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Use this Richard Feynman Technique to Increase Your Team’s Productivity

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As World War II broke out, the physicist Richard Feynman was recruited to Los Alamos to assist in the development of the first atomic bomb. He was tasked with calculating the energy released by the nuclear explosion. Machines were brought in from IBM to assist in the task. Although state of art in their day, they were crude mechanical calculators that used punch cards to execute complicated calculations. The Army dispatched a group called the Special Engineering Detachment to operate the...

50 Days of Silence: Lessons from Adventurer Erling Kagge

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In the early 1990s, Erling Kagge completed the first unsupported solo expedition to the South Pole. He covered 815 miles in 50 days. During that time he had no radio contact and no support from the outside world. He was completely alone. What hit him the hardest was the silence. At first his mind was racing with thoughts and worries. He found the silence disturbing. “Everything seemed completely flat and white, kilometre after kilometre all the way to the horizon…Eventually, in...

What the Amish can Teach Us about Technology

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I had always understood the Amish to be a community that chose to live permanently in the technological past. That is, at a certain point in time, the community said “no more” to new technology.  From that point forward new technology was rejected out of hand. However, the Amish relationship to technology is more complicated. The author Kevin Kelly has written about this.  The Amish are constantly evolving with respect to technology. Thus, the Amish don’t use cars or bicycles for...

How Bucky the Bean Counter Created a World-Class Culture at Nike

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From a very young age, Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike, went by the nickname “Buck.” His father had always referred to him as such, and the name stuck. Even when he ran track for the University of Oregon his track coach, the legendary Bill Bowerman (and Nike’s other co-founder), called him Buck. As Nike grew more successful so did Phil’s stature in the business community, and Phil was increasingly referred to as “Mr. Knight.” But there was one group of early Nike employees who never got the...

Ulysses S. Grant: 12 Leadership Lessons

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1. Find a Profession Where Your Passion Meets Your Purpose. The same man who decisively and strategically lead over a million soldiers through a brutal Civil War, was unable to manage his brother’s leather goods store in Galena, IL in civilian life. Context matters. Grant was not just twice as successful or three times as successful as a military leader compared to a business leader, he was a thousand times more successful. Finding the profession most suitable to your talents and most...

If Business is War, Jeff Bezos is a lot like Ulysses S. Grant

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In 1861, Ulysses S. Grant was managing his brother’s leather goods store in Galena, IL, having retired from the military seven years prior. When the Civil War broke out later that year, he reenlisted and quickly rose through the ranks. The officers Grant replaced on his meteoric rise to Commanding General of the Union Army shared a common trait: they were indecisive. While others fretted and stalled, Grant would study the situation, make the best possible decision and move on. In an...

My Favorite Books of 2017

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A list of the top 15 books I read in 2017: Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.  This is the same biographer that wrote wonderful biographies of Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein.  The power of Da Vinci’s intellect and the insatiable nature of his curiosity is well detailed in this volume.  Isaacson focuses on Da Vinci’s ability to master multiple disciplines (painting, sculpture, science, engineering, writing, anatomy, biology and so much more).  Da Vinci was a...

Leadership Lessons from Lewis & Clark

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Charles M. Russell: Lewis and Clark on the Lower Columbia From May 1804 to September 1806, two men led an expedition from St. Louis, Missouri to the Pacific Ocean and back again. The group covered over 7,000 miles, crossed the Rocky Mountains in harsh conditions, and encountered numerous Native American tribes, both friendly and hostile. They were the first people of European descent to explore this territory.  Only one man died on the journey, and that was likely from acute appendicitis. All...

How My First Boss Saved Me From Failing

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I was 23 years old, in my first professional job and I was failing big-time. My boss had recently handed me a list of five-hundred names and phone numbers and instructed me to cold call them. I picked up the phone and started dialing. I felt a palpable sense of fear and anxiety as I reached for the phone to make each call. I experienced a wave of rejection the likes of which I had never before seen. I was demoralized. My boss could see I was floundering and ready to quit. After a few days, he...

Innovation, Risk & Failure at Pixar

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In a recent interview, Ed Catmull, the cofounder of Pixar, shares his views on risk, failure and culture. The entire interview is worthwhile, but I found Ed’s perspective on these three issues to be especially insightful and applicable to all industries. Taking Risks The nature of innovation requires risk taking. This creates a fundamental tension for leaders who are simultaneously tasked with providing clear, stable leadership and managing a process that creates something new and of...

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