First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Rich Kalgaard: An interview by Bob Morris

imagesRich Karlgaard is an angel investor, board director and Wall Street Journal best-selling author as well as the longtime publisher (since 1998) of Forbes magazine. He also writes the Forbes column, “Innovation Rules,” which is known for its witty assessment of business and technology. He has been a regular panelist on television’s Forbes on FOX show since its inception in 2001. Rich really is a serial entrepreneur and has launched two magazines (Upside and Forbes ASAP), the venture capital firm Garage Technology Ventures (with his friend, Guy Kawasaki), and Silicon Valley’s premier business and technology forum, 7500-member Churchill Club. He is a past Northern California winner of the Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award. Rich speaks 50 to 60 times a year on economic, business and investment themes. He was raised in Bismarck, North Dakota, and graduated from Stanford University. He lives with his family in Silicon Valley. His latest book, The Soft Edge
: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success, was published by Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Brand (April 2014).

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

* * *

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

Karlgaard:
 That would be my dad, Dick, who died in 2012. Dick was the athletic director of the Bismarck, N.D. public school system. He hired and fired high school coaches. He also ran state tournaments in every sport and had a big deep voice and did the public address at football and basketball games and at track meets. He was a mythic figure around Bismarck. He absolutely loved his job. He did what he wanted to do, and he excelled at it. He was twice named the national high school athletic director of the year. My dad invented his own job and he was happy. That’s what I learned from him.

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.

Karlgaard:
 When I bought my first Apple Macintosh in 1985. I bought a Mac, then a copy of Aldus PageMaker (I had serial number 443), then a laser printer. Suddenly I had the tools to be a publisher. No longer was I limited to being a low-level technical writer. Liberation! Desktop publishing let me create Upside magazine, which let me interview people like Bill Gates, which caught the eye of Steve Forbes. The Mac began a marvelous chain of events.

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

Karlgaard:
 Zip. Stanford looks good on anyone’s resume, but I learned nothing of value in classes. College taught me to hate reading. I used to hide in the library and pour through old issues of Sports Illustrated rather than study political science textbooks. I fell in love with reading, beyond sports writing, two years after finishing college. I became interested in business, markets and finance only after I figured out that business was just another kind of sport. As editor of Upside and Forbes ASAP, I tried to inject a sports-writing vigor and wit and human truth to business. That’s what I strive for in my Forbes Innovation Rules columns. That was my goal in writing The Soft Edge.

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?

Karlgaard:

 Well, I knew absolutely nothing about business when I graduated from college. I was able to catch up fast once I learned that business was like sports, but, alas, I didn’t figure that out until my late twenties. In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman was another eye-opener. They wrote about business as if it could be … fun. Which it can be.

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

Karlgaard:
 Movies about business are almost always boring. They always feel forced. Ashton Kutcher did in fact resemble Steve Jobs – spoke like him, walked like him — and that was amazing for, oh, the first five minutes. But the story was wooden. Great movies, on the other hand, teach us about human truth. Insights about human truth are what matter in business.

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

Karlgaard:

I am now immensely enjoying Scott Eyman’s biography of John Wayne. This book is not primarily about the movie business, but Eyman in great detail shows how Wayne managed his career and brand and how he worked with different directors and studios. Wayne’s collaboration, in particular, with director John Ford is deeply illuminating.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. 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.”

Karlgaard: 
True in science and philosophy. But note that Apple did not have to ram the iPhone down people’s throats.

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

Karlgaard:
 Only true when evolution is at work. Certainly business innovation follows this course. But the Dawkins dictum fails to explain, say, deeper human nature, which is timeless.

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….’”

Karlgaard:
 I love this quote! The analogy in business would be, “Odd that our product generates more buzz when we advertise less.” Or, “Odd that Mary, who is such an introvert, is our best salesperson.”

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

Karlgaard:
I was lucky to interview Drucker on two occasions at his home in Claremont, Calif. He told me the most difficult thing for any CEO was to figure out what not to do.

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?

Karlgaard:

I know Tom Davenport and consider him brilliant. But I wouldn’t be so quick to toss out the Great Man. Apple lost something vital with the death of Steve Jobs. Amazon needs Jeff Bezos. Tesla needs Elon Musk. Professor Davenport’s idea of a Great Man sounds more like Downton Abbey’s Lord Crawley – a caricature of a pompous know-it-all – than it does of actual great leaders you see in business today. Today’s great leaders are data driven, yes, but they are far, far more than that. You can’t inspire people with data.

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

Karlgaard:

 To my eye, it is below C-level where you see this at work. C-level executives rise to that level because, generally, they are good at delegation. Too many mid-level managers get stuck or burn out because they are not. They don’t know how. Or they are afraid to.

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

Karlgaard:
The job of a great leader is to put conviction in people’s hearts. Stories do that because they give us meaning and purpose. Which, in turn, leads to conviction.

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?

Karlgaard:
The value of a Harvard MBA is that, (1) it proves you were smart enough, driven enough, to get into Harvard Business School, and (2) you now have great contacts. The actual education is the least of it. Simulation technology will radically transform teaching and learning in business. I’m convinced that all but the very top business schools will decline. The investment in time and money won’t be worth it. What employer is going to pay a premium salary for an MBA that isn’t from a top school? But there will always be Harvard, Stanford and Wharton.

Morris: Looking ahead (let’s say) 3-5 years, what do you think will be the greatest challenge that CEOs will face? Any Advice?

Karlgaard:
 I honestly can’t figure out why any company would want to be public. The scrutiny is only going to get worse. The happiest CEOs I know run private companies. Jim Goodnight of SAS Institute is a happy man. I recently spent a day with Michael Dell in Austin. He is ten times happier now than when Dell was public.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

Rich cordially invites you to check out the resources at his website.

Also here’s his Forbes link.

Sunday, June 22, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dan Pontefract : Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

PontefractDan Pontefract is the author of Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization. He also holds the role of Head of Learning & Collaboration at TELUS where he is responsible for the overarching leadership development, learning and collaboration strategy for the company where he introduced the TELUS Leadership Philosophy and the Learning 2.0 framework alongside a litany of social collaboration technologies. Between 2010 and 2013, Dan has been acknowledged with several awards from CLO, CUBIC, Skillsoft and Brandon Hall. In 2013, his team became an 8-time winner of the prestigious ASTD BEST award.

His career is interwoven with both corporate and academic experience, coupled with an MBA, B.Ed and multiple industry certifications and accreditations. Dan is also a renowned speaker and has been invited to deliver over 50 external keynotes and presentations since 2009. In 2012 he appeared on the covers of T+D magazine and Chief Learning Officer magazine.

When he’s not cycling, he’s goofing around with Denise, Claire, Cole and Cate. Visit their blogs; they’d love to hear from you. He is currently in the midst of writing his second book, scheduled to release in 2014.

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of him. To read all of that interview, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write Flat Army?

Pontefract: On January 1, 2012, I sent an email out to 20 people in my network who I thought could help me with my ‘New Year’s Resolution’, which of course was to write and publish a book in 2012. A friend of mine in Boston hooked me up with Wiley, and the rest as they say is history. The decision to write was easy; corporate hierarchy for the sake of hierarchy and command and control leadership styles as the de facto way in which to lead is as prevalent as hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water. Not to sound righteous, but I wanted to put my thoughts out there in the public domain for others to learn from.

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

Pontefract: The book was supposed to be 70,000 words and it turned out to be 90,000. I could have written a 150,000 word book in all honesty, so my revelation was the problems in our organizations today are wicked, wretched and omnipresent. The first three chapters of Flat Army are a setup for the five models that I surface. The first three chapters outline what’s wrong so in essence, I could have simply written a book about what’s wrong at about 150,000 words in length and never have gotten to a solution. That was a head-snapping revelation for certain.

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

Pontefract: Great question. Originally, I had thought the thesis should be told as a story. I wrote three chapters (roughly 20,000 words) under the working title of The Coffee Shop Leader, where the main character (Dean) walks into a coffee shop one day and builds a relationship with the owner, a barista and four other passerby’s. From there, they discuss, debate and debunk current practices of management and leadership today, and they then cook up an answer to the world’s problems. At the suggestion of Wiley (the publisher) we decided to scrap that plan and write it as you see it today.

Morris: As I indicate in my review 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 explain what you view as the key take-away in several. First, “The Organization vs. Life Itself” (Pages 18-20)

Pontefract: If the C-Suite is looking for ROI, leaders need not prove it by return on investment, but by return on intelligence, by return on innovation and by return on ideas. This turns itself into an open culture of leadership, and a more engaged workforce.

Morris: “The Connected Leader Chasm” and “Falling into the Chasm” (50-54)

Pontefract: Leaders are Harmful, Hurtful, Hopeful, or Harmonious. Most of the time, leaders don’t know they are in the harmful or hurtful quadrants. Which is to say they are a closed leader and their team is closed. As they shift to (or are already at) the hopeful or harmonious quadrants they and their teams are becoming more open … which is a fundamental ingredient to creating an engaged organization.

Morris: “The Connected Leader Attributes” (61-66)

Pontefract: Aside from where I currently hang my hat, I think there are two great examples to study (as an organization) that demonstrate the Connected Leader Attributes in totality; IBM and Zappos. IBM, on one hand, was a mercurial, monolithic giant that had lost its way with its customers and its employees until Lou Gerstner came into the fold and for the better part of the past 20 years IBM has redeveloped its culture and its business principles to define for all of us how an organization can revector mid-stream to accomplish good things. Lou embodied all of the fifteen Connected Leader Attributes. On the other hand is Zappos who fundamentally believe ‘culture is their single most important and competitive advantage’ and (under tony Hsieh’s leadership) have achieved great things solely based on this business principle. I do say ‘business principle’ when I refer to culture (and to Zappos) because that’s my entire point; without a strong operating culture there will never be strong business principles. Their business principle is in fact the Connected Leader Attributes.

Morris: “The Participative Leader Framework” (63-69)

Pontefract: If one employs CARE (Continuous, Authentic, Reciprocal and Educating) in both their personal and professional networks, all the while equally consuming and contributing ideas, content, knowledge and feedback, a leader is therefore being ‘participative’.

Morris: “Trusting” (74-77)

Pontefract: Whether a bouquet or a brickbat, whether a high or a low, whether a peak or a valley, whether a success or a mistake, the leader must create an environment that ensures all members of the team (direct or indirect) feel safe not just to do their jobs, but also to break free of them.

Morris: “Empathizing” (79-82)

Pontefract: During the Christmas Truce of 1914, German and Allied forces stopped shooting at each other on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They did so (I believe out of empathy) knowing they each missed their families and despite ‘orders’ to continue fighting, they dropped their guns and actually played football in no man’s land, exchanged cigarettes and rations too. It’s the true spirit of empathy that needs to be found in our organizations today.

Morris: “Cooperating” (101-105)

Pontefract: Cooperating literally means “to work with”. Anything less than being cooperative is a failure in the Flat Army model.

Morris: “The Untutored Eye” (132-134)

Pontefract: Stan Brakhage penned a piece in the journal Film Culture entitled “Metaphors on Vision.” It’s a classic and in particular the first three stanzas. I think the behavior of participation is a lot like this. We need to see differently. We therefore require a new lens, an untutored eye if you will. If we took Brakhage’s thinking to the element of participation we would break free of accepted and tolerated levels of crappy leadership.

Morris: “Hierarchy Is Not Anarchy” (158-160)

Pontefract: Organizations can’t be run as though they were yard sales or high school dances. There needs to be stability, credibility and direction. Heterarchy, however, is closer to what we might want to investigate as a definition of Flat Army. Or perhaps it’s the term “Directed Heteroarchy”. Let’s allow relationships to form and permit ideas to permeate, but let’s not lose sight of the fact we need to produce results.

Morris: What are the core principles and values of the “Flat Army Philosophy”? (263-266)

Pontefract: The principle thesis underpinning a Flat Army culture is if your people are engaged – if they feel connected to the leader and organization, and if they are working within a collaborative, connected and learning-first environment – employees will be happier, more innovative, productive and thus more likely to not only recommend the organization to others, but to stay at said organization and to go above and beyond the call of duty.

A Flat Army is made up of 5 key frameworks:

o The Connected Leader – 15 key leadership attributes that make up a Flat Army leader

o Participative Leader Framework – a participation ethos of leaders to demonstrate CARE (continuous, authentic, reciprocal and educating) with direct professional networks

o Collaborative Leader Action Model (CLAM) – a 6 stage daily habit that encourages leaders to connect, consider, communicate, create, confirm and congratulate on actions, initiatives and projects

o Pervasive Learning – learning is part formal, informal and social and both the leader and the organization need to employ this new mindset in order to feel engaged, connected and collaborative

o Collaboration Technologies – to hide in an office with an executive assistant is asinine in today’s 2.0 world. Using 15 key social collaborative technologies in the Flat Army model will help drive employee engagement, participation, collaboration and learning

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

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

Flat Army page

His Amazon page

TELUS blog link

Please support Wikipedia

Claire’s website

Cole’s website

Cate’s website

Saturday, September 28, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Malcolm Gladwell on “Complexity and the Ten-Thousand-Hour Rule”

Photo Caption: Magnus Carlsen (1991-   ), a Norwegian chess grandmaster and the No. 1 ranked player in the world

Magnus Carlsen (1991- ), a Norwegian chess grandmaster and the No. 1 ranked player in the world

Here is a brief excerpt from an article written by Malcolm Gladwell for The New Yorker (August 21, 2013) in which Gladwell makes a vigorous effort to clarify issues that always result from careless reading and simplistic thinking. To read the complete article, please click here.

Photo Credit: Photograph by Kent Skibstad/AFP/Getty

* * *

Forty years ago, in a paper in American Scientist, Herbert Simon and William Chase drew one of the most famous conclusions in the study of expertise:

“There are no instant experts in chess—certainly no instant masters or grandmasters. There appears not to be on record any case (including Bobby Fischer) where a person reached grandmaster level with less than about a decade’s intense preoccupation with the game. We would estimate, very roughly, that a master has spent perhaps 10,000 to 50,000 hours staring at chess positions….”

In the years that followed, an entire field within psychology grew up devoted to elaborating on Simon and Chase’s observation—and researchers, time and again, reached the same conclusion: it takes a lot of practice to be good at complex tasks. After Simon and Chase’s paper, for example, the psychologist John Hayes looked at seventy-six famous classical composers and found that, in almost every case, those composers did not create their greatest work until they had been composing for at least ten years. (The sole exceptions: Shostakovich and Paganini, who took nine years, and Erik Satie, who took eight.)

This is the scholarly tradition I was referring to in my book Outliers, when I wrote about the “ten-thousand-hour rule.” No one succeeds at a high level without innate talent, I wrote: “achievement is talent plus preparation.” But the ten-thousand-hour research reminds us that “the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.” In cognitively demanding fields, there are no naturals. Nobody walks into an operating room, straight out of a surgical rotation, and does world-class neurosurgery. And second—and more crucially for the theme of Outliers —- the amount of practice necessary for exceptional performance is so extensive that people who end up on top need help. They invariably have access to lucky breaks or privileges or conditions that make all those years of practice possible. As examples, I focussed on the countless hours the Beatles spent playing strip clubs in Hamburg and the privileged, early access Bill Gates and Bill Joy got to computers in the nineteen-seventies. “He has talent by the truckload,” I wrote of Joy. “But that’s not the only consideration. It never is.”

Recently, there has been some confusion about this argument. Some of the critiques are just bewildering. Here, for example, is a passage from an article in Time a few months ago, which makes me think that there is another Malcolm Gladwell out there, with far more eccentric views than mine, who put on a Halloween wig and somehow conned his way into the Time Life Building:

“Based on research suggesting that practice is the essence of genius, best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that 10,000 hours of appropriately guided practice was “the magic number of greatness,” regardless of a person’s natural aptitude. With enough practice, he claimed in his book Outliers, anyone could achieve a level of proficiency that would rival that of a professional. It was just a matter of putting in the time.”

* * *

To read the complete article, please click here.

Malcolm Gladwell has been a staff writer with The New Yorker magazine since 1996. His 1999 profile of Ron Popeil won a National Magazine Award, and in 2005 he was named one of Time magazine‘s 100 Most Influential People. He is the author of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference (2000), Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, (2005), Outliers: The Story of Success (2008), What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (2009), and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (October 2013).

Saturday, September 14, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rajat Taneja on “What I Learned from Steve Ballmer”

BalmerHere is an excerpt from an article by Rajat Taneja for LinkedIn. To read the complete article and check out others, please click here.

* * *

Steve Ballmer recently announced his retirement setting off a firestorm of analysis of his career at Microsoft. I don’t want to get into the pluses and minuses of someone’s career — that’s for history to decide — but we should acknowledge a very simple fact: Very few people have contributed as much to society as Steve Ballmer.

Along with Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer democratized computing for the world. The two of them had a vision to put a computer on every desk and in every home, and in 20 years flat they achieved a level of unprecedented scale in that mission. No one can really debate the impact of MSDOS and Windows in bringing affordable computing to the mass market. Think about that. It’s really an astounding achievement that wholly changed global society. There are very few people you can say that about. And with today’s news that Microsoft will acquire the handset and services business of Nokia to strengthen their mobile offerings, Steve’s influence will continue to have a lasting impact well after his career at Microsoft is over.

As someone who worked with Steve very closely for a number of years I wanted to share a few things I learned from him, which have helped me tremendously during my own career. Working alongside Steve I learned some of the most valuable lessons of my career, many of which I’ve chronicled here on LinkedIn. But as I reflect on my many interactions with Steve spanning over 15 years, I have been most impacted by 5 lessons.

[Here's the first.]

Courage and Convictions

The hallmark of the best leaders is to think big and to stay the course despite short-term adversity. Steve was exceptional at thinking big and with a long time horizon. That led to the creation of a brand-new Xbox and Xbox LIVE business which now underpins a revolutionary connected entertainment strategy. That led to the formation of a huge server and enterprise business and now underpins Azure cloud services. That led to the formation of a new communications business which includes Lync and Skype and underpins a whole new way to think about productivity and collaboration. Very few companies have gone from being a successful one-trick pony to being successful multi-trick pony. It requires deep belief and courage to follow the true north with conviction. Steve taught a whole generation of leaders how to handle short term adversity for the right long term innovation.

* * *

To read the complete article, please click here.

Rajat Taneja is Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Electronic Arts.

Friday, September 13, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dan Pontefract: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

PontefractDan Pontefract is the author of Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization. He also holds the role of Head of Learning & Collaboration at TELUS where he is responsible for the overarching leadership development, learning and collaboration strategy for the company where he introduced the TELUS Leadership Philosophy and the Learning 2.0 framework alongside a litany of social collaboration technologies. Between 2010 and 2013, Dan has been acknowledged with several awards from CLO, CUBIC, Skillsoft and Brandon Hall. In 2013, his team became an 8-time winner of the prestigious ASTD BEST award.

His career is interwoven with both corporate and academic experience, coupled with an MBA, B.Ed and multiple industry certifications and accreditations. Dan is also a renowned speaker and has been invited to deliver over 50 external keynotes and presentations since 2009. In 2012 he appeared on the covers of T+D Magazine and Chief Learning Officer Magazine.

When he’s not cycling, he’s goofing around with Denise, Claire, Cole and Cate. Visit their blogs; they’d love to hear from you. He is currently in the midst of writing his second book, scheduled for release in 2014.

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

* * *

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

Pontefract: Terry Fox is my hero and a Canadian icon. After losing his leg due to an amputation as a result of cancer, Terry decided to run across Canada to raise money for research when I was only 9 years old and he only in his early 20’s. Imagine running a marathon a day on one good leg and one prosthetic leg all in an effort to help others. He succumbed to a second bout of cancer and died cutting his dream short roughly half-way across Canada, but his resiliency, leadership and desire to give back and end cancer not only gave me hope, it drove me to give back, to learn as much as I can and to believe I can accomplish anything if I put my mind to it.

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

Pontefract: My network. I learned how to learn in my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees but it’s been my network that has had the greatest impact on my professional development. I’ve always been a believer in ‘storing my knowledge in my network’ and that has only proved its weight in gold with the proliferation of social collaborative tools that allow me to reach out and learn from countless others. As Michelangelo once said, “I am still learning.”

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.

Pontefract: I originally wanted to be a doctor, and then a physiotherapist because (in the footsteps of Terry Fox) I wanted to help and give back. I realized I could be more effective and potentially more influential if I shifted course and entered the education field. With three years as a high school teacher, and then five years leading a post-secondary education initiative, I then turned my attention to corporate organizations in 2002 to see if I could help there. I will eventually sort out a way to help many more, so stay tuned.

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

Pontefract: Credentials are a necessary evil in today’s world unless you are a programming whiz kid like Gates or Zuckerberg. I have a B.Ed, an MBA, a diploma in Educational Technology as well as an array of information technology certificates and credentials. Without the credentials, I don’t get the job in high school nor the job in higher education. From there, I don’t get recruited into roles within the corporate sector. It’s still somewhat premature to say we can achieve career greatness (or at a minimum success) if we don’t have formal credentials and thus formal education.

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?

Pontefract: There is no formal course in the art (and science) of corporate politics. One really has to go through the hazing and initiation of corporate politics to appreciate how lethal it can be at times in addition to how much one can learn going through the various trials and tribulations. I wasn’t prepared for backroom politics as I much prefer an open, collaborative, honest and to-the-point mindset. It still continues to this day, which is disappointing in itself.

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

Pontefract: Chariots of Fire. There is so much going on in this film from the hierarchy of academic administration, to the willingness to listen, empathy, re-vectoring as well as coaching, mentoring, being communicative and collaborative as well as learning from mistakes. The film is layered with symbolism and in my opinion both replicates what is happening in today’s disengaged workforces (through hierarchy, command, etc.) as well as what can go right through the aforementioned attributes and many more.

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

Pontefract: Denise and I have three young children and as we’re both educators, books are an important part of the child rearing diet. There is a book called The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein that epitomizes our home and my hope for all organizations. A young boy meets his new best friend, “The Giving Tree,” where they spend hours together. As the boy grows older into his teens, adulthood and late adulthood he keeps visiting the tree only to ask for help. The Giving Tree obliges each and every time to assist his friend. By the end of the boy’s life The Giving Tree is now merely a stump, but the boy is now near death and can’t do much more than sit. So, what does our Giving Tree do? He offers the boy a seat on the stump. The moral of the story of course is we all have something to give no matter the situation or times.

* * *

To read the complete Part 1 interview, please click here.

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

Flat Army page

His Amazon page

TELUS blog

Please support Wikipedia

Claire’s website

Cole’s website

Cate’s website

Saturday, September 7, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Worthless, Impossible, and Stupid: A book review by Bob Morris

WorthlessWorthless, Impossible, and Stupid: How Contrarian Entrepreneurs Create and Capture Extraordinary Value
Daniel Isenberg
Harvard Business Review Press (2013)

A brilliant analysis of entrepreneurship as “the contrarian perception, creation, and capture of extraordinary value”

Let’s say that a Mount Rushmore type of monument for entrepreneurs will be constructed and nominations are requested. Which names immediately come to mind? Chances are, none of them would be among the several listed by Daniel Isenberg in the Conclusion section of his book. So what? In my opinion, a great deal. Most books about entrepreneurs focus on business celebrities such as Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Herb Kelleher, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Howard Schultz, Fred Smith, Ted Turner, and Mark Zuckerberg. They did indeed begin with acorns that became oak trees and do indeed exemplify what Isenberg characterizes as “the contrarian perception, creation, and capture of extraordinary value.” However, Izenberg’s book is not about celebrity. His focus is on a contrarian mindset and process he has observed in entrepreneurs he has personally known in 45 countries.

“Worthless is about how so many people from around the world see hidden value in situations where others do not. These people then use that perception to successfully develop valuable products and services that customers usually initially don’t think they want, and ultimately go on to realize extraordinary value for themselves.” So what? Isenberg’s response: “A paradox: despite their statistical rarity in creating extraordinary value, most of the entrepreneurs in these pages will strike you as ordinary people like you and me. The differences between them and us are less a matter of who they are or what resources they have than of what and how they think.”

So, Isenberg has two objectives and achieves both: To “catalyze” entrepreneurial aspiration so that as many of his readers as possible to make “the entrepreneurial choice”: extraordinary value creation, and, to “reframe” entrepreneurship in terms of value creation and capture rather than business ownership per se. That is, to understand and appreciate the men and women he discusses as people who are (in most respects) “like you and me” rather than in terms of the companies they have created. I presume to add an opinion of mine: Those on whom Isenberg focuses in this book share much in common with Bezos et al listed earlier insofar as having a contrarian mindset and process is concerned. For example, they also saw and realized value where others thought there was none, and also acted in ways that were contrary to what almost everyone thought was worthwhile. Selling books online? An airline serving major cities in Texas whose fares were competitive with those of…Greyhound and Railways? Overnight delivery of mail and parcels that “absolutely, positively have to be there”? Ideas such as these are worthless, impossible, and stupid.

These are among the entrepreneurial stories in the book of greatest interest and value to me:

o Robert Wessman’s generic pharmaceuticals company (Pages 12-15)
o Miguel Davila’s cinema chain (16-21)
o Atsumasa Tochisako’s money-transfer service (42-51)
o Carl Bistany’s educational management ventures (72-82)
o Will Dean’s adventure challenge events (100-107)
o Mary Gadams’s RacingthePlanet (137-139)
o Vinod Kapur’s chicken farming (142-151)
o Mo Ibrahim’s cell phone company (152-154)
o Iqbal Quadir’s Grameenphone (155-167)
o Mei Zhang’s experience with cultural tourism (187-193)
o Dean Kamen’s Segway (195-196)
o Itai Isenberg’s nightclub business (217-219)

As Eisenberg suggests throughout the book, the contrarian mindset and process are not for everyone but global giants such as GE as well as start-ups need to include both and indeed the success of the former and the survival of the latter depend on it. Consider these remarks by Jack Welsh at a GE annual when its then chairman and CEO explained why he admired small companies and hoped that GE would become more like one:

“For one, they communicate better. Without the din and prattle of bureaucracy, people listen as well as talk; and since there are fewer of them they generally know and understand each other. Second, small companies move faster. They know the penalties for hesitation in the marketplace. Third, in small companies, with fewer layers and less camouflage, the leaders show up very clearly on the screen. Their performance and its impact are clear to everyone. And, finally, smaller companies waste less. They spend less time in endless reviews and approvals and politics and paper drills. They have fewer people; therefore they can only do the important things. Their people are free to direct their energy and attention toward the marketplace rather than fighting bureaucracy.”

As Welch well knew, Thomson-Houston Company and Edison General Electric Company merged in 1892. Two small acorns became one larger than either but still an acorn. Thomas Edison sold all of his shares two years later but continued his association as a consultant. Over time, driven by its entrepreneurial spirit, GE became an oak tree through diversification of products and services based on research by the first industrial laboratory in the United States and through acquisitions. Presumably there were many occasions when GE’s bold initiatives were widely viewed as worthless, impossible, and stupid. Once again, the company needs such initiatives now as do countless others among the Fortune 100.

When concluding his book, Daniel Eisenberg observes: “Entrepreneurship is not about the likely or the average; it is about the possible, the extraordinary. It is about victory. The entrepreneurs who have graced these pages have shown me, and I hope you, a higher possibility.” Well-said.

Saturday, July 13, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bill Gates on “Three Things I’ve Learned From Warren Buffett”

Buffett & GatesHere is a brief excerpt from an article by Bill Gates featured by LinkedIn. To read the complete article, check out other resources, please click here.

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I’m looking forward to sharing posts from time to time about things I’ve learned in my career at Microsoft and the Gates Foundation. (I also post frequently on my blog.)

Last month, I went to Omaha for the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. It’s always a lot of fun, and not just because of the ping-pong matches and the newspaper-throwing contest I have with Warren Buffett. It’s also fun because I get to learn from Warren and gain insight into how he thinks.

Here are three things I’ve learned from Warren over the years:

1. It’s not just about investing.

The first thing people learn from Warren, of course, is how to think about investing. That’s natural, given his amazing track record. Unfortunately, that’s where a lot of people stop, and they miss out on the fact that he has a whole framework for business thinking that is very powerful. For example, he talks about looking for a company’s moat—its competitive advantage—and whether the moat is shrinking or growing. He says a shareholder has to act as if he owns the entire business, looking at the future profit stream and deciding what it’s worth. And you have to be willing to ignore the market rather than follow it, because you want to take advantage of the market’s mistakes—the companies that have been underpriced.

I have to admit, when I first met Warren, the fact that he had this framework was a real surprise to me. I met him at a dinner my mother had put together. On my way there, I thought, “Why would I want to meet this guy who picks stocks?” I thought he just used various market-related things—like volume, or how the price had changed over time—to make his decisions. But when we started talking that day, he didn’t ask me about any of those things. Instead he started asking big questions about the fundamentals of our business. “Why can’t IBM do what Microsoft does? Why has Microsoft been so profitable?” That’s when I realized he thought about business in a much more profound way than I’d given him credit for.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Here are a few of my blog posts that focus on Warren Buffett:

Part 1 of interview of Lawrence Cunningham link

Review of The Essays of Warren Buffett (Third Edition) link

Review of Tap Dancing to Work link

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blogging on Business Update from Bob Morris (Week of 6/10/13)

BOB Banner

I hope that at least a few of these recent posts will be of interest to you:

 

BOOK REVIEWS

Stiletto Network: Inside the Women’s Power Circles That Are Changing the Face of Business
Pamela Ryckman

Leadership Sustainability: Seven Disciplines to Achieve the Changes Great Leaders Know They Must Make
Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood

The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think
Michael E. Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed

 

INTERVIEWS

Mario Livio: An interview by Bob Morris
BOB

Michael E. Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed: An interview by Bob Morris
BOB

Leon M. Hielkema: An interview by Bob Morris
BOB

Paulett Eberhart (CDI) in “The Corner Office”
Adam Bryant
The New York Times

 

COMMENTARIES

“How to Give a Killer Presentation”
Chris Anderson
HBR

“Three Things I’ve Learned From Warren Buffett”
Bill Gates
LinkedIn

“The do-or-die questions boards should ask about technology”
Paul Willmott
The McKinsey Quarterly

“Seven Strategies for Simplifying Your Organization”
Ron Ashkenas with Lisa Bodell
HBR

“What’s Ahead: Is Involvement the New Engagement?”
Dwaine Maltais
Talent Management

“Progress At Work, But Mothers Still Pay a Price”
Stephanie Coontz
The New York Times

“The huge impact that a small liberal arts college can have”
Michael Dirda
The American Scholar

“What great coaches do — and leaders should, too”
Laura Vanderkam
CBS Moneywatch

“The Tyranny of the Micromanager”
Amanda Foreman
The Wall Street Journal

“Toward a Self Employed Nation?”
Wendell Cox
NewGeography.com

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To check out these resources and other content, please click here.

To subscribe via RSS Reader, please click here.

Sunday, June 16, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Forbes Greatest Business Stories of All Time: A book review by Bob Morris

Forbes Greatest Business Stories of All Time
Daniel Gross
John Wiley & Sons (1997)

Note: This was among the first books I reviewed for Amazon (in 2000) and I recently re-read it while doing some research on several of the 20 companies it features. Don’t let the publication date deter you.  These stories are even more entertaining and informative now than they were then because these are perspectives on them 25 years before many of them and their leaders became almost deities in the vineyards of free enterprise.

Each chapter offers a profile of a major contributor to the evolution of American business history, beginning with one of my ancestors, Robert Morris (America’s “first real businessman”), and concluding with Bill Gates (“Microsoft’s co-founder and guiding spirit”). In between, Gross and his associates also examine other great leaders such as McCormick, Rockefeller, Morgan, Ford, Merrill, Sarnoff, Disney, Johnson, Ogilvy, Kroc, Wilson, Ash, Walton, and McGowan as well as major corporations such as American Express, Intel, Harley-Davidson, and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. The reader is told, “This book is about heroes” and it really is.

Using the most effective strategies and devices of a storyteller, the authors examine biographical information within an historical context, sustaining interest with anecdotes while providing insights as to the causes and effects of each subject’s accomplishments. For Morris, essentially the economic survival of thirteen colonies during their struggle for independence. For McCormick, the industrialization of agriculture. For Rockefeller, the creation and development of the modern corporation. For Morgan, saving a nation’s financial system. For Ford, mass-producing affordable personal transportation. For Merrill, broadening the base of stock ownership to include those, among others, for whom the Ford Motor Company manufactured automobiles. Each of the other “heroes” discussed made equally important contributions.

A brief review such as this can only suggest (albeit inadequately) the wealth of information to be found in this book. The prose has snap, crackle, and pop. The focus is crystal clear. The lessons to be learned from the careers examined are of incalculable value. Although this book will be of interest to almost anyone, it will have special importance for school, college, and university students who may sometimes wonder if there are any “secrets to success.” The answer is yes. The specifics are to be found in the lives of those who are discussed in Greatest Business Stories of All Time.


Friday, April 27, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sheryl Sandberg: The $1.6 Billion Woman, Staying on Message

Sheryl Sandberg (Photo: Antoine Antoniol/Bloomberg News)

Here is an excerpt from an article co-authored by Nicole Perlroth and Claire Cain Miller about Sheryl Sandberg, featured in The New York Times (February 4, 2012). To read the complete article, please click here.

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Facebook‘s No. 2 executive, Sheryl Sandberg, will reap a fortune in its stock offering. And she hasn’t stopped telling the world how women should take responsibility for their careers.

SEVENTY-TWO hours before Facebook’s big moment, Sheryl K. Sandberg was half a world away, hobnobbing with the likes of Bill Gates and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. [Please click here to see a video.]

Yes, Ms. Sandberg is Mark Zuckerberg’s No. 2. And, yes, if all goes well, she will soon become the $1.6 billion woman. On Wednesday, Facebook filed to go public in a deal that, in all likelihood, will instantly make it one of the most valuable corporations on the planet.

But Ms. Sandberg, who has helped steer this social network to this once-unimaginable height, had more on her mind than securities filings and ad metrics. She was attending the annual World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, where her subject wasn’t Facebook — but women. Specifically, how women, in her view, must take responsibility for their careers and not blame men for holding them back.

Given that Ms. Sandberg is Facebook’s chief operating officer, and that all of Wall Street was hanging on last week’s news, you might think that she was absurdly off-topic. But Ms. Sandberg sees herself as more than an executive at one of the hottest companies around — more, too, than someone who will soon rank among the few self-made billionaires who are women. She sees herself as a role model for women in business and technology. In speeches, she often urges women to “keep your foot on the gas pedal,” and to aim high.

Her call isn’t simply about mentoring and empowering. It is also about business strategy. A majority of Facebook’s 845 million users are women. And women are also its most engaged users. So Ms. Sandberg is playing to a powerful and lucrative demographic, as well as to the advertisers who want to reach it. Inside Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., she is considered a not-so-secret weapon for recruiting and retaining talented women as well as men. She and Mr. Zuckerberg will need the best brains they can find to sustain Facebook’s astonishing growth.

Of course, it helps that Ms. Sandberg has personality and presentation skills. In Davos and on the conference circuit, in public appearances in Washington and on college campuses, she has a warm, disarming tone that sets her apart from many other executives, male or female.

Her talks have gone viral. On YouTube, videos of her speeches have been viewed more than 200,000 times. Some have been included in syllabuses at the Stanford and Harvard business schools. Put simply, she exudes that certain something that seems to leave many people, particularly young women, a bit star-struck.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

 

Monday, February 6, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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