Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Lean Body

When I taught weight lifting classes, I would hear people say that they did not want to increase muscle because muscle weighs more than fat and they didn't want to weigh more. I encountered even more people that would try to reduce their body fat by doing what is called yo-yo dieting. Both of these strategies lead to greater weight gain and increased body fat.

When implementing Lean management, we often adopt the counterproductive goal of eliminating waste (i.e., reducing weight), instead of the profit maximizing goal of increasing quality (i.e., increasing overall health/fitness). The problem is that when it comes to your body (and to your business), depriving your body of calories drives your body to extract protein from your muscles and convert that protein into energy in order to keep the body going, which reduces muscle, thereby weakening metabolism, which ultimately increases the very body fat that we are trying to reduce.

When we skimp on infrastructure by adopting the goal of reducing waste we do the same thing to our organizations that yo-yo dieting does to our bodies. For example, when we understaff teams, we put our teams in firefighting mode (i.e., often ignoring the important to do what is most urgent). This necessarily causes us to extract vital resources from other necessary, often more important parts of the business, thereby reducing the overall strength of the firm, which ultimately increases the very waste we are trying to eliminate. Even though adding new value (i.e., muscle) is expensive (i.e., increases your weight), it also causes you to naturally reduce waste (i.e., fat), which actually has the net effect of maximizing profits (i.e., reducing your overall weight)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Most Important Lesson I have Learned in My Internship...

"Henry Ford famously discovered in the early 1900's that, by increasing his employees' schedules to 60 hours a week, he could squeeze more productivity out of them. But that burst of productivity lasted only about four weeks. Over time, the workers putting in 60 hours a week began producing less than their counterparts who worked 40 hours."

Just an hour ago, I was sitting at my desk trying to solve a problem in a long Excel equation. One hour had gone by and I was still stumped. Finally, I remembered a lesson that has helped me so much over the last month and a half of my internship, which is, "Maximize your throughput, not your capacity." With that, I got up from my desk and walked around the office. I went to the break room, reclined on the sofa and relaxed. After five minutes I suddenly had a stroke of genius and despite being 20 yards from my computer, I could see the answer in my head on the computer screen. I ran to my desk and within one minute I fixed the problem with my Excel equation. 

As I sit here now, I am still stunned at how powerful this principle was at helping me solve my Excel problem and more stunned at how often I fight this principle. I still don't quite understand why, but I constantly trick myself into believing that if I can simply do more or work at it longer, I will be more productive. That is the same logic that says, "If you fill a freeway to capacity, everyone will get home quicker." It's almost laughable to think that someone might believe this, yet it took over 90 years since the first paved road in America in 1909 for engineers to come up with the idea of installing traffic lights at freeway on-ramps. What is it about this falsehood that is so tempting?! 

Over the past seven weeks of my internship, I have had this "stunned" experience (as I had with my Excel solution) several times:

First, at Intel few people work more than 45 hours per week. Employees get more than three weeks of vacation per year and every seven years, employees go on a 3+ month Sabbatical. Most people leave early or work from home on Fridays, and mandatory breaks are regulated by computer programs that lock you out of your computer for five seconds every ten minutes and five minutes every hour. This does not mean that people don't think about their work outside of their 45 hours of work or during their breaks. In fact, I have noticed the opposite. In the same way that I solved my problem in Excel while I was not working or intentionally thinking about work, people at Intel spend time unintentionally thinking about their work and solving business problems while walking to the cafe, spending time with family, attending the almost weekly Intel sponsored events (e.g., Barnum, Bailey Circus, Arizona Diamondbacks games, free movies and free lunches). This same "stroke of genius" that I experienced during my five minute break while relaxing has occurred to me dozens of times during my internship, and I have witnessed it in so many others at Intel over the last seven weeks.* 

Second, my internship project involves process mapping an impossibly enormous process flow for the purpose of improving speed and efficiency. To make things complicated, people at Intel speak a whole other language that resembles something akin to Klingon and teenage texting language. In order to understand what anyone is telling me about the process flow, I enlisted the help of flashcards, Intel's "acronym dictionary" and several coworkers. When I found that I was still struggling to achieve the progress I was hoping for in my project, I turned to a friend of a friend, Joe, who owns his own Lean/Six Sigma consulting company in San Diego.

Two weeks into my internship, I drove out to San Diego and I went to lunch at Phil's BBQ with Joe where I picked his brain about my internship project strategy, process flow mapping and Lean/Six Sigma implementation. After about 30 minutes of talking, he said to me, 

"Do you want to know how you can knock the socks off of your manager and get an offer from Intel?" he is quite the salesman.

"Yes, of course!" I responded. 

"First of all, you are doing this all wrong!" he continued. 

I was caught off guard a bit by his blunt accusation. 

"You are trying to map out this process in such detail and you are wasting your time! What you need to do is find the bottleneck." 

"OK," I said, not quite sure where he was going with this. 

"Have you read the book The Goal?" he quizzed.

"Yes, I have" I replied enthusiastically. 

"I use that book to teach every one of my Six Sigma courses at SDSU. I'll let you in on the secret to success with Six Sigma. You see...I'm lazy."

At this point, I didn't know where he was going with this.

"I don't want to do more work than I have to when I consult for a company. Do you remember Herbie from the book?" he questioned.

"Yes" I replied again. I was two-for-two! 

"Remember how no matter what anyone in the Boy Scout group did, they couldn't speed up the hike until Alex helped Herbie out with his pack and redistributed the load."

"Oh yeah!" I said. I thought I was starting to get it. 

"That's what I do when I consult," he continued. "I don't pay attention to anything else in the process except for the bottleneck. I search for that bottleneck and when I find it, I halt all work-in-process (WIP) inventory behind the bottleneck until every last piece of WIP inventory is through. This is when managers start to scream at me. What people don't understand is that in order to go faster you need to stop starting new work."

Now I was sure I didn't understand.

"I can't tell you how many consulting jobs I have lost because of hard-headed managers that fight me on this. But, once you relieve the bottleneck and you maximize the throughput at the bottleneck and make the bottleneck regulate the flow of the process, you have maximized your productivity without hardly lifting a finger. It's just like when Alex put Herbie in front so that Herbie could regulate the pace of the Boy Scouts on the hike. 

That's when it clicked in my head, "That's what Dr. Snow meant!"

"Don't continue to waste your time anywhere else," he warned. "Any work you do at any other point in the process is waste because it won't speed up the process one bit. If Alex had taken the pack of one of the faster boys, would it have helped?" 

"No." I replied with a fascinated tone. 

He reached into his pocket, pulled out his business card and extended it toward me. "When you find that bottle neck," he continued, "I want you to call me and I will let you know what to do next." 

At this point, I smiled big and he smiled back. We both understood the unintended reference to The Goal, and it was becoming a bit weird. I half expected that I would receive a phone call any second from Bill Peach.

I thanked Joe(nah) profusely. We finished up lunch and parted ways. I couldn't knock the grin off my face after that. 

Ever since my encounter with Joe(nah), I have been profoundly focused on finding that bottleneck at Intel, and more importantly, finding bottlenecks in my work and personal lives. This focus has given me a profound respect for Intel's work philosophy and has drastically improved my personal productivity. 

In my personal life, faithfully following this principle has given me the experiences (like my Excel problem experience) that have pushed me closer and closer to truly comprehending the counter-intuitive concept that "Maximizing throughput leads to greater productivity, not maximizing capacity." 

Furthermore, in my work life, this principle has drastically improved my personal productivity. For example, I read the book Personal Kanban, discontinued new work at the office (scary!) and maximized throughput at my bottle neck (i.e., my mental bandwidth) by limiting the number of projects I can take on at any one time to three. I map everything on a Personal Kanban chart with sticky notes and a whiteboard. My Personal Kanban sits behind my computer monitor so I can always see it. It looks very similar to the whiteboard in this picture below. My personal Kanban helps me to visualize my work, and minimize the clutter in my mind. I am able to focus on the task at hand, finish my work quickly and wow my manager. It has also made reporting on my work to my manager very simple. I have found great success with it, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to improve their personal productivity.

*Intel was recently ranked 3rd on The Gartner Group's 2013 ranking of The Best Supply Chains in the World.

Referenced Works:

"A Harvard Economist's Surprisingly Simple Productivity Secret"

Personal Kanban

The Goal

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How to Change a Culture...

"Learn by doing first and training second. I have been involved in many corporate (change efforts) and someone will inevitably say, "Before we can get started with all these radical changes, we need to inform people of what we are doing through training courses." This has led to elaborate corporate training programs with PowerPoint™ presentations.

Unfortunately you cannot PowerPoint™ your way to (change). (Change) is about learning by doing. I believe that in the early stages of transformation there should be at least 80% doing and 20% training and informing. The best training is training followed by immediately doing … or doing followed by immediate training. The (best) approach to training is to put people in difficult situations and let them solve their way out of the problems."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Democratic Taylorism

“In my system the workman is told precisely what he is to do and how to do it and any improvement he makes upon the instructions given to him is fatal to success.” -- Frederick W. Taylor (Father of the “Efficiency Movement” of the 1800s)

The key difference between Taylorism and the Toyota Way is that the Toyota Way preaches that the worker is the most valuable resource—not just a pair of hands taking orders, but an analyst and problem solver. In contrast to the traditional top-down business, Toyota's bureaucratic, top-down system becomes the basis for flexibility and innovation. Adler called this behavior "Democratic Taylorism."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Democratic Beehive

The Beehive: A symbol of productivity, tireless work, discipline, frugality, order, harmony, industry, and the sweet results of turmoil.

To some though, the beehive is also an example of why hierarchy is the most productive system of industry. It serves as an example of how mindless beings that submit themselves to order will thrive.

In real life, however, bees are anything but mindless drones working under a dictatorial queen bee. The title of "queen" is often confused with what the queen bee actually does. In no way does the queen bee make leadership choices. Instead, she is treated with special care by the other bees so that she might do her job of laying over half-a-million eggs per year.

The reality is that bees are an amazing example, in nature, of how consensus, union and intelligent cooperation lead to better decision making. “One of the most important group decisions made by a bee colony is where to locate the nest. This particular type of decision making in bees is well studied. The colony sends out a small number of scouts to survey the environment for good nest locations; typically, scouts comprise about 5 percent of the total group. When the scouts return to the colony with information, those who found a more promising site signal their finding by dancing at a higher intensity and for a longer period of time.

As a result of this social signaling, more scouts are recruited to the better sites. After additional scouts explore the better sites and return to signal their findings, the dancing of the scouts skews further in favor of the better sites. Eventually so many scouts are signaling in favor of the best site that a tipping point is reached, and the entire colony picks up and moves. Social signaling, communicated by higher activity, causes the information from individual scouts to be communicated, weighted, and pooled, iteratively recruiting a larger and larger fraction of the colony, until a group consensus is reached.”
Alex Pentland. Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World (Kindle Locations 695-702). Kindle Edition.

Studies of bee colonies show that over 99 percent of the time scout bees, through consensus, choose the highest-quality nesting site available. 

Similar social signaling is used by worker bees, who make up about 85 percent of the colony, to find the best nectar locations (click here to watch video). The direction of their dance indicates the direction of the nectar source, and the intensity and length of dance persuade other worker bees of the best nectar locations.

Consensus, democracy, division of labor and division of management are the governing philosophies of a bee colony. Furthermore, by dividing decision making and decentralizing it to those groups that are best qualified to make particular decisions, bees are able to fully utilize their collective intelligence.

Further learning:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Euphoric Purpose Multiplies Creativity

 R. Buckminster Fuller is one of the most creative individuals in recent history. Fuller is often recognized as the “DaVinci of the 20th century” for his novel, useful contributions as an inventor, engineer, architect, mathematician and poet. Reflecting upon his creative achievements, including the geodesic dome (Fuller & Kuromiya, 1981, p. 125), he wrote that “The larger the number for whom I worked, the more positively effective I became. Thus, it is obvious that if I worked always… for all humanity, I would be optimally effective.”

Quote from:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Organizational Design Matters

"All organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they get." -- Arthur Jones

"Problems are the fault of the system 96% of the time and individuals 4% of the time." -- W. Edwards Deming

Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Democratic Volleyball Class

Manufacturers may possibly in their turn bring men back to aristocracy...Whereas the workman concentrates his faculties more and more upon the study of a single detail, the master surveys a more extensive whole,… the one is continually, closely, and necessarily dependent upon the other, and seems as much born to obey as that other is to command. What is this but aristocracy? -- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1840)
When I first read Democracy in America in 2008, I wondered if there was a freedom-centered approach to business that would nurture and develop people to be self-reliant leaders, instead of dependent followers. Inspired by Democracy in America, I read book after book, started my own blog on the subject (, and went back to school so that I could study business structures and so that I could prepare to be part of a freedom-centered business. After I was accepted to BYU, I seized upon an opportunity to be a volleyball PE teacher—to teach BYU undergraduates. In this arena I decided that I would begin to apply what I was learning.

The first lesson I have learned from my teaching experience is that “blissipline” unifies and motivates people. From Vishen Lakhiani, founder of the company MindValley, I learned that when people enjoy what they are doing they want to do more of it and they want to help others along the way. My students did not enjoy stretching and did not stretch consistently. Instead of forcing them to stretch, I chose to respect their desire for self-determination and add some “blissipline”. I began my search for “blissipline” ideas on the internet. The first thing I came across was a video called “Richard Simmons Leads Fun Stretches for Desk Workers,” and so, I watched it hoping to find an idea. While it was entertaining, I couldn’t see how it would help make stretching more enjoyable. After finding dozens of stretching games, I came across the well-known game, Simon Says. I thought, “I could combine stretches into a game of Simon Says.” I felt that I was getting somewhere, but it didn’t seem fun enough. Then the idea came to me, Simmons Says! I would dress as Richard Simmons and play Simmons Says, and add in some dance moves as we “Sweat to the Oldies” on my boom box. Let me just say, the effect of the game was beyond my expectations. All of my students were hooting and cheering as I performed my skit, and for the first time, everyone stretched at the beginning of class. Now, I bring my boom box to class and I or a student wears the wig and gives his/her best Richard Simmons impressions as we warm up together. In addition, the added playfulness has unified the class; those that were too busy to teach others now have the time to assist others, and efforts to build small, exclusive cliques have diminished.

Another dimension I brought to the classroom is that students would be treated like adults.  On the first day of class, I communicate to the students that they are in charge of the class, not me. They decide what they will learn, how they will be graded, and how the class will be run. My only job is to teach the volleyball skills they want to learn, make suggestions, and implement what the students decide. Another way I treat students like adults is to earn their respect, not demand it: I memorize all 36 of my students’ names, I get to know them, and I build bonds of trust. As a result, students quickly learn to express their opinions, to tell me when I am wrong, and to take responsibility for their own learning.

To further encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning, I make all learning optional. At the beginning of each class, I teach optional volleyball workshops. Those who do not want to participate can play volleyball. Those who do want to participate learn volleyball skills. Currently, each workshop is attended by one-third to one-half of the class. As a result, students learn more because they are intrinsic motivated to master each skill.

One of the toughest lessons I am still learning is how to optimally challenge students with different skill levels. In the book Drive by Dan Pink, I learned the importance of “flow”, a term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. “Flow” essentially means being “in the zone” and that can only happen when people are optimally challenged. After a few weeks of class, the most advanced players complained of being bored because the intensity of the games was low. They suggested that I drop the idea of optional workshops and force everyone to attend, so that beginners would learn to play better. One student suggested, in complete seriousness, that “for any mistake on the court, students should do ten pushups—this would make everyone better players.” Initially, I had no idea what to do, and I began to doubt my strategy. I felt stuck. I struggled to find a way to improve the “flow” of the class without stifling students’ intrinsic motivation and desire for self-determination. It was at this time that I began reading Drive and, over a weekend of studying and thinking, the answer came to me. The next class period I gathered the students together and asked if they would like to have an intense court of play. Those on the intense court would play a coordinated offense of their choice at game-level intensity. I made a signup sheet, and to my surprise, everyone signed up. Two of the three courts are now “intense” courts and everyone has equal amounts of time on those courts. Moreover, the beginner students decided that I would teach them the offenses. In just four class periods, the beginners learned the basics of both the 5-1 and 6-2 offenses, and now during “intense court” games, the advanced players help the beginners perfect their new skills. The new intense courts have helped advanced students reach an optimal level of challenge, and thereby reach a higher level of “flow” and satisfaction in the class. What is more, the added “flow” in the classroom correlated with an increase in workshop attendance.

Along the way I make mistakes, but I continue to correct them as I listen and learn about what motivates people. After reading the book Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn I learned that rewards and punishments stifle intrinsic motivation. As stated earlier, all of my volleyball workshops are optional; however, out of insecurity I initially offered Snickers candy bars as rewards to participants. As I read Alfie Kohn’s book I could see how my insecurity drove me to stifle my student’s intrinsic motivation to attend my workshops. So, I changed my ways. Initially, my students were disappointed that they could no longer win Snickers bars for attending workshops; however, contrary to my intuition, attendance to workshops has doubled; students are more interested in improving their skills to be better on the court and less interested in winning the games we play at the end of the workshops. With the Snickers bars gone, my insecurity with optional workshops, ironically, disappeared because I know my students attend workshops to learn, not to win candy bars. No longer blinded by Snickers-bar, control schemes, I now have a deep respect for my students’ natural desire to learn.

Through my volleyball instructor experience, I have learned that intrinsically-motivated people accomplish more and reach higher. Not only are there endless examples that people excel when respect, self-determination, and “flow” are fundamental to an organization’s structure, but I have first-hand experience that it is true. I wish now that I had so many more lifetimes to teach everyone what I am just beginning to know. However, I find consolation in my knowledge because to choose freedom-centered organization is to concede that one day I will die. No one can manage forever, but by relinquishing the illusion of power, I can build up others as self-reliant leaders and pass on a sure knowledge that “men (and women) can be trusted to govern themselves without a master.” (Thomas Jefferson)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

MIT Research Shows that Democratic Teams Perform Better

"Research shows that managers of teams with high levels of interest, engagement, and trust become more integrated into the team, and will operate more democratically. Not surprisingly, these sorts of more egalitarian teams also perform better.

The take-home message for managers is that if you want to make wise decisions, then be sure to spend time reading your organization's network intelligence. Create an open environment through the face-to-face promotion of trust and empathy so that it becomes easy to read the signaling. Spend time reading your group's signaling around each issue, taking care to adjust for the problems of idiots and gossip. By utilizing your group's inherent network intelligence, you can reliably make better decisions than you could on your own."

"Since the classic studies of Alexander Bavelas at MIT nearly sixty years ago, we have known that teams with a centrally coordinated structure-the classic "org chart" structure are good for fixed, well-defined tasks, but not for complex tasks requiring flexibility. Conversely, teams with richer interconnections are good for tasks requiring flexibility."

"A first step toward incorporating the network intelligence perspective would be to replace the static org chart with the idea of a network organization that varies over time, changing to suit the information-processing requirements of the task."

Conclusion: 21st-century management will continue to democratize. As computing and robotics take on the roll of completing more and more fixed, well-defined tasks, the economy will offer more complex tasks to management and workers. Those companies that optimize the "intelligence" of their internal networks will be, as the research shows, up to 5 times* more accurate in their business decision making, and thus, will out-compete those companies that do not democratize.

*Alex Pentland. Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World (Kindle Locations 652-653). Kindle Edition.

Quotes from...
[Alex Pentland. Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World (Kindle Locations 671-674, 728-729, 790, 859-860).]

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

YouTube vs. Revver

When rewards become the main driver of behavior, intrinsic motivation diminishes and  people game the system

Both Revver and YouTube paid for views. Why did YouTube win? The difference is that pay became the main motive for uploading videos to Revver.

“Revver was founded in 2004. Revver briefly was home to the videos of the pioneering web series lonelygirl15, and was one of the first sites to share ad revenue with its uploaders. However, the site’s approach to paying any uploader with enough views quickly led to lots of uploaders gaming the site, causing the overall quality of the videos to deteriorate. Revver changed hands for $5 million in 2008. A number of content creators left the site after the acquisition because it allegedly failed to make due on payments. Revver’s website finally went offline some time in 2011.”

On the other hand, YouTube only recently began paying for views. The company only pays those that have thousands of subscribers and apply to be a YouTube partner. In other words, pay is only used to financially support those that want to make a profession out of posting videos. YouTube does not pay "hobbyist" video posters because intrinsic motivation to post videos is more motivating in the long term, cheaper than a pay-for-post model, and superior at maintaining higher video-quality standards.

(quote from:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What Kind of Environments Make Innovation Possible?

Keeping an idea to yourself stifles your own innovation:
1800 - Present
(Johnson, Steven (2010-10-05). Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (p. 229). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.) 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Global Shortage of 18 Million Teachers

Over the next decade, there is a projected global shortage of 18 million teachers—2.3 million of those in the United States. How will we avert the “Darfur of children’s futures in terms of literacy”? (Kotler and Diamandis 2012)

In 1999, the Indian physicist Sugata Mitra discovered that engaging children to learn, be creative, and be problem solvers could be accomplished without any teachers at all! “Mitra designed a simple experiment. He cut a hole in the wall and installed a computer and a track pad, with the screen and the pad facing into the slum. He did it in such a way that theft was not a problem, then connected the computer to the Internet, added a web browser, and walked away. The kids who lived in the slums could not speak English, did not know how to use a computer, and had no knowledge of the Internet, but they were curious. Within minutes, they’d figured out how to point and click. By the end of the first day, they were surfing the web and— even more importantly— teaching one another how to surf the web. These results raised more questions than they answered.” (Kotler and Diamandis 2012)

Mitra continued his experiments by making small adjustments to the learning environment. For example, Mitra recruited grandmothers from across the United Kingdom to donate one hour of their week providing encouragement to these Indian children via Skype. On average the “granny cloud”, as Mitra called it, was found to increase test scores by 25 percent. In Mitra’s next experiment he accomplished the unthinkable: after four months of self-organized learning, Mitras students (only 12 years of age) were able to achieve test scores in the subject of biotechnology equal to the average scores of high-school students studying biotech at the best schools in New Delhi. This and other milestones led Sugata Mitra to formalize a learning method called “self-organized learning environments” (SOLES).

The Sugata Mitra example was made popular only recently by the book Abundance upon its publication in February of 2012. The author states most inspiringly, “If what’s really needed are students with no special training, grandmothers with no special training, and a computer with an Internet connection for every fourth student, then the Darfur of literacy need not be feared. Clearly, both kids and grandmothers are plentiful. (And,) wireless connectivity already exists for over 50 percent of the world and is rapidly extending to the rest.” (Kotler and Diamandis 2012)


Kotler, Steven, and Peter H. Diamandis. Abundance. Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2012.

The "Finnish Miracle" of Education

Finnish students spend fewer hours per day in school than their U.S. counterparts, and even less time in the classroom than students in Shanghai and South Korea. This is significant because the PISA study, conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Development (OECD 2009), consistently ranks Finland, Shanghai, and South Korea as the top countries in reading, math, and science test scores.
OECD, 2009 - Hyperlink: See Bibliography

When Finland topped the list during the first year of the PISA study, many Finns thought that the results must be a mistake because the Finnish school system was never intended to manufacture academic excellence, but alternatively was born of the lofty goal to give every Finnish child exactly the same opportunity to learn irrespective of family background, income, or geographic location. So how does a country spend less time instructing students and still attain the highest test scores in reading, math, and science without even trying? The explanation for what is now referred to as the “Finnish Miracle” is that numbers do not drive people, but people and relationships drive numbers. More specifically, test scores and accountability do not drive people to excellence, but engagement, curiosity, collaboration, and creativity drive students as well as teachers towards academic excellence.

In contrast to the Singapore and South Korean school systems, Finnish schools spend very little time testing students. In fact, Finland uses no standardized testing to measure students’ progress from year to year. The only standardized test that Finnish students take is called the National Matriculation Exam (Partanen, What Americans Keep Ignoring about Finland's School Success 2011), which every student takes at the end of his/her high-school education. In place of standardized testing, teachers are encouraged to develop their own curriculums and are taught how to develop their own evaluation and assessment techniques. Without the need to teach-to-the-test, Finnish teachers have more time to teach students using the best-known education techniques. Instead of lecturing, Finnish teachers spend the vast majority of school time directing hands-on, project-based learning (e.g., exploring in nature, cooking in the kitchen). This approach to education engages children and inspires them to think creatively, collaborate, and to become problem solvers.


OECD. PISA 2009 Results. 2009.,3746,en_32252351_32235731_46567613_1_1_1_1,00.html (accessed May 22, 2011).
Partanen, Anu. What Americans Keep Ignoring about Finland's School Success. December 29, 2011. (accessed May 22, 2012).
—. "What Americans Keep Ignoring about Finland's School Success." December 29, 2011.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How Will You Measure Your Life?

I recently read this article by Clayton Christiansen out of Harvard entitled, “How will you measure your life?”  It is what he tells his students on the final day of his class.

One of the items that he mentions sticks out to me.  It reads as follows:
“One of the theories, . . . . . how to be sure we find happiness in our careers—is from Frederick Herzberg, who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements. I tell the students about a vision of sorts I had while I was running the company I founded before becoming an academic. In my mind’s eye I saw one of my managers leave for work one morning with a relatively strong level of self-esteem. Then I pictured her driving home to her family 10 hours later, feeling unappreciated, frustrated, underutilized, and demeaned. I imagined how profoundly her lowered self-esteem affected the way she interacted with her children. The vision in my mind then fast-forwarded to another day, when she drove home with greater self-esteem—feeling that she had learned a lot, been recognized for achieving valuable things, and played a significant role in the success of some important initiatives. I then imagined how positively that affected her as a spouse and a parent. My conclusion: Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team. More and more [people think] that a career in business means buying, selling, and investing in companies. That’s unfortunate. Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people."
I’m sure you can see why it sticks out.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Top-Down Business Structure May Lead Us to Aristocracy

The surface of American society is, if I may use the expression, covered with a layer of democracy, from beneath which the old aristocratic colors sometimes peep.
 This is a description of America democracy, by French aristocrat, Alexis de Toqueville, in Democracy in America I (1835), only 48 years after the founding of the United States. He explains that the vestiges of aristocracy still exist because the American majority is not familiar with civil law and does not question it:
Civil laws are only familiarly known to legal men, whose direct interest it is to maintain them as they are, whether good or bad, simply because they themselves are conversant with them...The body of the country is scarcely acquainted with them...and obeys them without premeditation.
In other words, there are civil laws (laws regulating private relations) in society that still reek of the English aristocracy because the majority of citizens never question them. So, what are these aristocratic civil laws of American society? According to Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America II (1840) the most aristocratic, civil structure of American society is the top-down business structure:
Manufacturers may possibly in their turn bring men back to aristocracy...When a workman is unceasingly and exclusively engaged in the fabrication of one thing, he ultimately does his work with singular dexterity; but at the same time he loses the general faculty of applying his mind to the direction of the work…as the workman improves the man is degraded...On the other hand, more considerable, wealthy and educated men come forward to emabark in manufactures...The magnitude of the efforts required, and the importance of the results to be obtained, attract him. Thus at the very time at which the science of manufactures lowers the class of workmen, it raises the class of masters. 
Whereas the workman concentrates his faculties more and more upon the study of a single detail, the master surveys a more extensive whole, and the mind of the latter is enlarged in proportion as that of the former is narrowed. In a short time the one will require nothing but physical strength without intelligence; the other stands in need of science, and almost of genius, to insure success. This man resembles more and more the administrator of a vast empire--that man, a brute. The master and the workman have then here no similarity, and their differences increase every day...the one is continually, closely, and necessarily dependent upon the other, and seems as much born to obey as that other is to command. What is this but aristocracy?
When workers focus only on the tasks at hand and do not apply their minds to the direction of the work they become narrow-minded and dependent. On the other hand, managers must see the big picture, be leaders, and envision the future. Over time, the divide becomes so large between managers and workers that managers despise workers' lack of perspective and workers despise managers' lack of empathy. This is aristocracy, and when the majority of citizens are in this environment, as is the case today, managers and executives are treated as kings and geniuses and paid hundreds of times more than workers. In the political arena, these same workers/citizens treat their political managers as kings and geniuses. Politicians become saviors and heroes that will rescue us and fix the problems of the people. These unfair expectations of our leaders cause deficient governance and nurture the seeds of aristocracy and the dependency of men. If left unchecked, America may fully become an aristocracy--or more appropriately a plutocracy (i.e., rule by the wealthy).

On a brighter note, de Tocqueville offered consolation. He saw that some Americans had "commercial and manufacturing companies, in which all take part." At the beginning of our democratic experiment, many Americans could see as de Tocqueville did that entrepreneurially-minded, informed citizens that open their minds to opportunities and willingly take risks are necessary to maintain our democracy. Democracy cannot exist among human machines that have no vision of the future.

The top-down business structure is a trace of English aristocratic control that grooms the majority to be dependent upon business and political managers. Moreover, the top-down business structure (as defined by civil law) is one of the most difficult aspect of our society to change. If we are to change it and if we are to improve our democracy, we must gain vision and perspective. We must acquaint ourselves with civil law and ask, "Why?". We must expand our minds and believe as Thomas Jefferson did that "men can be trusted to govern themselves without a master."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Employee-Owned Companies with an Ownership Culture

"Studies consistently show that employee-owned companies with an ownership culture--and that's the important part, with an ownership culture--out perform employee-owned companies that do not have an ownership culture, and they also outperform non-employee-owned companies."

"Autonomy, responsibility, open communication, and mutual respect leads to everyone in the company thinking like an owner and concentrating on satisfying the customer."!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mindvalley: Productivity Through Blissipline

Favorite Quotes:
"The Paradox of Intention: you must have goals, but your happiness cannot be tied to those goals...You will acceleration towards those dreams faster if you are happy in the now...The happiness comes from the journey, not the destination."

"Blissipline: the discipline of keeping yourself happy (and in flow)...If the happiness isn't there, your impact will be limited."

"What you appreciate, appreciates...Expressing gratitude for a few minutes daily, after 30 days, your happiness goes up by 25%."

"Every month 10% of our profits go straight to employees. As a result, peoples' salary checks literally double."

"This is one of the reasons why we won the award for World's Most Democratic Workplace. We call it the sweet-sugar-love machine...So, we created a software to allow people to appreciate and praise their coworkers...Every single day my employees get on this system and they send little symbolic gifts to their peers. Since we launched this, office politics, pettiness, people being too busy on their own stuff to help coworkers, all of that disappeared, and we started getting this really close-knit team. But, it did have a side-effect...right now 30% of my staff are dating someone else in the company."

"We have this rule in our company called the 45:5 rule. You only should work 45 hours per week...Five of those 45 hours you must invest in learning new stuff."

"We toss the biggest Halloween party in our city every year."

"The five closest people you hang out with will average out to who you become."

"You're happy when you help others become happy. That's what the Dalai Lama said."

"Start with small experiments and test your experiments. If it works, you expand that experiment."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

IDEO: Innovation via Chaos

IDEO is an example to us all of how autonomy instead of empowerment, synergy instead of lone genius, and play instead of work lead to innovation instead of regurgitation.

Favorite Quotes:
"Enlightened trial and error succeeds over the planning of the lone genius."
"Being playful is of huge importance to being innovative" because needing to be right keeps us paralyzed and being wrong forces us to explore.
"Trying stuff and then asking for forgiveness is the way that people come up with new ideas."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Democracy is not Popular

Is it possible that the same vast majority that believed political democracy could only work for the American colonies are just like the vast majority that now believe organizational democracy can only work for Groupon, WD-40, GE Aviation, Hulu, Great Harvest, Semco, and Seventh Generation and the other hundreds of democratic businesses?

Could it be that by dismissing organizational democracy, we are no less "ignorant" than we perceive the 42% of humanity that has not adopted political democracy to be? Is it possible that Thomas Jefferson's declaration that "men can be trusted to govern themselves without a master" should be universally applied to all adults in all aspects of life?

Trust is a funny thing. It is the mystery--and the genius--of what paradoxically inspires fear in the masses and excellence in the individual.

How Will You Measure Your Life?

I recently read this article by Clayton Christiansen out of Harvard entitled, “How will you measure your life?” It is what he tells his students on the final day of his class.

One of the items that he mentions sticks out to me. It reads as follows:

“One of the theories, . . . . . how to be sure we find happiness in our careers—is from Frederick Herzberg, who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements. I tell the students about a vision of sorts I had while I was running the company I founded before becoming an academic. In my mind’s eye I saw one of my managers leave for work one morning with a relatively strong level of self-esteem. Then I pictured her driving home to her family 10 hours later, feeling unappreciated, frustrated, underutilized, and demeaned. I imagined how profoundly her lowered self-esteem affected the way she interacted with her children. The vision in my mind then fast-forwarded to another day, when she drove home with greater self-esteem—feeling that she had learned a lot, been recognized for achieving valuable things, and played a significant role in the success of some important initiatives. I then imagined how positively that affected her as a spouse and a parent. My conclusion: Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team. More and more [people think] that a career in business means buying, selling, and investing in companies. That’s unfortunate. Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people."

I’m sure you can see why it sticks out.