IBM’s Big Plans for Cloud Computing


In June, IBM agreed to pay about $2 billion for SoftLayer Technologies, which has a global network of more than a dozen data centers, including this one in Dallas.SoftLayer TechnologiesIn June, IBM agreed to pay about $2 billion for SoftLayer Technologies, which has a global network of more than a dozen data centers, including this one in Dallas.
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Ambition is an impressive thing, particularly when a desire for world domination is combined with existential survival.

Four heavyweight tech companies are translating that ambition into investments in their cloud computing services: IBM, Microsoft, Amazon and Google are all expected to spend more than $1 billion annually on their global networks in the coming years.

Even more important, however, is that all the companies are developing knowledge through their cloud services of how to run truly huge Internet-based computing systems — systems that may soon be nearly impossible for other companies to match. If any other company is thinking of entering the business, like China’s Tencent, for example, they’ll need to move fast or come up with something revolutionary.

IBM’s response? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

In 2014, the company will make a series of announcements that will shiver all challengers, according to Lance Crosby, chief executive of SoftLayer, a cloud computing company that IBM purchased earlier this year for $2 billion.

More than 100 products, like e-commerce and marketing tools, will be put inside the cloud as a comprehensive series of offerings for business, Mr. Crosby said. So will another 40 infrastructure services, like big data analysis and mobile applications development.

“It will take Amazon 10 years to build all of this,” he said. “People will be creating businesses with this that we can only dream about.”

Maybe. IBM already claims to lead in cloud computing revenue, with $1 billion in revenue in the past quarter alone. That’s impressive, though that revenue includes revenue from software that used to be attributed to a different category at the company. And some of the revenue is being generated by companies IBM recently acquired, including SoftLayer.

On many other fronts, such as the number of machines it operates, the number of major companies running big parts of their business on IBM’s public cloud, and the new technology it appears to have built for cloud computing, IBM is arguably the laggard among the top four providers. As the SoftLayer purchase indicates, it has had to buy big for what the others have mostly grown internally.

What IBM does have, however, is a lot of money and resources it plans to throw at cloud computing. And given its experience in the early-1990s, when it faced a near-death experience after missing a major technology shift, the company may also have a belly for a swift change.

Lance Crosby, chief executive of SoftLayer, a cloud computing company that IBM purchased earlier this year.IBMLance Crosby, chief executive of SoftLayer, a cloud computing company that IBM purchased earlier this year.

The big push will begin in February, Mr. Crosby said, with a formal inauguration of its new cloud offerings by Virginia M. Rometty, IBM’s chief executive.

IBM has also deployed 400 employees to OpenStack, an open source software project with more than 200 corporate members that goes after much of the proprietary cloud systems of Amazon, Microsoft and Google. This seems much like IBM’s involvement a decade ago in Linux, which helped that open source operating system win corporate hearts and minds.

In addition to the consolidation of online software and services, Mr. Crosby said, IBM is “absolutely” looking to sell its big mainframe computing capabilities as a cloud-based service. It also plans to draw on the insights it has gained from building and licensing technology used by Microsoft in the Xbox gaming console, and Google in its own network operations, he said, and will make more acquisitions for the cloud business.

“We make the processors in Google’s server racks,” he said, “We understand where gaming is going. Before I got here, I thought this was a big old tech company, too; I didn’t see all of the assets.”

It’s true that IBM is big. And, it is also a tech company. And undeniably 102 years old, which makes it both a survivor and a creature of successful processes. Mr. Crosby has two bosses between him and Ms. Rometty, and numerous executive vice presidents above him that may agree on the eventual future, but have their own views about the speed with which they’ll move there.


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Stay Hungry: On Creativity Part II

Many people misinterpret Steve Jobs’ famous phrase: “stay hungry stay foolish” as a lesson in ambition, but if you listen to the commencement speech where Jobs quotes the back cover of the Whole Earth Catalogue, you’ll hear the more nuanced meaning.

He tells the story of his humble beginnings (given up for adoption to a working class family), his decision to ‘drop out’ of college (and shift to taking classes that interested him rather than were required) and his getting fired from Apple (needing to start again and take new risks rather than rest on his laurels). Though a big part of his talk was to inspire students to do what they love, the subtext is that we should never stop learning.

I feel like many people today understand the first part of the message (do what you love), but fewer people really get the second part (never stop learning).

I’m no spring chicken any more. I’ve hit what is lovingly referred to as ‘middle-age’. And because I don’t really ‘act my age’, I have lots of young friends and colleagues I hang out with. Over and over again, I hear them complain that they aren’t respected or valued as much as they want to be. I listen and bite my tongue. I don’t want to be that old timer that says, “Well in MY day, sonny, I had to work my way up the ladder like everyone else!”

But I did.

My first job after graduating with a nearly perfect GPA, honors degree and a few published academic papers was to type letters and get lattes for the CEO. I felt just as under-utilized as the young people entering the workforce today. After about 6 months of lattes, the CEO I worked with overheard a conversation I was having about my Geocities ring and that I was taking Flash and DHTML classes in my off hours and he realized that I could help the company with their website and online annual reporting. I got a small promotion and raise and…got someone else’s lattes (this time in corporate communications). Every job I ‘graduated’ to I earned a little more and got a little more responsibility. And even after owning my own business, I picked up the occasional latte. My career didn’t really ‘start’ until my mid-30’s (the previous 10 years were mostly grunt work) and, hell, I can still use a dictaphone and type a mean letter and am not above doing so to pay the bills.

I know today that I benefit from that struggle. As frustrating as it was at the time, I got to learn amazing new skills under every new boss. Creativity meant nothing without knowing how to do market research – that would give me the insights into what a customer really wanted and needed. I was fortunate to work in several research departments coming up. Understanding other stakeholders, like investors and board members gave me a whole different perspective on ‘customer’. I learned budgeting and public relations skills and sell cycles and retail – all by being the person under the person who drove that position.

And even today I remind myself that the day I stop learning and growing is the day I stop living. I’ve maybe learned 1% of what I need to in my lifetime.

Humility is a big part of staying hungry. Steve Jobs didn’t start out the CEO of Apple. He started out curious and stayed curious. He was also obsessed with perfection, quite often at the cost of profits. He never let fear rule his decisions. I often wonder if he would have been as successful with Apple if he hadn’t got fired. In getting fired, he had to get hungry again. He went out and learned new skills and industries, then brought it back to Apple where the company flourished once more.

Which leads me to one of my favorite commencement speeches ever given by David McCullough Jr. titled, “You are not special”. It may as well have been a speech to all of us. There is no lone inventor or creative genius. Even Steve Jobs had to be knocked down and rebuilt to impress us all again. The moment you become complacent or think you know it all is the moment you will lose your edge.

Stay hungry. Drop the ego and pick up the lesson. It’ll make you smarter and more creative at the end of the day.

Posted by:Tara HuntTara Hunt
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Half Your Employees Hate Their Jobs







By Tom Gardner and Morgan Housel

Look at the coworker to your left. Now, to your right. At least one of them loathes their job. Maybe you do, too.

According to a recent Gallup survey of 5.4 million working adults, 52% of employees say they are not engaged in their work. They limp to work, toiling without passion. That’s half the workforce! Another 18% describe themselves as “actively disengaged” – disgruntled and spreading bitterness among coworkers. With the exception of recession periods, the majority of employees start each New Year vowing to look for a new job.

Imagine a 10-person bicycle. This means that three people are pedaling, five are pretending to pedal, and two are jamming the brakes. That’s you, corporate America. Now scale that bike higher. 520 out of every 1000 employees don’t care. 180 are trying to sabotage the place. 300 are left doing their darnedest.

The most strategic act that any organization can take is to better engage and inspire team members. Here are three (of many) ways you can make life better at work.

1) Abandon your sick-pay and vacation-pay policies.

If you can’t trust me when I say I have the flu, why are you letting me engage with customers, define budgets, and access internal documents?

There’s a radical disrespect involved in limiting the number of sick days employees can take each year. Replace that with this simple policy: Require that everyone NOT come to work when they’re sick. If you think an employee will abuse this system, you need to re-assess your entire relationship with them. Your workspace is about to get a lot healthier on multiple fronts.

From here, get rid of limited vacation days, too. Show employees that you value the sustainability of their great work by letting them take what they need, approved by their managers. At The Motley Fool, I observe that the best use of this policy is the use of half days where needed to tend to life. A culture built on trust and respect will pay for itself several times over.

2) Make your office live and breathe.

Employees spend a third of their lives at work. Make your office a place someone would actually want to spend time.

No sane person can inhabit a cubicle 8-10 hours a day, sedentarily, and remain healthy. Buy treadmill desks. Hire a personal trainer to run classes in a conference room. Contract someone to lead meditation class.

Let employees check Facebook and ESPN. They’re going to do this anyway. Don’t make them feel like they’re cheating the system. (Remember, at dynamic companies, more work is being done off hours — via mobile texting and email – than ever before. Give your workforce credit for this!)

3) Let employees write their own job descriptions.

This final challenge is more difficult, but also very rewarding.

The vast majority of employees performing well at their job are also miles below their potential and bored out of their minds. They’re doing repetitive work. You know what happens next? They leave.

To counteract that, a few months after a new employee is settled, coach them through the process of writing their own job description. Their dream job description. As a manager or boss, your job is to do everything to make as much of that dream a reality (so long as the job helps your organization fulfill its purpose).

Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski calls this “job crafting.” It’s when employees get to reshape and redefine their work to better fit their passions and talents — passions and talents the employer probably didn’t know existed.

Maybe your accountant has unexpected marketing insights. Maybe your IT manager would like to beat traffic by leaving at 3 p.m. and working from home in the early evening. Maybe your recruiter wants to create a new training program. You’ll never know until you ask. Allowing employees to articulate their passion puts them on a path toward fulfilling their true potential. It’s a win-win for you and them. Because there is simply no doubt that the average organization is operating at less than 30% of its full potential.

Peter Drucker said that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Get your fork and knife and let’s get to work!

Posted by:Tom GardnerTom Gardner
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Passion + Partnering = Success

How do you launch the next big product or service? Many will tell you the key lies in technology – perhaps the savvy use of social media. I would argue that success in launching any new business venture does not begin with a technological element. It starts in a more human space.

The formula I’ve seen work again and again is this: Passion + Partnering = Success. By this I mean, you start with your passion, you look for ways to act as a partner to your customers, and ultimately, success flows to both of you.

Certainly, this was my experience in starting Rakuten. When I began, I had little more than my passion and I made sure to show it. When I made sales calls on my earliest customers, I would often do push-ups in the parking lot so I could burst into the customer’s store brimming with energy and adrenalin.

But it was much more than a sales tactic. I followed up my energized pitch with a promise to partner with my clients – to be part of the process that brought their stores into the digital world. In those early days, Rakuten staff often accompanied customers to the store to help them purchase their first computers. We helped them step-by-step to set up their websites and make this leap into the virtual world.

This is still our process today. Merchants in our marketplace are in close contact with their Rakuten representatives. That person is charged with acting as the customer’s partner – giving advice, support, becoming part of that merchant’s effort to be successful in the online world. When the merchant does well, Rakuten shares in the success.

Anyone can be passionate. But when you combine that passion with a commitment to partnership, you create a team. It’s that collaboration that can turn passion into success.

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The Profit in Principles

What are your core principles?

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, we can get caught up in the everyday challenges and activities. But success for an individual or a company is not about managing the daily chores. Success for anyone is rooted in a development and an adherence to core principles.

At Rakuten, our core principles are:

  1. Always Improve, Always Advance
  2. Be Passionately Professional
  3. Hypothesize, Practice, Validate, Shikuma (“Systemize”)
  4. Maximize Customer Satisfaction
  5. Speed, Speed, Speed!

These principles are all around us, every day. They are printed and pasted and distributed on every surface I can think of. You can find them on our business cards, our ID badges, on posters in our conference rooms, our web materials, and even in the way we speak to one another. Our principles flow through everything we do.

It is easy to get distracted by the flow of new information that bombards us every day. There is always something new to look at, something new to see or read or admire. In the digital space, there is little attention to re-reading material that you may have looked at yesterday.

But when it comes to core principles, those are the words you should constantly review, whether they are the principles of your company or your own personal rules for life. These are the words that act as your guidelines through the changing marketplace and the changing world.

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7 Steps to Improve Your Employee Engagement

Happy people give you happy customers. This is the mantra I used to say when I was in corporate life 12 years ago running 3,500 people in call centres around the globe. If you want to have a great Customer Experience you must focus your employees as they deliver your experience. I believed this so much that when I started Beyond Philosophy and wrote my first book, ‘Building Great Customer Experiences’, I devoted one of our seven philosophies for building a great Customer Experience to it. Philosophy 4 stated:

Great Customer Experiences are enabled by inspirational leadership, an empowering culture and empathetic people who are happy and fulfilled.

I now realise this needs updating. The important word that is missing is ‘engaged’.

…. empathetic people who are engaged, happy and fulfilled.

Over the years I have come to realise you can have people who are happy but the reality is they may do very little work! So, happiness is part of what you are trying to achieve, but not all of it, as you can have great fun at work but get nothing done.

‘Engaged’ is a really important word. Being engaged means your people voluntarily give you and their Customers their commitment. Engagement means they care for the organization and therefore their customers. Engagement means they believe in the organization and the goals. Critically engaged means they have chosen to give more of themselves.

If you are engaged you have built an emotional bond with your organization and its Customers. But how do you get employees engaged and want to provide a great Customer Experience?

Let me draw a parallel. My regular readers will know that we advocate when designing a Customer Experience that you should take a ‘human centred’ approach. As customers are human beings much of their behaviour is driven by emotions. In fact we know that over 50% of a Customer Experience is driven by emotions.

We believe you need to define the experience you are trying to deliver for your Customer and the emotions you are trying to evoke and then design your experience to achieve this. This means if you want your customers to ‘trust’ you and feel that you ‘value’ them then you should design your experience to evoke these emotions. It also means you should look at your experience and stop doing the things that are opposite to this.

How does this apply to the employee experience and engagement?

Well, as long as your employees are human beings, then you achieve this in the same way. You need to define the employee experience that will deliver engaged employees.

But here is the only change. Ideally the Customer Experience you are trying to deliver and the employee experience are the same. Therefore; if you want your Customers to feel they ‘trust’ you and feel that you ‘care for’ them, doesn’t it make sense that the employees feel the same? Doesn’t it make sense that the type of people you recruit are people who are naturally good at evoking ‘trust’ or feeling ‘cared for’ in people? Let me give you an example. I have a friend of mine who we will call ‘Peter’ (not his real name). Peter is a great guy to be around, he is the life and soul of the party and very funny. But Peter is a compulsive liar! You can’t trust a word he tells you! But he’s great fun. So if you are trying to create an experience for Customers to trust you, don’t employ Peter! If you want a fun experience employ Peter!

Back in the day, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and implement this concept when we were consolidating our call center and at the same time moving to ‘front office, back office’ working. So we defined our customer and employee experience and then put in place a psychometric test to ensure that we had the right type of people in the front of the organization. We said that people could take the test as many times as they wished as we were confident with our methodology. One person took the test 6 times and failed every time. Whilst I felt sad for the person I was pleased that the test was robust enough to identify the right people.

Here’s the shocker over 50% of the people we had talking to the Customer were the wrong people!….. 50%! I was astounded….but when we implemented this our Customer satisfaction went up dramatically.

Therefore the employee experience and the Customer Experience should match. This gives you the most chance of success on both fronts. So in short you need to define the employee experience that should ideally match the Customer Experience and then design the employee experience around this.

Too many times we see examples of where organizations do the complete opposite. One of our clients wants their Customers to trust them but they do not trust their own employees, which is quite common! For example, we have recently conducted our CEM training. The final event was planned to be a face to face event. The procedure they had to go through to get authorization for travel was so bureaucratic I was stunned. At every turn it suggested ‘we don’t trust you’.

Another example is one of the worst managers I have ever worked for. He arranged a 121 development meeting with me. The first meeting we arranged he didn’t show up! The second meeting he was late and spent most of the time fiddling with his mobile phone. The message was clear. He wasn’t interested. As a result I wasn’t engaged.

These types of things send out important messages to your employees. They say ‘we don’t trust you’, ‘you are not important’, ‘we are cleverer than you are’, ‘we don’t care about you’. These are the important subconscious signals that are bombarding your employees every day of the week. In our major study of staff ambassadorship, 18% of our respondents exhibited high loyalty to their organizations, and 20% exhibited low loyalty. Importantly, there were strong, almost polar opposite differences in organizational loyalty depending on whether an employee was categorized as an ambassador or saboteur, validating ambassadorship framework. We are conducting a webinar on the whole subject on what we call Employee Ambassadorship and how this ties to improving your Customer Experience with one of Beyond Philosophy’s Thought Leadership Principals, Michael Lowenstein.

Therefore; the practical steps to improve your employee engagement are:

  1. Define the employee experience you are trying to deliver
  2. Align this to your Customer Experience.
  3. Implement psychometric tests to ensure you are selecting the right people
  4. Recruit according to the experience you are trying to deliver to your customers.
  5. Design you employee experience, as you would a Customer Experience to gain the desired outcome.
  6. Ensure the measures and behaviors are aligned to the Customer Experience and the employee experience.
  7. Measure employee’s engagement, not satisfaction.

To provide a great customer experience you do need happy employees, but creating happy employees is only one part of getting engaged employees. You certainly won’t get happy or engaged employees if you treat them like idiots!

I would be very interested to hear your comments on how you go about creating engaged employees.

Click here to find out more about the webinar

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Posted by:Colin ShawColin Shaw
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What The Heck is… The Cloud?

The cloud, or cloud computing, is not new but it remains a major buzzword in the business and technology world. I would assume that most people know by now what we mean when we say things like: “Simply stick it in the cloud” or “Back up to the cloud”. However, I recently gave a presentation about Big Data (another one of these buzzwords) to a large business conference and in my discussions afterwards was surprised how many people were not really clear what cloud computing was. So, I promised to write a very short and clear outline of what it is.

Here we go. Cloud computing basically refers to two things:

  1. Storing data outside your computer (or phone).
  2. Performing computing tasks using software and applications that are not installed on your computer (or phone).

Instead of storing or computing things on your own machine, we use other computers that are connected to our computer via a network (such as the Internet).

Let’s look at some examples to make this even clearer:

  • If you back up your documents and photos over the Internet using services such as Dropbox or Google Drive then they will be stored in the cloud – meaning they are sent via a network to a server (which can be anywhere in the world) where your documents will be stored.
  • If you are an iPhone user and have enabled iCloud, then your photos, apps, music etc. will be backed up to a computer managed by Apple. The data will be transferred to that outside computer using the Internet.
  • If you are using services such as Gmail, Yahoo or Microsoft Exchange Online for your emails, then you are basically a cloud-computing user. These software applications are not installed on your computer but you are using them over the Internet.
  • If you use Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, then you are also a cloud-computing user. These services are provided via the internet and your up-dates, photos, videos, etc. are stored on their computers.

This means, cloud computing enables us to increase our storage capacity without the need to buy new hardware. And it enables us to use applications or access music, TV programmes, etc. on demand, via the Internet.

The same applies to companies. If companies want to increase their storage, they can simply move their data to the cloud. This is often a more cost effective solution than buying and maintaining their own data storage facilities. When it comes to software, the same applies. Instead of purchasing software licences, companies can use SAAS providers. SAAS stands for ‘Software as a Service’ and in principle works in the same way as your email providers. Instead of selling the software to clients, vendors provide access to software via the Internet. A good example is, a cloud-based customer-relationship management software.

Cloud computing also enables ‘big data analytics’, where large volumes of data are analysed using many computers that are connected via a network. The data is stored on different computers and the computing and analysis task is broken up so that individual computers perform small parts of the overall computing task.

I hope this was useful?


Bernard Marr is a best-selling author and enterprise performance expert. Here at LinkedIn Bernard regularly writes about business and technology trends in general. Make sure you click ‘Follow’ if you would like to hear more from Bernard Marr in the future and feel free to also connect via TwitterFacebook and The Advanced Performance Institute

Other recent posts by Bernard Marr:

Posted by:Bernard MarrBernard Marr
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Technology Will Not Replace Teachers

There, I said it. And with these words, I am jumping with both feet into a debate that has alternately raged and simmered since computers first began appearing in schools in the 1980s.

The debate was reignited recently when Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), online courses designed for large-scale global participation, became one of the hottest topics in education. I wrote about MOOCs in my last LinkedIn Influencer post, “Education is Having Its Internet Moment.” MOOCs have huge potential to increase access to education, and especially to expert explainers. But we know that explaining represents just one aspect of teaching. Even as technologies for learning become more evolved, they will not replace teachers — anymore than commercial airliner cockpit technology has replaced pilots.

Few would argue that without Captain Sully Sullenberger, a former fighter pilot with nearly 30 years of commercial aviation experience, there would have been no miracle on the Hudson.

And while it will be some time before we know all the facts of the crash landing of a commercial jet at San Francisco International Airport in July, initial findings suggest: the plane’s speed and engine thrust were being controlled by an automated system and the pilots failed to notice that the plane was flying too low and too slow until it was too late.

In other words, technology can augment and amplify a commercial pilot’s skills, but it is no substitute for experienced human decision-making and intervention in complex, dynamic, high-stakes situations.

There are settings in which technology has replaced people. Robots and automated manufacturing systems have replaced assembly-line workers whose jobs were based on standardized, repetitive tasks such as welding and painting. Web-based software has replaced airline and hotel reservations agents whose jobs consisted of completing transactions with a small number of options and variables.

But the highly complex and nuanced demands of teaching cannot be met by computers executing repetitive tasks or simple transactions — or even sophisticated algorithms. People learn in different ways, at different rates, and numerous variables can affect their progression on any given day — including those in the social and emotional realm.

Furthermore, while many aspects of teaching can be planned in advance, even the best-laid plans can go awry, requiring an immediate pivot to Plan B. And then there are those serendipitous moments when students become captivated by an activity, a current event or a challenge and engage with an intensity that could not have been foreseen. The best teachers harness this energy and use it as rocket fuel for learning.

No, technology will not replace teachers. But technology has already dramatically changed the role of the teacher.

In schools and classrooms all over the country, ubiquitous access to technology has given motivated teachers the opportunity to shift from being deliverers of content to what many have dubbed orchestrators of learning.

The term perfectly captures what we need from teachers in a rapidly changing world, driven by technology and the global connectedness it enables. In this world, America does not need a workforce that has memorized fleeting facts and knowledge, taught in the belief that what we need to know will never change.

Instead, the key to our global competitiveness is a workforce comprised of people empowered by curiosity and persistence – attributes that will enable them to learn whatever they need to know and do to solve a problem or do a job well.

To paraphrase a well-known proverb, if you teach me the relevant skills and knowledge of my time, I will have a job today. If you instill in me imagination, drive and the ability to adapt to a future I cannot anticipate, I will have relevant jobs for a lifetime.

Orchestrators of learning empowered by technology have so many more options for fulfilling this promise than teachers who do not use technology. They can:

  • Keep students deeply engaged in learning — connecting personally relevant content, customized options for difficulty level, alternative learning pathways, and choices for support and guidance
  • Improve students’ understanding of complex concepts by bringing animations, simulations and visualizations into learning — and yes, videos of expert explainers.
  • Increase the quantity and quality of feedback during learning, at precisely the time that adjustments and adaptations made by either the teacher or the technology can make a difference in learning outcomes
  • Provide students’ access to people, courses, materials, data sets, research and primary source documents available online and often for free
  • Enable students to connect and participate globally as they engage in problem solving with other learners around the world
  • Put the same technology tools professionals use in the hands of students for writing, publishing, organizing, producing, researching, composing, visualizing data and more

It’s not hard to see how we can vastly improve the opportunity to learn by putting the best digital learning content, tools and resources in the hands of both teachers and students. It also is not hard to see that teachers need new skills to add to the timeless attributes of caring for students and love of learning.

And so there is a corollary to the proposition that technology will not replace teachers: while technology has its limits, a teacher without technology is unnecessarily limited.

This must change.

Posted by:Karen CatorKaren Cator
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Will People With High Grades End Up Working For Those With Average?

My recent Washington Post and LinkedIn articles on how the GMAT may be the root of all evil in the business world provoked many intense reactions. I too was surprised to learn of the correlation between high GMAT scores and all the bad things we see in business: lack of ethical orientation, male domination of executive ranks, uncertainty avoidance, and individualism. So the reactions weren’t unexpected.

The most interesting response I received was from a Silicon Valley celebrity—my good friendBill Reichert. His email was so interesting and provides such a provocative perspective of how Venture Capitalists view MBAs and PhDs that I asked for permission to share this with you. Below is his message.

I enjoyed your most recent Washington Post article on the inverse correlation between high standardized test scores and entrepreneurial inclinations. But I have to ask, are you really surprised?

Anyone who has spent any time in the entrepreneur ecosystem knows that there is an inverse correlation between high prestige MBAs and entrepreneurship. It’s clear what is going on here. The GMAT, like the SAT, is focused on finding the high achievement individuals in society — not the compassionate, ethical, collaborative, or socially conscious individuals. The whole institutional educational game is focused on individual achievement and test scores on standardized bodies of knowledge, not on teamwork, risk-taking, and innovative thinking.

Almost by definition, an individual who applies to business school is risk-averse — not inclined to take chances with his or her career, but rather more interested in taking the safest path to a prestige job. Stanford and Harvard do not primarily select for and nurture entrepreneurial skills. They select the best and the brightest high achievers. Fortunately, it so happens that some of those people do have some entrepreneurial inclinations — again, more because they are high achievers, and entrepreneurship is now seen as a legitimate domain of achievement.

This is already well-known within these programs. On our first day at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the Dean told us that those who got the highest grades in the program would most likely wind up working for those who got average grades. (Steve Ballmer was originally in my class, but he dropped out. 🙂

So none of the study’s conclusions are new or surprising. In fact, to this exact point, my partner Guy Kawasaki at Garage Technology Ventures developed a tongue-in-cheek algorithm for determining the valuation of a startup company:

Entrepreneurs ask us all the time how we figure out the valuation of a startup company. Most VCs suggest that this is a very mysterious art. But actually it’s quite simple: To determine the fair value of a startup company, multiply the number of engineers by $250,000, add $250,000 for each engineer from IIT, and then subtract $500,000 for each MBA.


The venture capital firm Sequoia Capital has expressed a similar disdain for the products of elite universities. They prefer entrepreneurs from less privileged backgrounds who have an innate street sense and scrappiness. (While MBAs learn how to be “lean,” real entrepreneurs are scrappy.) Paypal billionaire Peter Thiel advocates that real entrepreneurs shouldn’t even bother with a university degree. Another venture capitalist we know will not invest in someone with a Ph.D. because “a real entrepreneur would not have the patience to complete a Ph.D.”

I don’t mean this to be just another MBA bashing. Certainly we at Garage have seen, and have even invested in, brilliant entrepreneurs who also have MBAs. And MBA programs are investing heavily in entrepreneurship programs for their students. Mainly I’m reacting to the suggestion that it is surprising that the selection process used by our elite universities puts some individuals with talents we value highly at a disadvantage.

The question is: Can our elite universities select for and turn out graduates with the combination of talents we need?

It would be interesting and potentially very valuable for the authors to dive into an assessment of the implications of high SAT scores and high GPAs as a basis for selection into elite universities. We have the same problem at the undergraduate level that the study has found at the graduate level, I suspect. The focus on SATs and GPAs select for high individual achievers, and arguably work against those who have high “EQs” or high aptitudes for being effective in a team environment. To be fair, the selection process at many elite private schools tries to compensate somewhat by looking for individuals who may not have the highest scores but who have demonstrated great potential in some other ways. But the flood of applications at the top public universities, and even the leading private universities, largely overwhelms these good intentions.

The extreme pressure to obtain admission to the most prestigious schools forces young people to focus on individual accomplishment — in the classroom, on standardized tests, and in extra-curricular activities. Even programs that encourage community service by young people wind up being just one more field of competition to demonstrate individual achievement. A student who “saves” a village in Nepal is more likely to catch the eye of an admissions officer than a student who gets a summer job at the local deli. At the very high end, elite universities select for and subsequently graduate outstanding individual performers with very little emphasis on risk taking, team skills, and entrepreneurial thinking.

In the real world after university, however, getting things done is predominantly a function of being effective in teams and working effectively with other people. Progress almost always depends on creative thinking “outside the box” rather than conforming to standards of achievement and “best practices.” Certainly, we need to find and support individual achievers with brilliant talents who can push the boundaries of specific domains. But even at the cutting edge of science and engineering, advances are increasingly made by teams of people contributing their exceptional knowledge and insights rather than by lone geniuses in their isolated labs.

So what should we do to develop these talents in our young people? Is it the proper domain of our university system to teach team skills and social consciousness? Or do we simply accept that the current approach to finding and selecting elites is the best the university system can do, and leave it to the real world to apprentice young graduates in these skills and attitudes? It’s hard to imagine developing an effective curriculum for our educational system that will develop the non-academic team skills and creative thinking skills that we need. But we can probably do more, in early education, in the universities, and in the workplace, to foster the development of these skills and to make sure that young people with these skills are not undervalued by the educational system, or by our society.

Happy to continue the conversation over coffee, or a beer. 🙂

Bill Reichert is a managing partner at Garage Technology Ventures, a seed and early stage venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley. He spent most of his career as an entrepreneur, with four venture-backed startup companies prior to co-founding Garage in 1998.

Posted by:Vivek WadhwaVivek Wadhwa

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Instead of Monitoring Employees, Try Motivating Them

Employee theft costs the economy up to $200 billion a year. In the hopes of putting a stop to stealing, many managers have turned to surveillance systems. According to new evidencefrom a rigorous study led by strategy professor Lamar Pierce, surveillance can work. After restaurants installed monitoring software that sent electronic theft alerts to managers, weekly revenue climbed by around 7%. Servers appeared to give out fewer free drinks, and focused their energy instead on selling more food.

But what if there’s a less expensive, less risky way to eliminate employee theft? Several years ago, a forest products company was losing about $1 million a year due to employee theft. After a few simple policy changes, theft dropped to near zero, and it stayed there for at least three years—with no monitoring at all.

Employees were stealing equipment from the sawmill. When managers threatened to start video surveillance with hidden cameras, employees began plotting ways to steal the cameras. The managers responded by hiring an organizational psychologist, Gary Latham, to identify a solution.

Latham discovered that the thieves weren’t stealing for the usual reasons. They weren’t trying to get revenge at the company, or even earn a profit; they didn’t bother using or reselling the items they stole.

Employees were stealing for the thrill. When Latham interviewed the thieves under confidentiality, they reported pride in their skills—“We are so good we could steal a head-rig from a sawmill” (which weighs more than a ton)—and even offered to show them off: “tell us what you want, and we will get it out within 45 days.”

Instead of putting the employees under surveillance, Latham and the managers decided to kill the thrill. They announced a library loan policy: employees could borrow equipment from the mill. Suddenly, “the thrill was gone,” explains organizational psychologist Bob Sutton in his excellent book Good Boss, Bad Boss, “stealing something you could get for free wasn’t anything to brag about.” They also set up a return policy that allowed employees to give back previously “borrowed” equipment without punishment. When employees returned equipment, managers wouldn’t ask any questions, under the assumption that they were doing it on behalf of a friend.

“The material was returned by the truckload,” Latham writes. Much of the legwork was done by spouses, who were tired of hiding the bulky equipment in their garages.

This brilliant example shows how it’s possible to eliminate theft without surveillance. First, find out why employees are stealing in the first place. When Latham interviewed employees, he was able to understand their motivations by asking them four questions:

(1) What are the benefits of stealing?

(2) What are the costs of stealing?

(3) What are the benefits of honesty?

(4) What are the costs of honesty?

Most managers try to eliminate theft by increasing the costs of stealing. Latham’s insight was that this problem could be effectively solved by reducing the benefits of stealing, and then changing the cost/benefit ratio of honesty. The library policy eliminated the main benefit of stealing (it was no longer a challenge, so it wasn’t fun). The return policy made honesty more beneficial (spouses were thrilled to have their garages back) and less costly (amnesty on returns: no punishment, no questions asked).

Cleverness aside, this strategy for curbing theft avoided several major complications of surveillance:

  • Distrust: in the words of social psychologist Robert Cialdini, a surveillance system “sends a clear message to those under surveillance: ‘We don’t trust you.’” The result: resentment, an “us vs. them” mentality, and decreased morale, especially among employees who weren’t stealing in the first place.
  • Managerial cynicism: social psychologist Rod Kramer cites several studies showing that the act of surveillance makes managers more suspicious. If you’re busy enough looking for bad behaviors, you’re sure to find some. Pretty soon, your field of vision will be dominated by untrustworthy employees, and you’ll become increasingly skeptical of most people’s motivations. Ironically, evidence suggests that skeptical managers are poor judges of character.
  • Encouraging theft when no one’s watching: the decision to implement a surveillance system communicates to employees that theft is common. “If my colleagues are doing it,” some employees will think, “it’s probably not a big deal.” In one study, Cialdini’s team tracked the theft of petrified wood from a national park. When a sign mentioned that “many past visitors” had taken wood, theft rates spiked from below 3% to nearly 8%. As behavioral economist Dan Ariely reveals in The Honest Truth About Dishonesty,plenty of people are able to steal a little bit without compromising the morality of their self-images. Under surveillance, Kramer notes “employees may become less committed to internal standards of honesty and integrity in the workplace.”

Surveillance has its time and place. But as I wrote a few months ago, the best way to encourage trustworthy behavior is to show trust. So next time you’re trying to stop theft, it might be good to focus less on raising the costs, and instead find creative ways to lower the benefits—or set up a policy that makes honesty more attractive and less costly. There’s an excellent model already in place at your nearest library.

Posted by:Adam GrantAdam Grant

5 Things You Have to Unlearn to Succeed at Work

A big theme in my life has been how much I had to unlearn to come to the decision to homeschool my kids.

I had to unlearn all my assumptions about parenting (it turns out that kids don’t need teachers, they need love). I unlearned my assumptions about self‑management (well-roundedness is an outdated goal). And I had to change my assumptions about how much respect each child deserves (freedom to choose what we learn is a fundamental right).

Now that I’ve been homeschooling for a while, I understand that the reason it’s traumatic for most young adults to enter the workforce is because they have to unlearn so many things from school in order to survive in adult life.

No matter what age you are, the faster you start your unlearning the faster you can shed the weights that hold you back from moving forward in today’s knowledge-based workforce. Here are five things most people need to unlearn.

1. Accommodating forced learning
Gen Y’s latest thing is binge learning, where you become so interested in what you’re doing that you don’t want to stop until you’ve learned it all. But the only way that you can binge learn is to know how to find course materials on your own and choose the sequence of those materials that works best for you. This means you can’t rely on someone else’s syllabus and you can’t rely on somebody laying out the steps for you.

In the workplace, to create our own value, we must create our own learning path. You have to unlearn the habit of waiting to be told what comes next in your education if you want to take control of your adult life.

2. Studying for the grade you can get on the test
Adult life doesn’t give letter grades. Sometimes adult life gives promotions or if you’re good at sales you might win a trip to Hawaii for your family, but in general, the reward of adult life is being able to find a path that’s good for you and put yourself on it. There’s no letter grade for that because the only person who can judge whether it’s a good path or not is you.

The act of making decisions independent of letter grades is completely opposite to everything that school stands for, because if you’re doing work that is separate from earning an A, then you’re completely uncontrollable in the classroom as you start losing the need to even show up to the classroom.

So school teaches you that you should study what’s on the test. Work is the opposite. What matters will never be on the test.

3. Saving self-discovery for vacation
For those of you who don’t follow the lives of Prince William and Prince Harry, a gap year is when somebody finishes high school and takes a year off before university study, presumably because you don’t learn about yourself while you are studying, so taking time to learn about yourself is important enough to give it a whole year.

This is actually true that usually you don’t learn about yourself when you’re studying, because if people tell you what to study, then you gain no insight into who you are. But if you take a year off to learn about yourself, you reinforce the idea that education and self‑knowledge are two completely different things.

However, in the workforce, education and self‑knowledge through work are the twin tickets to adult happiness. If you’re not synchronized so that you have them moving together, you will always feel like you’re missing something.

4. Saying something even when there’s nothing to say
In sixth grade my teacher gave us a list of topics about Mesopotamia for a ten-page paper she assigned. When she got to the topic of medicine in Mesopotamia, she said it was a hard one. I picked that one.

I brought it home to my dad who can win Trivial Pursuit in one turn every time and my mom who was on Jeopardy, and they said, “Medicine in Mesopotamia? There wasn’t any. What are you going to write about this?” We did a bunch of research to determine that, indeed, there were not ten typed pages to be written about medicine in Mesopotamia. We did conjecture instead, but that only got us to five. So I learned the art of bullshit by writing ten pages about medicine in Mesopotamia.

Paul Graham, one of the premier investors of college‑age startup founders, talks about how forced yammering on topics about which you have nothing to say end up affecting you negatively in the workforce.

He talks about kids who have great ideas for startups and they think it’s time to raise money, so they force themselves to start talking about why it’s time to raise money when, in fact, it’s not time to raise money. They have nothing to say about raising money. They should just be at home doing their business idea.

Graham points out that the idea that it doesn’t matter whether something is relevant or pertinent or necessary is lost on kids who have been forced to talk about nothing for eighteen years.

5. Using video games as a reward for finishing learning
It’s fashionable right now for parents to use video games as a reward for having finished schoolwork or, for the really nice parents, as a reward for just having made it through the school day. The thing is that video games actually teach important skills for work. And kids who play video games do better as adults.

I’m really happy to tell you that human resource managers understand this so well that it’s been shown that people who play World of Warcraft at work during work hours on the work computer are higher performing employees. There are lots of reasons for this. World of Warcraft is extremely competitive. It requires long‑term commitment and strategy, and it favors people who understand how to shift between different sorts of tasks that require different kinds of thinking.

Parents need to unlearn schooling in order to parent so that their kids don’t need to unlearn schooling in order to work.

Posted by:Penelope TrunkPenelope Trunk

Three Reasons Why Labor Day Matters To You

Today, September 2nd, Americans celebrate Labor Day, as they have every year since 1887. This year, they would do well to spend some time thinking about the future of work, and how to prepare themselves to survive and thrive in it. The world of work is changing fast, in ways that will be extremely challenging to many of us.

There are three particularly important issues worth thinking about today.

First, there is a great mismatch between the skills many of us have and the skills required for the sorts of jobs that are coming to dominate the world of work. As I wrote in a special report for The Economist, now available here as an ebook, “The Future of Jobs”, this is creating a two-tier jobs market, in which those who have the right skills can earn more than was ever possible before, whilst those without those skills face the prospect of falling real wages as international competition and technological innovation make the skills they do have ever less valuable.You can see how technology is providing both opportunity and threat by looking at the rapid emergence of global online employment exchanges such as ODesk and Elance, which I wrote about here in The Economist.

The one piece of good news is that it has never been easier to upgrade your skills, thanks to the rapid growth of businesses providing free high quality courses via the internet, known as MOOCs (massive open online courses). You can read an article I wrote in The Economist about the MOOCs here.

Second, trade unionism is showing signs of life. Beneath the headlines about the long-term decline of trade unions, there are two noteworthy signs of life in the labor movement that brought Labor Day into existence. The more positive is the rise of the Freelancers Union, which has seen its membership soar because it focuses on providing its workers with services they need – such as affordable health care – while avoiding traditional union activities such as strikes.

I recently interviewed Sara Horowitz, the founder of the Freelancers Union, at the Nasdaq Marketsite for Newswire.FM. (You can watch a key excerpt from the interview below.)

Unions have always been about people coming together to solve their problems, Horowitz says, and the freelancers union was the result of freelancers coming together to solve problems that are unique to their way of working, which tends to be with lots of different employers and often involves periods of intense activity and other periods when there is little income coming in. She sees this as a ‘new mutualism’ that is a part of the broader ‘sharing economy’ or ‘peer economy’ more typically associated with firms such as Airbnb and RelayRides. The Freelancers Union set about solving the problem of many freelancers lacking health insurance by creating its own insurance company, which last year, its fifth, generated revenues of over $100m. What it was able to do was “aggregate freelancers’ economic power and really start to put it right to their immediate needs”, Horowitz told me.

The less uplifting revival if unionism can be seen in the recent outbreak of strikes by workers at fast food joints around the country. In the past, nobody planned to stay in their McJob long enough to think it worth bothering to unionise. That this is no longer the case is chilling evidence of how tough things are getting at the bottom of the jobs market, where wages have been falling steadily in real terms for over ten years.

Third, more than ever, we need work that helps each of us fulfill our human potential. One thing the millennial generation seems to understand better than the rest of us is the need for work to serve our sense of purpose and to be in balance with all the other things that make life fulfilling. A recent survey by Gallup found that 70% of American workers either hate their job or feel completely disengaged from it.

So while there is a desperate need to create more jobs, it is also important that we figure out how to create better jobs that truly engage workers in what they do. How to do this will be the topic of a conference in New York on September 18th that I am co-chairing with my Economist colleague Adrian Wooldridge. You can find out here about this event, which is bringing together some of the world’s top thinkers on the future of work.

President Teddy Roosevelt observed on Labor Day 1903 that “far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” To me, it is unacceptable that this prize that still remains beyond the reach of most people.

What do you think?

Posted by:Matthew BishopMatthew Bishop

The Business World Can Tear You Apart – If You Let It

I’ve often received calls and emails from former business students of mine who, despite being at a pinnacle of career or financial success, have expressed profound loneliness and despair – the kinds of feelings that might lead to tragedies like the recent suicides of two Swiss executives.

Many young leaders and CEOs say that power and influence come at a steep cost. The more success these people find, the more they feel like targets. It can seem like everyone wants something from them, and even acts of kindness and generosity from others seemed like veiled attempts at manipulation.

So, some leaders gradually lean away from people, creating a self-imposed detachment. In this isolation, they come to feel that they have no one to share their problems with — and at the same time, it makes them seem unapproachable to others. They drift deeper into themselves, and end up far away from the people in their lives.

It’s not only leaders and executives who can come to feel this way. As we know, stress is epidemic in workplaces everywhere. The more of it we face, the greater danger there is of losing touch with the people and values that are important to us. There are always moments of isolation, but by keeping the following ideas in mind, you’ll be better equipped to address them, or avoid them:

1. Get outside  of your head, and your office: The more you stay in one place, both mentally and physically, the more one-sided the world starts to look. That’s when priorities get warped. But high-energy, focused people can often replace one kind of engaging activity with another. Read great novels. Learn to fly-fish (that takes a lot of concentration, I’m told). Try to develop an exercise plan, especially one that takes you out of doors. Richard Branson pilots hot air balloons, Larry Ellison sails. Sergey Brin even learned the trapeze. Think of recreation as “re-creation” of your energy in a different venue.

2. Set Boundaries and stick to them: People who succeed are too often willing to subordinate everything in their lives to their quest for the top job. But once you get started on that path, it’s hard to slow down. So you have to set boundaries. Early in my career, I got a Sunday morning phone call from my boss and mentor who wanted to meet with me at the office about a deal. I was flattered, but I’d already decided that Sundays would be reserved for family. He respected this limit, and I went on to become the Managing Partner of the firm, where I kept Sundays for family for 20 years.

3. Stay close to your friends and family: I tell my business school students that the pop songs aren’t lying: love can be a powerful force if you cultivate it in your family and among friends and colleagues. Love is rooted in security, in self-esteem and in self-confidence. Deeply needy people have a harder time loving – they’re busy concentrating on themselves. But building a support network will help you with your needs, and will allow you in turn to give back to others. This “other-centered” mindset has a way of helping you put your own problems in perspective.

4. Learn to trust, even if it hurts: Trust is a fundamental part of building strong relationships, and avoiding the kind of mental vacuum that makes us feel suspicious and alone. To build trust with someone, you have to believe that he or she is able to put your interests ahead of their own, and that they’ll do what they say they’re going to do. When someone violates your trust, it can be difficult to bounce back and give someone else a chance. But, having been betrayed a few times myself, I’ve learned that it’s worse to recoil in wariness than to keep trying, learning better who to trust and when to trust them. Imagine that it’s your job to be trustworthy and to help others to be the same.

5. Just give: A few months back I agreed to fly halfway across the country to be with returning special operations servicemen entering the work force. When the day arrived, I had so many other pressures and deadlines that I was regretting my commitment. How could I give up an entire day? But by mid-morning, I’d lost myself in the company and good nature of these veterans, grateful to have had a chance to spend time with them, and inspired by their sacrifices. I was also more than a little humbled by the problems they’d taken on, which made mine seem tiny in comparison. With that perspective, I breezed through a very long to-do list when I got home.

Isolation is never the answer – instead, you want to surround yourself with, and reach out to, the people around you. If you start to feel you’re getting tunnel vision from incessant pressure at work, interrupt it. Consider starting with the guidelines above to help you find meaning and connection. We often feel locked into wearisome routines in life. The trick is to find ways to break out of them as soon as you realize you’re in one.

Posted by:Joel PetersonJoel Peterson

We Need Our Brightest People Working on Our Biggest Problems

A few weeks ago, I got to visit Microsoft’s annual conference of faculty members involved in computer science research at universities around the world. I hadn’t been able to attend the conference since I went full-time at the Gates Foundation, so I took the opportunity to talk about how the researchers’ work might overlap with some of the foundation’s efforts.

A lot of the faculty members wanted to know how they could help and how we can all bring more bright people into the fight against disease and poverty. So I thought I would share a few ideas about how we can help researchers from different fields have an impact on the world’s poorest people.

1. Find ways to apply technology so it helps the world’s poorest people solve problems.

For the poorest 2 billion people, progress in the most important areas — which I argue are health and agriculture — will depend on advances in technology, from computer science to genetics, materials science, and energy.

For example, in health, computer-based disease modeling is a big area. I’m optimistic that we’re going to eradicate polio in the near term, and perhaps malaria and measles in the mid to long term. To eradicate a disease, we need to understand how it’s affected by things like weather or the movement of insect populations (malaria is spread by mosquitoes). A technique called stochastic modeling — which involves running a lot of computer simulations where you randomize different variables and study the outcome — is helping us understand the impact of the various factors so we can get the right mix of tools to fight different diseases.

There are many examples from other fields. Geneticists can help develop crops that are more nutritious, disease-resistant, and drought-tolerant. Someone who’s interested in finance can help drive innovations such as digital currency that reduce transaction costs so that poor people can borrow at five percent a year instead of 15 percent. People with a passion for education can develop software that models what the student knows, interacts with and encourages her, and helps the teacher see what she’s been doing.

So there’s a lot of opportunity. But these advances won’t happen unless bright young people enter these fields. That brings me to the second priority:

2. Attract more of the world’s brightest people into technical fields.

We need a constant stream of new people coming into these fields with fresh energy and ideas. And it needs to draw from a broad range of people — meaning different ethnicities, income levels, and countries. After all, no nation has a monopoly on talent or on the best way of looking at a problem.

I wish rich countries did more to draw their brightest people into the sciences. We also need researchers from developing countries, though that’s hard because few of them have great universities where people can get top training. We need to look at ways to strengthen those schools through partnerships. We can also expand opportunities for young people to study in other countries and then return home to start their careers. And we definitely need to encourage more women to enter technical fields.

As we bring more bright young people into the sciences, there’s a third step to making sure it has an impact for the poorest two billion:

3. Show experts how they can help solve these problems.

As I said earlier, several of the researchers I talked to at Microsoft asked how they could help. Unfortunately, historically the world hasn’t done a very good job of connecting people with expertise to the biggest problems.

For example, a big challenge with vaccines is that they spoil if you don’t keep them cold. This problem has kept a lot of kids from being vaccinated, and it has cost a lot of lives. There are experts in the science of insulation, but no one had explained this problem to them. As soon as we did, they started thinking about how they could help. They got to work on a kind of super Thermos — a way to keep the vaccines cold without using any energy. It’s in development now.

Scientists aren’t the only ones who can help solve problems in the poor world. Savvy people in businesses, non-profits, and governments can find ways to deliver solutions at scale.

Of course there has to be a financial incentive to draw people in. Governments and philanthropy can establish grants and prizes. They can also set up funds to guarantee that there will be a market to pay for advances if they’re developed. The Gates Foundation has a program called Grand Challenges in Global Health, which is designed to help experts from various fields see how they can help save lives in the poorest countries. That’s just one example, though, and the world could use a lot more.

It was great to connect with all the researchers at the Microsoft conference. I hope some of them use their talent to help solve some of these challenges. I’m convinced that getting our brightest minds focused on our biggest problems will save lives and make the world a more equitable place.

Posted by:Bill GatesBill Gates

How to Handle Difficult People

The path to success can be derailed by clashes with difficult people, and even if the clash isn’t disastrous, it can make your life very unpleasant. Everyone has a store of coping mechanisms that we resort to when we find ourselves in stressful situations. Difficult people force us to fall back on our coping mechanisms. Some of us placate, others confront. Some balk, others become aggressive. When these first-response tactics don’t work, when a difficult person makes you tear your hair out in total frustration, you have to dig deeper into yourself and find a better strategy.

First of all, not every difficult person is the same. There are tyrants, curmudgeons, aggressors, the viciously competitive, and control freaks. A psychologist can outline how each beast might be tamed, but on a day-to-day basis, one can adopt a general approach that’s the same. It’s quite a simple strategy, actually, based on asking three questions.

1. Can I change the situation?

2. Do I have to put up with it instead?

3. Should I just walk away?

When you ask these questions in a rational frame of mind, you will be able to formulate a workable approach that is consistent and effective. Most people are prisoners of inconsistency. Think about the most difficult person in your life and how you have reacted to them over time. You’ll probably find that you sometimes put up with them, sometimes try to get them to change, and other times simply want to stay away. In other words, three tactics have merged in a messy way. You wind up sending mixed messages, and that’s never effective.

So let’s consider each of the three questions in turn.

1. Can I change the situation?

Not all difficult people are beyond change, even though they are stubborn and stuck in their behavior. But there’s a cardinal rule here that can’t be ignored. No one changes unless he wants to. Difficult people rarely want to. If you have a close rapport with the person, you might find a moment when you can sit down and have a candid discussion about the things that frustrate you. But be prepared with an exit strategy, because if your difficult person winds up resenting you for poking your nose where it doesn’t belong, trying to effect change can seriously backfire.

Your best chance of creating change occurs if the following things are present.

– You have a personal connection with the person.

– You have earned his respect.

– You’ve discreetly tested the waters and found her a bit open to change.

– You’ve received signals that he wants to change.

– You aren’t afraid or intimidated.

– The two of you are fairly equal in power. If the difficult person is in a dominant position, such as being your boss, your status is too imbalanced.

A final caveat. Difficult people aren’t going to change just to make you feel better. The worst chance of getting someone else to change occurs when you’re so angry, frustrated, and fed up that you lose your composure and demand change.

2. Do I have to put up with it instead?

When you can’t change a situation, only two options remain, either put up with it or walk away. Most of us aren’t very effective in getting someone else to change, so we adapt in various ways. We are experts at putting up with things. Adaptation isn’t bad per se; social life depends upon getting along with one another. It’s a reasonable assumption that if you have difficult people in your life right now – and who doesn’t? – you’ve learned to adapt. The real question is whether you are coping in a healthy or unhealthy way.

Look at the following lists and honestly ask yourself how well you are putting up with your difficult person.


– I keep quiet and let them have their way. It’s not worth fighting over.

– I complain behind their backs.

– I shut down emotionally.

– I don’t say what I really mean half the time, for fear of getting into trouble or losing control.

– I subtly signal my disapproval.

– I engage in endless arguments that no one wins.

– I have symptoms of stress (headache, knots in the stomach, insomnia, depression, and anxiety) but have decided to grin and bear it.

– I know i want to get out of this situation, but I keep convincing myself that I have to stick it out.

– I indulge in fantasies of revenge.

Healthy –

– I assess what works best for me and avoid what doesn’t.

– I approach the difficult person as rationally as possible.

– I don’t get into emotional drama with them.

– I make sure I am respected by them. I keep my dignity.

– I can see the insecurity that lies beneath the surface of their bad behavior.

– I don’t dwell on their behavior. I don’t complain behind their backs or lose sleep.

– I keep away from anyone who can’t handle the situation, the perpetual complainers, gossips, and connivers.

– My interaction with the difficult person has no hidden agenda, like revenge. We are here for mutual benefit, not psychodrama.

– I know I can walk away whenever I have to, so I don’t feel trapped.

– I can laugh behind this person’s back. I’m not intimidated or afraid.

– I feel genuine respect and admiration for what’s good in this person.

If your approach contains too many unhealthy ingredients, you shouldn’t stick around. You’re just rationalizing a hopeless situation. Your relationship with your difficult person isn’t productive for either of you.

3. Should I just walk away?

Difficult people generally wind up alone, embattled, and bitter. They create too much stress, and one by one, everyone in their lives walks away. But it can take an agonizingly long time to make this decision. The problem is attachment. The abused wife who can’t leave her violent husband, the worker who is afraid he can’t find another job, the underling who serves as a doormat for his boss – in almost every instance their reason for staying is emotional. Life isn’t meant to be clinically rational. Emotions are a rich part of our lives, and it’s mature to take the bitter with the sweet – up to a point.

Too many people stick around when they shouldn’t. The main exceptions are competitive types, who can’t bear to be dominated or made to look bad. They instinctively run away from situations that hurt their self-image. The other main personality types – dependent and controlling – will put up with a bad situation for a long time, far beyond what’s healthy. The point, in practical terms, is that you can’t wait until you’ve resolved all your issues with a difficult spouse, boss, boyfriend, buddy, colleague, or employee. Vacillation doesn’t make you a better or nicer person. You are treading water, hoping that the dreaded day will never come when you have to sever ties. The thought of separation causes you anxiety.

But as anxious as you feel, sometimes a rupture is the healthiest thing you can do. That’s the case if you have honestly confronted questions 1 and 2. If you know the difficult person isn’t going to change, and if you’ve examined the unhealthy and healthy choices involved in putting up with them, you have a good foundation for making the right choice: Do I stay or do I walk? I’m not promising that your decision will feel nice. It probably won’t. But it will be the right decision, the kind you will be able to look back on with a sigh of relief and recognition that moving on was healthy and productive.


Two Key Rules a Leader Should Never Forget


The best bosses are the ones who know what is going on in their company at all times, not just at the top but also at the bottom.

It doesn’t matter how big or small the company is, the leader who loses touch with the people who works for them is not only a poor manager but is also more likely to make bad business decisions.

This does come with a health warning – there is a big difference between knowing your business and staff inside out and being the kind of manager who likes to have a say in everything that happens in the organisation. Being a control freak can be an even bigger problem than becoming isolated from the workforce.

However, the people who work at the coalface of the business are the ones who know which services and products work and more importantly which ones do not. They deal directly with the customers and will know before anyone else in the company when there is a problem or an issue. Quite frankly, their thoughts and views are vital when it comes to the future prosperity and performance of the business.

Here are two ways to make sure you stay in touch with your people on the ground.

Be approachable

Being approachable isn’t just about how you talk to people in the office it is about your general demeanour and manner. Some people don’t even know they are doing it but can give off all the wrong signals before they even engage in conservation. Rather than trying to dominate a situation, good bosses try to put people at ease.

It is important to let people know that you are there and ready to listen if employees feel the need to talk to you about an issue or a problem. Obviously, it would be unwise and unprofessional to try and be friends with everyone but at the same time you want people to get the right message from you.

At all the businesses I have owned, I make a conscious decision to not be holed away in my own office on another level or a separate part of the building. I am usually found on the same floor as everybody else, so my staff know they can come and ask me about anything.


Make people feel involved

There are obvious ways to keep lines of communication with your staff open including regular meetings in both formal and informal settings. There are certain process such as appraisals and staff reviews that, if done in a positive way, are perfect for talking to staff on a one to one basis.

But I also like to get those who work for me involved in meetings. During meetings I will ask people for their point of view on topics under discussion. There is nothing wrong with giving people within an organisation the chance to have a say and air their opinions provided it is done in a controlled and positive way.

Businesses are not a democracy and of course the management team are there to make the important decisions but I think it is a great idea to let people have their say. If employees know that you are willing to listen to them and value their opinions, then they are likely to respect you even more as a manager or decision maker.


The success of your business is clearly linked to the attitude of your workforce. In turn, their attitude is often determined by the message given by the people at the top. A good boss will recognise this and make sure they are constantly in touch with the people on the ground.

Posted by:James CaanJames Caan


How to optimise a BYOD environment

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How to optimise a BYOD environment
It’s taking over, so you have to manage it effectively

The use of BYOD (bring your own device) is rapidly expanding. According to a survey by mobility services and Wi-Fi company iPass, 90% of organisations will have to support BYOD by 2014. Indeed, analyst house Forrester predicts that two years later 350 million workers will use smartphones, 200 million of whom will take their own devices to the workplace.

In a white paper on BYOD, Dell states: “To implement a successful BYOD programme, CIOs need to first determine the end objective of implementing the programme and then build it up, so it fits into their larger business and IT strategy.”

This strategy will require a multifaceted approach to BYOD optimisation with several features:

  • Clearly defined security policies – As BYOD will include business and personal information, it is vital that staff adhere to a clearly defined security policy. This will include the use of encryption, virtualisation, virtual private networks and firewalls to protect sensitive data.
  • Application consistency – BYOD brings together apps and other installed software into one device. Which applications can and cannot be used should be clearly defined.
  • Network support – The use of virtualisation and remote access is commonplace with BYOD deployments. Businesses need to ensure their networks can efficiently manage the influx of new devices that BYOD will present.
  • Hardware replacement strategy – To ensure that BYOD is optimised, it is important to properly manage device replacement. Smartphones and tablet PCs change yearly, so it is vital that a clear upgrade policy is developed.
  • Assess the impact on business culture – Preventing BYOD from taking root in a business has been shown to be counterproductive and highly damaging for morale. Embracing BYOD and optimising its use deliver real world advantages.

Benefits and risks

BYOD will evolve hand-in-glove with the technology around it, and there will be new benefits and risks with every evolution and iteration. This makes it essential to adopt a BYOD model and infrastructure components that support the existing desktop now rather than be left behind.

A recent poll of IT executives conducted by Dell concluded: “An estimated three quarters of those polled stated that BYOD can only deliver massive benefits if the specific needs and rights of each user are understood; while only an estimated 17% of organisations encourage BYOD and actively manage any device employees wish to use – showing they really understand the need to empower employees.”

Optimising BYOD is about more than simply ensuring all devices are supported on a network and that robust security protocols are in place. A fully optimised BYOD environment also means a detailed user policy and an understanding of the dangers that it can bring.

Ultimately, empowering a workforce with BYOD means balancing network infrastructure, mobile applications security, regulatory compliance where this applies, and using training and education. These will help to get the most of a burgeoning trend that looks set to transform how businesses use information technology.


Google says outage is over

Brandon Griggs, CNN
By Brandon Griggs, CNN
Users in some parts of the United States could not access Google on Wednesday morning.
Users in some parts of the United States could not access Google on Wednesday morning.

  • Google’s Web services were down for some users Wednesday morning
  • Reports of outages began about 9:30 a.m. ET and lasted about an hour
  • Google said the issues affected users in four U.S. states but have been fixed
  • Twitter jokester: “Looks like the Mayans were only off by 6ish months… “

(CNN) — Google and related services were inaccessible to some users Wednesday morning, prompting confusion and consternation across the Web.

Reports of outages began by 9:30 a.m. ET and quickly spread on Twitter, with users asking if the problem was affecting others as well. By 10:35 a.m. ET, some users were reporting that Google was back up.

In an e-mail to CNN, Google said it received reports of problems with Google services from users in West Virginia, North Carolina, Nebraska and Georgia.

“However, the issue was quickly resolved and is now over. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused our users there,” Google said in a statement.

Wearable tech

Among the services affected were Gmail, Google Plus, Google Drive and YouTube. Google’s App Status Dashboard said the issues were fixed by 10:40 a.m. ET, but not before jokesters weighed in on Twitter.

Adam Sullivan, in one of many similar comments, tweeted, “If google is down… How will I ever google “why is google down?”

“Oh dear God it’s the end of humanity as we know. Need to go buy bread and milk.#googledown,” added Rebeccah Connelly.

The outage drove some users to rival search engine Bing, while prompting jokes on Twitter about the apocalypse.

“Looks like the Mayans were only off by 6ish months… ” quippedErica Arbetter.

“I feel a great disturbance, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. #googledown,” added Matt Braddick.

Others were stunned that Google, a foundation of the Internet for many users, could be shut down.

“Google is like Walmart and Waffle House. It’s supposed to be open 24/7. #GoogleDown,” wrote Grant McFerrin.


leadership and management training in the UK

Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of employers agree weaknesses in leadership and management in the UK are holding back company growth, according to new research published by Cranfield School of Management and learndirect.

Despite this, the study out today entitled: The new vocational currency: investing for success – shows only four in ten companies offer their staff training in these crucial skills.

The report examines the value of vocational qualifications to both individuals and employers and also looks at the issue of management skills in the UK, drawing on new research from You Gov.

It found more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of UK employers agree weaknesses in leadership and management skills are also preventing employees from reaching their full potential.

As a result the report recommends making management skills mandatory for all apprenticeship frameworks at level three and above.

Dr Emma Parry, reader in Human Resource Management at Cranfield School of Management and report co-author, said: “This research clearly shows that employers agree a lack of management training is having a negative impact on business growth and yet only four in ten companies offer their staff training in these crucial skills. It is clear from these results that vocational qualifications are strong currency in the UK employment market.

“British businesses have an opportunity to broaden their talent pool by recruiting more people who hold vocational qualifications and may have been overlooked in the past due to not having a degree. This research shows that employers regard vocational qualifications positively, so now has never been a matter time to study a vocational qualification.”

Other recommendations in the report include:

• Improving the status of vocational education and training in the UK – for example through a national government-led campaign and introducing a new duty on schools to provide information, advice and guidance on the full range of vocational options

• The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to work with industry bodies to improve UK management – including ensuring new government ministers and their shadows receive management training

Gill Craven, director of service development at learndirect, said: “There’s no doubt the government focus on vocational qualifications, particularly apprenticeships, is the right one to build a skills base for the UK which is fit to compete in the twenty-first century.

“However, the issue of poor leadership and management is holding back the success of both companies and individuals.  With the huge amounts of public funds being channelled into apprenticeships it makes sense to tackle this issue as well and make management a mandatory element at level three and above.”


Can Preschoolers Save Our Economy?

We all know the basic elements of an economic development plan: Entice companies to locate in your town or city, create industry and retail friendly zones, promote tourism, and pump up public-private partnerships.

But if you really want to see high returns on the investment of public funds into our economy it might be time to start thinking a little less about opportunity zones and a lot more about preschools.

That’s what Arthur J. Rolnick, senior fellow and co-director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, believes. I heard him speak at the recent meeting of the 2013 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America in Washington D.C., where experts testified on improving early childhood development to boost the health of our nation.

What does that have to do with the national economy? The link between health and early childhood development has become increasingly clear, with a growing body of evidence showing that toxic stress and other adverse experiences can affect the brain development of children, which in turn affects their economic productivity as adults.

The scientific research may be new, but the theory isn’t. And it certainly doesn’t apply only to the United States.

According to a recent article in the New York Times by economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, Japan successfully resolved in 1868, during the Meiji Restoration, to focus on the education and the health care of its people in order to catch up with the economic development of Europe. It did so again after World War II. In fact, Sen argues, poor public health care and poor education, and the lack of public investment in both, are historic reasons that India’s economic growth rate may never be a robust as China’s.

If we want to improve the health and the economic well-being of Americans, it would be wise to start with the youngest and most vulnerable among us.

In his testimony, Rolnick pointed to research indicating that investments in early childhood development made by governments in partnership with private firms and nonprofit foundations can produce “extraordinarily high economic returns” with “benefits that are low-risk and long-lived.”

His examples included cost-benefit analyses of several model preschool programs that have followed the lives of students well into adulthood. Programs such as the Perry Preschool Program in Michigan, North Carolina’s and the Chicago Child-Parent Centers have demonstrated that giving children educational support from birth until the age of 5 makes a significant difference.

“Without support during these early years, a child is more likely to drop out of school, depend on welfare benefits, and commit crime, thereby imposing significant costs on society,” Rolnick said.

The studies showed returns that ranged from $3 to $17 for every dollar invested in early childhood development programs. When adjusted for inflation, that translates into 7 to 18 percent.

“You won’t find a better investment,” Rolnick told the Commission.

I absolutely agree.