Friday, July 16, 2010

How Will You Measure Your Life?

Clayton Christensen's essay How Will Your Measure Your Life? is a must read.  The essay provides a framework for living a life of purpose rather than regret, for investing in what matters versus what's topical.

Please read the full essay - note, the essay is for business school students about to graduate but has broader relevance and resonance. In brief, he writes that everyone must think through the answer to three fundamental questions:

  1. How can I be sure that I'll be happy in my career?
  2. How can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and family become an enduring source of happiness?
  3. How can I sure that I'll stay out of jail?
The article goes on to define:
  • How to Create a Strategy for Your Life
  • How to Allocate Your Resources
  • How to Create a Personal and Family Culture
  • How to Avoid the "Marginal Costs" Mistake - aka "Just This One Time"
  • How to Remember the Importace of Humility
  • How to Choose the Right Yardstick

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rethinking Display

Jessica Vascellero's recent article in the WSJ, "Tech Firms Tout New On-line Ad Formats" is a wonderful read.  The article, written from Allen & Company's Sun Valley "mogul" retreat explores the future direction of the display market.

The US display ad market is worth ~$8 bn. Display ads today, however, are virtually identical to the very first display ads of fifteen years ago - static pictures of products that increasingly fail to capture the interests of consumers and the nature of today's web- video, Twitter, real-time content, etc.  Given the lack of innovation, ROI is suffering and both publishers and advertisers are exploring new alternatives.

Google is making display innovation a priority and the article quotes Eric Schmidt as saying that he "championed "interactive video ads," which he said are on the way. Such ads, which could appear anywhere on a Web page, not just inside a video, would be like mini-Web pages. That means they could allow Web users to watch a video, leave a comment and see real-time updates within the ads that are more customized to their interests."

I very much enjoyed reading that paragraph. Why?  

Widgetbox's ClickTurn ad platform already delivers on the vision outlined by Mr. Schmidt - ClickTurn ads transform display ads into nanosites programmed by best of today's real-time and interactive web.  For example, here is an ad for Halo that includes video, real-time content updates, and delivers, via an ad unit, the very "mini-Web page" that Google's CEO promises is coming. 

ClickTurn now powers dynamic display solutions for many of the web's top publishers. Working with our publisher partners, we are working to redefine display ads and to deliver ROI - through detailed interaction metrics - that will help the display market deliver greater value.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Solitude and Leadership

Solitude and Leadership, by William Deresiewicz, is an essay based on a lecture on leadership that he delivered to last year's West Point plebe class.

The essay argues that elite educations today produce people who are expert at excelling in systems and bureaucracies and not people who will excel as leaders. Leadership for WD is not about "jumping through hoops" to progress up the "system" but rather leadership is best exemplified by those who are self-aware, deeply thoughtful, and able to think creatively and independently.

Elite education, he argues, conditions people via a system of rewards and progression to excel in systems rather than forge independent and risky paths. He writes,
"Why is it so often that the best people are stuck in the middle and the people who are running things—the leaders—are the mediocrities? Because excellence isn’t usually what gets you up the greasy pole. What gets you up is a talent for maneuvering. Kissing up to the people above you, kicking down to the people below you. Pleasing your teachers, pleasing your superiors, picking a powerful mentor and riding his coattails until it’s time to stab him in the back. Jumping through hoops. Getting along by going along. Being whatever other people want you to be, so that it finally comes to seem that, like the manager of the Central Station, you have nothing inside you at all. Not taking stupid risks like trying to change how things are done or question why they’re done. Just keeping the routine going."

In many companies, the incentive for creativity, for challenging the normal, for innovating processes is close to nil. Too often, the lack of senior support and the inertia of big companies "break the spirit" of those who have vision to see a new way forward. Rather than reward creativity and iteration, the system throws roadblocks in the way that eventually wear the innovator down.

Big companies are often hollowed out - ie the best and brightest are driven out by those content to manage the system rather than to challenge it. What's left is deadening - both to those who work in the system and, ultimately, to the system itself.

What's fascinating is his argument regarding the pernicious effects of today's elite educational systems - arguing, convincingly, that leadership is not learnt by excelling in educational system - doing what is required to advance to the next level - but rather through introspection, self-awareness, and the ability to concentrate on what matters rather than what is rewarded.

A great read.