First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Penelope Trunk on “Why an MBA Is a Waste of Time and Money”

Penelope Trunk

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Penelope Trunk for BNET, The CBS Interactive Business Network. To read the complete article, check out others, and/or sign up for a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.

MBA applications always go up during a bad economy. That is because business school generally attracts people who are lost, and more people who feel more lost when the bad job market is lousy.

But let’s be clear: This is not the type of recession where there are no jobs [click here] for young people. This is a recession where there are no GOOD jobs. McDonald’s is hiring in management. There is a bank teller shortage and a shortage of actuaries. There is a shortage of insurance agents. It’s just that people don’t grow up dreaming of these jobs. So they don’t take them. Instead, people who are early in their career – in that time when an MBA sounds like it might work – those people are determined to have only a good job. And if they can’t have that, they get an MBA.

The problem is that an MBA makes it worse.

There are seven reasons why you should take a bad job instead of getting an MBA.

[Here are three.]

1. Business school won’t help you be a good entrepreneur.

There is no correlation between being a good entrepreneur and going to business school. In fact, according to Saras Sarasvathy, professor at University of Virginia’s Darden Business School, the most important skill for an entrepreneur is that you know your weakness and you can find people to fill in your gaps. [Click here http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2007/04/23/you-dont-need-to-love-risk-taking-to-start-your-own-business/.%5D So you pay a bundle to go to school to learn what you don’t and how to find people who can do stuff you can’t? Sorry, that doesn’t add up. The ultimate irony: entrepreneur programs are booming at business schools [click here http://www.usnews.com/articles/education/best-business-schools/2010/07/21/schools-add-new-entrepreneur-programs-for-mba-students.html%5D.

2.     You likely don’t need an MBA for what you want to do.

There are some jobs, very few, where you cannot land if you don’t have an MBA. These are mostly high-level officer-type positions in the Fortune 500. Even then, though, you probably don’t need an MBA. In fact, Forbes reports [click here http://www.forbes.com/2002/04/25/0425ceoschools.html%5D that CEOs without MBAs bring more value to investors than CEOs who went to business school.

7.     Business school puts off the inevitable.

Look, it’s really hard to be an adult. You go to school for twenty years being told what to learn and what to think and when to show up, and then you get tossed into adult life and there is no one telling you what’s right for you. You have to figure it out, but you didn’t go to school for that. In fact, school is the opposite of that. So it looks fine to be lost in your 20s. This is when everyone is taking time to figure things out. It does not look fine to spend $150,000 to go back to school just to put off the hard knocks of figuring out where you belong in the workforce. Face reality. Join the workforce.

*     *     *

Penelope Trunk is the founder of three startups — most recently, Brazen Careerist [click here] a social network to help young people manage their careers. Her career advice appears in more than 200 newspapers. In a review of this blog, BusinessWeek called Penelope’s writing “poetic.”

Thursday, August 19, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Richard Florida Keeps Thinking about, and Writing About, the Future of Jobs (this time, blue-collar jobs)

Richard Florida (his book, The Great Reset is my selection for the September First Friday Book Synopsis), keeps thinking and writing about the future of jobs.  Here are the last few sentences from his latest post, Where the Blue-Collar Jobs Will Be:

The good news is that the U.S. will continue to create relatively high-paying working class jobs. These jobs will continue to provide good livelihoods for the workers fortunate enough to have them. The bad news is that their rate of growth will be sluggish and not nearly enough to provide the amount of good, family-supporting jobs required to undergird a middle class of lower-skilled workers. The harsh reality is that blue-collar, working class jobs in the U.S. are increasing slowly, and they will grow the slowest in traditional manufacturing and industrial regions and communities whose economic and social life has revolved around these jobs. There is little policy-makers can do – aside from declaring a trade war – to bring back large numbers of these high-paying jobs. But they can develop strategies to improve not just the wages but the content of blue-collar work, by engaging workers more fully and seeing them as a source of innovation. And they can help to infuse more creativity and design into manufacturing products, helping to broaden their market and counteract the trend toward declining prices. And policy-makers will have to develop strategies for improving wages and the content of work in other faster-growing segments of the economy, a point I will get to in my next post, which will cover the projected growth of service jobs.

The threat to the middle class is real, deep, and severe.

(Click here for a list of the articles Florida has written for the Atlantic).


Thursday, August 19, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , | Leave a comment

Dave Stewart on “How to Be an Ideas Factory: Loosen Your Grip on Your Creations”

Dave Stewart

Here is an interview of Dave Stewart by Ian Sanders featured by BNET, The CBS Interactive Business Network. To obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.

Dave Stewart is best known as a Grammy-winning musician and producer — he was Annie Lennox’s bandmate in the Eurythmics and has collaborated with the likes of Bob Dylan and Bono. But when companies like British Telecom and the ad agency Interbrand started inviting him to speak, a hidden talent came to light: Stewart is a polymath who can connect the dots between disparate subjects, generating brave new ideas. The business world was hungry for his way of thinking, and soon he took on roles as U.S. creative director of the global ad shop the Law Firm and “change agent” for Nokia. His company Weapons of Mass Entertainment, an “ideas factory” based in Los Angeles, works with partners including HBO and Virgin Comics on projects in film, television, publishing, theater, and interactive gaming.

Last month Stewart and Mark Simmons, the author of Punk Marketing, published The Business Playground: Where Creativity and Commerce Collide [click here], a guide to creativity and brainstorming that introduces the straight-laced world of business to an artist’s approach to innovation. I spoke with him recently about how to present an idea, why it’s better to relinquish control over your ideas, and how businesses can create better environments for innovation.

You’ve got your hand in a lot of projects. How do you deal with the challenge of implementing all your different ideas?

Years ago, when I would have ideas it used to do my head in, because I was trying to make them work by myself. I thought, “I’ve got to own it 100 percent, so I have to build everything about it.” But as I got older I realized, “No, I’m an ideas person.” I can take an idea through prototype. If it’s a TV series, I can shoot a little bit, give it a great title, and write a draft. Now, I’m not going to try and make that series; I’m going to meet with a company that makes TV shows in that genre. And I’m just going to retain a small amount of ownership, because I want to do other things. Before, I’d get tangled up in the making of the thing. It took six months out of my life. Now we have partnerships.

The best thing, in the end, is to relinquish a lot of control. Because that allows you to be free thinking. I’d rather have 10 percent of something that took off than 100 percent of something that’s still on the table. When you’ve got a whole ideas factory, then you’ve got 10 percent or 15 percent of 50 different things. They can all be happening at once, but we’re not worrying about that because we’re not the ones making them.

What do you do with an idea once you’ve hatched it? How do you find partners to work with?

I’ve created a TV series called “Malibu Country.” When we first presented it to the producer, the presentation was a wooden box that looked like an apple box. When you opened it up, there was a “Malibu Country” shirt, music on a CD, the script treatment on a brown piece of paper. It looked like a country store. Because in my mind, it will be a store: It’ll be “Malibu Country” store, and it’ll be full of all the lifestyle feeling that the TV show is about. That’s all laid out in the presentation. When you go to someone with this, they either like it or they don’t, but they can see that you’re going to do this. Somebody is going to produce it. So they go, “Oh shit, I better not make a mistake in my decision here. This might be a huge hit!” It’s very different than just walking in and saying, “I’ve got an idea.”

You say your ideas are born out of chaos. But a lot of people in business are scared by not being in control. When you’re working with businesses like Nokia, how are you getting them to change their habits?

The creative process is chaotic. I’m not saying that when you’re executing an idea as a business that it has to be chaotic, too, but there needs to be a playroom where you can throw paint about. That should exist in all businesses, really. Because if everybody’s just sitting around analyzing everything — “Oh, we’re going to make this widget a bit smaller this year” — someone else is going to slam them from the side, and they’ll be wiped out. You see that happen all the time.

Nokia, and all the device companies, are now realizing, “We’re at the distribution point of all this content and media, and that thing in your pocket is almost like a remote control to your world.” They had tons of people on staff designing phones and all the stuff you need to make a great device company. But now it’s like, “Well, we wouldn’t mind creating content that drew people toward our devices. What is a real game-changing thing we could do with our devices?” I worked with Tim Kring on one that just hit Britain in June. [Conspiracy for Good, a massive multi-player entertainment property that blends gaming, story telling, and projects for social good.] It’s a real interesting blindside to the whole way gaming, television, networking, everything works. I’ve just created something else, a prime-time Saturday-night television show, and I brought that to Nokia. It’s another diverse way of creating content that’s on your TV, but there’s extra content on Ovi, which is Nokia’s cloud-computing site.

Another thing I like from your book is the idea of having a 48-hour business plan, not a 5-year plan. Weapons of Mass Entertainment can’t really have a strategic plan. So how do you lead a group of people through that kind of uncertainty?

I look at it a bit like sailing a ship. You always have somebody awake on deck with the binoculars, looking out. Businesses often don’t do that; they’re all down below, working away.

I want to be a new media company for a new age. What does that mean? Well, one thing I know is it relies on creating very interesting content and being able to deliver it in all sorts of ways for many platforms. Years ago, if you were making a musical, you’d make the musical, and then people queued up and bought tickets for it. It was marketed in the New York Times or on Broadway. Now it’s like, “Well hang on, you’ve got to have an app, and inside that app are four free songs and insights into the world of the musical, and guess what? You just press that button, and you’ve bought your ticket.” Fifty years ago, you never would have thought of all this stuff. Some kid would just be selling tickets out on the street.

Photo of Dave Stewart by John Attwell

Watch video clips from this interview:

How to Run an Ideas Factory Click here.

Putting Ideas Into Action Click here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Performance Reviews: Yes or No?

Here is an article written by Deanna Hartley for the November 2009 issue of Talent Management magazine. It is followed by an article written by Erin Conroy for the Careers feature on MSNBC.com blog.

*     *     *

Is It Time to Ditch Year-End Performance Reviews?

It’s almost that time of year. Managers and their teams are gearing up for a familiar holiday tradition: end-of-year performance appraisals.

“It’s probably the most hated activity for managers and employees in business,” said Aubrey Daniels, author of OOPS! 13 Management Practices That Waste Time and Money [click here]. “If you’ve got something very few people like, then you’ve got to believe it’s either a waste of time or there must be a better way to do it.”

There are a few fundamental flaws with annual performance reviews, Daniels explained. For one, no matter how good a manager is at documenting things, it’s often too late to do anything about it. Having reviews just once a year hardly helps employees improve their performance.

“Data shows that people don’t change — the same things appear in the performance appraisal every year, [which indicates that] either people are not taking it seriously or they’re not making improvements,” Daniels said. “It’s a system that’s broken, and they’ve been tweaking [it] for more than 50 years — at some point, you’ve got to say tweaking is not going to work because you’re tweaking something that’s broken. Some major changes have to be made.”

Daniels proposes organizations ditch the annual reviews and replace them with a different kind of system in which employees are more likely to be productive.
For example, meetings could occur on a monthly basis, giving a manager and an employee the opportunity to sit down and talk about the employee’s performance the previous month.

The content and the outcome of the meeting are of primary importance, Daniels explained.

“[In terms of content,] it generally focuses on their accomplishments — what they’ve done, what they’ve done well, what improvements they’ve made. It also focuses on what they might be able to do better,” Daniels said. “The manager’s job is to come up with a couple of things that would help [the employee perform] better. [Managers] have got to get away from the judgment aspect of performance appraisals and move more toward the coaching aspect.”

Similarly, a key outcome of the meeting should be that the employee knows exactly what he or she needs to do to improve performance. 
 
In any session with a manager and an employee, the latter should always come out of the meeting feeling energized and have tangible information that can help enhance his or her job performance, Daniels explained.

“A manager might meet with a salesperson and say, ‘You need to be more aggressive.’ Well, what does that mean?” he said. “[Managers should] spell it out in terms of precisely what they want [employees] to do, [like], ‘Make more calls every day.’ That might not be the critical behavior in terms of sales, but assuming it was, that is much more helpful than saying ‘be more aggressive.’” 
 
This type of feedback can lead to improved on-the-job performance, which in turn yields bottom-line impact.

“The best job you’ll ever have is one where you know at the end of every day how well you’ve done,” he said. “Behavior change without feedback is almost impossible, so the more formal and the more frequent the feedback, the more improvement [managers will] see.”

Deanna Hartley is an associate editor at Mediatec Publishing, the publisher of both Talent Management and Chief Learning Officer magazines. Click here to sign up for a free subscription to one or both.

*     *     *

Want to improve performance? Cancel reviews.

Want to lower morale, reduce productivity and undermine the relationship between the boss and his or her subordinates? Give an annual performance review, say authors of a recently published book deeming the practice bogus.

Pay and performance reviews are merely tools used to intimidate employees, said Samuel Culbert, a professor of management at UCLA and author of Get Rid of the Performance Review! published by Business Plus. [Click here.] Lawrence Rout, a senior editor at the Wall Street Journal, also contributed to the book.

“It is the most pretentious, fraudulent, ill-advised exercise taking place at companies, and I can’t understand why,” Culbert said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“It does nothing but cause angst and anxiety.”

Companies administer the reviews because they feel they have no alternative for measuring an employee’s performance, Culbert said. He suggests employers should instead have “performance previews,” which would encourage dialogue and also hold management responsible for productivity.

Employers should ask workers how they think an assignment can best be done, so that the boss can offer feedback and potentially avoid problems, Culbert said.

“We want people talking and learning the lessons of their experience, not defending their mistakes,” Culbert said. “Instead of employees failing and getting fired, let’s see management roll up their sleeves and pitch in to do what needs to be done so that there’s joint accountability.”

But if there aren’t performance reviews, how will companies justify firings and layoffs?

“If people aren’t learning the lessons implied by the mistakes they’re making, it will be obvious and easy enough to get them out the door and on the road,” Culbert said. “You don’t need a checklist for that.”

*     *     *

Erin Conroy is a business editor for the Associated Press.

Thursday, August 19, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just How Do You Make An Honest Living Online? Or anywhere else?

This is from a recent book review on Business Week.  The book, I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works:  Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted by Nick Bilton (Crown Business) got only two stars from the reviewer Paul Barrett.  Read the review here.

The reviewer basically thinks that the author doesn’t know how the future works.  The Business Week review page has this nifty little summary for each book:

The Good:
The Bad:
The Bottom Line:

In Barrett’s review, he wrote this:

The Bottom Line: It’s time for Internet cheerleaders to make more serious proposals about how to make an honest living online.

His review ends this way:

This seems, at best, naïve. Left alone with an Internet connection, most kids will waste time. (As will most adults.) Nothing wrong with having fun, but let’s not pretend they’re going to somehow absorb history, biology, current events, or any other subject that makes long-form content worthy of the time investment. I’d like to meet a set of parents who, as a matter of common sense, prefer their kid play video games rather than ride a bike, collect bugs in a jar, or read a good book.

As for the video game lessons to be learned by mainstream businesses, Bilton doesn’t offer any. “I don’t have any great answers or easy solutions to bringing in more revenue in a digital world,” he concedes—a major letdown. Given how much has been written about the Internet and the future of media, it’s time for the digital boosters to begin thinking more rigorously about—and offering solutions for—two pressing problems: the alluring but harmfully distracting underside of virtual entertainment and the desperate need for ideas about how to make an honest living in an online media world.

I think — that this is one of the great challenges in this era.  And though it is a challenge for the online world, it is also a bigger challenge.  How do you make money in this brave, new world? Companies are slashing jobs, partly because they can produce more with fewer people.  And the list of people who start these wonderful new small businesses (that we hear so much about) that don’t quite make it is amazingly long.

This is a challenging time!

Thursday, August 19, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , | Leave a comment

Still Surprised: A review by Bob Morris

Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Business
Warren Bennis with Patricia Ward Biederman
Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint (2010)

I have read and reviewed most (if not all) of Warren Bennis’ books and most of his articles. This book is different from anything he has written previously because Bennis allows his student to accompany him on a journey back in time. Written with the considerable assistance of Patricia Ward Biederman (who was also centrally involved with earlier works such as Organizing Genius, Transparency, and The Essential Bennis), this volume combines a wealth of historical information with Bennis’ comments on those he believes to have had the great influence on both his personal and professional development as well as reminiscences on those experiences, events, successes and especially failures, defining moments, and cultural forces that serve as a frame-of-reference for his personal and professional relationships.

Bennis was born on March 5, 1925, and grew up in Westwood, NJ. However, he does not follow a chronological sequence when developing his narrative. In the first chapter, “The Crucible of War,” he focuses on his World War Two experiences in the U.S. Army at age 19, “the rawest second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.” Following the conclusion of the war, he realized that he didn’t want his old life back and probably could not have had it even if he wanted it. “I wanted to invent a new one.” The next chapter focuses on his years as a student at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The contrasts between the indescribable horrors of war and the pastoral innocence and serenity of a liberal college campus are especially striking. Although deeply grateful for the experiences both worlds provided (especially what he learned from mentors such as Captain Bessinger and Douglas McGregor) but ever restless, Bennis and his newlywed wife (the former Lucille Rose) relocated to the Boston area where he continued his formal education at MIT.

To this point and indeed until the conclusion of the book, the reader tags along as a companion to whom Bennis confides without hesitation but with selection of what (then or now) most interests him but also what perplexes, irritates, and even angers him. At times, at least to this reader, he seems 85, at other times the age he was in a given situation or stage of his journey. The nature of the memoir is that it consists of what the memory recalls, to be sure, but also what it selects to share. Bennis remembers more than he shares, for obvious reasons, but the accumulative effect is one of candor. He immediately establishes an informal, almost conversation tone with his reader without seeming disingenuous or self-serving.

If there were a Mt. Rushmore monument for the business world, Bennis would probably be among the honorees (surely joined by Peter Drucker and hopefully by one of my intellectual heroines, Mary Parker Follett). Although Bennis shares a number of personal details, such as those concerning his various marriages, I have no interest in them as a reviewer of this book but mention his disclosures merely to suggest that -as is also true of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln – Warren Bennis is an imperfect human being,

I very much admire his insatiable curiosity that continues to explore and his sense of wonder that continues to delight. With book in hand, and as an eager companion, I hope to share at least some of the new adventures that await this pilgrim who is “still surprised.”

To those who share my high regard for this book, I also recommend other memoirs such as Peter Drucker’s Adventures of a Bystander, Andrew Grove’s Swimming Across, Alfred Sloan’s My Years with General Motors, and John Whitehead’s A Life in Leadership.

Thursday, August 19, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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