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Archive for March, 2011

Entrepreneur: Insanely Stupid Hiring

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

On March 25th I read an article on the newest perk, teaching employees how to start their own company, being used to lure talent; I choked and saved the URL for today’s post.

A few days later I read Bill Taylor’s reaction to the same article at HBR. To say that Taylor, who is a co-founder of Fast Company, is a big booster of entrepreneurial efforts is like saying Google is a modest success, but his reaction was the same as mine.

Rather than rehashing what he said (click and read it) I want to point out why jumping through hoops to hire from a certain tiny percentage of available talent is insanely stupid and tomorrow I’ll offer alternatives.

  • Insane because, as Einstein so aptly put it, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
  • Stupid because there is a wide range of talent available that would work its butt off for the right reasons.

Why it’s insanely stupid

  1. The candidate who joins a company primarily for money, stock or whatever is hot du jour will quickly leave for more money, stock or hotter du jour. In other words, when joining a company is “all about me” there is nothing invested in the company, its values/culture, products or even its success, so when (not if) the going gets rough there’s no vested reason to stay.
  2. Many companies and managers hire as much for bragging rights as for need. In other words, do you really need to hire god or will an angel or even a mortal do the job just as well?
  3. One manager’s star is another manager’s failure. In other words, past achievement is an indicator, not a guarantee, of future performance.
  4. Candidates have definite cultural ideas and needs. In other words, people perform based on how synergistic their cultural and managerial needs are with the same elements in their employer.

(Note: although the focus here is on software development, I’ve seen the same insanely stupid hiring in most fields and industries at one time or another.)

Companion posts,

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thewhitestdogalive/3100357559/

WW: Flip ME Over

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ducks in a Row: What Managers Want

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Mark Suster is well known in the startup world; he started as an entrepreneur and is now a VC. In a post that ran first at TechCrunch and then at AlwaysOn where I saw it, he talks about the importance of attitude over aptitude in a startup.

Which is ridiculous—not the importance, but the idea that it is somehow more important to a startup.

  1. Managers fight to hire the best in any given field, whether software developers, engineers, financial types, salespeople, etc.
  2. Managers want the best and brightest and get very offended when told that that isn’t always the best choice.
  3. Managers write job descriptions that are laundry wish lists, with little consideration for the real requirements based on the actual work, strengths of the team and room to grow.
  4. Managers want more years of experience than the subject has been in existence; this is especially true in software development.
  5. Managers kid themselves that people are portable, like cell phone numbers, and will continue performing at peak levels no matter the management style or culture.

Obviously, not all managers, but too many.

Whether you are hiring for a startup or your company has been around for decades, keep these points in mind:

  • Talented people perform best when they are challenged;
  • hire what you really need (see number 3 above);
  • honestly evaluate the environment you are offering (see number 5 above);
  • the more variety in previous jobs the better/faster the learning curve; and
  • look for the uncut gems and diamonds, instead of chasing the polished stone that turns out to be faux.

Skills can be learned, but trying to change a person’s MAP is a thankless job, not to mention a losing proposition.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedbee/103147140/

Study Richard Branson

Monday, March 28th, 2011


Study Richard Branson as an entrepreneur.

Study him as a leader.

Study him as a manager.

Study him as an example of how to live your life.

Don’t just study Branson; study those around him, such as Stephen Murphy, Virgin CEO since 2006.

Studying both allows you to see how Branson differs from so many of his counterparts.

According to Murphy, “He [Branson] is a listener. He will say ‘I hired you to listen to you. I am not hiring you to tell you what to do’.”

Branson is known as Doctor Yes while Murphy is nicknamed Mr. No; together they make Virgin far stronger than either could separately.

Murphy balances Branson’s “screw it, let’s do it” attitude, but recognizes Branson’s positive mindset, “When there are nine good reasons not to do something, Richard is always the person who focuses on the one reason to do it.”

Branson is a master delegator, not just the responsibility, but the authority and once he delegates he lets go.

Study Branson to learn the value of controlling your ego or, better yet, being confident enough to let your people shine, knowing that giving them the spotlight doesn’t reduce your own place in the sun.

Last year I wrote a very short post on following and Branson seems to fit.

So when you are deciding whom to follow, who’s vision to trust, skip the shiny baubles and silken words and look to see who keeps turning the spotlight on others.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gulltaggen/4564600916/

mY generation: The Ghost Hunters

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

See all mY generation posts here.

Quotable Quotes: Clarence Darrow

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Recent global events made me think of Clarence Darrow, not for his defense of evolution, but for something else he said, “As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever.”

A powerful concept and one that has been true since humans started walking upright.

So I decided to check out some of his other comments and see how applicable they still were.

Darrow was no lover or ideology, especially when it was religiously-based; he saw doubt as a driving force of change and believed it needed to be actively shared to survive, “Just think of the tragedy of teaching children not to doubt.”

I found this comment particularly apropos after reading today that the Oxford Dictionary gave its stamp of approval to OMG and LOL, “Even if you do learn to speak correct English, whom are you going to speak it to?” Good question.

People flock to hear Tony Hsieh explain why he built a happy culture; I wonder if he ever quotes Darrow, “If you lose the power to laugh, you lose the power to think.”

Darrow was a lawyer and acted with passion, because he believed in the importance of truth, “The pursuit of truth will set you free; even if you never catch up with it.”

Wise words and a good concept to add to your life credo.

However, in spite of his ideals and profession, he was pragmatic, if not downright cynical, about the world in which he lived, “The law does not pretend to punish everything that is dishonest. That would seriously interfere with business.”

Finally, here’s one for all the managers who claim they want their people to ‘think outside the box’ and be more creative, but react negatively if they disagree with the ‘accepted wisdom’, “To think is to differ.”

Have a great Sunday!

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Expand Your Mind: of Twitter, Sharing and Sex

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Twitter, twitter little star,
how I wonder who you are…

You’re not above the world so high,
nor a diamond in the cyber sky.

What twends are up in Twitterland?

Here are a few of the most unusual…

Twitter turned five last Monday, which also happened to be World Poetry Day (sponsored by the United Nations), so, of course, the potential of 140 character poetry and literature is being explored—and argued.

Tweeting offers a good deal of instant gratification in the form or strokes, cheers and feedback, but all that where-I-am and what-I’m-doing is fueling stronger feelings of envy than old school wish-you-were-here cards and emails.

In a new (as far as I know) twist on hiring a Minneapolis ad firm used Twitter to source this summer’s interns.

People often say that the instant responses they get when they ask a large number of people what they think helps them make better decisions. But does it? The answer may surprise you—seems like all that information has a similar effect to ice cream—brain freeze.

In case you don’t feel connected enough via Twitter, Facebook and other social media there’s an app for that. Yes, now several sites offer you the opportunity to share your browser history, so your everybody will know every cyber-move you make. Oh joy…

Finally, on to the sex; and today the sex is courtesy of Zynga, maker of all those cutesy games like FarmVille, CaféVille and, now, FrontierVille. And thanks to its obsession with data and a happy accident, it has updated the old “sex sells” to “innuendo is shared.” Perhaps the next game should be called “Ka-chingVille.”

Image credit:  MykReeve on flickr

Does Education = Thinking?

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Today I have a question for you, what is the real point of education?

Bill Gates emphasizes “work-related learning, arguing that education investment should be aimed at academic disciplines and departments that are “well-correlated to areas that actually produce jobs.””

Steve Jobs says, “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing…”

So is the end goal of education to provide the knowledge, skills and tools to work or to teach critical thinking.

The choice is likely to be described as pragmatic and based on available funding.

Years ago a successful business executive I know commented that if people had full bellies, a job and a bit left over to see a movie now and then at the time of the election, then the party in power would be reelected, but if the reverse was happening they would “throw the bums out.”

There are more sinister reasons to find a positive way to avoid graduating legions of critical thinkers.

  • Non-thinkers don’t make waves.
  • Non-thinkers follow the pack.
  • Non-thinkers are easier to control.
  • Thinkers are more creative and innovative.
  • Thinkers are more likely to reject ideology.
  • Thinkers are more willing to take risks.

You have only to look at what is going on in the world to see the effects of an empty belly and education, formal or not, grounded in questions, not answers.

What do you think?

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeanlouis_zimmermann/3042615083/

Entrepreneur: Win Some, Lose Some…

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

4984121965_cd970f42aa_mWin some, lost some is the mantra of business from the largest global enterprise to the newest startup to the micro entrepreneur.

That’s true whether ‘win some’ means a quarter filled with Wall Street plaudits and ‘lose some’ means your stock crashed or ‘win some’ is being able to afford a restaurant dinner after the bills are paid and ‘lose some’ sends you scraping to pay the mortgage.

Winning is easier, often driven as much if not more by the economy than by management skill.

While losing is also affected by the economy, there are enough wins that losing is more about skill—or is it?

Maurice Ewing talks offers up some useful tips on losing your first million. Written for entrepreneurs, it’s applicable to anyone, personally or professionally.

Here are the tips, for details read his HBR post.

  1. Making losses is part of making money.
  2. Just lose money — not perspective.
  3. Never love the business — love doing business.
  4. Losses do not make you a loser but how you handle them might.
  5. Stuff happens.
  6. Loss does bring some advantages.

Perhaps losing is more about MAP.

Perhaps it’s more about what you make out of what happened.

Perhaps it’s not just/all about you.

Yet all Ewing’s tips, along with my ruminations, apply just as well to winning.

Think of it as two sides of the same coin or the inseparableness of Yin and Yang.

Win some, lose some…

As with many things, your choice lies not in winning or losing, but in how you choose to respond to whichever is currently happening.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/j_obsworth/4984121965/

WW: Life is a MOOC

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011


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