Warren Buffet’s Symbolic Leadership

Watch this great advertisement staffed by employees of Geico. Warren Buffet, whose companey fully owns Geico, participates in the ad to demonstrate that he is one the many co-workers. It is funny to see the 80-year-old billionaire impersonate Axl Rose.

The New AGSM MBA (Executive) Strategic Management Year

As the director of the Strategic Management Year, I led of team of faculty to redesign the year-long program. We added many new features (live case studies, book reviews, learning diaries, self-refelection papers, peer coaching, peer evaluations, rewriting of strategy paper) and organized the year around the fundamental problems that a general manager and entrepreneur faces:

1. How do I detect and select business opportunities?
2. How do I develop business opportunities?
3. How do I grow a business?
4. How do I transform a business?

In this short video, I describe the changes that we have made.  Click on “More” to see a more detailed picture overview of all program.

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Apple did not forsee the success of the application store

It is hard to forsee the future as the recent episode with Apple’s application store demonstrates.  The NY Times reports:

The App Store’s success — as much a surprise to Apple as it has been to competitors — has given rise to a new digital ecosystem. Today, hundreds of software aspirants, from individuals tinkering in their bedrooms late at night to established companies looking for lucrative new revenue streams, are jumping into the App Store fray.

When making a decision, managers often make the mistakes of only considering the potential upsides, but not the cost of downsides. Positive surprises don’t kill firms. It is the negative surprises that bring you down. 

Benefits of the Knwoledge Economy

Figure 1 from the ETH Strategy Report: Knowledge is the main engine of economic growth. A strong correlation can be observed between the Knowledge Economy Index (KEI) and GDP per capita. The KEI is calculated by the World Bank and is based on the four pillars of the Knowledge Economy framework: 1. An economic and institutional regime to provide incentives for the efficient use of existing and new knowledge and the flourishing of entrepreneurship; 2. An
educated and skilled population to create, share, and use knowledge well. Click on More to see a powerful picture.

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The Economist on Annoying Bussiness Guru and the Problems with MBA Curricula

The Economist has a wonderful new column called Schumpeter. The October 22 issue revists the shortcomings of management gurus that I highlight in my classes. The Sepember 24 column encourages business schools to teach people to be more sceptical. 

The three habits…of highly irritating management gurus

Business schools have done too little to reform themselves in the light of the credit crunch

 

Phil Tetlock Critically Reviews Three Books on Forecasting the Future

Telock does us the service of giving a close reading of three books that what to overcome the obstacle that Yogi Berra identified in his qib: “Prediction is very hard, especially about the future.”

The Fat Tail: The Power of Political Knowledge for Strategic Investing by Ian Bremmer and Preston Keat.

The Predictioneer’s Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman

Read Telock’s excellent review at National Interest.

Debate: Do Women Make Better Managers

The jury is still out. But read this interesting exchange on NYTimes.com. Rember that just because on average women may be different than men, this does not mean that it is true for the person in front of you.

Susan Pinker: Whether we’re talking about mentoring, managing or office politics, the research is clear: “Men and women together are the best.”

Sharon Meers: Women often take an alternative approach to leading teams — encouraging more open discussion, cultivating talent and sharing credit. Feedback is the place where women bosses may add the most value.

Three Books on the Origins of the Financial Crisis and its Lessons

John Lanchester reviews three books on the origins of the financial crisis and its lessons in the New Yorker.  Two of them are useful for the general reader.

Gillian Tett, “Fool’s Gold” (Free Press)

Richard A. Posner, “A Failure of Capitalism” (Harvard)

I personally personally found Fools Gold the most rewarding of all the books and a higly recommend it to anyone who works in the finance industy or simply wants to understand what caused the recent financial crisis.

Read full review here.

CEO Q&A: Bernie Brooks

Chief executive, Meyer (Australia)

What is your number-one tip for managing people?

You never get in trouble for over-communicating with them.

What is your number-one tip for managing a business?

Give the team more responsibility than they expect and measure everything in the business that can be measured.

A lesson you have never forgotten?

How the mighty have fallen. Some six of the top 10 retailers in 1987 don’t exist today and that is a sign that you can never be complacent in retailing.

Excerpted from BRW, Vol. 31, No. 12, FYI.

GE’ s Jeff Immelt refuses bonus for 2008

Very few executives have taken the step to cut their own bonuses when stockholder make big losses. Reading the national mood and the outcry over Wall Street bonus payments when the bank are bailed out by taxpayers, Jeffrey Immelt demonstrated leadership by refusing a bonus for 2008.

General Electric Co. Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt passed up a $12 million bonus in 2008, a year that saw company’s stock price slide 56% amid a global economic crisis and declining profits at GE. “Earnings came in below where we expected,” Mr. Immelt wrote in a note Wednesday, citing declining equity markets and a sliding GE stock price in 2008. “In these circumstances, I recommend to GE’s Board of Directors that I would not receive a bonus in 2008.” He also said he declined a special three-year cash payout that goes to senior executives and which the board’s compensation committee said he earned.

Radical Rethinking of Cash Management

The Economist summarizes the profound implications of the financial crisis for the management of cash in firms.

SELDOM has corporate strategy been turned on its head so quickly. Barely a year ago, cash was a dangerous thing to accumulate: activist investors stalked companies, urging boards to return it to investors, to pay special dividends or to buy back shares. Ever since the 1980s the fashion had been to make companies as lean as possible, outsourcing all but your core competencies, expanding your just-in-time supplier system around the globe, loading up with debt to “leverage” your balance-sheet. Old-style defensive conglomerates, such as Arnold Weinstock’s General Electric Company, were dismantled. Companies that hoarded cash—even ones as good as Toyota and Microsoft—were viewed with suspicion.

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Short History of Modern Finance

In it’s appraisal about the current state of capitalism (Capitalism at Bay) the Economists gives a useful summary of want went wrong.
Without doubt, modern finance has been found seriously wanting. Some banks seemed to assume that markets would be constantly liquid. Risky behaviour garnered huge rewards; caution was punished. Even the best bankers took crazy risks. For instance, by the end of last year Goldman Sachs, by no means the most daring, had $1 trillion of assets teetering atop $43 billion of equity. Lack of regulation encouraged this gambling (see article). Financial innovation in derivatives soared ahead of the rule-setters. Somehow the world ended up with $62 trillion-worth of credit-default swaps (CDSs), none of them traded on exchanges. Not even the most liberal libertarian could imagine that was sensible.

Read the Short History of Modern Finance courtesy of Economist.com

THE RECKONING: As Credit Crisis Spiraled, Alarm Led to Action

Background:The NY Times reports on the what triggered Paulson and Bernacke to seek an immediate 700 billion fund to prevent the American markets from collapsing. Read full story on NYTimes.com.

Risk will always equal potential reward

Greed, as it periodically does when traders and bankers forget the lessons of the past, clouded judgments. Some very smart people talked themselves into believing in the repeal of one of the fundamental laws of economics: risk will always equal potential reward. The idea that risk can be eliminated and high yields guaranteed is as idiotic as the idea that gravity can be suspended. Remember Long-Term Capital Management? Ten years ago it figured out how to eliminate risk using highly sophisticated computer programs and rolled up annual returns averaging 40 percent — until it collapsed in a heap.

Read more by John Steele Gordon on the Financial Mess: Greed, Stupidity, Delusion — and Some More Greed here.

The F.A.Q.?s of Lehman and A.I.G.

Doug Diamond and Anil Kashyap of the University of Chicago explain the recent financial crisis.

For most of the last 20 years we have been studying banks, monetary policy, and financial crises. So for us the events of the last year have been especially fascinating.The last 10 days have been the most remarkable period of government intervention into the financial system since the Great Depression. In talking with reporters and our noneconomist friends, we have been besieged with questions about several aspects of these events. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions with our best answers.
Read more on NYTimes.com

Management Wisdom Courtesy of Jeff Pfefer

Jeff Pfeffer has spent the past twenty years figuring out what management ideas have some systematic data behind them and what ideas are make for a good story but are simply wrong. Guy Kawasaki (who wrote a fantastic little book on entreprepreurship, The Art of the Start, which I am using in one of my classes) has sat down with Pfeffer and asked him questions on his book What were they thinking?. Read the interview.

What Don Quixote Can Teach Managers and Entrepreneurs

Miguel de Cervantes. 2003. Don Quixote. HarperCollins Publishers, New York. Translated by Edith Grossman.

When I first encountered Don Quixote, I thought that a manager or entrepreneur could not possibly learn anything from this lunatic Spaniard. But on reflection I realized that Don Quixote provides some valuable insights into leadership and the challenge of dealing emotionally with the uncertainties inherent in any new venture. Let me briefly summarize the book:

 

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Taming Your Inner Homer Simpson

My Kellogg students will remember that I asked them to rate their intelligence vis-a-vis the average member of the class. I routinely had 75 percent of all student who rate themselves above average. That is 25% too many. A colleague of mine warned me that 90% academics feel undervalued by their institution. But until now I read Dahlia Lithwick review of Richard Thaler’s and new book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness I did not know that 94 percent of professors at large universities to believe themselves better than the “average professor.” Read Lithwick excellent review of the book.

The Latest Reasoning about our Irrational Ways

Elizabeth Kolbert reviews in the New Yorker the latest on findings on how people behave in irrational ways when making economic decisions.  Read her Reviews of two new books.
“Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions” (Harper; $25.95); by Ariely, Dan;
“Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” (Yale; $25); by Thaler, Richard H.

Irrational fear: No good at risk

The Economists reviews of “Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear” by Dan Gardner
THE official death toll from the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001 was 2,974. But in 2002 America’s death toll on the roads grew by more than 1,500—casualties of the terrorism-inspired exodus from safe aeroplanes to dangerous motor cars. A swan washes up on a British shore, dead from bird flu, and the press panics, while the 3,000 people who die every year on the country’s roads (13 times the number of people who have ever died from bird flu) go largely unremarked. Human beings are notoriously bad at dealing with risk. Two new books explore why, and investigate the effects that misunderstanding risks can have on public policy. The first, an excellent work by a Canadian writer, Dan Gardner, is a broad meditation on the nature of risk, beginning with a psychological explanation for why people find it so difficult to cope. Mr Gardner analyses everything from the media’s predilection for irrational scare stories to the cynical use of fear by politicians pushing a particular agenda.

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