HBR : Conflict Management

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mark Gerzon talks a lot of sense in this interview about his book “Leading Through Conflict: How Successful Leaders Transform Differences into Opportunities” …Education is the process of learning to see the hidden connections between things…Conflict is anything that results in chronic inefficiency for the system of which it is part…Conflict management is an essential test of leadership…Once learning begins, the conflict starts to change…Under stress, the first casualty is the ability to ask open ended questions…Agreement is simply saying yes ; commitment is the actual follow-through on agreements made – conflict situations seem to have lots of agreement but no commitment…

(click image for audio which runs 10m 28s)

HBR : Sales People Are Happy Losers

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Not my words, people – the esteemed Harvard Business Review seems to think so.  I was actually quite amazed at this “expert” conclusion (check out Segment 2 below for details).

Segment 1 : Sales Team Structures & Management (5m 37s)


Segment 2 : Psychology Of Sales People (3m 50s)

"Chasm Boy" Geoffrey Moore writes in today's FT with reference to his latest book Dealing With Darwin.  Never have been a huge Moore fan, but there are some interesting thoughts here.  He has some scathing words for the European workforces with particular reference to France, Germany, Italy, & Sweden.  Also, I think his postulation on the limited role of public policy in "nurturing centers of excellence" might explain the difficult reality confronting the Singapore government today as they try to create the next engines of economic growth.

"Successful companies have long acknowledged the parallels between natural selection in ecosystems and competitive successes in free markets – in no small part because their stakeholders have enjoyed such happy outcomes. In the west, however, that may be about to change.  Like European enterprises in the 19th century, US companies have enjoyed "home field advantage" throughout the 20th century.  They dwelt in the most vibrant economy, drew upon the most mobile and best-educated workforce, enjoyed the most plentiful sources of capital and sold in the most attractive market for goods and services. If a company wanted to be significant, it had to win in the US market – and they were there first.  Now we are into the 21st century and it is already clear that home field advantage is crossing the Pacific.  In this century, China and India look to be the great canvases upon which economic successes will be painted.  They will have the most vibrant economies, the most mobile and best educated workforces, the most plentiful sources of capital, the most attractive markets for goods and services.  If Americans and Europeans want to win in the 21st century, we must learn to play better in away games.  As this new world dawns, we are beginning to experience the dark side of natural selection, the perspective of those selected against, rather than for…..Interestingly, it is failure – most dramatically the threat of extinction – that drives evolution, not success.  Successful species do not mutate: they breed.  They breed until such time as they consume all the free resources in the ecosystem and only then do they begin to mutate to exploit the niches of less free resources.  That time is now.  To accept this challenge is to deal with Darwin.  And in spite of US culture's somewhat problematic relationship with evolutionary thinking, and in spite of the well-publicised travails of its airline and automotive sectors, I am relatively optimistic about America's ability to step up.  I am not so optimistic, however, about Europe's prospects.  One great obstacle to dealing with Darwin is the sense of entitlement, and this seems so deeply rooted in both private and public sector thinking as to make adaptive change impossible.  France's youth are convinced they are entitled to well-paying jobs.  Italy's citizens take it as a matter of national pride that Alitalia exists, irrespective of its ability to compete.  Germany's unions believe they are entitled to more, not less, compensation and benefits.  The Swedes believe Darwinism is a scandal that socialist institutions are meant to redeem.  The problem with all the above is simple: Darwin does not care. Darwinism is the ultimate form of pragmatism: it rewards what works and penalises what does not. If you are not winning, that is data to use in planning your next move, which should not be a repeat of your last one…..

Politicians have no chance to solve this problem.  There is no practical way to forge the political will to disavow entitlements.  Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, do represent a good bet.  Darwinian changes imply the kind of creative destruction that Schumpeter taught us about, in which established institutions are bashed, to be sure, but from which grows next-generation wealth creation.  If entrepreneurs are let loose, they will make the adaptive responses (or fail trying), and from the successful ones comes the job creation so vital to a society's health…..When economic disparity exists in high concentrations across borders, there is no way to prevent economic osmosis from occurring.  The US legislature is currently confronting (or possibly avoiding) this issue but US corporations long ago co-opted these forces. Outsourcing and off-shoring are necessary components of any adaptive response to globalisation.  They are not, however, a sufficient response. We must simultaneously establish sustainable competitive advantage from within our own ranks.  This is still a work in progress but at least it is a work under way. Denying the need for such change, or waiting for political institutions to resolve the issue, are all losing gambits.  The winning gambit is to innovate in ways that create sustainable competitive advantage.  The great companies do this as a matter of course.  So, interestingly enough, do the great regions.  Michael Porter writes about the competitive advantage of nations, which he then breaks down into the competitive advantage of regions – Hollywood for films, New York and London for financial services, Milan for design, Burgundy and Bordeaux for wine, and the like.  These centres of excellence arise spontaneously.  Public policy cannot create them, as any number of attempts to replicate Silicon Valley have demonstrated.  But public policy can escalate their impact once they have formed.  Nations can migrate their financial support away from propping up failed institutions to further empowering their star regions.  That is the way to create jobs that have a future.  That is how you deal with Darwin."

FT Reference : http://news.ft.com/cms/s/e4e5a766-d8ae-11da-9715-0000779e2340.html

On Bullshit

Friday, April 7, 2006

Firstly, I didn’t come up with that title.  It is actually the title of a bestselling book from 2005 by Harry G. Frankfurt, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University.  The book is a “serious inquiry into why bullshit has become one of the most salient features of modern life” as Richard Tomkins writes in his review of the book entitled “The truth, the half-truths and nothing resembling the truth”.  Other lines from his review that I need to record for future reference –

“….the honest person and the liar are the same to the extent that each recognizes the truth, even if he/she does different things with it.  Each, whether telling the truth or lying presupposes that there are facts that are determinate and knowable; that there is a difference between getting things wrong and getting them right, and that it is at least occasionally possible to tell the difference.  Bullshitters, however, do not care whether they are right or wrong.  They are indifferent to the truth, caring only about what they can get away with; and for this reason, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies.  Why is there so much bullshit ?  Well, it tends to occur whenever a person’s opportunities to speak out about some topic exceed his or her knowledge of the relevant facts.  As communities of all kinds proliferate, these opportunites arise more often.

A deeper seated reason is that according to the post-modern doctrines of our times, there is no such thing as objective reality.  Truth is in the eye of the beholder – shifting, relative, and indeterminate.  So, having retreated from the notion that it is possible to tell the truth about the world, we have turned inwards and pursued the alternative ideal of telling the truth about ourselves.  Sincerity is the new honesty; what matters now is no longer what is true but how I feel.”