Goodreads | Review of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

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Perhaps one of the most relevant books of the last decade. In an age of information overload, connected devices and unprecedented technological change, there gives rise to whole new series of potential habits. This book provides sound evidence to the personal, economic and social implications that these new habits bring.

This book also provides scientific evidence to what I call, “Personal Gravity“; Developing habits of mental excellence leads to new habits of physical excellence, which leads to habits of skills excellence, which leads to habits of excellence at the team and organizational level. That’s the core of the ENMEI Formula.

Source: Goodreads | Bryan Nann (Phoenix, AZ)’s review of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

 

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Miyamoto Musashi: A Life in Arms: A Biography of Japan’s Greatest Swordsman by William de Lange

Centuries before the digital age and the idea of creating a personal brand, Japanese swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi branded a paradigm for strategy  that has guided both business and culture in Japan ever since.

In his book below, William de Lange gives a humanistic and insightful perspective on the man behind the strategy.

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Source: Goodreads | Miyamoto Musashi: A Life in Arms: A Biography of Japan’s Greatest Swordsman by William de Lange — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists

Yahoo study: Gen X is the most influential generation by spending power | Marketing Dive

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In between the Baby Boomer and the millennial generation is the generation referred to simply as “X”. They’ve also been referred to as the “Forgotten Generation” or the “Cynical Generation” but like most social propaganda, there is very little factual evidence to support these titles. In fact, as research takes a more equitable look at all three generations, a very different picture begins to emerge.

Studies like the one from Yahoo below are creating significant exposure to the contributions of the generation with no true name. Likewise, the evidence is mounting that a definite leadership vacuum exists today in organizations across many fields. As baby boomers retire, leave or get asked to leave organizations are struggling to fill these senior leadership positions. Although millennials are being advertised as the natural successors, many are falling short in the skill sets, mind sets and experience necessary to lead in a complicated global and digital age.

Generation X is proving to have the balance required and could very easily fill that leadership vacuum in the second half of this decade.

Yahoo took a look at Gen X and found a multitasking, smartphone-using and brand-aware generation.

Source: Yahoo study: Gen X is the most influential generation by spending power | Marketing Dive

The New Industrial Revolution: 5 Technology Trends Driving Innovation – Forbes

Musashi Rule #4 “Know the way of all professions”

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Keeping up and learning about new innovation and changes across the economic landscape can not only give you a competitive advantage but open new long term opportunities. At the very least, it gives you a broader knowledge base and the ability to relate to a broad spectrum of people. Below is a Forbes post that provides a solid starting point.

 

Manufacturing has seen three great innovations since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century: steam power, electricity and automation. We are on the cusp of the next sea change.

Source: Microsoft CloudVoice: The New Industrial Revolution: 5 Technology Trends Driving Innovation [Infographic] – Forbes

Forward…Without Regrets

One of the characteristics of the writings of Miyamoto Musashi is the practical, no regrets style that is often visible in the works of those influenced by Zen and Buddhism. Like all of us, he was a flawed human being who made plenty of mistakes. He was also a ronin samurai who often went against the grain of even his contemporaries.

Yet his writings never reflect back on mistakes of the past, any sense of melancholy or regret for his philosophy and his choices. In kind, the actions of his life give evidence to a man who forged ahead regardless of what life threw at him.

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“There is little productivity in regretting the missed steps of the past, the lost opportunities or the unrealized fortunes. Yet if we choose, those experiences can provide powerful lessons and wisdom to better prepare us to see and seize excellence in the present and the future. “       

                                                                                                                                

 

Open Source Degrees…What’s Your Opinion?

In the latest twist on the debate about higher education, The University of Illinois recently announced that students can now take an entire MBA course online, free of charge. The course dubbed the iMBA is offered through the open source platform, Coursera and you can read about it in more detail in the post from Bloomberg Business below.

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You Can Now Take an Entire MBA Course Online for Free – Bloomberg Business.

The catch of course is that you can only receive a certificate of completion for the courses. If you want an actual MBA degree it will cost you $20,000 and you will have to complete the traditional enrollment process. This raises some interesting, potentially precedent setting, questions about open source and the future of higher education;

  • Would you, as a student, complete this type of curriculum knowing that you wouldn’t actually be granted an MBA? Why or why not?
  • How would you, as an employer, evaluate someone’s credentials in a job interview who completed this program but did not ‘purchase’ the official degree? Would you consider them an MBA?
  • For someone who successfully completed the program, is their education any less valid than the ‘official MBA’?
  • Universities have historically granted honorary degree titles for those who have contributed disciplined and relevant work. Would offering an honorary title be appropriate here?

Critics of open source argue a lower quality vs. paid education stating that students miss the social interaction that the class room offers but wouldn’t that then be true for all online courses whether free or not? Plus, online education offers students from all over the world to engage in the material and discussion via video, chat forums, social media and the like. Does education require that all parties be in the same room?

Another big criticism of open source education is that without the big price tag students won’t have any skin in the game, they’ll be less likely to complete the course. So wouldn’t that make such a course even more telling about a students level of commitment and discipline? Anyone who has ever taken a self-guided course knows that it requires a tremendous amount of personal discipline and commitment to complete. There is no one pushing you to focus other than yourself, there is no big price tag or debt quilting you into completing it, It’s just you pushing you.

These courses still must be completed in order to receive a certificate, you still have to pass, you still will get graded on your work. As an employer, wouldn’t you want someone with this level of initiative and self-discipline?

 It would be great to get some reader comments and opinions on this topic.

3 Books On Excellence, Recommended Reads

At the heart of the Five Circles Formula for sustaining excellence is the historical, “Book of Five Rings”, by Miyamoto Musashi. Like many classics, however, the book can be awkward to read & digest, particularly for those unfamiliar with samurai traditions, sword fencing or the martial arts in general.

So here are three contemporary books that do a great job at outlining specific components of the ENMEI formula but are easier to read and a little more in line with today’s society.

“Wooden ON LEADERSHIP”, by John Wooden & Steve Jamison

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This book outlines the power of fundamentals and the role that revisiting the basics plays in not only skills mastery but in all areas of excellence.

“The 8th Habit, From Effectiveness To Greatness”,

by Stephen R Covey

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This book clearly defines the role that choice plays in developing mental excellence. The idea that, “Leaders are not born nor are they made. Leadership is a choice that anyone can make at any time.”

“The Bully Pulpit”, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

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This Pulitzer Prize winning book tells a fantastic historical tale of how concepts such as character and purpose can drive team and ultimately organizational excellence. It also demonstrates how that organizational and team excellence grows from individual excellence, in this case it’s through people like Theodore Roosevelt and Ida Tarbell. It also punctuates the scope of impact that this process can have, far beyond companies or organizations but with nations and societies as well. One or two people with a shared vision on conviction really can and do make a significant difference.

All three of these books are well worth the read and have something in them for everyone. Enjoy…

WWII and The Digital Age

Warren H. King was an influential photo journalist for both the Army and the Navy during WWII. He would go on the have a highly successful career teaching photography, consulting for CBS and mentoring some of the top photographers in the industry. He is considered among the top in his field across the entire California school system and many artistic/academic institutes within the United States.

I was extremely fortunate and privileged to have him as one of my earliest mentors on visual presentation. Hi philosophy on art and imagery was to keep things simple and remember that a quality photo should always do three things

  • Tell a story
  • Set a mood
  • Show a design

In the digital age, there is more material coming at you, at a faster pace than ever before. Creativity and originality is often given back seat to big data, complicated strategy and price wars. The fact remains that marketing in the digital age is highly visual art/science with the inclusion of email, video and social media. Successful marketers are rediscovering Mr. King’s simple but effective philosophy on “visual story” and standing out in an often bland, ‘me too’ world of digital marketing.

Additionally, there is a link below to Seth Godin’s blog on some other valid considerations for your marketing materials.

 

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Seth’s Blog: Question checklist for reviewing your new marketing materials….

Things to Stop Doing in 2015 – HBR

New Year’s resolutions are typically hollow, quick fix solutions that are not based on long term, incremental objectives. The ‘lose 30lbs in 30 days mentality’, as I call it, only leads to gaining back the 30  plus an additional 15 over the subsequent 9 months.

The post below from the HBR blog, however, has some common sense, myth busting ‘not to do’s’ that can be done incrementally throughout the year. The important lesson is that change begins in the mirror and is for the person in the mirror. The more you try to become all things, to all people, the less happy and effective it makes you for anyone.

Things to Stop Doing in 2015 – HBR.

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Harvard Business School’s Role in Widening Inequality | LinkedIn

Harvard Business School’s Role in Widening Inequality | LinkedIn.

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By Jessica Williams [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s very rare to see an elite academic institution come under fire from one of its own, particularly when that criticism stabs at the current heart of academia’s “value proposition” and a time when many are questioning the price tag of their next level of higher education. So when John Reich, Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkley and former Secretary of Labor in the US, fired the recent criticism of Harvard Business School above it caught my attention. Of unique interest was the underlying indictment of the contradictory notion of the elite academic institution as the incubator of the modern, “celebrity CEO”.

I say contradictory notion but its more of an error of logic to make the leap and assume that Harvard, an MBA or any other purely theoretical study on its own makes for a better CEO of an organization. It essentially removes the practical side of the “theory + practice” equation. It would be similar to stating that theoretical physics alone can tell us everything we need to know about the universe and that experimental physics is simply a redundant component.

A bit divergent from Professor Reich’s points raised in his post, the evidence of history suggests that there is in fact a real disconnect between formal education and effective leadership in business that cannot simply be dismissed.

In the 1980’s large corporations, like IBM, admitted to investing a significant amounts in “re-educating” recent MBA graduates. They found that these new executives lacked the basic reading and writing skills required to fulfill the functions of mid-level leadership, let alone qualify them for a role as CEO.

Further, the role of the modern CEO and even the “Celebrity CEO” is neither new nor has it had a mutually exclusive relationship  with any higher academic institution for more than a century. In the early 20th Century, both J.P.Morgan and John D. Rockefeller ended their formal education with what today would equate to local community college. The former having earned a degree in Art History from a tech school in Sweden and the latter completing a 10 week course in bookkeeping. Henry Ford is documented to have had even less formal education. Later in the 1970’s there was the well-known Chrysler CEO, Lee Iacocca who did earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. He would forgo further studies at Princeton University, however, for an engineering position at the Ford Motor Company and the rest is as they say history. More recent examples include Howard Schultz, CEO and architect of the now world-famous Starbucks. The first of his family to even go to college, his formal academic career ended with a bachelor’s degree in communications from Northern Michigan University. Topping the list is perhaps one of the most talked about CEOs of our time, Steve Jobs. Jobs simply dropped out of Reed College in Portland, OR out of boredom and never completed a degree.

In contrast, some of the most famous Harvard grads of the last century were either “non-businessmen” or even failed in business.  Two examples stand out:

Theodore Roosevelt

Of all of the great accomplishments of his life, his business endeavors were not among them. It’s been well documented that TR was not good at business. He used up the majority of his family inheritance on risky cattle ranching endeavors that failed miserably. Much of his comparatively modest income after his political career ended came from his writing and even sponsorships. Lesser known is the fact that most of his excursions of later life, his safari to Africa and the like were almost entirely subsided. The safari to Africa was completely funded by the Smithsonian Institute and believe it or not, J.P. Morgan.

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“T Roosevelt” by Pach Brothers (photography studio).Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Barack Obama

There is certainly no discounting or disrespecting anyone who has risen to the Presidency of the United States of America nor anyone graduating from Harvard in addition to earning a Juris Doctorate. So current political and personal achievement debates aside, the underlying question is, “does any of that make for a more effective business professional and ultimately a more effective CEO?”

In the case of President Obama, its untested…he has never been a CEO of a corporation. Some will argue that being the leader of the world’s largest economy is akin to being a CEO of a corporation but that’s a weak analogy. Corporations cannot print their own money, although I be they’d like to. A president can be impeached, but that is nowhere close to the same thing as being voted out as CEO by a board of directors. In addition corporations, operating in the red, do not have the luxury of simply moving the line of their break-even or extending the deadline of their loan payments.

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“President Barack Obama” by Official White House Photo by Pete Souza – P120612PS-0463 (direct link). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Wrapping it up, it may sound like I am an opponent of higher education but in fact it’s quite the contrary. There are few who are bigger proponents of continuous learning, self-mastery and formal education. But I am also a proponent of the maxim of balance between theory and practice. Further, I suggest that informal education and self-study have not been given their just credit or acknowledgement in over a century. Lastly, I suggest that academic elite, do not necessarily, an effective CEO make. History has demonstrated that some of the most effective CEOs have unique mixtures of mindsets and skills sets that stem from both formal academic study and practical direct experience in the business fields.