Fidelman Loves the 1%

Mark Fidelman writes for Forbes about a programme called “Tiger 21”.

Tiger 21 helps really, really rich folks – folks who have succeeded at life — to think about what is next. The interesting thing is that these super achievers need this kind of help. But apparently they do. The reason is that they need to expand their thinking beyond a single strategy and open their minds to embrace relationships.

Interesting — check out the article for profiles of Tiger 21 speakers and their views of the future. I liked it!

Martin: Strategy for Dummies

Roger Martin makes a great point that we tend to confuse who should be making strategy. We think that great strategists tend to be really, really, really smart. Like Napoleon or Julius Caesar or Alexander. Folks who figured out the “right answer”.

Here is the key point — you need strategy when there is no right answer. There are only options to choose form in the face of uncertainty. And in this setting, people who think they are very smart don’t always make the best strategic choices

The essential qualities for this type of person are flexibility, imagination, and resilience. But there is no evidence that these qualities are correlated with pure intelligence. In fact, the late organizational learning scholar Chris Argyris argued the opposite in his classic HBR article Teaching Smart People How to Learn. In his study of strategy consultants, Argyris found that smart people tend to be more brittle. They need both to feel right and to have that correctness be validated by others. When either or both fail to occur, smart people become defensive and rigidly so.

Robinson – Taking Aptitudes for Granted

This post is part of a series where I am deconstructing Ken Robinson’s book “The Element”. The element is that place where your aptitudes meet your passions — where you can “be in your element”.  We are now looking at what we mean by aptitudes

So what are you naturally good at? You might have an intuitive answer to this question, but is it an informed answer? Tim Robinson explains that we often take for granted what our abilities are and are not. When we make these assumptions, we shape our self-image and limit who we can become.

So, for example, how many senses do you have? These are basic capacities, and we — or at least most of us — might shout out five – sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. Perhaps some might think “intuition” is like a “sixth sense”.  If there is a sixth sense, intuition, what organ does it use?

But what about our sense of balance? What about our sense of temperature?  What about our sense of pain?What about our sense of movement? And what about our sense of proportion (that allows us to sense where are arms and legs are)? Each of these capacities add to your sense of intelligence.

So how intelligent are you on a scale of 1 to 10? Answering presumes that your intelligence is a fixed thing that can be measured. And this is a strong cultural bias — that intelligence is fixed. Smart people are always smart and dumb people are always dumb. So we are enthralled by “IQ”. In fact, IQ testing evolved out of a cultural bias that values math and verbal reasoning. Similary the famous US high school test the “SAT”. The scores on these tests reflect only certain aptitudes.

Instead of asking “how intelligent are you”, we should be asking “how are you intelligent?”In other words, there are a number of ways to express intelligence. In this, we are all different.  But there are at least three features

  • its extraordinary diversity (we learn in many, many different ways)
  • it is tremendously dynamic (you use different parts of the brain for each and every task – and how you combine these inputs affects your ability to do them well)
  • it is entirely distinctive (each and every one of us is different

A first step in finding “the element” – where your aptitude meets your passion is to grasp that your intellectual capacity – your intelligence — is diverse, dynamic and distinctive. Don’t take it for granted.

Robinson – Aptitude Meets Passion

We are following up on a first post about Ken Robinson’s book “The Element”.  The book is valuable for people trying to figure out how to maximize what they get out of life. Not by helping you make money, but by helping you add value to people around you. Do that, and money will not be a problem.

So what is the trick? It is very simple. You need to be able to mash together what you are good at (your aptitude) with what you love to do (your passion). If you love to do what you are very good at, well … life gets interesting. And Ken calls that meeting place of aptitude and passion “The Element”.

How to find it? We will be looking more deeply at the two features that Ken already identified – aptitude and passion. And we will be looking at the conditions needed to discover how to develop these features – attitude and opportunity.

Ken identifies a sequence that looks like this

  • I get it – an epiphany that something works for you (aptitude)
  • I love it –  a feeling that this is who you need to be in life (passion)
  • I want it- the attitude that makes things possible
  • Where is it? – finding opportunities

So offer we go! First stop — taking a closer look at aptitudes.

Robinson – Who are We?

Ken Robinson tells a wonderful story about the childhood of the great ballerina Gillian Lynne. Here she is

young Gillian was disruptive in class and the teachers did not know what to do with her. They thought something was wrong. Her mother was alarmed and took her for a psychiatric review. There they observed that when she heard music she automatically started to move to the rhythm . It was the moment that moved Gillian from a great risk situation to an understanding of who she was: she was a dancer.

So who are we! How do we find out? I will be reading Ken’s book “The element” and posting more about it on this blog.



Berlin: Schelling and Art as Serious Play

We have been wading through Isaiah Berlin’s essay “The Romantic Revolution” here, going step by step from the origins (in Kant and Rousseau) through Fichte. Fichte elevated freedom to an ultimate value, which placed the artist, as the person who sees and creates at the center.

This is elaborated further by other German philosophers like Schelling. Schelling viewed art as a sort of game — the type of game that children play. Children become the identity that they play without regard to the constraints of the physical world. So to the artist –celebrating manifestations of the great seething caldron that lies within.  A great example — mythology — not self-delusional beliefs but living manifestations of who we want to connect with.

We are getting closer, step by step, to the idea of the great man who unleashes great forces within.

Media veteran John Battelle launches NewCo to focus on social change


Not many people have been around the digital-media world as long as John Battelle: he helped launch Wired magazine in the 1990s, then launched his own magazine called The Industry Standard, a pioneering conference called Web 2.0, and an advertising network for publishers called Federated Media.

After stepping back from the latter, Battelle says he was looking for something worthwhile to do with his time, and the result is a startup he calls NewCo, which has raised a seed round of about $1.75 million in funding.

The company isn’t called NewCo just because Battelle couldn’t think of a name for it — it comes from the fact that his new media and entertainment venture is focused on what he sees as a new kind of company: a startup that spends as much, or even more, time thinking about how it is contributing to society as it does thinking…

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Finding Things in People

I was thinking of a great episode of “Hormblower” (the TV series).  All of them are good, but this one is my favorite.

Young Hornblower is an ambitious young British naval officer. He is offered the chance to take an examination for promotion, which is exciting. But during the time he is supposed to be studying, he gets pulled into a series of life and death dramas involving people more than seamanship. He passes these life tests, making his struggles to pass the seamanship exam seem trivial.

Which, of course, triggers a thought about strategy. To think strategically, one must be able to separate out what is trivial and what is not. It is the starting point for building focus. As an aside, if I look back on my youth, that was my single greatest challenge — building focus.

Are there any things one can say about what is trivial in life and what is not? Fred Wilson writes about “finding passion in life” today, and he tells a great story about his own early days. I translate this into finding what is not trivial – what is important. Worth the trouble. If something is worth it, you feel passionate about it.

But notice something about his story. Fred found passion through people. He was fortunate in his pairings with others. They opened doors for him. People can do that for you. I would argue indeed, that you should find your passion that way.

Robinson: Finding a Path

Ken has this to say in his book “The Element”

The world is changing faster than ever in our history. Our best hope for the future is to develop a new paradigm of human capacity to meet a new era of human experience. We need to evolve a new appreciation of the importance of nurturing human talent along with an understanding of how talent expresses itself differently in every individual. We need to create environments – in our schools, in our workplaces, and in our public offices – where every person is inspired to grow creatively.

The book is about the meeting of our passion with our gift, so that what we do is what we are good at and what we are passionate about. I will report on this as I read.

Berlin: Fichte’s Inner Vision

We have been dissecting Isaiah Berlin’s famous essay called “the Romantic Revolution” and it has led to some startling ideas. First is how important an understanding of this revolution is to understand modern man. Second, that it arrived on the scene via thinking of Kant and Rousseau, who elevated notions of  individual choice as a supreme value.

This led to a fixation of sorts on the idea of creation, and gives us our rather exaggerated notion of the importance of the artist. But not just the artist. Fichte goes further. It is important to grasp that his focus is not on the emotions surrounding individual expression but on the idea of work. Work is the ultimate expression of individual will that overcomes “the dead stuff that is nature”. To know what to do in order to realize one’s inner self.

Berlin speculates that this obsession came naturally to German philosophers like Fichte as a reaction to the humiliations imposed on the Germans by Louis XIV. It was a way of going inward to find new space to escape.

This last idea is highly relevant today. Terrorists have the same “passive aggressive” sense and seem untroubled by whether their strategies are logical. They are also obsessed by issues of personal will.