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Opinion | The Secrets of Jewish Genius - The New York Times
By Bret Stephens
Opinion Columnist

Dec. 27, 2019

** “Genius & Anxiety," by Norman Lebrecht.
An erudite and delightful study of the intellectual achievements and nerve-wracked lives of Jewish thinkers, artists, and entrepreneurs between 1847 and 1947. Sarah Bernhardt and Franz Kafka; Albert Einstein and Rosalind Franklin; Benjamin Disraeli and (sigh) Karl Marx — how is it that a people who never amounted even to one-third of 1 percent of the world’s population contributed so seminally to so many of its most pathbreaking ideas and innovations?.....The common answer is that Jews are, or tend to be, smart. When it comes to Ashkenazi Jews, it’s true. “Ashkenazi Jews have the highest average I.Q. of any ethnic group for which there are reliable data,”.....the “Jews are smart” explanation obscures more than it illuminates. Aside from the perennial nature-or-nurture question of why so many Ashkenazi Jews have higher I.Q.s, there is the more difficult question of why that intelligence was so often matched by such bracing originality and high-minded purpose. One can apply a prodigious intellect in the service of prosaic things — formulating a war plan, for instance, or constructing a ship. One can also apply brilliance in the service of a mistake or a crime, like managing a planned economy or robbing a bank.........But...Jewish genius operates differently. It is prone to question the premise and rethink the concept; to ask why (or why not?) as often as how; to see the absurd in the mundane and the sublime in the absurd. Ashkenazi Jews might have a marginal advantage over their gentile peers when it comes to thinking better. Where their advantage more often lies is in thinking different.
Where do these habits of mind come from?

There is a religious tradition that, unlike some others, asks the believer not only to observe and obey but also to discuss and disagree. There is the never-quite-comfortable status of Jews in places where they are the minority — intimately familiar with the customs of the country while maintaining a critical distance from them. There is a moral belief, “incarnate in the Jewish people” according to Einstein, that “the life of the individual only has value [insofar] as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful.”

And there is the understanding, born of repeated exile, that everything that seems solid and valuable is ultimately perishable, while everything that is intangible — knowledge most of all — is potentially everlasting.
These explanations for Jewish brilliance aren’t necessarily definitive. Nor are they exclusive to the Jews......At its best, the American university can still be a place of relentless intellectual challenge rather than ideological conformity and social groupthink. At its best, the United States can still be the country that respects, and sometimes rewards, all manner of heresies that outrage polite society and contradict established belief. At its best, the West can honor the principle of racial, religious and ethnic pluralism not as a grudging accommodation to strangers but as an affirmation of its own diverse identity. In that sense, what makes Jews special is that they aren’t.

They are representational

The West, however, is not at its best. It’s no surprise that Jew hatred has made a comeback, albeit under new guises. Anti-Zionism has taken the place of anti-Semitism as a political program directed against Jews. Globalists have taken the place of rootless cosmopolitans as the shadowy agents of economic iniquity. Jews have been murdered by white nationalists and black “Hebrews.” Hate crimes against Orthodox Jews have become an almost daily fact of life in New York City. Jews of the late 19th century would have been familiar with the hatreds. Jews of the early 21st century should recognize where they could lead. What’s not secret about Jewish genius is that it’s a terribly fragile flower.
19th_century  20th_century  Albert_Einstein  anti-Semitism  books  Bret_Stephens  capitalization  genius  heresies  high-minded  human_capital  human_intelligence  IQ  Jewish  mental_dexterity  originality  outsiders  purpose  smart_people  talent  think_differently 
8 weeks ago by jerryking
VC Pioneer Vinod Khosla Says AI Is Key to Long-Term Business Competitiveness - CIO Journal. - WSJ
By STEVE ROSENBUSH
Nov 15, 2016

“Improbables, which people don’t pay attention to, are not unimportant, we just don’t know which improbable is important,” Mr. Khosla said. “So what do you do? You don’t plan for the highest likelihood scenario. You plan for agility. And that is a fundamental choice we make as a nation, in national defense, as the CEO of a company, as the CIO of an infrastructure, of an organization, and in the way we live.”....So change, and predictions for the future, that are important, almost never come from anybody who knows the area. Almost anyone you talk to about the future of the auto industry will be wrong on the auto industry. So, no large change in a space has come from an incumbent. Retail came from Amazon. SpaceX came from a startup. Genentech did biotechnology. Youtube, Facebook, Twitter did media … because there is too much conventional wisdom in industry. ....Extrapolating the past is the wrong way to predict the future, and improbables are not unimportant. People plan around high probability. Improbables, which people don’t pay attention to, are not unimportant, we just don’t know which improbable is important.
Vinod_Khosla  artificial_intelligence  autonomous_vehicles  outsiders  gazelles  unknowns  automotive_industry  change  automation  diversity  agility  future  predictions  adaptability  probabilities  Uber  point-to-point  public_transit  data  infrastructure  information_overload  unthinkable  improbables  low_probability  extrapolations  pay_attention 
november 2016 by jerryking
Leadership Means Learning to Look Behind the Mask - The New York Times
JAN. 30, 2016 | NYT | By BARBARA MISTICK.

Don't wait until it's too late to solicit feedback. Ms. Mistick was named president and director of Andrew Carnegie’s public library system in Pittsburgh, becoming only the second nonlibrarian to lead the system in over 110 years. She went in knowing that she was considered an outsider and that she would need to call on all her interpersonal and communication skills to navigate her new position. The problem is, the higher your position in an organization, the harder it is to receive honest assessments from the people who work for you, because the balance of authority shifts. ...The search for genuine feedback is increasingly your own responsibility.... In a culture of scarce resources, people had become guarded with their opinions. ....Mistick felt that everyone except her knew what was expected to succeed in “library land.” New jobs always present the challenge of how to read the norms, standards and expectations that aren’t explicitly told to new hires....When seeking input on specific skills, the 360-degree management assessment tool is a great starting place. When you want insights on the most important priorities for personal change, it takes honest conversation with those who know you best at work....We each have more control of our future than we recognize. One of the most powerful ways we can take charge of developing new skills is to ask for feedback.
leadership  women  CEOs  Communicating_&_Connecting  sense-making  performance_reviews  people_skills  Pittsburgh  libraries  anonymity  feedback  first90days  self-improvement  outsiders  tacit_knowledge  insights 
january 2016 by jerryking
HOW OUTSIDE FORCES IMPACT FOOD INDUSTRY INSIDERS
Jul. 24, 2006 | Supermarket News | by David Orgel.

Who holds power and influence in the supermarket industry today? That's usually an easy answer: Wal-Mart, Kroger, Kraft, Coke and the like.

But food industry clout is also shifting to players that aren't retailers, suppliers or other members of the establishment. These outside participants are gaining more influence over everything from consumer behavior to industry mergers.

Who are these people? A number of them are highlighted in the SN Power 50 rankings in this issue (see Page 24 for the full list). The ones I will point out appear under the category of "Other Players" because they don't neatly fit into the rest of the segments.

Consider the case of "The New Private Investor" (No. 45 on the list), which is our umbrella name for all the private equity investors now heating up the merger and acquisitions landscape.
consumer_behavior  food  grocery  influence  investors  Oprah_Winfrey  outsiders  power  power_brokers  private_equity  supermarkets 
march 2013 by jerryking
Hit the Ground Running--Or Else the perils of a new job
March 6, 2000 | Fortune Magazine | By Dan Ciampa.

What's the main reason people from the outside fail?

They don't read the culture of the place that they're joining.

Is that why you say a new person needs to be a cultural anthropologist?

Yes. In general, I think the most effective way to read the culture is to look at the artifacts--that's what an anthropologist does. What does it say that people greet you the way they do? What does it say that meetings are run the way they are? There are some organizations that eschew meetings. Well, that says something about what works and what doesn't in that culture, and it says something about the skills of the people who survive there.

What if you've been brought in to make change?

It's important to understand what you're going to change before you change it. I'd say that even if the board or the chairman has brought you in because of what you've done in the past, there's a lot that you don't know. And the degree to which you find those things out is a function of people's trusting you. The only way you can do that is by not coming in as though you're Attila the Hun--not coming in as though you have the answer--but rather coming in and asking more questions than making declarative statements, especially in the first several weeks. ....on day one you have a plan to make sure that the first 30 days are really successful.
first90days  outsiders  Michael_Watkins  failure  questions  pilot_programs  alliances  hiring  anthropologists  anthropology  unknowns  organizational_culture  change  change_agents  artifacts  cultural_anthropology 
december 2012 by jerryking
Operational Expertise Makes the Difference
Fall 2004 | The Journal of Private Equity | Peter L. Tourtellot

In the last decade, companies in need of innovative change-agents learned to look outside their industries for new chief executives. These leaders were just what the companies needed: outsiders with a fresh perspective that
encourage strategic and organizational change. When a company is in distress. it needs to make drastic changes An industry outsider. with a wide range of operational experience is in the best position to get a handle on the root causes of trouble and identify applicable solutions from other industries that may never have occurred to the faltering company. Simply put. the need for industry experience in a turnaround situation is a myth. An industry outsider is the best source for the out-of-the-box thinking needed to reverse a company's decline.
turnarounds  execution  CEOs  private_equity  change_agents  industry_expertise  expertise  operations  outsiders  decline  out-of-the-box  fresh_eyes 
august 2012 by jerryking
Newt Gingrich wants you to make him run for president
February 5, 2007 | Fortune | Nina Easton.

Has anyone revitalized or created a bright spot in a flat or declining industry?
At the Tempe conference, Gingrich politely listens to such proposals as applying Toyota-style production-control techniques to the health system - and then slices through them with an alternative mantra of competition, deregulation, modernized information systems, and personal responsibility. ...In other words, in Gingrich's world consumer health care should look more like Travelocity...Instead, the Center for Health Transformation offers policy ideas to companies that want to get health-care costs off their backs but oppose government-imposed, universal-health-insurance plans as costly and burdensome. The center's roster of 75 clients is impressive, including insurers Blue Cross & Blue Shield and GE Healthcare, providers like the American Hospital Association, and employers like GM (Charts) and Ford (Charts). Clients pay fees ranging from $10,000 to $200,000 a year....Gingrich's own epiphany about a presidential run dates back three years, when he picked up Harold Holzer's "Lincoln at Cooper Union." The book tells the story of how Lincoln's lengthy 1860 speech in New York City - an intellectually rigorous rebuttal of slavery's legal grounding - wowed the Eastern establishment and transformed a gawky, badly dressed Western politician into a leading presidential candidate. Gingrich saw himself in this story of the underestimated outsider making good, despite the seeming hubris of comparing himself to Lincoln, and it now underpins his unorthodox quest for the presidency...Gingrich also says things like "If you want to shape history, it's useful to actually know history" without a hint of self-consciousness...Of the other Republican contenders for President he says, "We're not in the same business. They are running for the White House. I am trying to change the country."..."My planning horizons are 17 years. I want to give you a sense of scale," he explains, as if helping me focus on his long view of things. "I also do what I think the country needs. I don't operate under personal ambition." ...."There are 3,300 counties, 17,000 elected school boards, 60,000 cities and towns, 14,000 state legislators, 50 governors, and 535 elected federal legislators," he says.
profile  historians  healthcare  lean  books  Six_Sigma  innovation  best_practices  change_agents  long-term  unorthodox  decline  competition  deregulation  information_systems  personal_responsibility  underestimation  outsiders  Abraham_Lincoln  personal_ambition  intellectually_rigorous 
may 2012 by jerryking
How outsiders solve problems that stump experts
May. 02, 2012 | The Globe and Mail| by ERIN MILLAR Special to Globe and Mail Update.

“Radical innovations often happen at the intersections of disciplines,” write Dr. Karim Lakhani and Dr. Lars Bo Jeppesen, of Harvard Business School and Copenhagen Business School respectively, in the Harvard Business Review. “The more diverse the problem-solving population, the more likely a problem is to be solved. People tend to link problems that are distant from their fields with solutions that they've encountered in their own work.”....“We assume that technical problems can be solved only by people with technical expertise,” writes Jonah Lehrer, who discusses InnoCentive in his new book Imagine: How Creativity Works. “But that assumption is wrong. The people deep inside a domain – the chemists trying to solve a chemistry problem – often suffer from a type of intellectual handicap. It's not until the challenge is shared with motivated outsiders that the solution can be found.
creativity  heterogeneity  innovation  polymaths  problem_solving  InnoCentive  books  Jonah_Lehrer  cross-pollination  interdisciplinary  outsiders  intellectual_diversity  moonshots  breakthroughs  industry_expertise 
may 2012 by jerryking
Six Things All CEOs Can Learn From Mulally | ChiefExecutive.net | Chief Executive Magazine
Six Things All CEOs Can Learn From Mulally

June 27 2011 by JP Donlon

1. Display courage in the face of adversity.
2. Focus is everything.
3. Simplify.
4. Use the Outsider Advantage.
5. Reward transparency and collaboration.
6. Stay inventive during tough times.
Alan_Mulally  simplicity  Ford  Boeing  leadership  tips  courage  innovation  transparency  collaboration  CEOs  hard_times  adversity  focus  outsiders 
november 2011 by jerryking
What You Need to Succeed - Thomas Stemberg - Highland Capital Partners
By Thomas Stemberg | Jan 1, 2007

business plans are interesting chiefly as indications of how an entrepreneur thinks. Here at Highland Capital Partners, the venture capital firm I'm part of now, we spend most of our time talking about what really matters: management and market. If you have the right management team and an exciting market, the rest will take care of itself. I suspected that was true before I came here--it had always been true for me. Now I know it for a fact.

(1) The right people: Folks who have been there and done (something like) that.
(2) The right market: Preferably, it involves an absolute mob scene.
(3) The right answers: Sometimes you need an outside perspective.
Staples  entrepreneur  business_planning  venture_capital  Lululemon  Highland_Capital  fresh_eyes  large_markets  outsiders  the_right_people  what_really_matters 
november 2011 by jerryking
Seeing old problems through fresh eyes
May 11, 2011| Globe and Mail | by HARVEY SCHACHTER
Practically Radical
By William C. Taylor
William Morrow, 293 pages, $31.99

A new book by the co-founder of Fast Company magazine says it's possible to transform an organization by doing two things: 1. Look at the familiar as if you've never seen it before 2. Find inspiration from outside your own field...two premises. The first notion is that what you see shapes how you change. The best leaders, he argues, demonstrate a capacity for "vuja dé."

We all know what déjà vu is: Looking at an unfamiliar situation and feeling as if you have seen it before.

Vuja dé is the opposite: Looking at a familiar situation - be it the industry you have worked in for years, or the products you have been selling for ages - as if you have never seen them before.

Interestingly, often that involves looking to the past to figure out why your organization was successful and figuring out how to refresh it with the insights of the founders....second principle is that where you look shapes what you see. If you run a hospital, what you see will differ if you look at other hospitals for inspiration or to an auto plant.

In this case, vuja dé involves looking outside your organization to discover what you may have been missing.
problem_solving  Harvey_Schachter  book_reviews  outsiders  inspiration  creative_renewal  learning_journeys  fresh_eyes  books 
october 2011 by jerryking
Internal Hires Trumped Outsiders in 2009 - WSJ.com
FEBRUARY 18, 2010 | Wall Street Journal | by SARAH E.
NEEDLEMAN. What the findings indicate, says Mark Mehler, co-founder of
CareerXroads, is that networking is the most effective strategy for
landing employment. "Job seekers should use job board and corporate
sites to find information about openings, but they should use their
network to apply," says Mark Mehler, co-founder of CareerXroads.
hiring  trends  networking  job_boards  Sarah_E._Needleman  outsiders 
february 2010 by jerryking

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