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The Man Who Beat Vegas & Wall Street

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Edward O. Thorp is not well-known outside of finance, but within the investment community he is revered like a rock star. Over two decades, Thorp recorded average annual returns of 19.1%, an incredible achievement. In his recent memoir, A Man for All Markets, Thorp tells his amazing life story, from a child of the depression through an early career as an academic and finally as a successful investor. Independent Thinking Early on Thorp developed a fiercely independent mind that guided his...

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...

Good Leaders Promote Emotional Well-Being

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Things don’t make you happy, but experiences and relationships do. Highly productive people understand this and apply it in their own lives to maintain spiritual and emotional well-being. Great leaders also leverage this truth to create a positive culture and get the most out of their people. If you survey the happiness literature, one theme you’ll find is that happiness depends on one’s ability to accept the world for what it is, and to be content with what you have today. From the ancient...

To Make Better Decisions, Think Independently

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Photo by Rachele Caretti, Licensed under CC by 2.0 One of the qualities shared by great decision makers is the rare ability to disregard the opinions of others and think for themselves. There is a strong gravitational pull to conform to the conventional wisdom. If you’re looking to avoid accountability or even regret (which is a powerful force in decision making), then it’s much easier to agree with the group as opposed to doing the research and analysis to make your own determination. It’s...

Lessons from a 630-Year-Old Family Business

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The Cantina at the Antinori Winery. The Antinori family of Italy traces the founding of its family-owned wine business to 1385.  That’s 630 years and 26 generations of business continuity. Consider the risks that a business faces over a span of that period, including war, plague, economic crisis, political turmoil, family health, and sibling rivalries just to name a few.    Any one of these events could easily end a fragile family business, and many Antinori generations have faced more than one...

7 Leadership Lessons from a CEO

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I recently had an opportunity to hear Gail McGovern speak to a group of high-potential leaders at the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, DC. She shared her personal history from her early career at AT&T where she started as a computer programmer and rose to Executive Vice President. There were a lot of lessons learned along her career journey, and here are seven she shared with the next generation of leadership at the Red Cross: 1. Pick the best people. Attract, retain and...

Einstein & Creativity

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In 2015 we celebrated the one-hundred-year anniversary of the publication of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. What Einstein was able to achieve was so astounding and so creative, it is worth reflecting on how he did it. Thought Experiments. Einstein’s intellectual journey toward the General Theory of Relativity did not begin with complex equations and high level mathematics; rather it started with a simple thought experiment when he was just 16 years old. Young Einstein imagined he was...

3 Tips for Improving Decision Making

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You walk into the conference room for your fourth meeting of the day. It’s a cross-functional committee and you’ve been tasked with making a big decision. You’re pretty sure the committee made a decision during last week’s meeting, and you’re hopeful today’s topic is focused on execution. After all, a solution was discussed thoroughly and you felt that consensus was finally achieved. As you scan the agenda you get a sinking feeling in your gut. You realize the decision is still on the table and...

A Company that Builds People First and Machines Second

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Bob Chapman is not your typical leader.  Take, for example, the mission of Barry-Wehmiller, the $1.5 billion company where Bob is Chairman and CEO: We build great people who do extraordinary things. You might be confused if someone told you that Barry-Wehmiller builds capital equipment and delivers consulting services, because what Bob will tell you is “building great people is our business.” Many companies espouse the importance of building and developing talent by investing in people, but few...

Leadership and EQ

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In the past, it might have been true that leaders could succeed simply because they were smart. But that’s no longer all it takes. While technical skills remain important, our emotional intelligence (referred to as EQ or EI) is just as important as our IQ. In fact, research shows that a leader’s emotional intelligence has a direct impact on the success of an organization. Daniel Goleman, a thought-leader on the topic of EI, says this about emotional intelligence: “If your emotional abilities...

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