Here is an excerpt from an article written by Joan Magretta for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.
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I’ve just finished reading Jim Collins’ latest book, Great By Choice (which he co-authored with Morten Hansen). Collins is a smart observer and a gifted writer. It’s hard to put down a Collins book feeling anything but…well, inspired. He’s the coach or the Dad you always wanted. You can do it, he says. You really can. You can choose to be great.
Collins has a knack for asking good questions. In a series of books starting with Built to Last, Collins has addressed every manager’s ultimate anxiety: performance. Each new book finds just the right question, the point of intersection between the timeless issue — performance — and the timely challenge managers are grappling with today. Great By Choice, for example, focuses on why some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, when others do not. Collins works through the question like a detective trying to solve a mystery.
Maybe that’s why reading Great By Choice reminded me of a Sherlock Holmes story — the one about the dog who didn’t bark while the racehorse was stolen from its barn. How did Holmes identify the perpetrator? It was, he told the baffled Scotland Yard inspector, “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” But, the inspector replied, “The dog did nothing in the night-time.” Precisely Holmes’s point: “That was the curious incident.” The dog, he reasoned, must have known the thief.
There is one incredibly quiet dog in Collins’ work: strategy. Collins is a master at putting the human face on performance. That, in my opinion, is a significant contribution. Get the right people on the bus. Be disciplined. Be empirical. Be creative. And so on. But good strategy makes the link between the specific actions managers take and the financial results of those actions. Assuming you can figure out who belongs on your bus, someone still must pick a destination. Is it really enough to choose to be great? Don’t you also have to make great choices?
Or let me tone down the rhetoric a notch. You have to make good choices. And that’s where Michael Porter enters the picture. Strategy is not some arcane, academic abstraction. Strategy is about making choices that lead to sustainably superior performance. And the kind of performance I’m talking about can, and must, be rigorously defined and quantified. Porter’s work provides that rigor, as it defines the economic fundamentals of competition and strategy. And most important for managers, Porter’s five tests of good strategy can help you to tell the difference between good choices and bad.
So what are good choices?
[Magretta suggests five "tests" by which to determine whether or not a choice is good or bad. To read the complete article, please click here.]
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Joan Magretta is a senior associate at the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School. She is the author of Understanding Michael Porter: The Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy.
I thought the article by Jonah Lehrer in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Why You Didn’t Hit Reply: Online, Friends Still Get Premium Treatment“ (December 10-11, 2011, p. C32) was very interesting. You can read the entire article by clicking here.
He says, “an easy way to see how you feel about a person: How long does it take you to return their email?”
In the article, he cites a new study from Northwestern University researchers that found we exchange the highest volume of e-Mail with those whom we know the least. They are people who you would not talk with on the phone, or stop to exchange ideas on the street.
Yet, the volume of e-Mail, however, says nothing about our response patterns. People reply to their close friends within seven hours. Professional contacts average nearly 11 hours. But, people whom we don’t know jumped to 50 hours. “In other words, there’s a surprising easy way to figure out how you feel about someone – just count the hours before you hit the ‘reply’ button.”
He goes on to say, “this study is a reminder that even in a world transformed by digital devices, the most important things remain constant. Although we can interact with anyone, we still respond most quickly to our closest friends. We now know many more people, but we haven’t forgotten which members of our circle really matter.”
Do you think this is true in your own case? Do you have a clearly identifiable response pattern for your e-Mail? If so, what kind of response patterns do you have?
Let’s talk about it really soon!
With just days to go until the end of 2011 (Where did the year go???), legendary film critic Roger Ebert has announced his top 20 movies of the year. Just as you’d expect from Ebert, his list runs the gamut from mainstream blockbusters to more obscure foreign or arthouse projects — with enough in the latter category to offer up some useful suggestions for your Netflix queue. Read his list after the jump.
1. A Separation — “‘A Separation’ will become one of those enduring masterpieces watched decades from now.”
2. Shame — “Michael Fassbender’s brave, uncompromising performance is at the center of Steve McQueen’s merciless film about sex addiction.”
3. The Tree of Life — “A film of vast ambition and deep humility, attempting no less than to encompass all of existence and view it through the prism of a few infinitesimal lives.”
4. Hugo — “Could anyone but Scorsese have made this subject so magical and enchanting?”
5. Take Shelter — “Director Jeff Nichols builds his suspense carefully.”
6. Kinyarwanda — “[A]n independent film of great emotional impact.”
7. Drive — “‘Drive’ looks like one kind of thriller in the ads, and it is that kind of thriller, but also another and a rebuke to most of the movies it looks like.”
8. Midnight in Paris — “A fabulous daydream for American lit majors.”
9. Le Havre — “Aki Kaurismaki is a Finnish director who makes dour, deadpan comedies about people who shrug their way through misfortune. They have a hypnotic fascination for me.”
10. The Artist — “What audacity to make a silent film in black and white in 2011, and what a film Michel Hazanavicius has made!”
11. Melancholia — “The details matter less than the grand overarching mood.”
12. Terri — “He may be a kid who is fat and weird, but he’s much more than fat and weird.”
13. The Descendants — “George Clooney in one of his best performances.”
14. Margaret — “[W]hat’s important is the conflict between the young woman’s perfectionism and things as they are.”
15. Martha Marcy May Marlene — “[B]uilds on the strong Elizabeth Olsen to show how easily groups can control their members.”
16. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 — “[A] solid and satisfying conclusion.”
17. Trust — “The bravest thing about David Schwimmer’s ‘Trust’ is that it doesn’t try to simplify.”
18. Life, Above All — “The seriousness and solemnity with which she performs this task is heart-rending and heart-warming.”
19. The Mill and the Cross — “Any description would be an injustice… It is a film before which words fall silent.”
20. Another Earth — “This one doesn’t presage the end of the world, but represents perhaps our very same Earth, in another universe that has now become visible.”
In addition, Ebert lists several more of his favorites that didn’t make the list, “some fully the equal of some of these.” In alphabetical order:
- 13 Assassins
- The Adventures of Tintin
- Blue Valentine
- Boy Wonder
- Certified Copy
- The Future
- The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
- The Guard
- The Help
- Higher Ground
- I Will Follow
- J. Edgar
- The Last Rites of Joe May
- Le Quattro Volte
- Margin Call
- Meek’s Cutoff
- Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
- Mysteries of Lisbon
- My Week with Marilyn
- The Princess of Montpensier
- A Screaming Man
- Silent Souls
- Queen to Play
- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
- The Whistleblower