It Doesn’t Take Genius to Destroy Business: Just Try Few Simple Steps–Neglect, Abuse Employees, Ignore Customers…

“Businesses make hundreds or thousands of decisions every year, many of which seem inconsequential. But the smallest details can have business-changing or even business-ending consequences.” ~ Jay Goltz

“It’s generally easier to kill to business than to change it substantially. Organisms by design are not made to adapt; beyond a certain point. Beyond that point, it’s much easier to kill them off and start a new one than it is to change them”: So says Kevin Kelly, author of the book ‘Out of Control’. Resuscitating a failing company is one of the supreme challenges in any business. The operative word is ‘substantially’: What does that mean? Once you have lost touch with your customers, then it’s time to kill off the enterprise.

In the article “How to Destroy Your Business” by Sam Silverstein writes: For a change I thought it might be fun to talk about how to destroy a business rather than build one.  Here are a few things you can do to destroy your business.  Follow them… Live them…  You can file for bankruptcy in no time at all. (If you’re really good you could be out of business in just a few months).

  • Treat your staff poorly: Reduce moral and personal satisfaction and you will be amazed at how quickly you can successfully destroy your business.
  • Disregard your customers/clients can accelerate this process:  Don’t promote your product and service offerings and be sure and send mixed messages about your business focus and expertise.
  • Product quality really doesn’t matter: Poor product quality and poor customer services will quickly accelerate the process.
  • Spend money and resources:  Waste money and resources without getting any return and your failure is assured.
  • Apathy works wonders:  Don’t just delegate; abdicate. Show up when you want.  Leave early.  Hey, life is short.  Why worry?  You’re on the road to destruction!

“Dysfunction #1: Lack of organization, priority, definition, and unity. Dysfunction #2: Broken or never developed leadership vision & management pipeline. Dysfunction #3: Play it safe and hope for the best…”

In the article “Bad Ideas That Can Destroy Your Company” by Dave Logan writes: The problem with most organizations is that they are governed by mediocre ideas”: Bill O’Brien, retired CEO, made this observation in Peter Senge’s book, ‘The Dance of Change’, and it remains as true as ever.  I’m constantly astonished at how bad ideas keep flowing into companies and take root, crowding out innovative thinking, damaging morale and creating enervating cultures of despair.

Why do people cling to weak ideas even when they have such destructive effects? Because they often don’t recognize how ill-conceived the ideas really are. Below are ten of the most common, bad ideas I’ve seen at work:

  • Everyone should live by our values (except for a few prima donnas who bring in most of the revenue): There are two problems with this thinking.  First, the assumption that people need to be challenged to live in accordance with their values is just wrong.  The company values should be the values of the people you actually have, and so challenging someone to live by someone else’s values is both insulting and untenable.
  • Great companies are built to last: I have enormous respect for Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, the authors of ‘Built to Last’.  That said, our own studies didn’t find companies that were set on the ‘great’ path, and then were ‘great forever’.  Instead, we found that ‘greatness today predicts nothing about tomorrow’. Companies are composed of groups of people talking–in person, over email, in meetings, and in formal documents.  This chatter isn’t something the company has, it’s what the company is.
  • When times are tough, the company should temporarily suspend training and development: During tough times, employees (and managers and executives) often don’t know what to do.  This is exactly when training and development (done well, not the ultra-lame stuff that’s pre-packaged and devolves into simple and useless steps) can make the difference.  Even more important, this is when company leaders are judged.
  • The main purpose of the company is to earn a profit, or conversely, the purpose of the company is to do good in the world: A corporation has many of the same legal rights as a person.  It can own property, it can hire employees, and it can enter into contracts.  So let’s extend the metaphor further. A person who says his sole purpose in life is to make a lot of money is a lot like the ‘greed-is-good’ character, Gordon Gekko.  Likewise, companies can make money and earn profit and also seek to be socially responsible and make a positive contribution to the global community.
  • Management is the key to high performance:  Management is about systems, processes, checklists, and formulas.  It produces, as John Kotter noted, ‘predictability and order’.  If you want more predictability and order, then don’t let a leader around your company. Leadership is about alignment, vision, setting direction (again, thanks to John Kotter here), and it produces change, often to a dramatic degree. High performance requires reinventing what the company does (leadership and change) and great management (steps, milestones, deliverables).  Management without leadership never produces high performance, at least not for long.
  • Just follow the recommendations of the latest management books: The problem here is that most management books provide simplistic solutions that are not up to the complex challenges of running a company.  What’s needed is thought, debate, and reflection, leading to a collective understanding of what to focus on, and then relentless execution.
  • Incentivize people to boost performance: Do ‘x’ and I’ll give you ‘y’ doesn’t make people do ‘x’, as least not for long.  Adding more ‘y’ only gives people a bigger badge of honor for not doing it.  Some groups (like most salespeople) will respond to the ‘x’ and then ‘y’ formula, but that’s because the system plays to their values. And that’s the point.  Instead of approaching employees like hamsters who want more and more food, you have to get to know the people you work with as individuals, and discover what they value.  Build jobs around their core commitments, and pay them so that its fair, and you’ll get good performance.  Ask them to work against their values for lots of extra cash, and you’ll make them feel like prostitutes.
  • Streamline operations to make the company more competitive: Streamlining alone is not likely to make a company more competitive. Greater competitive advantage requires knowing the market, the changing tastes of customers, the price points of products and services, and then finding a value proposition that’s good for customers and for the company.
  • Just create a new strategy, and employees will feel empowered to implement it: The fundamental problem here is that the two things; ‘plan for change’ and ‘employee empowerment’ are at odds with each other.  Planned change relies on a command: Do this because I said so.  Empowering employees means enabling workers to find their passion and act on it.  So this whole notion of empowering employees to implement management’s strategy is just double talk.  What’s the better idea?  Start by listening to what everyone wants–customers, employees, suppliers, and partners.  Then put it all together so that when you announce the new strategy, people say ‘that’s right!’  Of course they say it’s right–it’s their idea, packaged with other ideas and weighted against what makes sense for the business.  Then you don’t have to ask people to be empowered, because empowerment is baked into the strategy.
  • Companies need to focus on doing what made them successful in the first place: This is the death wail of a company just before it stops breathing: We’re not succeeding, so we’re going to return to what made us successful a decade ago (or more), only we’re going to redouble our efforts to get it right this time.  What a company should never change is its core identity. Its operations, strategy, and everything else needs to not just change, but radically reinvent itself every few years, or else the competition will put it out of business.

Companies are portrayed as victims of circumstance: Economies fail, markets change, disruptive competition, globalization… A business failure is a failure of leadership, before it’s a result of circumstance. Not a lack of skills, on the part of management, but a lack of imagination. It doesn’t take a genius to destroy a business: It’s not difficult to imagine ways to fail, just follow your instincts if you want to efficiently destroy the business, or avoid them to experience the perils of success.

If your business is no longer turning a profit, remember (the excuse) that it’s the economy’s fault … not that your system of doing business is outdated or broken. Accordingly, your motto should be ‘when the system is broke—don’t fix it; borrow money to keep it going. Someday things will pick up, the economy will improve, and your business practices will be relevant again.’

As successful businessperson knows; the solution for most business problems is selling more! As long as the sales numbers are high, you can do no wrong! Really! Another sure fire way to fail: When your business is facing challenges don’t panic; just sit and wait…and run the business as usual…and things are bound to get worse. We’ve been told that every business has two basic functions; marketing and innovation.

If you want Chapter 11: ‘Do neither and maintain the status quo, which is much safer when times are changing’. Any organization can fail, and some are better than others when it comes to destroying a business and failure …but don’t panic; somewhere in the world someone is doing a great job at screwing-up a business and preparing it for failure…

“Businesses fail not because they do things the wrong way but because they do the wrong things”. ~ Peter Drucker

Selling Negotiation Tactics: Wince, Red Herring, Good Guy-Bad Guy, Limited Authority, False Deadlines, Bait-Switch, Presumptive Close…

“In business, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” ~Karrass, Chester L.

Selling Negotiation: The fundamental difference between selling and negotiation is that selling is a process to identify the fit between what the seller is offering and what the buyer is seeking. Negotiation is the process of agreeing the terms of the transaction and is part of the selling continuum. Yet the negotiation should only begin when there is a genuine commitment from the buyer and seller towards a conditional sale.

Excellent salespeople use the selling phase to lay the ground rules for a possible future negotiation by ensuring that they fully understand their prospect’s requirements and decision making process, while planting seeds and setting the tone for the negotiation phase. Always start with the end in mind: The benefits of a well-negotiated deal can have a major impact on bottom line profit. There are many different tactics that are commonly used in the selling and negotiation process.

All of them have their place, and many of the methods that have been popularized are specialized for specific types of negotiation. Just knowing the tactics is only half the battle, but putting them into effective use can be tricky if you do not know how to properly propose them. Keep emotion out of the negotiation: It’s not about the other person; it’s about meeting your objectives and maintaining on-going relationships.

In the article “How to Overcome the Top Ten Negotiating Tactics” by John Patrick Dolan writes: Everyone uses tactics, but that doesn’t mean that negotiations can’t be fair. Some tactics are acceptable, while others are downright sleazy. Tactics are part of the process, and you can use them and still maintain your negotiations on an honest level. In other words, the use of tactics doesn’t necessarily mean tricking or manipulating people.

Some tactics are simply tools to expedite the negotiation process; others are used to take advantage of the other person. To be successful in sales and business, you must be able to differentiate between the fair and unfair negotiation tactics so you can use the good ones to your advantage and deflect the questionable ones. Consider the following ten negotiation tactics:

  • The Wince: The wince can be explained as any overt negative reaction to someone’s offer or counter-offer.
  • Silence: Rather than wasting time in silence, restate your offer. Don’t make suggestions; just repeat your terms. This maneuver forces the other person to respond, and more often than not, they respond with a concession.
  •  Good Guy/Bad Guy Routine: If you find yourself in a good guy/bad guy situation, the best response is to ignore it. Recognize this game for what it is, but don’t play along and don’t allow the good guy to influence your decision.
  • Limited Authority: So just because your counterpart tells you, “It’s out of my hands,” don’t automatically assume the person is being honest. In this type of situation, two options exist: one, ask to deal directly with this so-called higher authority; or two, test the limits of your counterpart.
  •  Red Herring: Red herring means one side brings up a minor point to distract the other side from the main issue. When your negotiation process is bogged down with a minor problem, and your counterpart insists on settling it before they’ll even talk about more important issues, then you are probably dealing with a red herring.
  • Trial Balloon: Trial balloons are questions designed to assess your negotiating counterpart’s position without giving any clues about your plans.
  • Low-Balling: Low-balling is the opposite of the trial balloon. Instead of tempting you to make the first offer, your counterpart will open the process with a fantastic offer. Then after you agree, they start hitting you with additional necessities.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Similar to low-balling, the bait-and-switch tactic should be avoided. Your counterpart may try to attract your interests with one great offer, but then hook you with another mediocre one.
  • Outrageous Behavior: Outrageous behavior can be categorized as any form of socially unacceptable conduct intended to force the other side to make a move, such as throwing a fit of anger or bursting into tears.
  • Written Word: When terms of a deal are written out, they often seem non-negotiable. The best defense against this tactic is simply to question everything, whether it appears in writing or not.

In the article “Tactics Used in Business-to-Business Sales” by Kevin Davis writes:  Not all customers practice win-win negotiating. Some buyers use a number of tactics to achieve greater concessions. Sometimes these tactics are just used as ploys to make you feel powerless and other times they reflect the customer’s reality. Concessions are an essential negotiating tool in business-to-business sales, but use them wisely. Consider the future impact of potential concessions. Make sure you get a concession for every one you give.  Typical tactics include:

  • Budget Limitation: “We’ve only got ‘x-dollars’. You’re going to have to come in under that figure to earn our business.”
  • Other Options (Competition): “The quote from your competitor is for much less. If you don’t lower your price, I’ll have to buy from them.”
  • Foggy Recall: “Didn’t you say installation was included in the purchase price? That’s what I told the committee. So there’s no way I can get any more money.”
  • Good Guy/Bad Guy: One buyer tells the seller that the sale is a “sure thing,” then another buyer gets involved and says there’s no way the deal will get approved on the existing terms.
  • Wince: When a price is quoted, the buyer winces or acts angry. The buyer may then become silent, waiting to see how the salesperson responds.
  • Bait and Switch: The buyer requests a price on a large quantity of items, say 100 units. At the last minute, the buyer decides to buy 25 units per year for the next 4 years. Of course, the buyer still expects the 100-unit price, as if all units had been bought at once.
  • Nibbling: The buyer makes small additional requests, either before or after a deal is done, such as “By the way, if you could give us an extra 5% off, it would really help my boss out and it will give you an advantage on our next purchase. What do you say?”

In the article “Negotiating Tactics or Trickery?” by Keith E Rowe writes: The focus is usually on the ‘tug-o war’ that takes place between seller and buyer, as they both strive to protect their share of diminishing margins. Irrespective of whether they are the buyer or seller, a genuine win/win outcome is really all about applying those skills in a friendly conversational manner, not unlike that same genuine interactive eye-to-eye contact they would enjoy with a friend or colleague…

They are quick to realize that they will need to come up with some sort of strategy to give them the edge, not necessarily unfair, but at least competitive. They are anxious to explore what common trickery they must learn to combat, and on a more positive note, what legitimate tactics they can use to gain the upper hand. A handy checklists that you might find useful in the form of a memorable acronym – NEGOTIATING:

  • No must be an option – be prepared to walk
  • Emotions must be controlled
  • Get a concession for every one you give
  • Organise your information – do your homework
  • Talk with absolute conviction
  • Invite the other party to present first
  • Aim for the top with your expectation
  • Timing is important – don’t rush the deal
  • Information is critical – ask and listen
  • Never ignore the other party’s needs
  • Give pressure – don’t take it

The sales negotiation process can seem like a miserable chore when the parties involved resort to underhanded tactics and sneaky methods to get what they want. But one of the most important aspects of effective negotiation is that everyone leaves satisfied, not feeling like they’ve been swindled out of a good deal. To prevent this cheated feeling, you need to follow a strategy for your negotiations. No matter what you’re selling, or to whom, you need a reliable negotiation strategy that enables both parties to succeed in the deal.

Think of your strategy as your master plan, or systematic approach. Since any strategy is only as strong as the techniques and tactics you use, think of tactics as the tools for implementing your negotiation strategy.  Without a solid strategy in place and the right tools for the job, you are likely to succumb to ineffective negotiation tactics and may end up losing sales or not getting the best outcome for you and your company. Keep in mind that the point of negotiation is to arrange the best deal for everyone, so ask plenty of questions.

Negotiation is a process of give-and-take for everyone involved. When you follow a strategy, you can focus on finding solutions, rather than winning a position. Most important, once you’ve completed the negotiation process, keep your word and follow through with the deal… As a salesperson, you naturally want your customer to be satisfied, but you also need to benefit from your hard work. When you use these strategies every time you negotiate a sale, both parties will come away pleased, and you’ll win more clients in the process. Win-Win should be the objective…

“Prepare by knowing your walk-away [conditions]… you need to have a walk-away… a combination of price, terms, and deliverables that represents the least you will accept. Without one, you have no negotiating road map.” ~Keiser

Business Essential: Art of Business Deals, Skills for Deal-Makers, Wins from Deal-Making …Selling, Negotiating, Partnering – Creating Win-Win Outcomes…

The cornerstone of all business is the; art of business deals. That’s the way it is, the way it has always been. ~Max Markson

We live in a ‘deal’ economy where everybody needs to make ‘deals’ in order to succeed.  We call people who sell illicit drugs on street corners ‘dealers’. There is the unsavory little word ‘ pork’ used in America to describe lucrative (and often seriously tangential) side ‘deals’ included in legislation to ensure its passage in Congress.

Also, there are ‘double-dealing’, double-crossing, ‘dirty-dealing’, fraud, and mortgage derivatives – all bad, bad words associated with ‘deals’. Politicians and Wall Street traders and investment bankers all make their livings doing ‘deals’. We tend not to trust them, tolerate them at best – especially these days. History is a wrecking yard of botched ‘deals’.

According to Douglas Glover, “deals are the gears of exchange: they make things work, they propel us into a future, willy-nilly, sanguine or otherwise. A good ‘deal’ is a moment of clarity, of sudden understanding, of practical adjustment: one absolutely fascinating element of ‘deal-making’ is the negotiation of functional equivalents between apparently incommensurable entities.

There is art and elegance here, along with the ambiguity and the ever-present possibility that the guy you are talking to is a crook. ‘Deals’ create its own hermeneutics, its own systems of definition, interpretation and appeal. In the end, the ‘deal’ sits at the center of every relationship; political, business, commerce, social…”

“I have found no greater satisfaction than achieving success through honest dealing and strict adherence to the view that, for you to gain, those you deal with should gain as well.” ~Alan Greenspan

In the article “The Growing Importance of Negotiation Skills and Deal Making” by Clive Rich writes:  The most successful people in selling and deal-making are those who are the most effective negotiators. Effective salespeople know the importance of managing the three essentials of successful negotiation; attitude, process, and behavior.

Research shows that good salespoeple have a strong ‘attitude’ to win , and they also know that a win for the other-side (customer or partner) is critical for a lasting partnership: ‘Win-win’ is the most effective selling strategy, and so is negotiating ‘attitude’. Effective salespeople know how to manage the negotiation ‘process’.

Most negotiations follow a set pattern, with a number of recognizable and distinct stages. If you know what stage you are at and how to handle that stage, then that automatically gives you an advantage…The first stage is ‘preparation’: It’s an investment of time – fail to prepare and you prepare to fail.

The next stage is ‘climate setting’ for the negotiation, for example: Engage with a ‘warm’ (friendly atmosphere), ‘hostile’ (very pressurized and fast-moving), ‘cool’ (very objective and data driven) or ‘wacky’ (fun and off-the-wall). The third and fourth stages are exploring ‘wants’ and ‘needs’: It’s important that each party understands what the other side ‘wants’. ‘Wants’ are organizational requirements like; price, quantity and delivery dates.

It’s even more important to understand what the other side ‘needs’. ‘Needs’ are the underlying emotional requirements that each side has from the ‘deal’. These are critical to understand, and yet they are often unspoken or misspoken, e.g., …’I want’, ‘I need’ and ‘I require’ are all far more effective than ‘Would it be ok if…?’ or ‘Could I possibly have?’

Different ‘behavior’ is apprpriate for different stages and different opponents – choosing the right behavior for the right occasion is critical: Sometimes ‘push’ behavior is called for – focusing on your own agenda. Sometimes ‘pull’ behavior is required – focusing on the needs of the other-side. This is when it’s important to listen, explore, and focus on common ground – all very useful in the early climate-setting and exploring stages.  

The good salesperson or deal-maker knows that effective behavior is not just a question of selecting the right behavior for the right occasion, but also a question of ‘modelling’ that behavior effectively. Research shows that 93% of what we say consists not of the ‘words’ we use, but of the ‘music’ and the ‘dance’. The ‘music’ includes the way we use our voice – its pitch, rhythm, pace, tone.

The ‘dance’ is the way we use our body – our facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, the way we fidget. If you find that your chosen behavior doesn’t work it may be that you are either ‘out of tune’ with the required music or ‘out of step’ with the required dance, so the impact of your behavior is reduced…

“People get caught up in wonderful, eye-catching pitches, but they don’t do enough to close the deal.” ~Donald Trump

In the article Making Deals: The Business of Negotiating” by Marvin Gottlieb and William J. Healy writes: We are all ‘deal-makers’ and we all make deals daily, whether you know it or not — no executive who sits down to cut a ‘deal’ wants to stake the outcome on instinct, intuition, or the force of another’s personality and position. You need a ‘plan’ for the deal.

Your reputation, and maybe your career, depends on it.  Better deal-makers create a problem-solving, collaborative atmosphere that produces satisfying results for everyone. They turn dead-lines and the timing of the deal to their advantage, and gather information that strengthens the deal… and knows how to circumvent the power plays of others.

And since, you’ll inevitably go up against hard-nosed, positional bargainers from time-to-time, you’ll need to recognize and counter their tactics of– ‘all’s fair in love and war’. In the best deals, both sides must win; it must be a ‘win-win’ outcome, which can only be successful accomplished with an effective ‘plan’…

In the article “Final Meditations on the Wheel & Deal” by Douglas Glover writes: Making ‘good deals’ involves making ‘good decisions’ throughout and beyond the process of doing the deal: Deals that deliver ‘anticipated’ values and benefits. The process begins with the ‘formulation of clear goals’; and continues through the process until all anticipated benefits are obtained with a minimum of surprises.

The thoughtful deal-maker preserves value by tending to the relationship: The lifeblood of the relationship is effective communication; keeping the lines of communication open with all parties involved. A thoughtful deal-maker studies the ‘numbers’, and the business decisions behind each and every negotiating item on the agenda, knows there value, and cultivates a negotiating atmosphere that favors the desired outcome for both sides.  

The ‘thoughtful’ deal-maker is aware of goals and is steadfastly focused: They are perceived to have the ability to satisfy needs for both sides and this is a source of power and influence. The thoughtful deal-maker sets the climate, direction, and content of negotiations… doesn’t ask their counsel (i.e., legal, financial) what to do, but asks to be educated on the alternatives, opportunities, risks, and means to handle them to achieve a deal that delivers the goals….

‘Preparation’ is critical for any negotiation, but in international negotiations it can be the difference between a good contract, while building a solid long term relationship with the other party, or a disastrous outcome. Understand the cultures, subtleties of the laws, and how you work with gatekeepers and middlemen to accomplish your goals.

Create an ‘agenda’ and a ‘roadmap’ of how you would like the negotiation to go and determine the various positions that your counterpart would likely take. Look at all possible risks with the negotiation and develop mitigation strategies for the positions that the other parties might assume. Know the ‘detours’ on your roadmap and how to use them, if necessary.

Some business deals can be completed on a handshake, but this has become the exception, not the rule in global business dealings.  Most deals follow a flow of ‘pushing’, ‘pulling’ and ‘just letting go’. The secret to managing the agenda is to know ‘when to push’, ‘when to pull-back’, and ‘when to simply let the other party drive the discussion’. As you go through these iterations of pushing and pulling, always be cognizant of not backing the other party into a corner that prevents them from saving face.

Remember, you are trying to complete a deal and at the same time create a long-term relationship with the other party.  The alternative is that you may win the battle, but in the long-term lose the war…it’s a delicate balance…

“The challenge for deal-makers is not just to structure a negotiation in which two rational adversaries would win, but to develop work-around that prevent adversaries from being thoroughly irrational”

U.S. Education System in Crisis and Endangering Nation Global Competitiveness: U.S. Serious Education & Skills Gap…

“The U.S. is moving toward a third world education system . . . we are not in the top 10 [in education], not even the top 20… and we need to do something dramatic.”  “…until we fix our schools, we will never fix the nation’s broader economic problems.”

Consider these numbers: The United States’ jobless rate is over 9.0+%. Yet for individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher, the rate is substantially less –under 5%. Conversely, for people who lack a high school diploma, the rate is noticeably higher than 15%. Clearly, education matters: And it matters not just for the job seeker, but the U.S.’s future in the global marketplace is at stake, too.

The U. S. faces challenges on myriad education fronts: High school graduation rates are depressingly low, college remediation rates are rising, adult literacy levels are too low, and the numbers of Americans earning advanced degrees in science and engineering are lower than they have been in years. High school dropout rates in the U. S. are at or near 30%.

Even for those who do graduate from high school and make their way to college, many require some kind of remedial instruction. Making matters even more challenging, the educational attainment level required for jobs continues to rise. Anthony Carnevale, Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, estimates that by 2018, nearly two-thirds of all jobs in the U. S. will require some form of post-secondary education or training…

In the article “The Key to Global Competitiveness” by Karen Elzey writes: The U. S. has long prided itself on its leadership in innovation. Much of this innovation has come from expertise in science and engineering. America’s lengthy run atop the innovation scoreboard, some suggest, might be near the end. They point to the fact that the nation’s science and engineering workforce is aging.

A serious skills shortage in these fields could be imminent if not enough graduates are produced to replace retiring scientists and engineers. The implications are wide-ranging, even affecting national security. According to the ‘National Science Board’s Science and Engineering Indicators’ report, students from abroad attending American colleges received 24% of master’s degrees in science and engineering, and 33% of doctoral degrees in the two disciplines.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office tells a similar story. In a report issued by IFI Patent Intelligence, 51% of new patents went to companies outside the United States. Of the 10 companies receiving the most patents, only four were American. An economy that emphasizes knowledge requires that everyone should be able to decipher, synthesize and analyze information, and then convey it — clearly and concisely. Innovation and problem solving are built upon such thinking. Not long ago, America topped the list of many key education and innovation indicators.

Today, looking at the same indicators, America is a nation falling behind. And since global competitiveness is certainly a top priority for the nation’s businesses, we need to fix the problem. Simply, the United States cannot compete without strong national policies that support innovation. 

For the United States to stay competitive globally, the U.S. education system — from pre-kindergarten through high school to postsecondary education and job training programs — must adopt new relevant policies. Human capital is the country’s greatest asset. It’s time for the U.S. to take a full accounting of its education system…

According to the “Global Competitiveness Report”, which ranks countries based on a ‘Global Competitiveness Index’; Switzerland leads the ranking as the most competitive economy in the world, and the United States, which ranked first for several years, fell to fifth place due to the consequences of the financial crisis of 2007–2010 and its macroeconomic instability.

China continues its relative rise in the rankings reaching 27th. The report “assesses the ability of countries to provide high levels of prosperity to their citizens.” One part of the report is the ‘Executive Opinion Survey’ which is a survey of a representative sample of business leaders in their respective countries.

Respondent numbers have increased every year and is currently just over 13,500 in 142 countries (2010).  An outcome to be highlighted from the 2010-2011 edition: The U. S. continues the decline that began last year, falling two more places to 4th position. While many structural features still make its economy extremely productive, a number of escalating weaknesses have lowered the U.S. ranking over the past two years…

According to the New York Times colum­nist Tom Fried­man, “the people who are wait­ing for this re­ces­sion to end so some­one can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imag­i­na­tion to make them­selves un­touch­ables — to in­vent smarter ways to do old jobs, en­ergy-sav­ing ways to pro­vide new ser­vices, new ways to at­tract old cus­tomers or new ways to com­bine ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies — will thrive.”

There­fore, we not only need a higher per­cent­age of our kids grad­u­at­ing from high school and col­lege — more ed­u­ca­tion — but we need more of them with the ‘right’ ed­u­ca­tion. To be com­pet­i­tive in a global mar­ket­place, the U.S. needs to in­fuse its schools with “en­tre­pre­neur­ship, in­no­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity.” There are many ob­sta­cles for schools that need rethinking, most im­por­tantly:

  • In­ad­e­quate Teacher Prepa­ra­tion, Re­cruit­ment and Re­ten­tion: Pub­lic schools are fail­ing to pro­duce teach­ers who are savvy to the con­tem­po­rary trends.
  • In­suf­fi­cient Adop­tion of Tech­nol­ogy: Tech­nol­ogy is usu­ally misunderstood, sup­pressed, and some­times con­fis­cated.
  • Fo­cus­ing on In­for­ma­tion Re­ten­tion as Op­posed to New Knowl­edge Pro­duc­tion: Disk-drive learn­ing is for com­put­ers. Knowl­edge pro­duc­tion and in­no­va­tion are for hu­mans.
  • Con­tin­u­ous Re­or­ga­ni­za­tion of School Lead­er­ship and Pri­or­i­ties, Par­tic­u­larly in Ur­ban Schools: Se­ri­ous ques­tions can be raised whether traditional schools are the right or­ga­ni­za­tions re­quired to cope with vi­o­lent youth, and in­com­pe­tent, ir­re­spon­si­ble par­ent­ing and neg­a­tive adult role mod­els.
  • Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Pri­or­i­ties are Built on an Ide­al­ized Past, not on Emer­gent and De­signed Fu­tures: Blends of ap­plied imag­i­na­tion, cre­ativ­ity, and in­no­va­tion are re­quired to vi­su­al­ize pre­ferred fu­tures, and forge them into em­pir­i­cal re­al­i­ties.
  • So­cial Class and Cul­tural Prob­lems in Schools and Com­mu­ni­ties Sug­gest that the Schools Live in a Nor­man Rock­well Past: It ap­pears that the schools are pop­u­lated by timid, unimag­i­na­tive, lower-mid­dle class pro­fes­sional place­hold­ers who crave ‘con­ven­tion’ over ‘in­ven­tion’.
  • Fail­ing to In­vest Re­sources in Ed­u­ca­tion, both Fi­nan­cial and So­cial: Ed­u­ca­tion is for­mal, in­for­mal, and non-for­mal in struc­ture and func­tion. It is pos­si­ble that for­mal ed­u­ca­tion will be rec­og­nized as the least pow­er­ful of this trio.

In the article “Education Models Are Key to Nation’s Global Competitiveness” by Dr. Melvyn D. Schiavelli writes: Groundbreaking ideas generated by innovative minds will influence the lives and livelihoods of generations of Americans, paying enormous dividends as our nation seeks to strengthen its ability to compete in the global economy.

The national study, ‘Tapping America’s Potential: The Education for Innovation Initiative’ findings say that if current trends continue, more than 90% of all scientists and engineers in the world will be living in Asia. Moreover, recent studies by the ‘American Association for the Advancement of Science’ report that the U.S. science and engineering labor pool is getting older and that interest in these fields among younger people has waned. In order to keep that labor force strong and globally competitive, it is essential to recruit and cultivate future scientists and engineers into the pool of talent.

Employers in a global economy value college graduates that bring a combination of specialized technical aptitudes, adaptability, and business skills to the workforce. The solution is to motivate U.S. students and adults, using a variety of incentives, to study and enter science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. This will require new approaches to higher education and new thinking about traditional undergraduate degree programs…

In the article “U.S.: How to Win the Global Competition for Talent” by Sarah King writes: In the report ‘The Global Competition for Talent’ by John A Douglass and Richard Edelstein, they underline the strategic importance for the U.S. to invest in higher education in order to continue capitalizing on the global pool of mobile students.

Although recent statistics suggest that American colleges and universities are again attracting foreign talent after several years of declining or stagnant enrolments, there is no denying that higher education markets are shifting away from the U.S. – especially in response to the evolving global recession.

These shifts bode badly for long-term economic growth, the report argues, and contrast with a past in which the immigration of talented students and professionals allowed the U.S. to build – and reap economic benefits from – a highly skilled workforce. As new economies compete more for the international flow of talent and invest more in educational attainment and human capital, theU.S. is poised to lose its competitive edge unless it develops a coherent higher education strategy.

Marlene M. Johnson, the Executive Director and CEO of NASFA, ‘Association of International Educators’, has noted that “the number of international students in theU.S. matters because it is a surrogate for competitiveness.” 

The U.S. has a serious education and skills gap, and research is finding that employers report nearly half (42%) of high school graduates lack the skills they needed to make a successful transition to the workforce.  Even among those recent college graduates, employers say only 24% have an “excellent” grasp of basic knowledge and applied skills.

Recent research by McKinsey and Company found that for the public school system to succeed there must be a stronger focus on attracting, hiring and retaining talented teachers… In the report by ‘Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Education & Competitiveness’, which includes education organizations and high-tech companies among its members, argues the U. S. ability to create an education system that produces better-prepared students is the ‘central economic competitiveness issue’ facing the nation.

In a fu­ture dri­ven by glob­al­iza­tion, knowl­edge, in­no­va­tion, and ac­cel­er­at­ing change: The U.S. ed­u­ca­tion system must be structured, aligned, and disciplined to meet the evolving individual (jobs) & national (competitiveness) needs within the highly competitive global marketplace…

Tom Fried­man is right: “The world is flat….” The phe­nom­e­non of glob­al­iza­tion com­pels stu­dents and schools to com­pete on a global scale. Why do we in­sist on prepar­ing stu­dents for jobs that ex­isted be­fore they were born in­stead of for jobs that will ex­ist when they fin­ish school?

Marketing in Polycentric World: Adapting to Global Economy of Changing Markets, Business, Technology–New Thinking…

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” ~Peter F. Drucker

According to Gerry McGovern; “New Thinking in the Digital Age”: The collapse of geography; the death of distance; the doubling of power and the halving of price: Hyper change. Something is happening and many of us are scrambling to try to understand just what. The Digital Age is about revolutionary change inspired by the convergence of computers, communications, and globalization. Marketing is at the forefront, and through new and creative thinking it must lead the dramatic and profound charge for change.

In the book “The Old Rules of Marketing Are Dead” by Timothy R. Pearson writes: Brands must be true to their essence and be reinvented to remain relevant in this radically changed, information-rich, and Internet-oriented world. Completely revamping old-school marketing is the only way to drive profitable sales, create growing brands, and increase market share in today’s recession business landscape.

Throw-out almost everything you hold dear and embrace technology, a new role in business, and real accountability. Company’s must break out of old, established routines and reinvent their organization’s marketing by:
• Positioning marketing as a business partner; not as a tool for meeting a strategic objective.
• Holding marketing accountable for results with the application of hard data; not vague qualitative measurements.
• Providing leadership within the organization; not following the direction of everyone else.

In the article “How Chief Marketing Officers Can Drive a New Growth Agenda” by Nick Smith writes: Companies that continue to practice marketing in the same way that made their brands successful in the past may destroy equity and erode profits. The fundamentals of marketing have not changed; companies still need to increase their relevance with customers, differentiate their offerings and improve overall brand value.

But, the new business environment means that every business decision should be made with the customer in mind. To truly operate that way, and not just speak that way, marketing needs to help shape strategy, not just execute it. Marketing executives must transform themselves and their organizations to accept that kind of challenge:

Four characteristics will define the marketing leaders of the future:
• Release the oxygen: More rigor, discipline and metrics, enabling new efficiencies that can “release the oxygen” needed to support growth.
• Find the sweet spots: Leverage next-generation market research and analytics, helping the entire business find the “sweet spots” in terms of consumer trends and market demand.
• Reinvent the offer: Turn insight into action; into more relevant and thus more profitable products, while also optimizing sales channels and making them more efficient.
• Drive customer engagement: Generate long-term relationships with customers, based on continuous engagement; relevant offers and the encouragement of social networking that create communities of interest in brands and products.

In the article “Winning in a Polycentric World: Globalization and the Changing World of Business” by Jim Turley writes: The story of business today is one of a tension between the flattening effect of globalization and significant variation across international markets. The challenge will be to balance between these opposing forces and achieve both scale and local relevance.

Four priorities for rethinking globalization in a “polycentric” world:
• Redefine global and local: Adopt a balanced approach whereby local autonomy is combined with globally consistent strategic direction, a shared corporate culture and set of values.
• Develop a “polycentric” approach to innovation: Decentralize the innovation process and develop products, processes or components primarily with local markets in mind, but reapplied when appropriate in other markets.
• Rethink relationships with government and tax administrations: Government is playing a bigger role in business and companies must think carefully about how they engage with the public sector, and manage and anticipate potential risks on a global basis.
• Build diverse leadership teams with strong global experience: While business success in developed markets has been more recently rooted in process and efficiency, emerging markets demand experimentation, risk-taking and entrepreneurship.

In the article “IBM’s CMO Describes the New Marketing Organization” by Christopher Brown writes: In an interview with ‘Marketing Management’, Jon Iwata, IBM, described the future of the marketing organization. Question to Jon: If you were about to create a new marketing department, what would be in it? “I do think brand and culture has to be managed as one indivisible mission …

I think the ideal marketing department would have strong collaborative skills to collaborate with external entities, starting with clients, but also strong collaborative skills to collaborate with HR, legal and sales. What is very clear is that for marketing to continue to be a meaningful contributor to business performance it not only has to enable delivery of short-term growth objectives but also needs to tackle the strategic issues of leveraging and aligning the culture in a way that maximizes the success of the organization.

Marketing needs to use its skills not only to influence customer behavior but also that of employees inside the organization to truly create lasting sustainable value. Market-driven firms must build a culture that creates the type of customer experiences that drives customer satisfaction, advocacy and ultimately the bottom line. Marketing as a function clearly has the opportunity and obligation to take on this role now and in the future.”

In the article “Global Players Urged to Adapt to New Rule of Game” by Ernst & Young writes: The report ‘Winning in a Polycentric World’ highlights the tension between the flattening effect of globalization and significant variations across markets. While the former encourages companies to roll out business and operating models ‘globally’, the market differences demand a more ‘localized’ approach. The future challenge for business will be to strike the balance between these opposing forces of globalization and national markets and achieve both scale and local relevance.

Business opportunities are now distributed more evenly around the world than at any time in history and the convergence of market potential between the developed and emerging world means that the number of markets that multinationals must consider as ‘strategic’ has increased. “But, at the same time, the nature of the opportunities in those markets can be fundamentally different”, says Ernst & Young’s John Ferraro. “In the developed world, companies have well established business models and asset bases but face weak growth prospects. In the emerging economies, this situation is often reversed”.

Companies must now operate in a ‘polycentric world’ in which there are multiple but divergent spheres of influence in both developed and developing markets. It is not just ‘opportunities’ that are located in these multiple centers. Competition, capabilities and resources can all now reside anywhere in the world and travel in new, sometimes unexpected directions.

Ernst & Young suggests four priorities to focus on to win in this polycentric world:
• Redefine global and local.
• Develop a polycentric approach to innovation.
• Rethink relationships with government and tax administrations.
• Build leadership teams with strong global experience.

The ‘World Development Report’ by The World Bank indicates that the world is becoming increasingly interdependent for its economic progress. Terms such as “global village” and “world economy” have become very fashionable.

Whether an organization markets its goods and services domestically or internationally, the definition of marketing still applies, however, the scope of marketing is broadened when the organization decides to sell across international boundaries. The long held tenants of marketing are; ‘customer value’, ‘competitive advantage’, and ‘focus’.

This means that organizations have to study the market, develop products or services that satisfy customer needs and wants, develop the ‘correct’ marketing mix and satisfy its own objectives as well as giving customer satisfaction on a continuing basis. However, it became clear in the 1980s that this definition of marketing was too narrow; so ‘strategic marketing’ was born.

The focus was shifted from knowing everything about the customer, to knowing the customer in a context which includes competition, government policy and regulations, and the broader economic, social and political macro forces that shape the evolution of markets. In ‘global marketing’ terms this means forging relationships or developing networks, working closely with home country government officials and industry competitors to gain access to a target market.

Whether one takes the definition of ‘marketing’ or ‘strategic marketing’, ‘global marketing’; ‘marketing’ must still be regarded as both a philosophy and a set of functional activities, and continually evolve to met the ever-changing needs of the global economy…

“The sole purpose of marketing is to sell more to more people, more often and at higher prices. There is no other reason to do it.” ~Sergio Zyman

The Black Swan: Rare, Unexpected, Highly Improbable–But It Happens…

“To the casual observer, the world nowadays is seeing freakish events happening in freakish proportions – from destructive weather phenomena to political revolutions to dramatic terrorist attacks. In truth, history is littered with events of a radically unexpected and ―unpredictable‖ nature. All create vast challenges for business leaders.” ~Spire Research

In Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” he regards almost all major scientific discoveries, historical events, and artistic accomplishments as ‘Black Swans’; undirected and unpredicted. He gives the rise of the Internet, the personal computer, World War I, and the September 11 attacks as examples of Black Swan Events. Taleb’s assertion: What we call a Black Swan is an event with the following three attributes.

First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable. Based on Taleb’s criteria, a Black Swan event is observed as follows:
• The event is a surprise (to the observer).
• The event has a major impact.
• After its first recording, the event is rationalized by hindsight, as if it could have been expected.

In the article “What Is a Black Swan?” by Larry Prusak writes: The Black Swan is a term you may hear in business and statistics, but what does it really mean? First I need to clarify what it is not. It does not just mean a rare event. Yes, it is a rare event but something else is required. It is an event when a rare event occurs that was never expected to occur and thus would result in a paradigm shift. To give you an example, it was believed that swans that are black could never exist.

The term was seen as almost being like an oxymoron to refer to something as such would be like referring to a waterless flood. However in 1697 Willem de Vlamingh came across such a swan in Western Australia. This resulted in a paradigm shift; black swans exist when believed they never could.

Something that would not be a Black Swan event would be winning the national lottery. It is a very rare event but you do expect that you could win. And if you do win, it’s a nice surprise but it does not change how you think about or view the lottery. It does not result in a change in paradigm.

What you may have figured out then is that you can never say something will be a Black Swan event or that you can see one coming. If you say that something could happen (but is unlikely to) then the term cannot be used. It is just something unlikely, and the fact that you are considering it means it is part of your paradigm. The term is often wrongly used in the business world.

The recent recession from the sub-prime mortgage crisis was sometimes referred to as a Black Swan event. It is not, as the crash was from over supply of credit to those unable to pay it (and derivative paper products that draw value from sub-prime mortgages). This always had a chance of resulting in a crash sooner or later; it a part of standard economic theory.

In the article How to Prepare for a Black Swan” by Matthew Le Merle writes: With the rise of global business, it is likely that Black Swans carry increased risks for your company, including negative impacts on your customers, suppliers, partners, assets, operations, employees, and shareholders. Today, not only can a catastrophe in one part of the world affect the sourcing, manufacture, shipping, and sale of products locally, but the interconnections of global financial, economic, and political networks ensure that the effects of such events ripple around the world.

Typically, a large company relies on its enterprise risk management (ERM) department to identify potential business disruptions, map out their most likely effects, and develop mitigation plans and preventive actions to reduce the risk exposures. But ERM simply does not have the capacity to also monitor high-magnitude, low-frequency disrupters on a continuous or regular basis.

This does not mean that Black Swans can or should be ignored. These events can threaten a company’s survival, and Boards and senior leaders are responsible for protecting shareholders and other stakeholders. They must ask: What else can go wrong? The solution to this conundrum is ‘disrupter analyses.

Disrupter analysis does not seek to predict Black Swans; that cannot be done. No company can be completely prepared for every possible Black Swan event. But the Board, the executive team, and the ERM staff can complement the day-to-day work of the ERM function with periodic ‘disrupter analyses’. These analyses can ensure that the company has adequately focused its attention on high-magnitude, low-frequency events, performed stress tests on its fitness in the face of such events, and prepared itself for unexpected catastrophes.

In the article “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More” by Chris Anderson writes: Our brains are wired for narrative, not statistical uncertainty. And so we tell ourselves simple stories to explain complex thing we don’t–and, most importantly, can’t–know.

The truth is that we have no idea why stock markets go up or down on any given day, and whatever reason we give is sure to be grossly simplified, if not flat out wrong. Nassim Nicholas Taleb first made this argument in Fooled by Randomness, an engaging look at the history and reasons for our predilection for self-deception when it comes to statistics.

Now, in “The Black Swan: the Impact of the Highly Improbable”, he focuses on that most dismal of sciences, predicting the future. The problem, Nassim explains, is that we place too much weight on the odds that past events will repeat. Instead, the really important events are rare and unpredictable. He calls them Black Swans, which is a reference to a 17th century philosophical thought experiment. In Europe all anyone had ever seen were white swans; indeed, “all swans are white” had long been used as the standard example of a scientific truth.

So what was the chance of seeing a black one? Impossible to calculate or at least they were until 1697, when explorers found black swans in Australia. Nassim argues that most of the really big events in our world are rare and unpredictable, and thus trying to extract general stories to explain them may be emotionally satisfying, but it’s practically useless. September 11th is one such example, and stock market crashes are another. Or, as he puts it, “history does not crawl, it jumps.”

In the article “Black Swan Events: What does the Future hold?” by Spire Research writes: To the casual observer, the world nowadays is seeing freakish events happening in freakish proportions – from destructive weather phenomena to political revolutions to dramatic terrorist attacks.

In truth, history is littered with events of a radically unexpected and ―unpredictable‖ nature. All create vast challenges for business leaders. Can such events be predicted and planned for, and if they could, what might the future hold? To the casual observer, it may appear that such freakish events – noted for their radical departure from the norm and their seeming “unpredictability”- are happening with increasing frequency.

According to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who coined the term, these events are extremely rare or, in other words, have negligible probability of occurrence. However, if they do happen, they have a disproportionately major impact. In a globalized world, businesses are not only linked to each other but also dependent on the external environment.

After a Black Swan event, in hindsight, business owners might develop strategies to avoid impact from similar events in the future. But, the question remains – how can business predict events that have a major impact but are fundamentally dissimilar to anything that has happened before – what former U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously termed “unknown unknowns?”

To cope with such possibilities, companies would do well to heed Taleb’s advice. He advocates the use of counterfactual reasoning or, in plain language, “what-if” analysis. Despite Taleb’s argument on the usefulness of ‘What-If’ analysis, Black Swan events continue to be a ‘black box’ for most companies and most of humankind.

In the article “Can Boards Plan for ‘Black Swan’ Events?” by Elizabeth Judd writes: If disasters could have a silver lining, it’s that they are honing companies Board of Directors’ skills at Black Swan event planning. ‘Who would ever expect the Iceland volcano eruption to halt air traffic from Europe to the U.S.?’ asks Maryanne Peabody, Consulting Firm Board Options.

‘People are saying, Hmm – what we thought was solid really wasn’t solid. Charles Elson, University of Delaware, believes directors are rising to the occasion when it comes to anticipating corporate risk. ‘Boards are stronger than they used to be,’ he says. ‘They’re much better at asking questions.’

Alex Zmoira, Deloitte & Touche, agrees: ‘Before, a board member might have said, there are people paid to manage risk. It’s not my responsibility,’ he points out. “You’re not hearing that anymore”. Jill Fisch, University of Pennsylvania, believes boards are paying more attention to risk management but that there is a limit to what they can do. ‘To a large extent, a Board has to rely on management members and outside advisers in terms of bringing serious risks to the board’s attention and recommending a course of action,’ she explains. ‘Boards are asking more questions but – ultimately – these events are not something they are very well equipped to assess on their own.’

Peter Jewett, Law Firm Torys, poses the question thus: “How far do you go into the possible rather than the probable? Eventually you have to say, Okay, we’ve hit the point where we can’t justify spending more money on further precautions given the likelihood of this happening. What’s the cost benefit of devoting time to figuring out what your unknowns are? It’s a delicate balance.”

The logic in Black Swan makes ‘what you don’t know far more relevant than what you do know’. Consider that Black Swans are caused and exacerbated by their being unexpected… Isn’t it strange to see an event happening [e.g. collapse of the twin towers at the World Trade Center] precisely because it was not supposed to happen? What kind of a defense do we have against that?

Since Black Swans are unpredictable, we need to adjust to their existence (rather than naively try to predict them). But, what does Black Swan really mean? It’s a rare event but something else is required. It is an event that was never expected to occur and thus would result in a paradigm shift… Can a business ever be ready for these unknowns?

Planning has never been more important in business than it is today. In a New York Times article discussing The Black Swan, the reporter argues “that there are two ways to approach these phenomena. The first is to rule out the extraordinary and focus on the ‘normal’. The second is to consider the ‘extremes’, if their potential impact are significant”. Although it’s tempting to stick with the normal, it is prudent to plan for the outliers.

“To me a banking crisis was unavoidable and it was not a Black Swan, just as a drunk and incompetent pilot would eventually crash the plane.” ~Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Growing a Successful Business is All About Getting Top Talent & Talent Management: Putting Right People in Right Seat at Right Time…

“In times of economic uncertainty, there is nothing more important or strategic to ensure business success than talent management. Now more than ever we need to be focusing on top talent, high performers, and developing talent.” ~Tess Reinhard

Companies who attract the best talent are the ones who are going to be the most successful in the new economy. Talent is a major issue for most organizations, but there is no consensus on a definition for talent. ‘McKinsey’ defines talent as the sum of a person’s abilities, ‘The Economist’ says its brainpower, others say its leadership, and still others talk about it as the possession of emotional intelligence. What none of these definitions talk about is what is at the heart of talent and talent management; potential.

In an article by Robin Stuart-Kotze and Chris Dunn they say, talent is not just about having the brainpower, the knowledge, the experience, the skill or the mental and physical characteristics to do something, in the present; it’s also about the potential to do something different, or of a higher order of difficulty and complexity, in the future.

Talent has two components: ability (current performance) and capability (potential performance). Further they say that talent can only be defined in terms of specific contexts. People who are talented in one area or country are not necessarily successful in another. Simply, talent is the ability and the capability to do something very well…

In the article “Grow Your Business With Top Talent” by Dr. Linda D. Henman writes: One of the most critical responsibilities of senior leaders involves assessing talent; something you’ve probably never been trained to do. Of all the leadership and managerial duties you’ll face, this is probably the least intuitive, the most complicated, and the least familiar. Whenever you’re assessing strengths, you’ll need to carefully weigh the three constructs of talent: the aptitude to do the job, the behaviors that will ensure success in the job, and the requisite experience for success.

Aptitude involves a natural disposition or tendency toward a particular action, the readiness to learn, and the raw talent to function in the role. Aptitude implies that, with training and experience, this person can master the skills required to do the next job. Behavior involves people’s conduct; the way they present themselves. Behavior encompasses morals, deportment, carriage and demeanor.

Experience, the most easily observed and objective aspect of talent assessment addresses the skills the person has displayed so far. In other words they already know how to perform specific tasks and have demonstrated this in the past. While important, experience offers limited prophetic value. Experience should be one, but only one, factor in assessing talent. The trick is to first assess people and then to recognize whether or not they are in a job that lets them leverage their strengths.

In the article “Talent Intelligence: Know your People., Grow Business” by Lynne Salmon writes: For any business to be successful in today’s economy, it is imperative that its talent management strategies align with its key business objectives, and are designed to keep the workforce motivated and engaged. However, many companies struggle to link their talent management strategies to their business objectives and the cost of that intelligence gap are substantial. Up to 70% of an organization’s value is based upon the skills and experiences of its employees, and yet for most businesses there is simply a lack of visibility into how well the company’s highly trained and expertly skilled assets are being managed.

According to AMR Research, enterprises around the world are spending $100 billion on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), supply chain, and CRM systems while they are only spending $2 billion on managing their most innovative asset; their people. If companies had the same visibility into their people as they do into their financials, supply chain, or sales forecast; they’d have greater opportunities for optimizing investments in their people that would directly impact the business.

Meaningful employee talent intelligence cannot be collected as an after- thought or as a separate process. It must be captured as part of the talent management process and be supported by HR data that is easy to access, easy to use and valuable to the business.

In the article “How to use Social Media to Find Top Talent” by Charles van Heerden writes: Underneath the iceberg of vacant jobs being advertised on job boards and newspapers, a strong invisible current of talent is ingeniously using social media to identify and strategize their next career moves. Prior to the popular rise of social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, the talent sourcing process was limited to a linear process; where a vacancy is filled in transactional fashion, embedded in a perpetual recruitment environment of sourcing in new talent.

The advent of job boards have resulted in a significant shift away from print media, but compounded the overload of thousands of job boards, with job aggregator sites promising candidates to identify vacant roles. Though the cost of recruitment has been reduced, the process remained reactive. The convergence of a number of technologies and the establishment of a talent pipeline has created the opportunity to develop relationships with talented candidates through an effective just-in-time recruitment model.

LinkedIn is the preferred social networking site from a business perspective, with more than 72 million users across the world. Facebook is by far the most popular social media site, with more than 300 million users. Twitter is being used by a large number of companies to post job openings, though smart employers are also using it to share interesting news and to strengthen their employment brand.

Companies can use creative ways to find talent through social media, by running competitions, surveys, blogs and email updates. Companies can and should use social media to find top talent, by building a talent pipeline..

In the article “6 Tips for Effective Recruiting on Social Media” by Sharlyn Lauby writes: The goal of recruiting is to find the right person at the right time. Logically, that means one source is never enough. You’ll want to tap into diverse mediums to find the best talent. Social media is no exception. Each platform has its own unique demographic. You’ll want to consider that audience when making the decision about which applications to use for your recruiting efforts.

Regardless of the application, there are some common elements of using social media for recruiting. Here are six things to consider:
• Create an online presence that reflects who you are: Bill Boorman, author of the ‘Recruiting Unblog’ says. “People connect with people, not brands.”
• Make the most of your time: A large part of any success with social media is involvement. This is especially true if you want to use social media for recruiting.
• Individualize your approach: If you are connecting with someone directly, be ‘individualized’ in your approach.
• Be authentic: Remember it’s NOT about the tools it’s ALL about the relationships.
• Share interesting stuff. Sharing news and tidbits of general interest can create what might be the equivalent of “social media small talk”.
• Focus on substance. These tools are not a magic bullet – to get value from your network, you have to add value to it.”

In the article “Talent, Wow!-Factor, Speed & Short-Cuts” by Vivek Ranadivé writes: Mediocrity doesn’t win Olympic medals, nor will it result in a winning company. Great businesses out-smart and out-execute their competitors day-in and day-out. But while hiring outstanding, dedicated people should be a given, it is equally important to create an open environment within the organization that allows top talent to flourish.

Hierarchy can often create bottlenecks that stifle innovation and agility. That’s why I have always believed in a flat management structure that gives employees greater autonomy when it comes to decision making. Having smart people in the organization is one thing, but they also need to be given the tools to execute on good ideas quickly; as success depends on doing things both better and faster than your competitors.

Great companies cannot be built on process alone. If the right decision-making infrastructure is in place, your team should feel confident enough to move quickly – even in chaotic environments – and go out and dominate a market segment. We come back to the importance of cultivating an empowered team of players who are ready to act decisively when the right moment arrives.

The foundation for a winning company requires an organizational framework and culture of accountability in place, together with operational agility and supported by consistent yet flexible organizational best practices…

Having the right seats filled with the right people is fundamental for business success and growth. If you want to improve your business performance, you need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your talent, increase the value that your team adds to the business, and ensure that your talent is a key part of your competitive advantage. A successful talent development program focuses on four key areas: Skills, knowledge, behaviors, results…

“A leader’s job is to focus on talent… And I think a lot of companies maybe don’t realize that”. ~ Brent Carter

Knowledge Workers are Drivers of Economic Growth: They Require a Different Management, Process, Organizational Structure…

“As knowledge varies among different people, even in the same field, each knowledge-worker carries his or her own unique set of knowledge. Knowledge work requires both autonomy and accountability” ~Peter Drucker

So what exactly is a knowledge worker and how can the nature of their work be described? At the most generic level, the term ‘knowledge-worker’ refers to individuals who possess high levels of education and/or expertise in a particular area, and who use their cognitive skills to engage in complex problem solving. Wikipedia defines a knowledge-worker as someone “who works primarily with information or one who develops and uses knowledge in the workplace”.

Professor Thomas Davenport says: “I certainly think there’s a lot of fuzziness, ambiguity, and imprecision about what a knowledge-worker is, and it’s not a term most managers use easily. They don’t say, “Okay, these are my knowledge-workers, these are my non-knowledge workers.” So despite the fact that the term’s been around for a long time, very few people have been comfortable using it as a managerial concept”. Davenport then proceeds to define knowledge-workers as “people with high degrees of education or expertise whose primary job function involves some activity related to knowledge”.

Researchers suggest that there is no simple or universal definition of knowledge work, and certainly no common understanding of who is, or is not, a knowledge-worker. However, there are at least two distinctive categories of knowledge-workers; those that create new knowledge and those that apply existing knowledge.

In the article “Knowledge-Workers Need New Structures” by Michael Maccoby writes: The information age demands new thinking about organizational structure. Structure describes roles and relationships, responsibilities, authority and accountability. Structure inevitably raises sensitive human issues of status and power.

In the U.S. managers pursue the elusive democratic ideal of a flat organization. In Asia, the structural ideal is the hierarchical Confucian family, welded together by mutual obligation. In all cultures, complex information age companies must design three aspects of structure: macrostructure, strategic structure and work process structure. Macrostructure describes the overall way a company is formed by the architecture of business units, divisions and corporate governance. There are five ways to structure these units: by place or region, product or service, customer or market, function or type of knowledge, and processes.

How knowledge is aggregated, directed and employed depends on the strategic structure of the organization. The ‘work process structure’ describes the different ways work processes are designed, depending on the nature of the product or service and the process. Essentially this process becomes a heterarchy in which leadership functions shift according to which team member has the appropriate knowledge. This means that all team members need leadership skills or heterarchical capabilities.

These include aspects of style having to do with interactivity: openness, consensus building, listening and learning from other experts, and willingness to accept leadership responsibility. People generally reach the top of the strategic structure by being tough and self affirmative; by being the kind of person others feel safe in following.

The new structures require that managers play a number of roles, as good followers and team players as well as leaders and subject matter experts. As the work process structure includes people who are scattered throughout the world, leadership requires much higher levels of interactivity, to create trust and shared understanding of strategic goals.

In the article Preparing a Capable Workforce for the Knowledge Economy” by Charles Lanigan writes: Today you can hardly open the latest business magazine or book without encountering phrases such as intellectual capital, learning organization and knowledge economy. Data, information, and knowledge are not the same things, though you wouldn’t know this by how people, even those in the information technology industry, sometimes confuse the terms. Webster’s defines knowledge as “a clear and certain perception of something; the act, fact or state of knowing; understanding.”

Knowledge-workers spend most of their time interpreting and communicating information using words and symbols rather than acting physically on materials such as brick, stone or wood. This shift from physical toward intellectual labor represents what Shoshana Zuboff in her book ‘In the Age of the Smart Machine’ calls the informating-of-work. Knowledge is subjective, idiosyncratic and dynamic. It is formed in the interaction among people, where it is shaped by language, thought and perception.

It builds on what individuals and cultures have learned and transmitted across time and distance through face-to-face communication and books, and now through electronic means such as e-mail and the Web. The knowledge economy requires a predominance of employees who can think critically, recognize and solve problems creatively and work with others cooperatively.

Technology pundits, business executives and educators preach the promise of workflow automation, intelligent systems and computer-based learning. But businesses and society still rely on human beings to define and respond to needs, recognize risks and opportunities and be motivated to find creative solutions to problems.

As we talk of building intelligence into computing systems, we also need to make sure the people who design and use them are intelligent and capable. The late Neil Postman suggested that “the main challenge facing us in this era of easy access to information and proliferation of online content is not so much finding answers, but asking the right questions”.

In the article “Gen Y and the 2020 Organization” by James Kerr writes: In less than a decade from now, the Millennials (Generation-Y) will be firmly entrenched within all management layers of most large corporations around the world. We all know ‘Generation-Y’; or, we think we do. They’re driven, abrupt, technologically savvy, information hungry, communicative multi-taskers, short of attention and seeking immediate gratification in everything that they do.

Ironically, these personal growth seekers are also the ones who seek constant feedback and positive reinforcement. Stated another way, this generation is difficult to engage and nearly impossible to manage. Today’s organizational designs will likely be deemed obsolete. Millennials will demand a shift away from “command and control” reporting lines to more cooperative-based leadership models that provide greater autonomy and freedom of choice in the way work is performed. Such a shift will stress and flex the organization in new and challenging ways.

Looser, team-based organizational designs will need to be adopted. Gone are the days of multi-layered designs characterized by managers-managing-managers. Rather, temporary, purpose-based worker groupings emerge and flatter reporting structures are the up-shot. The pyramid management structure that we all grew up in will slowly be replaced with a more fluid and responsive network design. A networked organizational design is the next evolutionary step for today’s “matrix” organization.

The shifting of the organizational design will, in turn, lead to a new kind of operating model – one that can accommodate a more transient workforce. ‘Generation-Y’ employees are very comfortable with a more integrated professional and personal life as long as working schedules are flexible. To this end, operating models of the future will need to contemplate and weave the freelance and contract working arrangements preferred by Millenials, into the way work is performed. Indeed, the next generation of workers is willing to trade the routine, predictable and secure for the freedom to choose where, when and how work is executed.

This type of operating model, one characterized by pulling talent in as needed and freeing it up when demand is lower, fits hand and glove with the network design. These ideas can also be institutionalized at the same time that many businesses are recognizing that the use of contracted talent is a key ingredient to establishing the much needed agility required for success in the 21st century business environment.

In the article The New Knowledge-Worker” by Dwight deVera writes: According to 2010 McKinsey Global survey, ‘Economic Conditions Snapshot’, knowledge-workers have driven more than 70% of the economic growth in the U.S. over the past three decades, and 85% of the new jobs created in the past decade required complex knowledge skills. Additionally, companies incorporating decision-making as a core competency – even a competitive differentiator – are outperforming their peers.

These companies have learned that for business intelligence to be used successfully, organizations need to overcome not only technology hurdles, but also change the organizational culture around decision-making. In order to improve results, companies need to optimize all three performance drivers: people, process and technology. Knowledge-workers are changing with respect to their type, complexity, location and sophistication.

The new breed of knowledge-worker is no longer tied to their desks, and they are operating in a more complex environment. Additionally, with the rapid adoption of Web 2.0 technology platforms, knowledge-workers of all types have new, upgraded expectations about how to work. Hierarchies are flattening as knowledge-workers grow accustomed to connecting with colleagues and having access to others’ expertise…

According to James Kerr, the year-2020 organization will be one that is markedly different than what we see today. It will be a world in which the next generation of worker chooses to embrace personal independence at the risk of security, and one in which businesses must work hard to attract this budding talent. With this, comes a very real leadership challenge whereby organizations will need to think differently about their management structure and the skills, competences and capabilities required to thrive in the new operating models that will result.

Clearly, a greater degree of emotional intelligence will be required by senior leaders so that they can proactively guide organizational transformation while continuing to grow and evolve successful enterprises. Without greater insight and sensitivity, companies of tomorrow will be hard-pressed to create an organizational design or operating model that will consistently draw the best and brightest that ‘Generation-Y’ has to offer.

However, through open mindedness and a willingness to break mold, some enterprises are already evolving towards the new operating models and organizational structures needed in the next decades…

“A knowledge-worker is one who gathers data/information from any source; adds value to the information; and distributes value-added products to others.” ~Kappes and Thomas

Power of Team Building: There is Little Team in Team-Building Without Leadership and Lots of Motivation…

“Too often, teams are formed merely by gathering some people together and then hoping that those people somehow find a way to work together. Teams are most effective when carefully designed, develop and supported.” ~Carter McNamara

Team building is a critical factor in any environment–workplace, sports, associations, organizations…–its focus is to bring out the best in a group and to ensure effective collaboration, self-development, positive communication, and the ability to work closely together for greater efficiency, productivity, and problem solving. The work environment tend to focus on individuals and personal goals, with reward & recognition singling out the achievements of individual employees, rather than the ‘team’. However, the team is the critical factor and creating an effective team is a challenge in any organization. The compelling reasons for team building are:

  • Improving communication.
  • Motivating a team.
  • Getting everyone “onto the same page”.
  • Identifying and utilizing the strengths of team members.
  • Improving team productivity.
  • Practicing effective collaboration with team members.

Team building generally sits within the theory and practice of ‘organizational development’. The related field of team management refers to techniques, processes and tools for organizing and coordinating a team towards a common goal – as well as the inhibitors to teamwork and ways to remove, mitigate or overcome them. Several well-known approaches to team management have come out of academic work (Wikipedia)…

  • Tuckman’sforming-storming-norming-performing model posits four stages of new team development to reach high performance. Some team activities are designed to speed up (or improve) this process in the safe team development environment.
  • ‘Belbin Team Types’ can be assessed to gain insight into an individual’s natural behavioral tendencies in a team context, and can be used to create and develop better functioning teams.
  • ‘Team Sociomapping’ is a visual approach to team process and structure modelling. This model is based on social networks approach and improves the team performance by improvement of specific cooperation ties between the people.

George Elton Mayo, known as the founder of the Human Relations Movement (included ‘group dynamics’), conducted research under the Hawthorne Studies and showed the importance of groups in affecting the behavior of individuals at work. What he found was that work satisfaction depended to a large extent on the informal social pattern of the work group. Where norms of cooperation and higher output were established because of a feeling of importance, whereas physical conditions or financial incentives had little motivational value.

People will form work groups, and this can be used by management to benefit the organization. He concluded that people’s work performance is dependent on both social issues and job content. He suggested that tension between workers’ ‘logic of sentiment’ and managers’ ‘logic of cost and efficiency’ could lead to conflict within organizations. Summary of Mayo’s beliefs:

  • Individual workers cannot be treated in isolation, but must be seen as members of a group.
  • Monetary incentives and good working conditions are less important to the individual than the need to belong to a group.
  • Informal or unofficial groups formed at work have a strong influence on the behavior of those workers in a group.
  • Managers must be aware of these ‘social needs’ and cater for them to ensure that employees collaborate with the official organization rather than work against it.

In the article “Tips for Team Building: How to Build Successful Work Teams and  Make Teams Effective” by Susan M. Heathfield writes:  People in every workplace talk about building the ‘team’, working as a ‘team’, and my ‘team’, but few understand how to create the experience of ‘team work’ or how to develop an effective ‘team’. Belonging to a team, in the broadest sense, is a result of feeling part of something larger than yourself. It has a lot to do with your understanding of the mission or objectives of your organization.

In a team-oriented environment, you contribute to the overall success of the organization. You work with fellow members of the organization to produce results. Even though you have a specific job function and you belong to a specific department, you are unified with other organization members to accomplish the overall objectives. The bigger picture drives your actions; your function exists to serve the bigger picture. You need to differentiate this overall sense of teamwork from the task of developing an effective intact team that is formed to accomplish a specific goal.

People confuse the two team building objectives. This is why so many team building seminars, meetings, retreats and activities are deemed failures by their participants. Leaders failed to define the team they wanted to build. Developing an overall sense of team work is different from building an effective, focused work team when you consider team building approaches.

Executives, managers and organization staff members universally explore ways to improve business results and profitability. Many view team-based, horizontal, organization structures as the best design for involving all employees in creating business success. No matter what you call your team-based improvement effort: continuous improvement, total quality, lean manufacturing or self-directed work teams, you are striving to improve results for customers…

In the articleTeam Leadership Model” by donclark writes: A lack of leadership is often seen as a roadblock to a team’s performance. As ‘Stewart and Manz’ write, “work team management or supervision is often identified as a primary reason why self-management teams fail to properly develop and yield improvements in productivity, quality, and quality of life for American workers.” Rather than focusing on ineffective teams, ‘Larson and LaFasto’ looked in the opposite direction by interviewing excellent teams to gain insights as to what enables them to function to a high degree. They came away with the following conclusions:

  • A clear elevating goal — they have a vision.
  • Results driven structure — visions have a business goal.
  • Competent team members with right number and mix.
  • Unified commitment — they are a ‘team’, not a group.
  • A collaborative climate — aligned towards a common purpose.
  • High standards of excellence — they have group norms.
  • Principled leadership — the central driver of excellence.
  • External support — they have adequate resources.

In the articleTeam Buildingby F. John Reh writes: If you want team building to work, you have to show the members of the team that it benefits them personally. There is very little ‘team’ in teamwork without a lot of motivation. We live in a society that seems fascinated with individual accomplishment and almost oblivious to teams. Even in team settings like sports, we single out the All-Stars and the MVP (Most Valuable Player) of each game.

That is the environment you have to overcome in order to build your group at work into a team.  Do you think of your group as a team? They won’t think of themselves as a team if you don’t. Do you reward team performance, or only individual achievements? You won’t have much success in team building if you don’t reward team performance.

Let your group know that they are a team, that you expect them to perform as a team, and that you will reward their successes as a team. That’s the first step toward team building.  Remember that team building must be an everyday activity. It is not something you can just do quarterly at some off-site function.

If you want team building to work, it’s not enough to tell them that they are a team and must perform as one. You also have to show the members of the team that it benefits them personally.  The strongest motivator available to a manager is self-esteem. The more the individual sees a benefit to his or her self-esteem from supporting the team, the more successful your team building efforts will be.  The moment you start doing anything at all with another person, you’ve established a team. Begin a conversation; pick up the phone, brainstorm an idea and you’re in teamwork.

According to David Blum, one of the most popular axioms in both eastern and western culture is the Golden Rule: “Treat others as ‘you’ would like to be treated.” Although useful in general the Golden Rule is flawed when team building. People are not the same; they have different needs, different ways they want to be treated, and this is particularly true in times of stress.

The team leader’s task in team building is not only to know how the individuals prefer to be treated, but also to understand how they react under pressure, and what each person might need in order to move beyond the crisis…

A skillful leader must understand and overcome the stress responses in each of his team members if he hopes to pull his team through a crisis. In truth, there is no magic remedy for healing people’s tendencies. But as a team leader, understanding your teammates’ tendencies under pressure can allow you to know what to expect in times of crisis… The new Golden Rule, then, is: “Treat others as ‘they’ would like to be treated.”

“The biggest mistake many companies make is just changing the name of a work group to ‘team’. It won’t make them successful. Don’t just call your employees a team, help them be one.” ~deniseoberry