Posts Tagged ‘organizational culture’

Culture, Irrationality, Arnie and Guan. Boom.

April 12, 2013
  • Company culture is huge. From my time as a military officer to production manager and consultant, I have always taken a keen interest in the type of culture that exists wherever I go. McKinsey has an excellent take on the ‘givers and takers’ of company culture. A ‘giver’ culture is one where employees freely help each other as opposed to being pitted against one another. In this particular study, this factor was the greatest single predictor of success for various intelligence units. From my own experience and using a bit of logic, I believe that where there is what I call a ‘hero and blame’ culture, it is impossible to have a ‘giver’ culture.
  • In case you don’t go through the trouble of actually reading the article…there is a great story in there about Pixar division heads, Ed and Alvy. To make a long story short, they were asked for a list of employees to lay-off. Their list contained two names; Ed and Alvy. Obviously, establishing a giver culture starts at the top. It involves giving credit where its due – i.e. to everyone involved. I was once in a situation in which one person would routinely say things like ‘I did this great thing’ (One of these stories involved a possible sale to some sort of high government official from Kazakhstan…so there was a bit of delusion artfully stirred into the mix as well) and sometimes ‘I and (person of equal rank/position) are really good at X’. Miraculously, no one else seemed to live up to this lofty standard. Needless to say, the culture could have used a bit of a boost.
  • If you are a fan of Arnold Palmer, and you are a fan of helping children with social, emotional, and behavioral problems, then you have a great opportunity in front of you. Click on Adelphoi USA’s website for an auction that contains cool stuff from Arnie’s personal collection. But only if you promise to come back.
  • Guan Tianlang shoots one over par on the first day of the Masters. Guan’s interview afterward was just as impressive as his round. 14 years old, Chinese, and doing an interview in English on worldwide television. By the end, I wanted to feed him the answers as he became progressively more terrified, but still an amazing performance. I probably care more about Guan making the cut than just about anything else that could happen this weekend.
  • Good negotiation lesson from my own experience that is highlighted by the the North Korea stand-off. When faced with an irrational actor – often caused by anger, ego, etc. – try to stay cool and resist ratcheting up the tension. Stand your ground and work behind the scenes to change the balance of power. Create a situation such that the bully can throw all the tantrums they want, but it won’t make a bit of difference to you.
    Arnold Palmer



A rigid, step-by-step guide to creativity

March 10, 2012

curse of knowledge

Irony is a good time, although sadly, there are people out there that live by what’s in the title even if not immediately recognizing that that is, what in fact, they are doing.

John Lehrer wrote a nice piece on how to be creative. Check it out here (with WSJ subscription).

We’ll start with the bad part of the piece, which is generally overshadowed by all the good.

  • He is slightly ‘fooled by randomness’ (see Taleb, book by the same title). He talks about knowing when to relax your mind versus knowing when to keep struggling toward the answer. The only problem is that you can’t know how close you are until after the fact…huge reliance on hindsight bias here.
  • His ten tips at the end are pulled out of nowhere, and take away from all the good work he does describing the research earlier in the piece.

Now on to the good:

  • His main thrust is that creativity comes from connecting things that were previously thought to be separate disciplines. Basically, creativity is not about coming up with something completely new, but rather connecting things that already exist in new ways.
  • He talks about having knowledge in many areas. Working in one discipline all the time tends to restrict one’s knowledge to accepted wisdom in that field. If better application of conventional knowledge could produce great results, we would have already found them. He references Innocentive, which is one of my favorite innovations in itself. It involves using crowdsourcing to solve problems that people blinded by their knowledge of only one field can’t solve.
  • He reinforces the notion that relaxing the brain and stepping away from a problem can be what is needed to solve something particularly difficult. Google has ping pong tables and other methods of relaxation as part of its company culture. I have seen cultures where this sort of thing would never happen…employees must work like machines for 8 hours, then go home to have any fun. Attempts at doing anything different, if not controlled from the top, are subjected to scrutiny. Ultimately, people don’t even bother asking. These cultures occur in companies slightly less successful than Google. My best problem solving, and other types of creativity come when I am going for a run. Just need to figure out a way to capture notes while on the treadmill…

The bad news is that your work environment may not be conducive to creativity. The good news is that if you think about this stuff when it is your chance to lead, you’ll stand out.

Interview with the founder of TPS planet

May 10, 2011

Prediction markets, hierarchies, culture and online learning were all covered during the session. A friend of TPS planet, Dustin Mattison, was brave kind enough to stick a mic in front of my noggin and let me go to town. Check it out here.

It was a good time, and I didn’t say anything completely ridiculous. Oh well, there’s always next time.

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