Rita Gunther McGrath, a Professor at Columbia Business School, is regarded as one of the world’s top experts on strategy and innovation with particular emphasis on developing sound strategy in uncertain and volatile environments. Her ideas are widely used by leading organizations throughout the world, who describe her thinking as sometimes provocative, but unfailingly stimulating. She fosters a fresh approach to strategy amongst those with whom she works. Thinkers50 presented Rita with the #1 award for Strategy, the Distinguished Achievement Award, in 2013. She is also in their top ten global list of management thinkers overall. She has also been inducted into the Strategic Management Society “Fellows” in recognition of her impact on the field. She consistently appears in lists of the top professors to follow on Twitter. McGrath is the author of four books; the most recent being the best-selling The End of Competitive Advantage : How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business(Harvard Business Review Press), rated the #1 book of the year by Strategy+Business.
Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of Rita. To read all of Part 1, please click here.
* * *
Morris: Before discussing a few of your books, here are several general questions. First, to what extent (if any) have your students’ aspirations, issues, and concerns changed in recent years? What do you make of that?
McGrath: In our MBA programs, we’ve seen a big shift away from the heavy emphasis on consulting and finance toward entrepreneurship, social enterprise and management. In our Executive Programs, we’re seeing more concern about new technologies, short-lived advantages and what you might think of as “black swan” events. Digital marketing has been quite a growth area, as has our programs on innovation.
Morris: There has been significant criticism of business schools in recent years, even of – especially of — the most prestigious ones such as Columbia, Harvard, Kellogg, Michigan, and Wharton. In your opinion, what is the single area in which there is the greatest need for improvement in business school education?
McGrath: We need new models for developing and coaching students – so much about the way we work comes from the past. Just as an example, take the structure of academic departments – we’re set up by functions, such as finance, marketing, operations, management, and so on. Companies have learned years ago that operating in silos like that can create significant blind spots. I think we need to re-think what helps learners best come out of our institutions with skills that their employers will value, as well as with better analytical toolkits.
Morris: Given your response to the previous question, here’s a hypothetical question. Assume that you have total control and unlimited resources. How specifically would you respond to that need?
McGrath: It would depend on what kind of school I was running. If I were at a top-brand school like Columbia, I wouldn’t be too concerned that my franchise was going away, but I would probably redesign the MBA experience with the desired outcomes in mind. So we probably would do a lot more with entrepreneurship, design, technology and other elements that future technologists would need, and I’d try to design a really coherent student experience.
If I were at a mid-tier or lower-tier school, the question requires a complete rethink. I have a white paper on this if you are interested.
Morris: What was the original mission of Columbia’s Executive Education program and to what extent (if any) has it since changed? Please explain.
McGrath: I think the original idea was to provide more life-long learning opportunities for business people with more seasoning than our MBA-aged students. That is still in many ways our goal. We once had a tagline “learning that powers performance” and I think we still want to strive to do that. The main things that have changed are the topics and issues executives come to us with. Interestingly, we’re doing a review of our strategy for executive education, so there may be some new twists on the mission which come out of that.
Morris: To what extent (if any) have you changed your approach to classroom instruction?
McGrath: Now that has really changed for me. When I first started teaching in the MBA program, we used a ton of cases, printed our overheads on acetates and projected them with overhead projectors and did a fair amount of lecturing. Today, I use practically no canned Harvard-style cases as they just go out of date too soon. We use different technology in the classroom obviously, and the pedagogy is more discussion and debate oriented. I probably lecture less and discuss more.
Morris: Now please shift your attention to The Entrepreneurial Mindset. To what specifically does its title refer?
McGrath: How to think about innovation in corporations with insights informed by the way habitual entrepreneurs think.
Morris: The mindset you describe seems to be one that any executive should develop, whatever the size and nature or her or his organization, be it a start-up or a Fortune 50 company. Is that a fair assessment?
McGrath: It certainly can’t hurt – finding new opportunities, thinking in a fresh way about your competition, deeply understanding your customers, and planning with the right disciplines for the uncertainty you face are all pretty practical and important topics.
Morris: For those who have not as yet read the book, in it you recommend a process by which to identify, evaluate, and prioritize opportunities, then pursue them with appropriate strategies. Please explain this process.
McGrath: We walk our readers through a series of “lenses” they can use to identify potential opportunities to put in an inventory of opportunities. Then we talk about screening for the best ones, given the constraints you have. We describe how to test assumptions at minimal cost, and how to do ‘discovery driven’ planning in which the goal is to plan while recognizing that you don’t have enough knowledge to do a conventional plan. We also spend a little time on how to enter the market and assess competition. The Entrepreneurial Mindset was cited by famous entrepreneur Steve Blank as one of the foundational ideas behind the lean startup movement popularized by Eric Ries.
Morris: In your opinion, are the challenges of entrepreneurship more difficult, less difficult, or about the same today as they were when you wrote The Entrepreneurial Mindset more than a decade ago? How so?
McGrath: Less difficult. Today, you have access to unbelievable assets and talent that you can use to assemble the operations of your business with very low investment. You can get computing power from Amazon, office space from Regus, staff from Staff.com, programmers from oDesk, and the list goes on. It’s also true that companies today can operate in a very lean way which also reduces the investment required to innovate. I mean, Whatsapp, with only 55 employees was just valued by Facebook at $19 Billion! That’s with a B – with only 55 people, which is quite amazing.
* * *
To read all of Part 1, please click here.
In Part 2, we will discuss The End of Competitive Advantage.
Rita cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
Here’s a link to her website.
Here’s a link to her HBR articles
Here’s a link to her Columbia University faculty page
Here’s a link to a recent video.
Here’s a link to the MarketBusting website.
Here’s a link to the Discovery-Driven Growth website.
Patricia Nolan-Brown has been inventing and marketing problem-solving products for more than 22 years. She is the author of Idea to Invention: What You Need to Know to Cash in Your Inspiration (AMACOM, January 2014.) She also teaches an online self-paced class consisting of 20+ short how-to videos via Skill Share.
Among her many inventions is a best-selling car seat mirror, sold internationally, which enables drivers to see infants placed in rear-facing car seats. She has sold tens of millions of products and holds multiple patents and registered trademarks. In addition to being a serial inventor, Nolan-Brown is also a consultant, video-blogger, and motivational speaker for widely diverse groups: from Fortune 500 CEOs to grade-school science-fair hopefuls. She has demystified the invention process for thousands of people and helped them convert their ideas into must-have merchandise.
Her business savvy and warm, humorous style have made Patricia a popular guest on radio shows from Austin to New Zealand, She and her inventions have also been featured in many newspapers and in national magazines and newscasts. Patricia lives just north of Boston with her husband, three daughters, and her westie, Coconut.
Here is an excerpt from my interview of Patricia. To read the complete interview, please click here.
* * *
Nolan-Brown: My parents always encouraged me and made me feel that anything is possible, but I feel that everyone I have ever met and will meet is on purpose. To teach me a lesson.
Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?
Nolan-Brown: I have always been drawn to highly creative people. The “oddballs” meaning at the time they were described as different or weird or nuts. They were often made fun of – but I saw genius. People that come to mind right away are Mr. Rogers, the creators of Gumby and Pokey, Julia Child, and Pee-wee Herman. All considered misfits by many, but not by me.
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
Nolan-Brown: Yes, when my first daughter was an infant and I placed her in the car seat. (Federal law requires a baby to face backward in a car seat.) I encountered a big problem: I could not see her at all in my rearview mirror while I was driving. I worried when she was quiet and I worried when she sounded distressed. I searched in stores for a solution but found nothing I could use. It was so uncomfortable that I vented to my mom that there should be a special mirror for this. She said “Why don’t you invent one?…and I did.
I saw what I needed in my mind’s eye and reverse engineered it. It was so fun to figure it out. All of my inventions have been solutions to problems I encountered in my everyday life. I have built businesses around my five patents and several trademarks.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?
Nolan-Brown: I think because I was an art major in college it was a great asset in developing products. I have never taken a business course, nor been interested to. The creative skills I have are as important — if not more important — than any math or science in my experience. I think creative people can figure out the business end of things. I’m not sure every business person is all that creative, or sees creativity as a valuable skill.
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?
Nolan-Brown: I had no idea then that it would become much more equal. By that I mean that I have had far more opportunities than my mom had while raising a family. She feared that girls would not have more and better options than she had. Frankly, I have never let it be an issue.
Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.
Nolan-Brown: Wow, I remember Flash of Genius. It was riveting. I really felt the main character’s pain, having a giant company steal his idea. (Detroit automakers, intermittent windshield wipers) Ironically I remember my mom telling my dad that windshield wipers should come on and off by themselves according to the rain and snowfall. That movie could have been about her. Yikes!
Morris: From which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.
Nolan-Brown: Recently, I applied what I had learned while perusing a book about origami. It became a great resource for my latest invention: I designed and folded a dog waste bag collar into its most compact and functional form.
I also like books that teach you how to do things yourself rather than hiring someone. I have one that I’ve used for years about how to write your own press releases.
Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, 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.”
Nolan-Brown: I have had one idea stolen. I did not protect it properly prior to showing it . One must protect ideas correctly. That being said, in most cases nobody wants your idea until it has a proven track record and is selling very well—then the competition comes out of the woodwork.
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….’”
Nolan-Brown: Surprising, non-obvious discoveries are beautiful…I have them all the time and they keep the discovery process going, and sometimes expedite it. Don’t get me wrong. I always appreciate an eventual Eureka! moment. What’s “odd” often stimulates our curiosity and takes it in a different, unexpected direction.
Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”
Nolan-Brown: That is almost always the result of a bad decision. When it occurs, re-assess the original assumptions and premises. Mistakes can create invaluable learning opportunities. They sure have for me.
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?
Nolan-Brown: Crowdsource on every level. Get everyone’s input, as portrayed on the TV show Undercover Boss – the boss is amazed almost every time by what is really going in the organization. There is a lot to be said in favor of leading and managing by walking around.
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?
Nolan-Brown: As I suggested earlier, mistakes can be extremely valuable if viewed as opportunities to learn and then take appropriate action. Efforts are “failures” only if you learn nothing from them.
Morris: In your opinion, why do so many C-level executives seem to have such a difficult time delegating work to others?
Nolan-Brown: They fear they will become obsolete or they think nobody can do it as well as they can.
Morris: The greatest leaders throughout history (with rare exception) were great storytellers. What do you make of that?
Nolan-Brown: Storytelling is key. Stories make you relatable — which makes people like you — which in turn makes them lifetime customers. The most successful people on social media and in sales are great authentic storytellers offering trust and value. People are buying people. They want to know the human behind the product/service.
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?
Nolan-Brown: Jump in head first. Stop being comfortable and afraid to fail. This is the only way to make discoveries and achieve change.
Morris: In recent years, there has been criticism, sometimes severe criticism of M.B.A. programs, even those offered by the most prestigious business schools. In your opinion, in which area is there the greatest need for immediate improvement? Any suggestions?
Nolan-Brown: Passion and execution trump business courses. True entrepreneurs don’t need MBA’s – people who want to work 9-5 under bosses (not risk takers or creatives) need MBA’s
Morris: Looking ahead (let’s say) 3-5 years, what do you think will be the greatest challenge that CEOs will face? Any Advice?
Nolan-Brown: Attracting and then retraining the talent their company needs. It’s going to be a freelance environment with a lot of moving around if people are not happy. My advice: keep them happy and involved; encourage their creativity.
Also have a workplace environment that includes certain amenities and activities such as ping pong tables, dartboards, good coffee, nap modules, walking meetings, and events that include family members. These are proven elements of a workplace that encourages and enhances creativity as well as employee loyalty.
* * *
To read the complete interview, please click here.
Patricia cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
Here’s a link to Idea to Invention.
You can follow her on Twitter
Her Facebook link
Here’s a link to a class she teaches via Skill Share.
On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling
Princeton University Press (2012)
Welcome to “a romantic chamber of the heart, in a nostalgic country of the mind, where it is always 1895″
Since childhood, I have cherished books as “magic carpets” by which to visit human experiences that would not have otherwise been accessible to me. The ten-year siege of Troy, for example, and then Odysseus’ ten-year return voyage to Ithaca as well as the Italian Renaissance (and Dante), the Age of Elizabeth (and Shakespeare), and more recently, Hawthorne’s New England, Dickens’ London, Twain’s Mississippi, and Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County.
More often than not, I am reading and/or re-reading three or four books at any one time and that was the situation recently when accompanying two of my favorite authors, Michael Dirda and John Sutherlnd, during their explorations of great literature in this book and Dirda’s Classics for Pleasure (2007) as well as Sutherland’s A Little History of Literature (2013).
On Conan Doyle is one of the first volumes in the “Writers on Writers” that also include Philip Lopate’s Notes on Susan Sontag, Alexander McCall Smith’s, What W. H. Auden Can Do for You, and C. K. Williams’ On Whitman. In this instance, Dirda focuses on “the pleasures of reading, a celebration of plot and atmosphere, adventure and romance, and an invitation to go beyond the Sherlock Holmes stories to explore a remarkable body of writing. Its slightly old-fashioned subtitle ['the whole art of storytelling'] recalls the sleuth of Baker Street’s long planned, but apparently never written. masterwork: The Whole Art of Detection.” Dirda reviews his own youthful discovery of The Hound of the Baskervilles and then dozens of subsequent works while revealing as little as possible about their actions or plots. “On Conan Doyle aims, above all to enhance, not detract from, the reader’s pleasure in the wonderful fiction and non fiction to which we turn.”
In Dallas near the downtown area, there is a Farmer’s Market at which several merchants offer fresh slices of fruit as samples of their wares. In that same spirit, I offer these three brief excerpts to suggest the thrust and flavor of Dirda’s narrative style.
o The Hound of the Baskervilles left its teeth marks in me and seriously aroused my then still slumbering passion for reading. I was no longer the same ten-year old when I reached its final pages: “‘I said it in London, Watson, and I say it again now, that never yet have we helped to hunt down a more dangerous man than he who is lying yonder’ — he swept his long arm toward the huge mottled expanse of green-splotched bog which stretched away until it merged into the russet slopes of the moor.” I closed the book with a pang of loss. (Page 16)
o In Memories and Adventures, Conan Doyle recalls Oscar Wilde at his youthful best: “He had a curious precision of statement, a delicate flavour of humour, and a trick of small gestures to illustrate his meaning, which were peculiar to himself. The effect cannot be reproduced, but I remember how in discussing the wars of the future he said: ‘A chemist on each side will approach the frontier with a bottle’ — his upraised hand and precise face conjuring up a vivid and grotesque picture.” (Page 93)
o In my view, [The White Company] offers a far more than “a correct picture of the age” — as its author once called the novel — and far more entertaining than its sorry reputation would lead one to believe. Yes, the vocabulary and syntax can seem quaintly archaic at times, but Conan Doyle nonetheless injects a wonderful bounce and sweetness into the narrative [as does Dirda]. In these pages, everything is springlike, full of the sap and exuberance of youth. It’s also quietly funny throughout. (Page 170)
Dirda makes full use of his highly developed analytical skills as well as of his erudition when including within his lively and eloquent narrative excerpts from Conan Doyle’s works of both fiction and non-fiction as well as from secondary sources of direct relevance. Those who cherish great literature and those who create will devour the information and insights that are provided in abundance.
When concluding this remarkable journey through the creative world of Arthur Conan Doyle and his single greatest creation, Michael Dirda observes, “As long as readers exist, young people will be discovering Sherlock Holmes and thrilling to the immortal promise: ‘Come Watson, come, the game is afoot!’ As Vincent Starrett long ago declared, these two will always live ‘in a romantic chamber of the heart, in a nostalgic country of the mind, where it is always 1895.’”
Those who share my high regard of this book are urged to check out Maria Konnikova’s book, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, in which she juxtaposes two stereotypes from Conan Doyle’s characters: “System Watson” and “System Holmes.” The former personifies “our naive selves, operating by the lazy though habits — the ones that come naturally, the so-called path of least resistance — that we’ve spent our whole lives acquiring.” As for the latter, System Holmes, it “treats every thought, every experience, and every perception of the way [Holmes] would a pink elephant. In other words, begin with a healthy dose of skepticism instead of credulity that is your mind’s [and Watson's mind] natural state of being. Don’t just assume anything is the way it is [or seems to be]. Think of everything as being as absurd as an animal that can’t possibly exist in nature.”
* * *
Michael Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post Book World and the author of the memoir An Open Book and of four collections of essays: Readings, Bound to Please, Book by Book and Classics for Pleasure. He was born in Lorain, Ohio, graduated with highest honors in English from Oberlin College, and received a Ph.D. in comparative literature (medieval studies and European romanticism) from Cornell University. Also, it should be noted that, since 2002, he has been an invested member of the Baker Street Irregulars. I urge you to check out his Amazon page.
In The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience (McGraw-Hill, 2009), Carmine Gallo cites a few tips early in his narrative. They may seem simple but don’t be fooled. All of the greatest public speakers will tell you that it took them many years (about 10,000 hours) of deliberate practice to master them.
1. “Plan in Analog”: Think of the presentation as a story that has a setting, a plot, characters, conflicts, increasing tensions because of unsolved problems and/or unanswered questions, a climax, and a brief concluding lesson.
2. “Answer the One Question That Matters Most”: Those in the audience are asking the same question, “Why should I care?” Disregard this question and you will lose the audience almost immediately.
3. “Develop a Messianic Sense of Purpose”: Gallo notes that Jobs was worth more than $100 million by the time he was 25 and it didn’t natter to him at all. That wasn’t what he was about. “Understanding this one fact will help you unlock the secret behind Jobs’s extraordinary charisma.”
4. “Create Twitter-like Headlines”: Develop headlines into 140-character sentences. Less is more.
5. “Draw a Road Map”: Jobs effectively uses the most powerful principle of persuasion, The Rule of Three (i.e. three new products, three objectives, three barriers. three parts, three new features).
6. “Introduce the Antagonist”: In each of Jobs’s greatest presentations, he introduces a common enemy against which everyone unites, becomes emotionally engaged, prepares to do battle, agrees to make sacrifices, etc.
Note: It could be waste, a foreign country, the New York Yankees (“the Evil Empire”), a product, a competitor. Whatever.
7. “Reveal the Conquering hero”: At each presentation, Jobs introduces a hero that the audience can rally around. It could be a person, a product, a goal, or a destination.
Few (if any) of those who read this book will then be “insanely great in front of any audience.” However, there are valuable lessons to be learned from what Steve Jobs learned about effective presentations.
Head’s up: Gallo’s next book, Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in March (2014).
Dr. William (Bill) Seidman has worked as a manager or consultant with many large and small organizations including Hewlett-Packard, Jack in the Box, Intel, Tektronix, CVS Pharmacies, and Sears. As a recognized expert on leadership in high-performing organizations, he contributes an in-depth understanding of the processes required to discover and use expert wisdom to create extraordinary organizational performance. He is co-founder and chief executive officer of Cerebyte, Inc., co-author with Rick Grbavac of Strategy to Action in Ten Days and then The Star Factor: Discover What Your Top Performers Do Differently–and Inspire a New Level of Greatness in All, published by AMACOM in 2013. The Star Factor presents Affirmative Leadership, a methodology for discovering what your top performers do differently – and inspiring a new level of greatness in all.
Seidman earned his doctorate at Stanford University where he did a study of how management training effected the development of managers’ attitudes, cognitive patterns and behaviors. As part of this study, he developed a technique for analyzing management down to the single word and action level. This technique is the basis for understanding what makes a star performer so extraordinary and understanding the newest neuroscience for elevating everyone else’s performance to the level of the stars.
He lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon, with his wife. He enjoys traveling, golf and spending time with his three kids.
Here is an excerpt from my second interview of him. To read the complete interview, please click here.
* * *
Morris: When and why did you and Rick decide to write The Star Factor and do so in collaboration?
Seidman: It was the convergence of two factors. First, after years of development, the Affirmative Leadership process had reached a maturity where it was producing the same excellent results in terms of participant response and impact on business outcomes every time, regardless of the organization or industry.
We felt that the underlying methodology was now strong enough to share with others. Second, at about the same time, three books were published – DRiVE by Pink, Your Brain at Work by Rock and The Power of Positive Deviance by Pascale, Sternin and Sternin — that legitimized different aspects of the methodology. Although these came after we had proven the methodology, they independently supported the role of positive deviants (our stars), the importance of purpose and mastery and the connection of all of these to the neuroscience of learning.
By connecting all of these through a applied methodology, an organization could get performance that was literally beyond what they previously thought possible. Our compelling purpose became to share something we believed would improve people’s lives, organizations and ultimately society.
Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.
Seidman: The single most “head-snapping” revelation that came from writing the book was the importance and value of self-directed learning. We realized that one of the most important characteristics of the stars was that they were fanatical learners. We also realized that the way we were doing the Launch Workshops and the Guided Practicum – particularly the emphasis on people adapting the learning tasks to generate enhanced value — were a significant learning and leadership breakthrough.
It was transformational for us to see people’s reactions to true self-directed learning. There was a real joy at the re-awaking of their natural, human desire to learn. Put together, we realized that the complexity of today’s world requires leaders to be great learners. You simply can’t be a great leader without being a great [begin italics] learner [end italics], which was a new idea to us and, as far as we could see, a new idea in the literature on leadership.
Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?
Seidman: About 75% of the book is how we originally envisioned it. The two big changes were the emergence of self-directed learning as a core theme. We also had planned to do a lot more on the implications of Affirmative Leadership programs for executive decision-making. One of the effects of Affirmative Leadership programs is to illuminate disconnects and other types of conflicts in organizations. This can be incredibly valuable for executive teams if they accept the information and use it for better decision-making. But it can be destructive if the executives reject, ignore or overtly suppress the information. We wanted to talk a lot more about how executives can use the issues that bubble-up from Affirmative Leadership programs to be better leaders themselves. But this added 10,000 more words than we were allowed by the publisher. Maybe that will be our next book.
Morris: As I indicate in my review of the book for various Amazon websites, there are dozens of passages throughout your narrative that caught my eye. For those who have not as yet read the book, please suggest what you view as the most important point or key take-away in each of several passages.
First, The Affirmative Leadership Methodology (Pages 6-9)
Seidman: This is the only methodology for cultural development and change leadership that we know of that consistently and systematically works. As one executive put it: “you mean you can generate levels of performance in six weeks that I couldn’t achieve in five years?”
Yes, because of the synergy between all of the different elements and the underlying science tells us precisely how to drive these changes. This gives organizations capabilities that are quite revolutionary. The most important impacts are in some ways the least tangible, though. When an organization uses Affirmative Leadership for multiple roles, the culture visibly changes. It is just a better, more confident, more productive place at which to work. You can feel the difference and it feels great.
Morris: Your Stars (18-21)
Seidman: They are just great people. Not only are they consistently the top performers on a variety of metrics and perspectives, but they are just plain great people. We hesitated to use the term “stars” because that term is so often associated with egotistical, self-centered people. Our stars are invariably humble, gracious and considerate, in part because their deep commitment to achieving a significant purpose makes them very aware of how little they know and are able to accomplish. The beauty of the methodology is that it causes what is truly the best in people to surface and this then drives creating better places to work.
Morris: Unconscious Competence, and, Engaging Stars (24-28)
Seidman: We often see organizations trying to create best practices through observation and interviews focused on what people are doing. These approaches consistently miss what is most important, and unconscious about the stars, which is how they think. Everything that makes them a star derives from an unconscious sense of deep purpose so you have to start with understanding that sense of purpose – and nourishing – to learn what makes them extraordinary. Fortunately, if you ask them about their purpose in the way we do in the Wisdom Discovery, they just love talking about it. They become so engaged that we have to be very assertive to drive them to solidify their purpose into a written statement.
* * *
To read the complete interview, please click here.
Here’s a link to my first interview of Bill
Here is a link to my review of The Star Factor.
Bill cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
YouTube video link
NeuroLeadership Institute link
Richard Tedlow is the Class of 1949 Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, where he is a specialist in the history of business. He received his BA from Yale and his MA and PhD in history from Columbia. He came to the Harvard Business School on a fellowship in 1978 and joined the faculty in 1979. From 1979 through 1982, he taught First Year Marketing. His involvement in marketing has continued, and he has been a member of the faculty of the “Strategic Retail Management Seminar,” the “Top Management Seminar for Retailers and Suppliers,” “Managing Brand Meaning,” and the “Strategic Marketing Management” executive education programs.
From 1978 to the present, he has been involved in the HBS’ Business History program. In 1992 and 1993, he taught a course entitled “Business, Government, and the International Economy.” He has also taught in numerous executive programs at the Harvard Business School as well as at corporations, including programs in marketing strategy and general management. His published works include Giants of Enterprise: Seven Business Innovators and the Empires They Built, The Watson Dynasty: The Fiery Reign and Troubled Legacy of IBM’s Founding Father and Son, and more recently, Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American. His latest book, Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look the Facts in the Face — and What to Do About It, was published by Portfolio/The Penguin Group (2010).
* * *
Morris: Throughout the last, let’s say, 20-25 years, which business developments do you consider to be most significant and why do you think so?
Tedlow: There are two business developments which I think are of particular importance. One is the decline of the mainframe era in computing and the rise of computers everywhere as well as handheld devices which can provide access to the Internet. Business is all about communication. The Internet and the new ways to reach it constitute one key development.
The second important development I would mention is the decline of the US automobile industry. This decline is the result of exceptionally tough competition from abroad, poor management at home, and, in general, the globablization of this and other businesses.
Morris: In your opinion, which CEOs have had the greatest impact on the organizations with which they were (or are) associated? How so?
Tedlow: I believe the most important CEO of recent years is Andy Grove. He took an industry which used to be sloppy and populated by “cowboys” and whipped it into shape. More than any other man, Andy Grove created Intel. Intel is the dominant supplier of microprocessors to the world. The microprocessor is a device without which the 21st century would be unimaginable.
Morris: Which leaders outside of the business world (e.g. heads of government, in the military) do you admire most? Why?
Tedlow: I most admire Nelson Mandela. Without him, the peaceful development of South Africa is hard to imagine. Life is about the overcoming of adversity, and he certainly overcame his share.
Morris: What prompted you to write Giants of Enterprise? Was there an especially important business question which intrigued you?
Tedlow: I started off Giants of Enterprise with one assumption, and that assumption was turned on its head by the time the book was completed. My assumption was that a look at a variety of business leaders in different industries and in different time periods would illustrate the variety of paths to success in business in American history. What I discovered was that the business leaders I studied, despite coming from different backgrounds and working in different industries, had much more in common than I had expected.
Morris: By which criteria did you select the seven “giants”?
Tedlow: I wanted to find leaders who spanned the continent and who also encompassed America’s industrial and its service eras. The seven men that I chose made that goal possible.
Morris: When completing your research, were there any head-snapping revelations about any of the “giants”?
Tedlow: To me, there were revelations on every page of that book. I never fully appreciated the relationship between strategic insight and business execution before studying in depth men such as Sam Walton.
Morris: Here are two separate but related questions. First, what did Henry Ford and Thomas Watson Sr. have in common?
Tedlow: Both Ford and Watson ran key companies at key moments in history. Ford ran Ford for decades, but the key era was that of the Model T – which lasted from 1908 to 1927. Like Ford, Watson also ran his company, IBM, for decades. The key period for him was probably the New Deal and the growth of government contracts for information processing.
Morris: How did they differ?
Tedlow: Henry Ford was, in my view, an evil man. I would not say that about Watson.
Morris: It seems that Watson’s leadership style was appropriate to what IBM needed during his tenure as its CEO. Do you agree?
Tedlow: Yes, I do. His leadership style was extraordinarily effective in binding literally thousands of people to IBM, holding the company together, and moving it forward.
Morris: Now let’s discuss your most recently published book, Andy Grove. The subtitle refers to “the life and times of an American.” To what extent is Grove an exemplary American?
Tedlow: In some ways, Grove is the classic American success story. He was a refugee from oppression. Born in Hungary in 1936, he first had to survive the Nazis and then the Communists. He arrived in the United States at the age of 20 and discovered it to be a true meritocracy. It is the meritocratic element of his story which makes Grove an exemplar of America at its best.
Morris: Grove has frequently used the term “inflection point.” In a business context, what is it?
Tedlow: For Grove, an inflection point is a turning point in the history of a business. It is a moment of truth. If you make the right decision, you put your company on the path to future growth. If you make the wrong decision, you face decline.
Morris: : In your opinion, what was the most significant “inflection point” for Intel?
Tedlow: My choice is the decision to serve as the sole source for the 80386 microprocessor in 1985 and 1986. Up until that time, it had been mandatory in the computer industry that component suppliers to the dominant firm (which was IBM at the time) licensed their technology to competing manufacturers. This process allowed IBM to play one supplier off against another and to control prices. When Grove took the leap of informing IBM and the rest of the industry that Intel was not going to license the technology for its 80386 microprocessor, this was a genuine inflection point. It was a “bet the company” decision. Because Grove made it and made it work, Intel became one of the leading firms in computing.
Morris: Grove is often identified as being one of the most effective corporate CEOs in the 20th century. Why?
Tedlow: Andy Grove became the CEO of Intel in 1987. At the end of that year Intel had a market capitalization of $4.3 billion. Grove stepped down as CEO of Intel in 1998. At the end of that year, the company had a market capitalization of $197.6 billion. This increase in value represents a compound annual growth rate of 42 percent over an eleven-year period. Few if any other CEOs can point to such a record.
Morris: Of all that you learned about Grove during your extensive research on his life and times, what do you consider to be most revealing of the man?
Tedlow: It was very interesting for me to discover that although he drove the people who worked for him very hard, he drove himself harder. He well understood the old saying that the speed of the boss is the speed of the gang.
Morris: To those who are preparing for or are only recently embarked on a business career, what lessons in leadership and management can be learned from Andy Grove?
Tedlow: Grove’s method of decision-making combines both discipline and creativity. He makes “data-driven gut decisions.” I believe that combining those two facets of decision-making is more than merely valuable. I believe it is essential.
* * *
Here’s a link to Richard’s faculty page at Harvard Business School.
Here’s a link to his HBS “Working Knowledge” video.
Here’s a link to his Amazon page.
In The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee explain that their book “is 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.”
In Chapter 3, they discuss an observation by Gordon Moore in an article published by Electronics magazine (April 19, 1965), “Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits”:
“The complexity for minimum component costs [i.e. the amount of computing power that can be purchased for one dollar] has increased at a rate roughly a factor of two per year [i.e. double]…Certainly over the short term this rate can be expected to continue, if not to increase. Over the longer term the rate of increase is a bit more uncertain, although there is no reason to believe it will not remain nearly constant for at least ten years.”
According to Brynjolfsson and McAfee, “Moore’s Law is very different from the laws of physics that govern thermodynamics or Newtonian classical mechanics. Those laws describe how the universe works; they’re true no matter what we do. Moore’s Law, in contrast, is a statement about the work of the computer industry’s engineers and scientists; it’s an observation about how constant and successful their efforts have been.We simply don’t see this kind of sustained success in other domains.”
I agree with Brynjolfsson and McAfee that constant modification over the years has made Moore’s Law “the central phenomenon of the computer age. Think of it as a steady drumbeat in the background of the economy.”
Those who share my high regard for The Second Machine Age are urged to check out two others: Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm (3rd Edition): Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers and Big Bang Disruption: Strategy in the Age of Devastating Innovation co-authored by Larry Downes and Paul Nunes.
Note: The two Moores are unrelated except in terms of their brilliant contributions to the impact of disruptive technologies on the global marketplace during the last 40-50 years.
On this Presidents’ Day weekend, at least some of us will think about Abraham Lincoln (born on February 12, 1809 and George Washington (born on February 22, 1732) and again wonder how they would resolve the several challenges our nation now faces. Here is a brief excerpt from an especially interesting article by Joseph Epstein for the Wall Street Journal. To read the complete article, check out others, and obtain subscription information, please click here.
* * *
Books about Abraham Lincoln are legion and usually lengthy. The most famous of these books and the longest is perhaps also the worst: Carl Sandburg’s multivolumed biography, a repository of folklore and myth-making that Edmund Wilson called “the cruelest thing that happened to Lincoln since he was shot by Booth.” Lincoln books continually — one is tempted to write “continuously” — appear. Such is the appetite for these books that an old joke among publishers had it that a sure-fire American best-seller would have the title Lincoln’s Mother’s Doctor’s Dog.
The best book about Lincoln was written not by an American but by an Englishman named Lord Charnwood. His Abraham Lincoln (1916) is a work in the distinguished tradition of brilliant books by foreign writers on American subjects. Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Lord Bryce’s The American Commonwealth and George Santayana’s Character and Opinion in the United States are books in this line. These foreign observers were able to tell us things about ourselves that we Americans were likely to overlook or perhaps did not wish to know.
* * *
These words from the concluding paragraph of Lord Charnwood’s masterly biography capture Abraham Lincoln better than any other I know:
“For he was a citizen of that far country where there is neither aristocrat nor democrat. No political theory stands out from his words or actions; but they show a most unusual sense of the possible dignity of common men and common things.…If he had a theory of democracy it was contained in this condensed note which he wrote, perhaps as an autograph, a year or two before his presidency: “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.”
Great men and women do not always get the biographers they deserve. In Lord Charnwood, Abraham Lincoln found his.
* * *
Here is a direct link to the complete article.
Joseph Epstein’s latest book, co-authored with Frederic Raphael, is Distant Intimacy: A Friendship in the Age of the Internet (Yale University Press, 2013).