First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

William Seidman: A second interview by Bob Morris

Seidman

Dr. William (Bill) Seidman has worked as a manager or consultant with many large and small organizations including Hewlett-Packard, Jack in the Box, Intel, Tektronix, CVS Pharmacies, and Sears. As a recognized expert on leadership in high-performing organizations, he contributes an in-depth understanding of the processes required to discover and use expert wisdom to create extraordinary organizational performance. He is co-founder and chief executive officer of Cerebyte, Inc., co-author with Rick Grbavac of Strategy to Action in Ten Days and then The Star Factor: Discover What Your Top Performers Do Differently–and Inspire a New Level of Greatness in All, published by AMACOM in 2013. The Star Factor presents Affirmative Leadership, a methodology for discovering what your top performers do differently – and inspiring a new level of greatness in all.

Seidman earned his doctorate at Stanford University where he did a study of how management training effected the development of managers’ attitudes, cognitive patterns and behaviors. As part of this study, he developed a technique for analyzing management down to the single word and action level. This technique is the basis for understanding what makes a star performer so extraordinary and understanding the newest neuroscience for elevating everyone else’s performance to the level of the stars.

He lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon, with his wife. He enjoys traveling, golf and spending time with his three kids.

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

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Morris: When and why did you and Rick decide to write The Star Factor and do so in collaboration?

Seidman: It was the convergence of two factors. First, after years of development, the Affirmative Leadership process had reached a maturity where it was producing the same excellent results in terms of participant response and impact on business outcomes every time, regardless of the organization or industry.

We felt that the underlying methodology was now strong enough to share with others. Second, at about the same time, three books were published – DRiVE by Pink, Your Brain at Work by Rock and The Power of Positive Deviance by Pascale, Sternin and Sternin — that legitimized different aspects of the methodology. Although these came after we had proven the methodology, they independently supported the role of positive deviants (our stars), the importance of purpose and mastery and the connection of all of these to the neuroscience of learning.

By connecting all of these through a applied methodology, an organization could get performance that was literally beyond what they previously thought possible. Our compelling purpose became to share something we believed would improve people’s lives, organizations and ultimately society.

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

Seidman: The single most “head-snapping” revelation that came from writing the book was the importance and value of self-directed learning. We realized that one of the most important characteristics of the stars was that they were fanatical learners. We also realized that the way we were doing the Launch Workshops and the Guided Practicum – particularly the emphasis on people adapting the learning tasks to generate enhanced value — were a significant learning and leadership breakthrough.

It was transformational for us to see people’s reactions to true self-directed learning. There was a real joy at the re-awaking of their natural, human desire to learn. Put together, we realized that the complexity of today’s world requires leaders to be great learners. You simply can’t be a great leader without being a great [begin italics] learner [end italics], which was a new idea to us and, as far as we could see, a new idea in the literature on leadership.

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

Seidman: About 75% of the book is how we originally envisioned it. The two big changes were the emergence of self-directed learning as a core theme. We also had planned to do a lot more on the implications of Affirmative Leadership programs for executive decision-making. One of the effects of Affirmative Leadership programs is to illuminate disconnects and other types of conflicts in organizations. This can be incredibly valuable for executive teams if they accept the information and use it for better decision-making. But it can be destructive if the executives reject, ignore or overtly suppress the information. We wanted to talk a lot more about how executives can use the issues that bubble-up from Affirmative Leadership programs to be better leaders themselves. But this added 10,000 more words than we were allowed by the publisher. Maybe that will be our next book.

Morris: As I indicate in my review of the book for various Amazon websites, there are dozens of passages throughout your narrative that caught my eye. For those who have not as yet read the book, please suggest what you view as the most important point or key take-away in each of several passages.

First, The Affirmative Leadership Methodology (Pages 6-9)

Seidman: This is the only methodology for cultural development and change leadership that we know of that consistently and systematically works. As one executive put it: “you mean you can generate levels of performance in six weeks that I couldn’t achieve in five years?”

Yes, because of the synergy between all of the different elements and the underlying science tells us precisely how to drive these changes. This gives organizations capabilities that are quite revolutionary. The most important impacts are in some ways the least tangible, though. When an organization uses Affirmative Leadership for multiple roles, the culture visibly changes. It is just a better, more confident, more productive place at which to work. You can feel the difference and it feels great.

Morris: Your Stars (18-21)

Seidman: They are just great people. Not only are they consistently the top performers on a variety of metrics and perspectives, but they are just plain great people. We hesitated to use the term “stars” because that term is so often associated with egotistical, self-centered people. Our stars are invariably humble, gracious and considerate, in part because their deep commitment to achieving a significant purpose makes them very aware of how little they know and are able to accomplish. The beauty of the methodology is that it causes what is truly the best in people to surface and this then drives creating better places to work.

Morris: Unconscious Competence, and, Engaging Stars (24-28)

Seidman: We often see organizations trying to create best practices through observation and interviews focused on what people are doing. These approaches consistently miss what is most important, and unconscious about the stars, which is how they think. Everything that makes them a star derives from an unconscious sense of deep purpose so you have to start with understanding that sense of purpose – and nourishing  — to learn what makes them extraordinary. Fortunately, if you ask them about their purpose in the way we do in the Wisdom Discovery, they just love talking about it. They become so engaged that we have to be very assertive to drive them to solidify their purpose into a written statement.

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To read the complete interview, please click here.

Here’s a link to my first interview of Bill

Here is a link to my review of The Star Factor.

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

YouTube video link

Cerebyte link

NeuroLeadership Institute link

Thursday, February 27, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Robert Cialdini on “The Six Principles of Influence”

CialdiniThe Six Principles of Influence (also known as the “Six Weapons of Influence”) were introduced in Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (1984). A revised edition was published in 2006. Cialdini identified the six principles through experimental studies, and by immersing himself in the world of what he called “compliance professionals” – salespeople, fund raisers, recruiters, advertisers, marketers, and so on. (These are people skilled in the art of convincing and influencing others.)

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Here are the six principles:

1. Reciprocity: As humans, we generally aim to return favors, pay back debts, and treat others as they treat us. According to the idea of reciprocity, this can lead us to feel obliged to offer concessions or discounts to others if they have offered them to us. This is because we’re uncomfortable with feeling indebted to them. For example, if a colleague helps you when you’re busy with a project, you might feel obliged to support her ideas for improving team processes. You might decide to buy more from a supplier if they have offered you an aggressive discount. Or, you might give money to a charity fundraiser who has given you a flower in the street.

2. Commitment (and Consistency): Cialdini says that we have a deep desire to be consistent. For this reason, once we’ve committed to something, we’re then more inclined to go through with it. For instance, you’d probably be more likely to support a colleague’s project proposal if you had shown interest when he first talked to you about his ideas.

3. Social Proof: This principle relies on people’s sense of “safety in numbers.” For example, we’re more likely to work late if others in our team are doing the same, put a tip in a jar if it already contains money, or eat in a restaurant if it’s busy. Here, we’re assuming that if lots of other people are doing something, then it must be OK. We’re particularly susceptible to this principle when we’re feeling uncertain, and we’re even more likely to be influenced if the people we see seem to be similar to us. That’s why commercials often use moms, not celebrities, to advertise household products.

4. Liking: Cialdini says that we’re more likely to be influenced by people we like. Likability comes in many forms – people might be similar or familiar to us, they might give us compliments, or we may just simply trust them. Companies that use sales agents from within the community employ this principle with huge success. People are more likely to buy from people like themselves, from friends, and from people they know and respect.

5. Authority: We feel a sense of duty or obligation to people in positions of authority. This is why advertisers of pharmaceutical products employ doctors to front their campaigns, and why most of us will do most things that our manager requests. Job titles, uniforms, and even accessories like cars or gadgets can lend an air of authority, and can persuade us to accept what these people say.

6. Scarcity: This principle says that things are more attractive when their availability is limited, or when we stand to lose the opportunity to acquire them on favorable terms. For instance, we might buy something immediately if we’re told that it’s the last one, or that a special offer will soon expire.

To learn more about all this, please click here.

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Robert Cialdini has spent his entire career researching the science of influence earning him an international reputation as an expert in the fields of persuasion, compliance, and negotiation. His books, including, Influence, are the result of decades of peer-reviewed research on why people comply with requests. Influence has sold over 2 million copies, is a New York Times bestseller and has been published in twenty-seven languages.

Because of the world-wide recognition of Cialdini’s cutting edge scientific research and his ethical business and policy applications, he is frequently regarded as the “Godfather of influence.” Cialdini received his Ph.D from the University of North Carolina and postdoctoral training from Columbia University. He has held Visiting Scholar Appointments at Ohio State University, the University of California, the Annenberg School of Communications, and the Graduate School of Business of Stanford University. Currently, Cialdini is Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University.

Cialdini is President of INFLUENCE AT WORK; focusing on ethical influence training, corporate keynote programs, and the CMCT (Cialdini Method Certified Trainer) program. His clients include such organizations as Google, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Bayer, Coca Cola, KPMG, AstraZeneca, Ericsson, Kodak, Merrill Lynch, Nationwide Insurance, Pfizer, AAA, Northern Trust, IBM, Prudential, The Mayo Clinic, GlaxoSmithKline, Harvard University – Kennedy School, The Weather Channel, the United States Department of Justice, and NATO.

Friday, February 14, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Guy Kawasaki on “How to Become More Likeable”

KawasakiHere is an excerpt from an article written by Guy Kawasaki for LinkedIn, based on material he developed in much greater depth in his bestselling book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. To read the complete article, please click here.

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Accept Others

Let’s start with your attitude. If you don’t like people, people won’t like you. That’s simple enough. And to like people, you need to accept them. Then, if you accept them, they’ll accept you. This is what you need to understand about acceptance:

o People are not binary. People are not ones or zeros, smart or dumb, worthwhile or worthless. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, positives and negatives, competencies and deficiencies.

o Everyone is better than you at something. If you have a tough time accepting others, it’s probably because you think you’re superior to them. However, you’re not superior to every person in every way.

o People are more similar than they are different. At a basic level, almost everyone wants to raise a family, do something meaningful, and enjoy life. This is true across races, creeds, colors, and countries. You probably have lot in common with people you don’t like.

o People deserve a break. The stressed and unorganized person who doesn’t have the same priorities as you may be dealing with an autistic child, abusive spouse, fading parents, or cancer. Don’t judge people until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Give them a break instead.

o We all die equal. At the end of your life, you’re going to be a mass of tissue and bone that reduces to a pile of dust like everyone else, so get over yourself. Death is the great equalizer.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

To read my interview of him, please click here.

Guy Kawasaki is the author of twelve books. He was the chief evangelist of Apple. He has a BA from Stanford University, an MBA from UCLA, and an honorary doctorate from Babson College. His latest book is APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur–How to Publish a Book. Kirkus, the toughest reviewer in the business, said this about APE, “Essential reading (and reference) for modern authors, regardless of experience.” Kawasaki was born and raised in Hawaii. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with Wife 1.0, four kids, one dog, two chickens, three lizards, and two turtles.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Q&A with David Shenk

ShenkHere is a portion of a mini-interview featured by Amazon during which David Shenk responds to questions about his latest book, The Genius in All of Us: New Insights into Genetics, Talent, and IQ.

Photo © Alexandra Beers

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Q: You assert in the book that everything we’ve been told about genetics, talent, and IQ is wrong. Everything? How so?

It is a bold statement, and it reflects how poorly the public has been served when it comes to understanding the relationship between biology and ability. The clichés we’ve been taught about genetic blueprints, IQ, and “giftedness” all come out of crude, early-20th century guesswork. The reality is so much more interesting and complex. Genes do have a powerful influence on everything we do, but they respond to their environments in all sorts of interesting ways. We’ve now learned a lot more about the developmental mechanisms that enable people to get really good at stuff. Intelligence and talent turn out to be about process, not about whether you were born with certain “gifts.”

Q: You also state that the concept of nature versus nurture is over. Scientists, cognitive psychologists, and geneticists are moving towards an idea of ‘interactionism.’ What does this mean? If the battle of genes versus environment is over, who has won? Which is more important?

They both won, because they’re both vitally important. But the new science shows us that they do not act separately. Declaring that a person gets X-percent of his/her intelligence from genes and Y-percent from the environment is like saying that X-percent of Shakespeare’s greatness can be found in his verbs, and Y-percent in his adjectives. There is no nature vs. nurture, or nature plus nurture; instead, it’s nature interacting with nurture, which is often expressed by scientists as “GxE” (genes times intelligence). This is what “interactionism” refers to. A vanguard of geneticists, neuroscientists, and psychologists have stepped forward in recent years to articulate the importance of the dynamic interaction between genes and the environment.

Q: You describe genes and environment as a sound board. How so?

In the past, we’ve been taught that each distinct gene contains a certain dossier of information, which in turn determines a certain trait; if you have the blue-eyed gene, you get blue eyes. Period.

It turns out, though, that the information contained inside genes is only part of the story; another critical part is how often genes get “expressed,” or turned on, by other genes and by outside forces. It’s therefore helpful to think of your genome as a giant mixing board with thousands of knobs and switches. Genes are always getting turned on/off/up/down by hormones, nutrients, etc. People actually affect their own genome’s behavior with their actions.

Q: How do these new findings affect the concept of the “The Bell Curve”–that we live in an increasingly stratified world where the “cognitive elite,” those with the best genes, are more and more isolated from the cognitive/genetic underclass? Is that idea now completely obsolete?

Yes, it is obsolete. The idea that there is a genetic super-class that has a corner on high-IQ genes is nonsense. This comes out of a profound misunderstanding of how genes work and how intelligence works, and also from a misreading of so-called “heritability” studies. I am not saying that genes don’t affect intelligence. Genes affect everything. But by and large I think the evidence shows that people with low intelligence are missing out on key developmental advantages.

Q: Lewis Terman invented the IQ test at Stanford University in 1916. He declared it the ideal tool to determine a person’s native intelligence. Are IQ tests accurate? What are the benefits and fallout of the IQ test?

IQ tests accurately rank academic achievement. That’s quite different from identifying innate intelligence, which doesn’t really exist. Tufts intelligence expert Robert Sternberg explains that “intelligence represents a set of competencies in development.” In other words, intelligence isn’t fixed. Intelligence isn’t general. Intelligence is not a thing. Instead, intelligence is a dynamic, diffuse, and ongoing process.

The IQ test has valid uses. It can help teachers and principals understand how well students are doing and what they’re missing. But the widespread belief that it defines what each of us are capable of (and limited to) is disabling for individuals and society. People simply cannot reach their full potential if they honestly believe that they are so severely restricted.

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David Shenk is the national bestselling author of five previous books, including The Forgetting, Data Smog, and The Immortal Game. He is a correspondent for The Atlantic.com, and has contributed to National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, Gourmet, Harper’s, The New Yorker, NPR, and PBS. His new book, The Genius in All of Us, has been called “engrossing” by Booklist (starred review) and “empowering…myth-busting” by Kirkus.

Shenk’s work inspired the Emmy-award winning PBS documentary The Forgetting, and was featured in the Oscar-nominated feature Away From Her. He has advised the President’s Council on Bioethics, and is a popular speaker. His original term “data smog” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004.

To visit David’s Amazon page, please click here.

Sunday, June 23, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chip Heath and Olivier Sibony on “Making great decisions”

Heath & Sibony (L)Here is an excerpt from the transcript of a conversation featured by The McKinsey Quarterly during which Stanford’s Chip Heath and McKinsey’s Olivier Sibony discuss new research, fresh frameworks, and practical tools for decision makers. To read the complete transcript, check out other resources, learn more about McKinsey & Company, and register for Quarterly email alerts, please click here.

Source: Strategy Practice

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Every few years, Stanford University professor Chip Heath and his brother, Dan, a senior fellow at Duke University’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE), distill decades of academic research into a tool kit for practitioners. The bicoastal brothers offered advice on effective communications in Made to Stick, on change management in Switch, and now, in their new book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, on making good decisions. It’s a topic that McKinsey’s Olivier Sibony has been exploring for years in his work with senior leaders of global companies and in a number of influential publications. 1

Chip and Olivier recently sat down to compare notes on what matters most for senior leaders who are trying to boost their decision-making effectiveness. Topics included Heath’s new book, research Sibony and University of Sydney professor Dan Lovallo have under way on the styles of different decision makers, and practical tips that they’ve found make a big difference. The discussion, moderated by McKinsey’s Allen Webb, represents a state-of-the-art tour for senior executives hoping to help their organizations, and themselves, become more effective by benefiting from the core insight of behavioral economics: systematic tendencies to deviate from rationality influence all of our decision making.

The Quarterly: What’s the current state of play in real-world efforts to improve decision processes through behavioral economics?

Olivier Sibony: The point we haven’t conveyed effectively enough is that however aware you are of biases, you won’t necessarily be immune. You should see yourself as the architect of the decision-making process, not as a great decision maker enhanced by the knowledge of your biases.

Chip Heath: The analogy I like is how we handle problems with memory. The solution isn’t to focus harder on remembering; it’s to use a system like a grocery-store list. We’re now in a position to think about the decision-making equivalent of the grocery-store list.

Olivier Sibony: We’re doing ourselves a disservice by calling it a decision-making process, because the word “process,” as you point out in your book—

Chip Heath: — It’s boring.

Olivier Sibony: It immediately conjures up images of bureaucracy and slowness and decisions by committee—all things associated with bad management.

Chip Heath: Early in the history of decision making, people were optimistic about a better process called decision analysis. But nobody ever used it, because very few people have the math chops to fold back probabilities in a three-layer decision tree. The process that we’re advocating runs away from decision analysis and bureaucracy. We wanted some tools that someone could use in five or ten minutes that may not make the decision perfect but will improve it substantially.

Olivier Sibony: There are individual solutions and organizational solutions. Perhaps because we’re a consulting firm, we tend to look for organizational solutions. In an article you wrote long ago, Chip, you quote somebody who asks something like, “If people are so bad at making decisions, how did we make it to the moon?” Your answer was that individuals didn’t make it to the moon; NASA did. 2 That insight has been translated into all sorts of operational decision making. It is the fundamental insight behind work in continuous improvement—for instance, when people are trained to go beyond the superficial, proximate cause of a problem by asking “five whys.”

But we don’t apply that insight when we move from shop floors to boardrooms. Partly, that’s because of a lack of awareness. Partly, it’s because the further up the hierarchy you go, the harder it becomes to say, “My judgment is fallible.” Corporate cultures and incentives reward the kind of decision making where you take risks and show confidence and decisiveness, even if sometimes it’s really overconfidence. Recognizing uncertainty and doubt—it’s not the style many executives have when they get to the top.

Chip Heath: Yes, but we’re never really sure when we’re being overconfident and when we’re being appropriately confident. That’s where we go back to processes.

Olivier Sibony: It’s a lot easier to say, “Let’s build a good process so your direct reports have better recommendations for you” than “Let’s come up with a process for you to be challenged by other people.”

Chip Heath: I love that emphasis: “We’re going to help others get you the right recommendations.” We all tend to believe “I’m not subject to biases.” But we can easily believe that others are. I’m curious about your batting average, Olivier. Suppose you walk into an executive group and start talking about the behavioral research and how they could change their processes to overcome biases. Are a third of the people interested? Five percent?

Olivier Simony: If we tell the story like that, it’s zero. But exactly as you just suggested, a lot of executives are open to discussing how their teams could help them make better decisions. So we will say, for example, “Let’s talk about what works and what doesn’t work in your strategic-planning process.” We don’t talk about biases, because no one wants to be told they’re biased; it’s a word with horrible, negative connotations. Instead, we observe that people typically make predictable mistakes in their planning process—for instance, getting anchored on last year’s numbers. That’s OK because we are identifying best practices. We end up embedding this thinking into processes that generate better strategic plans, R&D choices, or M&A decisions.

Chip Heath: The process changes don’t have to be very big. Ohio State University professor Paul Nutt spent a career studying strategic decisions in businesses and nonprofits and government organizations. The number of alternatives that leadership teams consider in 70 percent of all important strategic decisions is exactly one. Yet there’s evidence that if you get a second alternative, your decisions improve dramatically.

One study at a medium-size technology firm investigated a group of leaders who had made a set of decisions ten years prior. They were asked to assess how many of those decisions turned out really well, and the percentage of “hits” was six times higher when the team considered two alternatives rather than just one.

Notes

1 See, for example, Dan Lovallo and Olivier Sibony, “The case for behavioral strategy,” mckinseyquarterly.com, March 2010; and Daniel Kahneman, Dan Lovallo, and Olivier Sibony, “Before you make that big decision,” Harvard Business Review, June 2011, Volume 89, Number 6, pp. 50–60.

2 See Chip Heath, Richard Larrick, and Joshua Klayman, “Cognitive repairs: How organizational practices can compensate for individual shortcomings,” Research in Organizational Behavior, 1998, Volume 20, pp. 1–37.

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To read the complete transcript of this conversation, please click here.

This discussion was moderated by Allen Webb, editor in chief of McKinsey Quarterly, who is based in McKinsey’s Seattle office.

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

Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century

Data-Scientist1-300x240Here is an excerpt from an article written by Thomas H. Davenport and D.J. Patil for the Harvard Business Review. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.

Artwork: Tamar Cohen and Andrew J Buboltz, 2011

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When Jonathan Goldman arrived for work in June 2006 at LinkedIn, the business networking site, the place still felt like a start-up. The company had just under 8 million accounts, and the number was growing quickly as existing members invited their friends and colleagues to join. But users weren’t seeking out connections with the people who were already on the site at the rate executives had expected. Something was apparently missing in the social experience. As one LinkedIn manager put it, “It was like arriving at a conference reception and realizing you don’t know anyone. So you just stand in the corner sipping your drink—and you probably leave early.”Goldman, a PhD in physics from Stanford, was intrigued by the linking he did see going on and by the richness of the user profiles. It all made for messy data and unwieldy analysis, but as he began exploring people’s connections, he started to see possibilities. He began forming theories, testing hunches, and finding patterns that allowed him to predict whose networks a given profile would land in. He could imagine that new features capitalizing on the heuristics he was developing might provide value to users.

But LinkedIn’s engineering team, caught up in the challenges of scaling up the site, seemed uninterested. Some colleagues were openly dismissive of Goldman’s ideas. Why would users need LinkedIn to figure out their networks for them? The site already had an address book importer that could pull in all a member’s connections.

Luckily, Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn’s cofounder and CEO at the time (now its executive chairman), had faith in the power of analytics because of his experiences at PayPal, and he had granted Goldman a high degree of autonomy. For one thing, he had given Goldman a way to circumvent the traditional product release cycle by publishing small modules in the form of ads on the site’s most popular pages.

Through one such module, Goldman started to test what would happen if you presented users with names of people they hadn’t yet connected with but seemed likely to know—for example, people who had shared their tenures at schools and workplaces. He did this by ginning up a custom ad that displayed the three best new matches for each user based on the background entered in his or her LinkedIn profile. Within days it was obvious that something remarkable was taking place. The click-through rate on those ads was the highest ever seen.

Goldman continued to refine how the suggestions were generated, incorporating networking ideas such as “triangle closing”—the notion that if you know Larry and Sue, there’s a good chance that Larry and Sue know each other. Goldman and his team also got the action required to respond to a suggestion down to one click.

It didn’t take long for LinkedIn’s top managers to recognize a good idea and make it a standard feature. That’s when things really took off. “People You May Know” ads achieved a click-through rate 30% higher than the rate obtained by other prompts to visit more pages on the site. They generated millions of new page views. Thanks to this one feature, LinkedIn’s growth trajectory shifted significantly upward.

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To read the complete article, please click here.
Thomas H. Davenport is a visiting professor at Harvard Business School, a senior adviser to Deloitte Analytics, and a co-author of Judgment Calls (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012). D.J. Patil is the data scientist in residence at Greylock Partners, was formerly the head of data products at LinkedIn, and is the author of Data Jujitsu: The Art of Turning Data into Product (O’Reilly Media, 2012).

Thursday, January 17, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: A book review by Bob Morris

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love
Cal Newport
Business Plus (2012)

How and why “the craftsman mindset is the foundation for creating work you love”

Curious, I checked on the etymology of the word “career” and learned this: Origin in 1530s, “a running, course” (especially of the sun, etc., across the sky), from M.Fr. carriere “road, racecourse.” Only centuries later (early 1800s), through the evolution of usage, did the word’s meaning emerge as the “course of a working life.” I mention all this because one of Cal Newport’s primary objectives is to help his reader select the most appropriate career course and remain on it while achieving near-, mid-, and long-term goals; then, if and whenever necessary, adjust the course, pace, and focus to accommodate unforeseen changes. Viewed as a journey, Newport also calls it a “career mission” that serves as “an organizing principle to your working life. It’s what leads people to become famous for what they do and ushers in remarkable opportunities that come along with such fame.”

Years ago during a commencement address at Stanford, Teresa Amabile urged the new graduates to do what they love and love what they do. I think that is excellent advice. I also agree with Newport that it is also very important to develop capabilities, skills that will “trump passion in the quest for work you love.” That is why Newport focuses on what he calls “the craftsman mindset,” one that focuses on what you can offer to the world. Unlike “the passion mindset” that focuses on what the world can offer you, the craftsman mindset “asks you to leave behind self-centered concerns about whether your job is ‘just right,’ and instead put your head down and plug away at getting really damn good. No one owes you a great career, it argues; you need to earn it — and the process won’t be easy.”

Here are a few of the dozens of passages that caught my eye:

o   Rule #1: “Don’t Follow Your Passion” (Pages 3-26)
o   The Science of Passion: Three Conclusions (14-19)
o   Craftsman Mindset vs. Passion Mindset (49-55)
o   Rule #2: “Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You” (29-101)
[Note: Newport explains that this comment was made by Steve Martin during an appearance on "The Charlie Rose Show."]
o   “The Career Capital Theory of Great Work” (42-57)
o   Rule #3: “Turn Down a Promotion/or Control” (105-143)
o   “Control Traps” (115-131)
o   “The Law of Financial Liability” (137-141)
o   Rule #4: “Think Small, Act Big/The Importance of Mission” (147-197)

Newport devotes the final chapter to a brief but revealing discussion of his own “quest” to (a) answer the question, “How do people end up loving what they do?” and (b) obtain a faculty appointment at a university. He explains how he achieved both objectives.  Near the end of the book, he observes, “Once you build up the career capital that these skills generate [and others value highly], invest it wisely. Use it to acquire control over what you do and how you do it, and to identify and act on a life-changing mission. This philosophy is less sexy than the fantasy of dropping everything to go live among the monks in the mountains, but it’s also a philosophy that has been shown time and again to actually work.”

No brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of the information, insights, and counsel that Cal Newport provides. However, I hope that those who read this review will have at least a sense of what his purposes are and how well he serves them. Presumably he agrees with me that it would be a fool’s errand to attempt to act upon, immediately, all of his suggestions. Read strategically, highlight whichever passages are most important, formulate a “game plan,” and then proceed with both determination and patience during your own journey of self-discovery. Bon voyage!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John Perry on “Structured Procrastination”

In his recently published book, The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging, and Postponing, John Perry observes:

“All procrastinators put off things they have to do. Structured procrastination is the art of making this negative trait work for you. The key idea is that procrastination does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things such as gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it…The procrastinator can be motivated to difficult, timely, and important tasks, however, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.

“Structured procrastination means shaping the structure of the tasks one has to do in a way that exploits this fact. In your mind, or perhaps written down somewhere, you have a list if things you want to accomplish, ordered by importance. You might even call this your priority list. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. But there are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower on the list. Doing those tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure the procrastinator be comes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.”

One of these days, I may give some serious thought to these observations….

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John Perry is an emeritus professor of philosophy at Stanford University. His essay “Structured Procrastination” won a 2011 Ig Nobel Prize in Literature and he was then able to complete the book by putting off grading papers and evaluating dissertation topics.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There Is No Invisible Hand

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Jonathan Schlefer for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.

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One of the best-kept secrets in economics is that there is no case for the invisible hand. After more than a century trying to prove the opposite, economic theorists investigating the matter finally concluded in the 1970s that there is no reason to believe markets are led, as if by an invisible hand, to an optimal equilibrium — or any equilibrium at all. But the message never got through to their supposedly practical colleagues who so eagerly push advice about almost anything. Most never even heard what the theorists said, or else resolutely ignored it.

Of course, the dynamic but turbulent history of capitalism belies any invisible hand. The financial crisis that erupted in 2008 and the debt crises threatening Europe are just the latest evidence. Having lived in Mexico in the wake of its 1994 crisis and studied its politics, I just saw the absence of any invisible hand as a practical fact. What shocked me, when I later delved into economic theory, was to discover that, at least on this matter, theory supports practical evidence.

Adam Smith suggested the invisible hand in an otherwise obscure passage in his Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776. He mentioned it only once in the book, while he repeatedly noted situations where “natural liberty” does not work. Let banks charge much more than 5% interest, and they will lend to “prodigals and projectors,” precipitating bubbles and crashes. Let “people of the same trade” meet, and their conversation turns to “some contrivance to raise prices.” Let market competition continue to drive the division of labor, and it produces workers as “stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become.”

In the 1870s, academic economists began seriously trying to build “general equilibrium” models to prove the existence of the invisible hand. They hoped to show that market trading among individuals, pursuing self-interest, and firms, maximizing profit, would lead an economy to a stable and optimal equilibrium.

Leon Walras, of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, thought he had succeeded in 1874 with his Elements of Pure Economics, but economists concluded that he had fallen far short. Finally, in 1954, Kenneth Arrow, at Stanford, and Gerard Debreu, at the Cowles Commission at Yale, developed the canonical “general-equilibrium” model, for which they later won the Nobel Prize. Making assumptions to characterize competitive markets, they proved that there exists some set of prices that would balance supply and demand for all goods. However, no one ever showed that some invisible hand would actually move markets toward that level. It is just a situation that might balance supply and demand if by happenstance it occurred.

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To read the complete post, please click here.

Jonathan Schlefer is author of The Assumptions Economists Make (Belknap/Harvard, 2012). The former editor of Technology Review, he holds a Ph.D. in political science from MIT and is currently a research associate at Harvard Business School.

To read more more blog posts by Jonathan Schlefer, please click here.

Saturday, June 9, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Morten Hansen on “How Great Leaders Make Their Own Luck”

Morten Hansen is a professor at University of California, Berkeley, and at INSEAD, France. He was previously a professor at Harvard Business School for a number of years. Prior to joining Harvard University, Hansen obtained his Ph.D. from the business school at Stanford University. In addition to his academic career, Hansen was a management consultant with the Boston Consulting Group in the London, Stockholm and San Francisco offices. He was part of the research teams for the international best-selling books Built to Last and Good to Great. Hansen’s research on collaboration has won several prestigious awards, including the best article awards from Sloan Management Review and Administrative Science Quarterly, the leading academic journal in the field. Several of his Harvard Business Review articles have been bestsellers for a number of years. He regularly consults with companies on collaboration and gives keynotes at leadership conferences. His new management book is Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results (Harvard Business School Press, 2009) and, more recently, Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, co-authored with Jim Collins (HarperBusiness, 2011). A native of Norway, Hansen holds a Master’s degree in finance from London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. in Business Administration from Stanford University where he was a Fulbright scholar.

To watch an interview of Morten during which he shares his thoughts about “How Great Leaders Make Their Own Luck” please click here.

To read my interview of Morten and Jim Collins, please click here.

 

 

 

Monday, June 4, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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