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Praise for the idle mind

John's reflections, leadership Leave a comment

On a long overnight flight this week, I watched a TED talk by Brazilian luminary Ricardo Semler, entitled “Work with no rules”.   Semler is the CEO and majority owner of Semco Partners, a Brazilian company known for its radical form of industrial democracy and corporate re-engineering. His innovative business management policies have attracted widespread interest around the world. His first book, Virando a Própria Mesa (“Turning Your Own Table”), is the best selling non-fiction book in the history of Brazil.  In his speech, Semco’s CEO makes the point that leisure time and idle time are not at all the same thing. We have come to think that the opposite of work is leisure. But, according to … Continue reading

Why we have trouble doing nothing

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When I began perusing the research paper “Learning by Thinking: Overcoming the Bias for Action through Reflection”, one of my first thoughts concerned the title of the piece. I wondered about what type of bias for action the authors meant, since I have seen the term used in more than one way.  For example, Tom Peters is often credited with popularizing the notion of a “bias for action”, beginning with his 1980s business best-seller In Search of Excellence. Peters and co-author Bob Waterman put forth the concept that the propensity to decide and act quickly was a distinguishing feature of agile firms, and that these enterprises tended to be more successful than those that … Continue reading

Thoughts about the learning-thinking connection

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This week, I delve a bit more into some of the ideas of the paper I referred to last time: “Learning by Thinking: Overcoming the Bias for Action through Reflection”.   This article was interesting to me for two reasons. First, I think the research breaks new ground, as it uses three experiments to demonstrate that putting more reflection in our lives, even in relatively small ways, can lead to improved job performance. And second, on a personal level, it caused me to revisit a number of my core concepts, including the role of reflection in any learning process, and how I have used it as a consultant and teacher.  Drawing on … Continue reading

Reflection and the young, busy manager

John's events, John's reflections Leave a comment

Recently, I spoke to a focused and lively audience at Banco Galicia in Buenos Aires. For the past two years, I have been writing articles for their remarkably well done digital platform, buenosnegocios.com. As part of the program, they periodically invite writers to make presentations at breakfast events. Attendees at such talks tend to be middle managers from the bank’s client base, along with a small number of internal people.  The bank, which was named by Fast Company as one of the most innovative companies in Latin American in 2015, is always a pleasure to visit. Events are impeccably organized, attendees are highly engaged, and even casual conversations with the team from buenosnegocios.com are often energizing.  … Continue reading

Exceptional people of influence do not have extraordinary pasts

John's reflections, leadership Leave a comment

Exceptional people of influence do not have extraordinary pasts. What they do have is an extraordinary ability to learn from and to use the lessons of their pasts.  As we wrote last time, one of the great myths about those who emerge as leaders in any field is that they have something extraordinary in their past, an event or circumstance that has somehow forged them, transformed them, and prepared them for noteworthy leadership roles. In truth, it is not so much that their background or history has transformed them; it is that they have transformed themselves. Some would argue that a “crucible” life event—some severe test or trial—can be transformational. In the end, though, it … Continue reading

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