Monday, June 29, 2009

Scenes from the Core of the Big Apple

I'm just back in Santa Fe after a 5-day tour of New York City, with some impressions from the scene of the crime. I'm sure if you live in New York and stay inside the bubble, it's hard to see what is immediately transparent and obvious to someone who comes in from the outside: the game is over--at least this game is. Here are a few quick moments of truth; I'm not going to link them back to Rules of Thumb, but I'm sure if you have the book and you want to take a quick look through the index of rules at the back, you can make the connections.
The New York Times, aka Dead Man Walking. It used to be everywhere and it used to be the medium of conversation: "Hey did you see the great piece in the Times today?" was a standard greeting at work, over lunch, at parties. Not any more. The news is ubiquitous--no need to get the Times or even to read it. It wasn't even on display in my hotel lobby, much less offered as something they hotel would deliver to my door first thing in the morning at my request. The news is in the air, on your mobile device, on screens in the back of cabs (as Kevin Roberts observed a few years ago, we now live in Screen World) on on giant screens in Times Square (soon to be re-named I-Square?). When I got back to Santa Fe late Saturday night, I made the conscious decision not to buy the Sunday New York Times--and for me, that is a major decision. But $6 to read what is no longer the medium of exchange in the world of information, opinion, and insight? Why bother?
Which leads me to the second thing I learned in NYC: the economy doesn't just run on money. More important, it runs on momentum, on energy, on conversation. Nobody is talking about magazines and newspapers; the air is out of the balloon; the energy has moved on. Mid-town Manhattan is home to large and impressive looking buildings with the logos of once-important companies affixed to their roofs and front doors. But nothing is happening inside those once-dominant domains. The game has moved on. People who want to be in the conversation are making their own conversations. People who want to connect with their "tribe" (thank you, Seth Godin!) can do so on Triibes--without the permission or assistance of the old gate-keepers. As I told a friend at one of the once-great magazine companies, "If you want to see the future of magazining, get in a car and take a road trip! It's out there, in lofts in Boulder and Austin, in Portland and in DesMoines, but it sure isn't here in 42-story glass monuments in the heart of New York City."
The next great reality show isn't Desperate Housewives of New Jersey; it's Desperate CEOs of New York. Watching Jeff Immelt on Charlie Rose is a study in corporate shock. I didn't write down Immelt's actual quotes, but among the more ridiculous things he said were: what's ailing is the United States is our sudden inability to find the will to do things (what he wants to do is to build "clean coal" plants--an oxymoron to begin with); and the contention that within 10 years, GE will be "America's most admired corporation." A few short years ago, Fortune magazine put Countrywide on its list of most admired corporations--why would someone as smart as Immelt even mention this as an aspiration? (By the way, after Fortune gave Enron its "most innovative" company award for several years in a row and added Countrywide to its admired company list, why does anyone listen to anything Fortune says about anything?) The look on Immelt's face was one of false hope tinged with sadness and confusion: When did things get so messed up? Did I do this or is this happening to me? What's going to happen next? And so he was reduced to silly expressions of frustration that America is not living up to his expectations, and the promise that GE will regain our admiration--both dubious definitions of either the real problem or the real point of the exercise.
What's exciting is all the amazing new fresh admirable stuff that's struggling to be born. But it's happening in lofts and in coffee shops, not in corporate suites and demoralized company headquarters buildings. There is enormous energy behind social media and social missions, behind people helping each other and new forms of capitalism that bring more people into the game.
It's gonna be ok: we can say goodbye to old friends at the same time as we welcome a whole host of new ones. Can you say, "Hello, future!"

Friday, June 26, 2009

Rules of Thumb for Investors? Sure!

My good friend Chris Versace and I collaborated on a Q&A for his column for The Washington Times. It turns out that what's true for entrepreneurs, managers, CEOS, innovators is just as true for people trying to make sense out of the market and investment strategies. You can read it by clicking (here).

Friday, June 19, 2009

Can Business Be Business-Like and Better?

One of the underlying themes of Rules of Thumb (as it was for Fast Company) is a question: Is there a way to do business that is both business-like and also humane? Can we create a blend of capitalism that encourages entrepreneurship, innovation, profit-making, and also rewards people when they actively do the right thing in the marketplace? It seems clear that you can't regulate morality--but you can regulate against immorality. And you can spread ideas and practices that not only work in the world of business but also work in the affairs of people. Here's a column I just wrote for the web site that offers a point of departure for thinking about this perplexing and vitally important issue: (Click Here).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The First Less-Than-100-Days!

Rules of Thumb has been out less than 100 days--a good time to report in on places I've been, people I've met, lessons I've learned. The headlines so far: Rules is getting a great response; reviews, tweets, blog posts, email traffic, you name it. The general response is: this book is smart, fun, helpful, timely, wise--I wish I'd read it a long time ago! I've gotten great feedback with people adding their own Rule #53, which is always fun and gives me new insights and fresh perspective; it turns Rules into a conversation among people trying to create a new way of working and doing business, a handbook for how to play the game now, after the world has changed--which is what I hoped it would be.
On the travel front, it's been a blast. We kicked off the Endless Global Tour in New York City with a great night of fun at the Japan Society, where Polly LaBarre and I reprised our old on-stage act from Fast Company days of yore (Click here for that video); had a great book party in Santa Fe that went late into the night; did the same in San Francisco at Book Passage. Then we got serious: on a trip to Europe I spoke in Vienna to a group of very bright, talented, and interested business leaders, then went to Budapest and had a long talk/discussion session with Eastern European bankers. Remember the rule: context is king? They brought that home to me by describing how "change" in Europe doesn't mean the same thing as "change"in the U.S.: change in Europe, they said, usually translates into either Fascists or Communists. A good lesson learned.
Then back to the U.S.--and a great Rules of Thumb breakfast session in Washington, DC with the always-brilliant Dan Pink followed by a cross-country flight to Seattle and talks at Microsoft and the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.
What have a learned?
Everywhere I go, people are trying their best to do two things at once: survive the current economic collapse, and make sense of it. At the same time, there's an interesting resistance to asking questions that seem too hard to reckon with: What if the problem is more systemic than we'd like to believe? What if it reflects on the lessons we're teaching in business school and the business-as-usual practices that we've come to accept as normal?
In some ways, Rules may be too polite, too nice, too pleasant a book.
The deep message that's in it should be clear: We need new rules. Period. If we think we're going to get change by tweaking the old way of working, we're kidding ourselves. Sure, we'll make it through the current economic crisis--that much is clear.
But what will we learn? What are we willing to do differently? How far are we willing to go to embrace a new operating system that requires us to keep score differently, define leadership differently, fashion a new definition of leadership, and a new definition of victory?
I'm hoping that as the book spreads, as more people read it and recommend it to their friends and colleagues, as more comments begin to surface and the conversation begins to ripen and develop, we'll get into some of these tougher issues.
Sure Rules is fun to read; sure the rules are provocative and can help you today and tomorrow to think clearer and work smarter.
But there's even more: there's a challenge there about how we need to reconsider our way of doing business if we want to do business for the long haul.
I'm looking forward to that discussion, and to your comments.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

He Does Know Jack! And More!

Jack Covert of 800ceoread is a man who knows his business--and his business books. 800ceoread has a ton of features, benefits, shortcuts, and goodies for book buyers, book lovers, authors, readers, and just plain old interested folks. One feature is Jack's selections--books he picks out as worthy of attention. And (drum roll please) this month he's selected (cymbals crash please) Rules of Thumb! With some mighty nice words to go along with the selection. You can read it (and buy the book!) by clicking (here).

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rules of Thumb makes the list of...

...10 New Business Books Every Job Seeker Should Read
Click (here) for the book list.

Here's what they are saying about ROT:
"We live in a world of dramatic, tumultuous, and unpredictable change—change that is wiping out time-honored businesses and long-standing institutions and ushering in unprecedented opportunities for creative individuals and entrepreneurial organizations. So pervasive is change today that it has redefined our first task: The job is no longer figuring out how to win at the game of work and life; the job is figuring out the new rules of the game.

That’s the context for Alan M. Webber’s Rules of Thumb, a guide for individuals in every walk of life who want to make sense out of these confusing, challenging, and compelling times. Drawing from his own experiences as cofounding editor of Fast Company magazine and a wide range of interactions with some of the world’s leading thinkers and highest achievers, including Nobel Prize winners and global change agents, Webber has produced 52 “rules of thumb”—a collection that is as wise as it is useful and as honest as it is helpful. The rules come from real-life lessons learned and recorded on three-by-five cards, a trick borrowed from one of the many mentors whose teachings Webber captures and catalogues in this book.

If you’re looking for practical advice on how to win at work without losing your self, if you want to change your life to meet the challenge of change, or if you want to learn from some of the world’s most interesting and creative people, let Alan M. Webber take you on a remarkable journey toward greater personal understanding and, ultimately, greater personal success.
If you have other career or job search books you would like to add to this post, please do so in the comments section below."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Teaching the Rules

Britt Watwood is at the VCU Center for Teaching Excellence; he's passionate about using technology for learning. He's also a committed tire-kicker--in this case, he's kicking the tires of Rules of Thumb to see how they actually apply to his world. Can the rules I've written about be ported into the world of teaching excellence and promote a new way of looking at the work, a new take on learning? You can read Britt's very thoughtful comments by clicking (here) and more (here).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Trevor Gay at Simplicity Says

Rules of Thumb jumps the pond! And lands in the hands of Trevor Gay, blogging at Simplicity, one of the top 100 leadership blogs. Calling Rules "a must read," Trevor very generously finds much to like in the book--and it sounds like he read it the right way, with a yellow marker to underline passages that connect with him. You can read his review here: If you agree, feel free to spread the word--Rules is building a terrific community of readers who "get it." Now we've got to get the book into the hands of those who haven't yet discovered it! Remember to add your own Rule #53, and post your review of Rules on amazon!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Laurel Delaney says...

There are endorsements and then there are ENDORSEMENTS! This one is simple, clear, straightforward, and right to the point: "If there is one business book you must read before you die, make it this one!" Not that I'm wishing for anyone to die any time soon, but I'd hurry up and buy it, especially if she's right. (Read Laurel Delaney's, author of "Escape From Corporate America!", review of Rules Of Thumb by clicking here)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Best practices in the world of work, business, & government

I'm sitting in my hotel room in Our Nation's Capital--resting from a full day of Rules of Thumbing! One of the high points yesterday was a full hour of radio with Francis Rose, whose show, legitimately called "In Depth" actually does what rarely happens on talk radio--offers a chance for serious discussion of ideas and best practices in the world of work, business, and government. Here's the link to our in-depth conversation: (Click Here)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Action Plan for GM

Now that General Motors has officially entered into bankruptcy, and as U.S. taxpayers we're becoming majority owners of one of the icons of American capitalism, it's time for us to go to work to fix our car company! As one of the new co-CEOs of GM (along with you), I've got a few ideas about what we need to do. You can read my action plan on the Huffington Post,
(Click Here)

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