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John Ferling: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

Ferling1Throughout his long career, historian John Ferling has specialized in the American Revolution. He taught numerous courses on the Revolution, America’s Founders, and U. S. military history. He is the author of thirteen books, the latest of which is Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War That Won It (2015). His other books include biographies of Washington and John Adams, and a history of the Revolutionary War, Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence (2007). Here is a portion of the brief autobiographical statement that appears on his website.

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My parents were from the same small town in West Virginia. My mom graduated from West Liberty State College and taught elementary school for several years. My dad briefly attended the same college, but dropped out during the Great Depression. He eventually found work with Union Carbide and continued to work for the company for 40 years.

I was their only child and when I was one year old my father was transferred to Texas City, Texas, and that is where I grew up. I graduated from Sam Houston State University with a BA degree in history in 1961. Later, I received an MA from Baylor University and a Ph.D. from West Virginia University.

Early on I taught in Texas, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, but I spent most of my career at the University of West Georgia in suburban Atlanta. I retired from teaching after a forty-year career.

I was always interested in writing. As a kid, I devoured the sports section of the Houston Post, as much interested in the writing as in the scores. In college, I discovered good books written by good historians and decided that I wanted to become a historian and to write history.

I still love sports, however, especially baseball, and I have been a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

My wife, Carol, and I live in metropolitan Atlanta.

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Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of John.

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Morris: Before discussing your latest book, Whirlwind, and other works, here are a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Ferling: My parents. My mom was a teacher who understood the value of education, while my dad taught me the value of hard work, diligence, and listening to my teachers.

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

Ferling: I came out of graduate school well prepared for a career as a professional historian. West Virginia University had a small graduate program in the 1960s, but it was excellent for my needs. The faculty took its teaching responsibilities seriously and made time for the students, but they were historians as well and all were actively engaged in research. Three professors had a profound impact on me. Kurt Rosenbaum, who was a German and European diplomatic historian, provided crucial guidance in my development as a critical thinker. William Barnes, an American historian and economic determinist, helped to shape my outlook. My mentor, Elizabeth Cometti, who specialized in early America, was important in my development as a researcher and writer.

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.

Ferling: I started college with an interest in history, but found my courses to be so boring that I decided not to pursue it. Fortunately, in the last required course that I had to take, a Western Civilization class during my sophomore year, I took Dr. William Painter. He didn’t lecture. Instead, he had us read assigned books, which we discussed in class. I found it to be an electrifying experience, one that for me opened an entirely new way of thinking about and studying history. By the end of that semester I knew that I wanted to teach history in college and to write history.

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

Ferling: College was pivotal for me. It broadened my horizons, taught me to think and question, and introduced me to many things — such as art and classical music — that had not previously been part of my life. I went to college thinking that I might teach history in high school or that I might seek a career in the retail industry, probably working for a department store, something I had done during the holidays while in high school. I came out of college with plans to do something that had never crossed my mind four years earlier.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you went to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Ferling: My dad graduated from high school just as the Stock Market crashed in 1929. His advice to me was to never risk investing my money in anything aside from U.S. savings bonds. When I went to work following graduate school I was thirty-one years old and penniless, so I couldn’t immediately invest anything. In time, things stabilized, but as I knew little about business or the stock market, I invested mostly in mutual funds and certificates of deposit. Sometimes, I wish I had taken the time to learn more about investing.

Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes an especially event, development, or period in history? Please explain.

Ferling: Two movies – The Thin Red Line and Paths of Glory. Neither romanticizes war and the latter, while dealing with an army, demonstrates the terrible ruthlessness to which those in power will resort in order to maintain their control of power.

Morris: From which other history book have you learned the most valuable lessons about studying history? Please explain.

Ferling: As a professional historian, I have read so many works of history over the past fifty years that it is difficult to pick a handful. But here goes. Alan Bullock’s Hitler, which I read while an undergraduate, demonstrated the means by which evil can come to power and how it is possible to carry out the most grotesque malevolence on a mass scale. Bernard Bailyn’s The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution provided a wonderful lesson in how ideas can shape behavior. Bruce Catton’s many books on the Civil War — which I read while a young student — James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom, and David Hackett Fischer’s Paul Revere’s Ride and Washington’s Crossing were so gracefully and provocatively written that they influenced me as a writer.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Ferling: I think leadership comes from the top down, but a great leader knows when the time is right to act, and leadership involves the ability to mobilize and galvanize the people, and to inspire the people to follow.

Morris: From Michael Porter: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

Ferling: An effective strategy almost always involves both doing something and not doing something, and knowing when to choose the right alternative. To succeed, the strategy that is chosen ultimately depends on the acquisition of as much information as possible.

Morris: From Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”

Ferling: Almost always true, though I would add that what was once a dangerous idea can become dangerous yet again when, after becoming orthodoxy, it becomes harmful and needs to be replaced with another “dangerous” idea.

Morris: From Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Ferling: So true. If only Jefferson, who thought slavery abominable, had acted with greater courage to destroy the institution.

Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Ferling: I spent an incredible amount of time during my teaching career serving on committees. I now regard the lion’s share of the time spent in committee work as having been wasted. One of the great lessons learned by those who achieve is how to manage time.

Morris: In one of Tom Davenport’s recent books, 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?

Ferling: Ultimately, someone has to make the final decision, but the wise leader gathers information and seeks counsel – after deciding who among those surrounding him provides consistently wise advice – before making that final decision.

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?

Ferling: This might be correct for companies, but as a historian who has spent a career writing about military and political leaders, my sense is those individuals do not have the luxury of making mistakes. That said, no one profited more from his mistakes more than did than George Washington. As a young commander of Virginia’s army in the French and Indian War, he made one mistake after another, leading to open criticism of his leadership and character in the colony’s only newspaper. Washington took the criticism to heart and did not make the same errors during the War of Independence.

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

Whirlwind-1Ferling: Washington, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Jefferson, FDR, and Martin Luther King were not great storytellers, but, as I indicate in Whirlwind, they did alright as leaders.

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To read all of Part 1, please click here.

John cordially invites you to check out the resources at his website by clicking here.

Sunday, July 5, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fascinating Facts about the Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

Above is John Trumbull’s famous painting that records the event.

One of my ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence so I have a special interest in the circumstances within which it was created. Here are some fascinating facts provided by ConstitutionFacts.com.

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There is something written on the back of the Declaration of Independence, but it isn’t a secret map or code. Instead, there are a few handwritten words that say, “Original Declaration of Independence/ dated 4th July 1776″. No one knows who wrote this, but it was probably added as a label when the document was rolled up for storage many years ago.

* * *

Once the Declaration of Independence had been written and signed, printer John Dunlap was asked to make about 200 copies to be distributed throughout the colonies. Today, the “Dunlap Broadsides” are extremely rare and valuable. In 1989, someone discovered a previously unknown Dunlap Broadside. It was sold for over $8 million in 2000. There are only 26 known surviving Dunlap Broadsides today.

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Although Thomas Jefferson is often called the “author” of the Declaration of Independence, he wasn’t the only person who contributed important ideas. Jefferson was a member of a five-person committee appointed by the Continental Congress to write the Declaration. The committee included Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman.

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Robert Livingston, one of the members of the committee who wrote the Declaration of Independence, never signed it. He believed that it was too soon to declare independence and therefore refused to sign.

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One of the most widely held misconceptions about the Declaration of Independence is that it was signed on July 4, 1776. In fact, independence was formally declared on July 2, 1776, a date that John Adams believed would be “the most memorable epoch in the history of America.” On July 4, 1776, Congress approved the final text of the Declaration. It wasn’t signed until August 2, 1776.

* * *

After Jefferson wrote his first draft of the Declaration, the other members of the Declaration committee and the Continental Congress made 86 changes to Jefferson’s draft, including shortening the overall length by more than a fourth.

* * *

When writing the first draft of the Declaration, Jefferson primarily drew upon two sources: his own draft of a preamble to the Virginia Constitution and George Mason’s draft of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights.

* * *

Jefferson was quite unhappy about some of the edits made to his original draft of the Declaration of Independence. He had originally included language condemning the British promotion of the slave trade (even though Jefferson himself was a slave owner). This criticism of the slave trade was removed in spite of Jefferson’s objections.

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On December 13, 1952, the Declaration of Independence (along with the Constitution and Bill of Rights) was formally delivered to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., where it has remained since then.

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The two youngest signers of the Declaration of Independence were both from South Carolina. Thomas Lynch, Jr. and Edward Rutledge were both born in 1749 and were only 26 when they signed the Declaration. Most of the other signers were in their 40s and 50s.

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Philosopher John Locke’s ideas were an important influence on the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson restated Locke’s contract theory of government when he wrote in the Declaration that governments derived “their just Powers from the consent of the people.”

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Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the vote to approve the Declaration of Independence.

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Some of the most famous lines in the Declaration of Independence were inspired by Virginia’s Declaration of Rights by George Mason. Mason said: “all men are born equally free and independent.” Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence said: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Mason listed man’s “natural Rights” as “Enjoyment of Life and Liberty, with the Means of acquiring and possessing Property, and pursuing and obtaining Happiness and Safety.” Jefferson listed man’s “inalienable rights” as “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

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Nine of the signers of the Declaration died before the American Revolution ended in 1783.

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In the summer of 1776, when the Declaration was signed, the population of the nation is estimated to have been about 2.5 million. (Today the population of the U.S. is more than 300 million.)

* * *

The oldest signer of the Declaration was Benjamin Franklin, who was born in 1706 and was therefore already 70 at the time of the Declaration. Franklin went on to help negotiate the Treaty of Alliance with France in 1778 and the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War in 1783.

* * *

The only signer of the Declaration of Independence to survive beyond the 50th anniversary of the signing was Charles Carroll of Maryland. Carroll died in 1832 when he was 95 years old.

* * *

The copy of the Declaration of Independence that is housed at the National Archives is not the draft that was approved by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. Instead it is a formal copy that the Continental Congress hired someone to make for them after the text was approved. This formal copy was probably made by Timothy Matlack, an assistant to the Secretary of Congress. This copy was signed on August 2, 1776.

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No one who signed the Declaration of Independence was born in the United States of America. The United States didn’t exist until after the Declaration was signed! However, all but eight of the signers were born in colonies that would become the United States.

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The first public reading of the Declaration took place on July 8, 1776, in Philadelphia. A fictional story written in the 1840s suggested that the bell now known as the Liberty Bell was rung that day to bring the people together. However, historians now doubt that this happened. The steeple that housed the bell was in very bad condition at the time and the bell was probably unusable.

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Although August 2, 1776, was the date of the official signing ceremony, there were several people who signed on later dates. Some of these late signers included Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, Lewis Morris, Thomas McKean and Matthew Thornton.

Friday, July 3, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Linda J. Popky on “Marketing Above the Noise”: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

PopkyAward-winning marketing expert Linda J. Popky, the founder and president of Redwood Shores-based Leverage2Market Associates, transforms organizations through powerful marketing performance. Her clients range from small businesses and consultants to mid-sized companies and large Fortune 500 enterprises. She’s been involved with many of the Silicon Valley companies who developed and deployed the technologies that have changed the world over the last twenty-five years, including Sun Microsystems, Cisco Systems, NetApp, PayPal, Plantronics, Autodesk, Applied Materials, and others.

A consultant, speaker, and educator, Linda has been named one of the top women of influence in Silicon Valley and inducted into the Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame. She is the past president of Women in Consulting and is a member of the Watermark Strategic Development Board. The first marketing expert worldwide certified to offer the Private Roster™ Mentoring Program for consultants and entrepreneurs, Linda has taught marketing at San Francisco State University’s College of Extended Learning, University of California Santa Cruz Extension in Silicon Valley, and West Virginia University’s Integrated Marketing Communications program.

Linda holds an MBA and a BS in Communications from Boston University. A classically trained pianist, Linda has also produced Night Songs, a CD of classical piano music. Her latest book, Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing that Matters, was published by Bibliomotion Books+Media (March 2015).

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of Linda.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write Marketing Above the Noise?

Popky: Over the last several years, I saw an increasing focus on technology and new marketing techniques. Yet many of these efforts weren’t successful because the basics of good marketing were being left by the wayside. Furthermore, the opportunities for reaching customers through marketing continued to multiply nearly exponentially. It was obvious something was out of control and that fascinated me.

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

Popky: I began to realize that many of the core concepts of marketing, what I now call the Dynamic Market Leverage factors, haven’t changed in thousands of years, and they aren’t likely to change in the future. Of course, there are some key areas that have changed. Success requires working within that dichotomy to come up with the best marketing campaigns and programs as possible.

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

Popky: I actually didn’t start out thinking about noise and the musical metaphors, but as I got in to writing the book this became more and more evident to me. Then I realized that noise was a factor inside the organization as well as externally, which leads to the Momentum Factors and the concept of static.

Morris: What did you learn about yourself while writing it that you did not know – or fully understand – before?

Popky: I’ve been a writer my whole life, but it’s a very different process to create a book of this sort vs all of the short pieces or marketing copy or white papers I’ve produced for years. It’s not just about having a great book concept, it’s applying the discipline to get those ideas out of your head and into a form that readers will be able to access and appreciate. You asked about storytellers previously. I also rediscovered my storytelling ability, and how important it is to tell effective stories to get key points across.

Morris: As I read this book, I was again reminded of the final scene in a film, The Pawnbroker, when Saul Naserman (played by Rod Steiger) “screams” in agony after a friend has been killed. Actually, it was a silent scream. I think some of the loudest “noise” is in our heads. What do you think?

Popky: We need to differentiate between the times when the noises in our head are distractions or obstacles and when they’re telling us something important. Too often we allow ourselves to get in our own way. However, there are times when that scream inside our head provides more important insight than anything anyone else could tell us. And I think that what’s probably even louder than the noise in our heads is the noise in our guts. Whenever I’ve listened to my head and not my gut, I’ve always regretted it.

Morris: Many people today seem to have the attention span of a Strobe light blink. How do you explain the fact that there are so many poor listeners?

Popky: We are now conditioned to receive very short messages. There was a time when advertisements were 60 or even 90 seconds. Today, it’s rare to find a 30 second commercial. Quite often we see only 10 or 15 second spots, and our attention to web advertising is even shorter—only a few seconds.

We are also now much more internally focused. How often do you walk down the street and see people about to walk off a curb into traffic because they’ve got their head in their mobile device? Furthermore, the ability to contribute and join conversations in online communities and social media is wonderful, but too often we focus on talking without considering how important it is to just sit back and listen once in awhile.

Morris: For those who have not as yet read the book, there are dozens of passages that evoke especially important questions. Please respond to these. First, The Dynamic Market Leverage Model (Pages 10-12): What differentiates it from other such models?

Popky: The Dynamic Market Leverage Model looks at those key marketing factors that are timeless—they don’t change from year to year or with the introduction of new technologies or marketing methods. It gives marketers a way to look at the key aspects of their marketing efforts and ensure that they are covering these key areas.

Morris: Change Is the New Constant (15-18): Where and when is this most significant in a competitive marketplace?

Popky: If you wait a moment in this marketplace, something will change—products or services, customer needs, technology, etc. As marketers, we can’t reach to every new stimuli, but we also can’t sit back and wait for everything to be in perfect alignment either. That’s why it’s so important to have a core foundation. If you know where you are and where you want to go, you can find the right vehicle to get you there—and that vehicle today may be very different than it would have been a couple of years ago or it will be in the near future.

Morris: The Five Stages of the Purchase Process (27-30): Which seems to be the most difficult to complete? Why?

Popky: That’s a great question. Without Awareness, nothing else happens. Your prospects and customers need to know you’re out there before the can even consider you. However, I think the most difficult stage to achieve is Loyalty. So many organizations get you to Purchase and maybe even to Preference (where all else being equal, you prefer to buy one brand over another). But very few brands acheive that strong Loyalty where customers will turn down other alternatives that may be less expensive or have additional features and benefits because they are loyal to that brand. The reason we hear about Apple so often is because they are one of the few that does this so well. Yet there’s no reason why others can’t achieve this status if they’re willing to invest the time and resources to make this happen.

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To check out all of Part 2, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

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

Leverage2Market Associates link

Linda’s Amazon page link

Marketing Thought Leadership link

Wednesday, July 1, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A conversation with Grant McCracken on how to build “a living, breathing culture”

McCrackenTrained as an anthropologist (Ph.D. University of Chicago), Grant McCracken has studied American culture and commerce for 25 years. He has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show and worked for Timberland, New York Historical Society, Diageo, IKEA, Sesame Street, Nike, the White House, and Netflix.

He started the Institute of Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum. He taught anthropology at the University of Cambridge, ethnography at MIT, and marketing at the Harvard Business School. He has been affiliated with the Department of Comparative Media at MIT and the Berkman School at Harvard. He is a student of culture and commerce and explored this theme in Culture and Consumption I and then in Culture and Consumption II.

Grant has also looked at how Americans invent and reinvent themselves. He had explored this theme in Big Hair, Transformations, Plenitude and Flock and Flow.

Six years ago, he published a book called Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation with Basic Books in which he argues that culture now creates so much opportunity and danger for organizations that they need senior managers who focus on it full time. He is hoping this will create a new occupational destination for graduates in the arts and humanities.

His latest book, Culturematic: How Reality TV, John Cheever, a Pie Lab, Julia Child, Fantasy Football . . . Will Help You Create and Execute Breakthrough Ideas, was published by Harvard Business Review Press (2012).

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Morris: Before discussing Chief Culture Officer and then Culturematic, here are a few general questions. First, in your opinion, what are the defining skills and characteristics of a great anthropologist?

McCracken: Anthropologists are good at reading culture and that gives them interesting powers of pattern recognition. Now that American culture is so dynamic, any such advantage n is a good thing.

Morris: To what extent can they be developed by formal education?

McCracken: Oh, I think they are entirely trainable. And it doesn’t take a formal education. All we need is a base of curiosity, intelligence, and creativity and it’s away to the races.

Morris: To what extent can they be developed only through real-world experience?

McCracken: I think a combination of formal education and experience serves best.

Morris: In your opinion, which of these skills and characteristics would be of greatest value to C-level executives?

McCracken: C-level executives have formidable powers of pattern recognition. The question is how we can give them the ability to read “soft indicators” in the study of contemporary culture, movies, trends, generations, subcultures. This is easier than it looks.

Morris: What are some of the core questions that anthropologists have in mind when preparing to begin a new project or assignment?

McCracken: Here’s one: “How to know what you don’t know…but think you do.”

Morris: How do you define “culture”?

McCracken: Culture is comprised of the meanings with which we define the world. And the rules with which we govern behavior.

Morris: In your opinion, to what extent is culture a structure? Please explain.

McCracken: The meanings of culture come from within a culture. That is why we define each generation in terms of both its structure and its values.

Morris: In your opinion, to what extent is culture an organism? Please explain.

McCracken: I don’t think culture is a organism in any useful sense, although goodness knows, it grows and changes as if driven by a genetic imperative.

Morris: What are the most common misconceptions about anthropology? What, in fact, is true?

McCracken: A lot of people think anthropology is about primates, or archaeology or small communities. These are all true in a way but it is also true that anthropology is very good at studying large, contemporary cultures.

Morris: Now please shift your attention to Chief Culture Office. When and why did you decide to write it?

McCracken: Culture matters so much to the success of a business. Take for instance the artisanal trend that has been growing at least since 1971 when Alice Waters founded Chez Panisse. McDonald’s, Kraft, and Subway are now struggling to adjust to the trend but had they had a CCO, they would have had around 45 years of early warning.

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

McCracken: How so much of economics appears just to ignore culture.

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

McCracken: It’s pretty close to it’s original concept, again a bad thing.

Morris: As you explain in the Introduction to Culturematic, it is ” a little machine for making culture. It is designed to do three things: test the world, discover meaning, and unleash value…It’s still a little vague, isn’t it? Some of you are saying, ‘I’m not exactly sure of what he means.’ Me neither. I am still working it out. The idea will get clearer as you read the rest of the book.” To what extent are you now clearer about “what it means”? Please explain.

McCracken: There are a couple of simple techniques for making culture out of culture…and this is where innovations come from.

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To read the complete transcript of the conversation, please click here.

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

His blog website

His Amazon page

HBR link

Wired link

Psychology Today link

Twitter link

LinkedIn link

Sunday, June 28, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Laurie Sudbrink: An interview by Bob Morris

Sudbrink1-1With a passion for developing accountable and proactive workplaces, Laurie Sudbrink established Unlimited Coaching Solutions, Inc. in 1999. She has been a catalyst for change in the workplace ever since. She brings more than 20 years of corporate experience in human relations, leadership/ management, sales, marketing, and training. She is certified as a New York State trainer, a United States Navy trainer, a DiSC® facilitator, an authorized and accredited partner of Patrick Lencioni’s Five Cohesive Behaviors of a Team, a certified Four Agreements trainer, and founder of GRIT® training programs. She is currently a member of NHRA, ASTD, and former member of SHRM and the Western NY Entrepreneurs Organization.

Laurie’s latest book, Leading with GRIT: Inspiring Action and Accountability with Generosity, Respect, Integrity, and Truth, was published by John Wiley & Sons (March 2015). The material in Leading with GRIT provides a foundation that inspires people to step up, take ownership, create solutions, and make things happen! Through these concepts, more happens with less and workplaces are transformed into productive and enjoyable environments.

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Morris: Before discussing Leading with GRIT, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Sudbrink: It’s impossible to narrow this down to one person, there have been so many who have influenced my personal growth in different areas, at different times, in different ways – some by positive example, some by challenging me, some by negative example. My mother, for sure, was a positive influence on me.

Unfortunately I did not get to be raised by her, but as a young adult I quickly valued the sacrifices and pain she endured in having her children stolen from her (by my father), and how she managed to remain a loving and generous person. It puts all of life in focus – you can’t take it personally, but you don’t have to put up with it or ‘like it’ either!

Don Miguel Ruiz is another person who has influenced my personal growth – through retreats and personal meetings, along with his wonderful books, he has taught me to accept myself and be happy.

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

Sudbrink: Again, so difficult to narrow to one greatest impact, but the one that is earliest in my professional development would be my High School English teacher Mrs. Harvey. She was the first, and only person to tell me not only that I was going to college…but also believe that I would succeed! While my father and stepmother were busy tending to 12 other children, and their own lives, I believe they wanted the best for me but didn’t really consider it much farther. They did the best they could. A college professor, Dr. Thomas Mwanika, also made a big impact on my professional development through his teachings in communications – it was definitely part of what inspired me to do the work I do today.

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.

Sudbrink: Yes, years ago one of my college professors, Thomas Mwanika, taught a terrific course called General Semantics. I was so inspired by the power of our words, and thoughts, it shifted the way I thought about things. It had me so intrigued with the impact it has on behavior. This, combined with the book The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard, and a fantastic public speaking course taught at SUNY Cortland that got me over my fear of public speaking – launched me on this path to professional training and development.

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

Sudbrink: My formal education has been invaluable to what I’ve accomplished in life thus far in many ways. First, it taught me to focus and finish. College taught me a lot about self-discipline and personal accountability. It also started my experience of working within a team (other than that of my siblings!) In addition, the subject matter was invaluable. From principles of management, to child psychology and sociology, and general semantics and other interpersonal communications classes – I discovered the foundation of a lot of what I teach today. Awareness. Don’t make assumptions. Use your language with a helpful intent. Be objective (don’t take things personally). Integrity – walk your talk. Accountability.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you went to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Sudbrink: Politics!!! Knowing how to communicate effectively with different styles; not letting things get to you, but communicating directly; being aware of the politics (not sticking my head in the sand), but instead knowing how to navigate through.

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

Sudbrink: I would say probably Karate Kid, great lessons in discipline and perseverance. A few important ones from the film: There is no “try” – you just do. “Try” holds us back; keep your ego in check; put your whole heart/self into what you do.

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

Sudbrink: I would have to say The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, and Watty Piper’s The Little Engine That Could The first teaches the basic foundation to living a healthy and happy life, empowering you to be your best in business, and the latter teaches about perseverance and will power!

*     *     *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Her website link

Leading with GRIT page at Wiley website

Unlimited Coaching link

Her Amazon page link

Twitter link

Google+ link

Friday, June 26, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Emmanuel Gobillot: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

Gobillot, Emmanuel“There must be a better way.”

That’s the motto Emmanuel Gobillot has adopted toward everything he does. As one of the world’s most popular speakers, consultants, and thought-leaders, he believes there is a better way to lead, relate to customers, and engage an organisation’s creativity, passion, and drive. The author of three bestselling books: The Connected Leader, Leadershift, and Follow the Leader, Gobillot gives audiences the tools to see inside their organisations in order to find a better way.

Prior to setting up his boutique consulting business Gobillot worked at the Hay Group, where he was head of consumer sector consulting and director of leadership services. He has worked with various organisations to develop their senior executive capability and to improve efficiency and return.

In The Connected Leader: Creating Agile Organisations for People, Performance and Profits, published by KoganPage, Gobillot redefines both leadership and our idea of what an organisation is, proposing a new focus and new tools to make organisations more agile. Leadershift makes the case that critical demographic and technological trends are coming together to challenge the very essence of what it means to be in business. In his subsequent book, Follow the Leader: The One Thing Great Leaders Have that Great Followers Want, also published by KoganPage, he explains why he thinks that the “one great thing” is charisma. and creates a frame of reference within which he anchors that belief for discussion of what continues to be a controversial subject: the importance of charisma. Opinions are divided, sometimes sharply divided, about that. My own opinion is that, like an expensive fragrance, charisma smells good but we shouldn’t drink it.

Gobillot holds an International Baccalaureate from the United World College of the Atlantic, a Masters of Arts with honours from St. Andrews University, and a Diploma in Management Science from the Nottingham Trent University.

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of Emmanuel.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write The Connected Leader?

Gobillot: Whilst I would not necessarily want to describe the book as being as amazing as a pearl. I like to think I wrote it for the same reason an oyster makes a pearl: out of sheer irritation. I was tired of living in an either/or bipolar world where everything was always at either end of a spectrum (either structure or culture, either soft or hard, either leadership or management, either big or small etc). I was given a lot of latitude in my work at HayGroup to explore ideas and try to solve issues for clients so I decided to focus on trying to reconcile some of those issues.

In my consulting practice I was always struck by the idea that when we talked about organisations we always actually talked about broadly two distinct entities, one being the structures, processes and hierarchies which need to be optimised and the other, the social networks that form the culture of the organisations that needed to be shaped. I have come to call them the formal and the real organisations and like to think of the latter as the company (for the Latin root of the word which means “breaking bread together”).

My idea was that we were fundamentally misguided as leaders by trying to work on those two at different times and in different ways. Rather, to get the most out of the organisation we need to reconnect the company to the organisation. The formal organisation is critical but is also dead; it is a critical process but only a process. To succeed we must channel the energy of the real organisation to the delivery of the formal objectives. This led me to think about the steps necessary to do this.

Having spoken to a number of people about this over the years I was encouraged to share the ideas first on stage which led many to ask for articles and eventually a book. The thing about our work is that we don’t actually make anything and I always saw books as the closest to a product we consultants can have. I love books and the craft of writing so I didn’t hesitate long to give it a go.

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

Gobillot: That’s a great question because, it being my first book, I had no idea what the editing process would entail and bar some grammatical changes I did expect the book to remain mainly unchanged. In fact, the end product is different in two ways. First from a content perspective the book has benefited from challenges from a number of people and is a lot clearer and more practical as a result. As much as I love words and rhetoric I needed a lot of help getting rid of superfluous alliterations so the ideas would speak more clearly to the reader. But as well as content the book changed dramatically in terms of form. I had not at first envisaged the diagnostic instruments that ended up in the final version nor did I start the early drafts with recaps, summaries and short, titled paragraphs. These all emerged as part of the editing process, and, given how keen reviewers seemed to have been on the use of those devices I have adopted them in different form ever since.

Morris: As I indicate in my review of the book for various Amazon websites, there are dozens of passages throughout your narrative that caught my eye.

For those who have not as yet read the book, please suggest what you view as the most important point or key take-away in each of these passages. First, The Connected Leadership Concept (Pages 5-6)

Gobillot: Spend your time thinking how do I reconnect the energy of my followers to the delivery of the formal objective rather than how do I optimise the structures I operate under or try to create motivation in others. People are always motivated, your role is to find and channel that motivation.

Morris: What Are the New Rules of Engagement? (20-26)

Gobillot: We are in a world where the boundaries between personal and social have become blurred and harder to define. Whilst a child would either play a game on their own or go out and meet friends they can now do both of these things at the same time. We have learnt a new way of being “alone together and together alone” which has fundamental implications for the way we think of our organisations.

Morris: How Do Organizations and Individuals Become Disconnected? (32-43)

Gobillot: Whilst organisations rely on roles, rules and economic incentives to work, relationships operate with individuals, reciprocity and social and moral obligations as their guiding principles. The problem is that not only can both be at odds with each other but often they will contradict each other.

Morris: What Does an Organization Designed for Engagement Look Like? (43-48)

Gobillot: An organisation designed for engagement recognises the value of the social networks that both help individuals self-actualise and provides the oil that makes the formal organisation work. It strives to connect the two together by engineering meaning rather than processes.

Morris: What Do Leaders Do? (64-69)

Gobillot: Connected leaders recognise that their role is to make others feel stronger and more capable.

Morris: What Impact Do Leaders Create? (69-77)

Gobillot: Your credibility with others relies on recognising five key elements of effective impact. The first three make you important to follow – utility (there is value for me in the relationship), reciprocity (you see me as also bringing value) and integrity (the relationship is safe) whilst the last two make it easy for you to be followed – warmth (the relationship is fun) and maintenance (the relationship is easy to main – a challenge if you have remote teams).

* * *

To check out all of part 2, here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

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

His website link

His Amazon link

Here’s a link to a video of his presentation to the HayGroup

Here’s another link to a video of his presentation at Google.

Twitter link

This link is to a more recent program during which he discusses some of the early thoughts that are going into his next book.

A link to a meeting for entrepreneurs of growing businesses

Wednesday, June 24, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Linda J. Popky: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

Popky

Award-winning marketing expert Linda J. Popky, the founder and president of Redwood Shores-based Leverage2Market Associates, transforms organizations through powerful marketing performance. Her clients range from small businesses and consultants to mid-sized companies and large Fortune 500 enterprises. She’s been involved with many of the Silicon Valley companies who developed and deployed the technologies that have changed the world over the last twenty-five years, including Sun Microsystems, Cisco Systems, NetApp, PayPal, Plantronics, Autodesk, Applied Materials, and others.

A consultant, speaker, and educator, Linda has been named one of the top women of influence in Silicon Valley and inducted into the Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame. She is the past president of Women in Consulting and is a member of the Watermark Strategic Development Board. The first marketing expert worldwide certified to offer the Private Roster™ Mentoring Program for consultants and entrepreneurs, Linda has taught marketing at San Francisco State University’s College of Extended Learning, University of California Santa Cruz Extension in Silicon Valley, and West Virginia University’s Integrated Marketing Communications program.

Linda holds an MBA and a BS in Communications from Boston University. A classically trained pianist, Linda has also produced Night Songs, a CD of classical piano music. Her latest book, Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing that Matters, was published by Bibliomotion Books+Media (March 2015).

Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of Linda.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Marketing Above the Noise, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Popky: Probably my dad. He was a businessman and a community leader. He set a high bar for me to follow. Of course, back then no one talked about entrepreneurs, but he brought a real can-do attitude to everything he undertook, from building an insurance business to creating and leading a non-profit foundation to build housing for low income senior citizens.

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

Popky: I’ve had the good fortune to work with Million Dollar Consultant Alan Weiss over the last 10 years. Alan has coached and mentored some of the most successful solo consultants in the world. Not only have I learned about best practices in consulting, I’ve also had the opportunity to see those praactices put in action by members of his community.

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.

Popky: I’ve always been a writer, as well as a classical pianist. When I realized music was unlikely to be an appropriate career choice for me, I focused on ways I could be creative within the business environment. I’ve kept up the music, and am now looking at how I can integrate some of what I’ve learned over the years into the business environment The concept of noise, for example, comes from my musical background. Some sounds we consider noise and avoid, others we consider music and lean towards. How do we capture our audience’s attention and add that musical aspect to their lives?

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

Popky: I’m probably one of the few people you’ll meet today who actually has a career related to what they studied in college. I have two degrees from Boston University, an undergraduate degree in Communications and an MBA. I got a strong foundation from BU and built upon that.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you went to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Popky: It’s not about what you know or how hard you work. It’s about who you know and who knows you. And it’s critical to build a personal brand so you stand out from the crowd.

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

Popky: Probably my favorite movie of all time is The Sting. Newman and Redford taught us that you have to have a solid strategy. You have to know both your audience as well as who you need to influence to be successful. And things are not always what they appear to be at first glance. A more recent movie, Inside Man, applies many of the same principles. These are movies you can watch many times because you just don’t catch everything on the first go-round.

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

Popky:
It’s just about impossible to pick a single book. I’ve belonged to a great book club for a number of years and we read a wide variety of works that I wouldn’t necessarily choose for myself. This includes fiction, memoirs, history and historical fiction, among others. Everything I read informs my thinking, and I am constantly looking for business lessons in everything that goes on around me.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Popky: It’s amazing how much we can learn from listening to the people we want to influence. Once we understand their point of view, we can tailor our message to have a higher likelihood of being received. Great leaders know better than to try and impose new ideas on those whose behaviors they’d like to change. There’s a huge difference between compliance and wholehearted support.

Morris: From Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

Popky: He’s right about not worrying about people stealing your ideas. If you have good ideas, get them out there, show people the value and they will come back to you to learn more. There’s no noise if you don’t make it, so it’s important that you get out there and let people know what you’re creating. However, no one wants an idea rammed down their throat. Better to have people hear what you have to say and come back because they want to be part of what you’re putting together.

Morris: From Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”

Popky: As a musician, I’m fascinated by the concept of dissonance, which is the tension that occurs by combining two sounds that together are harsh or nonharmonious. Our concept about what is harmonious and accepted changes over time. This is true in business and society as well as music. So what we considered to be dissonant and jarring a decade or two ago, today is mainstream and eventually will be passe. I think what’s what Dawkins means when he says we go from dangerous idea to orthodoxy to cliché.

Morris: From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd….’”

Popky: Noticing what’s different or unexpected is an important step to enable innovation and creativity. “Eureka” implies you knew what you were looking for and now you’ve found it. “That’s odd” is more open-ended—something’s different and unexpected…how do we capitalize on that? The lesson is as important in business as in science.

Morris: From Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Popky: Edison’s on to something here. All the visions in the world don’t matter if you can’t execute against them. However, what he’s missing is the inverse: Execution without vision is a terrible waste of time and resources. We see this much too often today—people so eager to execute they get ahead of the vision.

Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Popky: I’m with Drucker on this one. Too often I see technology and tools that help us automate processes we should no longer be doing at all…but now we’re doing them faster and more efficiently. That’s because it’s much easier to focus on tweaking something that’s already in existence, rather than looking outside the box—or perhaps even blowing up a few sacred cows—and having to rethink how to do something to start with.

Morris: In one of Tom Davenport’s recent books, 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?

Popky: The key word here is “control.” We live in an age when it’s much harder to “control” people and information than in previous eras. Information is so much more accessible and available today than ever before. This allows more people to be informed on any given subject and provide useful insights and opinions. However, when the rubber meets the road, someone still needs to be on the hook to gather the input and make an informed decision. I have not seen management by group consensus work effectively at great scale for an extended period of time.

* * *

To check out all of Part 1, please click here.

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

Leverage2Market Associates link

Linda’s Amazon page link

Marketing Thought Leadership link

Sunday, June 21, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Philip Kotler: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

KotlerPhilip Kotler is the S.C. Johnson & Son Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. He received his Master’s Degree at the University of Chicago and his PhD Degree at MIT, both in economics. He did post-doctoral work in mathematics at Harvard University and in behavioral science at the University of Chicago.

Kotler is the author of 57 books including: Marketing Management: Analysis, Planning, Implementation and Control, the most widely used marketing book in graduate business schools worldwide; Principles of Marketing; Marketing Models; Strategic Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations; The New Competition; High Visibility; Social Marketing; Marketing Places; Marketing for Congregations; Marketing for Hospitality and Tourism; The Marketing of Nations; Kotler on Marketing, Building Global Biobrands, Attracting Investors, Ten Deadly Marketing Sins, Marketing Moves, Market Your Way to Growth, and Winning Global Markets. He has published over one hundred and fifty articles in leading journals, several of which have received best-article awards.

His latest book, Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System, was published by AMACOM (April 2015).

He has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia and South America, advising and lecturing to many companies about how to apply sound economic and marketing science principles to increase their competitiveness. He has also advised governments on how to develop and position the skill sets and resources of their companies for global competition.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write Confronting Capitalism?

Kotler: I have always favored Capitalism as the best economic system and Democracy as the best political system. They both have the most potential for improving the lives of people. However, both systems need to be reexamined and refreshed so that, in fact, they do serve the majority of people. The first stark fact is the growing gap between the rich, the middle class, the working class and the poor. Most of the productivity gains appear to go to the top 1 percent. Most people don’t have enough income and as a result, they borrow additional money by using their credit card and they fall into high debt. The result of the growing income gap is a slower growing GDP (too few people with money to spend) and a rising tide of indebtedness.

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

Kotler: I began to realize that each of the 14 shortcomings of Capitalism has attracted many proposals. We are not lacking solutions. We are lacking a two-party system that is willing to agree on solutions. Part of this is due to rigid ideological positioning that substitutes for really thinking about the facts and solutions.

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

Kotler: Actually, there is no difference between my original concept of the book and its current form.

Morris: There are so many serious problems in the world today. At one point, you suggest that, “in working on any one problem, such as higher minimum wages, so many other issues come into play, such as some businesses possibly closing down, thus creating fewer jobs and more unemployment and incentivizing companies to import more goods from abroad, which leads to even less employment at home, and so on.”

This seems like Whack-a-Mole problem solving. Is there a better way?

Kotler: Not really. Requiring the payment of higher wages will lead to a loss of some jobs and a raising of prices which drives companies to search for automation to reduce costs. On the other hand, those receiving higher wages will spend more (the marginal propensity to consume is close to 1 for low income earners) and this will increase demand for additional goods and services. Henry Ford had the clearest vision of why companies can actually benefit by paying higher wages.

Morris: What are the most common misconceptions about what capitalism is and isn’t? What in fact is true?

Kotler: The most common conception of capitalism is that it is an economic system consisting of privately owned businesses and large corporations that are run for profit. The profit comes from running the business efficiently and keeping the products and services up to date and competitively priced.

Morris: Of all the shortcomings of capitalism, which seems to have created the most problems? How so?

Kotler: The root cause of several of the other shortcomings is the growing income gap. Too much of the income gains go to too few people, even though all of the stakeholders worked together to make their companies successful. By failing to put enough income into more hands, the GDP grows slower and consumers manage to meet their needs by incurring high levels of debt.

Morris: Which of the causes of poverty will be the most difficult to eliminate? Why?

Kotler: One of the major causes of poverty is a lack of family planning. Governments and nonprofit organizations need to encourage poor people to use birth control so that they don’t have unexpected babies, which will only make poorer families poorer. In Thailand, a major campaign was launched to encourage the use of condoms. Over time, the average family size went from 5-7 children to 2-3 children. Another important step is to invest more money in delivering a higher education to the women in that country.

Morris: In your opinion, what is Thomas Piketty’s unique significance?

Kotler: Piketty’s did not discover the growing income gap but he gathered the numbers to prove its rising level and he offered an explanation in terms of when the return to capital exceeds the return on average growth of the economy. He went further and warned that the growing income gap will hurt the economy and even the democracy. He took the position that we need to make the income tax system more progressive and we should increase the wealth tax on estates.

Morris: About which of the dangers of economic inequality are you most concerned? Please explain.

Kotler: A country’s middle class is its bedrock. Yet the size of the U.S. middle class has been shrinking. Wages have been stagnant. We don’t have those factory jobs that paid a living wage and enabled a family to have a home where the wife did not have to work. But we sent our factories abroad and there is no likelihood of getting them back. Equally worrisome is that some managerial jobs and professional jobs (such as lawyers) which support middle class life are threatened by automation.

Morris: In your opinion, which policy for reducing the great differences in income offers the greatest promise for success? Please explain.

Kotler: I would favor three policies: raising the minimum wage to $12, closing the tax loophole where persons only pay a 15% income tax on long term capital gains (tax it at the full tax rate), and institute a progressive tax moving the highest tax rate from 39.6% to 45%. I would favor implementing these three policies in that order, starting with raising the minimum wage, but not stopping there.

Morris: Please explain how technology has been a factor in the significant reduction of jobs.

Kotler: Robots equipped with software can be designed to do repetitive jobs. All that you need in a factory is a set of dials, an expert, and a dog to keep the expert awake. We will be moving shortly to the next stage to robots with artificial intelligence who can “think.” The recent movie called Ex Machina dramatizes this next stage.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

Phil cordially invites you to check out the resources at his website.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Richard Newton: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

Newton, RichardIn his own words….

I’m an entrepreneur who writes.

I’ve written three books.

The End of Nice: How to be human in a world run by robots: This is a manifesto for human creativity in the age of machines, big data and automation.

I wrote Stop Talking, Start Doing: A Kick in the Pants in Six Parts with my co-author Shaa Wasmund: This was a best-selling business book in the UK and has been published in 15 languages.

And I’ve written The Little Book of Thinking Big: Aim Higher and Go Further Than You Ever Thought Possible, published by Capstone/A Wiley Brand. It hit the Sunday Times #1 spot for business bestsellers.

For almost ten years I wrote about business for The Sunday Telegraph, The Mail on Sunday and others. Then I switched sides to walk the talk and run my own business.

A few years ago I co-founded a company called OP3Nvoice (now called Clarify.io) which was described by Giga-Om as the emerging Google of video and audio. We moved the HQ to Austin, Texas, after going through the Techstars program in London.

Before that I co-founded Screendragon, a software company that supplies brand management and project managements systems for many of the world’s largest consumer brands and ad agencies. It was hell and it was exciting. Sometimes simultaneously.

In 2014 I shifted back to writing. I write on technology companies, start up culture, and innovation for The Financial Times, Guardian, British Airways Business Life, and Virgin Entrepreneur blogs, my own blogs and elsewhere.

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of Rich.

* * *

Morris: I agree with your suggestion in The Little Book of Big Thinking. that valuable lessons can sometimes be learned from the most unlikely sources if (HUGE “if”) if we are retain an open mind and are receptive. For example, what can be learned from a sea squirt?

Newton: The life cycle of the sea squirt struck me as an excellent motif for the book. I came across it by complete serendipity, as I usually do when writing, just as I was trying to find a vivid way to illustrate the difference between using your mind to direct your life and using it to drift. I’d been thinking about a phrase a non-executive director at one of my companies often used about “busy fools”. That I think is the life of many of us. But it wasn’t striking.

And then I happened to open a biology book – which isn’t something I often do! – and came across the story of a sea squirt which was a perfect metaphor.

And a sea squirt, for those readers who like me were unaware, is a small tadpole-like creature that swims around the ocean finding things to eat. And one day it attaches itself to a rock or an old piece of coral and it never moves again. And because it will never again move it has no need for a brain. So it consumes it. It eats its own brain. And so, “use it or eat it” became the motif for the introductory chapter of the book.

Morris:
Please explain the phrase, “Excellent Sheep.”

Newton: This is a phrase used by a student of William Deresowicz’s and the author then appropriated it as the title of his book. His concern is that students are learning to be excellent at passing every challenge placed before them. And for the best, most excellent students this often means going to the best Ivy League university and then a Wall Street bank or golden circle law firm and continuing on a path that could have been set for them before they were born. Thus they achieve excellence in life – provide you take a narrow view on what it means to live an excellent life. But it’s a life that lacks wholeheartedness or individuality. I fear that as automation, robots, artificial Intelligence and big data come sweeping into our lives these excellent sheep will struggle to live with the “unmooredness” that comes from having to constantly adapt and reinvent which will be the new way of living that our constantly accelerating world will demand of us.

Morris: Richard Feynman once observed, “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” Do you agree? Please explain.

Newton: Absolutely. Science requires a skeptical posture. The opposite of such skepticism is faith.

Morris: You make brilliant use of symbols. For example, a white horse. What is its significance? Its relevance?

Newton: I’d read something a Buddhist monk had said about life being like a wave that moved from one shore to another. At any point in time the wave is in a state of flux. So the wave at any given instant is always unique; it is constantly changing and yet it is the product of everything that has gone before.

And I was looking to explain how everyone has a unique perspective on life because of their unique experiences. And thus they may have a unique solution or approach to challenges and opportunities. the wave seems like a good way to express this. And the idea itself could be represented by the foamy crest of a wave that sometimes bubbles up and then dissipates.

So the phrase, white horse. Well, I don’t know if you use the same phrase or whether it’s an English thing, or even a Newton family phrase, but when we used to go on holiday to Cornwall in the South West of England or to France we would always judge the state of the sea by looking for what we called “white horses”. These are the foamy crests that tell you it’s a blustery and choppy day on the sea. If the sea is calm then there are no white horses.

So the white horses became the metaphor for your unique idea that comes up for a moment of time and is special to you because your wave has travelled a path that is your life alone.

The trick is to recognise this and believe in and then capture the value of your idea: your contribution to the world.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To check out Part 1, please click here.

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

His website link

Wait But Why link

Brain Pickings link

xkcd link

Sunday, June 14, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

11 TED Talks by brilliant women in STEM

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As you already know, there have been hundreds of books and articles published in recent years about the barriers that many women face when pursuing an education and then a career in what collectively is call the STEM disciplines: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. As their TED programs clearly indicate, these women are trailblazers who are inspiring a new generation of girls to follow their lead and change the ratio in STEM. Briefly:

Fei-Fei Li: How we’re teaching computers to understand pictures (17:58)

When a very young child looks at a picture, she can identify simple elements: “cat,” “book,” “chair.” Now, computers are getting smart enough to do that too. What’s next? In a thrilling talk, computer vision expert Fei-Fei Li describes the state of the art — including the database of 15 million photos her team built to “teach” a computer to understand pictures — and the key insights yet to come.

Jedidah Isler: How I fell in love with quasars, blazars and our incredible universe (4:19)

Jedidah Isler first fell in love with the night sky as a little girl. Now she’s an astrophysicist who studies supermassive hyperactive black holes. In a charming talk, she takes us trillions of kilometers from Earth to introduce us to objects that can be 1 to 10 billion times the mass of the sun — and which shoot powerful jet streams of particles in our direction.

Hannah Fry: The mathematics of love (16:56)

Finding the right mate is no cakewalk — but is it even mathematically likely? In a charming talk, mathematician Hannah Fry shows patterns in how we look for love, and gives her top three tips (verified by math!) for finding that special someone.

Keren Elazari: Hackers: the Internet’s immune system (16:39)

The beauty of hackers, says cybersecurity expert Keren Elazari, is that they force us to evolve and improve. Yes, some hackers are bad guys, but many are working to fight government corruption and advocate for our rights. By exposing vulnerabilities, they push the Internet to become stronger and healthier, wielding their power to create a better world

Nadine Burke Harris: How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime (15:59)

Childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up. Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain. This unfolds across a lifetime, to the point where those who’ve experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer. An impassioned plea for pediatric medicine to confront the prevention and treatment of trauma, head-on.

Bonnie Bassler: How bacteria “talk” (18:14)

Bonnie Bassler discovered that bacteria “talk” to each other, using a chemical language that lets them coordinate defense and mount attacks. The find has stunning implications for medicine, industry — and our understanding of ourselves.

Ayah Bdeir: Building blocks that blink, beep and teach (5:27)

Imagine a set of electronics as easy to play with as Legos. TED Fellow Ayah Bdeir introduces littleBits, a set of simple, interchangeable blocks that make programming as simple and important a part of creativity as snapping blocks together.

Nancy Kanwisher: A neural portrait of the human mind (17:40)

Brain imaging pioneer Nancy Kanwisher, who uses fMRI scans to see activity in brain regions (often her own), shares what she and her colleagues have learned: The brain is made up of both highly specialized components and general-purpose “machinery.” Another surprise: There’s so much left to learn.

Margaret Gould Stewart: How giant websites design for you (and a billion others, too) 12:56

Facebook’s “like” and “share” buttons are seen 22 billion times a day, making them some of the most-viewed design elements ever created. Margaret Gould Stewart, Facebook’s director of product design, outlines three rules for design at such a massive scale—one so big that the tiniest of tweaks can cause global outrage, but also so large that the subtlest of improvements can positively impact the lives of many.

Cynthia Breazeal: The rise of personal robots (14:04)

Cynthia Breazeal wonders: Why can we use robots on Mars, but not in our living rooms? The key, she says, is in training robots to interact with people. Now she dreams up and builds robots that teach, learn — and play. Watch for amazing demo footage of a new interactive game for kids.

Jennifer Golbeck: The curly fry conundrum: Why social media “likes” say more than you might think (9:55)

Do you like curly fries? Have you Liked them on Facebook? Watch this talk to find out the surprising things Facebook (and others) can guess about you from your random Likes and Shares. Computer scientist Jennifer Golbeck explains how this came about, how some applications of the technology are not so cute — and why she thinks we should return the control of information to its rightful owners.

Here is a direct link to all 11 TED programs.

HeadstrongIf you are or know of a young woman aspiring for — or now preparing for — an education and career in one of the four STEM disciplines, I highly recommend Rachel Swaby’s Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World, now available in a paperbound edition sold by Amazon for only $11.40.

Friday, June 12, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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