Making each moment count

The Zen of Work: Making Each Moment Count

We do our work in episodes. We sit, pick up the phone, or gather. We engage in discussion, read, rough out numbers, sketch a thought. We go a certain distance, and then the episode ends, and if the thread gets picked up, it’s later, and another episode’s begun. One very simple way to divide episodes… Read more » Read more

Education of a Strategist

The Education of a Strategist

Great strategists elevate organizations. They see the statue in the marble of the circumstances they face. They gain an understanding, both through analytics and judgment, of the very edge of what an enterprise can achieve — and they push the organization toward this frontier. While an immense amount has been written about the subject of strategy, much… Read more » Read more

How to Revise Thinking

How to Revise One’s Thinking

Decisions we make, in business and in life, are a function of the way the evidence we get, the inferences we make from that evidence, the background beliefs that shape our thinking and the way we connect all these inputs to our objectives.  Every once in a while, a bad decision bears the fingerprints of… Read more » Read more

Feedback Flowers

Feedback in the Moment

Experience decays.  While some experiences stay with us vividly for years, most fade in hours.  Rapid feedback matters because it translates experience into learning while the experience is still alive for us.  This translates into registering whatever value there might be in the feedback more deeply, and into internalizing the learning more fully. Feedback in… Read more » Read more

Charlie Munger

Worldly Wisdom in 80 Models

As a companion piece to Graham’s Duncan’s post What Do You See?, I’d like to share a wonderful passage from Charlie Munger’s 1994 speech at USC, which my colleague Darko Lovric shared with me. Most intellectual progress comes from those who can see one thing more clearly than anyone has seen it, and learned to show that vision to the… Read more » Read more

You Must Change Your Life

You Must Change Your Life

Years turn, and our lives continue the motion they know. We try things, which yield some of the consequences we anticipate. Surprises happen. Most of these unfold at the periphery of our attention, and most of them seem small. And then there are moments in which life feels arresting. Often it isn’t clear why. Or:… Read more » Read more

Guest Post: What Do You See? Graham Duncan

Guest Post: What Do You See?

Graham Duncan, founder of East Rock Capital, is one of the people I’ve most enjoyed thinking with and learning from over many years.  Graham’s a student of the human mind and human development, particularly as applied to the field of investment.  Over breakfast not long ago, we were discussing the luminous moments in the work… Read more » Read more

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Talent, Development, and Achievement

As the first anniversary of the On Human Enterprise blog approaches, I’ve been looking back on some of the most central threads discussed here. One significant line of inquiry has been the question of human performance: what makes people good at things, how people get better and how talent translates into achievement over time. In… Read more » Read more

Deliberate practice

Always Be Practicing Something

With a small homage to David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, one of our touchstones in terms of how we think about professional development at Incandescent is “always be practicing something.” Anders Ericsson’s research on the acquisition of expertise, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, underscores the importance of accumulating many, many hours of “deliberate practice.”… Read more » Read more

Elise Waxenberg

Guest Post: Elise Waxenberg’s Advice from an Intern

  I had the opportunity to work closely with Elise Waxenberg at Bridgewater — she’s someone who has always reflected deeply on professional development and on “how work works.”  She’s now a rising second-year student at Harvard Business School and spending her summer working with Lincoln Center.  Her email response to the Advice to an… Read more » Read more

Becoming the Perfect Instrument Part 9

Josh Waitzkin on “Slowing Down Time”

The differences between those who achieve greatly and their peers are evident at both the longest and the shortest time horizons. The length of one’s horizon shapes the magnitude of the aspirations toward which one can effectively reach. The quality of one’s ability to see, choose and act in the finest demarcations of the moment… Read more » Read more

Advice to an Intern

Advice to an Intern

I’ve heard from many readers how useful they found Advice to a Student, which lays out an extremely demanding regimen for someone thinking about pursuing a first job in management consulting. This piece tries to answer a parallel question: what are the disciplines that, applied well, will help an intern in any field get the… Read more » Read more

Three_Doors_(8518544721)

On Working for the Wrong Boss

You’ve been living with this for a couple of years. You have a job that’s enviable: a company you like, a leader in its field with a culture you genuinely admire; high compensation, higher than you could readily replace; leadership of the function in which you’ve made your career. But you aren’t sure what to… Read more » Read more

napoleon crop

Admit Ignorance! Ask Dumb Questions!

Page 72 of Andrew Roberts’ new biography of Napoleon, a book I’m sure will take me a year to read, paints a compelling picture of ignorance in action. Napoleon has just been made a general while still a few months shy of his twenty-seventh birthday. Roberts quotes a fellow officer observing him as he prepares… Read more » Read more

Photo Credit: Tiffany Franke

Time is the Medium in Which We Sculpt Achievement

Time is the medium in which we sculpt achievement. The longer the horizon of time across which an individual is capable to conceptualizing a goal and pulling that goal all the way back to effective action in the present moment, the greater the magnitude of that individual’s potential to achieve. Robert Grudin articulates how a… Read more » Read more

Photo credit: Acumen.org

Economics in a World Where Everyone Matters Equally

Economics through the eyes of a financial investor revolves around return on investment, a measure of how much value the investor can capture and extract. Let’s imagine a metric, perhaps hard to measure but easy to conceptualize: the total surplus, as captured by all stakeholders in an endeavor. This could be expressed as a percentage annual… Read more » Read more

B&W

Stop Being a Ghost!

I’ve been grateful for the many comments I’ve received on the Living Two Stories post about the question of “what to do about not knowing what we want.”  One of the themes that has come up in conversations about the piece relates to authenticity: how to be authentic in the context of work one is… Read more » Read more

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Living Two Stories: What to Do about Not Knowing What We Want

It is part of the human condition to feel compelled to move forward, even when it isn’t clear where forward really is. Forward motion involves agency: intending something and realizing that intention. Agency takes flight as a narrative, a story about who are we and where we’re going. People get uncomfortable when they don’t have… Read more » Read more

Part 6

Beyond “The Dream of Safety”

Leap Before You Look The sense of danger must not disappear: The way is certainly both short and steep, However gradual it looks from here; Look if you like, but you will have to leap. Tough-minded men get mushy in their sleep And break the by-laws any fool can keep; It is not the convention… Read more » Read more

Part 5

Deliberate Practice in the Making of Large Things

Where a practice session in sports or music might last a couple of hours, a writer trying a new novelistic form, in order to stretch his way of writing, or an entrepreneur learning to build a company in a new way, plays on a practice field that might have a span of several years. The… Read more » Read more

Part 4

What Makes Practice Deliberate

Influence helps to transmit the ways of seeing and working that accelerate progress toward mastery. That path to mastery is fundamentally shaped by the application of what researcher Anders Ericsson termed deliberate practice. Geoff Colvin distills the essence of this well: Deliberate practice is characterized by several elements, each worth examining. It is activity designed… Read more » Read more

Part 3

Shaping Our Influences, as They Shape Us

Any influence both shapes and limits. The sculptor Giacometti described how hard it is to stop seeing reality in the way our strongest predecessors have seen it: It’s true that people see things very much in terms of what others have seen. It’s simply a question of the originality of a person’s vision, which is… Read more » Read more

Part 2

A Life that Emanates from a System of Ideas

None of us are truly self-made, but when it comes to shaping capacity to achieve, there’s at least some degree to choose one’s parents. Shaping influences matter a great deal, and the best such influences can prove enormously powerful. Architect and architectural theorist Bill Hubbard describes what this kind of influence can be: It was… Read more » Read more

Achieving Big Things

A Short Guide to Achieving Big Things

I recently had the opportunity to give a workshop for World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders called “A Short Guide to Achieving Big Things,” with some help from friends and fellow “YGLs” Angela Sun, Kristin Rechberger and April Rinne. The workshop highlighted underlying patterns for how people accomplish very large goals that require the efforts… Read more » Read more

Work Life Balance

Work and Life: One More Truth

Boris Groysberg and Robin Abrahams look at a great deal of data on the life contexts and choices of executives, and their Harvard Business Review piece suggests three truths that emerge from amidst great individual variety:  Life Happens  Knowing that, focus on things that matter before they’re gone and build in the capacity to respond… Read more » Read more

Great Achievement

Aravind and the Choice of Great Achievement

Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy, known as Dr. V, was an entrepreneur and humanitarian of the highest order.  He founded Aravind, an organization based in Madurai, in the south of India, that has delivered nearly 4 million eye surgeries, more than half as many eye surgeries as the entire UK National Health System, at levels of quality… Read more » Read more

Advice to a Student - Campus Recruiting

Advice to a Student

I have spent the better part of twenty years in strategy consulting; I began at McKinsey & Company, co-founded a practice at Mitchell Madison Group and built Katzenbach Partners from a start-up to a firm of $50M annual revenue. After selling Katzenbach Partners to Booz & Company, I was a Senior Partner there before founding… Read more » Read more

Mind's Eye

Working from the Mind’s Eye

On a flight back from South Africa, reading John Reader’s panoramic Africa: A Biography of the Continent, I came across a passage that evoked the irreducible essence of what it means for a person to do work. Homo habilis had been fully capable of making tools from cobbles, and that talent served its need for… Read more » Read more