Here is a brief excerpt from an article written for Slate magazine by John Dickerson. To read the complete article and others as well as sign up for email alerts, please click here.
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Risk has taken a beating recently, thanks to the financial crisis. Risk is supposed to be about choice and consequence. You take a chance and you win or you lose. But then banks and insurance companies found ways to pervert this. They devised ever more esoteric ways to pass risk on to others, so there was, in fact, no risk to them at all. In this distortion, insurance techniques, created to limit risk, exposed millions to it. The laws of probability, originally devised to solve a moral dilemma—how to equitably distribute winnings in a game of chance—wound up inequitably distributing losses to people who didn’t even know they were at the table. The architects of these gambles left their jobs with enormous bonuses, and companies that helped cripple the financial system were repaid by the government bailout. They took a chance, and lost—but they still won.
In this series, I seek to reclaim risk. I want to remind myself—and you—of the buoyant, thrilling side of risk, and I will do it by telling the stories of people who embrace risk and who live with the fear, exhilaration, and ambiguity it creates without shirking. People engaged in every kind of human endeavor say that taking risks is the key to fulfillment and success. It is at the heart of our biggest thrills and proudest achievements. Ask someone when she felt most alive and she’ll tell you a story about a risk she took. President Barack Obama talked about this in his inaugural address. “Greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted—for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things.”
This series presents the stories of those people. None of my four subjects is in the financial markets. Each represents a particular kind of risk-taker. Mountain climbers Eli Simon and Pete Fasoldt take mind-bending risks with their bodies but perceive that physical risk totally differently than those who lack their skill. The musicians in the band Girlyman balance their profound need to take creative risks with their obligation to please their fans. In Silicon Valley—home to an earlier economic collapse—the founders of the Web start-up Red Beacon are gambling their own fortunes and careers, and yet at every step they seek to minimize risk. Four-star Marine Gen. James Mattis commands soldiers and Marines to take personal risks to protect the lives of others, perhaps the most challenging endeavor of all.
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To read the complete article and others in the series, please click here.
John Dickerson is Slate’s chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail: My Mother, Nancy Dickerson, TV News’ First Woman Star. He can be reached at email@example.com. Read his series on the presidency and his series on risk. Follow him on Twitter.
Here is a brief excerpt from an article written by Sam Ford for Fast Company magazine. The author of Spreadable Media, discusses why content strategies that focus on keeping conversations artificially contained are outmoded. To read the complete article, check out others, and obtain subscription information, please click here.
Image: Flickr user Doug Wheller
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A few years back, a client came to my agency with a desire to show its “thought leadership” online. A key executive there was a credible source on healthy living, and the company wanted to find ways for him to share his expertise online.
We considered the question from the audience’s eyes, thinking about the company’s content in relation to other online communities and destinations online focused on the same subject, and considering as a goal seeing audiences sharing and engaging with our client’s material in those various destinations.
The company would hear none of this way of thinking. Why, they asked, would they want to pay any mind to discussions about healthy living elsewhere? Wouldn’t dispersed engagement be harder to measure and dilute focus on their expert? No, we needed to launch a corporate blog.
The disconnect between my agency and our client stemmed from contrasting mindsets. The company operated via stickiness, while we were focused on spreadability–a distinction my co-authors and I examine in our new book, Spreadable Media. With stickiness, success is determined by how many individuals come to a centralized location via a uniform experience and how long they spend there. Sound familiar? It should. It’s an attempt to recreate the “impressions” model of traditional media industries.
Meanwhile, spreadability focuses on how content moves through communities and exists at multiple points of contact, with an emphasis on a diversity of audience experiences. Publishers focused on spreadability seek to motivate sharing and encourage audiences to actively engage with content on their own terms.
No matter what we said, the company couldn’t be convinced. Their resulting blog didn’t connect to discussions about healthy living elsewhere–because their system of measurement placed no value on such connections. As a result, the blog today sits like so many other online ghost towns, without an update in more than three years.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Sam Ford is director of digital strategy for Peppercomm and co-author of Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture (Postmillennial Pop) with Henry Jenkins and Joshua Green. He is also a Futures of Entertainment Fellow, a research affiliate of the program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, and an instructor with Western Kentucky University’s Popular Culture Studies program. Sam was named 2011 Social Media Innovator of the Year by Bulldog Reporter and serves on the Membership Ethics Advisory Panel for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. He is also co-editor of The Survival of Soap Opera with Abigail De Kosnik and C. Lee Harrington. Follow him on Twitter @Sam_Ford.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Peter Sims for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.
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It’s a great disservice to everyone, especially young people, that the stories that we often hear about the most accomplished entrepreneurs sound so effortless. The truth is just the opposite, even for visionary creative success stories like those of Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Howard Schultz, Wendy Kopp, and even the legendary Steve Jobs. Like any creative process, any entrepreneur who wants to invent, innovate, or create must be willing to be imperfect and make mistakes in order to learn what works and what does not.
It took Dorsey years of experimentation before he finally latched onto what ultimately became Twitter. Wendy Kopp started Teach for America, initially as a conference, on a shoestring budget after graduating from college. And Howard Schultz, while he had great foresight to recognize that Americans needed a communal coffee experience like those that existed in Europe, failed on his first try. As I wrote in Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, when his first store opened in Seattle in 1986, there was non-stop opera music, menus in Italian, and no chairs. As Schultz acknowledges, he and his colleagues had to make “a lot of mistakes” to discover what would become the Starbucks we know today.
Despite what we may have read, Steve Jobs was no different. Here are five of Jobs’s greatest mistakes, all of which history shows he ultimately learned from:
1. Recruiting John Sculley as CEO of Apple. Feeling that he needed an experienced operating and marketing partner, the then 29-year-old Jobs lured Sculley to Apple with the now legendary pitch: “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?” Sculley took the bait and within two years, Sculley had organized a board campaign to fire Jobs. Jobs himself would surely consider hiring Sculley as a great mistake.
2. Believing that Pixar would be a great hardware company. When Jobs was the last and only buyer standing in 1986 when George Lucas had to sell off the Pixar graphics arm of LucasFilms (for $10 million), he never expected the company to ever make money on animated films. Instead, as Pixar historian David Price shows in his excellent book The Pixar Touch, Jobs believed that Pixar was going to be the next great hardware company. Not even a visionary like Steve Jobs could predict what unfolded at Pixar, yet to his great credit, he supported cofounders Ed Catmull and John Lasseter as they pursued their dream of producing a full-length digitally animated film from day one. He protected their ability to make small bets on short films in order to learn how to eventually make a full-length feature film in Toy Story.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Peter Sims is a management writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of aforementioned Little Bets and co-author, with Bill George, of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. He is also the founder of the BLKSHP. To check out his other articles, please click here.
Whitney L. Johnson dared to dream when she began her Wall Street career as a secretary. With courage and persistence, by her forties she had risen to become an Institutional Investor-ranked sell-side analyst. Whitney is the president and co-founder of Clayton Christensen’s investment firm, Rose Park Advisors, a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review and the Harvard Business Review blogs, and the author of Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream, published by Bibliomotion (May 2012). Whitney was recognized by Inc. magazine as one of “12 People to Follow on Twitter in 2012″ and one of Business Insider’s “54 Smart Thinkers Everyone Should Follow on Twitter.” For more, follow her blog, find her on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Having invested in her own dreams, Whitney is passionate about encouraging others to take stock in theirs. She and her husband reside with their two children in Boston, Massachusetts.
Here is an excerpt from my interview of her. To read the complete interview, please click here.
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Morris: Before discussing Dare, Dream, Do, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?
Johnson: I started to write — my husband. Crossed that out, thinking my parents. Scratch that, because it’s my children. Or maybe… it’s. Scores of people have influenced my personal growth, but alas, I must list my parents as I think most of us must.
They provided me with many opportunities apart from school, including sewing, piano, and ice skating lessons. But as the oldest child of parents who married because my mother was pregnant with me, and then later divorced, I always wondered if there might have been a different outcome had I been brilliant or attractive enough.
Though these memories pain me, I recognize these formative experiences have shaped who I am and what I value. My desire to have a happy marriage and a happy family life is resolute. Period. When someone I know is affected by divorce, I understand. I know the situation is complicated, regardless of why the marriage is dissolving. My drive, my intense focus on improvement is likely a means of trying to measure up, and I’m quite certain my laser-like focus on encouraging and mentoring is my attempt to be the encouraging voice I wanted to hear. Without a doubt, my parents have had the greatest influence on my personal growth. But my husband is a close, and crucial, close second. It is he who has helped me grow into a person that believes she measures up – at least most days.
Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?
Johnson: Michael Brown, one of my bosses at BA-Merrill Lynch. I was already an award-winning equity analyst, but I still didn’t quite see my potential. He challenged me to step up my game – not in a you-can-do-better military style. Instead, he was the first boss to ask for my ideas, and gave me the latitude to go do them. During his tenure, I significantly outperformed myself in every measurable category. The slope of the trajectory of my career steepened significantly because of Michael Brown.
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.
Johnson: My husband and I arrived in New York twenty years ago, so he could pursue his PhD at Columbia. I would never have gone to New York on my own, and I was terrified. But someone had to earn the bread, so I began to look for a job. We were in New York; I wanted to work on Wall Street.
But there were a few problems. My degree was in music – meaning I’d never stepped foot in an accounting, finance or economics class, I had zero connections in New York, and women who came to Wall Street in the late 80s — became secretaries. Which is what I did.
Across from my desk at 1345 Ave of the Americas, there was a bullpen of up-and-coming brokers, essentially a locker-room for twenty-something guys aspiring to become masters of the universe. In order to open accounts, they’d dial the phone, people would hang up, dial, hang up. When they finally got someone on the phone, the pressure was so intense in this testosterone-filled room they inevitably went for the hard sell. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see this is a good investment.” I’d always know the prospects were waffling, when I’d hear “throw down your pom-poms and get in the game.”
Initially I was offended, because I was a cheerleader in high school. But one day after hearing “throw down your pom-poms” yet again, I thought – when am I going to throw down MY pom-poms – and get in MY game. After all, my husband’s degree will take 5-7 years. Why would I earn x if 10x is possible?
That was my turning point. I began to take accounting and finance courses at night – and three years later – I had a boss who was willing to sponsor me in making the jump from secretary to investment banking analyst.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?
Johnson: Early on in my career, my musical training (practicing piano three hours a day, understanding music theory and music history, learning to sight read, to accompanying vocalist and instrumentalists, playing in a jazz band, playing a senior recital with 45 minutes of music fully memorized) was of little use.
But once I had the investment banking technical training (building a financial model, etc), my formal musical training allowed me to really kick up my career. As Howard Gardner’s posits in his theory of multiple intelligences, musical intelligence isn’t “just about composing music, playing an instrument, singing well, or even learning a new language, the principles of organization involved in almost any kind of public presentation, whether organizing a conference, producing a play, or giving a speech have their origin in musical structure.” Now, whether writing a research report, coaching entrepreneurs on how to pitch their ideas, or giving a speech, I have an innate sense of an idea’s arc and the requisite musicality in order to communicate my ideas. Meta – but invaluable.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
Whitney invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
To visit her homepage, please click here.
To visit her Amazon page, please click here.
To visit her HBR blog page, please click here.
To visit the Rose Park Advisors page, please click here.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Dorie Clark for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.
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Success sells. Everybody loves a winner. These clichés are reaffirmed every day in our business and media culture, especially if the winners are young or “emerging.” Fast Company recently released their list of the year’s 100 Most Creative People in Business. Every city has its roundup of the local heavy hitters (hello “30 under 30″ and “40 under 40″). And don’t forget the World Economic Forum’s posse of Young Global Leader. What, you didn’t make the cut? (Actually, me neither.) In this kind of environment, it’s all too easy to feel like a failure — but just because the world doesn’t yet recognize your genius doesn’t mean it’s not there.
I talked recently with David Galenson, an economist at the University of Chicago who began studying prices at art auctions — an exploration that drove him to understand the nature of creativity over the course of one’s career. He realized there were two very distinct types of creativity — “conceptual” (in which a young person has a clear vision and executes it early, a la Picasso or Zuckerberg) and ”experimental” (think Cezanne or Virginia Woolf, practicing and refining their craft over time and winning late-in-life success).
I saw this kind of fast, “conceptual” creativity and success exemplified not too long ago at my Smith College reunion, where I heard a talk by one of our notable alumnae, Thelma Golden, now the Director of the Studio Museum in Harlem. Golden has been on my radar for a long time — the year I graduated, she was honored by the college with a special prize. Though it typically goes to older alumnae, she won it only 10 years after graduation for her achievements as a Whitney Museumcurator. She’d known she wanted to enter the field since high school, she told us. Her focus was singular, and she attained professional success almost immediately. It’s enough to make anyone feel like a loser in comparison.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of the forthcoming Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.
Here is an excerpt from another outstanding article featured by Forbes magazine’s website and written by Brenna Sniderman. To read the complete article, check out other resources, sign up for free email alerts, and obtain subscription information, please click here.
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Whenever I try to conjure up what innovation looks like, the same slideshow of images clicks across my mind: that photo of Einstein with his tongue sticking out, Edison with his light bulb, Steve Jobs onstage in his black turtleneck, introducing the latest iThing. Unoriginal and overdone, to be sure. And not all that accurate.
Because it’s not just about that romantic “ah ha!” moment in front of a chalkboard or a cocktail napkin, it’s about the nitty-gritty work that comes after the idea: getting it accepted and implemented. Who are these faces? And, most importantly, as I’m sure you’re all asking yourselves: where do I fit in?
Forbes Insights’ recent study, “Nurturing Europe’s Spirit of Enterprise: How Entrepreneurial Executives Mobilize Organizations to Innovate,” isolates and identifies five major personalities crucial to fostering a healthy atmosphere of innovation within an organization. Some are more entrepreneurial, and some more process-oriented – but all play a critical role in the process. To wit: thinkers need doers to get things done, and idealists need number crunchers to tether them to reality.
Though it may seem stymieing at times, in any healthy working environment, a tension between the risk-takers and the risk-averse must exist; otherwise, an organization tilts too far to one extreme or the other and either careens all over the place or moves nowhere at all. An effective and productive culture of innovation is like a good minestrone soup: it needs to have the right mix and balance of all the ingredients, otherwise it’s completely unsuccessful, unbalanced — and downright mushy.
The Forbes Insights study surveyed more than 1,200 executives in Europe across a range of topics and themes. Using a series of questions about their attitudes, beliefs, priorities and behaviors, coupled with a look at the external forces that can either foster – or desiccate – an innovative environment, a picture emerged of five key personality types the play a role in the innovation cycle.
This last piece – the corporate environment – is a stealth factor that can make or break the potential even the most innovative individual. Look at it this way: a blue whale is the largest animal known ever to have existed, but if you tried to put it in a freshwater lake, it wouldn’t survive. Well, that and it would displace a lot of water. My point? Even the largest and mightiest of creatures can’t thrive in an environment that doesn’t nurture them.
The themes surveyed in the study are universal; despite the focus on European executives, these personalities are applicable across oceans and cultures. The full study, available here, provides further breakdown of where these personality types congregate by industry, company size and job function.
I’ll leave it to you to decide which one fits you best . You may even see a little of yourself in more than one group. But remember, none of these are bad. All play crucial roles in developing an idea, pushing it up the corporate channels, developing a strategy and overseeing execution and implementation. These are all pieces of a puzzle, arteries leading to the beating heart of corporate innovation. Wow – can I make that sound any more dramatic?
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Brenda then discusses each of the five personality types. To read the complete article, please click here.
As she explains, “I’m the Senior Director of Research at Forbes Insights. I’m most passionate about getting to the bottom of how (and why) things tick, and have focused on qualitative and quantitative primary research for over a decade. At Forbes, I research global trends among senior executives and organizations across any industry and topic you can imagine, from cloud computing, talent management and green technology to diversity, women leadership roles, retail financing and M&A trends. I received an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a master’s degree in strategic communications from Columbia University. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on Twitter at @brennasniderman.”