Thursday, August 3, 2017

Blockchain is poised to disrupt trade finance

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

PwC Next in Tech blog, August 3, 2017

by Grainne McNamara




Trade finance has enabled the exchange of goods for millennia. Babylonian cuneiform tablets dating back to 3000 BC mention the kind of promissory notes and letters of credit that still underpin international trade. And, aside from incremental improvements in the ways and means of trade finance, not all that much has changed in the fundamental elements of this approximately US$40 billion sector of the financial services industry over the past 5,000 years.

That is, until now. The advent of blockchain technology is on the verge of revolutionizing trade finance—and it threatens to leave behind any financial services company that doesn’t move with the times. Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Goldilocks Approach to Innovation

strategy+business, August 2, 2017

by Theodore Kinni

In 2008, when Nike executive Sarah Robb O’Hagan was tapped to lead Gatorade, the sports drink’s sales were in decline and it was losing market share to its principal rival, Powerade. She couldn’t turn to incremental innovation: Pursuing the tried-and-tested strategy of adding flavors and low-calorie options to the Gatorade portfolio had already run its course, and was not yielding returns. The idea of blowing up one of PepsiCo’s billion-dollar brands and the organization behind it in a bid for radical reinvention was too risky.

What did Robb O’Hagan do? Taking a page from Nike’s playbook, she refocused the 
company’s attention — and more meaningfully, its product development and marketing budgets — on Gatorade’s core customers: the serious athletes, young and old, who accounted for 46 percent of sales. Then, she began introducing new hydration and nutrition products designed particularly for that core group. Gatorade introduced a series of gels, bars, and protein shakes that complemented the sports drink and drove its sales, instead of cannibalizing demand for it.

“The innovations were diverse, targeted a specific set of customers, and posed little strategic risk,” writes Wharton School professor of practice David Robertson, author, with Kent Lineback, of The Power of Little Ideas. The new products also reversed Gatorade’s sales slide. By 2015, Gatorade, with sales of US$5.6 billion, owned 78 percent of the U.S. market for sports drinks, about four times Powerade’s 19 percent share. Read the rest here.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Self-Publishing or Trade Publishing: Which is Best for Your Business Book?

LinkedIn, July 29, 2017

by Theodore Kinni



As a business writer and editor, I talk to lots of people who want a business book with their name on it. CEOs and other senior executives who are transitioning to new careers. Consultants who are establishing thought leadership platforms. Entrepreneurs who are building businesses. Speakers who want bigger audiences and something to sell at the back of the room. At some point or another, they all ask me the same question: Should I self-publish my book or find a publisher?

There is no pat answer. It depends on the book and what you want to achieve with it. But here are the three questions to ask to figure out the right answer for you. Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Moving Sales With Trajectory-Based Mobile Advertising

MIT Sloan Management Review, July 19, 2017

by Theodore Kinni


Tap Book Cover JacketWhat a difference a decade can make. In June 2007, Apple released the iPhone; now, mobile internet usage outstrips desktop usage. In the United States, consumers spend more time on mobile apps than watching television, and m-commerce is rapidly approaching $100 billion annually.

Given the fast rise of mobile, it’s no surprise that marketers are well aware of it as a sales channel. But mobile isn’t just a new channel for reaching consumers with the same old offers. It provides marketers with valuable new sources of information about consumers, and it enables them to deliver new kinds of offers.

Anindya Ghose, Heinz Riehl Chair Professor of Business at New York University’s Stern School of Business, is one of the pioneering explorers of the intersection of mobile and marketing. In his new book, Tap: Unlocking the Mobile Economy (MIT Press, 2017), he collects his findings and weaves them together into a set of nine forces that marketers can wield to drive sales via mobile technologies.

One of the forces that Ghose explores is trajectory. “In the online world, it took us only a few years to get accustomed to, and often even embrace, the idea that firms — including e-commerce firms, search engines, and website publishers — can track our browsing behavior and predict our next steps,” he explains. “A similar revolution is about to hit us off-line. The springboard for this revolutionary leap is the individual’s trajectory. An individual’s trajectory is the physical and behavioral trace of his or her off-line movements.”

Mobile devices allow marketers to track a consumer’s walking pattern and predict where he or she will go next. Moreover, they can create and deliver offers based on that trajectory. In the following excerpt, Ghose describes what he and his colleagues learned when they used trajectory-based advertising in one of Asia’s largest shopping malls. Read the excerpt here.

Smart Leaders Know the Difference Between Complex and Complicated. Do You?

Inc., July 19, 2017

by Theodore Kinni



You probably use the words 'complex' and 'complicated' interchangeably. Most of us do. Heck, most dictionaries use complex to define complicated and vice versa. There's just one problem: If you're a leader and you treat a complex problem like a complicated problem, you are setting up yourself and your company for failure.

If that sounds like baloney to you, it might be worth taking a look at Rick Nason's eye-opening new book, It's Not Complicated: The Art and Science of Complexity in Business (University of Toronto Press, May 2017). In it, Nason, a finance professor at Dalhousie University's Rowe School of Business, makes a compelling case that understanding the difference between complicated and complex is an imperative for highly effective executives.

Here's the problem:

Leaders, says Nason, tend not to realize that complicated issues are different than complex ones. Thus, they try to address them both in the same way. Want to guess what happens next?

You already know the answer. It's what happens when you try to treat employees as if they were interchangeable robots or when you try to remove a passenger with a ticket from your airplane or when you merge two companies with very different cultures together. The situation deteriorates really fast. Read the rest here.

The Sore Loser and the Supercomputer

strategy+business, July 19, 2017

by Theodore Kinni


In June 1985, Garry Kasparov, the highest-ranked chess player in the world, simultaneously played 32 games against 32 computers. He swept the event, winning every game. Twelve years later, in May 1997, Kasparov played a high-stakes, head-to-hard-drive, six-game match against a single computer: IBM’s Deep Blue. The result? The supercomputer beat the reigning chess champ in regulation play. Artificial intelligence had hit the big time.

It’s taken Kasparov a long time to process his historic battle against Deep Blue. “I’m a sore loser,” he frankly admits in Deep Thinking, which is a meditation on both his personal history and the future of work. A full 20 years later, that characteristic is evident in Kasparov’s description and analysis of the match — and his detailed suspicions about spying and “human intervention” by IBM.

Kasparov clearly didn’t expect Big Blue, led in those days by Louis Gerstner Jr., to play to win. The company invested an estimated US$20 million in developing and promoting Deep Blue, and the win, Kasparov argues, boosted IBM’s stock by $11.4 billion in just over a week — to say nothing of the value that accrued to the brand. Nevertheless, Kasparov appears surprised that IBM treated the match as anything other than a collegial experiment in computer science (even though he had negotiated a guaranteed minimum payday of $400,000 in case of a loss; the Deep Blue development team received $700,000).

Unless you are a serious chess player, however, Kasparov’s account of the match isn’t the best reason to read Deep Thinking. Read the rest here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sheryl Sandberg: Develop Your Voice, Not Your Brand

Insights by Stanford Business, July 18, 2017

by Theodore Kinni


Today Sheryl Sandberg is known as a leading Silicon Valley executive and a champion of working women. But when she arrived in California in 2001, after a five-year stint at the U.S. Treasury, she wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms.

“All the exciting stuff was happening out here, so I wanted to work in Silicon Valley,” recalls Sandberg. “Lots of people said ‘I would never hire anyone like you’ to my face. The first tech bubble had just burst. It was actually hard to get a job.”

But Sandberg did get a job — and an impressive one. She served as Google’s vice president of global online sales and operations until 2008, when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg convinced her to join the social networking site as its COO.

In 2013, Sandberg became a best-selling author with the publication of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Since then, its readers have founded 33,000 Lean In peer support circles in 150 countries.

Sandberg’s life seemed charmed until May 2015, when her husband and the father of her two children, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly. “When Dave died, I didn’t think I was capable of anything. I could barely go to work and not cry. I was parenting two grieving children,” she says.

Sandberg channeled her own grief into a second book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. Co-authored with Wharton School professor Adam Grant, it, too, has found a global readership and, with the support of the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, has already attracted a community of 350,000 people.

On May 25, Sandberg described her journey and the lessons she has learned along the way to Stanford Graduate School of Business students at the final View From The Top event of the 2016-17 academic year. Read the rest here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Want to Be a Better Decision Maker? Here Are 3 Timeless Guidelines for Leaders

Inc., July 17, 2017

by Theodore Kinni


Before McKinsey & Company senior partners Scott Keller and Mary Meaney decided what to include in their new book about organizational leadership, they grouped all of the leadership-related articles published by Harvard Business Review from 1976-2016 into 20 topics--culture, change, self-improvement, managing others, etc. Then, they analyzed how the number of articles written on those topics varied over time as a percent of all HBR articles.

"Our logic was that the lower the variance over forty years, the more timeless the topic," write Keller and Meaney in their introduction to Leading Organizations: Ten Timeless Truths (Bloomsbury, June 2017). The most timeless topic of all? Decision-making.

This didn't particularly surprise the consultants. They calculate that there are roughly 400 million decisions made every day in the average Fortune 500 company. Of course, the vast majority of those decisions are inconsequential, but a select few of them could be very consequential indeed.

Like, say, Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin's decision to merge with AOL back in 2000--on the eve of the dotcom meltdown. In 2003, the merged company posted a $99 billion loss on what is still widely hailed as the worst deal ever. The flamboyant Ted Turner, who was Time Warner's largest shareholder before the deal and lost about $8 billion personally, likened it to the Vietnam War on his personal disaster scale.

To avoid disasters like this and hone your decision-making process and prowess, Keller and Meaney offer the following advice: Read the rest here.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Want to Be a Better Salesperson? Start Practicing This 1 Crucial Skill

Inc., July 14, 2017



There are a lot of books that explore the essential traits and skills of highly successful salespeople. You can probably quickly call out a list of the qualities that they endorse--a strong focus on the customer, acute listening skills, the ability to manage the sales process, the credibility of a trusted adviser, accountability for delivering value, resourcefulness, and the list goes on.

But is there one sales trait that rules them all? Or, to put it another way, is there a trait without which you absolutely cannot succeed at sales? Anthony Iannarino, founder of The Sales Blog, says there is. The trait is self-discipline.

"Self-discipline is the difference between success and failure," writes Iannarino in his book, The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need (Portfolio, 2016). "Yes, there are a lot of other components of the salesperson's mind-set, skill set, and tool kit, but without strong self-discipline, those don't matter one whit."

Iannarino's book serves as a "periodic table of sales." It describes 17 elements--nine behaviors and eight skills--that salespeople need to adopt and master to excel at their craft. Of course, the first element in the book is "me management"--the cornerstone of sales success.

"In sales, self-discipline is what separates the great from the mediocre," says Iannarino. Want to be a great salesperson? Here are five techniques that Iannarino says will help you develop the willpower, fortitude, and accountability required by self-discipline: read the rest here.

Monday, July 10, 2017

What a Bestselling Author Knows About the True Genius of Steve Jobs and Ben Franklin

Inc., July 10, 2017


by Theodore Kinni



In May, Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute and former chairman and CEO of CNN, came to my hometown to deliver the commencement address and pick up an honorary degree at The College of William & Mary. You probably know him for his best-selling biographies, including Steve Jobs (Simon & Schuster, 2011) and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (Simon & Schuster, 2003).

Given Isaacson's obvious interest in the personality traits, innovative thinking, and entrepreneurial flair of geniuses, I expected his address to celebrate mavericks or, as Apple put it in the memorable "Think Different" ad campaign, "the crazy ones." But he threw a changeup.

"We taught you here to be individual achievers. We celebrated individual achievement and even singular visionaries," Isaacson told William & Mary's graduating class of 2017. "What we forgot to tell you is that in the real world it's not about singular achievement. It's about teamwork. It's about being able to collaborate. When you get to the real world, you are going to learn that innovation is a team sport and that success is a collaborative effort." Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

'Hit 'em Where They Ain't!' and Two More Lessons in Strategy From General Douglas MacArthur

Inc., July 5, 2017

by Theodore Kinni




Seventy-two years ago today, on July 5, 1945, General Douglas MacArthur officially announced the liberation of the Philippines. It was a triumphal moment for the 5-star general. It marked the ultimate fulfillment of his memorable promise ("I shall return"), and it brought the war in the Pacific to Japan's doorstep.

MacArthur was one of the world's most admired leaders in those days, and although the Chinese and President Harry Truman would tarnish his shining reputation in the 1950s, MacArthur's strategic creativity, agility, and focus in World War II's Pacific Theater remain a high point in military history. They also offer valuable lessons to founders who are searching for innovative ways to gain a foothold in highly competitive markets populated by stronger, more established players.

Here are three of those lessons, drawn from No Substitute for Victory: Lessons in Strategy and Leadership from General Douglas MacArthur. Read the rest here.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Spend Your Weekend Like Shonda Rhimes (Studies Prove It Will Boost Your Productivity)

Inc., July 1, 2017

by Theodore Kinni



"You can work long, hard or smart, but at Amazon.com, you can't choose two out of three," asserted Jeff Bezos in his 1997 letter to shareholders. Journalist Katrina Onstad strenuously disagrees: "Actually, you should choose: the last two. The first one is bullshit."

Onstad makes that case in her new book, The Weekend Effect: The Life-Changing Benefits of Taking Time off and Challenging the Cult of Overwork (HarperOne, May 2017). In it, she cites studies stretching back to the early 1900s that prove that our productivity and effectiveness decline when we consistently exceed 40-hour work weeks. This should give pause to entrepreneurs who think they--and their employees--have to work long hours to succeed.

In fact, Onstad calls out some highly successful founders whose work ethic might give Jeff Bezos pause--like TV producer and showrunner Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes gets as many as 2,500 emails daily, but she won't read or respond to them after 7:00 pm on weeknights or on weekends. "Work will happen twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year if you let it," Rhimes told NPR. "It suddenly occurred to me that unless I just say, 'That's not going to happen,' it was always going to happen."

I interviewed Onstad (on a Wednesday during working hours) to learn more about The Weekend Effect and why and how we should reclaim our weekends. Read the rest here.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Ethics Should Precede Action in Machine Intelligence

Mathematical Corp Book Cover JacketMIT Sloan Management Review, June 29, 2017

by Theodore Kinni


As analytics and Big Data continue to be integrated into organizational ways and means from the C-suite to the front lines, Josh Sullivan and Angela Zutavern believe that a new kind of company will emerge. They call it the “mathematical corporation” — a mash-up of technology and human ingenuity in which machines delve into every aspect of a business in previously impossible ways and produce insights that will allow previously unimaginable solutions — new businesses, strategies, products and services, and so on.

Sullivan and Zutavern don’t think the mature mathematical corporation exists yet, but they do have a privileged view of the forces that will produce it. Both are executives at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., where Sullivan organized and leads the company’s data science and advanced analytics capabilities, and Zutavern is developing applications of machine intelligence to organizational leadership and strategy.

In their new book, The Mathematical Corporation, Sullivan and Zutavern explore how company leaders can prepare for and accelerate the transformation to a new corporate model. The following excerpt from Chapter 7, edited for space, examines the inevitable ethical conflicts that will arise — and have already arisen — as the ability of companies to collect and parse personal data explodes. And more important, it points out the need to proactively anticipate those conflicts. Read the excerpt here.

Monday, June 26, 2017

This Treasure Map Launched Disney's $17 Billion Theme Park Business

Inc., June 26, 2017

by Theodore Kinni





On Sunday, June 25, a map of Disneyland sold for $708,000, the highest price ever paid at auction for a piece of Disney memorabilia. It's worth every penny. This is the map that Walt Disney and his brother Roy used to raise the financing needed to build Disneyland. This map launched the parks and resorts business that swelled the coffers of the Walt Disney Company by $17 billion in fiscal 2016.

I first heard about the map while conducting research for a book about the Disney Company's approach to customer service. It's a great tale of entrepreneurship and innovation and the power of focus in achieving audacious goals.

The map was drawn in September 1953, over a single weekend. As Disney Legend Herb Ryman later recalled, Walt called him on a Saturday morning and asked him to come to the studio. When Herb arrived, Walt explained that he needed $17 million to build Disneyland.

"Gee, that's a lot of money," said Herb. "What's the park going to be like?"

"It's going to have a lot of rides and it's going to have a train," said Walt. "It's going to have a lot of things, a whole lot of things. A lot of people. Very exciting. Roy has got to take a drawing with him on Monday morning to show the bankers. You know the bankers don't have any imagination."

"Well, where are the drawings?" asked Herb. "I'd like to see them."

"Oh, you're going to make them," said Walt. Read the rest here

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Critical Difference Between Complex and Complicated

MIT Sloan Management Review, June 21, 2017

by Theodore Kinni


It’s time to call out the real culprit in far too many business failures — Dr. Peter Mark Roget and his insidious thesaurus. Roget is long dead, but his gang of modern-day editors still assert that the words “complex” and “complicated” are synonyms. Unfortunately, as Rick Nason, an associate professor of finance at Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business, ably explains in his new book, It’s Not Complicated, if you manage complex things as if they are merely complicated, you’re likely to be setting your company up for failure.

Complicated problems can be hard to solve, but they are addressable with rules and recipes, like the algorithms that place ads on your Twitter feed. They also can be resolved with systems and processes, like the hierarchical structure that most companies use to command and control employees.

The solutions to complicated problems don’t work as well with complex problems, however. Complex problems involve too many unknowns and too many interrelated factors to reduce to rules and processes. A technological disruption like blockchain is a complex problem. A competitor with an innovative business model — an Uber or an Airbnb — is a complex problem. There’s no algorithm that will tell you how to respond.

This could be dismissed as an exercise in semantics, except for one thing: When facing a problem, says Nason, managers tend to automatically default to complicated thinking. Instead, they should be “consciously managing complexity.” In the excerpt that follows, which is edited for space, Nason explains how. Read the rest here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

There's One Question You Must Ask Before Solving Any Problem (It's Also the Most Underrated Management Skill)

Inc., May 20, 2017

by Theodore Kinni



It's often said that most business books would make better articles, but there's an article in Sloan Management Review that turns the truism on its head. The article, titled 'The Most Underrated Skill in Management,' would make a great book. What is this skill? It's the ability to formulate a problem statement.

"There are few questions in business more powerful than 'What problem are you trying to solve?'" write authors Nelson P. Repenning, Don Kieffer, and Todd Astor. "In our experience, leaders who can formulate clear problem statements get more done with less effort and move more rapidly than their less-focused counterparts. Clear problem statements can unlock the energy and innovation that lies within those who do the core work of your organization."

To learn more about this most underrated skill, I interviewed Nelson Repenning, MIT Sloan School of Management Distinguished Professor of Systems Dynamics and Organizational Studies and chief social scientist at ShiftGear Work Design. Read the rest here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Love Her or Hate Her, Ayn Rand Can Make You a Better Leader

Inc., June 14, 2017

by Theodore Kinni




Ayn Rand is one of the most polarizing figures in American culture--and she's been dead for 35 years. People either love or hate the author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. And when I co-authored Ayn Rand and Business about how Rand's philosophy of Objectivism applies to management, I got caught in the crossfire.

The Rand haters rejected the book because they think Rand is a heartless monster. And when Rand lovers discovered that I didn't think she had lived up to her own philosophical tenets, they rejected the book as a back-handed attack on Objectivism. Both camps ignored the actual thesis of the book--that Rand's Objectivism is a terrific philosophy for management. It can make you a better leader, enhance your ability to innovate, and intensive your focus on building a successful business.

Evidence for this can be found in Rand's seven Objectivist virtues. These virtues are behaviors that Rand said we all need to cultivate to succeed in life. When you apply them to business, they provide a guide for getting the most value out of your work. Read the rest here.

Monday, June 12, 2017

One Doctor’s Take on How to Fix the Sick Healthcare System

strategy+business, June 12, 2017

by Theodore Kinni

A decade after presidential candidate Barack Obama first declared comprehensive healthcare reform a central tenet of his platform — and seven decades after President Harry S. Truman proposed a national healthcare plan — the issue still stands at the center of political debate. In 2017, a Republican-dominated Congress and a new Republican president are grappling with their own comprehensive plan.

But even if the Affordable Care Act is repealed and replaced, Dr. Robert Pearl believes U.S. consumers and companies are unlikely to get any relief from rising costs. That’s what Pearl argues in his no-holds-barred book, Mistreated. This line of argument is dismaying and more than a little surprising, especially considering that Pearl isn’t an academic, or an activist, or a pundit with a shallow outsider’s knowledge of the industry. For nearly 20 years, until this month, he was the CEO of the Permanente Medical Group, which is a subsidiary of California-based managed-care giant Kaiser Permanente as well as the largest provider network in the nation in its own right, with more than 9,000 physicians and 34,000 staff members. In other words, he’s one of the people who manage a significant chunk of our increasingly unaffordable medical care.
“As we look toward the future, the economics of healthcare are shaping up to be a classic example of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object,” Pearl writes. “The rising percentage of total dollars spent on healthcare (unstoppable force) and the limited ability of government, businesses, and individuals to pay for it (immovable object) are on a collision course. Something has to give.”
In Mistreated, Pearl argues that it doesn’t really matter who pays for healthcare, which has been the primary focus of the decade-long reform debate. Read the rest here

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Greatest Business Failure Of All Time Produced One of The Best-Selling Books Ever

Inc., May 8, 2017

by Theodore Kinni

 


On June 8, the original manuscript of one of the best-selling books of all time was supposed to have been sold at auction. Valued at $2-3 million, it's title is Alcoholics Anonymous, but it's better known as the Big Book and, for nearly 80 years, it's been helping alcoholics in their struggle to get and stay sober.

In late May, Alcoholics Anonymous sued to stop the sale, claiming it was the rightful owner of the manuscript. But that's hardly the most interesting part of this story. What you probably don't know about the Big Book is that it played an integral role in the greatest business failure of all time.

In 1937, Alcoholics Anonymous co-founders Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith discussed publishing a book to raise awareness about alcoholism, to help promote their program for combating the disease, and to attract investors for a for-profit chain of detox centers.

Recovering alcoholics themselves, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, as they are known, almost got the business off the ground. Read the rest here

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

These Princeton Professors Found 4 Personality Types for Entrepreneurs. Which One Are You?

Inc., June 6, 2017

by Theodore Kinni


There are a lot of factors that contribute to the success--or failure--of a new business. But Chris Kuenne and John Danner, both of whom teach entrepreneurship at Princeton University's Keller Center, are convinced that one of them trumps all the rest.

"The personality of the leader or founder is the driving force in building any new business," they write in their new book, Built for Growth: How Builder Personality Shapes Your Business, Your Team, and Your Ability to Win (Harvard Business Review Press, June 2017).

That's good news, say the authors, "[because] unlike the other resources you need to successfully grow a business, personality is the one directly--and quintessentially--in your control." Of course, that begs a big question: Will any old personality do? After all, we've all got one.

Kuenne and Danner decided to find out. They adapted a personality-based clustering methodology used by marketers to parse the personalities of 450 entrepreneurs whose companies had achieved at least $3 million in annual revenue and had been in business for at least three years.

They studied the motivation and self-identity of these business builders, their decision-making and leadership styles, and their management approach. They found four distinct personalities of new business builders, which they label the Driver, Explorer, Crusader, and Captain. Read the rest here