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Archive for June, 2011

Ducks in a Row: the Secret of Success—FIT

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011


Fit makes your clothes look great; fit makes your shoes comfortable; cultural fit drives success, whether corporate or personal.

Just as one-size-fits-all doesn’t apply to great fitting clothes or shoes; it doesn’t apply to company culture—think Zappos and Intel.

Some great people love highly political environments; they consider politics a game and thrive on playing, while others shrivel and die in that situation.

A good friend interviewed at Apple when it was young and hot. She wanted to know about the work, but the interviewers only talked about the campus gym and Friday beer blast, which turned her off.

The true secret of success, both individual and corporate, is fit.

  • For companies, the kind of culture is less important than whether the people hired are a good fit—not to the propaganda, but to the cultural reality.
  • For individuals, it’s not really about free massages, catered lunches and foosball, but about how well the company’s values match their own.

Another bit of stupid is the idea that startups/small companies have great cultures, while large, established companies are boring and regimented.

In fact, if you really listen, you can hear the assumptions behind the media chatter on culture—assumptions that a little thought renders ridiculous.

Time spent evaluating and testing cultural fit always pays off, whether you’re a hiring manager or a candidate.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedbee/103147140/

Successful Women’s Careers

Monday, June 20th, 2011

A fascinating study of successful women brings to light some interesting and unexpected facts about women who know when and how to turn off “masculine” traits, i.e., aggressive, assertive and confident.

They received 1.5 times more promotions than masculine men, and about two times as many promotions as feminine men, regardless of whether the men were high or low self-monitors. They also received 3 times as many promotions as masculine women who were low self-monitors, affirming that masculine behavior alone does not garner success. … The study also showed that self–monitoring masculine women received 1.5 times as many promotions as feminine women, regardless of whether those women were high or low self-monitors.

This is researched proof of my own attitude of “work for an ideal, but you have to function in the real world” and the real world requires flexibility.

I’m guessing that these women were smart enough to apply whatever was needed to a given situation, instead of approaching them all the same way.

This seems to be the “why” to the results of a previous study by the same people.

“…learned behavior patterns — not biological sex — may be the greatest determinant of workplace success as measured by salary and promotion.”

If you are a woman, accepting the accuracy of the research does much to put career control directly in your hands. And that’s a good thing.

Of course, along with personal control comes personal responsibility when you can no longer blame external forces.

You need to take a hard look at your own actions; request input from those you trust to tell you the truth (not just what you want to hear or what fits their world view), then assess where you are, where you want to be and how best to get there.

Start your voyage immediately.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gpaumier/5134947440/

mY generation: Dismissive

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

See all mY generation posts here.

Quotable Quotes: High Tech Proverbs

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Finding quotes to share with you every Sunday is a fun thing. Normally I consult Google and cruise around multiple sites after choosing a person, word or topic. This week I thought it would be fun to offer up various proverbs from different countries—but I found something better, hilarious, actually.

Somebody (or somebodies) rewrote common saying with a high tech twist; plays on words, puns, everything I love. So how could I resist sharing it?

Don’t byte off more than you can view.

C:\ is the root of all directories

Virtual reality is its own reward

Home is where you hang your @

A journey of a thousand sites begins with a single click

Too many clicks spoil the browse

And since it’s Sunday, here is a mantra in case you are feeling the need to renew your faith…

In Gates we trust

Want more tech proverbs? You’ll find them here. Scroll down about halfway, but don’t stop it the Silicon list, keep going and check out the new proverbs, such as

Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

Ain’t that the truth!

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zomgitsbrian/4383836251/

Expand Your Mind: Cognitive Bias

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

My post today has only three links, but the subject matter requires a good deal of thought and (uncomfortable) self-analysis if you are to take advantage of it, so I didn’t want to add anything else.

McKinsey is well-known for its consulting and studies; its newsletters are an amazing resource. Registration is free; I mention this because you will have to register to access information that will be of use whether you are running a Fortune 50 corporation, dealing with teenagers or anything in-between.

Have you heard of cognitive bias? It refers to the set way our brains work, whether we are aware of it or not—mostly not unless you make an effort. Keep in mind that although McKinsey is talking about corporate situations you can tweak the information for use under any circumstances.

  • Behavioral strategy: Yet very few corporate strategists making important decisions consciously take into account the cognitive biases—systematic tendencies to deviate from rational calculations—revealed by behavioral economics. It’s easy to see why: unlike in fields such as finance and marketing, where executives can use psychology to make the most of the biases residing in others, in strategic decision making leaders need to recognize their own biases.
  • Countering biases: Addressing cognitive challenges like these is hard because executives can’t change how their brains work. What they can do is put in place processes for challenging entrenched beliefs and approaches.
  • Visual wrap: A quick, simple summary of the various types of bias.

I am familiar with many of my own biases and have found ways to either avoid or short-circuit them, so I know it is possible. And I encourage you to identify your own—just don’t waste your time trying to change them, because it’s not going to happen.

Image credit:  MykReeve on flickr

If the Shoe Fits: Buy Them with Stock

Friday, June 17th, 2011

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

3829103264_9cb64b9c62_mDo you do whatever it takes to hire, including a “ready, fire, aim” stock allocation methodology?

Can you slip on Joe, Jean or Pat’s shoes?

  • From the minute Kristy walked through the door Joe wanted her on his executive team. Her energy was as high as his own. She was smart, articulate, with a keen sense of humor; she understood the commitment required by a startup and her family supported her. While salary wasn’t an issue, Kristy said another startup had offered her a lot more stock than Joe mentioned. She wasn’t as strong in some areas as he would have liked, but it would be so great working with her… So Joe offered Kristy 5% more stock than the other company and more than any other member of his team.
  • If Jean didn’t find a good UI designer she would be forced to use a contractor or fall behind schedule, so when she interviewed Richard, she was ecstatic. Richard’s technical skills were excellent, but he demanded an additional 25,000 shares above what comparable team members had received. Afraid to continue looking and unwilling to consider a contractor Jean convinced her boss to make the deal.
  • Pat hated hiring, seeing it as a necessary evil that took time away from his real job of building the company. When he found a candidate who could fill a role he did whatever it took to land the person quickly. His actions typically involved substantial extra stock, since he had limited cash and perks to offer.

Is this lazy or just the inexperienced use of a sophisticated tool (stock)?

Founders and bosses that consider a ready, fire, aim methodology an acceptable way to award stock are doomed.

Is buying candidates with stock a short-term solution guaranteed to tear the team apart as word spreads (more on that subject later in the series) and people feel betrayed or a viable way to solve your staffing needs?

Is buying candidates with stock actually shorthand for bad culture?

For more information see Insanely Stupid Hiring.

Option Sanity™ short-circuits ready-hire-aim actions.

Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock process.  It’s so easy a CEO can do it.

Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.” Use only as directed.
Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Flickr image credit: Kevin Spencer

Entrepreneur: Innovation that Excites

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

PortraitQuick. What comes to mind when you hear “entrepreneur?” Do you think first of someone young?

Does innovation bring to mind a new social or mobile app?

Does it excite you that it was US ingenuity that gave the world a social way to get discounts (Groupon), tell the world they what they had for lunch (Twitter) and brag that they are mayor of the local Starbucks (Foursquare)?

These questions come from a recent conversation I had and my response to all three was ‘no’, which, obviously, puts me way out in left field. (My answers were that entrepreneur is age-neutral and innovation links directly to the stuff that excites me, such as the polio vaccine, semiconductors and DARPA, which counts the internet among the things it fostered.

The kinds of innovation and invention that blow me away are rarely focused on supplying ephemeral consumer experiences, but rather they directly make or cause material changes in our world—hopefully for the better; they often take years of effort and don’t result in rock star status or millions of followers and friends.

A recent example is a guy you’ve probably never heard of named Gary Cola, founder of Bainite Steel.

A self-taught inventor named Gary Cola has developed a process for manufacturing steel that results in the creation of a product that’s 7% stronger than the strongest steel – and 30% lighter. The steel is also incredibly ductile – meaning that it can crumple a great deal before reaching a breaking point. Even better? His heat-treating process only takes 10 seconds. Compare that to conventional steel manufacturing, where heat-treating can take hours or even days.

Many that will reshape the world are born through academic research, such as Glassimetal Technology (a metal alloy that can be molded like plastic).

Then there are Hugh Crenshaw and Charles Pell, who, using their background in biomechanics, keep inventing and innovating in multiple fields.

And over the past 20 years they’ve profitably translated their understanding of biomechanics into inventions, from robotic submarines to pill sorters.

They aren’t stopping, either, now they’ve focused on reinventing the surgical tray, starting with the rib spreader.

Now you know what excites me, what innovation/inventions excite you?

Flickr image credit The U.S. National Archives

WW: Great MAP

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011


Image credit: denise carbonell

Ducks In A Row: Happy 100th Birthday, IBM

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

IBM turns 100 this week, which is an impressive birthday for a person or a company, but it’s huge for a company that plays in the high tech world which counts years more like a dog does—seven to one. IBM not only plays, it wins.

It wins by constantly changing itself.

“Its ability to keep on re-inventing itself over the decades has been key to its survival.” –Bob Djurdjevic, of Annex Research

In the late 1980s IBM stumbled badly and over the next few years it became obvious that the stumble could be fatal.

IBM almost died because positive process had morphed into an ossified bureaucracy that was killing innovation.

In 1992, the recession and the company’s failure to keep up with its competitors resulted in a $5 billion loss, more than any U.S. company had ever experienced in a single year.

In 1995 Lou Gerstner was chosen to turn IBM around, but he didn’t focus on products, he focused on culture.

“Until I came to IBM, I probably would have told you that culture was just one among several important elements in any organization’s makeup and success—along with vision, strategy, marketing, financials, and the like… I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.”

Current IBM CEO Sam Palmisano is still focused on culture.

“I still come to work every day at a company with a unique ability to create — and continually recreate — a culture of innovation.”

The article is interesting, but Lou Gerstner’s book Who Said Elephants Can’t Dance is truly fascinating.

Pick up a copy if you believe in the importance of culture; read it if you don’t—I guarantee it will change your mind.

No person or company lives a century or more without a great culture—one that is strong enough to support the entity and flexible enough to grow and change as the world does.

Fickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedbee/103147140/

Playing the Fool

Monday, June 13th, 2011

118 08-08-10Shakespeare wrote in his description of Feste, the jester in Twelfth Night, that one should never underestimate a man who is “wise enough to play the fool.”

I’ve given that advice to executives, managers, workers and friends and it always works, especially if you broaden your concept of “fool.”

Being a fool doesn’t mean being foolish; it is more acting innocent or ignorant instead of showing off your knowledge or expertise.

Playing the fool draws out the other person; it gives you the opportunity to learn what they know and get a far better understanding of where they are coming from, where they are going and how they plan to get there.

Playing the fool is sort of like Undercover Boss where the CEO learns far more about her organization by pretending to be a candidate than she ever could in her normal persona.

However, I find fewer people willing to play the fool in these days of social media no matter how successful the technique.

They worry that playing the fool might be misconstrued in 140 characters and that is more important than the beneficial outcome that can result from playing the fool.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eaglebrook/5571173181/

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