Monthly Archives: February 2014

How to Get Lucky in Innovation

How to Get Lucky in Innovation

Luck is certainly a significant characteristic of creativity and innovation. Innovation requires that the inventor(s):

  • Be in the right place at the right time. Inventor Thomas Edison filed over 1,000 patents during his career. He invented the electric light bulb, electric power stations, movie cameras, and more. One of the strongest reasons he was able to do all and any of those things was that he actively sought to put himself into the right place, at the right time, and with the right people.
  • Be conscious of the potentials of the ideas available to them. British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee imagined the need for a worldwide internet network at CERN). When American businessman Ray Kroc visited the McDonald brothers at hamburger shack in San Bernardino to sell milkshake machines, Ray became convinced that the setup of this small chain had the potential to explode across the nation.
  • Then act on them. Orville and Wilbur Wright put in countless hours to successfully execute their ideas of inventing and building the world’s first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered, and sustained heavier-than-air flight in the history of humankind.

13 Ways to Get Lucky in Innovation

Innovation is a tough game, and luck is a big help. However, you need not wait for unexpected opportunities. Try the following strategies for improving your luck—and winning the innovation game.

  1. Try it. Cut baloney and get on with something.
  2. Ready-Pain-Fire. Instead of Ready-Aim-Aim-Aim…
  3. Read odd stuff. Look everywhere for ideas.
  4. Hire odd people. Boring folks have boring ideas.
  5. Ask dumb questions. Somebody once asked why all computer commands come from keyboards. Result: the invention of the computer mouse as a peripheral.
  6. Pursue failure—the bigger the better. Failure is success’s only launching pad.
  7. Listen to everyone. Ideas come from everywhere.
  8. Spend 50% of your time with outsiders. And spend 50% of your outsider time with wacko outsiders.
  9. Spread confusion in your wake. Keep people off balance so there are ruts don’t get any deeper than they already are.
  10. Roll up your sleeves, take off your shoes, and get out of your office. Then get rid of your office. (When was the last time something creative happened there?)
  11. Give out “Culture Scud Awards.” Your best friend is a person who attacks corporate culture head-on. Wish her well.
  12. Avoid moderation in all things. According to Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, “anything worth doing is worth doing to excess.”
  13. Plant a thousand seeds in hopes that a few will flourish into blossoming trees. Pursue investments that are going to take a long time to pay back—and you can’t know beforehand how successful they’ll be.

For more on the role of luck in innovation, read ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ by Steven Johnson. Steven’s book centers around the idea that innovation comes about when ideas from different people interact with each other. The most inventive organizations will create an environment where diverse ideas are free to emerge, and connect, in unexpected ways in a matter of serendipitous connections where people, environments and ideas meet. ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ is full of with enthralling anecdotes from the history of entrepreneurship and scientific invention.

Posted in Mental Models and Psychology

Ten Time-Tested Headliners to Get Attention in Targeted & Direct Marketing Email

Targeted & Direct Marketing Email

Today, businesses have a host of marketing options at their disposal, making mass marketing far too crude. With its low cost, email marketing is the most cost-effective advertising method available today. Better yet, email marketing beats other targeted advertising and mass-media forms of advertising from a measurability standpoint.

Try these techniques to generate enough interest in the first paragraph of a sales letter, promotional email, or targeted direct mail to convince readers to move to paragraph two. Or use these as headlines.

  • Begin with your number one promotion: “You’ll quickly learn how to …”
  • Employ a <2 user-testimonial: “I used this program for only two weeks and learned how to …”
  • Pose a teaser that readers must answer the way you want them to: “Are you …” “Have you …” “Do you …”
  • Establish curiosity with a news-type opening: “Announcing …” or “Finally, a new simple way to …”
  • Make it sound exclusive: “You’re one of the very first people to receive this offer.”
  • Pat readers on the back: “We picked you to receive this special offer because of you’re…”
  • Initiate interest with creative story-telling: “You’re wasting your time!” the CEO bellowed. “It just won’t work!”
  • Persuade to use their imagination: “Imagine how you’ll feel once you’ve wrapped your fingers around …”
  • Make them curious: “270,000 people want to hear this preposition.”
  • Assume something: “I’ve reserved in your name a …”
Posted in Business and Strategy

Are You Creating Engaged, Happy Employees?

Are You Creating Engaged, Happy Employees?

An organization with engaged, happy employees can operate at its fullest potential by allowing people to do their best work. A company that truly and uniquely engages its employees fosters individual differences, adds meaning and value to the professional and personal lives of its employees, and represents a shared mission that stands for something meaningful, and fosters honest and straightforward vertical and horizontal communication.

Here are practical insights and ideas on how managers can increase their engagement, create connected organizations, and in that way in crease their influence and overall effectiveness.

  • Encourage them more. Give your employees the leeway, freedom, and autonomy to explore their ideas and you’ll be astounded what they can come up with. Respect them, encourage them. People need to feel a human connection at work if they’re going to feel invested. Give the personal support your employees need, avoid dismissing their ideas and opinions, and recognize them for the progress they make every day.
  • Trust them more. The sense of trust in an organization is the single most important tool in overcoming barriers and obstacles facing organizational effectiveness and successful teamwork. Successful communication, team cohesion, achievements, and organizational progression are possible only in an atmosphere of trust. Fostering a culture of trust ensures that people feel secure in dealing with other members of a team and this is a long-term recipe for success.
  • Take an interest in my development. Numerous studies have long established what most employers and managers already identify: an investment in the professional development of employees increases employee retention, employee engagement, employee productivity, and organizational results. Don’t just focus career development on the high-potentials. Identify the three most important technical and organizational competencies that each employee needs to work on in order to achieve their goals. Then identify the “development actions” to address the development needs. Help employees identify and work at the types of challenges that fit with their personal experience of engagement and career progression.
  • Keep them in the loop. Effective communications with employees can keep them engaged in the business goals. Employees need to know how the organization is doing, how they fit into the big picture, and what they can do to ensure that their efforts influence the overall achievements of the organization. Direct line of communication between employees and managers can engage the workforce more than slogans, and HR campaigns.
  • Be more honest with them. Employees grow to trust management more when managers communicate honestly, tell the plain truth—even when it hurts. Employees want the truth from their managers, not wordsmithed, cliched phrases that lack any significant meaning. Great managers have the distinct ability to reassure people through direct and honest communication, especially in times of big change and uncertainty. By being honest with employees, managers also set the right tone and the expectation of honesty and integrity from all the employees.
  • Connect with them more. Acknowledging that every employee is different, managers need to know what excites, motivates and engages each employee. Connecting with employees reinforces the idea that all your employees feel included. Everyone is part of the team; therefore everyone should participate in the achievement of the organization’s goals. You can only move an organization forward when all your employees feel accountable and included.

Recommended Reading: ‘The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations’ by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner emphasizes the importance of leaders who question differently, challenging a team’s thought process, enabling others to think “out of the box,” expand the creative process, and hence encourage innovation. Kouzes and Posner underscore a key attitude that leadership is all about relationships. With many anecdotes, the book defines a framework around which you managers and leaders can make the jump from the theoretical to the practical aspects of team management.

Posted in Management and Leadership

Definition: Cook’s Tour

A Cook’s Tour is a guided but cursory tour of the major features of a place or an area.

Broadly, a Cook’s tour is a rapid but extensive glance or survey of a subject matter.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the phrase has its origin in Thomas Cook & Son, the prominent British travel agency, and precursor to the present-day global travel company Thomas Cook Group plc. The first known use of the phrase Cook’s Tour was around circa 1909. Thomas Cook & Son was started in 1872 as a partnership by Thomas Cook and his son, John A Mason Cook.

Recommended Reading: Thomas Cook: 150 Years of Popular Tourism by Piers Brendon.

Posted in Travels and Journeys

Do MBA Students need an MBA Oath to become Decent Human Beings?

Have far has our world of business leadership fallen that MBA students have to sign an ethics pledge to be decent human beings and principled managers? Here is a short version of the MBA Oath created and undertaken by MBA Students at Harvard.

Harvard MBA

As a manager, my purpose is to serve the greater good by bringing people and resources together to create value that no single individual can create alone. Therefore I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term. I recognize my decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and in the future. As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face choices that are not easy for me and others.

Therefore I promise:

  • I will act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner.
  • I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we operate.
  • I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.
  • I will understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise.
  • I will take responsibility for my actions, and I will represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.
  • I will develop both myself and other managers under my supervision so that the profession continues to grow and contribute to the well-being of society.
  • I will strive to create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide.
  • I will be accountable to my peers and they will be accountable to me for living by this oath.

This oath I make freely, and upon my honor.

After the outrage at the lack of principles and ethics amongst our business leaders following the accounting scandals and financial meltdown, financial greed, and other monetary fiascos of the last decade, there has been an explosion of ethics courses and programming in MBA student clubs, guest lectures, student conferences regarding personal and corporate responsibility and on how to regard business as a conscious component a large social community and less as a money-making enterprise headed by greedy fat cats.

Is it possible to truly teach morals and values into someone, especially MBA students? Conceivably, a business school can enlighten its students on the laws that are in place to protect businesses and individuals. However, in the end, it comes down to not just knowing the difference between right and wrong, and having the courage to choose between right and wrong.

Posted in Education and Career Management and Leadership

15 Rules and 10 Don’ts for Evaluating Companies by Value Investing Pioneer Phil Fisher

Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits, by Philip Fisher

Philip Fisher, Investor, Author of Common Stocks And Uncommon Profits Philip Fisher (1907–2004) is widely considered the pioneer and thought process leader in long-term value investing. Even after ten years after his death, Fisher is widely respected and admired as one of the most influential investors of all time. Fisher developed his long-term investing philosophy decades ago and discussed them in his seminal book, Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits. Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits was first published in 1958 and continues to be a must-read today for investors and finance professionals around the world.

Phil Fisher’s Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits is a perfect complement to Ben Graham’s The Intelligent Investor. Fisher’s book explains the qualitative side to value investing, while Graham explains the quantitative side of value investing. Warren Buffett, the world’s most successful value investor, describes himself as “85% Graham, 15% Fisher.”

Core to Fisher’s value-investing philosophy is that long-term value investors who will be investing in a company for 20-30 years should understand and appraise the management of a company because it is the management who is directly accountable for the long-term financial performance and business competitiveness of the company.

Phil Fisher’s Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits can be summarized by means of his 15-point checklist for buying stocks and a 10-point don’t list. These principles will stand the test of time.

Phil Fisher’s 15 Rules for Evaluating Companies for Value Investing

  1. Does the company have products or services with sufficient market potential to make possible a sizeable increase in sales for at least several years?
  2. Does the management have a determination to continue to develop products or processes that will still further increase total sales potential when the growth potential of currently attractive product lines have largely been exploited?
  3. How effective are the company’s research and development efforts in relation to its size?
  4. Does the company have an above-average sales organization?
  5. Does the company have a worthwhile profit margin?
  6. What is the company doing to maintain or improve profit margins?
  7. Does the company have outstanding labor and personnel relations?
  8. Does the company have outstanding executive relations?
  9. Does the company have depth to its management?
  10. How good are the company’s cost analysis and accounting controls?
  11. Are there other aspects of the business somewhat peculiar to the industry involved that will give the investor important clues as to how the company will be in relation to its competition?
  12. Does the company have a short-range or long-range outlook in regard to profits?
  13. In the foreseeable future, will the growth of the company require sufficient financing so that the large number of shares then outstanding will largely cancel existing shareholders’ benefit from this anticipated growth?
  14. Does the management talk freely to investors about its affairs when things are going well and “clam up” when troubles or disappointments occur?
  15. Does the company have a management of unquestioned integrity?

Phil Fisher’s 10 Don’ts for Evaluating Companies for Value Investing

  1. Don’t buy into promotional companies.
  2. Don’t ignore a good stock just because it is traded “over-the-counter.”
  3. Don’t buy a stock just because you like the “tone” of the annual report.
  4. Don’t assume that the high price at which a stock may be selling in relation to earnings is necessarily an indication that further growth in those earnings has largely been already discounted in the price.
  5. Don’t quibble over eights and quarters.
  6. Don’t overstress diversification.
  7. Don’t be afraid of buying on a war scare.
  8. Don’t forget your Gilbert and Sullivan (Don’t be influenced by what doesn’t matter).
  9. Do not fail to consider time as well as price in buying a true growth stock.
  10. Don’t follow the crowd.

Recommended Reading

  • The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. A Book of Practical Counsel: Benjamin Graham, Jason Zweig updates timeless “value investing” wisdom from the greatest investment teacher of the twentieth century, Benjamin Graham. This beloved book has been the investors’ bible since its original publication in 1949.
  • One Up On Wall Street: Peter Lynch, John Rothchild describes a well-revered bottom-up approach to investing in stocks by selecting companies familiar to the investor followed by a comprehensive fundamental analysis with emphasis on a company’s prospects, its business, it’s competitive environment, and then determining a reasonable price for the company’s stock. Peter Lynch is Vice Chairman of Fidelity Management & Research Company.
  • The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America: Warren E. Buffett, Lawrence A. Cunningham is a thematically arrangement of the lengthy writings of Warren Buffett. This classic book provides an understandable and consistent understanding of the principles and logic of Warren Buffett’s attitude to life, investing, and business.
Posted in Investing and Finance

The Rules of Bill Hewlett and David Packard’s Garage

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard

When Bill Hewlett and David Packard started HP in a Palo Alto garage, they prepared a set of eleven rules that represented their core beliefs. To keep these core beliefs front and center of their new-found venture and remind them of the founding principles as they tinkered and toiled with various inventions, they posted a sign at their garage that articulated the succinct and to-the-point guiding principles they shared.

These guiding principles coupled with core values of Bill Hewlett and David Packard— the HP Way—translated into a wide-ranging set of operating practices, cultural norms, and business strategies that transformed into the one of the most respected companies of their time.

  1. Believe you can change the world.
  2. Work quickly, keep the tools unlocked, and work whenever.
  3. Know when to work alone and when to work together.
  4. Share tools, ideas. Trust your colleagues.
  5. No Politics. No bureaucracy. (These are ridiculous in a garage.)
  6. The customer defines a job well done.
  7. Radical ideas are not bad ideas.
  8. Invent different ways of working.
  9. Make a contribution every day. If it doesn’t contribute, it doesn’t leave the garage.
  10. Believe that together we can do anything.
  11. Invent.

For Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard’s legendary management style and the history of Hewlett Packard, read ‘Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World’s Greatest Company’ by Michael S. Malone and ‘The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company’ by David Packard.

Posted in Leaders and Innovators Management and Leadership

Advice to Entrepreneurs: Apple’s Steve Jobs on Innovation and Market Research

An entrepreneur creates a new product or service under conditions of some degree of uncertainty. Entrepreneurs tend to face fundamental challenges such as determining if customers will want the product they are building or service they are offering. Here is advice from Steve Jobs on innovation and market research. Steve Jobs is the co-founder and former CEO of Apple, the designer and manufacturer of communication and media devices.

  • Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple On innovation: Try to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then trying to bring those things into what you’re doing. Picasso has a saying: “good artists copy, great artists steal.” We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.
  • On market research and consultants: we do no market research. We don’t hire consultants. The only consultants I’ve ever hired in my tenure was one firm to analyze Gateway’s retail strategy so I would not make some of the same mistakes they made.

Source: “World Changers: 25 Entrepreneurs Who Changed Business as We Knew It” by John A. Byrne. John Byrne, a former editor at BusinessWeek and Fast Company magazines, co-authored Jack: Straight from the Gut with Jack Welch, former General Electric Chairman and CEO. In “World Changers,” John Byrne recounts discussions with and words of wisdom from 25 entrepreneurs who have changed the world—people like Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Virgin Group’s Richard Branson, and Grameen Bank’s Muhammad Yunus. John Byrne argues that the greatest common denominators amongst great world changers are the centrality of purpose in their organizations, their willingness to seek advice through mentorship and peer counseling, and the ability to maintain focus and direction over long periods.

Recommended Reading

Posted in Business and Strategy Leaders and Innovators Management and Leadership

You can be a Great Project Manager Too

A great project manager can tell the projects’ stakeholders exactly where they are in the project, when it’s likely to be completed, and by how much you will exceed or undershoot the project team’s budget. In addition to tracking the key variables on a project and keeping the project team, the stakeholders, and the customers informed about the progress of projects, here’s ten things you should do to become a great project manager and develop the confidence and methods to manage your projects effectively.

  1. You should be a great organizer
  2. You should communicate more often
  3. You should be honest with clients
  4. You should look for solution instead of ones to blame
  5. You should like to work with customers
  6. You should understand business story laying behind the project
  7. You should understand technical issues which appears during implementation
  8. You should not hesitate whether to escalate or deliver negative feedback whenever needed
  9. You should not cry over unfair opinions about your work and your projects
  10. You should always expect the unexpected

Recommended Book: ‘The One-Page Project Manager’ by Clark A. Campbell is one of the most productive methods available to summarize and communicate the real meaning of project management. The subtitle is Communicate and Manage Any Project With a Single Sheet of Paper. The project management practice suggested by Campbell is neither too complicated, nor too simple. For experienced project managers, this resource is definitely a technique to embrace for speedy, crystal-clear, and persistent communication with the project sponsors, the project team, and other stakeholders. This book is especially useful for managers who manage several projects at once. Such managers can use this one-page technique to track the projects promptly, succinctly, and reliably. Finding or improvising better ways of project management is tedious, costly, or not straightforward.

Posted in Education and Career Management and Leadership

Three Ways to Use AutoHotKey to Rock Your Firefox Experience

AutoHotkey Numeric Keypad for Firefox

We are devoted aficionados of AutoHotkey, an open-source scripting language that can be used to religiously automate repetitive tasks on the Microsoft Windows operating system tasks and save time. AutoHotkey primarily works by overriding the default key commands on any software that runs on Windows. The core of AutoHotkey is a custom scripting language that can help define keyboard shortcuts or hotkeys.

If the keyboard on your Windows computer has a numeric keypad, you can use the keys on the numeric keypad to assist you with using the Firefox browser. By installing and running these scripts to scroll and close tabs, you don’t need to move your hands a long way from the mouse. Here are three simple scripts.

Scroll Down a Firefox Page using the ‘Add’ Key on the Numeric Keypad

This simple script substitutes the ‘Page Down’ key with the ‘Add’ key on the numeric keypad, thus helping you scroll down on Firefox pages.

        Send {PgDn}

Scroll Up a Firefox Page using the ‘Subtract’ Key on the Numeric Keypad

This simple script substitutes the ‘Page Up’ key with the ‘Subtract’ key on the numeric keypad, thus helping you scroll up on Firefox pages.

        Send {PgUp}

Close a Firefox Tab using the ‘Pause’ Key

This simple script substitutes the ‘Control + F4’ key combination with the ‘Pause’ key on your keypad, thus helping you close the current tab in the Firefox application.

        Send ^{F4}

This AutoHotkey Script Needs ‘MozillaWindowClass’

To restrict the customization of these special keys just to the Firefox browser, you will need to an #IfWinActive block with the ahk_class set to MozillaWindowClass. Here is the full script. Actually, MozillaWindowClass refers to any window in any Mozilla application; hence you will notice that these shortcuts work on the Mozilla Thunderbird email application as well.

#IfWinActive ahk_class MozillaWindowClass
                Send ^{F4}
                Send {PgDn}
                Send {PgUp}

For a basic introduction to the utility of AutoHotkey and a tutorial on installing AutoHotkey and compiling AutoHotkey scripts, see this useful YouTube video or this orderly guide from howtogeek.

Posted in Software and Programming