First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Rich Kalgaard: An interview by Bob Morris

imagesRich Karlgaard is an angel investor, board director and Wall Street Journal best-selling author as well as the longtime publisher (since 1998) of Forbes magazine. He also writes the Forbes column, “Innovation Rules,” which is known for its witty assessment of business and technology. He has been a regular panelist on television’s Forbes on FOX show since its inception in 2001. Rich really is a serial entrepreneur and has launched two magazines (Upside and Forbes ASAP), the venture capital firm Garage Technology Ventures (with his friend, Guy Kawasaki), and Silicon Valley’s premier business and technology forum, 7500-member Churchill Club. He is a past Northern California winner of the Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award. Rich speaks 50 to 60 times a year on economic, business and investment themes. He was raised in Bismarck, North Dakota, and graduated from Stanford University. He lives with his family in Silicon Valley. His latest book, The Soft Edge
: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success, was published by Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Brand (April 2014).

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

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Before discussing The Soft Edge, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

 That would be my dad, Dick, who died in 2012. Dick was the athletic director of the Bismarck, N.D. public school system. He hired and fired high school coaches. He also ran state tournaments in every sport and had a big deep voice and did the public address at football and basketball games and at track meets. He was a mythic figure around Bismarck. He absolutely loved his job. He did what he wanted to do, and he excelled at it. He was twice named the national high school athletic director of the year. My dad invented his own job and he was happy. That’s what I learned from him.

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.

 When I bought my first Apple Macintosh in 1985. I bought a Mac, then a copy of Aldus PageMaker (I had serial number 443), then a laser printer. Suddenly I had the tools to be a publisher. No longer was I limited to being a low-level technical writer. Liberation! Desktop publishing let me create Upside magazine, which let me interview people like Bill Gates, which caught the eye of Steve Forbes. The Mac began a marvelous chain of events.

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

 Zip. Stanford looks good on anyone’s resume, but I learned nothing of value in classes. College taught me to hate reading. I used to hide in the library and pour through old issues of Sports Illustrated rather than study political science textbooks. I fell in love with reading, beyond sports writing, two years after finishing college. I became interested in business, markets and finance only after I figured out that business was just another kind of sport. As editor of Upside and Forbes ASAP, I tried to inject a sports-writing vigor and wit and human truth to business. That’s what I strive for in my Forbes Innovation Rules columns. That was my goal in writing The Soft Edge.

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?


 Well, I knew absolutely nothing about business when I graduated from college. I was able to catch up fast once I learned that business was like sports, but, alas, I didn’t figure that out until my late twenties. In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman was another eye-opener. They wrote about business as if it could be … fun. Which it can be.

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

 Movies about business are almost always boring. They always feel forced. Ashton Kutcher did in fact resemble Steve Jobs – spoke like him, walked like him — and that was amazing for, oh, the first five minutes. But the story was wooden. Great movies, on the other hand, teach us about human truth. Insights about human truth are what matter in business.

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


I am now immensely enjoying Scott Eyman’s biography of John Wayne. This book is not primarily about the movie business, but Eyman in great detail shows how Wayne managed his career and brand and how he worked with different directors and studios. Wayne’s collaboration, in particular, with director John Ford is deeply illuminating.

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

True in science and philosophy. But note that Apple did not have to ram the iPhone down people’s throats.

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

 Only true when evolution is at work. Certainly business innovation follows this course. But the Dawkins dictum fails to explain, say, deeper human nature, which is timeless.

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….’”

 I love this quote! The analogy in business would be, “Odd that our product generates more buzz when we advertise less.” Or, “Odd that Mary, who is such an introvert, is our best salesperson.”

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

I was lucky to interview Drucker on two occasions at his home in Claremont, Calif. He told me the most difficult thing for any CEO was to figure out what not to do.

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?


I know Tom Davenport and consider him brilliant. But I wouldn’t be so quick to toss out the Great Man. Apple lost something vital with the death of Steve Jobs. Amazon needs Jeff Bezos. Tesla needs Elon Musk. Professor Davenport’s idea of a Great Man sounds more like Downton Abbey’s Lord Crawley – a caricature of a pompous know-it-all – than it does of actual great leaders you see in business today. Today’s great leaders are data driven, yes, but they are far, far more than that. You can’t inspire people with data.

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


 To my eye, it is below C-level where you see this at work. C-level executives rise to that level because, generally, they are good at delegation. Too many mid-level managers get stuck or burn out because they are not. They don’t know how. Or they are afraid to.

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

The job of a great leader is to put conviction in people’s hearts. Stories do that because they give us meaning and purpose. Which, in turn, leads to conviction.

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?

The value of a Harvard MBA is that, (1) it proves you were smart enough, driven enough, to get into Harvard Business School, and (2) you now have great contacts. The actual education is the least of it. Simulation technology will radically transform teaching and learning in business. I’m convinced that all but the very top business schools will decline. The investment in time and money won’t be worth it. What employer is going to pay a premium salary for an MBA that isn’t from a top school? But there will always be Harvard, Stanford and Wharton.

Morris: Looking ahead (let’s say) 3-5 years, what do you think will be the greatest challenge that CEOs will face? Any Advice?

 I honestly can’t figure out why any company would want to be public. The scrutiny is only going to get worse. The happiest CEOs I know run private companies. Jim Goodnight of SAS Institute is a happy man. I recently spent a day with Michael Dell in Austin. He is ten times happier now than when Dell was public.

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To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Also here’s his Forbes link.

Sunday, June 22, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dan Pontefract : Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

PontefractDan Pontefract is the author of Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization. He also holds the role of Head of Learning & Collaboration at TELUS where he is responsible for the overarching leadership development, learning and collaboration strategy for the company where he introduced the TELUS Leadership Philosophy and the Learning 2.0 framework alongside a litany of social collaboration technologies. Between 2010 and 2013, Dan has been acknowledged with several awards from CLO, CUBIC, Skillsoft and Brandon Hall. In 2013, his team became an 8-time winner of the prestigious ASTD BEST award.

His career is interwoven with both corporate and academic experience, coupled with an MBA, B.Ed and multiple industry certifications and accreditations. Dan is also a renowned speaker and has been invited to deliver over 50 external keynotes and presentations since 2009. In 2012 he appeared on the covers of T+D magazine and Chief Learning Officer magazine.

When he’s not cycling, he’s goofing around with Denise, Claire, Cole and Cate. Visit their blogs; they’d love to hear from you. He is currently in the midst of writing his second book, scheduled to release in 2014.

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of him. To read all of that interview, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write Flat Army?

Pontefract: On January 1, 2012, I sent an email out to 20 people in my network who I thought could help me with my ‘New Year’s Resolution’, which of course was to write and publish a book in 2012. A friend of mine in Boston hooked me up with Wiley, and the rest as they say is history. The decision to write was easy; corporate hierarchy for the sake of hierarchy and command and control leadership styles as the de facto way in which to lead is as prevalent as hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water. Not to sound righteous, but I wanted to put my thoughts out there in the public domain for others to learn from.

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

Pontefract: The book was supposed to be 70,000 words and it turned out to be 90,000. I could have written a 150,000 word book in all honesty, so my revelation was the problems in our organizations today are wicked, wretched and omnipresent. The first three chapters of Flat Army are a setup for the five models that I surface. The first three chapters outline what’s wrong so in essence, I could have simply written a book about what’s wrong at about 150,000 words in length and never have gotten to a solution. That was a head-snapping revelation for certain.

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

Pontefract: Great question. Originally, I had thought the thesis should be told as a story. I wrote three chapters (roughly 20,000 words) under the working title of The Coffee Shop Leader, where the main character (Dean) walks into a coffee shop one day and builds a relationship with the owner, a barista and four other passerby’s. From there, they discuss, debate and debunk current practices of management and leadership today, and they then cook up an answer to the world’s problems. At the suggestion of Wiley (the publisher) we decided to scrap that plan and write it as you see it today.

Morris: As I indicate in my review 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 explain what you view as the key take-away in several. First, “The Organization vs. Life Itself” (Pages 18-20)

Pontefract: If the C-Suite is looking for ROI, leaders need not prove it by return on investment, but by return on intelligence, by return on innovation and by return on ideas. This turns itself into an open culture of leadership, and a more engaged workforce.

Morris: “The Connected Leader Chasm” and “Falling into the Chasm” (50-54)

Pontefract: Leaders are Harmful, Hurtful, Hopeful, or Harmonious. Most of the time, leaders don’t know they are in the harmful or hurtful quadrants. Which is to say they are a closed leader and their team is closed. As they shift to (or are already at) the hopeful or harmonious quadrants they and their teams are becoming more open … which is a fundamental ingredient to creating an engaged organization.

Morris: “The Connected Leader Attributes” (61-66)

Pontefract: Aside from where I currently hang my hat, I think there are two great examples to study (as an organization) that demonstrate the Connected Leader Attributes in totality; IBM and Zappos. IBM, on one hand, was a mercurial, monolithic giant that had lost its way with its customers and its employees until Lou Gerstner came into the fold and for the better part of the past 20 years IBM has redeveloped its culture and its business principles to define for all of us how an organization can revector mid-stream to accomplish good things. Lou embodied all of the fifteen Connected Leader Attributes. On the other hand is Zappos who fundamentally believe ‘culture is their single most important and competitive advantage’ and (under tony Hsieh’s leadership) have achieved great things solely based on this business principle. I do say ‘business principle’ when I refer to culture (and to Zappos) because that’s my entire point; without a strong operating culture there will never be strong business principles. Their business principle is in fact the Connected Leader Attributes.

Morris: “The Participative Leader Framework” (63-69)

Pontefract: If one employs CARE (Continuous, Authentic, Reciprocal and Educating) in both their personal and professional networks, all the while equally consuming and contributing ideas, content, knowledge and feedback, a leader is therefore being ‘participative’.

Morris: “Trusting” (74-77)

Pontefract: Whether a bouquet or a brickbat, whether a high or a low, whether a peak or a valley, whether a success or a mistake, the leader must create an environment that ensures all members of the team (direct or indirect) feel safe not just to do their jobs, but also to break free of them.

Morris: “Empathizing” (79-82)

Pontefract: During the Christmas Truce of 1914, German and Allied forces stopped shooting at each other on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They did so (I believe out of empathy) knowing they each missed their families and despite ‘orders’ to continue fighting, they dropped their guns and actually played football in no man’s land, exchanged cigarettes and rations too. It’s the true spirit of empathy that needs to be found in our organizations today.

Morris: “Cooperating” (101-105)

Pontefract: Cooperating literally means “to work with”. Anything less than being cooperative is a failure in the Flat Army model.

Morris: “The Untutored Eye” (132-134)

Pontefract: Stan Brakhage penned a piece in the journal Film Culture entitled “Metaphors on Vision.” It’s a classic and in particular the first three stanzas. I think the behavior of participation is a lot like this. We need to see differently. We therefore require a new lens, an untutored eye if you will. If we took Brakhage’s thinking to the element of participation we would break free of accepted and tolerated levels of crappy leadership.

Morris: “Hierarchy Is Not Anarchy” (158-160)

Pontefract: Organizations can’t be run as though they were yard sales or high school dances. There needs to be stability, credibility and direction. Heterarchy, however, is closer to what we might want to investigate as a definition of Flat Army. Or perhaps it’s the term “Directed Heteroarchy”. Let’s allow relationships to form and permit ideas to permeate, but let’s not lose sight of the fact we need to produce results.

Morris: What are the core principles and values of the “Flat Army Philosophy”? (263-266)

Pontefract: The principle thesis underpinning a Flat Army culture is if your people are engaged – if they feel connected to the leader and organization, and if they are working within a collaborative, connected and learning-first environment – employees will be happier, more innovative, productive and thus more likely to not only recommend the organization to others, but to stay at said organization and to go above and beyond the call of duty.

A Flat Army is made up of 5 key frameworks:

o The Connected Leader – 15 key leadership attributes that make up a Flat Army leader

o Participative Leader Framework – a participation ethos of leaders to demonstrate CARE (continuous, authentic, reciprocal and educating) with direct professional networks

o Collaborative Leader Action Model (CLAM) – a 6 stage daily habit that encourages leaders to connect, consider, communicate, create, confirm and congratulate on actions, initiatives and projects

o Pervasive Learning – learning is part formal, informal and social and both the leader and the organization need to employ this new mindset in order to feel engaged, connected and collaborative

o Collaboration Technologies – to hide in an office with an executive assistant is asinine in today’s 2.0 world. Using 15 key social collaborative technologies in the Flat Army model will help drive employee engagement, participation, collaboration and learning

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

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

Flat Army page

His Amazon page

TELUS blog link

Please support Wikipedia

Claire’s website

Cole’s website

Cate’s website

Saturday, September 28, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dan Pontefract: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

PontefractDan Pontefract is the author of Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization. He also holds the role of Head of Learning & Collaboration at TELUS where he is responsible for the overarching leadership development, learning and collaboration strategy for the company where he introduced the TELUS Leadership Philosophy and the Learning 2.0 framework alongside a litany of social collaboration technologies. Between 2010 and 2013, Dan has been acknowledged with several awards from CLO, CUBIC, Skillsoft and Brandon Hall. In 2013, his team became an 8-time winner of the prestigious ASTD BEST award.

His career is interwoven with both corporate and academic experience, coupled with an MBA, B.Ed and multiple industry certifications and accreditations. Dan is also a renowned speaker and has been invited to deliver over 50 external keynotes and presentations since 2009. In 2012 he appeared on the covers of T+D Magazine and Chief Learning Officer Magazine.

When he’s not cycling, he’s goofing around with Denise, Claire, Cole and Cate. Visit their blogs; they’d love to hear from you. He is currently in the midst of writing his second book, scheduled for release in 2014.

Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of him. To read all of that interview, please click here.

* * *

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

Pontefract: Terry Fox is my hero and a Canadian icon. After losing his leg due to an amputation as a result of cancer, Terry decided to run across Canada to raise money for research when I was only 9 years old and he only in his early 20’s. Imagine running a marathon a day on one good leg and one prosthetic leg all in an effort to help others. He succumbed to a second bout of cancer and died cutting his dream short roughly half-way across Canada, but his resiliency, leadership and desire to give back and end cancer not only gave me hope, it drove me to give back, to learn as much as I can and to believe I can accomplish anything if I put my mind to it.

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

Pontefract: My network. I learned how to learn in my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees but it’s been my network that has had the greatest impact on my professional development. I’ve always been a believer in ‘storing my knowledge in my network’ and that has only proved its weight in gold with the proliferation of social collaborative tools that allow me to reach out and learn from countless others. As Michelangelo once said, “I am still learning.”

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.

Pontefract: I originally wanted to be a doctor, and then a physiotherapist because (in the footsteps of Terry Fox) I wanted to help and give back. I realized I could be more effective and potentially more influential if I shifted course and entered the education field. With three years as a high school teacher, and then five years leading a post-secondary education initiative, I then turned my attention to corporate organizations in 2002 to see if I could help there. I will eventually sort out a way to help many more, so stay tuned.

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

Pontefract: Credentials are a necessary evil in today’s world unless you are a programming whiz kid like Gates or Zuckerberg. I have a B.Ed, an MBA, a diploma in Educational Technology as well as an array of information technology certificates and credentials. Without the credentials, I don’t get the job in high school nor the job in higher education. From there, I don’t get recruited into roles within the corporate sector. It’s still somewhat premature to say we can achieve career greatness (or at a minimum success) if we don’t have formal credentials and thus formal education.

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?

Pontefract: There is no formal course in the art (and science) of corporate politics. One really has to go through the hazing and initiation of corporate politics to appreciate how lethal it can be at times in addition to how much one can learn going through the various trials and tribulations. I wasn’t prepared for backroom politics as I much prefer an open, collaborative, honest and to-the-point mindset. It still continues to this day, which is disappointing in itself.

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

Pontefract: Chariots of Fire. There is so much going on in this film from the hierarchy of academic administration, to the willingness to listen, empathy, re-vectoring as well as coaching, mentoring, being communicative and collaborative as well as learning from mistakes. The film is layered with symbolism and in my opinion both replicates what is happening in today’s disengaged workforces (through hierarchy, command, etc.) as well as what can go right through the aforementioned attributes and many more.

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

Pontefract: Denise and I have three young children and as we’re both educators, books are an important part of the child rearing diet. There is a book called The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein that epitomizes our home and my hope for all organizations. A young boy meets his new best friend, “The Giving Tree,” where they spend hours together. As the boy grows older into his teens, adulthood and late adulthood he keeps visiting the tree only to ask for help. The Giving Tree obliges each and every time to assist his friend. By the end of the boy’s life The Giving Tree is now merely a stump, but the boy is now near death and can’t do much more than sit. So, what does our Giving Tree do? He offers the boy a seat on the stump. The moral of the story of course is we all have something to give no matter the situation or times.

* * *

To read the complete Part 1 interview, please click here.

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

Flat Army page

His Amazon page

TELUS blog

Please support Wikipedia

Claire’s website

Cole’s website

Cate’s website

Saturday, September 7, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Forbes Greatest Business Stories of All Time: A book review by Bob Morris

Forbes Greatest Business Stories of All Time
Daniel Gross
John Wiley & Sons (1997)

Note: This was among the first books I reviewed for Amazon (in 2000) and I recently re-read it while doing some research on several of the 20 companies it features. Don’t let the publication date deter you.  These stories are even more entertaining and informative now than they were then because these are perspectives on them 25 years before many of them and their leaders became almost deities in the vineyards of free enterprise.

Each chapter offers a profile of a major contributor to the evolution of American business history, beginning with one of my ancestors, Robert Morris (America’s “first real businessman”), and concluding with Bill Gates (“Microsoft’s co-founder and guiding spirit”). In between, Gross and his associates also examine other great leaders such as McCormick, Rockefeller, Morgan, Ford, Merrill, Sarnoff, Disney, Johnson, Ogilvy, Kroc, Wilson, Ash, Walton, and McGowan as well as major corporations such as American Express, Intel, Harley-Davidson, and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. The reader is told, “This book is about heroes” and it really is.

Using the most effective strategies and devices of a storyteller, the authors examine biographical information within an historical context, sustaining interest with anecdotes while providing insights as to the causes and effects of each subject’s accomplishments. For Morris, essentially the economic survival of thirteen colonies during their struggle for independence. For McCormick, the industrialization of agriculture. For Rockefeller, the creation and development of the modern corporation. For Morgan, saving a nation’s financial system. For Ford, mass-producing affordable personal transportation. For Merrill, broadening the base of stock ownership to include those, among others, for whom the Ford Motor Company manufactured automobiles. Each of the other “heroes” discussed made equally important contributions.

A brief review such as this can only suggest (albeit inadequately) the wealth of information to be found in this book. The prose has snap, crackle, and pop. The focus is crystal clear. The lessons to be learned from the careers examined are of incalculable value. Although this book will be of interest to almost anyone, it will have special importance for school, college, and university students who may sometimes wonder if there are any “secrets to success.” The answer is yes. The specifics are to be found in the lives of those who are discussed in Greatest Business Stories of All Time.

Friday, April 27, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sheryl Sandberg: The $1.6 Billion Woman, Staying on Message

Sheryl Sandberg (Photo: Antoine Antoniol/Bloomberg News)

Here is an excerpt from an article co-authored by Nicole Perlroth and Claire Cain Miller about Sheryl Sandberg, featured in The New York Times (February 4, 2012). To read the complete article, please click here.

*     *     *

Facebook‘s No. 2 executive, Sheryl Sandberg, will reap a fortune in its stock offering. And she hasn’t stopped telling the world how women should take responsibility for their careers.

SEVENTY-TWO hours before Facebook’s big moment, Sheryl K. Sandberg was half a world away, hobnobbing with the likes of Bill Gates and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. [Please click here to see a video.]

Yes, Ms. Sandberg is Mark Zuckerberg’s No. 2. And, yes, if all goes well, she will soon become the $1.6 billion woman. On Wednesday, Facebook filed to go public in a deal that, in all likelihood, will instantly make it one of the most valuable corporations on the planet.

But Ms. Sandberg, who has helped steer this social network to this once-unimaginable height, had more on her mind than securities filings and ad metrics. She was attending the annual World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, where her subject wasn’t Facebook — but women. Specifically, how women, in her view, must take responsibility for their careers and not blame men for holding them back.

Given that Ms. Sandberg is Facebook’s chief operating officer, and that all of Wall Street was hanging on last week’s news, you might think that she was absurdly off-topic. But Ms. Sandberg sees herself as more than an executive at one of the hottest companies around — more, too, than someone who will soon rank among the few self-made billionaires who are women. She sees herself as a role model for women in business and technology. In speeches, she often urges women to “keep your foot on the gas pedal,” and to aim high.

Her call isn’t simply about mentoring and empowering. It is also about business strategy. A majority of Facebook’s 845 million users are women. And women are also its most engaged users. So Ms. Sandberg is playing to a powerful and lucrative demographic, as well as to the advertisers who want to reach it. Inside Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., she is considered a not-so-secret weapon for recruiting and retaining talented women as well as men. She and Mr. Zuckerberg will need the best brains they can find to sustain Facebook’s astonishing growth.

Of course, it helps that Ms. Sandberg has personality and presentation skills. In Davos and on the conference circuit, in public appearances in Washington and on college campuses, she has a warm, disarming tone that sets her apart from many other executives, male or female.

Her talks have gone viral. On YouTube, videos of her speeches have been viewed more than 200,000 times. Some have been included in syllabuses at the Stanford and Harvard business schools. Put simply, she exudes that certain something that seems to leave many people, particularly young women, a bit star-struck.

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To read the complete article, please click here.


Monday, February 6, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Reasons Why Middle Children Make Great Employees

Here is an article written by Donna Fenn for BNET, The CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.

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If you’ve ever uttered the words “troubled middle child,” you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of The Secret Power of Middle Children:  How Middleborns Can Harness Their Unexpected and Remarkable Abilities by Catherine Salmon, PhD., and Katrin Schumann.

The book is a fascinating look at how the characteristics and behaviors of “middleborns” can actually lead to extraordinary success. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Michael Dell were middle kids; so were Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Madonna, David Letterman, and the Dalai Lama “There’s this image we have of middle child syndrome,” says Salmon. “But the majority are extremely successful and have gone about their success very quietly.” Middleborns also make stellar employees, she says.

[Here are the first three of five reasons that Fenn discusses. To read the complete article, please click here.]

• Flexibility. “Especially today, it’s very important to be flexible,” says Salmon. “When middleborns are growing up, they don’t get their way because they’re the biggest, and they don’t get their way because they’re the baby who was indulged.” And so middleborns learn to roll with the punches, and to get what they need by negotiating. “They also tend to be very open to experience, and willing to try new things,” says Salmon. “They tend to be moderate risk takers.”

• Empathy.  ”Middleborns generally have very good social and negotiating abilities,” says Salmon. “This comes from not being in a position of physical power, like the oldest, or having manipulative powers, like the youngest.  They tend not to be overbearing, and they’re very cooperative in terms of management style and good at working in teams and groups. We find that when they become effective leaders, they do so because of this personal style.”

• Ability to self-manage.  ”Many people complain that when people are hired as new workers, they aren’t self-starters,” Salmon notes. “Because middleborns had less parental control and more freedom, they’re used to working independently and tend to do so effectively in the workplace.  They are not overly fastidious and organized like first can be, no do they fly by the seat of their pants, as lasts often do. Much of being successful in the workplace relies on avoiding extremes.”

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Donna Fenn is the author of Upstarts: How Gen Y Entrepreneurs are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success and Alpha Dogs: How Your Small Business Can Become a Leader of the Pack. She has more than twenty years experience writing about entrepreneurship and small business trends as a contributing editor at Inc. magazine, an expert on, and a featured expert on To visit her website, please click here. You can follow her on Twitter: @donnafenn.



Friday, August 5, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 YouTube Videos Every Entrepreneur Should Watch

Actually, I think these are ten YouTube videos that anyone should watch who has an interest in the business world.

Here is an excerpt from an article that is featured by that provides the introduction to the first of ten YouTube videos that you can check out.

Developing the CEO Within You

Professor Joseph Bower from the Harvard Business School, on right

This YouTube video seeks to help aspiring executives prepare themselves to be strong CEO candidates in the future. Professor Joseph Bower from the Harvard Business School believes anyone hoping to hold a corner office someday should be able to ask serious questions—and answer them objectively—about their own work and the work produced by the company. Becoming a CEO is all about constantly learning and improving oneself—and later, others—to establish a true role within a company, instead of merely being a placeholder. Bower also recommends that CEOs-in-training take an interdisciplinary approach to networking, thus promoting innovation within the company.

The other nine are:

2. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
3. Muhammad Yunus: The Social Business Model
4. Can a “Green” Business Also Be a Profitable One?
5. Seth Godin: Ideas That Spread, Win
6. The Best Business Advice on Donny Deutsch Show From the CEO
7. Steve Jobs 2005 Stanford Commencement Address
8. Energizing Office Yoga
9. How to Craft Your 300-Second Elevator Pitch or Networking Introduction
10. Entrepreneurial Advice From Billionaires [Koch, Gates, Branson, and Buffett]

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To watch any/all of the ten YouTube videos, please click here.

Monday, June 20, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Byron Lewis Sr. (the UniWorld Group) in “The Corner Office”

Byron Lewis Sr. (Photo: Andrea Mohin/NYT)

Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Byron Lewis Sr., the chairman and chief executive of the UniWorld Group, who says he values common sense. But uncommon sense, Mr. Lewis says, is “where genius comes from.”

To read the complete interview and Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.

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Got an M.B.A.? Great, but I Prefer Uncommon Sense

Bryant: How do you hire? What qualities are you looking for?

Lewis: I’m looking for entrepreneurial capabilities. I’m looking for integrity.

Bryant How do you tell if somebody has integrity?

Lewis: We ask them for references, but it’s also an intuition you need to have. Many people who come to us don’t have traditional backgrounds. I’m looking for people who have ideas. I’m looking for people who can move the agency forward. I am looking for people who are different but different within the context of a business.

Bryant: Can you elaborate on that last point?

Lewis:  I’m looking for people who are not siloed. You have to know how to work with the creative people. You have to know how to bring the best out of them.

Bryant: What’s your advice for getting the most out of creative people?

Lewis: Creative people never know when or where the inspiration will come from, and leaders should understand that. The best way to build a team is to let the creative people feel that you understand them, and if they want to go off strategy, let them have their commercial or two, but make sure you have what the client asks for. The best creative also comes from good strategic planning and staying on point.

Bryant: Let’s say you just hired me, and I ask you, “What’s it like to work for you?”

Lewis:  Well, I’m a piece of work. You have to understand that I never worked for an advertising agency or a mainstream marketing company. It might be difficult because I built this company and I’m a nontraditional person. I’m looking for ideas, and I’m looking for people who go beyond. When the thought hits me, I want to share it, and I’ll call a meeting in a moment. Working with me would be challenging, but rewarding.
Bryant: What’s your advice on how to lead and manage?

Lewis: What I’ve learned is that what I value the most is common sense. When you really find a leader, that person has uncommon sense. I do not believe in formulas. I believe in integrity. Integrity is that you feel a loyalty not only to the company but also loyalty to an idea. I’m driven by ideas and I want people to be open and honest with what they believe, because I’ve learned to listen and value ideas. My company depends upon innovation. That’s how we started, and the older we get, the more important innovation becomes. Change can only come from people who feel free and have the courage to stand up for what they believe.

Bryant: How has your leadership style evolved?

Lewis: To be candid, I used to tell people that you have to be able to stand me — I am insistent on doing things a certain way because I knew they worked. But that wasn’t necessarily creating harmony, and now I’m aware that I want to hear from others. I want them to feel free to be honest about what they think.

Bryant: How do you create a culture of honesty?

Lewis: The truth is, people need to see their ideas being used. I used to insist upon doing it my way. Now, I’m much more interested in seeing that they do it their way.

Bryant: And when did that change happen?

Lewis:  It’s happened much more recently. I’m pretty clear about who I am. I’m very clear about where I stand. I think my brand is, “Byron is kind of difficult but he’s interesting.” People are aware that I’m difficult, but they also see that it works.

Bryant: And why are you difficult?

Lewis: As a start-up company, I was desperate to make sure that we would be successful. I did a lot of things myself, and it’s difficult to move away from that, partly because I managed to keep the company going during some tough times.

But it is very important that we have mutual respect. It’s particularly important because UniWorld is truly diverse. Our people bring different perspectives and customs that really contribute to our understanding of what we do.

People who work here know the history of the company, and that is our culture. It’s about innovation and change. There’s no formula, but that’s what we’ve created, and there is respect for individual people and where they come from. In another sense — I’m not as interested in M.B.A.’s as I might have been. I respect people for what they bring. I’m looking for people who have common sense, common decency. But I’m primarily looking for people who have uncommon sense because that’s where genius comes from.

Bryant: Talk more about that phrase, if you would.

Lewis: Uncommon sense is what Bill Gates and certain people have. Sure, they went to college, but they didn’t even finish because they created an idea. They had a vision and acted upon it.

I don’t claim to be on that level, but with my history and my company’s history, that’s in our DNA and it works, particularly in these times. I’m open to ideas as long as they’re strategically sound.

People of color — because of their background — they’re used to hard times and hard living. Hard times and hard living create the originality and individuality that you find among black athletes, black musicians, jazz and hip-hop artists. That’s what I’m looking for in my space. Jazz musicians do not think traditionally. They are creative people. That’s what makes this music, makes our culture global. I’m looking for those characteristics.

Uncommon to me is where genius comes from. Uncommon people, in our culture, get the most traction, and we see that today, where Mary J. Blige, P. Diddy and Jay-Z are now considered fashion icons. A person like Queen Latifah — who would ever have imagined that she would be an iconic figure for P.& G.’s CoverGirl brand? She has an uncommon background, an uncommon view of the world. Strangely enough, those views resonate across all spaces.

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To read the complete interview, please click here.

Adam Bryant

Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times‘ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on that he started in March 2009. In his new book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews with more than 70 leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.

Sunday, June 12, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nancy Duarte: An interview by Bob Morris

Nancy Duarte

Nancy Duarte has driven the vision and growth of Duarte for 20 years, building an internationally respected design firm, which has created over a quarter of a million presentations. She has helped shape the perceptions of many of the world’s leading brands and thought leaders. Nancy is the author of the best-selling and award winning book Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations, where her experience was distilled into best practices for business communicators. She continues to advance new forms of presentation through partnerships with innovative forums like TED and PopTech. Nancy serves as a TED Fellows committee member, is a 2009 Woman of Influence and 2008 Communicator of the Year. Nancy’s latest award-winning book, Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences, was published by Wiley in 2010.

Morris: Before discussing Resonate, a few general questions. First, when and why did you first become interested in design?

Duarte: I’ve always been primarily a visual communicator. When I played as a child I would trace coloring book characters and classify them. It was easier for me to express myself visually than verbally. I received average grades school on my written assignments and top honors on any assignments that were accompanied by visuals.

Morris: Did that interest precede your interest in effective communication? Please explain.

Duarte: Effective communication is fascinating to me yet bad communication is just as fascinating. There are lessons to be learned from both. I can’t say I am a natural communicator, it’s taken a lot of work to be able to develop content relevant to the audience and deliver it with credibility. My initial natural ability tended to be more around the visual display of information. For years I was more comfortable visualizing other people’s great thinking. I preferred to be hidden behind the curtain than a thinker myself. It wasn’t until I wrote Resonate that I’ve gained the confidence to call myself a communicator.

Morris: Briefly, please trace the founding and subsequent development of Duarte Design. For example, what was its original mission and to what extent (if any) has that since changed?

Duarte: My husband, Mark, started the firm and it was called “Duarte Desktop Publishing and Graphic Design.” Wow, what a mouthful. We stumbled into presentations in 1989 and landed a very sophisticated account. When that company had a significant layoff in 1992 and the price of desktop projectors dropped significantly our presentation services spread across the Silicon Valley like wildfire as our clients scattered into new jobs across the valley. The firm has grown from just Mark to almost 100 people writing and visualizing presentations.

Morris: What do you know now that you wish you knew when your firm was founded?

Duarte: So much of what we did in the early days was trial and error. There were many long days and nights trying to figure out how to grow, increase our quality, and keep employees motivated. I wish I’d brought in mature, smart staff earlier in the process. Having many smart people share the load has been the best thing we’ve ever done.

Morris: There has been significant increase of interest in design thinking as the publication of Resonate as well as of other books by Tim Brown (Change by Design),  Roger Martin (The Design of Business), Roberto Verganti (Design-Driven Innovation), and Thomas Lockwood (Design Thinking) clearly indicate. How do you explain this? Why has the subject become so “hot”?

Duarte: My hope is that design thinking becomes an innovative discipline and not just the trend of the decade. As a nation and globally, we have some of the biggest problems to solve we have ever faced. We need innovative ways to solve our problems and communicating the solutions will be paramount. Original thinking, complex problem solving, and collaboration are all important skills for our future.

Morris: I view the appointment of John Maeda (author of The Laws of Simplicity and in May 2011, Redesigning Leadership) as president of Rhode Island School of Design as well as the fact that Roger Martin is the dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto are indications that the academic community is also becoming much more actively involved with design thinking. Do you agree?

Duarte: I agree! My hope is that the academic world will be open to the innovative approach design thinkers bring. I know John Maeda personally, and I love the way he thinks. He considers perspectives and has insights that would have never entered my mind. We need innovators at the helm of our education institutions, although there may be uncomfortable culture clashes initially, it’s important to move in this direction.

Morris: Look ahead (let’s say) 3-5 years, what do you see as the single most important business opportunity for firms such as yours?

Duarte: Wow Robert, you ask great questions! Right now we’re very focused on the power of story to persuade. Story incites us or unites us. My firm has an awestruck reverence for the power of story. Our short term priority is to uncover a quantitative way to measure the impact of a presentation and innovative ways to take presentations viral. As we’ve been working through the global landscape, we’re starting to see the importance of understanding and communicating stories in the context of a global atmosphere.

Morris: Now please shift your attention to Resonate. Please explain its title and subtitle.

Duarte: When someone says “that resonates with me” what they are saying is “I agree with you” or “I align with you.” Once your ideas resonate with an audience, they will change. But, the only way to have true resonance is to understand the ones with whom you are trying to resonate. You need to spend time thinking about your audience. What unites them, what incites them? What does a walk in their shoes look like? Think about your audience and what’s on their mind before you begin building your presentation. Thinking about them will help you identify beliefs and behavior in your audience that you can connect with. Resonate with.

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To read the complete interview, please click here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Borrowing Brilliance: A book review by Bob Morris

Borrowing Brilliance: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others
David Kord Murray
Gotham Books/The Penguin Group (2009)

A rigorous and comprehensive analysis of the evolution of a creative idea

Others have their own reasons for praising this book. Here are two of mine. First, David Kord Murray immediately states his core thesis and then develops it with original (rather than borrowed) brilliance throughout the narrative that follows. Here it is, in composite form: “Ideas are constructed out of other ideas, there are no original thoughts, you can’t make something out of nothing, you have to make it out of something else. It’s the law of cerebral physics. Ideas are born of other ideas, built in and out of the ideas that came before. That’s why I say that brilliance is borrowed…An idea is like a house or a building. Your business problem is the foundation of that house. In other words, you build your idea on a foundation of well-defined problems. Once defined, you borrow ideas from places with a comparable problem…Then, you take these borrowed ideas and start combining them to form the overall structure of your house, to form the structure of your new solution.”

I also admire the scope and depth of primary and secondary sources that Murray cites within the framework of the six steps to innovation. For example, Step One involves defining the problem to be solved. Murray advises that the foundation for solving the problem be on “solid ground” and that the problem is viewed in context (e.g. scope) rather than in isolation. His sources include Sergey Brin and Larry Page (“the Google Guys”, Isaac Newton, and James Maxwell. If you have a search problem, as Brin and Page once did, ask “Who else has a search problem?” The answer probably includes librarians, rescue teams, sailors, hunters, archeologists, and explorers.

Step Two involves borrowing ideas from wherever there is or has been a similar problem: “borrowing brilliance is the search for ideas” and what Murray calls “creative combinations” are the result of borrowing from competitors, observations, other people, while traveling away from home, from what Murray calls “the opposite place” (i.e. the opposite of what is popular), a similar place, and/or a distant place (e.g. ancient Rome). His sources include Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, and John Nash. They and others used one or more existing idea as material to construct a new idea, one that would then become a new (for now) “creative combination.” That is what Johannes Gutenberg did in the 1440s when he combined materials that already existed: a wine press, an adjustable undertable, movable typeface of lead-based alloy, a matrix (i.e. hand mould), and oil-based ink.

Murray also provides a convincing reassurance to all who claim they are “not creative” that innovation is a never-ending process that, over extended time, it may involve thousands (millions?) of individuals who “build on the ideas of others,” some of whom – many centuries ago — also built on the ideas of others who preceded them. Almost anyone is capable of making a valuable contribution to this process on continuous improvement. The value of some contributions will be greater than others, obviously, but all are essential.

The best recently published account of this process, at least that I am aware of, is provided by William Rosen in his book about the development of steam-driven power, The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention, published by Random House (2010).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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