First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Kai Hammerich: An interview by Bob Morris

HammerichBased in London, Kai Hammerich heads the European Leadership & Succession Practice for Russell Reynolds Associates. He has conducted numerous chairman, board, CEO and c-suite assignments for major Nordic, European and global technology clients as well as for some the largest Nordic corporations. He has been nominated: One of the World’s most influential headhunters, by BusinessWeek. He is an expert in aligning talent strategies with corporate strategy and culture.

Kai has considerable experience in advising clients on how to align a company’s talent portfolio with the overall business strategy and company culture. He has worked with Private Equity clients, Fortune 100 type clients as well as VC-based growth companies. He is specialized in the B2B and B2C communications, digital/convergence and IT enterprise solutions space.

Prior his search career, Kai worked in the computer industry for 10 years, most for Apple Computer as the U.K. Regional Marketing Director, based in London, and as EMEA Marketing Manager for the Education Business Unit based in Paris. Earlier, he was CEO in a venture capital financed software start-up company, Maconomy, which subsequently went public and held sales and marketing roles at HP.

Kai received his M.B.A. with distinction, from Northwestern University, Kellogg Graduate School of Management and his M.Sc. in economics from the University of Aarhus, Denmark. He is fluent in Danish, English, and conversational in Swedish and Norwegian.

He is the co-author with Richard D. Lewis of Fish Can’t See Water: How National Culture Can Make or Break Your Corporate Strategy, published by John Wiley & Sons (2012).

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

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Fish Can’t See Water, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Hammerich: My mother. She taught me to listen to other people and to empathize with them.

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

Hammerich: When at Kellogg Business School, history professor Lavengood taught a course on Business Ethics. This hugely impacted my sense of responsibility as a business leader, not only in driving results for shareholders, but also as importantly in appreciating how a leader acts as the ethical beacon for the organization. Don’t ask someone to do something you would not do yourself!

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.

Hammerich: I joined the search industry without really having any clue of what it was all about. (So much for the diligent analysis taught at Business Schools at great expense). I loved the people, the freedom you have as a search professional, the impact you can have if successful in your recommendations – and the responsibility your advice carries.

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

Whilst studying at Kellogg I had planned to return to Denmark to become a business school professor. I clearly failed in that ambition. However, Kellogg, which is a fantastic business school, opened so many opportunities for me. I am grateful and today I am a Kellogg Alumni Council member.

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?

Hammerich: That it can be cut-throat, but that anyone has a fair chance to succeed, if they have talent and work hard. A MBA gives you an edge, but only for a period. You have to create your own success, by being successful – and helping others develop and so that they can be successful, also.

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

Hammerich: One of John Kotler’s books, Marketing Management. It teaches you to always look at the world from the perspective of the customer. This is an eternal truism from Wall Street to the bazaar in Persia.

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.”

Many of the business principles that management gurus hail are truisms that have been known for a very long time. Decentralization and empowerment are two of them. Understanding your customer is another.

Morris: Next, from Voltaire: “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”

Hammerich: Curiosity and an open mind prevail over dogmatism in the long term.

Morris: And then, from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

Hammerich: People who seek authenticity may never find it. Authentic leaders are often simply themselves.

Morris: From Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Hammerich: Fish can’t see water.

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

Hammerich: Focus on what is essential, simplify the problem, and act on it. Complex problems do not always require a complex answer.

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?

Hammerich: Their logic has some – perhaps a lot of — merit. Complex business problems can sometimes best be solved by the common-sensical approach of an insightful and inspired leader. However, in today’s complex world, managers often need to rely on the diverse experience of a diverse leadership group supported by complex information systems to make decisions. Though this can also blind them to the obvious. One must never allow the systems to prevail over common sense. This is where culture plays in – to help guide decisions when there is no obvious answer, or an automatically systems-generated answer feels wrong.

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?

Hammerich: Without painful mistakes you don’t learn and grow as fast. Every corporation needs to test its deeply-held assumptions on a regular basis – though this requires that they know what these assumptions are – which they often don’t. Hence the recommendation in our book to conduct a regular cultural audit.

Morris: In your opinion, why do so many C-level executives seem to have such a difficult time delegating work to others?

Hammerich: They succeeded by being in control. It is difficult to let go of embedded habits – in particular for successful people.

Morris: The greatest leaders throughout history (with rare exception) were great storytellers. What do you make of that?

Hammerich: Complex problems often require simple solutions that can be easily communicated. The human mind is simply not prepared for handling the complexity of global corporations with hundreds of thousands of employees.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

The Fish Can’t See Water homepage link

Kai’s Amazon page link

Russell Reynolds Associates link

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft: An interview by Bob Morris

Doorley

Scott Doorley is the Creative Director at the Stanford d.school. His design work centers on using media and environments to enhance interactions, gently guide behavior, and bolster learning. At Stanford, he teaches classes in communication design including storytelling & visual communication, improvisation, and digital media design. His large scale digital installations with the Dacha Art Collective have been exhibited in the San Jose Museum of Art and the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts San Francisco. Scott has degrees in Film from UCLA (BA ’96) and Learning, Design, & Technology from Stanford University (MA ’06).

Witthoft

Scott Witthoft is a former Fellow and current Lecturer at the Stanford University d.school. His professional work as an engineer and a designer has focused on understanding and manipulating interactions among systems. This has included forensic structural engineering, furniture design, and curriculum design. As a Lecturer at Stanford University, he teaches classes in human-centered design and storytelling & visual communication. Scott has degrees in Civil Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis (BS, ’99) and The University of Texas at Austin (MS, ’00), and Product Design from Stanford University (MSE ’08).

Scott and Scott are co-authors of the recent book, Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration, published by John Wiley & Sons (2012). It is a tool box for everyone interested in designing and creating environments to support creative collaboration. The work is based on years of classes and programs at the d.school.

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

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Make Space, a few general questions. To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Witthoft: Formal education makes me think of classroom education. Fortunately even a lot of my classroom education led me outside the classroom. I offer eternal credit to a lot of subversive teachers for that. In thinking of key attributes of the people in all of my learning environments—home & school—one that stands out is being around people who are actively interested in learning and applying what they learn, geeks and hoodlums alike. The best situations have been those in which students and teachers have been equivalently interested in learning.

I’m not sure if it is my own inability to make disconnections or if it is a result of many people who illuminated interconnectivity of stuff, but in any event, the ability to make connections among things has been really helpful to me in all aspects of life. Setting up a canvas can have a process in the same way that designing a beam or a foundation can have a process. Never in my education has it been necessary to dissociate the two. In fact, more often than not, being able to translate frames has been an aid to others I’ve worked with.

Doorley: I love to learn, formally or informally. Finding learning opportunities is a primary consideration for me in making decisions about everything from career paths to travel plans.

Formal education brings people together in the midst of vulnerabilities which connected me tightly to the people I met in those times. It also offered me time out to focus exclusively on learning above other habits. In addition, formal education provided me with permission to be a novice and allowed me to ask broad questions.

That said, I the biggest thing I’ve learned through formal education is that those postures (learning, being a novice, questioning, and vulnerability) are valuable to hold onto beyond the walls of a university. They are useful in any and every moment of life.

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.”

Witthoft: The framing of “begin with what they have” is really intriguing, not as a disclaimer but as a banner, in fact: We *can* do it because we have the tools. Often the most successful work (in terms of spaces and design concepts) are those in which people see & feel that they have direct agency to build & change things. This is sometimes antithetical to a more conventional notion in the workplace that a facilities crew could and should be in charge of everything else chaos will reign. It seems like a good bit of order or at least convention is helpful in setting a default—ground rules—but I’m very often inspired by the activities and creations emerge when people feel individual agency to respond with options rather than limit based on what’s allowed.

Morris: Next, from Voltaire: “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”

Doorley: I doubt Voltaire intended it, but this quote perfectly describes a particular approach to prototyping. Every new solution brings a new context, and thus a new truth. Learning and honing can be the goal of prototyping. Getting better at getting better becomes the higher goal rather than getting to the “best of all possible solutions.”

Morris: And then, from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

Doorley: There’s an adage in some theatrical improv circles: “be obvious.” Sharing your gut instinct provides fertile fodder for an improvisation to grow and continue. If you hold back, other players have nothing to build on. Through this lens, it is critical to share your full self in creative work. That said, we’re not idle objects. We’re constantly evolving and are shaped by what we’re exposed to. If you believe that expressing your full and true self is valuable, then it follows that you have to take care of yourself and expose yourself to challenging and positive experiences to be able to share your best.

Morris: From Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Doorley: Yes––except that all our thinking is built atop previous thinking. I think this operates at the micro-level in particular: small changes in thinking (or process or behavior or action) can be all that is needed to solve the next problem (which will then spawn it’s own set of new problems to be solved with slightly new ways of thinking and so on).

Witthoft: I’m curious if Einstein thought of this in the midst of a pattern or routine in his daily life? It nudges me to think about how patterns can be viewed from afar and then maybe shifted ever so slightly for different outcomes.

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

Witthoft: This seems like the perfect caption for Alec Guinness’ facial expression at the end of, The Bridge on the River Kwai. There can be a lot of fun in applying efficiency to a creative process while recognizing that time & energy savings might allow more experimentation. I’m pretty enthusiastic about following guitar luthiers and this conundrum of efficiency versus creativity or automation versus authenticity is ever-present in that field. Even then, neither of those considerations really addresses the “correctness”—whether that be moral, practical, or contextual correctness—of actually doing what you are doing. Making a delicious meal for people is a beautiful thing, but sequentially serving up seven piping-hot courses of pork to a table full of vegetarians misses the mark. Connecting to a goal by talking with & listening to people always feels like a good step in answering the question, “Should I be doing this?”

Morris: Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original (perhaps unrealistic) expectations. More often than not, resistance is cultural in nature, the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

Here’s my question: How best to avoid or overcome such resistance?

Doorley: I think it is quite difficult to build consensus with a large group around the unknown. The most success we’ve had has been to allow people to experience the change––through large scale prototypes or pilots––and put weight behind the people who have the most energy for change––by resourcing those who are actively making change for themselves. Both strategies have the benefit of making the future state tangible so people can compare it to the present tense. Discussion about the future is a valuable exercise in understanding emotional needs, but is not helpful in taming resistance to potential changes.

Morris: Now please shift your attention to Make Space. When and why did you decide to write it?

Witthoft: In 2010 or early 2011, several of us in The Environments Collaborative (then called “The Space Team”) were working on capturing some situations & patterns that had proven repeatedly successful in practice both in spaces and behaviors among the various d.school build-outs. Many people who had participated in d.school classes and programs as well as visitors who had come by to explore asked about how things were built and why. This interest led to some early categorization of information—it became evident that we weren’t just turning out furniture. With several members of The Environments Collaborative—Dave Baggeroer, Adam Royalty, Natalie Woyzbun, and Joel Sadler—we began to create “Space Studies” that were short text and graphic pieces to capture and share this content. This concept set an early structure for the later content in Make Space.

Scott and I began writing the book in early 2011, prototyping the design and content many times over the course of the year.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.

Witthoft: In very specific regard to the written text, Scott and I worked through what we guessed was a conventional process of grouping everything in categories and assembling all of the content in sequential order. After doing that, we both read it and thought, “this is terrible.” No one, including us, could take in the material this way. The questions that prompted us capturing written “answers” never arrived in such a linear way, and we never talk about it this way. That realization led to a redesign of how the information in the book could respond to the ways in which we knew people asked questions.

On another note, we realized that we could not separate the written content from the visual design of the book. (This is also a very conventional sequence in writing books: text then pictures.) Writing out dimensions is laborious and it is often a terrible way to communicate them, versus showing how they apply in a graphical way. We were very fortunate to work with the book designers — Scott Stowell and his designers at Open — who are experts at not only understanding communication but designing it for the reader’s experience rather than convention alone.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

Doorley: We knew early on that we wanted it to be more tool / instruction manual than treatise / research. The idea of short sections with information that can be put into action is something we envisioned from the start. Early on we used instructions as a metaphor: from Lego’s to Chilton’s manuals. The biggest shift was the shuffled order of these bits of content to provide more of a magazine style layout. As mentioned, Scott Stowell and the designers at Open, as well as our book “producer” Grace Hawthorne were extremely helpful in making that vision come to life. By laying the book out in these sorted chunks, we we’re able to fulfill a goal that the book can be engaged quickly then set aside just as quickly so you can get to work. Thus our goal was to create a book that people put down (because it inspires action). Anecdotally, we’ve found that this has panned out.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

Scott and Scott cordially invite you to check out the resources at these websites:

Doorley’s Amazon page link

His d.school faculty page link

Witthoft’s Amazon page link

His d.school faculty page link

Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (d.school) link

Sunday, April 13, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Talk Like TED: A book review by Bob Morris

Talk Like TEDTalk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds
Carmine Gallo
St. Martin’s Press (2014)

How and why a TED presentation resembles “a Cirque Du Soleil for the mind”

As Carmine Gallo explains, Richard Saul Wurman created the TED conference in 1984 as a onetime event. (TED refers to Technology, Education, and Design.) It became a four-day conference six years later. Chris Anderson purchased TED in 2001. Until 2005, it remained a once-a-year conference: four days of programs, 50 speakers, and 18-minute presentations. Anderson added TEDGlobal to reach an international audience. TED.com was launched in 2006. Thus far, the website has attracted more than one [begin] billion [end] views, averaging about two million day.

The video programs have been translated into more than 90 languages. There are no charges to access any of the TED programs. After attending the 2006 conference, documentary filmmaker Daphne Zuniga described it as “Cirque Du Soleil for the mind.” Oprah Winfrey later observed, “TED is where brilliant people go to hear other brilliant people.”

Those who have already read Carmine Gallo’s previously published works, notably The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, will be especially interested in what he shares in his latest book because the “secrets” to which its subtitle refers are provided by a remarkably diverse group of thought leaders. They include Chimimanda Ngozi Adiche, Brené Brown, David Christian, Amy Cuddy, David Gallo, Bjarke Ingels, Sarah Kay, Johnny Lee, Sir Ken Robinson, Hans Rosling, and Bryan Stevenson. All of them have made one or more presentations under the TED auspices.

Those invited to make a TED presentation receive a copy of a Guide and of these “Commandments”:

1. Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick.
2. Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before.
3. Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and thy Passion.
4. Thou Shalt Tell a Story.
5. Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy.
6. Thou Shalt Not Flaunt Thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success.
7. Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desperate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.
8. Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.
9. Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech.
10. Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them.

The dozens of videos available at no cost bring the stated and implied advice on this list to life and can also be of substantial value to anyone else who is preparing a presentation, whatever its nature and extent may be. Gallo is thoroughly qualified to explain HOW to do it, based on vast experience that includes but is by no means limited to Steve Jobs and others who have made TED presentations.

In fact, one of his book’s greatest strengths is that it creates a context, a frame of reference, for each of the nine “secrets” that are actually guidelines. My strong recommendation is to proceed from one chapter to the next, pausing to visit the TED website and check out the speakers to whom Gallo refers, then re-read the relevant portion in the book’s narrative. With rare exception, body language and tone of voice have much greater impact than what is actually said. It is therefore important to experience first-hand what Gallo explains so adroitly.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Steve Yastrow: An interview by Bob Morris

YastrowSteve Yastrow is the author of three books: Ditch the Pitch: The Art of Improvised Persuasion, We: The Ideal Customer Relationship, and Brand Harmony. Management guru Tom Peters said, “When Steve Yastrow writes, I pay close attention,” and called Brand Harmony “compelling and powerful,” and We a “superb book.” Steve’s fresh, provocative approach to marketing, customer relationships and sales shows organizations how to create compelling customer beliefs that drive business results. As a consultant, speaker and writer he challenges his clients, audiences and readers to answer the question, “Do your customers believe in you?”

Steve’s in-depth, real-world experiences advising hundreds of companies and organizations inform his practical, proven approach to driving business results. His firm, Yastrow and Company, has served such clients as McDonald’s Corporation, The Tom Peters Company, Kimpton Hotels, the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, Agilent Technologies, Jenny Craig International, Great Clips for Hair, Cold Stone Creamery, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Viacord, and many other organizations. Steve was previously vice-president of resort marketing for Hyatt Hotels & Resorts.

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

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Ditch the Pitch, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your professional development? How so?

Yastrow: There are two people who taught me how to look at business with common sense, which is an invaluable perspective. Again, I need to point to my father, Shelby Yastrow, who was a senior executive with McDonald’s, running their legal department and a number of other departments. Dad’s business view is all about common sense. It’s hard to believe he’s an attorney! Also, Jim Noyes, who was my boss right out of business school, is a master of business common sense, and I use what he taught me every day.

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.

Yastrow: I became the vice-president of resort marketing at Hyatt Hotels at age 32, taking on responsibility for a struggling business that relied heavily on advertising for its marketing. It became clear to me, very quickly, that large advertising expenditures were doing very little to drive the business, and that a great customer experience at Hyatt Resorts was creating strong customer loyalty. That opened up a path, which I’ve been exploring for more than twenty years, which recognizes that a company’s most powerful marketing communications are often not created by the marketing department. I can draw a direct line from that realization to the publication of my first book, Brand Harmony, ten years later.

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

Yastrow: My undergraduate degree from Indiana University is in music composition and philosophy, followed by an MBA in marketing, finance and economics from the J.L. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. It’s obvious how the MBA has helped me, but I’m convinced that both music composition and philosophy have helped my career immensely. Philosophy helped me learn how to think, and music composition helped me with everything from creativity, writing, aesthetics, ideas about communication and, importantly, the concept of brand harmony. The improv ideas in my most recent book, Ditch the Pitch, are heavily tied to my experience playing improvised music, which I’ve been doing since I was a teenager.

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

Yastrow: I’m going to cheat a little and refer to films of Shakepeare’s plays, which I think are laden with great business lessons. Hamlet, beyond the obvious issues of succession in a family enterprise, teaches a powerful lesson about the gap between knowing what to do and actually executing on what you know. Macbeth is in many ways the opposite of Hamlet, showing how impetuous action without strategic forethought can end in disaster. Romeo and Juliet illustrates how self-destructive it is to focus more on how much you hate your competition than on what you need to do to succeed; Tybalt is an all-too familiar character in business. And Lear shows how the vanity of leadership and the hubris of power can erode a leader’s true power base, to the point where he has no real support.

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

Yastrow: First, The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman. She shows how different entities in power, including Troy falling for the Greek’s horse, the renaissance popes, the British during the time of the American colonies’ revolt and America in Vietnam, all brought about their own defeats through their own short-sightedness. This book is a mirror for many bad business decisions. Second, and on a related theme, Jared Diamond’s Collapse shows how strong societies and civilizations can fall apart through actions they could have controlled. His story of Easter Island, and how the building of those large statues destroyed their environment and their economy should be required reading for any company enjoying great success whose executives thinks they can do no wrong.

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.”

Yastrow: Thanks for introducing me to this quote. It exactly describes Yastrow and Company’s process of involving our clients’ employees in our strategy projects. Not only do employees provide great insights, they appreciate participating in the project and develop a sense of ownership for the strategies that lead to effective buy-in.

Morris: And then, from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

Yastrow: A wonderful premise for creating a brand strategy, and for creating a life. So much of my brand work is about helping companies get clear about who they are and who they intend to be. So often they use the competition as their reference point and distracted by wanting to be like – or unlike – their competitors. As Jerry Garcia said about the Grateful Dead, “We didn’t want to be the best at what we did, we wanted to be the only ones doing what we did.”

Morris: From Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Yastrow: What’s profound about this quote is that it recognizes that we create many of our own problems, and that we tend to use the same qualities that got us in trouble as we try to get out of trouble. This is what enables my consulting business to make a difference. I constantly see companies making this mistake.

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

Yastrow: One of the most influential pieces of business advice I ever received was from Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive, which a boss gave me in my 20s. Drucker says that effective executives focus more on “doing the right things” than on “doing things right.” This invaluable nugget of wisdom has helped me beyond measure: focus my energies, talents and attention on the most important actions.

Additionally, it’s amazing how much Drucker’s ideas influence the advice I give my consulting clients. So often they are focused on doing the same unimportant project or marketing campaign, year after year, without questioning whether it is worth doing at all.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

His website link

His Twitter link

His Facebook link

Sunday, April 6, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

April Fool’s Day Quotation

Twin“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

Mark Twain

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | | Leave a comment

Invaluable advice for job-hunting college seniors

JobHere is a brief excerpt from an article by David l. Pierce for the Wall Street Journal. You may have a college senior in your family or know one or more elsewhere. If so, I hope you will share it. To read the complete article, check out other resources, and obtain WSJ subscription information, please click here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

* * *

“I have no idea what I’m doing.” This is the thought that runs through the minds of college students most of the time. As we begin to look for jobs during our senior year, between bouts of temporary alcohol-induced amnesia, we start to suspect that our cluelessness is a real problem. When we find out that the guy who has worn the same Greek function T-shirt and sunglasses backward around his neck for four years has accepted a job offer, panic sets in.

At the University of Arkansas’ Walton College of Business, I have diligently learned the CAPM [capital asset pricing] model and inner workings of financial statements. I can DCF [analyze discounted cash flow] all D-A-Y. But when it came to my job search I discovered a disconnect between my education and the real world.

So to my fellow generation of entitled adult-adolescents who expect a $75,000 salary if they’re going to get up before 10 a.m., here’s my advice from the other side of the job search. You won’t hear any of this from your college career center.

* * *

Pierce then offers twelve (12) specific suggestions, adding these comments when concluding: “Don’t worry if you get one or more of these things wrong. It isn’t going to totally kill your chances of landing an internship or a job. And it was probably time to clean up your Facebook anyway.”

Here is a direct link to the complete article.

David Pierce is a senior finance student at the University of Arkansas’ Sam M. Walton College of Business. After graduation, he’ll be working as an investment-banking analyst.

Monday, March 31, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eric Siegel: An interview by Bob Morris

Siegel, EEric Siegel, PhD, founder of Predictive Analytics World and Text Analytics World, and Executive Editor of the Predictive Analytics Times.com, makes the how and why of predictive analytics understandable and captivating. In addition to being the author of Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die, he is a former Columbia University professor who used to sing educational songs to his students, and a renowned speaker, educator and leader in the field. He has appeared on Bloomberg TV and Radio, Fox News, BNN (Canada), Israel National Radio, Radio National (Australia), The Street, Newsmax TV, and NPR affiliates. Eric and his book have been featured in BusinessWeek, CBS MoneyWatch, The Financial Times, Forbes, Forrester, Fortune, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and MarketWatch.

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

* * *

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

Siegel: Yes, it was in 1991, my summer between college and Columbia’s doctoral program, when I realized I wanted to pursue machine learning: the ability for computers to learn from experience/examples (aka, data!), which is at the heart of predictive analytics. With this technology, the computer pours through examples to learn how to PREDICT. (A big contribution that summer was touring Vancouver with my old buddy Alex Chaffee, who whispered into my ear some magic words he’d learned at Reed College on the topic.)

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?

Siegel: Innovative technology doesn’t sell itself, and its sale is dependent more on a gradual social process (or “social experiment?”) than on a perfectly-written speech or white paper, no matter how well put together the pitch is.

Morris: First, who has had the greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Siegel: I’m so rarely asked that question! I like to think my main strength is the ability to explain a technology to any audience (specifically, with the most passion, topics within my very favorite field: predictive analytics). Looking back, I can truly see how so many enthusiastic teachers in technical fields as well as various humanities – from high school on up – contagiously infected me with what it means to effectively 1) understand, 2) find excitement in, and 3) communicate. It’s kind of a particular socialization process.

So, in answering your question, instead of deifying one person, I’ll deify the education system! This includes public schools in Vermont, Brandeis University, and Columbia University (where I was later on the faculty), where I was lucky enough to have too many strong mentors to count (see my book’s acknowledgements for a few of them).

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.”

Siegel: Yes – a consultant’s job is often to make his assistance seem only supportive of the client’s successful execution.

Morris: Next, from Voltaire: “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”

Siegel: Ah, yes, humility is important. In fact, I’ve been working on my humility and I think I’ve got it down better than anyone I know. (That is meant to be humorous.)

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

Siegel: Checks and balances before triggering a project!

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?

Siegel: Beyond again invoking “checks and balances,” I’ll also tie this to predictive analytics specifically: There are too many tactical decisions to manage manually, so it is the collective capacity of DATA that will inform each one, thus tweaking the aggregate effectiveness of so many tactical decisions.

Morris: The greatest leaders throughout history (with rare exception) were great storytellers. What do you make of that?

Siegel: Nice point. Change comes of monitoring and managing a gradual social shift. Each such cycle could be a novel.

Morris: Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original (perhaps unrealistic) expectations. More often than not, resistance is cultural in nature, the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

Siegel: Yes, you see the social process, as people are ambivalently shepherded through change — change that they fear so greatly and have build walls of rationalization against.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Predictive Analytics link

Predictive Analytics World link

Eric’s Amazon page link

Friday, March 28, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shawn Hunter: An interview by Bob Morris

HunterShawn Hunter is Executive Producer & Vice President for Leadership Solutions at Skillsoft. For over a decade Hunter has interviewed, collaborated with, and filmed, hundreds of leading business authors, executives, and business school faculty in an effort to assemble video learning solutions, as both an entrepreneur and later as a product developer for Skillsoft. Hunter originally co-founded Targeted Learning Corporation with his father Hal Hunter, Ph.D., which was acquired by Skillsoft in February 2007. His book, Out Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes, was published by Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Brand in 2013.

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

* * *

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

Hunter: It has to be my family. I learn more about life, myself, others… than anywhere else. Our kids, in particular, astonish me every day with their capabilities and insight. Kids are far more capable than we often give them credit for.

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.

Hunter: Probably starting and building our first company 20 years ago. It taught me what’s possible. I read a book once called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying and in it, the author Bronnie Ware describes one of the top five as “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” After the experience of creating something of value from scratch I realized it’s important to follow your own values in life.

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

Hunter: I went to a liberal arts residential college in North Carolina called St. Andrews, one that most of your readers have never heard of. It was a magnificent experience. I took a variety of classes, did a lot of theatre work, helped start a rugby club, and made some remarkable lifelong friends who are all still close today. Now our group is flung across the globe from Japan to China to Hong Kong, Canada, South Africa, the States and elsewhere, but we have done a good job of staying in touch and keeping our families together periodically throughout the years.

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?

Hunter: It’s not as mysterious, complicated and impenetrable as I first thought. The more I learn about excellence in leadership, team development, product design, organizational culture…and more, the more I discover it’s common sense. However, as Voltaire once observed, “Common sense is not so common.” There has always existed this gap between what we know we should do, and what we actually do.

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

Hunter: Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn is nice. It’s about self-discovery and finding truth in the world. It’s a fun, fast read.

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.”

Hunter: That’s perfect. Indeed, the best leaders give the ownership to those throughout the organization. So in the end, people feel a great sense of connectedness to the end result.

Morris:
Next, from Voltaire: “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”

Hunter: This line about “beware of those who find it” really resonates with me. I become wary of people who proclaim to have discovered immutable truths, or present their ideas and models as if there are no other possibilities, or ways of thinking and considering things. To express ideas coherently for an audience we certainly need a shared language, but learning is a constant journey.

Morris: And then, from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

Hunter: Of course. But this is hard, particularly when starting out and developing yourself, and your own identity. Your own distinct voice takes time to mature and develop. Early on, there is much to be learned by emulating behaviors, but ultimately our greatest strength comes from developing our own personal identity. Rick Warren once taught me the etymology of the word integrity: it is from the Latin integer, meaning oneness, whole. That is, true integrity means not partitioning yourself into different personas in different circumstances, but bringing your whole self to bear in any occasion.

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

Hunter: Isn’t that the truth! I learned a related expression from Marshall Goldsmith years ago. He likes to say, “Stop adding too much value.” That is, sometimes in our need to be helpful, contributive, and recognized by our teammates as valuable, we keep upping the ante by throwing new ideas out. And pretty soon the idea, the project, the effort has become an unmanageable mess because everyone wants a hand in tweaking it. Sometimes simple is good. Simple is enough.

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?

Hunter: What occurs to me from this brief excerpt is differentiating between above-the-waterline, and below-the-waterline kinds of mistakes. That is, if we make a mistake and blow a hole in the boat above the waterline, we’ve made a mistake but not the kind that will sink the boat. A below-the-waterline mistake jeopardizes the integrity of the enterprise. My advice would be to encourage mistakes that result in learning opportunities that don’t put the enterprise at genuine risk. And it’s a leader’s job to help people understand the difference.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

Shawn cordially invites you to check out the resources at his website. Here’s a link.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to read faster and retain more of what you read

BooksHow to increase reading speed?

I do not refer to speed reading.

Recent research in optics and neuroscience reveals that most people can at least double and perhaps even triple their reading speed if (a) they appreciate the fact that eyes are muscles and (b) eyes can be strengthened with practice exercises.

Most people are trained to read phonetically.

The speed of sound is 243 metres per second.

The speed of light is 299,792,458 metres per second.

Over time, it really is possible to strengthen your eyes with repetition of a few simple exercises.

For example, on average, I can now read and highlight a 300-page business book in about 45 minutes and retain most of what I have read.

If there is sufficient interest in this subject, I will be glad to share what I have learned.

Friday, March 21, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Second Machine Age: A book review by Bob Morris

Second MachineThe Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies
Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee
W.W. Norton & Company (2014)

“Technology is not destiny. We shape our destiny.

Opinions vary as to the timeframe of the Industrial Revolution and there is also disagreement as to whether or not it was in fact a “revolution.” Whatever, from the last half of the 18th century through the first half of the 19th century, the nature and extent of disruptive inventions and innovations were unprecedented. The socioeconomic impact was also unprecedented.

Why did Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee write this book?

As they explain, “Digital technologies had been laughably bad at a lot of things for a long time — then they suddenly got very good. How did this happen? And what were the implications of this progress, which as astonishing and yet came to be considered a matter of course? We decided to team up and see if we could answer these questions…So this is a book about the second machine age unfolding right now — an inflection point in the history of our economies and societies because of digitization. It’s an inflection point in the right direction — bounty instead of scarcity, freedom instead of constraint — but one that will bring with it some difficult challenges and choices.”

Brynjolfsson and McAfee carefully organize and present their material within three sections: In the first (Chapters 1-6), they examine the primary forces and defining characteristics of the second machine age. Then in the second (Chapters 7-11), they discuss two key components, bounty and spread, as well as their implications and their consequences — for better or worse. In the third (chapters 12-15), they discuss what initiatives (especially interventions) will be most appropriate and effective during the second machine age.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s coverage.

o The History of Humanity in One Graph (Pages 4-12)
o The Paradox of Robotic “Progress” (27-31)
o Second-Half Technologies (47-50)
o What Happens When the Content Comes Freely? (64-66)
o Digital Technologies: The Most General Purpose of All (79-81)
o Thanking Machines, Available Now (91-93)
o Productivity Growth (99-106)
o Consumer Surplus: How Much Would You Pay?, and, New Goods and Services (114-118)
o New Metrics Are Needed for the Second Machine Age (122-124)
o Howe Technology Is Changing Economics (130-131)
o How Superstars Thrive in the Winner-Take-All Economy (150-152)
o The Social Acceptability of Superstars (157-159)
o Technological Unemployment (173-180
o Tools to Help You Stand Out (199-202)
o A Few Things Even Economists Can Agree On, and, Econ 101 Playbook (206-225)
o Avoiding the Three Great Evils (234-237)
o The Risks We’ll Run (251-257)

When concluding their brilliant book, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee suggest, “In the second machine age, we need to think much more deeply about what it is we really want and what we value, both as individuals and as a society. Our generation has inherited more opportunities to transform the world than any other. That’s a cause for optimism, but only if we’re mindful of our choices. Technology is not destiny. We shape our destiny.”

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the wealth of information, insights, and counsel provided in this volume. However, I hope I have indicated why I think so highly of it. At best, speculation about what will happen during the next few years can only suggest what is probable rather than certain. And even then, we are well-advised to keep in mind the Hebrew aphorism, “Man plans and then God laughs.”

Monday, March 17, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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