Archive for April, 2011

CE#327: Que Xote (What a RHYTHM) – Nando Lauria

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CE#326: Bill Gates talks about the Khan Academy on the Gates Notes

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CE#325: Twelve Ways Leaders Fail New Managers (BBW)

Bloomberg Businessweek

1. Provided lax onboarding. You had to learn on the fly when you started. Your manager didn’t have time to coddle you and it made you resourceful and resilient. So you leave your new hires to sink or swim, figuring they’ll come through just as you did—when that’s not the case.

2. Set a poor example. Your employees take their cues from you. You set the tone and serve as the role model. The question is: What are they adopting from you? Attitudes and behaviors are contagious. Your conduct sets the boundaries for what’s appropriate. Take a look at your flaws. Ask yourself if you would accept those defects from your direct or indirect reports.

3. Lacked accountability. Your managers can’t read your mind. Look at the expectations you’ve set. What are your priorities? What larger purpose do you ultimately want to achieve? What is your timeline for reaching it? What metrics should they hit? What will happen if they miss these marks? And how often do you review all this with them? Whatever gets measured gets done, or so the cliché goes.

4. Offered no support system. Management requires a steep learning curve, with so much changing on a moment’s notice. Too often, new managers feel alone in a bubble. Before you throw them to the wolves, introduce them to key leaders and reliable veterans who can provide a safety net, sage advice, and occasional support. Give them time to build relationships. And don’t worry about a mentor: They’ll find one on their own.

5. Accepted underperformance. You think they don’t take the hint. But what cues are you giving them? Are you sharing the hard facts? Or are you just tiptoeing and sugarcoating, hoping the issues self-correct over time? Fact is, self-awareness is a rare trait. And your managers deserve better than token feedback from you.

6. Didn’t listen. You hired them for who they were and what they could do. Then you plugged them in and expected them to do your bidding without question. But sometimes they push back … and for good reason. Want to know the quickest way to alienate a new manager? Ignore the knowledge, experience, and talent he brings to the table. Yeah, you probably hired him because he reminded you of yourself. But you have blind spots. So ditch the all-knowing bully shtick. Listen—even when he says what you don’t want to hear. That might be a telltale sign to change course.

7. Never solicited feedback. You think you know what’s really going on. You believe only numbers reflect performance. But it isn’t hard to conjure up success for one year. You need to ensure that it continues year after year. Without a solid foundation based on intangibles—camaraderie, buy-in, trust—everything inevitably falls apart. So quit focusing exclusively on the quantifiable. Start talking people: your managers’ direct reports, peers, and partners. Don’t be afraid of what they’ll say.

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CE#324: How To Make Your Competition Irrelevant (Open l Forum AMEX)

Q: Is the right goal to make one’s brand relevant or to make one’s competitor’s brand irrelevant?

A: Both. The goal should be to drive market dynamics by making your brand relevant and competitors irrelevant. Engage in innovation that is substantial enough, or transformational enough, to create a new category or subcategory defined by one or more offering enhancements that some customers will consider “must-haves.” These “must-haves” could involve self-expressive, social or emotional benefits as well as functional benefits.

The task then is to attract customers to the new category or subcategory and create barriers to competitors. Think of Apple’s iPod, Chrysler’s minivan, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, Westin’s Heavenly Bed and others that changed what people bought with “must-haves” and created years and sometimes decades with no real competitor.

In nearly all categories from beverages to cars to computers to financial services, the only way that a firm can gain a meaningful sales change is through this type of innovation. Expenditures on marketing and product refinements to win the “my brand is better than your brand” battle rarely changes the marketplace because of the momentum of habitual behavior.

Q: What causes brands to lose relevancy?

A: There are three risks. First, a brand can remain strong but customers start buying another category or subcategory. It does not matter how much a customer loves your minivan brand or how strong it is, if they are now buying hybrid sedans. The challenge is to make the brand relevant to the emerging new subcategory or defeat the subcategory—convince people that the minivan is a better choice than a hybrid sedan.

Second, a brand can lose energy and visibility to the point that it is not considered and, thus, not relevant. The task is to either energize the business like Apple and Nintendo have done or to find something with energy like the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and attach it to the brand.

Third, a brand can create a negative, a reason not to buy the brand. It could be based on a perceived lack of social conscious or a quality problem that undercuts credibility. Avoiding a negative is not always an exciting initiative, but it can have strategic implications.

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CE#323: Is Sugar Toxic? (NYT)

On May 26, 2009, Robert Lustig gave a lecture called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” which was posted on YouTube the following July. Since then, it has been viewed well over 800,000 times, gaining new viewers at a rate of about 50,000 per month, fairly remarkable numbers for a 90-minute discussion of the nuances of fructose biochemistry and human physiology.

Lustig is a specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, which is one of the best medical schools in the country. He published his first paper on childhood obesity a dozen years ago, and he has been treating patients and doing research on the disorder ever since.

The viral success of his lecture, though, has little to do with Lustig’s impressive credentials and far more with the persuasive case he makes that sugar is a “toxin” or a “poison,” terms he uses together 13 times through the course of the lecture, in addition to the five references to sugar as merely “evil.” And by “sugar,” Lustig means not only the white granulated stuff that we put in coffee and sprinkle on cereal — technically known as sucrose — but also high-fructose corn syrup, which has already become without Lustig’s help what he calls “the most demonized additive known to man.”

It doesn’t hurt Lustig’s cause that he is a compelling public speaker. His critics argue that what makes him compelling is his practice of taking suggestive evidence and insisting that it’s incontrovertible. Lustig certainly doesn’t dabble in shades of gray. Sugar is not just an empty calorie, he says; its effect on us is much more insidious. “It’s not about the calories,” he says. “It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself.”

If Lustig is right, then our excessive consumption of sugar is the primary reason that the numbers of obese and diabetic Americans have skyrocketed in the past 30 years. But his argument implies more than that. If Lustig is right, it would mean that sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them.

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CE#320: Eric Whitacre – Sleep (Virtual Choir 2011)

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CE#319: The World’s 10 Most Innovative Companies, And How They Do It (Forbes)

Barry Jaruzelski and Cesare R. Mainardi (Forbes),
Spending the most on innovation is not how they do it.

You can spend all you want on innovation, but you can’t guarantee success. In fact, the most innovative companies are not necessarily the biggest spenders, according to Booz & Company’s recent global innovation study. What matters instead? The ability to build the right innovation capabilities to connect with the overall business strategy and other critical capabilities.

In conducting our latest Global Innovation 1000 study, we surveyed more than 450 innovation executives (senior managers and R&D professionals) at more than 400 different companies around the globe. We asked them to identify the companies they thought were the most innovative.

The results were striking: Seven of the top 10 innovators were not among the top 10 spenders on innovation. Many of those identified by their peers as top innovators actually spent well below their industry averages on R&D, as a percentage of sales. And, most important, the top 10 innovators turned in better financial performances than the top 10 spenders.

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