Sydney Finkelstein

Relying on averages, for anything, is a sure-fire method to cover up little differences that might have big meaning. An average removes the most interesting data from the discussion.

Don’t you want to know who is best, and who is worst, at something? Averages disguise this. Don’t you want to know what accounts for outlier performance, on either end? Averages cover this up.

Sydney Finkelstein

In the constant push to get everyone going in the same direction on the job—an admittedly critical component of leadership—we’ve fallen into the trap of valuing alignment over insight. What’s the point of having everyone rowing in perfect unison if you’re going the wrong way?

Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman

Power is the possibility for one person to make a difference on issues—or stakes—that matter to someone else. Because A can make a difference on issues that matter to B, then B will do things that he or she would not have done without A’s intervention. Power always exists, one way or another, either helping or hindering good outcomes. It helps mobilize people, either directly … [ Read more ]

Michael E. Raynor

Explanatory power is a red herring when the objective is predictive accuracy.

Michael E. Raynor

I know of no systematic attempt to demonstrate the efficacy in use of any framework described in any major success study. In the absence of hard evidence, it is far more likely that whatever benefit practitioners might have perceived or realized has been the consequence of some or all of a form of placebo effect (you expect it to help, so you perceive that it … [ Read more ]

Michael E. Raynor

The next time someone offers you advice, ask yourself these two questions: Can I imagine the opposite ever making sense, and will I know if I’ve acted on it? If the answer to either one is “no,” you’re at grave risk of being led astray.

Michael E. Raynor

[Steve] Jobs, for all his impact, was still only one person. In extracting general principles from his career as a whole, we have precisely one data point with which to work. And you can draw any line you want through a single data point.

Michael E. Raynor

Learning something that is both new and true seems to be extraordinarily difficult only when it is extraordinarily important.
[…]
In the words of one commentator, our rational mind is a mouse riding, and attempting to steer, the elephant that is our emotions. Since that elephant, even when entirely even-tempered, can wreak havoc with our rational intent, we must—at the risk of getting all new … [ Read more ]

Michael E. Raynor

If deductive reasoning were all it ever took to reach a correct conclusion, there would be far fewer bad decisions. The problem is, far too often the facts are either ambiguous or incomplete in ways we cannot see until it is too late. When we apply reason to unwittingly incorrect or unknowingly under-specified premises, we end up with precise, convincing, and completely wrong conclusions. It’s … [ Read more ]

Michael E. Raynor

Let’s keep in mind that for anything worthwhile, how we get it is often more important than the getting itself. In other words, how we make the numbers matters as much as whether or not we make the numbers. The numbers should be only one of the things we hope to make; the plan must count, too, and sacrificing the plan to the numbers is, … [ Read more ]

Michael E. Raynor

“Innovation” means more than just “new”—it means breaking a constraint, doing what had previously been, at best, only imaginable. Going beyond the current limits of the possible demands a suite of organizational tools that, like many types of medication, can have near-miraculous effects but insidious side effects. Indeed, freedom from strategic, financial, and operational constraints can be crucial to breaking new ground, but it can … [ Read more ]

Dick Martin

Understanding the ways and whys of people unlike yourself is key to winning and keeping customers, managing today’s workforce, and relating to all the third-party activists who have an increasingly influential voice in where and how a company does business.

Dick Martin

The sweet spot in marketing is the break point between individual and culture, where needs, values, and aspirations coalesce. […] People buy products to accomplish particular jobs. That job may be functional (a quarter-inch hole), social (fitting in on the job site), emotional (impressing your spouse), or aspirational (feeling like Norm Abram of This Old House). In most cases, it will be a combination. And … [ Read more ]

John M. Bremen and Thomas O. Davenport

Every year the typical global organization with twenty thousand employees invests approximately $3 billion in employee programs that include salaries and bonuses, stock grants, healthcare and retirement benefits, training, and paid time off. These employers also invest in creating employee-friendly cultures and workplaces. And too often, organizations spend these funds without clearly understanding whether the programs align with the preferences and usage patterns of those … [ Read more ]

John M. Bremen and Thomas O. Davenport

Marketing sage Philip Kotler defines a brand as an organization’s promise to deliver a specific set of features, benefits, and services to consumers. A brand also functions as a complex symbol that conveys up to six levels of meaning: attributes, benefits, values, culture, personality, and user. When the consumer can visualize all six dimensions of a brand, his or her perception of the brand is … [ Read more ]

Christine Bader

This is a big problem with how the CSR conversation has evolved—we’ve sort of given up on governments. If you look at places like where I was in Indonesia for BP, companies are expected to assume the responsibilities of the state. That is neither appropriate nor sustainable. So that’s a big part of an idealist’s job: helping determine the boundaries of responsibility of your company. … [ Read more ]

Christine Bader

People ask me, “Should I take this CSR job? Will I be doing real work, or will I just be ordering matching T-shirts for people to go paint a wall?” And what you have to do is step back and ask, What are this company’s ten or five or three greatest tensions with society, and is this job working on any of those? If it’s … [ Read more ]

Zeynep Ton

Good service rests on a foundation of good operations. But good operations rest on a foundation of skilled and motivated employees.

Zeynep Ton

Great performance, whether in customer service or the quality of manufacturing, requires operational excellence. Operational excellence requires a great operational design and great people to carry it out. Neither can make up for the lack of the other.

Megan McArdle

Groups are capable of much more stupid behavior than individuals are. They frequently fall prey to what I’ve taken to calling groupidity: doing something stupid because other people around you seem to think it’s safe. Fundamentally, people are herd animals. We band together for safety. We look to other people to see what is dangerous, and what is not. This is an important part of … [ Read more ]