Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Savvy Saturday 14 July

Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.

– E. M. Forster

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Bread & Purpose

Aristotle said “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.”

This statement applies just as much to one’s profession as to one’s purpose. It crosses real and perceived work and personal boundaries. It applies to organizations as well as people. It ties to a purpose where others can thrive and grow. What you produce has merit; has purpose; helps fulfill the needs of another.

A few months ago I met Sara an artisan bread mak7XXAWNH3SBer. She loves making bread and takes pride in her creations. She tests new processes, times, temperatures and ingredients. She is extremely good at what she does; making bread. She is extremely good at filling a need; making wholesome creations that help people feel special, loved and cared for. She makes bread that fills our bellies as much as our souls.

The “market” may be saying that people buy bread from factories and where and when it is convenient for them; or maybe that the business purpose of small ventures should be to be acquired and to grow. To sell as much as they can. To make a profit or to make a million more of something.

But there is a group of clients and friends that crave this particular bread maker’s creations. A tribe of people that don’t want to buy bread the “usual” way,  and that waits for the next iteration of the barley loaf or multigrain sourdough.

Her work, her art, her talent and her passion collide with an unwavering need. It may be a niche market, an unconventional need, but it exists and it is important.

When you find your talent and where it fits in the world, hold onto it; although it may take on many forms, locations and iterations, it is what truly makes us unique and human. It is your gift. Your bread. Your purpose.

-EMC

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Peter Drucker and Education: It’s About Human Beings

Last month, I had the privilege of representing the region of Latin America at the Global Peter Drucker Forum in Vienna, Austria. The Forum is in its 9th year and as a former Drucker Challenge winner and writer for various magazines in Latin America, I was invited to participate and dialogue with some of the world’s leading management thinkers sharing ideas around the theme of “Growth and Inclusive Prosperity.” It strikes me, in symposiums such as this one, how conversations seem to lead back to education and learning: as formative and as restorative ways of improving our society and our organizations.

Peter F. Drucker was born in Austria 108 years ago. He passed away in 2005, but he has been almost unanimously claimed in the media, the business community and academic circles as the “Inventor of Management.” His work (including over 40 books and papers) guides most modern management practices and many of his ideas and concepts – such as “Management by Objectives” or “Knowledge Worker”– are part of our daily lexicon.

He was a teacher, professor, writer and consultant. He worked with large multinational companies as well as public sector institutions, schools, think tanks and entrepreneurs. He grew up in Vienna in a traditional prosperous Viennese family surrounded by philosophers and thinkers. He moved to Hamburg and Frankfurt to study at the age of 18. There he met esteemed economists and thinkers such as Hayek, Mises and Schumpeter.

Drucker’s education and thinking were characterized by an exposure to a wide range of ideas, personalities and schools of thought. Being of Jewish origin, Drucker moved to England in 1933 and later emigrated to the USA. In the US, he found a force driving social development: US corporations becoming global players in an industrial society. Working with corporations like General Motors, Drucker was keen to share his brilliant ideas about the importance of management; not simply from the point of view of efficiencies and productivity, but as a practical discipline that supports and furthers work in (and for) community and society.

At times, “leadership” has so taken over our thinking and our organizations that we sometimes forget about the importance and beauty (Drucker called it “Liberal Art”) of management. As Drucker said: “Management is most and foremost about human beings.” When we place human beings at the heart of what we do, we are able to make the decisions that drive impact and social change. This resounds with most teachers and educators I know and I have the privilege to work with. Management is a means of driving organizations forward by thinking through and planning for the best possible outcomes; it is not about money or “shareholder value” but rather about the impact your organization has on society and on the world; and sometimes it starts with one person.

GPDF17. Photos courtesy: Peter Drucker Society

The Global Peter Drucker Forum honors the work and ideas of Peter Drucker. Designated the “World’s Management Forum,” it takes place every year in Vienna in honor of Peter Drucker and is comprised of several plenaries over the course of two days. The sessions involve authors, consultants, directors, entrepreneurs and students presenting their ideas around particular topics and themes; issues of relevance to business and the management of organizations. While education and learning was a constant topic of conversation, one session in particular, “Applying new lenses to look at the challenges of our time,” was particularly enlightening from a learning perspective. Sarah Green Carmichael (Senior Editor of Harvard Business Review), Hal Gregersen (Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center), Thomas Wedell (Partner at The Innovation Architects) and Roger L Martin (Director at the Martin Prosperity Institute, #1 on the Thinkers 50 list and author) talked about the “problems” we are trying to solve as leaders and society and that often it is the frame from which we see the problem as more of the issue than the problem we are trying to solve. Wedell talked about spending more time understanding the problem and less time trying to solve it while Gregersen characterized those people that ask catalytic questions and seek out situations where they are wrong as the most successful individuals (employees, leaders or managers) in driving their organizations forward. In other words, our fascination with certitude – and the idea that our view is the only one that matters – is the driving force behind ineffective management of organizations. Looking for the questions to ask is a directly correlated with moving out of comfort, certitude, bubbles of isolation and with embracing what we may find uncomfortable – silence, distinct environments, injustice – in order to make positive change.

Fellow Canadian, Roger Martin, has written several leading business management and strategy books including The Opposable Mind (2007). Former Dean of the Rotman School of Management in Toronto, Martin now runs the Prosperity Institute and along with other participants at the Drucker forum calls for a transformation in business education.

This is where we come in. As educators, administrators, managers and leaders, there is a resounding call to make our organizations more human and more human centric. The “how” is really up to us but I would venture that there are some pearls of wisdom in the works of Peter F Drucker; not as the “guru of management thinking” as he is commonly referred to but as the teacher and human being who returned to basics and touched the world of management thinking with simple phrases such as: “don’t tell me what … tell me what you are going to do on Monday that’s different.”

-EMC

 

 

 

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Drucker-Savvy “Leadership”

This week I will be participating in the Global Peter Drucker Forum (#GPDF17); dialoguing with speakers, participants and Drucker Challenge winners about the conference theme: Growth and Inclusive Prosperity. This is my third Drucker Forum and I am looking forward to learning and sharing insights with top management thinkers and practitioners: thought leaders, writers, consultants, CEOs, students, teachers and entrepreneurs.

I have written about the “cult of leadership” and I see it prevalent every day in organizations. My goal, this week, is to unpack more inclusive management practices as well as effective strategies for managing an organization in a world that is constantly changing. No geniuses, no “administration”, no so-called leaders; real human beings ensuring that real human beings can realize their full potential – and by extension their organization’s full potential – through solid yet iterative practices, processes and measurements.

My recent article for Forbes Mexico pulls ideas around social ecology, VUCA and the theme of the Drucker Forum together for a Latin American audience.

And growth and inclusion is really what needs to be talked about and implemented. Not just from “leaders” or “theorists” but as a question of  how we as managers and as organizational thinkers and doers can ensure that organizations don’t need geniuses or superhumans to manage it. Drucker said institutions  “must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.”

Human beings. That is what we are. Take away titles and offices and paycheques. We must find better solutions for growth and learning by more effectively connecting interests, harnessing opportunities in our complex, ambiguous, volatile and uncertain environment, and creating organizations & mechanisms that solve problems through a human centered approach that thrives on creation of value.

EMC

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Savvy Saturday July 1st, 2017

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Good Money, Bad Money

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The basic idea of good money and bad money is that the type of money a manager accepts carries specific expectations that must be met. These expectations heavily influence the types of markets and channels that a venture can and cannot target. The very process of securing funding forces many potentially disruptive ideas to get shaped instead as sustaining innovations that target large and obvious markets. Thus, the funding received can send great ideas on a march towards failure.

As emergent ideas are being nurtured during nascent years, money must be patient for growth but impatient for profits.

When winning strategies become clear and deliberate ideas need to be carried out then money should be impatient for growth but patient for profit.

  • Clayton Christensen, Disruptive Strategy, HBX
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¿Llegó el fin de la ventaja competitiva?

Existen artículos y libros que hablan del “fin de la ventaja competitiva”. En ellos se explica que la empresa del futuro se basa tanto en activos tangibles como en activos intangibles, conecta –en vez de dividir– intereses y destaca por el alineamiento de valores en vez de la competencia entre intereses, empresas y mercados.

Puede sonar idealista dentro de una sociedad y un mundo de negocios que se vuelve más competitivo cada día, pero a raíz de este movimiento, en la administración de empresas hay una idea muy sencilla y comprobada: un enfoque equilibrado es la clave para que una empresa tenga éxito en el corto, mediano y largo plazo.

Si nos enfocamos sólo en ganancias, no invertimos en proyectos innovadores. Si seguimos sólo lo que hace la competencia, no tenemos apertura hacia ideas nuevas e innovaciones que crean mercados (como explica Clayton Christensen en su libro The Innovator’s Dilemma). Steve Jobs, durante sus años creando productos para su empresa Apple, decía que no le importaba lo que quería el mercado, porque el mercado no sabía lo que quería.

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Photo: Creative Commons

La idea fundamental del “fin de la ventaja competitiva” es que no nos encerramos en lo que hace la competencia ni en generar retornos. Las organizaciones tienen que redefinir el éxito; por ejemplo, la nueva ventaja competitiva puede ser la conexión de la empresa con la sociedad. Empresas que son conectadas con sus stakeholders y crean productos y servicios que tengan relevancia en las vidas de ellos (ejemplo: Netflix, Uber, etc.) son mucho más exitosas que las empresas que niegan los cambios en los deseos y comportamiento de sus clientes. La conexión entre una empresa y sus seguidores hace la diferencia siempre y cuando la empresa tenga contemplada esta apertura a la innovación y conexiones inesperadas.

¿Cómo lograr este equilibrio entre proyectos innovadores que no generan ganancias todavía y los servicios o productos que son codiciados en el mercado? Existen tres áreas estratégicas donde una empresa del futuro “vive” este equilibrio:

  1. Visión organizacional: La visión de la organización está con un propósito duradero y cautivador aprobado por el directorio y desarrollado en conjunto con todos los stakeholders.
  2. Plan de mitigación de riesgo: Se identifican riesgos y su mitigación en todos los proyectos de la empresa, incluyendo proyectos que contemplan un cambio al statu quo.
  3. Plan de innovación: Más que una palabra de moda, la innovación tiene que ver con la inversión en proyectos innovadores y arriesgar fondos en proyectos que son interfuncionales y que pueden demorar años antes de alcanzar la rentabilidad.

Una reevaluación de la definición del éxito a través de la visión organizacional y los planes de inversión (incluyendo mitigación de riesgo y de inversión en innovación/investigación y desarrollo) dice mucho de qué tipo de empresa queremos ser y si estamos aprovechando la innovación y la conexión de intereses. La empresa del futuro, entonces, necesita un liderazgo que tenga una visión amplia del éxito y de la prosperidad basada no sólo en la ventaja competitiva.

 

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This blog post was originally published in September 2015 by Forbes Mexico as a featured business article.

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Managers as Myriad Actors

One of the fundamental questions raised during the Global Peter Drucker Forum in Vienna two years’ ago was what our actions will be, as managers, when facing the Great Transformation; in other words, when facing transformational changes that lie in the future for companies, governments and communities alike, what actions will we take today? Will we be one of what Richard Straub, President of the Drucker Society Europe, calls the “myriad actors” who shape the future and impact others or will we abstain from courageous and decisive action?

Peter Drucker talked about the role of managers as “the central resource, the generic distinctive, the constitutive organ of society…” and that managers’ actions are essentially a “public concern” because our survival as a society is “dependent on the performance, the competence, the earnestness and the values of their managers.” (Drucker: The Ecological Vision)

The conversation in Vienna re-examined management’s responsibility to society and humanity. One of the things that drew me to the work of Drucker over 15 years’ ago was his focus on human-centric organizations. And yet, today, we still see organizations more focused on short term profits for shareholders rather than a balance of long and short term value creation for all stakeholders including employees, community and society in general.

Are we doing enough to keep that balance? Many of the speakers did not think seem to think so. They cited studies showing that only 13% of employees around the world are engaged in their jobs (Gallup’s “State of The Global Workplace” report) and that 63% of 1000 corporate board members and C-suite executives surveyed by Mckinsey claim that pressure to generate strong short –term results has increased over the past five years. Clearly, we have a lot of work to do – to shape the future towards value creation for all stakeholders and unleashing the incredible creative and human potential of the people who work with us.

How might we do this? By being “myriad actors”; by looking for ways to shape the future, “see around corners” (as Forum speaker Nilofer Merchant said) and impact others in positive ways. Some organizations, for example, choose to connect leading edge technology and a commitment to improving the human condition (see HopeLab recipient of the Drucker Award for Non Profit Innovation). Others focus on improving employee engagement levels (see Telus, and Dan Pontefract’s work).

I don’t think management can be taught only in a management program; I think it’s a combination of art and edifice – and perhaps this is what Drucker was referring to when he defined management in The New Realities, as a liberal art: “’liberal’ because it deals with the fundamentals of knowledge, self-knowledge, wisdom, and leadership; ‘art’ because it is practice and application.”

We might not know exactly how the future will turn out or how it will shape our industry or impact our livelihoods but we can certainly act – in a myriad of ways – to ensure that we keep humans at the center of decision making within our organizations.

As Richard Straub states in “The Great Transformation” (EFMD Global Focus 2014), “Management is a real world practice of dealing with people and organizations. Managers can make all the difference in the world with their knowledge, their creativity, their emotions and their values.” Managers are myriad actors.

Esther M Clark

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A version of this blog post was published in 2014; two weeks following the Drucker Forum in Vienna.

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Savvy Saturday February 25, 2017

“people who create, craft and love their art tend to focus on these seemingly bad ideas nurturing them into something brilliant. The innovators or the troublemakers who question the status quo may end up making something so remarkable that it creates a movement, a tribe, a following …and major business.”

 

From Esther Clark’s article “Seemingly Bad Ideas” published April 2016.

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