All great organizations have their own “way” of doing what they do and how they do it. That is certainly true of Pixar Animation Studios, co-founded in 1984 by Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith. While leading the computer graphics division at Lucasfilm, they hired John Lasseter whose personal credo was and remains “heart, inventiveness, and inspiration.” He once observed, “Quality is the best business model of all.”
Bill Capodaglio and Lynn Jackson co-authored Innovate the Pixar Way: Business Lessons from the World’s Most Creative Playground. They explain how the talents, experiences, values, and (especially) the visions of these three geniuses – Catmull, Smith, and Lasseter – co-created an organization that continues to produce animated feature films of unsurpassed quality. The first film, Luxo Jr., was a computer-generated animated (CGI) film lasting about two minutes (1986).
The series of feature-length animated films began with Toy Story (1995), followed by A Bug’s Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters, Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Cars (2006), Ratatouille (2007), WALL-E (2008), Up (2009), and Toy Story 3 (2010). All CGI films were released under the Walt Disney Pictures banner. Many of the “business lessons” to which the book’s subtitle refers are provided in a series of “Chalkboard” summaries at the conclusion of chapters.
In my opinion, these are “business lessons” that will be most helpful to most people:
• Develop an open, inquiring mind
• Frame communications in the form of a story with setting, characters, plot, crises, etc.
• Think long-term and the Big Picture in mind at all times
• But also nail the fundamentals
• Take as much time as necessary (but no more) to do what must be done as well as it can be done
• Help create and then sustain a workplace culture within which imagination is stimulated, prudent risks are encouraged, and visions are nourished (i.e. a “playground”)
• Develop reasoning skills that absorb, digest, integrate, and synthesize different perspectives
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out David A. Price’s The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company and Karen Paik’s To Infinity and Beyond! The Story of Pixar Animation Studios.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
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The Big Shift presents many challenges, including developing new practices and institutions. But from our experience, the greatest challenge will be creating a new mindset, one that stands in stark contrast to the dominant mindset of the push world. A mindset is comprised of assumptions (in this case about how to succeed) so basic that they are rarely made explicit, much less challenged and refined. Yet these assumptions drive all of the decisions and actions we take to address the growing pressures around us. Our next few postings will examine some of the key dimensions of the new mindset that is needed to harness the power of pull.
The time horizon: “Pull” does not mean thinking only about the short-term
Many of the people we have talked to about our book have the misconception that pull is driven by a short-term mindset. After all, one of the key drivers of the move from push to pull platforms is the increasing difficulty in forecasting and predicting demand and the consequent challenges this presents. If change is so constant and disruptive that it makes predicting the future impossible, what is the point of taking a long-term perspective? Pull lets you respond rapidly and effectively to near-term developments, but a short-term mindset undermines the potential power of pull. Paradoxically, successful deployment of pull techniques designed to cope with near-term uncertainty actually requires an increased focus on long-term direction.
As one moves up the levels of pull, a long-term view becomes increasingly important:
Accessing resources when and where they are needed works in the near-term but can become totally reactive if you adopt only a short-term perspective. You respond to the latest events but risk never getting enough attention and effort focused against any one initiative to make progress. Whether you own them or not, resources must be managed and used in a way that makes progress.
Achieving impact requires ensuring a critical mass of resources and attention. Easier access can lure us into spreading ourselves way too thin across too many fronts. Critical mass requires making choices about what to pursue longer-term and to avoid the momentary distractions that can drain resources and attention.
Attracting resources that can help you succeed often seems to function in the short-term (such as the serendipitous encounter just when you need it). Attract actually works better if you (as an individual or an institution) can define and communicate your long-term direction and quests. What domains are of greatest interest and what are your performance goals? These act as beacons to attract people who share an interest in, and can help support, longer-term efforts and allow you to make choices that improve the odds of connecting with those people, shaping serendipity.
Without this guidance, we compound the problem of wasted resources and lost attention that occurs with short-term reactive access — we attract people who can help with near-term events, intensifying the focus on short-term stimuli and consuming attention without making any progress toward longer-term objectives.
Achieving our full potential through collaboration and experimentation is where the long-term view is especially important. Learning, sustainable performance improvement, and talent development all occur over a longer timeframe. Interesting and challenging quests can engage the passions of the people in your organization and mobilize a critical mass of participants in the right direction. Long-term quests also help to focus all of the experimentation and tinkering, providing a clear context and framework for evaluating progress and enhancing performance feedback loops. Without long-term goals, it will be difficult for the organization to connect with individuals’ passions or to transform activities into achievement.
Resolving the paradox: the long-term guides the near-term
The paradox we cited at the outset can be resolved: the long-term view is not a detailed forecast but a high-level direction, a trajectory and a set of challenging goals, which help to focus and guide near-term efforts.
How do we arrive at a long-term perspective that is useful and relevant in a world of pull?
The following three questions frame the issue:
• What will the relevant markets and industries require for success in 10-20 years?
• What are the implications for the kind of company we will need to become, the kinds of relationships we will need to develop beyond our company, and the kind of performance we will need to achieve?
• What are the implications for the practices that we, as individuals, will need to adopt and the kind of performance we will need to achieve?
This long-term view is built on understanding the deep forces that are shaping the business landscape over decades. We have to be explicit about the assumptions we make about these forces and their impact so that we can test and monitor them. While scenario-thinking may be appropriate, you have to choose one. Usually it’s the one that seems most likely or which you have the ability to shape, to orient your actions and choices. This perspective about the future helps us make sense of the changes playing out around us, focuses our efforts and provides important feedback loops.
Pull requires alternating perspectives: short and long
The key for pull is to iterate rapidly back and forth between two horizons — long-term direction and short-term (6-12 month) action. This ability to rapidly zoom in and out — to dive into the details of near-term choices and actions and then pull back to assess longer-term implications and guide the next wave of choices and decisions — is also a key element of the entrepreneurial mindset.
This type of iterative thinking can create a powerful form of productive friction. Conflicts arise as we repeatedly test our actions and findings against two time horizons; the process of resolving these conflicts can lead to new insights about our quests. In the corporate context, we call this as a FAST strategy (Focus, Accelerate, Strengthen and Tie it together), but it applies to individuals as well. We need to alternate between evaluating and adjusting our long-term goals in response to new developments and using our long-term direction to guide near-term choices and actions. In its most powerful form, this simultaneous attention to two time horizons can become the basis of successful shaping strategies that we have discussed elsewhere.
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John Hagel III and John Seely Brown are co-chairmen of the Deloitte LLP Center for the Edge, and have written several books focused on technology and innovation. Their most recent book is The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion co-authored with Lang Davison and published by Basic Books (2010).
I want to tell you about a friend of mine. He is a doctor. He performs an important out-patient surgery. His calendar is full. He arrives in his office early in the morning, and the first surgery is scheduled pretty much right off the bat. I have lunch with him about once a month. I bring lunch to his office. He walks into his office for lunch just having finished with a patient. He has one hour, and usually has to make a phone call or two before we can visit – to other doctors, about the needs of his or their patients. He then operates on others through the afternoon. He has an amazing support staff. They keep his schedule flowing smoothly.
He takes off early one afternoon a week. On that afternoon, he catches up on “paper work,” and reads professional journals. This really is mandatory reading for a man in his profession. (He also gives lectures to others in his field). He is very, very good at what he does. D Magazine listed him as among the best in the city for his type of medical practice.
He has more than one child – at the age where they do everything: soccer, baseball, Lacrosse, and that’s just the activities I remember. He described a recent weekend, and it was multiple locations, multiple events, all week-end long. He is a former top level athlete, in great shape, and he was exhausted by the demands of the weekend.
His wife is also a Doctor, with the advantage of working a self-imposed reduced schedule. But when she works, she works as hard as he does. (She is also very, very good at what she does!)
So, I have a question: when will he read books that would be “good to read?”
He is not lazy; he is not a poor time-manager; he is simply too busy doing his job and serving/enjoying his family to read books that he wishes he had time to read.
When you read this blog, you are inundated with book titles that make you say: “I need to read that.” And so you buy the book, open the book…but, I suspect that your stack of partially read books is becoming a mountain.
I don’t have a solution to this problem. I do know that my Doctor friend needs to be doing what he is doing, and reading the books may never make it into his schedule.
By the way, I share most of my book synopsis handouts with him. It is not enough; it is not as good as hearing the synopsis while following along with the handout. It is not as good as reading the book himself. But he can find the few minutes it takes to read the handouts that I point out to him as especially valuable, and he is grateful.
I asked him recently if my handouts are valuable to him. He said “absolutely!” He was not hesitant. He said they give him ideas, help him think about his practice, especially the “business end” of his practice. And he said that he simply would never have time to read the books themselves.
I would never think less of him for not finding time to read the books; I’ve seen his work ethic. If I need his kind of medical attention, I want it from him. He provides exactly what people need.
You may be as busy as my friend. Or, you may have friends who are that busy. A little insight from a book is better than none at all, isn’t it? And our synopses provide more than just a little insight from the books we present. We provide two pages of key quotes from the books; the outline of the key content; and if you can find time to listen to the audio, you hear a cool/key/enlightening story or two.
No, it’s not as good as reading the book for yourself. But it is not nothing!
You can order our synopses, for yourself or that busy friend of yours, with handout + audio from our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
Bob Morris, my colleague on this blog, has written more than once about the power of “followership.” Followership is valuable. So – consider this…
I am convinced that if journalists covered any story the way that the Dallas Morning News covers the Dallas Cowboys, we’d understand, and then solve, every problem in the country in a week.
You should have seen the paper the morning after Wade Phillips was fired. You needed the physical paper – the on-line version simply did not have the over-all impact of the two page spread with the charts and graphics and analysis, all in one big overwhelming visual. Seriously, the News covers few stories with the detail and creativity that they demonstrate in their coverage of the Dallas Cowboys.
Anyway, Jason Garrett is the new (interim) coach, and we think he may have pulled off the miracle of the decade last night in beating the New York Giants yesterday. But there was this item on the Cowboys blog by Todd Archer (on the News web site) that just really rubbed me the wrong way. Jason Garrett comes in providing clear directions, with leadership that is clearly desperately needed. But leaders have to be followed. And this one guy – well, if this account is true, he’s just a jerk! Here’s the account:
Jason Garrett made it clear that players were required to wear sport coats, ties, slacks and dress shoes for road trips. After all, today’s game against the New York Giants is a business trip.
Hanging around the Jersey City Westin on Saturday night when the team arrived, I noticed Marion Barber was in a sport coat and jeans without a tie. Everybody else I saw – and it was not everybody – met Garrett’s requirement.
Is it a big deal? Not really but there is a level of disrespect being shown by not following the dress code in the first week. And it gives Garrett the chance to send a message, whether he does it publicly or not. Players will know what happens.
What makes it worse, to me, is that Barber is a team captain and he chose not to follow Garrett’s rules. What kind of message does that send to the team as a captain?
We’ll see the post-game attire. Players are required to return home in suits too. That was not the case under Wade Phillips.
Thought leaders are those who generate thoughts that attract others’ interest, adoption, and advocacy. Here is an excerpt from an article written by Dorie Clark for the Harvard Business Review blog. In it, she shares her own no-nonsense thoughts about thought leadership, accompanied by several specific suggestions. If only one of her insights or recommendations proves helpful to you, she will be gratified and you will be rewarded for reading her article.
To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
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It’s gospel that you have to cultivate your personal brand, particularly if you have designs on the C suite. But because everyone has a brand nowadays (Tom Peters describes it as “your promise to the marketplace and the world”) simply having one is insufficient if you want to advance. You can’t just be known as “the guy who speaks Spanish” or “the programmer who can explain things well” or “that woman in legal who gets things done fast.” That’s nice — but there are a million of you, and in a globalized world, your company can find an alternative to you fast. That’s why you need to establish yourself as a thought leader. Good employees and good executives are nice to have. Thought leaders are irreplaceable — and indispensible.
So how do you build a reputation as a singular expert — someone who doesn’t just participate in the conversation, but drives it? In a word: leverage. No matter how brilliant and talented you are, you won’t be sufficiently appreciated within your organization or by your customers until the broader public recognizes you. This outside reinforcement becomes an echo chamber that brings money and respect. How to get it?
Follow these six steps to jump-start your thought leadership. Not all avenues will be open to you at the start, but most will in time.
[Here are the first three. To read the complete article, please click here.]
1. Create a Robust Online Presence. Not everyone can immediately jump to international prominence (CNN probably won’t book you as a talking head if you’ve never been on local TV). But everyone can start here, with an online beachhead. Blogs are particularly good because they showcase your knowledge — and search engines prize the frequent stream of fresh content. Most blogs are unloved and unread — but yours can be different with a little time and elbow grease. Good content is key, of course, but so is making friends (online and off) with other bloggers to create a virtuous, networked circle. Some of the best advice is from Chris Brogan, an otherwise unfamous guy who has been blogging for a decade, made himself a critical cog in the blogger world, and has turned it into big-time book contracts and bestsellers.
2. Flaunt High-Quality Affiliations. This one is often more about luck than anything else (I might be blogging this post from the White House if I’d been a high-ranking staffer for Barack Obama instead of for Howard Dean), but if you’ve got well-known connections, flaunt them and leverage them. Ivy League pedigree? Stint at McKinsey? Testimonial quotes from industry celebs? It’s credibility by proxy.
3. Give Public Speeches. Given the terror that public speaking instills in most people, your street cred will automatically skyrocket when you take the stage. Start with Rotary and the local Chamber of Commerce, and work your way up to associations, conferences, and in-house gigs for major corporations (you can literally write them a letter, suggest a topic, and ask to be considered). Buy the National Trade and Professional Associations directory to find out who to contact, and double-dip the benefit by promoting your engagements relentlessly (showcasing your desirability to others), and recording everything so you can cross-post like a maniac on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Your goal is ubiquity.
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Do You want to Communicate Clearly? – Economize words! (“The Future Belongs to the Best Editors,” says Jason Fried)
My colleague Karl Krayer teaches eight principles in his sessions on writing skills. One principle is this: economize words. It is a valuable principle.
I recently took some Q&A. The last question was asked by a guy in the front row. He said “What’s your take on the true value of a university education?” I shared my general opinion (summary: great socially, but not realistic enough academically) and ended with a description of a course I’d like to see taught in college. In fact, I’d like to teach it.
It would be a writing course. Every assignment would be delivered in five versions: A three page version, a one page version, a three paragraph version, a one paragraph version, and a one sentence version.
I don’t care about the topic. I care about the editing. I care about the constant refinement and compression. I care about taking three pages and turning it one page. Then from one page into three paragraphs. Then from three paragraphs into one paragraph. And finally, from one paragraph into one perfectly distilled sentence.
Along the way you’d trade detail for brevity. Hopefully adding clarity at each point. This is important because I believe editing is an essential skill that is often overlooked and under appreciated. The future belongs to the best editors.
I do think this is right; good; useful.
On the other hand, the details matter too. “You’d trade detail for brevity,” said Fried. Yes, you would. So, study the writing of both Michael Lewis and Malcolm Gladwell. I think they both have learned how to provide great detail, with few words.
So – learn what Fried suggests, then work on getting detail back in, in few words. Economize words, even in your details.
And remember this from Frank Luntz. Provide the “perfectly distilled sentence.” Then the one-page executive summary. Then, for those who want more, in a click away, provide the three pages of details:
(A Luntz Lesson) The number one priority: information. More is better than less. Details are better than generalities. Comprehensive is better than simplistic. Long term is better than immediate… Summarize the material for those who want to read less, but provide the fine print for those who want to know more.
(from What Americans REALLY WANT…REALLY: The Truth about our Hopes, Dreams, and Fears)
To read other articles and obtain a free online and/or print subscription to Talent Management and Chief Learning Officer magazines, please click here.
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High-performance team members often make the best leaders later in their careers, right? Wrong. Too often superstar employees are promoted to leadership positions only to falter or fail. How can organizations resolve the disconnect between employee and leader?
Organizations that recruit right-fit candidates and provide leadership training can create a high-performance organization by building bench strength from the point of hire, helping talented professionals develop the necessary skills to become effective leaders.
Qualify Candidates for Long-Term Growth To recruit effectively — whether that’s identifying internal talent or sourcing externally — organizations need to accurately pinpoint the qualities of a productive employee or team leader so success can be defined in advance and accurately predicted. Many factors must be considered when bridging the connection between an entry-level candidate today and tomorrow’s right-fit leader.
For example, the day-to-day requirements of non-management positions require different skill sets than a manager’s ability to recruit, hire, train, manage, motivate and coach a team or an entire department. Moreover, competencies required for success differ based on each unique organization — including a company’s industry, corporate culture, customer type and market environment.
How do organizations sort through all these different factors and define what makes someone a successful employee or leader before he or she even enters the company? By understanding the diverse requirements for each role, organizations can recruit effectively, accelerate leadership readiness and build the bench strength necessary for a high-performance organization.
According to Manpower’s fifth annual Talent Shortage Survey of 35,000 employers across 36 countries, 31 percent of employers worldwide are having difficulty filling positions due to the lack of suitable talent available in their markets.
This statistic further proves that recruiting the right talent is a challenging task. Establishing a corporate competency model helps eliminate unqualified candidates early in the hiring process so recruiters and hiring managers spend time interviewing only potential best-fit candidates.
It’s important to establish a competency model that reflects the attributes and skills of successful leaders as defined by the company culture. To recruit effectively for a culture, managers must first understand it.
Questions to consider are:
• What are the values, beliefs, assumptions, principles and norms that define the company’s culture?
• Is communication formal or informal in the company?
• How does the company handle conflict?
• What is the company’s leadership style?
• What is the company’s attitude toward training and development?
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Sarah Peiker is director of recruiting solutions for Manpower. She can be reached at email@example.com.
In Thomas O. Davenport’s latest book, co-authored with Stephen D. Harding, the focus is much narrower than in his previous book, Human Capital: What It Is and Why People Invest It. More specifically, it is primarily on those who comprise middle management, who labor “between the world of employees and the territory occupied by senior leaders.” That said, my own opinion is that C-level executives should also read this book because they possess the authority to decide whether or not to adopt and then support what Davenport and Harding characterize as “a new model of manager performance.”
Here are the four categories of manager performance requirements, Pages 52-56:
Executing Tasks: “This element comprises planning work, clarifying job-related roles, structuring specific job tasks, monitoring performance, and making the necessary adjustments to ensure the work meets organizational needs and supports business strategy.”
Developing People: “The next element of the performance model calls for managers to create opportunities for each employee to add to her storehouse of human capital. In doing so, managers create the ability for people to carry out their jobs and achieve their goals.
Delivering the Deal: “Managers play a central role in brokering the exchange of each employee’s investment of human capital for the portfolio of financial and nonfinancial, intrinsic and extrinsic rewards that constitute a return on that investment. We refer to this reciprocal arrangement as the deal between employee and enterprise.”
Energizing Change: “Effective managers look ahead in time and outside the boundaries of their units and their organizations to anticipate and respond to environmental shifts and to envision, plan for, and create the future.”
Although none of these observations is a head-snapping revelation (nor do Davenport and Harding make any such claim), together they provide an eminently sensible framework within which to flesh out the specific performance expectations for each manager in the given organization, whatever its size and nature may be.
The four elements are best viewed with an outside-in perspective whereas their foundation, Davenport and Harding correctly note, consists of self-awareness, relational transparency, balanced processing of relevant information, and an internalized moral perspective. These are the “underpinnings” of a manager’s authenticity.
Davenport and Harding devote a separate chapter to each of the four elements In Part II: Implementation, Chapters 5-8, and then in the next chapter they focus on how to connect authenticity and trust, how to build trust through authenticity, and what the implications of management performance are. I especially appreciate their provision of a brief Summary at the conclusion of each of the ten chapters. His reader-friendly device will enable, indeed expedite periodic review of key points.