Posts Tagged ‘business’

Time For A 21st Century Bull Moose?

Debt ceilingThere’s a scene in the HBO John Adams miniseries where the Tea Partiers tar & feather a British cargo ship agent in protest over taxes being imposed by the King. It’s a brutal and deeply disturbing scene which makes vividly clear how painful, demeaning and barbaric tar & feathering really was. As the naked, suffering man is carried away after being tied to a pole, John Adams is shown to be dismayed and concerned about the mob’s actions.

I’m reminded of that scene today as I watch the chaos in Washington as we read about the rift in the Republican party between the majority of Republicans and the Tea Partiers. Even the business leaders who originally supported the Tea Partiers are starting to realize that the group is getting out of control.

As the news media have been analyzing what’s brought us to this latest tipping point in the nation’s history, we’ve heard about how Americans have been self-selecting and are choosing to live in areas where they and their neighbors tend to agree politically. We’ve also been educated about the gerrymandering which has created partisan voting districts, both extremely liberal and extremely conservative.  And, since most Americans don’t vote in the mid-term elections or in the primaries, those hardcore ideologues that do get to control the show.

In New York State, where I live,  I’m not allowed to participate in a primary because I refuse to declare a political party affiliation. I’m an independent (not a member of the Independence Party) who prefers to vote for the person and the ideas rather than along party lines. I understand that this rule was adopted as part of some political gamesmanship in order to give one party an advantage over the other. But, it seems to me that we’d be much better off if all registered voters were allowed to participate in the primaries so that the extremists could be tempered by more moderate voices.

If I correctly recall my American history, there’s a certain similarity between our current political situation and that which existed 100 years ago back in the pre-World War I early 20th century.  There was inequality in the distribution of wealth and the existing political parties represented ideas which were inconsistent with those of most Americans. So former president, Teddy Roosevelt ran as a third party candidate for the Bull Moose Party. His platform was geared toward diminishing the influence of the wealthy and powerful in order to provide more overall balance to the system during an era which, as the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has pointed out, seems quite reminiscent of our own.

Perhaps, we need a 21st century version of the Bull Moose Party to challenge the Democrats and the Republicans and to represent the majority of Americans whose values are fiscally conservative (sensible)  and  social liberal (open-minded).

We’ve had third party presidential candidates in the recent past but Ross Perot  was a libertarian who hurt the Republican candidate (George H. W. Bush) and Ralph Nader was an extremist liberal who hurt the Democrat’s candidate (Al Gore).  Instead, we would need to have a candidate with the charm, charisma, and political savvy of Bill Clinton combined with the integrity of Warren Buffett.

Prior to his most recent nanny-state rules, I would have leaned towards Michael Bloomberg. Now, I’m not sure who’d fit the bill.

Any suggestions?

Staying Relevant

Paul Greenberg, author of the customer relationship management book, CRM At The Speed of Light, cites a recent blog post about an observation from the IBM Institute of Business Value’s 2012 CEO Study which states, “ The view that technology is a driver of efficiency is outdated; CEO’s now see technology as an enabler of collaboration and relationships-those essential connections that fuel innovation and creativity.” Greenberg notes, “This leads CEO’s to see that the three most important areas for creating sustained economic value are (in order) human capital, customer relationships and products/ services innovation. We are seeing the beginnings of more distributed organizations to handle these transformations.”

So, what does this mean for us Alpha Boomers? We keep hearing that the business community has been reconsidering its attitude towards that part of the work force which is seasoned in our favor although the evidence remains slim. We certainly bring a lot of expertise to the table when it comes to establishing and maintaining positive relationships with customers. And, although Alpha Boomers may not be in the top quintile of Early Adopters when it comes to technology, we are certainly more open to embracing innovative new technologies that have been previous generations.

But, as a story in the New York Times noted this past weekend, the latest economic recession hurt we Boomers more than it did Millennials or members of Gen Y. A woman quoted in the article observed that employers are afraid to hire Baby Boomers because they’re concerned that they might have a negative impact on the company’s health insurance premiums and that it might not be worth investing in training Boomers due to the possibility that they’d leave the company in five years. Personally, I find the concern about leaving the company to be a bit disingenuous since a three years is considered long-term commitment nowadays.

However, in a recent editorial, the journalist Thomas Friedman observed that “everyone who wants a job now must demonstrate how they can add value” better than the above-average software, automation, robotics, cheap labor and cheap genius that’s available to companies these days. It’s going to require individual initiative on each of our parts to develop 21st century skills which compliment new technology and, as Friedman notes, will require us to combine our PQ (passion quotient) and CQ (curiosity quotient) with our IQ (intelligence quotient) to find or invent jobs along with a commitment to consistent learning and re-learning.

So, it seems to me that a challenge to Alpha Boomers will be to make a psychological commitment to stay fit in body, mind and spirit and to do the math so that we’re able to create a cost/ benefit analysis for potential employers which honestly compares the cost of hiring us over a three year period to the cost of hiring a younger worker.

Your thoughts?

Great By Choice

The first time I learned about Jim Collins’ work was several years ago during my first job interview in a decade. I prepared for my interview by reviewing Harvey MacKay’s classic suggestions for responses to interview questions and doing my due diligence about the medical facility to which I was applying. However, when the interviewer’s first question was about how, in my position in the marketing/PR/communications department, I’d improve a patient’s experience, and then talked about getting the right people in the right seats on the bus, I knew that things had changed in the HR world.

“Great By Choice” is Jim Collins’ collaboration with his former student, Morten Hansen, to discover the facts and the myths about why certain organizations far exceed those of seemingly equal competitors. Collins and Hansen compare eight organizations: Southwest Airlines/ Pacific Southwest Airlines, Stryker/United States Surgical Corp., Progressive Insurance/Safeco Insurance, Intel/AMD, Microsoft/Apple, Amgen/Genetech, Biomet/Kirschner, and the 1911 Amundsen and Scott expeditions to reach the South Pole.

Collins and Hansen describe the high performers in their study cases as “10Xers” because these organizations didn’t just succeed but beat its industry index by at least 10 times. They identify three key characteristics of 10X leadership: fanatic discipline, empirical creativity, and productive paranoia. 10X leaders are passionately driven by a cause beyond themselves. As the authors note, all organizations experience both good and bad luck. It’s what one does with the luck they get which matters. They then offer their ideas about the characteristics which describe a “luck event”.

Collins and Hansen confront some entrenched myths to determine their validity. For instance, there’s the concept that a threat-filled world favors the speedy (“You’re either quick or dead”). Instead, the authors suggest that it’s better to figure out when it’s best to go fast and when it’s best to go slow. Also, there’s the firmly held belief that radical change on the outside requires radical internal changes. Collins & Hansen observe that just because an organization’s external environment is experiencing dramatic change it’s not necessarily a good idea for the organization to radically change itself.

“Great By Choice” presents some interesting concepts such as the “20 Mile March”, “Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs”, “Return On Luck”, “Moore’s Law”, and SMaC. Collins’ and Hansen’s research presents useful answers to the question: Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, while other’s don’t?

No matter whether your endeavor is personal, public service-oriented, or in business, you’ll find the insights provided by this research to be helpful.

Blessings & Regrets

It’s that time of year when we pause to reflect and take stock of our choices. May your blessings outnumber your regrets.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Pictured above: “Freedom From Want” by Norman Rockwell.
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