Rita 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.
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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.
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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.
How 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.
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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.
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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.
As George Anders explains in the Introduction to his brilliant book, The Rare Find, he spent two and a half years conducting research to determine the answer to this question: “How and where to find great talent?” He focused on expert talent spotters in three broad sets: the public performance worlds (e.g. sports, arts, and entertainment), high stakes aspects of business (especially finance and the information economy), and “heroic professionals” of public service (e.g. teaching, government, and medicine). “It’s easy to see how they operated, but it took a while to understand why. What he learned is shared in this book. For example, with people as with organizations, “the gap between good and great turns out to be huge,” perhaps as much as a 500% difference. The financial implications are vast and substantial.
Of special interest to me is what Anders learned about what he characterizes as “the jagged résumé” (i.e. people whose background to date appears to teeter on the edge between success and failure), “talent that whispers” (i.e. the proverbial “diamonds in the rough”), and “talent that shouts” (i.e. spectacular but brash candidates “that can make or destroy a program”). As I reflect back over NBA and NFL drafts during the past 12-15 years, I can easily recall dozens of examples of players who exemplify one of these three.
Anders spent a great deal of time examining how talent is evaluated in several less publicized organizations. He spoke with hundreds of people who are constantly alert for the talent needed now or soon. However different these expert talent evaluators may be in most respects, there are three basic principles on which all agree:
1. Widen your view of talent: Compromise on experience but never on character, seek out “talent that whispers,” on the fringes of talent ask “What can go right?” and take tiny chances so that you can take more of them.
2. Find inspirations that are hidden in plain sight: Draw out the “hidden truths” of each job, be willing to use your own career as a template, rely on auditions to see how and why people achieve as they do, and master the art of aggressive listening.
3. Simplify your search for talent: Be alert to other invisible virtues, insist on the right talent (i.e. don’t lose track of what is needed), challenge your best candidates to push themselves even harder, and “become a citadel of achievement” (i.e. embrace extraordinary effort as a way of life).
By nature, greatness creates a legacy that endures long after specific achievements have occurred. As George Anders makes crystal clear throughout his lively as well as informative narrative, “People with great reputations for attracting and developing talent regard the search for brilliance as their calling. They see themselves as discoverers, protectors, and builders of an entire discipline.” Yes, they possess skills and capacities (especially enlightened intuition) that enable them to spot exceptional talent – albeit under-developed talent — before everyone else does. The “rare find” is their objective as well as evidence of their own exceptional talent but they do not ignore or underestimate the significance of the word “rare.”
I highly recommend The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone Else, published by Portfolio/Penguin Group (2011)
George Anders is a New York Times-bestselling author and a journalist with three decades of experience writing for national publications. He started his career at The Wall Street Journal, where he became a top feature writer specializing in in-depth profiles. He was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for national reporting. He also has served as West Coast bureau chief for Fast Company magazine and as a founding member of the Bloomberg View board of editors. His work has appeared in leading publications worldwide, including The New York Times, BusinessWeek, The Guardian and the Harvard Business Review. In January 2012, he joined Forbes as a contributing writer
Brian Klapper is the President and Founding Partner of The Klapper Institute. He is an internationally recognized expert in operational and cultural corporate transformation. Brian has worked with global companies in a variety of sectors including: financial services, consumer products, manufacturing, food service, utilities, retail, and healthcare. While Brian’s experience spans all elements of the value chain, as well as all customer touch points, his work primarily focuses on helping his clients create a culture of Execution Excellence. Prior to founding The Klapper Institute, Brian was a Partner in the Financial Services practice of Oliver Wyman/Mercer Management Consulting (formerly Strategic Planning Associates). His clients have included: Bank of America, Avon Products, The Hartford Insurance Group, Bassett Furniture, Sun Life Financial, and Northeast Utilities.
Brian a recognized thought leader, speaker and writer. He co-authored a chapter in Redesigning Healthcare Delivery, “Applying Performance Engineering to Medical Care”, which has become an industry standard, is a regular contributor to Chief Learning Officer Magazine and has contributed to the Harvard Business Review.com. Brian has been profiled in several publications including: The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Fortune, BusinessWeek, and The New York Times. Brian holds an MBA from The Wharton Graduate School of Business and a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University.
His latest book, The Q Loop: The Art & Science of Lasting Corporate Change, was published by Bibliomotion (May 2013)
Here is an excerpt from my interview of him. To read the complete interview, please click here.
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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.
Klapper: The year was 1997. The meeting was the culmination of 365 days of work—15 hours a day, six days a week. I had recently become a partner in the Financial Services practice of Mercer Management Consulting (now Oliver Wyman) and was given the honor of working for the firm’s largest client on the largest project in the history of the firm. Our task: “Tell us how to reinvent our company and rethink how we can shape our industry to win in the 21st century.” As a strategy consultant, it was as good as it gets—a blank slate, tremendous resources, and time.
We had over 30 consultants performing thousand pages of analysis, dozens of financial models, and hundreds of client interviews. As we finished our work, we presented to the CEO. Following the presentation, the CEO declared, “Congratulations to the team. This may be the most insightful, brilliant work I have ever seen.”
At that point, he took the deck, threw it against the wall of the conference room, and angrily declared, “I can barely understand half of the stuff in here! How are the 100,000 people in my firm supposed to understand it? What do I do with this?”
One of my partners replied that there was an entire chapter devoted to the Gantt charts, which outlined roles and responsibilities, time lines, activities.
The CEO replied, “I don’t care about all that! What are we supposed to do with this?!”
Two days later I resigned.
I was professionally raised to believe that strategy consulting was the peak of the profession. Implementation was better left to those that did not make it as a strategist. Boy, was I wrong. Following that meeting, I resolved to get out of the “grand ideas” business and get dirty in the trenches where the real work is done to help organizations implement. What I came to realize is that, actually, very few companies are effective at really getting things done. So I resolved to work with companies to fix that. Quite simply, I wanted to help companies get stuff done.
Morris: Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original (perhaps unrealistic) expectations. More often than not, resistance is cultural in nature, the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”
Here’s my question: How best to avoid or overcome such resistance?
Klapper: Below are several methods I use with executives to help them overcome organizational resistance.
o Articulate a vision and develop a thorough plan that is easily understood. To do so, leadership must be fully immersed in the details of the plan and not delegate this step.
o Ensure alignment through one-on-one meetings, group discussions, a thorough data review, and fact-based analysis of the issues. To quote one of my clients, “Far too many of our key decisions are made in a data-free environment.”
o Establish for itself and all members of the organization appropriate expectations of what will happen, how all employees will fit in, and what can be achieved as a result of the change initiative.
o Create a genuine desire for change among the employees by rousing organizational energy, including collective motivation, enthusiasm, and intense commitment (more on this topic in upcoming chapters).
o Establish that the very top leaders, including the CEO, have passion for the change and also the ability to carry it out.
o Address both the behavioral and emotional components of change. Far too many change efforts focus solely on the tactical and operational aspects and neglect the human component.
o Get in the trenches to help and to role-model the desired mindset and behaviors.
o Build a culture of innovative thinking that promotes the freedom to experiment and ignore red tape.
o Trigger a sense of optimism around the change initiative. Change is often viewed as negative, yet most participants in the programs I help to orchestrate find it thrilling. According to one, the experience was “the most fun I have had in 20 years working for the company.”
o Expect and plan for resistance by identifying where in the organization the resistance might come from and how the resistance might manifest itself.
Morris: Now please shift your attention to The Q-Loop. When and why did you decide to write it?
Klapper: I wrote The Q-Loop in 2012. Bookstore shelves are crowded with business books discussing change. On Amazon alone, there are more than eight thousand books on corporate change. So why do I think the world needs another book on the topic? Simple, really. Because a remarkable one-third of all change efforts fail to deliver their intended results, and because the phrase I hear more than any other from business leaders (despite having good people, great technology, and a sound strategy) is: “It’s so hard to get anything done around here!”
Although some existing books on change are filled with interesting stories and rich concepts, they are just not specific enough for readers to use in their day-to-day jobs to truly effect change. This book, on the other hand, offers interactive content, meaningful examples of real problems and real solutions, actionable steps and suggestions, samples of what does and doesn’t work, fresh insights, a new approach, and practical guidance for all types of organizations.
Most approaches to change rely on the same basic tenets, which are incredibly intuitive but virtually impossible to deliver. The list usually goes like this: develop a vision, build a strategy, communicate the vision, establish a sense of urgency, generate buy-in.
It all makes perfect sense. After all, a leader would never have gotten the job without a clear vision. There’s a tremendous amount of public data available to help develop a thoughtful strategy. Many effective communication models exist. And creating urgency is…. Well, it’s this last one that’s the problem. And solving
it is a true art.
The single greatest challenge that prevents leaders from getting things done is their inability to generate buy-in for the change across the organization. There are thousands of books on leadership and even more on change management. So what makes this book different? The Q-Loop is a field guide, taken not from abstract, academic research but from the results of real-world lessons I’ve learned working with my many clients in the trenches for more than twenty years. Although most of my work has focused on Fortune 1000 companies, I have successfully applied these lessons to organizations that have anywhere from 160 to 160,000 employees—in the private sector, for government organizations, and within not-for-profit organizations throughout the world.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
Brian cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
The Klapper Institute blog
Brian’s Amazon page
Here is a brief excerpt from an article written by Amanda Ripley for The Wall Street Journal. South Korea’s students rank among the best in the world, and its top teachers can make a fortune. Can the U.S. learn from this academic superpower? Ripley shares her thoughts about that after a lengthy conversation with Kim Ki-hoon who earns $4 million a year in South Korea, where he is known as a rock-star teacher—a combination of words not typically heard in the rest of the world.
Mr. Kim has been teaching for over 20 years, all of them in the country’s private, after-school tutoring academies, known as hagwons. Unlike most teachers across the globe, he is paid according to the demand for his skills—and he is in high demand. Kim Ki-Hoon, who teaches in a private after-school academy, earns most of his money from students who watch his lectures online. ‘The harder I work, the more I make,’ he says. ‘I like that.’
To read the complete article, check out others, obtain subscription information, please click here.
Photo: SeongJoon Cho for The Wall Street Journal
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Mr. Kim works about 60 hours a week teaching English, although he spends only three of those hours giving lectures. His classes are recorded on video, and the Internet has turned them into commodities, available for purchase online at the rate of $4 an hour. He spends most of his week responding to students’ online requests for help, developing lesson plans and writing accompanying textbooks and workbooks (some 200 to date).
I traveled to South Korea to see what a free market for teaching talent looks like—one stop in a global tour to discover what the U.S. can learn from the world’s other education superpowers. Thanks in part to such tutoring services, South Korea has dramatically improved its education system over the past several decades and now routinely outperforms the U.S. Sixty years ago, most South Koreans were illiterate; today, South Korean 15-year-olds rank No. 2 in the world in reading, behind Shanghai. The country now has a 93% high-school graduation rate, compared with 77% in the U.S.
Tutoring services are growing all over the globe, from Ireland to Hong Kong and even in suburban strip malls in California and New Jersey. Sometimes called shadow education systems, they mirror the mainstream system, offering after-hours classes in every subject—for a fee. But nowhere have they achieved the market penetration and sophistication of hagwons in South Korea, where private tutors now outnumber schoolteachers.
Viewed up close, this shadow system is both exciting and troubling. It promotes striving and innovation among students and teachers alike, and it has helped South Korea become an academic superpower. But it also creates a bidding war for education, delivering the best services to the richest families, to say nothing of its psychological toll on students. Under this system, students essentially go to school twice—once during the day and then again at night at the tutoring academies. It is a relentless grind.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Ms. Ripley is an Emerson Fellow at the New America Foundation. This essay is adapted from her forthcoming book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, to be published Aug. 13 by Simon & Schuster. Copyright © 2013 by Amanda Ripley.