First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Herminia Ibarra: An interview by Bob Morris

IbarraHerminia Ibarra is the Cora Chaired Professor of Leadership and Learning and Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD. Prior to joining INSEAD she served on the Harvard Business School faculty for thirteen years. She is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Councils, a judge for the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award, and Chairs the Visiting Committee of the Harvard Business School. Thinkers 50 ranked Ibarra #9 among the most influential business gurus in the world.

Ibarra is an expert on professional and leadership development. One of her books, Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career (Harvard Business School Press, 2003), documents how people reinvent themselves at work. Her numerous articles are published in leading journals including the Harvard Business Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, and Organization Science. Her research has been profiled in a wide range of media including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and The Economist. She teaches in a variety of INSEAD programs and consults internationally on talent management, leadership development, and women’s careers. A native of Cuba, Ibarra received her M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University where she was a National Science Fellow.

Her latest book, Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, was published by Harvard Business Review Press (2015).

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Herminia.

* * *

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.

I started my research career studying informal networks of relationships in organizations. I saw their power to shape people’s ability to get things done and advance in their careers. So I started to study what shapes people’s networks, what makes some people build networks more proactively than others and what kinds of networks they need to make important career transitions. I discovered that identity, our sense of who we are and who we want to become, is a powerful force in shaping the social circles that in turn affect us so significantly. I haven’t stopped studying how our identities evolve ever since.

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?

I’ve always been an academic but I have always taught in business schools. When you teach people who do not want to grow up to be like you no matter how successful you are (because they want to be business people)
you learn fast that it’s not “what you know” but your capacity to make it relevant for others that matters.

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

 It’s hard to pick just one! One book that has made an enduring impression on me is developmental psychologist Donald Winnicott’s book, Playing and Reality. Winnicott described how children imagine various possibilities for themselves in the future, and they play out these possibilities via games, daydreams and make-believe explorations. The play world they create is in many ways a rehearsal for the “real” world.

This book was a source of some of the ideas I have developed about the importance of being more playful with one’s sense of self as an adult and how one actually does that.

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

Anyone who is successful is vulnerable to what I call “competency traps.” A competency traps occurs when you enjoy most what you do best, so you do more of it and you get even better at it, so that it becomes hard to justify the time and investment required to get someone else to your “expert level.” It’s just faster and better done when you do it yourself. Over time, you come to define yourself by that competency, making it even harder to delegate that work to someone else. People will wittingly or unwittingly help you out, by refusing ownership and by passing the buck on to you. That’s how you get stuck. And of course, there is an opportunity cost: the time you are spending on routine work you might delegate is time you are not spending on more strategic activities.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

INSEAD faculty link

Her website link

Amazon Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader link

HBR link

Thinkers50 link

Twitter link

“Facing Career Crosroads” video link

Sunday, May 31, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get What’s Yours Rise to the Top Demonstrates Our Insecurity

GetWhat'sYoursCoverWhat does it say about Americans when a book about Social Security zooms to the top of the best-seller lists?

I say we are just insecure.  Or uninformed.  Or panicky.  Or lots of things.

As a elixir, book readers are buying Get What’s Yours:  The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security (Simon & Schuster, 2015) by Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Philip Moeller, and Paul Solman.

Here is where the book stands on as I write this today:

The book is # 3 on the Wall Street Journal hardcover business best-seller list and # 4 on the non-fiction list.  I cannot find updates for the Bloomberg Business Week.  The book’s website claims that it is a New York Times best-seller, but I cannot verify that this morning as I write.  But, since the book has only been out since February 17, 2015, its rise to the top is meteoric.  It certainly did not hurt sales when Jane Pauley said this is “an indispensable and surprisingly entertaining guide for anyone who is retiring or thinking of retiring with all of the Social Security benefits they’ve earned.” With a flurry of endorsements from financial experts, many readers must have flocked to the physical and on-line outlets to see what it says.  Or, it likely did not hurt when the summary on proclaimed, “Many personal finance books briefly address Social Security, but none offers the thorough, authoritative, yet conversational analysis found here. You’ve paid all your working life for these benefits. Now, get what’s yours.
And, who wouldn’t be interested in a book with a summary from such as this:  “It tells you precisely which months you should collect retiree, spousal, survivor, divorcee, parent, and child benefits to achieve the highest lifetime benefits.  Maximize My Social Security incorporates all Social Security provisions and options for singles and married couples.
Who are these authors?  The book’s website provides these details:

Laurence Kotlikoff

Laurence J. Kotlikoff is William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor and a professor of economics at Boston University.  He is also president of Economic Security Planning, Inc., a company specializing in financial planning software.  His company websites are and  He is author or co-author of sixteen books, including Spend ‘Til the End and The Coming Generational Storm (both with Scott Burns).  His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, Bloomberg, Forbes, The Economist, Huffington Post, and other major publications.  He has served as a consultant to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, governments around the world, and major U.S. corporations including Merrill Lynch, Fidelity Investments, and AON.  In addition, he has provided expert testimony on numerous occasions to committees of Congress.  He lives in Boston.

Philip Moeller writes about retirement for Money magazine, the PBS website Making Sen$e, and other media outlets.  He is also a research fellow at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College, and the founder of, a site for insurance information that has provided original insurance content to the Web’s leading business portals, including Microsoft, Yahoo, America Online, and MarketWatch.  Formerly a contributing editor at U. S. News & World Report, he has spent forty years as an award-winning financial journalist, Internet entrepreneur, and corporate communications executive for a Fortune 500 financial services firm.  He lives in Richmond, Virginia.

Paul Soloman

Paul Solman is the longtime business and economics correspondent for The PBS NewsHour.  His many awards for work in business journalism include Emmys, Peabodys, and a Loeb award.  He is also a Brady-Johnson Distinguished Practitioner at Yale University, where he teaches in the Grand Strategy course, as well as teaching at New Haven’s Gateway Community College. He has been a member of the Harvard Business School faculty and a visiting professor at his alma mater, Brandeis.  Solman has written for numerous publications, from Forbes to Mother Jones, co-authored (with Thomas Friedman) Life and Death on the Corporate Battlefield, and wrote the introduction to Morrie: In His Own Words, created entirely from interviews with his former Brandeis sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz (of “Tuesdays with Morrie” fame).  He lives in Newton, Massachusetts.

We won’t have this book at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, as we don’t include individual-based finance books in our monthly coverage.

But that doesn’t mean that plenty of our attendees will find this important to read.  While they won’t identify themselves, I am sure we get some people who are insecure, uninformed, and panicky about their retirement years.  Maybe they. and many others will find this book a great relief to that anxiety.

Saturday, March 21, 2015 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rita McGrath, Part 1: An interview by Bob Morris

McGrath 3Rita Gunther McGrath, a Professor at Columbia Business School, is regarded as one of the world’s top experts on strategy and innovation with particular emphasis on developing sound strategy in uncertain and volatile environments. Her ideas are widely used by leading organizations throughout the world, who describe her thinking as sometimes provocative, but unfailingly stimulating. She fosters a fresh approach to strategy amongst those with whom she works. Thinkers50 presented Rita with the #1 award for Strategy, the Distinguished Achievement Award, in 2013. She is also in their top ten global list of management thinkers overall. She has also been inducted into the Strategic Management Society “Fellows” in recognition of her impact on the field. She consistently appears in lists of the top professors to follow on Twitter. McGrath is the author of four books; the most recent being the best-selling The End of Competitive Advantage : How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business(Harvard Business Review Press), rated the #1 book of the year by Strategy+Business.

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

* * *

Morris: Before discussing a few of your books, here are several general questions. First, to what extent (if any) have your students’ aspirations, issues, and concerns changed in recent years? What do you make of that?

McGrath: In our MBA programs, we’ve seen a big shift away from the heavy emphasis on consulting and finance toward entrepreneurship, social enterprise and management. In our Executive Programs, we’re seeing more concern about new technologies, short-lived advantages and what you might think of as “black swan” events. Digital marketing has been quite a growth area, as has our programs on innovation.

Morris: There has been significant criticism of business schools in recent years, even of – especially of — the most prestigious ones such as Columbia, Harvard, Kellogg, Michigan, and Wharton. In your opinion, what is the single area in which there is the greatest need for improvement in business school education?

McGrath: We need new models for developing and coaching students – so much about the way we work comes from the past. Just as an example, take the structure of academic departments – we’re set up by functions, such as finance, marketing, operations, management, and so on. Companies have learned years ago that operating in silos like that can create significant blind spots. I think we need to re-think what helps learners best come out of our institutions with skills that their employers will value, as well as with better analytical toolkits.

Morris: Given your response to the previous question, here’s a hypothetical question. Assume that you have total control and unlimited resources. How specifically would you respond to that need?

McGrath: It would depend on what kind of school I was running. If I were at a top-brand school like Columbia, I wouldn’t be too concerned that my franchise was going away, but I would probably redesign the MBA experience with the desired outcomes in mind. So we probably would do a lot more with entrepreneurship, design, technology and other elements that future technologists would need, and I’d try to design a really coherent student experience.

If I were at a mid-tier or lower-tier school, the question requires a complete rethink. I have a white paper on this if you are interested.

Morris: What was the original mission of Columbia’s Executive Education program and to what extent (if any) has it since changed? Please explain.

McGrath: I think the original idea was to provide more life-long learning opportunities for business people with more seasoning than our MBA-aged students. That is still in many ways our goal. We once had a tagline “learning that powers performance” and I think we still want to strive to do that. The main things that have changed are the topics and issues executives come to us with. Interestingly, we’re doing a review of our strategy for executive education, so there may be some new twists on the mission which come out of that.

Morris: To what extent (if any) have you changed your approach to classroom instruction?

McGrath: Now that has really changed for me. When I first started teaching in the MBA program, we used a ton of cases, printed our overheads on acetates and projected them with overhead projectors and did a fair amount of lecturing. Today, I use practically no canned Harvard-style cases as they just go out of date too soon. We use different technology in the classroom obviously, and the pedagogy is more discussion and debate oriented. I probably lecture less and discuss more.

Morris: Now please shift your attention to The Entrepreneurial Mindset. To what specifically does its title refer?

McGrath: How to think about innovation in corporations with insights informed by the way habitual entrepreneurs think.

Morris: The mindset you describe seems to be one that any executive should develop, whatever the size and nature or her or his organization, be it a start-up or a Fortune 50 company. Is that a fair assessment?

McGrath: It certainly can’t hurt – finding new opportunities, thinking in a fresh way about your competition, deeply understanding your customers, and planning with the right disciplines for the uncertainty you face are all pretty practical and important topics.

Morris: For those who have not as yet read the book, in it you recommend a process by which to identify, evaluate, and prioritize opportunities, then pursue them with appropriate strategies. Please explain this process.

McGrath: We walk our readers through a series of “lenses” they can use to identify potential opportunities to put in an inventory of opportunities. Then we talk about screening for the best ones, given the constraints you have. We describe how to test assumptions at minimal cost, and how to do ‘discovery driven’ planning in which the goal is to plan while recognizing that you don’t have enough knowledge to do a conventional plan. We also spend a little time on how to enter the market and assess competition. The Entrepreneurial Mindset was cited by famous entrepreneur Steve Blank as one of the foundational ideas behind the lean startup movement popularized by Eric Ries.

Morris: In your opinion, are the challenges of entrepreneurship more difficult, less difficult, or about the same today as they were when you wrote The Entrepreneurial Mindset more than a decade ago? How so?

McGrath: Less difficult. Today, you have access to unbelievable assets and talent that you can use to assemble the operations of your business with very low investment. You can get computing power from Amazon, office space from Regus, staff from, programmers from oDesk, and the list goes on. It’s also true that companies today can operate in a very lean way which also reduces the investment required to innovate. I mean, Whatsapp, with only 55 employees was just valued by Facebook at $19 Billion! That’s with a B – with only 55 people, which is quite amazing.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

In Part 2, we will discuss The End of Competitive Advantage.

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

Here’s a link to her website.

Here’s a link to her HBR articles

Here’s a link to her Columbia University faculty page

Here’s a link to a recent video.

Here’s a link to the MarketBusting website.

Here’s a link to the Discovery-Driven Growth website.

Monday, March 10, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blogging on Business Update from Bob Morris (Week of 9/16/13)

BOB Banner



I hope that at least a few of these recent posts will be of interest to you:


A Life In Leadership: From D-Day to Ground Zero: An Autobiography
John Whitehead

The Art of Business: In the Footsteps of Giants
Raymond T. Yeh with Stephanie H. Yeh

Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career
Richie Frieman

Follow the Leader: The One Thing Great Leaders Have that Great Followers Want
Emmanuel Gobillot

Promote Yourself: The new rules for building an outstanding career
Dan Schawbel

What the Plus!: Google+ for the Rest of Us
Guy Kawasaki



Simon Anderson (chief executive of DreamHost) in “The Corner Office”
Adam Bryant
The New York Times

Education for everyone: An interview with Sal Khan
Insights & Publications
McKinsey & Company

Daniel Lubetzky (the chief executive of Kind Snacks) in “The Corner Office”
Adam Bryant
The New York Times



“Key initiatives to build digital enterprises”
Brad Brown, Johnson Sikes, and Paul Willmott
McKinsey & Company:

“Employee Retention, Engagement, and Ambassadorship Go Hand-in-Hand-in-Hand At Successful Companies”
Michael Lowenstein
Beyond Philosophy

“The Shortlist for the 2013 Business Book of the Year”
Financial Times and Goldman Sachs

“Social Media: Some Do’s and Don’ts to Keep in Mind”
Dan Schawbel
from Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success

“New Generation of Business: Connecting Employee Loyalty with Customer Loyalty”
Colin Shaw
LinkedIn Today

“How to answer ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’”
Amy Levin-Epstein
CBS MoneyWatch

“The play deficit”
Peter Gray
from Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life

“Taking the first (and most difficult) step”
Josh Linkner

“The “scrupulous writer”
George Orwell
from Politics and the English Language

“The Most Lethal Culture Killers”
Lisa Bodell
from Kill the Company: End the Status Quo, Start an Innovation Revolution

Rita Hayworth is still “Staying Alive”
Rod Crawford

“George Washington on 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation”
Foundations (online) magazine

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To check out these resources and other content, please click here.

To subscribe via RSS Reader, please click here.

Sunday, September 22, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John Butman: An interview by Bob Morris

Butman, JohnJohn Butman is founder and principal of the idea and content development firm Idea Platforms, Inc. and author of Breaking Out: How to Build Influence in a World of Competing Ideas (Harvard Business Review Press 2013). He has worked with leading consultancies, CEOs, and senior executives of major companies including members of the Fortune 50, as well as educational institutions, philanthropic organizations, government agencies, and independent professionals, helping them find their fascinations, articulate their ideas, develop books, create idea platforms, and shape their thinking journeys.

Butman’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Financial Times, Forbes, Huffington Post,, Harvard Business Review, Bloomberg, Publishers Weekly, BigThink, 33 voices, The Independent, Times of London, Kirkus Reviews, and the Orlando Sun-Sentinel. He has been involved in the development of more than twenty-five books, which have been translated into some twenty languages, and include New York Times, Boston Globe, BusinessWeek, and Toronto Globe and Mail bestsellers.

He has spoken to many groups around the country and in Canada, including American Bankers Association, American Express, Boston Children’s Hospital, Cornell Club of Boston, Dow Chemical, Google, Harvard Business School Association of Boston, Hult International Business School, New York University, PresenTense, PWC, Starwood, TRW, and many others.

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

* * *

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

Butman: Ingmar Bergman, the great Swedish film director (1918-2007). Not only was he a brilliant director, he wrote most of his own scripts, and knew a lot about cinematography, too. He worked collaboratively with his cast and crew. He was one of the few filmmakers who cared as much about ideas as he did about story. Not only was he a master of his craft, he also developed theories and held points of view that went beyond practices and methods, which are lucidly expressed in a book of interviews called Bergman on Bergman. In addition to his film work, he directed theater and opera. His life and loves were intimately intertwined with his films. He had an incredibly long and productive career, continuing to invent late in life. When I first began to watch his films, and followed his career over many years, I thought: this is the kind of complete person, expressive and committed, that I would like to be. Haven’t quite achieved that.

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

Butman: Martin Scorsese. I started out in the film school at NYU (now the Tisch School) and Scorsese was my teacher for production class. He had impact in two ways. First, he was a sharp and insightful critic of our work, both positively and negatively. Second, he probably was instrumental in my not pursuing a career as a professional filmmaker. He was not the kind of person I thought I wanted to be – at the time, at least.

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.

Butman: Not really. My career has been composed of two paths. The path of personal expression, which has involved the writing of fiction and the creation of movies, and the path of professional success and revenue generation. I have found both of them fascinating, frustrating, intriguing, and full of learning. I always think that I would have preferred to have had just one path, but I’m not so sure of that anymore.

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

Butman: My training in film making focused me on how to create narratives and to write as people speak. I also had a good education in literature and my professors of poetry, particularly M.L. Rosenthal, helped me understand how to concentrate meaning, to create it indirectly, and how to unpack and analyze dense bodies of content.

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?

Butman: I knew absolutely nothing about business when I went to work for the first time, so anything would have been helpful.

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

Butman: This is going to sound really corny but I am a fan of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, doesn’t even want to be in the family banking business, but he deeply understands its purpose: to make capital available to worthwhile enterprises. He was a double bottom line guy long before the current focus on social purpose. His only problem was that he wasn’t so good on the profit side and he was a little loose on process.

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

Butman: I’ve learned a lot about how business in the United States works by reading about business in other countries, particularly European countries. Most recently, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy gave me an intriguing view into why Russia operates the way it does today. The United States was essentially founded as a business, while other nations evolved into commerce-conducting societies from their non-business origins.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

John cordially invite(s) you to check out the resources at these websites:

Idea Platform/Breaking Out link

John’s blog link

Amazon link

Twitter link

Tuesday, August 27, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Andy Molinsky: An interview by Bob Morris

MolinskyAndy Molinsky is an associate professor at Brandeis University’s International Business School, with a joint appointment in the Department of Psychology. He is also the author of Global Dexterity: How to Adapt Behavior Across Cultures Without Losing Yourself in the Process, published by Harvard Business Review Press in March, 2013. He specializes in cross-cultural interaction in business settings and has created a popular MBA course focused on cross-cultural adaptation. He has published widely on the topic of cultural adaptation; his work has been featured in a wide range of global publications including the Financial Times, Harvard Business Review, the Economist, Forbes, Fast Company, NPR, and Voice of America. He received his PhD in Organizational Behavior and MA in Psychology from Harvard University. He also holds a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from Columbia University and a BA in International Affairs from Brown University.

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

* * *

Morris: What motivated you to study the challenges of adapting one’s behavior in foreign cultural interactions?

Molinsky: I think that the first influence on me was my father who was a professor at Boston University when I was growing up and taught English as a Second Language. My strongest memory from this time was the end-of-the-year party that he would have at our house where all the people from his class from around the world would bring their favorite international dishes and enjoy each other’s company. I was very young at the time and even though it was past my bedtime, I remember coming down to the party and hearing these “exotic” languages, smelling the food, and being captivated by the foreign and international nature of the gathering. I think that was the first time I became fascinated by foreign cultures and languages.

I continued this interest in college where I studied Russian and Spanish and eventually went to study abroad in Madrid and live with a Spanish family. That was my first personal experience living in a foreign culture and I remember then as well being fascinated by cultural differences – so much so that after college I chose to learn French and move to Paris to work for an international consulting firm where my interest intensified. I remember those days in Paris very well because although the actual content of my work at the company didn’t interest me, the foreign cultural interactions did! I remember keeping a “secret” file open on my little office computer at all times with my ongoing observations of the foreign workplace.

When I returned to the US, I decided to pursue a PhD in psychology and organizational behavior at Harvard University in Boston to further my understanding of foreign cultural interactions in a business context. It was there that I started working at an immigrant resettlement agency in Boston helping immigrant professional workers from the former USSR learn how to interview for jobs and network in the United States. At the time, what struck me was that although these people knew the “rules” for how to interview and network in the United States, they struggled acting in an American style because it was so different from what they were used to. I ended up writing my PhD dissertation about this idea of “switching” or “adapting” cultural behavior, and for the past 15 years have been exploring this topic of cultural adaptation in many different contexts and settings, with the ultimate goal of helping people learn how to adapt their behavior across cultures without feeling like they are compromising their authenticity.

Morris: Can you tell me what you mean by “global dexterity” and why the concept is important in the modern workplace?

Molinsky: Global dexterity is the ability to adapt behavior across cultures without losing who you are in the process. If you’ve ever been in a foreign culture, either working or just living there, you’ve likely experienced situations where your comfortable “default” behavior turns out to be ineffective or inappropriate for different situations. Imagine that you’re an American-born executive in Tokyo having to learn to give feedback to your Japanese employees. Your natural style is to “tell it like it is,” but to be effective in Japan, you have to speak much more indirectly, in a way that may feel awkward and even disingenuous. It’s important to be able to shift your cultural behavior in a way that’s effective and appropriate in a new setting, while simultaneously preserving your sense of authenticity. I sometimes call it “fitting in without giving in.”

Why does it matter? Because business has never been more global than today. And the people in those businesses must be capable of moving smoothly and seamlessly across cultures. That’s true for simple cases of etiquette, like learning how and when to bow or shake hands, but it’s especially vital when performing core professional tasks such as giving performance feedback, pitching an idea to your boss, networking, or motivating others. These are situations that make or break your ability to be an effective global manager and leader.

Morris: What is the “cultural code”?

Molinsky: The cultural code is how you’re expected to act to be effective in a particular situation in a foreign culture. It’s the script or the rules of the road. But don’t be fooled: the national culture you’re in (India, Germany, China) is not all that matters when determining the code. It’s many other things. For example, if you are doing business in China or India, all you need to know is a bit about the Chinese or Indian mentality and you’re set to be effective in whatever situation you happen to face. But that’s a mistake because the cultural code is not simply influenced by the national culture. Regional cultural differences matter too. It matters whether a business meeting is being held in a rural village in the Sichuan Province or at a gleaming office tower in Shanghai. It matters whether a job interview is taking place in central London or in a hamlet in Yorkshire.

Organizational culture also makes a difference. How you interact with your boss at Google is quite different from how you interact with your boss at Microsoft or Intel. Meetings at traditional, bureaucratic organizations in France are run quite differently from meetings at small start-ups. Finally, the personal background of the actual individual or individuals you’re interacting with matter a great deal as well in determining the cultural code for any particular situation you face in a foreign setting. Imagine negotiating a key microfinance deal in Pakistan. It would be very important in this case to know whether you are negotiating with local tribal elders who have never traveled outside of the region, or with 30-something entrepreneurs with finance degrees from Wharton.

Morris: You recommend a six-dimensional approach when diagnosing that code. For those who have not as yet read the book, please explain.

Molinsky: Each situation you face in a foreign cultural setting — whether it’s learning to give constructive criticism, make small talk, negotiate, participate at a meeting, or ask a favor of your boss — has certain rules for appropriate behavior in a given cultural setting. Although there are undoubtedly many different ways to characterize these rules, I portray them in terms of six dimensions that capture the expectations that others have for our behavior in a foreign setting. These are:

o Directness: How straightforwardly am I expected to communicate in this situation?
o Enthusiasm: How much positive emotion and energy am I expected to show to others in this situation?
o Formality: How much deference and respect am I expected to demonstrate in this situation?
o Assertiveness: How strongly am I expected to express my voice in this situation?
o Self-Promotion: How positively am I expected to speak about my skills and accomplishments?
o Personal disclosure: How much can I reveal about myself in this situation?

Each situation you encounter will have a specific “cultural code” for behavior along each of these dimensions. When motivating workers in India, there is a certain level or amount of assertiveness that you are expected to show as a leader. When bonding with work colleagues after hours at a restaurant or a bar in Japan, there is a certain level of enthusiasm that is expected, and this level of enthusiasm is quite different from the level of enthusiasm expected in other parts of your workday in a Japanese setting

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Amazon page for Global Dexterity link

Facebook link

LinkedIn link

Twitter link

Saturday, August 10, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dorie Clark: An interview by Bob Morris

Clark, DorieDorie Clark is a marketing strategy consultant and frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review and Forbes. Recognized as a “branding expert” by the Associated Press, she is the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). Clark consults and speaks for a diverse range of clients, including Google, Fidelity, the World Bank, the Ford Foundation, Yale University, the Mount Sinai Medical Center, and the National Park Service.

Clark, a former presidential campaign spokeswoman, is an adjunct professor of business administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She has taught marketing and communications at Tufts University, Suffolk University, Emerson College, Smith College Executive Education, the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business, and HEC-Paris, which is ranked #2 worldwide in executive education by the Financial Times. Her work has been published in the Harvard Business Review Guide to Getting the Right Job and the Harvard Business Review Guide to Networking. She frequently appears in worldwide media including NPR, the BBC, and MSNBC. At age 18, Clark graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Smith College, and two years later received a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School.

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

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

Clark: I have to give the nod to my mother, Gail Clark, who instilled a deep sense of confidence in me through her unwavering love and support. These days, the pendulum seems to be swinging back toward a more tough-love style of parenting, as a cultural reaction against the “make every child feel special” approach in the ‘80s and ‘90s, which my mom’s parenting style anticipated. But I can attest that the drive and assuredness that comes from having a secure base like that is quite powerful.

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

Clark: My biggest professional influence was probably starting my career as a reporter. I loved being able to ask questions and learn about a new subject every week, and that approach and curiosity has stayed with me.

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.

Clark: If the Internet hadn’t happened and journalism (and much of our economy) hadn’t been “disrupted,” I probably would have remained a journalist, because I loved the profession. But when I got laid off my from first reporting job at age 22, I had to come up with a new plan, and that set me off on the career adventures that eventually led to Reinventing You.

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

Clark: I’m a proud liberal arts student, with my undergraduate degree in philosophy and my masters degree in theology. I believe my studies have made me a better writer and thinker, and able to understand patterns and make connections in a richer way.

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?

Clark: I can relate to the current knock on Gen Y workers because I, too, hated dressing up and struggled to get to work on time in my early days. It seems pretty basic but the transition from the complete autonomy of graduate school was difficult. Of course, what I came to realize is that those things were infinitely easier for me as an entrepreneur, because I was excited by the freedom of working for myself (for a brief while as a freelance journalist, later heading up a nonprofit where I was in charge, and finally starting my own consulting business). I’m grateful for the things I learned as an employee, but temperamentally, I realized I’m able to excel as an entrepreneur where I wasn’t in a more traditional structure.

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

Clark: I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post a while back called “Business Secrets from Scarface.” Even though (perhaps because?) it’s a gangster movie, the excitement and danger of business is right on the surface. Watching Tony Montana, first in his rise to power (asking for bigger assignments, staying cool in decisive moments) and later as a cautionary tale, is quite powerful.

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

Clark: I’m a big fan of “deep dive” non-fiction books that immerse you into a particular world. Anthony Bourdain’s books aren’t “business books,” but give you an amazing glimpse into the restaurant industry and its unique culture. I also loved New Jack by Ted Conover, which showed what life working in a prison is like.

Morris: And then, from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

Clark: Wilde is the original personal branding expert. He was flamboyantly unique, even though he eventually suffered for it (given the negative attitudes toward homosexuality at the time and his notorious trial). Given that we’re still talking about him more than 100 years later, he’s a perfect example that being yourself and contributing something new to the world can enable you to make a lasting impact.

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To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Her website

Reinventing You at Amazon link

Twitter link

Forbes link

HBR link

Monday, July 8, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Michael E. Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed: An interview by Bob Morris

RaynorMichael E. Raynor is a director at Deloitte Services LP. In his research and client work he explores corporate strategy, innovation, and growth across a wide variety of industries. Michael is co-author with Clayton M. Christensen of The Innovator’s Solution, which was on The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times bestseller lists, and sole author of The Strategy Paradox, named by Bloomberg Businessweek one of the year’s 10 best business books in 2007, and The Innovator’s Manifesto, released in 2011, when the Financial Times called Michael “one of the most articulate and interesting of…strategists.”

His most recent book, The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think, co-authored with Mumtaz Ahmed and published by Portfolio/Penguin Group (May 2013), provides a rigorous, practical way for companies of all types to dramatically improve their chances of success.

AhmedMumtaz Ahmed is Chief Strategy Officer of Deloitte LLP and head of Strategy, Brand & Innovation, and therefore responsible for developing strategies for a broad professional services portfolio and defining Deloitte’s strategic positioning.

Mumtaz’s research focus is on the factors contributing to superior corporate performance. His articles, coauthored with Michael Raynor and others, have appeared in such publications as The Harvard Business Review, Ivey Business Journal, Strategic Management Journal, and Deloitte Review.

Born and raised in Pakistan, Mumtaz qualified as an engineer and an accountant in the UK and joined the Canadian member firm in 1982. He established the consulting practice in the Hong Kong member firm during 1993-1999 and moved to San Francisco in 1999, where he is currently based.

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

* * *

Morris: Before discussing The Three Rules, a few general questions. First, there have been several dozen books published in recent years in which authors such as Roger Martin, Chris Brown, and Robert Verganti discuss the relationship between design thinking and innovation. What are your own thoughts about that relationship?

Raynor and Ahmed: Design thinking is one of many types of approaches to making good choices when faced with difficult problems. Our work is intended to address the upstream question, “which hard problems are worth solving.” We’ve concluded that when there is a tradeoff to be made between finding ways to be better or cheaper, or between increasing revenue or reducing cost, go with “better” and “revenue”. Of course, if you can in fact break that tradeoff, that’s best of all – it’s what we call an “innovation” (see The Innovator’s Manifesto). But when constraints are binding, which they frequently are, the three rules are a powerful guide.

Morris: In Tom Davenport’s latest book, 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?

Raynor and Ahmed: Our work did not to uncover the actual decision-making processes used by individual people in exceptional companies. Rather, we inferred the decision-making rules that were consistent with the behaviors exceptional companies evinced. As a result, we’re hopeful that, like Davenport and Manville, we are moving away from the notion that an individual needs to be exceptional in order to contribute to making a company exceptional. The three rules can be applied by anyone, and although they are not guarantees of success, their careful use increases the likelihood of success. More importantly, because they are simple, accurate and generally applicable, they should help with strategic alignment throughout the organization, which is the real payoff.

Morris: Here’s a brief excerpt from Paul Schoemaker’s latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: “The key question companies need to address is not ‘Should we make mistakes?’ but rather ‘Which mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?'” Your response?

Raynor and Ahmed: We wouldn’t disagree with Schoemaker’s claim, but we might elaborate on it. The three rules specify which tough problems are most worth solving, and so they point companies in a specific direction. Once you’re headed in that direction, a company should use those mechanisms that are likeliest to yield the best answer for them. So, like design thinking, the sort of “discovery driven planning” approach (see The Innovator’s Solution) implicit in Shoemaker’s “brilliant mistakes” model are solid contenders for a good way to find a viable answer to the most important questions: precisely how to be “better” and how to drive revenue.

Morris: When and why did you two decide to write The Three Rules?

Raynor and Ahmed: We wanted to understand what drove long-term superior performance. It’s really that simple to say…but it proved enormously difficult to tackle in a way that stood up to the standards of the scientific method as we understood it. We began our journey over a decade ago, and the current project became recognizable about six years ago. We’ve published ten major research articles along the way, and endured any number of frustrations as we’ve tried to make sense of a welter of seemingly conflicting data. It is, in many ways, a genuine relief to have reached this stage of the journey. We see the release of the book, not as the end, but as the end of the beginning. The opportunity now is to see how these ideas stand up to the scrutiny and stresses of real-world application.

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

Raynor and Ahmed: The lack of any strong correlations between specific behaviors and exceptional performance really surprised us. Our rule #3, “There are no other rules,” was born of that observation, because we actually started our work with the assumption that we would find, say, a strong connection between innovation and exceptional outcomes. But we didn’t – and in the case of innovation, this was especially difficult for me (Raynor) to give up on. But the data just wouldn’t support it. We were also surprised that many senior managers we spoke with did not appear to think of the drivers of their companies’ performances in terms that aligned with the rules at all. To the extent that we could determine why they did what they did, the reasons seemed to us highly idiosyncratic – and we’re back to rule #3 again!

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

Michael and Mumtaz cordially invite you to click here to check out the resources at this website.

Thursday, June 20, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lawrence Cunningham: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

CunninghamLawrence Cunningham is the Henry St. George Tucker III Research Professor at George Washington University Law School and Director of GW’s Center for Law, Economics and Finance (C-LEAF) in New York. He is the author of numerous books including three editions of The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America (Third Edition, March 8, 2013), The AIG Story (written with Hank Greenberg) and Contracts in the Real World: Stories of Popular Contracts and Why They Matter. His research appears in leading university journals, including those published by Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Michigan, Vanderbilt and Virginia; his Op-Eds have run in the Baltimore Sun, the Financial Times, the National Law Journal, the New York Daily News and the New York Times. On Amazon, Cunningham has been ranked one of the top 100 authors in the category of business and investing.

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

* * *

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

Cunningham: As a university professor, it would be blasphemous but to declare my formal education invaluable and there’s also a lot of truth in it. I learned some of the most important things I know from classroom work in economics in college and in law and business in law school. I’ve learned a great many things in the decades since, of course, but those days trained me to think, encouraged me to be curious, taught me how to interact with others, and nurtured countless other traits.

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?

Cunningham: The importance of relationships to opening doors and keeping them open. Merit seemed as important as anything else when I began my career as a corporate lawyer in 1988. And while merit matters, what’s more important over the longer term is the quality of the network of friends, colleagues, mentors, and fans that you develop and maintain at each phase of your life and career. There is a lot of truth in the old saying: “It’s not what you know but who you know.”

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

Cunningham: Other People’s Money. Hollywood has always had a bit of a hate affair with American business in portraying corporations and capitalists in negative lights. The exception is Other People’s Money, as it presents both sides of the story in a difficult circumstance of a company in decline: whether to stick it out or close it down. (Incidentally, it is akin to the angst portrayed in The Essays of Warren Buffett concerning a struggling New England textile company that Buffett eventually shut down.)

* * *

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First from Voltaire: “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”

Cunningham: Truth is elusive. Searching for it is indeed noble. But be skeptical of anyone who claims to have found it.

Morris: From Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Cunningham: Reminds of a quip, attributed to Will Rogers, quoted in The Essays of Warren Buffett: “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” It also reminds me of another Einstein quip: “Everything should be as simple as possible, but not more so.”

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

Cunningham: I wish such wisdom had been taken to heart by the financial engineers whose derivative products fueled the mortgages behind the housing boom that collapsed so catastrophically in 2008.

* * *

Morris: In Tom Davenport’s latest book, 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?

Cunningham: The wisdom of crowds and the power of markets are real. But within an organization it can be difficult to maintain a “collective capacity” for decision making, which would resemble a democratic vote. Shareholders do a little of that when electing directors and voting in annual meetings when no single person is entitled to make such extraordinary decisions. But with such choices made, directors and the senior executives they appoint cannot discharge their duties by referendum.

True, within boards of directors, corporations have always drawn on a fundamental notion of organizational judgment. A team rather than an individual speaks for and binds the corporation. Law even gives such board decisions reverence, under the “business judgment rule,” which keeps judges out of second-guessing.

The danger to watch for in any move to such organizational judgment is the risk of authority without accountability, which I know we will discuss a bit more later.

Morris: Here’s a brief excerpt from Paul Schoemaker’s latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: “The key question companies need to address is not ‘Should we make mistakes?’ but rather ‘which mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?'” Your response?

Cunningham: I am not sure about the notion of having an appetite for mistakes, even as a way to test assumptions. There are other less costly ways to test assumptions, such as by logical critique, contained experiments and consulting analogical experience. The wisdom I see in this quotation might be flipped around, to say there are a class of mistakes we should avoid absolutely. Foremost among these would be any decisions that impair a company’s reputation, for instance, another point I know we’ll discuss more later.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

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

The publisher’s page for The Essays

Amazon’s page for The Essays

Monday, April 8, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cynthia A. Montgomery : An interview by Bob Morris

Montgomery, Cynthia ACynthia A. Montgomery is the Timken Professor of Business Administration and immediate past chair of the Strategy Unit at Harvard Business School, where she’s been on the faculty for 20 years. 
One of her recent assignments has been working with owner managers in the School’s flagship Owner/President Management program, an experience that changed her view of strategy, and the distinctive role leaders play in the process. Her latest book, The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs, grew out of that experience and was published by HarperBusiness (May, 2012).

Montgomery’s work has appeared in nearly a dozen top-tier managerial and academic outlets, including Harvard Business Review, Financial Times, American Economic Review, Rand Journal of Economics, Strategic Management Journal, Management Science, and others. She is the co-author of Corporate Strategy: Resources and the Scope of the Firm (with David J. Collis), the editor of Resource-Based and Evolutionary Theories of the Firm, and the co-editor of Strategy: Seeking and Securing Competitive Advantage (with Michael E. Porter).

Montgomery has served on the boards of two Fortune 500 companies, a number of mutual funds managed by BlackRock, Inc., and several non-profits.

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

* * *

Morris: Before discussing The Strategist, a few general questions. Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Montgomery: When I finished my early education, I did a big round of interviews for a wide variety of jobs ranging from marketing tires to writing communications pieces for a liquid metal fast breeder reactor business. They all had their merits but when all the hoopla was over, I asked myself: Do I want to spend the majority of my waking hours doing this, even for a few years? Ultimately, I decided “no” and went with my gut. I went to graduate school, got a PhD, and became a researcher and educator. It has suited me well. I’m glad I had the courage to walk away from attractive jobs that “weren’t me.”

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

Montgomery: I did my graduate work at Purdue University, where they had state-of-the-art courses in empirical methods that are vital to strategy research. It was a very challenging program—not a lot of fun, especially for someone who had been a philosophy major as an undergraduate—but the run room from that investment set up the rest of my career.

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

Montgomery: I wish I’d known more – not about the ideas side of business — but about the human side: What’s involved in building a reputation, inspiring people, and working effectively in organizations. I learned that incrementally over many years.

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


One of my favorite books is The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s about a butler and the choices he makes about who he is and what matters to him. It’s also about how the goodness of the people/organizations we work for inevitably impacts the meaning of our own contributions. I read it years ago, but it still haunts me.

Morris: Tell me about the owner-manager program you’ve been teaching in.


The participants come from all over the world and from almost every industry — aerospace, refuse collection, health and beauty, financial services, education, fashion, biotech—everything. So, there’s enormous variety in the program; at the same time, what everyone has in common is that they’re leading an organization wherein they have a significant ownership stake. It gave me a great opportunity to think about the distinctive contributions leaders can make to a business –one of those, the one I’ve thought about most is the opportunity to define what a business will be and why it will matter. It’s the most fundamental question facing a business, the one from which everything else begins.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

Cynthia cordially invites you to visit this website

where you can download an excerpt from her book, The Strategist: Be the Leader your Business Needs.

Thursday, December 20, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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