Friday, June 15, 2007

Number One

Number one is a hard time in the making
Number two is the one plane I'm not taking
Number three goes on one knee for a token
Number four is the short straw but it's broken
I'd give my all just to be number one

—Chaz Jankel, “Number One”

Anyone with success on their minds has, at one point or another, thought (or fantasized) about being “number one:” That top spot in which you are revered and/or respected as a leader in your particular industry. The interesting thing about number one is that of the people that dream about being there, few achieve it.

Take the story of a young Ph.D. graduate of Berkeley: A brilliant young man that any corporate recruiter would offer anything they could to woo the researcher to their firm. In 1963 the firm of choice was the research powerhouse of Bell Labs. Earlier they had invented such things as the transistor, the laser, and some of the most unique and powerful calculators for their time. Certainly this solid state physics researcher would choose this behemoth to embark on what would likely become a brilliant career there. Instead, he took a risk and joined a lesser-known upstart known as Fairchild Semiconductor. Under the tutelage of a famous man by the name of Gordon Moore, the two would join others just five years later to
form Intel.

In 1987 the Berkeley graduate—Andy Grove—would succeed Gordon Moore as CEO of Intel. Instead of using conventional logic in decision making, however, he embarked, once again, on the road less traveled. Anyone who paid any attention to the computer market through the 1990s knows the “Intel Inside” logo. This campaign catapulted name recognition of Intel into a world that had long perceived other hardware manufacturers such as IBM as “movers and shakers” in the industry—even though Intel supplied more than 80 percent of the world’s microprocessors. In significant part to Grove’s conquest to expose the Intel brand to as many households as possible, Intel is a company worth $35 billion USD.

Wharton School of Business, seeing the merit in the success of these traits of unconventional thinking, creativity, and integrity, sought to identify other business leaders for which success manifested and the criteria that played integral roles in their doing so.

1. Create new and profitable ideas. This is the essential first step in the journey. Rarely does a business leader succeed from something that is not profitable. There are rare exceptions (i.e. Mark Schwartz, former K-Mart President, who bankrupted the company then decided to get a “fresh start” by opening a chain of gas station-convenience stores in South Dakota), but don’t

plan on being one.

2. Affect civic, political or some other social change through achievement in the business and/or economic world. There is a quote that a supervisor I once had displayed in his cubicle; the actual quote escaping me, the general idea was that someone truly great in their particular industry revolutionize and change it. This is true from the paradigms that he implemented in his department (which later would help him attain a promotion to operations manager) to the change that happened with Carly Fiorina merging HP with Compaq computer, creating the largest computer company in the world in the process.

3. Create new business opportunities or exploit existing ones more. “Thinking outside the box” means thinking creatively, critically, and paying close attention to the opportunities that exist from moment to moment not only in your immediate environment, but in your particular market or industry.

4. Cause or influence dramatic change in an organization or industry. Carly Fiorina speaks very thoughtfully and significantly about what goes into the process of such change. Deriving context and perspective from diversity and overcoming the destructiveness of change are just two topics that she discusses in the podcast referenced above.

5. Inspire and transform others. The greatest legacies that the most successful industry leaders leave is that which we leave in the inspiration and transformation of others to continue the great change which you have undertaken in the business of your choice.

So, the choice is yours: Take the path well-trodden and reap the easy reward—the “Bell Labs path”—or be the pathfinder and revolutionize ground that few others dare conquer and reap the potentially greater rewards—the “Intel path.”

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Of Narcissists and Heiresses

Once upon a time there was an aspiring young man that made a name for himself by serving in the New Mexico legislature in his early 20s. Later, he would serve in the U.S. Army as an officer. He purchased a hotel and formed it into a chain that has become renowned the world round: The Hilton Hotel Corporation. Conrad Nicholson Hilton, Sr. begot Barron Hilton, Barron begot Richard, and Richard begot a girl named Paris.

Once upon a time the young hotel heiress got into trouble for driving while under the influence of alcohol and got her license suspended. Not much longer later she was caught driving—without a license. She would eventually go to jail and serve a few days before being discharged for “undisclosed medical reasons.” This has been disclosed as being anything from a rash to suicidal tendencies. Why discuss Paris Hilton in the context of these writings? Paris Hilton possesses traits that are representative of narcissism.

Pretty much everyone has some narcissistic traits: Conceited, argumentative, selfish, etc; but what is required to make them a part of a disorder is for them to arrange themselves into particular patterns of behavior. Narcissism 101 defines a narcissist as someone who exhibits 5 of the following 9 traits:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).

2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

3. Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).

4. Requires excessive admiration.

5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.

6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.

7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.

8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.

9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

The narcissist is one who will, generally, be without empathy, compassion, and remorse—typical signs of a psychopath, in fact. Regardless of this correlation between behaviors, narcissists are not necessarily psychopaths. Those with sociopathic/anti-social personality disorders are apt to have an enhanced lack of empathy and less impulse control. In their book Personality Disorders in Modern Life, Theodore Millon, Carrie M. Millon, Sarah Meagher, Seth Grossman, and Rowena Ramnath say of some narcissists that they "incorporate moral values into their exaggerated sense of superiority. Here, moral laxity is seen (by the narcissist) as evidence of inferiority and it is those who are unable to remain morally pure who are looked upon with contempt." Whereas individuals with anti-social or dissocial personality disorders calculate and pre-meditate their actions, narcissists are more ignorant and apathetic of those around them.

What is the best way to deal with a narcissist? Don’t. By their very nature, a narcissists’ self-worth is drawn from their maladaptive behaviors, enablers will nurture these behaviors and thus continue through the cycle of the narcissistic behavior. The value of not associating with this type of person is not being drawn into their reality of a world that revolves around them.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Of Losses, Gains, and Winning

I’ve recently encountered a dilemma. In my apartment complex there are rules regarding what sorts of things can be out on the public areas of the tenets’ balconies. The property manager asked me to remove my grill from this balcony for reasons extending from the terms in my lease agreement. Being the law- and rules-abiding person that I am I promptly removed the grill from the balcony and placed it inside my apartment. In the days following I began to notice that others still had their grills outside their apartments in the same fashion that mine was. Furthermore one of my neighbors had their bicycles in a precarious position that has always been in the way of me, especially when I would be bringing something like grocery bags or a large package up the stairs. To my dismay I perceived this as a loss for myself and a gain for others.

This phenomenon has, in fact, been quantified by psychologists. One person’s loss must be made up by a gain of 2.5 times that loss in order to get over the loss, perceived or real. In other words, people are more displeased by a loss than they are over a comparable gain: In America, at least, we typically need to offset an unexpected loss by a gain of 2.5 times that loss. In my example above I was particularly observant of the plight of those around me after my loss was realized looking to see if the loss was a shared one. I fully expect the enforcement of laws to be fair and equitable in their enforcement. Not seeing this, my perception was that the loss was unbalanced and unfair. Of course, life isn’t fair, but this doesn’t preclude the quantifiable perception of loss.

Take politics, for example. In American politics there are a finite number of ideologies: Conservative, liberal, libertarian, independent, so on and so forth. When their affiliated parties do not enact the laws and policies which they think will improve society frustration is often had. Take the polarizing issues of our day: The War on Terrorism, immigration, abortion—they polarize the American public largely because the politicians are not enacting laws that are congruent with their belief structure and, in their frustration, can allow irrational actions to attack others in differing political affiliations or otherwise do things which tarnish the name and image of their party.

However, every change comes at a price. Improving something for someone will often cause a loss for someone else. Hybrid cars are a big thing right now, allowing for tax credits for those individuals willing and wishing to come up with the tens of thousands of dollars for them. These tax credits, however, come at a price. This “credit” actually becomes a redistribution of taxes in that it needs to be financed through other people being taxed for you to have that credit.

Economists call these “zero-sum games” in which the total net benefit to all of the interacting individuals in the situation adds to zero; each individual only benefits at the expense of others. This is the very nature of tax and economic legislation and, as it turns out, a common theme in our lives, thus the adage “life is not fair,” other people’s gains often come at the expense of our own.

How do we get past this paradigm and make the world a better place? Crafting classic “win-win” scenarios in our interactions with others will shatter this classic paradigm and make things better for everyone else. Win-win games often start with the self-talk phrase “I want to win and I want you to win too. The easiest and often most effective means of doing this are for you to look at the underlying needs of the situation. By addressing each party’s underlying needs allows you the opportunity to craft solutions acknowledging and valuing those needs rather than denying them. Even when the result isn’t necessarily what everyone would have ideally wanted the process that goes into achieving the result will make each party feel differently about the outcome: Typical results are achieved through simple quantitative processes, such as the zero-sum game; qualitative improvements are made with qualitative improvements in the very process which produces the result.

The changing of this process requires the redirection of your energy. Instead of asking yourself “which is the best solution for me?” replace it with “which is the best solution for you?” Instead of asking yourself “what is my real need here?” ask “what is your real need here?” Instead of making a self-directed value judgment or envisioning a result that you want focus on the value judgment of the other or the envisioning the result of the other person’s desired results.

If you do not know the answers to these questions…perhaps you need to get to know the person better.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

One more day!

One more day until the blog is officially back in business. Just got the new computer up and running and still need to get the essentials organized and everything up and running.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Blog Maintenance

I have run into a bit of problems with my computer: Frying a motherboard while recklessly checking on the installation of a card reader. I have ordered a replacement that I expect to have up and running by mid-week. Unfortunately, there will not be extensive posts until then.

I will, however, still try to put something up for Monkey Mondays. I hope.

Hope to be blogging again soon,