Dec 5, 2012

New blog

Hello All,

New content will appear on my new blog: http://blog.inspird.com.  I look forward to your comments.

While you are at it, please check out our new website as well.

Sandeep

Jul 22, 2012

Yahoo!'s new CEO

Sorry I have been gone for a while - starting a business requires a lot more effort than I had thought.  The rewards more than make up for effort, but some important things like this blog get dropped along the way...

A quick post about Yahoo!'s new CEO from INSEAD Knowledge.  The article provides many interesting facts about the new CEO, however one stands out:
"Some Googlers who worked with Mayer found her style abrasive and her pace hard to sustain. In her early years, apparently, her interpersonal skills were inferior to her user focus and technical prowess. Many engineers relished working for her nevertheless, and her management skills improved with experience" 
The key points here is that R&D teams are willing to put up with a lot of hardship as long as the leaders are engaged in the development. As long as the leaders are able to provide the teams with a long-term vision, progress can be made.  Finally, leaders need to provide challenges that the teams can utilize to innovate. Each of these themes we have discussed many times on this blog.

The media frenzy about Mayer's appointment, however, requires some examination on our part.  The author of the article has summarized it so well, I have reproduced it below (even though it is not quite related to R&D)
The lessons we must draw from this exceptional event, which reveals less about Mayer and Yahoo! than it does about our norms, is the following: Leaders, especially such visible ones, have to accept constant and ruthless scrutiny that won’t stop at their results. Followers, opponents and observers will always question their motives and lives. And they will account for the leader’s story in ways that reveal and serve their interest. Good leaders know it and work with it. 
At the same time, we must take this opportunity to scrutinise, for once, not just the leader but also ourselves. To cast a light on the ways in which the stories we tell about our leaders - the patterns of thinking and feeling, actions and talk, which we take for granted - affect the efforts and opportunities to lead of those who appear different from us, and may not be as different as we make them to be.

May 7, 2012

Amgen CEO: Why I’m a listener

McKinsey Quarterly has an interview of Amgen CEO Kevin Sharea (Why I’m a listener: Amgen CEO Kevin Sharer) where he emphasizes the importance of listening for leaders.  We have talked about listening a couple of times in the past (here and here).

He says that the best way to listen is to do so with just one objective - comprehension.  It is important not to be focused on criticism or arguments for or against what the other person is saying.
"“Because I learned to listen.” And I thought, “That’s pretty amazing.” He also said, “I learned to listen by having only one objective: comprehension. I was only trying to understand what the person was trying to convey to me. I wasn’t listening to critique or object or convince.”"
Listening for comprehension can also help demonstrate respect and teach your team to be flexible by example. It builds and environment of trust, partnership and teamwork.
Listening for comprehension helps you get that information, of course, but it’s more than that: it’s also the greatest sign of respect you can give someone. So I shifted, by necessity, to try to become more relaxed in what I was doing and just to be more patient and open to new ideas. And as I started focusing on comprehension, I found that my bandwidth for listening increased in a very meaningful way.
Listening can help leaders immerse themselves in the organization and gather the right information, generate new connections and spark creativity / innovation. Leaders need to talk with different people - not just their direct reports because useful pieces of information reside in different places.
My method of gathering the tiles involves regularly visiting with, and listening to, people in the company who don’t necessarily report to me. I also read as much as I possibly can: surveys, operating data, analyst reports, regulatory reports, outside analyses, and so on. I meet with our top ten investors twice a year to listen, and at shareholder conferences I consider the Q&As very important. The key is making yourself open to the possibility that information can and will come from almost anywhere.
Listening can help us become more engaged and innovative leaders. Listening can also help us question assumptions and get our teams to experiment more.

Apr 29, 2012

Steve Jobs: Innovation is the only way to succeed

INSEAD Knowledge has published an interview with Steve Jobs from 1996 which has a few very important points for R&D managers:  Innovation is the only way to succeed - you can not cut costs to get out of problems.
"All I can say is I think it was true back when we built Apple and I think it is just as true today which is innovation is the only way to succeed in these businesses. You can’t stand still.
You can’t cut expenses and get out of your problems. You can’t cut expenses and get out of your problems. You’ve got to innovate your way out of your problems.
image from Insead Knowledge
So, lets dig in...

Apr 28, 2012

Unilever's Kees Kruythoff: Enthusiastic Employees Key to Success

A quick post about a lecture by Unilever's Kees Kruythoff in Knowledge@Wharton (Global Leadership Lessons from Unilever's Kees Kruythoff ).  Kruythoff mentions that a sense of enthusiasm and excitement is key to a company's success and makes progress possible.  He sees that sense of enthusiasm has been a key to his own success:
"Kruythoff said that his enthusiasm for his job has always been what has propelled him. There is really no substitute for that, he noted, and, in reality, enthusiasm should be the primary reason anyone should work for an organization. "When you join a business, the most important part is to ask yourself how you can improve the values of the company," Kruythoff stated. " 
One way to get an enthusiastic workforce is to hire employees that clearly demonstrate the sense of excitement:

Apr 24, 2012

Why Open Innovation is Hard to Implement (Netflix Example)

We have discussed the difficulties in implementing open innovation.  Netflix did an amazing job of leveraging open innovation with Netflix Prize. For a while they were receiving amazing results from the exercise. That is why, I was surprise when I read the article Netflix never used its $1 million algorithm due to engineering costs:
"Netflix awarded a $1 million prize to a developer team in 2009 for an algorithm that increased the accuracy of the company's recommendation engine by 10 percent. But today it doesn't use the million-dollar code, and has no plans to implement it in the future,"
Let us dig in to see what we can learn...

Apr 18, 2012

What You Wear Can Influence How You Perform

An interesting article in the Sloan Management Review discusses a paper that shows what you wear can influence how you perform.
New research suggests that clothing can have an effect on our behavior if that clothing has a symbolic meaning and if we have the physical experience of wearing the clothes. 
Three experiments showed that knowing that you are wearing a doctor's coat actually improved performance:
 In the first experiment, the researchers found that wearing a lab coat identified as a doctor’s coat did, in fact, increase subjects’ selective attention. In the second experiment, they found that people who wore the same coat but were told it was a painter’s coat did not have increased attention. And in the third experiment, they found that just looking at a doctor’s coat did not increase attention.
Here is the link to the research paper.