We Are the Champions! Or…Are We?

I haven’t written about competitiveness in a long time. I haven’t thought about it as often as I used to. But recently I was reminded why I turned my back on the subject in the first place. And, as usual, I’d like to share my insights with you. Many people think that competitiveness, that is, striving to be the best in your field, is a healthy and desirable trait. Our education teaches us it is so, our society encourages us to behave so. However, few understand there is a dark side to competitiveness, a trap that many fall into without even realizing. That dark side is “over-competitiveness”. When the desire to be among the best turns into obsession, you are in big trouble. I could write a long long article on why competitiveness is dangerous in the first place and why it’s not generating the high achievement rate one might expect. I could spend hours arguing that, although they are often found together, high performance and competitiveness are not necessarily connected, or at least not in the way most people think them to be. Being competitive does not necessarily ensure high performance. And vice versa – not caring about competition does not, by any means, imply you’ll end up mediocre. But that is a discussion for another article. For now, I’d just like to point out what happens when our competitiveness is driving our behavior. There are a few dangers that, in my view, we expose ourselves to when we get too competitive, and these I’d like to share with you. 1. Too much competitiveness may lead to arrogance and self-sufficiency Believe me, I’ve learned this one on my own. I used to be extremely competitive, obsessing about being on top of my class, about being the best in everything, all the time. This made me blind to countless opportunities for learning from others, which I dismissed with an air of superiority, simply because I considered myself smarter and more knowledgeable than those people...

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Entrepreneurship for the Soul

Jul 06, 11 Entrepreneurship for the Soul

Posted by in Books, Business, Featured

Lately I’ve grown used to life offering me the most unexpected insights at the most surprising times. And this week was no exception. The first special thing that happened was my stumbling on Derek Sivers‘ newly released book – “Anything you want“. It’s not a thick book – one that you can easily read in one evening. But it’s an inspiring book – a book about passion, about daring to dream and pursue your dreams, about making money without ever having thought about them in the first place. Derek is a musician, and the creator of CDBaby, the largest website for independent musicians in the world. This is the place where, for a price of 35 $ and a 4$ commission on every album sold, any aspiring musician can sell their music without ever worrying about being endorsed by some major label. It’s a business built with an almost 0$ investment – just with a massive time investment (he built the website himself, after painstakingly learning web-programming from scratch). Derek Sivers is an entrepreneur of a different sort. He had no business plans, made no sales forecasts or anything like that. He created a  business out of pure passion. He wanted a means to sell his own CD, and later on the CDs of his friends. He never wanted the business to grow!!! Yes, you read right! He was actually terrified by his enormous success, because it felt like CD Baby was stealing away time and energy from his music, and he didn’t want that. He even refused hundreds of thousands of dollars advertisers offered him to let them place banners on his website, because he thought it would ruin his customers’ experience. And his customers were his number one priority. They were his friends after all! Even when they were no longer a dozen, but hundreds of thousands of musicians from all over the world. So what impressed me so much about Derek Sivers’ story? Actually, I couldn’t help but identify with his...

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Business „out of the box”. How to Convince Extraordinay People to Work With You, Even if Not For You

Mar 22, 11 Business „out of the box”. How to Convince Extraordinay People to Work With You, Even if Not For You

Posted by in Books, Business, Thoughts/Ideas

William Taylor is a writer, antrepreneur and founder of one of the most forward thinking magazines in the US – fastcompany.com – a magazine dedicated to business innovation and to out of the box business practices. In time, Taylor interviewed hundreds of managers from companies whose creative and counterintuitive approaches to business have managed, in several cases, to set new standards for excellence in their respective industries. The most outstanding case studies are comprised in his books, “Mavericks at Work” and “Practically Radical” – both fascinating journeys through a universe where business is fun and colorful, where extraordinary ideas come from the most unusual places. Reading his books I realized, once more, how worryingly often we get caught in the thinking patterns of our own jobs, companies or industries and lose sight of amazing opportunities of finding new and valuable ideas. One of the examples offered by William Taylor in “Mavericks at Work” is particularly worth sharing, since it comes, unexpectedly, from one of the most conservative industries one might imagine – mining. „Gold mining is an old industry, a tired industry. The pace of change is glacial. Traditionally, mining companies have worried about how strong your back is, not how big your brain is. We wanted to do something that no one in the industry had done, to tap into the intellectual capital of the whole world.“– Rob McEwen, Former Chairman and CEO, GoldCorp INC. Rob McEwen a revolutionized the gold mining industry in a moment of, I dare say, despair. For more than 5 years, GoldCorp had been trying to win a dangerous bet – they had acquired a mine in Red Lake, Ontario, in an area famous for its rich gold deposits. That particular mine however, had a sad history – low productivity, failed investments and union problems. Still, McEwen refused to give up the idea that the mine had potential and, for 5 years, he invested over 10 millon USD in experimental drills – all that money for a hope!...

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Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

I wanted to share with all of you this great video featuring Dan Pink, who speaks about the lessons on motivation in his book, “Drive“. The content is excellent – you’ll understand the mechanisms of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and the animated presentation makes it memorable. I look forward to the day when most presentations will take this out-of-the-box approach to making serious content fun. Enjoy and I look forward to your feedback and thoughts on it! [youtube...

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7 Deadly Sins of Managers

Feb 01, 11 7 Deadly Sins of Managers

Posted by in Books, Business, Leadership

Victor got hired in a corporation while he was still studying and he stayed with the company after graduation. He’s young, energetic, ambitious and considered a rising star by his company. It’s been a few years now, in which Victor worked very hard and became one of the best professionals in his area of expertise. Everyone acknowledges his experience and it’s not seldom that colleagues in other departments ask for his advice. So a promotion was just a matter of time. It came naturally and wondered no one. Victor was appointed manager of a team of 10 people and it was the start of a new era for him… In his book, “The Accidental Manager”, Gary Topchik tells the story of managers who, like Victor, were promoted on account of their technical expertise. Topchick calls them “accidental managers” because, even though they received the promotion as a reward for their contribution to the company, hardly anyone made sure they fully understood what their new role entailed, beyond the salary raise and the status boost. Too often companies are superficial in treating the profound implications such a change in role has both for the manager involved, Victor in our case, for his future team and ultimately for the company. Thus it’s easy for Victor to fall into the trap of believing that his new position is just an “upgrade” on his old one and that nothing much will change in his work. What is he likely to do in this case? He might easily commit one of the 7 deadly sins of “accidental managers”. 1. Keep on doing what he did before Victor keeps on doing what he knows best – relies on his technical expertise and spends most of his time on tasks and personal objectives instead of developing his team. The result? Victor is overwhelmed by the huge volume of work and his team is de-motivated and frustrated by his apparent lack of involvement; people lack direction and results are slow to come. 2. Becomes...

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The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy or Why Children Get Smarter When Their Teachers Believe Them to Be Smart

 I had the opportunity to witness the most interesting discussion between two managers attending one of my seminars. One of them, let’s call him Victor, said that he is very careful when investing trust in people – he always starts off with 0% trust and expects people to work hard to earn his trust. This way, Victor said, he avoids getting disappointed. The other manager, Chris, looked at him in wonder and said that to him it’s the other way around – he always invests 100% trust in the people who work on his team and, should the case arise, is prepared to take some of this trust away, but usually people seem to work very hard to prove worthy of his investment. Are YOU Victor or Chris? Or someone in-between? Which approach is better? Give 100% and risk bitter disappointment or stay on the safe side and invest 0% lest you’ve received countless proofs of worthiness? There is a fascinating experiment undertaken by Harvard Professor Robert Rosenthal and school principal Lenore Jacobson that gives a surprising answer to this dilemma. The subjects of the experiment were 5th grade children whose IQ’s were tested. Afterwards the researchers randomly chose a few children in several classes, telling their teachers that these children showed greater intellectual potential when compared with their peers. The children never knew teachers held high expectations of them, while teachers were convinced the selection had been for real. Now what do you think happened? Well, if you guessed that teachers’ expectations somehow influenced pupils’ performance, then you were right. What was surprising however, was how powerful the self-fulfilling prophecy (also called the Pygmalion Effect) really was. As it turned out, children’s IQ scores actually increased for those kids whose teachers expected them to get smarter. You can watch a video about this experiment here. If you’re wondering how exactly this Pygmalion Effect works, here is what teachers actually did differently (without being aware of it) with those children of whom they had high expectations. First, they were simply kinder...

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