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Bill George

Harvard Business School Professor, former Medtronic CEO

World Business Forum “Greatest Hits”

I just did the math – again, I’m an engineer at heart – and saw that my team and I put together 17 total blogs from the World Business Forum. 

That’s a lot of reading, so I thought it best to compile a “greatest hits” of sorts so that the folks who weren’t able to attend can get the inside scoop.  And all are linked back to the original post if you’d like to take a deeper dive.

Paul Krugman on FINANCIAL INNOVATION:  Other than ATMs, name a financial innovation that really was a good thing.  How many were about making markets more efficient?  How many were about regulatory arbitrage or evasion?  Keynes said, “We have bundled in the handling of a complex machine, the workings of which we do not understand.” 

The burden of proof really should remain on the financial innovator.  You don’t ban stuff, but you can increase transparency.  The fight is on in the USA for a consumer financial production agency.  This would require plain vanilla products, and the industry is worried that this is what people will choose.  They’re also concerned about the enforcement of increased capital for financial institutions.  Simply, the rewards are diminished. 

Bill Clinton on CLIMATE CHANGE & GLOBAL WARMING:  There are many people who question whether climate change is as important as 95% of all scientists claim it to be.  “But when I think about the future of my children and grandchildren, I don’t want to bet that only 5% of people are right.”

Gary Hamel, on EXPLORING THE FRINGE & EXPERIMENTING:  You have to look beyond benchmarking the Fortune 500 to make progress.  You have to look at the fringe.  The Grameen Bank is a prime example of an organization that operates strictly outside the lines set by previous success stories, and managed to success anyway (or rather, because).

Nobody will give you permission to be revolutionary.  Nobody will ask you “blow up something, and see what happens.”  So, you have to be revolutionary.  Are you thinking about creating a number of risk-bounded management experiments every year?  You should be.

Kevin Roberts on EMBRACING THE “PARTICIPATION ECONOMY”:  We have moved from the attention to the attraction to the participation economy.  People are their own medium, their own creation.  This generation today is the “creatives.”  You have to let them in.  We have moved from a world all about informing (the world of marketing as we know it today)… we have moved from “ROI.”  (btw, Mr. CFO, “If we knew the answer on ROI, you idiot, we wouldn’t just be doing what we’re doing.”)  The world that we live in now is a world of inspiration, not an age of process or cost-cutting.  We just give the consumer a fantastic idea, thank God.  Let consumers move your ideas along.  They want to interact.  Measure “Return on Involvement” not “Return on Investment.”  It’s not about a market, it’s about a movement.  Obama created a movement about inspiration and interaction.

George Lucas, on BUSINESS:  My father taught me to “buy low, sell high, and never borrow money” … I pay attention to industries that are around my industry.  Steve Jobs really does know what he’s doing.  He’s amazing.  He has created something.  Who would have thought they’d make cell phones 20 years ago?  That is coming up with great ideas.

David Rubenstein asks, “Where would I invest?”:

  • Distressed investing and turnarounds. 
  • Government-supported industries
  • Energy; carbon-related and alternative energy
  • Healthcare.  Will increase 17% to 20% of GDP
  • Natural resources (oil and water)
  • Emerging markets

Pat Lencioni on CONFLICT: If you have a marriage where you don’t argue, you don’t have a good marriage.  Great relationships are built on the ability to disagree—even passionately.  Great teams debate things.  Conflict is almost always lacking.  Because CEOs don’t want people to get their feelings hurt.  The organization where people get their feelings hurt the most is church.  When you don’t have conflict around issues and ideas, it ferments into conflict around people. 

Bill Conaty’s Four Essential Talent Management Functions:

  • Attract: Hire outstanding talent.  This is important, but it’s just the beginning
  • Develop:  Provide opportunities for people to excel, develop their skills,  and to achieve their dreams
  • Assess:  Create and rigorously manage a performance-driven culture
  • Retain: Keep employees with high performance

And finally (though not trying to toot my own horn…)

Me on PRINCIPLED LEADERSHIP:  Robert F. Kennedy said that few will have the greatness to bend history.  The sum total of all our efforts will shape history.  A small group of people are going to tackle the great problems of today: global health, energy, job creation, peace.  What role will you pay?