Semester three was the hardest semester from a workload standpoint, so I am glad to report that I just finished the last day of it! With three projects involving outside partners, and one project which results in a product or service prototype, this semester has certainly kept me busy! I have also enjoyed it the most out of my career at Presidio so far. The classes were interesting, and the integration of learning between classes is phenomenal. After building foundational knowledge in year one, year two starts connecting the dots, and that's really exciting. Now, time to do some skiing!
How does one dig through all the greenwashing to find companies that are putting real efforts into their CSR (corporate social responsibility) and generating real results? Try CSRHub. For free or a nominal subscription, one can get access to over 5000 public companies and their CSR results, compared side by side. Find out where you should be putting your money for a sustainable future.
Platform Strategy is a foundation upon which many incremental innovations can flow. The term Platform is common in the technology sector but finds examples beyond as well. Traditional examples include the 0.18 micron CMOS as a technological platform for semiconductor innovations. The internet is a game-changing platform, within which Facebook emerged as a social platform, upon which applications have flourished. Non technology platforms exist as well. The Harry Potter stories are built upon the platform of a magical world. Seven stories were written using the same platform. The platform is merely an innovation that can support other innovations. Companies can benefit by carefully examining their innovation streams to identify platforms. Once established, platforms can provide a foundation for many future innovations.
After a short break, the team had 2.5h to discuss and generate a memo of marketing recommendations for the client. At 4pm the bell rang and the memo was sent to the client.
The day was extremely efficient and went by very quickly. Since everyone spent individual time getting up to speed with the client, the joint discussion was very efficient. All in all, the quickfire format was an awesome way to brainstorm and create results in a day.
Many challenges raised in the HBS article “Seven Surprises for New CEOs” can be solved by a joint leadership structure. Perhaps we need to re-think the idea of a single CEO at the top. The idea made sense when companies were smaller, and one person can handle the complexity of the job. When companies with populations larger than countries still report to a single CEO, it’s time to re-consider the structure. Three observations lead me to believe that a joint leadership structure, where multiple CEO-like heavyweight leaders work as a team, is a better and more sustainable leadership structure. The three observations are:
1. Political structures often involve joint leadership. Consider UK’s Prime Minister and Queen pairing. One handles internal political affairs while the other handles outward facing matters. The US government by design has executive, legislative and judiciary branches all working together as a governing unit.
2. Large academic institutions have joint leadership by Dean and President. Both report to the board and wield power in different domains, but are both viewed as equal leaders for the institution.
3. Companies where the founder took another leadership position such as CTO and hired in someone else to act as CEO are often successful. Microsoft, Google, SunPower are examples of such companies. Company founders without the formal CEO title still wields power equal to the CEO position. Thus such companies can be considered to have a joint leadership structure.
When the leadership becomes a joint effort, amazing effects happen. Bandwidth issues raised in the article such as “You can’t run the company” and “You are still only human” melt away. Multiple people can rise to the challenge of tackling both the outside facing and internal elements of the CEO job. Ego issues such as “You are not the boss” stays in check in a team setting where members wield equal power. Ivory tower issues such as “It Is Hard to Know What Is Really Going On” while still present, can be dampened by the availability of multiple points of view.
While most of the Presidio student body is shooting for the balanced good life rather than making billions, the idea of starting a company that benefits the world and makes billions would still be quite welcome. This article at Forbes talks about how professors at other business schools are spotting the stars amongst their students. Note to self: if I have a business idea, run it by some professors and see if they'll invest first. They see enough student ideas to really validate whether the idea has legs.
Enlightened Business Summit this week. One key theme amongst the talks is the importance of business intangibles such as Culture, Loyalty from customers and employees, Ability to innovate, and Reputation. These intangibles are key indicators of sustainable business success, but ironically not measured in today's balance sheet. To improve we must measure, thus establishing metrics for all important intangibles is an imperative of a sustainable leader. A good place to start is loyalty from customers and employees, an example metric for this include retention rates. Ability to innovate is also well mapped by innovating organizations such as IDEO and Apple. Reputation is possible to gauge by marketing experts. And organizational change experts can help measure the positivity of company culture. Digging into the messy areas of intangibles is important for sustained success, and the organization will benefit simply from taking that journey.
I'm exhausted. After four frenzied days of lectures, presentations, club meetings, inspiring speakers and intense socializing, I'm ready for some R&R. The upside of Presidio is their residency format, allowing me time outside of the classroom to pursue interesting projects. The downside is yesterday, the last day of four intense days. I'm currently taking Monday morning off to decompress, and I'm watching TED talk by Chip Conley: measuring what makes life worthwhile. Bhutan's BNH, which he describes in the video, is a concept we learned during our first year at Presidio. It's motivating to watch him expertly present the concept to an influential audience.