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

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Keith Richards Is a Surprisingly Good Leader. Here's His Number One Secret

Inc., June 1, 2017

by Theodore Kinni

Most leadership lessons come from management books, but sometimes they pop up in unexpected places, like Rolling Stones lead guitarist Keith Richards' memoir, Life (Little Brown, 2010). As you would expect, Life is filled with rollicking stories, like the one in which a very ticked-off Charlie Watts punched out a very wasted Mick Jagger for imperiously demanding to see "his drummer" at five in the morning. But it also offers a few business insights.

One of them is the importance of focus and prioritization to a successful career. You might think that being the lead guitarist of the world's greatest bar band is all about sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. But the 550-page book makes it clear that rock n' roll always comes first for Richards. The fact that Richards takes his music seriously shouldn't be surprising. After all, you don't get paid a king's ransom for more than a half-century for doing your job unless you're damn good at it.

My favorite business lesson in Life comes in a throw-away paragraph early on. Read the rest here.