Publish with us

Follow Penguin

Follow Penguinsters

Follow Hind Pocket Books

Assessing the Prototypes

Jennifer Riel is a strategic adviser to senior leaders at a number of Fortune 500 companies. Her book, Creating Great Choices is an insightful and instructive blend of storytelling, theory and hands-on advice to help any leader or manager facing a tough choice. The book includes fresh stories of successful integrative thinkers that will demystify the process of creative problem solving, as well as practical tools and exercises to help readers engage with the ideas. 
Storytelling converts a possibility into a narrative— a tale of events that proceeds over time and has a beginning, a middle, and an end. A story lets you explain what happens within the possibility— the plot points of your new and better world. Narrative is an effective way to capture and explain a new idea because humans are naturally drawn to stories; stories are the way people have learned and shared critical information since our ancestors were crouched around a campfire.
Using stories lets you engage deeply with ideas, because you can fully picture the possibility in your mind’s eye. Once you do that, you will be able to communicate that picture to others. As screenwriting teacher Robert McKee puts it, “If you can harness imagination and the principles of a well- told story, then you get people rising to their feet amid thunderous applause instead of yawning and ignoring you.”
Our friend Claudia Kotchka, former head of design at P&G, is a master storyteller. To illustrate the impact of human- centered design to her peers at the sometimes- rigid consumer goods giant, she would tell a story about Altoids. Yes, the curiously strong mint introduced in the 1780s and now owned by Wrigley. Kotchka would illustrate the special appeal of Altoids by describing the process of looking at the cheerful metallic box with its nostalgic typeface and then opening the tin, hearing the liner paper crinkle, smelling the wafting scent of peppermint oil, and seeing the uneven little mints, seemingly hand-made, lying haphazardly within.
Kotchka would go on to describe what Altoids would look like if they’d been developed through P&G’s structured, rigorous, and highly reliable processes: perfect, uniform mints in a simple plastic container with a slightly garish sticker on the front. The “waste” of the liner paper and the expensive metal box would be eliminated. The “imperfection” of the varied mints would be remedied. The understated label design would be “livened up.” And voilà, all the distinctiveness of Altoids would disappear— along with the brand’s intense consumer loyalty and price premium.
Kotchka called her imaginary new product Proctoids, after the irreverent nickname sometimes applied to P&G employees. Her vivid and funny story hit home with audiences inside P&G and out, illustrating her point more clearly than reams of data on failed innovations.
Try This
Think back to the invention of the iPod. Craft a short narrative that would explain the core of the idea and the way it works to create new value for users and for Apple. Try the same for one of the possibilities you generated in chapter 7.
For each of your possibilities, think about the story you could tell about it, focusing on how each possibility would be experienced by real people. The story needn’t be long or obsessively detailed. The objective of the narrative should always be to help you, and others, understand the core value of the possibility.



Jeffrey Bussgang is a venture capitalist, entrepreneur, and professor at Harvard Business School. In his book, Entering StartUpLand you seek your ideal entry point into this popular, cutting-edge organizational paradigm. It is a practical, step-by-step guide that provides an insider’s analysis of various start-up roles and responsibilities. You’ll gain insight into how successful startups operate and learn to assess which ones you might want to join–or emulate.
When I was head of Marketing at one of my startups, our sales director in Australia came to our annual sales meeting bearing a gift for me: a boomerang. He said it was because I always came back to him with answers to his questions when he was in the field chasing sales opportunities. I keep that boomerang in my office to this day and still think about how much field sales people appreciate it when the marketing team gets back to them in a timely, responsive fashion. For a marketing executive, being customer focused means paying attention to your internal customers as well as your external ones.
When entrepreneurs discuss with me the reasons they need to raise money for their startups, the focus is typically placed first on building the product and then selling it. The two most expensive functions at a startup are the product team and the sales team. Marketing profoundly affects them both: on one side, it heavily influences product design; on the other, it focuses and supports Sales. So the marketing function is like the productivity engine of the startup. When a startup has a great marketing function, the product and sales teams both look amazingly productive, and nobody knows why. Everybody typically credits the head of Sales and the head of Product, but behind the scenes, it’s Marketing that makes them look good.
Marketing, in other words, is the unsung hero of the startup.
Strangely, startups often hire marketing people too late. First they hire the team required to build the product—product managers or engineers. Then they hire one or two salespeople to sell the product. Remember the organization chart for my twelve-person startup in chapter 1 (figure 1-2)? There are zero marketing people. It’s a common mistake.
Typically, the first marketing person might get hired as employee number twenty or thirty, often after a startup hits a snag. Perhaps the sales force has become unproductive and is idling. So the startup scrambles to get a marketing function installed quickly to help. By then, though, it’s often too late. When a startup misses its sales numbers, the sales people get blamed. But the problem, typically, is not that the salespeople are incompetent; it’s that the startup lacks marketers who can generate leads and acquisitions for those salespeople. As a result, Sales is either getting bad leads or no leads at all. They’re lacking the good, competitive weapons that skilled marketers can provide, so they’re struggling to win.
That’s when the company needs Marketing. It needs Marketing to provide support for Sales.
Grab a copy of the book: Entering StartUpLand 


Competing on Analytics with External Processes

Competing on Analytics provides the road map for becoming an analytical competitor, showing readers how to create new strategies for their organizations based on sophisticated analytics. Introducing a five-stage model of analytical competition, Davenport and Harris describe the typical behaviors, capabilities and challenges of each stage. It is the definitive guide for transforming your company’s fortunes in the age of analytics and big data.

Thomas H. Davenport is the President’s Distinguished Professor of IT and Management at Babson College and a research fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. Jeanne G. Harris is on the faculty at Columbia University, where she teaches Business Analytics Management.
The  great  challenge  for  brand  managers  in  the  current  age,  however, is developing a closed loop of analytics describing how customers interact with a brand across multiple channels. With this information, brands can learn not only what ads and promotions customers see, but how  they  react  in  terms  of click-throughs,  conversions,  and  service. Most  companies  find  it  difficult  to  marshal  all  this  data  and  make sense of it with analytics.
One company that does do it well, however, is Disney’s Parks and Resorts business unit. The business has long been highly analytical, optimizing hotel prices, ride times, and marketing offers. Now, however, due to a “vacation management” project called MyMagic+ that cost over $1 billion and began in 2008, it is able to close the loop on how all that marketing translates into a customer experience. The ambitious goal of MyMagic+ is to provide a more magical, immersive, seamless and personal experience for every single guest. From the beginning of planning a Disney park or hotels reservation, the customer is encouraged to register and to supply an email address. The customer can plan a family trip (and, at the same time, register all family members or friends participating in the trip) with the MyDisneyExperience website or app. Disney is then able to learn what activities the customer is considering and what web pages engage different family members. Customers are also encouraged to sign up for the FastPass+ service, which offers them shorter wait times; in exchange, they share information  about  the  park  attractions,  entertainment  options,  and  even greetings from Disney characters they intend to experience.
What really closes the loop for Disney, however, is the MagicBand. Rolled out in 2013, these wristbands are typically mailed to a family before its visit starts. From the customer’s standpoint, it allows access to the park and hotel rooms, FastPass+ entry to attractions at specific times,  and   in-park and hotel purchases. It also stores photos taken with  Disney  characters,  and  allows  the  characters  to  have  personalized  interactions  with  kids.  From  Disney’s  standpoint,  it  provides  a  goldmine  of  data,  including  customer  locations,  character  interactions, purchase histories, ride patterns, and much more. If customers opt in, Disney will send personalized offers to them during their stay and after they return home.
The  scale  and  expense  of  the  MyMagic+  system  is  reflective  of the fact that the ante has been raised for competing on analytics. It may  take  a  while  for  Disney  to  recoup  its  billion-dollar  investment in this closed loop system, but the company has already seen operational benefits in being able to admit more customers to parks on busy days. There is also a belief that the system will deter customers from visiting competitor parks. Key to the ultimate value of the program, however, will be extensive analytics on how marketing and branding programs translate into actual customer activity.
Find this book:- Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning 

Reintroduce Yourself

Reinventing You provides a step-by-step guide to help you assess your unique strengths, develop a compelling personal brand and ensure that others recognize the powerful contribution you can make. Branding expert Dorie Clark mixes personal stories with engaging interviews and examples from Mark Zuckerberg, Al Gore, Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin and others to show you how to think big about your professional goals, take control of your career and finally live the life you want.

Small, tangible signals are only part of the battle, however, the biggest challenge is changing your behavior to reflect your new goals and reality. For over a decade, Dan had worked at a large, international technology company, ascending to the rank of engineering director. But when he decided to leave for a newer tech company with a hip reputation, he realized his résumé had some baggage attached. His previous employer was well-known and respected by the public, but in tech circles, it was viewed as an old-line behemoth, resistant to change and full of stuffy bureaucrats, not exactly the image he wanted to project to his new colleagues. “I had to work to get other people to understand I was comfortable in the new environment,” he says. “It’s a grassroots culture, so I had to start building relationships and trust. It was lots of time ‘managing by walking around,’ being as visible as possible. With anything that smacked of a big company, like having a standing staff meeting, I overreacted against it.”
Dan realized he had to make connections quickly to shape his colleagues’ perception of him, but he was starting at a disadvantage. “I discovered my entire personal network was at [my previous employer],” he recalls. “I decided I shouldn’t be in that situation again.” So he embarked on a networking campaign to deepen his connections both inside and outside his new company, and in the process, build a reputation as a forward-thinking, connected executive who understood industry trends. But there was only one problem: his personality.“I’m a fairly introverted guy,”Dan says.“I hate taking these meetings with strangers, the idea of a meeting that’s not going to help me get the job I have in front of me done, or getting to know people without an action item.”
But he forced himself to persist. “I realized it was important, that by the time you need connections, you can’t suddenly make them. You have to be ready.” These days, while his night-owl engineering team is sleeping in, Dan has a steady regimen of breakfast meetings including “people in my industry at other companies, executive search people, leaders at small companies, venture capitalists, a guy who works on corporate turnarounds.” When it comes to making connections, Dan says, “the biggest change is my default answer used to be no, and now my default answer is yes. I’ve focused on reasons to say yes.”
His networking has paid off. He’s now on the pulse of start-ups to acquire and knows which ones are going down (and from which he can poach talent). He’s made himself indispensable to his company and the furthest thing from an old school, bureaucratic manager. In fact, he’s found ways to play with his background and upend expectations. When he discovered his new company required receipts for all travel expenses above $25, whereas his old firm’s threshold was $75, he shook up his colleagues by letting them know it was less bureaucratic at his old company and suggested they change the policy. He recalls with pleasure: “I could use negative branding to my advantage.” And he knows that if he wants to change jobs in the future, he’s positioned himself with the contacts and branding he needs to land securely.
Find this book: Reinventing You

‘A Checklist For God’s Own Office’, An Excerpt

What happens when a vacation turns into a business opportunity? James Joseph, an NRI professional decided to take a family vacation in Aluva, Kerala where he stumbled upon a business opportunity in the form of jackfruits. Today, he is the founder of a successful entrepreneurial venture called Jackfruit365, an initiative to create an organized market for nutrient-rich jackfruits in India.
His book, God’s Own Office is a part-memoir, part how-to on how to integrate with the local community and set up a home office alongside nurturing your entrepreneurial ambitions.
On October 14, 2017, James is going to share his wisdom in a TedX Talk on how to set up God’s own office. He’s also going to dedicate the book to the late President APJ Abdul Kalam.
Here’s an excerpt from the book God’s Own Office, it’s a checklist of what you need to have to set up your own home office in a remote part of the country.
A Checklist For God’s Own Office
1.Do you have an unwavering conviction to return home?
2. Do you have a constant focus to return home? Does that keep you awake?
3. Have you earned the right to return? Can you pass the Mohammed versus Mountain test?
4. Can you still uproot your family? Can you still pass the inchworm test?
5. Do you have the right location for God’s Own Office?
a. Easy travel connectivity to your base office
b. Reliable digital connectivity
c. Constant source of positive energy to work alone
6. Can you arrange enough backup to avoid disruptions?
a. Power
b. Broadband
7. Do you or your employer have the right technology for remote working?
a. Digital presence information
b. Instant messenger
c. Online audio/video conferencing
d. Desktop sharing
e. Remote access to corporate network
f. Cloud services to store and share data
8. Can you make your home office sound proof?
9. Do you have the discipline?
a. Work without supervision
b. Handle interruptions by family and guests
10. Can you still stay on top of the mind of your colleagues and management?
11. Can you be a local ambassador for your employer?
12. Do you have options to adopt start-ups near your home town?
13. Can you ensure the safety of your family when you are away from home?
14. Can you allocate sufficient time to help your children remain globally competent in a small town?
15. Can you help your children integrate well in a regular school?
16. Are you willing to help people around you?
17. Are you happy to reconnect with extended family back home?
18. Can you find enough activities to recharge yourself in a sleepy village?
a. Adopt a farm
b. Participate in cultural activities
19. Do you have the resilience to stomach the dark sides of a small town?
a. Avoidable deaths around you
b. Bureaucracy
c. Need for extra humility, patience and tolerance
20. Will the economics of God’s Own Office work for you?

Can Emotional Intelligence Be Learned?

FOR AGES, PEOPLE HAVE DEBATED if leaders are born or made. So too goes the debate about emotional intelligence. Are people born with certain levels of empathy, for example, or do they acquire empathy as a result of life’s experiences? The answer is both. Scientific inquiry strongly suggests that there is a genetic component to emotional intelligence. Psychological and developmental research indicates that nurture plays a role as well. How much of each perhaps will never be known, but research and practice clearly demonstrate that emotional intelligence can be learned.
One thing is certain: Emotional intelligence increases with age. There is an old-fashioned word for the phenomenon: maturity. Yet even with maturity, some people still need training to enhance their emotional intelligence. Unfortunately, far too many training programs that intend to build leadership skills—including emotional intelligence—are a waste of time and money. The problem is simple: They focus on the wrong part of the brain.
Emotional intelligence is born largely in the neurotransmitters of the brain’s limbic system, which governs feelings, impulses, and drives. Research indicates that the limbic system learns best through motivation, extended practice, and feedback. Compare this with the kind of learning that goes on in the neocortex, which governs analytical and technical ability. The neocortex grasps concepts and logic. It is the part of the brain that figures out how to use a computer or make a sales call by reading a book. Not surprisingly—but mistakenly—it is also the part of the brain targeted by most training programs aimed at enhancing emotional intelligence. When such programs take, in effect, a neocortical approach, my research with the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations has shown they can even have a negative impact on people’s job performance.
To enhance emotional intelligence, organizations must refocus their training to include the limbic system. They must help people break old behavioral habits and establish new ones. That not only takes much more time than conventional training programs, it also requires an individualized approach.
Imagine an executive who is thought to be low on empathy by her colleagues. Part of that deficit shows itself as an inability to listen; she interrupts people and doesn’t pay close attention to what they’re saying. To fix the problem, the executive needs to be motivated to change, and then she needs practice and feedback from others in the company. A colleague or coach could be tapped to let the executive know when she has been observed failing to listen. She would then have to replay the incident and give a better response; that is, demonstrate her ability to absorb what others are saying. And the executive could be directed to observe certain executives who listen well and to mimic their behavior.
With persistence and practice, such a process can lead to lasting results. I know one Wall Street executive who sought to improve his empathy—specifically his ability to read people’s reactions and see their perspectives. Before beginning his quest, the executive’s subordinates were terrified of working with him. People even went so far as to hide bad news from him. Naturally, he was shocked when finally confronted with these facts. He went home and told his family—but they only confirmed what he had heard at work. When their opinions on any given subject did not mesh with his, they, too, were frightened of him.
Enlisting the help of a coach, the executive went to work to heighten his empathy through practice and feedback. His first step was to take a vacation to a foreign country where he did not speak the language. While there, he monitored his reactions to the unfamiliar and his openness to people who were different from him. When he returned home, humbled by his week abroad, the executive asked his coach to shadow him for parts of the day, several times a week, to critique how he treated people with new or different perspectives. At the same time, he consciously used on-the-job interactions as opportunities to practice “hearing” ideas that differed from his. Finally, the executive had himself videotaped in meetings and asked those who worked for and with him to critique his ability to acknowledge and understand the feelings of others. It took several months, but the executive’s emotional intelligence did ultimately rise, and the improvement was reflected in his overall performance on the job.
It’s important to emphasize that building one’s emotional intelligence cannot—will not—happen without sincere desire and concerted effort. A brief seminar won’t help; nor can one buy a how-to manual. It is much harder to learn to empathize—to internalize empathy as a natural response to people— than it is to become adept at regression analysis. But it can be done. “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. If your goal is to become a real leader, these words can serve as a guidepost in your efforts to develop high emotional intelligence.
This is an excerpt from HBR’s 10 Must Reads (The Essentials). Get your copy here.
Credit: Abhishek Singh

6 books You Should Read This Navratri

Navratri is a celebration of womanhood and the different forms of a woman. The various goddesses in Hinduism embody different ideals.
Here’s a list of 6 books to celebrate the power of women, this Navratri

Devi, Diva or She-Devil

Like Durga with her ten arms defeated Mahishasura on the battlefield, Sudha Menon’s book Devi, Diva or She-Devil explores the plethora of challenges women face in the professional world and deal with them.

Step Up : How Women Can Perform Better For Success

In an effort to help women achieve the ultimate goal in their personal and professional space, author Anju Jain in Step Up elucidates practical techniques in a simple matrix for women to become successful. The book features interviews with key figures such as Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (Biocon), Sonia Singh (NDTV), Devyani Rana (Caterpillar), Geetu Verma (Unilever) which shows how the modern day woman embodies Goddess Shakti and triumphs over personal and professional arenas.

Millionaire Housewives

In this book, the authors explore the lives of 12 enterprising homemakers who in spite of having no past experience in business, managed to build successful empires through their ambitious zeal for work, defying all stereotypes. Extending their good luck charm in business, they are the Lakshmis of the house who embody prosperity and wealth.



Seema Mohanty traces the evolution of the Goddess Kali in her book The Book of Kali. The goddess confronts the world in her unconventional persona – challenging the orthodox ideas of divinity.  This book highlights the various forms and rituals associated in which the goddess is worshipped.


In a modern re-telling of the Mahabharata, Devdutt Patnaik’s book Jaya not only features 250 line illustrations, it also includes women’s stories, other than Draupadi’s such as Satyawati, Kunti, Gandhari). The ending is not what one would expect, and almost is the sole reason why the book was originally called Jaya by Vyasa.



History has romanticised Rama at the cost of marginalizing the role that Sita played in ‘The Ramayana’. Devdutt Pattanaik’s book Sita re-imagines the world of Sita. It emphasizes on the fact that though portrayed as a submissive character, Sita was a woman of mighty demeanor and strength.
Which book are you reading this Navratri?

The Elements of a Successful Business Model

EVERY SUCCESSFUL COMPANY ALREADY operates according to an effective business model. By systematically identifying all of its constituent parts, executives can understand how the model fulfills a potent value proposition in a profitable way using certain key resources and key processes. With that understanding, they can then judge how well the same model could be used to fulfill a radically different CVP—and what they’d need to do to construct a new one, if need be, to capitalize on that opportunity.
When Ratan Tata of Tata Group looked out over this scene, he saw a critical job to be done: providing a safer alternative for scooter families. He understood that the cheapest car available in India cost easily five times what a scooter did and that many of these families could not afford one. Offering an affordable, safer, all-weather alternative for scooter families was a powerful value proposition, one with the potential to reach tens of millions of people who were not yet part of the car-buying market. Ratan Tata also recognized that Tata Motors’ business model could not be used to develop such a product at the needed price point.
At the other end of the market spectrum, Hilti, a Liechtensteinbased manufacturer of high-end power tools for the construction industry, reconsidered the real job to be done for many of its current customers. A contractor makes money by finishing projects; if the required tools aren’t available and functioning properly, the job doesn’t get done. Contractors don’t make money by owning tools; they make it by using them as efficiently as possible. Hilti could help contractors get the job done by selling tool use instead of the tools themselves—managing its customers’ tool inventory by providing the best tool at the right time and quickly furnishing tool repairs, replacements, and upgrades, all for a monthly fee. To deliver on that value proposition, the company needed to create a fleetmanagement program for tools and in the process, shift its focus from manufacturing and distribution to service. That meant Hilti had to construct a new profit formula and develop new resources and new processes.
The most important attribute of a customer value proposition is its precision: how perfectly it nails the customer job to be done—and nothing else. But such precision is often the most difficult thing to achieve. Companies trying to create the new often neglect to focus on one job; they dilute their efforts by attempting to do lots of things. In doing lots of things, they do nothing really well.
One way to generate a precise customer value proposition is to think about the four most common barriers keeping people from getting particular jobs done: insufficient wealth, access, skill, or time. Software maker Intuit devised QuickBooks to fulfill smallbusiness owners’ need to avoid running out of cash. By fulfilling that job with greatly simplified accounting software, Intuit broke the skills barrier that kept untrained small-business owners from using more-complicated accounting packages. MinuteClinic, the drugstore-based basic health care provider, broke the time barrier that kept people from visiting a doctor’s office with minor health issues by making nurse practitioners available without appointments.
Designing a profit formula
Ratan Tata knew the only way to get families off their scooters and into cars would be to break the wealth barrier by drastically decreasing the price of the car. “What if I can change the game and make a car for one lakh?” Tata wondered, envisioning a price point of around US$2,500, less than half the price of the cheapest car available. This, of course, had dramatic ramifications for the profit formula: It required both a significant drop in gross margins and a radical reduction in many elements of the cost structure. He knew; however, he could still make money if he could increase sales volume dramatically, and he knew that his target base of consumers was potentially huge.
For Hilti, moving to a contract management program required shifting assets from customers’ balance sheets to its own and generating revenue through a lease/subscription model. For a monthly fee, customers could have a full complement of tools at their fingertips, with repair and maintenance included. This would require a fundamental shift in all major components of the profit formula: the revenue stream (pricing, the staging of payments, and how to think about volume), the cost structure (including added sales development and contract management costs), and the supporting margins and transaction velocity.
Identifying key resources and processes
Having articulated the value proposition for both the customer and the business, companies must then consider the key resources and processes needed to deliver that value. For a professional services firm, for example, the key resources are generally its people, and the key processes are naturally people related (training and development, for instance). For a packaged goods company, strong brands and well-selected channel retailers might be the key resources, and associated brand-building and channel-management processes among the critical processes.
Oftentimes, it’s not the individual resources and processes that make the difference but their relationship to one another. Companies will almost always need to integrate their key resources and processes in a unique way to get a job done perfectly for a set of customers. When they do, they almost always create enduring competitive advantage. Focusing first on the value proposition and the profit formula makes clear how those resources and processes need to interrelate. For example, most general hospitals offer a value proposition that might be described as, “We’ll do anything for anybody.” Being all things to all people requires these hospitals to have a vast collection of resources (specialists, equipment, and so on) that can’t be knit together in any proprietary way. The result is not just a lack of differentiation but dissatisfaction.
By contrast, a hospital that focuses on a specific value proposition can integrate its resources and processes in a unique way that delights customers. National Jewish Health in Denver, for example, is organized around a focused value proposition we’d characterize as, “If you have a disease of the pulmonary system, bring it here. We’ll define its root cause and prescribe an effective therapy.” Narrowing its focus has allowed National Jewish to develop processes that integrate the ways in which its specialists and specialized equipment work together.
For Tata Motors to fulfill the requirements of its customer value proposition and profit formula for the Nano, it had to reconceive how a car is designed, manufactured, and distributed. Tata built a small team of fairly young engineers who would not, like the company’s more-experienced designers, be influenced and constrained in their thinking by the automaker’s existing profit formulas. This team dramatically minimized the number of parts in the vehicle, resulting in a significant cost saving. Tata also reconceived its supplier strategy, choosing to outsource a remarkable 85% of the Nano’s components and use nearly 60% fewer vendors than normal to reduce transaction costs and achieve better economies of scale.
At the other end of the manufacturing line, Tata is envisioning an entirely new way of assembling and distributing its cars. The ultimate plan is to ship the modular components of the vehicles to a combined network of company-owned and independent entrepreneur-owned assembly plants, which will build them to order. The Nano will be designed, built, distributed, and serviced in a radically new way—one that could not be accomplished without a new business model. And while the jury is still out, Ratan Tata may solve a traffic safety problem in the process.
This is an excerpt from HBR’s 10 Must Reads (On Strategy). Get your copy here.
Credit: Abhishek Singh

Managing ADT (Attention Deficiency Trait)

D Overloaded Circuits by Edward M. Hallowell DAVID DRUMS HIS FINGERS on his desk as he scans the e-mail on his computer screen. At the same time, he’s talking on the phone to an executive halfway around the world. His knee bounces up and down like a jackhammer. He intermittently bites his lip and reaches for his constant companion, the coffee cup. He’s so deeply involved in multitasking that he has forgotten the appointment his Outlook calendar reminded him of 15 minutes ago.
Jane, a senior vice president, and Mike, her CEO, have adjoining offices so they can communicate quickly, yet communication never seems to happen. “Whenever I go into Mike’s office, his phone lights up, my cell phone goes off, someone knocks on the door, he suddenly turns to his screen and writes an e-mail, or he tells me about a new issue he wants me to address,” Jane complains. “We’re working flat out just to stay afloat, and we’re not getting anything important accomplished. It’s driving me crazy.”
David, Jane, and Mike aren’t crazy, but they’re certainly crazed. Their experience is becoming the norm for overworked managers who suffer—like many of your colleagues, and possibly like you— from a very real but unrecognized neurological phenomenon that I call attention deficit trait, or ADT.
Caused by brain overload, ADT is now epidemic in organizations. The core symptoms are distractibility, inner frenzy, and impatience. People with ADT have difficulty staying organized, setting priorities, and managing time. These symptoms can undermine the work of an otherwise gifted executive. If David, Jane, Mike, and the millions like them understood themselves in neurological terms, they could actively manage their lives instead of reacting to problems as they happen.
As a psychiatrist who has diagnosed and treated thousands of people over the past 25 years for a medical condition called attention deficit disorder, or ADD (now known clinically as attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder), I have observed firsthand how a rapidly growing segment of the adult population is developing this new, related condition. The number of people with ADT coming into my clinical practice has mushroomed by a factor of ten in the past decade. Unfortunately, most of the remedies for chronic overload proposed by time-management consultants and executive coaches do not address the underlying causes of ADT.
Unlike ADD, a neurological disorder that has a genetic component and can be aggravated by environmental and physical factors, ADT springs entirely from the environment. Like the traffic jam, ADT is an artifact of modern life. It is brought on by the demands on our time and attention that have exploded over the past two decades. As our minds fill with noise—feckless synaptic events signifying nothing—the brain gradually loses its capacity to attend fully and thoroughly to anything.
The symptoms of ADT come upon a person gradually. The sufferer doesn’t experience a single crisis but rather a series of minor emergencies while he or she tries harder and harder to keep up. Shouldering a responsibility to “suck it up” and not complain as the workload increases, executives with ADT do whatever they can to handle a load they simply cannot manage as well as they’d like. The ADT sufferer therefore feels a constant low level of panic and guilt. Facing a tidal wave of tasks, the executive becomes increasingly hurried, curt, peremptory, and unfocused, while pretending that everything is fine.
To control ADT, we first have to recognize it. And control it we must, if we as individuals and organizational leaders are to be effective. In the following pages, I’ll offer an analysis of the origins of ADT and provide some suggestions that may help you manage it.
This is an excerpt from HBR’s 10 Must Reads (On Managing Yourself). Get your copy here.
Credit: Abhishek Singh

Everything You Need to Know About Level 5 Leadership

IN 1971, A SEEMINGLY ordinary man named Darwin E. Smith was named chief executive of Kimberly-Clark, a stodgy old paper company whose stock had fallen 36% behind the general market during the previous 20 years. Smith, the company’s mild-mannered in-house lawyer, wasn’t so sure the board had made the right choice—a feeling that was reinforced when a Kimberly-Clark director pulled him aside and reminded him that he lacked some of the qualifications for the position. But CEO he was, and CEO he remained for 20 years.
What a 20 years it was. In that period, Smith created a stunning transformation at Kimberly-Clark, turning it into the leading consumer paper products company in the world. Under his stewardship, the company beat its rivals Scott Paper and Procter & Gamble. And in doing so, Kimberly-Clark generated cumulative stock returns that were 4.1 times greater than those of the general market, outperforming venerable companies such as Hewlett-Packard, 3M, CocaCola, and General Electric.
Smith’s turnaround of Kimberly-Clark is one the best examples in the twentieth century of a leader taking a company from merely good to truly great. And yet few people—even ardent students of business history—have heard of Darwin Smith. He probably would have liked it that way. Smith is a classic example of a Level 5 leader—an individual who blends extreme personal humility with intense professional will. According to our five-year research study, executives who possess this paradoxical combination of traits are catalysts for the statistically rare event of transforming a good company into a great one. (The research is described in the sidebar “One Question, Five Years, 11 Companies.”)
“Level 5” refers to the highest level in a hierarchy of executive capabilities that we identified during our research. Leaders at the other four levels in the hierarchy can produce high degrees of success but not enough to elevate companies from mediocrity to sustained excellence. (For more details about this concept, see the exhibit “The Level 5 Hierarchy.”) And while Level 5 leadership is not the only requirement for transforming a good company into a great one— other factors include getting the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and creating a culture of discipline—our research shows it to be essential. Good-to-great transformations don’t happen without Level 5 leaders at the helm. They just don’t.
Not What You Would Expect
Our discovery of Level 5 leadership is counterintuitive. Indeed, it is countercultural. People generally assume that transforming companies from good to great requires larger-than-life leaders—big personalities like Lee Iacocca, Al Dunlap, Jack Welch, and Stanley Gault, who make headlines and become celebrities.
Compared with those CEOs, Darwin Smith seems to have come from Mars. Shy, unpretentious, even awkward, Smith shunned attention. When a journalist asked him to describe his management style, Smith just stared back at the scribe from the other side of his thick black-rimmed glasses. He was dressed unfashionably, like a farm boy wearing his first J.C. Penney suit. Finally, after a long and uncomfortable silence, he said, “Eccentric.” Needless to say, the Wall Street Journal did not publish a splashy feature on Darwin Smith.
But if you were to consider Smith soft or meek, you would be terribly mistaken. His lack of pretense was coupled with a fierce, even stoic, resolve toward life. Smith grew up on an Indiana farm and put himself through night school at Indiana University by working the day shift at International Harvester. One day, he lost a finger on the job. The story goes that he went to class that evening and returned to work the very next day. Eventually, this poor but determined Indiana farm boy earned admission to Harvard Law School.
He showed the same iron will when he was at the helm of Kimberly-Clark. Indeed, two months after Smith became CEO, doctors diagnosed him with nose and throat cancer and told him he had less than a year to live. He duly informed the board of his illness but said he had no plans to die anytime soon. Smith held to his demanding work schedule while commuting weekly from Wisconsin to Houston for radiation therapy. He lived 25 more years, 20 of them as CEO. Smith’s ferocious resolve was crucial to the rebuilding of Kimberly-Clark, especially when he made the most dramatic decision in the company’s history: selling the mills.
This is an excerpt from HBR’s 10 Must Reads (On Leadership). Get your copy here.
Credit: Abhishek Singh

error: Content is protected !!