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Mavericks at Work – Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win

by William C. Taylor & Polly LaBarre

Excerpted from the intro: This book talks about the strategies, practices, and leadership styles of 32 organizations – giants and pip-squeaks. They are rethinking competition, reinventing innovations, reconnecting with customers, and redesigning work.

This sums it up best: “Maverick companies aren’t always the largest in their field; maverick entrepreneurs don’t always make the cover of the business magazines. But mavericks do the work that matters most – the work of originality, creativity, and experimentation. They demonstrate that you can build companies around high ideals and fierce competitive ambitions, that the most powerful way to create economic value is to embrace a set of values that go beyond just amassing power, and that business, at its best, is too exciting, too important, and too much fun to be left to the dead hand of business as usual.”

I loved this book!! Here are my flags…

pg 44 “Southwest flourished because it reimagined what it means to be an airline. Indeed, Spence insists that Southwest isn’t in the airline business. It is, he argues, in the freedom business. Its purpose is to democratize the skies – to make air travel as available and as flexible for average Americans as it has been for the well-to-do.

There is, Spence argues, a direct connection between the economics of Southwest’s operating model, the advertising it aims at its customers (“You are now free to move about the country”), and the message it sends to its 30,000-plus employees (“You are now free to be your best”). Spence explains the connection this way: “Business strategies change. Market positioning changes. But purpose does not change. Everybody at Southwest is a freedom fighter.”

pg 63 The story of Rob McEwen and Goldcorp, Inc, using theories from the open source world of Linux etc, realized that people didn’t have to work for his company to work with his company. His idea was to “use the internet to post all of its data on the mine – 50 years of maps, reports, and raw geological information – along with software that displayed that data both in two dimensions and three dimensions. It would then invite scientists and engineers from anywhere in the world to download the data, analyze it as they saw fit, and submit drilling plans to Goldcorp. There would be a reward – prize money of $500,000 to be divided among 25 semifinalists and 3 finalists chosen by the judges.”

pg 120 “The real magic of open-source innovation is not just that lots of people will offer ideas but also that lots of different kinds of people will offer ideas. Don’t limit participants to specialists in your home country, your industry, or your product categories. …love to emphasize, the most amazing ideas often come from the most surprising places. Be sure to maximize the chances that you’ll be surprised by maximizing the range of people who participate.

You don’t always need to tap the Internet or aspire to reach the farthest corners of the globe. You can start by recognizing what happens when people who don’t normally have a voice in your business are invited to offer their point of view.”

“Unfocus groups… That’s the lesson for open-minded leaders. Lots of different kinds of people, all looking at the same thing, tend to generate the most penetrating insights. Your job is to bring those different kinds of people together.

pg 142 about Commerce Bank “…when asked why more banks don’t keep their branches open for as long as his stores are open. “It’s the simplest idea in the world,” he says. “Let’s be open when the customers want us to be open. But to this day, it’s heretical in banking. People think we’re crazy. The first question bankers ask me is, ‘How do you staff on Sunday?’ You know my answer? ‘Walmart stays open. The malls stay open. Every fast food joint in the country stays open. How hard can it be?’ We don’t copy the stupid banks. We copy the great retailers.”
…copy of Built from Scratch, the business autobiography of the founders of the Home Depot. “We learn more from these people than we do from anyone else.”

(love this idea – all stores open 15 minutes before and close 15 minutes after their posted hours, another small way to exceed expectations.)
(and this one – at Commerce, funds from all deposited checks are available the next business day, no questions asked. “The float is a rule that no bank can explain to its own people, let along its customers, so we keep it simple.”)

pg 200 “John Sullivan is a colourful character who has devoted his career to explaining the connection between how great organizations compete for talent and how they compete for customers. He runs the human resources management program at San Fran SU, advises some of the world’s best known companies (Nike, Starbucks, Microsoft) on HR strategies, and issues a stream of books and polemics that challenge the conventional wisdom of his all-too-conventional colleagues. … website www.drjohnsullivan.com”

pg 207 Libby Sartain, Yahoo “Sartain labels the phenomenon “branding from the inside out.” There is, she argues, a direct connection between the values that motivate a great Yahoo employee and the values that animate Yahoo’s best, most loyal, most satisfied customers. Sartain calls those attributes the “Y Gene” … hunt for the Y Gene in every candidate.”

pg 208 “Ask yourself: why would great people want to be part of my company? How do I know a great person when I see one? Have I established a great fit between the customer’s experience and the work experience? Then ask one more question: do I know where and how to find great people in the first place? … “The first rule of recruiting is that the best people already have jobs they like, so you have to find them; they’re not going to find you. It’s amazing that so many companies still use job fairs to recruit talent. Who goes to job fairs? People without jobs! All you get are worthless resumes and lots of germs. Recruiting has to be clever, fast-moving business discipline, not a passive, paper-pushing bureaucracy.”

pg 233 About Pixar University…every employee is encouraged to devote up to four hours per week, every week, to their education. … specialists are more likely to work well together if they appreciate the fundamentals of the work the company does. “The skills we develop are the skills we need everywhere in the organization. Why teach drawing to accountants? Because drawing class doesn’t just teach people how to draw. It teaches them to be more observant. There’s no company on earth that wouldn’t benefit from having people become more observant.”

Appendix… Essential Reading:

Karaoke Capitalism: Daring to Be different in a copycat world (we live in a world where the best rapper is white, the best golfer is black, France accuses the US of arrogance and Denmark sends a mini-submarine to a desert war.”)

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Marketplace and Make the Competition Irrelevant

The New Pioneers: The Men and Women Who Are Transforming the Workplace and the Marketplace

Jim Collins on the web www.jimcollins.com

Leading the Revolution by Gary Hamel

Google’s letter from the Founders http://investor.google.com

Is Grameen Bank Different? www.grameen-info.org

Why Craigslist works www.changethis.com/13.craigslist

www.gsdm.com

http://tim.oreilly.com

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, and Nations

Democratizing Innovation

www.bankstocks.com

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business Is a Stage

A Brand New World: 8 Principles for Achieving Brand Leadership in the 21st Century

Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There

Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer

Why I Never Hire Brilliant Men www.taoyue.com/stacks/articles/brilliant-men.html

How to be a Start at Work: 9 Breakthrough Strategies You Need to Succeed

Weird Ideas that Work: 11 1/2 Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation

A Manager’s Orientation Toolkit: Tools that Get New Employees and Transfers Productive Faster www.drjohnsullivan.com/publications/orient_ebook.htm