But take a look to the left at the Table of Contents for the book — it offers chapter summaries instead of page numbers. What a very cool way to summarize the book and help (1) new readers navigate the book and (2) returning readers find the specific chapters they’re looking for.
An example…In most books, you’d see that the fifth chapter is Becoming the Linchpin. In this book, Seth gets your attention by adding, The linchpin is an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create, and make things happen. Every worthwhile institution institution has indispensable people who make differences like this. Over at Chapter 9, in addition to There Is No Map, you get Indispensable linchpins are not waiting for instructions, but instead, figuring out what to do next. If you have a job where someone tells you what to do next, you’ve just given up the chance to create value.”
The inside cover goes further with the definition of a linchpin: They “invent, lead (regardless of title), connect others, make things happen, and create order out of chaos. They figure out what to do when there’s no rule book. they delight and challenge their customers and peers. They love their work, pour their best selves into it, and turn each day into a kind of art.”
Can you imagine anything better than to be described as a linchpin by those who know or work with you? Paging through it, this looks like a terrific book, starting with the Table of Contents. It’s the next book I’ll be reading (after finishing Switch by the Heath Brothers, which will be officially released early next week).
That’s why a recent NY Times article about reinventing the MBA curriculum got my attention. As one person put it, “At business school, there was a lot of focus on ‘You’ve got a great idea; here’s how to build a business out of it.’ The d.school said, ‘Here’s how you get to that great idea.’”
The “d.school” is a reference to the growth in “design thinking,” which emphasizes a focus on human needs to decide what problems need to be addressed. There’s an engineering focus to all this (the Stanford d.school is part of the Engineering School), but that’s missing the point of today’s posting.
So here’s the point of the blog. The Stanford d.school has posted a terrific document on its site that is a fairly short primer on the various concepts that drive the development of great ideas. The D.School Bootcamp Bootleg starts with seven mindsets — including “Bias Toward Action” and ”Create Clarity From Complexity” (my favorite) and ”Show, Don’t Tell.” It goes on to introduce modes like “empathize,” “define,” and “test.” And then it outlines a variety of strategies (or methods) that are integral to design thinking.
Lest this sound overly academic — and some of them will lead your eyes to glaze over a bit — there are some great ideas you can use to better understand your customers or come up with that “one big thing” before you go too far down the road.
Business books seem to be getting shorter lately…and packed with more usable information. This one is less than 40 pages and well worth your time.
Read through it. Think about how you’ve used the concepts without actually knowing you were employing design thinking. Pick some things to try. Keep them if they work and try something else if they don’t.
Use this document — but think of it as a toolkit — and when the time comes perhaps you can overcome the lack of an MBA with a skill set that enables you to develop great, marketable ideas.
How about you? How have you used some of these methodologies — interviewing for empathy, powers of 10, and so on — to fine tune your ideas? What worked and what didn’t?
An acquaintance passed this story along a while back, and I thought it was appropriate for the first few days of a new year. The setting is the Washington, D.C., metro station just about three years ago, and the result was a Pulitzer Prize for the Washington Post.
The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 60 minutes. During that time, nearly 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
After three minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.
Four minutes later: The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
Six minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
Ten minutes: A 3-year-old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.
45 minutes: The musician played continuously. Only six people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.
No notice. No applause. Barely any recognition for the violinist – Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played some of the most challenging pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million. Two days before, he had sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
Joshua Bell’s unannounced concert in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a experiment that basically asked whether people will see beauty if it’s in an unexpected place at an unexpected time. The resulting story won the Post a Pulitzer Prize for the way it addressed these questions. It also raises a quesiton for each of us: How many opportunities do we miss each day because we’re just not paying enough attention?
In the midst of what is becoming a frustrating job search for many of us…or tense times in the office for those who have jobs, it’s good advice to take a moment and look around. Who knows? Perhaps what you see will provide the lead to your next job, client, or business idea.
Where have you found opportunities in unexpected places?
Over the past week or so, a lot of writers have bemoaned the death of Gourmet magazine. I don’t feel as bad as many of its readers. To me, it was simple.
I love magazines. There’s a basket sitting next to my computer with a bunch of magazines in it — some read, some not. There are old issues of both Gourmet and Bon Appetit (both published by the same people) in that basket, but we gave up our subscriptions to both a few years ago. As I recall, they each cost less than $10 per year. I can’t tell you why specifically, but there are only so many ways to describe cooking Thanksgiving dinner or some hopelessly complicated meal that requires 100% concentration (i.e., no kids lurking about).
And our kids started getting older…and our youngest was born with severe food allergies and neither magazine seemed to recognize that there were readers out there that faced that situation.
A simple reason for closing the magazine
I liked the simplicity of Conde Nast Chief Executive Charles Townsend’s explanation for why he shut down Gourmet and a few other publications — they were losing money.
“We will not be in that position after today — we won’t have businesses that don’t make a contribution,” Townsend said. “These businesses should be 25 percent net-margin businesses. We have had some underperformers, but not businesses that have cost us money to run except for launches and businesses like Gourmet that, with the economy, have slipped into the red.”
In other words, Conde Nast set aside its emotional ties to the magazine and did the right thing. Fans of the publication can blame lots of people — Rachael Ray was one favorite target — but the bottom line (no pun intended) was that not enough people wanted to read it, not enough people would commit to reading it, and the advertisers knew it so they looked elsewhere.
“We can no longer afford to be paternalistic.”
I was reminded of an interview I did back in 1992 when a DuPont senior executives told me about deep layoffs the company was planning. His comment has stuck with me for 17 years.
“We can no longer afford to be paternalistic,” the executive said, understanding full well that he lived in a “company town” where that would be a shocking statement. DuPont was replaced in the role as company town by MBNA America Bank for many years, until Bank of America stepped in and bought the credit-card issuer. And it wasn’t long before the layoffs started there too.
It was just business. The editor of Saveur, another food magazine, referred to Gourmet as “an American cultural icon” as if that should have been enough to save it. GM was a cultural icon too.
There is a long list of companies and publications that were important. And then they weren’t. And now they’re gone. The irrelevant replaced by the relevant…or at least by people committed to trying to be relevant and find a voice and a community.
The bottom line…Gourmet failed to stay important to the people who paid the bills and failed to become important to a new generation of readers and cooks. And now it’s gone. It’s difficult for me to say that’s sad. It’s just reality.
When presenting, we all want to be known for effectively putting a face on a difficult issue and for putting the numbers in context in a simple manner. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is one of the best at this, but he turned to T.R. Reid, who’s written a new book called “The Healing of America” for help with a recent column. I have edited for length.
In the debate over health care, here’s an inequity to ponder: Nikki White would have been far better off if only she had been a convicted bank robber.
Nikki was a slim and athletic college graduate who had health insurance, had worked in health care and knew the system. But she had systemic lupus erythematosus, a chronic inflammatory disease that was diagnosed when she was 21 and gradually left her too sick to work. And once she lost her job, she lost her health insurance.
In any other rich country, Nikki probably would have been fine. Some 80 percent of lupus patients in the United States live a normal life span. Under a doctor’s care, lupus should be manageable. Indeed, if Nikki had been a felon, the problem could have been averted, because courts have ruled that prisoners are entitled to medical care.
Nikki tried everything to get medical care, but no insurance company would accept someone with her pre-existing condition. She spent months painfully writing letters to anyone she thought might be able to help. She fought tenaciously for her life.
Finally, Nikki collapsed at her home in Tennessee and was rushed to a hospital emergency room, which was then required to treat her without payment until her condition stabilized. Since money was no longer an issue, the hospital performed 25 emergency surgeries on Nikki, and she spent six months in critical care.
“When Nikki showed up at the emergency room, she received the best of care, and the hospital spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on her,” her stepfather, Tony Deal, told me. “But that’s not when she needed the care.”
By then it was too late. In 2006, Nikki White died at age 32. “Nikki didn’t die from lupus,” her doctor, Amylyn Crawford, told Mr. Reid. “Nikki died from complications of the failing American health care system.”
We now have a chance to reform this cruel and capricious system. If we let that chance slip away, there will be another Nikki dying every half-hour.
That’s how often someone dies in America because of a lack of insurance, according to a study by a branch of the National Academy of Sciences. Over a year, that amounts to 18,000 American deaths.
After Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans, eight years ago on Friday, we went to war and spent hundreds of billions of dollars ensuring that this would not happen again. Yet every two months, that many people die because of our failure to provide universal insurance — and yet many members of Congress want us to do nothing?
My suggestion for anyone in Nikki’s situation: Commit a crime and get locked up. In Washington State, a 20-year-old inmate named Melissa Matthews chose to turn down parole and stay in prison because that was the only way she could get treatment for her cervical cancer. “If I’m out, I’m going to die from this cancer,” she told a television station.
Stories are everywhere. You just have to look for them and capture them. And then find the right context for them and pass them along.
At MBNA America, we regularly held “autopsies” of recently completed negotiations. We opened these meetings to a larger audience in hopes that they might learn from the mistakes others had made and avoid them in the future.
A lot of people are proud of their ability to resolve problems, to find solutions. I’m one of them. But as I’ve struggled to define my own personal brand, it’s become increasingly clear that the skill I should be highlighting is my ability to find problems (along with taking responsibility for eliminating their root causes).
This message has been driven home by two great books — Rules of Thumb by Alan Webber and Know What You Don’t Know by Michael Roberto. I’m going to discuss Rules of Thumb in more depth next week, but Webber’s point is that while we recognize that prevention and early intervention work for health care, energy policy, public education and transportation, business leaders don’t put the same emphasis on it in the workplace. Or they fix the symptoms rather than the root cause — buying buckets for under the leaky roof rather than patching the roof.
Roberto, a Bryant University professor whose blog is worth a read, talks about the seven skills required for being a great problem finder. They include watching the game films (that’s the autopsy reference); circumventing the gatekeeper to get the real data; encouraging useful failures; and the somewhat similar ideas of hunting for patterns and connecting the dots in smaller issues that come up long before something becomes the bigger problem.
What can you do to become a better problem finder?
Tell me a story.
Two great Must Read blog entries today– one from Dan and Chip Heath, authors of the Must Read book Made to Stick and the other from John Baldoni, who writes the Leadership at Work blog on the Harvard Business Publishing site.
Their themes are similar – using stories to explain difficult concepts. Google on stories and leadership and you get 46.2 million hits, so it’s not a new concept.
But the Heaths clearly get it with their SUCCESs tool for making ideas sticky, so it’s worth reading this month’s Fast Company column on The Gripping Statistic: How to Make Your Data Matter. Whether it’s the $800B stimulus package or the size of McDonald’s ad budget, they offer great advice for downsizing big numbers to everyday numbers.
Baldoni’s blog, Why Leaders Need Stories: A Lesson from Don Hewitt, talks about how the 60 Minutes creator (who died this month at age 86) saw stories as the “secret” of his success. What I liked best about Baldoni’s blog, however, is his reminder that “not every issue need be reduced to a story. There are times when a leader need to be direct and to the point, to lay out the issue and the challenges in clear and precise language.”
Bulldog Simplicity Rule #2: Know when (and how) to tell a story and when to cut to the chase.