How Leaders Can Help Others Influence Them

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Recently, I was talking with a senior leader from a world-class global learning and development company. We were discussing his firm’s approach to teaching leadership. He was talking about how to help leaders influence others. I asked him, “Do you also teach leaders how to be influenced by others?” He thought for a moment and replied, “No, we really don’t.” This is a fundamental gap in leadership approaches. Over the years, we’ve shifted from thinking of the leader as hero, to thinking of the leader as visionary, strategist, creator of culture, and team builder. Yet, as our images of leaders have shifted and evolved, we still seem frozen in the mindset of Dale Carnegie’s 1936 book How to Win Friends and Influence People. We still believe that the essence of leadership is about influencing others to do what we want them to do. We have a less admirable
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Dollar Shave Club and the bull case for eCommerce

The cue for this post was Harry Stebbing’s 20MinuteVC interview with David Pakman, the partner at Venrock who led the Series A and Series B rounds at Dollar Shave Club and recently had his faith justified with a $1bn exit to Unilever. He said that when he made those investments in 2012 and 2013 eCommerce wasn’t a hot sector with VCs and that remains the case now, but here at Forward Partners we’ve made a number of ecommerce investments and, like David and his partners at Venrock, think there will be more Dollar Shave Club scale exits going forward. We are happy investing in sectors where we see opportunity, even if others don’t. If you poll investors for reasons not to invest in eCommerce you will generally hear three things: low margins, low multiples on exit and high working capital. Some will also throw in the threat of competition from Amazon for good measure. These Continue reading "Dollar Shave Club and the bull case for eCommerce"

Programming without Programmers? Aka Software Eating Software Development?

I love programming. I also encourage people to learn some programming because (a) it is a useful way of thinking and (b) much of the world will be programmable. Here is a quick example that I just encountered when I prepared yesterday’s Tech Tuesday Index. I had a document with links to every post looking like this:
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But what I really wanted were the post titles as the text for each link. Now I could have manually gone and followed each link, copied the post title and then replaced the text. Tedious. Instead I wrote the following bit of code in Google Apps Script:
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This lets you select a link and automatically replaces the link text with the post title (I did it one link at a time so I could manually fix small errors, but would be easy to add a loop to do all links in the document). Continue reading "Programming without Programmers? Aka Software Eating Software Development?"

Ants and the Superintelligence

I’ll start with my bias – I’m very optimistic about the superintelligence. Yesterday I gave two talks in Minneapolis. One was to an internal group of Target employees around innovation. In the other, I was interviewed by my partner Seth (for the first time), which was fun since he’s known me for 16 years and could ask unique questions given our shared experiences. I can’t remember in which talk the superintelligence came up, but I rambled on an analogy to try to simply describe the superintelligence which I’ve come up with recently that I first saw in The AI Revolution: Our Immortality or ExtinctionI woke up this morning thinking about it along with one of the questions Seth asked me where my answer left me unsatisfied. I’ve been reading most of what I could get my hands on about current thoughts and opinions about the superintelligence and the
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A Dedicated Team of Problem Solvers Can Help Big Companies Act Like Lean Startups

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Most companies try to avoid problems. Experian actually goes looking for them. In fact, it has set up a specific unit – Experian DataLabs — to actively seek out unresolved problems its customers are having and use them as a launchpad to seek out new opportunities and create new products. In doing so, it has been able to act more like a startup than a global data giant. Conventional wisdom says that you need to run a big company differently than a startup and there’s a lot of truth to that. But for large enterprises seeking to grow by exploring new lines of business, thinking more like a startup makes a lot of sense. Steve Blank, who pioneered the concept of the “lean startup,” has often written that “no business plan survives first contact with the customer.” That’s why he urges startups to “get out of the building” and
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Too Many Executives Are Missing the Most Important Part of CRM

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For all the emphasis placed on customer relationships these days, very few large organizations really understand how to manage them. Whether you’re a corporation, a nonprofit or a government agency, chances are that your approach to customer relationships at a system-wide level begins and ends with CRM (customer relationship management) software — yet its implementation rarely does much to foster real relationships. As a consultant, I’ve seen dozens of CRM implementations in a wide range of organizations, and consistently find that they fail more than they succeed. This isn’t the fault of the technology or the CTO, who usually manages it. It’s a result of misguided strategy. The problem is that CRM’s purported goals are vastly different from the way it usually functions in real life. For most organizations, it’s calibrated to drive sales, which means sales conversions are the primary metric it follows. Moreover, CRM implementations tend to entrench
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