First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Niraj Dawar: An interview by Bob Morris

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

TILT website link

Amazon.com link to TILT

Twitter link

Just Marketing blog link

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

Solving Problems with Design Thinking: A book review by Bob Morris

Solving ProblemsSolving Problems with Design Thinking: Ten Stories of What Works
Jeanne Liedtka, Andrew King, and Kevin Bennett
Columbia Business School Publishing (2013)

Here’s a blueprint “for deploying design thinking across levels and functions in order to embed a more creative approach to problem solving as a strategic capability in Organizations”

Here’s how Jeanne Liedtka, Andrew King, and Kevin Bennett frame the information, insights, and counsel they provide in this brilliant book: “In the spring of 2010 the Design Management Institute (DMI) and researchers at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business (a team that included us) launched a multistage research program to assess the prevalence and impact of design thinking in business organizations. Sponsored by the Batten Institute, a center for the study of entrepreneurship and innovation at Daren, the study set out to develop an understanding of the extent to which the methods, techniques, and processes traditionally associated with design and designers had been adopted within established business and social sector organizations.” This, then, is a research-driven book, as are almost all other great works of non-fiction.

What they discovered “was so inspiring that we decided to write this book, in the hope that we could help the people we cared most about — managers and designers — see new possibilities to break through inertia and politics to use design thinking to accomplish the things we believed it was capable of, if we could only get it into the right hands.” Please keep that in mind when you read it, holding the book in your own hands.

I commend Liedtka, King, and Bennett on their skillful use of reader-friendly devices such as the format they use for mini-commentaries on the ten exemplary companies (IBM, Suncorp, 3M, SAP, Toyota, MeYou Health, FiDJI, The Good Kitchen, Citizens of Dublin, and Intuit): The Business Problem, The Context, Designer’s Contribution, and as a conclusion, “What do We Take Away from [given company's] Story?” Also, “Design Tool” inserts such as these in Chapter 2: Secondary Research, Mind Mapping, Design Criteria, Learning Launch, and Cards. The devices serve two separate but very important purposes: they focus on key material, and, they facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review later.

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

o Building Bridges with Design Thinking (Pages 3-8)
o Incorporating the Four Questions Into a Three-Step Approach (18-24)
o Rethinking Metrics and Delivering Results (30-32)
o Why Take the Second Road? (37-40)
o Results!, and, What Worked and Why (51-54)
o Selling Design in the B2B Space (61-65)
o Building the Prototype (81-86)
o Including Engineers and Designers: The Importance of Context and Integration (99-100)
o Building Partnerships (109-111)
o Changing Views of Design (128-130)
o Stakeholder Workshops: Hatching & Blooming (148-151)
o Process to Repair Clongriffin (165-171)
o Creating Innovation Catalysts (182-186)
o Creativity Through Structure, and, The Ever-Elusive Issue of Management (189-191)
o The Role of Culture (191-192)

As indicated in the first chapter, Liedtka, King, and Bennett’s goal in this book “is to push the visibility of design thinking in business and the social sector to new places and demonstrate that design has an even broader role to play in achieving creative organizational and even civic outcomes.” They achieve this goal by providing an abundance on in formation, insights, and counsel while examining “ten vivid illustrations of organizations and their managers and design partners doing just that — using design thinking in ways that work.”

Obviously, it would be a fool’s errand for any reader to attempt to adapt and adopt all of the material provided. However, once having read and (hopefully) re-read the book, most readers will be well-prepared to use design thinking to determine which portions of the material are most appropriate to the needs, interests, strategic objectives, and resources of the given enterprise.

To those who found this book as valuable as I did, I presume to recommend another: Rotman on Design: The Best on Design Thinking from Rotman Magazine, co-edited by Roger Martin and Karen Christensen, published by University of Toronto Press. Jeanne Liedtka is among the contributors.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Solving Problems with Design Thinking: A review by Bob Morris

Solving ProblemsSolving Problems with Design Thinking: Ten Stories of What Works
Jeanne Liedtka, Andrew King, and Kevin Bennett
Columbia Business School Publishing (2013)

Here’s a blueprint “for deploying design thinking across levels and functions in order to embed a more creative approach to problem solving as a strategic capability in Organizations”

Here’s how Jeanne Liedtka, Andrew King, and Kevin Bennett frame the information, insights, and counsel they provide in this brilliant book: “In the spring of 2010 the Design Management Institute (DMI) and researchers at the University of Virginia’s Daren School of Business (a team that included us) launched a multistage research program to assess the prevalence and impact of design thinking in business organizations. Sponsored by the Batten Institute, a center for the study of entrepreneurship and innovation at Daren, the study set out to develop an understanding of the extent to which the methods, techniques, and processes traditionally associated with design and designers had been adopted within established business and social sector organizations.” This, then, is a research-driven book, as are almost all other great works of non-fiction.

What they discovered “was so inspiring that we decided to write this book, in the hope that we could help the people we cared most about — managers and designers — see new possibilities to break through inertia and politics to use design thinking to accomplish the things we believed it was capable of, if we could only get it into the right hands.” Please keep that in mind when you read it, holding the book in your own hands.

I commend Liedtka, King, and Bennett on their skillful use of reader-friendly devices such as the format they use for mini-commentaries on the ten exemplary companies (IBM, Suncorp, 3M, SAP, Toyota, MeYou Health, FiDJI, The Good Kitchen, Citizens of Dublin, and Intuit): The Business Problem, The Context, Designer’s Contribution, and as a conclusion, “What do We Take Away from [given company's] Story?” Also, “Design Tool” inserts such as these in Chapter 2: Secondary Research, Mind Mapping, Design Criteria, Learning Launch, and Cards. The devices serve two separate but very important purposes: they focus on key material, and, they facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review later.

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

o Building Bridges with Design Thinking (Pages 3-8)
o Incorporating the Four Questions Into a Three-Step Approach (18-24)
o Rethinking Metrics and Delivering Results (30-32)
o Why Take the Second Road? (37-40)
o Results!, and, What Worked and Why (51-54)
o Selling Design in the B2B Space (61-65)
o Building the Prototype (81-86)
o Including Engineers and Designers: The Importance of Context and Integration (99-100)
o Building Partnerships (109-111)
o Changing Views of Design (128-130)
o Stakeholder Workshops: Hatching & Blooming (148-151)
o Process to Repair Clongriffin (165-171)
o Creating Innovation Catalysts (182-186)
o Creativity Through Structure, and, The Ever-Elusive Issue of Management (189-191)
o The Role of Culture (191-192)

As indicated in the first chapter, Liedtka, King, and Bennett’s goal in this book “is to push the visibility of design thinking in business and the social sector to new places and demonstrate that design has an even broader role to play in achieving creative organizational and even civic outcomes.” They achieve this goal by providing an abundance on in formation, insights, and counsel while examining “ten vivid illustrations of organizations and their man agers and design partners doing just that — using design thinking in ways that work.”

Obviously, it would be a fool’s errand for any reader to attempt to adapt and adopt all of the material provided. However, once having read and (hopefully) re-read the book, most readers will be well-prepared to use design thinking to determine which portions of the material are most appropriate to the needs, interests, strategic objectives, and resources of the given enterprise.

To those who found this book as valuable as I did, I presume to recommend another: Rotman on Design: The Best on Design Thinking from Rotman Magazine, co-edited by Roger Martin and Karen Christensen, published by University of Toronto Press. Jeanne Liedtka is among the contributors.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rajat Paharia on “The Three Faces of Loyalty”

PahariaIn the first chapter of his recently published book, Loyalty 3.0: How to Revolutionize Customer and Employee Engagement with Big Data and Gamification, Rajat Paharia shares what he characterizes as “The Three Faces of Loyalty.” Here is a briefing on the key ideas:

Loyalty 1.0

“We all know Loyalty 1.0 programs; they’re the frequent flyer programs, cash-back credit cards, and ‘buy ten and get one free’ punch cards from the local sandwich shops that have been around for years. These are purely transaction, completely focused oncustomers, and absolute failures at generating the kind of loyalty that businesses actually want.”

Loyalty 2.0

“In the early 1990s, 1-to-1 marketing emerged, focused primarily on making the loyalty experience more targeted through segmentation and personalization, with the big em phasis on direct-mail and e-mail campaigns. Data had a bigger role here as businesses took the information they were learning about their customers and used it to ‘speak to their interests.’ While this was effective for a while, open rates on these communications plummeted as the overall level of direct [widely viewed as junk] mail and e-mail [widely viewed as spam] increased. Consumers were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of noise, and the problem has only gotten worse.”

Loyalty 3.0

“Loyalty 3.0 has three major enabling components that, when combined, are much greater than the sum of the parts”: Motivation (what consistently and honestly compels and motivates human behavior), Big Data (especially data generated by interaction with consumers and data perceived as being most important by them), and Gamification (competitive experience that offers autonomy/control, challenge/skill mastery, purpose/meaningful objective, progress/improvement, and social interaction/membership).

Paharia explains all this in much greater detail in his book (Pages 9-15).

Widely recognized as the father of gamification, he is the founder and Chief Product Officer at Bunchball. Since creating the gamification industry in 2007, he has parlayed his unique understanding of technology and design – along with a preternatural ability to recognize patterns – into the creation of a company whose market-defining solutions have helped engage customers and motivate employees at a wide array of companies, including Toyota, Mattel, T-Mobile, Bravo, VMware, ESPN, BOX Technologies, and Kimberly Clark. Before founding Bunchball, Rajat had built a technology design career at world-renowned design firm IDEO, Philips Consumer Electronics, and IBM Research. Rajat earned a master’s degree in Computer Science (with a focus on Human Interaction) from Stanford University, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of California Berkeley.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Crisis Communications: A book review by Bob Morris

Crisis CommunicationsCrisis Communications: The Definitive Guide to Managing the Message
Steven Fink
McGraw-Hill (2013)

Why you should never “pick a fight with anyone who buys bandwidth by the geobyte”

I read and reviewed Steven Fink’s previous book, Crisis Management: Planning for the Inevitable, and recall two chapters (13 and 14) in which he explained “controlling the message” and “handling a hostile press.” What we have in this brilliant volume is all that Fink knew then and has since has learned about effectively responding to these two challenges. As he observes, the two chapters were written “before the Internet explosion and the advent of never-ending 24/7 news cycles, cell phone videos, the runaway profusion of still emerging social media, ever-lurking-in-the-bushes paparazzi, blogs and websites devoted to ‘gotcha’ journalism, and electronic mob-mentality consumerism/activism.” So, Fink needed to update and expand the material in those chapters to accommodate the major developments to which he refers.

Here is a partial list of the key issues he addresses. Please imagine that each is preceded by “How to….”

o React immediately to a crisis
o Articulate an appropriate response that is (key word) truthful
o Manage both internal and external perceptions of the facts that are known
o Avoid the most common mistakes
o Defer assignment of blame to focus on resolving the given crisis
o Shape the communication updates to stakeholder segments as well as media
o Deploy spokesperson(s)
o Manage social media
o Cope with crisis-induced stress
o Prepare for and (when appropriate) conduct post-crisis evaluation

Years ago, when Ann Mulcahy was named president and CEO of Xerox, she asked several of her closest friends and mentors for suggestions. She said the best advice she received was that she had three tasks: “Get the ox out of the ditch, find how it got in the ditch, and then make certain that it never happens again.”

Keep in mind, Fink’s focus in this book is on the communications portion of a much more comprehensive process that also includes contingency planning, for example, and allocation of readily available resources. He cites dozens of corporate exempla (for better or worse) of real-world crisis communications that include (in alpha order), Audi, Avery Denison, Bank of America, BP, Firestone Tire & Rubber, Johnson & Johnson/Tylenol, Pennsylvania State University/Paterno & Sandusky, PepsiCo, Susan B. Komen for the Cure, Toyota, and U.C.L.A. School of Medicine’s Neuropsychiatric Institute. Don’t expect a provision of silver bullets, recipes, quick fixes, etc. Rather, Fink creates a mosaic of especially important do’s and don’ts for those who need an expert (if not “the definitive”) guide for “managing the message” during a crisis.

I wish to conclude this brief commentary with three observations of my own. First, I strongly recommend that both of Fink’s books be read in tandem. Crisis Management creates a context, a frame-of-reference, for Crisis Communications and the latter should be viewed as an updated and expanded coverage of the material in Chapters 13 and 14 in Crisis Management. Also, it is impossible to over-prepare for a crisis, whatever its nature and extent may prove to be. Meetings convened should identify the 3-5 worst possible crisis and then focus on what to [begin italics] do [end italics] if one occurs. Finally, in that event, speed is imperative and truth is the currency of the realm. I agree with Steven Fink: “Don’t hesitate. Rise to the occasion and take charge of your crisis with confidence, conviction, and character.”

Monday, April 29, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

George Kohlrieser: An interview by Bob Morris

Kohlrieser, GeorgeGeorge Kohlrieser is an organizational and clinical psychologist. He is Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour at IMD and consultant to several global companies including Accenture, Alcan, Amer Sports, Barclays Global Investors, Cisco, Coca-Cola, HP, IBM, IFC, Morgan Stanley, Motorola, Nestlé, Nokia, Roche, Sara Lee, Tetra Pak, and Toyota. He is also a Police Psychologist and Hostage Negotiator focusing on aggression management and hostage negotiations. He has worked in over 100 countries spanning five continents.

Kohlrieser is Director of the High Performance Leadership (HPL) Program, an intense six-day IMD program for experienced senior leaders and the Advanced High Performance Leadership (AHPL) for former HPL participants. He completed his doctorate at Ohio State University where he wrote his dissertation on cardio vascular recovery of law enforcement leaders following high stress situations. His research has made significant contributions to understanding the role self-mastery and social dialogue has in helping leaders sustain high performance through life long learning.

He is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, adjunct faculty member of Union Graduate School, Antioch, Ohio, adjunct faculty member of Fielding Institute San Francisco, California, adjunct faculty member of Zagreb University, Croatia. He is past president of the International Transactional Analysis Association, San Francisco, California and is also a member of the Society of International Business Fellows (SIBF). He has consulted for the BBC, CNN, ABC, and CBS and his work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, and other leading newspapers and magazines.

He is author of the internationally bestselling book, Hostage At The Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others, and Raise Performance, and, more recently, co-author of Care to Dare: Unleashing Astonishing Potential Through Secure Base Leadership with Susan Goldsworthy and Duncan Coombe.

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

* * *

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

Kohlrieser: This is a very interesting and challenging point. In fact, research shows that people do not naturally resist change – they resist the fear of the unknown and the pain of the change. The human brain actually thrives on curiosity, innovation, new learning, challenge and change to create new neurons until the day we die. This has come to be known as brain plasticity. Followers with a secure base leader will be empowered to successfully navigate the uncertainty, ambiguity, and other unknowns associated with change. James O’Toole is correct: most people are hostages to the “ideology of comfort” and to the status quo. They do not dare themselves to do something new or different. The challenge for leaders is to build trust that enables them to drive change. If leaders are not driving change, they are not really leading. We must dispel the myth that people naturally resist change – it is simply not true.

Morris: Looking ahead what do you think will be the greatest challenge that CEOs will face?

Kohlrieser: The greatest challenge I see is the “paradox of caring” – being able to both care and also dare followers, teams and organizations to achieve their full potential and to be true innovators. How do leaders show enough caring and bonding, even with difficult people and those they don’t like? Giving regular feedback and conveying hard truths unlock the door to the highest levels of performance. Successful leaders challenge their people by inspiring them and building trust, not by coercion, control or threats.

Leaders must drive change. Without change organizations wither and die. Leaders who don’t drive change put their companies in grave danger. The challenge facing leaders is to explain the benefits that change will bring. I use the term “secure base leader” to describe someone who gives a sense of safety as well as the inspiration and energy to encourage followers to explore and take risk. In other words, you must care enough to encourage daring by shutting down the defensive nature of the brain and invite the mind’s eye to seek opportunity and possibility. This combination is crucial, and it’s why my new book about unleashing astonishing potential is called Care to Dare.

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

Kohlrieser: It comes down to focus and trust. Secure base leaders, referred to in my books, always look for underdeveloped talents and turn delegation into opportunities to stretch people. This means they have to trust people to learn, develop and possibly to fail. Letting go of control is often the most difficult thing for an executive to do. After all, their experience means they often assume they know how to do things better, which may or may not be true. Give people a secure base leader and they will achieve amazing things – delegating is one form of stretching another person to show what they can do. The executive must always be standing behind as a secure base. A good example is flight training. There is a moment when the flight instructor must relinquish the flight controls to the trainee.

Morris: When and why did you decide to write Hostage at the Table?

Kohlrieser: I have been held hostage four times. Early in my career it became clear that hostage negotiators have to establish a relationship with a very unlikeable, even despicable person. They must engage in a dialogue under high pressure and influence the hostage taker to give up their weapons and their hostages knowing that they will likely go to prison. The success rate of hostage negotiators doing this work is an extraordinary 95 per cent. When I described what hostage negotiators do to the executives and other professionals I work with at my IMD High Performance Leadership Program, they wanted to know if the secret of hostage negotiation can be applied to situations when one is being held a psychological hostage.

It is one thing to be a hostage with a gun to your head; it is another to be held hostage by a boss, spouse, situation or yourself. People wanted to know how hostage negotiations applied to everyday situations. So the “hostage” metaphor is a highly empowering concept that I wanted to describe in the book based on theory and actual stories. The fact is even when physically a hostage, you don’t need to feel a hostage. The techniques used to gain freedom in a hostage situation can be used by all of us in everyday life. Warren Bennis and Dan Goleman, my two wonderful mentors, colleagues and friends, encouraged me to formulate these ideas into a book, and I was honored to have Warren Bennis include it in his Leadership series.

Morris: Obviously, much of the material in the book seems to be based on what you learned from your extensive experience as a police psychologist and hostage negotiator. What were the most valuable lessons learned from that experience?

Kohlrieser: I have learned a number of lessons in my 40-year career. The most powerful lessons for me have been:

1. The power of bonding and the impact dialogue can have on an adversary, a hostage taker, or a person threatening violence.

2. The paradox of caring. Hostage negotiation succeeds because the hostage taker feels genuine care, interest and concern from the hostage negotiator.

3. The power of focusing on the goal and not on the danger or the problem. When facing a gun, the brain will naturally focus on the weapon unless you train your brain to focus on the person and the goal.

4. The power of language, dialogue and of asking questions.

5. Making concessions within a negotiation.

6. The power of loss in motivating people and in driving violence, especially hostage taking. There is always a loss that precedes a hostage-taking situation.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

His home page

His faculty page

His Amazon page

IMD “Big Think” interview

YouTube videos

Monday, April 22, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Matthew E. May: Second Interview, Part 2, by Bob Morris

May, Matthew E.Matthew E. May is the author of The Laws of Subtraction: 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything, as well as three previous, award-winning books: The Elegant Solution, In Pursuit of Elegance, and The Shibumi Strategy. A popular speaker, creativity coach, and close advisor on innovation to companies such as ADP, Edmunds, Intuit, and Toyota, he is a regular contributor to the American Express OPEN Forum Idea Hub and the founder of Edit Innovation, an ideas agency based in Los Angeles. His articles have appeared in national publications such as The Rotman Magazine, Fast Company, Design Mind, MIT/Sloan Management Review, USA Today, strategy+business, and Quality Progress. He has appeared in The Wall Street Journal and on National Public Radio. A graduate of the Wharton School of Business and Johns Hopkins University, he lives in Southern California.

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my second interview of him. To read all of this interview, please click here.

To read Part 1 of this interview, please click here.

*     *     *

Morris: Now please shift your attention to The Laws of Subtraction. When and why did you decide to write it?

May: The Laws of Subtraction is the book I’ve wanted to write for some time. I have broached the subject as a subtopic to higher altitude themes in my two previous books, first with The Elegant Solution and then with In Pursuit of Elegance, in which I devoted a chapter to the laws of subtraction as an element of elegance. I wanted to produce this final treatment on the power of less for two reasons.

First, subtraction is what people want me to talk about in speeches and seminars. They ask me for “rules of thumb” to help them design and deliver more compelling experiences, for themselves, their companies, and their customers.

Second, I was influenced greatly by the work of John Maeda, whose elegant book The Laws of Simplicity I’ve admired. In many respects, The Laws of Subtraction is an acknowledgement of the impact John Maeda’s work has had on my own. Beyond that, it picks up where his book left off, delving into and unraveling his tenth law: “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.”

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

May: Yes, I gained a new level of storytelling ability by taking a workshop led by Scott McCloud, a well-known comics artist and author of several bestselling books, including Understanding Comics. I learned about the five key choices that make for clarity, whether you’re showing or telling your story: choice of moment, choice of frame, choice of image, choice of word, and choice of flow.

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

May: Well, I hadn’t intended to subtract myself from the book in the way it ended up that I did. I invited a few dozen brilliant folks, you included, to submit short anecdotes or essays on the role of subtraction in their lives and work. I thought I’d get a handful of folks to say yes, so that I could pepper my narrative with short vignettes. I had so many wonderful responses I couldn’t include them all! So I ended up with 54 essays, “Silhouettes,” as I call them, that account for about a third of the book!

And I’ll let you in on a little secret: the original intent was to publish a 12-15,000 word eBook, ala TED Books, or what Seth Godin was doing with his Domino Project. I’m obviously not a master of subtraction, because it morphed into a real book of full length.

But the Silhouettes were so compelling and meaningful that the addition was of the correct kind: value adding.

*     *     *

To read all of this interview, please click here.

To read Part 1 of this interview, please click here.

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

Matt’s homepage

Matt’s blog

Matt’s Amazon page

Monday, December 3, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Matthew E. May: Second Interview, Part 1, by Bob Morris

May, Matthew E.Matthew E. May is the author of The Laws of Subtraction: 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything, as well as three previous, award-winning books: The Elegant Solution, In Pursuit of Elegance, and The Shibumi Strategy. A popular speaker, creativity coach, and close advisor on innovation to companies such as ADP, Edmunds, Intuit, and Toyota, he is a regular contributor to the American Express OPEN Forum Idea Hub and the founder of Edit Innovation, an ideas agency based in Los Angeles. His articles have appeared in national publications such as The Rotman Magazine, Fast Company, Design Mind, MIT/Sloan Management Review, USA Today, strategy+business, and Quality Progress. He has appeared in The Wall Street Journal and on National Public Radio. A graduate of the Wharton School of Business and Johns Hopkins University, he lives in Southern California.

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

To read Part 2, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing The Laws of Subtraction (in Part 2), a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

May: Without a doubt, my daughter. She’s 10 now, but she unknowingly helped me get back in touch with that childlike curiosity we’re born with but slowly lose as we make our way through a school system focused not on asking the right questions, but the right answers…for the teacher. And it carries over into our organizations, where boss-centered work is the norm.

She taught me what real learning is all about. Not the absorption of existing knowledge, but rather the creation of new knowledge. We preach and write books about the “scientific method,” but all you need to do is what your child in the high chair throwing food on the floor–you’re watching a learning cycle in action. She’s wondering what will happen if she drops her strained carrots. The problem is how to get them on the ground. She could tip her dish over the tray, flick her spoon or grab a fistful and toss away. She tries the tip. It works. Great feedback: noise from the crash, food everywhere, Mom gets really busy. Works so well she adopts it as her interim best practice. Good little scientist that she is, she confirms her results by doing it again after mom picks it up. Lesson learned, though: Mom doesn’t like it and Dad needs to get involved, which he isn’t really all that happy about. So she launches another experiment with the spoon option.

She taught me what real observation is. Once she was able to walk, I’d need to carve out an hour just to walk to the mailbox in our neighborhood, all of 50 yards. She was a sponge–every twig, bug, blade of grass or crack in the sidewalk held utter fascination for her…looking, touching, smelling, and usually tasting each and every little thing that caught her eye, and everything caught her eye

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

May: Not so much a particular person, but many people…the Toyota organization. I worked as a full time advisor for them here in the U.S. for eight years. The experience changed my outlook, my thinking, and my life. It’s where I learned to think lean, to understand the concept of an elegant solution, and the importance of subtraction. I also learned the Zen aesthetic ideals, all of which are subtractive in nature.

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.

May: Halfway through my tenure with Toyota, I came up against a brick wall in a particularly difficult project that required me to reconcile two completely different ways of thinking. Trust me when I tell you that Eastern and Western ways of thinking are at times at odds with each other. My struggle must have been obvious, because this bit of ancient wisdom found its way to me:

“Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub, it’s the center hole that makes it useful. Shape clay into a vessel, it’s the space within that makes it useful. Cut windows and doors for a room, it’s the holes which make it useful. Profit comes from is there, usefulness from what is not there.”

My first thought was someone wants me gone. I’d be more useful. Then I read it again, and lightning struck.

2500-year-old idea. Not exactly new. But for me, radical. Stopped me dead in my tracks. I woke up to the fact that I had been looking at the problem in the wrong way. As is natural and intuitive for the Western mind—which is hardwired to act and to add—I had been looking at it in terms of what TO DO, as opposed to what to NOT DO, or cease, or eliminate, or subtract.

Once I shifted my perspective, not only was I able to complete the project, but the incident drove me to eventually leave in order to seek out elegant, subtractive ideas all over the world and in many different domains…to study the ideas and write about them.

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

May: Career-wise, it’s been a serial door opener. Had I not attended John Hopkins, I doubt I’d have secured the kind of job that provided the work experience that helped me get into the top tier business schools and select Wharton for my MBA. Had I not received that degree, I wouldn’t have had the entree into prestigious consulting firms for whom I freelanced. Had I not been associated with those firms, I never would have gotten the call from Toyota in 1998.

Skills-wise, it helped me develop a rigorous critical thinking ability, a left brain, if you will, which I needed, because I’m essentially a right-brain guy.

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?

May: That the most effective problem-solving always begins with a child’s question: why? That the question of “what are my options?” must never come before the question of “what is possible?” All too often in business, we reverse the order, then somewhere down the road, after we’ve invested time, money and effort, we wonder why the problem never got solved.

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

May: Moneyball. It was, of course, adapted from Michael Lewis’s great book. We read it at Toyota, and immediately asked Billy Beane to come speak to us. It points out the power of achieving the maximum effect with the minimum means. It points out the power of discovering and exploiting undervalued elements overlooked by the mainstream market. It points out the power of disrupting the status quo, the conventional “wisdom.” It points out the power of developing a portfolio approach–singles and on-base percentage–versus the ever sexier “killer app” approach of seeking grand slam home runs.

Think about it: how many baseball teams are made up entirely of home run hitters? None. What do we know about home run hitters? Average or below batting average, and high strike out rate. That translates to high carrying cost and dangerous risk in business.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

To read Part 2, please click here.

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

Matt’s homepage

Matt’s blog

Matt’s Amazon page

Sunday, December 2, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sustainability: Do’s & Don’ts

As Jeremy Hope and Steve Player explain in Beyond Performance Measurement: Why, When, and How to use 40 Tools and Best Practices for Superior Business Performance, sustainability is not a passing fad. “Nor is it a public relations exercise. It offers a host of new opportunities to reduce waste, cut costs, and develop new and exciting products and services. But it means rethinking deeply ingrained management practices, such as the way firms set financial targets and budgets that collide with many principles of sustainability.”

The aim is to cut waste both within and beyond the organization and in a much wider ecosystem. That will require new thinking, obviously, but also new strategies, tactics, processes…and products. With all due respect to economic and operational incentives, I feel very strongly about the importance of “good citizenship.” It is no coincidence that the companies that are annually ranked among those that are most highly admired and the best to work for are also among those annually ranked among the most profitable and having the greatest cap value within their industry.

Here is what Jeremy Hope and Steve Player recommend.

Actions to Avoid

o  Stop paying lip service and take sustainability seriously.
o  Challenge economies-of-scale thinking.
o  Be wary of short-term budgets and targets.

Actions to Take

1. Examine the evidence. (Check out exemplars such as Nokia, 3M, and Toyota.)
2. Embrace lean (or systems) thinking.
3. Measure what’s important.
4. Start measuring the triple bottom line (i.e. economic, environment, and social).

*     *     *

For a thorough discussion of sustainability and 39 other major business topics, I highly recommend Hope and Player’s aforementioned Beyond Performance Measurement, published by Harvard Review Press (February, 2012).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Creating Demand: The Secrets of Truly Magnetic Offers

Adrian Slywotzky

How do some companies generate runaway growth and extraordinary customer loyalty, even in a sluggish economy?

Adrian Slywotzky, an Oliver Wyman senior partner and bestselling author, examines the unpredictable dynamics of demand creation in his latest book, Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It.

With engaging stories, Slywotzky pulls back the curtain on how demand creators wind up creating the killer offer: things customers can’t resist and competitors can’t copy. How do some companies seem to know what we want – even before we do? we all want video-on-demand now. But could we have even imagined it 10 years ago? Netflix founder Reed Hastings anticipated the future shift to on-demand streaming – even in 1998, when fewer than 7% of U.S. homes had broadband: “that’s why we named the company Netflix, and not DVDsBymail.com.” Demand “creators” always look to solve the next customer hassle – before we even recognize the hassle itself.

What makes us rave about some things, but rant about others, even when the underlying products are functionally the same? Magnetic products not only offer superior functionality, but also forge an emotional attachment that is hard to sever. they embed themselves so seamlessly into our lives that they become part of who we are. take the grocery chain Wegmans. More than just an incredibly functional supermarket – with an average of 60,000 items in stock – Wegmans has an emotional appeal that led 7,000 people (in 2010 alone!) to beg for a store in their area.

Here is an excerpt from an interview of Slywotzky. To learn more about his firm, Oliver Wyman, and its services and resources, please click here.

*     *     *

How do some companies seem to know what we want – even before we do?

We all want video-on-demand now. But could we have even imagined it 10 years ago? Netflix founder Reed Hastings anticipated the future shift to on-demand streaming – even in 1998, when fewer than 7% of U.S. homes had broadband: “that’s why we named the company Netflix, and not DVDsBymail.com.” 1 Demand “creators” always look to solve the next customer hassle – before we even recognize the hassle itself.

What makes us rave about some tHings, but rant about others, even when the underlying products are functionally the same?

Magnetic products not only offer superior functionality, but also forge an emotional attachment that is hard to sever. they embed themselves so seamlessly into our lives that they become part of who we are. take the grocery chain wegmans. more than just an incredibly functional supermarket – with an average of 60,000 items in stock – Wegmans has an emotional appeal that led 7,000 people (in 2010 alone!) to beg for a store in their area.

Can you actually create demand – or are you just getting lucky?

Smart companies recognize that we often can’t articulate what we really want, and that “creating” demand is often just a matter of recognizing untapped demand. Demand creators identify hassles that bedevil all of us – and instead of simply accepting them, they ask, “Do they have to be this way?” Reed Hastings founded Netflix after a personal frustration with a $40 late fee. By making the leap from the way things are to the way they should be, he unleashed demand… to the tune of $2 billion.

Why do most attempts to create demand fail?

Identifying hassles that could be solved is a start – but it’s not enough. Demand creators recognize that even great products have a very low chance of success, and they do everything they can to increase it. Toyota knew the Prius’ odds of success were less than 5%. yet instead of dropping the project, Toyota actively asked, “how can we change those odds?” the company even went so far as to create a new division for the project – and then successfully launched the Prius two months ahead of an already “impossible” schedule.

Does what happens behind the scenes actually matter for demand creators?

It’s easy to think that only the product itself matters, but what happens behind the scenes can shape both the end product and your experience using it. Take the market for e-readers. the Amazon Kindle provided instant, wireless access to the world’s biggest bookstore. the Sony reader – released 10 months before the Kindle – offered wired access to only 20,000 titles. the backstory makes all the difference: there really is no point to an e-reader that doesn’t have the books you want to read, when you want to read them!

So many great products never get purchased, while others fly off the shelves. What triggers us to buy something?

Most of us need a trigger to get from want to buy. For Zipcar, it’s density – and just a short walk to the car. For Nespresso, it’s taste and trial in a fancy boutique. For Netflix, it’s waiting one day for a movie to arrive instead of six. Smart companies recognize that each product has its own trigger – and that discovering these triggers is the key to creating demand.

*     *     *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

Adrian Slywotzky, a senior partner at Oliver Wyman, has consulted to Fortune 500 companies from a broad cross-section of industries, working extensively at the CEO and senior executive level for major corporations on issues related to new business development and creating new areas of value growth. He has written several books on strategy and growth, including Value Migration, The Profit Zone, and The Upside.

 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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