Tag Archives: Bob Morris

“Sustaining Innovation” contrasted with “Disruptive Innovation” – Insight from Inder Sidhu’s Doing Both

“Of course – I knew that.  But I did not realize that I knew that, and/or I did not know how to say it that clearly.”

I have that reaction frequently when I read a book, or hear a good presentation.  It’s not that I “learn” anything new (although, of course I do) — it is that I understand what I “knew” much more clearly.  This post is about one of those epiphanies.

This morning, I heard Cathy Groos deliver her synopsis of Doing Both by Inder Sidhu.  (Cathy is presenting her synopsis again tomorrow at the December First Friday Book Synopsis).  She did a terrific job providing the key content of the book (which is always our goal).  The book is filled with insights that prompt further thought.  (You can read Bob Morris’ review of the book here).

I thought this was especially valuable.  From Cathy’s synopsis handout:

  • Sustaining Innovation — “…the relentless improvements necessary to build on past successes.  They make existing products better, faster or cheaper in the eyes of the customer by offering new features and functions.  Examples of sustaining innovations:  from Cheerios to Honey Nut Cheerios; from the Honda Accord to the all new Honda Accord.
  • Disruptive Innovation — “…inventions that enable companies to create new markets or significantly alter existing ones…consider:  from records to tapes to CD’s to the real disruptive innovations:  iPod and iTunes…”

Sustaining Innovation – making what is better, or different, contrasted with Disruptive Innovation, which is practically a whole new ball game.  These are both needed, both valuable.  But they are definitely different from each other.


To Get Things Done, You Need Power (Says Jeffrey Pfeffer) – Why President Obama Needs To Run For A Second Term (A Management Perspective)

First, a comment about “politics.”  I really do try to keep politics out of my blog posts, for a lot of reasons.  The main reason is that so many are so strongly aligned with one side or the other that to even broach a political example runs the risk of turning off/offending/angering half of the readership of this blog.  But, there are times when the arena of politics provides just the right fodder for lessons regarding business success or failure.  So, at the risk of offending some, here goes…

Jeffrey Pfeffer

Recently, two critics of President Obama took to the op-ed pages of the Washington Post to recommend that President Obama announce, now, that he will not seek a second term.  This morning Stanford Professor and author Jeffery Pfeffer wrote quite an interesting column about why that would be a very bad idea: Why President Obama should run again in 2012 – a management perspective.  Here are key excerpts:

It was a cautionary tale: A longtime partner at a Silicon Valley venture capital firm decided she would step down from her leadership role, and in an attempt to make life easier for her colleagues, she gave plenty of advance notice of her departure.

Bad idea. As soon as her end date at the company was well known, she later told me, her role at the firm changed. People stopped consulting her on hiring or investment decisions. She wasn’t invited to key meetings. Essentially, most people started freezing her out, treating her as if she’d already left.

And in a sense, she had. Her co-workers correctly anticipated that she soon would have no power to help or hurt them, so she became effectively irrelevant to their working lives.

Getting things done, whether in the private sector or in government, requires power, and having power means retaining the capacity to affect what happens to others, ensuring that those whose support you remain dependent on you. As former secretary of state and Stanford University provost Condoleezza Rice told one protege, “People may oppose you, but when they realize you can hurt them, they’ll join your side.

…you have power to the extent that others are going to depend on you in the future

Leaders need power, as well as a reputation for being powerful. Announcing that you will be out of the arena soon seems like a particularly ineffective strategy to get things done.

A while back, Bob Morris, my blogging colleague posted his review of Pfeffer’s book on our blog:  Jeffrey Pfeffer’s Power: Why Some People Have It – and Others Don’t  – A Book Review by Bob MorrisHere’s a key paragraph from his review:

Pfeffer insists that the world is neither just nor unjust: it is. He also challenges “leadership literature” (including his contributions to it) because celebrity CEOs who tout their own careers as models tend to “gloss over power plays they actually used to get to the top” whereas authors such as Pfeffer offer “prescriptions about how people wish the world and the powerful behaved.” Pfeffer also suggests that those aspiring to power “are often their own worst enemy, and not just in the arena of building power” because of self-handicapping, a reluctance (perhaps even a refusal) to take initiatives that may fail and thereby diminish one’s self-image. “I have come to believe that the biggest single effect I can have is to get people to try to become powerful.” Pfeffer wrote this book as an operations manual for the acquisition and retention of power. Of even greater importance, in my opinion, he reveals the ultimate realities of what power is…and isn’t…and thereby eliminates the shadows of illusion and self-deception that most people now observe in the “caves” of their own current circumstances.

I think Pfeffer’s premise is correct.  It may not be the way the world should work, but it certainly is true about the way the world does work.  If you are perceived as powerless, than people do not treat you as though you had power.  If you are perceived as someone with power, then your input, your influence, is great indeed.  The more power you have, the more you can get things done.





Leadership; Followership – Jason Garrett, the Dallas Cowboys, and a little non-compliance

Bob Morris, my colleague on this blog, has written more than once about the power of “followership.”  Followership is valuable.  So – consider this…


I am convinced that if journalists covered any story the way that the Dallas Morning News covers the Dallas Cowboys, we’d understand, and then solve, every problem in the country in a week.

You should have seen the paper the morning after Wade Phillips was fired.  You needed the physical paper – the on-line version simply did not have the over-all impact of the two page spread with the charts and graphics and analysis, all in one big overwhelming visual.  Seriously, the News covers few stories with the detail and creativity that they demonstrate in their coverage of the Dallas Cowboys.

Anyway, Jason Garrett is the new (interim) coach, and we think he may have pulled off the miracle of the decade last night in beating the New York Giants yesterday.  But there was this item on the Cowboys blog by Todd Archer (on the News web site) that just really rubbed me the wrong way.  Jason Garrett comes in providing clear directions, with leadership that is clearly desperately needed.  But leaders have to be followed.  And this one guy – well, if this account is true, he’s just a jerk!  Here’s the account:

Jason Garrett made it clear that players were required to wear sport coats, ties, slacks and dress shoes for road trips. After all, today’s game against the New York Giants is a business trip.
Hanging around the Jersey City Westin on Saturday night when the team arrived, I noticed Marion Barber was in a sport coat and jeans without a tie. Everybody else I saw – and it was not everybody – met Garrett’s requirement.
Is it a big deal? Not really but there is a level of disrespect being shown by not following the dress code in the first week. And it gives Garrett the chance to send a message, whether he does it publicly or not. Players will know what happens.
What makes it worse, to me, is that Barber is a team captain and he chose not to follow Garrett’s rules. What kind of message does that send to the team as a captain?
We’ll see the post-game attire. Players are required to return home in suits too. That was not the case under Wade Phillips.

Easy ways to Keep Up With Our New Blog Posts

We now have over 2100 blog posts on our blog.  How to keep up?

You can, of course, subscribe to our blog.  WordPress sends you an e-mail automatically.  When you sign up, you will find a few options.  I recommend the once-a-day e-mail.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box provided on the right side of this page, and then click the “sign me up” button.

And/or:  I post links to most of our posts, from our entire blogging team, on Twitter.  Bob Morris posts links to his blog posts on his Twitter account .  So, we invite you to follow us on Twitter.

Follow me (Randy) on Twitter:  http://twitter.com/randy1116. (I also “retweet” posts that are especially popular).

Follow Bob on Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/robertmorris313.

Luis Urzúa, Shift Foreman – Leader of the Decade

So here’s the situation.  You’re the shift foreman for 32 other men.  They are descending into chaotic hopelessness.  Fist fights are breaking out.  Resources are nearly exhausted.   All you can really do is wait – hope – and panic.  Or…you can take the lead.  What do you do?

If you want to survive, you take the lead.  And that is exactly what Luis Urzúa, the 54 year old shift foreman did with his crew of 32 men over 2,000 feet underground.

He divided the men into three groups.  He gave them “specific/tangible” tasks to perform.  He evenly and fairly divided out their incredibly sparse resources.  And, he waited until they all made the surface before he left the mine.  And when he was greeted by President Sebastián Piñera, the President told him:  “Mr. Urzúa, your shift is over.”

Alex Ibanez/Chilean Presidential Press Office, via Associated Press


Luis Urzúa, one of the happiest moments of his life (EFE)


It’s simple:  Luis Urzúa is the leader of the decade.

This post has two parts:  the story of Urzúa, and the insight of Robert (Bob) Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best…and Learn from the Worst. (Bob Morris reviewed this book on our blog here).  Here’s the last paragraph of Bob’s review:

Sutton identifies the “what” and explains the “why” of a good or bad business decision or initiative, then focuses most of his attention on how to do what must be done while avoiding (or repairing) the damage of what should not be done.

The Story — Urzúa’s Leadership:
You can read much about what Urzúa actually did here: Chilean mine foreman works heroically to keep hope alive. Here are some excerpts:

For Urzúa, the command challenges began within moments of the mine collapse — he quickly ordered his men to huddle while he took three miners and scouted up the tunnel, searching for information on the massive cave-in. Correctly deducing that the men were trapped, Urzúa instituted a set of rules and regulations that were both methodically rigid and crucial to the men’s survival. He ordered that the mine’s stash of emergency food be rationed into minimal portions — two spoonfuls of tuna fish and half a glass of milk every 48 hours.

As rescuers spent 16 days in frustrated attempts to drill a rescue hole 700m down to the trapped men, Urzúa also used his training as a topographer to make detailed maps of the miners’ underground world, which includes more than 2km of tunnels, caves and a 35m2 refuge.

With a white Nissan Terrano pickup truck as his office, Urzúa drew maps; divided the miners’ world into a work area, a sleep area and a sanitary facility; and used the headlights of mining trucks to simulate sunlight in an attempt to provide a semblance of routine to the men’s daily lives. Urzúa also kept the men on a 12-hour shift schedule.

When the first letters from the trapped men arrived “top side,” rescue workers were heartened to see the messages carefully worded and dated, a sign that the miners were not disorientated.

“You think they wrote those letters in the moment? No,” Manalich (Chilean Minister of Health Jaime Manalich) said. “Urzúa had that material prepared. He knew there would be a rescue mission.”

As Urzúa’s 12-hour shift stretches to over a month of command and control, the former soccer coach has such complete dominion over the situation that on Friday last week during a daily medical conference call, he told Manalich to “keep it short, we have lots of work to do.”

The Chilean government has three separate rescue plans in place, called simply plans A, B and C. Each effort is a multimillion-dollar gamble; all count on Urzúa to organize a host of tasks for his mining crew.

Insight from Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss:
Luis Urzúa has been a good boss (make that a great boss).  Robert (Bob) Sutton, the author of Good Boss, Bad Boss, wrote a blog post entitled Luis Urzúa and the Trapped Miners: A Good Boss, Performance, and Humanity. Sutton was interviewed on CNN about Urzúa’s leadership in the mine (I cannot find the interview on-line), and on PRI’s The World, which I heard (listen to the app. 6 minute audio here).  Here are a few excerts (taken from the audio – maybe not a perfect transcription, but close):

A boss has two jobs:  One, to be technically competent. Two, he has to have the compassion and caring about people.

Sometimes we have this romanticized view of leadership that the boss is sort of a superhero who runs around doing everything himself.  (But Urzúa) organized teams below him; a medical team, a spiritual team.  He consistently puts his own needs last.

He let people know what was coming.  Give people as much predictabilty as possible.  Small wins…little sort of steps that they can take.

Very often, leadership is sort of described in a big, broad brush sort of notion.  What great bosses do is provide the little steps so that we can move along, and clearly he has/and his team have been doing that.

We all want to be on a team where the right people are in the right seats.

I suspect that the work of this remarkable leader, and his appointed team leaders, will get a lot of attention in the coming months. But I think it is time to go ahead and state the obvious: Luis Urzúa, Shift Foreman is the Leader of the Decade.

A Milestone for our Blog – 2000 posts, and counting!

I’m sure you have read the statistics.  Most blogs are born with hope and die from inaction.  People who start out wanting to blog/intending to blog, simply quit.

When we first started our blog, Karl Krayer and I were the only two on the team.  I came up with the idea to expand our blogging team, and invited Cheryl Jensen and Sara Smith, and Bob Morris, to blog along with us.

Over the weekend, Bob Morris posted our 2,000th blog post.  So – our blog definitely did not die from inaction.  We have steadily increased our blog post total.

Our first month for our blogging team was April, 2009.  To put it in perspective, in all of March, 2009, we had one blog post.  One.  Now, we are hitting four to six to eight posts a day.

Here’s what happened.  Though we absolutely appreciate and gain much from the blog posts of Karl Krayer, and Cheryl and Sara, for Bob and me, it has been quite a ride.

We always try to offer genuine and practical wisdom, counsel, and help to those who want to succeed, especially in their business lives.

I now average slightly more than one post a day (when I am on a roll, I can churn out two to four in a day).  I have started thinking, time and again, “I’ve got to blog about that.”  And I have so much more I want to say – so much more to write about.  To put it simply, I like to blog.

But Bob Morris is the education factory.  He writes multiple posts a day.  And they are all valuable.  If you were to read Bob Morris’ blog posts, all of them, you would know more about the wisdom found in business (and other) books, the key content of the best offerings…   If you want to keep up, and keep learning, Bob Morris is your resource!  It is amazing what this one man’s output can teach us all!

Karl Krayer, the Head of Creative Communication Network, made all of this possible.  And our monthly event, the First Friday Book Synopsis (now in our 13th year), takes a little deeper look into two books every month.

And I am deeply grateful for the insights shared by Karl, Cheryl & Sara on this blog.

But, today, I just wanted to share our progress.  We’ve gone from a handful of readers in the months before we expanded our blogging team, to our current readership with nearly 400 page views a day.  And that number is going up practically every month.

To you, our readers, I am especially grateful.  Please spread the word.  (You can follow me on twitter here, and find links to most new blog posts on our blog – along with a few other items).

Thank you.