Friday, December 28, 2007

Develop Teams, Not Just Individuals

Fortune recently published an article on how great companies develop future leaders. While the article did not provide any earth-shattering new insights, it did point out some key practices that are often discussed, but not always put into practice. One technique that warrants a great deal of attention has to to with team development. The article suggests that companies should "develop teams, not just individuals." They point out that General Electric now sends entire management teams to Crotonville, and each team goes through a developmental experience in which they apply what they are learning to their business. Given that many leadership development programs seek to address topics such as team dynamics, communication, decision-making, and the like, it makes sense for intact teams to experience these programs together.

Of course, organizations must not allow the intact teams to isolate themselves in these types of leadership development experiences. One key benefit of leadership development programs is that emerging leaders have the time to network with their peers in other parts of the organization. Often, these peers work in far-flung parts of the world, and they don't know one another quite well at all. The leadership development program offers them time to get to know one another, share best practices, and explore collaboration opportunities to advance the business. If intact teams attend these leadership development programs, one has to be careful that managers don't spend all their time with their own team, thus spending far too little time networking, sharing, and learning from their peers in other parts of the business.

Apple Video Rentals

Yesterday, Apple made major headlines with news of a possible deal with Fox to offer video rentals via iTunes. The fundamental question, in my view, is how Apple will leverage a movie rental business into the sale of more hardware. It's hard to imagine a dramatic new surge in iPod sales because of the movie rental launch. Moreover, it's easy to imagine price battles among the major players, such as NetFlix, who compete in the movie rental business . On the other hand, perhaps Apple is poised to build upon its early Apple TV product, or launch an altogether new product designed for consumers to easily view movies downloaded via iTunes. If Apple can couple the on-line movie rentals from iTunes with an easy-to-use piece of hardware, then they can generate substantial profits. Once again, they will have executed a successful blades and razors strategy, i.e. selling inexpensive blades (movie rentals) to generate high profits from hardware sold at a price premium (Apple TV or some other product used to view the movies, transfer them easily from PC to TV, etc.).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Moneyball & The Lessons for Business Leaders

Several months ago, I was interviewed by Bret Dougherty, author of The IronDog Chronicles, a very interesting blog about sports, media, and entertainment. Bret co-hosts WXYC’s ‘Sports Rap’ on Sunday nights in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, while also pursuing his MBA at UNC-Chapel Hill. Here is the link to the recorded interview, which focused on my case study about the rise of sabermetrics in baseball, and some of the lessons for business decision-makers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dsylexics as Entrepreneurs

Business Week had a fascinating article about new research suggesting that dyslexics may tend to become successful entrepreneurs, particularly in the United States. Here is a brief excerpt from the article:

That kind of rejection, along with a penchant for creativity, may help explain why so many dyslexics are inclined to become entrepreneurs. Julie Logan, a professor of entrepreneurship at Cass Business School in London, believes strongly in the connection.

In a study to be published in January, Logan found that 35% of entrepreneurs in the U.S. show signs of dyslexia, compared to 20% in Britain. Logan attributes the gap to a more flexible education system in the U.S., vs. rigid tracking in British schools, and better identification and remediation methods. "Most of the people in our study talked about the role of the mentor and how important that had been," Logan says. "The difference seems to be somebody who believes in you in school."

The broader implication, she says, is that many of the coping skills dyslexics learn in their formative years become best practices for the successful entrepreneur. A child who chronically fails standardized tests must become comfortable with failure. Being a slow reader forces you to extract only vital information, so that you're constantly getting right to the point. Dyslexics are also forced to trust and rely on others to get things done—an essential skill for anyone working to build a business.

The article raises some interesting points regarding dyslexics as entrepreneurs, but I think it also should cause us to consider some more fundamental questions about our entire education system . In the era of self-esteem promotion during the 1990s, our schools often heaped praise on children. They sought to bolster each child's self-image. For me, this article suggests that we should make sure that we also focus on building our children's capabilities with regard to coping with failure. All of us fail many times in life, and entrepreneurs, in particular, must be able to deal with failure. They must be able to experiment, learn from those experiments, and then adjust or adapt their strategies.

Back to the Blog

Sorry to those readers who have been wondering where I have been for the past two months. Well, it's been a busy time in the Roberto household, as we have welcomed a third child into the family. Baby Luke Roberto was born in November, and he's doing very well. I'll be posting again on a regular basis going forward.