December 19, 2011
Steve Jobs Life Lessons: How Do They Play Out In Your Own Life?
The 600 page Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson isn't one I've picked up yet but Lance Ulanoff recently finished it and wrote a piece on Mashable about lessons learned -- aka insights -- from the man who was mysterious to so many of us, being described as creative, driven, intense, mean, focused, innovative, entrepreneurial, masterful, and a genius.
He has been ranked up there with Einstein and by others who are either bitter, anti-Apple or who worked with him and just didn't like the man, as lucky albeit smart.
Below is the list of so called lessons gleaned however for Lance's take aways, read the original blog post, which also includes a page of fabulous inspirational quotes, one of which includes this reminder, "don't settle." I think about that phrase today more than ever.
As we get older, we realize that we have less time to "settle" and live an extraordinary life. When we're really young, even if we subscribe to living a life far beyond "settling," we don't have the wisdom or years behind us to know how fast the decades march on. We often live in the moment which is a beautiful place to live, yet the perspective of time has little meaning.
Next to each lesson learned below, are my own reflections and experiences of working in the technology industry, many of which reflect back to Steve's decisions and mindset. Also refer to my "so long Steve Jobs" blog write-up here,
One of the most frustrating things I deal with in working with start-ups with small budgets is how many compromises need to be made on a consistent basis. It has also made me and the entrepreneurs I work with learn how to become more resourceful along the way. That said, I think about the "one chance to get it right" more often than not and this means stepping up to the plate. Work the long hours, hire the right people, don't undervalue marketing or positioning, get the product out there before your competitor jumps ahead of you...the industry just moves too fast.
Make Your Own Reality
My take away from this is connected to "not settling." It's also about building a better life by not accepting the reality you've been given, for you almost always have the power to change a current reality. Sure, you can come up with every excuse in the book: I don't have the money, I don't have the access, I don't have the education, I don't have the resources, yet Gandhi didn't let don'ts, even if they were different ones, get in the way of his success. Steve Jobs didn't either. I say this to teenagers whenever I get the chance: Don't let someone else write your life story or dictate how the chapters should unravel. This one still keeps me up at night sometimes.
Control Everything You Can
This is counter to so much of what the social media afficiandos and purists believe, which is centered around collaboration and giving up control. The latter is also something I see as a new "American" behavior even outside the technology industry where parenting is often about collaborating with your kids rather than disciplining them.
Control helps keep things on target, your vision in tact and products on schedule but it also can result in alienating people around you, not allowing others' creativity to flourish and the inevitable...once you're out of the way, what happens to the company and its products?
Control can deliver great things - look at Picasso's paintings and Steve's iPhone. Yet, those I talk to give Apple three years with Steve gone. I'm not sure that I agree, but you get the idea.
Own Your Mistakes
This is probably one of the hardest things to do, particurly when a bad decision negatively impacts a large group of people. But it's also PR 101: when you do a "dirty," whether it was intentional or not, own it, apologize, commit to fixing it and move on. If Clinton had done that earlier and embraced his actions from a place of leadership, perhaps we wouldn't have spent so many cycles focused on blowjobs more than the state of our economy. Europe trivialized it and we behaved like high school children, including "some media."
I love this one. Sometimes we know ourselves but don't "give" ourselves what we need and so I'd add to know thyself, trust thyself. One of my favorite quotes and it isn't a Steve Jobs one: Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Leave the Door Open for the Fantastic
Is it fantastic or is it outstanding? I prefer the latter because it takes us beyond fantastic. Fantastic is an experience, which Steve Jobs certainly created for us again and again, but outstanding is a way of living, a way of being.
Don’t Hold Back
Ahhh, is this one of the reasons I love Italian culture so much? Or why people like Steven Spielberg awes us time and time again? Don't just give it to them baby, but give all of it to them. As big, as great, as dynamic and as extraordinary as you can.
Surround Yourself with Brilliance
This is a general lesson for great leadership. Outstanding leaders do this time and time again. Choosing and "curating" the right team for a project is a skill of a master. And, rather than be afraid that who you surround yourself may just be more brilliant than you, you embrace it.
Build a Team of A Players
Ahhh, mediocrity. There's nothing that drives me crazier than mediocrity, particularly in business. And "real" A players I'd argue don't waste time trying to convince you that they're A players; they just execute.
Sure, this largely applies to person-to-person contact, whether it's about managing your team or being ethical with your board and calling the right shots. That said, when I see this statement today, I think about truly being yourself amidst a world of cluttered voices on the web.
When I see a tweet, I think "are they doing this as a way to game the system and up their Klout score aka "perceived influence" or are they doing it from a centered, balanced place? aka "this is who I really am and what I really think".
Or, are they trying to deliver an aura or image of what they think is respected by their peers, some of whom haven't been behaving so well lately?
Scrambling to get respect from the gate keepers is all around us and some of the conversations I'm hearing and part of behind closed doors is astounding.
I think to myself again and again, "are we really having this conversation? Is sucking up to X or Y influencer while burying who you really are worth it? It's a game not worth playing because it's a life not worth living. And, yet it's happening all around us. In politics. In technology. In life.
There are some people who you would build a moon for even if 1,000 people in a row told you a moon couldn't be built. Steve Jobs had that gift which resulted in outstanding products that changed the way we live our lives. Richard Saul Wurman had that gift when he developed the TED Conference concept. Tony Robbins has that gift when he stands in front of thousands of people. Obama has that gift through his calm and articulate embodiment. Being persuasive by being "real" and "intentional" is the most powerful gift you can give.
Show Others the Way
We all need mentors whether we think we do or not. Sometimes we're the teacher, sometimes the student and sometimes when we think we're the teacher, we end up being the student. I would add to this that the real talent in showing others the way is finding out how people learn and showing them the way in their modality or language. Some teachers only know how to teach from their own modality which leaves a huge percentage of people either bored, pissed off or simply confused.
While it may seem like an awkward aside to raise here, it feels right as I write this. I wish women would stand up for women in business more than they do. I know a lot of incredible women who help, inspire, nurture, fund, and more, however what I haven't personally experienced is women taking risks to help pave the other for others in their peer group. (risking a powerful relationship behind closed doors by speaking up or making things right, speaking up publicly or simply taking the time to encourage in a deep and meaningful way).
By the latter, I don't mean sharing. As women, we do this well. We listen, we share and show our girlfriends we "understand them."
I get some of the reasoning behind why we say no: we're already overspent and don't have the time or energy, we want to reserve that energy for children and family when we're already doing so much, we don't want to risk tampering with a connection that has been instrumental in getting us to our current positions because quite simply, it ain't an easy compromising ride to get there. And so on. That said, the majority of people who have "shown me the way," have been men.
Trust Your Instincts
Steve Jobs was a master at this and most great leaders are too. Women btw are really good at this in their personal lives and we need to know that its an incredibly rich asset in our professional lives too. The best leaders are strong enough to go to a place of solitude when the noise of external voices telling them what to do becomes so loud that they can no longer hear their inner voice. Our inner voices always lead the way.
Silicon Valley is great at taking risks and it all started with the guys at the forefront, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak being instrumental in the early days. One of the things I see with companies outside the U.S. is that risk taking is less embraced because it's not part of their culture.
There are always exceptions of course: great products are great products, and great leaders are great leaders. That said, I have seen hesitation and uncertainty first hand in working with start-ups and entrepreneurs now from France, Scotland, Belgium, South Africa, Australia, Ireland, Canada, England and others. If you truly believe in something, there's no room for fear and doubt. Trust, believe and take the risk because if you don't, someone else most certainly will.
Follow Great with Great
When I read this, I thought of what those who have been to the top know all too well, "you're only as great as what you've done lately." That said, there are entrepreneurs in the Valley and elsewhere who had a successful exit and never "created" anything else. Yet, they're still part of the conversation, at all the VIP dinners and are even funding other startups because they have the money to do so.
You know the drill: you get access when you have one of the following: power (connections to people or things other people need), money (you can buy that access), position (you hold a title at a major company or in government and can use your influence to help), in the inner circle (are part of a prestigious family, went to college with or are buddies with someone of influence and so the latter three are automatically waived).
What's truly remarkable is when none of those things matter, you push them all aside (or simply ignore them) and just consistently keep building great things that benefit people. Steve Jobs showed that he was capable of that with the iPod, iPhone, iPad and Pixar. Other "greats" do the same.
Make Tough Decisions
Tough decisions often make you unlikeable, at least to one group or person. I had a reflective conversation in a long cab ride recently with someone who worked with Steve Jobs in the very early days. He attended a small gathering of like-folks after his death somewhere in Silicon Valley.
A question was presented to another person in the group who also worked with him: did she "like" him?The response was one of silence and no one said a word. A lot of people didn't like him. A lot of people didn't like Picasso.
I'm not suggesting being an asshole is a formula for success but some great leaders who are also artists are often unliked. Steve Jobs was an artist and while he was unliked by many, he was also a visionary who created great things, including inspiration for others to find their own genius inside of them. A gift. Making tough decisions is part of that gift.
Presentation Can Make a World of Difference
It's amazing how many people still rely on traditional Powerpoint slides for presentations. Boring ones. Frankly, I hate speaking in front of large groups and feel "more secure" about my delivery when I use visual aids. Quite simply, its a crutch that helps us move the presentation along when what we should be doing is telling a story from our heart and life experiences that educate, inspire and ultimately move people to action in some way.
Some of the greatest TED talks have used some visual aids, even a slide or two, but 80% of their presentation is about flow and about story. If storytelling isn't the essence of what you deliver, then it most likely isn't an outstanding presentation.
Find a Way to Balance Your Intensity
I would add to this since balancing your intensity isn't the whole picture; balancing your life is what you need so you don't burn out and can find peace with what you signed up, aka your career. If you're not working part-time or gave up a job to raise a family, you're probably spending more time in your work life than any other thing you do. Striking a balance is critical to sustaining happiness and peace with that decision. Life is a long road. Balance sets you free.
Live for Today
Steve Jobs was much more able to go to that place after he learned about his terminal illness. While intellectually we know that we should live for today even when things are going our way, very few people do.
Isn't living for today just another way of saying "be present"? And yet, even if we've hung out in Buddhist temples, spend quiet time on yoga and meditation mats, it's hard to live a very present life all the time. Our brains aren't wired that way. At the core of our decision making, even important ones is our lizard brain, a pretty unevolved part of our bodies. Refer to my post on Linchpins, lizard brains & getting uncomfortable.
While there are people who share their wisdom and bring others up with them as they themselves rise to the top, I see sharing explode when people hit their forties, whether or not they have children. Something happens when you've reached a certain plateau -- call it wisdom, call it inner peace -- where the race no longer matters. Sharing matters more and for some, it's the only thing that matters.
For the original once again, go here as it was my inspiration for this variation...
October 20, 2011
Historian Stephanie Coontz on Rebalancing of Genders
She talks about when and how women not just in this country but worldwide, started to rebalance the power between sexes.
It starts happening between genders when women not just started to work but got paid to work. After they get into the workforce, literacy goes up, they get a choice of who they got to marry, and then labor laws changed among other things.
If you think about it, the countries with the lowest rights for women are the countries where women have the lowest access to the labor force. Sexual harassment didn’t come force in the U.S. until 1993.
Two thirds of divorces are initiated by women. Countries like China have had an 800% increase in divorce over the past 25 years. Countries which are socially more conservative, where women have experienced job independence but not other independence have gone on strike with marriage and motherhood.
Look at an example of what happens when women are empowered. In Guatemala, women are still exploited and underpaid and yet $12 extra income in the hands of a Guatemalan mother adds healthy weight gain and balanced diet into the mouths of her children whereas it is an extra $166 extra income in the hands of a man to get the same result.
Look at countries like Italy, where women don’t have as many rights, the woman who tastes that independence In Sweden, there is no such association.
There has been tremendous reversal for women in the U.S. for women who were born before 1960 versus after 1960. For women born before 1960, if a woman had higher education and earning, they were more likely not to marry or get a divorce quickly. Women today with higher education marry later and they’re less likely to divorce.
The bad news is that today in the U.S., where women also work, most children six and under have both parents work outside the house, but the laws and rules of conduct in the workforce haven’t caught up with those trends.
A few stats: in the U.S., business family work policies is last among all wealthy countries in the world. America doesn’t believe it to be “class privilege” to stay at home with the family, nor does it have a national childcare system or standards. Even the medical leave act in the states is lower than any other country.
There is the highest work family stress in the U.S. than any other country and they work the longest number of hours in the world, including Japan.
“We have to redefine work balance,” says Stephanie. Women’s access to careers has been the greatest achievement for globalization but we can no longer sustain a work regime where we are expected to be available to employers 24/7, and yet still take care of all other human needs at home.
She adds, “we have got to have a better balance between work and home and culturally, we have to embrace it and respect it. We need to redraw the boundaries of our personal lives in the same way we have our professional lives. “Mapmakers, bring it on and make it happen,” says Stephanie as she ends her talk.
October 18, 2011
WITI 2011: Videos of Women who Inspire
Here's a glimpse from this year's WITI event (Women in Technology), held in October 2011 in San Jose, CA.
October 07, 2011
Great Women at WITI: Isn't it Better to Have a Life of Oh Wells Than What Ifs?
Clearly I don't get to New York often enough, by now I would have met writer and products guru Maya Baratz, who is currently working on new products at The Wall Street Journal.
She started out by asking the nearly all women audience at WITI (Women in Technology International): How many of you are still waiting for your mentor? How many of you spend your time trying to prove someone wrong?
Mentors were a common thread throughout her talk. It's not that she doesn't believe in having them, but if you can’t find a mentor, don't wait around to get ahead.
"Waiting for a mentor is like waiting to follow someone else’s lead," she says. "Follow your own."
On innovation, she says, "innovation is about being unreasonable and along the way you sprinke it with reasonable."
She encouraged the women in the room not to be reasonable. "You don’t need to succeed," she says. We can fail. Women are shy of taking big risks and want to ensure they can succeed before moving forward.
Hear hear Maya. And to add to that, not only are women more afraid to fail, but they're more likely to hold back when they've accomplished something great. Many entrepreneurs will tell you to fail fast, early and often.
Failure is nothing more than feedback. And, when you do succeed, she encouraged, "don't just move yourselves forward, but move your female colleagues forward with you."
AND, taking risks was emphasized and re-emphasized. In other words, isn't it better to have a life of oh wells than what ifs? True innovation is about taking a leap of faith and that almost always means taking risks which can lead to failure.
"When you do fail," she adds, "speed up your recovery process. You shouldn’t spend your time reacting to failure. If you get stuck on the anger side, you’ll probably be stuck there for awhile. Leading a proactive life is dusting yourself off, getting up and trying again."
Women-led start-ups fail less than men yet women make up less than 10% of venture-backed startups.
The bottom line is that we don’t toot our own horn which makes us feel a lot more boxed in. We also don’t have role models to look up to....at least not enough of them.
It’s important for every one of us to tell our own story and get it out there, embrace what we've accomplished rather than be afraid of it.
She spoke of actionable things we can do now to further our lives. I can't agree enough that this is what it takes to grow. There's nothing truer than this (and having the our belief systems) to get ahead. We can have dreams and goals but if we don't get them down on paper and take steps to get there, it won't happen. When we have a little "win", it's human nature to own that win and use it as ammunition to move forward. It works for me.
I call them baby steps. Rather than think of the magnitude of the project OR all the potential obscacles that could get in the way OR the skillsets you don't have, just act. Baby steps are important because baby steps = action and action leads to results.
It's a bit like serendipity versus having a strategy, where serendipity is reactive and strategy is being proactive, infused with passion of course. Ask yourself what action can you take to make things happen?
Says a woman in the audience, "look at the way men talk about entrepreneurship – it’s okay for a man to take crazy risks and put themselves out there." Another truism.
Yet, how many times have we all thrown an idea into the wind and received negative feedback? So have hundreds of other entrepreneurs. Success stories today had dozens and in some cases hundreds of no's before they got to yes.
If it doesn't have immediate positive feedback, it doesn’t mean that its not a good idea. It may just mean that it’s new and it hasn’t been tried yet.
It's also okay for men to get tons of exposure and not just be okay with it but embrace it. I'm working on a photo book and have been turned down by a few women. Two very prominent women in the industry declined because they said they were "overexposed." I was in a bit of disbelief when I heard the response - twice. Overexposed? Really? Would a man decline an opportunity and say I'm overexposed?
Are you kidding I quietly thought when I heard the response. Deep inside, my reaction wasn't quiet - it was miffed, saddened, disillusioned and frustrated. I also couldn't help but feel that important female voices and insights wouldn't be part of an important project. Moreso, as a woman who's struggling to get support and access to great people to make the project succeed, I thought, "am I going to rely mostly on my male industry buds to help move this book forward in places I can't?" Again. (I had to say it, but yes, again).
We need to support and embrace women's journeys around us and there's no better way to do that than to be aware of their journey, where and how they're struggling and step in to help, even if its in a very small way. Baby steps. They matter.
It's also important that in the entrepreneurial process that we don't self judge ourselves but even moreso for women.
Obviously it's not the first time I've attended women events and conferences. I have been a regular at BlogHer since the very beginning, have been a member and attendee of various women organizations, attended an all girl's school and was active in 4H as a child which, while it wasn't for women only, there were predominantly girls in my club and the same applied to other clubs in my immediate area.
Yet attending WITI, a three-day event full of inspirational women in technology who are embracing challenges and hearing great talks like Maya's and others, is a reminder that while it's not easy out there and we may even recall some of the common mistakes we have made as we hear other stories, its freeing to talk about it and in the process, get feedback. Feedback can lead to action.
Not once in that session did the word confidence come up, not that I remember at least, although it certainly came up elsewhere and throughout the three days. Women don't have enough of it. Period.
I notice lack of confidence more than anything else and not just in business situations but in our personal lives as well. We need to remind women around us that they shine and tell them often.
When I got home from WITI, it was ironic that I ended up watching two episodes of Mad Men, two I had seen before. Yet somehow, watching it immediately after attending WITI made me view it with new eyes. If you're a woman, you can't ignore how women were treated at home and in the office on Madison Avenue in the 50s (and elsewhere in the world). Yet, the writing is so brilliant and authentic, and the program so great, the art wins. The storytelling wins. It was our history. America's history. AND, at least for me, I saw all of it in my grandmother's kitchen, my aunt's house, my school.
Here's one scene from the episode re-watch: Betty's friend comes over to borrow a dress for an occasion and then flops down on the bed as she says, "it doesn't matter, I'm invisible." Women were invisible in the Mad Men era and in some cultures around the world, they're less than invisible today.
Sure, we've made great strides, but we still need to step up, embrace our experiences, share our stories, toot our own horns and take more chances.
While I didn't do individual write-ups on all the speakers and panels, other women who particularly inspired and moved me include IBM's Sandy Carter, Xerox Corporation's CTO and President Sophie Vandebroek, Coca-Cola's CIO Miriam McLemore, professor Diane Pozefsky, AT&T's Alicia Abella and of course WITI founder Carolyn Leighton. (left)
On that note, I'll end with a few reflective, incredulous and humorous quotes to ponder not necessarily in that order: (what do you subscribe to? Feel free to share your own in comments).
"Men are allowed to have passion and commitment for their work ... a woman is allowed that feeling for a man, but not her work" - Barbra Streisand in 1993
"Every woman should have four pets in her life. A mink in her closet, a jaguar in her garage, a tiger in her bed, and a jackass who pays for everything." - Paris Hilton
"The happiest women, like the happiest nations, have no history." - George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss
"The strength of women comes from the fact that psychology cannot explain us. Men can be analysed, women ... merely adored." -- Oscar Wilde, The Ideal Husband
"Modern women are just adored. There's nothing but media telling us we're all supposed to be great cooks, have great style, be great in bed, be the best mothers, speak seven languages, and be able to understand derivatives. And we don't really have women we're modeling after, so we're all looking for how to do this.." -- Jamie Lee Curtis in 2010
October 06, 2011
MyLawSuit.com: The Painless Co-Pilot for Your Legal Issues
MyLawsuit.com was launched this week, a platform that delivers better Business and Consumer results in contingency fee litigation.
In a world which has become increasingly more specialized, finding a lawyer who is licensed in the right jurisdiction, handles your specific type of case and is willing to take their fee out of the proceeds only if you win, instead of upfront, is a very difficult process. MyLawsuit takes the pain out of the process by eliminating the friction on both sides: the site is free for lawyers, and clients only pay a percentage if they win for both their lawyer and the site.
Most consumers don't realize that a lawyer who handles cases such as auto injury oftentimes does not have the training or the funds to handle a case for securities fraud, patent infringement or an injury caused by taking a particular drug. However, we do understand that you won't go to a foot doctor for heart surgery and law is no different. You won't find qualified assistance by going to your family lawyer if your insurance company wrongly denies your claim.
MyLawsuit also helps to facilitate communication throughout the lawsuit and creates communities where people can turn to for peer to peer advice, information and dialoguing. And, if a lawyer is unable to afford the case costs to take the case, MyLawsuit also helps connect lawyers and individuals to funding sources. In a process that is one of the least understood and ultimately fraught with confusion and pain, MyLawsuit seeks to be your co-pilot.
October 03, 2011
Elizabeth Scharpf on Empowering Women in Africa One Banana Leaf at a Time
I just had an opportunity to see Elizabeth Scharpf speak…in Kentucky of all places. She was there with hundreds of others who showed up at annual Idea Festival for inspiration, and because they’re “curious about life and innovation,” this year’s conference theme.
Elizabeth is an entrepreneur, designer and founder of SHE: Sustainable Health Enterprises, which has a mission to improve the quality of life for people in developing countries. She is most known for her work in Rwanda that involves partnering with networks of women to make and sell sanitary pads made from banana leaves. Yes, you heard me right. Sanitary pads. You probably don't know the issue that women have "getting them" in Africa; I certainly didn't and I've lived there and traveled to a host of countries in southern and east Africa.
She started out her career working with the World Bank in Mozambique. When she visited a bag factory and learned that about 20% of women were missing 2-3 days of work per month because they couldn't afford sanitary pads, she wanted to learn more. Huh? Incredulous for women living in the west.
Many of the women use rags which aren’t always effective and the more she started digging, the more she realized that not only was it a global problem and a loss of productivity, but also a loss of dignity for women.
After learning that the cost of a sanitary napkin is only ten cents, she put a proposal together to raise $2 million. The result was a job from Nike. Yes Nike, the "shoe company." :-) They're supporting this initiative and Elizabeth is leading the charge.
She started in Rwanda and discovered that banana leaves were actually absorbant, so they started using these materials, which are cheap and readily available.
Her longer term vision is to go after low cost sanitation and low cost toilets which is the result of a lot of deaths in Africa. Additionally, there are a significant number of motor vehicle accidents in Africa, so what about bringing driving schools into help with that?
She says to the audience, "if you want to get involved in social enterprise, I had a great education at Harvard but the best education I ever had was riding around in buses in Rwanda. When you see a misison that needs help, ask yourself, how are YOU going to help it?" she adds, "remember that its about them and about serving them.
The things that stick are what we can collectively do to serve the people we’re trying to help. Put your feet in their shoes and think, “what would help them out?”
This attitude and statement certainly is an empowering one and extends to every aspect of our lives, not just social enterprise. Hear hear Elizabeth for being so bold and diving into something so controversial and hard, yet so important and rewarding, not to mention "freeing" and empowering for women around the world.
September 21, 2011
How We Need to Teach Our Daughters and Sons to Think & BE
A man who views her as property-and a man who views her properly. A man who lusts after her-and a man who loves her. A man who believes he is God's gift to women-and a man who remembers a woman was God's gift to man. And then teach our boys to be that kind of a man."
The above was posted by a friend of a close friend. Thought it was "spot on" and wanted to share.
June 30, 2011
Xerox's Ursula Burns and Forrester's George Colony on Innovation & Leadership
For those who are unfamiliar with the name Ursula Burns, she's a woman with a fascinating story. She started as a mechanical engineering intern in 1980 with Xerox Corporation and nearly 30 years later after leading several business teams, and acting as senior VP and President, is now Xerox's Chairman and CEO.
Sure, she is the first African-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company and also the first woman to succeed another woman as head of a Fortune 500 company (another remarkable story), but "who" she is and her very direct personality, candor and warmth as a CEO is what makes her so special, not this historical fact alone.
In many ways, she is not the "traditional CEO stereotype" or personality if there is such a thing. What comes through in watching her on-stage, from afar, from her profiles in the media and from meeting her in person, is her authenticity, her passion, her human way of approaching complex problems and her acute insights into what to do when things go south.
In a fireside chat with Forrester's CEO George Colony at the Churchill Club in Palo Alto this week, she was spot on when she spoke of leadership and what it takes to be successful. "When you screw up, fix problems and fix them fast," she said. "You have to be fearless, make decisions and understand the difference between urgent and important." And, oh yeah, she adds, "you have to be nice."
When George responded with, "what about Ellison and Jobs?" two renowned leaders in the world of technology who are not known as "playing by the nice" rules (the very two examples I was thinking when she made the statement), she said "I don't care." Go Ursula! Among other examples, she brought up her attitude about honor and respect and how her kids would only address George as Mr. Colony not George.
Ursula says that she spends about 50% of her time making sure people are "tuned" correctly. A consistent message from the best leaders is hiring well and inspiring those hires to execute strategically and consistently. Having a motivated and aligned team around you is key.
That brings us to innovation, where you can't avoid but bringing up Apple. Says George of Jobs, "Jobs is once every 100 years. He's an Edison. It's not just about the fact that Apple knows how to innovate, but more importantly, how to streamline and simplify - taking the obvious and making it simple."
George spoke of Forrester's innovation network. In the value chain, there are different roles...you could look at Forrester as a broker, Apple as a transformer. Both are instrumental and key in the process. If the transformer happens to be outside the organization, then so be it and P&G has demonstrated that through in their own products and design efforts. The Innovation Network says we must 'expand the network.'
Ursula agrees with the outsourcing model and that to try and be and do everything internally is very limiting. She says, "there's more value on going outside the network for things you don't do really well. The value chain of research has fundamentally changed. Partner or parish is the reality in the research world today."
Access is what it's about and you can get better ideas and people by partnering. She has a lot of respect for failing she noted, but added that she meant for her research team, not her engineers.
George shared his thoughts on cloud computing: "If you think it's all about the cloud, you're wrong citing the App-Internet is where things are heading. He has teams dedicated to this area, where they're looking at the future of how powerful devices will work more seamlessly with powerful apps and what this will mean for productivity and innovation across multiple industries.
On future predictions, Ursula adds, "the big transformation in the future is not access. We have access to whatever we want and a lot of it." Her fear is that we have so much access yet may not necessarily understand or know what we're looking for. The real miracle will be in how we interface with all that data, a problem many of Silicon Valley's developers are trying to solve in some way or another.
I see an emphasis on interface & manipulation of data again and again with the kinds of things that start-ups who pitch me on a regular basis are working on. Sadly, I also see a lot of start-ups working on services that focus more on access and data rather than solving the curation problem. (see Steven Rosenbaum's new book Curation Nation).
Below is a four part video that covers George and Ursula's Churchill fireside chat, one which felt remarkably like an informal living room discussion. The authenticity and insights to probe deeper into real world problems, not just business ones, also came out as they discussed education and the energy crisis.
June 24, 2011
Bombshell Coach Gigi Belmonico Says Forget the Twitter Popularity GameBombshell coach Gigi Belmonico says forget the Twitter popularity game....
Now, see how you can slightly customize the same video with a little branding using Webdoc without any effort at all. Version below.
Disclosure: I provide consulting to Webdoc.
June 20, 2011
I Nearly Missed the Father's Day Memo This Year...
I nearly missed the Father's Day memo this year, partially because I was on the road and partially because it's been awhile since I've had a man in my life I've thought of as "Dad." For girls, our fathers are often the first and quite possibly the most powerful male force in our lives. Good or bad, they're the first male role models we "see" and learn from, including what kinds of things we think men should do, not do, say and not say. You get the idea. Whether or not you agree with their behavior and their character or not later on in life, they had a powerful influence and for many of us, still do, even years after they have passed on. There's a whole lotta wiring going on at an early age.
There was only one man I called Dad yet he didn't raise me nor did he know me any better than I did him. From my childhood, I vaguely remember a Thanksgiving gathering where he may have showed up, a 5th grade birthday card with a $5 bill in it and a stuffed pink mouse he gave me I called Marvin.
The rest of the memories were infused with phone calls to my grandmother which left her in tears, uncles who passed on the same pain, and a grandfather with a temper and idea of discipline that would have impressed Baron von Trapp himself.
It was that grandfather who raised my father, my uncles and me. It was that grandfather I celebrated every Father's Day with, despite the fact that I never once referred to him as Dad.
He was a harsh man with high standards, yet a loving one who was obsessed with knowledge, growth and hard work, all of which he believed would make up our character, defined by our accomplishments and our acts for others. He also had a wonderful sense of humor, something he left in the memories of hundreds he shared jokes with over the years.
There were some Eastern European-like traditions and activities which were part of our daily life. Mix them with things that crept in from Wales, England, Scotland and American Indian camps and things got pretty interesting at times. I blame becoming a foodie later in life on my French mother I barely knew because it certainly couldn't have come from years of fried chicken, pancakes, grilled burgers and heavy casserole dishes, despite the fact that my grandmother did know how to cook.
No one seemed to want to talk about where these influences came from or why they did the things they did. The result of this mysterious vagueness led to my calling the only father I ever truly knew, Papa, at least for about 15 years.
As I grew older, the word Papa became a bit of an embarrassment because frankly no one else used it and while we may have lived in a small town, it was no Swiss Alps and I was no Heidi. Sadly, the word Papa faded into the background and died just like a famous legend does when no longer embraced by a tribe.
I never called him Papa once as an adult, but perhaps if I had, we may have had a different relationship. The memory of how it came about isn't all that clear, yet he was all Papa and zero Dad, Father, Pops or Daddy.
Despite his serious nature, where discipline was at the centre at pretty much everything he did, he would throw quirky things my way with explanations of why I should do them that never made a whole lotta sense to a 12 year old. Like climbing trees, building forts, walking on roofs (he had a thing for balance), and knowing how to make a good egg.
Papa also told us (me and all those male cousins of mine) to stretch our fingers every morning before and after squeezing this strange looking Asian rubber ball that somehow appeared in our house one day.
He believed everyone should know how to make homemade ice cream and sauerkrout and grill a kabase sausage on an open fire to perfection. He had the same drill for marshmallows and other things he felt belonged in a fire. Summers were made for open fires and we seemed to cook everything on them even when we later got a gas grill, the one we never used.
He forced me into gardening, not that I regret it today. We had a little land but not enough for vegetables, so we took over a small plot behind the garage of a neighbor and planted tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, rhubarb, pumpkins and every herb you can imagine. He always said that if I didn't know how to feel soil and dirt in my hands and appreciate it for what it was and what it could do, I'd never understand the earth and my purpose on it.
Balance he said, would enter my life from all directions until the day I died and not having it would derail things along the way. Later I learned he meant both emotional and physical balance but somehow he felt gaining the latter early on in life would help the former as an adult. We did this by walking on narrow fences and standing up on the edge of a canoe while paddling on a regular basis.
Faith was a word we never said out loud, but it was always lingering in the background. Faith was for the times nothing made sense or when life turned to chaos and letting your brain fix the chaos only made things worse. Faith is for believing in a higher purpose far far beyond you I read years later in a love letter he once wrote that showed a far more sentimental side than any of his family ever saw.
Despite this belief system, he was far from "religious" and when he did go to church, you could occasionally hear him snoring away in the back corner. Later he would make it up to the pastor by delivering wood or a pie my grandmother made or telling him a joke he was sure the pastor understood and appreciated, yet I was never so sure. He didn't do this because he felt that snoring in the back was "wrong" however...if the experience made him relax and reduce his stress enough to fall asleep, shouldn't sleeping be a compliment? Oddly, I understood.
Because my grandparents were born in the teens, they were in their wild and healthy years in the 1930s, and martini and manhattan parties were something they frequently had in their upstate New York home. Known as a thrower of great parties, their soirees extended into the sixties and seventies when I entered the scene.
Those years of silver trays, serving, mixing, entertaining, record changing well into the wee hours and dish washing gave me great practice for a career as a publicist. Papa was always the life of the party and singing was a big part of their traditions, a time he showed beautiful vulnerability just like Baron von Trapp did when Maria showed up. I never quite understood why others my age didn't know all the lyrics to Bath Tub Gin and Yes We Have No Bananas.
Possessions would become a "chain around my neck," he said. The sooner I learned how little they mattered, the sooner I'd have peace late at night, well after the sun went down.
For him, being a "real man" aside from being successful in business, was being able to build a house, fence and dock from scratch all at the same time. Combine that with being able to "correctly" tie every kind of knot listed in some outdated Boy Scouts guide and fix a car engine when no mechanic could be found, let's just say that it made bringing men home from "the city" difficult at times.
Everyone should play an instrument he believed and if you didn't like to dance, you were someone who liked to watch life glide by rather than create one. I dated a man once who didn't like music and one afternoon on the front porch of our summer lakeside camp, he shook his head and said to me, "it will never work. A man without music in his soul is like looking into someone's eyes and only seeing one color with no texture at all."
For those who have never heard the song Oh Mein Papa or read the lyrics, find it, listen to it and smile while it brings you far back in time. The words to the song were related by a young woman remembering her beloved, once-famous clown father.
Written by Swiss composer Paul Burkhard in 1939 for a musical called Der Schwarze Hecht (The Black Pike), and reproduced in 1950 as Feuerwerk (Fireworks), it is one of the many songs from the 1930s we sang around the piano and one he loved to hear my grandmother and I play as much as he did Moon River and Misty.
He believed that higher education was crucial but without "street knowledge", you'd never actually see or understand texture in life. It was important to see those textures, understand them and emphathize with them he said. Street knowledge would make you "feel" and education would make you "hear." As new nuances and distinctions would come up in life, chaos would turn to clarity one word at a time.
When I said I'd like to become a dancer at 5, he asked for the date I'd be performing in Times Square so they could plan for it.
When I said I was interested in stars and space at 10, he wondered how I'd turn a telescope into our backyard into a scholarship and when might I be going to the moon.
When the family thought I was sure to become a writer or photojournalist, he spoke of Margaret Mead, and the South Pacific, not the local Leader Herald.
He was the one I called at uncanny times. Hearing his voice on the phone while I was plunging a toilet, drilling a hole in the wall or killing a large spider in our bathrub seemed to turn the "doing" into an act I was no longer aware of...
Sometimes he was my directions, sometimes my memory, and sometimes just a voice of reason when I lost my way. Going any deeper was tough because he didn't allow emotion to surface even when an event may have called for it, like a wedding or a funeral. He was from an era where men didn't cry and women didn't work. An era where men brought women flowers, opened their doors and built them houses. An era where women ran the household, cooked and raised kids and men took "care" of all of them.
Papa wasn't an easy man and many found his presence intense and overbearing albeit electric at the same time. Despite the fact that many of us have unresolved issues and baggage with our fathers, things we can't say or do or opposing beliefs, deep down in a place we rarely access, that bond even if a disfunctional one, carved out a life path we started as children dozens of moons ago.
For all the pain we were dished along the way, we were also given love in whatever ways our dads, fathers and papas were capable of giving with what they had and what they knew.
When he died in my arms seven years ago, I felt an unconditional love many of us only feel for our own children. It is this love I honor on this celebratory day of all fathers, all dads and all papas.