First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Dorie Clark on How to Stand Out: An interview by Bob Morris

ClarkDorie Clark is the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013) and Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It (Portfolio/Penguin, 2015). A former presidential campaign spokeswoman, she is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Entrepreneur as well as the World Economic Forum blog. Recognized as a “branding expert” by the Associated Press, Fortune, and Inc. magazine, Clark is a marketing strategy consultant and speaker for clients including Google, Microsoft, Yale University, Fidelity, and the World Bank.

She is an Adjunct Professor of Business Administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and a Visiting Professor for IE Business School in Madrid. She has guest lectured at Harvard Business School, the Harvard Kennedy School, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, the Wharton School, the MIT Sloan School of Management, and more. She is a frequent guest on MSNBC and appears in worldwide media including NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and the BBC.

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Dorie.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Stand Out, a few general questions. First of all, I think your previous book — Reinventing You — is a brilliant achievement. To what extent have you reinvented Dorie Clark over the years since you graduated from Smith College?

Clark: I’ve reinvented myself quite a few times. Right after college, I went to Harvard Divinity School and thought I’d become an academic, but (after getting my masters degree), I didn’t get into any of the doctoral programs I applied to. So I reinvented myself into a journalist, only to get laid off, and then a political campaign spokesperson, only to work on two consecutive losing campaigns. It took me until nearly a decade after college to land on my current profession as a marketing strategist/author/speaker. So my interest in reinvention comes quite naturally! I wanted to write Reinventing You to help other professionals go through the process more seamlessly, and faster and better.

Morris: My own opinion is that most people prune — if not reinvent — their lives every few years. Frankly, I have found this immensely difficult, sometimes painful. It’s such a struggle to resist what Jim O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” What are your own thoughts about all this?

Clark: Reinvention is definitely becoming a constant in most people’s lives. After all, how many people do you still know who spend a lifetime – or even a decade – at one company? But I like to differentiate between what I call “Capital R” Reinvention, which is a more dramatic job change or career change, and “lowercase r” reinvention, which is the practice of keeping ourselves flexible and adaptable with small choices we make, from taking a class on something new to being open to making a new friend in an unlikely place. The better we are at “reinvention” on a regular basis, the less likely “Reinvention” will feel traumatic when the time comes for a major change.

Morris: I congratulate you on what you have achieved in your career thus far. Presumably there have been a few setbacks along the way. Thus far, what has been the single greatest disappointment and what are the most valuable lessons that you have learned from it?

Clark: There continue to be setbacks and disappointments in my professional life, even though in general I feel happy with the success I’ve achieved. My first book, Reinventing You, was actually the fourth book proposal I created; the other three before it were all rejected. And there are at least four fellowships I’ve applied for in the last 2-3 years that I haven’t been chosen for. You have to keep pushing. But probably the hardest disappointment was the first, getting turned down for the doctoral programs. That’s because academia was my only plan; I really didn’t have a Plan B. But that taught me something important, which is that you should always have an alternate strategy, because you never know how things will play out, and you need to be prepared.

Morris: In your opinion, should people prepare for a career in a specific field or master skills that will be highly-valued in any field? Please explain.

Clark: My ideal advice would be to learn baseline skills – good writing and speaking, for instance – and then get professional experience in particular fields through internships or volunteering. Paying a university to educate you in a specific discipline, especially one that might change rapidly, could be quite expensive and leave you adrift if the field changes or if the need is no longer there because of demographic changes or technological advances. Far better to get specific work experience at work, rather than in a classroom.

Morris: Opinions are divided — sometimes sharply divided — about the how essential charisma is to effective leadership. What do you think?

Clark: I think people want to follow someone who seems “like a leader.” But charisma is often misunderstood. I like the research of the Center for Talent Innovation, which broke down the concept of “executive presence” – often related to charisma – into its constituent parts. They are communication skills, gravitas (i.e., can you handle pressure during difficult circumstances?) and, to a more limited extent, appearance (such as professional dress). All of these are things that individuals can master with practice.

Morris: Here are two of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. 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….’”

Clark: One of my favorite stories from Stand Out is about the psychologist, Robert Cialdini, who revolutionized the field by paying attention to his students when they questioned the typical way of doing business. In his field, experiments were done in a laboratory setting and then the findings were simply assumed to translate to real life. Students wondered how researchers knew the same principles would apply, and Cialdini told them they simply had to trust that human nature was the same everywhere. But he listened and wondered if there was a way to know for sure, so he started doing the first field experiments in psychology and became a legend in his field by advancing the discourse in a meaningful way.

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

Clark: In the business world, we often talk about the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Principle – i.e., that 20% of your effort yields 80% of your results. That’s particularly true when it comes to the research I did around breakthrough ideas. Most of these recognized experts are known for one or, at most, two “big ideas” and concepts that are associated with them. It shows the importance of doubling down when you’ve found an idea that resonates.

* * *

Here is a direct link to the complete interview.

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

Her home page with Free 42-Page Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook link

Amazon page link

Reinventing You link

Stand Out link

TEDx talk: Finding Your Breakthrough Idea link

Twitter link

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liz Wiseman: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

Wiseman, bio-lizLiz Wiseman is a researcher, executive advisor, and speaker who teaches leaders around the world. She is the author of three best-selling books: Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter and The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools.

Liz is a former executive from Oracle Corporation. She writes regularly for Harvard Business Review and Fortune and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Inc. and Time Magazines. She has been listed on the Thinkers50 ranking and named as one of the top 10 leadership thinkers in the world.

She holds a Bachelors degree in Business Management and a Masters of Organizational Behavior from Brigham Young University.

Her latest book, <strhttp://employeeengagement.ning.com/profiles/blog/new#ong>Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, was published by HarperBusiness (October 2014).

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

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write Rookie Smarts?

Wiseman: At the “height of my career” at Oracle after being perpetually under-qualified for a series of oversized jobs, I finally felt like I knew what I was doing. But, as I left this comfortable environment, I wondered how my hard-won knowledge and expertise might become a liability. I had this lingering (if not nagging) question: How does what we know get in the way of what we don’t know but need to learn? I wondered when experience was a liability and being inexperienced (and even under-qualified) could be an asset.

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

Wiseman: The most surprising finding was that in the realm of knowledge work, rookies tend to outperform experienced people, especially when the work is innovative in nature and needs to be delivered fast. There were also a number of counter intuitive findings. For example, we typically think of rookies as big risk takers; however, we found that rookies work more cautiously, biting off smaller pieces and checking in frequently with stakeholders to minimize risk. We also found that rookies aren’t actually bumbling and clueless – they have significantly higher levels of self-awareness and are more attuned to organizational politics, which causes them to reach out, build alliances, and stay connected with critical players.

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

The research findings were very different that my research hypothesis – in fact, I think about 50% of my hypotheses were wrong. However the final books very closely follows the original book proposal. I am persistent to a fault and have been accused of being “a dog on a bone.” In hindsight, there are a couple places I fell like I should have deviated more from my original plan.

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 [begin italics] the most important point [end italics] or [begin italics] key take-away [end italics] in each of these passages.

First, The New Workscape (Pages 6-10)

Wiseman: “When there is too much to know, having the right question may be more important than having a ready answer.”

Morris: A Question of Experience (20-22)

Wiseman: “The upside of experience may be less pronounced than once imagined, while its downside may be even steeper. What we know might actually mask what we don’t know and impede our ability to learn and perform.”

Morris: The Learned and the Learners (22-24)

Wiseman: “Sometimes the more you know, the less you learn.”

Morris: The Rookie Smart Mindset: Backpacker, Hunter-Gatherer, Firewalker, and Pioneer (27-34)

Wiseman: “Rookie smarts isn’t defined by age or by experience level; it is a state of mind – it is how we tend to think and act when we are doing something for the first time. These four rookie and veteran modes are not an attempt to categorize people; they illustrate patterns of behavior. They are modes we can slip into and roles we tend to assume. We shift into and out of these modes based on our situation, mindsets, and assumptions.”

Morris: The Right Terrain (34-38)

Wiseman: “While rookies can play an important role, they need to be channeled and directed toward the right kinds of terrains for top performance.”

“Experts tend to outperform novices in the long game because they can recognize patterns and project into the future, but rookies are particularly well suited to deal with the immediate and the ephemeral.”

“In complex systems, where there is too much information for any one person to process or any one expert to know, the organizations that win will be those that tap into the greatest number of brains.”

Morris: The Fountain of Youthful Thinking (41-42)

Wiseman: “The most dangerous place to be might be at the top—whether it is the top of a ladder or at the top of your game…If you are at the top of your game, it might be time to position yourself at the bottom of a learning curve. It is on this steeper learning curve that we can rekindle our rookie smarts.”

“Are you learning faster than the world is changing?”

* * *

Here is a direct link to the complete Part 2 of the interview.

To check out Part 1, please click here.

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

Rookie Smarts link

Multipliers Books link

The Wiseman Group link

Sunday, April 19, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bernhard Schroeder: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

SchroederBernhard Schroeder is the Director, Lavin Entrepreneurship Center Programs and oversees all of the undergraduate and graduate experiential entrepreneurship programs on the San Diego State University campus. He also has responsibility for the Center’s marketing and outreach on both the SDSU campus and in the San Diego community. He is a part-time Clinical Faculty, Entrepreneurship teaching several entrepreneurship course including Creativity and Innovation.

Prior to moving to San Diego, Bernhard was a Senior Partner in the worlds’ largest integrated marketing communications agency, CKS Partners, which in 1998 had offices in over 30 countries, more than 10,000 employees and over $1 billion in revenue. Bernhard joined CKS in 1991 and working with the other four partners, grew the firm to almost $40 million in revenue by 1995 and led CKS to a successful IPO that same year.

He has experience working with Fortune 100 firms like Apple, Nike, General Motors, American Express, Mercedes Benz, Kellogg’s and others as well as start-up companies. He was involved in the initial branding and marketing launches for startup companies Yahoo! and Amazon. Today, he mentors more than 20 founders of startup companies in San Diego with yearly revenue ranging from $400,000 to more than ten million.

His book, Fail Fast or Win Big: The Start-Up Plan for Starting Now, was published by AMACOM (February 2015).

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

* * *

strong>Morris: When and why did you decide to write Fail Fast or Win Big?

Schroeder: I never intended to write a book. I attended a networking event to celebrate startup “food” companies in San Diego. Sat down next to guy who I did not know and we chatted about each other’s careers and what we were both doing now. Next day he called me and asked if I would do a private TED Salon talk on Entrepreneurship in Education. I did that talk about 90 days later. Someone in the audience called me about two weeks later and asked I would talk at a full TEDx around the theme of Change. So I spoke at that TEDx with a talk I created around why I felt Failing Fast was good. Next day I got an email from a book publisher in New York who asked if they could see the presentation I created for the TEDx talk. Long story short, I sent them the presentation and over the next two weeks hammered out an outline for what the publisher felt was a book. Once the outline was completed, they sent me a contract to write fail Fast or Win Big. Crazy, huh?

Why did I write it? I teach entrepreneurship on the campus, mentor founders in the community, have met hundreds of entrepreneurs. My goal in writing the book was to pay it forward…to demystify and simplify exactly how someone could go about creating a company in an easy to read and understandable book. Just simply tell someone, this is how you do it. With a solid idea, good business model, big marketplace and lots of passion and sweat. Because I really believe no one was born to do what they do…they just decide to do. So, I hope I help someone I will never meet to create a great company.

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

Schroeder: Not really. So, I got up every day at 3:30 AM for about 70 days straight (mostly) and wrote for about three hours and then showered and went to the campus. I wrote the book in no particular order. I write every morning on the chapter I felt good about. So I bounced all over the place. Once the draft was finished, I sent it to the publisher who promptly shredded it. It took me about three weeks just to get my head around their comments and edits. Then I sat down and edited it over the next 30 days, one chapter at a time. The forward was the last thing I wrote. What was interesting to me is how easily this book “fell out” of me. It was not job either; I looked forward to writing every day. Sometimes at night, I would go to bed and anticipate waking up at 3:30am. After about two weeks, I woke up at that time without the alarm. My only concern the whole time was to not write “war stories” and make it about me. Rather, to provide insights and knowledge, and some tools that might help someone become an entrepreneur. Or to help an existing entrepreneur go further.

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

Schroeder: It’s way better than I imagined. Working with a professional publisher and editor took me to another level in terms of how well the book turned out. They provided very fair and tough critiques that made the whole book better. They constantly reminded me of my target audience and the clarity of my messages. I have marketed a lot of things in my career but never really myself. I formed a quick trust level with the publisher and we hit it off immediately. To this day, we have never met face-to-face but I trust him.

Morris:
You ask your reader to embrace “a new way of thinking about creating and launching a company.” How so “new”?

Schroeder: There has never been a time like this…it’s the perfect storm for an entrepreneur. You have the availability of low cost, innovative tools and resources where you can rapidly prototype your product or service. You have marketplaces being disrupted everywhere. You have new sources of funding or early sales with crowdfunding. And you have the largest generation ever forming (Millennials) right now. So, if you have an idea, you have to move fast because everyone else and everything is moving faster. Marketplace windows are slamming open and shut rapidly. You wanted to create a new type of transportation company? Too late, Uber came out six months ago and is flying in terms of growth. Have an idea for a new alternate hand-craft goods marketplace? Too late, Etsy is steaming ahead. Want to get in the “new” healthy juice business? Suja was created three years ago…they will do $40 million this year on their way to $100 million. Did you see the new juice craze coming? So, amazing opportunities but you have to move fast. Or maybe faster.

Morris: To what extent can this “new way of thinking” also assist the launch of a new project? Please explain.

Schroeder: You can just prototype something faster and test the business model quickly. Based on early marketplace feedback, you know you are either onto something or you have to pivot or abandon the idea. I know of one group here in San Diego that had one successful exit last year. They see what’s going on in an area of focus they have developed an expertise. So they convinced investors to give them $2 million dollars to start FIVE small companies at the same time in one location. They are looking for one hit in the next year and then they will focus on that one. That is certainly a new way of thinking. Can you say “entrepreneur factory?”

Morris: What are the defining characteristics of a “solid” business model?

Schroeder: One that makes money, better if it can make money quickly. I look for 3-4 things when I examine a business model. One, is the product or service truly unique or does it deliver a unique value to the customer, that the customer actually needs, not wants. Two, does the business model have a focus on a target segment of the population that over time is large (either large today or growing)? If successful, does the product or service have crossover appeal to other large segments? Three, is there a solid distribution or delivery strategy to get the product or service to the targeted customers in the most efficient way possible. Fourth, based on cost and projected revenue, does the product or service have good (60% or better) gross margins? And finally, not really part of the model but most critical, is the team (read founders a this point) capable of creating this company? I reviewed some amazing ideas that never got off the ground and some pedestrian ideas that have become amazing little companies. Why? The founders worked their ass off in every way possible.

Morris: What are “lean resources”?

Schroeder: Those resources which cost very little time and or money. Crowdfunding, 3-D printer prototypes, food carts, computer science majors going to school at a university you can pay with “coke and pizza” to write mobile applications, farmers markets to test your food prototypes, etc. Online ecommerce websites for less than $30 month, iPads with Square payments is the new cash register, leverage Uber drivers to deliver something, the list just goes on. The mantra is pay little or next to nothing to test your idea. Then continue to leverage everything to support the fledgling company and keep it lean on purpose.

Morris: What is accomplished by “rapidly prototyping a minimally viable product”?

Schroeder: Getting customer feedback quickly. Early in my marketing career, I grew wary about market research reports on everything about the customer. I just did not believe the “data” could tell me what customers were thinking. Only what they eventually did. So, on every account for the rest of my life, I always made it a point to go into the marketplace and meet with customers. With rapid prototyping, you get early marketplace feedback and make your necessary adjustments quickly.

Morris: How best to obtain customer feedback that is sufficient in quantity and of direct relevance to the given objectives?

Schroeder: I think it’s a mix of three things. I like to look at market analyst data that looks down the road about 5-7 years. They are not always right but they get close and they talk about trends at a high level. Second, I like to review local/national marketplace and tend data of the actual customers that are being targeted. Want to really quantify the target market is real and what they look like. Last, want to meet with at least 50 real target customers in perhaps three levels of refinement; first 15 to get a gut fee about this customer segment and present them idea of what we are doing, second 15 to present any refinements to and third 15 to get an idea of how many would buy and why. You just cannot substitute quantitative data with feedback from real customers.

Morris: Here is a comment that caught my eye: “Customers are not always right, but they are never wrong.” Please explain.

Schroeder: This is a great quote. One that I really believe in. Customers are obviously critical to each and every product or service. But here’s the rub…customers will tell you want they want, not what they need. I want a Porsche but I need reliable transportation. Steve Jobs (who our agency worked with at NEXT, Pixar and back at Apple) once stated in general “if I asked customers to design an iPod, they would not design what we designed.” BMW designs its cars five years out. They have to figure out what their customers/prospects will need or expect in a BMW. However, if you are wrong and don’t give customers what they need, they will not buy the product or service and that is where my quote comes from. And in that essence, since they vote with their wallet, they are never wrong.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

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

His website link

Lavin Entrepreneurship Center link

Fail Fast or Win Big Amazon link

TEDx Encinitas video link

StartUp Circle video link

LinkedIn link

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dan E. King: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

King, Dan EDan is the founder and principal of CloseReach Consulting and has developed a proprietary growth acceleration model designed for business leaders and senior teams striving to outpace the competition. The model consists of and numerically scores three growth drivers: Strategy Planning, Execution, and Talent. Dan developed this data-centric concept for assessing critical aspects of an organization’s capabilities in order to provide leaders with the knowledge of where weakness resides. Only then, can investments be targeted to the right elements of the business in order to steepen the growth trajectory. Dan helps leadership teams overachieve – fortifying the business so that financial targets are surpassed – the hallmark of hyper-growth.

Prior to CloseReach, Dan held a senior executive role with a mid-market enterprise that delivered double-digit revenue growth for five out of six years and was named winner of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Pacesetter Award in 2010. In December, 2012, the company was recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest growing companies for the fifth time.

He has developed white papers on topics such as The Keys to Flawless Execution, Achieving Talent Density in a High Growth Enterprise, Strategic Planning – Getting it Right, Applying the Organizational Prowess Scorecard to Create an Integrated Organization.

His book, The Scorecard Solution: Measure What Matters to Drive Sustainable Growth was published by AMACOM (2015)

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

* * *

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

King: Certainly my parents – my Mom had a strong influence in helping me build relationships and a social aspect to my life. I was rather shy as a young person and she gently pushed me out the door to build friendships. To this day, she tells me “don’t forget to have fun.” She never asks about work. My Dad was more about the work ethic and being conscientious. He pulled some strings to get me my first summer job at 16 working for the Department of Sanitation in a small upstate NY town. Collecting garbage with who we called the “lifers” was the greatest motivation to pursue a college degree. Dad expected me to give 100% to any endeavor and that has served me well. And then there was Willy Carpenter. My little league coach. Willy was like a second dad to me. In addition to baseball, he taught me so many valuable life lessons – respect for others, humility and laughter. He wore a perpetual smile and had a contagious laugh. People loved to be around that man. He worked in a maintenance job and coached little league for 25 years. He exemplifies for me what it means to give away your gifts. He was a legend in Corning, NY.

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

King: Interestingly, it occurred early in my business life. I was two years out of college, having moved to Atlanta from upstate New York. I was what I later learned, a wandering generality. No focus, no dreams. Just a single guy who moved to Atlanta because a friend had preceded me by a year and convinced me that the 6 girls to every guy was a reality in the early 80’s. I never actually confirmed the ratio, but I also had little reason to question it. I was working in retail. Long hours, but energizing. I found the pace to my liking and apparently it showed. My store manager called me in one day and told me I was being considered for a job in the corporate office in downtown Atlanta.

That interview introduced me to my first mentor. The company was growing rapidly, opening stores throughout the southeast. The interview was with the EVP of Human Resources. He had to add to his team as the business grew and he had asked his current managers for a list of 10 high potential from the stores. I made the list, although I wasn’t convinced it was a good thing. HR was not something I had interest in. However, I got the offer and the money was better. It was a Director of Employee Relations role and I spent much of my time visiting the stores, working with store managers and their HR leaders on how to apply best practices in managing a large hourly workforce.

Over the next 8 years, this mentor (although I was too young and naive to recognize this dynamic) moved me through multiple roles with ever-increasing responsibilities. By the time I was 30, I was the youngest VP in the company. Professional growth certainly requires a dose of hard work and being conscientious, but accelerated professional growth almost always requires a mentor. I was very fortunate. Ironically, at the time, I just thought that was how it was. Leaders who cared, were selfless and spent time investing in others. Sadly, authentic mentoring is all too rare. We can’t count the synthetic mentoring programs big companies create. The programmatic approach never is as good as the genuine thing.

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.

King: After my stint in retail, I was recruited for an executive role with Kinder Care Learning Centers. At the time, it was a dynamic, high growth business with 1200 centers around the country, looking after 100,000 infants and toddlers a day. I found the business model intriguing and the nurturing aspect of what the caregivers did each day, humbling. Unfortunately, the founder made some missteps financially during the junk bond era and the business suffered.

The epiphany for me at this stage of my career was deciding to depart from the corporate environment and enter the consulting world. I was introduced to an Australian who had moved to Atlanta in order to replicate the consulting practice he had in Sydney. He sent me to Sydney for two weeks to work there with the managing director. Upon returning, we began working with mid-market businesses on various performance improvement initiatives, focused at the individual, team and organizational levels. That’s when I knew I had found my passion.

Entering an unfamiliar organizational setting and going about learning the model, the culture, the growth drivers and the barriers to improved performance. I loved it. Some have said I have a sixth sense for rooting out systemic issues and grasping the essence of what drives performance. I love the challenge and love helping a business leader see the realities that are often hidden from him or her.

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

King: You know, I’m sure I acquired a certain degree of personal discipline through those years of schooling. The reality is, I have not directly applied a great deal of specific course or academic content in my professional life, given that I changed my major a few times and took courses that appealed to me at the moment. Since I had not identified a professional track at that point, I wandered a bit academically. I did tend bar for all four years of college in order to have some spending money and learned quite a bit about life, people and how personal decisions can impact our futures. Decisions can take one to a glorious place and just as easily to one of extreme sadness and hardship. I learned that the path [begin italics] not [end italics] to take is often more important than the one taken when it comes to personal growth.

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?

King: That, even though most business settings are civil, respectful places, everyone is subtly looking out for themselves. Trusting that others will look out for you is not where young professionals want to place their bets. Looking back, I would have been more aggressive, in a positive way and more proactive in mapping my career. I was very fortunate to have had someone who had enough self-confidence and had accumulated sufficient accolades in his career, that he could direct his energy to grooming another. I would tell young professionals to look around and seek out a mentor. Someone who is respected, has integrity and not necessarily trying to reach the next rung.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

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

His consulting firm link

His blog link

The Scorecard Solution link at Amazon

Sunday, April 12, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liz Wiseman: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

Wiseman, bio-lizLiz Wiseman is a researcher, executive advisor, and speaker who teaches leaders around the world. She is the author of three best-selling books: Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter and The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools.

Liz is a former executive from Oracle Corporation. She writes regularly for Harvard Business Review and Fortune and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Inc. and Time Magazines. She has been listed on the Thinkers50 ranking and named as one of the top 10 leadership thinkers in the world.

She holds a Bachelors degree in Business Management and a Masters of Organizational Behavior from Brigham Young University.

Her latest book, Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, was published by HarperBusiness (October 2014).

Here is an excerpt from my interview of LIz.

* * *

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

Wiseman: My husband, Larry, has fueled so much of my personal growth. He is a kind person who sees the best in other people. He believes in me, laughs at my jokes, supports my work, and makes me feel like a genius every day of my life.

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

Wiseman: One of the great privileges of my career has been to work with and learn from Dr. CK Prahalad, the great management thinker from the University of Michigan. CK was a brilliant educator whose gift was never in telling people what to think – it was in teaching people how to think. He taught me how to question and how to hold my ego in check as I uncovered answers. He put me into situations where the demands of the role far exceeded my capabilities, and then he gently coached me as I grew into them.

When I nervously shared the research for my first book, Multipliers, with him, he responded with genuine curiosity and delight, helping me to see the impact it could have. When I asked where I should do further research, he said, “You’ve done your research. It is now time to publish.” There is nothing like having a brilliant person believe in you and push you to be better. One of the reasons that I wrote Multipliers was the hope that everyone would have a leader like CK in their career.

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.

Wiseman: My big pivot came when I left the comfort of a great corporate job (I was the VP of Oracle University) to go out on my own as a consultant and executive advisor.

I had joined Oracle right out of business school and spent seventeen years in various management jobs. Oracle was a company that was not only growing in size, but one with a true growth mindset – a belief that smart people could figure hard things out. As a result, I faced a steady stream of stretch assignments. I was 40 years old before I had a job that I was actually qualified for! While I took some teasing from my bosses (who had to occasionally explain to others why they had given a big job to one so young and inexperienced), I found the work as thrilling as it was challenging.

At the end of those seventeen years, I realized that I was, at last, qualified for my job. I felt like I had come to a standstill and began resenting my job. Sure, my colleagues and work conditions were still fantastic, but I wasn’t being challenged and the exhilaration was gone. But I had to wonder, does the thrill ride have to end mid-career? Fortunately for me it didn’t. I took a pivot step out of my comfort zone in corporate management and set out to research and write a book on leadership based on a lingering question I had: Why do some leaders drain intelligence in others while other amplify it? Writing a book was honestly something I had little understanding of how to do. Fortunately I again found people willing to take a chance on a rookie (or perhaps my publisher just didn’t realize that I had never written anything longer than an email when she agreed to work with me on my first book, Multipliers).

Nine years ago my colleagues and friends couldn’t understand why I would choose to leave a great gig at a great company to work solo and in obscurity. But, in venturing out, I’ve found greater impact and personal satisfaction.

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

Wiseman: Honestly, I don’t think I use much of what I learned in my formal education; however, I constantly use how I learned. I was fortunate to attend a school and a graduate program that knew their job wasn’t to stuff our brains full of facts but to teach us a way of thinking. Dr. J. Bonner Ritchie, who is one of my intellectual heroes, used to say, “our goal is to teach you how to think and how to manage ambiguity.” I learned to look at issues from often-overlooked perspectives and to understand the unintended consequences of purposeful action. I suspect the real curriculum of college is learning how to learn by quickly mastering a subject, applying what we’ve learned, and then moving onto the next learning challenge at hand. Our formal education can never stay current, but the real value of education is learning to analyze, question, debate, and discover – which are timeless skills. And, there’s an added bonus: learning how to figure out the idiosyncrasies of each professor is great preparation for figuring out what your bosses and other stakeholders expect from you (it changes constantly). I hope our universities don’t succumb to the mounting pressure to become trade schools.

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?

Wiseman: I wish I understood from Day 1 that my job was to help my boss solve his/her problems. Fortunately, I had a mentor, Bob Shaver, a VP at Oracle, who taught me this early in my career. I was contemplating an internal transfer and was interviewing for a job in Bob’s division. I described the kind of work I wanted to do and what I hoped to accomplish in the job. Bob assured me that my intent was indeed worthy but that it would be far more helpful to him and the company if I figured out my boss’s biggest challenge and helped her solve it. I reoriented my thinking away from what I wanted and toward what the business urgently needed. While the initial work wasn’t my true passion, I dove in wholeheartedly. I think I built a reputation as someone who understood the strategy and got the most important stuff done. This, in turn, opened up many career opportunities to do work that I truly love.

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

Wiseman: The Lego Movie is a fun illustration of a major shift that is taking place in how we organize and work. The workplace is shifting from a place where we go and becoming something we do. We used to optimize our learning and development efforts to enable people to work in company structures and in teams that had a life of their own. Going forward, we need to optimize around discrete pieces of work to be done and ready the workforce for reconfiguration.

In the movie, the villains build the Lego kits per the exact instructions and then super-glue the pieces into place, creating a spectacular but static object. The young protagonist wants to use the Lego pieces to build something original (and less elegant), dissemble it, and then build something entirely different. Spoiler alert: reconfiguration wins!

Our organizations and team structures need to be built for reconfiguration rather than built to last. We need workforces where talent can be identified, rapidly deployed, and redeployed and where work processes are scrappier. In this more dynamic environment, rapid learning, rather than knowing, will be the most critical skill.

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

Wiseman: I recently read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (yes, I can’t believe I just learned about it). It is such an insightful tome disguised as a children’s book! In it the author Norton Juster celebrates what he describes as “the awakening of the lazy mind.” In the story, Milo, a young, bored boy, passes through a mysterious tollbooth to find himself in a strange land. He meets a king who sends him on a difficult, dangerous mission that involves a secret matter that the king will tell him about when the boy returns.

When Milo returns victorious, he asks the king to reveal the secret matter at last. The king said of Milo’s mission, “It was impossible….but if we’d told you then, you might not have gone—and, as you’ve discovered, so many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.” Sometimes not knowing is better than knowing. People often do amazing and innovative things in business simply because they don’t yet know they are impossible.

On the darker side of business might be The Great Gatsby – it’s an interesting illustration of pretense, greed, and misguided loyalty.

* * *

Here is a direct link to the complete Part 1 of the interview.

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

Rookie Smarts link

Multipliers Books link

The Wiseman Group link

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kara Penn: An interview by Bob Morris

Penn

Kara Penn is cofounder and principal consultant at Mission Spark, a management consulting firm dedicated to organizational change and improvement in complex and often resource-constrained settings. In guiding her clients’ thinking, planning, and action, Kara focuses on best practice and implementation, an approach that puts her at the front lines of practical management in varied domains. Kara has fifteen years of experience in senior leadership positions, including as founder, director, chair, coach and board member. She’s led award-winning community collaboratives; designed, managed, and evaluated multiyear social change initiatives; and provided in-depth consulting services to more than seventy social enterprises, corporations, and foundations.

Kara graduated from Colorado College, where she was a Boettcher Scholar. She completed her MPP as a Harris Fellow at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and her MBA at the MIT Sloan School of Management. MIT Sloan recognized Kara with the Seley Award, the highest honor given to a graduating student. Kara has also been awarded several national fellowships, including the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which supports independent, purposeful travel to foster fellows’ effective participation in the world community, the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs to develop principled public leaders, and the Forté Fellowship to promote women leaders in business.

Kara co-authored Fail Better: Design Smart Mistakes and Succeed Sooner with Anjali Sastry. It was published by Harvard Business Review Press (November 2014).

* * *

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

Penn: The greatest influence on my personal growth stemmed not from a “who” but a “what.” When I was 22, I spent a year engaged in independent travel abroad. I grappled with loneliness, failure and taking risks. I was away from my very supportive network of family and friends, and I confronted setback after setback. After several months of grappling with what was missing, an immense sense of possibility, personal accountability and self-direction emerged that has continued to grow and guide me. I became keenly aware that I could welcome, benefit from, and create room for the unexpected. I learned to be truly alone with myself and be at ease, and I learned that at all times I could be a student of what others had to teach. The experience was immensely freeing and powerful.

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

Penn: I’ve often asked myself which professional development experiences I’ve had have been the most impactful. The answer always comes down to immersion experiences, where I had opportunity to put learning into action with protected time to reflect and embed new insights. Though I’ve completed two graduate degrees through traditional learning institutions, my time as a Coro Fellow was the most influential professional development investment I’ve made.

The Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs is a national, nine-month program modeled off of a medical residency, where each fellow works in intensive six-week rotations in organizations representing different sectors of society. At the same time, fellows focus on developing leadership, public speaking, civic engagement, project management, media and other professional skills. Coro is basically a leadership and experiential learning boot camp. As a fellow, I worked on high-level projects for an airline, a union, a government agency, a hospital, and a nonprofit. I worked on a political campaign for an elected official.

Other fellows were doing the same, for different organizations within the same sector. We’d come back together after long days working to compare notes and create a snapshot of that sector, and relate it to others we had already worked within. By the end of nine months, we emerged with a much more integrated and realistic view of how things get done within complex systems. And through a process of intensive 360-degree feedback, self- reflection, creating new habits, and skill building, I developed into a more effective change agent.

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.

Penn: I’ve always been a mission-driven person, who cares deeply about positive social impact, and social and environmental justice. My personal life and career reflect a desire to serve and to focus on pressing social and environmental issues. Though I can remember this calling as always being a strong force in my life, the Gulf War Oil Spill in 1991, when I was 15, was one of the first periods of my life when I took on the role of activist and organizer. I can remember finding some like-minded collaborators, and together we planned an environmental education summit for our community because it was what I could think of to do at the time.

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

Penn: My formal education experiences have opened up invaluable networks of colleagues and friends, and allowed intense and protected periods of time to learn, experiment and explore. My time at MIT was particularly valuable as I had opportunity to work with a multi-disciplinary group of students on effecting change within the MIT system relating to embracing principles of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. My time working with them and the results our efforts produced, are among the highlights of my educational experience.

Morris: In recent years, there has been criticism, sometimes-severe criticism of M.B.A. programs, even those offered by the most prestigious business schools. In your opinion, in which area is there the greatest need for immediate improvement? Any suggestions?

Penn: The move to providing more action learning experiences seems to be a positive direction for business school curricula, but there seems to be room for tighter feedback loops, iteration of ideas over the course of a project, and the embedding and sharing of lessons learned to help students develop and grow their professional and personal skills. In some ways, my co-author, Anal Satyr and I developed the method that underpins Fail Better to address some of those needs. Of course, these are not challenges only MBA students face as they carry out multi-faceted projects, but MBA programs seem uniquely suited to design curricula and experiences in such a way that students have a “safe sandbox” in which to experiment, make mistakes, test assumptions, develop rigorous habits of reflection and improvement, and share what they’ve learned.

* * *

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

Fail Better link

Mission Spark link

Groundwork MIT link

Facebook link

Twitter links

Penn

Sastry

Fail Better

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

Jon Kolko: An interview by Bob Morris

KolkoJon Kolko is Vice President of Consumer Design at Blackboard; he joined Blackboard with the acquisition of MyEdu, a startup focused on helping students succeed in college and get jobs. Jon is also the Founder and Director of Austin Center for Design. His work focuses on bringing the power of design to social enterprises, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship. He has worked extensively with both startups and Fortune 500 companies, and he’s most interested in humanizing educational technology.

Jon has previously held positions of Executive Director of Design Strategy at Thinktiv, a venture accelerator in Austin, Texas, and both Principal Designer and Associate Creative Director at frog design, a global innovation firm. He has been a Professor of Interaction and Industrial Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he was instrumental in building both the Interaction and Industrial Design undergraduate and graduate programs. Jon has also held the role of Director for the Interaction Design Association (IxDA), and Editor-in-Chief of interactions magazine, published by the ACM. He is regularly asked to participate in high-profile conferences and judged design events, including the 2013 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards. He has taught at the University of Texas at Austin, the Center for Design Studies of Monterrey, in Mexico, and Malmö University, in Sweden.

Jon is the author of four books. Thoughts on Interaction Design was published by Morgan Kaufmann; Exposing the Magic of Design: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis, published by Oxford University Press; and Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving, published by Austin Center for Design. His latest, Well-Designed: How to use Empathy to Create Products People Love, was published by Harvard Business Review Press in November, 2014.

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Jon.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Well-Designed, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal and professional growth? How so?

Kolko: Four people. First, I had a ceramics mentor growing up, a fellow named Alec Hazlett. He’s one of the eminent potters in upstate New York. I studied with him for close to twenty years, and he had a profound influence on the way I think about work, craft, art, design, and humanism. next, I studied under Richard Buchanan at Carnegie Mellon University, and his perspective on the power of design to shape strategy, corporate culture, and society greatly influenced the way I think about design.

When I first taught at Savannah College of Art and Design, Robert Fee was one of my first guides. He helped me become a better educator, and while I may have helped teach him tenacity, he taught me patience. Finally, my wife of fourteen years has been instrumental in shaping my views of personal relationships, and the role of empathy in these relationships.

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.

Kolko: In retrospect, my career path looks planned and well formed. Actually – like everyone else – it was circuitous. I bounced back and forth between start ups, consulting and education, and for a long time, I was chasing something ambiguous professionally. I found it with a crew of designers that I first worked with at frog. We’ve moved together to a startup MyEdu, to a consultancy called Plain Penguin, and now to Blackboard. I think the turning point for me was less role-based, and more experiential: I found a group of people that I completely trust, and that are extraordinarily fun to work with.

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

Kolko: I credit Carnegie Mellon with pushing me in a humanist trajectory towards problem solving. It’s a combination of Herb Simon and Dick Buchanan, and I was lucky enough to be at CMU when both were teaching. I also credit Carnegie Mellon with giving me a pretty amazing transdisciplinary experience; I studied design, psychology, statistics, computer science, and anthropology.

But I think the majority of who I am today has been shaped by my interactions with my ceramics mentor. This one on one mentorship isn’t something I picked; I fell into it when I was six and my mom was trying to find activities like sports or music that I found appealing. In retrospect, this informal mentorship – friendship – was much more important to me than my formal academic experiences.

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?

Kolko: It’s all made up. All of it. When you pop out of undergraduate education, there are words, and organizational structures, and processes, and it feels very Figured Out. It’s not. Once I came to terms with this, I realized I could quite literally do anything I wanted. Some things are harder than others, and some are more fun than others, but in a business context, the whole thing is a game. I don’t take much seriously – I’m pretty much only buttoned up about design and education – and when you realize that the context of business is so malleable, it becomes a lot more fun, an environment that invites play.

* * *

Here is a direct link to the complete interview.

Jon cordially invites you to check out these resources:

His website link

His Amazon page link

The Well-Designed/HBR link

Blackboard link

VIMEO video link

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

Mike Paton: An interview by Bob Morris

PatonMike Paton has spent a lifetime learning from and sharing with entrepreneurs. The product of an entrepreneurial household, he cut his teeth in banking before running (or helping run) four small, growing companies. For the last seven years, he’s been helping entrepreneurs clarify, simplify and achieve their vision by mastering the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS).

Mike discovered EOS while trying to run a $7 million company in Minneapolis. Drawn to its simplicity and usefulness, he quickly became a passionate advocate of the system and leader of a vibrant and growing community of professional EOS Implementers, clients and fans. An award-winning speaker and best-selling author (Get A Grip: An Entrepreneurial Fable, with EOS creator Gino Wickman), he has conducted more than 1,000 full-day EOS sessions with leadership teams of more than 100 companies. He’s also helped thousands more business leaders at dynamic, value packed keynote talks and in-depth interactive workshops. Whatever the venue and format, Paton attracts large audiences, receives consistently high ratings and introduces a complete set of simple concepts and practical tools that help leaders “get a grip” on their business.

Mike lives in Minneapolis with his wife Kate and his sons Henry and Charlie. His older son Jon lives and works in Clinton, IA.

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Mike.

* * *

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

Paton: My grandfather, Art Pfeil, who taught me how to learn, how to teach, how to work hard, and how to love doing all three.

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

Paton: Gino Wickman and his business partner, Don Tinney — without whom I’d have never discovered EOS and become a passionate teacher of the system. They’ve helped me simplify, clarify and achieve my vision as an EOS Implementer, a business owner, and a man.

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.

Paton: I was fortunate to grow up in a household where teaching and learning was cherished. My sense of curiosity and wonder were encouraged, and it’s something I bring into every class, every book, every job, hobby and personal relationship I’ve ever encountered. The only epiphany is that very few things in life – professional or personal – don’t fulfill that desire for discovery and wonder – if you just open yourself up to it. From a career perspective, that desire to learn and grow – and to have that impact on others who want to do the same – has always driven me.

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

Paton: What I know now is that we are all in complete control of our own choices, and accountable for the outcomes those choices create. I spent way too much time early in my career focused on people and things that didn’t have anywhere near as much impact as I imagined on my work and my life. I’d refocus all that time and energy on my own actions and outcomes.

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

Paton: This may get a laugh – or bring an abrupt end to this interview – but Tommy Boy has always been a favorite. As silly as that movie is, it fairly accurately identifies some issues (and solutions) common to entrepreneurial companies. First, you have a gifted, gregarious, driven founding entrepreneur who doesn’t adequately develop the next generation of leadership in his company, thereby exposing the organization to risk. Upon his death, a power struggle develops between his pedantic number two, his oaf of a son, his trophy wife, a risk-averse board/capital partners, and an unscrupulous competitor. And the company is saved when the son partners with the people in the business, reconnects with the “soul” of the business, and begins making great things happen. That story is played out each year in literally hundreds of entrepreneurial companies – admittedly with less hilarity and more frequent failures than successes. And, as an added bonus, it’s really funny.

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?

Paton: I agree completely. At some point in every young company’s growth curve, it hits a ceiling. Often that ceiling is caused by the limited capacity of the person (or people) who make most of the decisions, handle all the most important projects, and do the most valuable work. When a “great man” or “great woman” becomes overwhelmed, the company often either flat-lines or fails. Truly great leaders see the need to hire and develop extensions of themselves, so that collectively the team begins achieving more than the sum total of its parts.

Morris: In your opinion, why do so many C-level executives seem to have such a difficult time delegating work to others?

Paton: Many leaders and managers – at every level of an organization – struggle with delegation. There are literally dozens of “root causes” to this issue – some owned by the leader and some caused by their organization. In the language of EOS, we find most of those root causes can be traced back to weakness in one of six “Key Components” of a well-run business – Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process and Traction. And delegation issues can truly be traced back to weakness in all of them.

For example, sometimes a leader fails to delegate because he or she doesn’t have the right people on his or her team, or isn’t cut out to lead and manage. That’s weakness in the People component. Sometimes, the company’s core processes aren’t documented, simplified, and clearly followed by all – the Process component needs work. Sometimes a strong data component (with metrics that alert the leader to an issue and help keep people on track) will help solve a delegation issue.

* * *

Here is a direct link to the complete article.

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

EOS Worldwide link

Mike’s Twitter link

Mike’s LinkedIn link

Mike’s Amazon page link

Mike’s YouTube video link

“EOS Story” YouTube video link

Sunday, March 29, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bernhard Schroeder: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

SchroederBernhard Schroeder is the Director of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center Programs and oversees all of the undergraduate and graduate experiential entrepreneurship programs on the San Diego State University campus. He also has responsibility for the Center’s marketing and outreach on both the SDSU campus and in the San Diego community. He is a part-time Clinical Faculty, Entrepreneurship teaching several entrepreneurship course including Creativity and Innovation.

Prior to moving to San Diego, Bernhard was a Senior Partner in the worlds’ largest integrated marketing communications agency, CKS Partners, which in 1998 had offices in over 30 countries, more than 10,000 employees and over $1 billion in revenue. Bernhard joined CKS in 1991 and working with the other four partners, grew the firm to almost $40 million in revenue by 1995 and led CKS to a successful IPO that same year.

He has experience working with Fortune 100 firms like Apple, Nike, General Motors, American Express, Mercedes Benz, Kellogg’s and others as well as start-up companies. He was involved in the initial branding and marketing launches for startup companies Yahoo! and Amazon. Today, he mentors more than 20 founders of startup companies in San Diego with yearly revenue ranging from $400,000 to more than ten million.

His book, Fail Fast or Win Big: The Start-Up Plan for Starting Now, was published by AMACOM (February 2015).

Here is an excerpt from part 1 of my interview of Bern.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Fail Fast or Win Big, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Schroeder: Two people had a huge impact on my personal growth. The first was my father who instilled in me the notion of working to get what you want. He worked two jobs for 14 years to put five kids through private school. Never saw him much in those years but we had an amazing relationship after he retired. So, I started working and making money at the age of 11 and I thought that was completely normal.

The other person who I never thought would have an impact on my life but did was my aunt. Looking back, my aunt was just a good average person who was fun to be around but no one that really stood out in my family. That all changed one day. I was 19 at the time, full of piss and vinegar trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was definitely struggling trying to determine how one laid out their life, like it was a play or something. I was told by my father that my aunt was dying. Just like that. Stomach pains for a few weeks, then the diagnosis. Terminal cancer. Three weeks to live. Having never experienced death in the family, I could not get my head around the concept of death. My aunt was only 38, looking amazingly healthy and was going to die. She had told my father she wanted to meet with me. My fear and apprehension was, “What do you say to someone who is dying?”

I met her in a hospice room at the hospital. When I walked into the room, she was sitting on the bed with a serious mound of paper all around her. I asked her, “What are you doing?” She replied, “I am organizing my life so as not to be a bother when I am dead.” For the next three hours, we talked about life. My life. Her life. And she started to tell me about all the things she had never done or had regretted. She sacrificed for the family and lost the love of her life (my aunt had never married). I can almost picture her sitting on the bed and talking to me as she said,” Bern, no matter what you do with your life, don’t ever have regrets. Don’t ever settle for something you don’t agree with. And live life as if you were going to die tomorrow.” That day when I left, I don’t think I realized what had just happened. But her words would come to define the way I lived my life. My personal life and entire career was defined by this statement,” I will not spend one day being in a place where I don’t feel I belong.” And that is exactly the way I have lived my life.

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

Schroeder: Three mentors have had the most impact in my professional development. The first mentor was in my very first marketing job. I did not realize it at the time because if you have never been mentored before, you really don’t know it is happening (being mentored). The key element is trust. We usually don’t build a quick trusting relationship with our boss. But looking back, he leaned in…he nurtured me, pushed me, scolded me and praised me. In the two years I worked for him, I received five years of experience and advice. He actually created a solid platform for my entire career.

The second person was a few years later and he was a crusty kind of curmudgeon guy we brought in from Xerox. Within about two weeks of meeting him (I reported to him), he pulled me into his office and flatly stated that I was terrible at two things: I did not know how to listen, and I really did not know how to sell. Now, you have to realize in just three years at this marketing agency, I had risen from entry level employee to vice president. So, I thought to myself “this guy is full of shit.” But over the next 3-4 months, he actually proved to me that I really did not listen and I was really not accomplished at the art of selling or as he liked to put it, the art of getting people to buy from you.

He did two things that changed my professional life. The first thing he did was to send me to a “Spin Selling” seminar in San Francisco which I did not want to attend. The three-day sales seminar changed my outlook on my personal and professional life. I learned the skillset of listening. I learned the difference between what people wanted and what they needed. I learned personality types and how to read a room. It was amazing. The second thing he did was simple. He honed my ability to trust my instincts. This is a really hard skill “or feeling” to develop. You can’t really see it. Can’t really take a class or seminar in instinct. Over the next two years, after every client or prospect meeting, he would ask me to deconstruct the meeting. What was “really” going on in the meeting, who were the decision makers, what did they really want and so on. Then, based on my deconstruction and thoughts, he would give me feedback on where I was spot on and where I was completely off and why. Again, you don’t really see or understand it when you are going through personal development in a deep way but looking back, it was huge.

The third person taught me about the power of teams. Up until I met my third mentor, I thought that all my accomplishments to date were based on me. That is, my success was singly determined by me and what I could accomplish. I had been on pretty fast track since coming out of school late (undergraduate at 27 years of age) and I was motivated to move aggressively in building my career. Took on risky promotions and difficult clients and was successful. When I met this person who would become my third mentor, I did not really see him as even being a potential mentor. First, I felt I was his peer. We were both about the same age, both had accomplished a lot and were now partners in building what would become a billion dollar company. But early in my relationship with him, he pulled me aside and in a very nonchalant conversation told me two things: I was not a strategic thinker and I absolutely did not know how to build teams of people that would go “to war” for me. I thought about that. Over the next two years, he taught me how to be real with people. How to nurture and care for the talented stars working for me. I learned the art of management where everybody wins. The other thing he taught me about strategy was perspective. To use a military analogy, I was always the lieutenant or captain building and rapidly executing marketing campaigns. But I was not the general, sitting on the hill or further away, who was looking way beyond the battle…looking at the how the entire war would be waged. I learned an immense amount of strategic perspective from him that lifted me to a new level of branding and marketing strategy. One that allowed me to clearly create brand and marketing strategies for my future clients (like Amazon and Yahoo!) with a very strategic plan, strong on tactics but amazing on marketplace strategy.

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.

Schroeder: It’s hard to identify a turning point or epiphany in one’s life unless it’s something cathartic. Something that shakes or even defines your core. I would have to say, looking back, it was my aunt’s death. Her calmly talking to me as she was dying about never having regrets really formed the basis of how I would view life. I did it my way or the highway. I had people tell me, “ I don’t really like you…but you are one of the sharpest marketing people I have ever met and I respect you.” And seriously, all I wanted was to be respected. I did not really care if people liked me. Never have. The other part of what has become my mantra is I firmly believe no one was born to do anything…so what will you do? I have crafted my career around constantly challenging myself and enjoying life. I am not working on the cure for aids or cancer, so trust me, I have a perspective on what’s important in life. Sell another car or book, great. But don’t get hung up on that. I have wanted to make impacts and bring people along for the ride. I still stay in touch with people I hired and mentored in the mid 90’s. I mentor more than 20 founders of companies in San Diego. I reach thousands of students on the SDSU campus with messages of entrepreneurship, passion and doing what you want to do. It’s the most fun I have ever had.

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

Schroeder: This is a tough question, especially since I work on a university campus. I look back and view my formal education as a necessary part of life to learn some core basics and learn how to become a good speaker and writer. I look at what impacted my life and formal education has played a very small role. My accomplishments have come from doing what I wanted to do that pushed me, really pushing the edge of marketing, mentorships and work/play experiences.

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

Schroeder: Okay, going to date myself here. I remember seeing A Wonderful Life several times and realized two things: I don’t want to be the hated banker guy and I do want to feel like I was important or loved enough to be missed. I also wanted to care about people. Second movie was Dead Poets Society. I wanted to live carpe diem…to seize every day. I did not want to have a meaningless professional career. I did not want a job. I did not want to settle or conform. I did not want to do what other people wanted me to do. I did not want to live through other people expectations. The third movie was Wall Street. I both wanted and did not want to be Charlie Sheen. I wanted success to come from hard work but not from cheating. I never wanted to compromise my integrity or ethics. Maybe walk up to that line but not cross it. The second thing, I knew I was going to be involved in growing or running a big company someday. I did not want to be Gordon Gecko. I did not want to be that guy that ruined people’s lives for money. Maybe that’s why still today, I carry a slight disdain for some venture capitalists. I encourage all the founders I mentor to bootstrap and eat top ramen so as to preserve their equity for as long as possible so that they can maintain control of their companies should they ever have to take on investors.

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

Schroeder: Tough question. What do I say to sound pithy here? As I look back to the books I read in my formative years, I think of Papillion, The Outsiders, Catch-22, The Godfather and a few others. I think the one book that impacted me with its realism and symbolism was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. If you have read this book or seen the movie, you are not supposed to like Randle Patrick McMurphy. But the more I read the book, I saw Randle as one of the few sane people in the book. My takeaway from the book relating to business was life is crazy, don’t try and completely predict it. Whatever your situation, make the best of it and change it if you can. And don’t ever conform in your beliefs or who you are…no one really cares anyway especially in business. And if you can befriend people on your journey, do so. They could be the part of your professional life that matters most. I don’t really remember, in a fond way, all the billions of dollars of products or services I helped sell in my career. I do remember the people, good or slightly crazy.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

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

His website link

Lavin Entrepreneurship Center link

Fail Fast or Win Big Amazon link

TEDx Encinitas video link

StartUp Circle video link

LinkedIn link

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Greg McKeown: An interview by Bob Morris

McKeown, GregGreg McKeown is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. His writing has appeared or been covered by Fast Company, Fortune, HuffPost, Politico,Inc. Magazine and Harvard Business Review. He has also been interviewed on numerous television and radio shows including NPR and NBC. McKeown is the CEO of THIS, Inc. where his clients include Adobe, Apple, Airbnb, Google, Facebook, Pixar, Salesforce.com, Symantec, Twitter, VMware and Yahoo!.

Greg is an accomplished public speaker. He has spoken to hundreds of audiences around the world including in Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, England, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States. Highlights include speaking at SXSW, interviewing Al Gore at the Annual Conference of the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland and receiving a personal invitation from Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway, to speak to his Annual Innovation Conference.

In 2012 Greg was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Originally from London, he now lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and their four children. He graduated with an MBA from Stanford University.

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Greg.

* * *

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.

McKeown: It happened years ago, one day after our precious daughter was born, healthy and happy at 7 pounds, 3 ounces. What should have been one of most serene days of my life was filled with tension. Even as my beautiful new baby lay in my wife’s tired arms, I was on the phone and on email with work, and I was feeling pressure to go to a client meeting.

My colleague had written, “Friday between 1-2 would be a bad time to have a baby because I need you to come be at this meeting with X.” It was now Friday and though I was pretty certain (or at least I hoped) the email had been written jest, I still felt pressure to attend.

Instinctively, I knew what to do. It was clearly a time to be there for my wife and newborn child. So when asked whether I planned to attend the meeting, I said with all the conviction I could muster…

“Yes.”

To my shame, while my wife lay in the hospital with our hours-old baby, I went to the meeting. Afterward, my colleague said, “The client will respect you for making the decision to be here.” But the look on the clients’ faces did not evince respect. Instead, they mirrored how I felt. What was I doing there?! I had said “yes” simply to please, and in doing so disrespected my family, my integrity, and even the client relationship.

As it turned out, exactly nothing came of the client meeting. But even if it had, surely I would have made a fool’s bargain. In trying to keep everyone happy I had pleased no one and sacrificed what mattered most. On reflection I discovered this important lesson: If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

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

McKeown: My undergraduate was in journalism which is one of the only majors that teaches you how to ask the right questions. Almost all formal education teaches you how to find the right answer. That’s good as far as it goes. But to ask the right question is a higher and more valuable skill.

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

McKeown: I love the film Gandhi. He is an Essentialist and the film captures this. With singleness of purpose—to achieve independence for the Indian people—he eliminated everything else from his life.

He called the process, “Reducing himself to zero.” He dressed in his own homespun cloth (khadi) and inspired his followers to do the same. He spent three years not reading any newspapers because he found that their contents added only nonessential confusion to his life. He spent 35 years experimenting with simplifying his diet. He spent a day each week without speaking. It would be an understatement to see he eschewed consumerism: when he died he owned less than ten items. He intentionally never held a political position of any kind and yet became, officially within India, the Father of the Nation.

And his contribution extended well beyond India. As General George C. Marshall, the American Secretary of State said on the occasion of Gandhi’s passing, “Mahatma Gandhi had become the spokesman for the conscience of mankind, a man who made humility and simple truth more powerful than empires.” And Albert Einstein added, “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.” It is impossible to argue with the statement that Gandhi lived a life that really mattered or that his ability to focus on what was essential and eschew the nonessential was critical to his success.

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

McKeown: Can I cheat and point to an essay rather than a book? It was written by Tennessee Williams and was first published in The New York Times and tells the story of his experience following the release of his widely acclaimed play The Glass Menagerie. The piece is called, and contains his thesis in the title, “The Catastrophe of Success.” He describes how his life changed after the success of the play and how he became distracted from the essentials that led to his success in the first place.

For more than 15 years I have been obsessed with a single question: “Why do otherwise capable people and teams not breakthrough to the next level?” The answer, as Williams beautifully captures, is success. It’s a counterintuitive answer: one that is hidden in plain sight. Success can become a catalyst for failure if it leads to what Jim Collins called “the undisciplined pursuit of more.” The key is to become successful at success. The antidote is the disciplined pursuit of less, but better.

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To read the complete interview, please click here.

Greg cordially invites you to check out the resources at his website and LinkedIn.

Sunday, March 22, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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