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What a startup can learn about customer needs from a medieval practice

In a recent article over at Fortune, I explore what Transferwise, a fast-growing new startup has rediscovered:  an enduring customer need that is currently featuring in the migrant crisis, Hawala.  The practice of Hawala originated centuries ago when traders were concerned that they would be waylaid by bandits along their routes of travel.  So they worked out a trust-based practice in which a party in one location would receive a payment, and a trusted... read more »

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Hacking your budget

I was recently asked by a reporter from U. S. News and World Report to offer some advice for people who are trying to start the New Year on a good note by getting their personal budgets in order.  You can read that article here.  A few other tips that didn’t make it into the final article are: Use underutilized resources.  Most of us have stuff that has value sitting... read more »

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Secrets of the Superbosses – catch up on Syd Finkelstein’s latest book

Lorne Michaels. Ralph Lauren. Alice Waters. George Lucas. Larry Ellison. Miles Davis. And a dozen others. Business leaders and creative icons with tremendous track records who all have something else in common: they helped develop the best talent in their industries, who in turn helped them become the legendary successes they are today. Based on ten years of research and hundreds of interviews, Superbosses describes what these exceptional leaders did,... read more »

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More on the “tightrope” effect

In a previous post, I’ve mentioned the “tightrope” that professional women are often forced to deal with.  Too friendly and approachable?  You’re “nice” but not taken seriously.  Too aggressive and insistent?  You’re … well, we all know the terms.  I was at a meeting yesterday in which one of the “ahas” was that it is nearly impossible for women to figure out where they stand with respect to the tightrope... read more »

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Learning to navigate the teaching tightrope as a women

An interesting column by Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg made me think of some of the ups and downs of learning to teach in an environment where most of the people around you are men. One of the first things you learn pretty quickly is that your range of acceptable behavior tends to be narrower. Be too assertive, and we all know what those women are called. Be too nice... read more »

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Networking parasites – this one struck a chord

Margaret Morford published an excellent piece in the New York Times about how people can avoid becoming what she calls “networking parasites“.   She picks up on a number of things that would-be networkers should be careful to avoid.  A few others that she didn’t mention are: The ‘I’d like to pick your brain’ request Not that this is bad, after all, a lot of us are in the knowledge dissemination... read more »

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New Women’s Leadership Course to be Launched in June

Anyone who has been following the coverage of women in the workplace, for example, this series in the Wall Street Journal, knows the general story line.  Professional women enter workplaces in numbers roughly equal to men, but with each rung of the career ladder, there are fewer and fewer, until the number of women representing the very top leadership of large corporations is a tiny fraction of the total.  Explanations for this disparity have... read more »

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Now in development: Mastering Corporate Entrepreneurship On-Line

What if you could take teams of people or individual contributors with an innovation mandate and have them go through a state of the art, hands-on and very applied journey through the essence of innovation in the convenience of an on-line format? Part executive development program, part coaching program and part real-time learning, the vision for Columbia’s new Mastering Corporate Entrepreneurship Course is just that. It’s been a huge project... read more »

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Implications of the Unicorn Economy

In my most recent newsletter, I suggested that businesses would do well to anticipate the consequences of a valuation bubble bursting in Silicon Valley with so many private companies valued at more than a billion dollars, with few signs that the investor spigot is going to turn off anytime soon.  I ran across this great article by Mark Littlewood of Business of Software conference fame that adds additional support to... read more »

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Ideas for a new business model for F. A. O. Schwarz

Well, no sooner had the digital ink dried on my piece about F. A. O. Schwarz closing their famous Fifth Avenue shop, when I received a communication from the company saying that I had it all wrong.  They said “The company is completely committed to building on the legacy of the FAO Schwarz brand through a flagship location in midtown Manhattan and unique merchandising offerings.”  Which sounds wonderful, and will... read more »

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Looking forward to the mach49 Mothership Blitz on Friday

As someone who has spent much of my life watching organizations fall victim to what I call the ‘transient advantage‘ economy, I’ve always been puzzled that despite its obvious importance, large organizations do a lot more talking about innovation than actually doing it.  When you dig a little deeper, what quickly becomes clear is that most of the factors that inhibit innovation success – fear of failure, inadequate funding or structures,... read more »

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Corporate entrepreneurship’s latest incarnation-the virtual startup

In this insightful blog post, Steve Sokol runs through the pluses and minuses of being part of a startup within a large corporation, what he calls a “virtual startup.”  The pluses are many – a salary, funding and office space among them.  There are also some minuses – having to play nicely with corporate systems and staying within the rules of protecting the brand are some. What I found intriguing... read more »

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Workers of the World…upsides and downsides of the on-demand workforce

In an article that appeared the other day on CNBC, reporter Cadie Thompson mulls over the effects of all these on-demand companies that make their money by connecting people with tasks to be done or resources that in a previous era would not have been connected at all.  While some enjoy the flexibility and control of the on-demand environment, for many other workers the unpredictable, precarious earnings they generate can... read more »

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Lost that Lovin’ Feeling? Target (and other) CEO’s try to get the love back

In my column over at Fortune, I note that a common pattern for companies who get themselves into trouble is that they somehow ‘lose touch’ with their customers.  I attribute this in many ways to the dangers of the ‘exploitation’ phase of a competitive advantage. When things seem to be going exceptionally well, it can be really easy to coast a bit, let the best practices of customer intimacy slide a... read more »

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4 Ways To Improve Unproductive Meetings

In my Experts column at the Wall Street Journal, I describe the kinds of behavior that sap energy, time and general usefulness out of meetings, and suggest four specific remedies. Have a look. read more »

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