Tag Archives: Leadership

Note taking tips – Notes matter

As I sit in business and board meetings, I notice that few people take notes.

Note taking as a path to success

I wonder if they have better memories than I do, but then,  I realize that they have been trained, like most of our society, to let content wash gently over them and pass by un-noted, un-synthesized, un-digested.

One of the most powerful differentiators I’ve found in life, both in academic and professional settings is the skill and habit of taking clear notes.

I came across an interesting piece in the Atlantic recently re: note taking with some important tips and perspective on note taking.

If civilization is based on learning from and building upon the best thinking that’s gone before, then note taking must be one of the keys to building or at least fighting entropy in our civilization.

I do not agree that the best notes are taken on a PC.  I may be old school, but I can write/draw/think much more quickly with pen and paper than I can with a computer.  If some hand-written notes turn out to benefit from digitization later, I can quickly dictate them into text using my Android phone.  Capture and synthesis the most difficult and valuable part of the process, digitization falls far down on my list of priorities.

The last point in the Atlantic article mentions note’s usefulness in court, but I find them useful in any setting where differences in recall or opinion might creep in.  The power of the scribe is a well-known and very useful phenomena, essentially, the person who creates the written record (notes, legal agreements, historical interpretations, etc.) have a special power over the written record of the event.  Harold Innis has an interesting perspective on the power of the scribe through history and in the refinement or entropy of our current civilization.

I came across a very simple implementation of the ideas from the Atlantic article in the Cornell Note Taking Method.

Duly noted!


Malcolm Gladwell: Albert O. Hirschman and the Power of Failure : The New Yorker

“Hirschman was interested in contrasting the two strategies that people have for dealing with badly performing organizations and institutions. “Exit” is voting with your feet, expressing your displeasure by taking your business elsewhere. “Voice” is staying put and speaking up, choosing to fight for reform from within. There is no denying where his heart lay.”

Working from within can be a long, messy,  frustrating process; but, of course, the insights, leverage, and potential satisfaction gained may be worth the effort.


Specialization Fails Business Leaders

Buffet and Munger

The division of labor leads to specialization leads to great efficiency, but probably not in the case of business leadership.

Charlie Munger has a fascinating perspective on educating business leaders that were excerpted on Farnam Street.

In my experience, history was the ideal course of study in preparing for business leadership.  It is, essentially, the study of causation, including analysis of all possible contributing factors, not just the engineering, psychological, technical, or cultural variable sets.

Of course, in business, studying history often takes the form of case studies.

Has over specialization and turf protection blinded business leaders to larger issues and insights that case studies of business success and failure might reveal?

How could analysts pushing collateralized debt obligations not see the house of cards they were building?  Were they missing the forest for the trees because their education and the culture they worked in were overly specialized?

Munger’s wisdom not only makes sense, it has earned him (and Buffet) some real dollars.


Leadership = E=mc2?

Could it be that managers focus on linear relationships, while leaders focus on exponential ones?

Managers look for year-over-year, organic progress; boards, analysts, investors, and banks love predictable progress.

But, if  you want exponential gains, you need to unleash the forces that will move you up an exponential curve.

Einstein figured out the relationship between energy and matter


In a flash, all the linear progression of the bomb-maker’s art were left in a cloud of radioactive dust near White Sands, NM.  The heaviest conventional bombs used in WW2 were 1 ton bunker-busters, the first nuclear test was of a 20 kiloton weapon, or 20,000 times stronger than the prior state of the art.

What can you do to convert your mass (inventory or service capacity assets) into energy (cash) using the speed of light squared as your multiplier?

Leaders focusing on transforming the moment of detonation/conversion, the moments/touchpoints of customer/company interaction, might be a place to start.

Customer Experience, Brand Building, and Leadership

Newton’s second law of thermodynamics, it’s not only about heat, it’s about entropy, and entropy seems to act on everything, even brands.

Customer Experience and Brand Building

Of course, some brands are hot and getting hotter while others seem to be cooling or are dead cold

When was the last time you bragged about your Buick on MySpace over an AOL internet connection?

Were all of those brands victims of expert managers who worked the numbers while missing the fire of great customer experience?

Do you ever remember thinking:

This Buick is magic!

This AOL start up CD I received in the mail is inspiring, again!

I wish Facebook was a lot more like MySpace!

Customer Experience Leadership

The difference between heating and cooling (building and entropy) seems lie in the distinction between management and leadership, e.g.:

  • Apple starts cooking under the leadership Steve and Steve
  • Apple cooling/dissipating under expert managers Scully and Spindler
  • Apple refocuses and gains heat after Jobs returns to leadership
  • Apple becomes the most valuable company in the world in April 2012 with a valuation over $600 billion making it one of the two most valuable companies in history.
    • n.b. The other was Microsoft in 1999 at the peak of the first internet bubble.

Jobs combined an artist’s commitment to elegance in Customer Experience/UX – from product design, interface quality, to site/store experience, even to packaging with notoriously driven and focused leadership practices aimed at delivering a customer experience vision.

Customer Experience Management v. Customer Experience Leadership

Is the distinction between managers and leaders in their balancing of numbers and vision?

Do managers use vision to reach an envisioned financial/organizational/brand metric goals?

Do leaders use numbers along the path toward a vision of a relationship between their customers and their own lives mediated by the company’s product/service?

Of course, every successful business person is partially a manager and partially a leader, but what’s the current balance at the top of your organization?

What would it take to shift your leadership’s focus to one with a clear vision of customer’s experience that builds heat in your brand?