Archive for January, 2013

Topics: corporate social responsibility, shared value creation, social innovation, and competitiveness.

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Pablo Collazzo, WU-Vienna University of Economics

Moderator: Dr. Murat Akpinar, JAMK
Date: January 30, 2013 Duration: 60 minutes Starting Time: 14.00
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by Daniel Gulati  |  December 14, 2012Image

What do you regret most about your career?

I had just finished a guest lecture on business and innovation at Parsons School for Design, and a particularly attentive front-row audience member kicked off question time with the curliest one of the day. I answered quickly with the hope of getting back on target. But judging from the scores of follow-up questions and the volume of post-lecture emails I received, a talk on career regret would have been the real bull’s-eye.

Ever since that afternoon, I’ve been on a mission to categorically answer the awkward but significant question of exactly what we’d do if we could magically rewind our careers. The hope? That by exposing what others are most disappointed about in their professional lives, we’re maximizing our chances of minimizing regret in our own.

To this end, I sat down with 30 professionals between the ages of 28 and 58, and asked each what they regretted most about their careers to date. The group was diverse: I spoke with a 39-year-old managing director of a large investment bank, a failing self-employed photographer, a millionaire entrepreneur, and a Fortune 500 CEO. Disappointment doesn’t discriminate; no matter what industry the individual operated in, what role they had been given, or whether they were soaring successes or mired in failure, five dominant themes shone through. Importantly, the effects of bad career decisions and disconfirmed expectancies were felt equally across age groups.

Here were the group’s top five career regrets:

1. I wish I hadn’t taken the job for the money. By far the biggest regret of all came from those who opted into high-paying but ultimately dissatisfying careers. Classic research proves that compensation is a “hygiene” factor, not a true motivator. What was surprising, though, were the feelings of helplessness these individuals were facing. Lamented one investment banker, “I dream of quitting every day, but I have too many commitments.” Another consultant said, “I’d love to leave the stress behind, but I don’t think I’d be good at anything else.” Whoever called them golden handcuffs wasn’t joking.

2. I wish I had quit earlier. Almost uniformly, those who had actually quit their jobs to pursue their passions wished they had done so earlier. Variable reinforcement schedules prevalent in large corporations, the visibility of social media, and the desire to log incremental gains are three reasons that the 80% of people dissatisfied with their jobs don’t quit when they know they should. Said one sales executive, “Those years could have been spent working on problems that mattered to me. You can’t ever get those years back.”

3. I wish I had the confidence to start my own business. As their personal finances shored up, professionals I surveyed yearned for more control over their lives. The logical answer? To become an owner, not an employee in someone else’s company. But in the words of Artful Dodger, wanting it ain’t enough. A recent study found that 70% of workers wished their current job would help them with starting a business in the future, yet only 15% said they had what it takes to actually venture out on their own. Even Fortune 500 CEOs dream of entrepreneurial freedom. Admitted one: “My biggest regret is that I’m a ‘wantrepreneur.’ I never got to prove myself by starting something from scratch.”

4. I wish I had used my time at school more productively. Despite all the controversy currently surrounding student loans, roughly 86% of students still view college as a worthwhile investment. This is reflected in the growing popularity of college: In writing Passion & Purpose, my coauthors and I found that 54% of Millennials have college degrees, compared to 36% of Boomers. Although more students are attending college, many of the group’s participants wished they had thoughtfully parlayed their school years into a truly rewarding first job. A biology researcher recounted her college experience as being “in a ridiculous hurry to complete what in hindsight were the best and most delightfully unstructured years of my life.” After starting a family and signing up for a mortgage, many were unable to carve out the space to return to school for advanced study to reset their careers.

5. I wish I had acted on my career hunches. Several individuals recounted windows of opportunity in their careers, or as one professional described, “now-or-never moments.” In 2005, an investment banker was asked to lead a small team in (now) rapidly growing Latin America. Sensing that the move might be an upward step, he still declined. Crushingly, the individual brave enough to accept the offer was promoted shortly to division head, then to CEO. Recent theories of psychology articulate the importance of identifying these sometimes unpredictable but potentially rewarding moments of change, and jumping on these opportunities to non-linearly advance your professional life.

Far from being suppressed, career regrets should hold a privileged place in your emotional repertoire. Research shows (PDF) that regret can be a powerful catalyst for change, far outweighing the short-term emotional downsides. As famed psychologist Dr. Neal Roese recently stated, “On average, regret is a helpful emotion.” It can even be an inspiring one. But it means that we must articulate and celebrate our disappointments, understanding that it’s our capacity to experience regret deeply, and learn from it constructively to ultimately frame our future success.

More blog posts by Daniel Gulati

Daniel Gulati

Daniel Gulati

Daniel Gulati is a tech entrepreneur based in New York. He is a coauthor of the book Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders and a contributor to the HBR Guide to Getting the Right Job. Follow him on Twitter at @danielgulati.

by James Allworth  |  10:30 AM January 14, 2013

It would have been almost impossible to miss the outpouring of grief that accompanied the news over the weekend that Aaron Swartz had committed suicide. If you didn’t know him, Swartz was the founder of Infogami, (later Reddit), one of the creators of the RSS specification (at the age of 14, no less), was deeply involved in the creative commons, and started up the digital activist group Demand Progress (among his other achievements). Tributes flowed in far and wide, and fittingly so — Swartz had accomplished more in his short 26 years than many of us will manage in a lifetime. At the time of his death, he was fighting criminal charges being brought by the Government for downloading academic articles from the online scientific journal store, JSTOR. Such cases are never cheap to defend; one estimate pegged the cost at $1.5M. If found guilty, he could have served as many as 35 years in prison and faced up to $1m in fines.

It was hard to think about this sad turn of events without wondering why the government decided to seek up to 35 years of prison time for a 26-year old who JSTOR had decided to drop charges against, and who, in the words of an expert witness, had done nothing more than be “inconsiderate.” There were a number of very powerful articles written on Swartz and the charges that he faced, and as I read many of them, that question only grew stronger in my mind. The closest I could come to a reasonable explanation was in a tribute written by Swartz’s friend, Professor Lawrence Lessig. Lessig characterized what had happened as a legal and societal form of bullying:
“[Swartz] is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.”

That explanation — of an over-zealous prosecutor — certainly seems reasonable at face value. But something kept gnawing at me about that word: “proportionality.” What does it say about us — about what we value — if this is exactly the proportionality of the legal system we have created?

In the past couple of months, there’s been reporting on a pair of crimes in the business world so flagrant as to literally take the breath away. The first of these wasn’t actually that widely reported on — in fact, I only know about it because a friend in the healthcare industry sent along an article on it. It’s a long read, but it’s worth taking the time to do so. It details how a medical device company decided to bypass FDA clinical trials and use bone cement in the spines of humans. Given that the cement wasn’t properly tested, it should come as no big surprise that a number of people died as a result. In sentencing the executives responsible for what happened, the judge described how “what has occurred in this case, in terms of wrongfulness — it’s 11 on a scale of 10.” In fact, the judge, for “the first time in his 25-year career… sentenced someone above the federal guidelines.”

That executive, for his role in what happened, received nine months in jail. (The federal guidelines actually suggested six months for this type of offence, which was not even a felony, but a misdemeanor). One of his fellow executives received a lesser sentence of five months.

And then there’s a case that was much harder to miss: that of HSBC, and their foray into the world of money laundering for drug cartels:

Despite the fact that HSBC admitted to laundering billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels (among others) and violating a host of important banking laws (from the Bank Secrecy Act to the Trading With the Enemy Act), Breuer and his Justice Department elected not to pursue criminal prosecutions of the bank, opting instead for a “record” financial settlement of $1.9 billion, which as one analyst noted is about five weeks of income for the bank.

Lay those two cases down beside that of a 26-year old kid who did the online equivalent of checking out too many books out of the library. For doing that, Aaron Swartz was initially charged with four felonies. The prosecutors in the Synthes case agreed to charge the executives only with one misdemeanor each. In the instance of HSBC, they used their discretion to avoid pursuing criminal charges altogether. In Swartz’s case, the government decided to use that same discretion to bolster its initial four felony charges with a further nine — hence the possibility of over three decades of jail time and a $1M fine. Now, Aaron had only been charged — if justice had prevailed, it could have all been thrown out in court — but even in that circumstance, he would have still been roughly $1.5 million out of pocket just defending himself. Those HSBC executives never even got to that point.

I actually had the opportunity to talk with Aaron online a few weeks ago; partly as a result of an article that I wrote for HBR about corruption and its effect on innovation. Looking at the three cases above, I can’t help but see similar symptoms seeping into the justice system. I simply don’t know how else to explain the huge disparity in how justice was sought in these very different cases — other than regulatory capture. It seems you can get away with laundering money for the drug cartels, so long as you’ve been generous with the those responsible for appointing district attorneys; or better yet, if your industry has paid to undo all the regulation that prevents you from getting too big to fail. Similarly, when your lobby has been helping Congress draft the laws that govern food, drugs, and cosmetics, you can make sure that the federal sentencing guidelines are only six months should you breach the responsible corporate officer doctrine. This in turn means you can inject unsafe cement into people’s spines with relative impunity (apparently, those in the healthcare industry were actually surprised when the officers were sentenced to jail, even if it was for only a few months. One of the convicted executives went so far as to ask the judge to delay the beginning of his sentence until after the holidays). But woe betide you if, in the name of openness and sharing human knowledge, you decide to download academic journals. Because that sounds a lot like piracy — and we all know how much has been spent to stamp that scourge out.

It seems to me that there’s a new way of thinking about proportionality. Unfortunately, it’s being determined much less by any notion of justice than it is by a broken political system corrupted by the influence of money.

I really don’t like it, but I just can’t see any other way of explaining how else it could happen.
I’d like to take this opportunity to extend my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Aaron Swartz. If you’re interested in doing something to fix some of these problems, I’d encourage you to find out more about Rootstrikers and Demand Progress, two organizations that Aaron was deeply involved in.

More blog posts by James Allworth
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James Allworth


James Allworth is the coauthor of How Will You Measure Your Life?. He has worked as a Fellow at the Forum for Growth and Innovation at Harvard Business School, at Apple, and Booz & Company. Connect with him on Twitter at @jamesallworth. To receive an email when he posts, click here.

By J.T. O’Donnell

Yesterday, in a group coaching session, I had a heart-to-heart with one of our new members. She explained, in spite of glowing recommendations and lots of supportive friends and family telling her how great she is, deep down, she questioned if they were all lying to her. Why? She’s been looking for work for 18 months and can’t seem to get anyone to interview her, let alone, hire her. I asked her what qualities she was showcasing when she networked and met with potential hiring managers. She said, “I share with them all the important ones, like the fact that I’m resourceful, upbeat, hard-working, organized, and efficient.” To which I said, “Those sound like vitamins to me.” And employers don’t buy vitamins today. They buy aspirin. Let me explain…

You Get Hired to Alleviate Pain

There is only one major reason a candidate gets hired for a job: The hiring manager has a problem and the candidate is seen as the one that can solve it the best. Which means your goal as a job seeker is to showcase how you will be the hiring manager’s aspirin for their pain. Being “resourceful, upbeat, hard-working, organized, and efficient” are all qualities hiring managers naturally expect from an employee. They are like vitamins, they keep future pain away. However, it’s the aspirin which stops acute pain – and, my friends, makes aspirin always perceived as worth more to the employer.

Translation: You need to differentiate from all the other vitamins (a.k.a. job seekers) out there by showing how you solve problems to alleviate a hiring manager’s pain. In short, BE THE ASPIRIN!

Here are three steps you can take to do that effectively.

Step 1: Identify the Symptoms

To start, you need to look at what problems hiring managers in need of your skill sets are having today. This requires some research. You must figure out what is causing the need to hire someone, and more importantly, what will happen if they don’t find the right person to alleviate the pain. Once you do that, you can start to tailor your personal brand to showcase how you solve those problems.

Step 2: Be Proactive in Dispensing Your Aspirin

The next step is to reach out to hiring managers directly to inquire if they are currently experiencing these types of problems. You want to start a dialog around their pain so you can introduce the fact that you are the aspirin. Think about it: If you are the one who reaches out about the pain and has the solution, don’t you think the hiring manager is going to be inclined to check out what you have to offer?

Step 3: Keep Your Aspirin Within Arm’s Reach

Even if the hiring managers you speak with aren’t currently in pain, they most likely will be at some point in the future. Your job is to stay in touch with them regularly so they remember you are the aspirin. The goal is to use a simple job search technique that lets you share some value with them on a small scale as a way to showcase to the employer your pain-relieving skills. It’s the ideal way to earn their trust so when the pain finally hits them; you are the first person they contact.

Struggling to Determine What Pain You Relieve? Get Help

If you feel like you are struggling to determine what problems you solve for employers, then I strongly suggest you get some help. Knowing what pain you alleviate is vital to being able to identify employers who will appreciate you. The alternative is to blindly apply to jobs and hope they see you as the aspirin – a long shot at best. Why not get clear on your value and start showing employers your true abilities as a problem-solver. Not only will you find being the aspirin to their pain a real confidence-booster to your self-esteem (who doesn’t like being the aspirin?), you’ll also increase the chances they take you up on your offer to make them feel better.

By John Kotter

A few weeks ago, the BBC asked me to come in for a radio interview. They told me they wanted to talk about effective leadership — China had just elevated Xi Jinping to the role of Communist Party leader; General David Petraeus had stepped down from his post at the CIA a few days earlier; the BBC itself was wading through a leadership scandal of its own — but the conversation quickly veered, as these things often do, into a discussion about how individuals can keep large, complex, unwieldy organizations operating reliably and efficiently.

That’s not leadership, I explained. That’s management — and the two are radically different.

In more than four decades of studying businesses and consulting to organizations on how to implement new strategies, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people use the words “leadership” and “management” synonymously, and it drives me crazy every time.

The interview reminded me once again that the confusion around these two terms is massive, and that misunderstanding gets in the way of any reasonable discussion about how to build a company, position it for success and win in the twenty-first century. The mistakes people make on the issue are threefold:

Mistake #1: People use the terms “management” and “leadership” interchangeably. This shows that they don’t see the crucial difference between the two and the vital functions that each role plays.

Mistake #2: People use the term “leadership” to refer to the people at the very top of hierarchies. They then call the people in the layers below them in the organization “management.” And then all the rest are workers, specialists, and individual contributors. This is also a mistake and very misleading.

Mistake #3: People often think of “leadership” in terms of personality characteristics, usually as something they call charisma. Since few people have great charisma, this leads logically to the conclusion that few people can provide leadership, which gets us into increasing trouble.

In fact, management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well. Management helps you to produce products and services as you have promised, of consistent quality, on budget, day after day, week after week. In organizations of any size and complexity, this is an enormously difficult task. We constantly underestimate how complex this task really is, especially if we are not in senior management jobs. So, management is crucial — but it’s not leadership.

Leadership is entirely different. It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it’s about behavior. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy. The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it’s a recipe for failure.

Some people still argue that we must replace management with leadership. This is obviously not so: they serve different, yet essential, functions. We need superb management. And we need more superb leadership. We need to be able to make our complex organizations reliable and efficient. We need them to jump into the future — the right future — at an accelerated pace, no matter the size of the changes required to make that happen.

There are very, very few organizations today that have sufficient leadership. Until we face this issue, understanding exactly what the problem is, we’re never going to solve it. Unless we recognize that we’re not talking about management when we speak of leadership, all we will try to do when we do need more leadership is work harder to manage. At a certain point, we end up with over-managed and under-led organizations, which are increasingly vulnerable in a fast-moving world.