Paul J.H. Schoemaker is a pioneer in the field of decision sciences, among the first to combine the practical ideas of decision theory, behavioral economics, scenario planning, and risk management into a set of strategic decision-making tools for managers. He is co-author of a landmark book on the subject, Winning Decisions: Getting It Right the First Time. He has written nine books, the latest of which is Brilliant Mistake: Findings Success on the Far Side of Failure (Wharton Digital Press 2012). In addition, he has written over 100 academic and applied papers, which have appeared in such diverse journals as the Harvard Business Review, the Journal of Mathematical Psychology, Brain and Behavioral Sciences, and The Journal of Economic Literature. Given their global applicability, his writings appear in at least 14 languages. His scholarly work ranks in the top one percent in academic citations globally as measured by the International Science Index (www.ISIHighlyCited.com). He is also an entrepreneur: he is founder and executive chairman of Decision Strategies International, Inc. Finally, Paul is a dedicated educator: he is research director of the Mack Center for Technological Innovation at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, served for five years as a director of the Decision Education Foundation, conducted hundreds of lectures and executive seminars around the world. A native of the Netherlands, Paul lives on the East Coast with his wife; they have two children.
Here is my interview of Paul. To read the complete interview, please click here.
* * *
Morris: When and why did you decide to Brilliant Mistakes?
Schoemaker: Two issues have always intrigued me. First, when the founder of Honda claims that success is 99% failure, I wonder why we label the necessary steps toward success in such a negative way? Failure and its twin sister “mistake” too often get a bad rap. Second, when executives tell me that they learned the most in their careers from mistakes, I wonder why they don’t make a few more. In the book, I suggest that we should make more mistakes (given how valuable they often are), but most people deeply reject that seemingly silly notion. I was also fascinated with Thomas Watson’s counter-intuitive advice, as founder and Chairman of IBM, that if you want to succeed faster, you need to make more mistakes. Our ambivalence about mistakes in business seemed an underdeveloped topic to me, especially the paradoxical notion that some errors will prove to be brilliant over time.
To learn maximally from mistakes, we need to commit more errors than we deem optimal as judged within the bounds of our limited rationality. This idea may be hard to swallow. Yet, it is the quintessential insight of this book. To my way of thinking, mistakes can be brilliant in two ways. The first is to learn from an unexpected setback so much that it starts to dwarf the cost of the mistake. The second way, which is more difficult to achieve, is to create strategies, organizations or cultures where people can make the types if mistakes where the learning benefits far exceeds the cost of the mistake.
Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.
Schoemaker: Hardly any “head-snapping revelations,” but certainly a few surprises. Successful people tend to have a different view about mistakes than most ordinary people. Not only are they more tolerant of them (in themselves and others), but they often embrace them. Notable examples are Steve Jobs who celebrated his mistakes during a commencement speech at Stanford, or C.K. Rowling who argued that she could not have produced the astoundingly successful Harry Potter series (books, movies, accessories) without having hit rock bottom first.
In the arts and humanities, people embrace mistakes more readily than in business, I feel. As trumpet great Wynton Marsalis put it so well, if you are not making mistakes, you are not playing jazz – you are not trying. I believe the same applies to life, since that requires a great deal of improvisation as well. I don’t think that perfectionists, or people who eschew mistakes for other reasons, realize their full potential as human beings, either for themselves or others
A surprising conclusion is that people who are more risk-averse should make more deliberate mistakes, since they can be used as hedges. This was counter-intuitive to me at first. A strong portfolio case can be made for investing in mistakes. For a risk-averse decision maker, it may be worth putting some money in a project expected to yield a loss provided this investment offers a sufficient hedge in case other investments sour. Even though that seemingly inferior project will not raise profit expectations, it can help reduce losses in case bad scenarios happen. Similarly, a deliberate mistake can be viewed as a hedge against conventional wisdom, one that will have a high payoff when the majority view of the crowd happens to be wrong (but a loss otherwise in all likelihood).
Morris: Please explain the approach you take in the book to establish a case for making brilliant mistakes.
Schoemaker: In the book, I draw more on behavioral decision theory and its close cousin, behavioral economics, than portfolio theory or options thinking. Because humans suffer from bounded rationality and furthermore don’t know what they don’t know, the only way to overcome myopic frames, overconfidence, and incremental career progress is to innovate beyond the bounds of our self-limiting world views. I describe a long list of past business mistakes – as judged by the conventional wisdom at the time – that proved to be brilliant. These include personal copiers, selling via pet stores, ATM machines, credit cards for students, organic food, fractional jet ownership, and tobacco-free cigarettes. Just as these ideas were ridiculed at the time, there are many silly ideas floating around today in business that will prove to be brilliant in the future. The challenge for managers is to recognize them, and this can only happen if leaders create sufficient space for productive mistakes to occur. In most companies, brilliant mistake may already have been made, but the brilliant part lies dormant because there is little appetite or capacity to mine the mistake. Since the tuition was paid, why not extract the lesson?
Morris: All of your previous books are research-driven. Is that also true of Brilliant Mistakes?
Schoemaker: I build on the strong foundation of decades of research in behavioral economics and decision psychology. I offer a practical plan for separating destructive from constructive mistakes, for learning to make more of the brilliant kind. I encourage leaders to embrace this quality, to milk it for all of its evolutionary and learning potential. For those rationalists who deem the notion of a Brilliant Mistake to be an oxymoron, I would recommend that they take a portfolio view. A strong case can be made for investing in projects that are expected to yield a negative return. For a risk-averse decision maker, it may be worth putting some money in a project expected to yield a loss provided this investment offers a sufficient hedge in case other investments sour. Even though that seemingly inferior project will not raise profit expectations, it can help reduce losses in case bad scenarios happen. Similarly, a deliberate mistake can be viewed as a hedge against conventional wisdom, one that will have a high payoff when the majority view of the crowd happens to be wrong (but a loss otherwise in all likelihood). My book provides the formal argument for those interested.
Morris: Mistakes can either be intentional or unintentional. Please cite a few examples of mistakes (i.e. those that are deliberate and purposeful) can be beneficial.
Schoemaker: Mistakes have been the cause of great discoveries and revolutionary new insights. It was bad judgment that led the Wright brothers to try to fly: everybody knew at the time that humans couldn’t fly and never would. In 1895, just eight years before their fragile construct took to the air, Lord Kelvin, the esteemed British mathematician, physicist and president of the British Royal Society, had unambiguously declared that “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”
It was relative ignorance that prompted Albert Einstein, a lowly patent clerk in a Swiss law office, to pose some silly questions about the nature of time, space and energy. Albert Einstein made at least 23 mistakes in his published (and refereed) scientific publications. Some of these were necessary to achieve his monumental insights about the deeper forces of nature.
At a more mundane level, I describe a young woman deciding to date any person asking her out and in the end marrying someone she wouldn’t have given a second look. She was willing to test her preconceived notions about Mr. Right and companies should perhaps do likewise when hiring new talent. Hiring in your own image is seldom the best approach.
Morris: In the Preface to Brilliant Mistakes, you observe, “For most people, the problem is not that they make too many mistakes but too few.” Are there any examples of that in your own experiences thus far?
Schoemaker: Although there has not been that much brilliance in my own life, there are several personal examples that I would consider “brilliant” mistakes at my own level. One concerns my decision to take a two-year sabbatical with Royal Dutch/Shell’s planning group in London just after having been promoted to associate professor at the University of Chicago. Many colleagues deemed this a mistake since my academic career was going well and leaving the world of scholarship might cast doubt on my commitment to research etc. This risk was indeed real, and my two-year absence from publishing probably did not help my academic career. But it also opened up new vistas about life beyond academia and led me to found Decision Strategies International, which for 20 years now has served leading companies around the world in the fields of strategy and decision making.
The second mistake concerned our family’s move from Chicago to Philadelphia without there being any single compelling reason to do so. We were quite happy in Chicago but I left nonetheless to be closer to family, friends and colleagues I had worked with in academia and business. It turned out to be a great move, without regrets and many new experiences that Chicago would probably not have offered.
In the book I describe a third example, where our company decided – against its better judgment – to respond to Requests for Proposals (RFPs) that came in over the transom. We had good reasons to believe it would be a waste of time to pursue such RFPs, but then decided to challenge this key assumption. It turned out that we were wrong; some of these random RFPs proved quite valuable to us in terms of new clients and growth.
Morris: Which factors have the greatest impact on a decision’s outcome? Which of them seems to have the greatest impact? Why?
Schoemaker: Companies that want to compete on innovation are well-advised to become more error-tolerant in practice and develop better methods for capturing the lessons from mistakes. Such companies should also emphasize that managers (especially younger ones) who are involved in project failures, are to be viewed as being on a fast learning track, rather than an exit track. Given the significance of failures and mistakes that have led to success, there is potential value from the lessons learned if they are documented, captured and shared. Career development benefits should follow for those involved in the right kinds of failure, assuming they learn and apply the lessons to avoid mistakes in the future. This can be tested via performance reviews as well as actual on-the-job behavior.
The deeper challenge in all this is that leaders must learn how to celebrate the egg that people invariably have on their face, award. This president of an Ann Arbor business decided to institute a Golden Egg to make sure his organization would extract as much learning as possible from past failures. This story is detailed in the book. His viewpoint was that mistakes are valuable assets that belong to the organization. To hide them and not share the lessons would amount to destroying shareholder wealth. At first, few managers wanted to receive the Golden Egg award, but after a while it became much sought after. Winners would proudly regale visitors in their office with the tale of their failed venture and proudly share its lessons. The president created a true learning culture.
* * *
To read the complete interview, please click here.
Paul cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
Home Page: please click here.
Wharton’s Mack Center: please click here.
His Amazon page: please click here.
His Wikipedia page: please click here.
A video: please click here.
Everybody probably has a bad boss horror story or two. And there are some genuine horror stories out there.
But, there are good bad tough bosses and bad tough bosses. What is the difference? One difference may be this: is the boss tough because the end result is worth all the coaching, coaxing, demonstrating, demanding, until the people get it right?
I think Steve Jobs and Twyla Tharp are two great exemplars of this kind of tough boss.
I recently ran across this wonderful 2006 article about the Kennedy Center Honoree Twyla Tharp, To Dance Beneath the Diamond Skies by Alex Witchel. Here are some key excerpts:
But it is probably time to say this: There was not a person in that theater, including the 19 performers, musicians and production staff, who did not admire Tharp. Those new to her are scared of her, those used to her are over her, because they know that behind the barking lies a devotion to them, to the work — always, always the work — that is religious in its fervor. Yes, she is a control freak, a perfectionist, a zealot in forming a vision and stopping at nothing to see it realized. But when it is realized, when her dances are good-better-best, flying off the stage like some biblical fire on a mountaintop, there is nothing in the world like them. Twenty-three years ago, Robert Joffrey said that Tharp’s work “didn’t look like anyone else’s.” It still doesn’t.
“There is nothing in the world like them.” The end result may just be worth the cost it took to get there. She simply made the best better. And she also made the “average” much better than ever before. In her book, The Collaborative Habit, Tharp wrote:
As a choreographer, my task is to make the best possible work with the dancers I find in the room on any given day.
This is simply the greatest description of the day-to-day work of being the boss I have ever read. It is the job of the boss (manager, supervisor) to make the best possible work with the people in the room, on the team, at any given time.
By the way, there is a wonderful story in the article about the time Twyla Tharp had to show Baryshnikov how it needed to be done:
Huot sat at one of the computers and played footage of Baryshnikov in rehearsal. “What’s that?” Tharp asked shortly. “This is the one where he can’t do what you do,” Huot said, his tone gently teasing. “It’s your favorite thing in the world, which is why I kept it for you.” On the tape, Baryshnikov held a cigarette, shirtless, as Tharp demonstrated the steps. Hers were vivid, crisp. His were blurry, indistinct. Impatiently, she showed him again. He turned away.
“That’s right, go pout,” Tharp said mockingly to the screen. The next shots were of him in performance, his steps breathtaking. “Yeah, he got it,” Tharp said.
She knew how to do the steps; she demonstrated the steps, and she pushed Baryshnikov until he “got it.”
…To be a Tharp dancer is to master complex, intricate movements and steps that can defy gravity — in 1975 Baryshnikov told The Times: “It is very difficult to learn her steps.. . .One variation alone took me three weeks to learn, working a few hours every day.”
Regarding Jobs, the stories are endless, and somewhat legendary. He certainly could be something of a world-class pain to work with. But, he too could bring out the very best in people – more than they knew they had in them. Consider these revealing excerpts from the Walter Isaacson book, Steve Jobs:
For all of his obnoxious behavior, Jobs also had the ability to instill in his team an esprit de corps. After tearing people down, he would find ways to lift them up and make them feel that being part of the Macintosh project was an amazing mission. Every six months he would take most of his team on a two-day retreat at a nearby resort.
Jobs had latched onto what he believed was a key management lesson from his Macintosh experience: You have to be ruthless if you want to build a team of A players. “It’s too easy, as a team grows, to put up with a few B players, and they then attract a few more B players, and soon you will even have some C players,” he recalled. “The Macintosh experience taught me that A players like to work only with other A players, which means you can’t indulge B players.”
“What I’m best at doing is finding a group of talented people and making things with them,” he told the magazine.
Business Week asked him why he treated employees so harshly, Jobs said it made the company better.
…and his great talent, Jobs said, was to “get A performances out of B players.” At Apple, Jobs told him, he would get to work with A players.
The literature about leadership is pretty unanimous about this key role a leader plays. In Liz Wiseman’s book, Multipliers, she writes that the leader has to “multiply” the good effects of the workers, and never diminish them. A good leader “multiplies’ the results of the workers he/she leads. In Kouzes and Pozner’s Encouraging the Heart, they argue that for people to be their best, they must be encouraged, in their hearts, by the one who leads them. And when they are so encouraged, they become more productive, actually better at their jobs.
Whatever Twyla Tharp and Steve Jobs had, or did, it worked. They both developed quite a track record of bringing out the very best in the people who worked for them. (Of course, Twyla Tharp is still at it…).
If you are a leader, this is the test, isn’t it? Are you making your people better? Are you pushing them to do more than they even knew they could do? Are you making the average much better, and the best even better still?
If not, you’ve got some leadership skills to develop.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Dorie Clark 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.
* * *
What kind of leaders do we need today?
Steve Jobs — mysterious, charismatic, intriguing — is often cited as one of the recent greats, and there are clearly benefits to his style. A recent study showed that leaders like him — those perceived as having an almost magical aura — are seen as visionary, with employees and customers clamoring to touch the hem of their garments. But that kind of leadership also has its limitations.
Succession is made harder by a towering and mysterious personality (good luck, Tim Cook). And, even more importantly, there’s no formula for becoming charismatic. You could try to model others — emulating Jobs’ cool reserve, exacting standards, and mercurial temper, for instance. But the nuances are subtle; you’re just as likely to come off as aloof or entitled, rather than intriguing. The harder, but more rewarding, path as a leader is to make yourself known — to your employees, your customers, and the public. Here are three reasons the new leadership imperative is all about transparency.
To know you is to love you. Well, love might be strong. But you want your employees to at least like you and understand where you’re coming from — because, as copious research has shown, money isn’t a good motivational tool. Rather, what will make them go above and beyond is their relationship and loyalty to you — and you’ll never get that if you don’t let them know you as a person. (Customers, being human, also like to form relationships with real people, not just faceless organizations.) Lunch meetings and feedback sessions are a great place to start, and if you’re managing across continents or your workforce is simply too large, don’t underestimate the power of video. Your personality and enthusiasm can come through just as clearly on YouTube. (A great example is this 2009 video featuring Best Buy Chief Marketing Officer Barry Judge, in which he explains his philosophy of marketing and how the company should interact with customers.)
* * *
To read the complete article, please click here.
Dorie Clark is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the National Park Service. She is the author of the forthcoming Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press 2013). You can follow her on Twitter at @dorieclark.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Dave Logan for CBS MoneyWatch, the CBS Interactive Business Network. To read the complete article, check out an abundance of valuable resources, and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the website’s newsletters, please click here.
* * *
(MoneyWatch) Innovation is great fun to study, filled with inspiring stories — 3M’s invention of Post-it note glue, Xerox’s development of the graphic user interface or the many stories about Steve Jobs’ last few years at Apple. Equally interesting is the fact that most approaches to innovation backfire, resulting in the entrepreneurial spirit being broken by people who are trying to make it flourish.
Innovation cannot be managed — a lesson China, and most big companies — need to learn. It can, however, be led, and here are [two of] four ways to do just that:
1. Focus on the immediate need, not the long-term problem. Airbnb connects people looking for places to stay to those with floor space, rooms and entire apartments or houses to rent. The company had its first major success in Denver during the Democratic National Conference, when then-Senator Obama received his party’s nomination. More people wanted to be in Denver than Denver had hotel rooms. The stories of Obama supporters opening their homes to other supporters, and Airbnb’s role in making the connections, made international news. After that initial success, web traffic and listings dropped to near zero. Soon after, the company needed cash — immediately. They focused on what they knew — how to get stories in the international press, and also Obama supporters. Airbnb deviated from its core business and introduced Obama O’s cereal, which carried the subtitle “hope in every bowl.” They also introduced Cap’n McCains (“a maverick in every bite”), although Obama O’s was a bigger hit. After printing up boxes and securing cereal, they sent sample boxes to reporters, and the story went global. Orders surged – getting the company the cash it needed. Notice that Airbnb focused on the immediate problem — getting cash – not the long-term problem of not enough business for its core operations.
2. Highlight scarcity. Many people think — erroneously — that innovation results from blue-sky thinking, or people having a lot of free time. The truth is that necessity is the mother of invention, and also of innovation. Said differently, scarcity drives innovation, according to numerous studies. The problem is that many companies wait too long before admitting there’s a problem, not giving innovation enough time to offer solutions. Airbnb illustrates this point — the founders focused on the lack of cash (the scarce resource), and did so in time to do something about it (barely). When caught in time, people will often respond to scarce resources by combining their creativity. Scarce viewers force advertisers to find new ways to reach people, just as wars increase technological innovation, especially on the side facing a disadvantage. The scarcities inherent in sending people the moon famously drove NASA and its contractors to create many technological breakthroughs.
* * *
To read the complete article, please click here.
“Making innovation work quickly is the subject of my personal blog, where you can also download a segment from a course on innovation, based on content from my course in the USC Executive MBA program.”
Dave Logan is a USC faculty member, management consultant, and the best-selling author of four books including Tribal Leadership and The Three Laws of Performance. He is also Senior Partner of CultureSync, a management consulting firm, which he co-founded in 1997.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Simon Rucker 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.
* * *
If you want to create a really transformational innovation, you’d better be in an organization that’s designed to support, not merely tolerate, someone as challenging as Steve Jobs. Otherwise forget it.
“No Simon,” I know many of you are thinking, “that’s not how it works these days: Innovation is all about flat structures, empathy, co-creation…” — you know the stuff.
But are you sure?
Collegiality may make the process more pleasant and more fun, but that’s a recipe for becoming an innovation also-ran.
And before I get a torrent of success stories to show me how wrong I am — all of those results from “nice” innovation processes — let me specify here that I’m not talking about incremental invention. I’m talking about big, bold, necessary, save-the-world innovations. I struggle to think of any that were engendered by fairness, politeness, and generally getting along with everybody.
Ironically, these days, anybody in charge of that kind of innovation always seems to kick off an initiative with a variation on “We want to be the Apple/ iPod/ iPhone of xxx.” But whenever I hear people invoking the spirit of Apple, it always brings to mind the Irish joke, “Well, if that’s where you want to go, I wouldn’t start from here…”
The reality is that neither Jobs’ uncompromising management style nor the sort of unconventional processes he used at Apple to redefine the music, personal computer, and phones industries would survive long in most organizations today, let alone receive the kind of support that would allow them to thrive. Even those organizations whose core businesses are unwell — think Motorola, the music industry, Sony, or indeed any of Japan’s major electronics groups — don’t seem to be willing to let loose the flux, dissent, and dangerous ideas necessary to the transformational innovation process.
Why? I think the pervasiveness of the nicely-nicely work culture has a lot to do with it. It slows down and obfuscates the transformational innovation process because it creates the expectation that work should be fun and devoid of the difficult situations, demands, and emotions the process creates.
We have a saying in my team (a paraphrase of a slogan most recently used by the
Conservative party in the UK): “Yes it hurts. Yes it works!” It means that we realize that the process of getting to the best answer, decision, or solution is painful. It requires a robust constitution and a thick skin. It requires more than a desire to get ahead or make a quick buck or be seen to be doing something. It requires dogged persistence — the perspiration Edison so famously said was 99% of the process.
Edison and Jobs, in fact, have a lot in common. Some of Edison’s less well-known characteristics included insisting on having the final say, ruthlessly taking credit for and ownership of other people’s work, and regularly driving his Menlo Park employees to the breaking point. In other words, he was a challenging personality, albeit an extremely charismatic one. It probably helped that he was the boss.
* * *
To read the complete article, please click here.
Simon Rucker is an associate director at global design and innovation company Seymourpowell, based in London.
An expert in the fields of charisma, trust, influence and persuasion, Olivia Fox Cabane gives people the skills and the self-confidence that lead to outstanding performance. From a base of thorough behavioral science, she extracts the most practical tools for business; giving her clients techniques she originally developed for Harvard and MIT. Olivia has lectured at Stanford, Yale, Harvard, MIT and the United Nations; she is a frequent keynote speaker and executive coach to the leadership of Fortune 500 companies. In addition to being a regular columnist for Forbes, she is often featured in media such as The New York Times, Bloomberg or BusinessWeek; and was recently profiled in The Wall Street Journal. A former Advisory Board Member of Columbia University’s AIESEC Council, Olivia has both French and American nationalities and is fluent in four languages. She is the youngest person ever to have been appointed Foreign Trade Advisor to the French Government. Her latest book is The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism, published by Portfolio/The Penguin Group (2012)
Here is an excerpt from my interview of her. To read the complete interview, please click here.
* * *
Morris: Before discussing The Charisma Myth, a few general questions. Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.
Cabane: In my late teenage years I was such a socially inept and awkward introvert that I realized I really only had two choices: either exile myself to a desert island or figure out how to make this whole human thing work. I chose the latter– but I’m still keeping the desert island option open… By my late teens I had become quite anxious about my ability to ever smoothly function in society, and was therefore extremely keen to study anything that might help me interact better with other people.
Morris: All organizations need effective leadership at all levels and in all areas. How best to develop that leadership?
Cabane: The one perspective that I can bring to the table is on how leaders can be charismatic; high charisma can certainly be useful in effective leadership. There are costs to be borne depending on what sorts of charisma you want to wield. Effective leaders need to understand what sort of charisma they’ve got, and the costs associated with that. A good leader might want to enhance their natural form of charisma or develop alternative forms, appropriate to the costs that they think are acceptable.
Morris: Many peak performers in executive search claim that they can make an accurate, almost definitive evaluation of a candidate within the first 3-5 minutes of an interview. Is that possible? Please explain.
Cabane: Whether or not such an impression is accurate, the fact is that people do make snap judgments in about two seconds, regarding other people’s education, intelligence, trustworthiness, and even their level of social success. This topic is explored in the book in some depth, including how you can take control of, and influence, such snap judgments
Morris: When asked why she wrote Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, here is Susan Cain’s response: “For the same reason that Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1963. Introverts are to extroverts what women were to men at that time–second-class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent. Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to ‘pass’ as extroverts. The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and, ultimately, happiness.”
Do you agree? If so, how can introverts obtain “full citizenship”?
Cabane: One of the myths that get busted in the book is that introversion is a handicap for charisma. In reality, introversion can be a major asset for certain forms of charisma, such as Focused Charisma. Introverts feel no compulsion to be in the spotlight, which allows them to effectively implement many of the likability techniques described in the book.
Morris: Now please shift your attention to The Charisma Myth. When and why did you decide to write it?
Cabane: The honest answer is that the publisher came to me, because they’d heard about the lectures that I give and the consulting that I do in this area. They were interested in charisma explained from the science perspective, and they understood that there simply aren’t many people who know the hard science behind it, and who can also make it fun, and engaging, and practical.
Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.
Cabane: There were quite a few! Here are two of my favorites. The first has to do with just how prevalent the impostor syndrome is, and just how high the levels of business are that it reaches. The second is about how effective some real-life Jedi Mind Tricks are, in terms of achieving charismatic body language.
Morris: What are the most common misconceptions about charisma? What in fact is true?
Cabane: Long believed to be an innate, magical quality—the original Greek root χάρισμα refers to a gift of divine grace—charisma has in recent years come under the scrutiny of sociologists, psychologists, and cognitive, behavioral, and even neuroscientists who have found that, far from being an innate, magical quality, charisma is simply the result of learned behaviors. In fact, in controlled laboratory experiments, researchers were able to raise and lower people’s levels of charisma as if they were turning a dial just by asking them to adopt specific (charismatic) behaviors
One common charisma myth is that only extroverts are charismatic. In reality, research shows many charismatic introverts. In Western society, we place such emphasis on the skills and abilities of extroverts that introverts can end up feeling defective and uncool. But introversion can actually be an advantage for certain forms of charisma.
Another myth is that charisma requires attractiveness. Yes, good looks do confer some advantage; but they’re not a necessary condition. In fact, charisma itself makes people more attractive. When instructed to exhibit specific charismatic behaviors in controlled experiments, participants’ levels of attractiveness were rated significantly higher than before.
* * *
To read the complete interview, please click here.
Olivia cordially invites you to check out the resources at her website.
Here is an excerpt from John A. Byrne’s cover article by FORTUNE magazine. Great ideas are hard to come by. Putting them to work is even harder. Byrne invites you to meet the founders who turned concepts into companies and changed the face of business.
* * *
When Jeff Bezos came up with the idea for what would become Amazon.com, he went on a stroll in Central Park with his boss at the time to share his epiphany.
Bezos, in 1992, was a senior vice president for the New York hedge fund D.E. Shaw. He described his dream to create a company that would sell books on the Internet. His boss listened intently before offering a bit of advice: “That sounds like a really good idea, but it would be an even better idea for someone who didn’t already have a good job.”
Big ideas of the ground-shifting variety are rare — and hard to pull off. But that’s the difference between the dreamer and the doer. It took Bezos all of 48 hours to decide to quit his job and get started. Some 18 years later, he’s still at the helm of Amazon.com, which has redefined the way people buy almost everything, employs 56,200 people, and is valued at more than $80 billion.
Having spent years studying Bezos and others like him as an author, senior writer, and editor at both Business Week and Fast Company, I can tell you that Bezos is one of those rare birds who have made a meaningful mark on our economy and our world. He would certainly be on anyone’s list of the 12 greatest entrepreneurs of my generation. Who else should make that cut? After spending the better part of the past year pondering that question for a new book, World Changers: 25 Entrepreneurs Who Changed Business as We Knew It (Portfolio Penguin), I was asked by FORTUNE who deserves to be on that list — and what we can learn from each of them.
Many are obvious — from the late Steve Jobs, who helped make Apple the hottest and most valuable company on the planet, to Mark Zuckerberg, who will take Facebook public in what is anticipated to be the biggest IPO of all time (at a value of more than $80 billion). But there will be a few surprises too, such as N.R. Narayana Murthy, the visionary founder of Infosys who has built one of the largest companies in India, helping to transform that economy and put it on the world stage.
Another surprise: Not a single woman makes the list of the top 12 — at a time when women have gathered more influence and power in business than ever before. Oprah Winfrey has leveraged her celebrity into a formidable media empire, and the late Body Shop founder Anita Roddick proved that you could market products by being socially and environmentally responsible. They clearly warrant honorable mention but have not, in my view, transformed the face of business or society in as profound a way as those singled out here.
Admittedly this list of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs is subjective. I based it largely on social and economic impact; the world-changing vision of a founder who has inspired employees and other entrepreneurs alike; a record of innovation; and the actual performance of their companies over time. These founders created and then nurtured healthy, sustainable organizations that now have a combined market value of more than $1.7 trillion. They directly employ more than 3 million people, ranging from a high of 2.1 million at Wal-Mart to just over 3,000 at Facebook.
Yet those numbers only touch the surface. Each of their companies sits at the nucleus of a thriving ecosystem that has cultivated and nurtured dozens if not hundreds of other enterprises. Small companies have thrived as suppliers, for example, to Whole Foods, which, among other things, buys produce from more than 2,000 local farms. So the power of each of these organizations extends far beyond its own walls.
* * *
To read the complete article, please click here.
John A. Byrne is Chairman & Editor-in-Chief at C-Change Media Inc. John A. Byrne is the chairman and CEO of C-Change Media Inc. Until recently, Byrne was editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek.com and executive editor of BusinessWeek. He holds the distinction of authoring a record 58 cover stories in BusinessWeek magazine and is also the author or co-author of eight business books, including two New York Times‘ bestsellers. Byrne had also been editor-in-chief of Fast Company magazine. He founded C-Change Media, a digital media company, to take advantage of the sea change that is roiling the traditional media business. C stands for content, curation and community, the three common attributes of each C-Change web venture.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by James Allworth 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.
* * *
The “zone.” Flow. Whatever you want to call it, at one stage or another, every one of us aspires to get there. It’s when we do our best work, achieve our peak performance. Last weekend, I competed in the New England Masters Swim Championships, and for the past eighteen months I’ve been co-authoring a book. Both of these are endeavors that rely extensively on an ability to get in the zone; they can truly make the difference between a good day and a great one.
But getting there is hard. How can you do it reliably? I’ve had that thought rolling around in my mind for the past couple of weeks since seeing Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot on Twitter wondering aloud about exactly this. Now, you will often hear people talk about the zone in the context of intellectual or athletic pursuits, but rarely both. I’ve been able to apply tactics from each sphere — in sports and in business — to improve my performance in the other, and I wanted to capture some of what I have learned. My experience is that are three broad rules that you have to understand in order to get in the zone:
There’s no zone for new activities: The first time you sit down to do something, you’re not going to find flow; nor the second, or the tenth, and probably not even the hundredth. Why? Getting in the zone requires activating the subconscious part of the brain. The very nature of it requires you not to be trying, not consciously thinking about what it is you’re doing — instead, you’re just doing it. Obviously, it is infinitely more difficult to achieve this if the activity is one at which you’re unpracticed: I am almost certain that nobody dives into the pool for the first time in their life, having never swum before, and manages to achieve flow. There’s simply too much of their conscious brain at work; their brain is working overtime, thinking about everything required to keep them afloat. It works the same way with intellectual pursuits; if you’re an unpracticed writer, or coder, it’s not going to happen the first time you sit down to do it. You’ve got to be at the point where you’ve put in the ten thousand hours of practice or have formed the necessary myelin pathways to have a shot of getting there.
The Zone requires your subconscious: Flow only works when the subconscious takes over from the conscious mind. Being practiced at what you do is necessary, but it’s not sufficient. This is where other techniques start to kick in: meditation is a well-known way of doing exactly this; visualization is, too. But they’re far from the only ones. I’ve heard of a number of unconventional ways of using imagination to great effect. A friend of mine who is a very good swimmer — and also who loves driving cars — doesn’t swim his races by thinking about swimming, as such. Instead, he imagines himself “driving” his body through the race in what he describes as an almost out-of-body experience. He even imagines a “Go Baby Go” button for his finishes (from Gone In 60 Seconds). I thought it pretty funny when I first heard that, but I certainly don’t relish racing against him.
This mechanism doesn’t just work in athletic pursuits, either. There’s the famous example of Steve Jobs, disappointed with the boot time of the Macintosh. He walked into the cubicle of Larry Kenyon. Kenyon was trying to explain why it took as long as it did — but Jobs cut him off. “If it could save a person’s life, would you find a way to shave ten seconds off the boot time?” Kenyon ended up finding the time; and not just 10 seconds, but 28. I can’t help but wonder whether he actually imagined saving someone’s life as he wrote the code.
The Zone is emotional. Some emotions will help you find flow; others will scare it off. One field in which finding flow can be absolutely essential to success is presenting — and good presenters who love their job will talk about their ability to drop in on the zone as one of the best parts about their jobs. Being passionate about the topic, and a deep, almost-religious conviction in what they are talking about seem to be the common ingredients of those who find flow while presenting. What’s interesting is that in talented amateur presenters, you can often see the progression into the zone — at first, they’re worried about what people are thinking, and this feeling of self-consciousness just stops them from finding flow… until, they relax, they realize they’re doing OK. They find their feet and slip into the zone.
* * *
These are all hypotheses based on personal experience, and those of some friends and colleagues who I have spoken to on the subject. I know that everyone is going to have different experiences within the categories (e.g. different music!) — and even different categories altogether. I’d love to hear what you have found to work — and what you think I’m totally wrong on. What puts you in the zone?
* * *
Allworth then offers and discovers five specific tactics that have been very successful for him and other results-driven people. To read the complete article, please click here. He is the co-author of the forthcoming book How Will You Measure Your Life? with Clayton Christensen and Karen Dillon (May 15, 2012). He has worked as a Fellow at the Forum for Growth and Innovation at Harvard Business School. Connect with him on Twitter at @jamesallworth. To check out more blog posts by James Allworth, please click here.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Walter Isaacson 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.
* * *
His saga is the entrepreneurial creation myth writ large: Steve Jobs cofounded Apple in his parents’ garage in 1976, was ousted in 1985, returned to rescue it from near bankruptcy in 1997, and by the time he died, in October 2011, had built it into the world’s most valuable company. Along the way he helped to transform seven industries: personal computing, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, retail stores, and digital publishing. He thus belongs in the pantheon of America’s great innovators, along with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Walt Disney. None of these men was a saint, but long after their personalities are forgotten, history will remember how they applied imagination to technology and business.
In the months since my biography of Jobs came out, countless commentators have tried to draw management lessons from it. Some of those readers have been insightful, but I think that many of them (especially those with no experience in entrepreneurship) fixate too much on the rough edges of his personality. The essence of Jobs, I think, is that his personality was integral to his way of doing business. He acted as if the normal rules didn’t apply to him, and the passion, intensity, and extreme emotionalism he brought to everyday life were things he also poured into the products he made. His petulance and impatience were part and parcel of his perfectionism.
One of the last times I saw him, after I had finished writing most of the book, I asked him again about his tendency to be rough on people. “Look at the results,” he replied. “These are all smart people I work with, and any of them could get a top job at another place if they were truly feeling brutalized. But they don’t.” Then he paused for a few moments and said, almost wistfully, “And we got some amazing things done.” Indeed, he and Apple had had a string of hits over the past dozen years that was greater than that of any other innovative company in modern times: iMac, iPod, iPod nano, iTunes Store, Apple Stores, MacBook, iPhone, iPad, App Store, OS X Lion—not to mention every Pixar film. And as he battled his final illness, Jobs was surrounded by an intensely loyal cadre of colleagues who had been inspired by him for years and a very loving wife, sister, and four children.
So I think the real lessons from Steve Jobs have to be drawn from looking at what he actually accomplished. I once asked him what he thought was his most important creation, thinking he would answer the iPad or the Macintosh. Instead he said it was Apple the company. Making an enduring company, he said, was both far harder and more important than making a great product. How did he do it? Business schools will be studying that question a century from now. Here are what I consider the keys to his success.
When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, it was producing a random array of computers and peripherals, including a dozen different versions of the Macintosh. After a few weeks of product review sessions, he’d finally had enough. “Stop!” he shouted. “This is crazy.” He grabbed a Magic Marker, padded in his bare feet to a whiteboard, and drew a two-by-two grid. “Here’s what we need,” he declared. Atop the two columns, he wrote “Consumer” and “Pro.” He labeled the two rows “Desktop” and “Portable.” Their job, he told his team members, was to focus on four great products, one for each quadrant. All other products should be canceled. There was a stunned silence. But by getting Apple to focus on making just four computers, he saved the company. “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” he told me. “That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.”
After he righted the company, Jobs began taking his “top 100” people on a retreat each year. On the last day, he would stand in front of a whiteboard (he loved whiteboards, because they gave him complete control of a situation and they engendered focus) and ask, “What are the 10 things we should be doing next?” People would fight to get their suggestions on the list. Jobs would write them down—and then cross off the ones he decreed dumb. After much jockeying, the group would come up with a list of 10. Then Jobs would slash the bottom seven and announce, “We can only do three.”
Focus was ingrained in Jobs’s personality and had been honed by his Zen training. He relentlessly filtered out what he considered distractions. Colleagues and family members would at times be exasperated as they tried to get him to deal with issues—a legal problem, a medical diagnosis—they considered important. But he would give a cold stare and refuse to shift his laserlike focus until he was ready.
Near the end of his life, Jobs was visited at home by Larry Page, who was about to resume control of Google, the company he had cofounded. Even though their companies were feuding, Jobs was willing to give some advice. “The main thing I stressed was focus,” he recalled. Figure out what Google wants to be when it grows up, he told Page. “It’s now all over the map. What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they’re dragging you down. They’re turning you into Microsoft. They’re causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great.” Page followed the advice. In January 2012 he told employees to focus on just a few priorities, such as Android and Google+, and to make them “beautiful,” the way Jobs would have done.
* * *
To read the complete article, please click here.
Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, is the author of Steve Jobs and of biographies of Henry Kissinger, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein.
If you don’t know the right questions to ask and how/when to ask them, you’ll never find the right answers.
I do not know of another business thinker, indeed another person, who asks better questions than Andrew Sobel does and that is a talent he has developed over several decades. Each of his three previously published books was written in direct response to an especially serious business question and his latest book is no exception: How to build relationships, win new business, and influence others? Sobel and co-author Jerold Panas offer and discuss 337 “essential” questions that can obtain information that will help to achieve these three separate but interdependent objectives.
How so “interdependent”? If an organization does not build and constantly strengthen relationships with everyone involved in the given enterprise, it will lose its most valuable employees, clients, and allies and, for the same reasons, fail to replace them. True, this company “influences others” but in all he wrong ways.
Sobel and Panas organize their material within 35 chapters that contain a total of 42 questions (five in Chapter 35) within a narrative significantly enhanced by anecdotes that illustrate the power of questions that can either strengthen or weaken a relationship, increase or reduce the chances of achieving a desired objective. Then 293 additional “Power” questions are provided in the final section, “Not Just for Sunday.”
I really appreciate how cleverly Sobel and Panas frame their material in a reader-friendly fashion. For example, they pose a question and then suggest how and when to use that question most effectively. One of my personal favorites is “Is this the best you can do?” apparently one that many others such as Steve Jobs and Henry Kissinger have frequently posed. Sobel and Panas note that use of this question should be reserved for occasions “when it is especially desirable for someone to do their very best and push themselves to their strained and stretched limits.” I agree. They then suggest when specifically to use the question and alternative versions of the question, and alternative versions of it. This is a clever format repeated throughout the book. Here are three other “Power Questions” that caught my eye:
“What did you learn from that?” (Chapter 16)
Comment: Every setback (don’t call it a failure) should be a valuable learning opportunity.
“Can we start over?” (Chapter 8)
Comment: What isn’t working, what isn’t happening, will often reveal what will. The Lakota suggest never feeding a dead horse.
“What do you wish you could do more of?” (Chapter 25)
Comment: The best career advice I ever encountered was offered by Teresa Amabile during a commencement address at Stanford. In effect, do what you love (and are passionate about) because you will then be doing what you do best. People do not necessarily have to change a position to do what they do best and love most.
Some of the power questions work best in a career situation, others in a personal situation, and still others in both. Think of the 337 questions that Sobel and Panas pose and discuss as a base, a foundation, on which to build skills first exemplified by Socrates (c. 469 BC – 399 BC).
To those who are about to read this brilliant book, I presume to suggest they keep this question in mind: In which situations will asking the right questions be most important to me? For some people, this may well be the most valuable book on building healthy relationships that they will ever read…but only IF they continuously apply effectively what they have learned.