Business case studies focus on companies. That’s all wrong. The more effective unit of assessment is the “strategic decision.” Companies change because people and external factors shift. Better to take specific moments to assess who, why and how did leadership get it right.
That’s the foundation of what most interests me about popular business book and concept Blue Ocean Strategy, written by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. The original 2005 book’s origins are with a 1997 article on “value innovation” in Harvard Business Review. I read the updated version published in 2015.
It’s easy to criticize the careerism of business books like these. Smart management researchers uncover some findings, group case studies and give it cute branding to sell books and lead to a career of consulting and public speaking. It all has a very packaged feel. Yet I have gotten genuine value from many such books once they’re put in the proper concept: Pick from them what helps you and don’t feel required to follow it all.
The big headline of the book is that too often when facing a strategic decision, leaders follow the pack because it feels safe. Their assessment says this is all wrong. Rather than a crowded “red ocean;” Distinguish yourself by turning to open “blue ocean.” In some sense, many other business metaphors — such as Jim Collins’s “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG) and the “Queen Bee Role” and “making the donuts” — give similarly productive advice: Fall in love with the problem not the solution, and, rather than following everyone else, uncover what you’re the best in the world at.
The advice is good enough, though, that it can help. A friend advised me it was return to Blue Ocean Strategy. I read it, translated it into a mini-workshop my leadership team, and it helped push us forward at an important juncture.
You might rightly benefit too. Pick up a copy. For my future reference, I’ve shared my notes below.
We operate with limited information and are outcomes are heavily influenced by others with varied priorities. That’s the setup for the 2018 book Thinking in Bets by poker player Annie Duke. She was near to several poker scandals but has since focused on decision science — with her poker past as an effective storytelling device.
It was popular in business circles. The book is effective in conveying a clear overall point and synthesizing relevant research. I enjoyed it and would recommend it.
The fractured media landscape we have today was already breaking apart two decades ago, and the economic models that underpin them predicted what we have today.
That’s the benefit of reading All the News That’s Fit to Sell, a 2003 book from James T. Hamilton, a well-respected journalism professor. I’ve read Hamilton’s work before, and this book was one I’ve long had on my list. I enjoyed the work, which is just as relevant 20 years later.
His research is helpful for my understanding of journalism models that I’ve spent my entire career working on. The book is also helpful for those interested in a dispassionate outline of the beginnings of the digital transformation of media – which we’re now fully immersed in.
As the web has brought down the upfront costs of launching a publishing business, there are plenty of them. This means I’ve been asked to join several conversations about how to decide how much one of these are worth.
I’ve been involved in several conversations over the last few years in which publishers (those with no full-time employees to those with several dozen) have sought advice or discussed the topic. I suspect I’ll have other conversations like them in the future, so I thought I’d just share some of the advice I most commonly give and have seen take place.
Pay them a competitive salary. Protect against mission and role creep. Give something clear to work toward and a strategy to employ to get there.
As an organizational leader, these are the foundations of developing a healthy relationship with your workforce. I’ve found there are other signs of an empathetic organizational culture that you can develop, without excessive budget needs.
These are examples of ways to show your team that you actually care about them as people. It goes a long way to develop the relationships you need to take on a big challenge, particularly without a pile of money.
The historical arc of offices is richly told. Despite the criticism they get, I’m fond of them, over many offices or more established cubicles. Someone recently asked me for advice, and I found I had three quick answers that I stand by.
One of the best outcomes from building the habit of building habits is having a skill to make big change. If you want to stop always being late. If you want to be a better public speaker. If you want to drive your company to new heights.
Once you identify the obstacles, these all are essentially tasks of building habits. But we often stare down the end of an enormous project and are so intimidated we never start. That happens to me a lot. So I remind myself that it all comes down to an incredibly simple act: just get started.
One unexpected result of becoming CEO of my own company is that I found myself without a traditional budget line I could pull from.
As we grew our company, we created a budget aligned with core functions. I stepped into a role in which I was overseeing them all, but I didn’t set aside budget for me in last year’s budget for myself. That sparked me to wonder how other CEOs approached giving themselves budgetary space to experiment, explore and trial.
Prominent investor Ben Horowitz’s 2014 book ‘The Hard Thing about Hard Things’ is among the seminal business philosophy books from this era of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship.
Horowitz is half of the founding team of Andresson-Horowitz, an iconic Sand Hill Road software-focused venture capital firm. His work and perspective has influenced today’s funding and startup climate, and so I finally dug into the book.
I enjoyed it and took away several insights. As per my habit, find some of my notes below.
Most of the work of business takes place somewhere in between the very start and the very end. Yet a lot of media attention focuses on those two iconic poles. So you might know a lot less about the space between the two poles.