CSRHub - Ranking Sustainability of Companies

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.

Netflix's lessons on management

Michael Hart, the Director of Engineering at Netflix was the guest lecturer at our Strategic Management class yesterday.  He lent some interesting insights into the management mantra at Netflix, one of the most successful companies in recent times.  Netflix stock is in over $170 from $40 just over a year ago, and employee count has almost doubled in the last year alone.  What's the secret to their success?  Hart believes it is Netflix' "talent density."  Netflix spends a lot of money and time hiring only the best.  Its VP of HR, known as Chief Talent Officer, personally interviews every potential employee at Netflix.  The company's values are also posted publicly as embedded below.  By sharing the slides publicly, Netflix demonstrates they are willing to stand by their values, and gives potential employees a glimpse into its culture.  

Platform Strategy - Why it is Sustainable

How can a company keep the innovation engine forever humming?  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.

Marketing Quickfire Challenge - Awesome Brainstorming Format

Yesterday's Marketing residency featured a quickfire marketing memo.  It's amazing how much a focused team can get done in a short time!  Teams of five or six were given a client name this past month and asked to prepare a memo individually that contains an analysis of the client's market space and a list of questions for the client.  During quickfire challenge day, the team came together for 1.5h to create a client meeting agenda and structure the questions.  Then each team had one-hour to spend with the client.    One hour is not very much time to understand enough of the business to make marketing suggestions, so the hour went by very quickly.

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.

Multiple CEOs - The Sustainable Leadership Structure

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.   

We may have come to a turning point in business where the structure itself is under review.  The migration to joint leadership may be near.  Since the economic meltdown, boards are building closer ties to their companies, creating pseudo joint leadership structures.   What do you think is the future of business leadership structure?

Future Billionnaires

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.