First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

“Learning Is Static No Longer” – Why The Britannica Will No Longer Be Printed

News item:  Jorge Cauz
, President, Encyclopaedia Britannica:  we will no longer print the 32-volume encyclopedia


And Farhad Manjoo leads the charge on why this is a good thing:  Expensive, Useless, Exploitative:  Why we should celebrate the end of the Encyclopedia Britannica’s print edition.  “Good riddance,” Mr. Manjoo says.  Here is part of what he wrote:

Most importantly, learning to navigate Google and Wikipedia prepares you for the real world, while learning to use Britannica teaches you nothing beyond whatever subject you’re investigating at the moment.
Don’t buy what Britannica’s selling. Its reliance on expert authority may yield mostly accurate information, but it teaches kids to believe everything they read. If you pay for this service, you’re building a cocoon of truth around students who’ll one day enter a world where everyone claims to be an expert—and where a lot of those people are lying. If you want to learn to suss out the liars, there’s no better training than Wikipedia.

So, I told my wife that Farhad Manjoo wrote that this was a good thing (I frequently quote Farhad Manjoo to my wife, and to my audiences), and she quickly stated the reason in a three word phrase that captured the problem.  She said, “I assume it’s because he said that, with the printed version, ‘learning is static.’”  Well said!

Yes, the world has changed.

I still own my very old (1950s edition) of the World Book Encyclopedia.  I remember the salesman (my mother let me sit in), and he showed us how it was almost indestructible.  I wrote many a “report’ for school from that encyclopedia.

But I haven’t looked inside a physical encyclopedia for years.  Years!  But, I read Wikipedia constantly.  And there may be some entries that are not quite what I need.  But, the consensus is growing that in most instances, Wikipedia is as reliable as any other source.  Kind of the constantly, practically instantaneous, self-correcting crowd effect.

But, more importantly, I don’t have to pay $1400.00, walk across to book shelves, and find and open a volume, and find the entry.  Now, with a tap of my finger, I go from the book I am reading on my Kindle App, to Safari, then I read what I need, and then I go right back to my book in the Kindle App.  It takes seconds.  It is right there.  And, it makes learning as ongoing, fast, and convenient as I could have ever imagined.  It is wonderful.

So, if you are sad about this development, I understand.  I’m a little sad too. But, it’s a done deal.  It’s over.  Time to adjust, and even embrace, this new world.  What else is there to do?

Friday, March 16, 2012 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Tips to Make Coaching More Effective

Yes, there are differences between coaching and mentoring. Supervisors should mentor — on an on-going basis —  those for whom they are directly responsible, those entrusted to their care. Anyone at any level and in any area of operations who knows what to do and how to do it should share this information with anyone else who needs it.

However, the fact remains that, now more than ever before, it is imperative that knowledge transfers as well as constructuve criticisms occur constantly between and among those involved within an enterprise. Only then can what Peter Senge characterizes as a “total learning organization” be established and then sustained.

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Matthew J. Ferguson for Talent Management magazine. To check out all the resources and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and/or Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.

*     *     *

Coaching aids knowledge transfer from impending retirees to young up-and-comers, enabling companies to remain competitive. Consider this checklist to get your coaching program off the ground or revamp it.

When faced with shrinking budgets, a leaner workforce and the need to transfer knowledge from impending retirees to young up-and-comers, coaching can help organizations stay competitive and boost productivity. Yet, well-intentioned coaching programs struggle to get off the ground and maintain momentum.

Consider the following [two of five “tips” on this] checklist when designing or re-designing a coaching program to increase the likelihood of success.

1. Technical expertise does not make a great coach.

While technical expertise is certainly important, it is at best only half the battle. Great coaches are empathetic, patient, good listeners and good teachers.
Post-mortems from failed programs reveal that many coaches feel frustrated that participants couldn’t just catch on to what they were describing, while the participants feel frustrated that coaches just couldn’t explain how to do something.

By making sure coaches are more than just technical experts, talent managers stand a good chance of avoiding the frustration and failures that come from poor coach-participant communications.

2. Bad behaviors transfer just as easily as good behavior.

While on the topic of what makes a good coach, it is important to realize that program participants will learn to be just like their assigned coach — even if that means picking up some of the coach’s bad behaviors.

Typically, the coaches who are selected are some of the most tenured and respected employees in the organization. As such, they know all the loopholes and ways around the system and they could easily (in the name of expediting work and shortcuts) pass these along to the participants.

Make it clear that the goal of the program is not only to allow participants a chance to experience how the coach realizes success, but also to teach and reinforce company standards and policies.

*     *     *

To read the complete article, please click here.

Matthew J. Ferguson is practice manager at ESI Consulting Services, ESI International.


Friday, March 16, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3 Key Lessons from Greg Smith’s “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs”

The open letter from Greg Smith, Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs, has generated so much interesting, important, and provocative discussion.  Goldman Sachs has strongly denied the accusations made in the letter.  Clients have gotten nervous, and I suspect that Goldman Sachs has some pretty serious, long-term client reassurance work to do.  (If you haven’t read the full letter, published on the op-ed page of the New York Times, read it here.  It is definitely worth your time).

But, let’s pretend that the letter is accurate.  Just what business lessons do we learn from it?  I think there are at least three:

Lesson #1 – Core values and culture really matter, and keeping the right things the right things is very difficult work.

The letter is filled with accusations that the core values have been forgotten or abandoned.  For example:

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.
I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.
When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.

It takes unending vigilance to maintain core values throughout an organization.  If there is a shred of truth to these accusations, then Goldman Sachs has some serious work to do.

Lesson #2 – Put your customers (your clients) above all else.  If there is even one employee that is guilty of calling clients “muppets” at Goldman Sachs, and it is known by a supervisor (and the accusation is that “managing directors” actually used the word), how can anyone trust that this firm puts the needs of customers/clients first?

It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.

Lesson #3 – The practioneers of today become the leaders of tomorrow…  And, they will lead the way they practice.  And it is here that Mr. Smith raises the alarm the loudest:

How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.

Mr. Smith ends his letter with this:

I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer. 

Question:  can an organization, a company, forget its founding, core values?  Is such forgetfulness and abandonment possible?  Absolutely.  So, whether the accusations in this letter are fully true, or only partly true, the warning is valid, and valuable for us all.  In fact, Goldman Sachs should welcome the chance to reinforce its core values, within the firm, and to its clients.  This is good advice for any organization. And, the final paragraph of Mr. Smith’s open letter really does set an agenda for an on-going vigilance for all of us.

Friday, March 16, 2012 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , | 1 Comment

Adam Lashinsky : An interview by Bob Morris

Adam Lashinsky is a senior editor at large for FORTUNE Magazine, where he covers Silicon Valley and Wall Street. Some of his cover-story subjects have included Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Google. He has written in-depth articles on Wells Fargo, Intel, Oracle, eBay, Twitter, and the venture-capital industry, as well as on topics ranging from San Francisco politics and oil-exploration technology to the post-Katrina economic recovery of New Orleans. In addition, Lashinsky is a Fox News Channel (FNC) contributor appearing on the following business shows: ”Bulls and Bears,” ”Cashin’ In,” “Cavuto on Business,” and “Your World with Neil Cavuto.” He is also the author of Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired – and Secretive – Company Really Works, published by Business Plus (2012).

Prior to joining FORTUNE, Lashinsky was a columnist for The San Jose Mercury News and TheStreet. Before moving to California, he was a reporter and editor for Crain’s Chicago Business. As a Henry Luce Scholar, he worked for a year in Tokyo as a reporter for the Nikkei Weekly, the English-language version of Japan’s main economic daily. He began his career in the Washington, D.C., bureau of Crain Communications. A native of Chicago, Lashinsky earned a degree in history and political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.

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

*     *     *

Morris: Before discussing Inside Apple, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? Please explain.

Lashinsky: It may sound corny, but my mother and father had the greatest influence. They got me started on a good path of loving to learn and instilling confidence in me. They both had a passion for words and ideas, and they also came from the school of parenting that supports their children in whatever it was they wanted to do. I don’t think they would have been pleased if I had chosen to be a beach bum. But they likely would have supported my decision to do it.

Morris: The greatest impact of your professional development?

Lashinsky: I’ve been blessed with great mentors and bosses for my entire career, which began in the summer of 1988 when I started writing opinion pieces for The Daily Illini at the University of Illinois in Urbana, Ill. My current boss, Andy Serwer, managing editor of Fortune Magazine, has been nothing but supportive and encouraging of me and my career at every turn. He is personally responsible for my turning my attention to Apple, beginning in 2008, which has changed the course of my career.

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

Lashinsky: Yes. In the summer between my junior and senior years at Illinois, where I was studying history and political science, I started contributing political columns to The Daily Illini, at the encouragement of my girlfriend at the time, who worked at the paper, and also became a professional journalist. I got a regular column in the fall term and fell in love with journalism. By the spring term of my senior year I was accepting any assignment I could in order to build up clips that I could show to prospective employers. I had been bitten by the journalism bug, and I have been enjoying the consequences ever since.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education in history and political science proven invaluable to what you have achieved thus far?

Lashinsky: History in particular gave me a good grounding in analytical thinking and gave me an ability to put important events in perspective. Whether or not the courses I took have benefited me directly, I can draw a straight line from my love of history to my interest in journalism as a career.

Morris: What are the most common misconceptions about the Silicon Valley culture? What, in fact, is true?

Lashinsky: It’s a misperception that everyone is stinking rich. Plenty of entrepreneurs fail. It’s true that failure is celebrated—or at least not stigmatized—in Silicon Valley. People truly take risks here, and that is exciting.

Morris: Of all that has changed in the business world during (let’s say) the last decade, which single development – in your opinion – has had the greatest impact? Please explain?

Lashinsky: Undoubtedly the Internet has constituted the biggest change. When I started in journalism we didn’t have email. We didn’t check Web sites. We didn’t have smartphones. Our entire mode of communicating has changed. And I’m not exactly ancient.

Morris: In your opinion, is launching a new company today more difficult, less difficult, or about the same as it was ten years ago? Please explain.

Lashinsky: Easier. But the precise dates you choose are relevant. It was extremely easy to start a company before 2001 because there was so much capital, and then difficult from 2001 to 2005 or so. But things are generally easier today because some of the building blocks of starting a company—computing power, storage capacity, software—have gotten anywhere from cheap to free.

Morris: Of all the U.S. presidents, which do you think was best qualified to be CEO of a “Fortune 50” company in the 21st century? Why?

Lashinsky: This question defies rational analysis, so instead I’ll go with a gut instinct and say Abraham Lincoln. Here’s why: Nothing in his background suggested he would be a great president, yet he was. He had a certain something, a magic, an instinct for what needed to be done. The great CEOs have this, and all the rest are less than great.

Morris: From your perspective as a journalist, what do you think will happen to (a) daily newspapers and (b) bound volumes?

Lashinsky: Newspapers eventually will go away. Which isn’t to say news will go away. We’ll have a painful and sad transition to whatever the digital product will look like—and then we’ll forget that we lamented their demise. If by bound volumes you mean books, I think essentially the same thing will happen, though books will survive longer because certain subjects—art, coffee table, kids—will lend themselves longer to the physical product.

Morris: What do you think will be the single greatest challenge that CEOs will face in (let’s say) the next 3-5 years? Any advice?

Lashinsky: Globalization means the importance of geographies changes more quickly than before. Just because a massive investment in China makes sense today doesn’t mean it will in five years. Advice: Subscribe to Fortune Magazine. We’ll do our best to keep you ahead of the curve.

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To read the complete interview, please click here.

Adam invites you to check out the resources at these websites:!/adamlashinsky]

Friday, March 16, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



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