treat people (all of them, even those without apparent authority) comes back to you again and again, which means that our new leaders embrace dignity and respect instead of the traditional trappings of top down organizations.
Seth Godin has a great ability to take a key concept that is a perfect reflection of the era, and say – hey, pay attention to this. He grasped that the way people were connecting was creating Tribes. And now he grasps that that control is out, linchpins are in. I think he is right…
Think about this (from Godin):
Are you betting on tomorrow being more or less interesting than yesterday?
Downes is a consultant and speaker on developing business strategies in an age of constant disruption caused by information technology. He is author of the Business Week and New York Times business bestseller, Unleashing the Killer App: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance (Harvard Business School Press, 1998), which has sold nearly 200,000 copies and was named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the five most important books ever published on business and technology. His new book, The Laws of Disruption: Harnessing the New Forces that Govern Business and Life in the Digital Age (Basic Books 2009) offers nine strategies for success in the emerging world of digital life. It combines Downes’s unique perspective on economics, law, and innovation in the digital age. He is also a Partner with the Bell-Mason Group, which works with Global 1000 corporations, providing corporate venturing methodologies, tools, techniques and support that accelerate corporate innovation and venturing programs.
Downes has held faculty appointments at The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, Northwestern University School of Law, and the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, where he taught courses on corporate strategy and technology law. He is currently a nonresident Fellow with the Stanford Law School Center for Internet & Society.
Here is an excerpt from my interview of Downes. The complete interview is also available.
Morris: At one point [in The Laws of Disruption], you observe that when confronted with the weird economics of information, the core principles of public law, private law, and in formation law are being turned upside down.” How to cope with this extensive as well as intensive disruption?
Downes: In many respects the best coping mechanisms here are the same as they are for the killer apps themselves. First and foremost, senior executives, especially those outside of the legal department, need to be aware of that fact that law is now the single greatest impediment to innovation in every industry. Next, they need to understand why, and that requires much greater appreciation both for the fundamentals of law as well as the ways digital technology is undermining those fundamentals. Then, just as with killer apps, organizations (including governments and consumer groups) who find ways of adapting even slightly more quickly than everyone else will stand to gain the most from the new reality.
Frankly, most governments are firmly stuck in the “denial” phase of transformation. Corporations are slightly better. Consumers, on the other hand, are leading the charge here in a way they’ve never been able to before the availability of the “collective action” tools the Internet and particularly social networking tools give them.
Morris: Given your response to the previous question as well as what you recommend in the concluding chapter of this book, it seems that what Joseph Schumpeter’s concept of “creative destruction” is relevant to the challenge of harnessing what you characterize as “the new forces that govern life and business in the digital age.” Is that a fair assessment?
Downes: Absolutely. What we’re experiencing is precisely what Schumpeter talked about. The only difference is that the cycle time between periods of “creative destruction” and what [Thomas] Kuhn called “normal science” (or “business as usual”) keeps getting shorter. Essentially, information technology has created an environment of constant creative destruction.
Think for just a moment of the impact that fact has on the traditional process of strategic planning, which assumes relatively stable markets and predictable responses from competitors. In many ways companies are better off not to have a strategic plan at all. But what I’d prefer to see is the emergence of new tools and methods that reflect the chaotic reality of a Schumpeterian world.
Of course when we talk about legal institutions like governments, regulators, and courts, the very idea of a strategy is completely alien. Getting legal institutions–whose goal is to minimize unpredictable outcomes and penalize chaos–instead to embrace creative destruction is a daunting proposition. My guess is that rather than reform existing forms of regulation, digital life will evolve its own, organic forms of law that will better suit its unique properties.
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If you wish to read the complete interview, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, you are cordially invited to check out the resources at these Web sites:
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By design. 20th Century organizations were built to have strategic intent. The point of a strategic intent is merely to best rivals. That’s the opposite of an ambition: it’s just combat. Yesterday’s organizations were missing the burning desire to improve on yesterday in their very DNA. That’s what reduced them to passionless machines — and it’s what ultimately makes our lives smaller, our economies less vibrant, and our societies poorer.
A real ambition, in contrast is a living expression of how an organization answers the four-word challenge of 21st Century economics [i.e. minimize evil, maximize good.]. Twenty-first Century businesses have ambition — at giganto-mega-universe-sized scale instead. “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible”: now there’s an ambition at scale.
Twenty-first century scale is about ambition, not stuff. So here’s a killer question to kick off 2010: Does your ambition scale?
An ambition that scales is one that takes an organization already creating thick value, and expands it to affirmatively answer these three questions:
• Is it globe-spanning?
• Is it world-changing?
• Is it life-altering?
For most organizations, the answers are: maybe, nope, not a chance. For a few, even, worse; the answers are: yes, for the worse, for even worse. Most organizations have only the tiniest, puniest, most inconsequential of ambitions. And that, quite simply, is why most are obsolete.
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Umair Haque is Director of the Havas Media Lab. He also founded Bubblegeneration, an agenda-setting advisory boutique that shaped strategies across media and consumer industries. Here are links to http://www.bubblegeneration.com/ and http://www.havasmedialab.com/.
To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Daily Alerts, please visit email@example.com.
When you’re headed into a sales situation, it’s important to take a step back and ask, “Who’s the fish here?”
What does that mean? As Warren Buffet’s business partner, Charlie Munger, relates, “Many years ago, a Pasadena friend of mine made fishing tackle. I looked at this fishing tackle – it was green and purple and blue; I’d never seen anything like them. I asked him, ‘God! Do fish bite these lures?’ He said to me, ‘Charlie, I don’t sell to fish.’”
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So, before you go into a sales situation (which, one way or another, is any situation), always be clear about who is the driver, gatekeeper, or the facilitator of the sale and who is the potential end user, and make sure you have the right “bait” for both.
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Frances Cole Jones founded Cole Media Management in 1997. She prepares people to stand out from the competition in every interaction—in business and in life, helping countless CEOs, celebrities and public personalities present their best selves on camera and onstage, in boardrooms and in person. She conducts presentation skill seminars and sales trainings for companies nationwide. She also speaks at colleges around the country preparing students for job interviews and their professional futures. Her published books include How to Wow and, more recently, The Wow Factor, published by Ballantine Books.
She invites you to visit these Web sites: