Here is an excerpt from John A. Byrne’s cover article by FORTUNE magazine. Great ideas are hard to come by. Putting them to work is even harder. Byrne invites you to meet the founders who turned concepts into companies and changed the face of business.
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When Jeff Bezos came up with the idea for what would become Amazon.com, he went on a stroll in Central Park with his boss at the time to share his epiphany.
Bezos, in 1992, was a senior vice president for the New York hedge fund D.E. Shaw. He described his dream to create a company that would sell books on the Internet. His boss listened intently before offering a bit of advice: “That sounds like a really good idea, but it would be an even better idea for someone who didn’t already have a good job.”
Big ideas of the ground-shifting variety are rare — and hard to pull off. But that’s the difference between the dreamer and the doer. It took Bezos all of 48 hours to decide to quit his job and get started. Some 18 years later, he’s still at the helm of Amazon.com, which has redefined the way people buy almost everything, employs 56,200 people, and is valued at more than $80 billion.
Having spent years studying Bezos and others like him as an author, senior writer, and editor at both Business Week and Fast Company, I can tell you that Bezos is one of those rare birds who have made a meaningful mark on our economy and our world. He would certainly be on anyone’s list of the 12 greatest entrepreneurs of my generation. Who else should make that cut? After spending the better part of the past year pondering that question for a new book, World Changers: 25 Entrepreneurs Who Changed Business as We Knew It (Portfolio Penguin), I was asked by FORTUNE who deserves to be on that list — and what we can learn from each of them.
Many are obvious — from the late Steve Jobs, who helped make Apple the hottest and most valuable company on the planet, to Mark Zuckerberg, who will take Facebook public in what is anticipated to be the biggest IPO of all time (at a value of more than $80 billion). But there will be a few surprises too, such as N.R. Narayana Murthy, the visionary founder of Infosys who has built one of the largest companies in India, helping to transform that economy and put it on the world stage.
Another surprise: Not a single woman makes the list of the top 12 — at a time when women have gathered more influence and power in business than ever before. Oprah Winfrey has leveraged her celebrity into a formidable media empire, and the late Body Shop founder Anita Roddick proved that you could market products by being socially and environmentally responsible. They clearly warrant honorable mention but have not, in my view, transformed the face of business or society in as profound a way as those singled out here.
Admittedly this list of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs is subjective. I based it largely on social and economic impact; the world-changing vision of a founder who has inspired employees and other entrepreneurs alike; a record of innovation; and the actual performance of their companies over time. These founders created and then nurtured healthy, sustainable organizations that now have a combined market value of more than $1.7 trillion. They directly employ more than 3 million people, ranging from a high of 2.1 million at Wal-Mart to just over 3,000 at Facebook.
Yet those numbers only touch the surface. Each of their companies sits at the nucleus of a thriving ecosystem that has cultivated and nurtured dozens if not hundreds of other enterprises. Small companies have thrived as suppliers, for example, to Whole Foods, which, among other things, buys produce from more than 2,000 local farms. So the power of each of these organizations extends far beyond its own walls.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
John A. Byrne is Chairman & Editor-in-Chief at C-Change Media Inc. John A. Byrne is the chairman and CEO of C-Change Media Inc. Until recently, Byrne was editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek.com and executive editor of BusinessWeek. He holds the distinction of authoring a record 58 cover stories in BusinessWeek magazine and is also the author or co-author of eight business books, including two New York Times‘ bestsellers. Byrne had also been editor-in-chief of Fast Company magazine. He founded C-Change Media, a digital media company, to take advantage of the sea change that is roiling the traditional media business. C stands for content, curation and community, the three common attributes of each C-Change web venture.
We have provided synopses for many books on technology over the now completed 14 years of the First Friday Book Synopsis. Clearly, there are many avid readers who embrace technology and can’t wait to see what’s new.
Here’s the next one that we will likely see covered in a book soon. It is called Project Glass, and it is a pair of Internet-connected glasses under development by Google.
In essence, you wil be able to be online and view sites through a small glass window that rests in the upper right or left corner of your lens.
The Wall Street Journal provided these statistics in an article on April 7-8, 2012, p. C4. Out of 2,482 social media posts on Facebook and Twitter between April 4-6:
- 77% were excited
- 9% were skeptical
- 12% thought it was too much
- 2% cracked jokes
Click here to read the full article and see some of the quotes taken from the respondents.
And, remember – don’t ever say, “what will they think of next?” As soon as you do, you will be behind the curve.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it really soon.
From Celine Dion to OutKast – Melding the Brand New with the Familiar (insight from Charles Duhigg and Jonah Lehrer)
“People listen to Top 40 because they want to hear their favorite songs or songs that sound like their favorite songs. When something different comes on, they’re offended. They don’t want anything unfamiliar.”
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
Here’s a tidbit from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. The issue is how a radio station introduces a new song by an unknown artist. He describes in detail the attempt to make a big hit out of a song called “Hey Ya!” by OutKast. (My apology – I don’t know this song. You can watch the music video of it here).” The research that music folks do that can practically guarantee when a song will be a hit was clear – this song was going to be a monster hit. But, when stations would play it, people would switch stations during the song. Not a good sign!
Here’s what they discovered: they found out that even a sure-fire monster hit, when it is new, has to be sandwiched between two “familiar” songs, in order to keep people from switching stations. And they have to follow this practice until listeners decide that this new song now sounded “familiar.” Fascinating.
So, this is what they did: they played a Celine Dion song, and then immediately followed with Hey Ya!, and then immediately after, they played another familiar song by another familiar artist. The key word in all of this is “familiar.” Interestingly, people were “sick of” Celine Dion, but they would not change the station, because she sounded “familiar.” From Duhigg:
“There were songs that listeners said they actively disliked, but were sticky nonetheless… Male listeners said they hated Celine Dion and couldn’t stand her songs. But whenever a Dion tune came on the radio, they stayed tuned in. Within the Los Angeles market, stations that regularly played Dion at the end of each hour – when the number of listeners was measured – could reliably boost their audience by as much as 3 percent, a huge figure in the radio world. Male listeners may have thought they disliked Dion, but when her songs played, they stayed glued.”
So I was sitting in church yesterday, Easter Sunday, and we were singing the Wesley hymn Christ The Lord is Risen Today. And, at the conclusion of the service, the choir sang the Hallelujah Chorus. Both songs were written centuries ago. Wesley’s hymn was first published in 1739, and it was based on a fourteenth century version of a Latin hymn. Handel wrote the Messiah in 1741. So, these are not exactly examples of new, modern sacred music.
It was wonderful – and wonderfully familiar.
I had just finished reading the Duhigg book, and thought about this experience, comparing it to the “Hey Ya!” challenge. The last thing I want on Easter Sunday is some new, modern, never-heard-before song. I want the familiar.
So, what do we do with all this? This may explain why introducing and accepting change is so hard. People want the familiar. Even the “familiar” that they no longer “want,” that they are “tired of,” they still want it because it feels “familiar.”
So, if you are proposing a change at your work, asking people to buy in to something they have not ever experienced, look for ways to either make if feel familiar, or, sandwich it in between other actions that are familiar.
No wonder change is so hard…
But, Part 2 – “On the Other Hand”:
But… we live in an era when change has to be the name of the game. So, how do we help people become more comfortable with the unfamiliar?
There are places where we do not want the familiar. If we go to the annual auto show, we want the new and different to be on display. And we are looking for the “cool” factor, the new and different and unfamiliar – the “I can’t wait to try that” factor. Same with an electronics show. We want to see the latest new gadgets and we look for those rare breakthroughs that will change our lives for the better.
“It’s like a middle-school science fair. You see hundreds of posters from every conceivable field. The guys doing nanotechnology are talking to the guys making glue.”
Such events are “defined as” looking for the new – looking for the next, new, new change. Maybe we need more of these, to get our change muscles the exercise they need, so that we aren’t offended with, and driven away by, the unfamiliar.