First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Greed is Good; Greed is Not Good — Some Thoughts about a Pretty Big Issue

GreedisGood-300x241Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A.
Fictional Gordon Gekko, in the film Wall Street, 1987

The fact is that solving problems is hard. If a given problem still exists, you can bet that a lot of people have already come along and failed to solve it. Easy problems evaporate; it is the hard ones that linger.
Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Think Like a Freak 

——————–

Is it possible to be too greedy?

Of course it is.

Is it possible to be blind to one’s own greed?

Of course it is.

But… it is also possible to not be “tough enough” on people who need to be more disciplined, more diligent, more focused?

Yes… this too is possible.

Call this a “big question” that I am thinking about…

I think there are some people, and some companies, that are too greedy. Don’t you?

{Is it possible to have the right amount of greed? I don’t know. “Greed” is one of the seven deadly sins. From Wikipedia — Greed (Latin, avaritia), also known as avarice, cupidity or covetousness, is, like lust and gluttony, a sin of excess.”}

And, by the way, I don’t think I have ever read or heard a genuinely greedy person admit “I am greedy – and such greed is bad.”

But, I am also coming around to a couple of other realities. Like:

A boss can be too soft on people, and thus, end up losing – losing money, losing market share, losing on deals and money to be made…

Recently, I’ve noticed a few articles on how a boss needs to toughen up. Here’s one: Why I Regret Being a Nice Boss – If I could have a do-over, I would set tougher boundaries with my employees by Laura Smith. From the article:

The idea that we must tell adults what to do and exactly how to do it is a hard pill to swallow for most.

And, though I liked the book, and learned much, I confess to being bothered by Peter Thiel’s Zero to One in one very specific way. If you read it carefully, it is a strong argument in favor of monopolies – monopolies that crush the competition. And, if that approach is the one to adopt, then the greater good for Company X inevitably comes at the cost of jobs and security and general well-being for people in companies A through W…

So… how to think these days.

Recently, I heard another strong and well stated defense of “Servant Leadership.” But, even though I am big, big fan of Robert Greenleaf and Servant Leadership, sometimes I get the sense that people adopt the approach because it is good for all the people, but because it is a better way to get ahead and crush the competition. You know: “I’ll treat my people well in order to leave the other folks out there in the dust…”  (This speaker did not leave that impression — but others have…)

I guess I am asking how a company pursues a dominant, truly financially healthy position — the top spot — without it hurting the people who work at all the number twos out there.

I don’t know the answer to this…   but I’m thinking about it.

Or, to quote Paul Krugman, in his provocative takedown of Amazon today, Amazon’s Monopsony Is Not O.K.:

The robber baron era ended when we as a nation decided that some business tactics were out of line. And the question is whether we want to go back on that decision.

Monday, October 20, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

There Are Times When a “Pull-Away” Learning Experience Can Make a Huge Difference – We’ve Got Some “Change and Innovation” Workshops for You to Consider

How long has it been since you devoted a chunk of your time for a serious learning experience?

Yesterday, I heard Ken Medema sing at church. Blind from birth, Mr. Medema has been singing to groups for decades. He is…unique. A good singer, accompanying himself on piano, what he does is write songs “on the spot.” He listens to a speaker, and writes a song about the speech (in this case, sermon) as he listens. And, then, he sings this song, capturing the essence of the message we’ve all just heard. He really is unlike any other singer I’ve ever heard.

So, I walked up to Mr. Medema, and told him I had heard him years earlier at a national speakers conference. He appreciated the memory…

And, as I drove home, it hit me. I haven’t been to enough conferences lately.

Training-workshops-for-you-610x393Call them what you will; choose the kind you want; workshops, conferences. (In my preaching days, I attended “Bible Lectureships.” Yep, they were just conferences with sermons instead of speeches or presentations).

Here’s what these offer. A “pull away” time – to pull away from the phone, the office, the daily routine — all for the purpose of focused learning. With great networking and conversations included.

In other words, such experiences provide genuinely focused learning experiences. And I think we need more of these in this much-too-hectic, overly-scheduled era.

I love books, articles, blog spots, TED Talks…  But to actually go away for the purpose of learning is a deeper, more-lasting experience.  It can make a big difference — if you actually learn, and then implement…

So, part 1 of this blog post – you really should consider going to a “pull-away” learning experience.

Now, part 2 – we’ve got just such an experience for you. It’s not a “big conference” – it’s a smaller group, intensive learning experience. For two days in November, November 12-13, we’ve got two half-day workshops, and one full-day, all built around the challenge of Change and Innovation.

I will lead some of the workshops; and Karl Krayer will lead the other.

So, if you are already the ultimate master at change and innovation – find another pull-away learning experience. But, if you’ve still got some things to learn in these departments, then please give our workshops serious consideration. I think you’ll find some genuine, future-shaping help for you and your organization.

Click here for all the details. I think it could be worth your time and investment.

 

Monday, October 20, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Seven Questions that Every Business Must Answer – (from Peter Thiel, Zero to One)

Zero-to-One-book-cover-200x300…40 solar manufacturers went out of business or filed for bankruptcy in 2012 alone.
Peter Thiel, Zero to One

So… When cars made their appearance, many, many car makers competed. Only a few survived – but, ultimately, everyone got a car.
Margin note in book Zero to One, Randy Mayeux

———————-

So, Peter Thiel is a font of observations and wisdom. I have now finished reading Zero to One, my selection for the November First Friday Book Synopsis. I like the book… and, among other things, I think it helps me think about why some companies are making it big, and others fade away seemingly quickly.

In his chapter on the industry “Cleantech” (Seeing Green), he talks a lot about the failures. And there have been some whoppers. But, as I read the chapter, I remember reading something years ago (my apology – can’t remember the source) about the scramble to make it in the early days of automobiles. There is no doubt that a lot of people and companies did not make it in that scramble. But the industry did pretty well – we truly became a car culture.

So, I guess I could argue that “many failed companies” is normal; predictable – in industry after industry.

But, it would be better to succeed than fail. So, how do you keep from failing?

Peter Thiel lists seven questions that “every business must answer.” He says that if a company does not have good answers to at least six of these seven questions, the company has little chance of making it to success.   These are good questions. Here they are, from the book:

  1. The Engineering Question – Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?
  2. The Timing Question — Is now the right time to start your particular business?
  3. The Monopoly Question — Are you starting with a big share of a small market?
  4. The People Question — Do you have the right team?
  5. The Distribution Question — Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?
  6. The Durability Question — Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?
  7. The Secret Question — Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?’
(photo taken from the Kindle app edition of Zero to One)

(photo taken from the Kindle app edition of Zero to One)

And, here’s a fun and revealing observation. When a company is connected in any way to technology, Mr. Thiel rejects any leader who dresses in a suit and tie. Engineers need to be at the top of any technology company, and you can tell an engineer by their attire – jeans and t-shirt, says Mr. Thiel. (He has a revealing drawing of (failed) Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison, in a suit and tie, and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, in a t-shirt that reads OCCUPY MARS).

So, take a good look at these seven questions. They definitely seem to be valuable and important questions to answer..

——————–

(I’m looking forward to presenting my synopsis of Zero to One at the November 7 First Friday Book Synopsis. If you’re in Dallas that morning, come join us. Register here).

Sunday, October 19, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Robert Sher: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

SherRob Sher is founding principal of CEO to CEO, a consulting firm of former chief executives that improves the leadership infrastructure of midsized companies seeking to accelerate their performance. He has published extensively on the successful leadership traits of CEOs of mid-market companies. His first book, published in 2007, is The Feel of the Deal: How I Built a Business Through Acquisitions. His latest book, Mighty Midsized Companies: How Leaders Overcome 7 Silent Growth Killers, was recently published by Bibliomotion in 2014. Rob is also a regular columnist for the online version of Forbes and CFO Magazine and recently published a seven part series on HBR online.

He and his partners act as consulting CEOs who help client companies’ CEOs and their top teams to navigate difficult passages. Running a company is a series of judgment calls, each of which can have major consequences. They often help make those judgment calls, drawing on deep experience as CEOs and by helping their clients think through situations. Some people call him a CEO coach. Others call him a CEO mentor. And some think of him as their own “Chairman of the Board.”

Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of Rob. To read all of it, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Mighty Midsized Companies, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Sher: Warren Bennis, the author of On Becoming a Leader and so many other groundbreaking books on leadership, really made me a better leader. It was an incredible awakening. I started reading his books as they came out in the mid 1980’s, and at that time I was on a personal development binge, reading (and listening to) Wayne Dyer, Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins and Earl Nightingale. I was so honored when Warren Bennis agreed to endorse my newest book, as it turned out just a few weeks before his passing.

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Sher: In 1996 I joined a peer group of CEOs called The Alliance of Chief Executives, in northern California. Sitting with peer CEOs every month and learning from their wisdom (and their mistakes) was a quantum jump in my learning. I still actively participate in Alliance groups. You see, when you run just one business, there is a limit on how many things—good or bad—can happen to you that turn into lessons. In a group of 12, the process is accelerated. Similar groups exist everywhere in the country. Vistage and YPO are two of the largest.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Sher: In 2004 I was sitting in my CEO group and shared some frustrations (for the umpteenth time) about some seemingly intractable frustrations that were holding me back from leading my company to the next level. The group (which had known me for years) hammered mercilessly on me for over an hour (we CEOs are hard headed and often need a drubbing to take notice). Their point was that I needed to affirmatively find a solid long-term solution or to move on with my career. That day I went back to my office and triggered a series of events that led to my exit, and to the founding of my consulting firm in 2007. I’ve never looked back. Interestingly, we often play this role for clients, who need a push, plus a little confidence and guidance to make courageous changes that help them break free from their past and pursue a brighter future.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Sher: It has been very important. It gave me a solid understanding of the basics of business, like accounting and marketing. It seemed slow and laborious at the time, but from every class, I drew nuggets. Realize that I worked while going to school, leading what was then a small business. So I had every chance to practice what I learned. I got my graduate degree when I was 27 in an executive program, and I realized, to my surprise, that I was truly an executive. Too often, small and middle market business leaders exist in an isolated world. They really don’t know what they’re made of, how they really stack up. That certainly was true of me, and my confidence took a big step up from the experience.

That, and Michael Porter’s teachings! I also learned how to learn, and today, many years later, what I learned in a class has given way to what I now learn on my own. I can become an expert in many things if I devote some time and focus to it. My formal education also includes teaching at the MBA level, and assembling my curriculum. I learned a lot by having to organize my thoughts and deliver them effectively in a classroom.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you when to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Sher: Building a strong, deep, wide network. I grew up being taught about hard work, but teamwork and friends were not emphasized at all. I got a long way with hard work and good insights. It wasn’t until way later that I learned that who you know (and who you’ve helped along the way) is a powerful factor for success. And helping people is gratifying as well!

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-tse’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.”

Sher: The more leaders you can harness in pursuit of your vision, the more quickly it will become a reality. Even employees at the bottom of the org chart can feel a bit like leaders if they have some latitude, and are allowed to participate in decision-making. Understand where your people are, and work to help them get better, if only in small increments. An incremental approach to greatness is what works best, and the people will indeed feel like they have ownership of the success. As the top leader, sometimes it can feel a little unfair that little credit is given—yet offsetting that is an amazing team that will continue to perform at high levels.

Morris: From Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

Sher: From the CEO’s seat, I advocate planting the seeds of my ideas within my team and letting them grow there. Then, hopefully (!) my team will take ownership of an idea, and it will blossom. But that’s not stealing my ideas, that’s nurturing them. I believe that in midsized companies, there must be a process for evaluating ideas, so that the best ones will eventually become “obvious” and eagerly adopted, not “forced down people’s throats.”

Morris: From Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”

Sher: I’m probably not deep enough to really appreciate this, but from my perspective, in business, it’s a reminder that the best and most profitable growth comes when you are innovating to find scalable opportunities and then growing them before everyone else jumps in.

Morris: From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd….’”

Sher: Our ears are more powerful than our mouths. Too many of us fail to listen, to observe with care and to think and deliberate. While we may love our ideas the moment they pop into our heads, most of them require research and observation before they are worthy of acclaim.

Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Sher: Being clear about why we are doing something, why it is essential, and how it ties into our most important strategies is a great place to start before diving into any business project.

Morris: In one of Tom Davenport’s recent books, 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?

Sher: There is never, ever a substitute for a great leader. The best leaders create and maintain the conditions for great teams to make great decisions. In most cases, the leader won’t have to make the decision, because they have a great team doing so. Is a great leader a great man? I think so, but not because of their individual contribution or personal judgment. Likewise, I would point out the vast difference between a tyrant with “direct control” and a “single leader” of a great team. Approach is everything.

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?

Sher: Of course we must test things, and many ideals will fail. My big point is that failing on a small scale makes sense, but there’s no excuse for failing big without de-risking first on a small scale. Too many midsized firms make reckless attempts at growth, blowing big money. That’s foolish, a stupid mistake. Nothing brilliant about that whatsoever.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

Rob cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

All about Mighty Midsized Companies link

Free assessments and other tools link

Rob’s consulting firm, CEO to CEO, website link

Sunday, October 19, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Learn to Manage Change You Didn’t Create at Our November 12 Workshop

DO YOU OFTEN NEED TO IMPLEMENT CHANGE THAT YOU DIDN’T CREATE?   

IF SO, OUR WORKSHOP ON MANAGING CHANGE IS JUST FOR YOU!

On Tuesday, November 12, Creative Communication Network offers a half-day public workshop on Managing Change, from 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., at the Richardson Civic Center.  Our facilitator is Randy Mayeux.

You can find complete details, including a registration form, in the upper-right hand corner of our web site.   We have an early-bird discount and reduced prices for multiple registrants from the same organization.  Registrants for more than one of our three workshops on November 12-13 receive additional discounts.  Click HERE to get to that web site for RichardsonCivicCenterLogodetails and the registration form.  NOTE:  We are limiting the number of participants to only 20, in order to maximize interaction.

In the midst of ever-increasing change, the ability to manage your own effectiveness is now required for virtually every position in an organization.  In this program, learn how to turn change into a powerful competitive advantage, and into a friend, rather than an enemy.  This program helps you to:

  • implement change you didn’t create
  • work in a change-friendly environment
  • reduce personal anxiety about change
  • produce an environment of freedom
  • look for positive changes to implement

The program has three sections:

1.  All about change

2.  Experience change

3.  Strategies for change

Every participant will submit a pre-assessment and Randy will provide those results to you as part of the program

The registration fee includes breakfast, a pre-assessment, the workbook, and implementable “work-with’s.”

Join the many professionals who have experienced this fast-paced, interactive, and practical program!

If you have questions, please call us at (972) 980-0383 or send an e-Mail to info@creativecommnet.com.

We are really excited about having you join us!

 

Saturday, October 18, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , | Leave a comment

“Too Many Secrets” – Thoughts on Transparency, Openness, and Full, Effective Communication

Too Many SecretsToo Many Secrets…

That is the catchy phrase that is at the heart of the plot of the 1992 movie Sneakers. Robert Redford and his band of clandestine secret finders are put into a pretty severe dilemma as they discover one really whopping secret.

But, the catch phrase is pretty universally true. There are too many secrets! Companies and organizations try to keep their questionable activities secret. And, they definitely try to keep their mistakes, especially their really big mistakes, secret.

And so we call for more transparency. Constantly. The latest call is to Presbyterian Hospital, and the CDC, regarding what was done, when it was done, and by whom, in the midst of the treatment of Ebola victims.

But, in a thousand little ways, there are secrets kept that should not be kept. For example, in companies, when a message that should be sent to all within the company, and people do not receive, or do not “attend to” (pay attention to) the message. Thus, though intended to not be kept secret, the message is still, in fact, secret.

And, messages kept secret, whether on purpose or by accident, can hurt a company, an organization, even an entire society, in some significant ways.

Scaling Up ExcellenceIn the book Scaling Up Excellence, Robert Sutton writes:

Scaling Up Excellence tackles a challenge that confronts every leader and organization – spreading constructive beliefs and behavior from the few to the many.

In other words, communicating — getting the word out! When there is an important message, don’t keep it a secret. Spread it far and wide. And, make sure it is received and understood far and wide. When messages are fully, successfully communicated – no longer secret! — an entire organization moves forward.

I just finished reading a book about DREAMers and the Dream Act (The DREAMersread this blog post). In the midst of the book was the challenge of spreading messages throughout a movement. Getting everybody to understand, and then to “stay on message,” was/is a big challenge.

Too Many Secrets… what secrets do you need to make sure are secret on longer?

Friday, October 17, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Two Important Questions – And, My Takeaways from The DREAMers by Walter Nichols

It seems that there are always two important questions. I think one gets more attention than the other.

Question #1 — The first is some version of this question: “how do we become successful, stay successful, and become ever more successful in our business endeavors?”

This question is pretty much at the top of any and every agenda.

Question #2 — The other is some version of this question: “how do we become, and remain, a society that enhances the human spirit?” This question encompasses all sorts of challenges about human need, social justice, education, health… and I’m not sure it is always equal on the agenda with Question #1.

I think it should be.

DreamersSo… I just finished reading The Dreamers: How the Undocumented Youth Movement Transformed the Immigrant Rights Debate by Walter Nichols (Stanford University Press. 2013). I will present my synopsis of this book later today at the Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by CitySquare.

It is definitely a book that deals with Question #2, (though it does have implications for the first).

Here’s what I found: “illegal immigrants” are not quite considered “human” by a large, powerful group of people. They are viewed, in some sense, as “less than human.”

But there is one group that has more successfully made the journey from “illegal immigrants” to “undocumented people.” These are the DREAMers – the people who went thorough our school system and graduated. (The name comes from the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act — the DREAM Act).

From the book:

This group of undocumented immigrants learned how to construct compelling rights claims, identify public arenas, such as campuses and the Internet, to express their claims, plan and undertake high-risk protests, and lobby public officials to support bills recognizing their rights and the rights of other undocumented immigrants in the country.
and
It was during this time when the slogans “I Exist!” and “Undocumented and Unafraid” became prominent.

The book is, I think, an accurate description of the struggle to become “acceptable/fully human” for a large group of folks. I think the book clearly identifies the core issue. From my handout (obviously, ideas from the book):

The core issue (of this book; of our time(?)) is – “Who” are “persons?”
Illegal aliens as “other” — 

  • most of all, “other than human” (other than “as human”)
  • Persons vs. aliens
  • Persons vs. illegals
  • “We Are All Human!” This prominent slogan captures the essence of the immigrant rights movement.

At its core, this is a struggle over who should be considered fully “human” and how those deemed “less-than-human” should be treated by the government and members of the national community.

Whether you are “for” accepting these “DREAMers,” or against, this much is pretty clear – there are lots of them in this country. I think we have continued to kick this issue down the road, and I’m not sure that is a good plan… It’s certainly not how human beings should treat other human beings – leaving them in limbo.

Here are my takeaways from the book:

1. First, “self-definition” can lead to “others understanding”…
2. Sadly, this book is a reminder that “politics is the art of the possible“you can’t always get what you want” – (or, nowhere near all you want)
3. “Messaging” precedes progress; disciplined messaging matters; remember to “identify” with the core values of your “opposition” (the core values of the actual power-holding decision-makers).
4. Even when you have “majority advantages,” a minority can block acceptance…
5. And, one footnote – think about Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri, and all of the “connected” issues – in other words, think about lingering realities about racism…)

You might agree with this book, or disagree. But, no matter which side of the issue you fall on, this is a book worth considering. It will help you think about Question #2.

(In case you care to know, I am a strong supporter of the DREAM act, and, really, a supporter of much greater acceptance of undocumented people).

Thursday, October 16, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Recognition, Responsibility, and then Money, for a World Made up of Teams – Insight from Ken May, CEO, Topgolf

Ken May

Ken May

“work and play well with others – the world is made up of teams.”
Ken May, CEO, Topgolf

———————-

This is what it boils down to – who do you have on your team? Every other question seems to come after this one.

Ken May, CEO of Topgolf, spoke at Success North Dallas this morning. He gave a little history, some leadership counsel, and added some good career advice. I liked the themes he emphasized: the importance of servant leadership (the leader works FOR the people he/she serves, said Mr. May), learn all you can (he went back to school to earn his MBA. He said he never would have made it out of middle management if he had not gone back to school); admit your mistakes. Really good counsel and advice.

But, back to the centrality of teams. He talked about how to motivate the people on his team(s). He said that there were really only three things that motivate people:

Recognition
Responsibility
Money

Recognize every person for every job done well. Recognize them in big ways after a big win, or after an extra effort – especially in a moment of crisis (an all hands on deck moment).

Responsibility – give people responsibility. When it is a person’s job to be responsible for a specific area/task, that can be very motivating.

Get these two right, and your team members won’t be motivated solely by money. In fact, Mr. May believes that money is the poorest motivator of the three.

And he was especially high on recognition. He told good stories about how we each cherish “recognition” at any level – beginning in our earliest years.

snd-logoSuccess North Dallas has good speakers, and great networking – good and talented and smart people show up. Thanks to Bill Wallace and his team for a consistently helpful and valuable experience. Ken May certainly provided a terrific “I’m glad I heard him speak” morning session.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Karl M. Kapp: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

Kapp

Karl M. Kapp, Ed.D., CFPIM, CIRM, is a scholar, writer and expert on the convergence of learning, technology and business operations. He is a graduate professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA. where he teaches courses in instructional game design and gamification and is the Director of the acclaimed Institute for Interactive Technologies. He is author of six books on the convergence of learning and technology and has authored courses for Lynda.com.

Karl works internationally to help government, corporate and non-profit organizations leverage learning technologies to positively impact productivity and profitability. He provides advice on e-learning design, games and gamification and learning technology to companies and organizations in diverse industries ranging from pharmaceutical, to manufacturing to high-tech. Karl He is a Participant in the National Security Agency Advisory Board (NSAAB) (Emerging Technologies Panel) and sits on several National Science Foundation (NSF) visiting committees. He works frequently with startup companies. He has been called a “Rock Star” of eLearning and is listed among the top gamification experts in the world as it relates to learning and instruction. In 2007, Karl was named one of the Top 20 Most Influential Training Professionals as voted by TrainingIndustry, Inc.

Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of him. To read the complete interview, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Kapp: My family had a huge influence on my personal growth. Growing up everyone in my family was involved in teaching. My mother was a teacher, my father taught classes at the local community college and my grandmother had been a teacher. It was instilled in me early that education is a ticket to great things. I learned to value learning and gained an appetite for continual learning. My grandmother was so into learning that during her lifetime, she earned two different master’s degrees in biology. She had gotten her masters in biology early in her career and after about 10 years, she decided that the field had changed so much that she had to go back and refresh her knowledge with another master’s degree. So my family set the expectation that learning was something that was of value, important and should be pursued. I didn’t always appreciate it at the time. In fact, one of most frequent gifts I got as a youngster was books. I can tell you a 13-year-old boy doesn’t really appreciate the gift of books on his birthday when he really wanted a soccer ball. You can’t appreciate that until you are older but over the long run, it makes a difference. I can still remember when my grandmother gave me “Gone with the Wind” to read. At the time, it was the longest book I ever saw and never thought I could finish it. My grandmother paid me to read the book—she bribed me. It turns out I really enjoyed the book and then discovered I could read that many pages.

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Kapp: In high school I had a teacher for composition named Mr. Mortimer. He did two things that had a profound impact on my later success as a writer of non-fiction. First, we had class every day and every day he made us write for the first ten minutes. We would come into class, sit down and he would set the timer for ten minutes and we would write. At the time I thought this was the dumbest, stupidest and most frustrating thing to do. We could write about anything so most of the time I wrote about how dumb it was to write for ten minutes straight. Looking back years later, it was the best gift anyone could give me. He taught me in those ten minutes a day that writing is not an instant inspiration or a shazam of insight but rather a deliberate process that can be mastered through practice. He taught me to write even when I have nothing to write about and something will come. He taught me to overcome writer’s block. He taught me about writing and re-writing. Those ten minutes every day were the best ten minutes I spent in my high school career.

The second thing Mr. Mortimer taught me was that getting published was not just something that “other people” did but that people I knew actually got published. I always thought just famous or special people got published. One day Mr. Mortimer came to class all excited because he had just gotten an article published in “Field and Stream” magazine. I was so impressed and I remember thinking if my English teacher here in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania can get published then maybe I have a shot. It took me almost a decade later for my first published article but I did it and I owe that inspiration to Mr. Mortimer.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Kapp: The turning point for me was landing an internship at an instructional design company after college. There was this company near my hometown called Applied Science Associates (ASA) and no one really knew what they did—something with computers or learning or something. So having an English degree as an undergraduate with lots of courses in Psychology and a teaching certificate, it seemed like interning at a company that had something to do with learning would be a good fit. Plus when I was younger, I was involved in a local theatre group and we were recruited by ASA to play kids in a safety video. So my pitch to work at the company was that I had actually worked for them before as an actor and so now I wanted to work for them as an intern. They gave me a little quiz, I think it was creating a small instructional lesson based on some content and the next thing I knew I was interning for them. As I learned more about what they did and how they created corporate training with technology (at the time green screen computers with text-only interactions), I decided this was the career for me and changed my graduate school enrollment from educational counseling to instructional technology. I loved what they were doing and how the field used all my skills of teaching, Psychology and writing. It was an eye opener because before that I never even knew the field of instructional design existed.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Kapp: My formal education influenced me in terms of writing, from the experience with Mr. Mortimer and then my English degree and teaching certificate influenced my ability to get the job at Applied Science Associates and my Doctoral degree influenced my ability to get my job at Bloomsburg University. At every step of the way, my education has propelled me to the next level. I think what formal education does is to make you study, in-depth topics and that it sometimes makes you learn and do things you don’t think you want to do but in the end are really good for you. Good formal education stretches your mind, it needs to hurt a little, it needs to be a little frustrating and then you can truly grow and learn from the experience. I think informal educational experiences don’t always have the same pain point and, at times, that pain point is good for personal growth even if you may not like it at the time.

Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.

Kapp: I think The Matrix. So why this movie? First, it is one of my all-time favorite movies. But second, it is really about thinking beyond perceived limits. It is about breaking boundaries and refusing to be stuck in the status quo. Innovation in business is about taking a look at what everyone else sees and then finding the areas that can be pushed or destroyed or reconfigured to create new value and to introduce new ideas. So the concept that “there is no spoon” really resonates with me. I like to think about what boundaries can be pushed or removed to create a new way of presenting content or interacting with learners. The concept of gamification is about pushing the boundaries of traditional learning and shaping a new reality…it’s what The Matrix is all about.

Morris: From which non- business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Kapp: George Orwell’s Animal Farm had an impact because it led me to realize that power and control can be a cyclical occurrence. One can be in power and then easily drop out of power and the people who gain the new power will eventually be out of the position of power as well. This served a cautionary tale to me so that I always try to keep in mind that power or control is fleeting and that you always need to be careful of what you do and say to people because no matter what your relationship is with someone, it can change for better or worse so apply the golden rule or you could be in a terrible position. The book also highlighted to me that a person can be influential without having to be in power or control. As a young kid in high school, those were some pretty impactful lessons.

Another book I read in high school but didn’t really understand until my job at the university was Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. Heller so elegantly and hilariously captured the workings, or should I say mis-workings of a bureaucratic organization. Unfortunately, not a week goes by that I don’t think I am in some kind of sequel to the book. It taught me to laugh at the absurdities that surround every working adult.

Morris: From which business book or author have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Kapp: The following business books have always had an impact on me. Early in my career I read everything I could by Tom Peters. I loved the way he gathered and interpreted research from multiple sources, loved the way he wrote and expressed his ideas. He openly contradicted himself, he interviewed smart people. My favorite book of his is Re-Imagine and I hope one day to use that format of tons of graphics, call outs and general chaotic pages for a book. It was brilliant and stands the test of time.

In fact one quote that Peters had in one of his books was by Mario Andretti, “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.” Whether or purpose or by accident, I seem to live that quote frequently. Control is an illusion that we need to get rid of to excel. But that’s hard to do but the results can be fascinating.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-tse’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.”

Kapp: Leadership is about consensus. I think too often young leaders envision everyone automatically falling in line with whatever they want to do. In reality, to lead is to serve to work with others to accomplish goals. I always try to involve others in my writing and projects. Early in my career I wrote an article titled “Lone Ranger Need Not Apply” the article was about how it takes a team to implement new software. And I think it takes a team to accomplish any goal worth accomplishing and good leaders first create good teams.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

Karl cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

Karl’s Website link

Karl’s TEDx Talk link

YouTube Gamification link

Facebook link

Pinterest link

Articles:

“Gamification Myths Debunked: How To Sidestep Failure And Boost Employee Learning” link

“Improve Training: Thinking Like a Game Developer”link

“Gamification of Retail Safety and Loss Prevention Training” link

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Design” Trumps “Random” – One Message from Peter Thiel in Zero to One

After praising the “design” brilliance of Steve Jobs, Peter Thiel tells this story in his book Zero to One:

facebook-mark-zuckerberg-300x176When Yahoo! Offered to buy Facebook for $1 billion in July, 2006, I thought we should at least consider it. But Mark Zuckerberg walked into the board meeting and announced: “Okay, guys, this is just a formality, it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. We’re obviously not going to sell here.” Mark saw where he could take the company, and Yahoo! didn’t. A business with a good definite plan will always be underrated in a world where people see the future as random.

“What would it mean to prioritize design over chance?” That is the question that Mr. Thiel asks, and partly answers by his Mark Zuckerberg story.

Zero-to-One-book-cover-200x300I am reading Zero to One almost leisurely – by design. I’ll read a chapter, than I’ll think a while, then I’ll read another chapter. It is a book that makes me think. But, I am beginning to grasp that the author would not approve of such a reaction. He would rather see me read the book, and then rather than “think a while,” I should go “design something to do – and then, do it…”

You know– “do something.” 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 383 other followers

%d bloggers like this: