Clayton Christensen (Peter Foley/Bloomberg)
Clay Christensen is a gentle man, of devout Mormon faith, prone to sentimentality and beloved by many – not least for his lessons to students on how to find fulfilment, which he turned into an unexpected bestseller, How Will You Measure Your Life?
But the avuncular Harvard Business School star is hot under the collar about this week’s New Yorker attack on the book (The Innovator’s Dilemma) and theory (disruptive innovation) for which he is best known.
What seems to have made him particularly angry is the fact that the author, Jill Lepore, who is also a Harvard academic, did not drop by to chat to him about her detailed allegations that his theory does not stand up. Read more
Isis infographic detailing attacks by type (Institute for the Study of War)
Chilling though it is to read how the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) records its military and terrorist successes in a sort of company report, it is hardly surprising.
Isis, for all its brutality, is an organisation. Organisations need managing, and – in the words of management writer Peter Drucker – “what gets measured, gets managed”.
The Institute for the Study of War, the US-based group that analysed the Isis annual reports, actually headlined its briefing “Isis Annual Reports Reveal a Metrics-Driven Military Command”.
As interpreted by the institute, Isis’s metrics serve a similar purpose to those of a company. Read more
Since the financial crisis, the only politically palatable response to corporate malfeasance has been to add more pages to the rule book. Last week, for example, George Osborne, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, said he would make manipulation of foreign exchange and other benchmarks a criminal offence.
Outsiders have been marvelling at the uncanny skills of robots for decades. In 1978, commentators on the FT’s “Technical Page” were wowed by a machine called Puma (“programmable universal manipulator for assembly”) that had the “dexterity and accuracy [to] insert lamps into automobile instrument panels”. These days, Puma would look about as nimble as a first world war tank. My colleague Tanya Powley writes in the last of the FT’s series on robots at work that a Danish company has developed a machine that “can pack millions of eggs without crushing them”, while lightweight collaborative robots work alongside humans.
Missing, though, from most accounts of how automation will transform the workplace is a similar sense of wonder at the dexterity of managers as they adapt their human skills to the demands of the sophisticated machinery around them. Read more
I met Carey Eaton only once, at a conference five weeks ago in Switzerland, far from Kenya, where he grew up, lived and built a thriving internet business. He was engaging, upbeat and generous with his time and knowledge.
Spanish Crown Prince Felipe Photo: Reuters
A couple of royal handovers and a papal resignation and suddenly abdication – which used to have a near uniformly negative connotation – is all the rage. Read more
When tycoons and world leaders meet – as they will at a conference today on inclusive capitalism in London, featuring the Prince of Wales, Bill Clinton and Christine Lagarde – you never see them exchange cards. If they do, I doubt they hang on to them. At the end of an international gathering a couple of years ago, someone went to check a billionaire speaker’s room in case he had left anything behind. The guest had tidied it himself – bed made, furniture neatly arranged. The only evidence of his stay was in the bin: business cards from dozens of hopeful high-level networkers.
Self-castration was such a popular path to a high-flying advisory career in China’s imperial court that the Ming dynasty ended up having to employ lots of eunuchs it could not afford.
Colin Fan, co-head of Deutsche Bank’s investment bank, is about to become very famous. His short video sternly admonishing traders for their online conduct and warning them that being “boastful, indiscreet and vulgar” will have “serious consequences for you personally” is certain to go viral.
Doubtless, plenty of investment banking and trading veterans will say he is trying to sap trading floors of their very lifeblood. Where would the City, Wall Street and even Frankfurt be without a certain amount of boastfulness, indiscretion and vulgarity? Well, not as deep in the reputational hole they currently find themselves, I would say. Read more
Clayton Christensen: straight talking on complex ideas about innovation Photo: Bloomberg
And still they come. The stream of articles, books and research purporting to tell people how to innovate is unending. But is there anything new in innovation?
A lot of what is sold as new thinking is actually “people applying their own language to something that isn’t really different from what has been applied before”. That is the view of Scott Anthony, a Singapore-based partner at Innosight, the consultancy co-founded by Clayton Christensen – an acknowledged master of using straightforward language to help business people understand complex ideas on innovation. Read more
Early in her career at Apollo Hospitals, Preetha Reddy, then aged 30, went to question a senior doctor. Affronted about being interrogated by a manager half his age, he quit the next day. It taught Ms Reddy, now managing director of the Indian healthcare group, to practise “the art of listening” before confronting a more experienced team member with new ideas.
Graves at the Père-Lachaise-cemetery in Paris
I’ve been wondering about the most suitable place to commemorate the death of the Omnicom-Publicis deal. How about Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, where Oscar Wilde and The Doors’ Jim Morrison are buried?
A photo of Maurice Lévy and John Wren, respectively the bosses of Publicis and Omnicom, thumbing their noses at each other against a backdrop of moss-covered tombs would be just as appropriate in its way as the infamous deal-announcement image of the two men toasting one another, with the Arc de Triomphe in the background. Read more
Apparently size matters in assessing business culture. The latest Populus opinion poll for the FT says 61 per cent of British voters want the party that wins the next election to be tougher on “big business”.
This result raises all sorts of questions – and not only for the political parties, which appear to be drawing up the battle-lines over how to treat business. With British elections one year away, it underlines, for example, that companies need to recalibrate their strategies to deal with political risk on the home front. It also makes me wonder how British people, let alone their elected representatives, define “big business”. Read more
The recent history of Britain’s Co-operative Group is so peculiar it is tempting to paraphrase the opening lines of Anna Karenina – “Happy companies are all alike and every unhappy company is unhappy in its own way” – and dismiss it as a management aberration.
Rajeev Suri, newly appointed head of Nokia, has plenty to tackle at the Finnish group, but one challenge relates to the part of the business he no longer oversees – the handset business that has finally transferred to Microsoft’s ownership.
As head of Nokia Solutions and Networks, Mr Suri developed the telecoms equipment business, which now makes up the largest part of “new Nokia”, more or less autonomously from the devices business. Its culture is likely to dominate the Finnish group as it now evolves. But what of the deep-rooted residual link with the handsets in our pockets?
Even if the Nokia brand is quickly stripped from smartphones, I wonder whether the Finnish group will experience the business equivalent of “phantom limb syndrome” – twitching and wincing as though the amputated devices arm is still attached to the rest of the body corporate. Read more