I am deeply immersed in the book Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamindis and Steven Kotler. I will present my synopsis of this book this Friday (July 6, 2012) at the First Friday Book Synopsis.
The book is partly about me.
For decades, my wife has had to live with a husband who is frequently (ok – almost always) a glass-half-empty kind of person. I am a pessimist. I think things are bad, and getting worse. And I’ve always thought that. I see problems, lots and lots of problems, and don’t see a way out of so many of these problems.
I needed to read this book.
Not only does the book say that things really are getting better – much better! – faster — the subtitle says it all: The Future is Better than you Think – but the book backs it up by demonstrating that it does just keep getting better, and will continue to do so.
“The world is getting better at an accelerating rate,” says Peter Diamindis on the book trailer.
“The day before something is truly a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.”
“Small teams can solve the world’s biggest problems.”
From the book itself, we read that, yes, “These are turbulent times,” but…
We will soon have the ability to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman, and child on the planet. Abundance for all is within our grasp.
Four emerging forces-exponential technologies, the DIY innovator, the Technophilanthropist, and the Rising Billion—are conspiring to solve our biggest problems.
The authors get their confidence from and put their hopes in the forward march of progress, especially scientific and technological progress. Peter Diamindis is the Founder and Chairman of the X Prize Foundation, an educational non-profit prize institute whose mission is to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. In the book, there is a lot of appreciation for Ray Kurzweil, the man behind the claim that the singularity is near – that hour when our computing power matches, and then exceeds, the processing power and speed of the human brain. Thus, the arrival of the singularity is an “event horizon:” “the occurrence of a technological singularity is seen as an intellectual event horizon, beyond which events cannot be predicted or understood.” (from Wikipedia).
And, at the heart of their belief is this: people who believe that things will get better, that problems will be solved, that the future will be better, go to work to make that happen. And with technology connecting all those people, they work “together,” building on the breakthroughs and the insights and the shoulders of all the ones who came before.
Now, back to the Randy problem: why am I such a pessimist? They even explain that. Humans needed pessimism to avoid being eaten out in the wild. If you stop and smell the roses, you won’t notice the beast or the enemy sneaking up on you to devour you for breakfast. It is an evolutionary survival skill to be a pessimist, because then you will always be on the lookout for danger and problems.
But, for today’s era, the breakthroughs are catching up, and winning. So maybe it is time for a major attitude and outlook adjustment. Let me repeat what they wrote:
We will soon have the ability to meet and exceed the needs of every man, woman, and child on the planet. Abundance for all is within our grasp.
Maybe my wife really is right – the glass may not be half empty after all.
(If you are in the DFW area, come join us for our breakfast meeting on Friday, July 6, 7:00 am, at the Park City Club. I will present my synopsis of Abundance, and Karl Krayer will present his synopsis of the book Reverse Innovation. Click here to register).
How and why business leaders who develop a global mindset can help their companies to transcend cultural barriers
Companies cannot become global leaders unless and until their executives “think, act, and lead [them effectively] in a turbulent, transformed world.” This requires a global mindset. Ángel Cabrera and Gregory Unruh provide in this book an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that will help executives in almost any organization (whatever its size and nature) to develop that mindset.
More specifically, leaders who “act as bridge builders, connectors of global resources and talent, dedicated to finding new ways to create value…They have experienced the difficulties of crossing lines in a world that is becoming more tightly connected yet no flatter, where the nuances and differences across cultures are becoming, if anything, more visible and critical. They have found ways to navigate uneven terrain, close gaps, and make a difference for people around the world.” Thus have Cabrera and Unruh identified only a few of many dimensions of what a global mindset must accommodate.
These are among the several dozen passages that caught my eye:
o How global leaders connect, create, and contribute (Pages 23-27)
o Why new global business requires a global mindset (32-39)
o The major benefits of a global mindset for a business (82-86)
o Why global citizenship is an uncommon path to common solutions (121-123)
o How to build prosperity for everyone involved in the given enterprise (140-147)
o How and why leadership makes a difference (169-174)
o The obligations and privileges of “global citizenship” (180)
To their credit, Cabrera and Unruh immediately establish and then sustain a direct and personal rapport with their reader. Thus, when approaching the conclusion of their book, they pose a question and then respond to it: “What can you do to ensure you continue to stretch your global mindset, that your ability to find and create new value remains nimble, and that you continue to value the contributions and protect the interests of those around you? The first step is to recognize that your learning never ends…To strengthen your global entrepreneurship, you need to put yourself in positions that allow you to apply your global mindset to create value…And to grow as a global citizen, you must constantly renew your commitment to making a difference by surrounding yourself with individuals who can support and strengthen your resolve.”
No brief commentary such as this can do full justice to the scope and depth of material that Ángel Cabrera and Gregory Unruh provide in this book. However, for executives in organizations that are or aspire to become global leaders, I think this is a “must read.” I also highly recommend it to executives in other organizations that seek to strengthen their relationships with client partners who are global leaders.
Paul B. Brown is a best-selling author who has written, co-written and “ghosted” numerous best-sellers including Customers for Life (with Carl Sewell.) which has been translated into 19 differently languages and which continues to sell thousands of copies each month, some 23 years after its initial publication. (It has been updated twice.) A long-time contributor to The New York Times, Paul is also a contributing editor to both The Conference Board Review (where he also writes a column) and M.I.T.’s Sloan Management Review.
However, he spends most of his time writing books and has worked with internationally recognized senior executives, such as the president of AT&T and some of the nation’s largest financial services firms. In all, the books he has written–both under his own name as well as those he has ghosted–have sold more nearly 3 million copies worldwide and have made every best-seller list you can think of. A former writer and editor for Business Week, Financial World, Forbes and Inc. Paul is a graduate of Rutgers College and Rutgers University Law School and is a member of both the New Jersey and Massachusetts bar, but he asks that you don’t hold that against him.
His latest book is Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future, co-authored with Leonard A. Schlesinger and Charles F. Kiefer and published by Harvard Business Review Press (March, 2012)
Here is an excerpt from my review of him. To read the complete interview, please click here.
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Morris: Before discussing Just Start, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?
Brown: At the risk of being drummed out of the “Writers of Serious Business Books Union,” I have always loved story tellers. So, songwriters (Lorenz Hart; Johnny Mercer), radio personalities (Jean Shepherd, Klavin and Finch) and writers like Mark Twain; Hunter S. Thompson and people who write great murder mysteries really had a profound influence on me. I wanted to grow up and be one of them. When you combine that with the fact that I have always been extremely curious—both professionally and personally—you can see I am very lucky. I get to do what makes me happiest
Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?
Brown: James Walker Michaels, the long-time editor at Forbes. Michaels, and it is not a stretch to say he invented business journalism, taught me how to think like a business reporter. He took someone who majored in theater arts and history, and didn’t know how to read a balance sheet, i.e. me, and turned him into an okay business reporter.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?
Brown: I have thought about this a lot, and I just don’t know. Clearly, knowing history—especially American history—has been valuable in providing context for what I do. And law school demands that you think logically. So, it was helpful in that sense.
But other than that, I am not sure. The most valuable part of college for me was working four or five hours a day, every day, at the college newspaper. It taught me a) the basics of being a reporter; b) how to write quickly and c) that I loved seeing “by Paul B. Brown” in print.
Morris: What do you know now about business world that you wish you knew when you when to work full-time for the first time? Why?
Brown: I can argue this either way. On the one hand, I would have loved to have had a MBA before I started writing business articles and books. On the other hand, there was a huge benefit of not knowing what I didn’t know so that I could ask questions that most people would think were too basic. (They tend to trigger the best answers.)
Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.
Brown: I can’t think of a single one….although I am partial to How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying when compiling a list of fun movies.
Morris: From which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.
Brown: Let me answer this one generally. I like “big idea” books (i.e. there is money to be made serving people with little money) or books that go into great depth about a narrow subject. (Tracy Kidder’s House comes to mind.)
Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-Tzu’s Tao Te Ching:
“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”
Brown: There are a couple of things I have always liked about this quote. I know, that everyone always uses it as an example of how to lead (i.e. you draw the best out of people and guide and suggest instead of demand and order).
But to me, the most intriguing part has always been “learn from the people.” This is something smart people struggle with. They are so used to being able to come up with the right answer on their own, that they cut off other ideas and options.
Morris: And then, from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”
Brown: I have never heard this one. I like it. I have always found much too hard to be other than what I am. It takes much too much work.
Morris: From Helen Keller: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
Brown: I used to think this too. But I no longer do. The problem with this quote is that the approach does not let you repeat an experience.
Here’s what I mean. We just came back from wine country. (Our oldest lives in S.F.) If I were to strictly endorse the Keller quote, we would have only gone to wineries we had never visited before. Sure, we would have found some great new wines from places we didn’t know before, but we would have missed out on what some of our favorite wineries were doing today.
We split our time between wineries we love and finding new ones. It worked out quite well. I guess what I am saying is don’t rule out revisiting old experiences to see how they—and you—have changed.
Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”
Brown: I am in total agreement. The problem, for most of us, is figuring out what needs notbe done.
Morris: In Tom Davenport’s latest book, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” What do you think?
Brown: This ties back to the Lao Tzu quote, and explains why I like the first part of the quote so much.
Morris: Here’s a brief excerpt from Paul Schoemaker’s latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: “The key question companies need to address is not ’Should we make mistakes?’ but rather ‘Which mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?’” Your response?
Brown: Ah. You have touched on one of my favorite subjects. And I am a fan of Schoemaker (and have reviewed him favorably in The New York Times.)
And yes, I think this is right. One of my favorite quotes, there is some debate about whether Twain said it or not, is: “It is not the things we don’t know that get us into trouble. It is the things we know that just ain’t so.”
But, I think people don’t think deeply enough about just how important it is to make mistakes. I would put it this way: If you haven’t failed today, you are never going to succeed.
It would be nice to think that our best ideas come to us fully formed. I don’t think I have ever found that to be the case. (Although, once in a great while a perfectly formed book title will pop into my head.) You have to keep playing with just about every idea.
That’s my inarticulate description of what we call in “Just Start the Act. Learn. Build. Model.” You come up with an idea. Try it. Judge the market reaction. Fold the market reaction into the next iteration, and try again. The process repeats until you come with something you want, or decide either it is never going to work, or there is something else you would prefer to do more.
To read the complete interview, please click here.
Paul cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
Amazon: Just Start
Amazon: Paul Brown Page
Harvard Business Review Blog
Here is an article from The McKinsey Quarterly, published by McKinsey & Company and written by Dominic Barton, Andrew Grant, and Michelle Horn, in which six global leaders confront the personal and professional challenges of a new era of uncertainty. To read the complete article, check out other resources, register to receive free email alerts, and obtain information about this extraordinary firm, please click here.
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It is often said that the principles of great leadership are timeless, or based on immutable truths. But when we meet with the men and women who run the world’s largest organizations, what we hear with increasing frequency is how different everything feels from just a decade ago. Leaders tell us they are operating in a bewildering new environment in which little is certain, the tempo is quicker, and the dynamics are more complex. They worry that it is impossible for chief executives to stay on top of all the things they need to know to do their job. Some admit they feel overwhelmed.
To understand the leadership challenge of our volatile, globalized, hyperconnected age more clearly, we recently initiated a series of structured interviews with the leaders of some of the world’s largest and most vibrant organizations. Excerpts from six of those conversations appear below. The leaders—Josef Ackermann, formerly of Deutsche Bank; Carlos Ghosn of Nissan and Renault; Moya Greene of Royal Mail Group; Ellen Kullman of DuPont; President Shimon Peres of Israel; and Daniel Vasella of Novartis (see sidebar, “Leaders on leadership”)—represent a diverse array of viewpoints. All are grappling with today’s environment in different ways. But the common themes that emerged from these conversations—what it means to lead in an age of upheaval, to master personal challenges, to be in the limelight continually, to make decisions under extreme uncertainty—offer a useful starting point for understanding today’s leadership landscape.
After presenting the ideas of these leaders on leadership, we offer a few additional reflections on the topic. They draw in part on the interviews, as well as on our experiences with clients; on conversations with dozens of experts in academia, government, and the private sector; and on our review of the extensive academic and popular literature on the subject. All reinforce our belief that today’s leaders face extraordinary new challenges and must learn to think differently about their role and how to fulfill it. Those who do may have an opportunity to change the world in ways their predecessors never imagined.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Josef Ackermann is the former CEO and chairman of the management board at Deutsche Bank. He recently retired after a decade as CEO and six years as chairman.
Carlos Ghosn is the CEO and chairman of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. He has been the CEO of Nissan since 2001 and the CEO of Renault since 2005. Together, the two companies produce more than one in ten cars sold worldwide.
Moya Greene was appointed CEO of the United Kingdom’s Royal Mail Group in 2010. From 2005 to 2010, she was CEO of Canada Post.
Ellen Kullman has served as DuPont’s CEO and board chair since 2009. She joined the company from General Electric in 1988 and was ranked fourth on the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women list in 2011.
Shimon Peres is the ninth and current president of Israel. In a political career spanning more than 65 years, he has served twice as Israel’s prime minister and has been a member of 12 cabinets.
Daniel Vasella has been chairman of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG since 1999. He served as the company’s CEO from 1996 to 2010.
The Article’s Co-Authors:
Dominic Barton is McKinsey’s global managing director, Andrew Grant is a director in McKinsey’s Singapore office, and Michelle Horn is a principal in the Atlanta office