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Insights and ideas

Preparing for the 8th Annual Drucker Forum

A few years ago, I started attending the Global Peter Drucker Forum, which has become a real who’s who of management conferences.  It takes place each November in Vienna and features luminaries and thought leaders from academia, business and consulting.  This time out, I’ll be facilitating a panel discussion with Tim Brown of IDEO, Sarah Armbruster of the very innovative Steelcase, colleague Julian Birkinshaw of the London Business School and... read more »

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Insight into unintended consequences-anticipating the effects of low oil prices

Over the years, I’ve cited and used some of the work done by the Futures Strategy Group principals in their development of very robust tools that help organizations anticipate (not predict) what might happen in the future.  It’s interesting, therefore to read a post by one of their Principals, Patrick Marren, written in 2005.  He was summarizing some topics that had come up many times in the course of consulting... read more »

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We were poor, but we didn’t know it – new transparency at #GPDF14

A topic of discussion at the Global Peter Drucker Forum last week was the effect that widespread digital information has on less well-off people’s views of their own situations. In the past, it was possible for people to remain ignorant of how the other half lived, because the information was not readily available. Today, ubiquitous messages on mobile phones, easy access to social media and ready-at-hand information from search engines... read more »

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Stop expecting applause for just doing your job!

It happened again this morning – after taking my car to get some necessary maintenance, I received a breathlessly enthusiastic email asking whether I had any reason not to be thrillingly ecstatic with the service I received.  Don’t you find this as well?  You call a phone company, newspaper, cable company or any other large organization and after fighting your way through their robotic voice processing system, they then want... read more »

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Whither golf? The iconic old boy’s game facing erosion?

If you spend any amount of time at corporate retreats, offsites and workshops, as I do, golf is ubiquitous.  Bonding takes place on the course, the post-game conviviality is shared, and team-building exercises pairing golfers and non-golfers are part of the fabric of many such events.  Indeed, a lack of proficiency at the game has even been blamed by serious scholars as a source of career disadvantage for women. But,... read more »

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Don’t listen to what your customers say, watch how they behave

I am often asked by companies with whom I work whether focus groups, surveys or customer panels are useful in learning what customers want and more importantly, what they will pay for.  Sure, these techniques are helpful and sometimes can lead to useful insights. But it is usually a huge strategic mistake to base investment decisions or innovation projects on data gathered through these means.  Why?  A benign explanation is... read more »

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Sustainable advantage, Transient Advantage and Organizational Change

In an insightful blog that is part of a series HBR is running on the intersection between Strategy and Innovation, editor Sarah Cliffe interviews colleague Don Sull, who argues that you can think of the “sustainability” school as the thesis, the “transient advantage” camp as the antithesis and the organizational change folks as the synthesis of the two, requiring a degree of ambidexterity on the part of managers. In support... read more »

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Davos: Using complexity to fight cyber-criminals

This morning, I moderated a panel on "Managing Complexity with the Santa Fe Institute at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.  One of the featured thought leaders was Stephanie Forrest, a computer scientist who is among the world's leading thinkers on the topic of cyber crime and how to fight it.  She makes a fascinating suggestion – that by fostering consistency and homogeneity in our systems, they are hugely... read more »

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Symbolism - Plastics Journal picks up McGrath’s blog

I just ran across the following interesting article – Title:  AIG mess embodiespower of emotions. By: Grace, Robert, Plastics News, 1042802X, 4/6/2009, Vol. 21, Issue 5   The author ran across a blog I did on symbolism regarding the AIG bonuses (remember those?) and linked it to some of the issues the plastics/chemicals industry is wrestling with.  Thought my readers might find this interesting: Perhaps the plastics industry can learn... read more »

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Taking the time every day to learn and reflect

This article, entitled "the best way to use the last five minutes of your day" made me think about a lot of the executives I work with who are just too busy to reflect on anything at all.  Running from meeting to meeting, conference call to conference call, one wonders where they can find the time to do anything innovative, let alone keep up with the demands of daily life.  The article... read more »

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More on Total Recall Technologies

I’ve been getting a lot of interested reactions from the World Economic Forum / Harvard Business Review “Ideaslab” session I did at Davos.  You can find the YouTube version here and it is also published on my Harvard On-line blog.  If anyone is interested in the slides, please let me know and I will email them to you.  The format was one that the WEF people are experimenting this year,... read more »

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Session at Davos:  Growth Through Innovation

This had to be one of the more fun sessions I attended at Davos, on a topic near and dear to my heart.  Here’s the WEF summary: Growth through Innovation The financial crisis will be sure to squeeze R&D spending, but many participants were optimistic that companies will find ways to innovate despite the downturn – or perhaps even because of it, since the tougher business environment will push companies... read more »

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Snippet from Davos - Cool ideas from older industries

I’m sitting in a panel entitled “Cool ideas from older industries”.  Among the participants is Brad Anderson, the CEO of Best Buy. Great phrase:  The huge disadvantage established organization have is habits.  Many organizations choose their habits vs. choosing survival.  I thought that was an insightful observation.  read more »

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Green:  Nice while it lasted?

Only the blink of an eye ago, it seems, you couldn’t open a paper or read a magazine without someone talking about how ‘green’ their businesses were and how environmentalism has become a top-line concern.  With the economy in crisis, one thing we can predict is that green concerns are going to have to fight a lot harder to stay on top of the agenda.  In fact, I was recently... read more »

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More examples of the benefits of early warnings and leading indicators

As I often say in class, information that we use to make decisions falls into three categories: 1)  Lagging indicators:  Often highly accurate and precise, but give us data only about the past; 2)  Current indicators:  Tell us where we are at the moment – for example, what inventory turns are right now; 3)  Leading indicators:  Give us information (albeit subjective information) about where we might be headed.  Leading indicators... read more »

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