During its first 100 years of existence, more than 683,000 Americans lost their lives, with the Civil War accounting for 623,026 of that total (91.2%). Comparatively, in the next 100 years, another estimated 625,000 Americans died through two World Wars and several more regional conflicts (World War 2 representing 65% of that total). Using this comparison, the Civil War might very well be the most costly war that America has ever fought. (Partial Sources: U.S. Army Military History Institute and iCasualties.org).
Let us remember them…and their loved ones as well.
Summary of Military Fatalities in Major Conflicts
American Revolution (1775-1783) 4,435 (estimate)
War of 1812 (1812-1815) 2,260
Mexican War (1846-1848) 1,733
Civil War (1861-1865)
o 140,414 (Union)
o 74,524 (Confederate)
Spanish-American War (1898-1902) 385
World War I (1917-1918) 53,402
World War II (1941-1945) 291,557
Korean War (1950-1953) 33,686
Vietnam War (1964-1975) 47,410
Gulf War (1990-1991) 147
Iraq War (2003-2012) 4,486
Afghanistan War (2001-present) 2193 (as of April 4, 2013)
McKinsey & Company has just launched a new series of video interview programs with high-tech experts. In the first, Eric Schmidt explores the technologies likely to have the greatest disruptive impact on economies, business models, and people. Later this month the McKinsey Global Institute will publish an assessment of the probable economic impact of disruptive technologies.
To watch the interview, download a transcript, learn more about the firm, and register to receive email alerts, please click here.
From 2004 to 2009, Richard co-led McKinsey’s Corporate Finance Practice, where he was also responsible for research and development. He has served clients around the world in a variety of industries, ranging from high tech and financial services to petroleum, utilities, and the public sector.
Richard has written numerous articles about the implications of the financial crisis for companies and managing in a downturn. At MGI he has led research on global economic trends, including urbanization, resource markets, capital markets, and productivity and growth, with a focus on Asia. Other research has focused on performance management and measurement, mergers and acquisitions, valuation, capital markets strategy, and utility regulation. He was a co-author of Value: The Four Cornerstones of Corporate Finance, and his work has appeared in several books, including Valuation: Measuring and Managing the Value of Companies; in other business and academic journals such as the McKinsey Quarterly, McKinsey on Finance, and Corporate Finance; and on the opinion pages of leading newspapers and business publications. Richard is a frequent speaker at international conferences and is an associate fellow of the Said Business School at Oxford University, where he has taught the valuation elective.
To learn more about the McKinsey Global Institute, please click here.
Finding your Element is “vital to understanding who you are and what you’re capable of being and doing with your life.”
According to Ken Robinson, what he characterizes as “The Element” is not a physical location but the challenge is to locate it, nonetheless. “It’s about doing something that feels so completely natural to you, that resonates so strongly with you, that you feel as if this is who you really are.” Some people locate it in childhood, others decades later, and still others never. “Finding your Element is a quest to find yourself…it is a two-way journey: an inward journey to explore what lies within you and an outward journey to explore opportunities in the world around you.” Robinson wrote The Element (2009) with Lou Aronica who also assisted with the writing of Finding Your Element four years later. Ever since the first book was published, Robinson explains, “people have asked me how they can find their own Element, or help other people to find theirs.”
In response, this sequel has five main thematic threads that weave throughout the book, each of which is intended to help the reader reflect and focus on finding their own Element and, if they wish to, help others to do so. Robinson provides ideas and principles as well as stories and examples, stories, and other resources such as 15 exercises to complete (more about them in a moment) and clusters of questions to consider at the end of each chapter before moving on to the next. In fact, each chapter title is a question. “Although there are ten chapters in the book, Finding Your Element is not a ten-step program.” Just as Oscar Wilde once suggested, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken,” Robinson suggests that only the reader can answer the questions posed. “In the end, only you will know if you’ve found your Element or if you are still looking for it. Whichever it proves to be, you should never doubt this is a quest worth taking.” True to form, Robinson asks most of the right questions but it remains for each reader to answer them, perhaps using some of the tools that Robinson provides. I have found mind mapping to be an especially helpful technique during both an inward journey of personal discovery and an outward journey of the world in which I live. As with answering questions, however, each reader must select which tools to use as well as when and how.
These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to indicate the scope of Robinson’s coverage.
o A Personal Quest (Pages xxii-xxiv)
o Three Elemental Principles (19-27)
o True North (27-30)
o Hidden Depths (39-44)
o Finding Your Aptitudes (44-48)
o What’s Your Style? (65-71)
o Two Sorts of Energy (84-87)
o The Unhappy Truth (113-115)
o Having a Purpose, and, What Is Happiness? (117-121)
o The Meaning of Happiness (121-126)
o Seeing Through the Barriers (143-146)
o Who Are You? (147-148)
o A Question of 160-165)
o Figuring Out Where You Are (173-174)
o The Culture of Tribes (191-192)
o Moving Forward by Going Back (215-222)
As I began to re-read this book prior to composing this brief commentary, I realized that amidst all the information, insights, and counsel that Robinson provides in abundances, there were certain key points that I had missed. I strongly recommend re-reading this book, highlighting especially relevant material along the way and then reviewing that material from time to time. I also suggest keeping a notebook near at hand in which to record personal thoughts, feelings, experiences, concerns, and other professional as well as personal issues.
As quoted earlier, Robinson views “finding your Element is a quest to find yourself…it is a two-way journey: an inward journey to explore what lies within you and an outward journey to explore opportunities in the world around you.” This is a never-ending process because each of us and our circumstances change and adjustments must be made to accommodate them.
This is what Ken Robinson has in mind, when concluding: “Like the rest of nature, human talents and passions are tremendously diverse and they take many forms. As individuals, we’re all motivated by different dreams and we thrive — and we wilt too — in very different circumstances. Recognizing your own dreams and the conditions you need to fulfill them are essential to becoming who you can be. Finding your own Element won’t guarantee that you’ll spend the rest of your life in a constant, unbroken state of pleasure and delight. It will give you a deeper sense of who you really are and of the life you could and maybe should live.”
Based on its experiences working with the user community, Lego has developed a set of principles that summarize what it has learned about collaborating and interacting with knowledgeable users. Here is a brief excerpt from an article written by Yun Mi Antorini, Albert M. Muñiz, Jr. and Tormod Askildsen for the MIT Sloan Management Review. To read the complete article, check out others, obtain subscription information, and sign up for email alerts, please click here.
Image courtesy of Flickr user spike
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Be clear about rules and expectations. Without exception, the adult users who collaborate with the Lego Group have busy lives that involve full-time jobs, studies, hobbies, families and so on. When Lego began collaborating with adult fans, there were very few stated rules or expectations about how the process should work. This led to frustrations on both sides. Fans complained about being asked to consider cost and complexity when developing their designs and to adhere to building techniques that met the company’s tight quality and safety standards. Lego employees complained that adult fans pushed the limits of the company’s rules and regulations and that coordination was difficult because most of the adult fans had full-time jobs and worked on their Lego projects after business hours, at night. Lego learned that it had to be more specific about its expectations upfront, including when its projects would begin and end. The company also learned that adult users were more cooperative when they negotiated expectations with the Lego employees directly involved, rather than with Lego managers who were not directly engaged in the work.
Ensure a win-win. In collaborating with very engaged and skilled users who were contributing their ideas, it was easy for the company to focus on “getting the job done,” forgetting that the users had needs that sometimes diverged from those of Lego employees and that the collaborations themselves needed to be rewarding experiences for the users. Developing a win-win mind-set must be a priority. Lego management learned, as studies of innovators have found, that the intrinsic rewards associated with designing and building products are frequently more motivating than financial rewards.5 Recognizing this, Lego has tended to pay outside collaborators with a combination of experience, access and Lego products. However, users who participate in long-term projects or who provide services that are more like “work” are given a choice: they can receive free products or a more conventional stipend. In business partnerships between Lego and users (for example, in cases such as the architecture project and the sensors), various long-term, fee-based partnership agreements have been negotiated.
Recognize that outsiders aren’t insiders. Lego employees involved with the user community learned early in the process that while participants were indeed committed to the Lego brand and the Lego brick, they were also attracted to the sense of community they experienced with other adult fans. In fact, it is the relationship with other fans and the input and encouragement they offer that strongly motivate these users to keep raising the creative bar and keep searching for new and better ideas and solutions. User communities are not just extensions of the company — they are independent entities. As a result, members should be treated as passionate, experienced and talented individuals.
Don’t expect one size to fit all. Lego also learned early on that different users prefer different modes of communication, and different types of innovations call for different environments. As a result, Lego relies on many different collaboration platforms. The simplest are polls and electronic idea boxes, which allow users to give input on predefined topics. A more advanced platform, Lego Digital Designer, allows users to design virtual Lego models and create digital building instructions that can be shared with other users. It allows innovators with different skill levels to participate.
Be as open as possible. To protect confidential and proprietary information, companies customarily ask collaborators to sign nondisclosure agreements. That’s what Lego did when it launched its Lego Ambassador Program and began collaborating with adult fans. Lego learned two important things: NDAs were effective at preventing the collaborators from sharing information with third parties, but there were unintended consequences. Because Ambassadors took the NDAs seriously, they didn’t share their ideas with other adult fans who hadn’t signed NDAs. Today, Lego uses NDAs more sparingly, to limit information sharing with third parties only in narrowly defined situations — thus ensuring that collaborators are able to interact with each other to the maximum extent. Lego also attempts to maintain transparency in all matters related to collaboration. For example, it posts detailed descriptions of the criteria for and responsibilities of Lego Ambassadors on its own home page and on several community websites. And the company supports community initiatives aimed at improving idea sharing among community members and advancing innovation.
Cumulatively, the principles we have discussed here help Lego organize collaborations with users in a manner that balances the needs of the company with those of its users. These lessons are applicable to other organizations. Instead of regarding collaboration as something that needs to be managed exclusively by the company, it is fruitful to think of it as an ongoing dialogue between two allies. Both sides contribute important resources to a common purpose. Frequently, the two sets of resources complement each other and advance the conversation and collaboration.
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Yun Mi Antorini is an assistant professor of business communication at Aarhus University, in Aarhus, Denmark. Albert M. Muñiz, Jr. is an associate professor of marketing at DePaul University in Chicago. Tormod Askildsen is senior director of community engagement and events at the Lego Group in Denmark.
Untapped Talent: Unleashing the Power of the Hidden Workforce
Palgrace MacMillan/Division of St. Martin’s Press (2013)
How to “grow” talent, whatever the size and nature of the “garden” may be
The title of this book is sufficiently vague to evoke several questions and suggest all manner of interpretations. Is talent untapped or underdeveloped? Is it unleashed by someone else or by those who possess it? Is it hidden or unrecognized? The answer to each of these questions is “yes.”
Now more than ever before, few organizations have the talent needed at all levels and in all areas of the given operation. Many (most?) of them lack the resources to hire the talent needed so they are challenged to develop it but first they need to identify the high potentials. According to Dani Monroe, for whatever reasons, “untapped talent becomes invisible and unrecognized or undervalued and minimized.” I agree with Darrell Royal that “potential” means “you ain’t done it yet” but Royal was an exceptionally astute judge of talent when recruiting players for his University of Texas football teams.
Monroe wrote this book to serve three separate but related, interdependent purposes: To help her readers gain a much better understanding of untapped talent and why it exists; then in Part II, she examines specific areas in which supervisors can have a direct and substantial impact by “mining and refining talent”; finally, in Part III, she examines characteristics she’s identified as “essential in great leaders as it applies to untapped talent.” It is worth noting that throughout history, all of the greatest leaders have had a “green thumb” for “growing” the people they need to achieve the given objective.
These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to indicate the scope of Monroe’s coverage.
o Scarce Talent: The Skills Gap (Pages 18-21)
o Discovering the Realities (30-40)
o A three-level model for organizational change (61-66)
o The Culture of Talent Stewardship (70-82)
o Spotting the Soft Skills (91-93)
o River of Life (103-107)
o The Three Rs (Resourcefulness, Resilience, and Resolve): Emerging from the Hidden Workforce (119-123)
o The Face of Resourcefulness (133-137)
o Building Resiliency (147-149)
o Resolve Is About Success…and Failure (156-161)
o The Path to Vision (169-171)
It is no coincidence that the companies annually ranked among the best to work for and most highly admired are also among the companies annually ranked as most profitable with the greatest cap value in their respective industry segments. They also have the greatest percentage of positively and productively engaged employees as well as the lowest attrition of valued employees.
Near the end of her book, Dani Monroe asks her readers to set their imaginations free. What follows is a series of defining characteristics of “a talent environment in which anything is possible — an ideal state.” Of course, none exists but many in the so-called real business world demonstrate many (if not most) of what she describes. Constantly tapping talent is their reality. “That’s the vision. Make it your reality!”
How and why, “if we have the individual will, we can collectively make of our world what we want.”
I read this book when it was first published (in 1999) because I was curious to learn more about the World Wide Web (Web) from its inventor. Recently, I re-read it while preparing for several interviews and was surprised to learn that, if anything, Tim Berners-Lee’s core concepts are even more relevant now than they were almost 15 years ago. Of special interest to me is this passage early in Chapter 1: “The vision I have for the Web is about anything being potentially connected with anything. It is a vision that provides us with new freedom, and allows us to grow faster than we ever could when we were fettered by the hierarchical classification systems into which we bound ourselves. It leaves the entirety of our previous ways of working as just one tool among many. It leaves our previous fears for the future as one set among many. And it brings the workings of society closer to the workings of our minds…Inventing the World Wide Web involved my growing realization that there was a power in arranging ideas in an unconstrained, weblike way. And that awareness came to me through precisely that kind of process…through the swirling together of influences, influences, and realizations from many sides.” These comments suggest precisely the process of integrative thinking that Roger Martin discusses in The Opposable Mind (2007).
I was especially interested in Berners-Lee’s concerns about the Web in 1999. For example, the challenges faced by con tract programmers to understand the human and computer systems; electronic incompatibility between and among computers and their operating systems; documentation storage systems; universal adoption of hypertext; servers of sufficient speed and flexibility; governance issues; ownership issues; ease of access to sources; adoption of the universal resource identifier (URL); adoption of simpler language, XML, to supercede SGML; national and international legal issues (e.g. intellectual property); ethical standards and business issues; creation of “social machines”; and development and dissemination of metadata. Many — but not all — of those issues have since been resolved.
Here in Dallas near the downtown area, there is a Farmer’s Market at which several merchants offer slkices of fresh fruit as samples. In that spirit, I share three excerpts from Berners-Lee’s narrative:
“In an extreme view, the world can be seen only as connections, nothing else. We think of a dictionary as the repository of meaning, but it defines words only in terms of other words. I liked the idea that that a piece of information is defined only by what it’s related to, and how it’s related, There really is little else to meaning. The structure is everything. There are billions of neurons in our brains, but what are neurons? Just cells. The brain has no knowledge until connections are made between neurons. All that we know, all that we are, comes from the way our neurons are connected.” (Page 12)
“To build understanding, we need to be able to link terms. This will be made possible by [begin italics] inference languages [end italics], which work one level above the schema languages. Inference languages allow computers to explain to each other that two terms that may seem different are in some way the same — a little like an English-French dictionary. Inference languages will allow computers to convert data from one format to another.” (Page 185)
“Should we then feel that we are getting smarter and smarter, more and more in control of nature, as we evolve? No really. Just better connected — connected into better shape. The experience of seeing the Web take off by the grassroots effort of thousands gives me tremendous hope that if we have the individual will, we can collectively make of our world what we want.” (Page 209)
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For those who are curious, Amazon provides this information: “Sir Timothy John “Tim” Berners-Lee, OM, KBE, FRS, FREng, FRSA (born 8 June 1955), also known as “TimBL,” is a British computer scientist, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web. He made a proposal for an information management system in March 1989, and he implemented the first successful communication between a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) client and server via the Internet sometime around mid November. Berners-Lee is the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which oversees the Web’s continued development. He is also the founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, and is a senior researcher and holder of the Founders Chair at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). He is a director of the Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI), and a member of the advisory board of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.”
A brilliant explanation of the ROI of a workplace community within which diversity and inclusion are core values
If you were to ask ten different people to define the word “diversity,” you would probably get 7-10 different (“diverse”) answers. There are so many criteria to consider, including gender, age, ethnicity, generation, personality type, and nationality. Add nature and extent of relevant experience, capabilities, and “potential” and you have at least some idea of how difficult it is for business leaders to decide how to “invest in diversity and inclusion,” as Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan advocate in this book. That difficulty is exacerbated by the changes in the business world that, in turn, change immediate and imminent needs to accommodate.
Credit Kaplan and Mason with possessing courage sufficient to attempt to explain what comprises a diverse and inclusive workplace, how to establish one, and then how to sustain one. They even suggest how to accommodate workplace dynamics such as unconscious bias, insider-outsider interaction (for better or worse), and dimensions of difference that can be either compatible or incompatible.
In the first chapter, they observe: “As employees of the twenty-first century, all of us live in three worlds of D&I that can seem to be incompatible at times. There is the civil world, which revolves around legislation regarding issues like marriage rights, equality of access, and equitable treatment. Then there is the academic world, where a theoretical debate persists across the fields of law, sociology, psychology, and business about equality and fairness…Finally, there is the corporate world. As students become employees, it is the corporate world that absorbs eight or more hours of their waking time most days, and the discussion is more narrowly focused on the best ways to create personal and corporate growth…While the internal challenges [in that world] are structural, process, and human, they also have an impact at the interface between the organization and its stakeholders.”
Kaplan and Mason focus the business case for diversity and inclusion, the challenges to achieving and then sustaining that, and what they view as effective responses to those challenges. Readers will appreciate their skillful use of various devices such as “Takeaways” and “Discussion Point” sections at the conclusion of all nine chapters. This material will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key points later.
These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to indicate the scope of Kaplan and Mason’s coverage:
o A Long-Cherished Notion (Pages 5-9)
o A Quick History Case, and, The Business Case (9-15)
o Challenges to Creating Inclusion, and, Other Inclusion Hurdles (18-24)
o Three Key Areas for Inclusion (28-34)
o The RADIX™ Cycle (41-50)
o Unconscious Bias, and, Insider-Outsider Dynamics (61-64 and 66-69)
o The Individual, Interpersonal Level of Change (77-81)
o The Organizational Level of Change (86-94)
o Some of the Latest Research on Unconscious Bias (106-112)
o Systemic Bias, and, Reducing Unconscious Bias (113-120)
o Key Elements That Define Insider and Outsider Group Membership (129-140)
o Different Types of Difference (146-163)
o What Leaders Must Do (171-185)
o External Marketplace and Customer Data, and, Tools to Involve and Engage the Whole Organization (198-204)
o Tools to Create Systemic Process Change (208-210)
It is worth noting that the origin of the word “barbarian” can be traced back to Ancient Greece. Its original meaning: non-Greek. It seems basic to human nature to favor those who are similar in some way(s) and be wary of those who are not, who are “different” in some way(s). As Kaplan and Mason point out, there are four distinct levels of change “that all influence one another and share common space. When individual is coupled with the group/team, systemic, and marketplace levels, an organization can achieve a much higher return.”
I agree with Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan that many of the decisions business leaders make “can be skewed if they do not first take the time to understand their biases and how they can be influencing any one of several levels.” In fact, the inclusion dividend is substantial for companies annually ranked among the most admired and best to work for and helps to explain why they are also among the most profitable with the greatest cap value in their industry segment.
The First 90 Days, Updated and Expanded Edition: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels
Michael D. Watkins
Harvard Business Review Press (2013)
How and why the first 90 days in a new leadership position can sometimes seem like 90 minutes
This is a revised and updated edition of a book I read when it was published in 2003. Although much has (and hasn’t) happened in the business world since then, Michael Watkins’ insights are (if anything) even more relevant and more valuable now than they were then because the actions taken by those in a new role, especially one with more challenging leadership responsibilities, will largely determine whether they succeed or fail. “When leaders derail,” Watkins notes, “their problems can almost always be traced to vicious cycles that developed in the first few months on the job.” Ninety percent of those whom Watkins interviewed agreed that “transitions into new roles are the most challenging times in the professional lives of leaders.” They could be internal promotions, reassignments and/or relocations, or a new hire. These and other transitions are thoroughly discussed in the book.
These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to suggest the scope of Watkins’ coverage.
o Avoiding Transition Traps (Pages 5-6)
o Understanding the Fundamental Principles (9-12)
o Getting promoted (21-24)
o Table 1-1, “Onboarding checklists” (34)
o Identifying the Best Sources of Insight (54-57)
o Table 2-1, “Structured methods for learning” (61-62)
o “Emotional Expensiveness” (63-64)
o Planning for Five [Transition-Specific] Conversations (90-93)
o Planning the Expectations Conversation (98-100)
o Adopting Basic Principles (121-122)
o Avoiding Common Alignment Traps (141-143)
o Getting Started (146-148)
o Avoiding Common Team-Building Traps (167-170)
o Building Support for Early-Win Objectives (202-220)
o Understanding the Three Pillars of Self-Management (227-237)
o Table 10-1, “Reasons for transition failures” (245)
The information, insights, and counsel he provides in this book reveal what he has learned thus far about what he characterizes as “The Vicious Cycle of Transitions” and “The Virtuous Cycle of Transitions.” The former involves sticking with what you know, falling prey to the “action imperative,” setting unrealistic expectations, attempting to do too much, coming in with “the” answer, engaging in the wrong kind of learning, and neglecting horizontal relationships. (Please check out Figure 1-2 on Page 7.)
With regard to the latter cycle, the “virtuous” one, can enable anyone involved in a transition to create momentum and establish an upward spiral of increasing effectiveness. (Please check out Figure 1-3 on Page 8.) To repeat, this updated and expanded edition develops in greater depth and wider scope the core concepts introduced in the first edition. The objective in 2003 remains the same now: “get up to speed faster and smarter.”
Michael Watkins can help each reader to do that; better yet, he can each reader, especially those with supervisory responsibilities, to help others to do that. That achievement is indeed an admirable objective. However, we are well-advised to recall Thomas Edison’s observation, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”
I hope that at least a few of these recent posts will be of interest to you:
The Lean Practitioner’s Handbook
HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Strategic Marketing
HBR Editors and various contributors
Weaving the Web: the Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web
Untapped Talent: Unleashing the Power of the Hidden Workforce
The Inclusion Dividend: Why Investing in Diversity & Inclusion Pays Off
Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan
The First 90 Days, Updated and Expanded: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels
Michael D. Watkins
The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace: Know What Boosts Your Value, Kills Your Chances, and Will Make You Happier
Charting technology’s new directions: A conversation with MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson
Eric Schmidt on “Disruptive technologies”
The McKinsey Global Institute
Brooke Denihan Barrett (Denihan Hospitality Group) in “The Corner Office”
The New York Times
“If you think top executives have to have charisma, think again.”
Christian Stadler and Davis Dyer
MIT Sloan Management Review
“How to Listen When Someone Is Venting”
“How to Stop Going to So Many Meetings”
Management Tip of the Day
“How to stop the mediocrity pandemic”
“How the Internet of Things Changes Everything”
“Several expert perspectives on data analytics”
McKinsey & Company
“Does it matter where you went to school?”
“The coming era of “on-demand” marketing”
Peter Dahlström and David Edelman
The McKinsey Quarterly
“How to Influence People with Your Ideas”
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Here is an article written by Margaret Heffernan for CBS MoneyWatch, the CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the website’s newsletters, please click here.
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(MoneyWatch) Every year, Amazon (AMZN) hires hundreds of MBA graduates. Where they come from, they say, doesn’t matter as much as the way they think. According to Jennifer Boden, who runs their university programs, Amazon wants entrepreneurial thinkers who are good at using data to drive decisions and get new products to market fast.
She said that where you went to school didn’t really matter and that experience counted for more. I’m not entirely sure I believe this. The target schools she mentioned — Carnegie Mellon, Wharton, Michigan — are a good deal more famous for their quantitative style than their entrepreneurial flair. And it’s hard to imagine a true entrepreneur eager to join a company rapidly becoming famous for treating its low-level employees like robots.
But she makes a good point in arguing that jobseekers can expect too much from their school’s name or even from their degree. Thinking that the institution’s reputation will stand in for your own is always a mistake. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve known (and sometimes hired) for whom getting into a big name school was pretty much the biggest achievement of their lives. They hoped to ride on that — and many did. But their work was never interesting and their leadership didn’t inspire.
We are rapidly approaching a moment in which the number of candidates with great degrees from great schools are plentiful — even over-supplied. What makes the difference isn’t your ability to get into these places or even to emerge with a decent degree. What matters is who you are and what you’ve achieved outside of the warm embrace of an institution. The true test of a great employee isn’t their MBA or their quantitative skills but their ability to see what is needed — in the company, in the market — without being told.
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Margaret Heffernan has been CEO of five businesses in the United States and United Kingdom. A speaker and writer, her most recent book, Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, was shortlisted for the Financial Times Best Business Book 2011. Visit her on http://www.mheffernan.com/. To read Margaret’s articles for CBS MoneyWatch, please click here.
To read my interview of her, please click here.