Holiday Reading: Balance and harmony through the arts

December 21st, 2014

Far too many people today are stuck in the rat race. Just work, no play. Some so badly they have to take uppers and downers to cope.

Having a balanced life is of essence to us all. If not how can we enjoy life and, not to forget, cope with the rat race?

Blackberry on your pillow?

If you are working 18-20 hours a day, sleeping with your Blackberry, or iPhone, on your pillow, is it really worth it? After all, you can’t take it with you when you go. No health – no wealth is something that applies to all of us, and it’s sad that frequently it takes a crisis for people to wake up and realize that all work, no play has put them on the wrong path.

Dream happily in a space with no time

Unfortunately the majority of people working, or on call, 24/7 are not going to start doing yoga or meditate to bring balance into their lives. The harmonious effects of performing arts however is something that everyone can benefit from that’s frequently forgotten. Plays, ballet, opera, a concert or whatever you thrive on can transfer you to another level and let you dream happily for a while. Preferably on location with your Blackberry switched off. But, if necessary, on the computer or i-phone whenever you have time.

The harmonious effects of watching performing arts however is something we can all benefit from

The harmonious effects of watching performing arts however is something we can all benefit from

Devote one minute and fifteen seconds to watch the Swan Lake video I have chosen that beautifully illustrates the many aspects of life. Watching performing arts like this will bring more balance and harmony into your life. Give your life more quality and re-load your batteries. Just dream along and mindsurf into a place with no time and responsibilities. Provided of course, that you are still able to switch off and just go with the flow. If you can’t, isn’t it time to look at how you lead your life and for how long you are prepared to sacrifice the beauty that life has to offer?

Do you watch performing arts to bring harmony into your life? If so, what type of performances have the best impact on you? If not, what do you do to balance yourself, dream and get positive energy? If your life isn’t balanced, maybe it’s time for you to seriously consider if wealth at the expense of health is what you are heading for? No matter what you do and where you are you need harmony in your life. Going to a theatre near you may be a step in the right direction.

Video: YouTube – BellAirClassiques

Are entrepreneurs artists?

December 14th, 2014

That’s the opinion of Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur and Stanford consulting associate professor. In this short video he explains why:

Do you have that calling? Are you passionate about your idea? Do you wake up in the middle of the night and make notes? Is it the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning? Are you convincing your family that this is what you need to dedicate your life to? If not, Steve Blank’s advice to you is, “don’t even think about doing it because chances of succeeding with a start up are extremely low if you are not driven by passion”.

Entrepreneurship is not a career or salary driven

Entrepreneurial activity is not a job. Entrepreneurs should actually be compared to artists. According to Steve Blank it is a mistake to teach entrepreneurship in ways similar to a business school or engineering curriculum. The curriculum that best fit entrepreneurship is what you find at art school.

Isn't entrepreneurship to step by step create something the market wants?

Isn’t entrepreneurship to step by step create something you passionately believe in?

Artists are experimental and passion driven

As an entrepreneur you  are looking at a blank canvas. And it’s not a question of just painting a coat or two, you have to succeed with producing a masterpiece.

The first person who told me that entrepreneurs are artists was my father. Like Steve Blank, he was a serial entrepreneur and said it to a group of artistic friends of mine when we were having a discussion.  Didn’t pay much attention to what he said back then, but actually thought about what he said later in life and realised it was spot on. How can you succeed with any business venture if you are not artistic and creative? And now I’m pleased to note that ,decades later the same opinion is voiced by Steve Blank of Stanford University.

Do you agree that entrepreneurs are artists? Is entrepreneurship like having a white canvas in front of you and producing a masterpiece? Do you have to be completely passionate about what you are doing in order to succeed as an entrepreneur? Do you believe a start-up is a calling? Do you wake up in the middle of the night and have ideas for your company? Is it the first thing you think about in the morning? Do you forget everything else when you work on your start-up? Or do you believe someone who handles entrepreneurial activity like a 9-4 job can succeed?

Video: Stanfordbusiness – You Tube

Communication – The key to Successful Leadership!

December 7th, 2014

It seems to me that we are making the art of leadership too complicated. There are umpteen theories that all have one thing in common – they work for some and for others they don’t.

Would Virgin group be what it is today if Richard Branson hadn’t mastered the art of communication?

Most people who suddenly find themselves in a leadership position swiftly realize that the top position is completely different from what they imagined. And worse, there is no manual.

Lonely at the top

There is no school for becoming a successful leader. New leaders frequently feel lonely since there are fewer people privy to high level information. It can be overwhelming. So much so that the fact that a leader’s success depends on communication is frequently forgotten.

Too many theories confusing

Richard Branson is an excellent example of a very successful leader who masters the art of communication. To the extent of jumping from high buildings to get the attention needed to promote a new Virgin venture. Don’t think anybody would dispute how successful he is. But the confusion caused by all these theories and schools of leadership actually led one guy straight out of university to have the audacity to make a comment in a discussion on Linkedin that he had a lot to teach Richard Branson. Indeed? What are the odds of he, or anybody else, becoming as successful a leader as Richard is? Pretty slim, I’d say considering that very few ever become as successful as Richard Branson is. And the success of Virgin is very much down to his exceptionally good ability to communicate.

The tasks of a leader is, simply put, to vision where a company is heading (strategies, future accomplishments, managing the destiny of the organisation and so forth), find the people the organisation needs to fulfil it’s vision, make choices and take decisions. Leaders also have to continuously serve, learn, correct, evaluate and motivate.

The leader’s most powerful tool

And how are you going to succeed with all that if you don’t master the art of communication ? Both internally and externally it’s the most powerful tool a leader has. It’s crucial to communicate with others about trends that affect the future of your business and stretch your thoughts by discussing your ideas with friends, associates and other great thinkers.

What can be achieved without constantly communicating?

Ideas are an extremely powerful force. By communicating ideas to people you engage their minds and help them see new possibilities and new opportunities. Strong and evocative ideas energize people and incite action. As leaders, our ideas are important. Leaders need clear ideas and philosophies about how to win in the marketplace, how their organisation should operate and how to develop their people.

Leaders succeed because they are able to focus and deal with the 5% of issues that are crucial, build support, create followers, put out fires fast and finish what they started. How would that be possible without communicating? Especially since many decisions are instant so a non-communicative leader would fail miserably.

Successful leaders spend much more time communicating their decision than actually taking the decision. Lots of time is also spent on coaching and motivating others. And, tedious as it can be, repeating the decision to get maximum effect. But despite that most people wrongly believe leaders spend most of their time making decisions. Leaders who only take decisions will fail miserably since communication is the key ingredient. Not communicating enough is hence the main reason for failure and not, as many believe, that they were following the wrong theory. And don’t forget that leaders live in the future so the more your communication enlightens you about tomorrow the better a leader you will be!

(Photo: Flickr linniekin)

What’s the main reason for entrepreneurial success?

November 30th, 2014

Wonder how many articles have been written, including by me, explaining what makes a successful entrepreneur? And rarely is the most important aspect of succeeding in business mentioned.  Watch Andy Rachleff, lecturer in strategic management at Stanford and experienced venture capitalist, in less than a minute stating what is the most important ingredient for entrepreneurial success.

To have the right product or service for the market is something so fundamental it’s easy to forget to even mention it. Wrote Entrepreneurship – do genes play a part? that has attracted a lot of readers’ comments. But neither I nor any reader thought of mentioning the crucial aspect of product- market fit. We all just overlook it even though it is a do or die issue for success.

Doesn’t matter if you are The Entrepreneur of the Decade, if you are offering the wrong product/service you will fail.

Why do so many companies fail?

Did you know that in Sweden as many companies go bankrupt every year as there are start-ups? Sure the tax system is one reason but that’s, unfortunately, not the only explanation. Quite a few of them are offering a service or product that the market, for whatever reason, has no interest in. Sometimes they are actually offering something before the market is ready for it.

Does your company have the most important ingredient?

Does your company have the most important ingredient?

How do you know if the market wants what you are offering?

It’s easier said than done unless you are offering something that there is always a demand for. Look at how Nokia laughed when Apple came up with the Iphone and regular airlines didn’t take low price airlines, like Ryanair, seriously. They failed to understand what the market wants and are hence having huge problems.

Nokia is actually a great example of a company with a lot of qualified and talented employees that have the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. But they didn’t understand what the market wants and hence lost out.

Keep your ear to the ground

Determining what the market wants is however not as easy as it sounds. Keep your ear to the ground and do research to test if your idea is a viable one.

Long before disposable barbecues became a hit someone I know had the idea but failed. Why? It simply was too early. But that could have been overcome if the right marketing, communication, branding and promotion had been done. What would have happened to the Iphone if Apple had not been able to promote it to the market in ways that worked? Most likely Blackberry would still be considered the ultimate choice.

Do you agree with Andy Rachleff that product-market fit is the most important ingredient for entrepreneurial success? If not, why? How do you determine what the market wants? Do you keep your ear to the ground? What’s your experience when it comes to determining what product/service the market wants? How do you decide on the right timing for launching it? Are you able to promote it in ways that make consumers desire something they may not yet know that they need or want? What promotional strategies have you found work best?

Video:StanfordBusiness – You Tube

Do you agree with Harvard that global people are more creative?

November 23rd, 2014

If you work or study abroad you are likely to be more creative, a better problem solver, start new businesses, be a better manager, get promoted and create new products. Provided that you integrate and adapt to the countries where you live and become bi- or multicultural.

Harvard, global citizen, international people, William W. Maddux, Adam D. Galinsky,  Carmit T. Tadmor , Harvard Busines Review, HBR

Do you agree with the professors that the more exposure you get to different situations, problems, scenarios and cultures the more enhanced and creative your ability to solve problems will be?

Harvard Business Review article

According to research carried out by professors William W. Maddux, Adam D. Galinsky, and Carmit T. Tadmor and published in Harvard Business Review “Be a Better Manager: Live Abroad” (if you end up on an ad just click go to site) people who are international or have more than one nationality benefit from it in many ways.

Bicultural individuals scored higher than monoculturals on the different tests carried out which, as the professors put it, is good for companies. That’s not saying that monocultural people don’t have the qualities tested, merely that being international further develop those qualities in an individual. There are also, in my opinon, other ways for monocultural people that are open minded and curious to broaden their mind, be more flexible and hence increase their creativity. The comments to the HBR article agree or disagree depending on if the person has lived abroad or not.

Conclusions a reflection of future businesspeople

Already today the world is irrevocably one global market. Next generation of businesspeople will prove the professors’ findings correct. Already now young people study and work abroad like never before and are fluent in English at an early age.

Local and regional businesses will increasingly start operating on a global level and bi- or multicultural experience will hence gradually increase.

Propitious timing of HBR article

Thinking out of the box is essential in our integrated world and an ability to approach issues from different global perspectives is becoming increasingly important.

Since I have lived and worked all over the world I’m obviously biased. Have just taken the positive aspects of being international for granted and honestly not given it much thought.

The option of academically testing how exposure to different cultures increase your abilities to look at problems from new and previously alien perspectives never even entered my mind.

The world is gradually becoming one huge country and the timing of the findings published in Harvard Business Review are hence propicious. In the future more and more people will look at the world as their market and be prepared to move to the other side of the globe to get a job. If the professors findings contribute to making more people realise the benefits of becoming global citizens it will be beneficial.

Global experience makes you flexible

Have learnt a multitude from various cultures. The most educational experience was Saudi Arabia. Almost every day something happens that you have never experienced before, positive or negative. And frequently it’s simply a question of adapting or failing. The same actually applies to when I lived in Japan, but to a lesser degree.

It was a positive surprise that research published in Harvard Business Review indicate that being a “global citizen” develop your abilities. That not only international but also local businesses will increasingly benefit from global minds.

Do you agree that the world is irrevocably one global market? Will more people live, work and study abroad in the future? Is it a logical step in our integrated world that people increasingly become global citizens? Are the professors findings that global people develop their abilities in ways that benefit companies correct? Will people with a global frame of mind find it easier to get promoted, start a business or create new products? Does your company, as the professors recommend, have expatriate programs to develop better managers? Or maybe you disagree with the professors’ conclusions that the more exposure you get to different situations, problems, scenarios and cultures the more enhanced and creative your ability to solve problems will be?

Photo: Flickr – World Economic Forum

Are you curious?

November 16th, 2014

If not, you are missing out, at least according to Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur and Stanford consulting associate professor. Devote 1 minute to listening to him explaining the importance of curiosity:

Want to succeed as an entrepreneur? Then you need to have curiosity into industries and issues not even related to what you do. Really be curious and want to know more about everything.

A constant stream of data flowing in is crucial in order to think outside the box. When all is put together by your subconcious you will come up with innovative ideas you would not otherwise have had.


Do you agree that a constant flow of information about everything under the sun enables us to think outside the box?

Curiosity killed the cat?

No that’s not the way it works if you want to develop in life.

How can you grow as a person and/or entrepreneur if you don’t want to know about everything under the sun? Almost all children are curious, but many lose that ability as they grow older. So if you have, maybe it’s time to start asking questions again and find out about new areas and issues to enable your creativity to flow?

Do you agree with Steve Blank that curiosity is an important attribute for entrepreneurs who want to have more eye openers? Do you want to find out and learn on a continouos basis? Are you able to mix all kinds of information and come up with something you wouldn’t otherwise have thought of? Is asking questions your way of finding out how things work and why? Is internet helpful to you? Or are you of the opinion that curiosity killed the cat and that you have enough information? 

Video: Stanforbusiness – You Tube

Do you know how to defuse difficult people?

November 9th, 2014

Neutralising difficult people is crucial not only in business but in all areas of life. Devote 3 minutes to watching Nina Godiwalla, CEO of Mindworks, telling Harvard  how we can change our reaction: 

Nina trains executives and most of them are of the opinion that their biggest challenge is other people’s behavior. Does it sound familiar?

Change your reaction

How you respond to someone’s behavior makes a huge difference. Many times a person initiates a negative message or difficult attitude, just to trigger a response from you. If you react, you actually give them what they want. So stop the cycle of negative snowballing and sell them short on what they’re looking for by simply not responding.

The worst you can do is getting defensive because that'w what they want.

The worst thing you can do is getting defensive because that’s usually what they want.

Don’t get defensive

If you don’t start arguing with someone they usually stop their aggressive behaviour. One way is to just answer with a non-judgmental observation. It’s difficult, I know, because the cause of conflict is the trigger to our emotions and our emotions are what drive us back to our most basic survival instinct i.e. to react and attack back to defend ourselves.

But to counter attack makes it even worse, and is usually what the difficult person wants. So if you answer with an observation the person who attacked you normally backs off. Another way is to ask thoughtful questions to make them aware of what they are doing?

Change poison to nectar

Sometimes it’s possible to completely stun a person trying to pour poison on you. You can do that by complimenting the other person for something or tell them you have learnt from interacting with them. The difficult part about this strategy is to be, or at least appear to be, genuine. It may be difficult to find something positive about the person and you need a poker face to appear genuine.

How do you handle difficult people? Do you get defensive and counter attack? Or have you learnt to change your reaction? Do you realize that frequently difficult people take their own frustrations out on you? Are you able to control your emotions and not respond? Maybe you have even learnt to give them compliments to disarm them? What strategies have enabled you to defuse attackers? 

by Catarina Alexon

Video: Harvard – You Tube

Are you bilingual and have overcome adversity?

November 2nd, 2014

If so, you are likely to be creative, interesting, able to analyse and solve problems.  At least that’s the opinion of Amy Cappellazzo of Christie’s International in New York. Watch a short video of her discussing her strategies for hiring creative people with The Economist: 

Amy Cappellazzo is unusual in the sense that she is adamantly against being monolingual that many of her fellow Americans think is fine because a lot of people speaks English.

She only hires bilingual people and is convinced that speaking any other language, useful for Christie’s or not, forces people to think in different ways and understand other types of jokes, body language and also enhances a persons ability to analyse.

Don’t have an airtight resume if you want to work at Christie’s

If there is not some kind of weak point in a CV she does not trust it.

Do you agree with Amy Cappellazzo that bilingual individuals who have overcome adversity have more potential and are more creative?

Do you agree with Amy Cappellazzo that bilingual individuals who have overcome adversity have more potential and are more creative?

Too perfect a resume, at best, belongs to a person who has been in a padded environment all life and who,  most likely, is not very interesting. That kind of person is not for Christie’s. She prefers a CV that shows that the applicant has driven off the road at some point and managed to get back on track again. That kind of people will be of benefit to Christie’s.

Do you agree with Amy Cappellazzo that bilingual individuals who have overcome adversity have more potential and are more creative? Or do you believe people who have sailed smoothly through life are a better bet? Are you also of the opinon that speaking more than one language makes you better able to understand people and a better analyst? Or do you believe English is enough since plenty of people around the world will, after all, be able to understand you?

Video: The Economist – You Tube

Covert branding works against you

October 26th, 2014

Would you buy a product you cannot see that hasn’t even got a name? Thought not. Still some people believe they can get a following on social media by branding themselves that way.

identity, covert branding, social media, Linkedin, Facebook, branding, covert branding, ghost, transparency,

Would you do business with a ghost? Thought not, and the same applies to the rest of humanity. So leave covert branding behind and start reaping the benefits of social media.

How can you take people seriously when they hide their identity? Obviously you should not post your contact details on social media. But your name and picture are essential if you want to be taken seriously.

A statue cannot sign a contract

Hiding takes away fear and I can understand that to some extent. But what’s the point of using social media if you are afraid of it? And what’s there to be afraid of? Apart from people who, usually for dodgy reasons, are using a fake identity, social media is a wonderful thing that people should embrace and make the most of.

But when you hide behind a photograph of, say a rose, and an alias you give the impression you have something to hide. So if you haven’t, what’s the point in making people suspicious? Chances of getting new customers, a job offer or business proposals are next to none if you are not transparent.

Identity theft doesn’t only take place online

Some people hiding claim they are afraid of identity theft. Seriously that can unfortunately happen even if you have no presence whatsoever online. All it takes is for a letter with your essential details to fall into the wrong hands. And,deplorable as it is, it happens all the time. Both in the real world and online.

Fearful leaders and entrepreneurs

Is it really feasible that so many people priding themselves to be leaders and entrepreneurs are afraid of online identity theft and posting a photograph or name? Seriously they wouldn’t be leaders and entrepreneurs if that was the case. So why are they hiding? Far from all of them are con-men, so why don’t they post their names and photographs?

Linkedin is not Facebook

If you use Facebook to communicate with your friends only, anything goes. But on business networks, such as Linkedin, you have to come across as a serious person. Posting a picture of yourself half naked doesn’t do the trick. Or a picture that makes you look dishonest. Chose a photograph that makes you look business like. It’s not a question of being ugly or beautiful but looking like a person businesspeople would like to be associated with.

Like products without logos

Imagine walking into a supermarket with your shopping list and all the logos and descriptions had disappeared from the products displayed. How would you know what they were? Even a simple thing like buying a can of Coca Cola would be difficult because you wouldn’t know what was in the different cans. And how would you know if you were picking up a bottle of shampoo or body lotion?

Learn from 007

There are covert agents on social media aiming to influence public opinion pro whatever country they are working for. They don’t want to draw negative attention to themselves and I can guarantee you that they all post a name, appropriate photograph and a credible profile. If not, how would they be able to do their job?

Would you do business with a ghost? Exactly, and you are not the only one. The same applies to the rest of humanity. So do yourself a favour by refraining from covert branding and display your photograph and name on social media. When people take you seriously, things can happen out of the blue and the positive aspects of social media will be available to you. Invisible branding works against you so unless you are in a witness protection program, or something similar, be transparent and start reaping the benefits of social media.

Photo: dawnzy58 – Flickr

Actions speak louder than words

October 19th, 2014

A fair idea acted upon is better than a brilliant one never acted upon. The purpose of any business is, simply put, to develop and make money. And how’s that going to happen if you don’t take action? Why do we have a corporate culture where an abundance of reports are written on how things should be done in theory and then –

If you overdo the contemplating part you will never get anywhere.

If you overdo the contemplating part you will never get anywhere.

only sometimes – acted upon?

Or worse acted upon to the detriment of not only the company but society as a whole. A contributing factor to the global banking crisis was academic people without enough experience having theories that unfortunately didn’t work out in reality.

Why complicate things?

Confusius was right when he said that life is really simple but we make it complicated. And writing theoretical reports instead of acting is a very good example of that.

Conditions are never perfect

Sometimes reports are produced to avoid doing something that companies know has to be done, but really want to avoid. The reports then show share holders that they are doing something and become an excuse for not taking action until conditions are perfect. And they never will be. Passive companies are not going to be winners but active ones are. The only thing you will achieve by postponing action is losing time and money.

What happened to common sense?

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes reports are needed to get optimal results. But for the majority of businesses in this world, does it really make sense to spend a lot of money on writing theoretical reports? What happened to common sense? Most things are actually pretty basic. How much money do you need to bring in to make profit? How will you get that kind of revenue? In most cases you don’t need to write a report to determine that. For most businesses a few meetings, discussions and agreement on a plan of action is sufficient. You swiftly notice when things aren’t working out as planned and then you just change tactics. It has actually happened that I have told companies that what they need is not a report on how to do it, but simply act to get more customers and increase sales. You can argue that I should have produced an expensive report instead of being honest, but you don’t keep clients that way. If you make them pay for what they do not need, it’s just a question of how long it takes before you loose them.

Maybe it’s easy for me since I started my career in journalism and know how to get the information I need and then act to get results. And the same applies to business, I find the information I need, adapt it to the situation at hand and then take the appropriate action.

How many reports are acted upon?

Writing reports is a Western phenomena that has unfortunately spread. Don’t know how many times I have heard about conglomerates, for instance in the Middle East, that have hired an academic to write reports. They mostly spend a lot of money on it but the reports conclusions are seldom acted upon. Wouldn’t it have been better to simply take action to improve, for instance, sales, acquiring new customers, developing products and collecting money? Doing that you would also bring in money.

Start-ups that spend months writing detailed analysis on how to best do what they are going to do frequently run out of money and have to close or, worse, go bankrupt.

Have always applied action style leadership to get results. In business I like to surround myself with action-oriented people. Naturally I do contemplate and analyse but my main focus is on action and I do believe that’s where we need to be in this world to achieve something. If you overdo the contemplating part you will never get anywhere. And how long will you be in business then? Every day thousands of good ideas are buried because people are afraid to act upon them. Got a good idea? Then act upon it!

(Photo: cpask Photo Xpress)