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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Taking Down the Christmas Tree

Each year our family puts up a Christmas tree. My principal role in this annual ritual is to serve as unskilled labor. I drive my wife to the local United Methodist church, which sells the trees as a fundraiser. I hold the candidate trees with my leather work gloves while she methodically compares and chooses; lash her selection into the trunk, and wrestle it into the tree stand in our living room. After that, I’m not allowed to do anything else associated with the process.
That’s when my wife, serving as skilled labor, takes over. With delicate care she unwraps hundreds of ornaments she’s collected over our nearly 37 years of marriage. She then selects the precise branch on which to display each. Slowly she creates a mosaic of bright-colored wood carvings, ceramics, hand-sewn fabric figures, multifaceted crystals, and tiny white lights from top to bottom. This glittering mélange gets joined together by a two-inch wide, finely textured gold silk ribbon that winds around the tree from its base to the gold-silk, tree-top bow. And while I admire the annual tree in the aggregate, I never understood it until one time (in January) when my wife asked me to help take down the decorations.
For once, I wasn’t in a rush to just get it done. I actually looked at the decorations.

“Hey, didn’t your mother make this one?”
“No, that’s the one Mrs. Maupin made. She’s in a nursing home now.”
“What about this one?” I ask, holding up a delicate tin star with fine-hammered designed impressions covering its surface.
“From Santa Fe,” she said, referring to a family trip to New Mexico in 2001.
Then my wife held up an ornament that said, “Federal Bureau of Investigation,” one from my days as an FBI agent.
“Here’s one from Julie when she first started painting,” she said, holding up a glass ball hand painted by a woman whose first art gallery showing we’d attended a year ago.
Then more ornaments came down: the walnuts my wife had painted red and topped with green felt leaves to look like strawberries—hand-crafted to save money when we were young and broke; the carved miniature figures like the old, bearded Alpine skier, which we picked up traveling and camping in Europe when my wife was pregnant with our first child, now 34; the silver claddagh, an Irish symbol of love, friendship and loyalty, given to us, like a number of other ornaments, from close friends we’d made over the years as we moved around the country; the raft of gaily colored felt ornaments of whimsical characters that my mother-in-law and her friends—many now gone or infirmed—had sewn by hand in their church basement; the University of Virginia ornament, representing the place where I also used to work; and the rudimentary ornaments our now-adult children made when they were very small.
Two ornaments in particular caught my attention. One was a tiny colored-glass encrusted frame with a picture of my wife and her father, “Pop,” who died several years ago. The photo was taken at his 90th birthday party—one of the last large clan gatherings he was able to attend. His health declined over the next year and, after hospitals, hospice and heartaches, he died—leaving a gaping hole in our holidays, not to mention our family.
The other special ornament I noticed was a grey cat in a basket. Originally, this particular decoration had represented “Mellie,” my wife’s cat from many years ago. After Pop’s death when my widowed mother-in-law was feeling lonely, she decided, with some urging from my wife, to get a cat. We all went to the animal shelter and found “Smokey,” a beautiful grey cat who has become a loving member of the family. My wife picked up these two special ornaments and inspected them before wrapping them with deliberate care and putting them away with the others in the large box marked “Christmas Ornaments” to be stored away for next year’s tree.
Participating in the careful undoing of our tree has given me a new appreciation for this old custom. Christmas trees are much more than holiday accessories that provide a wide base for mounds of gifts—they are bright tapestries of memories and living histories of our lives. Every decoration on our tree symbolizes a story about someone who’s crossed our family’s path, and every year the tree gives us a way of honoring those people and our relationship with them. It’s a way of retelling our family history so we don’t forget. And when our children have their own families, their own trees, their own rituals, I hope they’ll have an ornament or two to remember us by. *
*This story originally appeared in the Washington Post in 2008 -- the title the editor's used was The Undoing of Christmas Becomes a Joyous Surprise.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Who was with you today in the shower? Mindlessness in a frantic world.

When I was showering this morning, it got pretty crowded!

There was the VP of Human Relations I’d be speaking to later this morning; the couple I would be having lunch to talk about their new business; and my PT therapist who will be working on my sore

Simply put, when a challenge confronts us—an important meeting or a tough conversation with a relative—the oldest part of our brain (the limbic brain), and especially an almond-shaped structure called the amygdala registers threat. That sends the brain on a kind of wild-goose chase, mostly in search of safety and certainty. Remember at this instinctive level, the brain doesn’t know that it’s reacting to reality or fiction at this point. Adrenalin and cortisol get pumped into our body based on the mind not knowing the difference between a movie or someone cutting us off on the highway.

Thousands of years ago when our ancestors were hunters in the wild, they would get stimulated by hunting for food. But after the hunt, they would sit around, eat, rest and digest. During those rest periods they recovered before the next round of survival challenges. The problem today: We direct and play in many fictional movie “hunts” within our own brains. We’ve become good movie producers—creating movies (or narratives) in our own minds. Thus, in today’s hyperactive world, we get sent on repeated mental hunting expeditions. Unfortunately, we get little rest and recovery between “hunts,” which in time mentally wears us out. We start to work even harder to solve our problems, real and imagined. Eventually, we sacrifice more and more of our time trying to catch up with everything going on in our real-and-imagined world: We have to impress our boss, have to attend every sports game kids will ever play, have to keep up the house, have to stay in shape…. The list of tasks—real and imagined—gets overwhelming. That’s how you end up with a crowd in your shower as you attempt to multi-task—an impossible activity. Neuroscientists have proven that we don’t multitask; rather, we do what’s called task switching—which actually degrades our performance on both activities. Finally, according to Professor Richard Boyatzis and his team at Case Western Reserve University, we keep giving more and more of ourselves to solve all the problems around us—he calls this The Sacrifice Syndrome. But eventually we slip into a state of exhaustion, frustration, and anger called “dissonance.” We become out of tune with others around us. And the best test to diagnose if we’re in the state of dissonance is if everyone around us looks like a jerk—When actually, we’re the jerk! And the bad news is that, because of our overprotective amygdala, dissonance is the default.

Question: So, what’s the antidote to dissonance? Answer: Mindfulness, the antithesis of mindlessness. Instead of engaging in multitasking, mindfulness puts us in the present state, right here, right now—attending to only one activity at a time. So, eating mindfully is a much slower process involving savoring, chewing, swallowing and pausing to enjoy the taste—not gulping down a sandwich on the way to a meeting. The good news about becoming more mindful is that it’s triggered by something we do unconsciously all the time: Breathing. Mindful breathing requires some discipline and practice, but not much to get started. However, it does take an investment over time if you want to get good at it.

To get started, try this. Sit in a chair—more toward the front of it, not leaning or slouching into the back of the chair. Sit upright in an alert but comfortable position. Put both feet on the ground and your hands on your lap. Now, just breathe. There’s no single best way. Just breathe in and out slowly. This is mindful breathing—especially when you concentrate on it by thinking in your mind, I’m breathing in and now I ‘m breathing out. Such deep, concentrated breathing begins to relax your mind and switch your body from the fight-flight mode to the rest-and-recovery mode. Don’t worry if your mind wanders, daydreams, or raises thoughts about the past or future. That’s normal. Just treat those thoughts as clouds passing by and refocus on your breathing. Eventually, you’ll get good as you practice more. It’s like weightlifting for your brain—without all the sweat!

If you begin to practice this state of mindful breathing, eventually your reaction to the stimuli around you, real and imagined, starts to slow way down. You’re less likely to get anxious, upset or angry because mindful breathing becomes part of your adaptation reflex. Literally, in time, you’ll start to take a deep breath or two or three before responding and reacting to whatever’s going on. That powerful pause gets learned by practice. Start by practicing mindful breathing for just 2 minutes a day and tie it into to your daily routine—after breakfast, before you start your car, when you arrive at the office. Remember that regularity and habit are more important than duration or episodic events.

And when you take a “mindful shower” with just you and the warm water, you’ll know you’re making progress.

tendon later today. These unlikely shower mates were all characters in an adventure movie playing in my mind. However, neuroscientists would be quick to point out that our bodies don’t know what’s real or what’s fiction. When we slip into a monkey-brain, mindless state, our bodies react as if the movie were real. Notice how you can watch a James Bond chase scene and how your body reacts—you feel it in your stomach, you grip the arm rests of your seat. When you’re in the shower, driving to work, or sitting at lunch, you have a choice: To be either mindless or mindful. And while it’s always a choice, for most of us mindlessness and dissonance are the default. This has both a biological and evolutionary basis.

Monday, December 7, 2015

An Essay: Finding Your Larry Bird

Finding Your Larry Bird
By Steve Gladis
We all need a touchstone—someone who makes us the best person we can be. I’m not talking about superstition, like rubbing the bald guy’s head before you place a bet at the race track or throwing salt over your shoulder for good luck. No, I’m talking about finding the person who makes you the best you possible— your Larry Bird.

Who is Larry Bird?  If you don’t know pro basketball, Larry played his entire career with the Boston Celtics. He’s arguably one of the very best to ever play the game. He’s been on 3 NBA championship teams, been the MVP several times, was on the Olympic Dream Team, coached the Indiana Pacers and now is their president and guiding light. In Boston and Indiana, Larry Bird is an immortal.
Larry’s coach, the famed and storied Red Auerbach, regarded Bird as one of the most coachable players ever. As legend has it, Auerbach had a rule that no matter who scored, Bird had to touch the ball at least once on offense, because 99% of the time Bird would make the best decision about whether to pass or shoot. Larry Bird was the natural touchstone for the Boston Celtics. In fact, one quote attributed to Bird affirms this legendary practice of having Bird touch the ball:  "It doesn't matter who scores the points, it's who can get the ball to the scorer.”  
Like basketball, business has had its share of great leaders with their own Larry Birds. Steve Jobs (the marketing genius) had Steve Wozniak (the technical genius) to pass to at Apple. At Microsoft, Bill Gates had Paul Allen. Warren Buffet has Charlie Munger at Berkshire Hathaway. Michael Eisner had his own Larry Bird at Disney, now deceased Frank Wells. And, Larry Paige and Sergey Brin have each other at Google.
Some people are lucky enough to find their touchstone. I married mine! My wife, Donna, has always been my Larry Bird. She has the uncanny ability to always stay calm, untangle emotion and facts, and either “pass or shoot the ball” at exactly the right time.  In short, she gets the ball to the scorer. There are many examples in my life. I remember when I was set to leave the FBI where I had been an agent for years. I was being recruited by a large firm. In fact, they had made me a very nice offer, which I was close to accepting. However, I brought home an advertisement for a job on the faculty of the University of Virginia that a friend had given me. Donna saw it and thought it might be worth my consideration. When I mentioned how financially good the firm’s offer was, she said, “You’ve never been about money.” She was right, and I ended up at the University where I was very happy.
The two keys to finding your own Larry Bird are simple: Look and listen.
Look at what people do. The Romans had a saying, “facta, non veba,” which means “deeds, not words.”  People say, even promise, all sorts of things but often don’t actually deliver. For example, an executive might give speeches about integrity and honesty and then do shady things to maximize corporate profits and look good to Wall Street. A father might talk about healthy eating to his children and then constantly stuff his face with junk food. Sure, we all disconnect from our words from time to time—but the Larry Birds of the world have a better track record at staying close to what they say. In my world, Donna’s as consistent a person as I’ve ever met. Her say-do consistency is remarkable. So, keep your eyes wide open for people who consistently do what they say.
Listen to what they say. While I don’t have a lot of empirical data to support this, my personal and professional experience with thoughtful advisors has been heavily weighted on the side of introverts. And there is data on them. In the world, there are roughly 3 times as many talkers (extroverts), as there are listeners (introverts). This means that there’s a lot of chatter or noise going on. However, when extroverts talk, it’s like brainstorming. It’s often unrehearsed and free form. Don’t listen too much to extroverts, at least not to their early “rough drafts.” If you let them talk long enough, you may get to what they really mean.  However when an introvert speaks, listen up. Introverts don’t “publish” words or advice unless they’ve thought about it a lot and are strongly committed to what they’re saying. Donna is the kind of person who talks softly and a lot less frequently, certainly less than me. Something we extroverts need to learn is to shut up and listen. Often the wisdom of an introvert can get muted by the barrage of words from extraverts. Be careful to avoid suppressing introverts and listen.
In short, it might take you some time to find your Larry Bird. But if you find a person with a sense of say-do integrity who speaks softly but profoundly, you might just have found yours. Run your critical ideas by them before you shoot or pass the ball—you’ll be glad you did.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Leadership Essay: In Praise of Working Mothers by Steve Gladis

In Praise of Working Mothers

In my life, I have been a jerk—regrettably, on more than one occasion. Just ask my wife. Fortunately, I have learned a lot. Indeed, the great gift of aging is wisdom.

In one of my many states of “jerkdom,” I believed that in the workplace everyone should be treated equally, including working mothers. That sounds like a great democratic notion, however impossible and wrong-headed. Many critics of such special accommodations are often men—like me years ago—and woman without children, both of whom share once tragic flaw: They have NO idea what it means to be a working mother. Personally, I did not appreciate what it took to work full time and raise a family. In my era, one partner worked and the other stayed home to raise the children—usually, but not always, the wife.

However, when I had a close-up-and-personal look at what my two grown daughters, both with young boys,  have to do just to get out of the house in the morning to get to work, I was stunned. It’s like having two full-time jobs, not one: Your “work” job and your child-rearing job. And in many cases you also run the family business—the household—a third job. It’s a wonder more working mothers don’t just quit all their jobs and head off to Tahiti to escape.

If propagating the species is one of humankind’s primary responsibilities, we have to make special accommodations for working mothers. It’s simple: No new babies, no future for the world. We accommodate the workplace for all sorts of reasons: Injuries as well as both physical mental disabilities. Surely, mothers don’t have a disability; rather, they just have the most important of all jobs—raising children.

So, how do you teach people who want equality in the workplace that raising kids requires the help of the village? I’ve heard of a great experiment that high school kids are put through to teach them about having children. Each of them is asked to bring in a five-pound sack of flour to class. For one month, they must take it everywhere with them or ask someone to take it, while they go to the bathroom or go out on a date! It doesn’t take long to get the big picture: Raising a bag of flower—that doesn’t get sick, doesn’t cry, and doesn’t need to be changed, rocked, taken to expensive daycare, fed, bathed, put to bed or be worried about—is still an enormous amount of work.

So, the next time some very-hard-working mother has to take her child to the doctor or stay home for an extra half-hour to help her child get over a nightmare—just ask yourself: How much do I care about the human race? 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Beyond Happy: FINAL Post

Final Words. Beth Cabrera has written an important book for women and men alike. We need to pay attention to what we expect from each other. Outdated social constructs around the role of women are not only irrelevant but also pernicious to a healthy, productive society. Men and women need to address policies, attitudes, and expectations. Moreover, Cabrera has given us all a clear path toward being happier, healthier and more purposeful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Beyond Happy: Post #5: Relationships R Us

Relationships ‘R’ Us.  Cabrera’s research reveals that close relationships with family and friends as well as coworkers have a huge effect on our well-being. Indeed, relationships are the foundation upon which Feeling Good and Doing Good rest. Family and Friends: A 30-year longitudinal study of Harvard grads concluded that human relationships (especially love) had the single greatest impact on people flourishing. Further, in study after study by significant psychologists, like Martin Seligman, Ed Diener and others, the results show that close relationships/friendships create happier, healthier and more engaged people. Coworkers: We often spend more of our awake, conscious time alongside people we work with. We want to belong to a tribe. So, connecting with people at work is important. In fact, if you have 3-5 good friends at work, you’re 50% more likely to stay in your job.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Beyond Happy: Post #4--Doing Good

Doing Good. When we have goals that are true to both our values and our strengths and that provide a positive, meaningful impact on others, we’re “in the zone” of true well-being. There are three conditions that will increase our sense of Doing Good: Live your values; Develop your strengths; and, Be generous. 1) Living into your values means figuring out what you value in life. Cabrera provides a list for readers to select key values. Focusing on values that matter produces purpose—the holy grail of doing good. 2) Developing your talents into your strengths is critical to success. And the key finding that emerged from Gallup’s extensive research shows that people are engaged, happy and most productive when working in their strengths. 3) Finally, generosity—serving others—rounds out the three areas of doing good. Research by Wharton’s Adam Grant demonstrates the powerful effects of generosity on finding purpose and being productive. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Beyond Happy: Post #3--Feeling Good

Feeling Good. When we feel happy and positive, our lives get better. We get healthier and the people around us benefit from our positive emotions—especially if you’re a leader. Positive people have
lower levels of anxiety and depression, are more resilient and creative, and are healthier and more secure. Indeed the brain structure changes—morphs—based on what we think about. It’s called neuroplasticity. There’s been abundant research on positive emotions and how people get them. In particular, three conditions foster feeling good: Being mindful, grateful and hopeful.  1) According to the founder of the highly respected program Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “…paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.“ Mindfulness reduces stress, increases the space between stimulus and response, and helps us enjoy where we are right now. 2) Gratitude has been the subject of significant research showing that when we reflect daily on what we’re grateful for, it’s very difficult to be depressed. 3) Finally, hope in the future is critical to happiness; however, being hopeful is not just wishful thinking. Cabrera suggests the following: Visualize your ideal future, identify strategies to get there, keep a victory log of your success, and realize how much work it took your role models to get to where they are.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Beyond Happy: Post #2--No One Can Do it All

No One Can Do It All. How would you like two full-time jobs? Well, if you’re a woman in America today, there’s a pretty good chance that’s your fate, along with exhaustion. Outdated workplace policies, 19th century expectations of women, continuing gender discrimination (like pay), and a host of unfair public policies, like woefully inadequate maternity leave for mothers, all stack the deck against women. Cabrera recounts this with the precision and directness of a seasoned researcher and with the heart of a working mother, who has been there herself. And her key finding is that women want exactly what everyone wants: To live a happy and meaningful life. Her precise formula is that Well-Being = Feeling Good (happy and positive) and Doing Good (having a sense of meaning and purpose).

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Beyond Happy: Post #1--Overview

Overview. Beth Cabrera knows about working women and well-being. She’s a working mother, a
psychologist, and a professor who researches and teaches at the #1 Well-Being University in the country: George Mason. There’s no doubt that her book will become a roadmap for working mothers who want to lead a happier, healthier life. She presents a compelling argument why women can’t do it all. She also presents a much better alternative: Well-being. Her formula contains two simple and powerful factors: Feeling Good (being mindful, grateful, and hopeful) and Doing Good (living your values, developing your strengths, and having a positive impact). She also presents compelling data, stories, and fascinating research around the most important element of thriving—being socially connected by having positive interactions, showing appreciation, establishing trust, and being generous.

Beyond Happy: Women, Work, and Well-Being by Beth Cabrera (Association for Talent Development, 2015)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Search Inside Yourself: Post #5--Positivity

More on Positivity
a.    Self-Motivation. The author introduces three kinds of motivators—Pleasure (chasing ego
b.    Resilience happens when you align work with values and purpose, and you envision the desired future state.  Resilience can be trained on three levels: 1) Inner calm from meditation; 2) Emotional resilience from treating emotions as experiences, not that identify us; 3) Cognitive resilience—optimism vs. pessimism and how we explain failure to ourselves: Are we doomed victims of our failure (pessimism), or is it just an experience that can be overcome with personal power (optimism)?
c.    Empathy. “First seek to understand, then to be understood“ (Covey). Mirror neurons are the basis for empathy—feeling what others are feeling. We tend to empathize with people whom we understand and like. Empathy can be both practiced and learned.
satisfiers); Passion (finding flow—where performance and challenge intersect); Purpose (being part of something bigger than yourself).

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Search Inside Yourself: : Post #4--Mental Habits

Creating Useful Mental Habits
a.    Triggers. Simple comments by our boss or spouse can trigger an emotional response from the amygdala that sends a message to the upper, cognitive brain for help in adapting to a stressor. Sometimes the response is appropriate and proportionate, other times, not so much. The trick is to take enough time before responding to process it more cognitively and less emotionally.
b.    Coping practice. Try using the pneumonic Siberian North Railroad (SBNRR): Stop (find the “sacred pause”). Breathe (reinforce the pause). Notice (recognize and name the physical bodily reaction). Reflect (figure out where the emotion is coming from). Respond (in a way that ends positively).

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Search Inside Yourself: Post #3--Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence. The fathers of emotional intelligence (EI), John Mayer and Peter Salovey, define it this way: “The ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions…” Further, Daniel Goleman later popularized emotional intelligence by adding a useful structure to EI: Self Awareness, Self–Regulation, Motivation, Empathy, and Social Skills. 

a.    Self-Awareness. Goleman identified three elements of self-awareness: 1) Emotional awareness—understanding the effects of emotions on yourself. 2) Self-assessment—understanding your strengths and challenges. 3) Self-confidence—understanding your self-worth.

b.    Self-Mastery. Goleman identified five elements: 1) Self-control—keeping emotions in control; 2) Trustworthiness—being honest and having integrity; 3) Conscientiousness—being responsible for our actions; 4) Adaptability—handling change well; and, 5) Innovation—initiating change.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Search Inside Yourself: Post #2--Attention Getting

Attention Getting:
--Response-pause. Victor Frankl, famed psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, teaches that between the external stimulus and our response to it rests a potential pause, a space in which we choose how to react. To respond to others in an emotionally appropriate way, we need to practice and develop this “sacred pause”; moreover, mindfulness meditation is one of the best ways to develop the sacred pause.
--Mindfulness meditation, developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, is about “paying attention in a particular way on purpose, in the present moment—nonjudgmentally.”  In essence, concentrating on our breathing slows down the brain’s fire alarm, the amygdala, and thus opens up the brain to being fully present and aware. Simply labeling your emotions can slow down and manage that emotion (Lieberman).
-- Paying attention to other people, especially in conversation, is at the heart of the discussion about attention. Giving others our attention is the greatest of all gifts. We show how we value others by how well we listen and put them first in the conversation.  ‘The most precious gift we can give others is our presence (Thich Nhat Hanh).’

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Search Inside Yourself: Post #1--Overview

Overview Google asked what would happen if people practiced contemplative practices
in their work lives. From that thought grew a mindfulness-based, emotional-intelligence focused program, which now stands at the center of Google’s employee development. That new program is called Search Inside Yourself. This program focuses on three steps: Attention getting, self-knowledge and self-mastery, and creating useful mental habits. Attention getting focuses on mindfulness training—calming the mind to prepare it for higher-order problem solving. Self-knowledge and self-mastery are the core elements of emotional intelligence that separate the good from the great leaders. Creating useful mental habits focuses on developing positive habits like kindness, optimism and empathy. Google’s “jolly good fellow” Chade-Meng Tan has written the book that might just revolutionize corporate America—and even change the world.

Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace) by Chade-Meng Tan (HarperOne, 2014), reviewed by Steve Gladis, September 2015.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Team of Teams: FINAL Post

Final Word on the author: I had the opportunity to chat with Stan

McChrystal while writing in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, one Saturday morning. I had just posted his TED talk when he came into the coffee shop and sat down at a table next to mine. An intelligent and gracious guy, Stan is a true national treasure. In fact, his work with the Aspen Institute to create a year of national service for young Americans is something I’ve philosophically supported for many years. I just hope that he’ll be as successful at this endeavor as he was at his military career. I congratulate him on a fine book.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Team of Teams: Post #6-- Engineering isn't Leadership

Engineering is Not Leading. For engineers, problem solving is often
the Holy Grail. A set of inputs and expected outputs, a formula, a way to solve it and voila—problem solved.  And if you spot any new problem that looks like the old one, simply apply the same old solution. However, when the problem morphs from day to day, traditional engineers, such as commanders hatched at West Point, had to adapt their problem-solving skills to successfully lead. This is from an insightful foreword to Team of Teams by the author of The Innovators, Walter Isaacson: “Efficiency remains important, but the ability to adapt to complexity and continual change has become an imperative.”

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Team of Teams: Post #5--Delegate, not Micromanage

Delegate but Don’t Micromanage. Intuitive to many of us today but less obvious years ago while under the Taylor efficiency shadow, micromanagement of every step in a process is a ticket to frustration and disengagement. McChrystal and his commanders learned that the more delegation down the chain of command a commander allowed, the more likely the decisions made were equally as good as if being made by commanders themselves.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Team of Teams: Post #4--Space

Space Makes a Difference.  Indeed, the physical layout of an enterprise can make a big difference in how the organizational culture grows.  More open and fluid workspaces allow leaders to communicate more openly and efficiently than in an isolated atmosphere. “Serendipitous interaction” takes place when people hang out near each other and can literally bump into each other and share ideas.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Team of Teams: Post #3 Trust and Communcation

Teams, Trust, and Communication. For teams to be effective, there must be a sense of trust among team members as well as a shared common purpose. Moreover, successful enterprises must be made up of a “team of teams,” which also shares trust between and among teams as well as an enterprise-wide sense of purpose and meaning. Trust is built by collaboration and communication, not on competition between members of a single team or between teams. When team members and teams of teams have high trust, they’re more likely to share resources in service of the greater good. On the other hand, rigid command structures tend to lead to “tribalism” and distrust.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Team of Teams: Post #2--Efficient, not Effective?

Efficient is Not Always Effective. The authors dedicate a lot of space to Frederick Taylor’s reductionist theories of efficiency, which argue for step-by-step processes for products and service that are designed for maximum optimization and efficiency. Designed around reducing workers to near-robots with little say in how things get done, Taylor’s theories dominated at one time both industry and the military and in its day met a need to solve complicated problems; however, those theories were less effective years later when engaged workers and adaptive thinking were required for highly complex problems and in more unpredictable circumstances.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Team of Teams: Post #1--Overview

Overview. General Stanley McChrystal and his author team tell us that to beat an agile foe
in an uncertain environment, an efficient team is never as effective as an adaptive one. Restructuring the Joint Special Operations Command from a classic command-and-control military management style to a more team-based, team of teams, McChrystal was far better able to fight the allusive al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) under the notorious leadership of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Forsaking the Frederick Taylor reductionist paradigm of always being efficient and effective, at the expense of being adaptive, even entrepreneurial,  McChrystal remade his command into a team of teams—adaptive, trustful and with common purpose—one that communicated well, asked questions, and figured out how to be successful in an uncertain environment.

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, David Silverman, Chris Fussell (Kindle Edition, Penguin, 2015), Reviewed by Steve Gladis, August 2015).

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Fully Charged: FINAL Post

Energy. We get our energy from taking care of ourselves and caring for others.

Rath’s advice about energy is also the title of a former best seller—Eat, Move, Sleep.
a.    Eat: No surprise here—eat more fruits and vegetables, less sugar and processed food. Protein in the morning increases levels of dopamine—keeping us in a better mood and reducing cravings. Put healthy foods in sight and don’t buy unhealthy ones.
b.    Move: We spend 9.3 hours sitting—more time than we do sleeping. Sitting is the new smoking. In terms of negative health implications, it’s “the sitting disease.” Every two hours of sitting reduces 20 minutes of exercise benefit. So, sitting for 8 hours pretty much negates even a great workout. Physiology: Sitting stops electrical activity in your legs, calorie burn is only 1 calorie per minute, fat break-down enzymes drop by 90%, and good cholesterol drops by 20%!  However, walking increases energy levels by 150%.
c.    Sleep: Losing sleep decreases your well-being, productivity and health. The average American sleeps about 7 hours, but elite performers get 8.5 hrs. of sleep a night. Also, frequent breaks make a big difference—ideally, break 15 minutes every hour. Sleep loss: losing 90 minutes reduces alertness by a third, and a loss of up to 4 hours of sleep is like the impairment effect of drinking a 6-pack of beer. Make your room like a cave—cool, dark and quiet.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fully Charged: Post #3--Interactions

Interactions. Keep your interactions positive and watch your life change.
a.    Ripple Effect: When we act happy, are kind, even lose weight—do anything positive—we can positively impact 10 and even 100 people around us (Yale research). And frequency of interactions is more important than intensity of our interaction. Little things count, not amazing gestures. People experiencing them are four times more likely to have a high level of well-being. Also, the closer you live to someone who’s kind or loving, the higher your happiness—up to 40% more if a half mile or less.
b.    Positive Ratios: When we interact with people, negative statements far outweigh positive ones. In fact, it takes about 3 positive ones to counter 1 negative one. Rath suggests 80% of our conversations should be focused on what’s going well; however, work-related performance reviews do just the reverse—spend 80% of the time on what’s not working well. Also, small acts add up: Studies show that making someone smile with a kind gesture is more important than trying to make them happy. Small, concrete goals to help the well-being of another make the difference.
c.    Make Experiences Count: Invest in experiences with other people, not simply on yourself. Such experiences have a greater impact and a more lasting one. Even if you’re waiting in line for an experience, like buying tickets to a concert, you’ll enjoy it more. However, this does not work if you’re just trying to impress someone.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Fully Charged: Post #2--Meaning

Meaning. Find meaning and purpose in your life.
a.    Progress toward meaningful work every day is what people seek, according to Harvard researcher Teresa Amabile. And, small wins get to meaningful progress. Pursue meaning by helping others, not happiness focused only on yourself. There is science/biology behind this purpose vs. happiness dilemma. People who lack meaning in their lives express a gene pattern that activates an inflammatory response, which can become chronic. However, people with purpose in their lives showed no such gene expression.
b.    Motivation from meaningful intrinsic values (recognition, respect, and impact) and not extrinsic (rewards and money) has significant positive impact on people’s lives. Research: Before starting to write, writers who thought about intrinsic motivations vs. those who thought about extrinsic motivation produced much better writing. People who did meaningful work outside of their work, performed better at work.
c.    Strengths: According to Gallup’s intensive research on strengths, we all have distinctive talents, which can develop into world-class strengths only if we recognize and practice those talents. And when we use those developed strengths, people are six times more engaged at work and three times more satisfied.  Unfortunately, we can often “fall into the default career path” and pursue a job because our parents or mentors think it’s a good idea, often without regard for our talents. Job crafting (U. of Michigan) instructs us to look at tasks that give us energy and meaning in our work and recast our jobs toward those tasks.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Fully Charged: Post #1--Overview

 Overview. Take care of yourself and others,  and you’ll see your life unfold into a life
worth living. In essence, this is the core of Tom Rath’s new book Fully Charged. His formula for being fully charged in life is as simple as it is powerful. 1. Meaning: Find meaning and purpose in your life by doing something for another person—reach beyond self to others; 2. Interactions: When you interact with others, focus on positive encounters; 3. Energy: Make good choices (eat, move, sleep) to improve your mental and physical state. With an elegant blend of research, personal stories, and examples, Tom Rath hits another home run.
Are You Fully Charged? The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life by Tom Rath (Silicon Guild, 2015), reviewed by Steve Gladis, June 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Work Rules: FINAL--Performance

Performance—Bock provides an in-depth look into the struggle that Google had with
performance assessment and why they separate it from development discussions. Pay: he suggests paying people “unfairly,” meaning that high performers deserve much more money than average workers; Bias: We’re all biased in one form or another, so remove it from the selection process. Check out the summary in the appendix of the book—in the “Work Rules” section.

New Kind of HR. In the “Afterword for HR Geeks Only,” the author provides a blueprint for this new kind of HR. This section will be critical to anyone trying to build a great company with great people. This book is a very worthy read as is this particular section.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Work Rules:Post #4--Empowerment

Empowerment. Get rid of status. Google only has 4 employment levels: individual contributor, manager, director, and vice president. Making decisions needs to rely more on data than emotion or opinion. Does not mean emotion doesn’t factor in—just means it’s not the key driver. My favorite chapter title: “Let the Inmates Run the Asylum—Take power from your managers and trust your people to run things.” Clearly at a company the size of Google, rules are required; however, Googlers are encouraged to break the rules when it makes more sense. By taking power away from managers, they become more like coaches and less like referees.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Work Rules: Post #3--Recruitment and Hiring

Recruiting and Hiring. Google only hires 0.25% of applicants. Harvard

takes about 6.1% of its applicants. Thus, it’s about 25 times harder to get into Google than Harvard! Referrals from Googlers are the best source of recruits, but even that yields only 5%.  Treat hiring as the highest priority. Take time, hire the best and make recruiting part of everyone’s job. Note: The hiring manager does not make the final decision! People are being hired into the company, not just a particular division. Also, pressure can make a hiring manager rush, give in, and settle. Write-ups from the manager, peers, and others go to a hiring committee that keeps selection more objective. What they look for in new hires: 1. Cognitive ability—ability to learn; 2. Emergent Leadership—willing to step in and step out; 3. Cultural Fit—comfortable with ambiguity and conscientious humility; 4. Expertise—need to be very good at their work.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Work Rules: Post #2--Google's Culture

Cornerstones of Google’s Culture. The philosophy at Google
is that people are fundamentally good [often called “Theory Y”]. Thus, Google is a high-freedom culture—allowing people rather than restricting them, saying yes much more often than no. Three fundamental drivers of Google’s culture:

Meaning--A mission that matters—Google: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Companies with strong cultures—Google, IBM, Wegmans—all have a kind of moral imperative rather than a strictly business or financial goal. Great people “…want an aspiration that’s inspiring.” And they want to be able to directly connect their job to the company’s mission. There’s a very good research illustration about how fundraisers who talked with scholarship recipients quadrupled their results.  Getting employees to think like owners and see their work as a calling, not just a job, is a clear focus at Google and other high-freedom, mission-focused cultures.

Transparency--If you think people are basically good, then you should want to share corporate info with them—treat them like owners.  Google’s philosophy is “Default to open,” a model of transparency. For example, new engineers get to see Google’s source code on their first day! Google hosts TGIF every Thursday. Larry Page and Sergey Brin host an all-employee 30-minute meeting both in person and streaming video that gets broadcast around the world to Googlers. Anyone can ask any question. Transparency improves performance. Bridgewater Associates records every meeting and posts it for employees—call it “radical transparency.”

 Voice--Give people a say in how to run the company if you believe in the theory that people are fundamentally good. Through good corporate internal surveys, Google launched “Bureaucracy Busters”—an annual program targeted at reducing bureaucracy to get more done with less interference. Research at UT Austin has shown that giving  employees a voice is key to organizational effectiveness.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Work Rules: Post #1--Overview

Overview What do Google and Wegmans have in common? They both are high-freedom companies that believe employees really matter; they should have a worthy mission; they should get lots of corporate information (from a transparent organization); and, they should have a say—a “voice” in what happens.  Some great ideas emerge in this book, like not allowing hiring managers to make the final hiring decision, which eliminates any bias; hosting TGIF meetings where the CEO answers any questions in an open forum; and, treating HR as People Operations and conducting regular people experiments. Written by Google’s Chief of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, this book opens up Google’s people process to us and provides a worthy roadmap for any progressive company, big or small.

Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock (Kindle Edition Hachette Book Group, 2015), reviewed by Steve Gladis, June 2015.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Mindful Work: FINAL Post--Mindful Recap

Mindfulness Recap: Meditation is neither a religious exercise nor a fad. There’s 30 years of solid clinical science demonstrating its effectiveness. It’s becoming very mainstream, and the author warns against pop-mindful hucksters and argues for certification in the field. Finally, he encourages mindful consumption in our society to have an impact on the environment and on our own health.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Mindful Work: Post #7--Impact on Learning

Learning: We’re hard-wired to have a wandering mind—it’s evolutionary and protective;
however, “A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind” (Killingsworth and Gilbert). Experiments with high school and college kids showed improved memory and test results. SAT scores went from 460 to 520. Also lowered anxiety, depression, anger, and fatigue, and produced better immune-reactivity.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mindful Work: Post #6--Impact on Sports

Sports: Phil Jackson used meditation to help both the Chicago Bulls and the LA Lakers win 11 NBA Championships between them! He taught mindfulness to Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal. Letting go of bad shots or botched plays helped athletes bounce back. Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks is also using mindfulness with his team.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Mindful Work: Post #5--Corporate Impact

Corporate Impact: Adding to the quadruple bottom line—profits, society, environment, and now employees’ emotional and spiritual well-being. Companies like Google, General Mills, Aetna, Linkedin, Twitter, Goldman Sachs, Genentech, Ford, Cisco and many others have adopted meditation-based programs to calm executive minds, contributing to better leadership. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mindful Work: Post #4--Impact--Personal

Personal: Meditation calms the anxious and depressed brain, makes us less stressed, and makes us more compassionate with others. Mindfulness even overcomes the “bystander effect” by threefold! Stress isn't caused by what is happening in our lives but by how we respond to it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mindful Work: Post #4--Impact on Health

Health: "Stress finds you. You have to go looking for relaxation." Stress helped us evolutionarily, but not quite as much anymore. An overactive amygdala results in heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression and anxiety, fatigue and muscle pain. Highly stressed people are more excitable, less productive, and eat up health care costs. Mindfulness reduces cortisol levels, aids the immune system, increases happiness, and calms you down. In short: Mindfulness makes us resilient! And, stress is contagious—especially if you’re a leader.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mindful Work: Post #3--Mindfulness Impact

Mindfulness Impact. Mindfulness meditation thickens the prefrontal cortex (executive center) of the brain, responsible for positive behavior and appropriate responses; stimulates the hypothalamus, which increases learning and memory in the brain; and shrinks and dulls the effects of the amygdala (the brain’s fire alarm), making us less likely to overreact to stress. Kids in school who practice mindfulness paid better attention and were in control of their emotions. Pro-social behavior is a direct result of meditation in kids—and others. Check out the impact mindfulness has on us.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mindful Work: Post #2--The Basics of How to Meditate

The Basics. Gelles starts with a basic definition: “Mindfulness is about increasing our
a.    Sit in a chair, or on a cushion, or lie down.
b.    Take slow, deep breaths, concentrating on each breath.
c.    When your mind wanders, notice it and bring it back to the breath.
d.    Break from your busy, hectic life twice a day for time to meditate (2-20 minutes)—and quiet down the mind.
awareness of what’s happening in our minds, throughout our bodies and in the world around us.” The best way to keep our thoughts focused on the present—neither ruminating about the past nor getting anxious about the future—is meditation. Here’s how you do it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mindful Work--Post #1--Overview

Overview. Mindfulness meditation is like taking your brain to the gym for a workout. In fact, I believe it will become as popular as running has become for fitness. Sit quietly and focus on your breathing—that’s meditation in a nutshell. When thoughts come—about an argument you had yesterday, about a deadline that’s looming, or about the lawn to be mowed—simply acknowledge the thought and go back to concentrating on your breathing. The more you practice this, the stronger your mind gets. It’s like doing mental pushups—you get more resilient and stronger over time. The clinical findings have proven its effectiveness: mindful meditation helps reduce heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression and anxiety, fatigue and muscle pain. In experiments, it has reduced cortisol levels, aided immune systems, increased happiness, and even calmed kids down. Many companies, from Google to General Mills to Goldman Sachs, have significantly invested in mindful meditation for their employees.

Mindful Work: How Meditation is Changing Business from the Inside Out (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) by David Gelles, reviewed by Steve Gladis, May 2015.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Creativity: FINAL POST--Distilled Wisdom

Distilled Wisdom Ed Catmull has developed principles and advice from his Pixar experiences. Here are a few aggregations:

a.    People: Hire smart ones, let them have a voice, make them know they matter, and help them grow.
b.    Teams: Mediocre teams will kill a great idea, but great teams will grow a mediocre idea.
c.    Truth: Invite differences, disagree, drive out fear, share problems; “there should not be more truth in the hallways than in meetings.”
d.    Failure: Failure is and must be an option, uncertainty is part of life, and managers should not prevent risk taking but make it safe to do so.
e.    Change: Don’t wait for perfection to expose new ideas to the light, don’t measure competence by mistakes made but by ability to solve problems, think differently, protect new ideas from naysayers; it takes a lot of energy to change.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Creativity: Post #6--Post Mortem

Post Mortem: This section covers collective problem solving, setting limits, integrating art and technology, and doing post mortem meetings on a produced film in preparation for the next film. Change, unpredictability and randomness are certain, and all are opportunities for creativity. Catmull explains the value of play (as release) and that changing course on a project is not a sign of failure.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Creativity: Post#5--The Hidden

The Hidden: Catmull introduces the concept of “The Hidden,” the blind spots we all have in our personalities.  Often we have a personal mental model that can keep us from exploring alternative paths—like not crossing a threshold into the unknown future.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Creativity: Post #7 -- Building and Sustaining

Building and Sustaining:  Catmull believes that we all have our own mental models that determine how we see the world—what we filter out. To sustain creativity and energy, Catmull developed 8 mechanisms. Here are some of them.
1. Solving problems together as a group. Editors, animators and others showed their dailies in early form, making them all vulnerable and exposing them to differing points of view.
2. Taking research trips. The teams visited venues that helped the film. For example, when working on Ratatouille, the team went to Paris to eat! 3.
Conducting short experiments. Producing short films helped the teams test out new technologies and stories by experimenting.
4. Learning to see. Catmull brought in an artist to teach the teams to be more observant.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Creativity: Post#4--The Ugly Baby and the Hunger

The Ugly Baby: Catmull found that the industry was always hungry for the next box office smash—he call this insatiable lust for content, “The Hunger.” However, early ideas were what he calls “The Ugly Baby,” which had to be protected from a premature release to The Hunger. Lots of conflict happened at Pixar when there was tension between “the Beast [Hunger] vs. the Baby.” 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Creativity: Post #3-- Protecting the New

Protecting the New Catmull discusses the importance of trust and candor in relationships.  In the book, he focuses on how to reframe the fear of failure as useful, normal and the path toward success—more of a learning experience. To get to the truth, he created “the Braintrust” of various stakeholders to gather periodically and give very honest feedback about what worked and did not work in a film.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Creativity: Post #2--Getting Started

Getting Started—This section of the book covers Ed Catmull’s formative years—a mini autobiography. He dreamt of being an animator for Disney one day. In college, he studied physics and computer science and always wanted to merge art with computers. His first animation as a university student was a short film, “The Hand”—a great success. George Lucas hired him to work on Star Wars. There, he met John Lasseter and later linked up with Steve Jobs when Lucas sold Pixar to Jobs. Then, Jobs, Lasseter and Catmull grew Pixar into the powerhouse it has become. After they signed a 3-film deal with Disney, “Toy Story” became the first full-length animated film and Catmull’s dream came true…but much more was to happen.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Creativity: Post #1--Overview

Overview: This is a book about the journey of creativity as seen through the eyes of a man who created an entire industry—animated films. Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and president of Pixar and Disney Animation, has written a book to guide other companies that need to innovate in an uncertain environment—like today.  Readers get a mini-autobiography starting with Catmull’s childhood dream of one day being a Disney animator to his assent to president of animation. We also get a world-class explanation about how to foster creativity in diverse groups by listening to input from everyone we work with, by using processes like the “braintrust” and “notes day” to make sure there is systematic evaluation and diversity of thought. Catmull also offers some great advice and wisdom on People, Teams, Truth, Failure, and Change.  For example: “There should not be more truth in the hallways than in meetings.” Read and heed this book if you want to innovate and survive in a changing world.

Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (Bantam Press, 2014) by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace, reviewed by Steve Gladis, April 2015.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Physics of Growth: FINAL Post--Portfolio Management

Managing the Growth Portfolio: As some learning launches show success, they will be entered into a portfolio of experiments—like a stock portfolio.  The manager might well balance these initially successful experiments in the portfolio as short- and long-term. Also, other criteria in balancing are: 1) Improvement initiatives (better, faster, cheaper); 2) New products or business models; 3) Acquisition (buying other companies or products).

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Physics of Business Growth: Post #5--Learning Launches

Identifying New Idea and Learning Launches: “Creativity is a team sport.”  The two stages of creativity are discovery and development. Contact with customers is critical. To create ideas use: Challenging, connecting, visualizing, collaborating, improvising, reframing, and playing. Idea generation math: 1,000 ideas, to 100 experiments, to 10 initiatives that produce one or two successes! Experiment only on high potential ideas that create value, can be executed well by the company, are defendable from competitors and are scalable.  A learning launch is a low-cost, low-risk, small experiment to test a potential idea, collect data, and learn insights from the market. Analysis has dominated the process for change, and it’s caused as much paralysis as analysis and “the tyranny of ROI.” Large businesses stifle creativity by requiring too much analysis. Leaders need to allow, fund, and get out of the way of learning launches.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Physics of Business Growth: Post #4--Structure

Structure and Growth: Successful systems-aligned companies create innovative strategies, policies (especially HR), and cultures that are structured for change. Such companies celebrate success and “console” failure with lessons learned, ask questions, and are respectful, playful, open to new ideas, and curious. Best Buy serves as a good example with its innovative inverted pyramid—customers on top, employees next, finally servant leaders. Three approaches to innovative structure that promote growth: 1) Structure innovation initiative inside the company. Example: At Best Buy, the front of the house management is entrepreneurial and customer centric, but the back of the house is run by headquarters; 2) Segregate innovative initiative outside the company—like biotech where it may take years and cost a lot; 3. Build hybrids, like at IBM under Gerstner—Emerging Business Opportunities (EBO) to grow new opportunities that can become their own P&L organizations.  Engaged employees result from policies like promotion from within, good HR policies, perceived fairness in compensation and promotions, constructive feedback, equality, stock ownership and leader humility and stewardship.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Physics of Business Growth: Post #3--Systems

Growth Systems: Alignment accelerates growth. It does no one any good to have internal systems bumping into each other—stifling growth. Thus, HR policies, reward systems, culture and structure (to mention just a few) need to be tested and aligned to facilitate growth, not frustrate progress. For example, if CEOs are rewarded for quarterly growth, they’ll likely take short-term gain over the long view—creating just the opposite of growth. “Asking for new behaviors in a system that still encourages, measures, and rewards the old behaviors is a complete waste of time or, worse, engenders cynicism and mistrust.”  Successful growth companies—like Best Buy, Southwest Airlines and UPS—are rare and produce an engaged workforce; humble, passionate leaders; and a learning environment.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Phyiscs of Business Growth: Post #2--Mindsets

Creating Growth Mindsets: Leaders need to create the kind of environment where innovation can thrive. Chance favors the prepared mind, and mindset determines choices. A learning mindset, a broad repertoire of experiences, and customer empathy all create the kind of mindset required to thrive in an uncertain, adaptive environment. Cognitive diversity especially improves decision quality. Some creativity engineering techniques: Challenging assumptions; Connecting unrelated ideas; Visualizing how the future might look; Collaborating with diverse people (and customers); Improvising when necessity requires it; Reframing by asking a different question; and, Playful experimentation.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Physics of Growth: Post #1--Overview

Overview: The shift in the natural laws of the “physics” of business, from steady state to uncertainty, calls for a fundamental shift from business as usual to innovation and experimentation. To become a growth company, approaches must change when underlying assumptions change. Despite understanding this shift, fundamental mindsets, corporate values, systems and processes can be misaligned and work against critical, even survival, innovation. Research shows that growth companies leaders are both humble and passionate. The workforce is engaged, loyal, and really knows the customers.  The business has a simple strategy that everyone understands. These companies have a growth formula: Creating growth mindsets, building internally aligned growth systems, and having a growth process .
The Physics of Business Growth: Mindsets, System, and Processes (Stanford University Press, 2012) by Edward Hess and Jeanne Liedtka, reviewed by Steve Gladis, March 2015

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Zero-to-One: Post #8 FINAL--7 Questions

Seven Critical Questions 
Every Business Must Answer
1. Can you create breakthrough tech instead of incremental improvements? (Engineering);
2. Is now the right time to start your particular business? (Timing);
3. Are you starting with a big share of a small market? (Monopoly);
4. Do you have the right team? (People);
5. Do you have a way to not only create but also deliver your product? (Distribution);
6. Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future? (Durability);
7. Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see? (Secret). 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Zero-to-One: Post #7--Thiel's Tips

Thiel Tips.  Keep corporate boards small—no more than 5 unless you’re publically
traded; avoid part timers—either people are on or off the bus; CEOs of early stage startups should never make more than $150K to encourage innovation; equity can align people, but should align it to risk—the more risk and future orientation, the more equity.  However, even then be judicial about giving equity away—you want people fiercely loyal to your mission; define roles and keep it simple—maybe focus on only one critical role per person; incorporate distribution into design of a product or it will fail; complex, large scale sales don’t require salespeople but rather the CEO or senior exec; a product is viral when users invite their friends; paying people moderately ($20) to sign up and invite friends works; poor sales rather than bad product is the reason businesses fail; need to sell company to the press through media; computers won’t replace but will complement people—the future will be about how computers can help humans solve problems.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Zero-to-One: Post #6--Monopoly Secret

The Monopoly Secret. Competition and capitalism are opposites. “A great company is a conspiracy to change the world.”  The author warns being careful about who you tell your secret to…because mankind has always been unkind to people who expose their forward thinking to the world. Also, remember Thiel’s Law: “A startup mess up at its foundation cannot be fixed.” Bad partners in the beginning can haunt you forever. Carefully study “founding teams” before making investments into their company. For example, such teams should share a “prehistory” before starting a company; otherwise, it’s like investing in a blind date. However, you can’t go from Zero to One without a team. He distinguishes between ownership (who owns the company), possession (who runs it), and control (who governs it).

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