Latest Observations

On Hammurabi’s Strengthening of the Center

Topic:Personal
Posted on:Sep 23, 2016
Method:Previous Writings
Captured by:David J

In 1792 BC the Amorite chief of Babylon died. He was replaced by a son, Hammurabi. This new leader was trapped between two major kingdoms: Rim-sin and Shamashi-adad.

Hammurabi was not strong enough to fight either city, so he patiently prepared. "He bided his time, building canals and temples, reinforcing cities." In effect, he quietly strengthened his center.

When the time was right, he edged towards the margins of Rim-sin's kingdom. There he captured a smaller, less-important city, while being careful not to threaten the heart of Rim-sin's kingdom. Next, he forged alliances with Rim-sin's enemy, Shamashi-adad. Then he quietly waited.

In the end, Hammurabi conquered the entire region, defeating both his enemies and his allies - whereupon he only intensified his efforts to strengthen his center: Hammurabi unified the kingdom with a detailed set of laws, and then he established control of the shipping routes, requiring a royal passport at key checkpoints.

The lesson for me is this: Strengthen the center first. I can only engage in two activities: I can increase output or I can increase capacity (for output). There will be times, when I must quietly wait for opportunity. It is best, in those times, to focus on increased capacity.

On the Medium as Grafted into the Message

Topic:Communication
Posted on:Sep 22, 2016
Method:Previous Writings
Captured by:Austin M

The medium changes the message. We may wish it were not so but that does not help. One must be sensitive to how the medium necessarily contextualizes the message. This is why, for instance, trying to take the transcript of a lecture and turning it into a book is so difficult. The medium is grafted into the message.

On Marketing as a Key Responsibility of the CEO

Topic:Leadership
Posted on:Sep 21, 2016
Method:Previous Writings
Captured by:Austin M

When you disconnect the CEO from the marketer, you have two different operations taking place. This is why thinkers like Drucker realized that marketing is a responsibility of the CEO (Drucker rightly connected innovation and marketing). The CEO must bring parity between what the marketer says and what the business is. So, the CEO must understand (and guard) the business' value proposition, and then enable its effective communication. Ultimately, the CEO must guarantee alignment between the claim and the reality.

On the Great Man and Multiplicity of Perspective

Topic:Philosophy
Posted on:Sep 20, 2016
Method:Previous Writings
Captured by:Austin M

At the heart of understanding is multiplicity of perspective. To understand a great man, one must see the world through his eyes, see him through his peer's eyes, and see his work through history's eyes.

On Leadership and the X/Y Axis of More and Better

Topic:Personal
Posted on:Sep 19, 2016
Method:Previous Writings
Captured by:Matthew K

When one is trying to improve results, they should keep in mind a sort of geometrical relationship. In my mind I visualize two dimensions at an angle. They represent the concept of “more” or of “better”. In many cases the only way to improve results is to perform more of the key activities or to perform those activities better. The distinction provides a useful x, y axis in which to analyze all of your efforts. Sometimes doing more keeps you from realizing that you need to do better. Sometimes doing better keeps you from realizing that you could do more.

On the Means to the Right Answer

Topic:Leadership
Posted on:Sep 16, 2016
Method:Previous Writings
Captured by:Paul C

To build a great organization, the leader must develop an effective team that knows how to engage in a "thorough process." This is a strength that could become a weakness. This thorough process can be an impediment. Deliberation may become delay. The leader needs to understand when a thorough process is unnecessary. The key is this: We are after the right answer. “Thorough process” is a means to that end. In situations where risk can be properly controlled, the leader may engage in a simpler way to get to the right answer. In the end, the leader will be judged by the right answer, not the beauty of the process.

On Listening While Talking

Topic:Communication
Posted on:Sep 15, 2016
Method:Previous Writings
Captured by:Austin M

Most people stop listening when they start talking, but the greatest communicators listen even more as they talk.

On Considering the Extremities of the Human Condition

Topic:Philosophy
Posted on:Sep 14, 2016
Method:Previous Writings
Captured by:Paul C

The human condition must be considered along with its extremities. It has poles. On one hand, you have extreme ecstasy, and on the other, you have extreme agony. However, we work out most of our theology and philosophy within the confines of a small segment in the middle.

The people who experience life outside of that limited segment often find our theological and philosophical formulations insufficient. Indeed, they cannot even relate to us because we have no authentic frame of reference. Whatever life system we embrace should consider the entire spectrum of human experience.

On Transcending the Ordinary Understanding of Productivity

Topic:Personal
Posted on:Sep 13, 2016
Method:Previous Writings
Captured by:Austin M

We need to transcend the ordinary understanding of what it means to be productive. We need to transcend our mind with fiction - even “comic book” heroics. I sometimes imagine my life and work unfolding while I am chained to a wheelchair. How could I extend, expand my thinking if my body was limited? It is a thought that has occupied my mind since I was a child. Once I have worked through the implications of this hypothetical condition, I add back my full physical capabilities and ask myself, "What does it mean to have all of this health - this robust capacity - and to be only a thought away from life-changing, world-impacting discovery"?

On the Danger of Leadership Literature

Topic:Leadership
Posted on:Sep 12, 2016
Method:Previous Writings
Captured by:Austin M

I think much of the literature on leadership has done more damage than good. The great leader is not focused on leadership; the great leader is focused on mission. A great leader achieves a mission with the people around him. When one thinks too much about leadership they run the risk of becoming internally focused instead of externally effective.