Itís No Secret: Why the Spanish and Dutch Are In the World Cup Finals . . . and the Americans Arenít

In Sunday’s World Cup finals billions of people will be watching Spain’s David Villa and the Netherlands’ Wesley Sneijder to see who will notch the winning goal. In spite of their brilliance, Villa and Sneijder aren’t the reason why these two European sides are in the final.

The real reason lies in the youth camps of Barcelona and Amsterdam’s Ajax, where young players learn the Spanish and Dutch way of playing soccer. Day after day they are taught the rigor of ball skills, passing, and shooting from the age of five until the select few that emerge are launched into the national team fifteen years later. These young players get the same level of top quality, consistent coaching day-after-day, supported by their country’s national coaches. In their spare time, you can see them on the local soccer fields practicing clever shots with swerving balls from every conceivable angle and challenging each other in two-vs.-two games.

The Spanish advantage is that the best of their players stay at home and play for Barcelona (7 starters) or Real Madrid (3 starters). They continue to develop what they learn in the youth camps with the same teammates and same style. The Germans also have a fabulous youth development program that is producing young players like Thomas Mueller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Mesut Ozil who play for Bayern Munich.

In contrast, American players go from parent coaches to club coaches to select team coaches to high school coaches to college coaches, all of whom have different styles and different views about how soccer should be played. No wonder young players are confused! They focus so much on winning youth games from the age of five that they never learn the basics of ball skills, clever passing, and creative shooting.

They get in lots of practices, but much of their time is spent standing in line doing drills their coach made up or in conditioning exercises. It is rare for them to just go out and play the game so they can learn to be creative. In contrast to the Europeans, American soccer fields are empty when there aren’t games or practices as American youth are overbooked with other activities.

Whereas the Spanish and the Dutch focus on player development, the Americans focus on player selection. But if you don’t develop your players, when it comes to selection, your choices are limited. That’s why American men’s coach Bob Bradley wound up selecting three of four strikers for the World Cup who hadn’t been part of the two-year U.S. ordeal of qualifying matches and friendly tournaments: he had very little to choose from. No wonder U.S. strikers failed to score a single goal in the four World Cup games. Wouldn’t Bradley love to have two strikers who sat on the bench for Spain against Germany: Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas.

It is fair game to criticize Bradley for his inability to adapt his tactics at the start of each game from the 1980s style of sitting back and watching how the game develops to the 2010 style of the great teams of going to goal from the opening whistle. That cost the U.S. early goals in every game except Algeria where we were saved by the crossbar. In retrospect, U.S. players did remarkably well to battle back in every game. With a little bit of luck, they could have wound up in the semi-finals.

But the real reason we didn’t advance further is that Bradley simply lacked the talent to choose from. So don’t blame him. Instead, look to the boss of U.S. Soccer, Sunil Gulati, who focuses more on choosing and critiquing coaches that he does in creating a youth development system.

American soccer today has fifty percent more youth players than any other sport. In a nation of 300 million people (versus five million in the Netherlands), you would think that America could produce top-level players like it does in every other sport. Obviously, we have the athletes with the speed, size, agility and strength to be world-class players. But we’ll never produce championship teams until we create a youth development system with consistent coaching.

Great leaders forge the way to win-win solutions for all parties

Originally Published in the Star-Tribune on July 3, 2010

As a lifelong businessman, I was surprised to be invited to speak to the Association of Union Contractors last year. They told me they’re searching for “win-win” solutions between their members, the contractors and the owners. For many years they’d seen their membership shrink as owners turned instead to non-union contractors when costs rose to noncompetitive levels.

They recognized that union contractors had been badly hurt by the recession. Instead of continuing the battles through “win-lose” negotiations, they adopted a new approach. They decided to use their members’ expertise to work collaboratively with contractors and owners to find ways to improve construction quality and employee safety while reducing costs and time-to-completion. A win-win solution.

That got me to reflecting, isn’t this what leadership is all about? Isn’t it the ability to solve complex problems that single-minded groups couldn’t resolve by bringing together differing points of view to create win-win solutions? Isn’t this vastly superior to win-lose confrontations that result in damaged relationships, drawn-out strikes that hurt both sides and the inability to work together collaboratively?

Rarely do win-win solutions represent a decisive victory for a single viewpoint. Nor are win-win approaches about Washington-style political compromises in which all parties wrangle until both compromise sufficiently to reach an agreement that too often doesn’t solve basic problems and creates unanticipated consequences.

Rather, great leaders work together with people who represent diverse views to forge solutions that transcend immediate conflicts. Together they devise solutions that will be successful for all parties in the environment of the future. That’s the way great organizations are transformed in order to sustain their success, and the way they ensure superior service to their customers and clients.

IBM is a case in point. To overcome parochialism and traditional squabbles between business and geographical organizations, CEO Sam Palmisano converted IBM’s entire 400,000-employee organization from a geographic structure to an integrated global network, and from a task orientation to “leading by values.” 

Palmisano insisted that functional managers and country managers alike give priority to customers scattered around the globe by sending their top people to customer sites instead of hoarding them for their own organizations. That led to a $500 million contract with China’s largest bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, for a fully integrated information and communications network. Palmisano not only enlisted the collaborative support of hundreds of contractors, but insisted they adhere to IBM’s global business practices rather than following their local business traditions.

Other companies ranging from Cisco Systems to Exxon-Mobil, Novartis and Unilever are adopting similar approaches to create win-win solutions for their customers and prevent parochial issues from getting in the way.

The nurses contract

This brings to mind the contentious contract negotiations between the Minnesota Nurses Association and Twin Cities hospitals, where both sides seemed to be digging ever deeper holes for win-lose postures. Ironically, both sides in this dispute share a common goal: to provide superior care to patients.

Looking ahead to the new health care environment, three things are certain: 1) sharp reimbursement reductions for Medicare, Medicaid, and private health plans are coming; 2) to survive in this environment, quality of patient care must go up; and 3) costs must come down.

Nurses should be treated as professionals who are given opportunities to take on greater levels of responsibility in the new health care environment. Using nurses more effectively is vital to raising health care quality at reduced cost. It is well known how much patients value their relationships with their nurses, especially in the Twin Cities, which has one of the best records for patient care of any metropolitan area in the United States. 

The nurses’ union and the hospitals reached a tentative agreement Thursday. But since they are both committed to patient care, nurses and hospitals could work together in the coming months to figure out how to improve patient care with higher quality outcomes at lower costs.

In the health care environment of the future, nurses should work in teams with doctors. This would require high levels of collaboration, increased knowledge and skills, and greater flexibility in assignments and scheduling, all of which would lead to increased opportunities for promotion and  enhanced compensation.

A new approach

In this context restricting nurses to rigid schedules may be inconsistent with patient needs. This is especially true in the case of those invaluable nurses who engage in delivery of babies, life-altering surgeries, and the frequent emergencies that arise in hospitals. With these broadened professional responsibilities, strikes by nurses would become an anachronism, just like they would be if physicians walked off the job and left thousands of patients without essential medical care.

As we look at the major societal problems we face, it becomes clear that the win-lose approaches are not going to solve the intractable issues in education, in energy and the environment, and in pursuit of global peace. Instead, they are leading to greater conflicts, increased anger on all sides, and extended delays in moving forward to devise and implement workable solutions.

What if we apply the win-win approach to:

  • Create more flexible approaches to educating K-12 students, enabling them to learn in their own ways and at their own pace, and ultimately prepare them better for the working world?
  • Develop an integrated energy policy that recognizes the need for improved efficiency, reduced carbon emissions, and renewable energy sources, yet recognizes the vital role that fossil fuels will play for the foreseeable future?
  • Devise peaceful solutions to intractable ethnic problems that acknowledge the interdependence of all sides and enable the people suffering from the disputes not only to live in peace, but to realize their material and spiritual goals at the same time?

Utopian? Not at all. We know that the consequences of win-lose negotiations mean that everyone loses. We have seen that win-win solutions enable both parties to flourish.

It’s time to give the win-win approach the opportunity to help us solve our most difficult problems.

How Did Landon Donovan Become Americaís First World-Class Soccer Player?

As the minutes ticked away in the U.S.’ decisive World Cup match against Algeria, U.S. superstar Landon Donovan was determined not to permit a repeat of the U.S. 2006 World Cup disaster, when the Americans went home without a single victory.  As his teammates felt their 2010 dreams slipping away, Donovan knew the soccer hopes of the nation rested on his shoulder. This time he could not fail.

As the U.S. saw chance after chance denied by the tenacious Algerian defenders and a lone goal disallowed on a missed call by the referee, even the neutral announcers declared the U.S. deserved to win. This time around an older and wiser Landon Donovan knew deserving success and achieving it are two different things.

Taking an outlet pass from his keeper, he raced down the hundred meter field, looking more like a track star than the crafty midfielder he is, and played the ball forward to teammate Jozi Altidore. When the Algerian keeper pushed away yet another shot, Donovan didn’t hold back. Moving forward toward the goal, he pounced on the loose ball and drove into the back of the net. Pandemonium erupted in the stadium and throughout the U.S. as the entire team piled on top of Donovan’s prostrate body.

When the game ended two minutes later, Donovan buried his head in tears. All he could say to the announcer was “We worked so hard the last four years, we couldn’t let this opportunity slip away.”

What enabled Landon Donovan to rise to this leadership moment? The answers can be found in the disappointments he has suffered from the 2006 letdown, to disappointments playing in Germany and a failed marriage in 2009.

Since he was a teenager, soccer watchers have seen Donovan’s potential to become America’s first world-class soccer player and fulfill the dreams of American soccer lovers. After a solid debut as a 20-year-old on the 2002 U.S. World Cup team that reached the quarter-finals, Donovan was expected to lead the Americans to even greater success in 2006.

It never happened. More than any sporting event in the world, the World Cup is an intense national competition that requires both mental and physical toughness. In 2006, Donovan hadn’t learned what that required. Nor was he prepared to step up to the leadership role expected by his teammates and his country. 

Needing a win against Ghana to advance to the Round of 16, the U.S. instead lost the match and was eliminated.  Donovan and his teammates earned only a single point in three games.  Donovan himself had a rough ride, as he went scoreless and was criticized by U.S. fans for a soft, directionless performance.   

Things didn’t get any easier for Donovan after the Cup.  He endured difficult stints playing professional soccer in Germany where he only occasionally saw time on the pitch.  He endured a difficult breakup with his wife and additional professional strife when news broke of a rift with world-renowned David Beckham, Donovan’s L.A. Galaxy teammate.

But Donovan did more than just “play through” the tough times.  He dug deep into the root cause of his problems, and used his self-exploration to grow as a player, a person, and a leader.  He even took up meditation to become more introspective.

Donovan told that his recent struggles made him realize that all-important leadership lesson: the buck stops with him.  “I am in control of what I do,” Donovan said, “and before, I thought different things determined how I would play or how I would respond or how I would act on the field.” 

That sort of take-charge leadership style has propelled Donovan to new heights.  He received the MLS MVP award in 2009 and won the championship with the Galaxy.  On the world stage last week, as the U.S. stared at a 2-0 deficit at halftime against Slovenia, Donovan’s new calm and resolve showed through. In the third minute of the second half, he ignited a U.S. rally with a perfectly slotted ball from an impossible angle. When the U.S.’ winning goal was called by another erroneous call, he shrugged it off, saying, “We will focus on what we can control.”

Landon Donovan has learned from the searing pain of his personal crucibles. Rather than deny his disappointments, instead he used them to become a more mature leader, ready for the burdens of leadership placed on his shoulders by his teammates and his country. As the pressure mounted, he played through fatigue and disappointment and somehow kept going at a tireless rate.

When the opportunity presented itself, he didn’t flinch or choke. As he said, “in that instant, time just stopped,” no doubt as he recognized the chance to overcome the pain of the past and achieve his goal. Afterward he even thanked his ex-wife on national television for her help.

Was Donovan lucky? Not exactly, unless you believe (as I do) in Oprah Winfrey’s definition of luck as “preparation meeting opportunity.”

Now Donovan leads the U.S. team against Ghana on Saturday in the playoff round, with a chance to revenge the difficult 2006 loss. He is a battle-tested leader, who has learned to share the pressure, excitement, and joy of the World Cup with his teammates and now-loyal fans.  As the Italian and French superstars head for home, Landon Donovan has learned from his crucible and is ready to lead with confidence. 

Engaging the Millennials

The Millennial generation -- those offspring of the baby boomers -- are not short on the "three D’s": dedication, drive, and delivery.

Young adults today study harder and more often, engage in more community service, participate in greater numbers of extracurricular activities, and hold a more optimistic outlook on the future than any other generation in modern history.  Lauded by parents and pundits alike as beacons of youthful optimism that shine in uncertain economic times, these future leaders are eager for leadership opportunities and thirsty to impress.

Having grown up on Twitter and Facebook, today’s youth respect their communities and recognize the importance of staying engaged.  As the 2008 elections showed, Millennials proved they could walk the walk and flocked to the voting polls, many for the first time.  Moreover, Millennials appear to have a high moral compass.   Case in point: youth from around the nation responded to the earthquake disaster in Haiti with food drives led on Facebook, service trips, and fundraising efforts via email campaigns.  A number of my HBS students embarked on trips themselves to lend a hand in subsequent months, writing blogs and sharing their experience with others back home.

Millennials seem eager to stay in touch, any way they can, double-timing on iPads and Smartphones. They have grown up in a culture where the defining theme is "velocity," both in terms of the rate of change and the pace of information.  Consumer and behavioral trends shift monthly, technology evolves constantly, and information flows with sometimes overwhelming abandon, saturating Millennials with 24/7 political newsfeeds and social networks. 

This hyper connectivity certainly has many useful purposes -- workplace productivity, community engagement, and civic mindedness, among others.  But does it come at a price?

Despite their collective activity level and propensity for community engagement, this generation may be at risk of becoming too accustomed to constant exposure, of becoming too quick to say: "Got it - on to the next one."  In charging ahead, are Millennials failing to take time to focus and reflect?  Are they so caught up in keeping up that they will ignore vital real-life lessons that are needed to gain the wisdom to stay pointed toward their True North?

Over the next decade, Millennials will be asked to step into important leadership roles and take part in helping to resolve the complex issues facing the U.S., and the globe.  As Timothy Egan notes in last week’s NY Times, they are the ones who will have to live with the consequences of actions taken today.  From foreign policy to the environment to international economic issues, Millennials will need to adopt a long-term sustainable view.  Who wants to create a startup, invent a new product, serve in politics, or generate a new business model 20 years if our society is selfish, partisan, and dysfunctional?

To develop the insights and the intuition required to address these daunting hurdles with experienced perspectives and informed temperaments, Millennials must commit to their long-term leadership development.  Such a commitment will prepare them for the more daunting challenges that will inevitably come their way.  Developing the qualities of emotional intelligence like self-awareness, introspection, empathy, and empowerment will determine their future success, but this requires the time and commitment to reflection and introspection.

Here are some of my ideas on how to develop these qualities:

  1. For my family and me the most important step we have taken is to meditate daily.  Back in 1975, my wife dragged me to a meditation retreat “kicking and screaming,” and I have meditated twenty minutes twice a day ever since. My sons – Jeff, a business executive with Novartis, and Jon, a head-and-neck surgeon – both meditate regularly.  Meditation has enabled me to find calm, creativity, and clarity, in spite of leading a high-stress life.
  2. A second approach is to take time for yourself to reflect.  There are many ways to do this – through prayer, journaling, jogging, yoga, or just sitting quietly.  The important thing here is to turn off all the instant communications and just be with yourself.
  3. A very different approach involves having a leadership development group (LDG) – six to eight people with whom you meet regularly.  Since 1975, I have been part of group of guys that meets weekly to discuss the important issues of life and to share our challenges and joys.  My wife and I are also part of a couples group that has met monthly since 1983.  These two groups have been a godsend in my life, providing support in difficult times, deeply honest feedback, and wisdom that have helped me in so many ways.
  4. A fourth idea is to get involved in service to your community, being engaged with diverse groups of people whose life experiences are entirely different from your own.  Community service, especially in leading volunteers, is an excellent way to develop skills like empowering others to lead.  You learn a great deal about yourself through helping others and understanding their perspectives about life. Service opens you up to developing compassion and empathy for others, especially those less fortunate that you. 

It is important to build habits and practices like these into your daily life at a relatively young age. You may be surprised at how you stick with them for decades.  At first, you may feel like you don’t have time for them.  That was my reaction, but now I realize that these practices make me much more efficient in using my time, more compassionate in dealing with other people, and ultimately more effective in leadership roles.  Most important of all, I feel better about myself and my life.

What’s not to like about that?  It’s the best way I know to stay on the course of your True North.

Ethics and the Gulf oil disaster - MPR

This morning I was a guest on Minnesota Public Radio's Mid-Morning show with Kerry Miller.  Chirs Pinney, Director Research and Policy at The Center for Corporate Citizenship at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, and I discussed business ethics and the Gulf oil disaster.  Below is a link to the audio from that discussion:

Ethics and the Gulf oil disaster

NYT DealBook's Another View: Can Biotech Survive Icahn?

The activist investor Carl C. Icahn continues to challenge the biotechnology industry. His latest target is Genzyme, one of the most successful companies in this innovative field, where he is seeking four seats on its board.

This is Mr. Icahn’s sixth biotechnology target, and these moves epitomize the struggle between investors like Mr. Icahn, who advocate maximizing short-term shareholder value, and an industry in which enormous investments and extended time frames are required to create long-term shareholder value.

Genzyme is the biotech industry’s second-largest company, with revenues of $4.5 billion and a market capitalization of about $13 billion. Previously, Mr. Icahn has taken on smaller companies: Biogen-IdecMedImmuneImClone SystemsAmylin Pharmaceuticals and Enzon Pharmaceuticals.

The biotechnology industry is one of America’s most promising and innovative, and one in which this country has a clear competitive advantage. It has benefited from billions of dollars in government-sponsored research at the National Institutes of Health and leading research universities. Even so, new biotechnology drugs take 12 to 15 years to bring to market, with the attendant risks of high failure rates in research trials.

Early pioneers like Genentech and Amgen created breakthrough drugs that saved millions of lives while amassing shareholder value of $98 billion for Genentech, after its sale to Roche, and $50 billion for Amgen. Both companies spent more than a decade investing billions of dollars in research before marketing their pioneering products.

In contrast, investors like Mr. Icahn believe shareholders should maximize their short-term value by selling biotech companies to pharmaceutical companies hungry for new drugs. In recent years, the large pharmaceutical companies have struggled to create life-saving drugs in their own laboratories and are often reluctant to tackle the complex diseases that the biotechnology industry has pursued.

What are the implications of these shareholder challenges? No doubt, investors like Mr. Icahn can yield quick profits for investors, but they come with a potentially high cost. In the end, will there be a biotechnology industry capable of the long-term investments required to thrive?

Mr. Icahn made his first move in biotechnology in 2002 with an attempted takeover of ImClone Systems. Following an insider trading scandal that sent the company’s chief executive, Sam Waksal, to prison along with his close friend, Martha Stewart, Mr. Icahn won a 2006 proxy contest to elect four members of ImClone’s board. The interim chief executive, Joseph Fischer, was replaced by Dr. Alex Denner, a genetics professor at Harvard Medical School. In 2008, the company was sold to the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly for $6.5 billion.

MedImmune was next in line in 2007. After a short battle, the company was purchased byAstraZeneca for $15.6 billion.

When Mr. Icahn focused on Biogen-Idec in 2007, its board offered the company for sale. When no bids came in, the sale was withdrawn. In 2008, Mr. Icahn again challenged Biogen’s board and its chief executive, James Muller, and began an unsuccessful proxy contest. A second proxy contest succeeded last June in electing two of Mr. Icahn’s candidates to the Biogen board, including Dr. Denner. Mr. Muller resigned in January as Mr. Ichan won board approval to appoint two additional board members.

Meanwhile, two smaller biotechnology companies, Enzon and Amylin, have also experienced Mr. Icahn’s challenges. Since he urged the spinoff of Enzon’s biotechnology business in 2007, Mr. Icahn has been successful in adding two directors and Dr. Denner was elected chairman of Enzon’s board. At Amylin, its chief executive, Joseph Cook, was forced out in 2009 after Mr. Icahn won two board seats.

Now Mr. Icahn has shifted his focus to Genzyme and its longtime chief executive, Henri A. Termeer. Over the past quarter century, Mr. Termeer has built a formidable company respected for its portfolio of drugs. A year ago, Genzyme’s Cambridge., Mass., plant encountered contamination problems and Mr. Termeer immediately shut down the entire facility.

Last fall, Mr. Icahn purchased 4.9 percent stake in Genzyme. In May, he began a proxy contest to replace four Genzyme board members, including Mr. Termeer, with candidates including himself, Dr. Denner and Richard Mulligan, a Biogen board member, along with one other nominee.

Mr. Termeer isn’t sitting still. He has recruited the activist investor Ralph Whitworth to Genzyme’s board and granted him the right to appoint another director. The company is also buying back $2 billion in stock and spinning off certain business units.

Genzyme is also promoting its blood cancer drug Campath for multiple sclerosis in competition with Biogen and challenging Dr. Denner’s and Mr. Mulligan’s potential conflicts of interest in serving simultaneously on the Genzyme and Biogen boards.

These differences will come to a head at Genzyme’s shareholders meeting on June 16, but the longer-term issues will remain. The industry’s scientific approach to drug development has saved many thousands of lives and created enormous long-term shareholder value. The real question is whether the biotechnology industry with its extended time horizons will continue to make the long-term investments required to pursue these life-saving drugs.


Originally Posted on the New York Times' DealBook 

What I'm Reading - Business and Finance

Over the past few months there have been a number of books released reviewing, analyzing, and discussing the past two years of economic and governmental change.  Here are some of the best of those.

On the Financial Crisis:

How We Got through it:

Two well researched books using first-hand accounts of the 2008 crisis as it unfolded. They both read like fast-paced, exciting novels – except everything here is both real and accurate.

  • “Too Big to Fail” by Andrew Ross Sorkin
  • “On the Brink” by Ex-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson

How We Get out of it:

  • “The Road from Ruin” by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green – a thoughtful set of ideas of how to get out of our financial peril
  • “Too Big to Save” by Robert Pozen, another HBS colleague – a scholarly approach to prevent future crises

Best book on 2008 Presidential campaign:

  • “Game Change” by Mark Halperin and John Heileman – fast-paced, inside account  of the most dramatic Presidential campaign of our lifetime

Business Development:

  • “Winning in Emerging Markets” by Tarun Khanna and Krishna Palepu – excellent new book by my HBS colleagues about succeeding in building businesses in the emerging markets

Attracting the Next Generation

America finds itself confronting a host­­­­­­ of problems – from environmental crises to reform on Wall Street, Congress has no shortage of pressing issues to tackle. One issue stands out to me, however, as particularly important in the effort to attract America’s next generation of global leaders: America needs immigration reform for legal immigrants.

Ever since September 11, 2001, America has been making life extremely difficult for legal immigrants who want to stay in this country, start companies and contribute to the growth of the U.S. economy. In recent years all the focus has been on the 13 million illegal immigrants currently in the country.

From 19th century industrialists like Scottish-American Andrew Carnegie to Yahoo’s Jerry Yang, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, Google’s Sergey Brin, or Harvard Business School’s recently nominated dean Nitin Nohria, immigrants continue to occupy important positions of leadership in creating and driving the next generation of American businesses to success. Many foreign students come to the U.S. to study at our great universities and stay to study medicine, science or business in America’s leading graduate schools. Yet they are sent back home as their student visas expire. It pains me to see so many of my Harvard Business School students who are sent back to China, India, Africa and many other countries and watch them found dynamic countries there instead of doing so in the U.S.

Leaders who come to America from abroad play a key role in driving companies forward – they fuse together ideas from different cultures, help to disseminate best practices from across the globe, and import new models of innovation from abroad. Moreover, the multinational business networks that these immigrants bring with them can also enable companies to tap into new supply chains and access customers in previously unreachable markets, key competitive advantages in an increasingly interconnected economy. 

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who writes frequently about immigration reform, hits the nail on the head when he describes immigration as a key generator of new and innovative ideas, products, and people that infuse and enrich America’s business community. Critical outside perspective, along with knowledge of foreign markets and best practices outside our borders, are keys to successfully navigating today’s global marketplace.

Politicians would do well to focus on immigration reform for these legal immigrants by expanding the H1b visas for graduates of American graduates, rather than mixing these straightforward issues with the highly complex issues like border security and amnesty. Congress needs to pay particular attention to the following core issues in considering immigration reform:

Retaining students. America’s higher education system is unrivaled in attracting the world’s top engineers, doctors, lawyers, and businessmen to study at its universities. A reformed system should ensure that those who come to the US to study and earn advanced degrees receive a fast-track to citizenship.

Increasing the number of skilled worker visas. Increasing the ceiling on the number of H-1B visas for skilled workers ensures that America continues to attract the top set of leaders. A 2006 study by Duke University found that immigrant entrepreneurs in the United States founded 25.3% of all engineering and technology firms over the past decade, generating an estimated $52 billion (in 2005 dollars) in sales and creating 450,000 jobs. Today only 65,000 H-1B visas are issued per year, despite some 163,000 applications in 2008. These rejected applications represent almost 100,000 workers every year who could dynamically contribute to our nation’s economy and help launch the next generation of entrepreneurial start-ups.

Involve the business community. With such high stakes in an immigration reform bill, Congress needs to ensure that all voices are heard in the debate, particularly those of the business community. To this end, major companies like Cisco, Genentech, and Coca-Cola have formed a coalition, Compete America, to advocate for immigration reform on behalf of the business community.

The bid to attract the world’s top intellectual capital is escalating. Australia, Canada just completed immigration reform overhauls to boost their attractiveness to would-be migrants to the United States. Moreover, countries like China, India, and South Korea, long exporters of their country’s top talent, are fast becoming major centers of innovation and reversing the diaspora of intellectual capital. While ideas like the recently introduced “Start-Up Visa Act” in the Senate are positive starting points on the road to reform, America urgently needs to retool its immigration system to retain and attract the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders. Without reform, we could very well face a future void of the next Intel, Sun Microsystems, or Google. 

What I'm Reading - Leadership and Personal Development

I have been traveling quite a bit this first part of the year and it’s a guarantee that I’ll over pack on reading.  I wanted to share some of the books that continue to make the packing list.  The first set I want to share looks at leadership and personal development. 

On leadership:

  • “Reorganize for Resilience” by Ranjay Gulati – organizing for customer-focus, based on 600 in-person interviews
  • “Love Leadership” by John Hope Bryant – straight talk from founder of Operation Hope, leader on financial literacy for everyone

Personal Development:

The books below are to enhance your development as a leader and a human being.

  • “Ethics for the New Millenium” by the Dalai Lama – brilliant insights into the nature of humanity and how society should develop
  • “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman – developing your EQ, not just your IQ
  • “On Becoming a Leader” by Warren Bennis – classic book  on leadership by the world’s best leadership scholar
  • “5 Minds for the Future” by Howard Gardner – on the developing of our minds, tailored to our unique ways of approaching life
  • “The Sermon on the Mount” by Emmet Fox – the spiritual classic on the greatest sermon ever delivered – and the most relevant to our 21st century lives
  • “MBA Oath,” by Max Anderson and Peter Escher – about the need for business leaders to have a professional oath comparable to medical doctors and lawyers.

Collaboration necessary for positive change

Minnesotans have long recognized the value of individual freedom and the merits of initiative and creativity. Yet we live by the collective -- our schools, our security, our environment, our parks and lakes, our safety. We know we cannot thrive without it, either nationally or locally. But many people resent its intrusion into their lives and its claim on their earnings.

The political parties in recent years have sharply divided: to the left -- in support of the collective, largely through government actions and laws -- and to the right -- in support of the rights and freedoms of individuals. Those of us in the middle are in "no man's land," trapped in the crossfire between left and right and between increasingly strident voices in politics and in the media.

Most people desire both individual freedom and the support of the collective, even if they don't articulate it that way.

There is a better way that offers the promise of enhancing individual initiatives while providing "common" benefits for all citizens. I call it "community-building through collaboration and creativity."

Last October, Indiana University Prof. Elinor Ostrom became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in economic sciences. The Nobel Committee cited her breakthrough research in the management of common resources like forests, fisheries and oil fields.

Commonly pooled resources

In her book "Governing the Commons," Ostrom outlines a thoughtful approach that she labels "commonly pooled resources." Her work stands in sharp contrast to several Nobel laureate economists of the past decade who have argued that people only operate in their self-interest.


Originally Posted in The Star Tribune on May 16, 2010