Is the MBA useless?

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Managers Not MBAs: Debating the Merits of Business Education

A Canadian (Henry Mintzberg) and a Brazilian (Ricardo Semler) are giving their two cents on MBA’s to a class of MBA students at Sloan School of Management in MIT Leadership Center.

Hostage or captor?

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How are you separating yourself from your peers? Someone already said you are a team of very different individuals, but are you adjusting to your team or being resilient in standing out? So here is my challenge for you – look inward and analyze yourself. What skills are you happy with, where will they most likely take you? Do you want to go there? What is your dream, what skills do you have that fits this and what skills do you need? Do the right people know and how are they currently helping you in this direction? How are you making it easy for them to push you into the direction you want to go into?
Something think about and attempt doing everyday.

Life of a Head Goose.

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Image

Quark, quark, quark…

Geese are interesting creatures. One particular aspect recently was brought to my attention, as an example of team leadership. Have you ever wondered why geese fly in V-shapes?

It is very straightforward. They do so because it gives them better aerodynamics and allows them to fly longer distances while spending less energy. It requires one goose to step up and become the head goose. What is appealing, is that this role switches all the time. Even indication of altruistic behaviour can be observed (E.g. when one goose drops out V-shape due to health, 2 geese will stay with the sick to ensure it will have a V-shape formation to fly in).

It is a compelling analogy giving insight in how a group can rotate leadership. As one steps up and toils away the others will ride along – now you might say they feel peer pressure and obliged to follow or motivated and willing to follow. The underlying condition is that it gives us a few things to consider

– Can teams leverage this for their performance?

– If leadership becomes distributed this way, would everyone become managers?

– How can you ensure this is a motivational factor and not a stress factor?

– How can this be communicated if at all?

– Is this type only suitable for introverts or extroverts?

More of these questions has already been raised in the Leaders Everywhere Challenge.

Leo & Tim on goals.

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I just finished up watching this video and can highly recommend watching L&T discussing goals. Both guys are on my list of weekly reads and seeing them grind heads are quite interesting. Somethings that boggled in my mind was

– Achieving 60% of goals

– closing your eyes and reviewing your last 48 hours before your imaginary demise

– Being contend with the status quo

– Not all who wander are lost

– focus vs. presence

– success vs fulfilment

– appreciation vs achievement

MIXing it up!

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So for some time now, I have been taking part in the MIX a.k.a. Management Innovation Exchange. It is a forum launched by renown management author, Gary Hamel. He wanted to explore a new management framework and boldly set the goal for the project to be the discovery of Management 2.0. This was supposed to be achieved through a framework similar to the one seen at Mozilla, with a few dedicated hackers/programmers in the eye of the storm, then several hundred of beta testers and hopefully new standards and millions of users. Not a modest task at all.

The MIX has been producing interesting content and has reviewed several cases and companies setting new standards in management theory. We have Gangplank, who gathered creators and innovators in a collaborative incubator. Roche, who busted bureaucracy by running an experiment with travel expenses being transparent.  The Wikimedia Foundation, who constantly seeks advice from their 70.000 monthly volunteers. Or, W. L. Gore who de facto removed management from the equation and now seeks to figure out where that will take them. Check out more of the stories from the mix.

Through a social media platform from SABA, I have been able to interact with academics, scholars, business owners, industry experts, and fellow students. Our goal was to hack the management 1.0 and turn it into management 2.0. This process was guided by Gary Hamel and his team. Here, is how the design looks like:

Hackathon Flowchart Management 2.0 process

Currently we just completed hacking and are about to commence the review of these. So I want to spend the next coming days on reviewing these ideas. From our initial phases in the hack, we established some of the major factors to management 1.0 and management 2.0. These factors formed some principles, which will be used as evaluation guidelines for reviews.

Management 2.0 Principles Hackathon

Principle In one sentence
Openness The willingness to share information and do business out in the open.
Community The ability for people with shared purpose to organize and engage.
Meritocracy An environment where ideas and people succeed based on the quality of their ideas and contributions.
Activism Tapping into individuals’ desire to stand up, opt in, and express themselves.
Collaboration The capability of groups of people to work together, divide tasks, and leverage individual strengths.
Meaning The most powerful motivations come from within.
Autonomy The freedom to act on one’s own, making decisions without the need of specific direction or approval from higher levels of management.
Serendipity The occurrence of events by chance in a beneficial way has always played a fundamental role in innovation.
Decentralization Rather than a top-down approach where activity and decision-making are closely held in small, central areas—decentralization allows it to happen anywhere.
Experimentation An environment where ideas can be tested quickly and improved continually.
Speed The unprecedented pace of change and immediacy of information.
Trust An acknowledgement that each of us is acting on good faith and good work will be reciprocated.

It has to be said that these principles have far more detail (you will need to create a profile) to them than stated above. I would also like to point out a few other principles that I might think are relevant.

Money and Capital

One of the main issue for the slow progress might be due to focus on money or capital. This seems to be very natural since we have attached value of companies to this variable, and naturally this should be a key performance indicator, if not the most important. We can transfer money into almost everything we need (food, shelter, Iphone, vacation, etc.). It will be empirical that a new management model addresses values that are intangible. Feelings are the most common nominator here. How does the new hack address new values?

Ownership

Another main issue is the implications with ownership. You cannot expect people to care, if they have no attachment. If you only give them the job, they are only required to maintainance what is stated in their job description. If you want to change management you need to address ownership and let people take physical ownership in their desk, chair, product and maybe even enable them to buy the company itself on a long-term.

Terminology – Employee, Colleague, Professional, Peer, or Fellow Citizen?

A third point is how the people in the organisation are addressed. There are several types of people, and these prefer different styles. So how can these be accommodated? Naturally the hierarchical way has been a default setting for the companies. This was mainly based on the army model, where the over all goal was to win by promoting competent individuals. So this makes sense for companies to use. However, reviewing the history we find several ways an organisation/nation can obtain the same means with insufficient resources to fund an army. Closely related to the army we have guerilla warfare and terrorist warfare with their own individual framework very different from hierarchical. Further away we have success by unification and assimilation, if you are unwilling or cannot afford to fight; give citizenship. So a new management model, would have to address how the organisational culture treats its peers.

The following is a full list of all the management hacks that were compiled during the inventing phase and which I will attempt to review previous mentioned principles.

  • Autonomy (Reality) Check
  • The Freedom / Accountability Swap
  • Advancing Autonomy a Step at a Time
  • Collaborative Business Planning and Execution
  • Collaborate. Agitate. Converge.
  • Secure Digital Collaboration
  • Anonymous contributions
  • Leader Meter 2.0: Spotting the natural leaders in your company
  • Embracing “Skills 2.0”– Leading by example to create a new way of working
  • Show Value of Community by Working Outside In
  • Short-duration teams
  • Reverse budget for experimentation
  • Open Up Clip By Clip
  • C o-creation in organizations – a new model for creating shared value
  • Using “Traditionally Virtual” organizational structure
  • Leading by letting go
  • Why points trump the hierarchy to reward contribution in knowledge organizations
  • Systemic/Holistic Management: Connecting the Dots with Project Monitoring 2.0
  • Tweetstorming – Reprogram Meeting DNA to Open Brainstorming to All
  • Organisational acupuncture: releasing energy for innovation by small targeted interventions
  • All work can be viewed as a service

The best piece of advice someone has given me.

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This is a though one to answer. I carry around so much advice that not one can be justified. Though one came quite close as the best quote. It might sound egocentric when I say it came from me, but perhaps it helps to add I was ten. I said Don’t worry. It will be alright.

The words were said to my grandmother standing to my right.

Just before saying so I gently took her hand.

In front of us lay my grandfather in his casket.

Her hand was cold and yet damp.

Her hand was trembling, and she was crying.

Around us where the rest of my family.

I shifted her hand to my left and reached around her waist.

She fell at ease and seemed to become peaceful.

When we left the room, my father put his hand on my right shoulder:

“Well done. That was very kind of you.”

Many years later, I often recall that memory and the little ten-year old boy. I had very little, if any, idea of what I did back then. Now, I see how kind it was. Even though I can never know all the memories my grandmother shared with my grandfather. Nevertheless, that little kid gave me some of the best advice! Share your best advice and always remember; Don’t worry. It will be alright!

Circular Capitalism

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When I first entered High school, the business kind, I was dreaming of being an important future money man. My goal was quite simple – A) to obtain a wad of cash and B) be an entrepreneurial business man. Since then we have received all kinds of new and challenging problems “Peak oil”, “Sustainbility” and “Money crisis” you name it! Many people have blamed either capitalism or businesses. Though only few addressed the foundation for all entrepreneurship and whether we have been thinking in the wrong direction? What if all entrepreneurs have failed, missed or been prohibited from thinking in other ways than linear progression? Somehow, we seem to have been thinking linear or perhaps not thinking at all – Cradle to grave, start to end, first and last, or spend and consume. What if we need to think in circular progression? What if we need to think more like cradle to cradle, start to start, first and modified, or spend and upgradable?

Circular Economic System

One model of how the circular economy could work, from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation report.

The secret Life of Methaphors and why it matters…

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I got this nice piece in a newsletter from the Narrative Lab, so I thought I would share it as food for thought!

Metaphors are all around us. Often, we don’t even notice them, but they have a profound effect on how we see and make sense of the world. According to James Geary in his book “I is an other”, we utter as many as six metaphors per minute, or around one metaphor for every ten to twenty-five words. Does that sound like a lot?

Have a look at this extract of a recent newspaper article about the economic crisis. The metaphors are italicised.

“Private sector business activity shrank in the eurozone for the first time in two years last month as new orders dried up, stoking fears that the economy could be heading back into recession, surveys showed on Wednesday.

downturn that began in smaller members of the 17-nation bloc has hit the core and survey compiler Markit said latest figures suggest the region’s economy will contract in the fourth quarter unless business and consumer confidence rallies.

“We can’t rule out the possibility of recession in the coming quarters. Combined with the globalslowdown you have the main growth engine of the eurozone economy, Germany, stuttering,” said Jeavon Lolay, head of global research at Lloyds Banking Group.

European concerns about flagging activity were mirrored in India’s service sector, which also shrankin September as new business tapered off, two days after a global manufacturing survey showed a first drop in output since June 2009 though firms still took on more workers.”

159 words: 16 metaphors – that is 1 metaphor for almost every 10 words. Test this theory yourself the next time you’re in conversation with someone. Once you become attuned to listening for metaphors, you will find yourself inundated by them.

Why is this important? Human beings use metaphors to make sense of the world and the complex problems they face. Therefore, if we listen to the metaphors people use in describing a phenomenon, we can find out what their true perspective or mindset is regarding that phenomenon. For example, a commonly used metaphor theme is equating time to money: We spend time, waste time, save time. We even say: Time is money! What does this “carrying across” of the attributes of money onto time say about how we view time?

We obviously see it as something of value, but also as something that is not infinite, that has limits and can run out. It’s a resource that needs to be managed properly. Time is seen as a form of currency i.e. if I give my time, I expect something in return.

Similarly, we can infer how people perceive other things like their customers, a certain product or other things, such as culture or safety. In a recent project we took a group of around 1600 people through our Metaphorology process (there’s more information about it in the product section of this newsletter). Our aim was to find out, through extracting metaphors, what their perceptions of the organisation’s safety culture were. People would argue that what we found were actually similes, but as Geary says: “simile is just a metaphor with the scaffolding still up”. Some examples of what we found include: safety is like breathing; safety is like smoke and mirrors; safety is like a paper tsunami; safety is like a banana peel – if you discard it, or ignore it, you could slip on it and kill yourself.

These metaphors are rich pictures, windows into the perceptions that people really hold about safety, beyond the corporate script, or what everyone knows to be the right answer.

The question is, so what? What do you do with the insights you gained from the metaphors? In our experience we often find two kinds of pervasive metaphors. Base or root metaphors that are unhelpful and dominant, and subjugated positive metaphors that represent the alternative story that already exists but is suppressed. Once these two types of metaphors have surfaced and are out in the open, initiatives can be designed to strengthen or amplify the positive metaphors and weaken the negative ones. Often these initiatives involve the use of story and conversation.

So next time you want to know what someone really thinks about something, listen out for the metaphors they use to describe it. It’ll probably be an enlightening experience.

What is Globalisation?

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Globalisation is always a matter of discussion, whether it means increased value or additional complexity in challenges. For schools and university, it is crucial to allow students pick their own response to this matter. But see what Economist’s Schumpeter columnist found:

In 2009, less than 5% of business undergraduates were foreign and less than 6% of the 12,000 institutions which offer business degrees had international accreditation.

When looking at the teachings of the universities it was just as poor:

Just 6% of the research they published in the top 20 management journals dealt with any kind of cross-border issues…

Just 14% percent deal with a cross-border issue in any way. And in only 6% of case studies is the cross-border issue central to what is being taught.

Looking back at my own master, I was fortunate enough to have been taught by teachers from 9 different countries in 3 different countries. The material was mixed and highly differentiated between Asian, European, Oceania and American companies. My self being Nordic I may with some justification claim not to have had this problem. Still with all the variety on cross-cultural issues (perhaps even being one), I still think more could be done. In particular in Europa, I see a latent unwillingness to give up on national stereotypes or see the differences as possibilities to learn.

What if we revolutionized learning in Europe – Let 5 years of learning at any given university be free, Let it be online, Let it be remote, Let students choose their teachers, Let teachers choose their students, Let students mix and match their lessons. One of the most unifying things is education – the internet is already taking us in the right directions. Wikipedia offers free information through cooperation; Google offers free services for cooperation; Skype offers free communication – why are universities not utilizing already existing tools to combine education on European level. It seems the right thing to do and would probably give a much better result with new EU members in the future. In the future, we might even aspire to global education networks where students are attending lessons on all 6 continents!

Do you Play?

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I found this through my thesis research and found it was worth sharing:

This is ‘play’ as the great philosophers understood it: the
experience of being an active, creative and fully autonomous
person. The play ethic is about having the confidence to be
spontaneous, creative and empathetic across every area of your
life – in relationships, in the community, in your cultural life, as
well as paid employment. It’s about placing yourself, your
passions and enthusiasms at the centre of your world.

Source:
P Kane, ‘Play for Today’ in The Observer,see also his book P Kane, The Play
Ethic: a manifesto for a new way of living (London:Macmillan, 2004)

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