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Archive for August, 2014

I continue to search for that magic app that allows me to do less and less, not more and more.  I believe more is the enemy of business wisdom and less is the key to efficacious entrepreneurship.

Fox SportsSimplicity allows time and perspective to absorb the big picture.  It allows consideration of the new and the disruptive in terms of the global forest, as well as of our individual trees.  And I think creative businessmen will increasingly come from the ranks of committed generalists, not techie savants.

For that reason I think we should all be reading voraciously.  And not in our niche specialties, but in everything.  In newspapers, in novels, selectively online.  In poetry, politics, philosophy, science, and even in sports.  At Tim’s business school no-one would be allowed to consider case studies, marketing, analytics, P&Ls, etc. till they first immerse themselves in the why and what for of existence.  Human existence, not business existence.

For example, let us consider sports.  For me, one of the best essayist in the world today is Jason Gay.  Jason Gay writes about sports for the WSJ.  Yup.  You probably haven’t heard of Jason Gay but he is imminently worth reading if you want creative thinking that is truly out of the box, funny, and acutely attuned to a nuanced understanding of conundrums in the zeitgeist.

Which brings me to today’s topic—Running Naked.  Gay wrote a wonderful article on May 29, 2014, WSJ (p. D-6) entitled “How To Run ‘Naked’—And Really Love It.”  Not once does he mention business, but for me it was all about meaningful business.

“Running naked” means running without your sports technology.  Gay decided his tranquil running hobby was no longer offering him tranquility because of his addiction to his gadgetry.  He writes,

“This is not some anti-technology screed.  I’m as addicted to gadgetry as anyone.  I tweet.  I text.  I am.  If you took away my iPad, I would curl into a corner and moan like a lost poodle.  But running with all that tech was turning me into an anxious robot.  I would get out the door and glance at my fitness band and worry if my headphones would stay in and panic if there was enough power for my playlist.  I disconnected from nothing.  I reached a point at which I would stop sometimes to check my email.  I believe the running police can arrest you for that.”

jwj_John_Mackey_040Now, entrepreneurial business is obviously not a tranquil hobby like running, but Gay’s insights about his own running are utterly apt for the multitasking, hair-on-fire entrepreneur.

Maybe for me “running naked” is like an organic app to reconnect to meaning and mindfulness.  Like an app John Mackey might sell next to the organic eggplant in Whole Foods.  An app that simplifies and focuses life, that allows God to move in mysterious ways.

Gay concludes his article like this:  “For now, I am enjoying the sound of the pavement beneath my feet, and hearing my body talk to me, even if it’s only telling me I am slow.  It’s a peace that no device can offer, and it reminds me why I loved to run in the first place.  In fact, when I get home, I might not even tweet about it.”

Me too. Thank you, Jason Gay

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Hiring the smartest people around may not be the prima facie good it appears to be.  Employing the sharpest mental knife in the drawer ain’t always the obvious no brainer it may seem.

Roger MartinI’ve never thought of myself s especially smart at book larnin’.  Especially in the business arts.  I have no MBA in business.  Never even took a formal business course.  Ever.  I’ve never had a class in sales and/or marketing, despite running my elite sales outsourcing firm, Corporate Rain International, for 19 years.  I must admit this dearth has left me with a bit of an inferiority complex when I am around well-educated business savants and high IQ analytic wizards, who seemingly have what I lack.

This inferiority complex has gotten me in trouble more than once.  I always, kind of guiltily, considered myself somewhat of a lucky and accidental success.  For example, a number of years ago, when my company started to grow well beyond my administrative capacity, I hired a couple of President/COO types, each for three years.  On paper they both looked great.  Definitely smarter than me.  Very confident, take charge types.  Smart.  Full of command and control decisiveness.  Yet both failed miserably and at considerable cost.  My firm barely survived their smartness.

One interesting thing I noticed about both these “smart” executives I hired was that they both seemed more interested in being right, and proving themselves right, than actually solving practical problems within the existential and cultural context of my firm.  For them common sense daily problem solving often seemed to be emotionally secondary.

Chris Argyris 2Roger Martin, former Dean of the Rotman School at the University of Toronto, has written about this a few times in the Harvard Business Review online, most recently on June 12, 2014.  Martin harks back to the work of Dr. Chris Argyris of Harvard, who wrote a seminal article back in 1991 entitled “Teaching Smart People How To Learn.”  Martin states that Dr. Argyris argued trenchantly and compellingly that

“…smart people have the hardest time learning.  They are so very smart that they are also very ‘brittle,’ to use Argyris’ descriptor.  When something goes wrong, rather than reflect on what they might have done to contribute to the error, they look entirely outside themselves for the causes and blame outside forces—irrational clients, impossible time pressure, lack of adequate resources, shifts beyond their control.  Rather than learn from error, they doom themselves to to repeat them.

Dr. Martin reports that “before reading the Argyris article I would have been inclined to finish that last sentence with ‘despite being so very smart.’  After the article, my conclusion was ‘because they were so very smart.'”  In other words, smart people’s very brilliance sometimes short-circuits learning, listening, growth, and managerial objectivity.  They may be much too rigidly focused on getting the right answer and defensively safeguarding their elegant “rightness.”

Martin argues trenchantly that a good modern business leader and managerial strategist has to step back from the need to find the right answer.  Rather, he/she needs to experience failure along with success and become resilient, imaginative, intuitive, and, most of all, open to many points of view, something that may be “most difficult for the proverbial smartest person in the room.”

randy-newman-royal-albert-hallBack in 1977 Randy Newman wrote a deliciously mean and mischievous song called “Short People.”  The first line of the song is, “Short people got no reason to live.”  There are certainly times when I would have willingly have substituted “smart people” for “short people” in Newman’s first line.  Thanks, Randy.

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When I started my company Corporate Rain in 1996, I still typed out my bills on a typewriter.  Yup. The following video is a very short reminder of how it used to be for those entrepreneurs who are over 40.  Like me. (It’s quite short, so don’t blink.)


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