Thursday, April 20, 2017

Why Managers Can’t Skimp on Radical Candor

strategy+business, April 17, 2017

by Theodore Kinni

It’s been a long time since I was a wage slave. But if today’s workplace is anything like what Kim Scott describes in Radical Candor, it must be a nightmare. People are picking their noses, stinking up the joint with body odor, and tucking their underwear into the office furniture. They call each other “dumb-a**” and cry a lot. Crying. It sounds like preschool for grownups.

Or maybe that’s just business as usual in Silicon Valley, where Scott, an entrepreneur, executive, and executive coach, spent a decade or so. She ran online sales and service at Google’s AdSense, YouTube, and DoubleClick, where she worked for her Harvard Business School classmate Sheryl Sandberg. Then, she joined Apple University, where she designed and taught a course for first-time managers. With those unimpeachable credentials in hand, Scott struck out on her own, coaching CEOs at Twitter, Dropbox, and Qualtrics. In 2016, she cofounded Candor Inc., a training firm built around the concept of radical candor, which she developed.

Radical candor stems from Scott’s conviction that interpersonal relationships are the currency of management. “They determine whether you can fulfill your three responsibilities as a manager: 1) to create a culture of guidance (praise and criticism) that will keep everyone moving in the right direction; 2) to understand what motivates each person on your team well enough to avoid burnout or boredom and keep the team cohesive; and 3) to drive results collaboratively,” she writes. “If you think that you can do these things without strong relationships, you are kidding yourself” the rest of the review here

Friday, April 7, 2017

Investing in America’s Data Science and Analytics Talent

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand on this joint report:

Increasingly US jobs require data science and analytics skills. Can we meet the demand? The current shortage of skills in the national job pool demonstrates that business-as-usual strategies won’t satisfy the growing need. If we are to unlock the promise and potential of data and all the technologies that depend on it, employers and educators will have to transform.
This joint report from BHEF and PwC provides groundbreaking data science and analytics market intelligence informed by a Burning Glass Technologies workforce analysis and real-time survey data of business and higher education leaders from Gallup. The findings of this report document the emergence of the hybrid economy, in which companies in all sectors have become increasingly digital-intensive organizations. It also recommends at eight actions for change to put the supply of skills in balance with the demand.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

2017 Commercial Aviation Trends

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand on this Strategy& annual industry perspective:

What a difference a couple of years can make. In 2013, Warren Buffett called the commercial aviation industry a “death trap for investors.” In 2016, the legendary value investor spent more than US$1.3 billion buying the stock of four major U.S. commercial carriers: American Airlines, Delta, United Continental, and Southwest Airlines — and he has recently upped his stake to more than $8 billion.

Notwithstanding the speculation that this action is a precursor to Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, taking one of these major carriers private, Buffett seems to be betting that consolidation will continue to pay off for the airlines. He may or may not be right, but it is undeniable that airlines in the U.S. and in most other regions are enjoying a run of good results, buoyed by steadily rising demand and an extended drop in fuel costs. Industry-wide passenger traffic grew by 6.3 percent in 2016. And according to the latest International Air Transport Association (IATA) figures, commercial airlines posted their strongest financial performance ever in 2016 — reporting $35.6 billion in net profit, just a bit above 2015 results but nearly double those of 2014. For the third consecutive year (and only the third year in airline industry history), carriers reported a positive return on invested capital. Read the rest here...

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Flare and Focus of Successful Futurists

Enjoyed editing Amy Webb's adaptation of her book, The Signals Are Talking, for MIT Sloan Management Review:

Webb Book FuturistsFuturists are skilled at listening to and interpreting signals, which are harbingers of what’s to come. They look for early patterns — pre-trends, if you will — as the scattered points on the fringe converge and begin moving toward the mainstream. The fringe is that place where hackers are experimenting, academics are testing their ideas, technologists are building new prototypes, and so on. Futurists know most patterns will come to nothing, so they watch and wait and test the patterns to find those few that will evolve into genuine trends. Each trend is a looking glass into the future, a way to see over time’s horizon. This is forecasting: simultaneously recognizing patterns in the present and thinking about how those changes will impact the future so that you can be actively engaged in building what happens next — or at least be less surprised by what others develop. Forecasting is a learnable skill, and a process any organization can master.
Joseph Voros, a theoretical physicist and professor at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, offers my favorite explanation of future forecasting, saying it informs strategy making by enriching the “context within which strategy is developed, planned, and executed.” The advantage of forecasting the future in this way is obvious. Organizations that can see trends early enough to act can gain a first-mover advantage. They can also help shape the broader context, keenly understanding how developments in seemingly unconnected industries will affect them. Most organizations that track emerging trends are adept at conversing and collaborating with those in other fields to plan ahead.
While futures forecasting is a professional and academic discipline going back more than 100 years, few companies employ futurists. That’s starting to change as more leaders become familiar with the work futurists do. Accenture, Ford, Google, IBM, Intel, Samsung, and UNESCO all have futurists on staff, whose work is quite different from what happens within the traditional R&D function.
The futurists at these organizations know that their tools are best used within a group — and that the group’s composition matters tremendously to the outcomes they produce. Within every organization are people whose dominant characteristic is either creativity or logic. If you’ve been on a team that includes both groups and didn’t have a great facilitator during your meetings, you probably clashed. If it was an important project and there were strong personalities representing each side, the creative people felt as though their contributions were being discounted, while the logical thinkers — whose natural talents are in managing processes, projecting budgets, or mitigating risk — felt undervalued because they weren’t coming up with bold new ideas. You undoubtedly had a difficult time staying on track, or worse, you might have spent hours meeting about how to have your next meeting. This is what I call the “duality dilemma.”
The duality dilemma is responsible for a lack of forward thinking at many organizations. Read the rest here... 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Regulation, Who Needs It?

LinkedIn, March 11, 2017
by Theodore Kinni

President Trump wasted no time launching his promised war on federal regulation. Ten days after the inauguration, he signed Executive Order 13771: Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs.

You’ve probably already heard that EO 13771 is a two-for-one deal. It requires that every newly proposed federal regulation be accompanied by the repeal of two existing regulations. And just in case the folks at the FDA or EPA or SEC or any other agency think they can pull a fast one, the order also requires that the total additional cost of all new regulations in fiscal 2017 net out at zero. Read the President’s lips: No added cost!

This is music to investor ears. Within a couple of weeks of EO 13771, the S&P 500 Index rose 5 percent. The chief executive’s order is not the only reason for the jump, but clearly less federal regulation means more profit for your company. Right?

Maybe not. Like President Trump himself, EO 13771 is only concerned with “how many” and “how much.” Also like the President himself, the order tars all regulation with the same brush. You’d never know it from EO 13771, but companies in all sectors—agriculture, auto, financial services, healthcare, pharma, tech, telecommunications, etc.—depend on and demand regulation. Read the rest here...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Tech Savvy: Taking a Rigorous Approach to People Analytics

by Theodore Kinni
Imposing order on the morass of people analytics: HR execs are being bombarded with sales pitches for people analytics that promise to improve every aspect of workforce management from recruiting to what HubSpot’s execs so charmingly called “graduation.” But how do you weave this rather bewildering assortment of digital tools together in a way that is aligned with and supports your talent and corporate strategies?
Jean Paul Isson and Jesse S. Harriot, respectively VP of business intelligence and predictive analytics and former chief knowledge officer at Monster Worldwide, take a good shot at answering that big-picture question in their new book, People Analytics in the Era of Big Data. The authors encapsulate their approach in a framework that organizes people analytics into 7 “pillars” that are broadly based on the responsibilities of the HR function: workforce planning; sourcing; acquisition/hiring; onboarding, culture fit, and engagement; performance assessment and development; churn and retention; and wellness, health, and safety. “The ultimate goal of this framework,” they write, “is to focus your organization’s attention on those areas that are keys to talent analytics success and will lead to greatest return on investment.”
As you might expect, a comprehensive overview of people analytics leads to a pretty thick and sometimes dense book. But the authors ground the pillars in practice using case studies and interviews. One of them describes how Société de Transport de Montréal, the city’s public transport agency, which serves 2.5 million riders per day, is implementing and using people analytics. It is featured in the excerpt below the rest here

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Secrets to Corporate Longevity

How do some companies grow from producing fire hoses to building products for the aerospace industry? They have an ability to exploit their markets while exploring new ones. | Reuters/Christian Charisius
by Theodore Kinni
It’s been nearly 20 years since Clayton Christensen explained why so many industry-leading companies miss the potential of new technologies and are supplanted by competitors that seemingly emerge from nowhere. Since then, corporate strategists have realized that avoiding what Christensen called the innovator’s dilemma requires that companies simultaneously compete in their mature businesses and pursue the opportunities that arise from new technologies and business models. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
“The main obstacle is something we call the success syndrome,” explains Charles O’Reilly, the Frank E. Buck Professor of Management at Stanford Graduate School of Business and author, with Michael Tushman of Harvard Business School, of a new book titled Lead and Disrupt. “There’s lots of high-quality research that shows once companies have the right strategy, the more they can align their organization with it; that is, the more they’ve got the right people, structure, metrics, and culture in place, the better they can exploit that strategy.” The problem is that the alignment supporting exploitation is very different from the alignment that supports the exploration of new technologies and business models. “Exploitation, which is where companies typically make money, tends to drive out exploration,” he says.
To find out how companies navigate this conundrum, O’Reilly and Tushman searched out corporations that, over many decades, had been able to transform themselves even as their markets and technologies were fundamentally disrupted. The authors list 27 of these companies in the book; their average age is 130 years.
They all had one thing in common. “What is true of all of these companies is that they’re in different businesses today, even when they are in the same industry,” O’Reilly says. “They’re all alive today only because they’ve been able to take their assets and capabilities and move into new businesses.”
Goodrich, for example, started out making rubber conveyor belts and fire hoses in 1870. When the automobile and airplane appeared, it used its expertise to make tires. Then, during World War II, when the supply of natural rubber dried up, it developed synthetic rubber, which allowed it to make products for the defense and aerospace industries.
How did Goodrich, which was acquired by United Technologies Corp. in 2012, do it? “Part of what we were arguing in the book is that it is a leadership issue, not a technology issue. There have to be senior leaders who are willing to fund exploratory projects, to scale them if they’re successful and to kill them if they’re not,” says O’Reilly. “If you look at companies that have failed, most of the time you find that they didn’t miss the technology. They had it. Smith Corona was the world’s biggest typewriter company for 50 years. They had one of the first word processors. But its leaders made decisions not to fund it.”
By way of contrast, O’Reilly points to Fujifilm. “In 2000, just as global film sales hit their peak, CEO Shigetaka Komori says, ‘What assets and capabilities do we have that would allow us to move into new areas?’ And over the next five to 10 years, as film sales fall off a cliff, he helps leverage those assets and capabilities into things like regenerative medicine, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and liquid crystal display films,” he says. Juxtapose that with Kodak, which had the same technologies but continued to focus on film. “Today, Fujifilm is a $23 billion company with an annual growth rate of more than 10% over the past 15 years. Kodak goes bankrupt in 2012.”
O’Reilly describes Komori as ambidextrous. Ambidextrous leaders are great at running big, mature, exploitative businesses, while simultaneously leveraging corporate assets and capabilities to explore new areas.
There have to be senior leaders who are willing to fund exploratory projects, to scale them if they’re successful and to kill them if they’re not.
Charles O’Reilly
It’s not easy to be an ambidextrous leader. “First of all, these leaders have to be able to sanction ‘explore’ and ‘exploit’ operations. That typically requires that there is some compelling strategic intent,” says O’Reilly. Beyond that, he notes, the leaders need to run very different businesses in a way that makes them feel united, with a common identity, yet still recognize that these different organizations require different metrics, incentives, and cultures. They also have to make sure their senior team is aligned. Resistance from the senior team slows things down and leads to failure, O’Reilly says.
As if this isn’t challenging enough, there is also the question of how to handle the process of exploration and exploitation when the ambidextrous leader moves on. “We spent a number of years working with IBM,” O’Reilly says. “For reasons I don’t fully understand, the company was ambidextrous under Lou Gerstner and Sam Palmisano. But it’s much less ambidextrous today. I think it really does have to do with a leader — that’s who makes the ultimate decision about allocation of resources and people.”
Should every company leader seek to exploit and explore? “That depends largely on the extent to which a firm is likely to be disrupted,” says O’Reilly. “If I’m leading Exxon, yeah, I probably should be investing in alternative technologies. But fundamentally, at least up until now, that industry has not moved very rapidly. How worried should I be? How much effort should I be putting into exploratory ventures? Probably not a lot.
“If I’m running General Motors, well, cars have been cars for a long time. But 10 years from today? Car buying habits are clearly shifting with the millennials, and there’s likely to be some form of self-driving cars.” Adds O’Reilly, “In fact, GM seems to have bought into this idea of ambidexterity. And they’ve got [President] Dan Ammann and [Vice President of Strategy] Mike Abelson, who are running all their experiments.”
The lesson for leaders: Be aware of the potential disruptive threats to your company. The more immediate they are, the more likely it is that you should be leading with both hands.

Friday, June 10, 2016

My Company Is My Therapist

by Theodore Kinni
strategy+business, June 8, 2016
 You’re probably intuitively familiar with the Peter Principle, even if you can’t quote it verbatim: “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” Unfortunately, Laurence J. Peter, the University of Southern California education professor who coined the term in 1969, didn’t offer a better alternative. And in the past 47 years, no one else has, either. (A trio of Italian professors did, however, win a 2010 Ig Nobel Prize for using game theory to prove it’s better to simply promote employees at random [pdf].)
But now there may be hope. What if your company were to embrace the Peter Principle? What if it could accept that eventually all employees will reach their level of incompetence, recognize when each employee has reached it, and then help people move beyond their own fallibilities? Would such a company succeed? This, in essence, is the beguiling thesis of An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization (Harvard Business Review Press, 2016).
An Everyone Culture hails from what might be described as the Left Bank of the Charles River — its lead authors are Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, professors at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, which is separated from the Harvard Business School by the river and a sharp divergence in worldview. Rather than seeking competitive advantage in a company’s products or strategy, as HBS professors would, Kegan, Lahey, and their colleagues believe an edge can be found in the ability of corporations to develop adults as humans.
Indeed, the authors argue that a highly evolved company, which they call a “deliberately developmental organization (DDO),” can incorporate the psychological advancement of employees into the work itself. Kegan and Lahey want us to imagine that “hardwiring development into your bottom line” could, in addition to boosting profitability and quality, impact the firm’s culture so that “in the regular daily operations of the company, [it will] be a continuous force on behalf of people overcoming their limitations and blind spots and improving their mastery of increasingly challenging work.”
This might sound like corporate utopianism — or, for those of a more cynical bent, dystopianism. But the authors develop the argument by parachuting us into three existing DDOs, all of which serve as highly effective, day-in-the-life case studies. Bridgewater Associates, perhaps the largest and most successful hedge fund in the world (with US$150 billion in assets and 1,500 employees), pursues “radical transparency” by recording every meeting and providing the audio files to everyone in the company. Decurion Corporation, a Los Angeles-based real estate development, acquisition, and property management company with 1,100 employees, holds “fishbowl” conversations: Attendees sit in a circle, arrayed around a smaller inner circle of people most involved in the issue at hand, and discuss subjects such as the stalled development of a customer loyalty program or an executive’s habit of “withdrawing her goodwill.” At Next Jump, Inc., an e-commerce company that runs reward programs for other corporations and has 200 employees, all new hires attend a three-week personal leadership boot camp in which they learn how to identify and address their “character weaknesses.”
Beyond detailing the ways in which the three companies operate, the book explains the theory of adult development that underpins a DDO, and describes its key attributes: “the depth of its developmental community (which we callhome); the breadth of its developmental practices (which we call its groove); and the height of its developmental aspirations (which we call its edge).”
So, should your company become a DDO? And would you want to work for one?
The book includes a full chapter devoted to each of these questions. In regard to the first one, the authors believe the results of the companies they focused on point to a clear yes. In seeking to maximize employee potential, they write, Bridgewater, Decurion, and Next Jump have achieved a range of remarkable goals. They’ve figured out “how to increase retention, profitability, coaching support, readiness to learn, speed to promotability, [and] frankness in communication” while cutting back on political maneuvering, impression management, behind-the-back disparagement, and disengagement. They have learned “how to anticipate crises no one in the company has experienced and manage successfully through them; how to invent future possibilities no one has experienced and realize them.”
While they are willing to generalize from the particular experience of companies, the authors are less cavalier about arguing that every person will embrace the possibility of DDOs. From the outset, they repeatedly warn readers they are likely to have a visceral reaction to the idea of working in a DDO. “If you are, like most people, more wary of feeling vulnerable, ashamed, and unworthy — especially at work — you might find yourself feeling alarmed soon after you enter.” But for the few, the introspective and the bold, DDOs may make perfect sense. Such companies tend to be good destinations for the “rarer kind of person,” whom the authors describe as “valuing the experience of your own vulnerability and running right toward it.”
I’m definitely in the wary camp. It’s not so much that I’m worried about feeling vulnerable, ashamed, and unworthy — I’m used to that. But I would be wary of working in a DDO because I have a hard time believing that: (1) a corporation can always be trusted to look out for my best interests; (2) my psychological development is an employer’s business; or (3) bosses and coworkers are qualified to act as therapists.
But I could be wrong. It’s possible that the novelty and relative scarcity of DDOs makes them seem strange and alien. Perhaps if I were to convene a fishbowl session in which my colleagues could tell me, with radical transparency, their opinions of me and my work, I might become a more productive, more evolved human being.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Tech Savvy: Exploring the Ethical Limits of App Design

by Theodore Kinni
Are your employee apps ethical? Companies are providing employees with more and more digital services for purposes that range from enhancing teamwork to getting a better night’s sleep. But do they promote agency — or addiction? Perhaps it’s time for managers to take a closer look at the design of those services — and question the techniques they employ to create a compelling user experience.
Toward this end, Tristan Harris has some choice words in a new article on Medium. “I’m an expert on how technology hijacks our psychological vulnerabilities,” he begins. “That’s why I spent the last three years as Google’s Design Ethicist caring about how to design things in a way that defends a billion people’s minds from getting hijacked. When using technology, we often focus optimistically on all the things it does for us. But I want you to show you where it might do the opposite.”
Harris goes on to call out common hijacks that are intentionally and unintentionally built into the design of websites and apps. They include: menus that give the impression of choice, while limiting it; the embedding of intermittent, variable rewards that induce addictive behaviors; reliance on powerful motivators such as social approval and reciprocity; and seven more.
“I’ve listed a few techniques but there are literally thousands,” adds Harris. “Imagine whole bookshelves, seminars, workshops and trainings that teach aspiring tech entrepreneurs techniques like these. Imagine hundreds of engineers whose job every day is to invent new ways to keep you hooked.”
Harris, who studied under Professor BJ Fogg in Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab, is talking about big social media services offered to the general public by companies, such as Facebook, Instagram, TripAdvisor, and But his conclusion applies to digital services aimed at employees, too:
“The ultimate freedom is a free mind, and we need technology that’s on our team to help us live, feel, think and act freely. We need our smartphones, notifications screens and web browsers to be exoskeletons for our minds and interpersonal relationships that put our values, not our impulses, first. People’s time is valuable. And we should protect it with the same rigor as privacy and other digital rights.”

Bizbook review haiku: Appetite for Innovation by M. Pilar Opazo

Yummy elBulli's an innovation test lab not just for foodies

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tom Peters Wants You to Read

By Theodore Kinni
strategy+business, May 26, 2016
Tom Peters. You know the guy. He branded himself with an “!” after his name. He and Bob Waterman wrote one of the best-selling business books of all time,In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies(Harper & Row, 1982). 
Peters is one of the handful of people who helped transform the business book genre from a staid backwater into a mass market — with 1.8 million titles in print, it’s the fifth-largest book category on Amazon. He has written 29 of those titles and sold more than 10 million copies of them. In the process, Peters helped define the term business guru and inspired more wannabes than Madonna. At age 73, he enjoys an engaged, multigenerational audience, including 135,000 Twitter followers. 
Because Peters is a voracious reader, I thought he would make an ideal subject for my monthly “Required Reading” column for strategy+business, in which business notables call out a very short list of books they think leaders should read. But a brief call to New Zealand, where Peters goes to beat the New England winters, to discuss his four favorite books somehow turned into a one-and-a-half-hour marathon.
“I have to tell you a story about a neighbor of mine in Massachusetts who would be on anybody’s top 10 list of [Warren] Buffett–like people,” Peters opened. “I was at a dinner with him 18 months ago and, out of nowhere, he said, ‘You know what the number one problem is with big company CEOs?’ I said, ‘I can think of at least 70 things, but damned if I can narrow it down.’ And out of his mouth pops, ‘They don’t read enough.’” the rest here

Tech Savvy: Two Questions for Managers of Learning Machines

by Theodore Kinni
Two questions that managers of intelligent machines should ask: It’s been a couple of years since Stephen Hawking warned that artificial intelligence could “spell the end of the human race.” The terminators aren’t here yet and unless they come very soon, the managers of AI-based technology have a couple of more immediate issues to address, according to Vasant Dhar of NYU’s Stern School of Business and Center for Data Science.
The first, which Dhar takes up in a new article on TechCrunch, is how to “design intelligent learning machines that minimize undesirable behavior.” Pointing to two high-profile juvenile delinquents, Microsoft’s Tay and Google’s Lexus, he reminds us that it’s very hard to control AI machines in complex settings. “There is no clear answer to this vexing issue,” says Dhar. But he does offer some guidance: Analyze the machine’s training errors; use an “adversary” — through means such as crowdsourcing — to try to trip up the machine; and estimate the cost of error scenarios to better manage risks.
The second question, which Dhar explores in an article for, is when and when not to allow AI machines to make decisions. “We don’t have any framework for evaluating which decisions we should be comfortable delegating to algorithms and which ones humans should retain,” he writes. “That’s surprising, given the high stakes involved.” Dhar suggests addressing this issue with a risk-oriented framework that he calls a Decision Automation Map. The map plots decisions in two independent dimensions — predictability and cost per error — and suggest whether it would be better made by human or machine the rest here

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

George Barbee’s Required Reading

by Theodore Kinni
strategy+business, May 25, 2016
George Barbee brings a perspective to the subject of innovation that is both expert and unusually diverse. His 45-year career includes stints with large companies, entrepreneurial ventures, consulting firms, and educational institutions.
Barbee’s innovation career began in the product realm while he was serving as an executive with Wilkinson Sword and, later, with Noxell and Gillette, now divisions of Procter & Gamble. In the 1980s, he launched into service innovation and founded three companies. One of them, the Consumer Financial Institute, became the largest independent provider of financial planning in the U.S. and was acquired by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in 1986. He joined PwC as a partner, creating and leading a new strategy named the Global Client Service Partner, which generated several hundred million dollars in new revenue for the firm.
In 2000, Barbee (along with authors Jim Collins and Malcolm Gladwell and former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore) was named a Batten Fellow at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. Since then, he has served as senior lecturer at the school, teaching service innovation, entrepreneurship, and marketing.
Most recently, Barbee wrote and published 63 Innovation Nuggets (for Aspiring Innovators) (Innovation Etc., 2015), which contends that innovation is both a learnable and teachable skill. In the book, he offers concise, practical strategies and tactics, as well as reading recommendations, for those who want to bolster their personal and organizational creativity.
When I asked Barbee to share a short list of books that most influenced the development of his capacity for innovation, he called out the following three books.
What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers, by Richard N. Bolles (Ten Speed Press, 2015). “Bolles self-published the first 100 copies of Parachute in 1970, and he has revised and updated it annually ever since. Surely the most popular handbook for job hunters ever written, it has sold more than 10 million copies. But I love it not because it helped me find a new job, but because it helped me better understand myself.
Parachute showed me how to chart and assess the various phases of my career. I’ve done the exercises in the book’s appendix more than 20 times over the years, and I kept my notes and used them to evaluate where I was, where I was going, and where I wanted to go in my life.
“Bolles’s manual taught me to appreciate my own strengths and weaknesses. It also helped me understand the importance of embracing diversity and identify the types of people I needed around me to maximize my ability to innovate in both personal and organizational settings. I think you should grab a copy of Parachute every time a new edition appears. Read it, do the exercises, make notes, and chart your growth. Use it to evolve and enhance your ability to innovate.”
How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, by Alan Lakein (P.H. Wyden, 1973). “Lakein is one of the pioneers of modern personal time management. He opened my eyes to the importance of setting priorities, keeping to-do lists, and regularly assessing my progress, as well as reassessing my goals.
“Alan Lakein’s ABC method of prioritization has wormed its way into my life in conscious and unconscious ways. His book also helped me balance my business and personal lives — and it enabled me to reach that very special nirvana that can result if you can integrate the two. By showing you how to manage your time in a disciplined way, this undeservedly out-of-print book helps you generate insights and focus on what is truly important, which really pays off when you are trying to launch and manage innovation efforts.”
The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Friedman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005). “I worked in 40 countries in my career, but I’ve never been able to verbalize the trends and phenomena that I witnessed as insightfully as Friedman does in this book. That’s why I’ve been assigning it in the MBA class I teach at Darden since it was first published.
“There are some who feel that Friedman exaggerated the progress of globalization, but his thesis that the cultural and geographical barriers between nations are becoming lower and lower is certainly true with regard to business. And it jives with my experiences working with global companies. You should become familiar with the 10 ‘flatteners,’ seven ‘company rules,’ and three ‘convergences’ described in the book — some of the names have changed over the past decade, but they remain as relevant as ever.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Not-So-Elementary Exploration of Brand Insight

by Theodore Kinni
strategy+business, May 11, 2016
Martin Lindstrom is the Sherlock Holmes of brand consultants. Even as he walks you through the cases in his new book, Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends(St. Martin’s Press, 2016), you can’t help but marvel at his powers of observation and deduction.
Befitting a Holmesian adventure, the first case in Small Data begins with a mysterious call. The interpreter for a Moscow-based entrepreneur is on the line. “The businessman wanted to launch a new business in Russia with the goal of generating at least a billion dollars a year,” Lindstrom writes. “When I asked the obvious question — what was the business? — I was told it was up to me.” Most people receiving such calls would think they were about to be scammed. But for Lindstrom, a self-described  “forensic investigator of emotional DNA” with a global reputation, this was an exciting lead.
Soon after, the investigator, accompanied by two Watsons, is on his way to Russia aboard a private jet chartered by the entrepreneur. They spend a few days in Moscow and then fly 4,000 miles to Krasnoyarsk, a city in Siberia with a population of one million. And here, in the frozen steppes, Lindstrom takes the pulse of the Russian people and tries to identify the billion-dollar business opportunity harbored in their collective psyche.
He does this by mimicking anthropologists. Lindstrom notices that the locals upholster the inside of their apartment doors, that they lack mirrors, that the men stow their toothbrushes bristles-down and the women bristles up, and, most tellingly, that “every refrigerator seemed to have an extravagantly large collection of magnets.” To Lindstrom, this last clue was evidence that Russian parents doted on their young children. And he ultimately recommended that the entrepreneur launch, an online community and e-commerce site aimed at Russian mothers and their children. was a success, Lindstrom reports, until sanctions on imports forced it to close and retrench in 2015.
“The Case of the Refrigerator Magnets” is one of the seven tales in the book showcasing Lindstrom’s methods. Each is fascinating, but each also drives home a lesson that may or may not be intentional: It’s hard, perhaps impossible, for the average marketer to do what Lindstrom does.
Lindstrom strikes those of us who blunder through life as supernaturally sensitive and observant. When he comes across seemingly minute and irrelevant details (like whose clothes are hung where in a bedroom closet), his antennae begin to quiver. He also has decades of assignments under his belt, and each has contributed to a portfolio of insights that he can apply elsewhere. For instance, the sense of community Lindstrom discovered in Siberia informed his recommendations for redesigning a chain of grocery stores in the Southeastern U.S.
Happily, Lindstrom is willing to offer us a guide for building a brand. “Until recently, I never considered what I did for a living as a repeatable methodology,” he admits. “But over the past few years, nearly half a dozen companies have asked if I could distill my methods into a training program.”
Lindstrom outlines the result — the 7C Manifesto — in the final pages of the book. The Cs are collecting, clues, connecting, correlation, causation, compensation, and concept — and each represents a step in the process that Lindstrom follows. He also offers some useful advice for completing each step: In collecting, for instance, remove the internal filters that block your ability to observe clearly. When Pepsi asked Lindstrom to improve the public perception of his favorite soda, he eagerly accepted the assignment. But he also stopped drinking it. “Pepsi — its taste, its bubbles, its cans, its bottles, its advertising — was just too familiar,” he explains. “I had no distance from the brand, no frame of reference about desire, or craving, my own or other people’s. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t get inspired. I couldn’t do my job.”
Even with the helpful advice, I doubt that many of us could ever be able to do what Lindstrom does. There is some magic to his work, and some genius, and a lifetime of devotion to understanding how people’s emotions become intertwined with brands. But then, not being able to do what Sherlock Holmes can do has never stopped admiring readers from following his adventures with delight and astonishment. Why should it not be the same with Martin Lindstrom?