On Guns, Germs, And Steel

I recently finished reading the Pulitzer winner Guns, Germs, And Steel – The Fates of Human Societies – by Jared Diamond. As the author best summarizes:

Thus, we can finally rephrase the question about the modern world’s inequalities as follows: why did human development proceed at such different rates on different continents? Those disparate rates constitute history’s broadest pattern and my book’s subject. While this book is thus ultimately about history and prehistory, its subject is not of just academic interest but also of overwhelming practical and political importance. The history of interactions among disparate peoples is what shaped the modern world through conquest, epidemics, and genocide. Those collisions created reverberations that have still not died down after many centuries, and that are actively continuing in some of the world’s most troubled areas today…It seems logical to suppose that history’s pattern reflects innate differences among people themselves. Of course, we’re taught that it’s not polite to say so in public. We read of technical studies claiming to demonstrate inborn differences, and we also read rebuttals claiming that those studies suffer from technical flaws. We see in our daily lives that some of the conquered peoples continue to form an underclass, centuries after the conquests or slave imports took place. We’re told that this too is to be attributed not to any biological shortcomings but to social disadvantages and limited opportunities…I harbor no illusions that these chapters have succeeded in explaining the histories of all the continents for the past 13,000 years. Obviously, that would be impossible to accomplish in a single book even if we did understand all the answers, which we don’t. At best, this book identifies several constellations of environmental factors that I believe provide a large part of the answer to Yali’s question. Recognition of those factors emphasizes the unexplained residue, whose understanding will be a task for the future.

Below are excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

In short, plant and animal domestication meant much more food and hence much denser human populations. The resulting food surpluses, and (in some areas) the animal-based means of transporting those surpluses. were a prerequisite for the development of settled, politically centralized, socially stratified, economically complex, technologically innovative societies. Hence the availability of domestic plants and animals ultimately explains why empires, literacy, and steel weapons developed earliest in Eurasia and later, or not at all, on other continents. The military uses of horses and camels, and the killing power of animal-derived germs, complete the list of major links between food production and conquest that we shall be exploring.

There is no doubt that Europeans developed a big advantage in weaponry, technology, and political organization over most of the non-European peoples that they conquered. But that advantage alone doesn’t fully explain how initially so few European immigrants came to supplant so much of the native population of the Americas and some other parts of the world. That might not have happened without Europe’s sinister gift to other continents—the germs evolving from Eurasians’ long intimacy with domestic animals.

Knowledge brings power. Hence writing brings power to modern societies, by making it possible to transmit knowledge with far greater accuracy and in far greater quantity and detail, from more distant lands and more remote times. Of course, some peoples (notably the Incas) managed to administer empires without writing, and “civilized” peoples don’t always defeat “barbarians,” as Roman armies facing the Huns learned. But the European conquests of the Americas, Siberia, and Australia illustrate the typical recent outcome. Writing marched together with weapons, microbes, and centralized political organization as a modern agent of conquest. The commands of the monarchs and merchants who organized colonizing fleets were conveyed in writing. The fleets set their courses by maps and written sailing directions prepared by previous expeditions. Written accounts of earlier expeditions motivated later ones, by describing the wealth and fertile lands awaiting the conquerors. The accounts taught subsequent explorers what conditions to expect, and helped them prepare themselves. The resulting empires were administered with the aid of writing. While all those types of information were also transmitted by other means in preliterate societies. writing made the transmission easier, more detailed, more accurate, and more persuasive.

When a widely useful invention does crop up in one society, it then tends to spread in either of two ways. One way is that other societies see or learn of the invention, are receptive to it, and adopt it. The second is that societies lacking the invention find themselves at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the inventing society, and they become overwhelmed and replaced if the disadvantage is sufficiently great.

Considerations of conflict resolution, decision-making, economics, and space thus converge in requiring large societies to be centralized. But centralization of power inevitably opens the door—for those who hold the power, are privy to information, make the decisions, and redistribute the goods—to exploit the resulting opportunities to reward themselves and their relatives. To anyone familiar with any modern grouping of people, that’s obvious. As early societies developed, those acquiring centralized power gradually established themselves as an elite, perhaps originating as one of several formerly equal-ranked village clans that became “more equal” than the others.

Why were the trajectories of all key developments shifted to later dates in the Americas than in Eurasia? Four groups of reasons suggest themselves: the later start, more limited suite of wild animals and plants available for domestication, greater barriers to diffusion, and possibly smaller or more isolated areas of dense human populations in the Americas than in Eurasia.

These comparisons suggest that geographic connectedness has exerted both positive and negative effects on the evolution of technology. As a result, in the very long run, technology may have developed most rapidly in regions with moderate connectedness, neither too high nor too low. Technology’s course over the last 1,000 years in China, Europe, and possibly the Indian subcontinent exemplifies those net effects of high, moderate. and low connectedness, respectively.

There are many obvious reasons for these effects of history, such as that long experience of state societies and agriculture implies experienced administrators, experience with market economies, and so on. Statistically, part of that ultimate effect of history proves to be mediated by the familiar proximate causes of good institutions. But there is still a large effect of history remaining after one controls for the usual measures of good institutions. Hence there must be other mediating proximate mechanisms as well. Thus a key problem will be to understand the detailed chain of causation from a long history of state societies and agriculture to modern economic growth, in order to help developing countries advance up that chain more quickly.

A must read for anyone looking to better understand the past, present and future of human civilization.



On The Bright IDEA BOX

This week, I have the pleasure and privilege to review Jag Randhawa’s book: The Bright Idea Box – A Proven System to Drive Employee Engagement and Innovation. Jag had approached me about his new book, having previously read Blue Ocean Strategy. Given that this book is about employee engagement and innovation, two topics I am very passionate and intimately involved with I was very much looking forward to reading and reviewing this book.

As the title indicates this is a book about innovation. Jag begins by making it clear that it is the employees within the organization that drive innovation:

It is never an idea, technology, market forces, or access to capital that makes a company innovative. What differentiates an innovative company from an average company is the people working inside the company.

Subsequently, their engagement level correlates to the level of innovation:

Researchers have long argued that a strong correlation exists between employee engagement and innovation. A highly engaged workforce can transform an average company to an innovative company, while a disengaged workforce can kill a great company.

The main premise of the book is to provide a framework for a bottom up employee driven innovation program:

This book offers a framework to create such a program, in which employees submit ideas to create operational efficiencies, improve business processes, increase customer satisfaction, and grow the business. This book mirrors the program I created at my work after years of reading, researching, and trial-and-error learning…This book is not meant to persuade anyone why he or she needs innovation, but rather to show how to get started on this journey.

Tying this back to employee engagement:

Creating such a program has an amazing effect on employee engagement. Let’s assume for a moment that you get absolutely no good ideas out of this program; then, you will still benefit from increased employee engagement. Establishing this program creates a new sense of worth among the employees, which, by itself, will increase their engagement. They will feel that you value their input— that they are intellectual human beings and their work makes a difference to their company’s bottom line. They will feel they are an integral part of the organization and not a dumb or easily replaceable component . Employee engagement increases trust between management and employees. Every job is important in an organization, and every job can be done better. You need to communicate that to employees. Ask them to look for ways to improve functions, processes, and products. If you feel there is any particular role that is not important or could not be improved, you are not thinking hard enough. Sometimes the problem lies in the definition of the role, and at other times, it is the person in that role. Take appropriate actions to make sure you address the actual problem.

The word innovation has been overused as of late, so Jag ensures he defines it and characterizes it for us:

The essence of innovation is to add value for customers. Inventions that wow people, but don’t add value, rarely survive for long, and they often end up costing more money than they add to the bottom line. For an invention to become innovation , it must add value for customers. The value can come through lowered cost, new features, aesthetics, convenience, ease of use, enhanced experience, or meeting emotional needs. Sometimes the value comes in the form of helping customers make more money , attain goals, or safeguard valuables.

Innovation = Invention + Execution + Adoption

Why is innovation so hard? And why do numerous companies don’t do well/fail in it?

Most companies fail to innovate because they are not receptive to the idea that enhancing existing products is innovative. The grass always looks greener on the other side . They cling to the notion of developing new products, which often end up costing companies more money than the new revenues they generate. This belief is further engrained in their minds by the notion that innovative ideas emerge in full form with “success” written all over them. In reality, this notion could not be farther from the truth.

What are the main areas of innovation that a company can focus on:

These areas of focus for innovation can be broadly classified into four business domains: • Revenue Generation • Cost Reduction • Business Process  • Business Model

REVENUE GENERATION The revenue-generating domain of innovation pertains to ideas that contribute to top-line growth. This focus is the most obvious for many organizations, and under this focus, creating new products is the most prevalent strategy.

COST REDUCTION As the name suggests, this domain encompasses ideas that help lower the operational costs of a business. Wal-Mart and Southwest relentlessly focus on providing value to customers through lowered cost. Therefore, ideas that help lower operational costs are given precedence over all other types of ideas.

BUSINESS PROCESS Process innovation is perhaps the most overlooked and underappreciated domain of innovation. In my view, business processes are perhaps the most important domain to innovate— especially customer facing processes.

BUSINESS MODEL Business model innovations address the “how” part of the value proposition of a business. A business model is the overarching process of an organization and explains how it transforms the input of labor, knowledge, material, means of distribution, and other resources into a product or service that customers feel is worth the money they pay for it. Business models also address how an organization acquires and serves its customers, and, at times, how it charges its customers in exchange for the value it delivers. Business model innovations entail changing one or more input resources in ways that deliver value to customers. Most business model innovations tend to be large, strategic initiatives, and you may not see many ideas in the business model innovations category from your employees.

What are the essential ingredients within a company for innovation?

As we discussed in Chapter Two, innovation has three critical components: invention, execution, and adoption. All three pieces must come together for any idea to see the light of day. All ideas face capital, intellectual, technical, and political challenges. These challenges can be overcome only if management creates the focus and employees align their efforts toward that focus and find creative solutions to make the products successful. This alignment and focus can be driven by strong management directives and processes, or it can come from employees as a passion to do great things, be part of something bigger, and make contributions toward a greater cause . The successful companies leverage both to drive continuous innovation.

Is it enough to have top-down innovation or bottom-up innovation?

A good organization is a mix of both top-down and bottom-up innovation. Top-down innovations are very important for dreaming big. Without top-down innovation, we would have never set foot on the moon, built the personal computer , or promoted personalized healthcare. It is the job of visionary leaders to push boundaries and constantly disrupt the market with new and innovative ways to add value for customers. However, leaders cannot be involved in every activity that goes on inside an organization . As the company grows, the only way to succeed is through delegation. The question then becomes: Are the delegates engaged at the same level as the leaders? Is their intent, energy, and focus aligned toward the same vision? Do they feel like part of that vision? Do they see themselves as an important piece of the puzzle in bringing that vision to reality? Creating a bottom-up innovation program can also be instrumental in bridging the gap between strategic intent and execution. When employees are more engaged, they provide superior service to customers and come up with ideas from a very diverse perspective that often gets missed in a top-down view.

Jag makes a very valid observation – and a key differentiator for this book – in that although attention has traditionally focused on product innovation it can and should also apply to services:

As I started my journey of innovation, I found that Service Industries have been largely neglected by most innovation experts and authors. A lot of books have been written on product innovation that teach how to develop new products, how to create prototypes, how to test markets, and how to build demand for novel products, but very limited literature exists on how to innovate in the Service Industry.

Subsequently, the framework for rolling out an employee-driven innovation program is introduced:

In the following chapters, I’ll introduce the Six-Step M.A.S.T.E.R. Innovation Program. Here are the steps: STEP 1: Mobilize STEP 2: Amass STEP 3: Support STEP 4: Triage STEP 5: Execute STEP 6: Recognize

On Mobilizing:

The first step in creating the Bright Idea Box program is to define and document the program’s vision and purpose. A clearly defined purpose statement will help ensure the entire workforce is marching in the same direction. The purpose statement should be a working document that captures the program’s essence, how it works, and the types of ideas you are seeking. It should be a three-part document outlining the purpose, objectives, and guidelines…This purpose statement is the overarching and simplified vision of the program that serves as a guiding beacon for employees who are thinking of new ideas, as well as those responsible for supporting and ensuring that valid ideas get implemented in a timely manner…The second part of the document should outline the area of focus and the program’s business objectives. The program’s objectives should be closely aligned with business goals and values…The last section of the purpose document should outline the guidelines for participating in the program. In this section, you can include what and who is outside the scope of this program.

On Amassing:

For this reason, at the heart of this program is an easy to use and easy to access Idea-Capturing System, which is available to all employees to capture ideas when they are fresh in their minds.

Idea Questions: 1. Name: What is the name for the idea? 2. Description: What is a brief description of the idea, including what problem it addresses and how it solves it? 3. Benefits: What value or benefits will the idea deliver to the customer or company? 4. Cost-Benefit Rationale: How much will it cost to try or implement the idea? Does the cost justify the benefits?This information is like a mini-business case for the idea. For an idea to be accepted and implemented, the employee must provide answers to all of these questions .

On Supporting:

The most important thing employees need is support and encouragement from management, and a little bit of freedom to contemplate and develop ideas. Creating an environment where management encourages employees to submit and develop ideas is the most important investment you need to make. You need to create an environment where employees feel comfortable bringing out the issues inside the company , flaws in the business processes , and weaknesses in your products.

On Triaging:

The next step in building the bottom-up employee innovation program is to create effective means for screening and prioritizing ideas…The best way to accomplish this is to form an Idea Screening Committee that meets on a regular basis to review newly submitted ideas and discuss changes to existing ideas.

On Executing:

Once an idea has been approved and financed, it must be implemented in a timely manner. Without a clearly visible process and a push from the top, an idea can easily vanish into the vast depths of corporate bureaucracy. As part of designing the program, you need to decide how you are going to test and implement ideas. You need to flush out who is responsible for implementing the ideas and what type of commitment you need from the impacted parties…There is no faster way to kill the innovation program than by not implementing good ideas.

On Recognizing:

The final step in developing the program is deciding how to recognize employees for their ideas and efforts. Recognition is the lifeline of the Bright Idea Box. Setting the right kinds of rewards is critical to the program’s longevity and ensuring that employees stay motivated to submit new ideas . Recognition is an opportunity to encourage desired behaviors and reward employees for thinking and acting in ways that add value for customers and the company.

What are some key leadership principles to help develop employees into innovators?

Below are the four leadership principles that play a vital role in developing and transforming employees into innovators. DRIVERS OF HIGHER ENGAGEMENT 1. Ownership: Give people responsibility and ownership. 2. Personal Growth: Grow people on a personal level so they can grow professionally. 3. Solution Mindset: Foster a Solution Mindset that promotes progress. 4. Partnership: Treat employees like partners so they will act like partners.

Ownership—Ownership instills a feeling of pride. Nothing motivates people to do more than pride. People work a lot harder for pride and often go to extremes to prove themselves. How can you take advantage of this human condition? Make employees the boss. Give them responsibility.

Personal Growth—Growth is the fuel of the soul. Without growth, even the masters can lose interest.

Solution Mindset—A solution mindset is a problem-solving approach that recommends that, no matter what the problem is, your first response should always be how to solve or get around the problem…A solution mindset, on the other hand, encourages progress. The goal is to keep moving forward. No matter what the problem is, focus on how to get around it and make progress…A solution mindset, on the other hand, encourages progress. The goal is to keep moving forward. No matter what the problem is, focus on how to get around it and make progress…To foster a solution mindset, tell employees that you are not interested in who or what caused the problem. You are only interested in hearing how we plan to go beyond the problem.

When launching the innovation program it’s important to sell it to all stakeholders:

To launch the Bright Idea Box program, you need to appeal to the rational and emotional brains of three distinct stakeholders. First, the top management, the executive leadership team in the company. Second, the middle management layers, and third, the front-line employees. I recommend that you create distinct sales pitches for each group to address their functional needs.

What are skills that we can all work on to further enable our innovative thinking abilities?

I have compiled a short list of skills that you can share with employees when you roll out the program . This is by no mean a comprehensive list of skills or techniques, but rather a starting point and enough to jump-start employees’ innovative thinking abilities. It is a short list that employees can easily understand and put to use immediately.

CURIOSITY Curiosity is perhaps the most imperative trait of all innovators. Being curious about what is on the other side and why things are the way they are is a great tool for making breakthrough discoveries.

LISTENING Customers are always telling us what they want, but employees on the other end are often not listening. There is no incentive for them to put up with customer complaints all day.

MINING Every frustration presents an opportunity. Instead of getting frustrated and blaming others for incompetence, mine your frustrations to look for ways to solve the problem…1. Not stopping at the first obstacle 2. Keeping a positive attitude 3. Always learning 4. Collaborate— share and ask for help 5. Solution finding rather than complaining.

BORROWING We like to believe that our problems are unique, but more often they are not. Often the problems we are wrestling with have been solved by others in different industries and in different products. Steve

NETWORKING The most innovative ideas often lie at the intersection of two different paths. We get some of the best ideas when we network with people from different disciplines .

WRITING Ideas often come when we are not looking. This is because of how our brain works. Our cognitive brain, which is responsible for decision making, has a limited capacity to process information, but our intuitive brain, which works in the background, can process a lot more information and make new associations that trigger aha moments…ideas. The second limitation of our cognitive brain is its ability to convert short-term memory into long-term memory. Often we get ideas, but they get lost in the rush of a million other things to do and remember. For this reason, recording problems and thoughts is essential to generating ideas.


Getting a flywheel started takes a lot of energy— you push, and you push, and you push. Then with every turn, it becomes easier and easier to turn the wheel . And finally, it starts to generate its own momentum and what once took an enormous amount of energy becomes almost self-sustaining. It is the same for starting a bottom-up innovation program . It is a cultural shift and you will need to make a really strong push in the beginning and keep pushing until it gains momentum. With time, the recognition and the buzz created by this program will create a desire among employees to submit ideas. Pretty soon, you will have ideas pouring in at a speed faster than you can handle. The key is not to stop pushing.

What sets this book apart is its high degree of practicality – Jag has thought through and included the material not only to introduce the framework itself but how to operationalize it successfully – which is typically the harder part.

A recommended read in the area of innovation and employee engagement.

On Confessions Of A Successful CIO

This week, I have the pleasure to review Confessions Of A Successful CIO – How the Best CIOs Tackle Their Toughest Business Challenges, the latest work by my colleagues Dan Roberts and Brian P. Watson. Dan first told me about this book on an earlier call in March, and since then I was intrigued and looking forward to reading it and hearing about the stories to be shared within it.

This book retells the stories of nine exceptional CIOs as they navigated their organizations through business transformations. While the story of each CIO varied, five common themes did emerge:

Bet the farm. These leaders are not afraid to take on the big risks. They’re not afraid to pitch the big ideas, because they know they can speak the language and justify the investment.

Answer the call. These leaders stepped up when they were called to action—oftentimes to help save their companies’ futures. This requires a confidence in their abilities, and in their own experiences, that not every leader has.

People come first. These leaders understand the value their people bring to their organization. They don’t treat them like a number or an interchangeable part.

Decisiveness makes all the difference. Despite their human side, these leaders understand that they need to make tough decisions that affect not only their people but also their company’s health.

Results matter. These leaders don’t do pie-in-the-sky research and development or implement the latest bright, shiny objects without knowing the business case and the long-term business value. They’re more focused on enabling and improving the business and on driving the all-important metrics that do that.

Here are some key lessons that I wanted to share from the CIO passages:


On turning bad situations into opportunities:

He turned a bad situation into a positive one, and now he drills that ethic into the heads of everyone in his GBS organization. “It’s more than fixing the issue. It’s not about playing an even game. If you are 1-0, to use soccer language, it’s not only about how to get to 1-1, but how can you win the game?” Passerini said. “When we have an issue, we always think not just how to fix it, but how to turn a negative perception of a system problem or change management into a success story. This is another element, from a cultural standpoint, that is so critical.”

On transparency:

“Tough love is important. I learned it’s so crucial to give people full transparency about what is happening,” Passerini said. “There is always a dilemma about how much you tell employees when you have a new idea, early on, because it may generate more questions and concerns than benefits. We have come to the conclusion that we share everything immediately … things may not always materialize, but we want our people to know that if it doesn’t work, we will change again and do something different.”

Three inquisitive questions to ask before undertaking a major initiative:

Passerini—adapting guidelines Lafley established for P&G executives in his “playing to win” philosophy—asks three major questions of his team before undertaking a major initiative. The first is, what right does the organization have to win?…The second is, what needs to happen for the initiative to generate that business value?…The third is the most important: What can go wrong?

On the importance of humility:

To Passerini, relevance needs to come with a certain degree of humility. He emphasizes to his team to not act like know-it-all, but to also have the confidence to accept more responsibility and the self-assurance to propose innovative ideas to the business.


On the importance of alignment:

“We started with the commitment around company-wide common processes,” Rhoads said. “Rather than going out into the company as an IT function and selling it as the IT solution, we were all aligned from a business perspective first. That allowed the IT organization to partner with every function and every aspect—all of which were also going through transformation.” All of this was taking place with the very active sponsorship of CEO Swanson, she explained. The vision was to build a business model that was not only immediately rewarding but also enduring. The vision was to take the long view.

On the importance of embracing a shared vision:

“You need to have a team that shares your vision. But then the team has to make your vision theirs’ Rhoads said. “And when they make your vision their vision, now you’re off and running. If that’s not happening, then the change isn’t happening.” Still, when Rhoads was asked if the change management or culture clash was akin to a wall, she paused—but what she said next neatly embodies her leadership style and her way of viewing challenges. “I’m not sure it always looked like a wall,” she said. “Maybe that’s it—I just don’t see it that way, so I don’t approach it that way.”

On the importance of maintaining self-confidence during the journey:

The people who put you in that job had all the confidence in the world in you. They’re asking you to take on a lot,” Rhoads said. “Maybe they’re stretching you in the role, but they’re not losing confidence, and you just have to recognize that it’s going to be difficult, it’s going to be messy—the stuff in the foxhole is not what you expected. But the last thing you need to do is start to get weak-kneed and lose confidence in your ability.”


On the struggle against mediocrity and the fight for mastery:

And he reasserts his intolerance for mediocrity every chance he gets. Every day he tells his team they need to be better than their competitors. If they stack themselves up against the competition—in everything from quoting cycle times to receivables to capital returns—and see that they’re lacking, as Bandrowczak says, a change opportunity presents itself. And if they can master those areas and beat the other industry players, his team gets better by default.

On the delivery trifecta:

Bandrowczak also takes issue with CIOs and business leaders griping about the difficulties in prioritizing key projects. For him, it comes back to a few simple elements: the right portfolio, the right staff, and the right resources. If you don’t have those things—or can’t figure out how to understand them or access them—you’re in trouble.


On strategies for combating team fatigue during multi-year initiatives:

After tackling the fear and uncertainty existing in the legacy team. Tennison also had to watch another potential issue: fatigue. Every veteran IT professional knows the stress and exhaustion that comes with working on multiyear, multiphase projects. You’ll see progress, but after a while, it just feels like running on a treadmill. So Tennison focused on two remedies. The first was a time-tested management tactic. He rotated people—including his direct reports— in and out of different positions, both inside the IT organization and out. “We gave them some new air to breathe,” he said. The second went to his core strategy for Net Control—and one that many CIOs play very differently. Tennison kept the team focused on the discrete deliverables they mapped for the fill project, not on one big-bang initiative.


On the importance of learning from failure:

Right after the sales project went south, Shurts began taking stock of what went wrong. And that was one of the first and most important lessons he learned. Instead of focusing on what’s right in your plan, Shurts said, you have to be “relentless” in determining what’s wrong, and what might not work. Things will go wrong on any project—the key is to pay close attention to detail and understand that the plan you put on paper will likely be different than what’s really going to work in the field.

On the constant need for validating commercial sponsorship of projects:

Superfusion had devolved into just an IT project—not a business transformation initiative. There were chronic delays with no end in sight. Few thought it would work…In his second week as CIO, Shurts went around the room, asking the company’s senior leaders why they were still doing Superfusion. No one could give him a credible answer. In his sixth week, he pulled the plug.

On the dangers of aiming for perfection:

“Rather than designing for the rule and accommodating the exception, they were designing everything to be perfect, perfect. perfect,” he said. “So we came out and said, ‘Something better today— especially at Supervalu—was worth far more than something perfect a year from now.'”


Guidance on outsourcing:

“The right way to do it is first, strategy, then financial analysis, and then pick your partner. If you do that, I think things will work fine,” Imholz said. “I’m not all-in one way or the other—I’m not all-in saying everything should be inside, or that you should outsource the majority of it.” Regardless, companies will continue to face challenges. And they’ll make mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes Imholz sees companies make is “to try to outsource a problem”—in other words, farming out an under-performing element of the IT operation. “That’s the wrong way to go about it,” he said. “If you can’t manage something reasonably well, then you’re not going to do terribly well outsourcing it, because management responsibility doesn’t go away.” If you’re going to outsource a problem, Imholz said, fix it first.


On the need for innovation to be executed to deliver true value:

When he talks to budding CIOs, he gets a lot of questions about innovation. His take: innovation for innovation’s sake doesn’t mean much if the operational discipline isn’t there. It’s all about executing.

On the role of IT as an enabler of The Business Strategy:

Schwartz is emphatic about his organization’s role as an enabler of the business. “IT doesn’t own the strategy—that falls to our business partners,” Schwartz said. “But if you’re an enabler, you can influence and guide and show what’s possible and be effective change agents.”


I will conclude this post with the brilliant reminder by Susan Cramm, from the forward of the book:

Leading with technology is, first and foremost, about leadership. While there is no one-size-fits-all road to success, great leaders, like the ones profiled within this book, are marked by a unique set of qualities: passion and drive to make a positive difference, the ability to engage others to chart the future and define the path, and the paradoxical ability to maintain optimism and perseverance through difficult circumstances. With courageous and disciplined leadership as the foundation, the other factor that distinguishes these leaders is a level of technology smarts that is only born from experience. Technology-smart leaders know how to identify fin the words of one of the CIOs profiled here) the “art of the possible” amid the complex assortment of desired outcomes, existing capabilities and complexities, and various resources—technical and organizational—that can be applied to the transformational journey.

A recommended read for any IT leader.


On Daring Greatly Through Vulnerability

In 1910, former President Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech titled “Citizenship in a Republic” in France, with the following notable passage, known as the “The Man in the Arena”:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust ally in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again. because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly….

It is from this speech that Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly, titled her book – on How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love and Lead.

So what exactly is vulnerability, and why should we care about it?

Everything I’ve learned from over a decade of research on vulnerability has taught me this exact lesson. Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in. Vulnerability is not weakness since the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection. When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that: only we can make.

To further understand vulnerability, Brené turned to the flip side of the equation:

The people that are the most resistant to shame, and who have an intrinsic sense of self-worth, actively engage in the activities on the left, and let go of the ones on the right:

1. Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think

2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism

3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness

4.Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark

5.Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty

6.Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison

7.Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth

8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle

9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”

10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”

Brené expands further, that this group of people – promoters of wholehearted living – embrace the antidote of the never enough culture:

Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking. Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.

While we may have started as vulnerable, as we grow up we find ways to defend and protect ourselves from vulnerability and its associated potential disappointments, we put on armor and Brené identifies the three most common types:

The three forms of shielding that I am about to introduce are what I refer to as the “common vulnerability arsenal” because I have found that we all incorporate them into our personal armor in some way. These include foreboding joy, or the paradoxical dread that clamps down on momentary joyfulness; perfectionism, or believing that doing everything perfectly means you’ll never feel shame; and numbing, the embrace of whatever deadens the pain of discomfort and pain.

She then goes on to provide some practical strategies that we can use to disarm ourselves:

Practicing Gratitude: 1. Joy comes to us in moments—ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary. 2. Be grateful for what you have. 3. Don’t squander joy.

Appreciate the beauty of cracks: Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a defensive move…Perfection is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval…Perfectionism is not the key to success. In fact, research shows that perfectionism hampers achievement. Perfectionism is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis or missed opportunities…

Setting Boundaries Finding True Comfort and Cultivating Spirit: Learning how to actually feel their feelings.  Staying mindful about numbing behaviors (they struggled too). Learning how to lean into the discomfort of hard emotions.

Vulnerability is key to two of the most important elements of our lives, trust and love:

Trust is a product of vulnerability that grows over time and requires work, attention, and full engagement. Trust isn’t a grand gesture—it’s a growing marble collection.

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection. Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow. A connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them—we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal. and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged. healed, and rare.

Brené acknowledges that being vulnerable is not easy, but it is never a sign of weakness:

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. Yes, we are totally exposed when we are vulnerable. Yes, we are in the torture chamber that we call uncertainty. And, yes, we’re taking a huge emotional risk when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. But there’s no equation where taking risks, braving uncertainty, and opening ourselves up to emotional exposure equals weakness.

How do we develop shame resilience? Brené suggests four steps, and while they may not be executed sequentially they will yield the desired effect of healing and empathy:

1. Recognizing Shame and Understanding Its Triggers. Shame is biology and biography. Can you physically recognize when you’re in the grips of shame, feel your way through it, and figure out what messages and expectations triggered it?

2. Practicing Critical Awareness. Can you reality-check the messages and expectations hat are driving your shame? Are they realistic? Attainable? Are they what you want to be or what you think others need/want from you;

3. Reaching Out. Are you owning and sharing your story? We can’t experience empathy if we’re not connecting.

4. Speaking Shame. Are you talking about how you feel and asking for what you need when you feel shame?

As we embark on our Daring Greatly journey, we will be faced with difficulties:

Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands. The people who love me and will be there regardless of the outcome are within arm’s reach. This realization changed everything. That’s the wife and mother and friend that I now strive to be. I want our home to be a place where we can be our bravest selves and our most fearful selves. Where we practice difficult conversations and share our shaming moments from school and work. I want to look at Steve and my kids and say, “I’m with you. In the arena. And when we fail, we’ll fail together, while daring greatly.” We simply can’t learn to be more vulnerable and courageous on our own. Sometimes our first and greatest dare is asking for support.

And criticism…

When we stop caring about what people think, we lose our capacity for connection. When we become defined by what people think, we lose our willingness to be vulnerable. If we dismiss all the criticism, we lose out on important feedback, but if we subject ourselves to the hatefulness, our spirits get crushed. It’s a tightrope, shame resilience is the balance bar, and the safety net below is the one or two people in our lives who can help us reality-check the criticism and cynicism.

There are numerous lessons, in Daring Greatly, that apply directly to the corporate environment:

First, on employee engagement:

My corporate talks almost always focus on inspired leadership or creativity and innovation. The most significant problems that everyone from C-level executives to the front-line folks talk to me about stem from disengagement, the lack of feedback, the fear of staying relevant amid rapid change. and the need for clarity of purpose. If we want to reignite innovation and passion, we have to rehumanize work. When shame becomes a management style, engagement dies. When failure is not an option we can forget about learning, creativity, and innovation…Shame can only rise so far in any system before people disengage to protect themselves. When we’re disengaged, we don’t show up, we don’t contribute, and we stop caring.

Second, on corporate culture:

One way to think about the three components of scarcity and how they influence culture is to reflect upon the following questions. As you’re reading the questions, it’s helpful to keep in mind any culture or social system that you’re a part of, whether your classroom, your family, your community, or maybe your work team:

1. Shame: Is fear of ridicule and belittling used to manage people and/or to keep people in line? Is self-worth tied to achievement, productivity, or compliance? Are blaming and finger-pointing norms? Are put-downs and name-calling rampant? What about favoritism? Is perfectionism an issue?

2. Comparison: Healthy competition can be beneficial, but is there constant overt or covert comparing and ranking? Has creativity been suffocated? Are people held to one narrow standard rather than acknowledged for their unique gifts and contributions? Is there an ideal way of being or one form of talent that is used as measurement of everyone else’s worth?

3. Disengagement: Are people afraid to take risks or try new things? Is it easier to stay quiet than to share stories, experiences, and ideas? Does it feel as if no one is really paying attention or listening? Is everyone struggling to be seen and heard?

Third, on effective feedback:

Vulnerability is at the heart of the feedback process. This is true whether we give, receive, or solicit feedback. And the vulnerability doesn’t go away even if we’re trained and experienced in offering and give us the advantage of knowing that we can survive the exposure and uncertainty, and that it’s worth the risk.

Fourth, on leadership – walking the talk:

The space between our practiced values (what we’re actually doing, thinking, and feeling) and our aspirational values (what we want to do, think, and feel) is the value gap, or what I call “the disengagement divide.” It’s where we lose our employees, our clients, our students, our teachers, our congregations, and even our own children. We can take big steps—we can even make a running jump to cross the widening value fissures that we face at home, work, and school—but at some point, when that divide broadens to a certain critical degree we’re goners. That’s why dehumanizing cultures foster the highest levels of disengagement—they create value gaps that actual humans can’t hope to successfully navigate.

As with the people we lead in a corporate setting, walking the talk at home as parents is also consequential:

Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.

On a concluding note:

Perfect and bulletproof are seductive. but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be—a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation—with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.

I would highly recommend this bestselling book, as well as the associated TED talk, which ranks as one of the most watched of all times.

On The Leadership Challenge

I recently finished reading The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “Whether in their early twenties, late seventies, or anywhere between, leaders told us that the fundamentals of leadership are the same today as they were in the 1980s, and they’ve probably have been the same for centuries. Yet the leaders were quick to add that while the content of leadership has not changed, the context—and, in some cases, it has changed dramatically. What is this new context, and what are the implications for the practice of leadership? From heightening uncertainty across the world to an intense search for meaning, our connections as people and as leaders are part of this context. Heightened uncertainty…People first…We’re even more connected…Social capital…Speed…A changing workforce…Even more intense search for meaning.”

2- “Leaders do exhibit certain distinct practices when they are doing their best. This process varies little from industry to industry, profession to profession, community to community, country to country. Good leadership is individual, there are patterns to the practice of leadership that are shared. And that can be learned.”

3- “As we looked deeper into the dynamic process of leadership, through case analyses and survey questionnaires, we uncovered five practices common to personal-best leadership experiences. When getting extraordinary things done in organizations, leaders engage in these Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership: Model the Way. Inspire a Shared Vision. Challenge the Process. Enable Others to Act. Encourage the Heart.”

4- “Modeling the way is essentially about earning the right and the respect to lead through direct individual involvement and action. People first follow the person, then the plan.”

5- ” Leaders know well that innovation and change all involve experimentation, risk, and failure. They proceed anyway. One way of dealing with the potential risks and failures of experimentation is to approach change through incremental steps and small wins. Little victories, when piled on top of each other, build confidence that even the biggest challenges can be met. In so doing, they strengthen commitment to the long-term future. Yet not everyone is equally comfortable with risk and uncertainty. Leaders also pay attention to the capacity of their constituents to take control of challenging situations and become fully committed to change. You can’t exhort people to take risks if they don’t also feel safe.”

6- “Constituents neither perform at their best nor stick around for very long if their leader makes them feel weak, dependent, or alienated. But when a leader makes people feel strong and capable— as if they can do more than they ever thought possible—they’ll give it their all and exceed their own expectations. When leadership is a relationship founded on trust and confidence, people take risks, make changes, keep organizations and movements alive. Through that relationship, leaders turn their constituents into leaders themselves.”

7- “Success in leadership, success in business, and success in life has been, is now, and will continue to be a function of how well people work and play together. We’re even more convinced of this today than we were twenty years ago. Success in leading will be wholly dependent upon the capacity to build and sustain those human relationships that enable people to get extraordinary things done on a regular basis.”

8- “THE TEN COMMITMENTS OF LEADERSHIP: 1. Find your voice by clarifying your personal values. 2. Set the example by aligning actions with shared values. 3. Envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities. 4. Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations. 5. Search for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, grow, and improve. 6. Experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from mistakes. 7. Foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust. 8. Strengthen others by sharing power and discretion. 9. Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence. 10. Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community.”

9- “As the data clearly show, for people to follow someone willingly, the majority of constituents must believe the leader is: Honest, Competent, Forward-looking and Inspiring.”

10- “To gain and sustain the moral authority to lead, it’s essential to Model the Way. Because of this important connection between words and actions, we’ve chosen to start our discussion of the Five Practices with a thorough examination of the principles and behaviors that bring Model the Way to life. First, in Chapter Three, we introduce you to why it’s essential to Find Your Voice—that unique expression of yourself that gives you the inner strength as a leader to «j«v what you will do. Then, in Chapter Four, we’ll take a look at how leaders Set the Example, the second half of the formula for establishing credibility. You’ll see how leaders must focus on their own personal values and how they must build and affirm shared values. Throughout the chapters and the action steps, you’ll also learn methods to align actions with values—the step in the process that communicates with deeds. not just words.”

11- ” Voice in this context is both a noun and a verb. It encompasses words and speech. There’s the message we want to deliver, and then there’s the expression of that message. It’s about having a voice and about giving voice. To Find Your Voice you must engage in two essentials: Clarify your values, Express your self. To become a credible leader, first you have to comprehend fully the values, beliefs, and assumptions that drive you. You have to freely and honestly choose the principles you will use to guide your actions. Before you can clearly communicate your message, you must be clear about the message you want to deliver. And before you can do what you say, you must be sure that you mean what you say. Second, you have to genuinely express your self. The words themselves aren’t enough, no matter how noble. You must authentically communicate your beliefs in ways that uniquely represent who you are. You must interpret the lyrics and shape them into your own singular presentation so that Others recognize that you’re the one who’s speaking and not someone else.”

12- “Values influence every aspect of our lives: our moral judgments, our responses to others, our commitments to personal and organizational goals…Values also serve as guides to action. They inform our decisions as to what to do and what not to do; when to say yes, or no, and really understand why we mean it…Values are empowering. We are much more in control of our own lives when we’re clear about our personal values. When values are clear we don’t have to rely upon direction from someone in authority…Values also motivate. They keen us focused on why we’re doing what we’re doing and the ends toward which we’re striving. Values are the banners that fly as we persist, as we struggle, as we toil.”

13- “People want to be part of something larger than themselves. What we’re savings is this: people cannot fully commit to an organization or a movement that does not fit with their own beliefs. Leaders must pay as much attention to personal values as they do to organizational values if they want dedicated constituents.”

14- “The Three Stages of Self-Expression: Finding one’s voice and finding one’s unique way of expressing the self is something that every artist understands, and every artist knows that finding a voice is most definitely not a matter of technique. It’s a matter of time and a matter of searching—soul-searching…When first learning to lead, we paint what we see outside ourselves—the exterior landscape. We read biographies and autobiographies about famous leaders. We observe master models and ask the advice of mentors. We read books and listen to audiotapes by experienced executives. We participate in training programs. We take on job assignments so that we can work alongside someone who can coach us. We want to learn everything we can from Others, and we often try to copy their style…Somewhere along the way, you’ll notice that your speech sounds mechanically wrote, that your meetings are a boring routine, and that your interactions feel terribly sad and empty. You’ll awaken to the frightening thought that the words aren’t yours, that the vocabulary is someone else’s, that the technique is right out of the text but not straight from the heart. While you’ve invested so much time and energy in learning to do all the right things, you suddenly see that they’re no longer serving you well. The methods seem hollow. You may even feel like a phony…If, as David did, you’re fortunate enough to experience an integrative turning point in your development—a point where you’re able to merge the lessons from your outer and inner journeys—you move on to becoming an authentic leader, in whatever field you’ve chosen for yourself. You’re able to recognize your own voice from the multitude of other voices ringing in your ears, and you find ways to express yourself in a singular style. You become the author of your own experience.”

15- “There are five essential aspects to their behavior and actions that leaders need to be conscious about in their efforts to align shared values through the example of the actions they take: 1) Calendars, 2) Critical incidents, 3) Stories, analogies, and metaphors 4) Language 5) Measurements.”

16- “Create alignment around key values. Researchers have demonstrated that there are three central themes in the values of highly successful, strong-culture organizations: High performance standards. A caring attitude toward people. A sense of uniqueness and pride.”

17- “When we feel passionately about the legacy we want to leave, about the kind of future world we want for ourselves and for others, then we are much more likely to voluntarily step forward. If we don’t have the slightest clue about our hopes, dreams, and aspirations, then the chance that we’ll take the lead is significantly less. In fact, we may not even see the opportunity that’s right in front of us.”

18- “At the beginning what leaders have is a theme. They have concerns, desires. questions, propositions, arguments, hopes, dreams, and aspirations—core concepts around which they organize their aspirations and actions. Leaders begin the process of Envisioning the Future by discovering their own themes. Everything else leaders say about their vision is an elaboration, interpretation. and variation on that theme. Fortunately, there are ways to improve your ability to articulate your own themes and ultimately your visions of the future. Express Your Passion…Explore Your Past…Pay Attention to Your Experiences…Immerse Yourself.”

19- “Leaders are possibility thinkers, not probability thinkers. Probabilities must be based upon evidence strong enough to establish presumption. Possibilities are not. All new ventures begin with possibility thinking, not probability thinking. After all, the probability is that most new businesses will fail and most social reforms will never get off the ground. If entrepreneurs or activists accepted this view, however, they’d never start a new business or organize a community. Instead, they begin with the assumption that anything is possible. Like entrepreneurs and other activists, leaders assume that anything is possible. It’s this belief that sustains them through the difficult times.”

20- “Whether they’re trying to mobilize a crowd in the grandstand or one person in the office, leaders must practice these three essentials to Enlist Others: Listen deeply to others. Discover and appeal to a common purpose. Give life to a vision by communicating expressively, so that people can see themselves in it.”

21- “If you want to create a climate that sustains personal-best leadership experiences, what situations would you look for? What context would most likely offer the right conditions? What leadership actions are required to establish a culture that is characterized by challenge, energy, excitement. determination, inspiration, and innovation? It’s already clear that you need shared values and a shared vision. What else? To Search for Opportunities to get extraordinary things done, leaders make use of four essentials: Seize the initiative. Make challenge meaningful. Innovate and create. Look outward for fresh ideas. Leaders take charge of change. They instill a sense of adventure in others, they look for ways to radically alter the status quo, and they continuously scan the outside environment for new and fresh ideas. Leaders always search for opportunities for ways to do what has never been done.”

22- “Leaders raise the bar gradually and offer coaching and training to build skills that help people get over each new level…They challenge people, sometimes to their very cores—and participants come out changed and ready to take on new risks and experiments…In this endeavor, Reno and Randi demonstrate, as do all exemplary leaders, the need to: Initiate incremental steps and small wins. Learn from mistakes. Promote psychological hardiness.”

23- “High-stress/low-illness executives made these assumptions about themselves in interaction with the world: 1- They felt a strong sense of control believing that they could beneficially influence the direction and outcome of what was going on around them through their own efforts. Lapsing into powerlessness, feeling like a victim of circumstances, and passivity seemed like a waste of time to them. 2- They were strong in commitment, believing that they could find something important, or worthwhile. They were curious about what was going on around them, and this led them to find interactions with people and situations stimulating and meaningful. They were unlikely to engage in denial or feel disengaged, bored, and empty. 3- They felt strong in challenge, believing that personal improvement and fulfillment came through the continual process of learning from both negative and positive experiences. They felt that it was not only unrealistic but also stultifying to simply expect, or even wish for, easy comfort and security.”

24- “Turbulence in the marketplace, it turns out, requires more collaboration, not less. Collaboration is the critical competency for achieving and sustaining high performance—especially in the Internet Age!..Indeed, world-class performances aren’t possible unless there’s a strong sense of shared creation and shared responsibility. To Foster Collaboration, leaders are essential who can skillfully: Create a climate of trust. Facilitate positive interdependence. Support face-to-face interactions.”

25- “To put it quite simply, trust is the most significant predictor of Individuals’ satisfaction with their organizations. When leaders create a climate of trust, they take away the controls and allow people to be free to innovate and contribute. Trusting leaders nurture openness, involvement, personal satisfaction, and high levels of commitment to excellence. Be Open to Influence…Make Yourself Vulnerable…Listen, Listen, Listen.”

26- “Creating a climate where people are involved and important is at the heart of strengthening others. People must have the latitude to make decisions based on what they believe should be done. They must work in an environment that both builds their ability to perform a task or complete an assignment and promotes a sense of self-confidence in their judgment. People must experience a sense of personal accountability so that they can feel ownership for their achievements. We’ve identified four leadership essentials to Strengthen Others: Ensure self-leadership. Provide choice. Develop competence and confidence. Foster accountability.”

27- “Exemplary leaders understand this need to Recognize Contributions and are constantly engaged in these essentials: Focus on clear standards. Expect the best. Pay attention. Personalize recognition.”

28- “Leaders are out there for a reason. One of the reasons, we would maintain, is to show that you care. One way of showing you care is to pay attention to people, to what they are doing, and to how they are feeling. And if you are clear about the standards you’re looking for and you believe and expect that people will perform like winners, then you’re going to notice lots of examples of people doing things right and doing the right things. In contrast, what happens in organizations where managers are constantly on the lookout for problems? Three things: managers get a distorted view of reality; over time, production declines; and the managers’ personal liability hits bottom. Wandering around with an eye for trouble is likely to get you just that. More trouble.”

29- “When we’re open we make ourselves vulnerable—and this vulnerability makes us more human and more trusted. If neither person in a relationship takes the risk of trusting, at least a little, the relationship remains stalled at a low-level of caution and suspicion. If leaders want the higher levels of performance that come with trust and collaboration, then they must demonstrate their trust in others before asking for trust from others. As discussed in Chapter Nine, when it comes to trust, leaders ante up first.”

30- “If leaders are to effectively Celebrate the Values and Victories, they must master these three essentials: Create a spirit of community. Tell the story. Set the example. By bringing people together, sharing the lessons from success, and getting personally involved, leaders reinforce in others the courage required to get extraordinary things done in organizations.”

31- “Stories put a human face on success. They tell us that someone just like us can make it happen. They create organizational role models that everyone can relate to. They put the behavior in a real context. They make standards more than statistics; they make standards come alive. By telling a story in detail, leaders illustrate what everyone needs to do to live by the organizational standards.”

32- “The process of development should never be intrusive. It should never be about just filling someone full of facts or skills. It won’t work. Education should always be liberating. It should be about releasing what is already inside. The quest for leadership is first an inner quest to discover who you are. Through self-development comes the confidence needed to lead. Self-confidence is really awareness of and faith in your own powers. These powers become clear and strong only as you work to identify and develop them. Learning to lead is about discovering what you care about and value. About what inspires you. About what challenges you. About what gives you power and competence. About what encourages you. When you discover these things about yourself, you’ll know what it takes to lead those qualities out of others. Sure, we’ve said already that every leader has to learn the fundamentals and the discipline, and to a certain extent there’s some period during which you’re trying out a lot of new things. It’s a necessary stage in your development as a leader. The point is you have to take what’s been acquired and reshape into your own expression of yourself.Sometimes liberation is as uncomfortable as intrusion, but in the end when you discover it for yourself you know that what’s inside is what you put there and what belongs there. It’s not something put inside you by someone else; it’s what you discover for yourself.”

33- “Leadership practices per se are amoral. But leaders—the men and women who use the practices—are moral or immoral. There’s an ethical dimension to leadership that neither leaders nor constituents should take lightly. This is why we began our discussion of leadership practices with a focus on finding your voice—your authentic self grounded in a set of values and ideals. These, you have to find for yourself and test against others. There are. according to the late John Gardner, Stanford professor, secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Johnson administration, and founder of Common Cause, four moral goals of leadership: Releasing human potential. Balancing the needs of the individual and the community. Defending the fundamental values of the community. Instilling in individuals a sense of initiative and responsibility Attending to these goals will always direct your eyes to higher purposes. As you work to become all you can be, you can start to let go of your petty self-interests. As you give back some of what you’ve been given, you can reconstruct your community. As you serve the values of freedom, justice, equality, caring, and dignity, you can constantly renew the foundations of democracy. As each of us takes individual responsibility for creating the world of our dreams, we can all participate in leading.”

34- “Humility is the only way to resolve the conflicts and contradictions of leadership. You can avoid excessive pride only if you recognize that you’re human and need the help of others.”

35- “Of all the things that sustain a leader over time, love is the most lasting. It’s hard to imagine leaders getting up day after day, putting in the long hours and hard work it takes to get extraordinary things done, without having their hearts in it. The best-kept secret of successful leaders is love: staying in love with leading, with the people who do the work, with what their organizations produce, and with those who honor the organization by using its work. Leadership is not an affair of the head. Leadership is an affair of the heart.”


Omar Halabieh

The Leadership Challenge

On Steve Jobs

I recently finished reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics,” he said. “Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” It was as if he were suggesting themes for his biography (and in this instance, at least, the theme turned out to be valid). The creativity that can occur where both the humanities and the sciences combine in one strong personality was the topic that most interested me in my biographies of Franklin and Einstein, and I believe that it will be a key to creating innovative economies in the twenty-first century.”

2- “His wife also did not request restrictions or control, nor did she ask to see in advance what I would publish. In fact she strongly encouraged me to be honest about his failings as well as his strengths. She is one of the smartest and most grounded people I have ever met. “There are parts of his life and personality that are extremely messy. and that’s the truth,” she told me early on. “You shouldn’t whitewash it. He’s good at spin, but he also has a remarkable story, and I’d like to see that it’s all told truthfully” I leave it to the reader to assess whether I have succeeded in this mission. I’m sure there are players in this drama who will remember some of the events differently or think that I sometimes got trapped in Jobs’s distortion field.”

3- “Jobs said that his appreciation for Eichler homes instilled in him a passion for making nicely designed products for the mass market. I Jove it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn’t cost much,” he said as he pointed out the clean elegance of the houses. “It was the original vision for Apple. That’s what we tried to do with the first Mac. That’s what we did with the iPod.””

4- “The Blue Box adventure established a template for a partnership that would soon be born. Wozniak would be the gentle wizard coming up with a neat invention that he would have been happy just to give away. and Jobs would figure out how to make it user-friendly, put it together in a package, market it, and make a few bucks.”

5- “Coming back to America was, for me, much more of a cultural shock than going to India. The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.”

6- “Jobs is a complex person, he said, and being manipulative is just the darker facet of the traits that make him successful. Wozniak would never have been that way, but as he points out, he also could never have built Apple. “I would rather let it pass,” he said when I pressed the point. “It’s not something I want to judge Steve by.””

7- “Apple. It was a smart choice. The word instantly signaled friendliness and simplicity. It managed to be both slightly off-beat and as normal as a slice of pie. There was a whiff of counterculture, back-to-nature earthiness to it, yet nothing could be more American. And the two words together—Apple Computer—provided an amusing disjuncture. ”

8- “Jobs’s father had once taught him that a drive for perfection meant caring about the craftsmanship even of the parts unseen. Jobs applied that to the layout of the circuit board inside the Apple II. He rejected the initial design because the lines were not straight enough. This passion for perfection led him to indulge his instinct to control. Most hackers and hobbyists liked to customize, modify, and jack various things into their computers. To Jobs, this was a threat to a seamless end-to-end user experience.”

9- “Markkula would become a father figure to Jobs. Like Jobs’s adoptive father, he would indulge Jobs’s strong will, and like his biological father, he would end up abandoning him. “Markkula was as much a father-son relationship as Steve ever had,” said the venture capitalist Arthur Rock. He began to teach Jobs about marketing and sales. “Mike really took me under his wing,” Jobs recalled. “His values were much aligned with mine. He emphasized that you should never start a company with the goal of getting rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last.””

10- “Was Jobs’s unfiltered behavior caused by a lack of emotional sensitivity? No. Almost the opposite. He was very emotionally attuned. able to read people and know their psychological strengths and vulnerabilities. He could stun an unsuspecting: victim with an emotional towel-snap, perfectly aimed. He intuitively knew when someone was faking it or truly knew something. This made him masterful at cajoling, stroking, persuading, flattering, and intimidating people.”

11- “But even though Jobs’s style could be demoralizing, it could also be oddly inspiring. It infused Apple employees with an abiding passion to create groundbreaking products and a belief that they could accomplish what seemed impossible.”

12- “The best products, he believed, were “whole widgets” that were designed end-to-end, with the software closely tailored to the hardware and vice versa. This is what would distinguish the Macintosh, which had an operating system that worked only on its own hardware, from the environment that Microsoft was creating, in which its operating system could be used on hardware made by many different companies.”

13- “Their differences in personality and character would lead them to opposite sides of what would become the fundamental divide in the digital age. Jobs was a perfectionist who craved control and indulged in the uncompromising temperament of an artist; he and Apple became the exemplars of a digital strategy that tightly integrated hardware. software, and content into a seamless package. Gates was a smart, calculating, and pragmatic analyst of business and technology; he was )pen to licensing Microsoft’s operating system and software to a variety of manufacturers.”

14- “I’ll always stay connected with Apple. I hope that throughout my life I’ll sort of have the thread of my life and the thread of Apple weave in and out of each other, like a tapestry. There may be a few years when I’m not there, but I’U always come back. If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away. The more the outside world tries to reinforce an image of you, the harder it is to continue to be an artist, which is why a lot of times. artists have to say. “Bye. I have to go now. I’m going crazy and I’m getting out of here.” And they go and hibernate somewhere. Maybe later they re-emerge a little differently.”

15- “Jobs sometimes avoided the truth. Helmut Sonnenfeldt once said of Henry Kissinger, “He lies not because it’s in his interest. he lies because it’s in his nature.” It was in Jobs’s nature to mislead or be secretive when he felt it was warranted. But he also indulged in being brutally honest at times, telling the truths that most of us sugarcoat or suppress. Both the dissembling and the truth-telling were simply different aspects of his Nietzschean attitude that ordinary rules didn’t apply to him.”

16- “For all of his willfulness and insatiable desire to control things. Jobs was indecisive and reticent when he felt unsure about something. He craved perfection, and he was not always good at figuring out how to settle for something less. He did not like to wrestle with complexity or make accommodations. This was true in products, design, and furnishings for the house. It was also true when it came to personal for the house. It was also true when it came to personal commitments. If he knew for sure a course of action was right. he was unstoppable. But if he had doubts, he sometimes withdrew, preferring not to think about things that did not perfectly suit him.”

17- “Ever since he left the apple commune, Jobs had defined himself and by extension Apple, as a child of the counterculture. In ads such as “Think Different” and “1984,” he positioned the Apple brand so that it reaffirmed his own rebel streak, even after he became a billionaire, and it allowed other baby boomers and their kids to do the same. “From when I first met him as a young guy, he’s had the greatest of the impact he wants his brand to have on people,” said Clow. Very few other companies or corporate leaders—perhaps none— could have gotten away with the brilliant audacity of associating their brand with Gandhi, Einstein, Picasso, and the Dalai Lama. Jobs was able to encourage people to define themselves as anti-corporate, creative. innovative rebels simply by the computer they used. “Steve created the only lifestyle brand in the tech industry,” Larry Ellison said. “There are cars people are proud to have—Porsche, Ferrari, Prius—because what I drive says something about me. People feel the same way about an Apple product.”

18- “One of his motivating passions was to build a lasting company. At age twelve, when he got a summer job at Hewlett-Packard, he learned that a properly run company could spawn innovation far more than any single creative individual. “I discovered that the best innovation is sometimes the company, the way you organize a company,” he recalled. “The whole notion of how you build a company is fascinating. When I got the chance to come back to Apple, I realized that I would be useless without the company, and that’s why I decided to stay and rebuild it.”

19- “Why do we assume that simple is good? Because with physical products. we have to feel we can dominate them. As you bring order to complexity, you find a way to make the product defer to you. Simplicity isn’t just a -visual style. It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. X involves digging through the depth of the complexity. To be truly simple, you have to go really deep. For example, to have no screws on something, you can end up having a product that is so convoluted and so complex. The better way is to go deeper with the simplicity, to understand everything about it and how it’s manufactured. You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.”

20- “Despite his autocratic nature—he never worshiped at the altar of consensus—Jobs worked hard to foster a culture of collaboration at Apple. Many companies pride themselves on having few meetings. Jobs had many.”

21- “”From the earliest days at Apple, I realized that we thrived when we created intellectual property. If people copied or stole our software, we’d be out of business. If it weren’t protected, there’d be no incentive for us to make new software or product designs. If protection of intellectual property begins to disappear, creative companies will disappear or never get Started. But there’s a simpler reason: It’s wrong to steal. It hurts other people. And it hurts your own character.” He knew, however, that the best way to stop piracy—in fact the only way—was to offer an alternative that was more attractive than the brain-dead services that music companies were concocting.”

22- “But Sony couldn’t. It had pioneered portable music with the Walkman, it had a great record company, and it had a long history of making beautiful consumer devices. It had all of the assets to compete with Jobs’s Strategy of integration of hardware, software, devices, and content sales. Why did it fail? Partly because it was a company, like AOL Time Warner that was organized into divisions (that word itself was ominous) with their own bottom lines; the goal of achieving synergy in such companies by prodding the divisions to work together was usually elusive. Jobs did not organize Apple into semi-autonomous divisions; he closely controlled all of his teams and pushed them to work as one cohesive and flexible company, with one profit-and-loss bottom fine. “We don’t have ‘divisions’ with their own P&L,” said Tim Cook. “We run one P&L for the company.””

23- “Despite being- a denizen of the digital world, or maybe because he knew all too well its isolating potential, Jobs was a strong believer in face-to-face meetings. “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat,” he said. “That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.” So he had the Pixar building- designed to promote encounters and unplanned collaborations. “If a building doesn’t encourage that, you’ll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity,” he said. “So we designed the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see.””

24- “Jobs insisted that Apple focus on just two or three priorities at a time. “There is no one better at turning off the noise that is going on around him,” Cook said. “That allows him to focus on a few things and say no to many things. Few people are really good at that.” In order to institutionalize the lessons that he and his team were learning. Jobs started an in-house center called Apple University. He hired Joel Podolny, who was dean of the Yale School of Management, to compile a series of case studies analyzing important decisions the company had made, including the switch to the Intel microprocessor and the decision to open the Apple Stores. Top executives spent time teaching the cases to new employees, so that the Apple style of decision making would be embedded in the culture.”

25- “”Steve has a particular way that he wants to run Apple, and it’s the same as it was twenty years ago, which is that Apple is a brilliant innovator of closed systems.” Schmidt later told me. “They don’t want people to be on their platform without permission. The benefits of a closed platform is control. But Google has a specific belief that open is the better approach, because it leads to more options and competition and consumer choice.””

26- “The nasty edge to his personality was not necessary. It hindered him more than it helped him. But it did, at times, serve a purpose. Polite and velvety leaders, who take care to avoid bruising others, are generally not as effective at forcing change. Dozens of the colleagues whom Jobs most abused ended their litany of horror stories by saying that he got them to do things they never dreamed possible. And he created a corporation crammed with A players.”

27- “The saga of Steve Jobs is the Silicon Valley creation myth writ large: launching a start-up in his parents’ garage and building it into the world’s most valuable company. He didn’t invent many things outright. but he was a master at putting together ideas, art, and technology in ways that invented the feature. He designed the Mac after appreciating the power of graphical interfaces in a way that Xerox was unable to do. and he created the iPod after grasping the joy of having a thousand in your pocket in a way that Sony, which had all the assets and heritage, never could accomplish. Some leaders push innovations by being good at the big picture. Others do so by mastering details. Jobs did both, relentlessly. As a result he launched a series of products over three decades that transformed whole industries…”

28- “Was he smart? No, not exceptionally. Instead, he was a genius. His imaginative leaps were instinctive, unexpected, and at times magical. He was, indeed, an example of what the mathematician Mark Kac called a magician genius, someone whose insights come out of the blue and require intuition more than mere mental processing power. Like a pathfinder, he could absorb information, sniff the winds, and sense what lay ahead. Steve Jobs thus became the greatest business executive of our era, the one most certain to be remembered a century from now. History will place him in the pantheon right next to Edison and Ford. More than anyone else of his time, he made products that were completely innovative, combining the power of poetry and processors. With a ferocity that could make working with him as unsettling as it was inspiring, he also built the world’s most creative company. And he was able to infuse into its DNA the design sensibilities, perfectionism, and imagination that make it likely to be, even decades from now. the company that thrives best at the intersection of artistry and technology.”


Omar Halabieh

Steve Jobs

On Made In Japan

I recently finished reading Made In Japan – Akio Morita and SONY – by Akio Morito with Edwin M. Reingold and Mitsuko Shumomura.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “I have always believed that a trademark is the life of an enterprise and that it must be protected boldly. A trademark and a company name are not just clever gimmicks—they carry responsibility and guarantee the quality of the product. If someone tries to get a free ride on the reputation and i the ability of another who has worked to build up public trust.”

2- “In the beginning, when our track record for success was not established, our competitors would take a very cautious wait-and-see attitude while we marketed and developed a new product. In the early days, we would often have the market to ourselves for a year or more before the other companies would be convinced that the product would be a success. And we made a lot of money, having the market all to ourselves. But as we became more successful and our track record became clearer, the others waited a shorter and shorter time before jumping in. Now we barely get a three-month head start on some products before the others enter the market to compete with us with their own version of the product we innovated. It is flattering in a way, but it is expensive. We have to keep a premium on innovation.”

3- “My point in digressing to tell this story is simple: I do not believe that any amount of market research could have told us that the Sony Walkman sensational hit that would spawn many imitators. And yet this small item has literally changed the music-listening habits of millions of people all around the world.”

4- “It was this kind of innovation that Ibuka had in mind when we wrote a kind of prospectus and philosophical statement for our company in the very beginning: “If it were possible to establish conditions where persons could become united with a firm spirit of teamwork and exercise to their hearts’ desire their technological capacity,” he wrote, “then such an organization could bring untold pleasure and untold benefits.” He was thinking about industrial creativity, something that is done with teamwork to create new and worthwhile products. Machines and computers cannot be creative in themselves, because creativity requires something more than the processing of existing information. It requires human thought, spontaneous intuition, and a lot of courage, and we had plenty of that in our early days and still do.”

5- “My view was that you must first learn the market.. learn how to sell to it, and build up your corporate confidence before you commit yourself. And when you have confidence, you should commit yourself wholeheartedly.”

6- “…no matter how good or successful you are or how clever or crafty, your business and its future are in the hands of the people you hire. To put it a bit more dramatically, the fate of your business is actually in the hands of the youngest recruit on the staff.”

7- “When most Japanese companies talk about cooperation or consensus, it usually means the elimination of individuality. At our company we are challenged to bring our ideas out into the open. If they clash with others, so much the better, because out of it may come something good at a higher level. Many Japanese companies like to use the words cooperation and consensus because they dislike individualistic employees. When I am asked, and sometimes when I am not, I say that a manager who talks too much about cooperation is one who is saying he doesn’t have the ability to utilize excellent individuals and their ideas and put their ideas in harmony. If my company is successful, it is largely because our managers do have that ability.”

8- “Management officers, knowing that the company’s ordinary business is being done by energetic and enthusiastic younger employees, can devote their energy and effort to planning the future of the company. With is in mind, we think it is unwise and unnecessary to define individual responsibility too clearly, because everyone is taught to act like a family member ready to do what is necessary. If something goes wrong it is considered bad taste for management to inquire who made the mistake. That may seem dangerous, if not silly, but it makes sense to us.”

9- “I cannot understand why there is anything good in laying off people. If management takes the risk and responsibility of hiring personnel, then it is management’s ongoing responsibility to keep them employed. The employee does not have the prime responsibility in this decision, so when a recession comes. why should the employee have to suffer for the management decision to hire him? Therefore, in times of boom we are very careful about increasing our personnel. Once we have hired people, we try to make them understand our concept of a fate-sharing body and how if a recession comes the company is willing to sacrifice profit to keep them in the company.”

10- “What you are showing to your employees is not that you are an artist who performs by himself on the high wire, but you are showing them how you are attempting to attract a large number of people to follow you willingly and with enthusiasm to contribute to the success of the company. If you can do that, the bottom line will take  care of itself.”

11- “It may sound curious, but I learned that an enemy of this innovation could be your own sales organization if it has too much power, because very often these organizations discourage innovation. When you make innovative new products, you must re-educate the sales force about them so the salesmen can educate and sell the public. This is expensive; it means investing sufficient money in R&D and new facilities and advertising and promotion. And it also means making some popular and profitable items obsolete, often the items you can make the most profit on because your development costs are paid for and these products have become easy for your salesmen to sell.”

12- “The primary function of management is decision-making and that means professional knowledge of technology and the ability to foresee the future direction or trends of technology. I believe a manager must have a wide range of general knowledge covering his own business field. It also helps to have a special sense, generated by knowledge and experience—a feel for the business that goes beyond the facts and figures—and this intuitiveness is a gift only human beings can have.”

13- “Next to lawyers, I think these people are the most overused and misused businessmen on the scene in the United States and Japan. I use consultants selectively and have found the best ones can do valuable information gathering and market analysis. But their use can be brought to ridiculous extremes, and it has been.”

14- “I think one of the main advantages of the Japanese system of management over the American or the Western system in general is this sense of corporate philosophy. Even if a new executive takes over he cannot change that. In Japan the long-range planning system and the junior management proposal system guarantee that the relationship between top management and junior management remains very close and that over the years they can formulate a specific program of action that the years they can formulate a specific program of action that will maintain the philosophy of the company. It also may explain why in the initial stages progress is very slow in a Japanese company. But once the company communicates its philosophy to all employees, the company has great strength and flexibility.”

15- “My point is that it is unwise merely to do something different and then rest on your laurels. You have to do something to make a business out of a new development, and that requires that you keep updating the product and staying ahead of the market.”

16- “My prediction is that we can enjoy our lives with less energy, less of the old materials, fewer resources, more recycling, and have more of the essentials for a happy and productive life than ever. Some people in the world, especially the Americans, will have  to learn something of the meaning and spirit of mottainai and conserve more. Step by step, year by year, we must all learn how to be more skillful and efficient in using our resources economically. We must recycle more. As to the expanding populations, that will be a challenge to everyone, for they will have to be fed. clothed, and educated. But as the standard of living of a people increases, the population tends to level off, people live a different way, acquire different tastes and preferences, and develop their own technologies for survival.”

17- “I believe there is a bright future ahead for mankind, and that future holds exciting technological advances that will enrich the lives of everybody on the planet. Only by expanding world trade and stimulating more production can we take advantage of the possibilities that lie before us. We in the free world can do great things. We proved it in Japan by changing the image of the words “Made in Japan” from something shoddy to something fine. But for a single nation or a few nations to have accomplished this is not enough. My vision of the future is of an exciting world of superior goods and services, where every nation’s stamp of origin is a symbol of quality, and where all are competing for the consumers’ hard-earned money at fair prices that reflect appropriate rates of exchange. I believe such a world is within our grasp. The challenge is great; success depends only on the strength of our will.”


Omar Halabieh

Made In Japan

On Liberating the Corporate Soul

I recently finished reading Liberating The Corporate Soul – Building a Visionary Organization – by Richard Barrett.

Below are key excerpts from the books that I found particularly insightful:

1- “I started out with two ideas. The first idea was that organizational transformation must look and feel a lot like personal transformation. The second idea was that the values held by successful companies must be similar to the values held by successful individuals. These two ideas led me on a journey of discovery that gladdened my heart. I not only found these two theses to be correct but also found underneath the tough rhetoric of Wall Street a small but growing number of successful businesses that live by values that are concordant with the highest moral and ethical principles. This book celebrates their success and provides a road map and tools for those who want to travel the same path.”

2- “Corporate transformation begins with a shift in the values and behaviors of the leadership. Corporations don’t transform. People do. Corporate transformation is fundamentally about personal transformation. It will happen only if there is a willingness on the part of the leader and all those in authority to live according to values that are less focused on self-interest and more focused on the common good. For transformation to be success^l the espoused values and behaviors must become pervasive throughout the organization.”

3- “The key characteristics of long-lasting companies that have superior financial performance are summarized as follows. A strong, positive, values-driven culture A lasting commitment to learning and self-renewal continual adaptation based on feedback from internal and external environments Strategic alliances with internal and external partners, customers, and suppliers A willingness to take risks and experiment A balanced, values-based approach to measuring performance.”

4- “The basic reason why companies find it difficult to develop these characteristics is that they operate from the mental model of the organization as a machine. More and more organizations are making the transition to the mental model of a machine with a mind, but very few have made it to the model of the organization as a living entity. Consequently, most companies seek only to satisfy their physical and emotional needs.”

5- “Self-interest and the single-minded pursuit of accumulation of wealth are at the heart of our current crisis. Fueled by greed, businesses all over the world are engaged in the wholesale exploitation of the Earth and its people. What is extraordinary is lat they are doing it in collusion with society.”

6- “There are millions of people around the world embracing this new responsibility. They are turning from “What’s in it for me?” as their unconscious world view, to consciously embracing “What’s best for the common good?” Many of these people are business leaders. Companies around the world are beginning to recognize that their future is intimately linked to peace, prosperity for all, and environmental stewardship.”

7- “Our proficiency in expressing our creativity falls off as e accept other’s opinions and evaluations of what is good and )ad, right and wrong. Our education systems have much to answer in this arena.”

8- “The pathway to creativity begins with employee participation. T\ere are five stages to participation—invitation, engagement. reflection, listening, and implementation. When an organization attempts participation for the first time, it needs to take care to complete all the steps. At the beginning, it is important to i let all employees know that they are being invited to share their ideas and that their opinions are important. The engagement begins when employees are presented with information about he situation at hand and have the opportunity to ask questions”

9- “The challenge for leaders is to build an organizational culture that maximizes the development of human potential and strategic alliances while working within the framework of acceptable values and behaviors that relate to the type of activity, the dominant professional discipline, and the mores of the local community.”

10- “Companies that operate with values that support the common good are able to maintain morale, commitment, and loyalty even during difficult times. When staff reductions are necessary because of a downturn in sales, companies that operate from the higher levels of consciousness explore ways to share the burden. If this doesn’t work, layoffs are handled with compassion and caring.”

11- “When an organization moves from being profit-driven to being values-driven, it does not mean that it suddenly regards profit as unimportant. On the contrary. Profit remains a fundamental objective. In values-driven organizations the profit motive is contained within an overarching ethical framework. Limits are drawn as to what the organization will and will not do to make an extra dollar.”

12- “I would submit therefore that it is not the sharing of an organizational mission or vision that creates cohesion, but the creation of opportunities within the organizational mission for every individual find work that corresponds to his or her personal mission or vision.”

13- “The first three categories of the Balanced Need Scorecard represent the primary needs of an organization: Corporate Survival—profits, finance, and funding; Corporate Fitness— productivity, quality, and efficiency; and Customer/Supplier Relations—sales, service, and product excellence…’The next three categories support these front-line needs. They include Corporate Evolution—participation, innovation, and creativity; Corporate Culture—vision, mission, values, and employee fulfillment; and Society and Community Contribution—social and environmental responsibility, being of service, and making a difference.”

14- “For trust to blossom and flourish, there must be shared values and mutual accountability, nurtured by cooperation and friendship. Above all, there must be a strong sense of working together for the good of the whole. Therefore, to grow trust, an organization must first grow community. The foundation of community is sociability (measure of sincere friendliness among members of community) and solidarity (measure of a community’s ability to pursue shared objectives quickly and effectively regardless of personal ties).”

15- “A leader is someone who holds a vision and courageously pursues that vision in such a way that it resonates with the souls of people.”

16- “To find real happiness at work, I had learned that I had to stop putting my energy into pleasing my boss, competing with others, and being the best. I had to release my unconscious fears about being valued and respected and pass through transformation.^ When I was free of the fears that were driving my competitive behavior, I was able to be my true self and be my own person. Only then was I able to discover my true passion and the joy of working in service to others.”

17- “The critical factors in successful transformations are (a) the management team’s commitment to modeling the new values and behaviors; (b) integrating the new values into the structural incentives of the human resource processes of the organization; (c) building psychological ownership by involving employees in defining the mission, vision, and values and the Balanced Needs Scorecard objectives and targets; (d) helping employees to think like owners; and (e) assigning responsibilities and developing structural mechanisms to support innovation, learning, and cultural renewal.”


Omar Halabieh

Liberating the Corporate Soul

On The Master Switch

I recently finished reading The Master Switch – The Rise and Fall of Information Empires – by Tim Wu.

The main premise of the book, as stated by the author: “To understand the forces threatening the Internet as we know it, we must understand how information technologies give rise to industries, and industries to empires. In other words, we must understand the nature of the Cycle, its dynamics, what makes it go, and what can arrest it. As with any economic theory, there are no laboratories but past experience…The pattern is distinctive. Every few decades, a new communications technology appears, bright with promise and possibility. It inspires a generation to dream of a better society, new forms of expression, alternative types of journalism. Yet each new technology eventually reveals its flaws, kinks, and limitations. For consumers, the technical novelty can wear thin, giving way to various kinds of dissatisfaction with the quality of content (which may tend toward the chaotic and the vulgar) and the reliability or security of service. From industry’s perspective, the invention may inspire other dissatisfactions: a threat to the revenues of existing information channels that the new technology makes less essential, if not obsolete; a difficulty commoditizing (i.e., making a salable product out of) the technology’s potential; or too much variation in standards or protocols of use to allow one to market a high quality product that will answer the consumers’ dissatisfactions. “

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “In fact, the place we find ourselves now is a place we have been before, albeit in different guise. And so understanding how the fate of the technologies of the twentieth century developed is important in making the twenty-first century better.”

2- “Schumpeter’s cycle of industrial life and death is an inspiration for this book. His thesis is that in the natural course of things, the new only rarely supplements the old; it usually destroys it. The old, however, doesn’t, as it were, simply give up but rather tries to forestall death or co-opt its usurper—a la Kronos—with important implications.”

3- “We have seen how important outsiders are to industrial innovation: they alone have the will or interest to challenge the dominant industry. And we have seen the power of considerations beyond wealth or security—factors outside the motivations of the ideal rational economic actor—in inspiring action to transform an industry.”

4- “Here, then, we come to the second weakness that afflicts centralized systems of innovation: the necessity, by definition, of placing all control in a few hands. This is not to say that doing so holds no benefit. To be sure, there is less “waste”: instead of ten companies competing to develop a better telephone—reinventing the wheel, as it were, every time—society’s resources can be synchronized in their pursuit of the common goal. There is no duplication of research, with many laboratories chasing the same invention. Yet if all resources for solving any problem are directed by a single, centralized intelligence. that mastermind has to be right in predicting the future if innovation is to proceed effectively. And that’s the problem: monopoly presumes a prescience that humans are seldom capable of. “

5- “For the combined forces of a dominant industry and the federal government can arrest the Cycle’s otherwise inexorable progress, intimating for the prevailing order something like Kronos’s fantasy of perpetual rule.”

6- “Whether sanctioned by the state or not, monopolies represent a special kind of industrial concentration, with special consequences flowing from their dissolution. Often the useful results are delayed and unpredictable, while the negative outcomes are immediate and obvious.”

7- “But what prevented monopoly and all centralized systems from realizing these efficiencies, in Hayek’s view, was a fundamental failure to appreciate human limitations. With perfect information, a central planner could effect the best of all possible arrangements, but no such planner could ever hope to have all the relevant facts of local, regional, and national conditions to arrive at an adequately informed, or right, decision.”

8- “As an object lesson in the way information networks can develop, it gives us occasion to consider what we truly want from our news and entertainment, as opposed to what sort of content we might be prepared to sustain, however passively, with our fleeting attention. For cable offered choices really only in the commercial range—(-enough, however, to suggest what a truly open medium could deliver to the nation, for better and for worse.”

9- “With its hefty capitalization, it offers the information industries financial stability, and potentially a great freedom to explore risky projects. Yet despite that promise, the conglomerate can as easily become a hidebound, stifling master, obsessed with maximizing the revenue potential and flow of its intellectual property. At its worst, such an organization can carry the logic of mass cultural production to any extreme of banality as long as it seems financially feasible.”

10- “For the information industries that now account for an ever increasing share of American and world GDP, the coming decade will be given over to a mighty effort to seize territory, to bolt the competition from its habitat. But this is not a case of one pack of wolves chasing another out of a prime valley. While it may sound fanciful, the contest in question is more like one of polar bears batting lions for domination of the world. Each animal, insuperably dominant in its natural element—the polar bear on ice and snow, the lion on the open plains—will undertake a land grab where it has no natural business being. The only practicable strategy will be a campaign of climate change, the polar bears seeking to cover as much of the world with snow as they can, while the lion tries to coax a savannah from the edges of a tundra. Sounds absurd, but for these mighty predators, it’s simply the law of nature.”

11- “The democratization of technological power has made the shape of the future hard to know, even for the best informed. The individual holds more power than at any time in the past century, and literally in the palm of his hand. Whether or not he can hold on to it is another matter.”

12- “The American political system is designed to prevent abuses of pubic power. But where it has proved less vigilant is in those areas where the political meets the economic realm, where private economic power comes to bear on public life…We like to believe that our safeguards against concentrated political power will ultimately protect us from the consequences of accumulated economic power. But this hasn’t always been so.”

13- “For history shows that in seeking to prevent the exercise of abusive power in the information industries, government is among those actors whose power must be restrained. Government may function as a check on abusive power, but government itself is a power that must be checked. What I propose is not a regulatory approach but rather a constitutional approach to the information economy. By that I mean a regime whose goal is to constrain and divide all power that derives from the control of information.”

14- “Let us. then, not fail to protect ourselves from the will of those who might seek domination of those resources we cannot do without. If we do not take this moment to secure our sovereignty over the choices that our information age has allowed us to enjoy, we cannot reasonably blame its loss on those who are free to enrich themselves by taking it from us in a manner history has foretold.”


Omar Halabieh

The Master Switch

On Discovering The Soul Of Service

I recently finished reading Discovering The Soul Of Service – The Nine Drivers of Sustainable Business Success – by Leonard L. Berry.

Leonard summarizes the main premise of this book as: “My purpose in this book is to identify, describe, and illustrate the underlying drivers of sustainable success in service businesses. Creating a successful service operation is unquestionably a difficult task. However, sustaining success can be even more difficult. Services are performances, and the challenge of sustaining the performers’ energy, commitment, skills, and knowledge day after day, week after week. month after month, year after year—especially as the organization grows and becomes more complex—is daunting. The greater the involvement of people in creating value for customers, the greater the challenge. This is a book on the lessons 14 outstanding service companies teach about sustainable success. And the lessons they teach are clear indeed. Although the sample companies differ on the outside – the nature, size, and structure of their businesses—to a remarkable degree they are the same on the inside, sharing the drivers of their ongoing success.”

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “Three specific challenges in sustaining success are accentuated in enterprises that create value for customers primarily through services. The more labor-intensive the services, the greater the challenges of: operating effectively while growing rapidly, operating effectively when competing on price, retaining the initial entrepreneurial spirit of the younger, smaller company.”

2- “A set of core values permeates the high-performance service companies studied for this book. These values are remarkably consistent among the companies. The values of excellence, innovation, joy, teamwork, respect, integrity, and social profit underlie the ongoing success of the sample firms. Unchanging, these core ideals, principles. and philosophies define the very soul of these dynamic companies.”

3- “Values-driven leaders continually convey by their words and actions the meaning of success. They not only make palpable the dream (where we are going, why we are going there), they define the indicators of progress (how we know we are getting there). A key factor in sustaining success is combining a compelling dream that inspires commitment with a success definition that is reinforcing rather than contradicting.”

4- “A smaller group of companies has been able to sustain high levels of service performance and continue to improve. What they hold in common is a strong set of values that tap into employees’ own core values, and a strong set of leaders who teach model, and cultivate the values. Values-driven leadership sustains the high discretionary efforts of human beings to individually and collaboratively achieve and gives root to the eight other success drivers § discussed in the remainder of this book.”

5- “Brilliant strategy is insufficient to drive sustained success. The total product that customers experience from a company is its strategy executed. A poorly executed strategy openly invites competitors to imitate the strategy, execute better, and take away the business. Excellent service companies not only have focused strategies, but they also focus on execution. They continually raise their standards of service delivery and constantly strive for perceived superiority over competitors.”

6- “Control of destiny is largely attitudinal. If sufficiently determined. companies need not relinquish control of their future to other parties. If they do not allow the lure of growth to impede operational effectiveness, if they stay totally focused on creating superior  value for customers, if they continually strive to get better than they are— companies can control their future.”

7- “Trust-based customer relationships honor these friendship rules. Excellent service companies may not have a personal relationship with their customers, but they are effective in personalizing service transactions and counteracting the anonymity that customers so often experience with companies. Relationship companies look for ways to please their customers, to do something extra or special for them, just as friends would do for one another. As in friendships, relationship companies do not take advantage of customers. They respect, honor, and trust them. They value the relationship and invest time, effort, and money in strengthening it.”

8- “Customers can teach companies how they want to be served. Relationship companies that capture and use this knowledge make it more difficult for customers to leave the relationship.”

9- “The initial days and weeks of employment offer a wide-open window for learning about the company’s values, traditions, history, strategy, customers. competitors, policies, and procedures. Like actors on a stage, service providers need to know the play; to perform their role well, they need to know where their part fits in the overall performance.”

10- “How can service companies that depend on energized, resourceful. committed people to deliver value to customers reap the benefits of smallness when no longer small? The answer lies in a blend of values-driven leadership, innovative structure, customer- and employee-focused information technology, and ownership attitudes.”

11- “The sample companies are strategic in their generosity. They not only are extraordinarily generous, they are effectively generous. Rather than giving for the sake of giving, they invest with a plan in mind, with 1 long-term goal. Rather than spreading their resources thinly in numerous initiatives, they concentrate their resources to have a powerful impact and make a meaningful difference. Rather than investing time, energy, and money outside the mainstream of their business, they invest in concert with the business’s overall purpose and strategy. Thus, generous acts not only benefit society, they benefit the company too, seating a stronger company and enabling more generous acts in the future.”

12- “Values-Driven Leadership: Humane organizational values sustain human excellence. Stable leadership stabilizes values. Values-driven leadership propels all other success sustainers…Strategic Focus: Constancy of purpose leads customer value creation. Strategic focus inspires innovation…Executional Excellence: A well-executed strategy diminishes opportunity for competitors. Attracting great people is the first rule of execution…Control of Destiny: Pursue success on your own terms…Trust-Based Relationships: Sustaining service success requires trust…Investment in Employee Success: Investing in the performer contributes to the performance…Acting Small: In services, acting small is big. High touch and high tech are mutually supportive…Brand Cultivation: Branding the company means performing the service…Generosity: Generosity drives service success.”



Omar Halabieh

Discovering The Soul Of Service