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Archive for December, 2007

There are a number of articles with this time of year that rank scientific accomplishments.  I guess there still is more to learn.  Here’s a link to one in Wired Magazine.  I especially like the chimps that make spears.

http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2007/12/YE_10_breakthroughs

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You read a lot of criticism of big busines such as Big Oil, Big Pharma and now Big Mac.  A lot of the historical anti-big business comes out of the early 1900s when there was a small number of big businesses and an equally small number of captains of industry.

That world has changed dramatically in a hundred years.  The biggest change comes from the sheer numbers of these businesses.  First, if you look at the top 100 companies only a small handful existed a hundred years ago.  In fact their entire industries didn’t exist.  Even companies like GE look nothing like they did.  Their largest business unit is financial services and not manufacturing.

In something like pharaceuticals, you have hundreds of highly competitive companies that often have very little in common.  Instead of conspiring in a big kabal, they are more likely trying ways to take market share from each other.

There is also a tremendous amount of transparancy in the companies because they are publicly traded and often owned by large money funds.  At the bottom line what these companies really care about is a stable set of rules to play by. 

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Corporate culture can have a lot to do with who you want to work for and who you want to buy from.  Think about the difference between shopping at Walmart, Costco, Target or even Nordstroms.  They even feel and sound different when you walk in.  I don’t want to talk here about which is better but to point out that they are obviously very different.  The same is true between cars companies, plastic manufacturers and even universities. 

So what makes them so different?  I think there are a number of dimensions but here are just a few. 

  1. Leadership – does the company have strong visionary leadership or is it more of a competency, technocrat leadership? 
  2. Risk Taking and Change – does the company reward and encourage risk taking or punish it?
  3. Work Styles – is this a competitive, cooperative or collaborative environment?  Do you work in teams or alone?
  4. Results – is performance measured and rewarded or not measured at all?
  5. Norms and Work Rules – What are the companies formal and informal work rules, and how are the followed?
  6. History – Where is the company located or founded?  What are the values of the community?
  7. Decision-Making – How are decision made, who is involved?
  8. Ideosyncracies – What are the odd and unusual traditions and rituals in this organization? All companies have a few.
  9. Motivations of Leadership Team – The top leadership is driven by a lot of different things.  It’s not just all money and profit. 

I’m sure there are more.  It’s a little like a personality test.  Every time you read articles that seem to lump all business together or words like Big Oil or Big Pharma, take them with a grain of salt.  Each of this companies is very different.  People aren’t robots and neither are companies.

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I’ve corresponded for serveral years with Dr. Carl Binder partly because I like to know if it’s raining in Seattle and partly because of his expertise in the training and performance improvement world.

 He does a great workshop on how to build fluency that is really a key component of learning that most people leave out.  Think about fluency as the speed and ease by which you can do something.  Can you answer a series of math questions given enough time to work them out or can you respond in a rapid fire way with confidence? 

In the second case, you really have to know things a lot better.  You have reached a state of performance where everything is natural and easy.  I think I’ve posted before that someone who gets 700 on their SATs in half the time is actually more knowledgeable and fluent than someone who takes the entire time.  This is not a difference in style but a difference in fluency.

So how do you add fluency to learning or education?  You have to set up practice sessions that contain timed activities.  Not just once but many times.  You can go to Carl’s website http://www.binder-riha.com to get lots of good ideas.

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One of the most important skills you can learn in life is how to sell.  It’s part of everything you do in your personal and business life.  It’s really all about how do you get other people excited about your ideas and getting them to agree with you.

 Unfortunately, there is a strong bias in educations and schools against selling.  So it doesn’t happen.  In fact, selling gets loaded up with a lot of negative connotations.  It’s really a disservice to kids.

Learning to sell is really about how to build rapport and connect with others, how to listen and ask great questions, how to present ideas and concepts in a way that persuades, and how to reach agreement and concensus.  Is this as important as learning to read?  Is it as important as memorizing the date of the Norman Conquest?

One of the key things about learning to sell is that it takes lots and lots of practice.  Getting started early is a big help.

So for all of you who have a chance to do something different than traditional school, I suggest adding sales to the curriculum.

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This is a great video.  Ignore the guy singing about 1/3 the way through it goes on to better stuff.  It presents the greatest picture every taken.  It’s what the hubble telescope sees when it looks into blank space. 

It shows the first real proof of what deep, deep, deep space looks like billions of light years away. 

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I’ve worked in more than a hundred different companies and they all do seem to have a unique “corporate culture.”  Actually it’s more like a corporate personality which is a hard thing to change.  There are rules, norms and values driven from the top but there are also a lot of informal things that connect people. 

 It’s interesting to see how a company like GE has created a change culture that is embedded in just about everything they do.  I was facinated about how DuPont carried over a saftey culture from the early 1800s.  And I liked how Disney approached everything as a stage show. 

I’d be interested in your stories about corporate culture.

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