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I am an honours graduate (BSc. Hons. Strath-Glasgow) coupled with an MBA-ICG (Paris) , experienced, Metallurgist - Materials Scientist and Engineer & Manager turned Consultant & Blogger. I specialised in Superalloys (aero-engine_Seminal Work peer reviewed & published IOM3_MST, Feb.1985, the 2nd issue of this now well known journal dedicated to the fundamental aspects in our multidisciplinary subject area ) My experience over a wide range of Special Alloys is extensive. (Cryogenic,Controlled Expansion-Dilatometric,Magnetic, Corrosion Resistant Grades and finally HSLA-Aircraft Undercarriage. (Great Stuff-I was lucky) My responibilities were especially in Melting & Refining to 1st Forming stage. Responsibilities include QC,QA & Accounting, Melt/Remelt Process  & Products, R&D.  Bilingual English-French. 
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Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Talent makes capital-money dance: Lessons, Secrets and Hype in the Book on Management, Funky Business, by Ridderstrale, Nordstrom, Interview

From the Book Funky Business Forever: How to Enjoy Capitalism by Jonas Ridderstrale and Kjell Nordstrom, review and interview by Idea Connection.

Part I.


This post is in many ways, more of a soliloquay – “A talking to oneself”, than a criticism, I hope.,

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain-and most fools do.
But it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving” from
Dale Carnegie_Wikipedia translating quotes from Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Carlyle, and Dr. Samuel Johnson.

I will have to struggle to respect this excellent advice from a golden oldie.

'Being funky is ultimately about “being true to yourself”. Authenticity is key.' This quote by Ridderstrale caught my attention

Being “true to one’s self,” now with such a quote, how can I avoid making a few comments in my “This-Above-All” pages? How’s that for foresight-Insight and Hindsight? Shakespeare in the late 16th century had this down to a tee. (I bite my lip!)

I don’t like the word Funky, it screams of Hype. (fortunately there is another book review-interview from Idea Connection entitled Mastering the Hype Cycle.

Between you and me, I do not think of myself as Funky and even after reading the interview, I still don’t.

Personally, I believe there is more Insight, Foresight and most especially A Brighter Future in the expression “Cool”, in being cool, in planet cooling…
(He or she’s a cool person. A cool attitude. It has been totally adopted in spoken French
“pas cool”= disapproval or even a bad luck event. Porcine flue is certainly “pas cool”).

'At the end of the day you can only be the best person in the world or the best company in the world if you're a first rate version of yourself. Not a second rate copy of someone else.' [As a Scot weaned on “Scotland the Brave described as “the land of high endeavour”…
and again living in the well-known very elitist France. This attitude is a source of self-motivation, what Senge would call the power or pull of vision, a perception. ]

'I can I wipe the floor with all my competitors in the business world [for amateurs otherwise inclined to warfare, but not exactly my definition of being "cool"] as long as I remain true to myself.”'

Things to think about - Useful Lessons? (In fact in this rather lengthy review-interview their are a great many issues raised)

I chose to debate the following issue raised:
Talent vs Knowledge Economy and Intellectual Capital
'Talent is the only thing the western world – U.S., Canada, and Western Europe – is left to compete with. I've changed my mind, and now use the term talent instead of knowledge because talent is a much wider concept. ' Flattering but Highly questionable, ex-Eastern Block approach to human as opposed to motorised sport, Communist Russia and Chinese performance in gymnastics… Russian… Mathematicians and Engineers. But we have seen that “being true to one’s self” underlines the motivation to develop one’s own (almost) unique talents. We also know that this is not new and that professional -great educators-teachers, (trainers, coaches) know how to balance the liberating factors of creativity and the discipline and even abnegation often required to develop a particular in born ability or talent…

[Later in the interview, Ridderstrale also recognises this value of my independent critical comment(s) by quoting; 'If I recall correctly, in his latest book Outliers: The Story of Success, based on studies of highly successful people and groups like the Beatles, Malcolm Gladwell suggests it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become great at something; to become exceptionally world-class fantastic.'

And the lesson or secret is:
'You better love what you do if you aspire to be great!' – [One 100% ]

'We all know that you can't compete on cost with 1.2 billion Chinese and 900 million Indians, many [many] of whom are [very] well educated. But these days, it is also increasingly difficult to beat them on the basis of having a superior intellectual capital. Talent is a little bit more complex as a concept than knowledge, because talent includes more than the intellectual capital that used to make and still makes some organizations competitive. At the end of the day if you have an MBA or an engineering degree you will have access to the same knowledge whether you study in Beijing, Boston, Bangalore, or Birmingham. [with more or less difficulty depending on your relationship with maths and science] This knowledge from university studies is not as much of a differentiator as it was 10 years ago, for example, because it's available to everyone. [Indeed all the basics and more, are freely available via The Internet where the notion of democracy and in-built common good sense and good will of large free-thinking numbers is the bet placed by the founding generations. (one very good example is Wikipedia)] You still need it, but this know-how will not provide you with a competitive edge. '

'Talent also captures the psychological elements – the importance of having a can-do attitude; and the social capital – the know-who factor – that is increasingly important.' [ie. “Not what you know but who you know”, a common folk culture expression from the old school boys network approach, today emulated by Alumni associations, in particular but not exclusively in business circles and other groups or lobbies, Lions, Rotary, Masonics to mention the most well known in Western Society]
[Suggestion: Arguably, talent to develop requires an advanced state of development with accompanying means. It also requires the experience accumulated in developed societies, and if possible Déja Vu, to put talent to good use – eg. Highly developed planetary observation systems and provisional models eg. such as anthropodic-human induced climate change (CC)]

On the upside,
I admire anyone who can write a book in their a language, other than their mother tongue.

The book is a welcomed attempt from the "European School'.

I recognise the provocative approach firstly because it lead me to read the interview, secondly it the interview and probably the book lends it’s-self to critical “class room” study and thirdly and perhaps most importantly it describes capitalism in an easily understandable form as a machine [easier to understand than system] that can break down and more importantly can be mended. [NB. all human systems have an aim, a purpose, a function. Care not to be overly reductionist summing up the greed for money of efficiency (no human being can be compared to a machine and must remain This-Above-All in his own interest; health, wealth, and happiness "True to oneself", I believe?]

Part II.
As stated above a great many issues are raised in this rather lengthy review-interview.
I have listed a few in what follows.

Motivation from Looking at the most difficult critics:

“Musicians, artists, actors, and painters who were convinced that business was boring” [Today the whole public is critical following the salary divide whereby Keynes considered a differential of 1:40 supportable compared to today’s 1:400.]

'Most business gurus become well known for
-a particular idea,
-a particular concept, which is almost vertical in nature, a core idea, then they dig deeper and deeper into that idea. '

Cross-Disciplinary vs Interdisciplinary: 'The Horizontal approaches'

Consulting Approaches
'Instead of telling people what to do, we invite them to think. Most people regardless of age, gender, occupation, or educational background are interested in being invited to think.'
[People appreciate being considered intelligent or as listed by Dale Carnegie in his last but not least of eight most important human needs and desires “The feeling of importance, self-esteem, consideration. Maslow. ]

'Make money in a well functioning market economy (Only one way) '

Talent vs Knowledge (Economy)

'Behind every monopoly there is always an innovation of some kind. The argument we are making in Funky Business is that historically most of those innovations were of a technological kind. '

Innovations new insights
'In general, I don't think the greatest innovation challenges have a lot to do with technology. '

'I think the big challenges are organizational, managerial, leadership-oriented, perhaps even cultural and psychological. Some are even biological because it boils down to the nature of man – we are uncertainty-reducing creatures. We have been designed to avoid uncertainty and risk, because that's how to stay alive. It's probably a good set of design principles from the point of view of staying alive in an uncivilized society, but in business we're talking about how to move beyond the status quo, to create a good life. In a number of ways human nature prevents us from taking enough risks, being creative, and spending enough time and resources on creation of new ideas. Instead, exploitation of existing innovations tends to crowd out creation and experimentation in most organizations.'
[Thoughtful, a worth-while debate?]

A simple model of a market economy:
'At the end of the day you have to realize that a market economy is not an ideology. A market economy is a machine. And it is a machine with only one task. As I said, it's a machine that sorts things, people, companies, and countries, on one principle – is it efficient or inefficient. That's what a market does. It's a sorting mechanism, efficient, inefficient, efficient, inefficient.'

A Short History of Competitive Strategy:
'Once upon a time competition was all about access to physical capital, cheap raw material, and cheap labour. Then competition was related to access to financial capital.
-Later, the competitive edge was based on intellectual capital, and
-now it's also a question of psychological and social capital.
Access to the old stuff has now become necessary, but no longer sufficient, in the race for business leadership. That's the way the market economy works.'

[Could this be it’s evolution be it’s down-fall?
“ Human economies are built on the use of energy to transform natural resources into useful products and services.” That should create a bit of e-motion! ] ref. Jancovici and Grandjean in their book in french entitled "C'est Maintenant"

To be fair Jonas Ridderstrale says much more
'Some recent research indicates that competitive intellectual capital still explains a lot of the variation in performance of individuals.

In some of these studies education was found to explain about 28% of the variation in work-related performance. If you consider just one psychological factor, confidence and self-sufficiency explain 38% of the variation in individual performance.

If you add the positive impact of hope, optimism, and resilience to bounce back when difficulties have been encountered, the psychological factors today are critically important. '

The mega challenge
'is to restore faith in the entire system. Trust in the financial system. Trust that capitalism and the marketplace still works.' [Indeed]
Ridderstråle’s recommended reading

Dr. Jonas Ridderstråle's impressive Biography

Full Interview by Vern Burkhardt for Ideaconnection

All Innovation Book Author Interviews