Winning Culture

Famed professor Clayton Christensen hits upon a major problem with an increasingly secular, expert driven society. When individuals lose their moral underpinnings, they can no longer be cooperative in the social contract. Then the authoritarians take control and the whole ball of wax melts away. Christensen is profoundly right…


ONE:  How will Artificial Intelligence Impact the Future of CI

This was a great point, counter-point discussion between Ed Alison and Terry Thiele. Full coverage here.

Ed made the great point that we need the machine to grind thru (and think thru) the giant pile of data that we confront today and that will only grow more massive as we go forward. Ed wants us to enlist the tools of the digital age to tame the digital age. If we don’t, we’re toast.

Terry countered that this massive deluge actually requires more and better human minds to see thru and make sense of it. Terry bases this view on what he sees as the real impact of the digital age: The democratization of innovation and creativity. (My words.)

Of course, the debate’s conclusion was these points are likely more complementary than conflicting. We probably have to use more tools to grind the data. But we also need to recognize that most of the data is no more than effluent. Insightful, creative minds will be all the more critical to discerning threats, opportunities and to seeing the way forward.

Bottom line: This talk is why Reconverge is the best competitive intelligence forum in industry today!

TWO: Intelligence Impact over the Life of Products and Services

Jason Voiovich kicked off the Conference portion with a great talk about risk and insight as they relate to product lifecycle management. Excellent framework for thinking of how Intelligence needs to position itself and insert itself in the organization. Read here.

THREE: Intelligence for the Future … A C-Executive’s View

The “sleeper talk” from the conference was, in my view, Mike Suchsland’s. I say sleeper because it was not the best organized or most charismatic talk, but Mike’s perspective and insights are among the most important for intelligence practitioners.

Mike laid out the incredible challenge in front of intelligence leaders: reconciling management of the present state (organization, results, stakeholders) with reconnoitering the future … or in Mike’s term, inventing the future.

Mike shared great stories from his various C-officer stints and the challenges of matching strategic choices to business reality, organization character to company position and mission, and recruiting the right kind of people versus the just the kind of people you like.

In my view, any intelligence analyst or leader worth his or her salt needs to examine these questions very carefully BEFORE they commit one minute to their first intelligence project. (This, by the way, proved itself in the great Intelligence Shark Tank session at the end of the conference!)

FOUR: Financial Early Warning Indicators

Ryan Macumber from Best Buy talked about how careful financial analysis is crucial to the intelligence mission.

I couldn’t agree more. Understanding financial performance and capability is simply fundamental … and you don’t need to be a finance MBA to do it.

What you need to do is understand the critical performance metrics relevant to your industry. Then you need to understand how your company and key rivals deliver those metrics … the cash generation process. And then you need to understand how it is changing or how operational factors and industry trends will change it.

Bottom line, if you don’t understand how the math works, it’s hard to be effective with generating impactful intelligence insights.

FIVE: Little Problems in Big China

Tom Tao from James Madison University gave a great talk on where China is headed and also how to gather intelligence in China.

After listening to Tom’s insights, to say that China has big problems might be the understatement of the decade.

He gave us a lot information and data that all point to what we might call a “national restructuring”.  Bottom line, the assumptions on which China has built its economy over the last decade have simply evaporated. They built an infrastructure around an assumed competitive advantage -low cost basic industry- that others are now challenging (e.g., SE Asia, India, etc.) and that required a demand curve that is bent in the wrong direction.

Digging out and becoming a more entrepreneurial, open, high tech based economy is a daunting challenge. Tom thinks there’s no doubt the country has the ability to do it. But it will be a very rocky road.

Again, read about all the talks here:


Reconverge is underway in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin. Intelligence and Strategy friends can follow the live blogging HERE. A lot of good stuff going on and very talented people. Check in often!

My Top 5 from Reconverge…



No time to read the thousands of business books and articles that appear annually? You know, the ones that offer “breakthrough ideas”, “timeless” advice, or promise to be the “only” business book you’ll ever need to read?

Well, here’s a shortcut. P.T. Barnum’s Art of Money Getting, written in 1880. (The link is free, so you don’t even have to buy anything!)

In point of fact, his 20 “golden rules” for money making are timeless! They maybe the only thing you’ll ever need to read on business.

Here are a couple of gems.

On avoiding debt:

…You give the note on interest and it commences working against you; “it is a dead horse.” The creditor goes to bed at night and wakes up in the morning better off than when he retired to bed, because his interest has increased during the night, but you grow poorer while you are sleeping, for the interest is accumulating against you.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master. When you have it mastering you; when interest is constantly piling up against you, it will keep you down in the worst kind of slavery. But let money work for you, and you have the most devoted servant in the world. It is no “eye-servant.” There is nothing animate or inanimate that will work so faithfully as money when placed at interest, well secured. It works night and day, and in wet or dry weather.

On the integrity, value and honesty of commerce:

The history of money-getting, which is commerce, is a history of civilization, and wherever trade has flourished most, there, too, have art and science produced the noblest fruits. In fact, as a general thing, money-getters are the benefactors of our race. To them, in a great measure, are we indebted for our institutions of learning and of art, our academies, colleges and churches. It is no argument against the desire for, or the possession of, wealth, to say that there are sometimes misers who hoard money only for the sake of hoarding and who have no higher aspiration than to grasp everything which comes within their reach. As we have sometimes hypocrites in religion, and demagogues in politics, so there are occasionally misers among money-getters. These, however, are only exceptions to the general rule. But when, in this country, we find such a nuisance and stumbling block as a miser, we remember with gratitude that in America we have no laws of primogeniture, and that in the due course of nature the time will come when the hoarded dust will be scattered for the benefit of mankind. To all men and women, therefore, do I conscientiously say, make money honestly, and not otherwise, for Shakespeare has truly said, “He that wants money, means, and content, is without three good friends.”

And by the way, Mr. Barnum, probably NEVER said “A sucker is born every minute.”


Last weekend, Ockham’s justice passed away. Antonin Scalia was as consequential a person as one could ever want to be. My guess is history will eventually place him among the top 5 or 10 judicial minds of all time.

But, interestingly, his impact wasn’t due to intellectual innovation. Instead, it was because he insisted on NOT making stuff up. In essence, his “originalism” was that the words and meaning intended when laws were written mean the same thing now. To him, this was a bulwark against tyranny.

And it’s a pretty good all around strategy for those of us in the business world as well! Tortured efforts to “innovate” meaning, whether to excuse bad decisions or paper over departures from principles and objectives, will eventually get you into trouble.

Of Scalia’s many excellent insights about law and life, I’m particularly fond of this rumination on being a Christian…

God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools … and he has not been disappointed. … If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.


I want to let you know about a great business event coming up in October at the OSU Fisher School in Columbus. And you’re invited!

Making the Elephant Dance:  A Personal Journey to Lean Innovation featuring Clay Phillips.

I’ve known Clay for some years and he’s seen the struggle to innovate from both sides – inside the corporate bureaucracy and in the wild west of Silicon Valley.  He has a lot of great stories and insights! Clay promises to cover some interesting ground, from his time at General Motors, to his conversion to the Lean Innovation methodology, to helping companies, both big and small, use the Lean approach to get to market faster and more successfully.

If you can’t make it, please pass this along to your friends and colleagues!

In addition to learning from Clay, this will be a great networking opportunity.  Members of OSU’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship include some of the best Ohio based companies.

And did I say it’s free?!

Here are the details.

When: Wednesday, October 21, 2015, 8:30 – 11:00am 

Light breakfast items and beverages will be provided.

Where: The Blackwell, Pfahl Hall Room 302, 2110 Tuttle Park Place, Columbus, OH 43210

Parking: Available in the Lane Avenue or Tuttle Park Place parking garages.

Register by clicking here.


A few good thoughts on strategy from some successful people…

Strategy is first and foremost about the endgame….it’s pretty natural for me to be thinking five or six steps ahead… L.A. Reid, CEO of Epic Records

Indeed, strategy is trying to think out the game, and imagine how current moves will lead to others, that will lead to still others, and so on. Some will complain this is just guesswork and hunches. And so they are. But intuition really stems from a habit of mind, from practicing the art of trying to think ahead.

With strategy, the key thing is the ability to diagnose the opportunity of the time …(and then act on that opportunity). Doris Kearns Goodwin, historian, author of Team of Rivals

Notice that Goodwin does not say “diagnose the problem.” Good leaders and strategists quickly move beyond trouble-shooting. They are about moving to the next thing and not about lamenting the old, broken or lost.

There’s this fantastic quote from Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” I spend about 80% of my time thinking about the culture of our company – culture is our strategy. Danny Meyer, CEO, Union Square Hospitality Group

Indeed, culture matters. Organizations that are unified on principles and objectives, that tack to the same goal, that operate with mutual respect … these are the organizations that succeed. They win big on their own initiative and prove to be the most resilient when confronting major setbacks.

The old saying is strategy is great, but execution is better. Well, execution is impossible without strong culture.

The beauty of games is that one can try strategies and refine them without serious consequences… Klaus Teuber, creator of the board game The Settlers of Catan

Chances for success improve dramatically when leaders and business teams set aside time to test their plans. War games, simulations, “black hat” exercises -whatever you want to call them. They force organizations to confront reality without the risk of reality.

They also help ingrain the habit of thinking out and thinking ahead. So, if you aren’t gaming your plans, you should!

Sunday mornings in our house are hectic … no, crazy! The only smart one is the cat.


Getting everyone fed, cleaned up, dressed, in the car and somehow making it to church by 10:45 is a chore. It would be a lot simpler to throw a flag, skip the hassle, and just hang out.

I grew up in a home that did that. It’s a lot easier. Except for one thing: your attitude and outlook for the week ahead.

Hardly a Sunday morning goes by when I’m not frustrated to the point of yelling trying to get the operation underway and out the door.

But then we get to church. We get everyone to their proper destinations:  Sunday School, Nursery, Pew. And then the magic starts.

The music, messages, the scripture lessons, the sermon, the prayers, the smiles, handshakes and hugs. I’m lifted out of my selfish, problem-focused cast and renewed. I am realigned to what I can or have to do. I’m re-centered on the future. I am made small again so I can concentrate on what is large, outside me, and important. I go from dreading Monday to being excited about it. I go from taker, to giver.

Trust me, it is worth it. It is the best medicine I know to fight pessimism, cynicism and anger. No matter the depth of your belief (or skepticism) this medicine is available to you … whether on Sunday or Saturday, whether in Temple, Mosque, Church or Meeting House.

I’m reminded often of George Gilder’s comments that Commerce and Entrepreneurism are essentially acts of giving. That the business person or capitalist is first and foremost a person of purpose, out to change and improve life.

I think the lessons that come from faith and faith communities can help all of us get back on that purpose. They don’t require zeal or imply doctrinaire outlooks, per se’. But they do help us move from being certain takers to potential givers.

Maybe so…

Nice PR piece for Cincinnati’s largest tech incubator, Cintrifuse.

We have a strong entrepreneurial scene here, a ton of talent, and a great looking town to boot. It is a good place to live and work. Check us out whenever your plans require a stop in “flyover” country. It’s like a lot of famous places, only better!

Truth and trust, the watchwords of leadership. If you didn’t see this on LinkedIn this week, it is worth your time. Welch is spot on! (And a complete revolutionary “quietly” working to upend the education biz.)