Rarely will executives leave themselves vulnerable by sharing what they have done wrong in managing people. Mohammad Anwar is that rare exception, even going so far as to share on the air his “infamous refrigerator email” where he tore into employees for leaves a “disgusting” mess in the company’s breakroom refrigerator. How to create a psychologically safe place to work is the underlying theme of this episode. The topics range from answering why new hires at Anwar’s company, Softway, always start on a Friday to explaining how giving “spot raises” works better than the previous “fish market” system of dickering for pay increases as part of annual performance reviews. Whatever the topic, the emphasis is always on how to take new and corrective actions to create a more inspiring, inclusive corporate culture.
In essence, the distrust that must be overcome in business partnerships involving large companies and startups consists of Will they screw up? versus Will they screw us over? In other words, large companies inevitably harbor concerns about the competency and reliability of their startup partners. In turn, entrepreneurs rightly worry that they will be taken advantage of, with their I.P. being co-opted or outright stolen. To establish trust rather than fear isn’t easy, as Dr. Prashantham acknowledges in this episode. Distrust can only be resolved by establishing how the partnership is a true win-win. At the same time, the person at the “bridge” on the corporation’s side must be at once an advocate, a diplomat, and mentor, spanning boundaries within the corporation to bring multiple business units on-board to ensure the collaboration can succeed. All this and more gets covered in this episode, which concludes by exploring how the answer to the question, “What’s the next China?” may actually be China outside of its largest, showcase cities.
Dr. Shameen Prasantham is Professor of International Business & Strategy and Associate Dean (MBA) at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai, China. His academic specialty is business partnerships that contribute to sustainable development goals.
This episode could have just as easily been called “The Democratization of innovation.” After all, the fundamental thrust of this book and our conversation was about moving innovation beyond the “usual suspects,” i.e., the R & D Department, and spreading innovation opportunities across the ranks. Most promising of all for soliciting input might be front-line employees, who know best the frustrations and disappointments of customers. Others to include range from current and potential customers to distributors and other business allies. Where might resistance emerge to such an expansive view of the innovation process? The answer could be middle managers, focused on executing the current business model. To win them over, it may be necessary to combine coaching about the importance and means of innovating with monetary incentives or placing limits on their career growth if they don’t “play ball.” If there’s a regrettable need to play the heavy, at times, it’s because as the saying goes, “It’s not that people see the light so much as they feel the heat.”
Ben Bensaou is a professor and former Dean of Executive Education at INSEA. He’s also been a visiting professor at the Harvard Business School, a research fellow at the Wharton School of Management, and a visiting scholar at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.
Almost all of the new jobs created in America come from small businesses. As Pamela Slim reports, the precise number may be as high as 99%. And those same small businesses also provide over 50% of the nation’s GDP. So why not focus more on these often-unheralded engines of growth? Slim honors small businesses with an expansive focus that includes Native American, Black, Latinx, Asian, disabled, and LGBTQ entrepreneurs. How can these businesses best find their respective niches, then expand them? Who’s their ideal customer? What kind of community partners can best further their mission and goals? Those and other vital topics are raised in this practical-minded episode.
Pamela Slim is an author, community builder, business coach, and former director of Training and Development at Barclays Global Investors. Among her accomplishments is partnering with author Susan Cain to build and launch The Quiet Revolution. Among her books is Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur.
What do customers most want nowadays? According to David Avrin, the three-part answer consists of immediacy (instant gratification), individuality (flexible, customized assistance) and humanity (concern trumps indifference). Of them, while immediacy should in theory be the easiest to enact, ironically enough automation is making that goal more elusive. What else is of interest from Avrin’s version of ranting about the ills of customer service? For one thing, the desperate measures companies take to ward off negative reviews appearing on-line. For another, Avrin’s favorite exercise to help his clients improve their operations: have front-line employees imagine that they are creating a rival company, which benefits from knowledge about what customers really want most but aren’t getting right now. There’s nothing like the risk of losing existing customers, after all, to grab management’s attention!
David Avrin is a highly popular speaker and consultant on the topics of the customer experience as well as on marketing. He’s a former CEO group leader and speaker for Vistage International. This is his third book, following It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You and Visibility Marketing.
Sick of the frequent images of entrepreneurs as machismo, take-no-prisoner, Rambo-like action figures? Look no farther than this episode, in which Christine Kane admits that conquering bulimia was the test that gave her the fortitude to first enter the music industry on her own terms, and then help thousands of (often female) fans become entrepreneurs themselves. The key to Kane’s approach is acknowledging that the soul part of business is ultimately more important than focusing on strategy because, as an entrepreneur, your values inform your value proposition and how it gets enacted.
Maybe it’s because Kane has been a musician herself that I find her story connecting to a part of how I spent my Thanksgiving weekend: watching the Beatles’ documentary Get Back. In it the “quiet” Beatle, George Harrison, has a hard time getting Paul McCartney to show him respect. Two suggestions to add his song “All Things Must Pass” to the repertoire draw no acknowledgment, let alone endorsement from McCartney—even though that song and “Let It Be” are thematically of a piece. Even worse from Harrison’s perspective, McCartney all but dismisses the Harrison-inspired visit the band made to India, causing Harrison to visibly wince. How fitting that at the end of Part 1 of the 3-part series, Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity” (how we cause each other pain) plays as the credits roll.
Christine Kane is the founder of Uplevel You, a multimillion-dollar business coaching company, which evolved from her 15-year career as a touring singer-songwriter with her own record label. Both businesses were built without any investors.
The joke is that the only person in the world who normally welcomes change is a baby with a dirty diaper. Indeed, a change in the status quo means we have to exert energy to deal with that change and people are generally loath to expend more energy than necessary. Scientists call this phenomenon trying to avoid the “metabolic cost” of expending mental and physical energy. You and I call it preferring to live life like a house cat, if we only could! In this episode, April Rinne offers advice based on her eight rules for navigating change more adroitly. Part of her advice has to do with slowing down, setting a sustainable pace to avoid burnout in ever more demanding careers. But there’s more. How may higher education change, including MBA programs, in a world where more and more of us will be part of the Gig Economy? Listen in for Rinne’s unique perspective.
April Rinne is one of the 50 leading female futurists in the world, a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum and a Fulbright Scholar. She’s also traveled to over 100 countries as part of having a front-row seat to a world in flux.
Since the 1990s, the fade rate or inability of companies to stay ahead of their closest rivals, has gone from sustaining a lead, on average for 10 years, to now a single year. So focusing on innovation alone won’t suffice. A company that will survive and thrive must re-imagine every aspect of the its culture and operations in order to succeed. That re-imagining requires an open mind and an inquisitive spirit, not averse to surprises but instead, willing to embrace them. Who better than these two authors to take on that task? Martin Reeves is in his own words a “failed” musician and biologist turned businessperson, and Jack Fuller is versed in philosophical theology. Together, they are a perfect team for exploring how organizations can even change their very “souls”.
Martin Reeves is a Senior Partner and Managing Director at BCG, i.e., the Boston Consulting Group. He’s also the Chairman of the BCG Henderson Institute, BCG’s internal think tank. Jack Fuller is a former special project manager at the BCG Henderson Institute, and the founder of Casati Health, a company that re-imagines mental and physical health. He’s a Rhodes Scholar with a background that combines neuroscience and philosophical theology.
The correct answer is B. As recounted in Angelica Malin’s new book, in which a study of the largest 250 companies on the London Stock Exchange found that companies with more than one third of women in their executive committees enjoyed a profit margin greater than ten times higher. Most times, money talks – or to quote Bob Dylan: “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.” So . . . why in the world haven’t more companies pursued a policy of adding more female executives? Is it possible that (white) male leaders are choosing their own comfort level over what would aid the company? Is it possible they are simply unwilling to share the “reins of power” out of fears of being replaced? One’s head spins given all the interpretative possibilities of such a stark, startling statistic. Malin’s book is nothing if not a call for more female entrepreneurship, more empowerment, more determination than ever to break through. No wonder the book is dedicated in part to Taylor Swift.
Angelica Malin is the Editor-in-Chief of About Time Magazine and she’s the UK’s rising voice for championing women founders and entrepreneurs. She’s appeared on BBC News and LBC Business Hour and has been featured in The Telegraph, Forbes, and Real Business.