How Google Works


Google is one of those companies that everyone admires but secretly feels that such a structure/approach/strategy/corporate culture (take your pick) would never work in your field.  The book “How Google Works” is a fascinating read for many reasons. “If you hire the right people and have big enough dreams, you will finally get there” is the mantra offered by Larry Page, CEO and Co-founder. When Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded Google in 1998, they had no formal business training or experience. That was considered an advantage, not a liability. We are challenged to explore our own relationship to aiming high if not higher, as well as our own views about failure and experimentation. Ours view about how we learn. Our views about how and why we work. Our views on the role of technology. Our views on most things that drive our behaviour. Google strategy? Hire as many talented people as possible and get out of their way. I love their fascination with ‘smart creatives’ – those who have a combination of technical knowhow and multidimensional management flair. Hands on experience combined with rich data narrative. Difficult to manage? Yes. And if you don’t possess the skill to do so, get out of the game. So a wake-up call for any organization still run by micro-managers using antiquated methods of command control. Think of dinosaurs mating … soon to be extinct.

A great talk featuring Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg about their work at Google and the book. Interviewed by Salman Khan of the Khan Academy, this is a real eye-opener – honest, sometimes bluntly so, transparent in management style, very inspirational and I also found it hugely entertaining.

A great book for a snowed-in weekend. Or a leisurely read on a beach. Just a great book period.

 

How Google Works

Scaling Up Excellence


Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao have written a great little book on how to scale up farther, faster and more effectively. After having spending last week at the HRPA conference and talking to over 1,000 eager HR professionals committed to improving organizational performance, I thought this book would be a great addition to any library. In it they uncover why it is so difficult for most people to link everyday actions to the organization’s long-term goals. My take is that the science behind gamification will contribute to that understanding. Engagement is crucial – and this book covers much of the ground that is missing in today’s current engagement practices. One of my favourites is their take on the size of teams. I always hated the two pizza rule – mine is one large pizza only! So a team of six or less is highly effective. Groups that are larger tend to talk a lot, waste a lot of valuable time and accomplish little. If that is the norm in your organization, this book is for you!!

Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less

Finding Your Creative Core, 2nd Edition


So happy to announce the 2nd edition of my workbook, Finding Your Creative Core, is now available. Its been a really busy Fall!  Building a creative environment within any organization starts with values – your own and the values-in-action within the organization. How often have you articulated your own values?  Even thought about them?  Something that most of us take for granted and yet, values form the foundation of almost everything we do.  My workbook provides a starting point of exploration – a personal Heroic Journey to the centre of Self.  For it is there that you will find the creative core you have always had.  I love working with the Heroes Journey – I admit my bias! Many business books have been written that utilize the idea of the Hero, but most play at a superficial level, failing to address the power of the archetype itself.  In November, I published  an article in the Integral Leadership Journal that gives a more in-depth look at why the Heroes Journey has such power to transform. Suffice to say that the Journey always begins with each of us, willing or not, ready or not. An old Roman motto says it best – the Fates aid those who will … those who won’t they drag. When you are touch with your creative core, you are better prepared for the Journey. I wish you safe passage!

2015 will be again be a busy year. I’m getting ready for the 2015 Human Resources Professionals Association national conference in Toronto.  I’ll be speaking on corporate culture and the ‘secret sauce’ of design-driven innovation. I hope to see you there! Best wishes for you and yours for the holiday season and 2015. Our journey continues.

Jane Austin – Game Theorist


I love teaching at the Business School in Copenhagen in the summer. I always learn something new – which in turn informs my teaching which informs my research and round and round we go.  The students are an international mix – so lots of different perspectives are brought to the discussions. There is also an international mix in faculty – so lots of conversations start around our faculty lunch table which frequently continue over dinner.  A book suggestion from Betty Tsakarestou, Professor and Head of Advertising at Panteion University in Athens, Greece, found its way into the mix and on the coffee table. And of course, I had to read it!

Jane Austin Game Theorist is a great little book available in hardcopy and ebook format that was featured in the Business School.  Written by Michael Suk-Young Chwe, the author explores a diverse range of literature and folktales that illustrate the wide and relevance of game theory. Game theory is the study of how people make choices while interacting with others – how we all play in the sandbox.  Without the heavy mathematical emphasis, Chwe shows us how we all are strategic thinkers through a literary lens. An interesting approach that makes a complex subject much easier to understand and more importantly, utilize in organizations. A great find – and an interesting read on a rainy day in Copenhagen. I hope you enjoy it!

 

Jane Austen, Game Theorist

What’s Important ….


If you want competitive advantage, here is the place to start.  Hyatt and De Ciantis take us on a journey of discovery in one of the most interesting areas of our lives – our values.  Working with values allows us to keep track of what is really important to us. I use this process and program within academic courses at the undergraduate and graduate level as well as executive education. We also use the software package – you can go online and explore, the details are all in the book. It will be added to my course work for Business Anthropology at the Copenhagen Business School this summer (only 7 more sleeps until my flight!)

It makes for a great discussion around the kitchen table or the office. A conversation that needs to happen on a regular basis – just as a reminder that there is more to life than daily routine. The Values Perspective Survey is one of my favourite tools, I highly recommend it.

Popular, thought-provoking, stimulating and (best of all!) fun – working with values perspectives will give you insight towards making better judgments and decisions – for yourself, your family and your organization.

What’s Important: Understanding and Working with Values Perspectives

Community Conversations


Margaret Wheatley said that “whatever the problem, community is the answer.” When social innovation is a hot topic, knowing how to engage your community in whatever business is occupying your time is an underdeveloped if not forgotten skill. Author Paul Born brings back community engagement and outlines ten simple techniques for community conversations. How to start them, keep them talking and then utilize the information in a constructive way that produces a win-win scenario for both business and community. Born is a master storyteller, and draws from decades of experience in community action where common goals are embraced by a diverse group of people .  His conversational writing style makes this an easy, enjoyable read. People sometimes forget that communities are living things – they need to be tended and nurtured in order for them to grow and more importantly, flourish. If you wish to engage your community, this book is a great place to kickstart your process.

Community Conversations: Mobilizing the Ideas, Skills, and Passion of Community Organizations, Governments, Businesses, and People, Second Edit

The Moment of Clarity


I’ve been busy preparing for a new summer course at the Copenhagen Business School this summer called “Corporate Anthropology and Organizational Ethnography” – a juicy title for academics!   For normal people, the course is designed to examine corporate culture – how to create and maintain cultures that drive competitive advantage.  One company who will be coming to visit the class is ReD Associates, a group of corporate anthropologists who have offices in Copenhagen and New York. I found this interesting group last year while wandering Copenhagen.  Two of the partners, Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel Rasmussen have written a new book – The Moment of Clarity: Using the Human Sciences to Solve your Toughest Business Problems.  I am also using this book as a text for the business course – so you know how much I like it!  Why? To quote the authors “The business culture is using the wrong model of human behaviour. It is getting people wrong.”  The authors are introducing a different lens to look at customers, consumers and employees – one that takes into account human emotion. They also show why smart organizations are looking for business anthropologists to join their ranks.  The authors deliver a practical framework rooted in both theory and experience and a problem-solving method to help you start to get people ‘right’.

Do you want to attract top talent to your organization? This book helps pave the way. Its available in hardcover and kindle (I have finally succumbed to carrying my favourites on my computer – it helps to eliminate overweight luggage). Happy reading!

The Moment of Clarity: Using the Human Sciences to Solve Your Toughest Business Problems