First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Kai Hammerich: An interview by Bob Morris

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hammerich: Fish can’t see water.

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

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

Morris: In one of Tom Davenport’s recent books, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” What do you think?

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

Morris: Here’s a brief excerpt from Paul Schoemaker’s latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: “The key question companies need to address is not ‘Should we make mistakes?’ but rather ‘Which mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?’” Your response?

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

The Fish Can’t See Water homepage link

Kai’s Amazon page link

Russell Reynolds Associates link

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

Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft: An interview by Bob Morris

Doorley

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

Witthoft

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Doorley’s Amazon page link

His d.school faculty page link

Witthoft’s Amazon page link

His d.school faculty page link

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

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

Steve Yastrow: An interview by Bob Morris

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

His website link

His Twitter link

His Facebook link

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

Shawn Hunter: An interview by Bob Morris

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morris: Here’s a brief excerpt from Paul Schoemaker’s latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: “The key question companies need to address is not ‘Should we make mistakes?’ but rather ‘Which mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?’” Your response?

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

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

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

Patricia Nolan-Brown: An interview by Bob Morris

Nolan-BrownPatricia Nolan-Brown has been inventing and marketing problem-solving products for more than 22 years. She is the author of Idea to Invention: What You Need to Know to Cash in Your Inspiration (AMACOM, January 2014.) She also teaches an online self-paced class consisting of 20+ short how-to videos via Skill Share.

Among her many inventions is a best-selling car seat mirror, sold internationally, which enables drivers to see infants placed in rear-facing car seats. She has sold tens of millions of products and holds multiple patents and registered trademarks. In addition to being a serial inventor, Nolan-Brown is also a consultant, video-blogger, and motivational speaker for widely diverse groups: from Fortune 500 CEOs to grade-school science-fair hopefuls. She has demystified the invention process for thousands of people and helped them convert their ideas into must-have merchandise.

Her business savvy and warm, humorous style have made Patricia a popular guest on radio shows from Austin to New Zealand, She and her inventions have also been featured in many newspapers and in national magazines and newscasts. Patricia lives just north of Boston with her husband, three daughters, and her westie, Coconut.

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

* * *

Idea to InventionMorris: Before discussing Idea to Invention, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Nolan-Brown: My parents always encouraged me and made me feel that anything is possible, but I feel that everyone I have ever met and will meet is on purpose. To teach me a lesson.

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

Nolan-Brown: I have always been drawn to highly creative people. The “oddballs” meaning at the time they were described as different or weird or nuts. They were often made fun of – but I saw genius. People that come to mind right away are Mr. Rogers, the creators of Gumby and Pokey, Julia Child, and Pee-wee Herman. All considered misfits by many, but not by me.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain

Nolan-Brown: Yes, when my first daughter was an infant and I placed her in the car seat. (Federal law requires a baby to face backward in a car seat.) I encountered a big problem: I could not see her at all in my rearview mirror while I was driving. I worried when she was quiet and I worried when she sounded distressed. I searched in stores for a solution but found nothing I could use. It was so uncomfortable that I vented to my mom that there should be a special mirror for this. She said “Why don’t you invent one?…and I did.

I saw what I needed in my mind’s eye and reverse engineered it. It was so fun to figure it out. All of my inventions have been solutions to problems I encountered in my everyday life. I have built businesses around my five patents and several trademarks.

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

Nolan-Brown: I think because I was an art major in college it was a great asset in developing products. I have never taken a business course, nor been interested to. The creative skills I have are as important — if not more important — than any math or science in my experience. I think creative people can figure out the business end of things. I’m not sure every business person is all that creative, or sees creativity as a valuable skill.

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

Nolan-Brown: I had no idea then that it would become much more equal. By that I mean that I have had far more opportunities than my mom had while raising a family. She feared that girls would not have more and better options than she had. Frankly, I have never let it be an issue.

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

Nolan-Brown: Wow, I remember Flash of Genius. It was riveting. I really felt the main character’s pain, having a giant company steal his idea. (Detroit automakers, intermittent windshield wipers) Ironically I remember my mom telling my dad that windshield wipers should come on and off by themselves according to the rain and snowfall. That movie could have been about her. Yikes!

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

Nolan-Brown: Recently, I applied what I had learned while perusing a book about origami. It became a great resource for my latest invention: I designed and folded a dog waste bag collar into its most compact and functional form.

I also like books that teach you how to do things yourself rather than hiring someone. I have one that I’ve used for years about how to write your own press releases.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

Nolan-Brown: I have had one idea stolen. I did not protect it properly prior to showing it . One must protect ideas correctly. That being said, in most cases nobody wants your idea until it has a proven track record and is selling very well—then the competition comes out of the woodwork.

Morris: From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd….’”

Nolan-Brown: Surprising, non-obvious discoveries are beautiful…I have them all the time and they keep the discovery process going, and sometimes expedite it. Don’t get me wrong. I always appreciate an eventual Eureka! moment. What’s “odd” often stimulates our curiosity and takes it in a different, unexpected direction.

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

Nolan-Brown: That is almost always the result of a bad decision. When it occurs, re-assess the original assumptions and premises. Mistakes can create invaluable learning opportunities. They sure have for me.

Morris: In Tom Davenport’s latest book, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” What do you think?

Nolan-Brown: Crowdsource on every level. Get everyone’s input, as portrayed on the TV show Undercover Boss – the boss is amazed almost every time by what is really going in the organization. There is a lot to be said in favor of leading and managing by walking around.

Morris: Here’s a brief excerpt from Paul Schoemaker’s latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: “The key question companies need to address is not ‘Should we make mistakes?’ but rather ‘Which mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?’” Your response?

Nolan-Brown:
As I suggested earlier, mistakes can be extremely valuable if viewed as opportunities to learn and then take appropriate action. Efforts are “failures” only if you learn nothing from them.

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

Nolan-Brown: They fear they will become obsolete or they think nobody can do it as well as they can.

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

Nolan-Brown: Storytelling is key. Stories make you relatable — which makes people like you — which in turn makes them lifetime customers. The most successful people on social media and in sales are great authentic storytellers offering trust and value. People are buying people. They want to know the human behind the product/service.

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

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

Nolan-Brown: Jump in head first. Stop being comfortable and afraid to fail. This is the only way to make discoveries and achieve change.

Morris: In recent years, there has been criticism, sometimes severe criticism of M.B.A. programs, even those offered by the most prestigious business schools. In your opinion, in which area is there the greatest need for immediate improvement? Any suggestions?

Nolan-Brown: Passion and execution trump business courses. True entrepreneurs don’t need MBA’s – people who want to work 9-5 under bosses (not risk takers or creatives) need MBA’s

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

Nolan-Brown: Attracting and then retraining the talent their company needs. It’s going to be a freelance environment with a lot of moving around if people are not happy. My advice: keep them happy and involved; encourage their creativity.

Also have a workplace environment that includes certain amenities and activities such as ping pong tables, dartboards, good coffee, nap modules, walking meetings, and events that include family members. These are proven elements of a workplace that encourages and enhances creativity as well as employee loyalty.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Here’s a link to her website.

Here’s a link to Idea to Invention.

You can follow her on Twitter

Her Facebook link

Here’s a link to a class she teaches via Skill Share.

Saturday, March 8, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Left Brain, Right Stuff: A book review by Bob Morris

Left BrainLeft Brain, Right Stuff: How Leaders Make Winning Decisions
Phil Rosenzweig
PublicAffairs (2014)

Why understanding the decision making process as well as the roles of action and analysis “can improve the odds of success”

As I began to read this book, I was again reminded of passages in two others in which their authors address the same question that Phil Rosenzweig does: How to make better decisions? In Judgment (2009), Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis assert that what really matters “is not how many calls a leader gets right, or even what percentage of calls a leader gets right. Rather it is important how many of the important ones he or she gets right.” They go on to suggest that effective leaders “not only make better calls, but they are able to discern the really important ones and get a higher percentage of them right. They are better at a whole process that runs from seeing the need for a call, to framing issues, to figuring out what is critical, to mobilizing and energizing the troops.”

More recently, in Judgment Calls (2012), Tom Davenport and Brooke Manville explain how and why decisions made by a Great Organization tend to be much better than those made by a Great Leader. Why? While conducting rigorous and extensive research over a period of many years, they discovered — as Laurence Prusak notes in the Foreword — “that no one was looking into the workings of what we term organizational judgment — 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.”

My own opinion is that this process resembles a crucible of intensive scrutiny by several well-qualified persons. Moreover, the eventual decision is the result of what Roger Martin characterizes, in The Opposable Mind (2009), as “integrative thinking.” That is, each of those involved has “the predisposition and the capacity to hold two [or more] diametrically opposed ideas” in mind and then “without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or the other,” helps to “produce a synthesis that is superior to either opposing idea.”

Rosenzweig asserts — and I agree — that what he calls “winning decisions” combine two very different skills. He calls them left brain and right stuff. “Left brain is shorthand for a deliberate and analytical approach to problems solving,” a process that inevitably involves asking the right questions and then answering them correctly. Otherwise, there is the very serious danger to which Peter Drucker referred decades ago: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

“Great decisions also demand a willingness to take risks, to push boundaries and to go beyond what has been done before. They call for something we call the right stuff.” That means “summoning high levels of confidence, even levels that might seem excessive, but that are useful to achieve high performance.” Left brain and right stuff may seem like opposites “but they’re complementary. For many decisions they’re both essential…Great decisions call for a capacity for considered and careful reasoning, and also a willingness to take outsize risks.”

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

o The Key to great decisions: Left Brain, Right Stuff (Pages 15-22)
o The key to great decisions: Left Brain, Right Stuff (Pages 15-22)
o Control issues (23-44)
o Performance: Absolute and Relative (45-62)
o Overconfidence in the here and now: Not one thing but three (88-93)
o Barriers of nature or barriers of engineering? (118-121)
o Apollo missions (149-154)
o Authenticity, reconsidered (154-158)
o Decision models (165-190)
o  The Texas size shoot-out for AT&T Wireless (206-213)
o Cloud computing/VMware (224-229)
o Managing risks, seeking rewards (229-233)
o Another look at laboratory evidence (234-237)
o Beyond rational and irrational (244-247)

With regard to “Better questions for winning decisions” (247-252), Rosenzweig asserts, “To make great decisions, we need above all to develop the capacity to question, to go beyond the first-order observations and pose incisive second-order questions. An awareness of common errors and cognitive biases is only a start.” He poses seven lead questions that have been previously stated or at least implied throughout his lively and eloquent narrative, accompanied by a few others that will also help us to drill down past symptoms, assumptions, biases, etc. so that we can identify root causes. This is a process of both elimination and simplification, one that is much easier to describe than it is to conduct just as questions such as “Are we making a decision about something we cannot control, or are we able to influence outcomes?” are much easier to ask than to answer.

Long ago, Voltaire suggested that we cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it. Phil Rosenzweig is among those who tenaciously seek the truth but seldom (if ever) claim to have found it. With all due respect to recent research in neuroscience, there is still much to be learned about how to make better decisions. In this book, however, the information, insights, and counsel provided increase our understanding of how not to.

Saturday, February 1, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

David Burkus: An interview by Bob Morris

BurkusDavid Burkus is the author of The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas. David is Assistant Professor of Management at the College of Business at Oral Roberts University, where he teaches courses on leadership, creativity, strategy, and organizational behavior. He is the founder and host LDRLB, a podcast tank that shares insights from research on leadership, innovation, and strategy. His work as been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, PsychologyToday, Inc, Bloomberg Businessweek, Financial Times, and the Harvard Business Review.

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

* * *

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

Burkus: Identifying a single person is difficult, as I’m constantly seeking out and refining a collection of personal influences. I can easily identify how it all began, however. When I was an undergraduate student, I took a course on public relations with the late Dr. Johnny Mac Allen. It was he who really got me into reading a wide variety of personal and professional literature and set me on a course of voracious reading that continues.

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

Burkus: One of Dr. Allen’s best suggestions was to have a “board of directors” for personal and professional growth instead of focusing on only one or two individuals for guidance or mentorship. I find that to be incredibly valuable because it provides a diversity of perspectives. As such, I am constantly choosing and refining who serves on the board. In truth, many folks don’t even know they have that big of an influence on me…they just know I seem to pepper them with questions from time to time.

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.

Burkus: I began my undergraduate career as an English/writing major. I wanted to be a novelist and poet. However, after I took a few courses in business and organizational psychology I got hooked. As I continued on to graduate studies in organizational psychology, I felt like there was this vast world of evidence-based principles for guiding people and organizations, principles that were largely ignored by practitioners…and for good reason. Science is hard to read if you’re not a scientist and the goal of many researchers is to write for other researchers, not practitioners. I felt like there was I niche I could serve using my interests and training in storytelling to make stories out of the science I was trained to read. That’s the path I am on now, and I am loving it.

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

Burkus: My day job is as a college professor, so formal education is a sort of union card that one must obtain before being allowed in. However, outside of campus, I find that formal education is a necessary but insufficient qualification. The world doesn’t care what you know (as proven by pieces of paper); it cares what [begin italics] contributions [end italics] you are making. My formal education allowed me to contribute more than I otherwise could…but I sometimes feel there are lots of people with an extensive formal education who really don’t contribute much of genuine value.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

Burkus: I love this quote. I work with my undergraduate students at length to help them discover what unique contributions they can make to the world. At that age especially, I think so many are still following down a path prescribed for them by formal education. But the challenge of that path is that it is general, not specific to them. So figuring out their specific role is something they should probably do before leaving that path to write their own.

This is probably what Ralph Waldo Emerson had in mind when suggesting, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

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

Burkus: Totally agree. I’d couple that with a quote from G.K. Chesterton: “It isn’t that they can’t see the solution; it’s that they can’t see the problem.” Many of our problems stem from solutions to past problems. Clearly the line of thinking that led to that solution can’t be used to recognize the new problem and solve it.

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

Burkus: This one hits me hard. One of the questions I’m constantly asking myself is, “Do I need to be doing this?” We get so used to taking on more work and are really inept at pruning work that doesn’t serve our goals anymore. But pruning is important. By eliminating useless activities we divert more focus to the useful ones.

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

Burkus: I’m betting my career on it! We’re hard-wired to receive information in stories. Despite years of formal education that molds us into logical thinkers, we are still emotionally drawn to information presented in the form of stories. I believe that’s what explains the great impact in the business world by those great leaders most important as well. We need empirical, evidence-based research on how best to lead…but if it’s not presented in a story, we’ll probably never truly appreciate it.

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?

Burkus: I think it couples quite nicely with your previous question. A traditional MBA program is extremely quant-heavy. We’re teaching students to crunch numbers and make decisions on data alone. This is hugely important and largely the best way to make decisions. However, when we ask those students to become leaders, we’re asking them to take the decisions they’ve made and tell a story to those entrusted to them…and they’re largely unable to do it.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

His website link

The Myths of Creativity link

LDRLB website link

TWITTER link

FACEBOOK link

Friday, January 24, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Niraj Dawar: An interview by Bob Morris

DawarNiraj Dawar is a Professor in marketing at the Ivey Business School, Canada. He earned his PhD from Pennsylvania State University. His research currently focuses on marketing strategy, brand equity and brand management issues. His published papers on brand extensions, consumers use of brand and other signals as well as international consumer behavior in a variety of leading academic and managerial outlets, including have appeared in the Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, Harvard Business Review, M.I.T. Sloan Management Reviews, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Marketing Letters, Journal of Business Research, the Journal of International Business Studies, and others outlets.

Dawar teaches PhD, MBA, and undergraduate courses in marketing management and brand management, as well as in executive development programs in North America, Europe and Asia. Prior to joining the Ivey Business School, he was Associate Professor of Marketing at INSEAD, France. He was also visiting scholar at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology during the fall of 1994 and 1995. During the Spring of 2000, he was the William Davidson Visiting Research Professor at the University of Michigan Business School. During the 2005-2006 academic year, he was Visiting Professor at INSEAD’s Asia campus in Singapore.

His most recent book, TILT: Shifting Your Strategy from Products to Customers, was published by Harvard Business Review Press (November 2013).

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

* * *

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

Dawar: I particularly like The Hudsucker Proxy for its portrayal of business morality, the struggle between good and evil in a business context, and the strategy of an underdog. In the movie there is a seven-minute sequence about a product launch (a hula-hoop) that is sheer visual poetry that sums up a variety of marketing decisions.

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

Dawar: I particularly like Atul Gawande’s books including Complications and Better for their portrayal of medical case histories. In many of his stories, the lessons show how the practice of medicine and the treatment of patients are about so much more than the administration of pills.

Morris: What’s your response to an observation by Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Dawar: I’d go further – it’s not just useless, it can be seriously counterproductive – consider, for example, advertising a bad product really well.

Morris: In Tom Davenport’s latest book, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” What do you think?

Dawar: I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that the competences required to win today’s competitive battles reside in organizations rather than individuals. But I would like to qualify that: a good leader can bring out the best in an organization, and a bad leader can wreck an organization.

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?

Dawar: It would already be great if companies could learn from the mistakes that they do make – designing tests of their assumptions presumes companies understand they are learning organizations, and that they know how to learn from mistakes.

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

Dawar: We learn through stories. Stories are the receptacles in which our brains store lessons. Stories are the way we communicate and remember lessons.

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

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

Dawar: Change happens when the misery of the status quo is greater than the pain of change.

Morris: In recent years, there has been criticism, sometimes severe criticism of M.B.A. programs, even those offered by the most prestigious business schools. In your opinion, in which area is there the greatest need for immediate improvement? Any suggestions?

Dawar: This is a very big question. I have taken a stab at it here, but this may be too long an answer for this interview.

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

Dawar: All businesses are fast becoming information businesses. CEOs will need to grasp how to build and manage organizations that transform information into value. Advice? Read TILT before it’s too late.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

TILT website link

Amazon.com link to TILT

Twitter link

Just Marketing blog link

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jack Godwin: An interview by Bob Morris

GodwinJack Godwin, PhD, is a political scientist whose appeal spans the political spectrum. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Clintonomics, his previous book, a “must read,” an assessment seconded by conservative Newsmax.com publisher Christopher Ruddy. Godwin has a doctorate from the University of Hawaii and degrees from San Francisco State University and the University of California- Berkeley. He is a former Peace Corps volunteer in Gabon, West Africa and a five-time Fulbright scholar to Britain, Canada, Germany, Hungary and Japan. He is a fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar in Austria and a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy. He has been the Chief International Officer at California State University, Sacramento since 1999. His books include The Arrow and the Olive Branch (2007), Clintonomics (2009), and most recently, The Office Politics Handbook (Career Press, 2013).

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

* * *

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

Godwin:
My wife Emilia has had the greatest and most positive influence. I started writing seriously at age 45, two months after we got married. I don’t believe this is a coincidence. Our close relationship motivates me and gives me a lot of confidence. I’m 54 now with three books published and another on the way.

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

Godwin: I’ve had several great college professors, especially Raghavan Iyer, Edwin Duerr, and Richard Chadwick. All three inspired my scholarship but Duerr and Chadwick somehow recognized potential that I didn’t know was 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.

Godwin: I joined the Peace Corps in 1982 and got an assignment in Gabon, West Africa supervising construction of a primary school in a small village outside a small town called Akieni. No running water or electricity, we made our bricks by hand and dried them in the sun. I had a crew of five villagers and drove one of those old-style Toyota pickup trucks. And I had a boom box, a gift from another volunteer who had recently completed his service and a few well-used cassette tapes. One morning, I popped the Temptations Greatest Hits into the boom box and played Papa was a Rollin Stone. My workers started dancing, and then I started dancing. It was a moment of cross-cultural exchange. I decided then and there that, whatever else I did with my life, my career, and my education, it would be international. That’s the epiphany. That’s the promise I made to myself. That was—and still is—my idea of a life worth living.

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?

Godwin: When I got home from Africa, I got a job as a salesman in the vacuum cleaner business, which was the same industry my father worked in for many years. Working as a salesman and learning the skills of salesmanship, how to establish a rapport, overcome objections and close the sale are invaluable. I wish everybody else knew these skills.

Morris:
Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes the power of political skills? Please explain.

Godwin: The Godfather (Part 1) best dramatizes power and politics, as well as strategy. Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando) and Tom Hagen (played by Robert Duval) are archetypal characters. In particular, I recommend studying the scenes with the consigliore Tom Hagen and Hollywood mogul Jack Woltz (played by John Marley). No special effects, just two actors playing their parts — being the characters — under the direction of Francis Ford Coppola.

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

Godwin: This is an interesting point. In Ronald Reagan’s 1989 Farewell Address, he said “I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things.” I beg to differ. Reagan was a great communicator and a storyteller, and in some ways a prophet. Bill Clinton is also a great communicator but more of a policy wonk than a storyteller. There’s room for both because as our problems become increasingly complex, our ability to explain solutions must increase in equal proportion.

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

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

Godwin: This is a question about managing change, which requires persistence. By that, I mean asserting your power in a way that is humble, gentle, and inconspicuous. The most natural example of this is the gentle breeze that blows along the coast in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The wind doesn’t blow very hard, but it blows consistently in the same direction. And this gentle breeze twists and turns the trees into the most fascinating forms. This is how you overcome resistance, through influence that never lapses.

Morris: Now please shift your attention to The Office Politics Handbook. When and why did you decide to write it?

Godwin: I started writing Office Politics in October 2008. I completed the manuscript for Clintonomics and went on vacation. When I got back home a month later, I asked myself “what’s next”? I’m a political scientist with an MBA, so it was natural to write something about politics for people who work for a living. First, I wanted to demystify politics. Second, I wanted to teach people how to develop their political skills, how to acquire power, overcome the bureaucracy, and work with friends and adversaries alike. My goal is to make the world a better place, one cubicle at a time.

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

Godwin: At the beginning of the book, I worried if there was enough material for a whole book. I didn’t have to worry, but I did have to go beyond political science into other academic fields such as anthropology, sociology and especially psychology. This led me to Carl Jung, which of course led me to archetypes. Why are archetypes important? Archetypes are symbols in concentrated form, reflections and expressions of our culture and human nature. They are common to the human race and present in all of us, which partly explains why office politics takes on familiar, recurring patterns regardless of culture, location or era. If you work in an organization of any size, for any duration of time, you may notice how people emulate archetypes and inhabit pre-packaged roles, and how the archetypes migrate from one individual to another.

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

Godwin: The working title was Micropolitics. The publisher said nobody would buy it, quote unquote. And my literary agent agreed! Even though I made a conscious effort to write for a general audience—to write for the market—I overlooked (for a nanosecond) two important market segments: my literary agent and my publisher. This reminds me that book publishing is a collaborative business, which is something I enjoy very much.

Morris: To what extent (if any) are office politics significantly different from politics anywhere else? Please explain.

Godwin
: I don’t think office politics (or micropolitics) is any different from politics anywhere else. The laws of politics are rooted in human nature. These laws have not changed in thousands of years, since the ancient philosophers of China, India, and Greece first attempted to discover and articulate them.

Morris: Although Harry Truman is often credited with observing, “Politics is the art of the possible,” it was first expressed by Otto von Bismarck during an interview in 1867. What is your opinion of that statement? Please explain

Godwin: The point is that politics is not the art of the perfect, but the art of the possible; the art of the next best. It’s the art of recognizing all the conditions and constraints that make your first choice unavailable without losing sight of your second choice. Once you have eliminated the false ideal, then you can concentrate on the next best solution. This now becomes the true ideal, the new organizing principle upon which you will formulate and execute your strategy.

Morris: How do you explain the fact that, today, the public approval rating of members in the U.S. Congress is lower than ever before?

Godwin: Incumbents have a home court advantage in terms of name recognition and fund raising. The reelection rate for incumbents is very high, which indicates high public approval for individual members. However, public approval for the current (113th) Congress is indeed lower than ever, according to the Washington Post, 12% approval and 85% disapproval. I wonder why it isn’t lower. I mean, why isn’t it 100% disapproval?

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

Jack cordially invites you to check out the resources at this website.

Monday, December 2, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Steven Fink: A second interview by Bob Morris

Fink, StevenSteven Fink has often been called the Dean of Crisis Management for his pioneering work in the field. His seminal work on the subject, Crisis Management: Planning for the Inevitable, still the most successful and widely-read book on crisis management ever published, not only explains how to manage a crisis when one occurs, but was the first book to introduce proactive crisis management strategies designed to help businesses forecast and avert crises altogether. His latest book, Crisis Communications: The Definitive Guide to Managing the Message, published by McGraw-Hill, lays out in clear language the critical importance of public perception in crisis situations. As he asserts, in the pitched battle between perception and reality, perception always wins. The book also contains a road map for proper and effective use of social media as a valuable arrow in a company’s crisis communications quiver. During the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear crisis, the nation’s worst commercial nuclear power accident, he served on the famed crisis management team, which skillfully averted a potential deadly disaster and staved off panic among the population of South Central Pennsylvania — and the rest of the nation.

An earlier book, Sticky Fingers: Managing the Global Risk of Economic Espionage, is a comprehensive eye-opening look at economic espionage and the rampant theft of America’s trade secrets — the single biggest business crisis facing American companies today. It is the first book to critically examine the government’s lackluster efforts to crack down on this epidemic crisis.

As President of Lexicon Communications Corp., the nation’s oldest and most experienced crisis management firm, he counsels some of the world’s largest and most prestigious companies – as well as small and medium sized companies – in crisis management and crisis communications, strategic public relations, corporate communications, and high level, confidential issues relating to economic espionage. He has been a strategic advisor and consultant to some of America’s leading chief executives, senior management teams and corporate boards on a wide variety of critical and confidential crisis matters, and has been asked to consult with various branches of government, foreign and domestic, on highly sensitive crisis issues, some involving matters of national security and international diplomacy.

A highly sought-after speaker, he has been invited to lecture at major universities and leading business schools and conduct crisis management seminars, workshops and training programs for companies, organizations and industry groups throughout the world. He is frequently featured as an expert crisis management commentator on leading news outlets around the world, and some of his observations on current crises can also be found on his blog.

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

* * *

Morris: Before discussing the two Crisis works, a few general questions. First, what had the greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Fink: When I wrote my first book, Crisis Management: Planning for the Inevitable, it was endorsed by the American Management Association, and consequently was read by America’s top corporate leaders, and overnight put me in high demand as a consultant and as a speaker. Also, that book forever changed the way businesses look at and deal with crises by giving a tangible feel to an otherwise intangible subject. It showed managers and executives that they no longer had to be the hapless and unwitting victims of the capriciousness of a crisis. They could gain control and manage a crisis, should one occur, from a position of power and control, thereby taking a proactive role in shaping the event’s direction, duration and destiny.

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.

Fink: During the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear crisis, the nation’s worst commercial nuclear power accident, I served on the crisis management team in the administration of then-Pennsylvania Governor (and later U.S. Attorney General) Dick Thornburgh. By its remarkably calm handling of that potentially devastating and deadly crisis, this team was widely credited with having averted a panic among the population of South Central Pennsylvania — and the rest of the nation.

But the utility company, Metropolitan Edison (MetEd), did an abysmal job, and I wanted to know why. Specifically, I wanted to know how we, who were brand new in office and not experts in nuclear power, could have done such a good job in managing the crisis and keeping the population calm, while the utility company “experts,” who built and operated the reactor, did such a poor job in mismanaging the situation, and scared the hell out of people to boot. I set out to find out why, starting with national research into companies that had suffered crises in the past. The insight I gleaned led to me first book.

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

Fink: Unfortunately, today’s colleges and universities, and especially our business schools, do not offer pragmatic crisis management teachings. Theory, yes; hands-on teaching, no. But, I did receive a great liberal arts education, which opened my eyes to many things, and that education has proved invaluable to adapting my crisis management and crisis communications skills to a wide variety of companies in different industry groups throughout the world.

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

Fink: I have probably learned more about business strategies from reading military books. If you think of business as a “battle” (e.g., battle for market share, etc.), there is much to be gleaned from strategies that go into military planning and execution that is transferrable to businesses. The planning for D-Day, in particular, was meticulous on paper…until the troops landed. As Napoleon presciently said, “All the plans of war go out the window after the first shot is fired.” In other words, you can plan – and you should! – but the unexpected will still happen. It is the same with business crises, and it is the companies that are nimble, quick-thinking, and quick adapting after the first crisis shot is fired that usually prevail.

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.”

Fink: This quote describes the way we create crisis management plans for clients. Too often, clients want us to give them a one-size-fits-all crisis management plan from off the shelf. Some of our competitors do this because it’s fast and cheap. They build a plan once and keep using the same plan over and over with other clients. But we know it never works; it is a recipe for disaster. The only way to build a crisis management plan that will work is to guide the company through each step of building their own organic plan. They need to establish ownership and trust that the plan will work or else they won’t ever use it. But when they can say, “We have done it ourselves,” they are ahead of the game.

Morris: In Tom Davenport’s latest book, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: em>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?

Fink: I often say that good crisis management is good decision-making under stress. In our workshops, we teach executives how to make vigilant (read: good) decisions using a proven Seven Step Matrix for decision-making under stress. And it all begins with a group approach.

These are also known as “defensible decisions,” and lawyers love us for this because when executed properly, these decisions made in the heat of a crisis can be defended as the best available choice at the time the decision was made. It is a winning strategy in depositions and trial testimony, as well as with probing reporters and government hearings or investigative bodies.

Morris: Here’s a brief excerpt from Paul Schoemaker’s latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: “The key question companies need to address is not ‘[begin italics] Should [end italics] we make mistakes?’ but rather ‘[begin italics] Which [end italics] mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?’” Your response?

Fink: After we complete a crisis management plan for a client, we strongly recommend testing it with a realistic crisis scenario. I always tell my clients that we are not testing the plan to find out if it will work, but to find out where mistakes were made and fix them before the real crisis comes along. In other words, mistakes are good provided you learn from them, and correct them promptly.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

His website link

His homepage link

Facebook link

His blog link

Saturday, November 30, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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