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Customer Feedback Systems to Go Beyond Customer Expectations

Customer Feedback Systems to Go Beyond Customer Expectations

There used to be a sofa in Microsoft’s telephone customer support center called “the Mail Merge couch”—named for a feature in Microsoft’s word-processing program that lets users customize form letters. The early version of Mail Merge was so complicated that whenever a customer called for help, Microsoft’s representative would lie down on the couch, knowing the conversation was likely to take a long time.

Clearly, something was wrong with that feature. Microsoft fixed the problem in the next generation of Word (and eliminated the need for the couch), but the story illustrates just how important customer feedback can be.

Most business managers understand that using customer feedback to guide the development and improvement of products and services is critical to success. However, some companies and individual managers are better than others are at collecting feedback and using it to make strategy decisions.

Nine Customer Feedback Rules for Managers

Managers who want to help their companies be customer-driven might observe the following nine rules.

  1. Create a system for effectively soliciting customer feedback, and then put that system to work. Boeing uses extensive customer involvement when developing new jetliner models. United Airlines influenced the design of both the 767 and the 777, and British Airways and Eastern Airlines participated in developing of the 757. As a result, the airlines were able to tailor the planes to their specific needs and preferences.
  2. Make sure your feedback system provides reliable information from a cross-section of customers. When a company has thousands or millions of customers, it can’t involve many of them in the product design, but it can involve a representative sample of customers.
  3. Make it easy for customers to provide feedback. Some companies offer a customer-feedback phone number. Surveys are another system for gathering feedback, but many people, including me, are not willing to spend much time answering them. Observing customers while they are using existing products and services is habitually the only way to identify hidden frustrations that they may not even be deliberately conscious of.
  4. Microsoft's Nine Customer Feedback Rules for Managers Send e-mail surveys to customers and offer incentives to fill them out and return them. The incentive may be a little digital money or coupons to buy products at a discount. The electronic survey will be immensely efficient for the company, because the survey results will be in electronic form, making results easier to compile and analyze. Some companies already use the Internet in this way. Encyclopedia Britannica recently e-mailed people who had accepted a free seven-day trial of the company’s online reference, offering another free week to those willing to fill out an online survey about their reactions to the product and its price.
  5. Use focus group and customer councils. Getting a few customers together to discuss their reactions to current and new products or services is another good way to collect customer feedback, although these groups and councils, too, have their limitations.
  6. Go beyond what market research tells you. The transition to graphical computing is an example of an instance where Microsoft needed to go beyond what Microsoft’s market research was telling us. Most software customers who were surveyed did not know they would prefer graphical computing because they had not tried it. Microsoft believed that customers would prefer the new way of interacting with their computers, even though Microsoft’s market research was not very positive. Microsoft’s gamble proved right.
  7. Log and evaluate all service requests, customer suggestions, and product complaints. Microsoft logs and evaluates hundreds of thousands of calls made to Microsoft’s support technicians every year. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Observe them using products and watch for frustrations they may not even notice.
  8. Require that the software engineers who develop products spend some time listening to calls from customers. These engineers need to get firsthand feedback. To get the attention of Microsoft’s group managers, Microsoft charges their departments for the cost of providing technical support to customers who use their products.
  9. Request, receive, and act on input from your salespeople. Microsoft seeks and use input for the people who are out in the field with customers. In this industry, customers are eager to share their ideas, frustrations, and enthusiasm. Microsoft is also lucky to be in an industry where products are so adaptable. Whereas it might take an automobile company five years to retool a car model to adapt to customer preferences, software companies can—and do—update their products constantly in response to customer input.

Beyond Customer Feedback

Customer feedback is critical to success of a business No system of market research is foolproof, of course. Even companies that do a good job of listening to customers can make mistakes. Business partners are relying on questionable information to make customer-related decisions. Our new understanding of customer-related decision making should be the starting point for a research approach that has impact on a greater proportion of high-value customer-related decisions.

I am a strong believer that heeding customer feedback is critical to success in any business, especially a dynamic, fast-moving industry such as ours. Despite Microsoft’s willingness to look beyond customer input, 80 percent of the improvements in products like Windows result from customer feedback. Experience has taught us that it is also important to trust your instincts, to take risks, and to provide leadership, even when the customer is not demanding that you do so.

Apply these rules to your business and use the feedback to make improvements. Companies often make the blunder of organizing customer feedback systems around one structure—say lines of business or channel—and employee feedback systems around another—say geography or function. In the end, well-designed feedback loops facilitate employees to be more empowered and companies to be more approachable, creating the competitive edge companies need to adapt and thrive.

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Posted in Business and Strategy Management and Leadership

Bill Gates on Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule

Malcoln Gladwell It’s a tempting proposal: if you practice anything for 10,000 hours, then you will become world class. In 1993, scientist Anders Ericsson learned of a group of psychologists in Berlin who were researching violin players found that, by age 20, the leading performers had averaged in excess of 10,000 hours of practice each. Less able performers, in the meantime, clocked up just 4,000 hours. Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion further in his book Outliers: The Story of Success.

In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals,” writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin, “this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years… No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.

Gladwell applied the concept to Bill Joy, Bill Gates, and the Beatles, who sharpened their musical know-how in performance at Hamburg’s strip clubs. Gladwell says:

The Beatles ended up travelling to Hamburg five times between 1960 and the end of 1962. On the first trip, they played 106 nights, of five or more hours a night. Their second trip they played 92 times. Their third trip they played 48 times, for a total of 172 hours on stage. The last two Hamburg stints, in November and December 1962, involved another 90 hours of performing. All told, they performed for 270 nights in just over a year and a half. By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964, they had performed live an estimated 1,200 times, which is extraordinary. Most bands today don’t perform 1,200 times in their entire careers. The Hamburg crucible is what set the Beatles apart.

'Outliers' by Malcoln Gladwell (ISBN 0316017922) Coined by Florida State psychologist Anders Ericsson and made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, the 10,000 hour rule reflects the belief that becoming a superlative athlete or performer rests on a long period of hard work rather than “innate ability” or talent. As stated by Malcolm Gladwell’s famous 10,000-hour rule, genuine success only comes to people who are willing to put in a great many hours to become first-class at something they value. Whether it involves learning a new piece of equipment, a new language, or developing a craft, being able to cope with setbacks and stay focused on goals regardless of how far-flung they seem. And so the importance of resolve and steadiness in success.

Bill Gates did not only have an propensity for creating software, he also had just about exceptional access as a schoolboy to a mainframe computer that the parents’ association of his local school invested in, in 1968. He got to it in eighth grade before just about anyone else in the world. Correspondingly the Beatles’ genius for melody did not come ready made. They developed it while singing in Hamburg in the early Sixties, at all-night strip clubs. In those years they dedicated more time to pop music than any of their peers. The same could be said for Mozart, or Tiger Woods. They had capability, sure enough, but they also had extraordinary family circumstances that allowed them a reasonable advantage at a very early age. They put the hours in first.

Extraordinary success depends on talent, hard work, and being in the right place at the right time, among other things. In Outliers, Gladwell contends that, to truly master any skill, leaning on various pieces of research, requires about 10,000 concentrated hours. If you can get those hours in early, and be in a position to exploit them, then you are an outlier.

When asked, “What do you think of Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that the years 1953 to 1955 were the perfect ones in which to be born for the computer revolution?” by his father William H. Gates Sr., Bill Gates reponds:

His book makes a lot of great points … that is that in all success stories there are significant elements of luck and tiny … I wasn’t the only kid born between 1953 and 1955, but absolutely to be young and open-minded at a time when the microprocessor was invented … in my case have a friend Paul Allen who was more open-minded about hardware type things and literally brought me the obscure article to talk about that first microprocessor and said you know this is going to improve exponentially … what does that mean and I said well at that means it we can do anything we want and then he was … you know … bugging me the rest of the time every time there’d be a new microprocessor he said can we do something yet and when we were in high school that can happen … so he came back to possible good job there and actually the microprocessor that was finally good enough came out in early 1975 and that’s why I i dropped out … so the timing was pretty important you know why didn’t older people see it … they weren’t this open open minded … they didn’t think about software is the key ingredient … now a lot of kids started doing software and … it’s not if somebody reads the book to say that if you spend 10,000 hours doing something you’ll be super good at it I don’t think that’quite as simple as that what you do is you do about 50 hours and ninety percent drop out because they don’t like it or they’re not good … you do another 50 hours and ninety percent drop out … so there’s these constant cycles and you do have to be lucky enough but also fanatical enough to keep going and so the person makes it to 10,000 hours is not just somebody has done it for 10,000 hours there’s somebody who chosen and been chosen in many different times and so all these magical things came together including who I know and that time … and i think you know that’s very important … when you look at somebody who’s good and say could I do it like them … they’ve gone through so many cycles that it may fool you that you know yes yes you could with the with the right luck, imagination, and and some some talent.

Bill Gates responds to Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill. Apart from acknowledging luck, timing and an open mind, Gates suggests that a successful person survives many cycles of attrition to make it to 10,000 hours of experience. “You do have to be lucky enough, but also fanatical enough to keep going,” explains Gates.

Unfortunately, a Princeton study, which analyzed 88 studies, established that practice accounted for just a 12% variation in performance.

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Posted in Education and Career Mental Models and Psychology

Susan Decker Got an Internship Doing a Magic Card Trick

An noteworthy anecdote on Susan Decker from ‘Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo’ by Nicholas Carlson:

'Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo' by Nicholas Carlson (ISBN 1455556610) During her first year in graduate school at Harward Business School, Decker interviewed at a small investment bank called Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette.

Decker hadn’t held a full-time job between college and graduate school, so, on her resume, she listed some of the odd jobs she’d done for money. One of them was “professional magician.” It was a stretch. Decker had once performed for a bunch of six-year-olds and made a little money.

Of course, the DLJ interviewers asked her about her magic skills.

Decker was one of those shy people who force themselves to dive into uncomfortable situations because they know that’s the only way they are going to get what they want out oflife. Decker dove in. She said to her interviewers: “Would you like to see a trick?”

They took the bait. Decker said she had an invisible deck of cards in her pocket. She made a show of taking it out and handed it to one of the interviewers. She said: “Pick a card, any card.”

She said: “What’s the card?”

The interviewer played along, made up a card, and said, “It was the eight of hearts.”

Decker pulled out a real deck of cards from her pocket. She fanned out the cards-only ene was face down. Decker turned it over: the 8 of hearts.

She got the internship.

Susan Decker Got an Internship Doing a Magic Trick Susan Decker most famously became president of Yahoo! Inc. and was passed over many a time for the role of Yahoo’s CEO. During her stint at Yahoo, while reporting to a revolving door of CEOs, she defended Yahoo’s business model. At a keynote for the 2008 Advertising 2.0 New York conference, Decker remarked on the transformation in the advertising industry as well as the opportunities and solutions for advertisers, ad agencies, and publishers. Decker asserted that new advertising products, technologies and platforms will make it more efficient to reach consumers. Decker also talked about the importance of striking the right balance between monetization and the customer experience:

Yahoo! is helping to accelerate the transformation of how display advertising is both bought and sold … First, we are developing the technology, products and platforms that are designed to help advertisers find the right audiences and publishers find the right advertisers. Second, we are partnering with publishers to secure and monetize inventory that advertisers and agencies find desirable. And third, we are partnering with advertisers and agencies to channel demand to the right consumer.

Susan Decker holds independent directorships at Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Intel, Costco, and LegalZoom. Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s business partner is also on the board of directors at Berkshire Hathaway and Costco. Bill Gates is also on the board at Berkshire Hathaway. His father, William H. Gates Sr., is also on the board at Costco.

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Posted in Education and Career

Knowledge is Never Really Acquired

A portrait statue of Socrates The famous statement, “All I know is that I do not know,” is attributed-questionably, according to some scholars-to the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (c. 470-399 BCE), based on two dialogues written by his disciple Plato (c. 424-c. 348 BCE).

In The Republic (c. 360 BCE), Socrates concludes a discussion with Thrasymachus on “justice” by saying, “the result of the discussion, as far as I’m concerned, is that I know nothing, for when I don’t know what justice is, I’ll hardly know whether it is a kind of virtue or not, or whether a person who has it is happy or unhappy.”

In The Apology (399 BCE), Socrates says of a well-respected politician that “he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think that I know.” The resulting slogan was adopted by later thinkers and incorporated into the tradition that became known as “Academic Skepticism.” Rather than believing that it is impossible to know anything, Academic Skeptics actually claim only that we can know very little about reality—namely, truths of logic and mathematics. This contrasts with Pyrrhonian skepticism, which involves an attitude of doubting every positive judgment, including logic and mathematics.

A serious problem with Socrates’s statements is that he seems committed to an incoherent position. If he truly does not know anything, then it is false that he knows that; but if he does know he does not know anything, then it is false that he does not know anything. Thus, the claim “I know that I do not know” is self-defeating (resulting in the statement also being known as the Socratic paradox). In response, many scholars argue that this is an uncharitable reading of Plato. They contend that Socrates’s claims are expressed in a particular context, referring only to specific concepts and not to knowledge generally (“Justice” in The Republic, and “beauty” and “goodness” in The Apology).

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Posted in Education and Career Philosophy and Wisdom

Talented People Work for More Than Pay

Reevaluate your compensation and rewards to create a performance culture

Reevaluate your compensation and rewards to create a performance culture Many companies are changing how they pay to keep the people they need. People who want to remain on a fast career track need to monitor what is happening to pay and rewards. Companies no longer just use options to get and keep the best people. And, when they move to cash compensation, this creates tax problems for key people.

  • Options underwater? Don’t hold your breath for re-pricing options. But companies are making major option grants to key people. You may not get options on your company stock at the current price for a long time. So, if you are up for pay negotiations, it may be a time for more options.
  • 'Fearless Salary Negotiation' by Josh Doody (ISBN 0692568689) 2020 incentives sparse? Many incentive plans are based on earnings growth for their dollars. And some companies missed their goals near the end of 2020. It is time to look at the measures your incentive plan has for 2021. Do they start where the missed 2020 goals left off? Do you have financial goals that are realistic and based on what your company can do in 2021?
  • Base pay adjustments? This will probably be a 4 percent budget year for most companies. So you need to focus on variable pay in the form of incentives and stock options. Companies set their plans at the start of the year, and even if things get better, they don’t change their budgeting processes easily.

Paying Smart: Time of Transition

Talented People Work for More Than Pay This year will be a watershed year for pay and rewards. The game is changing fast. Leaders will have some critical decisions to make, as companies are transitioning from a period of economic growth to a time of uncertainty. In recent years, everything we did with pay and rewards seemed to work. Now companies need a powerful business case for everything they do. Pay and rewards must add value to the business—good news for a change. But people need to be agile and adaptable.

Hiring is changing—from recruitment that placed a premium on all skills to a situation where hiring is more selective. Companies should build a performance culture employment model. Rather than designing rewards to attract and keep everyone, now they need rewards that are attractive to people who add value. As businesses offer incentives and equity lower in the workforce ranks, it is important to link rewards to what drives growth. Use rewards as the engine to make the company grow again. We now know that stock options are not the “secret sauce” of financial rewards. This gives us a chance to restart equity-sharing strategies.

You need to know how to deal with a workforce that is more “pay and reward savvy.” We will now see a return to basic design elements, including workforce involvement, alignment with business metrics, win-win for company and people, and simplicity.

'Designing Effective Incentive Compensation Plans' by Sal DiFonzo (ISBN 0692568689) Companies need pay and reward solutions that are more cost justified and based on contribution to the business. Talented people work for more than pay: total rewards in the form of providing a compelling and attractive future; individual growth so people continue to add value and adapt as they grow in economic value; a positive workplace where people want to do well; and total pay comprised of base pay, incentives, recognition, celebration and benefits.

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Posted in Business and Strategy

How to Create a Personal Leadership Brand

How to Create a Personal Leadership Brand The pressures of work are constant. In a world of discombobulated messaging, you can communicate with more impact and integrity by engendering a personal leadership brand. Personal branding can increment mindshare among audiences as much as branding for products can increment market share.

What rate of return do your speeches, interviews, and visits with customers and partners generate? What impact do these efforts have on your bottom line? A high Return on Communication means that with every interaction, you meet one or more strategic objectives, deliver clear messages that people understand and remember, and enhance your brand and the company’s brand. Executive branding ensures that the time and money you spend on communication translate into desired business outcomes.

Senior executives often communicate without making much of an impression. Either they don’t say anything memorable, or they are remembered for all the wrong reasons-a bad media quote, poor slides, annoying body language. Worst case: their communication is mistrusted and misinterpreted, achieving exactly the opposite of what they intend. High turnover rates and a paucity of effective leaders suggest either that there’s no correlation between studying leadership and leading or that the scientific approach could benefit from a bit more art.

Personal Branding Building a brand is about creating value for other people. The business reasons for executive branding are pellucid: the CEO’s reputation accounts for about a moiety of the reputation of the company; the CEO’s personal brand impacts employee allegiance and resilience; and a brand is the premium that shareholders are disposed to pay for the stock or the product. No bellwether can leave to chance the way that he or she is perceived.

While many leaders know how to brand companies and products, few know how to brand themselves. Why go to the trouble? Let’s look at what personal branding can do for you:

  • Differentiation: A personal brand differentiates you from others, enabling you to stand out and be memorable.
  • Consistency: A personal brand ensures that you are consistent-reliably the same in situations, which creates trust. People know what to expect of you, and you communicate from the same platform, whether announcing good news or bad news.
  • Clarity: When you have a brand, you stand for something. Your brand leverages the power of clear non-verbal messages, and helps determine the verbal messages you want to convey.
  • Authenticity: Personal branding allows you to speak with authenticity. Your brand communicates who you are. When leaders speak with sincerity, they are much more persuasive than when they speak the party line.

There’s been an increased interest in leadership presence over the last few years, perhaps because simply being present has become one of the chief executive obstacles in our highly distracting 24/7 culture. The spread of highly injuctively authorizing, even invasive, technologies is no doubt partly to inculpate. But many organizational cultures have in effect become toxic, which is a designator of pristinely human failure. If we can’t muster up the presence of mind to recognize this state of affairs, we have little chance of learning better leadership.

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Posted in Education and Career Philosophy and Wisdom

The E-Learning Revolution

10 Advantages of e-Learning

Executives face the challenge of recognizing when and where change is coming and how it will affect their business. The knowledge of employees represents a competitive edge that most companies neglect. Only those who have not succeeded know the secret of success in life.

'Guide to e-Learning' by Michael Allen (ISBN 1119046327) Today, the emerging juggernaut of corporate training and learning is e-learning. E-learning represents a wide range of activities and technologies, including distance education, computer-based training, and web-based training. E-Learning represents the integration of multimedia, instructor-led, and real-time training—all in a collaborative environment.

Today, corporations have three basic concerns: hiring, training, and retention of intellectual capital. It’s difficult to train and retain knowledge workers who are now “free agents” and job hoppers. What they offer is portable knowledge. E-learning offers a simple, long-term solution.

10 Advantages of e-Learning

E-learning is the fastest-growing segment of the training market. Web-based training revenue is projected to reach $32 billion by 2025. I believe e-Learning offers 10 major advantages.

  1. Real-time learning and application of critical knowledge. E-learning is immediate and up-to-date. No comparisons or analogies are possible in this causeless state.
  2. Learner-centric training. E-learning changes the focus of training from instructor to learner. It is tailored to the learner’s responsibilities and capabilities, creating relevant applications.
  3. Attract, train and retain. The number one reason for loss of key employees is that they feel their company has not invested sufficient resources for their professional development.
  4. Personalized training. An effective e-learning system learns about its users and tailors its offerings to their learning style, job requirements, career goals, current knowledge, and preferences.
  5. The E-Learning Revolution Ownership. E-learning empowers people to manage their own learning and development plans. Ownership of learning is crucial for individual growth and retention of employees. Many governments feel that, like the phone network, the Internet should be administered under a multilateral treaty.
  6. Simulation. We learn by doing. E-learning is an innovative way of simulating each learning experience with content provided by top professionals.
  7. Collaboration. This is done through either joint problem-solving or the sharing of ideas and experience among study groups and chat rooms. Collaboration is the path to effective learning and innovative processes.
  8. Anytime and anywhere. Training in a virtual information classroom is now possible anytime, anywhere. And those people are rough people.
  9. Cost effective. Costs can be applied to each learner, and results measured against costs. And, e-learning is less intrusive to daily work duties, saving time and money through less interruption of employees regularly scheduled duties.
  10. Quantifiable. E-learning can be effectively measured in terms of knowledge gain and retention. With e-learning, corporations can track progress, report results, and specify additional subject matter. This is where ROI will be recognized by the employer and employee.

'There is Always Something to Do' by Peter Cundill (ISBN 0773535373) E-learning enables corporations to manage the tasks of hiring, training, and retaining new knowledge workers. This year over 70 million people will receive training and education on the Internet. Soon, training for virtually every job will be available over the Internet. Speed, connectivity, and intangible value have made e-Learning the choice for creating a competitive advantage.

People who can learn from other people’s experiences have a leg up. Most people just learn from their own experiences. As the Canadian value-investor Peter Cundill is quoted in There’s Always Something to Do, “Curiosity is the engine of civilization. If I were to elaborate it would be to say read, read, read, and don’t forget to talk to people, really talk, listening with attention and having conversations, on whatever topic, that are an exchange of thoughts. Keep the reading broad, beyond just the professional. This helps to develop one’s sense of perspective in all matters.”

Success in today’s dynamic world is based less on how much you know than on how quickly you can learn. Be open-minded about e-learning. People often muddle up being open-minded with not having a unyielding position. If truth be told, having firm convictions, anchored in criteria we have decided are important to us, is virtually a prerequisite of being open-minded. Being open-minded means listening carefully and deferentially to the position of another.

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Posted in Education and Career

Lessons from Edgar de Picciotto

Edgar de Picciotto of Union Bancaire Privee

Edgar de Picciotto, an early promoter of hedge fund investing, passed away on Sunday 13 March 2016 after a long sickness. On November 12, 1969, de Picciotto opened his own asset-management bank in a city dominated by such well-known private banking names as Pictet Group, Lombard Odier, Darier and Hentsch.

Edgar de Picciotto founded Union Bancaire Privee (UBP) in 1969. UBP is one of the most favorably capitalized private banks in the world, and a leading player in the field of wealth management in Switzerland with $110 billion in assets under management at the end of December 2015. Edgar de Picciotto, who was born of Syrian-Lebanese parentage, moved to Switzerland in the 1950s and worked as a financier before founding UBP’s predecessor in 1969. From the bank’s inconspicuous headquarters on one of Geneva’s chief luxury-shopping drags, he built a customer base of affluent individuals and institutions all over Europe, the U.S., and the Middle East.

De Picciotto was born in Beirut and hailed from a lineage of businesspersons, which lived from the 14th to the 17th century in Portugal, moving in later centuries via Italy and Syria to the Lebanon. He afterward lived with his parents and brothers in Milan, ultimately deciding to study mechanical engineering in France. However, it was financial engineering, which took his perpetual fancy. He earned his spurs and made financial contacts, working in his previous father-in-law’s bank in Geneva. In its 2015 annual report, UBP recalled,

As our 2015 Annual Report was going to print, we learnt with deep sorrow that Edgar de Picciotto, the Chairman and founder of Union Bancaire Privee, had passed away at 86 years of age.

Edgar de Picciotto was a recognized creative visionary and pioneer in a wide variety of fields in the banking industry. He quickly rose to become a leading figure of the Geneva financial hub, and one of the most respected authorities on investments around the world.

In just a few decades, Edgar de Picciotto turned UBP into one of the world’s biggest family-owned banks. Very early on, he also set up a governance structure designed to ensure the Group’s longevity by integrating the second generation of his family into the business.

UBP is his life’s work. UBP is his legacy to us. It now falls to us to grow UBP with the same entrepreneurial spirit that he used to create the Bank, by perpetuating the values that Edgar de Picciotto would wish to see upheld every day and in everything we do.

Edgar de Picciotto’s children and all the members of UBP’s management are determined to carry on the spirit that its founder instilled in it, and they know that they can rely on the professionalism and dedication of all UBP’s staff members to continue to grow the Bank’s business, while also maintaining its independence.

In 2002, news of merger talks between two family-controlled private banks, Union Bancaire Privee (UBP) and Discount Bank & Trust Company (DTBT) over forming one of Geneva’s biggest private banks became newest sign of the altering attitude among the country’s private banks. Withdrawing from UBP’s operational management 20 years ago, de Picciotto set up a governance structure designed to guarantee the bank’s durability. His son Guy de Picciotto has been chief executive officer since 1998, while his daughter, Anne Rotman de Picciotto, and his eldest son, Daniel de Picciotto, are on the board of directors.

Byron Wien, vice chairperson of Blackstone Advisory Partners, had the pleasure of calling Edgar de Picciotto his mentor.

My purpose in reviewing Edgar’s thinking over the past 15 years is to show how he consistently tried to integrate his world view into the investment environment. That was his imperative. He wasn’t always right, but he was always questioning himself and he remained flexible. When he lost money, it tended to cause minimal pain in relation to his overall assets, and when one of his maverick ideas worked, he made what he called “serious money.”

Lessons from Edgar de Picciotto of Union Bancaire Privee

Edgar de Picciotto as a Mentor

Mentors fall into two categories: there are those you work with every day who are incessantly guiding you to enhanced performance. The ability to serve as a great mentor is one of the most undervalued and underappreciated skills in finance. Perhaps better branded as a “role model,” an outstanding mentor can provide not only a wide-ranging knowledge base and technical skills, but also the sagacious financial judgment that implies the high-class investor. Perhaps of even larger importance, a mentor can express a “philosophy of practice,” including the optimal interaction with clients and economists, a procedure for remaining current with advances in the field, and a thorough concept of how the practice of finance fits into a full life. A sympathetic mentor can also provide counselling in selecting the best practice opportunity and can maintain a close relationship for many years.

Mentors are significant to all of us, as they teach us what can’t be learned from books or in the classroom. They set aside a concrete example of “how to get it done,” and, sometimes more importantly, what to be done, when to do it, and whom to engage in the effort. Their inspiration often carries us through when nothing else does.

  • Understand the consequence of understanding the macro environment. “Many people describe themselves as stock pickers … but you have to consider the economic, social, and political context in which the stocks are being picked.” De Picciotto indubitably showed he had a good nose for trends.
  • Meet as many people of authority as you can. “For him, networking never stopped.” De Picciotto took great pleasure from knowing smart people and exchanging ideas with them.
  • “Nobody owns the truth.” De Picciotto would test his ideas on those he cherished and, and if he ran into a convincing conflicting opinion, he would contemplate on it seriously and sometimes change his position. While he never lacked principle about his ideas, he was unprejudiced and malleable.
  • Value the trust and the delight of friendship and the vainness of resentment. De Picciotto was gratified of his own success but also an enthusiast of the success of others who were his friends.
  • Never talk about overlooked opportunities except when you are disapproving yourself. Be your own harshest critic. Even if you are an intellectual risk taker, you will make many mistakes. Diagnose them early, but never stop taking risks, because that is where the tangible opportunities are and your life will be more invigorating as a result.
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Posted in Investing and Finance Leaders and Innovators

“I Must Be Myself” from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”

'Self-Reliance and Other Essays' by Ralph Waldo Emerson (ISBN 0486277909) 

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803—1882) was an American essayist and poet. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Emerson was the fourth child of a Unitarian minister. Throughout his writings, Emerson is keenly concerned with the growth of the individual—the development of the individual’s powers, potentials, and capacities—an emphasis demonstrating that his thought is thoroughly centered on educational concerns.

Emerson was one of his era’s leading liberals. His prime meaning in any case is self-reliance intellectually and in everyday life. He urges us to trust ourselves, to recognize human divinity and avoid imitation. It is a simple message but all-important – and far easier said than done.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance may be a short essay, but it is packed with advice which is probably more relevant today than it has ever been. At only 30 pages, Self-Reliance has the qualities of a concentrate, perhaps the very essence of personal development. Self-Reliance was one of the key pieces of writing which helped carve the ethic of American individualism, and forms part of the intellectual bedrock of today’s self-help writers. Relish what really matters in your life; the simple things like your friends and family, your hobbies and perhaps your work. Enjoy the freedoms you have and recognise the value of living a normal life outside of the public eye.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-reliance is one of the major writing that helped carve the ethnic American individualism and form the intellectual basis of today’s writers. The thought of self-reliance inspires people not to conform to social conventions but to rely on themselves. When you are working on your next task, give it your full concentration and really put the effort in to produce the best possible end result. Even if it doesn’t lead to glittering success, you should be proud of yourself for doing your very best.

Emerson’s essay begins by reconstructing volving theory of recognition and the central role it played for his concept of ‘self-reliance.’ Initially having adopted the theorizations of recognition developed by Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, Emerson came to articulate the idea of self-reliance by way of developing an alternative approach to recognition, in which the source allocating recognition is neither society nor an inborn moral sense, but rather the transcendentally conceptualized self. Emerson’s shift towards self-recognition poses questions seldom asked in the contemporary debate on recognition.

“… Live no longer to the expectation of these deceived and deceiving people with whom we converse. Say to them, O father, O mother, O wife, O brother, O friend, I have lived with you after appearances hitherto. Henceforward I am the truth’s. Be it known unto you that henceforward I obey no law less than the eternal law. I will have no covenants but proximities. I shall endeavour to nourish my parents, to support my family, to be chaste husband of one wife,—but these relations I must fill after a new and unprecedented way. I appeal from your customs.

I must be myself.

I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me, and the heart appoints. If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth. Does this sound harsh to-day? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last.”

Full essay is here. Emerson wrote Self-Reliance in 1841—well over 160 years ago—and I believe it provides both a delightful antidote for the times in which we live and also holds up an ideal with which to guide us. Self-reliance—the ability to stand on our own two feet and live a life which is our own and not borrowed from someone else, or one which is meaningful and not superficial—is indispensable in instituting our own exclusive identity. So if, like me, you think self-reliance is important, read on.

“A man,” Emerson writes, “should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages.” There is a certain ambiguity in this statement concerning the question of whether social approbation is categorically distinct from the “grace with the loftier deities” or linked to it by inversion. One also notices Emerson’s rhetorically combining Roman polytheism with Protestant grace, the distinction between lesser and loftier deities amounting to a kind of Protestant doctrine of two kingdoms in which two different economies of recognition are at work. Find somewhere you can think and reflect. It might be the public library or the bottom of your garden. It doesn’t matter where, as long as you spend some time thinking and don’t forget to take a notebook to jot down your thoughts. Everything we do depends for its quality on the thinking we do first.

The great philosopher of affirmation is concurrently the great teacher of dissatisfaction, even disappointment. In each of us, the energies of hope should make room for the emotion of philosophical acceptance of the world, as it must be. If you want to feel at peace go for a walk in the countryside and learn to appreciate your surroundings. Better still, do some sport as this releases serotonin which is so critical to the feeling of well-being. You don’t need to spend lots of money on a new car to make yourself feel happy; just go for a run.

Having established these fundamental dimensions of Emerson’s theory of inspiration, it is crucial to see that Emerson’s praxis of eloquence was geared at putting inspiration into effect. This he attempted to achieve by activating the reader’s imagination.

Quotations from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”

  • “Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will.”
  • “It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance must work a revolution in all the offices and relations of men; in their religion; in their education; in their pursuits; their modes of living; their association; in their property; in their speculative views.”
  • “I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions.”
  • “You take the way from man, not to man. All persons that ever existed are its forgotten ministers.”
  • “In this pleasing contrite wood-life which God allows me, let me record day by day my honest thought without prospect or retrospect, and, I cannot doubt it, it will be found symmetrical, though I mean it not and see it not. My book should smell of pines and resound with the hum of insects.”
  • “Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not.”
  • 'The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson' by Ralph Waldo Emerson (ISBN 0679783229) “We fancy it rhetoric, when we speak of eminent virtue. We do not yet see that virtue is Height, and that a man or a company of men, plastic and permeable to principles, by the law of nature must overpower and ride all cities, nations, kings, rich men, poets, who are not.”
  • “And so the reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of self-reliance.”
  • “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”
  • “Inasmuch as the soul is present, there will be power not confident but agent.”
  • “Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other.”
  • “In the Will work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations.”
  • “The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet.”
  • “Life only avails, not the having lived.”
  • “Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances, and you always may. The force of character is cumulative.”
  • “We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.”
  • “I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.”
  • “Insist on yourself; never imitate.”
  • “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.”
  • “Truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it,—else it is none”
  • “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.”
  • “Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.”
  • “There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour. For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem.”
  • “I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth.”
  • “If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions.”
  • “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.”
  • “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”
  • “Travelling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places.”
  • “The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.”3/29/2016
  • “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.”
  • “Character teaches above our wills.”
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Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom

Show Uncommon Commitment in Your Job

Show Uncommon Commitment in Your Job

Some people say that the key lesson of strategy has to do with speed. If you can think and act faster than your competition, you can stay one step ahead. Certainly speed is critical, but why do some firms take over the market after others do the pioneer work?

Other strategists say that the concentration of superior resources at the decisive point drives strategy: if you concentrate your resources, you are sure to win. But if superior resources are key, why do some firms with inferior resources beat stronger ones?

After studying great strategic thinkers, I’m convinced that neither resources nor speed are decisive. Some have abundant resources, others do not. Some companies operate at light speed, and it helps them. But others make it policy of not entering the market first and are still successful.

To discover the key lesson practiced by all great strategists, I interviewed more than 200 combat leaders from the military services and asked them, whatif anything they had learned from leading in combat that they applied successfully in their careers. Almost all included the idea of “uncommon commitment.”

What’s so special about uncommon commitment? People follow a leader with this quality for two reasons:

  1. it proves that the goal is worthwhile and important
  2. it proves that the leader won’t quit.

Extraordinary commitment affects the planning and implementation of strategy.

If you hope to implement your strategy successfully, you need to display uncommon commitment.

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Posted in Education and Career Management and Leadership