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Archive for the 'Columbia Business School Publishing' Category

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Moralism and the Facts — The Pillars of Paul Cabot’s Investment Strategy

Passion for Reality, Michael YoggWe conclude our week-long feature on Passion for Reality: The Extraordinary Life of the Investing Pioneer Paul Cabot, with an excerpt from the epilogue. In these excerpts, Yogg considers some of the core values that shaped Cabot’s investment strategy and what it might mean for today’s investors:

Two modes of thought shaped Paul Cabot’s approach to investments and the conduct of his business: moralism, inherited largely from his fam­ily and the culture of Boston; and empiricism, a demand for the facts, a trait he was probably born with but which was reinforced by his education and his experience in the stock market. He was not unique in this, but Paul also had the self-confidence and the passion to challenge the prevailing business culture and move to change it.

When confronted with wrongdoing, Paul often displayed the mindset of a Massachusetts Puritan of an earlier era, even though his lifestyle was far from puritanical and he was not overly religious. When he discovered price manipulation of trust shares, he gave a speech that sounded in parts like a jeremiad. When the perpetrators tried to have him silenced, he “flamed up. (He) got so goddamn mad.” It was truly righteous anger. Echoing the early Puritans, he believed that if sinners were tolerated, they would—at least figuratively—bring God’s wrath down on the entire com­munity. Referring to the abuses of the British trusts of the nineteenth century, he declared in 1928 that “unless we avoid these and other errors and false principles we shall inevitably go through a similar period of disaster and disgrace. If such a period should come, the well run trusts would suffer with the bad as they did in England forty years ago.”

Most of the specific abuses that Paul objected to—price manipulation, dumping unwanted securities into mutual fund portfolios, unnecessarily complicated and deliberately confusing capital structures—were breaches of fiduciary duty, instances in which a manager put his own interests above those of the client. Takeovers in which a financially-driven conglomerate took over businesses it did not fully understand were another concern. There was a sense in New England and elsewhere, both before and during Paul’s day, that people should stick to their business, do what they do best, and not buy something merely because the acquisition would increase reported profits. He compared the takeovers of the 1960s to various past financial scandals, “all born of greed and lust for power.”

Paul’s lack of greed complemented his moralism. He was known for his frugality and even ridiculed for it. While writing this, I heard for the first time the story of how he raced a neighbor to the back of a Needham supermarket to grab the last loaf of discounted day-old bread. But being frugal and unostentatious meant he had no need for great wealth and was not even tempted to break the rules governing a fiduciary’s conduct. Unlike many financial executives during the 1982–2000 boom and since, he lived in the same world as his clients—wealthier than most but not or­ders of magnitude wealthier. It also meant he was not likely to get caught up in the greed-driven, frenzied last stages of a bull market….


Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Paul Cabot’s Jeremiad

In the following passage from Passion for Reality: The Extraordinary Life of the Investing Pioneer Paul Cabot, Michael Yogg examines Paul Cabot’s ideas about reform for the financial industry and the characteristics of a good investment manager. He also looks at some of the parallels between Cabot’s time of the late 1920s and 1930s and our present time:

Passion for Reality: The Extraordinary Life of the Investing Pioneer Paul CabotWhen a country loses its common sense and confidence, as America did in the late 1920s and the 1930s, it takes hundreds of clear-thinking leaders in government and the private sector to establish the rules, formal and informal, through which society rebuilds and functions. [Sidney Weinberg, head of Goldman Sachs] was one of those leaders. Paul was another….

For Paul, clarity, simplicity, and honesty were inextricably linked. He knew that a trust with an excessively complicated capital structure oft en had trustees who did not know what they were doing or had something to hide—in other words, trustees who were something less than able and honest. This is what lay behind Paul’s preference for the Boston-type open-end fund, with its one class of shares leading to all shareholders being treated equally. It is also why this type of fund accounts for almost all mutual funds today.

Among the many parallels between the late 1920s and late 1990s was the formation of exceedingly complicated investment funds whose structures of­fended the common sense of the clearest thinkers of their day. When Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM) sought the aid and the capital of Warren Buffett during its crisis, Buffett’s objection to the fund—according to Roger Lowenstein, biographer of Buffett and chronicler of the LTCM saga—was the overly complicated structure. If it took hours for Paul to figure out how profits were divided by some of the trusts of his day, he would have required months to understand LTCM’s capital structure or Enron’s deals with special-purpose partnerships owned and controlled by its own corpo­rate officers. He would not have been tempted by either of these “opportu­nities,” so popular with “sophisticated” investors at the end of the century.

Both 1929 and 2000 marked peaks in what Galbraith refers to as the “bezzle, an inventory of undiscovered embezzlement,” which is a measure of corruption that is as cyclical as any financial index. In prosperous times, when people are making money, they relax and look less critically at ex­actly how it is being made. Unscrupulous operators take advantage of this by perpetrating various types of fraud and “the bezzle increases rapidly,” according to Galbraith. When the prosperous times end, everything goes into reverse. Investors are more skeptical, even suspicious. Morality im­proves and the “bezzle” shrinks. The stock market boom and the ensuing crash caused a traumatic exaggeration of these normal relationships.


Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Michael Yogg — Investment Profession Should Learn from Industry Pioneer who Spoke Out

“The investment profession must do a better job of policing its own or face the loss of public trust and ever more draconian regulation.”—Michael Yogg

The following post is by Michael Yogg, author of Passion for Reality: The Extraordinary Life of the Investing Pioneer Paul Cabot:

Passion for Reality: The Extraordinary Life of the Investing Pioneer Paul Cabot“The manager was a horse’s ass of the first order. The most responsible job I ever had was going out and getting him a box of cigars.” Paul Cabot, the legendary investor and mutual fund pioneer, was recalling his first job after graduating from Harvard Business School in 1923, at an American bank in London. It was undemanding and left him time to pursue a personal interest, the study of British investment trusts. Cabot came from a well connected family, and he contacted a friend, Junius Morgan, grandson of J.P. Morgan, who introduced him to Robert Fleming, a bond investor and investment trust entrepreneur who had teamed up with the elder Morgan to help finance American railroads.

Fleming tutored Cabot on every aspect of his business; but Cabot had his own ideas. He was the son of a Boston trustee and, unlike Fleming, was comfortable investing in stocks, which he believed had superior long-term return prospects. He returned to Boston in late 1923 as stocks, in his words, “were just coming into fashion to be considered respectable moneymaking investments….I wasn’t a damn bit interested in bonds.”

The next year Cabot, and two others, founded a mutual fund. They established an extraordinary investment record, primarily because—taking a cue from J.P. Morgan—they were among the very few in the 1920’s to regularly visit the companies they invested in. As the bull market grew into a mania, Cabot’s London training really began to pay off. He had studied the scandals as well as the successes of the British trusts. When he saw the same abuses occurring in the U.S.—price manipulation, dumping of unwanted securities into mutual funds, deliberately complicated and confusing capital structures—he was among the first to recognize them, certainly the first to publicize them.

In 1928 he addressed a group of bankers and identified these abuses, without identifying the abusers. But one of them correctly concluded it was a target and threatened to remove its deposits from National Shawmut Bank, where Cabot was a director, unless the bank silenced him. As Cabot remembered it, “I flamed up. I got so goddamn mad I said, why the sons of bitches, ….I’ll show them how I’m going to be shut up. I trotted up to the Atlantic Monthly, the editor of which happened to be my uncle, and gave him this speech and he published it.” When the market crashed and more scandals surfaced, Cabot became well known for his prescience, integrity, and investment acumen, a reputation that endured and deepened over the years.


Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Interview with Michael Yogg, author of “Passion for Reality: The Extraordinary Life of the Investing Pioneer Paul Cabot”

Passion for Reality, Michael YoggThe following is an interview with Michael Yogg, author of Passion for Reality: The Extraordinary Life of the Investing Pioneer Paul Cabot. Find out how to win a FREE copy of Passion for Reality!

Question: Why did you chose to write about Paul Cabot?

Michael Yogg: I knew Paul for the last 16 years of his life (1978-1994) and worked for his company for nearly two decades. I’ve spent most of my life in the investment business but have been trained as both an historian and an investor. Paul was an important pioneer of the mutual fund industry in the 1920s, when he was also known for his denunciations of corruption on Wall Street. He had a major hand in crafting New Deal securities legislation, including the Investment Company Act of 1940, which is still fundamental to mutual fund regulation. He was an extraordinary investor, in part due to his insistence on meeting managements face-to-face, long before most of his competitors did so. He also was among the first to value stocks on earnings, their price/earnings ratio and growth rate, rather than the more traditional dividend yield that had prevailed before the mid-1920s. He quintupled the Harvard endowment when he was treasurer. And he was a tough, no-nonsense corporate director. But the most important reason for the book is who he was, not what he did, his personality and his character.

Q: Tell us more about that.

MY: Paul received a traditional, upper-class Boston Brahmin upbringing, and this shaped his character. But he was also an iconoclast, a rebel really; his personality and his strong will made him stand out. When he discovered dishonest behavior he became incensed. In spite of all the ethical problems we face in the financial markets today, no one gets as angry as Paul did when he detected and publicized mutual fund price manipulation, and when the perpetrators tried to shut him up by pressuring a bank where he was a director. “I flamed up. I got so god damned mad.” His morality and his temper extended to his private life. When he was reprimanded for bringing his close friend Sidney Weinberg, a Jew who was then head of Goldman Sachs, to his private club, his response was to tell the club president to stick the club up his ass. And Paul promptly resigned. He accomplished more than his contemporaries because of his stubbornness and what today is called “out-of-the-box” thinking.


Monday, February 10th, 2014

Book Giveaway!: Passion for Reality: The Extraordinary Life of Investing Pioneer Paul Cabot

Passion for Reality: The Extraordinary Life of the Investing Pioneer Paul Cabot, Michael Yogg

This week we will be featuring Passion for Reality: The Extraordinary Life of the Investing Pioneer Paul Cabot, by Michael Yogg on our blog, twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Passion for Reality: The Extraordinary Life of the Investing Pioneer Paul Cabot to a lucky winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and indicate your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, February 14th at 3:00 pm.

Paul Cabot (1898–1994) was an innovative mutual fund manager and executive known for his strong character, charismatic personality, and trendsetting financial achievements. Iconoclastic and rebellious, Cabot broke free from the Boston Brahmin trustee mold to pursue new ways of investing and serving investment clients.

For more on the book, you can also read the introduction or preview the book.

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

August Turak on the Myth of Personal Development

Columbia Business School Publishing

August Turak, Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO's Quest for Meaning and AuthenticityIn a recent article for Forbes, August Turak, author of Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO’s Quest for Meaning and Authenticity (Columbia Business School Publishing), takes a closer look at what is meant by “personal development” and how it is frequently misunderstood.

In interviews about the book, Turak is frequently asked “What do you do for personal development?” However, how most people think about personal development in a business context is different from Turak’s view. While many tend to think of it as a means to success, Turak believes personal development is the end. Turak explains:

“Personal development” is compartmentalized; it becomes something we do off the clock and in our spare time in order to “get ahead” in the “real world.” Slowly and unwittingly we become like the real estate agent who religiously accompanies his family to church only because being perceived as a family oriented, God fearing man is “good for business.”

This entire world view tragically puts the proverbial cart before the horse. Whether you call it personal development, personal growth, self-actualization, self-transcendence, or spirituality does not matter. What matters is realizing that the reason you were born is to become the best human being you can possibly be. Personal development is not a tool for reaching a bigger goal. Becoming a complete human being is already the biggest and most noble goal you can aspire to.


Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks Shortlisted for a Best Business Book of 2013!

Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks, August TurakInterest and excitement for August Turak’s Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO’s Quest for Meaning and Authenticity continues to grow.

The book was recently shortlisted by 800-CEO-READ as one of the best business books of 2013 for the management category. As explained in the nomination, “the book’s message is clear and as business-centric as they come: you don’t need to be focused on money to make money, but instead be clear about your purpose.”

Turak was also recently interviewed for the podcast Entrepreneur of Fire , in which he discussed the factors that led him to be a successful entrepreneur.

Finally, in a recent post for the Huffington Post, Turak Tprovided a list of 9 principles of building an authentic business. These principles, developed with his partners, emphasized that success could also come with service and selflessness. The following is an excerpt from that list:

Our first principle was setting a company culture where personal growth, honesty, integrity, and selflessly putting people first were more important than making money.

Our second principle was high expectations. Starting a business based on higher values didn’t mean setting low bars and rationalizing away failure as just one of the inevitable costs of trying to do authentic business in a profane world. Instead, if we were truly in business for a higher purpose, our goals should be higher than the goals of those who were simply in it for the money. For example, we decided to begin work each morning at seven-thirty in order to get a jump start on those heathens better known as the competition. We maintained that start time for the next seven years.

Our third principle was compassion. This didn’t mean that we would never fire anyone. It meant that we would do everything we could to help everyone get over the bar — without lowering the bar. While more would be expected of some than of others, all would be expected to carry his or her own weight….


Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Video: Jeanne Liedtka on Design Thinking

In the following video, Jeanne Liedtka, coauthor of Solving Problems with Design Thinking: Ten Stories of What Works describes the book and how design thinking offers businesses new ways of tackling problems. As she explains the effectiveness of design thinking is exemplified in the success of such design-oriented companies as Apple and Ideo.

For more on design thinking, you can visit the Coursera page for the class Design Thinking for Business Innovation.

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Watson on Jeopardy! And IBM’s Decision to Put Him There

Of course one of the most prominent examples of congitive computing is Watson’s famous victory on Jeopardy!. Below is a video produced by Engadget that documents Watson’s appearance with Ken Jennings, Alex Trebek, et al. And below that is an excerpt from Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing, by John E. Kelly and Steve Hamm. In the excerpt Kelly and Hamm reveal the fascinating story behind the creation of Watson and the decision to put it on Jeopardy!

Excerpt from Smart Machines:

The Watson project got its start in a surprising way. In the fall of 2004, IBM’s head of computing systems soft­ware, Charles Lickel, traveled from his home in Tucson to spend the day with a small team he managed at an IBM facility in Poughkeepsie, New York. At the end of the workday, the team gathered at the nearby Sapore Steak-house for dinner. They were bemused when, at seven p.m. sharp, many of the diners abruptly got up from their tables, rushed into the bar, and clustered excitedly around the TVs. One of Charles’s guys explained that they were watching long-time champion Ken Jennings defend his title on Jeopardy!

Charles hadn’t followed Jeopardy! for years, but the scene made an impression on him. A few months later, research director Paul Horn asked his lieutenants to think up a high-profile project that the lab could take on that would demonstrate IBM’s scientific and technological prowess. The company calls these its “grand challenges.” The previous grand challenge had been a huge success: IBM’s Deep Blue computer had beaten the world’s top chess grand master in a highly publicized match in the mid-1990s. But a lot of time had passed since that victory.

During one of the brainstorming sessions aimed at picking the company’s next grand challenge, Charles suggested building a computer that could compete on Jeopardy! IBM has long used man-versus-machine games to moti­vate scientists, focus research, and engage the public. In the early 1960s, IBM researcher Arthur Samuel, the AI pio­neer, created one of the first computer programs capable of learning when he wrote a checkers-playing program designed to run on the 701, IBM’s first commercial com­puter. Samuel challenged one of the top U.S. checkers champions to a match—and won. IBM researcher Gerry Tesauro in the late 1980s developed a program called TD-Gammon, which used a technique called temporal differ­ence learning to teach itself how to play backgammon. It was competitive in matches with some of the world’s top backgammon players.


Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Steve Hamm on Smart Machines and the Era of Cognitive Computing

Yesterday we heard from John E. Kelly III in a lengthy conversation about his experience as a researcher at IBM and his take on the history of computing as well as his vision of its future. Today we hear from the co-author of Smart Machines: IBM’s and the Era of Cognitive Computing, Steve Hamm.

In the interview, Hamm considers how congnitive computing represent the third stage in the evolution of computers. He also explains how these new “smart machines” are different than their predecessors and particularly equipped for the age of big data:

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Video: John Kelly Discusses Cognitive Computing and Watson at the Computer History Museum

John Kelly III, co-author of Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing, discusses IBM’s Watson and cognitive computing as well as other topics ranging from his background and the path that led him to IBM and the history of research there to the newest lab in Nairobi, Kenya.

The discussion was part of an event at the Computer History Museum:

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Interview with Steve Hamm, coauthor of Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing

Smart Machines, Steve Hamm and John KellIn the following interview, Steve Hamm coauthor of Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing, discusses cognitive computing and how it is changing the work and research being done at IBM and elsewhere:

Q: What is the era of cognitive computing?

Steve Hamm: John Kelly and other leaders at IBM believe that we’re on the cusp of a new era in computing. Scientists at IBM and elsewhere are creating machines that sense, learn, reason and interact with people in new ways. These machines will help people overcome our mental biases and penetrate complexity so we can make better decisions.

You can think of a cognitive system as a truly intelligent assistant that helps individuals live and work more successfully, and that helps organizations become more efficient and effective. The implications are huge for individuals, businesses and society as a whole. With these technologies, we will be able to make the world work better and more sustainably.

Q: Is IBM Watson a cognitive computer?

SH: Scientists in IBM Research see Watson as a transitional technology. Using machine learning, natural language processing and statistical techniques, they were able to achieve an amazing feat: to beat two past grand-champions at the TV quiz show Jeopardy! Watson represents a major first step toward the era of cognitive systems—and, in fact, the Watson technology of today is much improved over the technology that was showcased on Jeopardy!

However, scientists at IBM and elsewhere are working on advances in a wide range of technology fields, including learning systems, information management, and hardware systems design, which will ultimately produce computers that are very different from today’s machines. They will operate more like the human brain works, though they will be by no means a replacement for human intelligence. They’ll be extremely powerful yet also extremely power efficient.


Monday, October 21st, 2013

Book Giveaway! Win a Free Copy of “Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing”

Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing

“We are at the dawn of a major shift in the evolution of technology,” write John E. Kelly III and Steve Hamm in their new book Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing,

The victory of IBM’s Watson on Jeopardy! revealed how scientists and engineers at IBM and elsewhere are pushing the boundaries of science and technology to create machines that sense, learn, reason, and interact with people in new ways to provide insight and advice. These changes are explored in Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing, which we be featuring throughout the week on our blog, twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Smart Machines to a lucky winner.

To enter our Book Giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday, October 25 at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Friday, October 4th, 2013

King: Four Design Thinking Tools for Engaging Your Team


This week our featured book is Solving Problems with Design Thinking: Ten Stories of What Works, by Jeanne Liedtka, Andrew King, and Kevin Bennett.

Today, we feature a Aug 2013 article by Andrew King, co-author of “Solving Problems with Design Thinking: 10 Stories of What Works.” (And don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of the book!)

King begins by setting the foundation of design thinking and its importance in solving problems. He states that bigger, complex problems usually start out as simpler and smaller issues and solving them requires creativity through design and implementation. Such creativity emerges from thinking uniquely about the data related to the issues.

Design thinking is a method for understanding complex problems – to really get at their genesis – and developing ways to eliminate or, better yet, leverage those problems into novel solutions. While this still sounds cryptic and too-good-to-be-true, these tools can sharpen your creativity to help you uncover obscured facts and use your knowledge in new ways.

In order to harness this creativity at a managerial level, King outlines four design thinking tools that will help to improve business operations and drive innovation.

Journey mapping is the art of observing what is really going on. Journey mapping requires careful investigation of the process.

Mind mapping is a method for finding useful patterns hiding in lots of noisy data. You have to help your team articulate those ideas and capture them. After many rounds of sharing ideas and letting everyone build on ideas, you’ll be able to see a rich set of patterns. Use the patterns to isolate problems.

Hypothesis generation is about figuring out what creates the problems and how to solve them. Figuring out if a hypothesis holds water is easier and more productive than starting at this point to create The Solution based only on the data that you have so far.

Prototyping helps you prove or disprove the hypotheses. You can prototype anything including processes. Prototypes generate hard data, not ephemeral comments about ‘good ideas.’ Prototypes are ideas that you and your team touch and are often underestimated beyond the world of product design.

King exemplifies the application of these design thinking tools with case studies from his upcoming book. He states that “our research with high performing teams at large multinational companies like Toyota and IBM all the way to non-profit organizations that have used design thinking, has uncovered many team enhancements.”

In addition, King highlights the fact that the success of these tools requires the participation of the entire team as the collaboration and feedback between the team members promotes new ideas and solutions.

King concludes by stating that a company’s focus is solely on the solution and truly innovative solutions emerge from conscious problem solving and paying attention to cure the problem rather than trying to find a quick fix solution: “It takes a creative managers to engage their teams deeply, and that deep engagement engenders trust and sense of purpose.”

For full article view, please click here.

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Kevin Bennett on How Design Thinking Leads to Better Planning

Solving Problems with Design Thinking

In an August 2013 Forbes article Kevin Bennett, co-author with Jeanne Liedtka and Andrew King of of Solving Problems with Design Thinking: 10 Stories of What Works,” explains how design thinking can create a better understanding of today to get a better tomorrow. (And don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of the book!)

Bennett begins by laying out the foundation of our thinking and how we approach problems in our life. There is a set origin, A, and a final destination, B. Our efforts lie in reaching point B from point A as soon as possible, with optimal investment of time and resources. This specific construct, as Bennett describes, is evident in all spheres of our thinking, whether it be in business or personal life: “Early in life we are taught to chase one ‘B’ after another, whether applying to college or jobs or getting to retirement, we are constantly chasing the ‘B’ just over the horizon. The same applies to business. We periodically set goals and then set out chasing them, trying to stay just ahead of the market.”

He stresses on the importance of focusing on our starting point, A, so we know where we are coming from as well as gain a solid understanding of our own self in relation to the world. He sheds light on two keys terminologies to enhance our understanding with regards to design thinking—journey mapping and mind mapping:

Design thinking guides us through an archeological dig to better understand “A” with a sense of openness to exploration and discovery. In this archeological dig, design thinking takes up ethnographic research tools to help us truly understand customers and other stakeholders. “Journey mapping” enables us to map other people’s personal experiences by walking in their shoes. “Mind mapping” allows us to understand the values, assumptions, beliefs and expectations of individuals, to see the world through their eyes as they walk through their journeys.


Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Jeanne Liedtka on the “Moses Myth” of Innovation

Solving Problems with Design Thinking

Today we continue our week-long feature of Solving Problems with Design Thinking: Ten Stories of What Works, by Jeanne Liedtka, Andrew King, and Kevin Bennett and published by Columbia Business School Publishing. (And don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of the book!)

In a September 2013 Bloomberg Businessweek article Jeanne Liedtka contests the “The Moses Myth” which suggests that “innovation is the miracle that results when a special person raises his or her hands to the heavens and the Red Sea parts, or the iPod (AAPL) is born.” Liedtka claims that companies should not wait for such a miracle man to make the innovation possible and that all managers can be inculcated with the right guidance to produce such “miracles” and bring forth innovation in their companies.

This is where Liedtka jumps into the concept of design thinking, “Design thinking gives us the ability to do just that in the form of a reliable set of processes and tools. Though it sounds mysterious, design thinking is just another approach to problem solving, an especially effective one if your goal is innovation.”

She supports this central idea by presenting a few examples of how design thinking supports innovation, as well as providing solutions to their business needs and problems:

IBM (IBM) reframed the challenge of transforming its trade show booths from traditional Las Vegas-style glitz—one-way monologues by which companies hawk their wares at attendees—to an environment that promotes a dialogue with potential clients. To accomplish this, the company garnered insights from conversations with a diverse set of outside experts (from Montessori’s founder to neuroscientists) and then tested the new concepts at a financial services show. The result: much deeper customer engagement leading to significantly more “hot leads” and higher revenue generation.

Suncorp (SUN:AU), one of Australia’s largest financial services companies, was able to speed up the post-merger integration of two very different cultures in the insurance industry. They did this by using the metaphor of a thriving city, inviting employees to design their own neighborhoods within it. Sounds wacky? Yes, but the exercise produced a more than 60 percent increase in employees’ understanding and ownership of the new strategy.

Liedtka concludes by suggesting that such an approach can make a remarkable difference in the way we do business, especially since it deals with the specific sets of tools and concepts that designers frequently use but is not very well-known as a means of innovation by business managers: “These tools emphasize attention to developing deep user-driven insights as the basis for envisioning new possibilities, engaging a broader group of stakeholders in co-creation, and then prototyping hypothesized solutions and testing these in small-scale experiments.”

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Design Thinking for the Financial Industry via “Solving Problems with Design Thinking”

This week our featured book is Solving Problems with Design Thinking: Ten Stories of What Works, by Jeanne Liedtka, Andrew King, and Kevin Bennett. In the following excerpt from the book, the authors provide a case study of design thinking in the financial industry.

(And don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of the book!)

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Book Giveaway: Solving Problems with Design Thinking


This week our featured book is Solving Problems with Design Thinking: Ten Stories of What Works, by Jeanne Liedtka, Andrew King, and Kevin Bennett. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author here on our blog as well as on Twitter feed and Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Solving Problems with Design Thinking. To enter our Book Giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on October 4th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

August Turak Unplugged

Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks

This week our featured book is Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO’s Quest for Meaning, by August Turak. Turak is a successful entrepreneur, corporate executive, and award-winning writer. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Selling Magazine, the New York Times, and Business Week. He is also a popular leadership contributor at Forbes.com. His website is www.augustturak.com. Today we have a collection of some recent interviews by Mr. Turak. First, we have a short video in which he speaks about some of the ideas contained in Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks.

Next, we have an interview with Mr. Turak from WNYC’s The Takeaway, in which he tells us “why we should pay closer attention to the motivation behind our work and the business skills you can learn from examining the principles of Trappist monks.”

And finally, you can click here to watch Mr. Turak speaking with Jordan Goodman at The Money Answers Show on why success in business does not necessitate sacrificing ethics or happiness for profit.

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

August Turak: The Power of Trust

Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks

This week our featured book is Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO’s Quest for Meaning, by August Turak. Turak is a successful entrepreneur, corporate executive, and award-winning writer. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Selling Magazine, the New York Times, and Business Week. He is also a popular leadership contributor at Forbes.com. His website is www.augustturak.com. In today’s post, Turak provides some of the lessons on trust that he learned in his time with the Trappist monks of Mepkin Abbey, and he explains how trust is crucial to the success of both individuals and corporations in capitalism.

Be sure to enter our Book Giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks!

The Power of Trust
August Turak

Sooner or later every executive realizes that 99 percent of the people she depends on for success don’t report to her. The success of every CEO depends far more on vendors, stockholders, board members, regulators, politicians, strategic partners, the financial community, the media, and customers than it does on the relatively small number of paid employees that report to her either directly or indirectly. Leadership relies on persuasion and persuasion relies on trust. As another example, few people realize that the all-important corporate profit-and-loss statement (P&L) contains no cash or real money. It consists primarily of accounts receivable and accounts payable, which in turn are merely the promises that others make to pay us and the promises we make to pay others at some future date. Without the trust that underlies these promises commerce would grind to a halt.