Second Lt. Elizabeth Betterbed entered West Point with two clear objectives: make the soccer team and graduate. However, she’s leaving with a whole lot more. Betterbed, a Fox Island, Washington, native, graduated with the highest accumulative cadet performance score. The Engineering Corps officer is also a Rhodes Scholar recipient, a member of a team of mechanical engineers who helped develop a bionic foot for their capstone project, and served as deputy brigade commander, the second highest leadership position among the 4,400 Corps of Cadets. Of the four years at West Point, Betterbed said these final weeks have been the most memorable. ”This is as good as it gets. We just finished up our capstone project and got to test it on a Soldier from Walter Reed; I’m graduating with my whole family here. I mean, that’s the greatest thing,” Betterbed said. “Of course last year, our soccer team going to Patriot League Championships was a pretty cool and unique memory as well.” Betterbed, a four-year letter winner and starter on the Women’s soccer team, led the Black Knights in scoring this past fall. ”I made some good friends, had some great mentors and it’s always fun to play your favorite sport after school every day,” Betterbed said, a two-time Academic All-American. “And getting to compete with ‘Army’ on your shirt is a pretty cool thing.”
Joining her overseas is 2nd Lt. Alexandra P. Rosenberg of New York, N.Y. Rosenberg earned the highest cumulative academic quality point average and was named the Class of 2010 Valedictorian. Lt. Gen. Franklin L. “Buster” Hagenbeck, U.S. Military Academy Superintendent, recapped the narrative of the Class of 2010 as one of unprecedented achievements. ”They’ve met all the challenges of the West Point experience,” the 57th USMA Superintendent said. “They’re ready to assume the mantle of leadership, to transition from cadet to officer and with this, to accept the incredible responsibility that goes with leading American soldiers. You’ve surpassed all of my expectations,” the 57th USMA Superintendent said. “As a class and as individuals, you’ve distinguished yourselves in all pursuits. Academically, you’ve won more Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Rotary, and National Science Foundation Scholarships than any other class of recent memory. On the fields of friendly strife, just this year alone, you’ve led teams that have won six national club titles and seven Patriot League Championships, and you’ve won doing it the right way.”
May the political and military leaders of the United States prove worthy of the men and women who serve their country so well in our military services.
Rwanda offers a case in point. Less than 20 years ago, almost one million people were slaughtered in 100 days. Today, Rwanda’s current standing in global business circles is stunning.
As Isenberg explains, “Promoting entrepreneurship has been a key plank of President Paul Kagame’s agenda for the nation. In 2001 he launched the Rwanda National Innovation and Competitiveness initiative, which, among other efforts, developed a ‘national coffee strategy’ based on building a Rwandan Bourbon Specialty Coffee brand. With help from OTF Group consultants, it also identified over $100 worth of investments to improve coffee washing, production, capacity, and marketing.
“A partnership among agricultural institutes in Rwanda, Michigan State University, and Texas A&M worked to connect local growers to U.S. and European specialty coffee buyers. Two notable events happened in 2006: Starbucks gave Rwanda’s Blue Bourbon bran d of coffee brand its Black Apron award and introduced it in its stores, and on a visit to the U.S. Kagame met with Costco’s CEO, Jim Sinegal, to promote Rwandan coffee. Costco would later become one of the two biggest buyers of Rwandan coffee, purchasing an estimated 25% of the country’s premium crop.”
Isenberg offers nine prescriptions for creating an entrepreneurship ecosystem. They are:
1. Stop emulating Silicon Valley.
2. Shape the ecosystems around local conditions.
3. Engage the private sector from the start.
4. Favor the high potentials.
5. Get a big win on the board.
6. Tackle cultural change head-on.
7. Stress the roots.
8. Don’t over-engineer clusters; help them grown organically.
9. Reform legal, bureaucratic, and regulatory frameworks.
Daniel J. Isenberg is a professor of management practice at Babson College and executive director of the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project. His most recent HBR article was “The Global Entrepreneur” (December 2008).
Having been a school and college classroom teacher for 23 years, I remain especially interested in all levels of formal education but until reading Jay Cross’s book, Informal Learning, I did not realize – much less appreciate – the nature and extent of the multi-dimensional subject he examines with both rigor and eloquence.
Here are a few of the key points he makes throughout his narrative:
“Formal learning is like riding a bus: the driver decides where the bus is going; the passengers are along for the ride. Informal learning is like riding a bike: the rider chooses the destination, the speed, and the route.”
That said, all organizations need traffic control, once the ultimate destination has been selected.
“Formal learning takes place in classrooms; informal learning happens in learnscapes, that is, a learning ecology. It’s learning without borders.”
That said, it seems reasonable to expect productive and beneficial application of what is learned to avoid what Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton aptly characterize as a “knowing-doing gap.” Cross duly notes, “Executives don’t care about learning; they care about execution.” Meanwhile, we are well-advised to keep in mind what Peter Drucker observed in 1963: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”
“It’s not who you know that’s important; it’s who those others know.”
Obviously, ever-expanding networks of contacts is very important. Those we know can connect us with those they know. We are also obliged to reciprocate.
“Most training is built atop the pessimistic assumption that trainees are deficient, and training is the cure for what’s broken.”
I agree. However, there are formal training programs now available as well as superb instructors to conduct them that can substantially improve various skills that include reading, reasoning, writing, public speaking, decision-making, problem-solving, and situation analysis.
“Created long before knowledge work was invented, accounting values intangibles such as human capital at zero and counts training as an expense instead of an investment.”
In most organizations, that is true but thanks to Peter Drucker, Howard Gardner, Peter Senge, Thomas Davenport, and others, the situation is changing (albeit too slowly) and recently published books such as this one and Return on Learning will accelerate the transition to enlightenment at the governing board senior-management levels.
Years ago, after a substantial tuition increase at Harvard had enraged many parents, then president Derek Bok responded with a suggestion: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
“Imagine having an in-house learning and information environment as rich as the Internet. You’d have blogs, search, syndication, podcasts, mash-ups, and more. You’d also have a platform just about everyone already knows how to use.”
And imagine such an environment that also provides formal training programs that strengthen various skills (i.e. those relevant to learning, communication, management, and leadership) of all who share that environment so that each can take full advantage of all the opportunities available. What about the bottom-line? “Management must assign enterprise-level accountability for learning.” Cross is dead-on: Without proper governance, there would be chaos. Is Cross recommending a balance of learning with work? No. “As work and learning become one, good learning and good work become synonymous.”
Why stop there? Why not establish and then sustain outstanding learning that occurs both formally and informally? That would be blended learning so that outstanding learning and outstanding performance become synonymous.
I like curious people. I think curiosity is the prelude to breath-through thinking. And my favorite authors are insatiably curious.
Here’s a quote from Bob Morris’ review of What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell:
In the Preface, Gladwell observes, “Curiosity about the inner life of other people’s day-to-day work is one of the most fundamental of human impulses, and that same impulse is what led to the writing you now hold in your hands.” He seems to have an insatiable curiosity about individuals, situations, and locations that are of little (if any) interest to most people…until Gladwell shares what he has learned about them.
And in The Big Short, in which Michael Lewis tells stories of the very few people who figured out the coming crisis on Wall Street before it happened, here’s one telling paragraph – about Steve Eisman, as stated by one of his cohorts, Vinny Daniel:
He (Eisman) entered private meetngs with the lenders and the bankers and the rating agencies probing for an intelligence he had yet to detect. “He was in learning mode. When he’s fascinated about a subject, his curiosity becomes far more important than being confrontational.”
I know of books that can help us become more creative, and books that can help us become more innovative. But I don’t know any that are specifically about how we can increase our curiosity. Maybe it’s simple – we should simply always be reading something that we know very little about. This might feed our curiosity.
So here is your question for the day: are you curious?
A Few Thoughts About Our Need For Oil – Prompted By The Big Rich By Bryan Burrough, And the Oil Rig Disaster in the Gulf
A few comments about oil… First, my leanings. I think we ought to get off of oil – as soon as we can. I prefer some kind of clean, renewable replacement. No, I do not know what it will be.
But, I was re-visiting The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes this past week, and was reminded of the role of Texas oil in World War II. The Axis Powers (the other guys) used a total of 276 million gallons of oil in all of World War II. Texas alone provided more than 500 million barrels to the Allies – more than 100 million barrels from H. L. Hunt alone.
Here are some lines from the book:
When the war was finally won, American oil was among the heroes. The Allies, it was said, “floated to victory on a sea of oil.”
As Axis leaders acknowledged, they couldn’t compete with the Allies’ supply of aviation fuel and gasoline. “This is a war of engines and octanes,” Joseph Stalin said in a toast to Winston Churchill in Moscow. “I drink to the American auto indusrtry and the American oil industry.”
Now, here’s my big observation. For all of World War II, the entire amount of oil used was less than 1 billion barrels of oil. For all of World War II! On both sides! Today, the entire planet uses 85 million barrels of oil every day. Every 11 days or so, we use as much oil as was used in the entire Second World War. That is why we look for oil everywhere we can find it – under ground, under oceans – we need it all. And we will need it all until we find an alternative. Which we need to find – fast!
When the Exxon Valdez went down, the planet earth used 66 millions barrels of oil a day. 21 years later – today – we are using 85 millions barrels a day – every day. And every teenager in America, and now every teenager in China, and India, and… dreams of having his or her own car. And those cars will need fuel. As Tom Friedman put it in Hot, Flat, and Crowded, the problem is not how much oil America uses. The problem is that there are now “too many Americans.”
As the rest of the world catches up to us, there will be more big cities needing more electricity and more cars and more oil and more…more.
It really is breathtaking to realize that we use as much oil every 11 days as was used in the entire Second World War. And our 85 million barrels a day today will grow to 110 million barrels of oil in the blink of an eye. I was 39 years old when the Exxon Valdez went down. We’ve increased oil usage by 19 million barrels a day since that happened. By the time my son is my age, we will have far surpassed the 110 million barrels a day figure. And why is that figure important? There are plenty of experts who say that 110 million barrels a day is it – the top – the most we can get out of the ground and ocean and use. In other words, when we hit 111 million barrels a day, need exceeds capacity. (And let’s say that the capacity can increase some more. This much we know – the day will come when need does exceed capacity).
And if you know any history at all, when that happens – when need exceeds capacity — with any needed resource, you’ve got real trouble.
There are surely plenty of low performers who got the ax, but there are also many committed high performers among the millions of people who have lost their jobs over the past two years. There are also many high performing survivors at these companies who are being pushed to work in ways that aren’t sustainable.
The way we’re working isn’t working — for employees or for their employers. There is a better way to fuel productivity and high performance. The first key to changing the way we work is recognizing that the value of those you manage isn’t generated by the number of hours they work, but rather by how much value they produce during the hours we are working. Working longer hours, juggling more tasks and answering more emails isn’t the solution.
As every great athlete understands, the highest performance occurs when we balance work and effort with rest and renewal. The human body is hard-wired to pulse, and requires renewal at regular intervals not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.
Unfortunately, rest and renewal get no respect in the organizational world. Instead, most managers instinctively view those who seem to need time for rest and renewal as slackers.
But what are the costs of working continuously? Do we think as clearly, creatively and strategically, or work as effectively with colleagues and clients, in the 10th or 12th or 14th hour of a workday devoid of real breaks, as you do in the 2nd or the 4th?
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Tony Schwartz is president and CEO of The Energy Project. He is the author of the forthcoming June, 2010 HBR article, “The Productivity Paradox: How Sony Pictures Gets More Out of People by Demanding Less,” and co-author, with Catherine McCarthy, of the 2007 HBR article, “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.” He is also the author of the new book The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs that Energize Great Performance (Free Press, 2010).