What Really Moves An Organization

It has been said that, “Hope is not a strategy”…likewise neither is relying solely on charismatic or even heroic leadership to save the day.

Having a compelling yet prescriptive strategy, followed by disciplined and consistent execution can move an organization to sustained excellence.

Leadership’s role in this is to cultivate buy-in, from all stakeholders, around both strategy and execution as well as define the collaborative culture of excellence within the organization.

Know how to appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of each thing – Miyamoto Musashi

It has been almost sixty years since the economic thought leader, Peter Drucker, first introduced the idea of “knowledge work”. In his 1959 book, “Landmarks of Tomorrow”, Drucker began to redefine the economic landscape for the coming 21stCentury by stating that there had emerged a fundamental shift in the meaning of the term “knowledge”.  He goes on to state that historically, knowledge has been the pursuit of new facts but innovation has progressively begun to reshape this definition. This new definition has evolved to this day and has become the foundation of the term that has almost become cliché’ in our time, “knowledge work” (Drucker, 1959 p.38).

Drucker would revisit this topic many times over the next four and a half decades, before he passed away in 2005. In an HBR report, Wartzman claims that Drucker viewed knowledge work as the most significant contribution to the 21stCentury. He further states that, to date however, most organizations fall short of the ideal that Drucker presented (Wartzman, 2014).

Central to the issue is the idea that the technological advancements of the information age have exponentially outpaced the human capacity to adapt to these changes. Forget 1959, just in the last three decades humanity has seen the adoption of the personal computer, cell phones and the Internet, all of which have reshaped how business and communication is done on a global scale. From both a business as well as a general social perspective, many struggle adapting to all that these advancements have brought both directly and indirectly. Many companies today, for example, still view Internet access by employees as more of a hindrance to productivity than a resource. As a result, they will typically restrict access to just upper management and executives.

Another core issue is the idea that the nature of knowledge itself is rapidly changing. Many have suggested that while technology advances exponentially, the shelf life of information itself is decreasing at the same exponential rate. Arbesman, for example, states in his HBR article that, “knowledge is a lot like radioactive atoms because it decays over time. And when we’re dealing with large amount of facts and information, we can actually predict how long it will take for it to spread or decay by applying the laws of mathematics” (Arbesman, 2012). Some have even estimated that the current shelf life if information can be as little as 12-18 months.

The Need For Continuous Learning

            Consider for a moment how much has changed in just the last ten years. By this time in 2008, the iPhone was barely a year old, many business people still had no idea what a “smart phone” was and the Blackberry dominated the landscape. Facebook was barely a year old as well, most considered “social media” as a fad. Terms like, “reputation management” didn’t yet exist and there were no companies that had job openings for “social media manager” or “technology specialist”.

Fast-forward to 2018 and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg is testifying before the Senate on the nature of data privacy within a platform used by approximately 2 billion people worldwide. These hearings only punctuate the dichotomy between the rate of technological advancement and the required human understanding as well as skill sets. In a recent NPR article, Domonoske recounts the odd lines of questioning from the US Senate that demonstrates their clear lack of understanding, not only of Facebook but the current state of data collection, usage and data privacy in general (Domonoske, 2018).

In“Information Systems”, Watson makes the distinction between Information Systems (IS) and Information Technology (IT). He goes on to state, “information technology and information system are two related but separate concepts” (Watson, 2007 p.24). Bourgeois further clarifies this distinction by breaking it down into the specifics of hardware, software, data, people and process. His idea being that the first three fall under the definition of IT whereas the last two help to define IS (Bourgeois, 2014 p.6). It is in this sense that both businesses as well as business professionals, today, must continually improve their skill sets and tool sets to keep pace with the changes.

Information System Skills

Circling back to the topic mentioned earlier of “Reputation Management”, a concept that has evolved in the last ten years. This is an information system built around the digital presence and economic as well as social credibility of both businesses and the individuals within them. Conduct a Google search, for example, on any company or its CEO. What is being said about either? What is the company’s Google review rating? It’s Yelp rating? Today’s professionals must have a clear understanding of what this all means and how to both navigate as well as direct their own digital reputation, if nothing else.

What should a business professional post on Facebook? Should they allow business contacts in their personal network? How does a company effectively use LinkedIn? Is it a recruiting system? Is it a marketing system? Or is it just a digital Rolodex? Businesses and managers need not understand how the entire tech behind these information systems works, but they do need to understand that they are operating in and around themselves and their company. Like it or not, they must develop some basic skills to navigate these systems.

Information Technology Skills

The smartphone has significantly evolved how business is done over the last ten years. It can be used to book as last minute flight on a major airline or a local hotel room. Through the use of apps, like Uber, it can be used to get a ride anywhere in the city. It can be used to submit corporate travel expense reports for that airline flight, hotel or Uber ride. It can sync a variety of calendars across many devices to keep a businessperson organized and on schedule. It can be used to track the whereabouts of the company’s sales people, or anyone’s for that matter! It can also be remotely hacked; conversations can be recorded in both audio as well as visually through the access of the camera system.

Today’s business professional must have a clear understanding of both the positive as well as the potentially negative uses of these technologies. This requires not only knowledge but also cultivating the skills to maximize the positive use while mitigating the negative ones. Managers also have the additional responsibility for coaching these skills to those whom they lead.

New Communication Skills

With all this technological change in communication tools; smartphones, email, texting, instant messaging, virtual meetings and so forth, many managers struggle with how to effectively use these tools to communicate with their teams. When is it better communicate face to face vs. sending an email? How long should a conference call be in order to remain impactful and keep people’s attention? What does “death by PowerPoint” mean? How do you disconnect from all of these devices at the end of the day?

Many of these considerations have arisen in the last decade and require adopting new communication skill sets. These skill sets include communication to oneself as well as to others.

An Age of Insight?

            It has been suggested by many thought leaders that society has already begun to move from an age of knowledge work to an “age of wisdom”. This terminology may come across to business people as too esoteric so perhaps an “age of insights” is more appropriate. With the ever shortening shelf life of knowledge and information, one of the most critical skills of today is the ability to gauge both relevance as well as usefulness of information. Is it relevant or obsolete? How is it useful to the current business climate or needs? What key insights can be taken away to better run the business? In other words, the skill is in absorbing what is useful then moving on. Ironically, it was the famous Japanese Samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, who put it best back in the middle of the Seventeenth Century when he said, “Know how to appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of each thing” (Tokitsu, 2005 p.149).


Arbesman, S. (2012) Be forewarned, your knowledge is decaying. Retrieved from HBR.com (April, 2018). https://hbr.org/2012/11/be-forewarned-your-knowledge-i

Bourgeois, D. T. (2014). Information Systems for Business and Beyond. (p.6)

Domonoske, C. (2018) Lawmakers Push Zuckerberg On Security, Diversity, Drug Sales On Facebook. Retrieved from NPR.org (April, 2018). https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/04/11/599590470/mark-zuckerberg-is-back-before-congress-for-a-second-day-of-testimony

Drucker, P. (1959). Landmarks of tomorrow. A report on the new postmodern world (p.38)

Tokitsu, K. (2005) Miyamoto Musashi, His life and writings. (p.149)

Wartzman, R. (2014) What Peter Drucker knew about 2020. Retrieved from HBR.com (April, 2018). https://hbr.org/2014/10/what-peter-drucker-knew-about-2020

Watson, R. T. (2007). Information Systems. (p.24)


This probably doesn’t apply to you

Or does it? When was the last time that you took a quiet, introspective look in the mirror and assessed your willingness to be open to new ideas? How often do you welcome discussion with those whose opinions differ greatly from yours? Is your, “open door policy” sincere or merely lip service to keep the masses from revolting? Has the fear of being wrong or making a mistake narrowed your vision?

Ironically, the topic of overconfidence and arrogance in our culture continues to only quietly appear and disappear and has done so for almost two decades. Most recently, the Harvard Business Review article below cites overconfidence as a prime factor of ineffective decision-making. Further, if you Google Search the topic, “overconfidence caused the economic crisis” there are over 300,000 articles pertaining to the idea that the last global recession was a direct result of overconfidence amongst professionals and the financial sector in particular.

Source: 3 Ways to Improve Your Decision Making

Discussion about overconfidence is not new, however. It’s from the ancient Greeks that we get the term, Hubris and combines both overconfidence and arrogance. They obviously had similar issues in their time as this was often a central theme to their literature. In between ancient Greece and today, many have also written on the dangers of overconfidence. Some of those include:

Jim Collins, in his 2001 book, “Good To Great” discusses what he calls Level 5 Leadership being a combination of humility (in other words, a lack of Hubris) and an indomitable spirit. 

The late John Wooden in his 2005 book, “Wooden On Leadership” famously states

“It’s what you learn, after you know it all, that really counts.”

In the “Little Red Book Of Selling” also published in 2005, author Jeffrey Gitomer outlines his sales maxims including, “Resign your position as general manager of the universe”. So essentially, get over the title on your business card. 

Yet with all of this history, how often do you hear organizations, CEOs, leaders or experts of late warning of the dangers of overconfidence? Arguably, it’s becoming more and more of a rarity and there are at least two plausible explanations for this. First is the idea that our culture is becoming increasingly risk averse. Making a mistake is no longer an option and admitting a mistake is often seen as career ending for many professionals. Hence overconfidence has become the default defense mechanism. Judgement errors are for “other people” and admitting that one may need help or solicit the feedback of others is seen as a weakness. 

Second are the by products of the digital age. Technology, the internet and social media in particular have made it possible for anyone to become a self-proclaimed expert or celebrity. Now more than ever, our culture sees popularity and the”number of likes” as some fundamental measure of societal contribution. This digital narcissism has spawned a new version of overconfidence that has spilled over into the real world. 

How to avoid overconfidence?

In researching people, over the last decade, there are some common denominators in those who have thrived, been effective and found excellence both in the past as well as the present. First is cultivating the ability of introspection. Simply put, this is the practice of looking within and examining personal behaviors both openly and critically. Many of found excellence through looking  at themselves both figuratively and literally in the mirror and asking the tough questions; “Am I being overconfident?”, “What could I be doing differently?”, “Am I soliciting input from others?”. 

Second is having a set guiding principles that include keeping overconfidence in check and creating a sense of personal responsibility to self-regulate. I’ve often called this the, “Personal Code” and it can include specific commitments such as;

  • Giving back to the community
  • Soliciting feedback from peers on a regular basis
  • Seeking out mentors or being one to someone in need
  • Reading some form of wisdom literature often
  • And of course, being introspective

How will you keep overconfidence in check in 2018?

The 5 Elements of Every Organization

At some level, every organization, whether a for-profit business, not for profit and even governmental organizations all have a variant of these five elements. They may use different terminologies, philosophies and vary with regards to when these elements become most relevant. They are there nonetheless….and how they work together determines the long-term effectiveness of an organization.

  • Sales
  • Service
  • Operations
  • Profitability
  • Employee Development

“Sales closes the first deal and operations closes the next ten, or doesn’t”

“You must study this in great detail” -Miyamoto Musashi



Not Mr Miyagi, but Master Yamashita

“All karate is same same, you be the best!”

-Tadashi Yamashita

It can be argued that success is a relative term. How wealthy, famous or educated does one have to be in order to be successful? How many accomplishments, awards or titles must be accumulated? The answer will of course depend upon whom you ask. For some, success is measured purely in financial terms while others view success as contributions and lasting impact.

Excellence on the other hand is something different; it involves action at a high level, above the median and much more objective in nature. There are many examples of people, past and present, who have achieved and sustained excellence throughout their lives yet have had modest wealth or limited notoriety.

One example is Tadashi Yamashita. Google the name, the image and for the general public his face might be vaguely familiar but the name even less so. For the martial arts community, however, Master Yamashita is stuff of legend. He is the martial artist that young kids watch and dream of emulating.

Having had the honor of training with Tadashi Yamashita, the quote above is as fresh in my mind as it was almost thirty years ago. It summarizes his commitment to excellence in martial arts and remains a metaphor that can be carried over to any aspect of life.

Grand Master Tadashi Yamashita

Simon Sinek and Sustaining Excellence

Author and marketer, Simon Sinek, has risen to popularity from his 2009 TED Talk called, “Start With Why – How great leaders inspire action”. Listed as one of the third most viewed TED Talks of all time, it only validates what I’ve called 5 Rings of Sustaining Excellence and how it can apply to all things. To illustrate how the two strategies parallel and can be applied universally, consider this;

Most people want to live healthier, have more energy and feel good about their day, this begins with the Circle of Mental Excellence and “Starting with Why”.

Circle of Mental Excellence = Why

Why is it important to exercise regularly?

  • To control weight
  • To have more energy
  • To relieve stress

Circle of Physical Excellence = How

How to create the habit of regular exercise?

  • Wake up an hour earlier each day
  • Hike every Tuesday & Thursday
  • Drink more water

Circle of Skills Excellence = What

What new skills can or should be developed to perpetuate this? 

  • Learn Cross Fit
  • Train for a Spartan Race
  • Study Yoga

Now consider how often people within your various groups (friends, family, coworkers, etc) have inspired you or others to action by “I’ve lost 40 lbs. and I feel better than ever!” This can spark “group think” or the Circle of Team Excellence and has led to developments like the popular Spartan Races. Often it will also grow within an organization, become institutionalized and evolves into corporate wellness programs. At the outermost ring, this can be called the Circle of Organizational Excellence.

It all begins with one person, looking in the mirror and asking…Why?


The Two-Fold Way of Pen and Profession

One of the benefits of the digital age is the unprecedented volume of information and knowledge at the disposal of every person around the globe. Classic books, entire libraries and cutting edge technologies are all available by way of an internet connection, most at little or no charge. Even todays libraries provide free access to computers, internet connections as well as multimedia resources that past generations could never have imagined. Nonprofit universities like, University of The People offer an entire college education at virtually no cost.

Science and medicine continue to provide evidence that consistent brain stimulation through challenging learning can have longterm health benefits. Some studies have linked it to reducing the possibility of Alzheimer’s Disease in later years (visit the National Institute for Health & Aging for more).

History has repeatedly demonstrated that continuous learning is one of the keys to both finding and sustaining excellence. Take one of the most famous examples of the early 20th Century, Mark Twain;

  • His formal education ended at age 11, with the death of his father.
  • He subsequently self-educated in public libraries
  • He would be awarded two honorary Doctorate Degrees.
  • Mark Twain has become one of the most celebrated writers of the 20th Century.

Further example is found in The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. Depending upon the translated version, Musashi makes two assertions in the first few paragraphs; First that self-guided study is the key to finding and sustaining excellence. Second, the need to balance profession with continuous learning. In today’s terms, this is likely what he meant by his famous quote;

“The warrior’s way is the two-fold way of pen and sword.”

-Miyamoto Musashi

The list of examples goes on and there is further reading in the article post below. The evidence, however, is compelling and the conclusion hard to argue. In an ever polarized culture, continuous learning can be the competitive difference that today’s Ronin professional needs to thrive.

“What you love to do you will do well.” ~Japanese proverb What do Thomas Edison, Vincent Van Gogh, Maya Angelou, Bob Dylan, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Lennon, Steve Jobs, Jimi Hen…

Source: Self-Direction is the Key to Mastery | Creative by Nature

Mental Excellence in the Digital Age

Sustaining excellence in your personal and professional life requires energy, lots of energy. Science and medicine continues to provide evidence that maintaining a proper balance of good diet, rest, exercise and stress reduction can help maximize your energy levels. But how do we get to that balance and maintain it?

At the core of it all are the attitudes, decisions and perspectives that we focus on each and every day. Deciding to eat right or exercise regularly are decisions we make and those are a result of the regular communication that we have with ourselves. I call that, The Circle of Mental Excellence.

I’ve spent the last ten years researching people of note, throughout history, from Roman emperors like Hadrian to Benjamin Franklin to Steve Jobs. The common denominator in each one is that they all have a set of principles or guiding mantra to keep mentally aligned on a day-to-day basis. Much like the Samurai of Japan or Knights Templar, they have what I call a Personal Code.

Theodore Roosevelt for example was very vocal about his “Doctrine of a strenuous life”. He truly believed that physical and mental adversity not only tests ones character but is essential to building it. Benjamin Franklin had is principles of frugality and initiative. Steve Jobs believed in creating things that were both artful and useful. These people were not perfect, in fact these principles likely rose from each of them to offset significant internal conflicts. Those personal codes, however, became an internal compass that allowed them to find their True North under the toughest conditions.



Mental health, if not addressed, can have debilitating side effects — some of which may be detrimental to your business.

Source: Managing Your Mental Health as an Entrepreneur

“Perceive and understand that which is not visible from the outside.”
-Miyamoto Musashi

A Business Professor’s Fitness Secret: Qigong – WSJ

One of the biggest challenges for Western professionals is cultivating the ability to ‘disconnect’, even just temporarily, from the demands of work and life. The unwritten rule is that you must be, ‘always on’ or ‘always connected’. In the early days of mobile devices, one colleague would refer to this as the “Crackberry” addiction…as in never being able to put her Blackberry down.

But even clinical, Western research has now confirmed that not only is this unhealthy, it’s bad business. Like a battery that gets overworked and runs out of energy quickly, so too can the human body and the psyche do the same. Results? You become less productive at work and more prone to poor judgement.

Traditional exercise is great, however it’s more difficult to slow your mind down and regain a sense of mental balance during intense exercise. You’re typically way too focused on the exercise activity. On the flip side, the idea of meditation in the classical sense is can be foreign and uncomfortable. Some people simply aren’t ready to sit still with just their thoughts for 30-60 minutes.

In between are what I’ve referred to for years as, Meditation-In-Motion activities. These are physical activities where you are forced to slow down although there may be physical movement. It’s physical and mental fitness at the same time. These types of activities may include:

  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Qigong
  • Tai Chi

The key to effectiveness is leaving technology behind for even an hour. Forget your cell phone, your FitBit, your social media posts and just relax.

“At the University of Michigan or on the road, a negotiation expert uses the Chinese practice as the linchpin of his routine.”

Source: A Business Professor’s Fitness Secret: Qigong – WSJ

13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful


The fundamental idea behind ENMEI is that there are five essential cycles or ‘rings’ that drive long-term excellence. I suggest that there is a specific order in which these cycles must be repeatedly revisited. Like the planets in our solar system, the orbit and movement of each planet is critical to maintaining a balance for the whole.

At the core of the ENMEI solar system are the circles of mental/physical excellence. Part of the cyclical process often involves the shedding of toxic mental & physical elements. Or in the words of Miyamoto Musashi,

Below is a good post from LinkedIn.com about shedding useless acts.

”Somebody once told me the definition of hell: “On your last day on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.” —

Source: 13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful