First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Sam Ford: An interview by Bob Morris

Ford, SamSam Ford is Director of Audience Engagement for Peppercomm. His 2013 New York University Press book, Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, was co-authored by Henry Jenkins and Joshua Green. The book was named one of the best business books of 2013 by Booz & Co.’s Strategy+Business and was voted one of the “Top 10 Best Marketing Books You Read This Summer” in a reader poll at Advertising Age. In 2011, he co-edited the University Press of Mississippi book The Survival of Soap Opera: Transformations for a New Media Era with Abigail De Kosnik and C. Lee Harrington. Sam is a columnist with Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Inc. He is a research affiliate with the MIT Program in Comparative Media Studies/Writing, an instructor with the Western Kentucky University Popular Culture Studies Program, and co-chair of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s Ethics Committee. Sam was named a 2014 Social Media MVP by PR News and was Bulldog Reporter’s 2011 Social Media Innovator of the Year. In the past two years, he has written pieces for The Wall Street Journal, Advertising Age, PRWeek, CMO.com, and other publications and presented at events like South by Southwest, Social Media Week NYC, Planning-ness, and the Front End of Innovation.

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

* * *

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

Ford: It’s tough to narrow down who has had the most significant impact on my personal growth, since it really was a village. My wife’s constant feedback as a partner these past 14 years to help me figure out what it is I want to do in my life, my dad’s consistent work ethic and drive, my mother’s deep attention to detail have all been key. But one person who helped set me on the path I’m on early on is my grandmother, Beulah Hillard. One of our favorite pastimes was sitting on the front porch swing and sharing songs—trading around a mix of gospel, old country/bluegrass tunes, and anything else we could think of.

Her passion for “her story,” the soap opera As the World Turns, helped shape my interest in the intersection between immersive story worlds and the social relationships that build around them. She and my mother talked about the lives of the residents of Oakdale, Illinois, almost every day by phone, interspersed with conversations about friends and family in our little town of McHenry.

And my grandmother was also a society columnist in the local weekly newspaper, covering specifically what was happening in our little town of 400. She wrote about the babies that were born, the old man down the lane who had passed away, the church potluck next Sunday, the visitors from all the way in Michigan who had come to town last week. Her phone would ring regularly with people in the community who had something for her to share in the paper, or she was calling them because of something she’d heard that was going on. And she always had her police scanner on, to keep up with anything going on with the law enforcement, the fire department, the EMS, the school bus system, etc. When I was 12, she had some health complications and asked me to take over the column. There I was, writing alongside the blue-rinse set in The Ohio County Times-News as a pre-teen. But it invigorated my love of writing, of being part of the community, of telling human stories…and it had a really significant impact on the direction I’ve headed since.

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

Ford: Again, there have been many. It’s been an honor working with Henry Jenkins, who was the most generous grad school mentor I could hope for and who has been a true partner and friend on various projects along the way. Steve Cody and others at Peppercomm provided me the opportunity to translate my work to the world of professional communication and marketing, in a way that has been greatly instructive. And Grant McCracken, the cultural anthropologist, has been a key figure throughout the past decade for me—inspiring me and challenging me to think in new ways as only he can do. But, before all that, I have to give great credit to Dr. Karen Schneider and Dr. Ted Hovet at WKU. I entered college planning to be a professional journalist. I ended up with a journalism degree but knew fairly early into my college career that my interests were in studying culture. My first semester at WKU, I had Dr. Schneider for an introductory English class—and the questions she asked of us, the intense discussions she directed, and the way in which she used studying literature to get at the heart of important questions about life inspired me. Karen and Ted Hovet were both key figures in WKU’s English Department and in launching their Film Studies program. They became great mentors for both me as well as for my wife, and remain good friends. And they were key coaches in driving me to go to graduate school and in making sure I was more than prepared when I arrived there.

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.

Ford: There’s been much more serendipity than there has been epiphany for me. For me, it has been having the great opportunity meet many interesting people along the way, learn from them, and make sure that I’m listening when new career turns might pop up. At one point, I knew I was going to attend graduate school, but I didn’t know where. I thought American Studies would provide me the best way to study culture, storytelling, and active audiences in the way I wanted to. An academic named Henry Louis Gates came to WKU. I had a question I was trying to ask him, and I never could get through. Finally, I was up to him in line after his public talk, and they told him that he needed to stop and go to dinner. He looked at me and said, “Why don’t you come with us to dinner?” And my dinner with him that night inspired me to definitely attend graduate school and to consider going to Boston (as Skip is a professor at Harvard) for grad school. Then, my wife and I took a visit up to Boston. I remember passing MIT’s campus several times, and my wife would try to bring my attention to it. “That’s a science and engineering school….” I told her.

A few months later, while doing my honors thesis at WKU on the world of professional wrestling, I came across an essay that Henry Jenkins was working on but that hadn’t been published yet. In fact, it was coming out as part of an edited collection called Steel Chair to the Head that was set to be released right as my thesis was due. I didn’t know who Henry was, but I reached out to him to see if I could get an advanced copy of my essay. In the process, he told me about the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT he was running with Dr. William Uricchio. I ended up getting to know Henry a bit and found that the focus of that program completely matched what I was interested in studying. In the end, I applied to that science school—and it was the only one of 6 or 7 programs I applied to that accepted me.

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

Ford: My formal education has been extremely important to me. I’m a first-generation college student and product of the public school system. My life was shaped by a series of important teachers I had along the way who passed along to me less specific knowledge and more the critical thinking skills and passion for learning that drove me to seek the next level. My time at WKU fundamentally reshaped what it was I wanted to do in my career. MIT did that once again and provided me with the skill set, the peer group, the connections, and the validity I needed to move forward—and move into areas I would have never expected and into a job title and job description I wouldn’t have even understood a short time before.

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?

Ford: You should always be able to put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re consulting, working with, or seeking to reach. Don’t underestimate their intelligence, but don’t overestimate their knowledge. Find the meeting place between what they want and need to know and what you feel it is important to tell them. And don’t just reactively respond to what they are asking you to do; trust that you are providing them with strategic guidance, not just responding to their queries. That’s been the difference in being able to be a consultative partner to the companies and colleagues I’ve worked with, rather than a vendor, executing requests.

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

Ford: There are many great lessons learned from films. One that I wrote about for Fast Company a few years back was a thrilled named Buried, starring Ryan Reynolds. In it, a U.S. civilian contractor working in Iraq has been captured and wakes up buried under the ground. He’s being held for ransom. And he has a cell phone with him in this small space he’s buried alive in, in the ground. What is remarkable about the film is that the whole movie—which is quite suspenseful—takes place with the camera inside this tight box he’s buried in underground. We don’t see flashbacks. We are stuck in there with him. And we go through what is, in effect, a series of extreme “audience experience” failures as he tries to navigate communicating with a range of entities to be rescued. I found the film a great illustration to the extreme of being able to empathize with an audience member and see/feel the pain from their perspective.

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

Ford: Perhaps no “genre” of book is more insightful about the art of consciously building one’s character and of understanding and communicating with one’s audience than the “pro wrestling memoir” genre, of which I have read many books. Anyone looking to understand how to connect with audiences, how to tell stories that connect, and so forth might do well to read Mick Foley’s Foley Is Good…and the Real World is Faker than Wrestling, as well as Foley’s other books, as well as Ole Anderson and Scott Teal’s Inside Out, among others.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-Tzu’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Ford: I love this quote. Truly inspiring change within an organization, a community, or a client you’re working with is getting an idea so ingrained within that people start taking ownership of it and living it themselves…and requiring the old academic (Ford 2014) when doing that won’t make cultural shifts truly happen within an organization. The more you demand to “own” a concept or initiative, the less you allow others to really make it their own—and to take it in their own directions. To allude to the conversation that is to come about the book, content can’t become spreadable if you don’t provide ways in which people can make it their own. I’d counter with a paraphrase of fellow Kentuckian Robert Penn Warren, who once said that many of the most insightful ideas are ones that, when you read them, you realize you’ve known all along.

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

Ford: I can’t remember who said it, but I heard recently on the radio that someone said our time is one in which those who know the most are more uncertain than ever about their opinion, and those who are willing to state things definitively are those who know dangerously little. And it reminds me of something I once heard wrestler Shawn Michaels say to fellow wrestler Chris Masters—to extend on the pro wrestling example used above: “You don’t even know enough to know what you don’t know.”

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

Ford: One of our favorite initiatives at Peppercomm is to put our teams, our clients, and other leaders through stand-up comedy training—in part because it helps them not just learn to read their audience but also to understand their own unique charisma, and how their presentation of self is so deeply determined by understanding and being true to who they are.

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

Ford: This is a problem we run into constantly, particularly in the business world—where (to draw on work that Dr. Amanda Lotz has done in the past) industry lore and accepted logic often takes on a life of its own and where companies forget that they ever created it in the first place. One of my favorite examples are market segmentations, which create constructed profiles which people ultimately forget were fabrications of their marketing department in the first place and which, like Frankenstein’s Creature, starts terrorizing its creator.

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

Ford: A really shrewd soap opera writer once said of a television executive, “She was a very hard worker. I sure wish she didn’t work so hard.” We have to be careful to be sure that all that creative energy is going toward something that will ultimately benefit the publics a company is looking to serve. I find Carol Sanford’s “pentad” useful here—that any business decision must serve the customer, the co-creator, the earth, the community, and the shareholder…in that order. If organizations made all their decisions along those lines, I’d have to imagine their decisions would look quite a bit different.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Spreadable Media link

Peppercomm link

Twitter link

HBR blog link

Fast Company link

Inc. link

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peter Skarzynski and David Crosswhite: An interview by Bob Morris, Part Two

SkarzynskiPeter Skarzynski is a founder and Managing Partner of ITC Business Group, LLC. He advises large, global organizations on strategy, innovation and organizational change and is recognized as a leading expert in enabling organizational renewal and growth through innovation. His experience cuts across industries and includes technology, consumer products & retail, healthcare, energy, financial services and transportation companies. His primary focus has been to help client organizations renew their core business through competence leverage and break-through business concept innovation. He has led and delivered client work in Asia, The Americas and Europe. Before co-founding ITC, Peter was CEO, Chairman and a founding Director of Strategos, a firm initially chaired and founded by Professor Gary Hamel. He also served as a Vice President in the strategy practice of Gemini Consulting and held several senior-level consulting roles in its predecessor, the MAC Group.

A frequent corporate and conference speaker, Peter has written thought pieces for The Wall Street Journal, CEO Magazine, and The Drucker Foundation. His 2008 book, Innovation to the Core: A Blueprint for Transforming the Way Your Company Innovates, was the first to describe how large organizations can build and sustain a company-wide innovation capability. Peter holds an MBA in Finance and Marketing and a BA (with Honors) in Policy Studies and Economics from the University of Chicago.

CrosswhiteDavid Crosswhite is an experienced management consultant with more than 20 years of work in the field of growth-focused strategy, innovation, and innovation capability development within large organizations. He is a currently a Managing Partner of ITC Business Group, LLC and a former Managing Director of Strategos. His work focuses on assisting clients with their growth strategy and strategy development processes and systems. His work in this area spans multiple industries, including consumer products, durable goods, healthcare, medical devices, financial services, and heavy manufacturing. David’s experience cuts across B2C and B2B sectors. His work with the Whirlpool Corporation is well-known and documented in Strategic Innovation: Embedding Innovation as a Core Competence in Your Organization, authored by Nancy Tennant, EVP of Leadership and Competence Development for Whirlpool. His work is also heavily documented in Innovation to the Core, and in multiple Harvard Business Review cases and other business journals. .

Prior to Strategos, David was a Principal at the MAC Group and Gemini Consulting in their strategy practice. At MAC/Gemini, David focused on marketing and process design for growth issues in the telecommunications industry. David worked domestically and internationally across many of the major telecommunications providers to develop their go-to-market, service, and product development strategies and processes.

David earned his MBA at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, and holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University.

Peter and David’s most recent collaboration is The Innovator’s Field Guide: Market Tested Methods and Frameworks to Help You Meet Your Innovation Challenges, published by Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Brand (2014)

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of them. To read the complete interview, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Briefly, please explain to what extent the methods and frameworks in The Innovator’s Field Guide have been “market-tested.”

Skarzynski:
It’s fairly road-tested. First, the principles reflect leading practices across organizations of all stripes. Not just the ones mentioned in The Guide but others we researched but, could not put in to the book because of space constraints.

Crosswhite: The frameworks reflect our expression of ways to action the the concepts and principles articulated. And, as we say in the book, these or other frameworks are scaffolding for individuals and teams. They help you ensure that you are asking the right questions. But its all about the right questions and the new learning they facilitate.

Morris: You introduce and discuss nine Principles of Innovation (i.e. “why you are doing what you’re doing”). For those who have not as yet read your book, please suggest what is the key point to be made about each. First, articulate a clear definition of innovation

Crosswhite: What outcomes do you want from your efforts? What constitutes innovation for your organization? What qualifies as “what you want” when you – your organization – says it wants innovation?

Skarzynski: Yes. What is the job you want innovation to do for you and your organization.

Morris: Aim your efforts at the business concept, and focus not just on the “what” but also “who” and “why”

Skarzynski: Innovation efforts fall short when you lock on a single focus. Technology companies think too much about technology, for example. Product companies think about what’s the next product or product iteration they want to introduce.

Crosswhite: To Peter’s point, in the work of innovation consider all aspects of the business concept and model. Not just the “what” of product; not just thinking of ‘new’ products. But, new targets (who) and new benefits or reason to believe (Why). Take the time to consider all dimensions of the business concept and business model. In doing so, you’ll open up the aperture of innovation for your organization a great deal more.

Morris: Understand that innovation means new learning

Crosswhite: If innovation is about “new and different” that means you need to build new, foundational learning. You have to ask new questions about product market and industry context. We share techniques about how to ask new questions in new ways, systematically, in the guide. But our view is, no new learning, no new innovation. Or not much, at least. .

Skarzynski: Christensen speaks to new learning through the “jobs to be done” framework. Think of the job the customer is hiring the product or service to do. Ask yourself, is there a better way to perform that job. This type of thinking is fundamental to disruption. It is a mirror to “Design thinking,” which has become mainstream in the last five years.

Morris:
Earn the right to ideate through insight-driven innovation

Skarzynski: Before you go to ideate, have an insight based POV. Make that your foundation to ideate

Crosswhite: Yes, it goes to the “new learning point.” No new learning, no new ideas. Give yourself a chance to break frame first. Gain some new bases for the conversation. Then go have the conversation. Putting people in a room to develop new ideas without new learning in hand is very likely to yield the same old ideas and conversations. Why wouldn’t it?

Morris: Make the work of innovation not merely the generating of new ideas but an end-to-end process through to successful commercialization

Crosswhite: As a starting premise, we think of innovation as a new idea, realized in market. If you start there, then the work of innovation is not just ideation. It’s the end to end work of developing the new idea, getting it to a point of action, and then implementing. Or testing, iterating, and implementing if that’s what’s called for. That’s an end-to-end process, not just an ideation process.

Skarzynski: Which is worth highlighting as a key principle since so many organizations, and even consultancies either implicitly or explicitly think of innovation as just getting some new ideas, some new post-it notes, created. And then the rest is “just execution”. We believe that’s a mistake, and there’s a better way to frame the work of innovation to get you more meaningful results.

Morris: Build innovation capability through a learn-by-doing approach

Skarzynski: In practical terms this is the best way for an organization to get innovation and capability that stick. Pick meaningful innovation issues and topics, frame them, and apply the right techniques and approaches to work the issue. It gets you results sooner, and capability that is deeper and more sustainable. It beats a classroom training format any day of the week in terms of results achieved for the organization.

Crosswhite: Nothing to add. Agree in full.

Morris:
Be systematic and systemic in your approach

Crosswhite: Be systematic: Adopt specific, tangible, tried and true techniques that attack the issue in a deliberate and organized fashion. The Guide, of course, puts forth techniques to apply to common challenges. But most important is that you have a point-of-view about the actionable approach you want to take to the challenge. Be systemic: Look for all the appropriate levers to apply to your organization to achieve sustainable innovation capability. Not just process and tools only – although these are important levers. But skill-building, leadership engagement, metrics, incentives, communications, and multiple others. Use as many levers as you can avail yourself of to create the most sustainable and robust innovation capability.

Skarzynski: And a key to the systemic point is that of making sure the combinations of specific organizing actions – Dave refers to them as levers –you choose align and work well with one another. In other words, they’re specifically selected to work with the grain of your organization and synch up with one another – as opposed to inadvertently “fight” one another. This sounds obvious but too many organizations think of selecting organizing levers for innovation as an exercise of simply picking from a set of menu items those that you deem most attractive to pick. And it’s really a more in depth design exercise than that. We speak about this a great deal in Chapter 8 – which speaks to “Organizing for Innovation”.

Morris: Embrace and employ Open Innovation (OI).

Skarzynski: Briefly, the notion is the pool of know how and talent in a given domain is massively larger than that which is present within your particular organization. In a hyper-competitive world, tapping in to external talent (IP, especially) is value-creating. We share a brief example from Mondelēz. Henry Chesbrough pioneered this management practice, of course, and he leads a center focusing on open innovation at Berkeley. And of course P&G among others leaned hard in to it.

Crosswhite: In addition…and again, borrowing from Henry, organizations successful in OI first must become “open” internally before being open externally. Open internally means success at working across organizational silos and, critically important, being as comfortable working across networks as working within traditional hierarchies. Success in OI takes time and requires smart, fit-for-purposes changes to internal processes.

Morris: Of the nine, which seems to be the most difficult to follow? Why?

Crosswhite: They are all hard. And for any given organization, one may be more difficult but, they are all hard.

Skarzynski: For sure they are all difficult. But they are not impossibly so. And the best way to build your skill is to get going. Pick a challenge or area of focus…and aim your efforts at that challenge.

* * *

To read the complete Part 2 of my interview, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

In addition to the hyperlinks, Peter and David cordially invite you to check out the resources at these websites:

Innovator’s Field Guide link

Our Growth practice link

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

Joseph McCormack, author of BRIEF: An Interview by Bob Morris

Joe-McCormack00306-241x300Joe McCormack is on a mission to help organizations master the art of the short story. In an age of shrinking attention spans, non-stop interruptions, and a flood of information, the messages business leaders send out are getting lost in a sea of words.

An experienced marketing executive, successful entrepreneur and author, Joe is recognized for his work in narrative messaging and corporate storytelling. His new book, BRIEF: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less (John Wiley & Sons, February 2014), tackles the timeliness of the “less is more” mandate.

A passionate leader, he founded The BRIEF Lab in 2013 after years of developing and delivering a unique curriculum on strategic narratives for U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He actively counsels military leaders and senior executives on key messaging and strategy initiatives. His clients include W.W.Grainger, Harley-Davidson, USG Corporation, BMO Harris Bank, SAP, MasterCard, Heinz, Hoffman-La Roche and Jones Lang LaSalle.

He founded and serves as Managing Director and President of The Sheffield Company, an award-winning boutique agency.

Previously, he served as SVP, Corporate Marketing at Ketchum, a top-five marketing agency in Chicago. He received a BA in English Literature from Loyola University of Chicago and is fluent in Spanish. He, his wife Montserrat, and their children live in suburban Chicago.

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

* * *

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

McCormack: My dad. He was a very successful business owner. He raised a large family and had a strong desire to give me the best education he could. He was constantly teaching me. Being a former soldier, he was very disciplined. My affinity for doing work with the military and my comfort with senior executives come from my dad. He was a very intimidating guy, but an amazing person inside.

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

McCormack: Discovering my talent for helping organizations with their narrative message and helping them clarify their story. That came with my experience as media trainer for the chief spokesperson for the first Iraq War.

I was working at a big agency when I was called to do that. I knew they had other options within the military and the State Department, but they discarded those and used my approach to message development and my understanding of narrative instead.

It was a defining moment. It gave me a huge sense of confidence that this was something I had a talent for and a gift for doing. If the chief spokesperson of the Iraq War was using me for professional development, it’s like, “I can play at that level.” That pushed me to start what I knew was going to be a specialized agency — not just a general marketing agency, but an agency specializing in helping companies develop clear and concise messages.

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.

McCormack: One of my turning points was in college working as a journalist. I loved being a journalist. I wrote a weekly column when I was at Loyola, and was always thinking about what topic people would be interested in it and writing in short form.

Writing a column gave me the freedom to explain different stories and topics that I felt the student body would be interested in. I knew that narrative and writing stories that people would actually want to read was something that I wanted to do.

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

McCormack: I studied English literature. It was the most impractical thing I could have done. What do you do with an English degree? You teach. You go to law school, where you starve. You don’t go into sales. You don’t go into marketing. That was not a clear road. But it turns out that, from a formative standpoint, it became very important later on.

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

McCormack: I wish I knew that people in business don’t always have the answer and a lot of times they’re just figuring it out. You think that the senior people have all the answers and when you start rising up the ranks you realize that many of them — though very prepared and very talented — don’t have a lot of the answers or any answers. They’re just making it up. There’s a lot more ambiguity and confusion than you think. Had I known that, I would have realized earlier that I had a voice just like they did.

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

McCormack: Titanic. When you’re running a business, you’re ultimately trying to prevent a colossal mishap from happening under your leadership. The poor guy that was navigating the Titanic in the dark got a lot of warnings and discarded them because he worked on the biggest ship that couldn’t sink. Nothing could take it down.

Look what happened to Andersen Consulting. Almost instantaneously it went away. Look at what happened to Enron. No matter how big a company you’re managing, something really bad can happen that could take the whole thing down. You have to be vigilant that something doesn’t happen on your watch.

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

McCormack: I’m not a big fan of business books. A lot of business books practice a very narrow formula of creating a thesis and finding the evidence to prove their thesis. A lot of those books are for self-promotion because the author wants to become famous or wants to get on a speaker’s tour.

That said, the one book that I really enjoyed the most was Permission Marketing by Seth Godin. He says that marketing is a series of asking people for their permission and them saying “yes” to you. It’s very differential and respectful. You say, “Can I do this?” And they say, “Yes.” Then it escalates to the next “yes.” Marketing is about asking people for their permission.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

The Brief Lab link

Sheffield Company link

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

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

Scott D. Anthony: An interview by Bob Morris

AnthonyScott D. Anthony is the managing partner of Innosight, a global strategic innovation consulting and investment firm. Based in the firm’s Singapore offices since 2010, he has led Innosight’s expansion into the Asia-Pacific region as well as its venture capital activities (Innosight Ventures). He has worked with clients ranging from national governments to companies in industries as diverse as healthcare, telecommunications, consumer products, and software. Scott has written extensively about innovation. He is the author of The Little Black Book of Innovation (2012), The Silver Lining (2011), and most recently, The First Mile: A Launch Manual for Getting Great Ideas Into the Market, published by Harvard Business Review Press (Harvard Business Review Press (May 6, 2014). He co-authored the eBook Building a Growth Factory (2012) with his firm’s colleague, David Duncan, Seeing What’s Next (2004) with Harvard Business School Professor and Innosight co-founder, Clayton Christensen, and was the lead author of The Innovator’s Guide to Growth (2008).

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

* * *

Morris: Before discussing The First Mile, a few general questions. First, from which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Anthony:
That’s a great question. I am a passionate baseball fan (one of the best moments of 2013 was life conspiring to get me to game 6 of the World Series in Fenway Park), so I would nominate any book by Bill James. James and like-minded researchers and writers showed the world how to look at baseball in a different way. Through analyzing data and then designing and running simulations they challenged conventional wisdom, overturned orthodoxy and drove fundamental changes in talent evaluation and in-game tactics. It showed me how the principles of good scientific exploration can lead you to see the world in a fundamentally different way.

My second choice here probably would be one of the recent books focused on behavioral economics and social psychology, such as Dan Ariel’s Predictably Irrational or Daniel Hahnemann’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. That vein of research shows how bad us humans are at making certain types of decisions, which I think is at least one reason why The Innovator’s Dilemma persists 20 years after Christensen first started publishing the results from his research.

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

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Anthony: This resonates strongly with what we are trying to do to make Innosight really a different type of consulting company. Three of our core corporate values are inclusiveness, collaboration, and humility. We start with a premise that our clients are smart, well-intentioned people. They know their business and industry, and we never pretend that we could possibly know it better. We however have a set of tools and approaches about managing strategic transformation. Our goal is to enable our clients to do things that they couldn’t do on their own, and then get out of the way. It doesn’t happen overnight, of course, but it leads to the kind of lasting impact to which we aspire.

Morris: From Albert Einstein: “Make everything as simple as possible but no simpler”

Anthony: Something that guides me every day. I think people make innovation much more complicated than it needs to be. The school at which you studied – design school, disruptive school, TRIZ school, user-centered innovation school, etc – determines the specific words you use. But everyone knows innovation involves developing unique understanding of a market, thinking expansively to develop a solution, and then finding a way to test rigorously and adapt quickly. That doesn’t make it easy, of course, but so many people tell me that they aren’t creative or they aren’t innovative, and it’s just not true.

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

Anthony: You used this as the title for your review of The First Mile, which I thought was great. I think broadly people worry too much about showing their hand, for two reasons. First, every great idea emerges out of a process of trial-and-error experimentation. People who copy what exists copy a point-in-time artifact, and if you are managing the process correctly you are already hard at work on the next thing.

The second is people will try to copy what they can see, which is the final product or service, but it’s much harder to see (and copy) all the intricacies of the business model that allows you to create, capture, and deliver value. And that’s what you need to get right to really jam something down people’s throats!

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

Anthony: You could replace this with “the future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed” and it would have the same basic effect. Almost every disruption starts at the perceived fringes of today’s market. It is one reason why we, like great design companies like IDEO, are dogmatic about spending time in the market’s periphery. Every leader needs to watch what teenagers or startup companies – or startup companies headed by teenagers – are doing today, because many of those behaviors will be mainstream behaviors tomorrow.

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….’”

Anthony: I’ve come to the conclusion that the core characteristic that separates companies that get innovation from those that don’t is a simple word: curiosity. History teaches us that many breakthroughs were happy accidents. Whether that’s penicillin coming from Fleming neglecting to clean his laboratory before going on vacation or the team at Odeon trying a little side project that allowed people to communicate in real time as long as their message was 140 characters or less (which ultimately of course became Twitter), the unintended is often the transformational.

The curious company studies the anomalies or the unexpected findings. The company that isn’t curious ignores them or punishes people who don’t do exactly what they set out to do. There’s a general belief that failure is the friend of the innovator, but I’ve come to view it a different way. In the early stages of innovation, your goal is to learn as much as you can as quickly as you can. Therefore, aside from the equivalent of blowing up the lab or letting a pathogen escape, the only failure is spending too long or too much money to learn.

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

Anthony: One of Christensen’s truly great contributions was identifying this thing called “overshooting.” That is, improving a product or service to the point at which further improvements aren’t valued by the customer. A kind of glib example of this is the poor engineer that added the 53rd button on their remote control. Companies get into grooves and they keep sharpening what they are doing, when in fact what they really need to do sometimes is to stop and do something completely differently. More broadly, I find it remarkable how prescient almost all of Drucker’s stuff continues to look. He had a great gift of clear thinking and writing from which the world continues to benefit.

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?

Anthony: I feel for today’s leaders. I really do. They got to where they are by doing a series of jobs exceptionally well. And that doesn’t help them at all with the challenges they now face. Any leader has two jobs to do. To do what they are currently doing better and more efficiently (call this strengthening the core), and to do what they are not currently doing but will need to do in the future (call this creating the new). In the strengthening the core job, a leader can draw on their past experiences. After all, in most cases they did the job of the people that are reporting to them! So they know when something is screwed up, they know the risks worth taking, and they know the corners to cut. But when they are creating the new, no one knows what the right answer is.

This is where principles of good experimentation – have a hypothesis, design the experiment, analyze the results – and collective judgment take over. But those aren’t muscles leaders had to develop to earn their promotions. And creating the new increasingly is more than 50 percent of a top leader’s job. Boy, is that a tough challenge.

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?

Anthony: I think it is only in hindsight that you can determine whether something is a mistake or not. I think the most important thing to do is to recognize the fundamentally different circumstances of pursuing growth. There is what Steve Blank calls the stage where you are searching for a scalable business model. Then, there is the stage when you have found that model and need to scale it. In the former stage you have to have a “beginner’s mind,” be in learning mode, and expect to learn things you didn’t anticipate. You’ll look back on the journey and see that you had lots of assumptions that proved to not be true, but with that mindset and approach it doesn’t feel like a misstep or mistake, it just feels like what it felt like when you learned how to ride a bike and got progressively better with practice.

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

Anthony: When you are motivating people to do amazing things, you have to win over both their rational side and their emotive side. I’ve never seen impeccable logic be sufficient to win both the heart and the mind. It’s one of the underappreciated skills required by an innovator – they have to be able to convince lots of people to do things that might not be fully rational (invest in the company, join something that is likely to fail, try a product they’ve never seen before), and if you can’t tell a good story it is just very hard to make that happen. Now, I worry a bit about the TEDification of the world where style trumps substance, so hopefully you have a good blend of both!

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Creative Innovation talk on the 4th era

Talk at Google

Interview on the book with Harvard

Book URL: innovationsfirstmile.com

Thursday, June 19, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jeremy Eden and Terri Long: An interview by Bob Morris

Jeremy-EdenJeremy Eden and Terri Long are co-founders and co-CEOs of Harvest Earnings Group, Inc. Jeremy has decades of consulting and performance improvement experience in business and government including at McKinsey and Company. Terri was in the corporate banking world for eighteen years before joining Jeremy in 2000. They met in the mid-90s when Terri was the client and an SVP at what is now U.S. Bancorp. Jeremy was the consultant assigned to work with her on the bank’s earnings improvement project.

Terri-Long

Jeremy and Terri quickly realized that they were in lock step about how companies could grow earnings and improve the customer experience. Company insiders, not outside consultants, had the answers. Employees when given the right tools have hundreds of ideas to help their companies succeed. But, senior executives needed a well-designed process to get those answers. Furthermore, the process should result in ideas that grow revenue and improve the customer experience not just ideas to be more efficient. Jeremy and Terri have built that process. Big believers in “two heads are better than one”, they are often asked how it works to be Co-CEOs. Their answer? It works perfectly. Mostly simpatico, occasionally they are the yin to the other’s management yang. Their clients benefit!

Jeremy and Terri are considered two of the most practical and straightforward business thinkers in the field. Jeremy and Terri co-authored Low-Hanging Fruit: 77 Eye-Opening Ways to Improve Productivity and Profits, published in March 2014 by Wiley Publishing. Before all this started, Jeremy earned his B.A. in History at Yale University and his M.B.A. at Yale School of Management. Terri earned her B.A. in Finance at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

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

* * *

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

Eden: Without a doubt, my parents have been the greatest influence on my personal growth. The values that they live, the love they share, and the endless support they give. Just as an example of the latter, my father who is 90 and my mother who is 89, carefully read our manuscript and then gave us rave reviews combined with detailed suggestions to make it better.

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

Long: I have been fortunate to have had several wonderful mentors through the years. Mike Clawson, who was President of Firstar Bank in Illinois, made a huge difference in both my professional career and at how I look at business issues. Specifically, in terms of career, he gave me incredible flexibility after I gave birth to my first child which kept me sane and kept me in the workforce. As if that weren’t enough, he put me on a very special project that resulted in me meeting Jeremy!

Eden: I would have to say, again, my parents. My mother was an advertising copywriter (during the Mad Men years!) who taught me the awesome power of carefully using words to persuade, argue, and motivate. My father was an engineer who ignited my passion in math and science at an early age and who showed me that the key to those passions lay even more in boundless curiosity than in logic and rationality.

Of course, your question probably was meant to elicit a professional and I would say that McKinsey & Co, though not exactly a “who”, had the greatest impact as it was my first experience in business and showed me both the power of disciplined problem-solving and the big gap, that hopefully we are now helping to fill, between the goal and the achievement of employee engagement.

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.

Eden: Well, funny you should phrase the question that way because I usually say that when I was at McKinsey, I “had an epiphany – probably over a couple of beers” The epiphany was that big companies did not need advice from newly minted MBA consultants or even from seasoned partners. Big companies already have more expertise than they know what to do with. What they needed was a process so that they would know what to do with all of the expertise they had. In particular, a process built on the problem-solving skills that McKinsey was keeping to itself. I had a chance to test this theory out when I was at McKinsey while constructing a process for a client. Instead of them trying to teach me about their business, I would discuss with them a much more effective way to use the knowledge and insights of their employees. It worked incredibly well and that led to the decision to create a business and a career around helping big companies create the process and culture that took seriously the oft-said and equally oft-ignored claim that “our people are our most important asset.” That really is true if they are allowed to be.

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

Eden: I was fortunate enough to be able to attend Yale College and Yale School of Management so clearly having a great formal education has been important. But I actually feel that the reading and math learning that I did on my own was even more valuable as that is how I learned how to learn which is the most important life skill we all need. I’m not sure that our formal education programs teach that effectively. In addition, I believe that formal education also focuses far too much on giving good answers rather than on asking good questions.

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?

Long: On the one hand, if I had known how big the world is, how many incredibly opportunities are available, and about how utterly impossible it is to know the consequences of any career decision, I would probably worried a bit less about those first career choices. On the other hand, if a cake is to bake for an hour and you pull it out sooner you just wind up with bad cake. The timing of events has been great, if completely serendipitous, and I wouldn’t change anything. For example, if a project Jeremy led had started just a few months later I would not have met him and there wouldn’t be a Harvest Earnings or Low-Hanging Fruit!

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

Eden: Important business principles are not about spreadsheets or strategy or business models – they are about human behaviors. When Harry Met Sally dramatizes two critical behaviors that our work and our book bring to life. Harry and Sally met … and then ignored each other. Even after reconnecting they took a long time to see the great qualities each had. Even when hired with great fanfare and enthusiasm, the great qualities that employees have are too frequently ignored until the relationship between the company and their employees withers away. Companies must learn new behaviors that enable them to see, cherish, and give expression to their employee’s talents.

At the end of the movie, Harry proposes to Sally by saying, “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” That sense of urgency is a behavior that seems so right for the scene but which is lacking in so many businesses. Yes, everyone is stressed out and busy, but that is different than feeling an urgency driven by an overwhelming desire.

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

Eden: Well, this may be an odd answer, but I have always loved and studied math – even to this day – and the math books I use have taught me two valuable lessons about business. The first is that problems that initially seem impossible for me to solve usually do have solutions and often ones that are easy to understand once found. In business we find that even the slightest resistance to finding a solution often convinces managers that there is no solution, or at least none worth trying to figure out. Managers set expectations far too low because they cannot quickly and easily see a way to solve the problem of meeting much higher expectations. The second is that problem-solving is rarely a matter of logic and straightforward thinking. Initially one doodles, daydreams, or tries to get a different perspective before the solution snaps into place ready to be verified by logic.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-Tzu’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Long: We love this quote! We use the last part about the best leaders in our training. When a great building is built all you see for a long while is the scaffolding that holds it up. We have designed our firm and our process so that we can be the scaffolding which is taken down as soon as the building can stand on its own. Everyone can admire the architect, the builders, the building – but the scaffolding has long since been torn down. When our projects are over, the teams of employees are truly the architects and builders who can take pride that “we have done this ourselves.”

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

Eden: We wrote our book so people will steal – well, let’s say “borrow” – our ideas!

Long: I think most people actually love a great new idea faster than this quote implies. Think about the success of infomercials! People love clever new ways to solve problems.

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

Eden: Often true (of course sometimes a dangerous idea is just a dangerous idea!). We are somewhere between yesterday and today with our Idea Harvest!

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….’”

Eden: One of my favorite quotes (and growing up my favorite author by far). It is not the “Eureka!” answer but the “that’s odd” curiosity that drives all progress whether in science, business, or anywhere else.

Long: Jeremy actually says “that’s weird…” all the time. This is so true but of course, the stereotype of “Eureka” makes for much better storytelling.

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

Long: There’s a reason that Drucker was a leading management guru and this quote captures it. Part of our Idea Harvest™ discipline is to follow a checklist and the very first item is to eliminate things that shouldn’t be done rather than to improve them. It is astonishing how many things in business live on far longer than they should. The IT version of this quote is “don’t pave the cowpaths” which is another way to say that we shouldn’t automate activities that shouldn’t be done in the first place. Companies can save a bundle on IT if they followed this rule.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

Jeremy and Terri cordially invite you to check out the resources at their website. Here’s a link.

Thursday, June 12, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nick Morgan: An interview by Bob Morris

MorganNick Morgan is one of America’s top communication theorists and coaches. A passionate teacher, he is committed to helping people find clarity in their thinking and ideas – and then delivering them with panache. He has been commissioned by Fortune 50 companies to write for many CEOs and presidents. He has coached people to give TED talks, to appear on the Today Show, and to take on the investment community. He has worked widely with political and educational leaders. And he has himself spoken, led conferences, and moderated panels at venues around the world.

Nick’s methods, which are well known for challenging conventional thinking, have been published worldwide. His acclaimed book on public speaking, Working the Room: How to Move People to Action through Audience-Centered Speaking, was published by Harvard Business Review Press in 2003 and reprinted in paperback in 2005 as Give Your Speech, Change the World: How to Move Your Audience to Action. His book on authentic communications, Trust Me: Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma, was published by Jossey-Bass in January 2008. His new book on communications and brain science, Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact, was published by Harvard Business Review Press in 2014.

This is an excerpt from my interview of him. Please click here to read the complete interview.

* * *

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

Morgan: The Dalai Lama is my personal (and the world’s) hero and has been for me since I was 17 and I first learned about him. His openness and acceptance of the world and his focus on others are constant inspirations for me.

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

Morgan: My two years as a speechwriter for Governor Robb of Virginia. I had a PhD, but the practical application of my theoretical knowledge taught me most of what I know.

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.

Morgan: I fractured my skull, and went into a coma, at age 17. When I awoke, I could no longer understand body language. Re-learning the meaning of body language (how you read what other people are feeling and intending) led to a lifelong interest in the subject.

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

Morgan: A PhD in Rhetoric, Theory, and Literature from the University of Virginia was invaluable to me — it gave me the theoretical understanding of what I do everyday.

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?

Morgan: It’s all about relationships. My academic career floundered because I didn’t understand that, and it led me into the business world.

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

Morgan: The Tao Te Ching — because it teaches us about accepting life and going with the flow.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. Speaking of Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Morgan: Brilliant — leaders can only lead willing, preferably [begin italics] zealous [end italics] followers — don’t get too far out in front of your team.

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

Morgan: So true! Something I’ve told my clients for years.

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….’”

Morgan: It’s the anomaly that signals the insight.

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

Morgan: Great point from the always-wise Drucker — first ask why, and decide whether something is worth doing. Only after that should you set about doing it as well as you can.

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?

Morgan: I agree — we have a Marlboro Man Theory of leadership and change, especially in America, but in fact anything great that’s accomplished is accomplished by many hands.

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?

Morgan: Indeed, we learn far more from our mistakes than our successes.

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

Morgan: It’s what my new book is about — storytelling sticks in the mind because it attaches emotions to events, and that’s the way we remember things. If you don’t tell stories, no one will remember what you say. Period.

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

Morgan: I think what Alvin Toffler brilliantly called “Future Shock” so many years ago is upon us: CEOs will struggle to keep themselves and their companies current, relevant, and ahead of the curve.

* * *

Please click here to read the complete interview.

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

Public Words link

Forbes link

Nick’s Amazon page

Twitter link

LinkedIn link

Sunday, June 1, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Denise Lee Yohn: An interview by Bob Morris

YohnBlending a fresh perspective, twenty-five years of experience, and a talent for inspiring audiences, Denise Lee Yohn is a leading authority on building and positioning exceptional brands. She initially cultivated her brand-building approaches through several high-level positions in advertising and client-side marketing. She served as lead strategist at advertising agencies for Burger King and Land Rover and as the marketing leader and analyst for Jack in the Box restaurants and Spiegel catalogs. Denise went on to head Sony Electronic Inc.’s first ever brand office, where she was the vice president/general manager of brand and strategy and garnered major corporate awards.

An influential writer, Denise enjoys challenging readers to think differently about brand-building. She regularly contributes to Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Seeking Alpha, and also appears on FOX Business TV. She penned the best-selling book What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest (Jossey-Bass. With her expertise and personal approach, Denise delivers an array of inspirational workshops, presentations, and keynote addresses to business leaders in all industries. When she’s not writing or speaking, she serves as the brand director for TEDx San Diego and sits on the board of directors for a branch of the YMCA.

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

* * *

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

Yohn: I’ve always been fascinated by brands. In the early years of my career, I collected the skills and experiences that I needed to work on brand-building. I didn’t recognize that at the time, but when I started working for Sony Electronics, as their first ever brand leader, everything came together. I was working on a world-class brand in my dream job and quickly learned that brand-building needed to start on the inside. In my role at Sony, I learned the principles and developed the tools and methodologies that I now use with my clients and that I write about in my new book, What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles That Separate the Best from the Rest (Jossey-Bass).

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

Yohn: I don’t think my actual studies taught me a lot. I did learn research methodologies from my psychology classes (I was a Psychology and Political Science double-major) but for the most part, my years in school mostly taught me how to think critically and how to express myself in written and verbal communications.

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?

Yohn: I wish I had known how valuable people and relationships are. I was pretty self-centered and selfish when I started out and viewed people primarily only in terms of the value they created for me or in my work. Doesn’t that sound awful?! I think I was that way because I lacked confidence in my own value and felt like I had to earn people’s approval, so I tended to treat other people that way. Over time I’ve come to see the people I work with as a tremendous blessing and I try to get to know them as people (not just colleagues) and help them and build them up,

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.”

Yohn: This resonates with me because too often I hear from business leaders that they’re afraid someone is going to steal their idea – and often I have to tell them the sad truth, that most people don’t care about their idea. And it’s usually because their idea isn’t all that new or different in the first place. There is so much more to be gained by sharing ideas and working collaboratively than by worrying about being copied.

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….’”

Yohn: I’ve found that the wisest, and most interesting, people are those who look at the same things everyone else is looking at but who see something entirely different. I’d like to develop those kinds of observation skills and the curiosity to pursue things that seem “odd.”

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

Yohn: I’m a big fan of Peter Drucker and this quote is just one of his many gems. It reminds me of that adage, “don’t just do things right, do the right things” and I try to live by it.

Morris: Now please shift your attention to What Great Brands Do. When and why did you decide to write it?

Yohn: I had been thinking about it for many years and had even submitted book proposals to publishers 5-6 years ago. But I just didn’t have the concept quite right. Later I learned that was because I was trying to write the book I wanted to write instead of the book that people would want to read. About 2 ½ years ago, I attended 800 CEO Read’s Pow Wow (an author’s conference) and that got me re-motivated to work on the book and connected to an editor who helped me reframe the book concept.

I wrote the book because I wanted to share my insights about brand-building with a far larger audience than is possible for me to reach as an independent consultant. There seem to be so many misconceptions about what it takes to build a great brand and I wanted to de-mystify the process and inspire and teach people how to do it themselves.

Morris: Today, when there are still so many people who are unemployed or underemployed, how can they become an “exceptional brand” and thereby succeed in their search for appropriate career opportunities?

Yohn: People can indeed be brands and in my book I reference some celebrities including Lady Gaga and Oprah who have built themselves into great ones. When most people talk about “personal branding,” they tend to focus on your image, your resume, or your Facebook or LinkedIn profile.

But the way I see it, those things are the equivalent of advertising a brand — which, as I explained, is what great brands do only after they’ve built a strong brand internally. So I would advise anyone who is seeking a new career opportunity to apply the brand-building principles in my book to themselves, beginning with “Great Brands Start Inside.”

Make sure you have clearly identified your purpose and values (your brand identity) and that everything you do reflects these. Follow other principles such as “Great Brands Don’t Chase Customers” — focus your efforts on targets (recruiters, hiring managers, companies, etc.) who share your values and who are most likely to value what you have to offer, instead of trying to appeal to anybody who seems remotely relevant — and “Great Brands Avoid Selling Products” – seek to make meaningful, emotion connections with your targets and use your skills and experiences to support your appeal. As I write in my book, your brand is who you are and what you do — not just what you say about yourself.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Her website

What Great Brands Do

Her blog

Twitter

Speaker’s Kit

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

David Shaked: An interview by Bob Morris

Shaked, DavidDavid Shaked is an independent consultant—a positive change leader for individuals, teams, and organizations. He has been practicing Lean Thinking and Six Sigma for 15 years as a certified Master Black Belt. David is also a practitioner and teacher of several strength-based approaches to change (such as Appreciative Inquiry, Solution-Focus coaching and Positive Deviance) bringing together a range of tools and change approaches for the benefit of his clients.

David has over fifteen years of hands-on experience with organizations such as Johnson & Johnson, Intel, 3M, IBM, NHS UK, Southern Rail, Shelter, Deloitte, Carmignac, Lyle & Scott, and many others. He has worked all across Europe, the USA, the Middle East, and India.

In his book, Strength-based Lean Six Sigma: Building Positive and Engaging Business Improvement, he presents an innovative and unique approach to Lean Six Sigma. An approach that uses the great creativity, engagement, and energy for change the strength-based approaches generate together with the rigor and focus on results from Lean and Six Sigma. This blended approach helps build a much more positive, engaging, and ultimately more sustainable culture of continuous improvement. David is very passionate about introducing, training, and speaking about Strength-based Lean Six Sigma.

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

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Strength-based Lean Six Sigma, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Shaked: Many leaders and colleagues have influenced my personal growth over the years. It is always a challenge to name just one, but as we are speaking about the topic of Strength-based Lean Six Sigma, I would like to recognize Jane Magruder Watkins, who together with Mette Jacobsgaard, was the first to introduce me to Appreciative Inquiry. I will always remember how, at the end of their workshop, I asked Jane whether she knew anyone else who was combining Lean Six Sigma with Appreciative Inquiry. Her response was simple yet powerful: “No David, I don’t—I’d like you to start it!” That encouragement and her on-going support helped start the journey that resulted in many learning and growth experiences, and ultimately in publishing my book on the topic.

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.

Shaked: After several years of working on process and business-improvement projects as a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt at Johnson & Johnson, I had reached an “inflection point” in my career. While I was getting great results from the projects, programs, and Kaizen events I supported or led as well as very positive feedback from the people I worked with, something seemed to be missing. I could see how many of the problems I was trying to solve kept appearing in different parts of the organization. It was as if, by solving the problem in one part or function of the business, a new problem was created or identified elsewhere. My efforts felt repetitive and I was becoming more and more frustrated by the limits of the Lean Six Sigma processes and tools. Again, the feedback from others was great (and I was even offered a lucrative opportunity in another part of the business) but deep inside, the work wasn’t as satisfying as it had initially been and taking the next role or assignment wasn’t attractive anymore.

In 2006, I chose to hire a career coach to identify the best career path for me, and over a period of three months we held coaching sessions over the phone. These conversations explored many topics and I also completed several exercises in between. It was a very deep and profound self-discovery process to go through! At the end of the coaching I discovered what has been a key ingredient of my career to date and something that always kept me energized: More than anything, I loved being a positive change catalyst for individuals, groups, and organizations.

While there were plenty of opportunities to be a change catalyst in my role as a Master Black Belt, not all were positively framed. I also realized that being a positive change catalyst could mean a lot more than the process improvement role I held at the time. Over the next 12 months I started exploring and learning the topic of change and what it meant to be a catalyst of change from a positive frame of mind and, through a series of (sometimes seemingly random) discoveries, came across the practice of Appreciative Inquiry which is a well-established, strength-based approach to individual and organizational change. The discovery of AI and my learning journey have shaped everything I have done since.

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

Shaked: I completed an undergraduate degree in Accounting and Economics as well as an M.B.A. in Information Management and Entrepreneurship. I would say that, while I never specifically practiced accounting or worked in an IT-focused role, I gained a lot from the learning and skills I acquired in those programs. The M.B.A. in particular has given me many practical experiences of working on projects with teams of other talented people on a myriad of topics. My ability to understand the “language” of different functions in organizations was a direct result of those projects. In addition, my undergraduate degree has given me many skills in truly understanding how the “numbers” work and flow in any organization. This is true to overall important numbers such as revenue and profitability, as well as understanding the impact each of my activities made to the overall results.

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

Shaked: What I now know is that the success of any organization (for-profit as well as not-for-profit) truly depends on the people in it more than on anything else. Solid financial performance, access to sufficient funding, innovative products, competitive IP, great customers, and reliable supply chains are all great outcomes of highly motivated groups of people who are focused on achieving an inspiring shared vision.

M.B.A. programs and other leadership/management skills courses can sometimes mislead us into believing that stellar Excel spreadsheets, deep analysis (using the best, most up-to-date models and “scientific approaches”), well-designed presentations, and a good sales pitch are the key ingredients for success. Yes, all of these “key ingredients” are important, but they too are only great outcomes of the thinking and action the right people aligned around a vision they are inspired by.

Because I now know this, I realize that in order to drive positive change with individuals, groups and organizations, I need to focus less on bringing in the “right” tools, analysis or insights, and more on helping them discover a vision that inspires them and the strengths they already have that can help them progress toward that vision—the rest always follows from there.

Knowing this is truly liberating. I no longer feel like I need to know the “right” solution or tool to use!

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-Tse’s Tao Te Chin:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Shaked: I totally believe in this important quote, and since switching my approach to driving change to the strength-based approach, I have always tried to include people to discover, dream, and plan with them, and then set them free to achieve great results.

For me personally, gone are the days when leaders were expected to have the right answers (often with the help of “experts”) for the rest of the organization. The people inside each organization are the best experts and always hold useful knowledge, energy, and a hope for a better future—the best thing a leader can do is to tap into and free that knowledge and energy.

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

Shaked: Well, I stopped worrying about people stealing my ideas! In fact, in my book I am sharing the best of them! I believe and have certainly experienced the benefit of sharing my ideas with other smart people—their questions, comments, and insights always enrich my thinking and allow me to grow as a result.

As for the second part of the quote… well, I certainly hope that my ideas are attractive enough and that I will not have to ram them down anyone’s throat! I would like people to “pull” my ideas rather than for me to have to “push” them.

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….’”

Shaked: I personally experienced a powerful moment of discovery exactly by realizing something was odd about the way I and everyone I knew were practicing Lean Thinking and Six Sigma. It was when I realized that although the stated objective of Lean is to increase value to the customer, my actual practice of it was totally focused on studying, understanding, and shrinking the waste. The same goes for Six Sigma—its objective is to increase quality yet we focused all of our attention in studying the defects. That moment came after years of practicing Lean Six Sigma in this way! At that point, I thought to myself “That’s odd… why are we doing this? If we want to increase value shouldn’t we focus on the value-generating parts/moments?”

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

Shaked: I agree and would emphasize that as part of being ourselves, we should also gain awareness of our strengths and the things we like doing as well as find energizing. Otherwise, we spend too much time overcoming our own perceived weaknesses and struggling to express our true uniqueness.

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

Shaked: In a way, this quote highlights one of the foundations of the strengths-based approach to Lean and Six Sigma. By understanding our problems and their root causes, we cannot solve them! Once we gain the understanding of what doesn’t work well and why, we still have to speculate and guess about what would work better instead. Because of that, it is much quicker and more efficient to study what happens when our processes and people produce excellent results!

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

My website

My Strength-based Lean Six Sigma LinkedIn group I established for this topic is called “Strength-based Lean Six Sigma”

Friday, May 16, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christine Bader: An interview by Bob Morris

BaderIn her own words:

“Companies can help solve the greatest challenges facing the world today. Frankly, they’d better – because they’re helping create them. I’m not into philanthropy or dressing staff in matching t-shirts to paint a wall. That stuff is nice, but I’m about improving the impacts of a company’s business, all the way out to the tippy toes of the supply chain.

“I’ve spent the past 15 years getting to know people working in, with, and against the world’s biggest companies, pushing for more responsible practices. The result is The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil, based on my time with BP and weaving in the stories and reflections of others.

“I now teach human rights & business at Columbia and serve as Human Rights Advisor to BSR. You can find my articles and talks (including my TEDx talk, “Manifesto for the Corporate Idealist”) on christinebader.com.”

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

* * *

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

Bader: My grandmother. I lost her when I was in college, but will always carry with me the confidence and love that she instilled. I remember her telling me that I would be able to do anything — my only problem would be choosing! We all need an unwavering champion like that.

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

Bader: A few years ago I read a New York Times article about The OpEd Project, an initiative to broaden the range of voices in public discourse, starting by getting more women on the U.S. op-ed pages, which have generally been around 85% male. I signed up for one of their workshops and found it incredibly powerful — in part for the instruction on how to write an op-ed, but more importantly for the urging to own my expertise and know that it matters to the world, not just in op-eds but in the work that I do broadly.

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.

Bader: In February 2001 I took my first trip to West Papua, at the eastern tip of Indonesia. I was organizing a trip for a small group of BP executives from around the world to visit the site where BP was to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant.

Those executives were expert in the social and environmental issues that the project faced; for example, the proposed plant site was home to 127 households that would have to move to new homes that BP would build.

The trip was a long one, requiring an overnight commercial flight, then an hour-long flight on an eighteen-seat turboprop plane, then a helicopter ride the rest of the way to the bay that contained the gas field. BP would extract the gas and send it by underwater pipeline to the LNG plant, where it would be chilled to -260 degrees Fahrenheit, condensed for loading into tankers, and shipped around the Pacific Rim.

I’d never been in a helicopter before, and leaned as close to the window as my seatbelt would allow. I saw no people, just occasional flocks of birds bursting from the trees. As we approached the bay I spotted our landing pad, a brown square with a white “H,” and on the horizon an exploration rig.

I had seen sketches of what the plant would look like: a modern complex of gleaming silver buildings, circled by trucks and cars filled with men in hardhats. I tried to visualize the images from those sketches on the scene below me, mentally replacing swathes of forest with steel and concrete. Suddenly the ride got uncomfortable: The cabin felt tiny and the chopper noise was deafening. I mopped my brow, tugged at my lifejacket and took a swig of water, and realized where my discomfort was coming from. For the first time, I was seeing what my new employer was in the business of doing, and it was literally making me sick.

I turned to BP’s health, safety, and environment vice president, who saw the distress on my face. “That’s why we’re here,” she said. “We’re going to get this right. Who else would bring all of this high-paid help here to do this?” I suspected she was right, but still had an uneasy feeling in my stomach.

That trip showed me how important it is to have dedicated and optimistic people focusing on the human rights impacts that business has on communities and societies, and set me on the career course that I continue to follow today.

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

Bader: So much of the work of corporate responsibility is about communication: translating concepts between different audiences, cultures, professional disciplines, etc. Precise but fluid writing is so important, as is the ability to get up to speed on different topics quickly.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-Tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Bader: That quote speaks to one of the dominant themes that emerged from my interviews and reflection on my own experience: the importance of creating ownership. One of my interviewees told me about a time when a senior executive in an unrelated function mentioned her supply chain program before she did—and she was thrilled. “It really gets legs when other people start to talk about it,” she told me, “Not just me.” Another interviewee told me that one of her personal key performance indicators is “when senior people think it was all their own idea, then that’s got to be good.”

One long-time corporate responsibility professional told me that when he first arrived at his current company in 2008, the CEO was keen to emulate the simple, bold sustainability goals that Walmart had recently announced. “He said, ‘We can do this right now. Let’s walk down the hall, meet with our [senior vice president] of the supply chain network, and we’ll do this in ten minutes.’ I said, ‘We can do this in five minutes, you and I, but I want to do this collaboratively. Let me get the business and functional leaders to set the goals and agree on the framework. They will be more invested and the strategy will have staying power.’” The CEO agreed to the more patient approach, which ended up with such distributed ownership of the sustainability goals that they’re factored into incentive compensation for managers and senior executives across the company.

As entrepreneurship guru Seth Godin has written, “If it’s about your mission, about spreading the faith, about seeing something happen, not only do you not care about credit, you actually want other people to take credit.”

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?

Bader: I agree with that in principle: I understand the importance of making mistakes and learning from them. The problem is that in the world I inhabit, mistakes can be a matter of life and death — whether an industrial accident, or someone in a tech company turning over user information that they don’t realize can get a dissident jailed or worse.

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

Bader:
I couldn’t agree more. Stories are so much more instructive and inspirational than theory or edicts. That’s why I chose to write a book that tackles corporate responsibility through my story and the stories of others.

In fact, I get a lot of requests for career advice, and the one piece of advice I always give is to never accept anyone else’s advice — but instead to ask for their stories.

Most advice is, frankly, terrible. (I say this as a new parent, and therefore the recipient of LOTS of advice.) Whenever anyone begins a sentence with “You should,” I can’t help but take offense even in response to the best intentions. How could you presume to know what is in my heart and mind, what commitments and capabilities I have and want to have, and where I will thrive?

I once asked my mentor if we could spend our next session discussing how to handle personal attacks. He kindly agreed and began our meeting with, “You should always take the high road…”

I asked if he had ever been ambushed by a personal attack. He sighed and recounted having been on a panel where an audience member directed a very critical comment at him; he snapped back and made the situation worse. Needless to say, his story was a million times more instructive than his advice.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Her website link

Her Amazon page link

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is exactly what the title says and more. Run on a shoestring budget out of London with researchers all over the world, they post positive and negative stories and seek responses from the companies involved, posting in full what they receive. Their free weekly email updates are a must. I’m proud to serve on their board.

BSR (at which I’m a Human Rights Advisor) and the U.N. Global Compact also have great resources on their sites.

Ellen Weinreb is a sustainability recruiter as well as a thought leader in her own right, and has a thorough list of sustainability and corporate responsibility job resources on her site.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 259 other followers

%d bloggers like this: