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Dick and Emily Axelrod: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

AxelrodsDick and Emily Axelrod come from a long line of entrepreneurs. So it was no surprise when in 1981 Dick left General Foods to form The Axelrod Group. At the time Emily was studying to get her second masters degree, in Social Work.

At the same time as Dick was leaving General Foods, his friend and colleague Jim Shonk landed a huge contract with Ford and needed help. This kickstart from Jim was just what the fledgling Axelrod Group needed to get started. Emily in the meantime was honing her skills as a family therapist. Periodically, Emily would work with Dick to conduct communication skills training programs.

During the early 1990’s, Dick was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the approach most consulting firms were using to bring about organizational change. You know the process: it consists of sponsor groups, steering teams, and project groups, all organized to create the change. When these groups finished their work, they then faced the arduous task of “selling” their solution to the organization. This need to sell the solution brought many a change process to its knees.

Out of this dissatisfaction, Dick and Emily developed the Conference Model®–a process for involving the “whole system” in creating organizational change. Every new idea needs someone who is willing to try something that is unproven, and Ken Goldstien, who at the time was Director of Organization Development at R.R. Donnelley and Sons, was willing to give this untested idea a chance when no one else would. Because of the early success at R.R. Donnelley, companies like Boeing, British Airways, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, INOVA Health System, Weyerhauser, and the Canadian and UK health systems were able to benefit.

At the height of this innovation, Dick had triple bypass surgery, and that is when Emily jumped into The Axelrod Group with both feet. Along the way, colleagues have joined the Axelrod team, and this worldwide network provides a range of skills that enrich The Axelrod Group’s offerings.

Dick wrote Terms of Engagement: New Ways of Leading and Changing Organizations, published by Berrett-Koehler (May 2000) with a paperbound edition published in 2010. He and Emily then co-authored Let’s Stop Meeting Like This: Tools to Save Time and Get More Done, also published by Berrett-Koehler (August 2014).

Here is an excerpt from my interview of the Axelsons.

* * *

Before discussing Terms of Engagement and then Let’s Stop Meeting Like This, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Dick: This is a hard question. I’ve had many professional teachers from whom I’ve learned a lot about people and change, but as I reflect on this I believe the roots of who I am took place with my father.

Here are some of the lessons I learned from my dad that I carry with me today.

o Do what you love: My father manufactured model airplanes. He took his hobby and made it into a successful business. His work was an extension of who he was.

o Work is dignified: No matter what anyone does, their work should be treated with respect.

o Treat everyone with respect: This is a companion to work is dignified. Both the work and the person doing the work deserve respect.

o Stand up for what you believe: My father single-handedly stopped a race riot by saying no to a group of organizers who came to our house to enlist his support for creating the riot.

o Take care of your family: My father’s will had provisions for the care of his mother-in-law, something he didn’t have to do.

o It’s possible to be a friendly competitor—this is an abundant world where everyone can make a living: My dad had personal relationships with his biggest competitors. In fact his biggest competitor came to Emily’s and my wedding.

o Honesty: Be ethical and honest in all your personal and business relationships.

o It pays to be ignorant: Today it might be stated as, “Have an inquiring mindset.” What he meant was you don’t have to have all the answers, and you can learn a lot by listening to others.

o Personal responsibility: When I was a teenager, my dad told me that if I got a girl pregnant he would not support my family. That was his way of saying that you have to take personal responsibility for what you do.

o Support your friends: If you were my dad’s friend, he would be there for you no matter what. If a widow in Toledo, Ohio needed help, our whole family took a trip to Toledo. If a friend was sick or dying, Dad would drop what he was doing to be with them. If a friend were out of work, he would find a job for him in his company or help that person make connections so they could find work.

o Stick-to-it-iveness: My father spent ten years developing a product called monokote that revolutionized how people covered and painted airplanes. Instead of covering your airplane with paper and then applying many coats of “dope” to get a shiny finish, with monokote (a mylar material) and a heat gun you could put a finish on your plane in a matter of minutes instead of hours. You also didn’t smell up the house, which my mother hated. Dad also invented a heat gun to apply the product because none existed in the market place. There is another lesson here, which is to find out the problems customers have when they use your products and then invent new ways to help them resolve those problems. In this case, time and disgruntled family members who didn’t like the house smelling like a paint factory.

Emily: Besides my parents, one of the first teachers to mention human relations to me was a ninth-grade English teacher: Ms. Fanny Burnett. Every week we had a human relations lesson. This stuck with me through the years and was reinforced through the youth group advisors at church, volunteers in the girl scouts, and other teachers along the way. Another important teacher was Sandra Hammond who is a therapist and Buddhist teacher with whom I studied for 10 years learning her Character Work method and being in a study group with her. She combined the study of Buddhism and family therapy. Also, Dick Axelrod probably has been the greatest influence. We have worked and grown together for 35 years. He is completely honest with me and I trust his feedback.

The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Emily: At first, my family, then the girl scouts as they taught me I could do anything I worked hard to do and really wanted. A chemistry teacher in high school turned me on to science. The women’s college I attended in NC added to that with leadership training and confidence building. Dick Axelrod, Peter Block, Marv Weisbord, Kathy Dannemiller, Peter Koestenbaum, Barbara Bunker, Billie Alban, and my own curiosity built on this foundation.

Dick: Richard Heckler. Years ago Emily and I studied body therapy for two years in a group of people with Richard. This group was so strong that it stayed together for many years following the completion of our formal studies. In this group I learned the connection between mind and body, and how what is happening with the body is as important as what is happening with the mind and emotions. While we were there to learn the mechanics of doing body therapy—how to help people access different thoughts and emotions through touch—I also learned a more important lesson: the power of presence. By this I mean what it means to be with another person so they know they have your undivided attention. Can you see the world through their eyes? Can you experience what they might be experience? Can you attend to their breathing out and breathing in, the rush of color to their face, the nervous movement of their feet? Can you absorb this information in a non-judgmental way and just be with the person? This ability to be with another person in a non-judgmental way, recognizing they are doing the very best they can is something I use everyday whether I’m consulting to individuals, teams, or organizations.

I learned that paying attention is an act of leadership. What and how you pay attention matters.

The other big lesson was that you access different information through the body. One time we were working with a group of about 100 people using our Conference Model® process to redesign the organization. There were three different alternatives that people were trying to evaluate. We had the participants create living organization charts. What we did was outline the organization charts on the floor and then had people stand in the various configurations to look at who they were working with and who they needed to work with. We did this for each configuration and then asked folks to identify the chart where they felt most comfortable. I remember one person who was in a matrix standing there with her arms outstretched caught between two organizations, talking about how painful it was to be in this place in the organization. In actuality the group developed a fourth option as a result of their discussion. Identifying the pain and actually trying out what it might be like to be in the various organizational structures could not occur through talking; people had to experience it. I doubt if the group would have ever come up with the fourth option had they not experienced it.

Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Dick: I was a line manager for Illinois Bell, in a fast-track management development program, responsible for repair service for one part of Chicago. My group was the pilot organization development group for the company. The consultants did basic team-building with us and as a result, our group rose to be 1st or 2nd in every measurable category. The thing I felt proudest about was that every day we put 85 trucks on the street and we went a year without a vehicle accident. We didn’t do any special safety training. All we did was change the relationship between the telephone workers and their supervisors.

Shortly afterwards, the company started an internal organization development consulting group and I volunteered to be part of that group. I was also getting my MBA at the University of Chicago and decided to take up Organization Behavior as my area of concentration. From Illinois Bell I went to General Foods and became the OD manager for Chicago where I worked on implementing self-directed work teams. In 1981 I left General Foods to start the Axelrod Group.

Had my group at Illinois Bell not been chosen as the pilot group, my career as it is today may not have happened.

Parallel to this story is the decision not to join my father’s business. All my life I was groomed as the heir apparent. In fact, working at Illinois Bell was part of my father’s management training program for me. He wanted me to go out and work for big companies and learn how they did things so that when I took over his company, I could bring that learning to the world of model airplane manufacturing.

I took seriously my father’s admonition to do what I loved, and when I found out that organization development consulting is what I love, he never had a problem with that. Even though it meant I would not take over the business he built.

Emily: I don’t recall an epiphany as I have always looked for better ways of doing things no matter what we were doing, from parenting to ways of working. If there was a turning point, it was Dick’s heart surgery. I then had to take over the business side of our company as I was in charge. That a commitment to learning and working more much more determination.

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

Emily: My formal education gave me a wonderful foundation. My social work and family systems work certainly helped in understanding systems and the communication needed to have a successfully functioning system. The concept of emotional safety in order for people to be honest and learning how to language things positively all help. The two things I believe in strongly are learning and choice. This work is about both of these.

Dick: I was lucky enough to go to the University of Chicago on the GI bill. Much of what I learned at the UofC is now obsolete. But what is not obsolete is that at the University of Chicago I learned how to learn. I learned how to think critically about ideas and not to accept that just because someone wrote a book it was true. What was great about a UofC education was that in every course you didn’t just have one text, you had several, and most of the time the authors espoused different theories. It is this learning how to learn that I think has allowed me to continue to stay relevant in our fast-changing world.

At our graduation, in Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago, our commencement speaker said, “You think you are getting your business degree today that will allow you to become leaders in the world of business and that you will do. But UofC graduates do more than that, they teach.” He went on to say, “I predict that most of you will at some point in your career teach either informally in your work setting or formally at schools and universities.”

One of the biggest thrills of my life has been to teach Crisis Leadership at the University of Chicago.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

Dick and Emily cordially invite you to check out the resources at this website.

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marcia Reynolds: Part 1 of a second interview by Bob Morris

ReynoldsDr. Marcia Reynolds, president of Covisioning LLC, works with clients around the world who seek to develop effective leaders. She understands organizational cultures, what blocks communication and innovation, and what is needed to bring people together for better results. She has coached leaders, delivered leadership, coaching and emotional intelligence programs, and spoken at conferences for clients in 34 countries. She has also presented at many universities including Harvard Kennedy School and Cornell University,

Prior to starting her own business, Marcia’s greatest success came as a result of designing the employee development program for a semiconductor manufacturing company facing bankruptcy. Within three years, the company turned around and became the #1 stock market success in the United States when they went public in 1993.

Excerpts from her books Outsmart Your Brain, Wander Woman, and her latest, The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs have appeared in many places including Harvard Management Review, Fortune.com, CNN.com, Psychology Today, and The Wall Street Journal and she has appeared on ABC World News.

Marcia’s doctoral degree is in organizational psychology with a research emphasis on the challenges and needs of high-achievers. She also holds two masters degrees in education and communications.

Here is a brief excerpt from Part 1 of my second interview of Marcia. To read all of Part 1, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing The Discomfort Zone, a few general questions. First, to what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Reynolds: I am grateful for the combination of significant life experiences with my education. My degrees have given me a deeper understanding of the value of my experiences, including the failures, disappointments, and choices that could have destroyed my life at a young age. In addition to better understanding human behavior, including my own, my education gives me the gifts of analysis and compassion. The combination of street and formally acquired knowledge helped me to be a good coach and teacher for my clients. Now with years of experience in helping leaders improve their emotional intelligence and communication skills, I was able to write the book, The Discomfort Zone, bringing all that I know together to help people have powerful conversations that make a difference in each other’s lives.

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

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

Reynolds: There is nothing more satisfying than discovering solutions to our most difficult problems on our own. Yet when we are stuck seeing things in one way, it is very difficult to see outside of our boxes. Leaders who master the skills of helping others think through their blind spots, attachments, and resistance are not only effective, they are the most remembered and revered.

In the book, Synchronicity, Joseph Jaworski said the most successful leaders are those who participate in helping others create new realities. The leader engages in conversations that bring to light a person’s filters and frames. When the factors that frame the meaning of a situation are revealed, the view of what is true changes and becomes clear.

Think about it. If I were to ask you to recall someone who changed your life by something they said, who comes to mind? My guess is that they said something that challenged you to be more and do more, more than you thought you could on your own. In response, you might not have jumped for joy in the moment. But you always remember the leader who saw you, heard you, and helped you to see yourself and the world in a bigger way.

These are Discomfort Zone conversations, where new ideas are birthed. The moment might be uncomfortable, but in this moment, profound and lasting learning happens. And the person realizes that in the end, they discovered the solutions themselves.

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….’”

Reynolds: I do think curiosity is underrated, that curiosity is the predecessor of great discoveries whether we are learning about the world or about something in ourselves. In Discomfort Zone conversations, the leader listens with curiosity, listening from a “that’s odd” or “tell me more” perspective. Then when they reflect back what they hear, the person could have an epiphany but they are just as likely to respond, “Of course, I should have recognized this long ago” which could lead to just as important of a shift as the epiphany. Curiosity over what is odd, doesn’t make sense, or irregular is a great start to new discoveries.

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

Reynolds: Drucker is correct but when we have our heads down, focused on our work, we rarely have the perspective or courage to step back and see that persistence could be the enemy of progress. According to Daniel Kahneman in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, it is also not our habit to slow down and consider all the possibilities in front of us. That is why having a coach or a leader trained in using a coaching approach can help us assess what we are doing where we won’t or can’t do this for ourselves. The leaders who know how to asks the questions—with curiosity, not negative judgment—that make us stop and question ourselves help us to be more effective. In the end, they help us grow our mental capacity as well. The best leaders are the ones who develop people’s minds as well as their skills.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

To read my first interview of Marcia, please click here.

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

Her website

To go directly to download resources and read about The Discomfort Zone, please click here.

You can rate your ability to deal with discomfort by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be•Know•Do: A book review by Bob Morris

Be:Know:DoBe•Know•Do: Leadership the Army Way: Adapted from the Official Army Leadership Manual
United States Army (Author); Frances Hesselbein and Eric K. Shinseki (Introduction), and Richard E. Cavanagh (Foreword)
Jossey-Bass/Leader to Leader Institute; 1st edition (2004)

How to develop leaders who have character, competence, knowledge, and results-driven initiative

I recently re-read this book, curious to know to what extent its content remains relevant. My conclusion? It is even more relevant today than it was when first published in 2004. In Richard E. Cavanagh’s Foreword, he recalls a discussion during dinner with Peter Drucker and Jack Welch who shared the same opinion that the United States military services do the best job developing leaders. What we have in this volume is an adaptation by Frances Hesselbein and General Eric K. Shinseki (USA Ret.) of Field Manual 22-100, Army Leadership, with assistance from Alan Shrader. Hesselbein and Shinseki also wrote the Introduction. The material is carefully organized within seven chapters, followed by a Conclusion that reviews the most important points, correctly noting the unique and compelling role that the U.S. Army has played since June 14, 1775, when the Continental Congress authorized enlistment of riflemen to serve the United Colonies for one year.

With regard to the book’s title, “Army leadership begins with what the leader must Be, the values and attributes that shape a leader’s character…People want leaders who are honest, competent, forward-looking, and inspiring…People willingly follow only those who know what they are doing. One of the quickest ways for a leader to lose trust and commitment of followers is to demonstrate incompetence…Character and competence, the Be and the Know, underlie everything a leader does. But character and knowledge – while absolutely necessary – are not enough. Leaders act; they Do…They solve problems, overcome obstacles, strengthen teamwork, and achieve objectives. They use leadership to produce results.”

I realize that these concepts seem simple. In one sense they are. However, in this context, I am reminded of what Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” The challenge to any organization when developing leaders is to guide those involved to the other side of complexity.” The composite of excerpts from Be•Know•Do identifies core concepts, to be sure, but it also describes the character, competence, knowledge, and results-driven initiative that the U.S. Army seeks to develop within every one of its soldiers, regardless of rank. “No one is only a leader; each person in an organization is also a follower and part of a team. In fact, the old distinction between leaders and followers has blurred; complex twenty-first-century organizations require individuals to move seamlessly from one role to another in an organization, from leadership to `followership,’ and back again.”

Hesselbein and Shinseki are to be commended for their skillful adaptation of Field Manual 22-100, Army Leadership, but also for the inclusion within the narrative of relevant material from sources outside the U.S. Army organization. For example, they quote prominent business thinkers throughout the narrative: James Kouzes and Barry Posner on leadership by example (page 24), John Gardner on the importance of a shared vision (page 30), Patrick Lencioni on teamwork (page 86), and John Kotter on a leader’s “quest for learning” (page 132). Readers will also appreciate the provision of various “Exhibits” such as 5.1 that provides a brilliant illustration of Team-Building Stages.

Those who share my high regard for this volume are urged to check out Frances Hesselbein’s other works and the wealth of resources available at the Leader to Leader Institute, a non-profit and tax exempt organization. Also, Warfighting: The U.S. Marine Corps Book of Strategy (Tactics for Managing Confrontation) published in 2004.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nick Gogerty: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

GogertyNick is the author of The Nature of Value: How to Invest in the Adaptive Economy (Columbia University Press 2014) and involved in a technical confidential project with one of the world’s largest global macroeconomic hedge funds. He lectures in Columbia University’s MBA value investing program on innovation, macro-economic portfolio, and scenario risk management. Meanwhile, he is a top 1% performer as a portfolio manager for a long/short hedge fund (+20% v. -60% for S&P 500 2007-2009) and advises large banks on risk management, including the Flash Crash, and is a chief analyst managing commercialization for a science research institute modeled on the MIT Media Lab. His primary fields of inquiry include biotechnology, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, renewable energy, genetics, quantum computation, and others such as

o Venture capital screening and start-up advisory work

o Founding software startups in social media and crypto currency space

o Expert testimony to the United States Senate on the international risks associated with the $200 billion Y2K technology issue

o Human behavior studies with an undergraduate degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Iowa focused on sustainable economic development in West Africa

He earned an MBA from The Ecole Nationale de Ponts et Chaussees in Paris with a thesis on a quantitative approach for hedge funds and is a designated Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA). Nick resides in Greenwich (CT) with his wife and daughter.

Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of Nick. To read the complete interview, please click here.

* * *

Morris:
Before discussing The Nature of Value, a few general questions. First, to what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Gogerty: Formal education isn’t invaluable, it is incidental. Most formal education revolves around gaining a social credential as an extrinsic reward. An unquenchable thirst to learn and pursuit of intrinsic goals are more important than an increasingly overpriced piece of paper which confers social recognition. The intrinsic rewards of pursuing discovery and personal mastery of a craft or body of knowing are far more important than most formal education. Formal education can provide a base, but true achievements and breakthroughs, scientific, leadership, cultural or artistic come from a deeper place.

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?

Gogerty: I wish I had been introduced to value investing at age 13 when I bought my first stock. I am quantitative by nature and chased the ghost of price for many years.

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

Gogerty: Many books stand out as providing pieces to the puzzle, from autobiographies to history etc. I could easily create a list of 50-75 very worthwhile books, half of them come from outside the traditional “business” domain.

Within the business domain, The Essays of Warren Buffet are useful in combining many sound concepts into a clear narrative. Poor Charlie’s Almanack is useful for acknowledging the importance of multi-disciplinary thinking while simultaneously keeping things as logical as possible. Bridgewater’s public site (www.economicprinciples.com) is great on macroeconomics and credit.

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

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

Gogerty: Having taken a class or two in Taoism and Confucian rhetoric but not being a gifted writer, I respond with a quote from someone else and my own lines.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“When leading inspire others to their greater self.
When challenged ingest the lessons within the gift of failure.
When winning reflect success onto others rarely accept it personally.” — Nick Gogerty

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

Gogerty: I agree with this suggestion that the truly novel idea is often so novel that no one thought of it or thought enough of it to give it a go. Having managed scientists, entrepreneurs and software entrepreneurs; often the first lessons are a discussion of the how truly common “good” ideas are. Well-executed and elegantly designed solutions are another matter altogether.

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

Gogerty: I respond again with another quotation, another quotation from Arthur Schopenhauer: “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is vigorously opposed. Then, third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Arthur Schopenhauer

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….’”

Gogerty: I totally agree with Asimov after having seen scientists involved with basic research. Willful ignorance to counterfactual evidence is all too common and often hides far greater truths. Willful ignorance can be illustrated by frauds like Bernard Madoff or a scientific “truth” advanced only for the sake of career or tenure.

Science, “truth” and facts are often misunderstood as physical objects. They are all processes involving creation and destruction. The nature of progress (our “truths”) will become tomorrow’s folly’s clung to during a naïve age. It has always been like this.

I strongly recommend that people read Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions and The Half Life of Facts by Samuel Arbesman to appreciate the fleeting nature of truth and the dangers of pursuing fixed dogmas and cultures. According to Arbesman, so-called economic “facts” have a 3.5 year half-life while physics-based facts average a half-life of 13 years.

The power of Science comes from the fact that it is an evolving body of knowledge possessing zero truths. Science is the process of a set of hypotheses awaiting their fate to fail on the path to deeper understanding.

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

Gogerty: Not much to add to that.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

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

His Amazon page link

The Nature of Value Amazon link

The Nature of Value website link

Eric J. Chaisson link

Wednesday, January 7, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Geoffrey Moore on Big Data and RFID: An interview by Bob Morris

0c560a3Geoffrey Moore is an author, speaker, and advisor who splits his consulting time between start-up companies in the Mohr Davidow portfolio and established high-tech enterprises, including Salesforce, Microsoft, Intel, Box, Aruba, Cognizant, and Rackspace most recently. His life’s work has focused on the market dynamics surrounding disruptive innovations. His first book, Crossing the Chasm, 3rd Edition: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers, focuses on the challenges start-up companies face transitioning from early adopting to mainstream customers. It has sold more than a million copies, and its third edition has been revised. A majority of its examples and case studies reference companies come to prominence from the past decade. Moore’s most recent work, Escape Velocity: Free Your Company’s Future from the Pull of the Past, addresses the challenge large enterprises face when they seek to add a new line of business to their established portfolio. It has been the basis of much of his recent consulting. Geoff has a BA in American literature from Stanford University and a PhD in English literature from the University of Washington.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing big data and RFID, a few general questions. First, as you reflect on all that has – and hasn’t –happened in the global marketplace in 2014, what do you consider to be of greatest significance? Please explain.

Moore: If I had to pick only one, it might be the change in leadership at Microsoft. It has freed the company to explore a variety of different roles and relationships at a time when enterprise CIOs are particularly concerned about how to manage the expansion of the IT footprint into Cloud, Mobile, Social and Big Data Analytics. Microsoft is uniquely positioned to make a big contribution here if it can realign its assets to meet the new set of demands.

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?

Moore: Well, since “great man” eliminates half the human race, I certainly think it does need to be replaced in some fashion. And there is no question that management is becoming a much more collaborative enterprise, especially as we move away from supervised co-located workforces and toward more virtualized organizations and workflows. That said, when big bets are in the works, and the forces are unstable and hard to read, I do believe that a single individual needs to be at the tiller. Ideally, that person listens well, but also ideally, they are confident enough in their principles to make clear calls in a timely manner. I do not think a group can do this.

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?

Moore: When the outcome is not mission-critical, and the issues are nascent, for sure “fast failure” is part of a winning modality. The mantra I would add here is “Win, or learn.” Organizations that hold all efforts to the same standard are severely hampered in this kind of situation. Once you are driving to produce mission-critical outcomes, however, failure is not an option. Now if the forces are still nascent, you have to provision the effort in such a way that you have multiple back-ups. This drastically reduces the number of disruptive, mission-critical initiatives one can — or at least should — undertake.

Morris: Looking ahead to 2015, what do you think will be the single greatest challenge to CEOs? Why?

Moore: The challenge I am focused on for this decade is, how can an established market leader in a mature category catch the next wave? I don’t know it if is the single greatest challenge, but it is sufficient to keep me busy full-time for sure.

Morris: Any advice?

Moore: I laid out the problem statement in my last book, Escape Velocity. Now I am in the process of writing a shorter, crisper playbook for how to organize, measure, and compensate teams to actually get this done.

Morris: Now please shift your attention to big data. In your opinion, why has interest in it increased so rapidly and extensively in recent years? To what extent have disruptive innovations (e.g. social media technologies) been a major factor? Please explain.

Moore: Google, Facebook, and Amazon have each applied Machine Learning to Big Data to effectively eviscerate entire industries, driving all the established sector leaders back on their heels. Moreover, it seems pretty clear that this is just the beginning, so the wait-and-see option is looking pretty scary.

Morris: What are some of the most common misconceptions about Big Data? What in fact is true?

Moore: It is not really about Big Data. It is about Machine Learning. The big idea is that one can algorithmically detect actionable signals from the digital exhaust that trails every online process anywhere on the globe. Yes, there is a ton of data, but that is not the critical factor. It’s the analytics that transform it into information, and the connectivity needed to get that information into a decision flow in time to make a difference,

Morris: Based on what I’ve learned thus far, the term “big data” seems to be a misnomer. While its size receives all the attention, the most challenging aspect of big data seems — at least to me — to be its lack of structure. What do you think?

Moore: I am with you. The reason lack of structure is so important is that we already have the ability to analyze structured Big Data in a timely fashion. It is the unstructured (or rather, non-tabular) data that really are driving this new set of use cases, specifically the log files that sit behind the social graphs, the internet of things, the behavioral targeting, and the like.

Morris: There’s a lot of talk about Big Data, but when you look at retail stores, inventory accuracy is just 65 percent. Supply chains struggle with inventory accuracy, shipping accuracy, and other problems. What’s the value of big data if a lot of the data is inaccurate?

Moore: Actually, this is a different problem. Big Data is orthogonal to Bad Data. But there is an important point to note here. Bad Data claims to be Good Data. Big Data does not make any claims at all—it is just digital exhaust.

Morris: Here are some observations about issues related to big data and analytics by authors of recently published books. Please respond to each. First, from Gert H. Larsen and Jesper Thurlund’s Business Analytics for Managers: “We will move away from static retrospective reporting results toward factual real-time information and analytical knowledge to drive individuals and business processes.”

Moore: Yes, this is the whole point. My one quibble is that we not move away from the static stuff — it is still quite useful — but rather that we will commit increasingly to the real-time data-informed machine-enabled decision making.

Morris: From Christopher Surdak’s Data Crush: “Clouds will grow beyond infrastructure and will begin to migrate into markets higher up in the corporate value chain. This trend will rapidly lead to Everything as a Service (EaaS) marketplaces, where nearly any business outcome will be purchased by an outside provider.”

Moore: I think this is probably the pendulum swinging too far. But the point about migration is very real. Marketplaces are migrating from physical to digital locations, which does enable disaggregation of workloads, outsourcing to specialists, and the like. R.H. Coase had the right formula for the limiting factor here. It is transaction costs. At some point outsourcing imposes more cost, risk, or latency than doing it yourself—that’s where the new inside/outside boundary reestablishes itself.

Morris: From Victor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier’s Big Data: “What we are able to collect and process will always be just a tiny fraction of the information that exists in the world. It can only be a simulacrum of reality, like the shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave. Because we can never have perfect information, our predictions are inherently fallible.”

Moore: Prediction is not really the goal. Fast adaptation is the goal. Darwinism does not require you to know in advance. It requires you to respond in a flash.

Morris: From Eric Siegel’s Predictive Analytics: “Prediction seems to defy a Law of Nature: You cannot see the future because it isn’t here yet. We find a work-around by building machines that learn from experience. It’s the regimented discipline of using what we do know — in the form of data — to place increasingly odds on what’s coming next. We blend the best of math and technology, systematically tweaking until our scientific hearts are content to derive a system that peers through the previously impenetrable barrier between today and tomorrow.”

Moore: Right idea, but the last sentence overstates the outcome. If Eric were actually correct, a reasonable number of money managers would outperform the stock market indexes. But they do not. Once again analytics do not predict. They enable quick recognition of something that was not anticipated but has in fact occurred.

Morris: From Thomas Davenport’s big data @ work: “The greatest barrier to analysis is that we first have to impose structure on big data; most of those 2.8 zettabytes are not currently in row-and-column formats. We have a huge task ahead of us — to start structuring the data, analyzing it, and getting value from it. Not all of it will be useful — one study [‘Big Data, Bigger Digital Shadows, and Biggest Growth in the Far East,’ conducted by John Gantz and David Reinsel in 2012] estimates about 25 percent has potential value — but whatever the number, we are only scratching the surface of what’s possible.”

Moore: I think even quantifying the amount of data is a mistake. I think you want to start with decisions or bets you want to make, and then work backward from objectives and achievables to information that could improve your odds, and then to mechanisms that might generate that information in a timely manner. You would get to the data eventually, but it is never really about the data. Rather, as I have already suggested, what you do with the data.
* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

His website

LinkedIn

Twitter

Saturday, December 13, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mark Roberti on Big Data and RFID: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

RobertiMark Roberti has reported on business for major publications worldwide since 1985. In 2002, he launched RFID Journal on the Web as an independent source of news and information for business and IT executives looking to tap RFID’s enormous potential. He is widely regarded as a thought leader in the RFID industry. Previously, he was managing editor at Information Week, then owned by CMP Media, which has since become four separate companies. Before that, he was a reporter at Asiaweek, I covering political and business in Hong Kong. He also was an editor at Asian Finance. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Hofstra University.

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

* * *

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

Roberti: The biggest influence was probably Sam Toperoff, a novelist who taught a humanities course I took in college. He said many profound things in the course of teaching us about Greece and Rome, but the main thing he did was give me the confidence to be myself and trust myself as a person and a writer.

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

Roberti: Julia Markus, another novelist. I studied creative writing at Hofstra University, and the vast majority of courses I took were with Julia. She taught me how to tell a story, which is important, and she helped me find my voice as a writer. While I have never written a novel, the ability to tell a story in your own voice is very important for journalists.

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.

Roberti: There was an epiphany. It occurred in 1992 at a Pacific Asia Travel Association. A writer who was talking about technology’s impact on the travel industry talked about the Internet. I had never heard the term before, but I was blown away by the vision of all computers being networked and Web sites where you could get information. I immediately changed directions and started writing about business technology, rather than just business.

Eight years later, I went to MIT and met Dr. Sanjay Sarma and Kevin Ashton, who presented a view of the Internet of Things — connecting objects to the Internet by putting low-cost RFID transponders on them. This would enable them to be tracked and managed automatically by computer systems. I had the same feeling I had when I first heard about the Internet. This time, I decided that I would provide information to help companies leverage this emerging technology and within a year I had launched RFID Journal out of a spare bedroom in my home.

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

Roberti: Not much, in all honesty. I was not a journalism major, and I never studied business or technology. Most of what I do I learned by jumping into the deep end and figuring it out.

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?

Roberti: I wish I knew that I was as capable as anyone out there. Most of the mistakes I’ve made were because I didn’t trust myself. I think most young people doubt themselves. We assume someone who has become a CEO or is wealthy knows a lot. Turns out, some people are great, and you need to listen to them and learn from them. And some people are not so good at what they do (even if they have been successful) and you need to evaluate what they tell you and discount it if you think it’s wrong. That’s not easy when you are starting out on your own and don’t have a lot of experience.

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

Roberti: Without a doubt Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm. For years I was frustrated by the fact that companies that could benefit from RFID had no interest in it. After reading Moore’s book, I began to understand how new technologies are adopted, why companies don’t rush to deploy them and what companies need to do to get a new technology across the chasm.

Since reading the book, my approach to marketing and selling has been different. We’ve focused on trying to help each potential user of RFID find the right solution because each one gets you closer to critical mass and the other side of the chasm. Unfortunately, the vast majority of RFID companies either don’t understand Geoffrey Moore or don’t want to follow his advice, and that has slowed adoption.

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

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

Roberti: I think this is a very apt quote, and one that many people will say they agree with but ignore. As a leader, you need to be humble. You need to understand you don’t know everything. You need to listen, and you need to make people feel valued. We write about RFID deployments and many companies want to force the technology on people. This never works. You need to say: “This new technology could help use be more efficient. How do you think we should use it?” People will then embrace it and give you some great ideas for how to take advantage of it.

I will say that there are times when a leader has to go against everyone’s advice and do what he or she believes is right. If you are a good leader who has been respectful of employees, they will be unhappy but they will go along knowing that you must feel strongly to go against their advice.

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

Roberti: This is so true it has become a cliché. Most people, including most business people, can only see the world as it is, not as it will be. And when they are presented with a radical idea whose time has come, they resist. Later, it becomes part of the way they live or do business. I remember many CEOs heaping scorn on the Internet. Who needs it? Later, when Wall Street started asking them about their Internet strategy, they started throwing millions of dollars at Internet technology providers. The same thing will happen with RFID.

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

Roberti: I love this quote. Many people dream up stuff, but if you can’t turn it into a reality, what’s the value? Execution is the hard part. Creating a company, marketing, delivering value to customers — these things are hard. It’s surprising that so many companies can create good products but so few companies achieve a high level of execution.

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

Roberti: This quote makes me think of the fixation many companies have on the price of RFID tags. I tell them the price doesn’t matter, and they think I’m crazy. But if a tag costs 1 cent and brings no value, then it is not worth using. On the other hand, if an RFID tag costs $1 and it brings you $3 worth of value then it is worth using. You need to focus on what really matters.

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?

Roberti: Great organizational judgment is a product of great leadership. You can’t have it if you have a CEO, or even a department head, who is insecure and hires second-rate people who will agree with him/her. You can’t have it if the leader thinks he/she knows everything and doesn’t listen to people. Organizational judgment comes from leaders who understand they don’t know everything and hire good people to provide good advice. We often have conversations in my company where someone brings up points of view that I had not thought of. No one on my team is afraid to speak his/her mind or to tell me I’m wrong.

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?

Roberti: I have never dealt with a company that is willing to test its deeply held assumptions, and I see very few companies willing to make mistakes. What I see, frankly, are companies that refuse to look at the world objectively and see evidence that their assumptions are wrong.

I see companies that say they love Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm, and then fail to pursue a path dictated by the book’s conclusion. Hell, I know one company that hired Geoffrey Moore to come and speak to top executives and they are making the exact mistake — not supporting a newly launched product (in this case an RFID product) — that Moore describes in his latest book Escape Velocity.

Companies are sitting on piles of cash right now. They should be testing new technologies to see which can deliver value. They could be testing new business models enabled by new technologies. They could be creating exciting new products using new technologies, yet most are not. Most are looking to buy some other company that will add to their bottom line without them having to do anything more difficult than arranging financing.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

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

RFID Journal link

rfidconnect link

AIM Global link

GS1 link

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Karl Ronn: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

RonnKarl Ronn is the managing director of Innovation Portfolio Partners. Based in Palo Alto, he helps Fortune 500 companies create new businesses or helps entrepreneurs start category creating new companies. He is a cofound VC-backed Butterfly Health that sells Butterfly body liners nationally. He is also developing a software company building diagnostic competency for physicians using virtual human simulations of top medical school cases.

Previously, he was vice president of Research and Development and general manager of New Business for Procter & Gamble, where he was one of the key innovators behind Febreze, Swiffer, and Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. In addition to these brands he was responsible for the Global R&D for Pharmaceuticals and Over-the-Counter Health Care including Actonel, Vicks, Prilosec, and In-home Diagnostic Tests. He has also managed Beauty Care businesses and started Diaper and Maxipad businesses across Latin America.

He is on the advisory boards of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Toledo. He is a member of TED conference and has been a speaker at the Mayo Clinic, Consumer Medical Conference, AMA and other innovation forums. He is the co-author with Bob Johansen of The Reciprocity Advantage: A New Way to Partner for Innovation and Growth, published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of Karl. to read all of it, please click here.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write The Reciprocity Advantage and do so in collaboration with Bob Johansen?

Ronn: Bob and I have known each other for a long time. His Institute for the Future, IFTF, did forecasts for P&G and I was a user of them. When I moved to Silicon Valley I asked Bob to come work with me as I helped senior management teams find new areas of growth. We were flying back from the Philippines after a successful meeting where Bob had opened their eyes to the future and I had worked to turn that into tangible new business leads. Bob realized that the IFTF model of foresights into insights into action described our partnership.

Bob was strongest at foresight into insight and I was strongest at insight into action. This became our personal reciprocity advantage. Together we were capable of doing what neither of us could do alone. Having written several books, Bob suggested we try to write a book together. The result is The Reciprocity Advantage. Bob and I collaborated on the Part 1, the model. Bob took the lead on Part 2, the future forces. I took the lead on Part 3, creating you own reciprocity advantage.

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

Ronn: Not really. We already knew that the future would require reciprocity. It is a social media world and control is more of a myth than ever. Writing the book clarified our thinking. Both of us know a lot more about what each other do and can tell the other part of the story better, but Bob’s still the foresight to insight guy and I’m the insight to action guy.

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

Ronn: We submitted an overview and an outline for the book that is nearly identical to the final book. This three-part outline with four steps to the model covered in each part drives the twelve chapters. Then there needed to be an introduction and a Chapter 13 to discuss the future. It is what makes it possible to co-author a book. As we describe in good partnerships (Chapter 10), we came together to do one specific agreement. That kept us focused and also made it possible to ignore the hard parts about co-authoring.

What’s more different for me has been the reaction. Since publishing I have been commenting on most of the big business news stories involving acquisitions, divestitures, new alliances and partnerships. The framework we are using for creating new businesses is very useful in analyzing these news items. I’m even more impressed with IBM and Apple with their recent announcements. Both continue to share their right-of-way to create new businesses and have very robust innovation approaches. It is sad to see companies like HP struggle for what are very recognizable — and avoidable — problems. Reciprocity is the future, but the time to act is now.

Morris: You suggest that there are eight essential steps to the design thinking process, beginning with frame the given challenge (i.e. the killer issue to be resolved) and concluding with sharing the prototypes with senior management to obtain a commitment of resources. Which step seems to be the most difficult to complete?

Ronn: Tim Brown (IDEO) has told me that I ask good questions. Framing the challenge is the most critical part. The general way to frame the challenge should be of this form: Reinvent X, while being sure to leverage Y. Reinvention opens the door to radical change. Leveraging Y is the accommodation of a constraint that must be met. Most projects don’t probe reinvention or, when they do, they apply no constraint. Without the constraint the team will not be grounded to the key needs of the company. Every other step is about a robust prototyping process.

Morris: Here’s a follow-up question. At which point during the process does it usually become obvious that the given initiative should be either stopped or redirected?

Ronn: Let the team define the milestone they will meet in the next 30-90 days. Then after the time is up check the result versus the team’s self-imposed milestone. If they hit it, set a new milestone. If they miss it, give them 30 days to hit another self-imposed milestone. If they miss it again, there is a problem. It is less likely that they are wrong than that they have mis-estimated the difficulty or the problem. For the third try make them get someone else to help determine the next experiment to be run. This prevents group think. If they now see it is so hard and lose passion, stop it. If the third experiment fails, stop the project — at least for now — or find new partners (Chapters 10-11).

Morris: What unique leadership challenges does this approach pose? How best to avoid or overcome them?

Ronn: Day-to-day business is about production. This is about learning. Learn about the two biggest killer issues, the next two killer issues, and so on. If you find a killer issue that you can’t manage, you must stop the effort. In the end the team should produce successful new businesses, but but be sure to reward learning along the way.

Morris: What are the defining characteristics of a workplace culture within which the reciprocity is most likely to be achieved and then sustained?

Ronn: The challenge for reciprocity is deciding to share your company’s right-of-way to create new growth. It requires a senior management mindset. If you can achieve all your growth for the next 5 years without new sources of growth, you may not need to practice reciprocity … yet. If your core business is on fire, you will be a terrible partner. Put out the fire and then partner. It is not a workplace culture problem; it is a strategic priority. Sadly, most companies react too late. Hilton or any other chain could have done AirBnB and now couldn’t afford to buy them. eBay is selling off PayPal just as Apple is entering with Apple Pay.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To check out Part 1, please click here.

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

Book link

Twitter links

@kpronn

@ReciprocityAdv.

For more information about future forecasts, please click here.

Sunday, December 7, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Karl Ronn: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

RonnKarl Ronn is the managing director of Innovation Portfolio Partners. Based in Palo Alto, he helps Fortune 500 companies create new businesses or helps entrepreneurs start category creating new companies. He is a co-founder of VC-backed Butterfly Health that sells Butterfly body liners nationally. He is also developing a software company building diagnostic competency for physicians using virtual human simulations of top medical school cases.

Previously, he was vice president of Research and Development and general manager of New Business for Procter & Gamble, where he was one of the key innovators behind Febreze, Swiffer, and Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. In addition to these brands he was responsible for the Global R&D for Pharmaceuticals and Over-the-Counter Health Care including Actonel, Vicks, Prilosec, and In-home Diagnostic Tests. He has also managed Beauty Care businesses and started Diaper and Maxipad businesses across Latin America.

He is on the advisory boards of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Toledo. He is a member of TED conference and has been a speaker at the Mayo Clinic, Consumer Medical Conference, AMA and other innovation forums. He is the co-author with Bob Johansen of The Reciprocity Advantage: A New Way to Partner for Innovation and Growth, published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of Karl. To read the complete interview, please click here.

* * *

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

Ronn: I have about 10 people who are my personal sounding board to help me. They are family, friends, business leaders, and academics. I use them to make sure I’m growing, to respond to ideas, and to challenge me. This helps me decide where to spend my time.

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.

Ronn: I’ve had multiple turning points. While in college I was an intern on the executive floor and learned that senior management needed proposals to strengthen their ideas; they didn’t have all the answers. Then when studying finance part-time I realized that R&D risk could be managed by applying the tools used in finance leading me to develop the risk classifications discussed in Chapter 9. Lastly, by asking people who had known me for many years I was able to determine that my most valuable role was as an Angel, the person who plays a nurturing role between inventors and senior management, to nurture different in kind ideas through the “valley of death.” This role was part of what I did at P&G and is what I now do full time.

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

Ronn: My engineering degree taught me to be a problem solver and how to learn new fields of science rapidly. Later I studied finance to learn how companies really made decisions so I could build better rationales for funding new developments. While I was studying capital asset pricing models and modern portfolio theory I realized that nobody had created the equivalent of stocks and bonds for the different types of R&D investments. One would never compare a stock to a bond. Instead we balance a portfolio. Yet companies pick favorite projects and compare incremental projects to new business developments. To achieve consistent growth I needed to determine what an R&D portfolio’s structure needed to be. Chapter 9 of this book reflects the solution to that problem. The 3×3 matrix shows the distinct types of R&D investments and discusses how to balance them to achieve consistent topline growth.

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

Ronn: I was fortunate that my engineering internship happened to be on the executive floor of a power company, Toledo Edison. First hand experience taught me that Senior Management wanted me to help them create better answers. The worst case would be they would just say no, the best case was they would change their plans. I was also there when Three Mile Island happened (to another company). We had a sister plant of the same design. So, I was inside of a major breaking story and I could see “the fog of war” requiring agile decision making with incomplete information. So, when I started work at Procter & Gamble after college this gave me the courage to propose new approaches and shape projects even as a new hire.

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

Ronn: I’ve been lucky to meet and work with many of the key thinkers on innovation. Their books are good, but the discussions have been more critical. Clayton Christensen, Dick Foster, Scott Anthony, Tim Brown, David and Tom Kelley, Roger Martin, Mark Fuller, Douglas Englebart, John Kotter, Ted Levitt, Nicholas Negroponte, Neil Gershenfeld, Rosalind Picard, Rita McGrath. If you choose to read their books, read their first book which will show their initial insights and their latest to see how that has changed.

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

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

Ronn: Be a servant leader. Empathy is the key skill. Listen for a problem and then help the person with the problem create a solution. We have a mythology of single people who made a difference. Each of us has a role to play. Be a key member of the team and lead when it is your time to lead and follow the rest of the time.

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

Ronn: I’m not this cynical. You don’t need to worry about people stealing ideas that are big because they are too hard to solve alone. In Silicon Valley new ideas are discussed in coffee shops without any privacy. If the people at the next table can solve the problem, you should partner with them. The problem is that most ideas are small. Those require protection because being first is their only advantage, and a short-term one.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

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

Book link

Twitter links

@kpronn

@ReciprocityAdv

For more information about future forecasts, please click here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Benedict Carey: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

CareyBenedict J. Carey is a science reporter for The New York Times who focuses on brain and behavior topics. He writes about neuroscience, psychiatry and neurology, as well as everyday psychology. The territory includes the large and the small, memory molecules and group behavior, narcissism and nostalgia, drug uses and drug addiction. From 2007 to 2010, he was the Mind columnist for Science Times, where he wrote about pranks, binge drinking, boredom, regret, perfectionism, study habits and Super Bowl anxiety, among other things.

Carey joined The Times in 2004 as a behavior writer. Previously, he worked at The Los Angeles Times, writing about health, medicine and brain science, where he won a University of Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Award for a story on drinking water. Before that, he was a freelance magazine writer, and a staff writer for Health magazine in San Francisco. He began his career at American Shipper, a trade book in New York covering the shipping trade. He writes frequently for the Review section of the paper and has written two books, both science mysteries for middle-school aged kids: Island of the Unknowns (previously titled The Unknowns in hardback), a math adventure; and Poison Most Vial, a murder mystery involving forensic toxicology due out this spring. His latest book, How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens, was published by Random House (September 2014).

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

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write How to Learn?

Carey: I had covered the area – the cognitive science of learning – for years, and saw how counter-intuitive and little known it was. No one gets a course on How to Learn, and we all should. I realized I had the background and the access to deliver the story in all its pieces – biology, theory, experimental findings – and to tie it all together into one big idea: the brain as forager. I was excited about telling the story, and felt a professional obligation.

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

Carey: Yes, the many dimensions of forgetting, that was wonderful. So often we think of forgetting as the enemy. But no, it’s the greatest friend of learning, allowing us to acquire new skills while also ‘banking’ the old ones for future use.

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

Carey: It has more of myself in it than I expected. I thought I would let the science do the talking but in the end we are all experts on psychology and learning to some extent – and doing plausibility checks on the information put me in the book a lot. I was, in a sense, speaking for the reader.

Morris: Of all that you learned about how we learn, what did you find most surprising? Please explain.

Carey: Pre-testing was great. Take the final exam on the first day – and do better on the real final. The way front-loading information that is foreign and make it more digestible later on.

Morris: You provide a number of tools in this book. Which seems to be the most difficult to master? Why?

Carey: The most difficult to deploy may be perceptual learning – training up your instincts quickly, in sports, games, music, math. That takes some up-front work and it’s the kind of thing we’re used to doing very slowly.

Morris: You suggest that, “if the brain is a learning machine, then it’s an eccentric one. And it performs best when its quirks are exploited. “ Please explain.

Carey: The brain is a machine, a clump of cells. It has evolved to learn what is most valuable to survival, and just telling it, “Here, learn this,” is not enough to deepen learning. It needs to be *shown* that something is important, by spaced use, by use in all environments, by continual self-testing – all the techniques in the book. The ‘conscious mind’ whatever that is, can’t just give orders. *Using* information and skills is what tells the machine the stuff is important.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

To read my review of How We Learn, please click here.

Ben cordially invites you to check out these websites:

The How We Learn Amazon link

New York Times link

NPR interview link

Scientific American review link

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Frederic Laloux: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

Laloux After I read Frederic Laloux‘s brilliant book, Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness, I was curious to know more about him and learned of his passionate commitment to helping leaders in almost any organization — whatever its size and nature may be — to explore fundamentally new ways of organizing resources (especially people) to achieve and then sustain excellence. One of the keys to that is creating a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive.

Reinventing Organizations draws on two strands:

o Frederick’s deep understanding of the inner workings of organizations, which he developed among other during the years he worked as an organization and strategy consultant with McKinsey & Company

o His longstanding fascination with the topic of human development and his own joyful journey of personal and spiritual growth.

He has worked intimately with people at all levels of organizations. He has witnessed how the organizations that make up the fabric of our modern lives (large corporations and small businesses, hospitals and schools, nonprofits and government agencies) are for the most part places of quiet and pervasive suffering, places inhospitable to the deeper yearnings of our souls. The intuition that more is possible—that we must be capable of creating truly soulful organizations that invite all of our human potential into the workplace—has led him to engage into groundbreaking research: how a currently emerging, new form of consciousness is bringing forth a radically more soulful, purposeful, and productive organizational model.

Reinventing Organizations was published by Kendall Parker (February 2014). It is based on extensive research and has been variously described as “groundbreaking,” “brilliant,” “spectacular,” “impressive,” and “world-changing” by some of the most respected scholars in the field of human development.

Frederic lives in Brussels, Belgium, where he is blessed to share his life with his wife, Hélène, and their two children.

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

* * *

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

Laloux: A few. For instance, I was very aware of organizations that are values-driven, and that use this to empower people, to push decision-making as low as possible down the pyramid. This is what I was expecting to find in the organizations I was going to research. I didn’t expect for a minute to find very large organizations that didn’t just empower people, but operated entirely on self-managing principles, without layers of hierarchy!

I was still operating under the assumption that you can’t run a large organization without power hierarchy. Now, of course, I know better! I’ve come to see that hierarchy can only deal with limited complexity. And that organizations that want to cope with the increasing complexity of our world will naturally shift to more powerful mechanisms than those based on power hierarchy, of some people holding power over other people.

Another insight had to do with strategy. The current paradigm concerning strategy still made total sense to me before I did the research. In this paradigm the role of leadership is set a vision, define a strategy, and then execute that strategy. Vision, strategy, execution. How else could you do it, right?

And then I came across the leaders of some organizations that I researched who said: No, that’s bullshit (well, they didn’t quite say it that way). Vision, strategy, execution makes sense if you consider the organization to be a lifeless, inanimate entity.

If the organization is like a boat, then yes, the boat needs a captain that charts a course, and then sailors that get busy setting the sails in the right way to go in the right direction. But we don’t consider the organization to be a boat, an inanimate thing we need to direct.

We consider the organization to be like a living entity, we consider that it has its own sense of direction, its own energy, its own thing it wants to manifest in the world. So our role is not to arbitrarily set a direction. Instead, our role is to listen to the organization, listen deeply to where it wants to go. And then we dance with it to help it get there.

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

Laloux: There were a few unexpected insights, like the ones I just shared. But for the rest, the book in its final structure is very similar to what I had first sketched out on a piece of paper. Overall, the process of researching and writing this book has been surprisingly straightforward. In many ways, I felt like many things were falling in place naturally, like some forces were helping me to write the book.

Morris: In your opinion, from which organization’s reinvention can the most valuable lessons be learned in terms of do’s and don’ts? Please explain.

Laloux: As you know, I have come across three major breakthroughs in how these organizations operate. Now not all organizations have stumbled upon all three of them. Buurtzorg, the Dutch nursing organization, that grew from 0 to 8,000 people in 7 years, is in my opinion the one organization that comes closest to having implemented all three breakthroughs. So they might be a particularly good source of inspiration.

But then again, it all depends on what kind of organization you are. Buurtzorg operates in an industry with a very short process. Giving a patient a shot or changing a bandage is a much shorter process than, say, designing and manufacturing hydraulics valves. So if you want to implement some of these ideas in a factory, you might find inspiration with Sun Hydraulics in Florida, FAVI in France or Morning Star in California.

An organization like Morning Star has fine-tuned the breakthrough of self-management to a wonderful degree, but hasn’t worked much on the other two. So what I’ve tried to do is to draw a picture that would be as complete as possible, using pieces of the puzzle from all the organizations I researched.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To read Part 1,  please click here.

Frederic cordially invites you check out the resources at these websites:

Reinventing Organization‘s website link

Amazon link

Integral Life conversation with Ken Wilber link

LinkedIn link

YouTube link

Tony Schwartz review in New York Times link

Sunday, November 16, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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