First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

David Van Rooy: An interview by Bob Morris

Van RooyDavid Van Rooy is Senior Director, Talent Management for Walmart. He previously held roles in International Human Resources, and was responsible for the world’s largest performance management and employee engagement programs at Walmart, covering nearly 2.2 million employees globally. Before Walmart his most recent role was at Marriott International, where he led global HR operations and systems for several Centers of Expertise (COE) including compensation, benefits, workforce planning, performance management, associate engagement, and learning. He also held several Talent Management and Marketing roles of increasing responsibility at Burger King Corporation.

David received his doctoral degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Florida International University (FIU). He has published over 20 peer reviewed scientific business articles and book chapters. Most of these have been highly recognized and his work has been covered by many national and international outlets including USA Today, CNN, Forbes, Inc., and Fox News, and HR Asia. This has been complemented by over 30 presentations at international conferences. In addition to performance management and employee engagement, he is a recognized expert in the fields of emotional intelligence and employee assessment and selection.

His book, Trajectory: 7 Career Strategies to Take You from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, was published by AMACOM (May 2014).

Author Note: In gratitude for the brave and unselfish service of our military men and women, David will be donating all of the author royalties he receives from the sale of Trajectory to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) in support of our military veterans transitioning into the civilian workforce. IVMF’s mission is to enhance American competitiveness and advance the employment situation of veterans and their families by collecting, synthesizing and sharing veteran-employment policy & practices, providing employment related expertise, capacity, training and education and delivering technical assistance to stakeholders in the veterans’ community. You can learn more about this great organization here.

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

* * *

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

Van Rooy: My parents. They provided me with a supportive, values-based childhood and demonstrated the value of hard work and integrity.

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

Van Rooy: I would have trouble pointing to a single person. I have been extremely fortunate to have amazing professors, bosses, and mentors throughout my career.

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.

Van Rooy: At the first company I worked for out of graduate school I was presented with a neat opportunity to move from HR into Marketing. My time in marketing gave me direct exposure to a different part of the business, which I believe helps me to this day. Less than a year later, though, I had a chance to move to a new organization, but the role was back in HR. At that point I realized I had to decide which career path to take, and I decided that HR was where I wanted to be down the road. It’s sometimes hard to make these decisions at the time, but looking back on my career I have no doubt it was the right career choice for me.

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

Van Rooy: My Ph.D. is in a field called Industrial and Organizational Psychology, which includes heavy research and analytical components. This has helped me in understanding data that is so important with decision making, particularly as the amounts of it continue to increase.

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

Van Rooy: In college I took an organizational psychology class, and Bringing Out the Best in People by Aubrey Daniels was required reading. As an aspiring psychologist I was drawn to the message about motivating people through positive reinforcement. The alternative – negative reinforcement – can lead to behavioral change, but it is either short-lived or not as powerful as positive reinforcement.

Morris: Here are two of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”

Van Rooy: Absolutely! Many ideas that originally “failed” were simply ideas ahead of their time. Something that did not work in the past should not be forever discarded; instead, reevaluate when conditions change, and you may find that what was once dangerous or crazy is now brilliant.

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

Van Rooy: It’s easy to fall into a trap and continue doing what worked in the past, even if it is no longer worthwhile. Over time we tend to get better and more efficient at what we do, but it’s important to make sure that it is still important. For example, you may be able to create a monthly scorecard much quicker than when you started it, but unless it is still being used it does not really matter.

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

Van Rooy: It’s important that people have passion for what they do, and feel connected to the greater purpose. Stories have a powerful effect on us because we can relate to them, and as a result we remember them. It is this emotional connection that results in storytelling becoming such a powerful way to inspire others.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

His website link

Inc. link

David’s Amazon page link

Sunday, September 21, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John F. Dini: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

DiniJohn F. Dini is a consultant and coach to hundreds of business owners, CEOs and Presidents of companies with over 11,000 hours of delivering face-to-face, personal advice to entrepreneurs through The Alternative Board®. Dini is the author of three books including Beating the Boomer Bust and 11 Things You Absolutely Need to Know About Selling Your Business, now in its second edition. He is a serial entrepreneur, but prefers the term “chronically unemployable.” John holds a BS in accounting from Rutgers University, and an MBA from Pepperdine University, and has five additional certifications in exit planning, business brokerage, behavioral analysis, medical practice management, facilitation and coaching.

He writes numerous articles on small business topics for newspapers, magazines, and in his own blog “Awake at 2 o’clock?” at www.awakeat2oclock.com. John speaks frequently to business groups and national associations, and is an 11-year member of Jim Blasingame’s “Braintrust,” appearing regularly on “The Small Business Advocate,” a nationally syndicated radio program, as an expert in the issues of small business ownership. His latest book, Hunting in a Farmer’s World: Celebrating the Mind of an Entrepreneur, was published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (September 2013).

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

To read Part 1, please click here.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write Hunting in a Farmer’s World?

Dini: I started out writing a book about the culture in a small company. The original analogy was going to be a Tribe. As I thought through the stories I wanted to tell, I realized that I wasn’t thinking about culture. I was really thinking about the character of the people who create cultures; the founders and owners of small businesses. It really doesn’t matter how many employees they have, their thinking is always dominated by a sense of personal responsibility for all stakeholders, and the knowledge that, regardless of the resources that are (or more often aren’t) available, failure is not an option. They work without a net. If they screw up, it isn’t merely a missed budget or a couple of points off the stock price. Their failure means that their families and their customers as well as employees and their families are all going to suffer.

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

Dini: Dini: I had read Thom Hartmann’s book on ADD in the 90s, Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception, and thought then that his description of hunters applied very well to the entrepreneurs I work with. I came across it again when cleaning up my bookshelves at home, and realized that what I was discussing in the book was really the thinking process of entrepreneurs. To go back to Simon Sinek’s work again, I suddenly understood that I wasn’t writing about how entrepreneurs behave, I was writing about why they behave that way. Once I locked in on the hunting analogy, the rest came pretty quickly.

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

Dini: I could have prattled on and on with great stories about terrific people. I realized that I would wind up with a book that would leave many entrepreneurs saying “Great. So now I understand why I hate farming, but why didn’t he tell me what to do about it?” I went back and rewrote the middle section about the things I’ve seen owners do that allowed them to run good businesses without getting bogged down in farming tasks.

Morris: What are the most significant differences between hunters and farmers?

Dini: Hunters hunt. They can’t help it, and it isn’t always the best thing for them or their companies. I talk a bit in the book about how dangerous they can be to an organization when bored or underutilized. They tend to approach the world from a perspective of what they want it to be, while farmers deal with what is. Make no mistake, hunters kept humanity alive for thousands of years, but farmers allowed us to settle in one place and build civilizations. One of the things I hope comes out of the book is that they are complementary talents. If people accept each other’s tendencies, they can form tremendously effective teams.

Morris: To what extent do the Welch comments (quoted in Part 1) express what you call “the hunter’s mindset”? Please explain.

Dini: I think that corporate executives have the Hunter’s Mindset as much as any entrepreneur. If you read them again, Welch’s comments aren’t about differences in perspective as much as they are about size and scale. He is right, smaller businesses have short lines of communication, direct influence by the CEO, and the resulting ability to be nimble. That’s because they are small. I think his is as much a logistical observation as a cultural one.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

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

His website link

Exit Map link

Hunting in a Farmer’s World link

John’s Amazon page link

 

Sunday, August 31, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Michael Nanfito: An interview by Bob Morris

NanfitoMichael Nanfito is the executive director at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE). Mr. Nanfito sets the vision and strategic direction for NITLE, working closely the member community. He has a background in networked information resources and technology-related entrepreneurial activity, ranging from the development of large data-driven web environments to consulting for small academic libraries.

Nanfito has worked in networked information resources since the late 1980s, at that time developing databases in the library database industry. In the 1990s, Nanfito served as a consultant to the Microsoft Corporate Library to identify information needs across the organization and to develop a strategy to implement web-based library portals. He subsequently worked as an entrepreneur and consultant in a variety of capacities in the Seattle area, including developing large data-driven web environments and consulting services to bring small libraries up to speed on emerging online library resources. Before joining NITLE in 2006, he served as director of instructional technology at the University of Puget Sound. One of his primary interests and efforts while at the University was the development of a digital asset management program to digitize, organize, and provide access to academic resources housed in departmental collections. A 2002 Frye Fellow, Nanfito holds the M.L.I.S. and a B.A. in history (San Jose State University).

His book, MOOCs: Opportunities,Impacts, and Challenges: Massive Open Online Courses in Colleges and Universities, was published by CreateSpace/An Amazon Company (December 2013).

Here id an excerpt from my review of Michael. To read the complete interview, please click here.

* * *

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.

Nanfito: I “discovered” the Internet, quite by accident in 1991. At the time I had enrolled in the library and information science program at San Jose State University and was working with an advisor on a research project. Initially the project was to center on “information equity” issues but changed when she asked me why I had enrolled in the program. I responded that I was interested in the impact that information services have on the process of global democratization. The attempted coup in the (then) Soviet Union had just occurred. She decided my question was more interesting and re-wrote the grant to reflect the shift.

As I looked into the coup I discovered that a California State University professor of computer science, Dr. Larry Press, had just returned from Moscow immediately prior to the coup attempt. He had been working with some start up groups (this was the time of perestroika and glasnost) to get budding “commercial” software development services going.

(Not coincidentally, in 1989, the US Department of Commerce had allowed TCP/IP Internet services to be accessible in the Soviet Union and eastern bloc countries so academic institutions in each of the soviets had internet access at the time of the coup.)

I learned that resistance to the coup was aided by communications from academic institutions in each of the soviets, made possible by the use of something called the “internet.” As I investigated farther I learned that in addition to the “internet” the resistance made use of another murky service called “BITNET.” BITNET (the Because It’s Time Network) was exclusive to academic institutions (read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BITNET). I realized that I was at an academic institution and that I could probably get on this thing, whatever it was. I asked at the campus computing center and they gave me an account, pointed me to some things called “listserves” to learn more about using the “BITNET” thing.

I was brand new to both computing and online services. In point of fact I knew nothing about either and was an admitted technophobe – if not an actual luddite. When I had initially expressed my interest in learning how information services were influencing democratization, I was clear that I meant print services. I had just recently purchased an IBM 286 (clone) computer with the help of a friend and he had had something called a “modem” installed when they built the machine. I had no use for the modem – until I got my BITNET account. All of a sudden I was tooling around computers out there somewhere in a green-screen mode using TELNET, Archie, and FTP. It was all sort of fun but the content on these computers I was visiting was mostly about, well, computers and computing. Nothing that really applied to my query. That is, until I found Project Hermes.

One Saturday morning I was stumbling around the BITNET/Internet thing using my new 286 PC and modem, looking at files via TELNET and FTP. Then I saw a TELNET reference to Project Hermes, an experimental online repository of Supreme Court decisions. I picked a case at random (involving then Governor Clinton of Arkansas). The record I had stumbled on was not merely a bibliographic citation of the case, it was the full text. I recognized that this BITNET/Internet thing had utility. Then it got better, I discovered I could “download” the record. To my home computer. And print it. So I did. I timed it. It took less than five minutes to search for the record, download it, and print it off. I got so excited I had to go outside and walk around for a while. I realized that this would change everything. Citizens would be able to gain access to information of value and make use of it. Libraries would never be the same. My own graduate program suddenly seemed ridiculously antique.

The light bulb had gone off for me and I have been working with online resources ever since. And for me it is still about how to help people make sense of and use this extensible resource in the service of making the best decisions for themselves and their organizations.

A long answer to your question but it truly was an epiphany.

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

Nanfito: Attending educational institutions provided context for my real learning to happen. In both my undergraduate and graduate programs I made extensive use of special studies, the maximum allowed in both cases. This freed me to do some real work. I enjoyed most of the lectures I attended but I felt pretty disengaged overall. I was energized by the narrative I was developing for myself.

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?

Nanfito: (Formal) credentials are not the only measure of ability and don’t (necessarily) mean as much as we wish they did. I wasted a lot of time believing I had to wait until I had received external authorization to really contribute. I no longer believe that and I don’t really look at people’s credentials much when hiring. I want to know about the person, what they are excited about, and whether they want to change the world or not. Transcripts and degrees don’t tell me any of that.

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

Nanfito: Moneyball leaps to mind. In our consulting work we emphasize the need and the value of taking the time to really identify the real problem at hand. Too often we leap to (comfortable) solutions before we have accurately identified the problem to solve. For me, Moneyball was in part about rejecting an old business model and asking better questions in order to understand an actual problem facing the organization and work at a solution for that problem, not the one we are comfortable with.

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

Nanfito: East of Eden: “Thou mayest not sin.”

We have choices. The more common – and apparently inaccurate, at least according to Steinbeck’s character in the book – representation of that edict is “Thou shall not sin.” It is a command, a directive that is absent choice. The former version requires choice. In business, we have choices and we should cultivate curiosity and a culture of experimentation. Directives and excessive structure make it easy to abdicate our responsibility to make choices and decisions. Active involvement in the organization requires that we take chances, do our best, and take responsibility for our decisions.

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.”

Nanfito: In our collaboration consulting work for higher ed we emphasize the need for shared leadership. Hierarchy – which is firmly entrenched in education – is a tool. When it becomes the program, real sustained, programmatic collaboration is impossible and we are less than we can be.

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.”

Nanfito: Programs are best when they are about the substance and not the personality. Work to help others own your best ideas, make them their own, and thus help them build something useful.

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

Nanfito: Convention is comfortable and comfort is a trap. Real change requires real change (there’s a cliché for you). Foster choice, risk-taking, and participatory decision-making. Work to make your innovation tomorrow’s boring cliché. That may be a measure of success. If everything I do is always “innovative” where is it’s utility?

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….’”

Nanfito: I learned a long time ago that once I believe I know something I stop asking questions about it. Curiosity about the given ubject or object is blunted. I stop learning. The real fun lies in the questions, not in the answers.

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

Nanfito: Someone advised me a long time ago not to “make problems that don’t exist.” Focus. Understand the real issues at hand and address them with discipline and humility. Avoid working on (or worse, inventing) questions to demonstrate your ability to answer them. Leave that to the trial lawyers.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

His website link

The NITLE link

The Academic Commons link

Friday, August 22, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John F. Dini: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

Dini, John FJohn F. Dini is a consultant and coach to hundreds of business owners, CEOs and Presidents of companies with over 11,000 hours of delivering face-to-face, personal advice to entrepreneurs through The Alternative Board®. Dini is the author of three books including Beating the Boomer Bust and 11 Things You Absolutely Need to Know About Selling Your Business, now in its second edition. He is a serial entrepreneur, but prefers the term “chronically unemployable.” John holds a BS in accounting from Rutgers University, and an MBA from Pepperdine University, and has five additional certifications in exit planning, business brokerage, behavioral analysis, medical practice management, facilitation and coaching.

He writes numerous articles on small business topics for newspapers, magazines, and in his own blog “Awake at 2 o’clock?” at www.awakeat2oclock.com. John speaks frequently to business groups and national associations, and is an 11-year member of Jim Blasingame’s “Braintrust,” appearing regularly on “The Small Business Advocate,” a nationally syndicated radio program, as an expert in the issues of small business ownership. His latest book, Hunting in a Farmer’s World: Celebrating the Mind of an Entrepreneur, was published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (September 2013).

Here I an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of John. To read all of Part 1, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Hunting in a Farmer’s World, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Dini: Clearly my Dad. He was in industrial packaging sales. Every night at the dinner table was a seminar in how to solve customer problems, and do it ethically in an environment where ethics were too easily forgotten. (Think Mad Men) He was a high performer, but his standards came before everything else. It’s how I learned that sales was all about helping people with their problems. If he didn’t have a solution, he would direct the customer to a competitor. In turn, the customer would look for future opportunities to do business with him.

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

Dini: This is better answered in the negative. I’ve never had a mentor. I often wonder how things could have turned out if I’d had the opportunity to work under someone who would have tutored me. Because of that, I try hard to focus on finding out what my employees want for their futures, and allowing them the flexibility to pursue their personal visions through or alongside their work.

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.

Dini: In my early 30s, I quit my sales job in New Jersey to start a company, with financing promised by a customer. He didn’t come through, teaching me a valuable lesson about making sure of things before I act on them. I was at loose ends when my former employer called. They had been acquired, and the new owners offered me an equity position if I could turn around their California operation. I’ve signed my own paycheck since.

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

Dini: I dropped out of college about halfway to a degree in English. When I returned to night school, I majored in accounting. My English courses all became electives, so I had four years of night classes in required accounting courses. I never wanted to be an accountant, but understanding how a business works always starts with the numbers. Having that type of long-term immersion ingrained a knowledge base that pays off every day.

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?

Dini: I think the whole concept of a career path escaped me. I took jobs because I had to eat, and advanced because I had talent; but the idea of setting a long term goal, or of thinking about the next step never occurred to me. Once I became a business owner, I struggled with strategy and planning to reach objectives. I do more of it now, but it still isn’t instinctive. A mentor would hopefully have taught me how better to step back and consider the bigger picture.

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

Dini: I recently came across a presentation from the Army War College using the film Twelve O’Clock High (1954) with Gregory Peck as an illustration of how a leader has to change roles as his team develops. It was excellent, and I’m using it in a management course that I teach.

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

Dini: I’ve read Any Rand’s Atlas Shrugged five times. I return to it periodically to remind myself that other people (outside my family) don’t have a right to appropriate my efforts. I still do far too much work for free, but I like to help people and that’s entirely my choice.

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.”

Dini: Absolutely. One of the nice things about being an entrepreneur is that I don’t have to grab credit for what the team accomplishes. As a business coach, it’s always a thrill when an owner tells me “I wasn’t available, and my people took care of it without me!” It’s tough getting employees to believe that you are just as happy, or happier, to see them succeed without you.

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.”

Dini: There is truth in that, but I’ve practiced a habit of saying “I have an idea,” rather than “I have a great idea.” Once you’ve declared your own idea as terrific, you are immediately disposed to defend it. Most ideas could use a bit of improvement, and that comes easier when people don’t feel they are attacking something you’ve put a lot of emotional stock in.

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

Dini: Well, as Huey Lewis said, “Sometimes bad is bad.” Dangerous ideas can bring surprising results, but often we don’t like the surprise. Hindsight lets us view the dangerous ideas that worked as obvious, especially if they grow into orthodoxy and clichés, but we tend to forget the ones that were just bad ideas.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

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

His website link

Exit Map link

Hunting in a Farmer’s World link

John’s Amazon page link

Monday, August 18, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Linda Henman: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

HenmanLinda Henman is one of those rare experts who can say she’s a coach, consultant, speaker, and author. For more than 30 years, she has worked with Fortune 500 Companies and small businesses that want to think strategically, grow dramatically, promote intelligently, and compete successfully today and tomorrow. Her clients include Emerson Electric, Boeing, Avon and Tyson Foods. She was one of eight experts who worked directly with John Tyson after his company’s acquisition of International Beef Products, one of the most successful acquisitions of the twentieth century.

Linda holds a Ph.D. in organizational systems and two Master of Arts degrees in both interpersonal communication and organization development, and a Bachelor of Science degree in communication. Whether coaching executives or members of the board, Linda offers clients coaching and consulting solutions that are pragmatic in their approach and sound in their foundation—all designed to create exceptional organizations. She is the author of Landing in the Executive Chair: How to Excel in the Hot Seat, The Magnetic Boss: How to Become the Leader No One Wants to Leave, and contributing editor and author to Small Group Communication. Her latest book is Challenge the Ordinary: Why Revolutionary Companies Abandon Conventional Mindsets, Question Long-Held Assumptions, and Kill Their Sacred Cows, published by Career Press (May 2014).

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

* * *

Morris:
When and why did you decide to write it Challenge the Ordinary?

Henman: I have been consulting for more than thirty years. Each year, I ask myself, “What has changed and what is likely to change?” When I saw the economy slipping in 2008 I realized the way we’ve always done things won’t take us into the future. Leaders have to do better, and companies can’t do what they’ve always done if they hope to remain competitive in the new global economy. So, as soon as I finished Landing in the Executive Chair, which is a “how to” book for those who want to run a company, I decided I’d better offer some guidance about what they needed to do with the reality that had surfaced since that book came out.

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

Henman: People have started batting around the word “culture” as though it were a conversational shuttlecock. When an individual, merger, or organization fails, culture takes the blame. We use the word fairly arbitrarily, citing it to explain why things don’t change, won’t change, or can’t change. It’s that subtle yet powerful driver that leaders strive—often futilely—to influence.

We have to recognize the fact that some abstract thing like “culture” doesn’t cause our problems: it’s bad decision-making and bad decision-makers. If we don’t get that, nothing will change.

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

Henman: Originally I focused only on talent but then realized I needed a broader approach to what needs to happen in an organization in order for the most talented people to do their best work.

Morris: As I indicate in my review of the book for various Amazon websites, there are dozens of passages throughout your narrative that caught my eye.

For those who have not as yet read the book, please suggest what you view as the most important point or  key take-away in each of these passages.

First, The Paradoxical Organization: Transient and Timeless (Pages 14-16): How best to resolve this paradox?

Henman:
Leaders have to understand what must change and what must never change. Good judgment, for example, must never take a holiday.

Morris:
Head in Exceptional Directions (38-42): What do you mean by “exceptional” and how best to identify such a direction?

Henman: “Exceptional,” by definition, means rare, and it means future-oriented. Only those leaders who have crystal ball thinking will see into the future to anticipate both challenges and opportunities to their strategic decisions.

Morris: The Feud Between Strategy and Decision-Making (50-55): How best to end it [begin italics] permanently [end italics]?

Henman: Tactical decisions are easy, so people prefer them. Deciding how to use your time today doesn’t seem very scary or threatening. However, when you string too many days together and don’t tie your activities to strategy and fail to innovate, the competition gains a foothold.

Morris:
Indecision: The Culture Killer (71-73): How so?

Henman: We blame culture for problems, but once again, success and failure come back to decision-making or indecision. When senior leaders consistently make good decisions, little else matters; when they make bad decisions, nothing else matters. Any student of organizational development will tell you that a pivotal decision—or, more likely, a series of pivotal decisions—literally separated the businesses that flourished from those that floundered. Every success, mistake, opportunity seized, or threat mitigated started with a decision. When people realize the following, they can overcome indecision:

o All decisions are not created equal.
o Action trumps theory.
o Few decisions require 100% accuracy and precision, so move when you’re 80% ready.
o Consensus is overrated.
o Accountability saves the day.

Ultimately, one person has to own the decision. One and only one person needs to serve as the single point of accountability.

* * *

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

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

To check out my review of Challenge the Ordinary, please click here.

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

The Henman Performance Group link

Her Amazon link

LinkedIn link

Articles link

Sunday, August 17, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Linda Henman: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

HenmanLinda D. Henman is one of those rare experts who can say she’s a coach, consultant, speaker, and author. For more than 30 years, she has worked with Fortune 500 Companies and small businesses that want to think strategically, grow dramatically, promote intelligently, and compete successfully today and tomorrow. Her clients include Emerson Electric, Boeing, Avon and Tyson Foods. She was one of eight experts who worked directly with John Tyson after his company’s acquisition of International Beef Products, one of the most successful acquisitions of the twentieth century.

Linda holds a Ph.D. in organizational systems and two Master of Arts degrees in both interpersonal communication and organization development, and a Bachelor of Science degree in communication. Whether coaching executives or members of the board, Linda offers clients coaching and consulting solutions that are pragmatic in their approach and sound in their foundation—all designed to create exceptional organizations. She is the author of Landing in the Executive Chair: How to Excel in the Hot Seat, The Magnetic Boss: How to Become the Leader No One Wants to Leave, and contributing editor and author to Small Group Communication. Her latest book is Challenge the Ordinary: Why Revolutionary Companies Abandon Conventional Mindsets, Question Long-Held Assumptions, and Kill Their Sacred Cows, published by Career Press (May 2014).

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

* * *

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

Henman: My father was the most influential person in my life. A rare person who flew in three wars, Dad was medically retired from the Air Force in 1965 because doctors had determined he had only six months to live. He didn’t like that conclusion, so he returned to school, studied finance, and bought a company. He died in 2001, only thirty-six years after his fatal diagnosis. Friday Henman taught me how to challenge the ordinary from the cradle to adulthood.

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

Henman: My mentor, Alan Weiss, the largest selling author of books on consulting.

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.

Henman: I started working with Alan Weiss in 2005. I immediately quadrupled my income, reduced my labor intensity, and created the kind of work / life balance I had always wanted.

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

Henman: I couldn’t do the kind of consulting I do without a Ph.D. and all the requisite education leading up to it. Most successful consultants don’t need a great deal of formal education, but my succession planning work requires an in-depth understanding of psychology and psychometrics.

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?

Henman: I wish I had realized what I knew. In my areas of expertise, I was always the most qualified person in the room to make an assessment but didn’t position myself as an expert. This served neither the client nor me. I should have been more confident about my knowledge and forceful in expressing opinions.

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

Henman: Actually, I like Office Space because it satirizes nearly all the possible bad management practices possible. I used to refer to it and show clips of it when I taught graduate business classes.

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

Henman:
I still think Peter Drucker is the quintessential business writer but also consider Gardner on Leadership a classic. More recently, Jim Collins has made a name for himself with the continued success of Good to Great. He laid the foundation of my thinking for Challenge the Ordinary.

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.”

Henman: I have used the last lines of this quote often to express the desirability of shared leadership. However, I caution people about the first part. The formulation of a company’s strategy, especially one that involves significant change, can stall if senior leaders rely too much on what current people know and their willingness to accept change.

* * *

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

To check out my review of Challenge the Ordinary, please click here.

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

The Henman Performance Group link

Her Amazon link

LinkedIn link

Articles link

Sunday, August 10, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

James M. Kerr: An interview by Bob Morris

KerrJames M. Kerr is a management consultant and organizational behaviorist. He specializes in strategic planning, corporate transformation and project & program development. For over 20 years, Jim has forged a different type of consulting practice – one that does its engagements “with” its clients, instead of “to” them. Whether helping larger organizations, like The Home Depot re-imagine its store operations, or advising smaller firms, like specialty insurer Jewelers Mutual open up new markets, Jim has a reputation of making a difference.

A recognized thought leader, Jim continues to provide cutting edge solutions to his clients through a strong dedication to research and study. The Executive Checklist: A Guide for Setting Direction and Managing Change is Jim’s fourth business strategy book and was published by Palgrave Macmillan (January 2014). It is a testament to his commitment to helping leaders improve the ways in which they guide and shape their organizations. A graduate of Bentley University located in Waltham, Massachusetts, Jim earned an M.S. degree in Management Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — where he continues to teach graduate-level Strategic Planning courses in its Lally School of Management.

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

* * *
Morris:
Before discussing The Executive Checklist, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Kerr:
I’ve had some great mentors that have guided me and influenced the path that I have followed professionally. There are two in particular that I should call out. The first person that I reported to after graduation from college was Doc Schilke. He inspired me to begin my business writing by suggesting that I write about my point of view regarding some work we were doing with a consultant. It was a turning point for me in that the article was published by a leading magazine at the time and it gave me some terrific exposure as a thought leader at a very early age – which brought me to know Jim Johnson, another key mentor who offered me an executive position at a major life insurance company. I was 24 years old!

Both of these men took a risk on me and, by so doing, helped me to develop into the professional I am today.

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

Kerr: Not to sound like an advertisement, Bentley University prides itself at turning out well-rounded, liberally educated business professionals. They do that by placing an emphasis on liberal arts as well as the business specialties that are its bread and butter courses. While there, I took many courses on philosophy and I think that those courses inform some of the business philosophies that I have helped to develop through my writing and have practiced through work with my clients.

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?

Kerr: You don’t have to have it all figured out by the time you start your career. You have time to get your legs under you and explore different opportunities as they arise. If you’re willing to work hard are open to new ideas and taking some risks, you’ll find and will receive what you need to get to where you want to go.

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

Kerr: Homer’s epic, The Odyssey – While Odysseus’ journeys were not mine, I did travel some distance along those lines!

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.”

Kerr: This is one that I’ve certainly learned to take to heart. In fact, it has been reinterpreted as one of the important tag lines of my management consulting practice. As we often say to our clients, “we do it with you, not to you!”

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.”

Kerr: I’m not sure about this one. There’s a lot of ideas being stolen in the world of business authors. I’ve had some ideas for articles that I’ve submitted to leading magazines and rejected only to find them repurposed under a staff writer’s name. Sorry, but, it is a pet peeve!

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

Kerr: Indeed! Every paradigm shift in thinking began as being characterized as a heretic’s mad raving by those with the most to lose. Why? People who have been successful within whatever prevailing paradigm will naturally resist any idea that threatens their status quo. That said, great changes happen by outsiders with nothing to lose and much to gain by shifting the current paradigm in their favor.

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….’”

Kerr: Seeing or experiencing the unexpected is the beginning of the work required to figure out why that “odd” thing happens. It’s that type of discovery that sparks much of the work of the management consultant.

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

Kerr: True, true! Paving over the cow paths isn’t going to lead to the breakthrough thinking required to be successful in the early 21st Century business world. Indeed, we must start by re-imagining what is and how it can be done better in the future.

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?

Kerr: That’s one of the goals of a holacracy – which is the concept behind flatter, more team-based organization structures. I wrote a piece recently about Zappos commitment to institute this way of managing work and the flatter organization structure that comes with this way of managing a business. I think that it just makes sense. Eliminate bureaucracies by eliminating bureaucratic thinking – the very way of thin king that led to the “Great Man” theory to begin with!

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?

Kerr: I would view as an idea derived from the Learning Organization concept introduced in The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge many years ago. Clearly, the concept has merit and it is how organizations can learn from experience and mistakes. The key is to ensure that those empowered to try new things are equipped with the requisite skills and experience to carefully execute in an informed way so to minimize risk, recognize value and manage through difficulties encountered in a controlled fashion. Continue reading

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Warren Bennis: Still Surprised…and Fondly Remembered

BennisI was saddened to learn of Warren Bennis‘ recent death in Los Angeles at age 89.

The title of his last of several dozen books, Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership, is especially appropriate because, until recently, he was eager and enthusiastic about the new adventures that awaited him. He was still able to be surprised because he embraced the perspective of Tennyson’s Ulysses:

“Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

I have read and reviewed all of his books and feel privileged that, over the years, we became close personal friends. I agree with Bill George: “I look at Peter Drucker as the father of management and Warren Bennis as the father of leadership.” Apparently Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, and Reagan also agreed. As did hundreds of CEOs, they sought his counsel and herished his friendship, as have countless others.

To learn more about Warren and his work, please click here.

To read my interview of him, please click here.

Sunday, August 3, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Still Surprised: A book review by Bob Morris

Still SurprisedStill Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership
Warren Bennis
Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint (2010)

Four score and counting, while his insatiable curiosity explores and his sense of wonder delights

I have read and reviewed most (if not all) of Warren Bennis’ books and most of his articles. This book is different from anything he has written previously because Bennis allows his reader to accompany him on a journey back in time. Written with the considerable assistance of Patricia Ward Biederman (who was also centrally involved with earlier works such as Organizing Genius, Transparency, and The Essential Bennis), this volume combines a wealth of historical information with Bennis’ comments on those he believes to have had the greatest influence on both his personal and professional development as well as his reminiscences on those experiences, events, successes and especially failures, defining moments, and cultural forces that serve as a frame-of-reference for the evolution of his personal and professional relationships.

Bennis was born on March 5, 1925, and grew up in Westwood, NJ. However, he does not follow a chronological sequence when developing his narrative. In the first chapter, “The Crucible of War,” he focuses on his World War Two experiences in the U.S. Army at age 19, “the rawest second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.” Following the conclusion of the war, he realized that he didn’t want his old life back and probably could not have had it even if he wanted it. “I wanted to invent a new one.” The next chapter focuses on his years as a student at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The contrasts between the indescribable horrors of the battlefield and the pastoral innocence and serenity of a liberal college campus are especially striking. Although deeply grateful for the experiences both worlds provided (especially what he learned from mentors such as Captain Bessinger and Douglas McGregor) but ever restless, Bennis and his newlywed wife (the former Lucille Rose) relocated to the Boston area where he continued his formal education at MIT.

To this point and indeed until the conclusion of the book, the reader tags along as a companion to whom Bennis confides without hesitation but with selection of what (then or now) most interests him as well as what perplexes, irritates, and even angers him. At times, at least to this reader, he seems 85, at other times the age he was in a given situation or stage of his journey. The nature of the memoir is that it consists of what the memory recalls, to be sure, but also what it selects to share. Bennis remembers more than he shares, for obvious reasons, but the accumulative effect is one of candor. He maintains an informal, almost conversational tone with his reader without seeming disingenuous or self-serving.

He discusses his year abroad studying at the London School of Economics, his renewed association with MIT and the intellectual community in Cambridge, his involvement with the National Training Laboratories and its T-groups, the Institute for Management and IMEDE in Lausanne, the State University of New York at Buffalo, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Southern California; also time on the faculties of Harvard and Boston University, the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM-C), INSEAD and IMD. He also discusses his service as chairman of the Advisory Board of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, as a visiting professor of leadership at the University of Exeter (UK) and as a senior fellow at UCLA’s School of Public Policy and Social Research.

If there were a Mt. Rushmore monument for the business world, Bennis would probably be among the honorees (surely joined by Peter Drucker and hopefully by one of my intellectual heroines, Mary Parker Follett). Although Bennis shares a number of personal details, such as those concerning his various marriages, I have no interest in them as a reviewer of this book but mention those disclosures merely to suggest that — as is also true of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln — Warren Bennis is an imperfect human being.

As the title of this review suggests, I very much admire his insatiable curiosity that continues to explore and his sense of wonder that continues to encounter delight. With book in hand, and as an eager companion, I hope to share — in books yet to be written — at least some of the new adventures that await this pilgrim who is “still surprised.”

To those who share my high regard for this book, I also recommend other memoirs such as Peter Drucker’s Adventures of a Bystander, Andrew Grove’s Swimming Across, Alfred Sloan’s My Years with General Motors, and John Whitehead’s A Life in Leadership.

Sunday, August 3, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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