Once upon a time, a worried manager realised staff were ignoring his instructions. He paid a handsome fee to sages and soothsayers, who advised him to use a compelling tale to season the facts and figures he wanted his team to digest. And so, business storytelling was born and spread throughout the land.
Delivering a TED talk has been a passport to fame for an elite band of academics. According to an FT book review at the weekend, one who is well placed to make that step up is Nicholas Epley, a behavioural science professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Prof Epley’s recently published book Mindwise looks at how difficult it is to understand what others are thinking. In the FT review, Julian Baggini commends him for rejecting the “folk wisdom” that suggests this can be overcome by merely trying to place yourself in the other person’s shoes.
A TED talk for Prof Epley would be “well-merited”, the review concludes, albeit after exhibiting a certain amount of exasperation with the “smart thinking” publishing genre to which Mindwise belongs.
FT readers don’t need to wait for a TED talk though. Back in 2008, Prof Epley delivered a series of three excellent video lectures for us covering bias in decision making, how to read colleagues’ minds (or at least try to) and how to motivate staff. Read more
Unless Euan Sutherland’s resignation letter is published in full, the context of his claim that the Co-operative Group, where he is chief executive, is “ungovernable” will remain unclear. But it is a strange declaration for any professional manager to make: cats are ungovernable; humans, however cussed and contrary, generally do respond to direction. How they are directed is another matter.
The Co-op is a strange beast, as the saga over Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers’ appointment and eventual disgrace revealed. But I think Mr Sutherland has been doing a decent job of taming it. He took some flak last month for appearing to ask Co-op members – and the general public – how the group should be run, rather than setting his own strategy. I read this, however, as a clever combination of an advertising campaign, an opinion poll, and a response to those insiders who disliked his management style. Read more
At 78, Carl Icahn shows little sign of retiring, or of becoming more polite. After finally prodding Forest Labs into a $25bn takeover by Actavis, he renewed his attack on eBay this week, accusing John Donahoe, its chief executive, of being “completely asleep or, even worse, either naive or wilfully blind”.
Punish the unpunctual: Ben Horowitz (Getty)
Andreessen Horowitz, the Californian venture capital investor, is strict about ensuring that its staff do not keep entrepreneurs waiting.
Ben Horowitz, the firm’s rap-loving co-founder, has revealed that latecomers to its pitch meetings are fined $10 a minute. The penalty for getting caught using a smartphone or computer is $100, meanwhile.
Mr Horowitz told this week’s Startup Grind conference that the stance was a product of his own experience of building a business (he helped create Opsware, sold to HP for $1.6bn in 2007 before founding the VC firm with Marc Andreessen). Read more
The eulogies last week for Justin King, outgoing chief executive of J Sainsbury, make clear he won his crown as Britain’s most successful grocer by reconnecting with his loyal subjects – the shoppers – after years of neglect. But his abdication as chief executive of the country’s second-largest supermarket chain, after a decade in charge, is a good moment to ask whether customer loyalty really matters any more.
Following the recent news that some investment banks had decided to make working conditions more palatable for junior employees, one former intern emailed the FT a poem he wrote last summer while completing a stint at a bank.
On rings the cow bell,
Bringing cattle to their shed
Buy sell, buy sell
Work, work, work until you’re dead.
Paul Flowers: tests put the board off the scent
The idea that Paul Flowers – the disgraced former chairman of the UK’s Co-operative Bank – might have got the job largely because he aced a set of psychometric tests is, on the face of it, astonishing. As we now know, the Methodist minister had little previous banking experience and is being investigated for allegedly buying illegal drugs.
But unfortunately it is increasingly easy for executives to allow the apparent certainty of test data to overrule more subtle and more serious concerns visible to mere human beings. Read more