Introducing the Meeting Meter?

Are you participating in too many meetings? Are these meetings too long? Time is money and group time costs much more money than the time of a single person. With the Meeting Meter™ you can develop an agenda and calculate the true cost of meetings while they take place. The Meeting Meter™ is a simple tool for creating more effective meetings.

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You can download the Meeting Meter™ for free.

What CEOs are Reading

The common perception is that CEOs are reading the latest popular management books to help them with their difficult job. An article in the New York Times suggests otherwise. I am not sure if the CEOs that Harriet Rubin portrays in here article are representative of all CEOs and I think the title of the article “C.E.O. Libraries Reveal Keys to Success” is an overstatement, but any manager should read what she has to say. 

Harriet Rubin: Michael Moritz, the venture capitalist who built a personal $1.5 billion fortune discovering the likes of Google, YouTube, Yahoo and PayPal, and taking them public, may seem preternaturally in tune with new media. But it is the imprint of old media — books by the thousands sprawling through his Bay Area house — that occupies his mind. “My wife calls me the Imelda Marcos of books,” Mr. Moritz said in an interview. “As soon as a book enters our home it is guaranteed a permanent place in our lives. Because I have never been able to part with even one, they have gradually accumulated like sediment.” Serious leaders who are serious readers build personal libraries dedicated to how to think, not how to compete. Ken Lopez, a bookseller in Hadley, Mass., says it is impossible to put together a serious library on almost any subject for less than several hundred thousand dollars. Perhaps that is why — more than their sex lives or bank accounts — chief executives keep their libraries private.

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New School of Strategy & Entrepreneurship launched in Sydney

The UNSW Academic Board has approved the creation of a new School of Strategy and Entrepreneurship within the Faculty of Business (incorporating AGSM) to continue AGSM’s general management teaching and research. To be headed by Associate Professor Peter Murmann, the new school will focus on innovation and entrepreneurship as a subject within general business. Welcoming the move, Professor Alec Cameron, Dean of UNSW’s Faculty of Business (incorporating AGSM), said the new schools’ vision was to be recognised as Australia’s leading cluster of scholarship in the area of strategy and entrepreneurship research, teaching and executive development. “After the integration of AGSM and the Faculty of Commerce and Economics there were several existing schools but none was dedicated to general management and strategy,” said Professor Cameron. “So as part of the integration the idea was to create a separate school, and to include entrepreneurship to highlight the fact that the concerns of the general manager and the entrepreneur were both being addressed and people were being prepared for these roles.”

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The Global Climate Crisis

The website for An Inconvenient Truth provides the basics facts about the science of climate change.  Watch the trailer for film.

Give the DVD to your friends this holiday season.

Commissioned by the British government, the economist Stern published on October 30th his study evaluating the economic consequences of global warming. He writes: “The scientific evidence is now overwhelming: climate change presents very serious global risks, and it demands an urgent global response (p. i) ...There is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change if strong collective action starts now.” (p. xxvii) You can download a summary of his review here. If you don’t have time to read the 27 page summary of the 600 page report, here is a short review of its conclusions in the New Yorker.

Reflections On “The Long Tail” - Give me Good Data!

A few days ago, I came across a very positive review of The Long Tail, a new book by Wired Maganize writer Chris Anderson. The book’s main thesis is that “the future of commerce and culture isn’t in hits, the high-volume head of a traditional demand curve, but in what used to be regarded as misses - the endlessly long tail of that same curve.” The books purports to show that the 80/20 rule (most sales derive from a few products) does not apply any more with internet retailing because internet retaling can stock many more items. This morning Lee Gomez in his Wall Street Journal column trashed Anderson’s analysis, claiming that Anderson’s data was flawed. (You can read the Gomez colum “Long Tail’ May Not Wag the Web Just Yet”  on WSJ.com or through your library’s article database.) Anderson in turn claims that Gomez did not get the data right and wrote a facinating rebutall on his website. What this exchange underlines is that getting good data and working meticulously to draw the correct conclusion often is worth a “fortune” for managers. More broadly, before you adopt a new fashionable business idea, ask yourself what data supports that the idea in fact is going to work. With more data you might have realized that the idea hurts as often as it helps.

The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management

One of the things that made Peter Drucker such a superb writer on management was his intense and wide ranging curiosity about everything in the world and his keen eye for the essential aspects of reality. Unlike many other people who paid with their life for not wanting to see reality, Drucker, for example, extrapolated from what Hitler had said in the years before becoming Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and left for England the moment Hitler rose to power. Drucker died a few days ago at age 95, but many of his insights are as valid as ever. Drucker’s writings have been edited into one book a few years ago, which is available electronically on Kindle. The value of the book lies not so much in giving concrete instructions about what you should do as a manger but in making you think about your own situation. Here are some of the key insights, the foremost being that management is about human beings.

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Even the Best Cannot Predict the Future

It is very useful to recognize that the social world is too complex to predict well what will succeed and what will fail. Those who think they know with great certainty what will succeed run the danger of overinvesting in their pet scenarios. What is the lesson? Just like with stocks, we should always have a portfolio of beliefs about the future, reducing the risk of getting stuck with the wrong scenarios.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
—Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.”
    —Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.”
    —The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

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Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance: Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround

In the early 1990s, IBM was in danger of going bankrupt. Loius Gerstner was called in to turn the company around.  Anyone who is trying to change a formerly successful orgazation will benefit from reading Gerstner’s thoughts on change management. Beware: the book starts out slow, turning off many readers. But after the first 20 pages, Gerstner’s training as an organizational consultant provides him the analytic language to lay out what are the key challenges in changing large organizations. Because he was an outsider at IBM, he has no reservations to analyze how IBM got itself into a near death experience.  I highly recommend this book.

The Freedom Tower Case: Why is group decision making not better individual decisions

Individual human beings have limited skills, knowledge,  and expertise can get carried away by emotions when making decisions. One would think that involving multiple people in a decision could overcome the limitations of individual decision making but social psycholgoists have long known that groups have their own limitations. The New York Times published a pertinent article on how a comittee came up with the redesigned Freedom Tower that architectual critics find dissappointing given the grandeur of the originial proposal.

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Five Tips for Strategies for Organizational Change courtesy of Motorola’s New CEO

Tip 1: Don’t go too fast. Recognize it can take several years to build a high-performance company.

Tip 2: Get back to putting the customer first. As simple as that sounds, companies take it for granted.

Tip 3: Don’t let your sales force take no for an answer. They should tell clients: ‘Talk to my boss because I am not authorized to lose this deal.’

Tip 4: Whack yourself before somebody wacks you.

Tip 5: Beware of ‘clogged arteries’ in corporations—like too many vice presidents.
The full articles can be read at WSJ.com

Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy

Rarely have I seen such a powerful documentary about how ideas shape the world. The film traces the ideas that shaped macro-economic policy making over the course of the 20th century. The film will be eye-opening for people who know very little how economic policy powerfully effects the welfare of societies all over the world. Even if you are a scholar familiar with the history of the 20 century, you will enjoy this fantastic piece of work. One word of clarification. Sophisticated scholars who believe in “free” markets believe in a need for laws. (The film originally aired on PBS and is now available on DVD.)

What Companies do to Make Life Easier for Their Employees

The WSJ in today’s report on leadership published an interesting article on what kind of perks companies provide to boost the morale of people and to make work life easier. “Fun perks didn’t end with the dot-com bust. They just changed,” reports Jennifer Saranow.

Read the full article on WSJ.com.

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Four More Years of Happiness

Harvard pychology professor Daniel Gilbert predicts that most democrats will not be depressed during the next four years of George Bush. Here is the rationale that he offers in today’s New York Times: Research suggests that human beings have a remarkable ability to manufacture happiness. For example, when people in experiments are randomly awarded one of two equally valuable prizes, they quickly come to believe that the prize they won was more valuable than the prize they lost. They are often so surprised by their apparent good fortune that they refuse to believe the prize was awarded randomly, and they are generally unwilling to swap their prizes even when the experimenter offers to sweeten the deal with a little extra cash.

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Malcom Gladwell’s Book “Blink” is out!

In my introductory management class I discuss the how cognitive heuristics (rules of thump) help us navigate our complex daily lives and make decisions before it is too late. Malcom Glawell new book describes this quick decision-making capability with many examples. I will review the book during the next couple of months, but in the meantime you can read excerpts from the book on Gladwell’s website.  David Brooks has written a very thoughtful review of the book in the New York Times that you can read here.

Gladwell and Surowiecki Debate How Good Decisions are made

Galdwell and Surowiecki have a new books coming out concerned with good decision making. I am presently reading Surowieki’s The Wisdom of Crowds and have Blink on my reading list. You can read a debate they both had about their books in Slate

Experience Gestalt Pictures

My former student John Tsau forwarded me some other examples of pictures that can be seen in different ways. What we can see is to a large extent conditioned what we expect to see in the world in the first place…

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The Tipping Point

Defining that precise moment when a trend becomes a trend, Malcolm Gladwell probes the surface of everyday occurrences to reveal some surprising dynamics behind explosive social changes. He examines the power of word-of-mouth and explores how very small changes can directly affect popularity. Perceptive and imaginative, The Tipping Point is a groundbreaking book destined to overturn conventional thinking in business, sociological, and policy-making arenas.

Overall judgement: This is a superb book and should be read by every student of the social world.

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