First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Why teachers drink

Socrates may have been the first teacher who drank himself to death but he certainly wasn’t the last.

The following questions were sent in from last year’s GED examination. These are genuine answers (from 16 year olds)…………and unfortunately they WILL breed.

Q. Name the four seasons?
A. Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar

Q. Explain one of the processes by which water can be made safe to drink.
A. Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large  pollutants like grit, sand, dead sheep and canoeists

Q. How is dew formed?
A. The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire

Q. What causes the tides in the oceans?
A. The tides are a fight between the earth and the moon. All water tends to flow towards the moon, because there is no water on the moon, and nature abhors a vacuum. I forget where the sun joins the fight

Q. What guarantees may a mortgage company insist on?
A. If you are buying a house they will insist that you are well endowed

Q. In a democratic society, how important are elections?
A. Very important. Sex can only happen when a male gets an election

Q. What are steroids?
A. Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs             (Shoot yourself now , there is little hope)

Q.. What happens to your body as you age?
A. When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental

Q. What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty?
A. He says goodbye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery

Q. Name a major disease associated with cigarettes.
A. Premature death

Q. What is artificial insemination?
A. When the farmer does it to the bull instead of the cow

Q. How can you delay milk turning sour?
A. Keep it in the cow                                 (Simple, but brilliant)

Q. How are the main 20 parts of the body categorised (e.g. The abdomen)?
A. The body is consisted into 3 parts – the brainium, the borax and the abdominal cavity. The brainium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and lungs and the abdominal cavity contains the five bowels: A, E, I,O,U..

Q. What is the fibula?
A. A small lie

Q. What does ‘varicose’ mean?
A. Nearby

Q. What is the most common form of birth control?
A. Most people prevent contraception by wearing a condominium

Q. Give the meaning of the term ‘Caesarean section’
A. The caesarean section is a district in Rome

Q. What is a seizure?
A. A Roman Emperor.

Q. What is a terminal illness?
A. When you are sick at the airport.

Q. Give an example of a fungus. What is a characteristic feature?
A. Mushrooms. They always grow in damp places and they look like umbrellas

Q. Use the word ‘judicious’ in a sentence to show you understand its meaning.
A. Hands that judicious can be soft as your face.

Q. What does the word ‘benign’ mean?
A. Benign is what you will be after you be eight

Q. What is a turbine?
A. Something an Arab or Shreik wears on his head

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | Leave a comment

Clive Owen Learns an Important Lesson from Ernest Hemingway – Your Communication Tip of the Day (maybe a Lifetime)

Martha Gellhorn (Nicole Kidman) and Ernest Hemingway (Clive Owen)

On NPR’s Morning Edition this week, the incomparable Susan Stamberg presented a look at the upcoming HBO movie, Hemingway & Gellhorn: Power Couple, Covering War (And Waging Their Own).  Among others, she interviewed Clive Owen, who plays Hemingway.  Here is the excerpt:

Preparing for the role, actor Clive Owen read all the Hemingway he could find.
“It’s so economical, it’s so concise,” he says. “He can, in just a few sentences, create whole worlds and whole relationships. It was such a lesson in sort of discipline and economy.”

Economical; concise…discipline; economy. 
Say what you have to say.  Say it with just a few sentences.  This is the communication tip of the day month year; make that the communication tip of a lifetime.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Innovation, Innovation Everywhere – and Not a Drop to Drink in so many companies/organizations

The jury came in long ago.  No change, no innovation = real trouble for any and every organization.

From Gary Hamel, What Matters Now (notice the subtitle:  How to win in a world of relentless change, ferocious competition, and unstoppable innovation):

Innovation isn’t a fad—it’s the real deal, the only deal. Right now, not everyone believes that, but they will…
“Change has changed” – truly, faster change; more change… Leaders must ask, “are we changing as fast as the world around us?”

Yet, the next jury is also coming in – we are slipping in the innovation department.

I have written so many times on this issue.  And I think we do wrap a lot of different items under the overall umbrella of innovation.  Creativity; constant improvement; updates; upgrades; version 2.0, 3.0. 10.0…  the list is endless.

But it all boils down to this.  If you have a perfect product, then leave it alone.  (Are there any?).  But if not, keep improving, keep tinkering, keep tweaking, keep innovating.

If you have a perfect process, then leave it alone.  (There are even fewer of these!).  If not, keep improving, keep tinkering, keep tweaking, keep innovating.

So, I write about this, I think about this, I present on this – and yet I (yes, me – Randy Mayeux) either forget to do it, or simply don’t want to do it.  I don’t change, innovate, upgrade, update.  I have my routines, my practices, my habits…  and so I keep doing things in yesterday’s ways, and I could clearly do so much better.  Laziness rears its ugly head again.  As Scott Peck wrote years ago, laziness is our biggest enemy.  It’s not that we don’t work.  It’s that we work in the same old ways – we are too lazy to pursue the new, the different, the next better thing, the next better way.  There is new software out there, new web-based tools to embrace, that would be really useful for me to use.  I don’t want to take the time to learn how to use these.  There are new skills to learn.  I don’t want to take the time and effort to develop them.  And so much more…  the list is large, and growing, and goes on and on.

In other words, we (including me) really do like to do our work, and live our life, the way we have done our work and lived our life.  And so, we fail to innovate.  And, so many people in so many companies are just like us…

I read this on Andrew Sullivan’s blog:  Is The Era Of Big Innovation Over?.  It links to a couple of articles discussing whether or not the big innovations are over.  (We don’t have colonies on Mars.  We don’t fly around with Jetsons-like jetpacks).  He links to Nicholas Carr (author of The Shallows), and his article The hierarchy of innovation.  Carr thinks we are now innovating more internally.  He writes this:

As we move to the top level of the innovation hierarchy, the inventions have less visible, less transformative effects. We’re no longer changing the shape of the physical world or even of society, as it manifests itself in the physical world. We’re altering internal states, transforming the invisible self. Not surprisingly, when you step back and take a broad view, it looks like stagnation – it looks like nothing is changing very much.

And Carr proposes an “innovation-adapted Maslow’s hierarchy.”  It’s pretty interesting  Click on the image to take a look..

Click on image for full view

Think about the two worlds of innovation.  There is the big, big world.  The folks who will be coming up with mass-produced, inexpensive, driverless cars that will be fueled by garbage and fingernail clippings and thus keep the air cleaner and the planet more beautiful.  Or the electricity that will be provided without the use of coal but with massively powerful solar panels built into our sunglasses.  You know, the big, big innovations that will really change the world.

But there is also the small, more accessible world.  My life, my job, the processes I follow…  what am I doing to take the next big, big step in my small, small world?

It will be in the thousands of little innovations that we develop a true culture of innovation.  And that is a culture we need to feed, applaud, and immerse ourselves in.

So – what about you?  Is there a new software or web based-tool to learn, that would be really useful and make you more effective, more productive?  (The answer is yes, by the way.  This week, I’m working on learning how to use Trello effectively).  Start today.  Is there a process in your job to streamline?  Start today.  Is there a better way to respond to your own customers?  So, learn it, do it…start today.

If you don’t join the innovation party, and keep at it, the world may simply pass you by.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paul J.H. Schoemaker: A second interview by Bob Morris

Paul J.H. Schoemaker is a pioneer in the field of decision sciences, among the first to combine the practical ideas of decision theory, behavioral economics, scenario planning, and risk management into a set of strategic decision-making tools for managers. He is co-author of a landmark book on the subject, Winning Decisions: Getting It Right the First Time. He has written nine books, the latest of which is Brilliant Mistake: Findings Success on the Far Side of Failure (Wharton Digital Press 2012). In addition, he has written over 100 academic and applied papers, which have appeared in such diverse journals as the Harvard Business Review, the Journal of Mathematical Psychology, Brain and Behavioral Sciences, and The Journal of Economic Literature. Given their global applicability, his writings appear in at least 14 languages. His scholarly work ranks in the top one percent in academic citations globally as measured by the International Science Index (  He is also an entrepreneur: he is founder and executive chairman of Decision Strategies International, Inc. Finally, Paul is a dedicated educator: he is research director of the Mack Center for Technological Innovation at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, served for five years as a director of the Decision Education Foundation, conducted hundreds of lectures and executive seminars around the world. A native of the Netherlands, Paul lives on the East Coast with his wife; they have two children.

Here is my interview of Paul. To read the complete interview, please click here.

*     *     *

Morris: When and why did you decide to Brilliant Mistakes?

Schoemaker: Two issues have always intrigued me.  First, when the founder of Honda claims that success is 99% failure, I wonder why we label the necessary steps toward success in such a negative way?  Failure and its twin sister “mistake” too often get a bad rap.  Second, when executives tell me that they learned the most in their careers from mistakes, I wonder why they don’t make a few more.  In the book, I suggest that we should make more mistakes (given how valuable they often are), but most people deeply reject that seemingly silly notion.  I was also fascinated with Thomas Watson’s counter-intuitive advice, as founder and Chairman of IBM, that if you want to succeed faster, you need to make more mistakes.  Our ambivalence about mistakes in business seemed an underdeveloped topic to me, especially the paradoxical notion that some errors will prove to be brilliant over time.

To learn maximally from mistakes, we need to commit more errors than we deem optimal as judged within the bounds of our limited rationality.  This idea may be hard to swallow.  Yet, it is the quintessential insight of this book. To my way of thinking, mistakes can be brilliant in two ways.  The first is to learn from an unexpected setback so much that it starts to dwarf the cost of the mistake.  The second way, which is more difficult to achieve, is to create strategies, organizations or cultures where people can make the types if mistakes where the learning benefits far exceeds the cost of the mistake.

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

Schoemaker: Hardly any “head-snapping revelations,” but certainly a few surprises. Successful people tend to have a different view about mistakes than most ordinary people.  Not only are they more tolerant of them (in themselves and others), but they often embrace them.  Notable examples are Steve Jobs who celebrated his mistakes during a commencement speech at Stanford, or C.K. Rowling who argued that she could not have produced the astoundingly successful Harry Potter series (books, movies, accessories) without having hit rock bottom first.

In the arts and humanities, people embrace mistakes more readily than in business, I feel.  As trumpet great Wynton Marsalis put it so well, if you are not making mistakes, you are not playing jazz – you are not trying.  I believe the same applies to life, since that requires a great deal of improvisation as well.  I don’t think that perfectionists, or people who eschew mistakes for other reasons, realize their full potential as human beings, either for themselves or others

A surprising conclusion is that people who are more risk-averse should make more deliberate mistakes, since they can be used as hedges. This was counter-intuitive to me at first.  A strong portfolio case can be made for investing in mistakes.  For a risk-averse decision maker, it may be worth putting some money in a project expected to yield a loss provided this investment offers a sufficient hedge in case other investments sour.  Even though that seemingly inferior project will not raise profit expectations, it can help reduce losses in case bad scenarios happen.  Similarly, a deliberate mistake can be viewed as a hedge against conventional wisdom, one that will have a high payoff when the majority view of the crowd happens to be wrong (but a loss otherwise in all likelihood).

Morris: Please explain the approach you take in the book to establish a case for making brilliant mistakes.

Schoemaker: In the book, I draw more on behavioral decision theory and its close cousin, behavioral economics, than portfolio theory or options thinking.  Because humans suffer from bounded rationality and furthermore don’t know what they don’t know, the only way to overcome myopic frames, overconfidence, and incremental career progress is to innovate beyond the bounds of our self-limiting world views.  I describe a long list of past business mistakes – as judged by the conventional wisdom at the time – that proved to be brilliant.  These include personal copiers, selling via pet stores, ATM machines, credit cards for students, organic food, fractional jet ownership, and tobacco-free cigarettes.  Just as these ideas were ridiculed at the time, there are many silly ideas floating around today in business that will prove to be brilliant in the future.  The challenge for managers is to recognize them, and this can only happen if leaders create sufficient space for productive mistakes to occur.  In most companies, brilliant mistake may already have been made, but the brilliant part lies dormant because there is little appetite or capacity to mine the mistake.  Since the tuition was paid, why not extract the lesson?

Morris: All of your previous books are research-driven. Is that also true of Brilliant Mistakes?

Schoemaker: I build on the strong foundation of decades of research in behavioral economics and decision psychology.  I offer a practical plan for separating destructive from constructive mistakes, for learning to make more of the brilliant kind.  I encourage leaders to embrace this quality, to milk it for all of its evolutionary and learning potential.   For those rationalists who deem the notion of a Brilliant Mistake to be an oxymoron, I would recommend that they take a portfolio view. A strong case can be made for investing in projects that are expected to yield a negative return. For a risk-averse decision maker, it may be worth putting some money in a project expected to yield a loss provided this investment offers a sufficient hedge in case other investments sour.  Even though that seemingly inferior project will not raise profit expectations, it can help reduce losses in case bad scenarios happen. Similarly, a deliberate mistake can be viewed as a hedge against conventional wisdom, one that will have a high payoff when the majority view of the crowd happens to be wrong (but a loss otherwise in all likelihood).  My book provides the formal argument for those interested.

Morris: Mistakes can either be intentional or unintentional. Please cite a few examples of mistakes (i.e. those that are deliberate and purposeful) can be beneficial.

Schoemaker: Mistakes have been the cause of great discoveries and revolutionary new insights.  It was bad judgment that led the Wright brothers to try to fly: everybody knew at the time that humans couldn’t fly and never would.  In 1895, just eight years before their fragile construct took to the air, Lord Kelvin, the esteemed British mathematician, physicist and president of the British Royal Society, had unambiguously declared that “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”

It was relative ignorance that prompted Albert Einstein, a lowly patent clerk in a Swiss law office, to pose some silly questions about the nature of time, space and energy.  Albert Einstein made at least 23 mistakes in his published (and refereed) scientific publications.  Some of these were necessary to achieve his monumental insights about the deeper forces of nature.

At a more mundane level, I describe a young woman deciding to date any person asking her out and in the end marrying someone she wouldn’t have given a second look.  She was willing to test her preconceived notions about Mr. Right and companies should perhaps do likewise when hiring new talent.  Hiring in your own image is seldom the best approach.

Morris: In the Preface to Brilliant Mistakes, you observe, “For most people, the problem is not that they make too many mistakes but too few.” Are there any examples of that in your own experiences thus far?

Schoemaker: Although there has not been that much brilliance in my own life, there are several personal examples that I would consider “brilliant” mistakes at my own level.  One concerns my decision to take a two-year sabbatical with Royal Dutch/Shell’s planning group in London just after having been promoted to associate professor at the University of Chicago.  Many colleagues deemed this a mistake since my academic career was going well and leaving the world of scholarship might cast doubt on my commitment to research etc.   This risk was indeed real, and my two-year absence from publishing probably did not help my academic career.  But it also opened up new vistas about life beyond academia and led me to found Decision Strategies International, which for 20 years now has served leading companies around the world in the fields of strategy and decision making.

The second mistake concerned our family’s move from Chicago to Philadelphia without there being any single compelling reason to do so.  We were quite happy in Chicago but I left nonetheless to be closer to family, friends and colleagues I had worked with in academia and business.  It turned out to be a great move, without regrets and many new experiences that Chicago would probably not have offered.

In the book I describe a third example, where our company decided – against its better judgment – to respond to Requests for Proposals (RFPs) that came in over the transom.  We had good reasons to believe it would be a waste of time to pursue such RFPs, but then decided to challenge this key assumption.  It turned out that we were wrong; some of these random RFPs proved quite valuable to us in terms of new clients and growth.

Morris: Which factors have the greatest impact on a decision’s outcome? Which of them seems to have the greatest impact? Why?

Schoemaker: Companies that want to compete on innovation are well-advised to become more error-tolerant in practice and develop better methods for capturing the lessons from mistakes.   Such companies should also emphasize that managers (especially younger ones) who are involved in project failures, are to be viewed as being on a fast learning track, rather than an exit track.  Given the significance of failures and mistakes that have led to success, there is potential value from the lessons learned if they are documented, captured and shared. Career development benefits should follow for those involved in the right kinds of failure, assuming they learn and apply the lessons to avoid mistakes in the future.  This can be tested via performance reviews as well as actual on-the-job behavior.

The deeper challenge in all this is that leaders must learn how to celebrate the egg that people invariably have on their face, award.  This president of an Ann Arbor business decided to institute a Golden Egg to make sure his organization would extract as much learning as possible from past failures.  This story is detailed in the book.  His viewpoint was that mistakes are valuable assets that belong to the organization.  To hide them and not share the lessons would amount to destroying shareholder wealth.  At first, few managers wanted to receive the Golden Egg award, but after a while it became much sought after.  Winners would proudly regale visitors in their office with the tale of their failed venture and proudly share its lessons.   The president created a true learning culture.

*     *     *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Home Page: please click here.

Wharton’s Mack Center: please click here.

His Amazon page: please click here.

His Wikipedia page: please click here.

A video: please click here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Be Ignorant: Everybody Is Creative

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Aubrey Daniels 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.

*     *     *

Requirements for getting something published and circulated in media today are as relaxed as a Sunday afternoon, thanks in part to social media. Social media has us all hooked in one way, shape or form. Even those who have attempted to avoid it have succumbed to its uses and to the potential benefits that, in the end, bring us information that we may or may not hold to be true. LinkedIn is one such example. A few weeks ago I began receiving a weekly email from LinkedIn Today, reporting on the top news stories shared among its subscribers.  This week, one caught my eye, “The Six Enemies of Greatness (and Happiness).”

While I have opinions about many of the six enemies named in this piece, the one that had me most riled up is ignorance. The way ignorance is described leads readers to believe that the reason we don’t achieve greatness is because we don’t know any better. On the contrary, the REAL way to achieve greatness is to identify the behaviors that get you there and reinforce them! It’s as simple as that. We know that being great at anything requires persistence, practice and creativity. While everyone knows about persistence and practice, creativity is the most misunderstood and is probably the biggest barrier preventing most people from even thinking about doing extraordinary things.

However, creativity is behavior. It is about people doing things that have never been done. We tend to complicate it by thinking that it is a brain thing and that only special people have it. In reality, practice and persistence are at the heart of creativity. An oft-used example is the Edison quote, “I found 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb!” When you accept and understand that creativity is behavior, then you will know how to increase it or decrease it.

If you are a manager or leader who needs more creativity from your employees (and who doesn’t) here are a few ideas for how you might foster it:

Note: Here is the first of four specific insights, followed by a crisp analysis. To read the complete article, please click here.]

Reinforce all ideas: Any behavior that indicates a person is thinking about how to do a job better or how to find a new or improved product or service should be reinforced. An idea that seems trivial or outrageous may be the father to one that generates a more efficient process, product or service.

*     *     *

To read Aubrey’s other articles, please click here.

Aubrey C. Daniels is a thought leader and an internationally recognized expert on management, leadership and workplace issues who is considered an authority on human behavior in the workplace. Trained as a psychologist and specializing in the science of behavior analysis, Daniels is the author of Bringing Out the Best in People and five other business books. As chairman of his consulting firm, Aubrey Daniels International, he and his staff help organizations employ the timeless principles of behavioral science to re-energize the workplace, optimize performance and achieve lasting results. He can be reached at his firm.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



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