Paul Allen – a good man gone too soon; The Excellence Divide; Days of Disruption; Not the Peak – The Prep; Econ Recon

“It is not enough to do your best. 
You must know WHAT do, and THEN do your best.”

(emphasis added)

“A Nice Man, Gone Too Soon”

Sadly, we live too much in a “winner take all world,” and this applies as much to fame in business as in other fields. To wit:  the passing of Paul Allen who co-founded Microsoft and thereby the computer revolution of the past forty years. Bill Gates (the other Microsoft co-founder) and Steve Jobs, who led Apple, are the names we most associate with personal computing, but it was the older Allen who stoked Gates’ early (junior high school) interest in computers and then convinced him the time was right for the personal computer. Allen’s vision and sense of urgency led Gates to drop out of Harvard to launch Microsoft.

Allen left Microsoft in 1983 to fight, and for many years held at bay, the cancer that recently returned and claimed him a few days ago at age 65. His vast wealth led him to support and invest in a number of different ventures and causes from the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers to SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). You can learn more about his post- Microsoft life in technology blogger Robert X. Cringely’s tribute to Allen  and  Bill Gates’ reflections on Allen’s passing.

Gates noted that as far as Microsoft was concerned, “Microsoft would have never happened without Paul.”

I am hopeful that as you read this blog, and do lots of other stuff on your computer, you recognize that the current state of our technology-based world it is due in large measure to the vision and genius of Paul Allen. Perhaps even more important, as Mr. Cringely says, “Allen was a nice man gone too soon.”

Rest in Peace, Paul Allen, and thank you!

“The Excellence Dividend”

If you began your career in the 70’s or 80’s, the business book everyone was reading was Tom Peters’ “In Search of Excellence” which looked at how successful companies executed strategies in an enduring way. With several decades of additional study of successful companies under his belt, Mr. Peters is back with a new offering: “The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work that Wows and Jobs that Last.” This short blog posting reviews the book and points out five practices that C-Level executives routinely screw up.and  two massively under-served markets that may deserve your attention. 

Days of Disruption:
More than Catching a Wave

Netlfix comes to mind when we think of disruption of established business models;\: in the latest case
Hollywood Studios. Netflix’ success seems to some as just being in the right place at the right time and as surfers say, “catching a wave.” It’s always hard to untangle the relative influence of luck versus skill, and luck had to play some role for Netflix, but this short blog posting from HBR summarizes how the company deliberately, systematically, and intelligently entered 190 companies in seven years.

Learn about its two-step process of how it decided where and when to expand, and how it worked with each market it entered. These are challenges every CEO has to face in some form. Is there a process like this in your company?

It’s not the Peak, it’s the Prep

Great performance is seductive because great performance looks easy. It’s easy to forget that all we see is the performance, not the preparation that went into it. (This is why orchestras are paid not for the performance, but for the rehearsals they attended.)

In 2017, Alex Honnold free-climbed (i.e. no rope or safety gear) the nearly vertical 3,000 ft El Capitan peak in Yosemite National Park. You may not be contemplating something as physically dangerous as scaling El Capitan but hopefully you have something in your life as important as conquering this cliff was to Mr. Honnold. In a 12 minute TED talk, he focuses less on the exhilaration of the  achievement itself, but more on the journey of preparation that made it possible. His experience offers lessons for all of us regarding the price of success –  whether it’s climbing a mountain, building a business…. or making a life.

If the TED talk whets your appetite for more about this remarkable feat, currently, there is a 100 minute movie,  “Free Solo”,  of Mr. Honnold’s story playing in theaters across the USA.

Econ Recon:

Wholesale Blues?:  Wholesale trade has been enjoying unprecedented strength….and ITR Economics President Alan Beaulieu is concerned about what that portends. Find out why…..and what do to about it in his most recent blog posting.

A Slip or a Slide?: Recent roller coaster movements in the stock market have many people worried about their portfolios. Remain calm says one of the best market watchers in the world, Wharton’s Jeremy Siegel. Recent equity market volatility says Dr. Siegel is more “slip than slide”.  (And still a good idea to understand how your investment adviser manages your portfolio risk during volatile markets.)

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