Traction quote

From Gabriel Weinberg

The most underutilized channels in an industry are the most promising ones.

These channels are channels that deliver customers and growth.

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The People Century

I have been thinking quite a bit about how this century will differ from the last. This is hard to do because the influence of the 20th century is still quite strong. It is still early days in the 21st century.

But we do know something already. The driving force for change in the 21st century is technology. This is already a big change from the driving force of the 20th century – reducing costs with greater efficiency.

The question is where our new technologies will take us. A major change is already upon us. We are now “hyper connected”. That is, we can access information from the world around us faster than ever before. Being hyper-connected expands the realm of the possible. But to what?

I believe that it will turn the tide against the dehumanizing effects of the drive to efficiency of the last century. People will be more free to assert themselves. And they already are, if just in small ways. Steve Hilton takes this idea much further in his book. Here is a link to a review.

Enjoy!

Silicon Valley Inflection Points

Digital markets have been in flux for a while now and they are likely to stay that way. This allows us to see relatively quickly which companies are in synch with flux and which are not. A report card, so to speak, for firms on the issue of adaptability.

BTW, adaptability is the focus on Rita Gunther McGrathäs interesting book, “The End of Competitive Advantage”. Her main point is that firms that try to hold onto competitive advantage after markets adjust to what gave the advantage will fail. They need instead to find advantage, use it, learn from it, and exit. They need to adapt.

So what about the report card? BI offers this one looking at ho well firms have adjusted to the cloud. Apple and Facebook and Amazon and Microsoft have done ok.  HP and Oracle? Yikes!

Capitalism and its next phase

An interesting conversation is developing about how current trends will affect our overall economic framework. The first shot was fired by Paul mason for the Guardian, where he argued that capitalism as we know is dying. Steve Denning, writing for Forbes, thinks this is an overstatement.

The two disagree on some things, but not on a basic idea – there is a huge pwer shift underway. The old dinosaurs of the 20th century with command and control institutional hierarchies will die out. They will be replaced by something more flexible and more creative.  I agree.

This has implications for firm organization and strategy. It will impact how younger folks develop their ideas about career as well. And we are just getting started.

A key thought — if you look at the trend from 19th to 20th century, work got easier. Humans could leverage their physical and mental capacities with machines.  This is the longer term path we are likely to continue following in the 21st century. Refinements in machines will make work even easier. This frees up human capacity to do other things. Denning is right – that will not be just to take more vacation. It is more likely to think more carefully about what value added stuff we want to create. As we do this, we will get better contorl over our future as a species. Yes, i am an optimist.

Illustrated MBA Mondays

A while back, Fred Wilson did a blogging series where he laid out what he thinks are the core concepts that should be offered in an MBA programme. He called it “MBA Mondays”.  It was a pretty cool idea, and Fred has left the material out on his web with a Creative Commons license so anyone could use it with attribution.  He posts today that somebody has done just that. They took the content and upgraded it with illustrations.

I agree with Fred

This is how knowledge should work in the digital age. It should be fluid and iterative. The text book is the old model, GitHub is the new model. So thanks Jason for doing exactly what I had hoped would happen with MBA Mondays.

Bennis: Leaders as Curators

This is the next in my series of Warren Bennis’s book “Organizing Genius”. I do not go through all of the stories in the book. Instead, I am focusing on the last section where Bennis lays out lessons learned. This is the third

3. Every Great Group has a Strong Leader

The word “strong” may be a bit misleading. Great groups are not composed of cowed sheep. So strength here is not about domination. Instead, a maestro is needed. A person who has the vision and makes creative choices based on that vision. This person is often a “good steward” meaning that he keeps people focused on the tasks at hand.

But the key here is that great leaders do not have to be great creators. The group does the creating. The leader has excellent taste and knows great solutions when he sees them. He need not be the one who creates them.

At the same time, the group leader must be worthy of the group. The group must trust the leader to make excellent creative choices.

And what about finding talent? that is next!

Bennis: Great Leaders and Teams

This is the second lesson about great teams from Warren Bennis’s book “organizing Genius”. The title is “Great Groups and Great Leaders Create Each Other”.

The idea of the lone wolf genius (the Lone Ranger) is debunked. Greatness does not come out of a single source. Instead, it comes from a medley between leaders and teams. Moreover, great leaders cannot conjure up great teams at will. The dynamic between leaders and teams is more complex and mysterious. A more accurate way of describing this dynamic is that great leaders and teams need each other and create each other.

This means that great leaders act decisively but never arbitrarily. Their decisions maintain the fabric of the group, where members feel autonomy to do great things within their roles.