Posts Tagged ‘Harvard’

Are successful leaders lucky?

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

The Warren Buffetts and Bill Gates of this world are often described as just lucky. But is that really the secret behind their success?Watch Morten Hansen, management professor at UC Berkeley and Insead, describe the charachteristics of leaders that make their organisations thrive in times of chaos and uncertainty:

Hansen studied high performing leaders and what he found goes against what we commonly believe about successful leadership.

Bold & visionary leaders a thing of the past?

That’s the case according to Hansen. He brings up people like Bill Gates as prime examples of great leaders. Apparently Gates had no vision at all, in fact he was often wrong in his predictions.

Outstanding leaders instead create a future for their empirical trials. If the trials work out according to plan, they invest in the new idea. In other words, leadership is not about big bets but safe bets. Buffett is a prime example of such a leader which has led to an abundance of investors making fun of him and saying he had lost it.

We all have good & bad luck

Good and bad events happen to all people and in all organisations. They are out of your control and not expected. Good or bad luck is another way of describing it.

When comparing companies that are successful with companies that are not, Hansen’s study found that they had more or less the same amount of good and bad luck happening to them. So he concluded that success had nothing to do with luck.

Did luck make Warren Buffett a billionaire?

Did luck really make Warren Buffett a billionaire?

If not luck, then what?

What the study found was that the well performing leaders and companies had a higher return on the good luck they got because they seized the moment.

So how do you get higher return?

Successful leaders are prepared for bad luck, i.e. make sure that if worst comes to worst they know what to do.

They are prepared to seize the moment when good luck strikes. Bill Gates is a good example of that when he was still at Harvard but realised he couldn’t finish his studies because he had to seize the moment when it came to personal computers.

And the third point is to execute brilliantly when you have good luck. That’s how you get a higher return on luck.

Do you agree with Morten Hansen that luck has nothing to do with success? Are we great by choice? Should we, like Bill Gates, have nightmare memos to be prepared for the worst that can happen? Are you one hundred percent committed and focused on succeeding with what you are doing? Are you creative in an empirical way i.e. don’t make one big investment into a new area but spend years trying out a new concept and only when it shows that it’s a great idea do you take the risk of moving into that area. Do you seize the moment when good luck strikes? If so, according to Morten Hanson you are a great leader and not an average one.

Video: HarvardBusiness – You Tube – Photo: Aaron Friedman

Do you drive leadership through ambidexterity?

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Get the flexibility to take initiatives, innovate at all levels and at the same time thrive at what you are already good at. Sounds too good to be true? Bruce Harreld, Faculty Chair at Harvard is all for that way of operating. He will tell you why in this really short video:

Simply put it’s not enough to look at what you are already good at and ignore potential new areas. Ambidextrous individuals hence drive leadership and take initiatives beyond the confines of their job.

When companies are ambidextrous they are able to adapt to new opportunities and at the same time have alignment around their existing activities. And, this is crucial, they allow leadership to emerge from all levels in the organisation.

Common sense – but frequently ignored

The economic crisis has had a positive impact on ambidexterity. More companies, and people, understand that they have to think outside the box. Just throwing resources at problems is being replaced by a leaner more staged way of problem solving. Lack of resources actually increase creativity and people become more innovative. Provided they are allow to.

Ambidextrous people drive new initiatives

Some scholars as well as practitioners argue that many established companies simply lack the flexibility to explore new territories. And that’s where having ambidexterity come in.

Have never understood why, but companies, and people for that matter, get so stuck in their ways they don’t see the wood for the trees. Thinking outside the box is essential and it’s interesting to note that a top university like Harvard feel there is a need to give courses in how to do so. If you are an innovative person that will not be necessary, but there is obviously a demand from people who need to broaden their horizons. Harvard’s target group for the course may actually be leaders that cannot delegate? Having spent too long in a hierarchical system such leaders probably find it hard to accept leadership driven from all levels in the organisation?

Are you ambidextrous? Do you agree with Bruce Herrald, and me, that it’s propitious to have ambidextrous strategies? Is ambidexterity the way you and your organisation develop? Have you found that lack of resources makes you more creative? Does it give you flexibility and make you look into new areas you would otherwise have overlooked? Are ambidextrous people and organisations smarter? If you haven’t already, are you building an ambidextrous organisation that allows for initiatives, stimulate individuals to stretch themselves and drive leadership? Or maybe you are turning yourself into an ambidextrous person by driving new initiatives as well as your existing activities? Do you agree that in an increasingly global market ambidexterity is the way forward?

Video: HBSExecEd – YouTube

How do you respond to risks?

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

The majority of people either panic or ignore the possibility that a crisis is developing. But that needs to change, unless we want doomsday scenarios to manifest in the future. Watch this really interesting short video with David J. Ellwood, Dean of Harvard Kennedy School of Government, talking to The World Economic Forum about redesigning risk response:

Why do we see a crisis coming, sometimes even have the solution, but as human beings, or nations, seem unable to do anything about it? Why don’t we act but opt for worrying or ignoring the issues? By doing so, these crises could develop into catastrophes.

One reason is that we are short-sighted and blame others. Another is how businesses react if they know that they will be asked to make a sacrifice to sort out the problem. They then  swiftly come up with statements such as “science isn’t very clear..” Recognize it?

But sometimes we act in time and solve problems. The hole in the ozone layer is an example.  The picture of the hole made the problem visible and US multinational DuPont came up with an incentive to work with governments and NGOs to find solutions.

How do you create leaders that respond to risks by finding solutions?

Leaders have to react in time and be able to ignore their aversion to acknowledging danger.

A lot of young people all over the world are keen to step up to the plate. But it’s expensive to learn and they don’t earn very much once they have graduated. So we need to find ways to make it worth their while.

They need to know about incentives, markets, risks and politics. And not to forget, public management. So, apart from studying, they also need to get out and deal with real problems. An understanding of the economics and politics of different issues facing us is crucial. Ellwood put it the following way, “The frontiers of education gives us the opportunity to get to the frontier of the acting in time problem”, and added, “if we can train both existing leaders and people who aspire to become leaders to take on the really hard future challenges with the tools to do so, we can meet and avoid the future crises we see coming but are not acting upon today”.

Is Ellwood right that we need to develop a new kind of leader that knows how to respond? Do you agree that panicking or ignoring crises have to stop? That leaders need to learn to deal with the problems we know we will face? Is it time to start thinking long-term and stop closing our eyes to what will develop into a crisis if we ignore it? 

Video: World Economic Forum – You Tube

Are you a disruptive innovator?

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

If you are a start-up challenging an industry giant, that’s the way to succeed. Watch this short video outlining Harvard Professor Clay Christensen’s landmark theory:

The video speaks for itself. Or as one commenter put it: “Fantastic HBR explanation on the strategies that small companies use to disrupt larger companies. For large companies to fight back, they need to treat new initiatives as mini start-ups.”

Do you ask yourself what jobs customers need done? Are you segmenting customers by what they want done and not by size, products or demographics? Have you thought about developing basic low-cost solutions?  Do you agree with Professor Christensen that disruptive innovation create new markets and re-shape existing ones? Is this the best way to create growth for a start-up with giant competitors?

Video: Harvard Business Review – You Tube

How do you make your strategy succeed?

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Complicated strategies often fail. Watch this short video with Donald Sull, London Business School professor, telling Harvard how by asking three questions you can break down complex strategies into simple steps that make a difference:

Strategies are important. But sometimes even great strategies have absolutely no impact on an organisation. And unfortunately the problem is often the strategy itself. It’s too complicated and has to be simplified.

Can you remember the strategy?

If not, how can it make a difference? To be remembered a strategy has to be understood. And for that to happen, it has to be simple. Any strategy that’s too complicated to execute will fail. So how can you distill a thick and complicated strategy document down to its simple essence to be understood, remembered and acted upon?

First it’s important to note that Sull’s definition of strategy is how firms create, capture and sustain economic value i.e. what the customer is willing to pay and the cost of producing your product/service.

So how do you significantly increase how much customers are willing to pay?  Or cut costs? “In most organisations it’s just a couple of things that have an impact on those two aspects”, says Donald Sull.

Donald Sull’s three questions 

  • What are your company’s key drivers?
  • What are your critical challenges?
  • Have you identified your must-win battles?

Just focus on the main issues since if you create a laundry list simplicity will go out the window. And do look at both internal and external drivers, challenges and must-win battles.

If as a management team you can take your complicated strategy and simplify it by focusing on value creation, critical challenges and must win battles you will, according to Donald Sull, bridge the gap between strategic insight and effective execution.

Do you agree with Donald Sull that simplifying your strategies make them more effective? Are you also of the opinion that complicated strategies don’t work? Do you agree with him that by asking the three questions he outlines a company is able to come up with a strategy that works? How do you simplify your strategies? Or, to put it in another way, how do you create strategies that work? Maybe complicated strategies have worked for you?

Video: Harvard Business Review – You Tube

What makes you follow a leader?

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

Lately we have witnessed some terrible leadership. Can’t help wondering why some of the worst leaders get followers? Maybe Gareth Jones, London Business School fellow, has the answer? Watch this short Harvard video with him outlining what gives leaders loyal followers:

The current lack of fait in leaders is lamentable. Gareth Jones is absolutely right when he states that “if we lose faith in our political and economic institutions, we are in deep trouble”, and adds that we need great performance from our leaders.

Effective leadership excite people to exceptional performance

His definition applies not only to businesses, but politics, schools, hospitals and all other areas of life.

Leadership has been studied for about 150 years, and according to Gareth Jones, mainly asked the wrong questions. It’s hence presumed that people who make it to the top are leaders.

So one thousand people were asked what they want from a leader alternatively what do the people they aspire to lead want from them as leaders. The result was the following four aspects:

  • Community
  • Authenticity – a real person they can trust
  • Significance – that their leader appreciates the contribution they make
  • Excitement

In other words, an effective leader should be an authentic, skillful role performer with the capacity to transform organisations and enrich lives. That kind of leader get followers, according to the study.

Do you agree with the result that community, authenticity, significance and excitement is what makes you follow a leader? If you are a leader, are those characteristics what makes people follow you? Or do you disagree with the results of the study? Are you of the opinion that we need to restore trust in leaders and leadership? Would it make a difference if they displayed the characteristics outlined? Or maybe you have a different opinion of what makes people follow a leader? And how would you restore trust in leaders?

Video: Harvard Business Review – You Tube

What’s your strategy?

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

Before you answer the question, you may benefit from watching  “What is Strategy?”, a two minute video with Harvard professor Michael Porter:

Interesting video, isn’t it. After watching it, can you now  distinguish between operational effectiveness and strategy? You can read more on Michael Parter’s view on the subject in Harvard Business Review’s article “What is strategy?”

Do you agree with Professor Porter that competitive strategy is “about doing things your way”? About differentiating yourself to the customer, adding value that makes you distinguishable from your competitors? To simplify it, do you agree with him that strategy is both plan and position? Or would you simply define strategy as a method worked out in advance for achieving some objective? Now it’s time to answer the question posed in the headline, what’s your strategy? By the way, did you know that strategy is a concept that has been borrowed from the military? 

Video: Amir Mohtasebi – You Tube

Do you like Harvard’s new approach to leadership?

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Leadership in the 21st century has changed. In less than a minute Bill George, Faculty Chair, Authentic Leadership Development at Harvard tells you how:

What Bill George has to say speaks for itself. He is very clear on how he and his faculty at Harvard believe leadership is currently changing.

Do you agree that leadership has changed the way he describes it? Or does it only apply to the Western world? If so, how long will it take before developing countries follow suit? Maybe it doesn’t always apply to the West either? Do most leaders in the West lead the way Bill George outlines? Are the number of leaders applying the new approach to leadership increasing? Has demand and control been abolished from leadership? Or should it? Is team work now more important all over the world? Or on the increase? Is looking at the long term instead of short term results becoming the norm? Has the recent financial crisis been a wake up call that is changing how leadership is done? Or are you of the opinion that leadership will always focus on demand and control and maximizing dividends to shareholders at the expense of a sustainable long term focus?

Video: HBSExecEd - You Tube

Do you thrive in the social era?

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Are you, or want to be, a game changer? Do you use the power of your ideas and connections to grow and change? Watch Nilofer Merchant, strategist and author,” in one minute tell Harvard how the way we do business is changing:

We don’t  create value on our own but when we connect with other entities, people and ideas. People who master  networking will be thriving in the social era.

The power of networks

How many networks do you belong to on and offline? Admittedly far from all networks are useful. They have to consist of people with shared interests and goals in order to produce returns and serve our needs.

Unfortunately there are plenty of networks consisting of individuals who just talk and seem to be stuck on the same treadmill forever. Such networks, needless to say, will not produce results. When it comes to networking, action definitely speaks louder than words.

Connected individuals taking over from institutions

It’s almost strange, isn’t it, that power today more and more comes from individuals connected in some way at the expense of institutions. Personally believe that’s a wonderful development.  And it gets even better because because we can create value by connecting to individuals who are not working in our company. We can, for instance, hire a consultant at the other side of the world who can carry out work for us without leaving his/her home.

Let your customers have their say

Making your customers part of your innovation process is a wonderful aspect of the social era.  How do you connect with your customers?

It’s also interesting that it’s mainly our values and goals that unite us in the social era. Not a company or product. It allows us to organise companies to be more fluid, work faster and increase their market share.

Isn’t it time to stop thinking in old ways and adapt to our new reality – the social era? We don’t need to work out of an office anymore. Maybe it’s time to to re-define what an organisation looks like and how it is structured? More and more individuals have their own company and successfully cooperate with other business owners as if they were one organisation. Do you agree that the amount of business owners working together along those lines will continue to increase? Are you operating that way? If so, what are your experiences? 

Video: HarvardBusiness

Should women be as ambitious as men?

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Leon Panetta just became a hero to American women by announcing that the U.S. ban on women in combat positions will be lifted. It’s hence an interesting  moment to look at gender equality in business. In this short video Tory Burch talks about how women entrepreneurs should find their passion and be just as ambitious as men:

Let’s hope it doesn’t take too long for the Pentagon to live up to Panetta’s promise. For about half a century women and men have been equal by law in Sweden. But inequality between the sexes is still so bad the government is of the opinion that to achieve equality in the business world it will be essential to legislate.

Out of 100 start-ups in Sweden only 23 are started by women and they are less likely to get financing than a company started by a man. So much for me telling my Saudi girl friends that in Sweden we are equal.

Davos: Women are important to the world economy

In Davos this year the World Economic Forum, for the first time, had a discussion on getting more women into economic decision making.  Prominent women such as Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust, European Commissioner Viviane Reding, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and Saudi business leader Lubna Olayan took part. They discussed how the gender gap at the highest levels of business can be closed.

Their conclusion was that ambitious women are often regarded as aggressive. The Harvard president pointed out that’s because women are judged according to the stereotypes we grow up with. It was also said on the panel that successful women are frequently disliked by both men and women. Why? According to them it’s again all to do with  the stereotype of a woman. It’s hence essential that we move away from such old fashioned stereotypes.

Lubna Olayan pointed out that King Abdullah has now appointed women to 20 percent of the seats in the shura council. (that’s as close to a parliament they get in Saudi Arabia). Immediately the objection was that the women were not qualified but appointed just because they are women. Their CV’s were published and that clearly showed that they were indeed qualified, not only highly educated but experienced as well.

We need more female business owners

Tory Burch who you watched in the video, started her company in 2004 and nine years later her clothes are sold in more than 800 stores all over the world.

She also leads the Tory Burch Foundation that offer mentorship and provide micro loans to women entrepreneurs. Her advice to female entrepreneurs is “don’t give up. There are so many times it seems insurmountable but keep the hard work going. It’s worth it and you and your hard work can make a difference”.

There is a need to make more woman start up their own companies and succeed. And get more women to sit on boards. Tory is not alone in having a foundation that makes a contribution in this respect. There are an abundance of such programs and with the European Union making it clear they want  to get more women into high level business it makes sense.

In the World Economic Forum panel discussion, Viviane Reding talked about how the EU first tried to persuade companies to get 40% women in leadership positions on a voluntary basis. Nothing happened. The EU hence legislated to get talented, educated women into top positions in companies. The law is intended to allow women to make a breakthrough into business, taking into account that 65% of university graduates in Europe are women. The first year saw 3% more women in senior positions in corporate Europe.

Do you believe it’s a good thing that Leon Panetta has lifted the ban on women in combat? Is it a good idea to close the gender gap at the highest levels of business? Should women be as ambitious as men not only in the military but in business as well? Do we need more female business leaders and entrepreneurs? Is it fair that successful women are regarded as aggressive? Would it be a good idea to have more qualified women on corporate boards? Should there be equality between the sexes when it comes to getting funding for a start-up? Has the time come for women to be proud of their accomplishments and be treated as equals in the corporate world? 

Video: stanfordbusiness