First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Peter J. Boni: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

Boni 1Peter J. Boni has advanced by taking on the tough assignments of repositioning organizations that had run aground. During his career, he added nearly $5 billion of value as a science and technology CEO (public, private, IPO), consultant, director, and private equity/venture capital investor. His firms were recognized on the Inc. 500, Software 100, Fast 50 and Fortune 1000 several times.

He was twice cited in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year competition, most recently in 2011 as Master Entrepreneur in Philadelphia. Boni has commentated on CNBC, Fox Business, and The Street.com and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and Investor Business Daily. His book, All Hands On Deck: Navigating Your Team Through Crises, Getting Your Organization Unstuck, and Emerging Victorious, was published by Career Press (June 2015)/

In addition to a BA from University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Boni earned a Rice Paddy MBA in leadership through adversity on a “full scholarship,” courtesy of Uncle Sam. A decorated military veteran, he spent 15 months in combat as a special operations infantry officer.

Today, as Managing Principal for his consulting firm, Kedgeway, Boni serves as Vice Chairman of The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), which has brought entrepreneurship training to 600,000 poor, inner city youth in 21 U.S. states and nine countries. He is founding co-chairman of its Philadelphia branch.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write All Hands on Deck?

Boni: By the mid-1980s, I had moved from Fortune 500 executive to high tech CEO by tackling tough assignments and succeeding. I read a best seller, What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School: Notes from a Street-Smart Executive, written by Mark H. McCormack, featured 14 things organized in three sections, People, Negotiating and Running a Business, that he said that they don’t teach at HBS that would accelerate a career.

McCormick had never even attended Harvard Business School. Rather, he was a Yale law graduate who had founded a highly successful sports marketing company, International Management Group. Among his early clients were Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. He used the lessons of his real life to promote the notion that the 3% who have clearly written goals will out-earn by 10X the 97% who don’t take the time to think their goals through and write them down. His practical advice ranged from how to read people, making the right first impression, effective negotiations, taking the leading edge to run meeting, making friends and gaining international experience…all designed to further advance a person’s achievements, and, therefore, better position his or her career for further growth.

My observation was then, and is now, that a major, multi-chapter Section 4 was missing. It could be a book all by itself. Take an troubled or dysfunctional unit, team, department, office or whatever…one that has run aground and is stuck in the mud for whatever the reason… get it off the ground and out of the mud (“kedge off,” in sail boating terms) so it can safely “sail” again and turn it into something. Recognition and rewards will come more quickly to one’s career and even allow someone without the pedigree and credentials of an Ivy League education or MBA to advance beyond, even leapfrog, the individual with a superior educational pedigree and an old boy’s network. It was working for me.

As I progressed with the thrills of victory and the agonies of defeat in my career, I began to label and refine my approach with the notion that it would make an interesting book one day. That day has come. I announced my retirement as CEO of Safeguard Scientifics in 2013 and formed Kedgeway as a platform to consult, speak, teach, invest and direct my philanthropy. Kedgeway provides guidance and training to avoid, anticipate or overcome obstacles and advance…your organization and your career.

My plan to write a book moved from the back of my mind to the forefront of my activity. Now, here we are with All Hands on Deck: Navigating Your Team Through Crises, Getting Your Organization Unstuck, and Emerging Victorious.

All the pundits have written that to get to the top of your field, one needs to study the right thing at the right school and have the right network. In reality, only 5% of the college educated population has that pedigree. And less than half of them reach the top of their fields. The pundits will have you believe that the deck is stacked against 97% of us.

I’ve got another notion on how to get to the top. Disruption creates 10X the career opportunities to advance. Shakespeare said “When the sea was calm, all boats alike show’d mastership at floating.” In what boat do you want to sail? The tested ship, of course. Become the tested ship and advance.

Last year set a six-year record for turnover at the top, not only inside 25% of the Fortune 500, but in 1300+ organizations (both profit and non-profit) to boot. Ask the boards of JC Penney, Target, eBay, Mattel, McDonalds, Credit Suisse, AMD, The GAP, and countless others what credentials they’re seeking for their top dogs. You’ll hear a lot less about credentials and pedigree and a lot more about the ability to lead through difficulty.

I’m tired of reading academic diatribes written by consultants, educators, and journalists who do a pretty good job of “talking the talk.” Where do you want to do for advice? Someone who has written a case study or someone who has lived it? My book is a practical “how to” handbook written by a practitioner who has walked the walk.

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

Boni: My first vision of the book included many of my personal anecdotal stories. As I got started, I realized that adding Section 3, featuring memoir-style case studies of real people who showed the ABCs in Action in varying fields, would be far more memorable to convey these principles with greater credibility.

Morris: You devote the first chapter to Captain Josiah Nickerson Knowles whom you characterize as “the greatest captain of them all.” Why do you hold him in such high regard?

Boni: The 19th century press characterized Captain Josiah Nickerson Knowles as “the greatest captain of them all.” He was held in high regard by society overall. Captain Knowles practiced a timeless technique of leadership. He practiced the “ABCs to Advance” and led his passengers and crew to survival AND rescue. Shipwrecks were known to be deadly in the 16th through the 19thcenturies. Aren’t they still? To be both shipwrecked and marooned on a wrongly-charted and deserted island in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Ocean and live to tell about it was no small feat.

Morris: What are the most valuable business lessons to be learned from him?

Boni: The Captain was highly selective. Only the very best could be hired to serve on his crew. And he trained the daylights out of them. They were a competent and professional force. Who do you want on your team when the chips are down? The best, or course.

After achieving the impossible, Captain Knowles, his crew and many of his passengers advanced throughout their careers as a result of the achievements stemming from the shipwreck of Wild Wave. Their story of survival and rescue demonstrated the ABCs in Action long before organizational psychologists ever studied about the leadership dynamics of high performance teams and put labels to them.

Fundamentals are timeless and ring true time and time again.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

Here is a direct link to Part 1.

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

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

Peter J. Boni: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

Boni 1

Peter J. Boni has advanced by taking on the tough assignments of repositioning organizations that had run aground. During his career, he added nearly $5 billion of value as a science and technology CEO (public, private, IPO), consultant, director, and private equity/venture capital investor. His firms were recognized on the Inc. 500, Software 100, Fast 50 and Fortune 1000 several times.

He was twice cited in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year competition, most recently in 2011 as Master Entrepreneur in Philadelphia. Boni has commentated on CNBC, Fox Business, and The Street.com and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and Investor Business Daily. His book, All Hands On Deck: Navigating Your Team Through Crises, Getting Your Organization Unstuck, and Emerging Victorious, was published by Career Press (June 2015)/

In addition to a BA from University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Boni earned a Rice Paddy MBA in leadership through adversity on a “full scholarship,” courtesy of Uncle Sam. A decorated military veteran, he spent 15 months in combat as a special operations infantry officer.

Today, as Managing Principal for his consulting firm, Kedgeway, Boni serves as Vice Chairman of The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), which has brought entrepreneurship training to 600,000 poor, inner city youth in 21 U.S. states and nine countries. He is founding co-chairman of its Philadelphia branch.

* * *

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

Boni: Due to the illness and periodic hospitalizations of my father, my childhood was volatile and disrupted. Between the first grade and high school, I attended 11 different schools in several states. My mother was a great source of example. She taught me that bad things can happen to good people. You may not control what happens, but you CAN control what you DO to improve your situation and max out. Making “ray” out of “disarray” became a talent that I have used both personally and professionally.

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

Boni: It’s not the “who” but “what.” Definitely the special operations combat experience.

Having the responsibility to lead a diverse group of highly competent people through the fear, chaos, confusion and stress of hostile enemy fire has made any stressful situation in business seem quite paltry by comparison. In school, your academic achievement in your field of study is largely an individual effort. In the military, and in real life, achievement is bigger than you.

I learned that I can’t do the seemingly impossible alone. Collaboration and teamwork are essential. In combat, I kept, embraced and collaborated with a diverse set of skills around me. We shared a natural sense of dependence and trust as well as a common sense of mission, goals, and purpose. We accomplished our missions with merit and stayed alive in the process. I learned to never underestimate the importance of attracting, retaining, and rewarding well-trained, capable people who could think out of the box, navigate complexity, and work as a team. Keeping good people in my foxhole became an essential ingredient of my managerial approach. Those good people softened the blow of temporary defeats and enabled many victories…shared victories. That’s part of the fun of leadership; celebrating when the team captures the enemy flag.

I learned that high performance decision making could happen at all levels within an organization if the mission and goals were well articulated. Within a combat unit, every person understands the meaning of a mission and his or her role to execute a game plan to achieve it. In a combat environment, reality needed to be faced straight up—no hearts and flowers– with a mind-set to think outside the box. I was trained to communicate in a crystal clear, can-do fashion. I saw firsthand how well defined roles and responsibilities facilitated well-coordinated timing and precision. And I learned that good leaders enable members of their team to lead as well.

Combat is the most stressful, dynamic, and difficult environment imaginable. You’re forced to make choices—life or death decisions, really—without having all the information. Sometimes when the shells are flying, not making a decision is the worst decision you can make. You know that, if you stand still, you’ll certainly get shot.

I took the concept of decisiveness under fire into civilian life. I also transferred the moral courage to do the right things, the focus on accomplishing the most important mission-critical things, and an enormous sense of responsibility for the welfare of the team. Those skills—and the perspective I gained in combat better prepared me for righting organizations that had run aground, or, better yet, keeping them out of a jam.

So many sectors of the worldwide economy are missing an enormous opportunity if they don’t seek out those who have recent combat experience in the Middle East. The lessons I learned in Southeast Asia and the accompanying skills are also found in more recent veterans across several countries. Intangible values like duty and honor translate exceptionally well to civilian life. Who else would you want in your foxhole to contribute to your organization?

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

Boni: In spite of the constant disruption in my schooling, I excelled in school. That was important to my father, so it became extremely important to me. He often related a story of how he had run out of money and never finished his depression-era mechanical engineering education. I became keenly aware that a tool and die maker, even as a highly skilled machinist, falls subject to all the economic whims resulting from a recession’s impact on production. As part of the production crew, he was subject to the layoffs that come with lower-tier production schedules. What a major effect that had on his life—and on mine, I thought at the time. “This won’t happen to me,” I resolved.

Thanks to that influence, coupled with being in the same high school from start to finish, a peer group of fellow athletes and scholars, plus mentoring, scholarships, loans, and my own work ethic, I graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Armed with a psychology major, a management minor, and a growing interest in high-performance team dynamics, I felt ready to conquer the world. That college diploma—the first among those in my working-class family to receive one—has opened more doors for me than I ever could have imagined. A college degree was the qualifying price of entry.

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.

Boni: As a management trainee, and then a sales rep in what was then named Standard Oil, my first job out of college and the military, I was enormously impatient. Just after starting my career, I was hit with a three-year interruption and a wartime combat assignment, courtesy of Uncle Sam and the U. S. Army. I was fortunate to achieve some rank and wind my way into an elite force. It saved my life, and, to a degree, shaped how I approached it. It defined my sense of teamwork, with highly competent people. We were kids really, in tough situations, scared as hell, covering each other’s backs to accomplish the mission at hand.

With real life’s lessons picked up in combat and happy to be alive, I returned to my first job to pick up where I left off, with a huge goal in mind…to advance to be a VP of a Fortune 500 company within 10 years. My original management training classmates had a three-year head start and I needed to catch up fast. Here’s what threw me off. I was a working class kid and the first in my family to get a college education. I had no notion of an old boys’ network, but saw first-hand that some plum promotional assignments, better known as ”the first big break,” were more likely handed out first to those with the old boys’ network stemming from their educational pedigree, or those who had more style, or a family members or close family friends in the top echelon.

After training, I was assigned a sales territory which was among the top performers in the District. I kept it in the top spot. There was no first big break in the near term offing. Bummer! What could I use as an edge to speed up the process of gaining my first big break? Adjacent to my top performing territory was one of the worst performers. After a bit of study, finding that its performance suffered due to neglect, I asked to transfer to that poorly performing sales territory. I convinced myself that I could make a difference and be better able to spring-board from that platform.

I crafted a deal with my boss. Blow the doors off in the new territory and he’d sponsor me for that first move up. I worked my tail off, clued some of my customers and prospects in on my ambitions and asked for their help. As long as I put out for them, they seemed willing to put out for me. I achieved some stellar gains, got recognized, and earned my first big break, actually ahead of some of those with the right “connections.”

Hmm, that worked out pretty well! A formula to leapfrog my career emerged. I could “kedge off”, a sailing term for how a boat, left to its own devices, can get off the mud, sand or rocks if it ran aground. It’s the way forward…the way to advance.

That VP goal was achieved within eight years. It took me another couple of years to want more. That led to my first CEO assignment at age 36 to fix a telecommunications company in difficulty. Over the ensuing 30+ years, I’ve been CEO of several medium-sized firms in various stages of growth, maturity, trouble or renewal. Add to that consulting, a Private Equity Operating Partner and the CEO of a NYSE listed venture capital-type of holding company.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

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

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

Rodd Wagner: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

Wagner, RoddRodd Wagner is the New York Times bestselling author of the book Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They’re Real People, published by McGraw-Hill (April 2015). He is one of the foremost authorities on employee engagement and collaboration. Wagner’s books, speeches, and thought leadership focus on how human nature affects business strategy. He currently serves as vice president of employee engagement strategy at BI Worldwide. He is a confidential advisor to senior executives on the best ways to increase their personal effectiveness and their organizations’ performance. His work has taken him around the world, to the executive suites of major corporations in nearly every industry, to the Pentagon, and to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

Rodd is lead author of two other books: 12: The Elements of Great Managing and Power of 2: How to Make the Most of Your Partnerships at Work and in Life. His books have been published in 10 languages and his work featured in The Wall Street Journal, ABC News Now, BusinessWeek.com, CNBC.com, and the National Post of Canada, and parodied in Dilbert. He holds an M.B.A. with honors from the University of Utah Graduate School of Business. He was formerly a principal of Gallup, the research director of the Portland Press Herald, and WGME-TV in Maine, a reporter and news editor for The Salt Lake Tribune, and a radio talk show host. When not writing or consulting, he enjoys fly-fishing, snowboarding, and coaching youth lacrosse.

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

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write Widgets?

Wagner: I decided to write Widgets a couple years ago, as my colleagues and I took stock of everything that had changed in previous decade and as the first wave of our research made it apparent there was a compelling story to tell.

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

Wagner: Each of what I called “the New Rules of Engagement” reflects a rewriting of the old social contract. As I assembled the evidence for each chapter, it became clear the world had changed with respect to that issue. How, for example, can a company get its people committed to work on long-term plans for the organization at the same time it is laying off dedicated people and no one who remains knows whether he or she will be there to see the plan fulfilled? At what point, to cite another example, does an organization’s poking and prodding of employees in the interest of so-called “wellbeing” get creepy?

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

Wagner: It took two chapters rather than one to lay the foundation. It took two chapters rather than one to wrap things up after covering each of the 12 New Rules. Otherwise, it’s largely structured as I envisioned. But the details – the examples and the particular form of the arguments – showed up only in the writing. Concepts and facts in my mind are non-linear. I can let them float around and connect in three or four dimensions in my mind right up until the moment I start writing. A book is linear. It requires I get each idea and statistic to get in line. These ideas don’t behave much better than a group of kindergarteners a teacher is trying to take on a field trip. I am always a little surprised, amused, or intrigued at how these things assemble themselves when required to do so. Under this pressure to organize my thoughts, or in the discussion of the draft with my manager or a trusted friend, insights emerge that never would have popped out except under these conditions. Those breakthroughs are always worth the price of admission.

Morris: To what extent do you develop in greater depth ideas introduced in your previous books, 12 and Power of 2? Please explain.

Wagner: 12 was written a decade ago. Except for the stories of the great managers I interviewed for the book, which are good examples regardless of their time, the science in the book is as dated now as the cell phone I carried in 2005 when I was writing it. Gallup has not changed its Q12 questions since 1998, a year before First, Break All the Rules was published. While human nature has not changed in that time, the business context certainly has. You can tell in Widgets that I am critical of Gallup and its many copycats for their lack on innovation in the face of dramatic changes to the unwritten social contract over the last 16 years. In Widgets, I hit the reset button hard.

The research Gale Muller and I did for Power of 2, on the other hand, grounded me in the science of reciprocity, which substantially influenced my research and writing for Widgets. It was a good launching pad for this most recent book.

Most important, while I was the lead author of both those books, one does not take as many liberties or speak as candidly when writing on behalf of two people (and on behalf of a company, a fact for which I was once slammed in The Wall Street Journal). Widgets is the first book where I am sole author, where I could communicate most directly and bluntly with the reader. Where the facts showed it necessary, I’ve contradicted what I wrote a decade ago, either because further evidence indicated the truth was something different or because the world changed and what was true then is not true now. Like that “best friend at work” question? Pssst! It really is a dumb thing to put on a survey.

Morris: Here’s a motivation issue on which opinions are divided – sometimes sharply divided. I doubt that leaders can motivate other people but they can inspire them to become self-motivated. What do you think?

Wagner: Putting all the responsibility for an employee’s motivation on him or her is an abdication of responsibility, and contrary to a wealth of research. We’ve all had good jobs and bad jobs and we know that we were more motivated in the good jobs. Just because there is evidence that people do bring a certain bearing to work with them does not mean that there’s not a huge range in their intensity that depends on the quality of their enterprise’s leadership and managers.

Morris: Many people see themselves as “widgets” and one of the reasons is that creativity and individuality tend to be discouraged in schools, especially in elementary public schools. Do you agree?

Wagner: That’s a bad rap. Schools are such different places than they were a generation or two ago. I find them exceptionally open to recognizing different talents in individual students. Schools are also in the difficult position of having to recognize individuality while at the same time needing to teach certain skills and knowledge that everyone ought to have. Business can afford to have people specialize. Schools must help kids master general knowledge. My teachers knew me as a hard-core science kid. They would be shocked to find out I became a writer. It’s a good thing no one waived the English requirements for me along the way.

Morris: Many managers see themselves as “widgets” and one of the reasons is that they tend to have responsibility for [begin italics] but very little authority over [end italics] those whom they manage, as is the “way” at Google. Your own thoughts about all this?

Wagner: Without speaking about Google, which is a topic by itself, sure, it happens all the time. The quality of managing is constrained by the little latitude given to those managers and the degree to which the managers themselves are looked after by their managers. I’ve been in a few situations where I had fantastic managers, but the leadership of the company was clueless. I asked my managers for their advice. They all said something such as, “There’s nothing more here for either of us. Let’s both get out.” And we did. Most managers will tow the company line up to a point, but eventually they choke on the words, because they care about their people.

Morris: In your opinion, can what you characterize as “The New Rules of Engagement” work in the military services? Please explain.

Wagner: Absolutely. We’re still talking about human nature. It’s often struck me how different the vocabulary is, but how much the concepts are the same. In many ways, the military is ahead of the civilian world. Pay is transparent. The path to promotion is much clearer. There is a system for recognizing achievement and sacrifice. The incentives for teamwork are nearly perfected in a way that would be the envy of any civilian organization. And the pressures are so much greater that the proportion of exemplary leaders is, in my estimation, much higher.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

Here’s a link to Part 1.

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

One site is aimed at leaders and managers. Another site is aimed at employees. Both link to my blog and, most important, to the New Rules index self-assessment where employees can discover for free how their job stacks up against the jobs of people in the rest of the country.

Thursday, May 21, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rodd Wagner: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

Wagner, Rodd

Rodd Wagner is the New York Times bestselling author of the book Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They’re Real People, published by McGraw-Hill (April 2015). He is one of the foremost authorities on employee engagement and collaboration. Wagner’s books, speeches, and thought leadership focus on how human nature affects business strategy. He currently serves as vice president of employee engagement strategy at BI Worldwide. He is a confidential advisor to senior executives on the best ways to increase their personal effectiveness and their organizations’ performance. His work has taken him around the world, to the executive suites of major corporations in nearly every industry, to the Pentagon, and to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

Rodd is lead author of two other books: 12: The Elements of Great Managing and Power of 2: How to Make the Most of Your Partnerships at Work and in Life. His books have been published in 10 languages and his work featured in The Wall Street Journal, ABC News Now, BusinessWeek.com, CNBC.com, and the National Post of Canada, and parodied in Dilbert. He holds an M.B.A. with honors from the University of Utah Graduate School of Business. He was formerly a principal of Gallup, the research director of the Portland Press Herald, and WGME-TV in Maine, a reporter and news editor for The Salt Lake Tribune, and a radio talk show host. When not writing or consulting, he enjoys fly-fishing, snowboarding, and coaching youth lacrosse.

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

* * *

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

Wagner: My daughter and two sons. There is no better laboratory for understanding how one does or does not influence other people than, over two decades, trying to turn a few toddlers into people a company would hire.

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

Wagner: You could boil down behavioral economics into the observation that we’re all just 5-year-olds in an older shell. Whether they were toddlers or teenagers, my kids always gave it to me straight. They’ve been entirely unimpressed with everything I’ve done right up to the point one of my books got mocked in “Dilbert.”

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.

Wagner: While I loved being a newspaper reporter, I became disillusioned with the way The Salt Lake Tribune was being managed in the late ‘80s. I decided there had to be a better way to run a newspaper, but I did not have the knowledge or credentials to be part of that solution. I went to graduate business school while working full-time as a police reporter on the night shift. It was two years of sleep deprivation and hard work. The pattern of simultaneously gathering facts, writing, and analyzing business patterns has pretty much held since then.

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

Wagner: An M.B.A. from a rigorous program changes the way one sees the world. One learns to see the cost of materials, the efficiencies, the marketing strategy, the economies of scale, and the people factors in everything from the local coffee shop to the airplanes on which we all spend too much time. My journalism degree has proven invaluable to not just writing Widgets, but reporting and editorializing on the state of leadership and managing today.

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?

Wagner: Half the people who were running the place knew less about what needed to be done than I did. The other half knew a lot more than I did. Recognizing that earlier would have saved me a lot of time giving too much credence to the first half and not asking for more coaching from the second half. When I was in my early 20s, I had a naive belief that the people who were leading companies were, through the meritocracy of the marketplace, the people who should be leading them. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they most definitely are not.

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

Wagner: Office Space. There are real versions of Milton Waddams in nearly every company out there. In real life, it’s not funny.

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

Wagner: The Endurance, about the expedition led by Earnest Shackleton that is so frequently cited as a pattern for effective leadership under extreme pressure. The writing is gripping. The photos by expedition photographer Frank Hurley take you there. The combination is incredible.

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.”

Wagner: It’s rare to find a person who will invest himself or herself in another’s success. These people make the best leaders and managers.

Morris: From Michael Porter: “The essence of strategy is choosing what [begin italics] not [end italics] to do.”

Wagner: It’s never that simple. In real life, strategy means choosing what to do and not to do, then stopping what one was doing and starting what one was not as the circumstance change. “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.”

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

Wagner: This is only true of ideas that are not dumb enough to die of natural causes.

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….’”

Wagner: This is certainly true in the social sciences. Most of the insights from the research in Widgets started with just that phrase.

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

Wagner: One ought not dismiss the benefits of hallucination too quickly. However, my author version of Edison’s bromide is, “Writing enforces discipline on ideation.”

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

Wagner: I understand Drucker was not a fly-fisherman. Had he been one, he never would have said that.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

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

One site is aimed at leaders and managers. Another site is aimed at employees. Both link to my blog and, most important, to the New Rules index self-assessment where employees can discover for free how their job stacks up against the jobs of people in the rest of the country.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Michael Schrage: An interview by Bob Morris

SchrageMichael Schrage is a Research Fellow at the MIT Center for Digital Business and a Visiting Fellow at Imperial College’s Department of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He examines the various roles of models, prototypes, and simulations as collaborative media for innovation risk management. He has served as an advisor on innovation issues and investments to major firms, including Mars, Procter & Gamble, Google, Intel, BT, Siemens, NASDAQ, IBM, and Alcoa. In addition, Michael has advised segments of the national security community on cyberconflict and cybersecurity issues. He has presented workshops on design experimentation and innovation risk for businesses, organizations, and executive education programs worldwide. Along with running summer workshops on future technologies for the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, he has served on the technical advisory committee of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. In collaboration with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Schrage helped launch a series of workshops sponsored by the Department of Defense on federal complex systems procurement. In 2007, he served as a judge for the Industrial Designers Society of America’s global International Design Excellence Awards.

Michael authored the lead chapter on governance in complex systems acquisition in Organizing for a Complex World (CSIS 2009). He has been a contributor to such prestigious publications as the Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, strategy+business, IEEE Software, and the Design Management Journal. In his best-selling book, Serious Play: How the World’s Best Companies Simulate to Innovate, published by Harvard Business School Press (2000), Schrage explores the culture, economics, and future of prototyping. His next book, Getting Beyond Ideas was published by Wiley (2010). His latest book, The Innovator’s Hypothesis: How Cheap Experiments Are Worth More than Good Ideas, was published by MIT Press (2014).

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Michael.

* * *

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

Schrage: Certainly, my parents. But since adolescence and university, I would unhesitatingly say my friends and, of course, my wife. My friends and I take friendship seriously and we don’t indulge each other’s weaknesses even as we respect that no one is or should be without flaws. I like and admire my friends – and my wife – and they all give me superb perspective on what it means to try to be a good person. There’s a wonderful conversation to be had about “satisficing” and “optimizing” in this context but this isn’t the place.

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

Schrage: These are more awkward than difficult questions because – of course – that’s not the “unit of analysis” I would use. Certainly, my time as a Washington Post journalist/columnist had an enormous impact on me. I was in my early 20s and dealing with extraordinarily powerful, extraordinarily influential, extraordinarily smart and extraordinarily competitive people in a challenging environment. But the same could be said about my fellowship at MIT’s Media Lab back when Nicholas Negroponte was running it. I’ve always – always! – made a serious effort to learn form my professional interactions. Best case, I learned from the very best about what made them “effective” and what make them tick. At worst, I gained greater insight into myself and my limitations. I became much more sensitive to the reality that great intelligence, great influence and great competence did not necessarily correlate with good character – and vice versa.

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.

Schrage: Yes. I was collaborating with my best friend to design and build a really path-breaking new software back in the 1980s. I slept on his couch and we worked together for a fortnight but nothing was coming out of us but frustration and bad arguments. Here we were – two really smart guys who liked and trusted each other and were committed to doing something great – but we were getting nowhere. This made no sense to us and we were both getting depressed.

Rob finally said, “Look, I know a guy – he’s a bit of a nut – but he’s come up with an interesting technology and approach to getting people to work together. We should see him.” I skeptically responded, “What is he? A therapist? We’re going into couples therapy now…?”

But Rob said it wasn’t like that and so we went off to Bernie’s. Long story short: Bernie had hooked up a Mac to a Limelight projector and simply facilitated a design discussion between Rob and myself. As we talked, our conversation was made visible on a large screen. We began talking to each other through the screen; that is, the focus of or attention and communication was the shared space of our screen-based conversation. We began to move the words and phrases and then pictures and graphs. To use Bernie’s phrase, “We could see ourselves being heard….” This meeting directly led to our design document and a real breakthrough in mutual understanding and awareness. I “got” it.

This simple computer-augmented conversation had a huge impact. It was, forgive me, transformative and led directly to my first book about collaboration. I am fascinated, struck, and compelled by how technology can amplify and augment who we are and what we can do not just for ourselves but with each other. This has been central to my academic research and advisory work. I had vaguely appreciated and understood that before the conversation with Bernie but that episode crystalized/galvanized and every other kind of ‘ized’ that into an epiphany.

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

Schrage: Invaluable is a tricky word. Honestly, only three or four formal classes (and teachers) were truly ‘invaluable’ in my conceptual and/or intellectual development. My classes with Doanld Michie on AI; a couple of “history of economic thought” seminars and workshops. A matrix algebra class.

There are only a handful of formal educational experiences I can or would point to as being integral to my professional development and effectiveness. That said, being in those environments – having opportunities for informal exchanges, projects, mentorship, apprenticeship, etc. – was imperative to success. Bluntly, most formal learning mechanisms didn’t fit with my personality, curiosity and aspirations. Fortunately – or unfortunately – I was clever enough to always do “well.” But doing “well” and learning lots aren’t the same thing. I was genuinely interested not just in learning but in understanding the fundamentals and most of the subjects, courses and teachers I had in formal environments simply were unwilling or unable to provide that.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

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

MIT Faculty page link

The Innovator’s Hypothesis/MIT Press link

Amazon link

Amazon link to Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become?

YouTube videos link

Big Think videos link

Sunday, March 15, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marcia Reynolds: Part 2 of a second interview by Bob Morris

ReynoldsMarcia 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 an excerpt from Part 2 of my second interview of Marcia.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write the Discomfort Zone?

Reynolds: Originally, I thought of writing a book for coaches looking to learn more advanced skills beyond the basics. As a long-time assessor for the International Coach Federation and a number of coaching schools, I found that coaches stopped short of taking risks in their conversations, keeping them from facilitating the breakthroughs in thinking needed to be assessed at a Mastery level. When I mentioned my desire to codify and teach what Master Coaches do in a book to my editor, he said, “Write the book for leaders, the coaches will buy it.” Of course! I have been teaching leadership classes for over 30 years. If I could teach these skills to leaders, and demonstrate in case studies the amazing results they would get if they committed to using the skills, then I had the opportunity to change the nature of conversations in the workplace. This has become my purpose. The Discomfort Zone is my vehicle for the large-scale change I would love to be a part of.

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

Reynolds: The chapter where I teach how to listen from your heart and gut as well as your head was born out of my research while writing the book. I had discovered the science behind intuition some years ago. But creating the actual exercises that teach this skill seemed to be the magic I needed to bring the idea of intuition out of being “fluff” to an actual and measurable leadership competency.

Since I wrote this chapter, I have been leading people through the exercise in workshops around the world. In each session, the majority of people have head-snapping revelations too. There is no better payoff for someone who has been teaching leaders for decades, to find a skill that can actually create a “wow” factor in the classroom, enough that the students will absolutely take what they learn with them out into the workplace. This is very fulfilling for me.

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

Reynolds: I originally had more neuroscience up front, explaining why these conversations based on insight formation are far more effective that telling people what to do or scaring them into doing something else. My editor reminded me that I had to get into the “how to” much more quickly. If they buy the book, they already know that what I’m trying to say is important. And, the average reader wants to get to the good stuff quickly. So as usual, I had to cut pages from the beginning of the book. After that, the book flowed as planned.

Morris: What advice do you have for supervisors who are very uncomfortable when struggling to prepare for what is almost certain to be a complicated (perhaps contentious) conversation with a direct report?

Reynolds: A good practice is to choose an emotion you want to feel before the conversation. Select one word to use as an emotional anchor you can go back to when your impatience, anger, or fear arises. Consider what you want the other person to feel—inspired, hopeful, or courageous? Then occasionally remind yourself to feel this emotion too. Or maybe you know you need to feel calm, caring, or bold. Choose one emotion word that you can breathe into your body to help you stay focused on the result you want.

Remember that if you are angry or disappointed with the person, they won’t be open to having a conversation with you. They will likely be defensive in return. You need to set and maintain a positive emotional tone.

Also, consider the regard you are holding for the person right now. You have to believe in the person’s potential even if they had disappointed or angered you. They have to feel you respect them to stay open to being with you in the conversation. Consider what the person has done well in the past and what is possible in the future. Hold the person in high regard even before you enter the conversation. They will sense your hope for them even if the conversation feels difficult.

Morris: Let’s say that such a conversation occurs and goes well. Then what? Follow-up by the supervisor? By the direct report?

Reynolds: If you follow the DREAM model in the book, the acronym DREAM stands for these activities:

D = determine what the person wants as a desired outcome of the conversation

R = reflect on assumptions, beliefs, and reactions as the person tells his or her view of the situation (hold up a mental mirror by affirming what the person thinks and feels)

E = explore what needs, desires, disappointments, and fears could be interfering or blocking a different perception

A = acknowledge the emerging awareness

M = make sure there is a plan or commitment for what is next

The M ensures there will be some sort of follow-up, but you will determine these together. You will ask them to clearly state their next step, even if it is to give the conversation more thought before getting back to you. Then together you will determine if and when the next conversation will be.

Morris: My own opinion is that much of the counsel you provide could also be helpful to parents as well as to teachers and coaches who enter a discomfort zone when addressing behavior issues with young people. What do you think?

Reynolds: Whenever I teach these skills to leaders, they always ask the same question, “Can I use this as a parent?” I believe anytime you have the opportunity to help people think more broadly for themselves and discover solutions on their own, you can use The Discomfort Zone skills. The book is useful for coaches, parents, consultants, teachers, and friends as well as leaders.

Morris: Back to basics. What is a discomfort zone?

Reynolds: In order to define who we are and make sense of the world around us, our brains develop constructs and rules that we strongly protect without much thought. When someone asks you why you did something, you immediately come up with an ad hoc answer that fits the situation even if the response doesn’t make complete sense. These quick interpretations actually constrain the brain, making human beings narrow-minded by nature.

To help someone think differently about a situation, you have to disturb this automatic processing. This is best done by challenging the beliefs that created the frames and surfacing the underlying fears, needs, and desires that are keeping the constructs in place. Through reflective statements and questions, you can help someone actively explore, examine and change their beliefs and behavior. This is what I call having a Discomfort Zone conversation.
Then, when you make people stop and think about what they are saying, their brain will frantically try to make sense of what they are now seeing, causing a moment of discomfort for everyone involved. Then a burst of adrenaline could cause an emotional reaction, anything from nervous laughter to anger before an insight emerges. If you act on this moment, you have a chance to solidify the new awareness. If not, a strong ego may work backward to justify the previous behavior.

The Discomfort Zone is the moment of uncertainty where people are most open to learning. Leaders who use these skills provide a chance for the person to develop a new perspective, see a different solution to their problem, and potentially grow as a person.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

To read the first interview, 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.

Tips for trainers and mentor coaches on how to teach the techniques in The Discomfort Zone: Please click here.

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

Sam Ford: An interview by Bob Morris

Ford, SamSam Ford is Director of Audience Engagement for Peppercomm. His 2013 New York University Press book, Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, was co-authored by Henry Jenkins and Joshua Green. The book was named one of the best business books of 2013 by Booz & Co.’s Strategy+Business and was voted one of the “Top 10 Best Marketing Books You Read This Summer” in a reader poll at Advertising Age. In 2011, he co-edited the University Press of Mississippi book The Survival of Soap Opera: Transformations for a New Media Era with Abigail De Kosnik and C. Lee Harrington. Sam is a columnist with Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Inc. He is a research affiliate with the MIT Program in Comparative Media Studies/Writing, an instructor with the Western Kentucky University Popular Culture Studies Program, and co-chair of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s Ethics Committee. Sam was named a 2014 Social Media MVP by PR News and was Bulldog Reporter’s 2011 Social Media Innovator of the Year. In the past two years, he has written pieces for The Wall Street Journal, Advertising Age, PRWeek, CMO.com, and other publications and presented at events like South by Southwest, Social Media Week NYC, Planning-ness, and the Front End of Innovation.

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

* * *

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

Ford: It’s tough to narrow down who has had the most significant impact on my personal growth, since it really was a village. My wife’s constant feedback as a partner these past 14 years to help me figure out what it is I want to do in my life, my dad’s consistent work ethic and drive, my mother’s deep attention to detail have all been key. But one person who helped set me on the path I’m on early on is my grandmother, Beulah Hillard. One of our favorite pastimes was sitting on the front porch swing and sharing songs—trading around a mix of gospel, old country/bluegrass tunes, and anything else we could think of.

Her passion for “her story,” the soap opera As the World Turns, helped shape my interest in the intersection between immersive story worlds and the social relationships that build around them. She and my mother talked about the lives of the residents of Oakdale, Illinois, almost every day by phone, interspersed with conversations about friends and family in our little town of McHenry.

And my grandmother was also a society columnist in the local weekly newspaper, covering specifically what was happening in our little town of 400. She wrote about the babies that were born, the old man down the lane who had passed away, the church potluck next Sunday, the visitors from all the way in Michigan who had come to town last week. Her phone would ring regularly with people in the community who had something for her to share in the paper, or she was calling them because of something she’d heard that was going on. And she always had her police scanner on, to keep up with anything going on with the law enforcement, the fire department, the EMS, the school bus system, etc. When I was 12, she had some health complications and asked me to take over the column. There I was, writing alongside the blue-rinse set in The Ohio County Times-News as a pre-teen. But it invigorated my love of writing, of being part of the community, of telling human stories…and it had a really significant impact on the direction I’ve headed since.

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

Ford: Again, there have been many. It’s been an honor working with Henry Jenkins, who was the most generous grad school mentor I could hope for and who has been a true partner and friend on various projects along the way. Steve Cody and others at Peppercomm provided me the opportunity to translate my work to the world of professional communication and marketing, in a way that has been greatly instructive. And Grant McCracken, the cultural anthropologist, has been a key figure throughout the past decade for me—inspiring me and challenging me to think in new ways as only he can do. But, before all that, I have to give great credit to Dr. Karen Schneider and Dr. Ted Hovet at WKU. I entered college planning to be a professional journalist. I ended up with a journalism degree but knew fairly early into my college career that my interests were in studying culture. My first semester at WKU, I had Dr. Schneider for an introductory English class—and the questions she asked of us, the intense discussions she directed, and the way in which she used studying literature to get at the heart of important questions about life inspired me. Karen and Ted Hovet were both key figures in WKU’s English Department and in launching their Film Studies program. They became great mentors for both me as well as for my wife, and remain good friends. And they were key coaches in driving me to go to graduate school and in making sure I was more than prepared when I arrived there.

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.

Ford: There’s been much more serendipity than there has been epiphany for me. For me, it has been having the great opportunity meet many interesting people along the way, learn from them, and make sure that I’m listening when new career turns might pop up. At one point, I knew I was going to attend graduate school, but I didn’t know where. I thought American Studies would provide me the best way to study culture, storytelling, and active audiences in the way I wanted to. An academic named Henry Louis Gates came to WKU. I had a question I was trying to ask him, and I never could get through. Finally, I was up to him in line after his public talk, and they told him that he needed to stop and go to dinner. He looked at me and said, “Why don’t you come with us to dinner?” And my dinner with him that night inspired me to definitely attend graduate school and to consider going to Boston (as Skip is a professor at Harvard) for grad school. Then, my wife and I took a visit up to Boston. I remember passing MIT’s campus several times, and my wife would try to bring my attention to it. “That’s a science and engineering school….” I told her.

A few months later, while doing my honors thesis at WKU on the world of professional wrestling, I came across an essay that Henry Jenkins was working on but that hadn’t been published yet. In fact, it was coming out as part of an edited collection called Steel Chair to the Head that was set to be released right as my thesis was due. I didn’t know who Henry was, but I reached out to him to see if I could get an advanced copy of my essay. In the process, he told me about the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT he was running with Dr. William Uricchio. I ended up getting to know Henry a bit and found that the focus of that program completely matched what I was interested in studying. In the end, I applied to that science school—and it was the only one of 6 or 7 programs I applied to that accepted me.

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

Ford: My formal education has been extremely important to me. I’m a first-generation college student and product of the public school system. My life was shaped by a series of important teachers I had along the way who passed along to me less specific knowledge and more the critical thinking skills and passion for learning that drove me to seek the next level. My time at WKU fundamentally reshaped what it was I wanted to do in my career. MIT did that once again and provided me with the skill set, the peer group, the connections, and the validity I needed to move forward—and move into areas I would have never expected and into a job title and job description I wouldn’t have even understood a short time before.

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?

Ford: You should always be able to put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re consulting, working with, or seeking to reach. Don’t underestimate their intelligence, but don’t overestimate their knowledge. Find the meeting place between what they want and need to know and what you feel it is important to tell them. And don’t just reactively respond to what they are asking you to do; trust that you are providing them with strategic guidance, not just responding to their queries. That’s been the difference in being able to be a consultative partner to the companies and colleagues I’ve worked with, rather than a vendor, executing requests.

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

Ford: There are many great lessons learned from films. One that I wrote about for Fast Company a few years back was a thrilled named Buried, starring Ryan Reynolds. In it, a U.S. civilian contractor working in Iraq has been captured and wakes up buried under the ground. He’s being held for ransom. And he has a cell phone with him in this small space he’s buried alive in, in the ground. What is remarkable about the film is that the whole movie—which is quite suspenseful—takes place with the camera inside this tight box he’s buried in underground. We don’t see flashbacks. We are stuck in there with him. And we go through what is, in effect, a series of extreme “audience experience” failures as he tries to navigate communicating with a range of entities to be rescued. I found the film a great illustration to the extreme of being able to empathize with an audience member and see/feel the pain from their perspective.

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

Ford: Perhaps no “genre” of book is more insightful about the art of consciously building one’s character and of understanding and communicating with one’s audience than the “pro wrestling memoir” genre, of which I have read many books. Anyone looking to understand how to connect with audiences, how to tell stories that connect, and so forth might do well to read Mick Foley’s Foley Is Good…and the Real World is Faker than Wrestling, as well as Foley’s other books, as well as Ole Anderson and Scott Teal’s Inside Out, among others.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-Tzu’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.”

Ford: I love this quote. Truly inspiring change within an organization, a community, or a client you’re working with is getting an idea so ingrained within that people start taking ownership of it and living it themselves…and requiring the old academic (Ford 2014) when doing that won’t make cultural shifts truly happen within an organization. The more you demand to “own” a concept or initiative, the less you allow others to really make it their own—and to take it in their own directions. To allude to the conversation that is to come about the book, content can’t become spreadable if you don’t provide ways in which people can make it their own. I’d counter with a paraphrase of fellow Kentuckian Robert Penn Warren, who once said that many of the most insightful ideas are ones that, when you read them, you realize you’ve known all along.

Morris: Next, from Voltaire: “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”

Ford: I can’t remember who said it, but I heard recently on the radio that someone said our time is one in which those who know the most are more uncertain than ever about their opinion, and those who are willing to state things definitively are those who know dangerously little. And it reminds me of something I once heard wrestler Shawn Michaels say to fellow wrestler Chris Masters—to extend on the pro wrestling example used above: “You don’t even know enough to know what you don’t know.”

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

Ford: One of our favorite initiatives at Peppercomm is to put our teams, our clients, and other leaders through stand-up comedy training—in part because it helps them not just learn to read their audience but also to understand their own unique charisma, and how their presentation of self is so deeply determined by understanding and being true to who they are.

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

Ford: This is a problem we run into constantly, particularly in the business world—where (to draw on work that Dr. Amanda Lotz has done in the past) industry lore and accepted logic often takes on a life of its own and where companies forget that they ever created it in the first place. One of my favorite examples are market segmentations, which create constructed profiles which people ultimately forget were fabrications of their marketing department in the first place and which, like Frankenstein’s Creature, starts terrorizing its creator.

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

Ford: A really shrewd soap opera writer once said of a television executive, “She was a very hard worker. I sure wish she didn’t work so hard.” We have to be careful to be sure that all that creative energy is going toward something that will ultimately benefit the publics a company is looking to serve. I find Carol Sanford’s “pentad” useful here—that any business decision must serve the customer, the co-creator, the earth, the community, and the shareholder…in that order. If organizations made all their decisions along those lines, I’d have to imagine their decisions would look quite a bit different.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Spreadable Media link

Peppercomm link

Twitter link

HBR blog link

Fast Company link

Inc. link

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peter Skarzynski and David Crosswhite: An interview by Bob Morris, Part One

SkarzynskiPeter Skarzynski is a founder and Managing Partner of ITC Business Group, LLC. He advises large, global organizations on strategy, innovation and organizational change and is recognized as a leading expert in enabling organizational renewal and growth through innovation. His experience cuts across industries and includes technology, consumer products & retail, healthcare, energy, financial services and transportation companies. His primary focus has been to help client organizations renew their core business through competence leverage and break-through business concept innovation. He has led and delivered client work in Asia, The Americas and Europe. Before co-founding ITC, Peter was CEO, Chairman and a founding Director of Strategos, a firm initially chaired and founded by Professor Gary Hamel. He also served as a Vice President in the strategy practice of Gemini Consulting and held several senior-level consulting roles in its predecessor, the MAC Group.

A frequent corporate and conference speaker, Peter has written thought pieces for The Wall Street Journal, CEO Magazine, and The Drucker Foundation. His 2008 book, Innovation to the Core: A Blueprint for Transforming the Way Your Company Innovates, was the first to describe how large organizations can build and sustain a company-wide innovation capability. Peter holds an MBA in Finance and Marketing and a BA (with Honors) in Policy Studies and Economics from the University of Chicago.

CrosswhiteDavid Crosswhite is an experienced management consultant with more than 20 years of work in the field of growth-focused strategy, innovation, and innovation capability development within large organizations. He is a currently a Managing Partner of ITC Business Group, LLC and a former Managing Director of Strategos. His work focuses on assisting clients with their growth strategy and strategy development processes and systems. His work in this area spans multiple industries, including consumer products, durable goods, healthcare, medical devices, financial services, and heavy manufacturing. David’s experience cuts across B2C and B2B sectors. His work with the Whirlpool Corporation is well-known and documented in Strategic Innovation: Embedding Innovation as a Core Competence in Your Organization, authored by Nancy Tennant, EVP of Leadership and Competence Development for Whirlpool. His work is also heavily documented in Innovation to the Core, and in multiple Harvard Business Review cases and other business journals. .

Prior to Strategos, David was a Principal at the MAC Group and in Gemini Consulting’s strategy practice. At MAC/Gemini, David focused on marketing and process design for growth issues in the telecommunications industry. David worked domestically and internationally across many of the major telecommunications providers to develop their go-to-market, service, and product development strategies and processes. David earned his MBA at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, and holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University.

Peter and David’s most recent collaboration is The Innovator’s Field Guide: Market Tested Methods and Frameworks to Help You Meet Your Innovation Challenges, published by Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Brand (2014)

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

* * *


Morris:
Before discussing The Innovator’s Field Guide, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Skarzynski: Well, that is certainly a long list! Certainly it starts with my family – 5 siblings and Mom and Dad. Specific teachers and colleagues.

Crosswhite:
Like Peter, it starts with family. My parents were both public school teachers. So, education, inquiry and learning were always front and center. And watching the learning and development process of our children has always fascinated and inspired me.

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

Crosswhite: There is a long list of mentors over the years. Each has had their influence. In work habits and ethics. In intellectual and professional development. None of them “famous.” All of them important though.

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.

Crosswhite: It was in the early 1990s, during the peak of “re-engineering” which as you know was all about cost cutting and right sizing. We were in the early days of doing this, at the birth of Gemini Consulting

Skarzynski: That’s right. And we were doing the work in a way that explicitly required high engagement of large client teams. At the time the firm was collaborating with C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel. It was then that we thought we really should be applying the “high engagement, client owns this” answers approach to strategy, growth and innovation. So, we took that path along with Gary and C.K, along with other colleagues, particularly Linda Yates, and we never turned back.

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

Crosswhite:
Critical. At every level. In particular my technical education at Lehigh and my MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School. I particularly found some of the logic and frameworks for other disciplines to be enlightening, leading me, I suppose, to be attracted to the craft of developing and enhancing “newer” disciplines like systematic innovation.

Skarzynski:
A profound impact, to be sure. At every level of education, I had the good fortune to experience outstanding teachers. In particular, my liberal arts study at The University of Chicago was immeasurably helpful. The whole focus was on inquiry: Why, why, why. It was impossible to hide from a weak argument. The same was true in graduate study.

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

Skarzynski: How incredibly interesting any organization can be when its leadership is seriously committed to growth and the full engagement of its employees.

Crosswhite: I think the entire OD discipline is fascinating when done well. The difference between what organizations say they want to get done vs. what they do can often be great. So learning and applying principles and techniques of change management in service of specific, meaningful goals is hard to do, but very rewarding when done well.

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

Crosswhite:
The Godfather, Part II. It is a legitimate contender. There are two strategy stories here, one a success and one a failure: Vito’s story is one of success of bringing people together by understanding their unmet needs in the community and Michael’s story is one of failure of ruthless independence that results in his complete and utter isolation. Vito shows that business is highly personal and depends on community while Michael shows that impersonal business is more than a failure, it’s a tragedy. Of course, there’s ethics to be considered with this example.

Skarzynski: I like G2 also. And ethics, for sure is an issue with the example. But Dave’s movie choice surfaces an important point: Business success builds from doing the right thing, the right way.

You see this notion emerging prominently in business literature now. Stephen Denning writes about this in Forbes. And Dov Seidman and Clay Christensen speak well on it. How will any individual – and of all of us working in organizations – how will our actions help individuals be better people.

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

Skarzynski: Too many to name! Here are three. And I owe these to my kids and wife who recommended each to me. Boys in the Boat is a great book speaking to the need for individual excellence in the context of a team (the boat) excellence in which every person (seat) must play their uniquely valuable role. Second, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. Third, The Invisible Heart – An Economic Romance. It is a fictional book written by an economist. It moves quickly through basic tenets like the power of incentives, supply and demand, and markets. Easy to read, easy to understand.

Crosswhite: Does The Road to Serfdom qualify as non-business? Regardless, it offers profound insights about why and how value and wealth are created, which form a strong basis for thinking about the work of innovation as well.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

In addition to the hyperlinks, Peter and David cordially invite you to check out the resources at these websites:

Innovator’s Field Guide
link

Our Growth practice link

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eric Siegel: An interview by Bob Morris

Siegel, EEric Siegel, PhD, founder of Predictive Analytics World and Text Analytics World, and Executive Editor of the Predictive Analytics Times.com, makes the how and why of predictive analytics understandable and captivating. In addition to being the author of Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die, he is a former Columbia University professor who used to sing educational songs to his students, and a renowned speaker, educator and leader in the field. He has appeared on Bloomberg TV and Radio, Fox News, BNN (Canada), Israel National Radio, Radio National (Australia), The Street, Newsmax TV, and NPR affiliates. Eric and his book have been featured in BusinessWeek, CBS MoneyWatch, The Financial Times, Forbes, Forrester, Fortune, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and MarketWatch.

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

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Predictive Analytics, 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.

Siegel: Yes, it was in 1991, my summer between college and Columbia’s doctoral program, when I realized I wanted to pursue machine learning: the ability for computers to learn from experience/examples (aka, data!), which is at the heart of predictive analytics. With this technology, the computer pours through examples to learn how to PREDICT. (A big contribution that summer was touring Vancouver with my old buddy Alex Chaffee, who whispered into my ear some magic words he’d learned at Reed College on the topic.)

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?

Siegel: Innovative technology doesn’t sell itself, and its sale is dependent more on a gradual social process (or “social experiment?”) than on a perfectly-written speech or white paper, no matter how well put together the pitch is.

Morris: First, who has had the greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Siegel: I’m so rarely asked that question! I like to think my main strength is the ability to explain a technology to any audience (specifically, with the most passion, topics within my very favorite field: predictive analytics). Looking back, I can truly see how so many enthusiastic teachers in technical fields as well as various humanities – from high school on up – contagiously infected me with what it means to effectively 1) understand, 2) find excitement in, and 3) communicate. It’s kind of a particular socialization process.

So, in answering your question, instead of deifying one person, I’ll deify the education system! This includes public schools in Vermont, Brandeis University, and Columbia University (where I was later on the faculty), where I was lucky enough to have too many strong mentors to count (see my book’s acknowledgements for a few of them).

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-Tzu’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.”

Siegel: Yes – a consultant’s job is often to make his assistance seem only supportive of the client’s successful execution.

Morris: Next, from Voltaire: “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”

Siegel: Ah, yes, humility is important. In fact, I’ve been working on my humility and I think I’ve got it down better than anyone I know. (That is meant to be humorous.)

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

Siegel: Checks and balances before triggering a project!

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?

Siegel: Beyond again invoking “checks and balances,” I’ll also tie this to predictive analytics specifically: There are too many tactical decisions to manage manually, so it is the collective capacity of DATA that will inform each one, thus tweaking the aggregate effectiveness of so many tactical decisions.

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

Siegel: Nice point. Change comes of monitoring and managing a gradual social shift. Each such cycle could be a novel.

Morris: Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original (perhaps unrealistic) expectations. More often than not, resistance is cultural in nature, the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

Siegel: Yes, you see the social process, as people are ambivalently shepherded through change — change that they fear so greatly and have build walls of rationalization against.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Predictive Analytics link

Predictive Analytics World link

Eric’s Amazon page link

Friday, March 28, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grab Some Buds – Is This Brew Bitter? Check Out Knoedelseder’s Best-Seller

Make no mistake about it.  When I am ready for a beer, I choose a Budweiser.  Regular.   Not Bud Lite, not Michelob, not Michelob Ultra.  I like the “King of Beers.”  Regular Budweiser.

So, I am enjoying the former best-seller, Bitter Brew:  The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America’s Kings of Beer by William Knoedelseder (New York:  Harper Business, 2012).  It is rare, but not Bitter Brew coverwithout precedent, that we will go back and present a former business best-seller at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas that we have passed over previously from the lists.  This one was a best-seller on several top lists.  Even today, it remains at #13, #38, and #49 on three different Amazon.com best-selling business lists.   I will be discussing this with Randy Mayeux, who also presents at the First Friday Book Synopsis, as to whether we should go back and get this one.  It is really worth considering.

The inside cover states that the book is “the engrossing, often scandalous saga of one of the wealthiest, longest-lasting, and most colorful family dynasties in the history of American commerce – a cautionary tale about prosperity, profligacy, hubris, and the blessings and dark consequences of success.”

William Knoedelseder pictureWho is William Knoedelseder?  This is the biography that I found on Amazon.com:

He is a veteran journalist and best-selling author who honed his investigative and narrative skills during 12 years as a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times, where his ground breaking coverage of the entertainment industry produced a long string of exposes. His two-year investigation of payola and other corrupt practices in the record business sparked five federal grand jury investigations across the country, led to the arrest and conviction of a score of organized figures and formed the basis of his first best-selling book, Stiffed: A True Story of MCA, the Music Business and the Mafia (Harper Collins 1993). Stiffed was named Best Non-Fiction work of 1993 by Entertainment Weekly, which called it “the scariest book of the year…and the funniest.”  The two of the principal mob figures depicted in Stiffed–New Jersey crime boss Gaetano “Corky” Vastola and Roulette Records founder Morris Levy–subsequently served as the models for HBO’s Tony Soprano and his music business mentor Herman “Hesh” Rabkin.  Since 2000, Knoedelseder has written three other books. In Eddie’s Name (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) chronicles the brutal murder of a Philadelphia teenager that made national headlines when Knoedelseder, as executive producer of the Knight Ridder news program Inquirer News Tonight, pressed the city to make public the content of 911 tapes recorded the night of the killing, which ultimately revealed a complete breakdown of Philadelphia’s emergency response system; I’m Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Standup Comedy’s Golden Era (Public Affairs/Perseus) recounts Knoedelseder’s time as cub reporter covering the L.A. comedy club scene when David Letterman, Jay Leno, Robin Williams and Andy Kaufman were young and undiscovered. It has been optioned for film by actor Jim Carrey.  His next book for Harper Collins, Fins, is about the life and times of Harley Earl, the visionary car designer who helped engineer the phenomenal rise of General Motors.

I found this summary of the book on Amazon.com:

The creators of Budweiser and Michelob beers, the Anheuser-Busch company is one of the wealthiest, most colorful and enduring family dynasties in the history of American commerce. In Bitter Brew, critically acclaimed journalist William Knoedelseder tells the riveting, often scandalous saga of the rise and fall of the dysfunctional Busch family—an epic tale of prosperity, profligacy, hubris, and the dark consequences of success that spans three centuries, from the open salvos of the Civil War to the present day.

You can read an excellent review of this book, published in The Wall Street Journal by Roger Lowenstein by clicking on this link:

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323830404578143523214886126?KEYWORDS=Fall+of+the+House+of+Busch&mg=reno64-wsj  

Lowenstein is the author of The End of Wall Street and Buffett:  The Making of an American Capitalist.

The selection of this book for the First Friday Book Synopsis is not automatic.  There are other considerations as to whether we will go back and get one like this.  I will discuss this more fully with Randy Mayeux.  His call has been very reliable, and predictive of long-term success.  In one of his previous blog posts, he noted that in 2013, he had presented seven best-sellers that are still on the New York Times best-seller list, while I only had one during the same period.  There is no guarantee we will decide to work this one in.  Regardless of what we decide to do, and no matter what you drink, this is quite a saga, and worth a careful read.

Maybe you could pop one while reading it!  Note – that’s not what I did.  I prefer to concentrate on what I am reading, and remember what I read.

 

Saturday, March 15, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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