Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Iconoclastic Steve Jobs and Forbidden Fruit

The Apple logo represents the forbidden fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge” in the Biblical creation story of Adam and Eve.

Steve Jobs was an iconoclastic sort.  The breaking down of boundaries, tradition or thinking were stitched into the very fabric of his DNA.  So whether it was challenging Big Blue (i.e., IBM) in the mid-1980s with a new personal computer that took on an air of George Orwell (1984) or broadly challenging rules and status quo and even the notion of sanity, Jobs was front and center.

That said, I am glad to know the origin and context of the Apple logo in Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden.  Apple dares to bite into that apple, and of course did so.

There are more curious and intriguing stories behind corporate logos in 15 Famous Logos and Their Hidden Meanings.  So have a look-see.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Monday, April 28, 2014

Important Work Skills and Theory of Algorithms

important work-skills

I initially posted this awesome infographic under Short Takes on People, another of my leadership blogs, and then realized it warranted a longer coverage.  So here I tie it to my Theory of Algorithms and The Core Algorithm.

Theory of Algorithms is a framework for solving problems and completing tasks, and it aims to do so in a better way than we've done before. It is also a way of knowing things in our world more sharply and deeply. So in this regard, it aims to be a complete epistemology, too.

Many people think of algorithms as mathematical formulas for solving problems or as computer code for doing calculations. How do I define algorithms? As conceptual, mathematical and procedural: in other words, theoretical, numerical and practical.
Put in another way, Theory of Algorithms is my attempt to account for things we do not know, for a future we cannot readily predict, and for a complexity that is of a tall order.  In essence, it is a framework for Sense Making and Novel and Adaptive Thinking.

An algorithm is a method for solving a problem or steps for accomplishing a task. Yes, it is often a math formula or codes for computer programming. When you search for information on 'apple,' for example, sophisticated Google algorithms can determine whether you mean the fruit 'apple' or the company 'Apple.'

But in my use of the term, an algorithm is mathematical and non-mathematical (i.e., conceptual and practical). Of course, you may call it whatever makes sense to you: for example, rules, steps or directions.

My aim is to draw on a wide range of knowledge, ideas and experience - from Math and Physics, to sports and fitness, plus much more - to help us deal better with the smaller to larger issues we face: from managing time and conserving resources; to hitting tough targets and realizing an ROI; to coming to grips with poverty and conflict. 
I call it The 'Core' Algorithm, because it is applicable across a wide range of issues.
While Theory of Algorithms is a conceptual framework, The Core Algorithm is a practical applications model.  As such, it speaks to Virtual Collaboration and Design Mindset, those skills having to do more with doing or getting things done.

Please feel free to view any or all of the introductory videos in the following playlists:  Theory of Algorithms and The Core Algorithm.  E-mail me at, if you thoughts or queries for me.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Core Algorithm - Step 3

The Core Algorithm

Step 3. Walk the pathways

Now that you have the end firmly and clearly in mind, and you have mapped out the pathways between that end in mind and where you are now, Step 3 is as simple as walking the pathways.

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It may come in different colors, fonts or sizes.  But of course Nike has said it the best and the simplest for decades:  Just do it.

Now that you are clear about what you want to do, and where and how to do it, just do it.  

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Core Algorithm - Step 2

The Core Algorithm

Step 2. Walk backwards to map the pathways

Beginning with the end in mind, which is Step 1, we walk backwards to identify and-or create the pathways, all the way back to where we are in the present.  

We often seem to lose sight of what we need to do to reach that end, serve our purpose, and thereby achieve our goals.  Step 2 ensures that we know the most direct, immediate actions to that end.

It requires us to step out of the present and step into the future

The Core Algorithm is not about predicting the future, but rather about making the future.  

For the CEO, who has responsibility for, and accountability to, the whole organization, he or she must also step outside himself or herself, and see that future as best as possible from the eyes of others - that is, stakeholders - sitting where they sit or walking in their shoes.  

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There may be multiple pathways, between there and then - that is, the future or the end in mind - and here and now.  But the idea is to keep the roadmap as clear, as simple, and as accurate as possible.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Core Algorithm - Step 1

The Core Algorithm

Step 1. Begin with the end in mind

Imagine your own funeral.  Family and friends are mourning your death.  What would you like them to remember most about you?  What would you like them to say about you?

This is a solemn little exercise from Stephen Covey pivotal book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, published 25 years ago.  Begin with the end in mind is one of those habits.  

What are you in this life, this company, or this business for?

What do you hold near and dear in your mind, heart and spirit?

What is the most important thing you want to do?

For a CEO and his or her organization, purpose, values and mission must be translated into the following, thus lending a quantitative or concrete format to something that may be abstract, emotional or lofty:

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As we sidle to Step 2 and Step 3, keep in mind that The Core Algorithm is not meant to be a linear effort.  Rather, we may very well have to cycle back to Step 1, on a regular basis, not just to remind ourselves about what we're aiming to accomplish or fulfill, but also to review that end in mind and perhaps adjust, revise or even discard it.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, April 11, 2014

To Seek or Not to Seek Funding

Tory Burch CEO and Co-Founder Tory Burch and Revolution Chairman and CEO Steve Case discuss fostering entrepreneurship in the U.S.
The advice, on the one hand, is to secure funding to start up your start up.

Entrepreneur Mark Cuban discusses the U.S. Economy and starting a business with Trish Regan at the Clinton Global Initiative in Chicago.
Yet, on the other hand, there is advice from Mark Cuban: Starting up is about brains and effort, not capital. 

How is an entrepreneur to reconcile these seemingly contradictory pieces of advice?  

If you have a compelling idea, and you wrap it in a sound business model, then it makes sense for you to seek investment and for an investor to dish out what you need.  But great ideas come a dime a dozen, so this in itself is nothing extraordinary.  The challenge is demonstrating, as best as possible at the outset, that in fact your business model is sound.  This is where consulting with colleagues and advisers come in.  This is where prototyping, or clinical trials, or market testing comes in.  

If you are still at the initial stages of an idea, and you've begun the brave inroads into developing it in a business, that's great.  But there's an extraordinary amount of uncertainty about it, and undoubtedly there is a greater likelihood of failure than success.  Then, Mark Cuban's advice is vital.  Bring the best of your brain power and sheerest of efforts first.  Prove to yourself that your idea isn't just compelling but also practical and feasible.  Until then it doesn't make sense to obligate yourself to a lender, an investor, or whomever.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Initiate, Innovate and Inspire, at McKinsey & Co.

Shuyin, an Organization practice expert in Shanghai, talks about the impact she and her clients have achieved with a change management program at a bank.

"The whole consulting process is a co-creation... This is a journey that we can embark on in the future." 

Allen describes Boston Labs, a incubator for experimental ideas that he created.

"Boston Labs is a way to pursue what you're passionate about, in a risk-free environment."

Initiate, Innovate, Inspire: Liz shares her experience teaching a leadership course at a Tibetan monastery.
My guess is, There was more that McKinsey consultants could learn from Tibetan monks about leadership, than vice versa.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Monday, April 7, 2014

Five Things Every Leader Should Do, by Brad Smith

Create focus

Fall in love with the problem, not the solution

Lead with questions, not answers

Cast a tall shadow, not a dark shadow

Reference: Five things every leader should do.

I commented on this LinkedIn article, by Brad Smith, President and CEO of Intuit:

Until about two years ago, my daughter, in 7th grade then, struggled with Math. She's a very bright girl, and her aptitude was several grades above her actual grade. Her Math aptitude was two grades above, but it was a relative weakness for her. So I helped her. She'd often have a long list of homework "problems" to solve, and we'd go through the ones she struggled with. The first order of our work together was indeed to solve these problems. But the second order, I told her, was more important: Understand the essence of what the problems are asking, and she can see the underlying principles and identify which formulas applied. Once she's grasped this handful of principles and formulas, she can solve hundreds of problems without difficulty. These are the 2nd and 4th points that you talk about, Brad. A terrific short article, many thanks for posting!

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sports Figures Among World's Greatest Leaders

leadership 2014 derek jeter
New York Yankee Derek Jeter
As he begins his 20th and final season in pinstripes, Jeter remains the type of role-model player that even a Red Sox fan must grudgingly respect. It's not the five World Series rings he's won or his team record for career hits. In a steroid-tainted, reality-TV era, Jeter, the son of two Army veterans, continues to stand out because of his old-school approach: Never offer excuses or give less than maximum effort.
Speaking of points of view about The World's 50 Greatest Leaders, Arthur Solomon sounds off with an op-ed for Huntington News: Fortune Magazine’s 'MisFortuneate' Power List.  He lambastes the picks of athletes and coaches are veritable leaders on any stage, world or otherwise.  His is a fairly loose rant on the detrimental impact of misbehaving athletes, human rights violations tainting the Sochi Olympics, and travesty of juxtaposing sports leadership with religious, business and government leadership.

At number 11, Derek Jeter is the highest ranking professional athlete on the curious list.  Perhaps to Solomon's point, I admire Jeter's role as a role model among athletes and fans, but honestly I wouldn't have thought about him in the least as far as leadership ranking goes.  At least, not before.  The innate subjectivity of a list like this makes me think that maybe, just maybe, there is something culturally vital and intellectually curious about elevating those unusual few in sports who are indeed good role models.

I will, at some point, come up with my top 10 greatest leaders in the world.  Stay tuned.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Subjectivity of Fortune's Leadership List

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Such a list is, by definition, subjective. (The magazine says it limited its list to currently active leaders; it asked leadership experts and Fortune reporters to suggest candidates and then vetted the ideas with people in each industry.) Any ranking of something as abstract as leadership -- particularly one that crosses industries -- is hardly something that can be judged by hard numbers or strict data, and is bound to generate plenty of debate. Indeed, that's probably the point.
Reference: Fortune Magazine names the world's 50 best leaders.

And that point isn't just to relate the points of view of these experts and reporters, but also to draw out our own points of view, and our gut or measured reactions, on leadership via Fortune magazine's The World's 50 Greatest Leaders.  Moreover, while I don't agree with Jena McGregor, who wrote the article above for The Washington Post, on one point - Hard numbers and strict data can define, substantiate and rank leadership - I am very much coming to appreciate the value of subjectivity vis-a-vis leadership.

Much as we may laud, even idolize, the scientist, the analyst, or the logician, the fact is that a good measure of who we are as people is intuitive, non-rational, and subjective.  The scientific endeavor can illuminate, and has certainly illuminated, our world to us and us to ourselves.  But that is only a partial understanding, and to the extent it holds so steadfastly as the paradigm of knowledge - it simply is not - the scientific endeavor is merely a limited understanding.

This Fortune list, apparently systematic if not free of subjectivity, complements well a more analytically-derived ranking.  It offers us a pulse on what some people think - that is, those experts and reporters - and again it prompts us to share in turn what we think.  My articles this week capture what I think and how I feel.

I love this list, because it is curious and controversial.  I love this list, because it presents a much wider array of leaders, whom I may not otherwise know about in other leadership ranking.  I love this list, because it dares to install a pontiff at the top and a woman - Angela Merkel - at number two.

leadership 2014 angela merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Merkel may be the most successful national leader in the world today. She is, practically speaking, the leader of the European Union, which as a whole is the world's largest economy, and Merkel has held that position for almost nine years. She played the lead role in managing Europe's debt crisis, keeping the EU intact while setting even Greece on the road to recovery.
Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD