First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Sam Ford: An interview by Bob Morris

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Spreadable Media link

Peppercomm link

Twitter link

HBR blog link

Fast Company link

Inc. link

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

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

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

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

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

Prior to Strategos, David was a Principal at the MAC Group and in Gemini Consulting’s strategy practice. At MAC/Gemini, David focused on marketing and process design for growth issues in the telecommunications industry. David worked domestically and internationally across many of the major telecommunications providers to develop their go-to-market, service, and product development strategies and processes. David earned his MBA at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, and holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University.

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

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

* * *


Morris:
Before discussing The Innovator’s Field Guide, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Skarzynski: Well, that is certainly a long list! Certainly it starts with my family – 5 siblings and Mom and Dad. Specific teachers and colleagues.

Crosswhite:
Like Peter, it starts with family. My parents were both public school teachers. So, education, inquiry and learning were always front and center. And watching the learning and development process of our children has always fascinated and inspired me.

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

Crosswhite: There is a long list of mentors over the years. Each has had their influence. In work habits and ethics. In intellectual and professional development. None of them “famous.” All of them important though.

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

Crosswhite: It was in the early 1990s, during the peak of “re-engineering” which as you know was all about cost cutting and right sizing. We were in the early days of doing this, at the birth of Gemini Consulting

Skarzynski: That’s right. And we were doing the work in a way that explicitly required high engagement of large client teams. At the time the firm was collaborating with C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel. It was then that we thought we really should be applying the “high engagement, client owns this” answers approach to strategy, growth and innovation. So, we took that path along with Gary and C.K, along with other colleagues, particularly Linda Yates, and we never turned back.

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

Crosswhite:
Critical. At every level. In particular my technical education at Lehigh and my MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School. I particularly found some of the logic and frameworks for other disciplines to be enlightening, leading me, I suppose, to be attracted to the craft of developing and enhancing “newer” disciplines like systematic innovation.

Skarzynski:
A profound impact, to be sure. At every level of education, I had the good fortune to experience outstanding teachers. In particular, my liberal arts study at The University of Chicago was immeasurably helpful. The whole focus was on inquiry: Why, why, why. It was impossible to hide from a weak argument. The same was true in graduate study.

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

Skarzynski: How incredibly interesting any organization can be when its leadership is seriously committed to growth and the full engagement of its employees.

Crosswhite: I think the entire OD discipline is fascinating when done well. The difference between what organizations say they want to get done vs. what they do can often be great. So learning and applying principles and techniques of change management in service of specific, meaningful goals is hard to do, but very rewarding when done well.

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

Crosswhite:
The Godfather, Part II. It is a legitimate contender. There are two strategy stories here, one a success and one a failure: Vito’s story is one of success of bringing people together by understanding their unmet needs in the community and Michael’s story is one of failure of ruthless independence that results in his complete and utter isolation. Vito shows that business is highly personal and depends on community while Michael shows that impersonal business is more than a failure, it’s a tragedy. Of course, there’s ethics to be considered with this example.

Skarzynski: I like G2 also. And ethics, for sure is an issue with the example. But Dave’s movie choice surfaces an important point: Business success builds from doing the right thing, the right way.

You see this notion emerging prominently in business literature now. Stephen Denning writes about this in Forbes. And Dov Seidman and Clay Christensen speak well on it. How will any individual – and of all of us working in organizations – how will our actions help individuals be better people.

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

Skarzynski: Too many to name! Here are three. And I owe these to my kids and wife who recommended each to me. Boys in the Boat is a great book speaking to the need for individual excellence in the context of a team (the boat) excellence in which every person (seat) must play their uniquely valuable role. Second, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. Third, The Invisible Heart – An Economic Romance. It is a fictional book written by an economist. It moves quickly through basic tenets like the power of incentives, supply and demand, and markets. Easy to read, easy to understand.

Crosswhite: Does The Road to Serfdom qualify as non-business? Regardless, it offers profound insights about why and how value and wealth are created, which form a strong basis for thinking about the work of innovation as well.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Innovator’s Field Guide
link

Our Growth practice link

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eric Siegel: An interview by Bob Morris

Siegel, EEric Siegel, PhD, founder of Predictive Analytics World and Text Analytics World, and Executive Editor of the Predictive Analytics Times.com, makes the how and why of predictive analytics understandable and captivating. In addition to being the author of Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die, he is a former Columbia University professor who used to sing educational songs to his students, and a renowned speaker, educator and leader in the field. He has appeared on Bloomberg TV and Radio, Fox News, BNN (Canada), Israel National Radio, Radio National (Australia), The Street, Newsmax TV, and NPR affiliates. Eric and his book have been featured in BusinessWeek, CBS MoneyWatch, The Financial Times, Forbes, Forrester, Fortune, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and MarketWatch.

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

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Predictive Analytics, 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.

Siegel: Yes, it was in 1991, my summer between college and Columbia’s doctoral program, when I realized I wanted to pursue machine learning: the ability for computers to learn from experience/examples (aka, data!), which is at the heart of predictive analytics. With this technology, the computer pours through examples to learn how to PREDICT. (A big contribution that summer was touring Vancouver with my old buddy Alex Chaffee, who whispered into my ear some magic words he’d learned at Reed College on the topic.)

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

Siegel: Innovative technology doesn’t sell itself, and its sale is dependent more on a gradual social process (or “social experiment?”) than on a perfectly-written speech or white paper, no matter how well put together the pitch is.

Morris: First, who has had the greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Siegel: I’m so rarely asked that question! I like to think my main strength is the ability to explain a technology to any audience (specifically, with the most passion, topics within my very favorite field: predictive analytics). Looking back, I can truly see how so many enthusiastic teachers in technical fields as well as various humanities – from high school on up – contagiously infected me with what it means to effectively 1) understand, 2) find excitement in, and 3) communicate. It’s kind of a particular socialization process.

So, in answering your question, instead of deifying one person, I’ll deify the education system! This includes public schools in Vermont, Brandeis University, and Columbia University (where I was later on the faculty), where I was lucky enough to have too many strong mentors to count (see my book’s acknowledgements for a few of them).

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

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

Siegel: Yes – a consultant’s job is often to make his assistance seem only supportive of the client’s successful execution.

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

Siegel: Ah, yes, humility is important. In fact, I’ve been working on my humility and I think I’ve got it down better than anyone I know. (That is meant to be humorous.)

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

Siegel: Checks and balances before triggering a project!

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

Siegel: Beyond again invoking “checks and balances,” I’ll also tie this to predictive analytics specifically: There are too many tactical decisions to manage manually, so it is the collective capacity of DATA that will inform each one, thus tweaking the aggregate effectiveness of so many tactical decisions.

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

Siegel: Nice point. Change comes of monitoring and managing a gradual social shift. Each such cycle could be a novel.

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

Siegel: Yes, you see the social process, as people are ambivalently shepherded through change — change that they fear so greatly and have build walls of rationalization against.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Predictive Analytics link

Predictive Analytics World link

Eric’s Amazon page link

Friday, March 28, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grab Some Buds – Is This Brew Bitter? Check Out Knoedelseder’s Best-Seller

Make no mistake about it.  When I am ready for a beer, I choose a Budweiser.  Regular.   Not Bud Lite, not Michelob, not Michelob Ultra.  I like the “King of Beers.”  Regular Budweiser.

So, I am enjoying the former best-seller, Bitter Brew:  The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America’s Kings of Beer by William Knoedelseder (New York:  Harper Business, 2012).  It is rare, but not Bitter Brew coverwithout precedent, that we will go back and present a former business best-seller at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas that we have passed over previously from the lists.  This one was a best-seller on several top lists.  Even today, it remains at #13, #38, and #49 on three different Amazon.com best-selling business lists.   I will be discussing this with Randy Mayeux, who also presents at the First Friday Book Synopsis, as to whether we should go back and get this one.  It is really worth considering.

The inside cover states that the book is “the engrossing, often scandalous saga of one of the wealthiest, longest-lasting, and most colorful family dynasties in the history of American commerce – a cautionary tale about prosperity, profligacy, hubris, and the blessings and dark consequences of success.”

William Knoedelseder pictureWho is William Knoedelseder?  This is the biography that I found on Amazon.com:

He is a veteran journalist and best-selling author who honed his investigative and narrative skills during 12 years as a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times, where his ground breaking coverage of the entertainment industry produced a long string of exposes. His two-year investigation of payola and other corrupt practices in the record business sparked five federal grand jury investigations across the country, led to the arrest and conviction of a score of organized figures and formed the basis of his first best-selling book, Stiffed: A True Story of MCA, the Music Business and the Mafia (Harper Collins 1993). Stiffed was named Best Non-Fiction work of 1993 by Entertainment Weekly, which called it “the scariest book of the year…and the funniest.”  The two of the principal mob figures depicted in Stiffed–New Jersey crime boss Gaetano “Corky” Vastola and Roulette Records founder Morris Levy–subsequently served as the models for HBO’s Tony Soprano and his music business mentor Herman “Hesh” Rabkin.  Since 2000, Knoedelseder has written three other books. In Eddie’s Name (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) chronicles the brutal murder of a Philadelphia teenager that made national headlines when Knoedelseder, as executive producer of the Knight Ridder news program Inquirer News Tonight, pressed the city to make public the content of 911 tapes recorded the night of the killing, which ultimately revealed a complete breakdown of Philadelphia’s emergency response system; I’m Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Standup Comedy’s Golden Era (Public Affairs/Perseus) recounts Knoedelseder’s time as cub reporter covering the L.A. comedy club scene when David Letterman, Jay Leno, Robin Williams and Andy Kaufman were young and undiscovered. It has been optioned for film by actor Jim Carrey.  His next book for Harper Collins, Fins, is about the life and times of Harley Earl, the visionary car designer who helped engineer the phenomenal rise of General Motors.

I found this summary of the book on Amazon.com:

The creators of Budweiser and Michelob beers, the Anheuser-Busch company is one of the wealthiest, most colorful and enduring family dynasties in the history of American commerce. In Bitter Brew, critically acclaimed journalist William Knoedelseder tells the riveting, often scandalous saga of the rise and fall of the dysfunctional Busch family—an epic tale of prosperity, profligacy, hubris, and the dark consequences of success that spans three centuries, from the open salvos of the Civil War to the present day.

You can read an excellent review of this book, published in The Wall Street Journal by Roger Lowenstein by clicking on this link:

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323830404578143523214886126?KEYWORDS=Fall+of+the+House+of+Busch&mg=reno64-wsj  

Lowenstein is the author of The End of Wall Street and Buffett:  The Making of an American Capitalist.

The selection of this book for the First Friday Book Synopsis is not automatic.  There are other considerations as to whether we will go back and get one like this.  I will discuss this more fully with Randy Mayeux.  His call has been very reliable, and predictive of long-term success.  In one of his previous blog posts, he noted that in 2013, he had presented seven best-sellers that are still on the New York Times best-seller list, while I only had one during the same period.  There is no guarantee we will decide to work this one in.  Regardless of what we decide to do, and no matter what you drink, this is quite a saga, and worth a careful read.

Maybe you could pop one while reading it!  Note – that’s not what I did.  I prefer to concentrate on what I am reading, and remember what I read.

 

Saturday, March 15, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Blazing World – A New Take on Deception by Siri Hustvedt

What an amazing concept that Siri Hustvedt exposes in her new best-seller, The Blazing World (New York:  Simon & Schuster, 2014).  As described in The Wall Street Journal, “to expose sexism, a female artist asks three men to be fronts for her work.  The stunt goes terribly awry” (p. C8).  The book has only been released one week, and it is rapidly climbing the list of fiction best-sellers on Amazon.com.

Siri Hustvedt PhotoWho is Siri Hustvedt?  She is the author of five novels, The Blindfold, The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, What I Loved,and The Summer Without Men.  She also published three collections of essays, A Plea for Eros, Mysteries of the Rectangle: Essays on Painting, and Living, Thinking, Looking, in addition to a nonfiction work: The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves. She is the recipient of the 2012 International Gabarron Prize for Thought and Humanities.

I found this summary of the book on Amazon.com:

Blazing World coverWith The Blazing World, internationally best­selling author Siri Hustvedt returns to the New York art world in her most masterful and urgent novel since What I Loved. Hustvedt, who has long been celebrated for her “beguiling, lyrical prose” (The Sunday Times Books, London), tells the provocative story of the artist Harriet Burden. After years of watching her work ignored or dismissed by critics, Burden conducts an experiment she calls Maskings: she presents her own art behind three male masks, concealing her female identity. 

The three solo shows are successful, but when Burden finally steps forward triumphantly to reveal herself as the artist behind the exhibitions, there are critics who doubt her. The public scandal turns on the final exhibition, initially shown as the work of acclaimed artist Rune, who denies Burden’s role in its creation. What no one doubts, however, is that the two artists were intensely involved with each other. As Burden’s journals reveal, she and Rune found themselves locked in a charged and dangerous game that ended with the man’s bizarre death.

Ingeniously presented as a collection of texts compiled after Burden’s death, The Blazing World unfolds from multiple perspectives. The exuberant Burden speaks—in all her joy and fury—through extracts from her own notebooks, while critics, fans, family members, and others offer their own conflicting opinions of who she was, and where the truth lies.

From one of the most ambitious and interna­tionally renowned writers of her generation, The Blazing World is a polyphonic tour de force. An intricately conceived, diabolical puzzle, it explores the deceptive powers of prejudice, money, fame, and desire. Emotionally intense, intellectually rigorous, ironic, and playful, Hustvedt’s new novel is a bold, rich masterpiece, one that will be remembered for years to come.

You can read a full review of this book by Clare McHugh, published in The Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2014, p. C8, at this link:  http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303795904579431460059821576?KEYWORDS=Vengeance+by+Deception&mg=reno64-wsj    Ms. McHugh is an expert reviewer, currently an editor at Time, Inc.

You won’t see this one at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, because we do not present works of fiction, unless they are business-related.  One example of that we might see is The Circle by Dave Eggers (New York:  Knopf, 2013), as I gave this book to Randy Mayeux for Christmas.  I’m not sure he’s finished it, and it is not on our selection list yet, but we only announce books one month in advance, so we will just wait and see.

Regardless, you might put this one on your escape reading list.  It looks  great!

Saturday, March 15, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be Like TED – The New Carmine Gallo Best-Seller for the FFBS

Carmine Gallo pictureTalk Like TED CoverI look forward to some future month at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas for a presentation on a new best-seller, Talk Like TED:  The Nine Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2014), written by Carmine Gallo.  The book debuted this week at #6 on The Wall Street Journal best-selling list, and is currently #3, #4, and #7 in three different Amazon.com business best-selling lists.

Who is Carmine Gallo?  This is not his first book!  Carmine also wrote The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, The Apple Experience, which was the first book about the the Apple Store and how other brands can elevate the customer experience, and Fire Them Up, which identifies the seven secrets of the world’s most inspiring leaders.  You can find synopses of some of these books for sale on our 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com site.  Interestingly, Gallo is not associated with TED talks.

Here is a summary of the book that I found on Amazon.com:

Ideas are the true currency of the twenty-first century. So, in order to succeed you need to be able to sell yourself and your ideas persuasively. The ability to sell yourself and your ideas is the single greatest skill that will help you accomplish your dreams. TED Talks have redefined the elements of a successful presentation and become the gold standard for public speaking. TED—which stands for technology, entertainment, and design—brings together the world’s leading innovators and thinkers. Their online presentations have been viewed more than a billion times. These are the presentations that set the world on fire, and the techniques that top TED speakers use are the same ones that will make any presentation more dynamic, fire up any team, and give anyone the confidence to overcome their fear of public speaking.

Have you never watched a TED talk?  When I teach presentation skills at the University of Dallas in its College of Business MBA program, I require students to watch and critique five presentations from this site.  It’s a goldmine.  You can access the site here:  http://www.ted.com.  At Creative Communication Network, we teach a custom presentation skills program based upon intensive individual coaching.  You can be sure that we will be updating the program with some of the techniques from this book, in order to offer our clients the newest possible information to help them be successful.

I do not know which month this will be at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.  We only publish our schedule one month ahead.  But, you will have ample notice of the session when we will present this one.  The synopsis of the book will be presented by either Randy Mayeux or myself, depending upon our selections.  However, I do know it will be coming up very soon.  This is already a blockbuster best-seller.

Saturday, March 15, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rita McGrath, Part 1: An interview by Bob Morris

McGrath 3Rita Gunther McGrath, a Professor at Columbia Business School, is regarded as one of the world’s top experts on strategy and innovation with particular emphasis on developing sound strategy in uncertain and volatile environments. Her ideas are widely used by leading organizations throughout the world, who describe her thinking as sometimes provocative, but unfailingly stimulating. She fosters a fresh approach to strategy amongst those with whom she works. Thinkers50 presented Rita with the #1 award for Strategy, the Distinguished Achievement Award, in 2013. She is also in their top ten global list of management thinkers overall. She has also been inducted into the Strategic Management Society “Fellows” in recognition of her impact on the field. She consistently appears in lists of the top professors to follow on Twitter. McGrath is the author of four books; the most recent being the best-selling The End of Competitive Advantage : How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business(Harvard Business Review Press), rated the #1 book of the year by Strategy+Business.

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

* * *

Morris: Before discussing a few of your books, here are several general questions. First, to what extent (if any) have your students’ aspirations, issues, and concerns changed in recent years? What do you make of that?

McGrath: In our MBA programs, we’ve seen a big shift away from the heavy emphasis on consulting and finance toward entrepreneurship, social enterprise and management. In our Executive Programs, we’re seeing more concern about new technologies, short-lived advantages and what you might think of as “black swan” events. Digital marketing has been quite a growth area, as has our programs on innovation.

Morris: There has been significant criticism of business schools in recent years, even of – especially of — the most prestigious ones such as Columbia, Harvard, Kellogg, Michigan, and Wharton. In your opinion, what is the single area in which there is the greatest need for improvement in business school education?

McGrath: We need new models for developing and coaching students – so much about the way we work comes from the past. Just as an example, take the structure of academic departments – we’re set up by functions, such as finance, marketing, operations, management, and so on. Companies have learned years ago that operating in silos like that can create significant blind spots. I think we need to re-think what helps learners best come out of our institutions with skills that their employers will value, as well as with better analytical toolkits.

Morris: Given your response to the previous question, here’s a hypothetical question. Assume that you have total control and unlimited resources. How specifically would you respond to that need?

McGrath: It would depend on what kind of school I was running. If I were at a top-brand school like Columbia, I wouldn’t be too concerned that my franchise was going away, but I would probably redesign the MBA experience with the desired outcomes in mind. So we probably would do a lot more with entrepreneurship, design, technology and other elements that future technologists would need, and I’d try to design a really coherent student experience.

If I were at a mid-tier or lower-tier school, the question requires a complete rethink. I have a white paper on this if you are interested.

Morris: What was the original mission of Columbia’s Executive Education program and to what extent (if any) has it since changed? Please explain.

McGrath: I think the original idea was to provide more life-long learning opportunities for business people with more seasoning than our MBA-aged students. That is still in many ways our goal. We once had a tagline “learning that powers performance” and I think we still want to strive to do that. The main things that have changed are the topics and issues executives come to us with. Interestingly, we’re doing a review of our strategy for executive education, so there may be some new twists on the mission which come out of that.

Morris: To what extent (if any) have you changed your approach to classroom instruction?

McGrath: Now that has really changed for me. When I first started teaching in the MBA program, we used a ton of cases, printed our overheads on acetates and projected them with overhead projectors and did a fair amount of lecturing. Today, I use practically no canned Harvard-style cases as they just go out of date too soon. We use different technology in the classroom obviously, and the pedagogy is more discussion and debate oriented. I probably lecture less and discuss more.

Morris: Now please shift your attention to The Entrepreneurial Mindset. To what specifically does its title refer?

McGrath: How to think about innovation in corporations with insights informed by the way habitual entrepreneurs think.

Morris: The mindset you describe seems to be one that any executive should develop, whatever the size and nature or her or his organization, be it a start-up or a Fortune 50 company. Is that a fair assessment?

McGrath: It certainly can’t hurt – finding new opportunities, thinking in a fresh way about your competition, deeply understanding your customers, and planning with the right disciplines for the uncertainty you face are all pretty practical and important topics.

Morris: For those who have not as yet read the book, in it you recommend a process by which to identify, evaluate, and prioritize opportunities, then pursue them with appropriate strategies. Please explain this process.

McGrath: We walk our readers through a series of “lenses” they can use to identify potential opportunities to put in an inventory of opportunities. Then we talk about screening for the best ones, given the constraints you have. We describe how to test assumptions at minimal cost, and how to do ‘discovery driven’ planning in which the goal is to plan while recognizing that you don’t have enough knowledge to do a conventional plan. We also spend a little time on how to enter the market and assess competition. The Entrepreneurial Mindset was cited by famous entrepreneur Steve Blank as one of the foundational ideas behind the lean startup movement popularized by Eric Ries.

Morris: In your opinion, are the challenges of entrepreneurship more difficult, less difficult, or about the same today as they were when you wrote The Entrepreneurial Mindset more than a decade ago? How so?

McGrath: Less difficult. Today, you have access to unbelievable assets and talent that you can use to assemble the operations of your business with very low investment. You can get computing power from Amazon, office space from Regus, staff from Staff.com, programmers from oDesk, and the list goes on. It’s also true that companies today can operate in a very lean way which also reduces the investment required to innovate. I mean, Whatsapp, with only 55 employees was just valued by Facebook at $19 Billion! That’s with a B – with only 55 people, which is quite amazing.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

In Part 2, we will discuss The End of Competitive Advantage.

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

Here’s a link to her website.

Here’s a link to her HBR articles

Here’s a link to her Columbia University faculty page

Here’s a link to a recent video.

Here’s a link to the MarketBusting website.

Here’s a link to the Discovery-Driven Growth website.

Monday, March 10, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blogging on Business Update from Bob Morris (Week of 12/9/13)

BOB Banner

I hope that at least a few of these recent posts will be of interest to you:

BOOK REVIEWS

Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation
Nan Russell

True Alignment: Linking Company Culture with Customer Needs for Extraordinary Results
Edgar Papke

Happiness: A New Perspective
James Hadley

 

INTERVIEWS

Brian Halligan (chief executive of HubSpot) in “The Corner Office”
Adam Bryant
The New York Times

 

COMMENTARIES

” Why a Successful Transition is a Great Legacy “
Angela Ahrendts
LinkedIn

“A novel path to financial success”
Jeremy Olshan
The Wall Street Journal

“Five Initiatives Needed in a Designer-Unfriendly Environment”
Roger Martin
from Rotman on Design: The Best on Design Thinking from Rotman Magazine
co-edited by Martin and Karen Christensen

“Brain Food Nuggets (51-60)”
BOB

Roman Krznaric on “How Should We Live?”
Maria Popova
Brain Pickings

“Holiday Greetings from Dorie Clark”

“The 12 cognitive biases that prevent us from being rational”
George Dvorsky
io9

“The Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing With a Slacking Co-Worker”
Kerry Patterson
Talent Management

“Life Lessons for My Younger Self”
Valerie Simpson
LinkedIn

“Doug Conant: Why These Are My Favorite Leadership Books”
Doug Conant
LinkedIn

“Andrew Sobel on “How to create a great client experience””
Andrew Sobel

“Naked Launch”
Nathan Heller
The New Yorker

“How to Grow a Great Company: 4 Tips on Hiring”
Inc. Small Giants Community and its Center for Values Driven Leadership
ReturnOnValuesProject.com

“When Ads Look Like Content: FTC Examines Issues Around Sponsored Content”
William Launder
The Wall Street Journal

“Mobilizing your C-suite for big-data analytics”
Brad Brown, David Court, and Paul Willmott
The McKinsey Quarterly

* * *

To check out these resources and other content, please click here.

To subscribe via RSS Reader, please click here.

Sunday, December 15, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blogging on Business Update from Bob Morris (Week of 12/2/13)

BOB Banner

I hope that at least a few of these recent posts will be of interest to you:

BOOK REVIEWS

Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind
Jocelyn Glei, Editor

Innovating Analytics: Word of Mouth Index- Use the Next Generation of Net Promoter to Increase Sales and Drive Results
Larry Freed

The Star Factor: Discover What Your Top Performers Do Differently–and Inspire a New Level of Greatness in All
William Seidman and Richard Grbavac

The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business
Duff McDonald

 

INTERVIEWS

Jennifer Dulski (president and chief operating officer of Change.org) in “The Corner Office”
Adam Bryant
The New York Times

Tom Eisenmann, What Can’t Be Taught: The Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field
Taylor Ellis
Poets&Quants

Niraj Dawar: An interview by Bob Morris
BOB

Leading in the 21st century: An interview with HCA CEO Richard Bracken
dam Bryant
The New York Times

Malcolm Gladwell: An interview by Gaby Wood
The Telegraph

 

COMMENTARIES

“The Brain’s Crowdsourcing Software”
Alison Gopnik
The Wall Street Journal

“My Meetings With Mandela”
Juan Williams
The Wall Street Journal
“The Psychology of Self-Control”
Maria Popova
Brain Pickings

“‘Tis the Season to Focus on the Business Basics”
Angie Hicks
LinkedIn

“The ‘secret sauce’ that Jeff Bezos learned about from Jim Collins”
Brad Stone
from The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

“The MOOC Market Takes Off”
Josh Bersin
Forbes

“Don’t dumb down — brain up!”
Margaret Heffernan
CBS MoneyWatch

“Surprise and Creativity: Notes toward a new economics”
George Gilder
from Knowledge and Power: The Information Theory of Capitalism and How It Is Revolutionizing Our World

“Thinking Mistakes Our Brains Make Every Day and How to Prevent Them”
Belle Beth Cooper
Buffer Networks

“For all the Christmas shoppers out there….”
BOB
from Love Actually

“How I Hire: In Search of the Sir Ernest Shackleton Gene”
Peter Gruber
LinkedIn

* * *

To check out these resources and other content, please click here.

To subscribe via RSS Reader, please click here.

Sunday, December 8, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Harley-Davidson CEO: Getting Up to Speed

WendellHow do executives stay organized? What are their management strategies? And what do they do for fun? Executive Suite seeks answers to the behind-the-scenes questions. Here is an excerpt from an interview of Keith Wendell, CEO of Harley-Davidson since 2009, conducted by Rachel Feintzeig for CEO.com. To read the complete interview and check out other resources, please click here.

* * *

Feintzeig: You were Harley-Davidson’s first CEO to come from outside the company. Did you face skeptics?

Wendell: I don’t know how to quantify it, but there was a significant amount of concern from our employees and our dealers. “What can this person possibly know?” — that type of thing.

Feintzeig: What were people’s concerns about?

Wendell: First of all, I think there were some misconceptions about my background, thinking that my background had been largely in automotive. [That] really wasn’t true, even though I did have some experience [there]. The automotive industry is a hyper competitive industry [and] there is a different sort of mentality to how the car companies look at the supply base: It’s a more slice and burn kind of mentality. All those things culminated in a concern around “This guy is going to turn us into an auto-like company.”

Feintzeig: How did you earn employees’ and customers’ trust?

Wendell: Really by just listening and engaging them [and] recognizing the long, rich heritage of the company. That’s important to all of our employees and all of our dealers – Harley-Davidson and what it stands for. So using that as sort of a backdrop, [saying] “Guess what? We’re not going change the formula for Coke here and mess it up, but the future’s going to be different than the last 110 years.”

Feintzeig: How did you get up to speed on the company, coming from the outside?

Wendell: I don’t sit in my office and wait for people to come see me. I walk around and talk to people. I walk into a meeting and ask, “Why wasn’t I invited to this meeting?” and sit down and start to participate.

Feintzeig: Did you ride motorcycles before taking this job?

Wendell: When I was younger.

Feintzeig: Now do you ride?

Wendell: Oh yeah.

Feintzeig: How often?

Wendell: My first couple of years [at Harley] I rode a lot. I’ve ridden the Sturgis [South Dakota motorcycle rally] three times. I’ve ridden from Beijing to the Great Wall. I’ve ridden from downtown Tokyo to Mt. Fuji. I’ve ridden in the Hamburg rally. I’ve ridden in the San Tropez rally in France. I would go home at night and just take my bike out in the summer and ride for a half hour, an hour, whatever. But then I had a surgery last year on my neck and lost the use of my right arm for a while.

Feintzeig: As CEO, do you feel pressure to walk the walk — or ride the bike — so to speak?

Wendell: At first I did, sort of. About three months after I was with the company, my wife said to me, “Did they hire you to ride motorcycles or run the company?” Because that’s really a big priority in our company. We call it, “We ride with you.” We ride with our customers. We listen to our customers because we’re out there with them riding with them. We have this program where all of our executive management is required to attend like two rallies a year so that we’re out there with our dealers, with our customers, listening to their feedback.

* * *

To read the complete article, please click here.

Rachel Feintzeig covers management trends and chief executives for The Wall Street Journal and WSJ‘s At Work blog. From 2008 to 2013, she wrote about bankruptcy and restructuring, focusing on companies like the publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Twinkie-maker Hostess. Now based in New York, she previously reported for Dow Jones from Washington and Philadelphia.

Saturday, October 26, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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