Five Principles of Career Success from Intel’s Andy Grove

Andy Grove of Intel, born András István Gróf in Hungary

Andy Grove (1936–2016,) the illustrious cofounder and CEO of Intel, passed away earlier this year. Grove was arguably the most influential tech executive the Silicon Valley has ever seen. He achieved fame and success in his adopted country and provides an outstanding modern-day immigrant success story.

Modern-Day Immigrant Success Story

Born András István Gróf to a middle-class Jewish family in Hungary, he survived the Nazi occupation by taking a false name, hiding with Christian families, and escaping the heartbreaking fate of half a million Hungarian Jewish people. After the war, when the Russians occupied Hungary and installed a repressive Communist government, Grove’s father was forced to take up menial work despite having been emaciated from torture at a Nazi labor camp.

During the brutal response to the anti-Soviet 1956 Hungarian Revolution following Stalin’s death, Grove’s family hid themselves in a coal cellar whilst Soviet artillery shells destroyed their neighborhood. Grove joined a flood of people who took advantage of the pandemonium to walk across the border into Austria. He fled to the United States in 1957, arrived in New York with less than $20 in his pocket, and settled in with relatives.

Andrew Grove with Intel Founders Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce As a child, Grove was afflicted with scarlet fever and an ear infection that left him nearly deaf. In spite of his hearing impairment and an inadequate knowledge of English, he studied chemical engineering at the City College of New York and graduated at the top of his class. Grove learned to lip read and then deciphered his notes after class. He recalled to The New York Times in 1960, “I had to go over each day’s work again at night with a dictionary at my side.” He then earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Berkeley and joined Fairchild Semiconductor. When his managers Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce left Fairchild to start Intel, Grove went with them as director of engineering.

High Performance Management and Paranoia

'Only the Paranoid Survive' by Andrew S. Grove (ISBN 0385483821) Intel evolved swiftly. As President and later CEO, Grove brilliantly led Intel’s strategy and operations, established a near-monopoly on CPUs, and played a central role in the PC revolution. During this tenure as CEO from 1987–98, Intel’s stock price rose 32% a year. After relinquishing his role as Intel’s CEO in 1998 and as Chairman of the Board in 2005, he mentored prominent Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

Grove was famous for his rigorous, no-nonsense, confrontational, non-hierarchical management style; his approach still dominates the Silicon Valley culture. He zealously demanded high performance. In 2004, the Wharton School him the most influential business leader of the past quarter-century, over Microsoft’s Bill Gates, General Electric’s Jack Welch, and Walmart’s Sam Walton.

Grove was a conspicuous voice for reason in the immigration, offshoring, and jobs-creation debates. He was also a prolific author and public speaker. His autobiography Swimming Across (2001) recounts the first 20 years of his life—from childhood in Hungary up until his move to California. His other autobiography, Only the Paranoid Survive (1996,) describes how companies should deal with emergent competitors, transform themselves, and perhaps change the nature of the industry itself. Forbes magazine calls it “probably the best book on business written by a business person since Alfred Sloan’s My Years with General Motors.” High Output Management (1995) explained how to maximize productivity and has become a cult classic in Silicon Valley. One on One with Andy Grove (1988) compiles his “Dear Abby”-style newspaper Q&A column on work- and career-advice.

Five Principles of Career Success

'One-on-One With Andy Grove' by Andy Grove (ISBN 0140109358) Wrapping up One on One, Grove summarized his advice on career, management, and leadership with five suggestions:

  • FIRST—and this is very important—enjoy your work. It’s impossible to like all of it. Sometimes you’ll chafe under its unrelenting nature, other times you’ll be bored, but overall you must enjoy it. I am convinced that most people will like their work if they can see that what they do makes a difference and if they approach their work with a bit of zest, maybe even playfulness. Doing so introduces a bit of levity when it’s most needed and leads to camaraderie.
  • SECOND, be totally dedicated to the substance of your work, to the end result, the output; not how you got to it or whose idea it was or whether you look good or not.
  • THIRD, respect the work of all those who respect their own work, from vice presidents to sales clerks, from maintenance technicians to security officers. Nobody is unimportant: It takes all levels and all jobs to run a functioning organization.
  • FOURTH, be straight with everyone. I hate it when people are not honest with me, and I would hate myself if I weren’t straight with them. This isn’t an easy principle to stick to. There are always many reasons (better to call them excuses) to compromise a little here or there. We may reason that people are not ready to hear the truth or the bad news, that the time isn’t right, or whatever. Giving in to those tempting rationalizations usually leads to conduct that can be ethically wrong and will backfire every time.
  • And, ALWAYS, when stumped, stop and think your way through to your own answers!

Inspirational Quotations by Pearl S. Buck (#638)

Inspirational Quotations by Pearl S. Buck

Today marks the birthday of Pearl S. Buck (1892–1973,) American author and winner of the 1932 Pulitzer Prize and the 1938 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Buck was born Pearl Sydenstricker to Presbyterian missionary parents in West Virginia. However, she was raised in Zhenjiang, China, where her family lived in a Chinese community. Buck grew up with Chinese customs and traditions and had a Chinese governess. She wandered through the countryside, enthusiastically absorbed the Chinese culture, and learned to speak Chinese before she learned to speak English.

At age 16, she moved to the United States for college and then returned to China where she got married. Her daughter Carol suffered from a severe developmental disability. While still in China, Buck started writing her first novel before a civil war broke out in 1927. She escaped ten minutes before Communist forces destroyed her home and burned the manuscript for her first novel. When violence spread, some American gunboats rescued Buck. After a year in Japan, she returned to China.

In 1929, on a voyage to America to arrange for Carol’s specialized care, she started writing her first published novel East Wind: West Wind (1930.) It achieved little success.

Quotations by Pearl S. Buck The following year, she published her best-known novel The Good Earth (1931.) In it, Buck wrote of a Chinese peasant and his selfless wife who struggle to survive a drought and eventually become wealthy landowners. The book portrayed China as timeless, unromantic, earthy, and ordinary—a view that was refreshing to Americans who pictured China as an exotic land. Her description of desire and hope, good and evil, and the cyclical nature of life amidst the protagonists’ desire to thrive against great odds made The Good Earth an international bestseller.

In 1934, Pearl S. Buck bought a farmhouse in the United States and never returned to China. She wrote two sequels to The Good Earth: Sons (1933) and A House Divided (1935,) 82 other books, hundreds of short stories and nonfiction articles, and biographies of both her parents. Her writing spanned a variety of topics including women’s rights, Asian traditions, child-adoption, missionary work, war, and violence. In her later years, Buck was very active in the women’s liberation movement and founded the first international, interracial adoption agency in the United States.

Inspirational Quotations by Pearl S. Buck

Perhaps one has to be very old before one learns how to be amused rather than shocked.
Pearl S. Buck

To know what one can have and to do with it, being prepared for no more, is the basis of equilibrium.
Pearl S. Buck

Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied.
Pearl S. Buck

The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible—and achieve it, generation after generation.
Pearl S. Buck

If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.
Pearl S. Buck

The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: a human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him, a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create—so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.
Pearl S. Buck

To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.
Pearl S. Buck

I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to earth.
Pearl S. Buck

There are many ways of breaking a heart. Stories were full of hearts being broken by love, but what really broke a heart was taking away its dream—whatever that dream might be.
Pearl S. Buck

To serve is beautiful, but only if it is done with joy and a whole heart and a free mind.
Pearl S. Buck

The truth is always exciting. Speak it, then. Life is dull without it.
Pearl S. Buck

We need to restore the full meaning of that old word, duty. It is the other side of rights.
Pearl S. Buck

Once the “what” is decided, the “how” always follows. We must not make the “how” an excuse for not facing and accepting the “what”.
Pearl S. Buck

Like Confucius of old, I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and the angels. I have enough for this life. If there is no other life, then this one has been enough to make it worth being born, myself a human being.
Pearl S. Buck

Praise out of season, or tactlessly bestowed, can freeze the heart as much as blame.
Pearl S. Buck

I love people. I love my family, my children… but inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up.
Pearl S. Buck

A good marriage is one which allows for change and growth in the individuals and in the way they express their love.
Pearl S. Buck

We must have hope or starve to death.
Pearl S. Buck

It is better to be first with an ugly woman than the hundredth with a beauty.
Pearl S. Buck

You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings.
Pearl S. Buck

Self-expression must pass into communication for its fulfillment.
Pearl S. Buck

Growth itself contains the germ of happiness.
Pearl S. Buck

Be born anywhere, little embryo novelist, but do not be born under the shadow of a great creed, not under the burden of original sin, not under the doom of Salvation.
Pearl S. Buck

Finding Potential Problems & Risk Analysis: A Case Study on ‘The Three Faces of Eve’

The Three Faces of Eve (1957)

Risk Analysis is a Forerunner to Risk Reduction

My previous article stressed the importance of problem finding as an intellectual skill and as a definitive forerunner to any creative process. In this article, I will draw attention to another facet of problem finding: thinking through potential problems.

Sometimes people are unaware of the harmful, unintended side effects of their actions. They fail to realize that a current state of affairs may lead to problems later on. Their actions and decisions could result in outcomes that are different from those planned. Risk analysis reduces the chance of non-optimal results.

The Three Contracts of Eve

'The 3 Faces of Eve' by Corbett H. Thigpen and Hervey M. Cleckley (ISBN 0445081376) A particularly instructive example of finding potential problems and mitigating risk concerns the Hollywood classic The Three Faces of Eve (1957). This psychological drama features the true story of Chris Sizemore who suffered from dissociative identity disorder (also called multiple personality disorder.) Based on The Three Faces of Eve by her psychiatrists Corbett Thigpen and Hervey Cleckley, the movie portrays Sizemore’s three personalities, which manifest in three characters: Eve White, Eve Black, and Jane.

Before filming started on The Three Faces of Eve, the legal department of the 20th Century Fox studio insisted that Sizemore sign three separate contracts—one for each of her personalities—to cover the studio from any possible legal action. For that reason, Sizemore was asked to evoke “Eve White,” “Eve Black,” and “Jane,” and then sign an agreement while manifesting each of these respective personalities. According to Aubrey Solomon’s The Films of 20th Century-Fox and her commentary on the movie’s DVD, the three signatures on the three contracts were all different because they were a product of three distinct personalities that Sizemore had invoked because of her multiple personality disorder.

Idea for Impact: Risk analysis and risk reduction should be one of the primary goals of any intellectual process.

Postscript Notes

  • I recommend the movie The Three Faces of Eve for its captivating glimpse into the mind of a person afflicted with dissociative identity disorder. Actress Joanne Woodward won the 1958 Academy Award (Oscar) for best actress for her portrayal of the three Eves.
  • The automotive, aerospace, and other engineering disciplines use a formal risk analysis procedure called “failure mode and effects analysis” (FEMA.) FEMA examines the key risk factors that may fail a project, system, design, or process, the potential effects of those failures, and the seriousness of these effects.

You Can’t Develop Solutions Unless You Realize You Got Problems: Problem Finding is an Undervalued Skill

Problem Finding is an Undervalued Skill

Problem finding plays an important role in creative thinking

Problem finding is one of the most significant parts of problem solving. However, it tends to be an underappreciated skill. Many managers naively consider it strange to encourage employees to look for problems at work: “Why look for new problems when we’ve got no resources to work on ones we’ve already identified?”

Many courses and books on problem solving and creativity overlook problem finding. Many educational resources tend to assume that problem solving really begins only after problems have been identified.

Problem-identification lead to the invention of the ballpoint pen

Invention of the Ballpoint Pen by Biro Brothers The story of the invention of the ballpoint pen demonstrates the importance of problem finding. Had the inventors not recognized a problem with the existing writing instruments of their day, they would not have developed their invention.

In the 1920s, Hungarian journalist Laszlo Biro spent much time proofreading and checking for errors in others’ writings. To communicate these errors to the authors, Laszlo could not use pencils because their impressions fade quickly. He tried using a fountain pen, but the ink from the fountain pen dried slowly and often left smudges on paper.

Laszlo observed that the ink used in newspaper printing dried quickly and left the paper smudge-free. When he tried using that ink in his fountain pen, however, the ink was too viscous to flow into the tip of the fountain pen.

Laszlo then collaborated with his chemist-brother Gyorgy Biro to invent a new pen tip consisting of a ball that was enclosed within a socket. As the ball rolled inside the socket, the ball could pick up ink from a reservoir or cartridge and then continue to roll to deposit the ink on the paper. The Biro brothers thus invented the ballpoint pen. The company they created is now part of the BIC Company. The ballpoint pen continues to be called a ‘Biro’ in some countries.

Often, creativity is the outcome of discovered problem solving

Greek Philosopher Plato famously wrote in The Republic, “Let us begin and create in idea a State; and yet a true creator is necessity, which is the mother of our invention.”

One reason we fail to identify problems is that we do not stop to think about improving various situations that we encounter. Very often, these problems are directly in front of us; we need to consciously identify them and convert them into opportunities for problem solving. Instead, we tend to take inconveniences and unpleasant situations for granted and assume they are merely “facts of life.”

  • The grain mill was not invented until somebody in antiquity identified the ineffectiveness of two hours of pounding grain to make a cup of flour.
  • The world’s first traffic lights were installed around the British Houses of Parliament in London only after somebody thought of the problem of traffic congestion. In other words, up until the problems from congestion were identified in the 1860s, no one attempted to systematically consider how the problem might be solved.

James Watt invented his seminal separate-condenser steam engine

  • James Watt invented his seminal separate-condenser steam engine after discovering an interesting problem with the Newcomen steam engine. In 1763, when Watt was working as an instrument maker at the University of Glasgow, he was assigned to repair a model of a Newcomen engine for a lecture-demonstration. Watt initially had difficulty getting the Newcomen engine to work because its parts were poorly constructed. When he finally had it running, he was surprised at its efficiency. Watt observed that the engine was constantly running out of coal because the constant heating and cooling of the cylinder resulted in a large waste of energy. Watt then devised a system whereby the cylinder and the condenser were separate. This led to his invention of the “steam engine” (or, more precisely, the separate-condenser steam engine.)
  • As I mentioned in a previous article on the opportunities in customers’ pain points, crispy potato chips were invented only when Chef George Crum of New York’s Saratoga Springs attempted to appease a cranky customer who frequently sent Crum’s fried potatoes back to the kitchen complaining that they were mushy and not crunchy enough. Decades later, Laura Scudder invented airtight packaging for potato chips only after becoming conscious of customers’ complaints that chips packaged in metal containers quickly go stale and crumble during handling.

Finding and defining a creative problem

If problems are not identified, solutions are unlikely to be proposed

It pays to keep your eyes open and look at inconveniences, difficulties, and troubles as creative problems to be solved. Don’t ignore these merely as facts of life.

Curiosity, intrigue, and motivation influence problem finding (and problem solving.) One of the easiest ways to develop your skills in problem finding is to ponder at anything around you and wonder why those gadgets and contraptions were ever invented. Analyze carefully and you’ll learn that the first step taken by the inventors of these objects was the identification of the problems the objects were designed to solve.

When you look around various objects in your life, think about what life was before these objects were invented. What problems could these inventions have solved? Why was the zipper invented? What problems motivated Bjarne Stroustrup to create C++? What was internet search like before Google? How did commerce transpire before the advent of coins and bills and money?

Some people make a career out of problem finding. Managers who want to know if their organizations are running efficiently frequently hire consultants to look for problems that managers do not know exist in their businesses.

And finally, if you want to become an inventor or an entrepreneur, try to start with problems you already have in your work or in your life. Ideally, identify problems shared by a large number of people to increase the probability that your inventions will be put in widespread use.

Idea for Impact: A creative solution to a problem often depends on first finding and defining a creative problem. Very often, the solution to a problem becomes obvious when the problem has been properly identified, defined, and represented.

Inspirational Quotations by Elbert Hubbard (#637)

Inspirational Quotations by Elbert Hubbard

Today marks the birthday of Elbert Hubbard (1856–1915,) a popular American salesman, author, and philosopher from the turn of the twentieth century.

This self-described “business man with a literary attachment” had an unusual career. Hubbard was a brilliant marketer and salesperson for a soap company. At age 37, he sold his shares in the company to establish an arts and crafts community called Roycroft in East Aurora, New York. Roycroft attracted publishers, bookbinders, and artisans who, although not paid well, had a great deal of freedom to experiment with and refine their trade-skills.

Hubbard wrote six novels and hundreds of inspirational biographical essays called Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great. His A Message to Garcia (1899) was a bestselling inspirational essay on sales and marketing. His satirical newspaper The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest had a monthly circulation of over 100,000.

In 1915, Hubbard died on a voyage from New York to Liverpool aboard the RMS Lusitania when a German submarine torpedoed it off the coast of Ireland. He is the author of “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” a popular proverb that urges optimism in the face of difficulty.

Inspirational Quotations by Elbert Hubbard

Luck is tenacity of purpose.
Elbert Hubbard

I believe in my own divinity—and yours.
Elbert Hubbard

Be pleasant until ten o’clock in the morning and the rest of the day will take care of itself.
Elbert Hubbard

Simply be filled with the thought of good, and it will radiate—you do not have to bother about it, any more than you need trouble about your digestion.
Elbert Hubbard

Never explain—your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyhow.
Elbert Hubbard

Genius is often only the power of making continuous efforts. The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it—so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it. How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience, would have achieved success. As the tide goes clear out, so it comes clear in. In business sometimes prospects may seem darkest when really they are on the turn. A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success. There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose.
Elbert Hubbard

The best way to prepare for life is to begin to live.
Elbert Hubbard

The happiness of this life depends less on what befalls you than the way in which you take it.
Elbert Hubbard

Folks who never do any more than they get paid for, never get paid for anymore than they do.
Elbert Hubbard

Habit is a form of exercise.
Elbert Hubbard

The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.
Elbert Hubbard

The reason men oppose progress is not that they hate progress, but that they love inertia.
Elbert Hubbard

Some men succeed by what they know; some by what they do; and a few by what they are.
Elbert Hubbard

Constant effort and frequent mistakes are the stepping stones of genius.
Elbert Hubbard

Do not take life too seriously—you will never get out of it alive.
Elbert Hubbard

The ineffable joy of forgiving and being forgiven forms an ecstasy that might well arouse the envy of the gods.
Elbert Hubbard

It is the weak man who urges compromise—never the strong man.
Elbert Hubbard

It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.
Elbert Hubbard

Live truth instead of professing it.
Elbert Hubbard

What others say of me matters little, what I myself say and do matters much.
Elbert Hubbard

If you want work well done, select a busy man; the other kind has no time.
Elbert Hubbard

Anyone who idolizes you is going to hate you when he discovers that you are fallible. He never forgives. He has deceived himself, and he blames you for it.
Elbert Hubbard

A retentive memory may be a good thing, but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness.
Elbert Hubbard

Money never made a fool of anybody; it only shows them up.
Elbert Hubbard

Character is the result of two things: mental attitude and the way we spend our time.
Elbert Hubbard

Where parents do too much for their children, the children will not do much for themselves.
Elbert Hubbard

We awaken in others the same attitude of mind we hold toward them.
Elbert Hubbard

Your friend is who man who knows all about you, and still likes you.
Elbert Hubbard

People who are able to do their own thinking should not allow others to do it for them.
Elbert Hubbard

Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.
Elbert Hubbard

We find what we expect to find, and we receive what we ask for.
Elbert Hubbard

The cheerful loser is the winner.
Elbert Hubbard

If you err it is not for me to punish you. We are punished by our sins not for them.
Elbert Hubbard

The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.
Elbert Hubbard

The path of least resistance is what makes rivers run crooked.
Elbert Hubbard

Knowledge is the distilled essence of our intuitions, corroborated by experience.
Elbert Hubbard

He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade-stand.
Elbert Hubbard

Life is a compromise between fate and free will.
Elbert Hubbard

Lessons from Amazon: ‘Mock Press Release’ Discipline to Sell an Idea

If you have a brilliant idea at work, the modern workplace demands that you distill your ideas into a killer PowerPoint presentation to enlighten, entertain (with animations and special effects,) and convince your audience.

As I mentioned in my previous blog article, presentations may make ineffective communication tools. They tend to promote “a seductive laziness of thought that is anti-rigor, anti-elegance, and—most damaging—anti-audience.”

'The Everything Store' by Brad Stone (ISBN 0316219266) Amazon’s corporate culture agrees. In Brad Stone’s The Everything Store, former Amazon executive Jeff Holden commented that “PowerPoint is a very imprecise communication mechanism. It is fantastically easy to hide between bullet points. You are never forced to express your thoughts completely.”

Instead of PowerPoint presentations, Amazon uses a narrative format called the ‘Mock Press Release.’ According to this disciplined approach, for every new feature, product, or service that employees intend to pitch within their divisions, they must produce a press release-style document wherein a hypothetical Amazon customer would first learn about the feature.

Amazon contends that if something isn’t interesting enough for a customer and can’t be eloquently expressed in a mock press release format, Amazon probably shouldn’t invest in the idea. Brad Stone’s The Everything Store mentions,

Bezos announced that employees could no longer use such corporate crutches and would have to write their presentations in prose, in what he called narratives. … He wanted people thinking deeply and taking the time to express their thoughts cogently.

Bezos refined the formula even further. Every time a new feature or product was proposed, he decreed that the narrative should take the shape of a mock press release. The goal was to get employees to distill a pitch into its purest essence, to start from something the customer might see—the public announcement—and work backward.

Amazon’s famously customer-oriented culture argues that this disciplined innovation forces all ideas to be rationalized from the customers’ perspective. Therefore, Amazon encourages it’s employees to write these mock press releases in what’s internally called “Oprah-speak” (how the idea would be explained plainly on The Oprah Winfrey Show) rather than in “geek speak.”

Jeff Bezos of Amazon

Rather than have employees present their ideas using PowerPoint decks, attendees receive copies of multi-page narratives (as opposed to the one-page format used at Procter & Gamble) and study the ideas before ensuing debate and decision.

On Quora, former Amazon executive Ian McAllister argued the advantages of this narrative form:

We try to work backwards from the customer, rather than starting with an idea for a product and trying to bolt customers onto it. While working backwards can be applied to any specific product decision, using this approach is especially important when developing new products or features.

McAllister also provided a sample outline for the Amazon mock press release,

  • Heading – Name the product in a way the reader (i.e. your target customers) will understand.
  • Sub-Heading – Describe who the market for the product is and what benefit they get. One sentence only underneath the title.
  • Summary – Give a summary of the product and the benefit. Assume the reader will not read anything else so make this paragraph good.
  • Problem – Describe the problem your product solves.
  • Solution – Describe how your product elegantly solves the problem.
  • Quote from You – A quote from a spokesperson in your company.
  • How to Get Started – Describe how easy it is to get started.
  • Customer Quote – Provide a quote from a hypothetical customer that describes how they experienced the benefit.
  • Closing and Call to Action – Wrap it up and give pointers where the reader should go next.

Also see:

Lessons from Procter & Gamble: ‘One-Page Memo’ to Sell an Idea

In effective communication, less is often more. Brevity can communicate ideas more clearly.

Procter & Gamble (P&G) Logo Based on this idea, Procter & Gamble (P&G)’s corporate culture uses a powerful discipline called the ‘One-Page Memo’ for clear and concise communication.

P&G’s corporate culture requires any idea or proposal to fit onto one side of one piece of paper and must follow a predictable format. According to Charles Decker’s excellent book Winning with the P&G 99, the one-page memo consists of the following narrative elements:

  • Statement of Purpose: An introductory sentence that concisely and succinctly states the reason for the recommendation. Provides a context for the memo as a whole.
  • Background: Factual analysis that connects the purpose of the memo to the strategic objectives of the company or the brand. Also provides facts in relation to the problem the recommendation is supposed to address.
  • Recommendation: The specific proposal on how to solve the problem or exploit the opportunity detailed in the background section.
  • Rationale: The reasons for the recommendation, and the logic by which the recommendation was reached.
  • Discussion: Details of the recommendation, anticipated questions or areas of concern, risk assessment, identification of other alternatives, details of the recommendation.
  • Next Steps: Who will be following through on the recommendation, what target dates they would be working towards, what actions they would be taking to execute the recommendation.
  • Supporting Exhibits: Other supplementary information as applicable.

The last item, the supporting exhibits, provides additional data to validate the rest of the one-page memo.

Charles Decker states, “If you can learn to write a P&G memo, you can learn how to think. The memo becomes a knowledge codification tool, a way to present ideas, arguments, and recommendations in a language and style everyone at P&G understands.”

Winning with the P&G 99 also quotes an advertising agency executive: “P&G seems to have figured out that if you structure information certain ways, people will readily understand it, good ideas will emerge, and bad ideas will be exposed. I really think that is what has made them so successful. They make fewer mistakes because they find mistakes before they happen.”

Additionally, P&G’s renowned salesforce uses a Persuasive Selling Format (PSF) narrative that is structured along similar lines.

Inspirational Quotations by Charles Kingsley (#636)

Inspirational Quotations by Charles Kingsley

Today marks the birthday of Charles Kingsley (1819–1875,) English writer and Anglican priest. Kingsley wrote numerous historical novels, including Hypatia (1853), Hereward the Wake (1865) and Westward Ho (1855).

'The Water-Babies' by Charles Kingsley (ISBN 0199645604) Kingsley is best remembered for his extremely popular children’s book The Water-Babies (1863,) written to teach unconditional love, redemption, and other Christian values. The Water-Babies is an allegorical fairytale of a 10-year-old, chimney-sweeping orphan named Tom. While clearing soot one day, Tom falls through a chimney into the room of a rich young girl named Ellie. Mistaken for a thief, Tom is chased out of town. Overwhelmed by exhaustion, he submits to thirst, tumbles into a stream, falls fast asleep, and drowns. Fairies turn him into a peculiar creature called a “water-baby.” In his new life, Tom meets various fairies, aquatic creatures, and other water-babies. He also encounters the vicious Mrs. Bedonbyasyoudid (a reference to Revelation 16:6 in the New Testament) and the motherly Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby (a reference to the Golden Rule.) When he reaches the Other-End-of-Nowhere, he helps his vicious former master Mr. Grimes find repentance.

The Water-Babies was extremely popular when it was published, and it helped rally support for the 1840 Chimney Sweepers’ Regulation Act, which prohibited the use of child labor to climb into and clean chimneys.

However, The Water-Babies lost its popularity over time because of its insults against the Irish, Catholics, Jews, Americans, and the poor, even if Kingsley’s writing merely reflected many of the common prejudices of his time.

Inspirational Quotations by Charles Kingsley

Stick to the old truths and the old paths, and learn their divineness by sick beds, and in everyday work, and do not darken your mind with intellectual puzzles, which may breed disbelief, but can never breed vital religion or practical usefulness.
Charles Kingsley

Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something to do which must be done, whether you like it or not.
Charles Kingsley

If I am ever obscure in my expressions, do not fancy that therefore I am deep. If I were really deep, all the world would understand, though they might not appreciate. The perfectly popular style is the perfectly scientific one. To me an obscurity is a reason for suspecting a fallacy.
Charles Kingsley

If you wish to be miserable, think about yourself; about what you want, what you like, what respect people ought to pay you, what people think of you; and then to you nothing will be pure. You will spoil everything you touch; you will make sin and misery for yourself out of everything God sends you; you will be as wretched as you choose.
Charles Kingsley

What’s the use of doing a kindness, if you do it a day too late.
Charles Kingsley

Do today’s duty, fight today’s temptation; do not weaken and distract yourself by looking forward to things you cannot see, and could not understand if you saw them.
Charles Kingsley

We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.
Charles Kingsley

Do noble things, do not dream them all day long.
Charles Kingsley

Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle never know.
Charles Kingsley

The men whom I have seen succeed best in life always have been cheerful and hopeful men; who went about their business with a smile on their faces; and took the changes and chances of this mortal life like men; facing rough and smooth alike as it came.
Charles Kingsley

What I want is, not to possess religion, but to have a religion that shall possess me.
Charles Kingsley

Feelings are like chemicals; the more you analyze them the worse they smell.
Charles Kingsley

“Young and Old”—A Poem by Charles Kingsley

Here’s a poem from Chapter II of Kingsley’s The Water-Babies. This poignant poem contrasts youth and old age. The first stanza promotes a productive youth. The second stanza hints at aging natural imagery and wishes that you be alongside the one that you cherished in your youth.

When all the world is young, lad,
And all the trees are green;
And every goose a swan, lad,
And every lass a queen;
Then hey for boot and horse, lad,
And round the world away;
Young blood must have its course, lad,
And every dog his day.
 
When all the world is old, lad,
And all the trees are brown;
And all the sport is stale, lad,
And all the wheels run down;
Creep home, and take your place there,
The spent and maimed among:
God grant you find one face there,
You loved when all was young.

Presentations are Corrupting per Edward Tufte’s “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint”

Presentations are one of the most frequently used methods of communication in the modern workplace. However, Edward Tufte argues that they reduce the analytical timbre of communication. In other words, presentation slides lack the resolution to effectively convey context, “weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis.”

Tufte, an American statistician and academic, is renowned for his work The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, a bestselling text on data, statistics, graphics, visualization, and information.

'The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint' by Edward Tufte (ISBN 0961392169) In his cranky pamphlet The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, Tufte offers a sharp-tongued criticism of presentations as a communication format. He argues that we treat slides more as a medium for self-expression than as a medium to connect with our audiences. His most revealing examples of how presentations corrupt our elegance of expression are his critique of NASA’s slides from the Columbia shuttle disaster and a parody of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address condensed into a PowerPoint deck.

By forcibly condensing our ideas into bullet point-statements, phrases, and slides, Tufte contends that we break up narrative flow and flatten the information we’re trying to convey. In particular, he claims that presentations’ bullet points can’t signify logical relationships well and thus dilute the audiences’ thought process. The resulting message is watered down, lacks proper emphasis, and doesn’t communicate the context very effectively.

Tufte favors well-structured memos that convey ideas comprehensively, clearly, and meaningfully. In agreement, I’ll offer two articles next week about Procter & Gamble and Amazon’s use of these memos as a communication discipline.

To Become Time-Conscious, Always Ask, “Is It a Priority?”

To Become Time-Conscious, Always Ask, 'Is It a Priority?'

As I wrote in my three-part series on time logging, time analyzing, and time budgeting, life is all about values and the relative priorities you attach to these values.

Priorities imply choice; you get to make a choice in almost everything you do. Every choice involves tradeoffs: when you choose to do something, it implies that you choose not do something else.

Before being sucked into doing anything, ask, “Is this the best use of my time?”

Another way to think about this is in terms of “opportunity cost.” Everything in life has an opportunity cost. Whenever you take up one opportunity, you forfeit another. When you choose to go to a movie with a friend, it means you aren’t going to the library to work on a research paper that’s due next week. When you choose to spend this month’s savings on new furniture, it means you can’t add to your retirement account. So, when making decisions about anything, keep opportunity costs in mind. Be aware of what you’re giving up.

One of the most important choices you make—often subconsciously—is how you use your time, which is your most important resource. Before doing anything, be aware of what you are giving up; decide whether the benefits are worth the time you’re investing in the task.

The Nagging “5-5-5” Questions

Is It a Priority Poor time management often has less to do with your packed schedule than with your indecisive, unorganized, or undisciplined mind. To improve your life, stop wasting time on things that don’t matter. Have a little voice in your head that constantly nags you by asking the following “5-5-5” questions:

  • Is this a priority?
  • Will this matter in 5 days?
  • Will this matter in 5 months?
  • Will this matter in 5 years?

The “5-5-5” questions will prevent you from being caught up in little tasks and trivialities that aren’t truly important.

Idea for Impact: Be time conscious; constantly ask yourself, “Is this time-effective?”

According to my world’s shortest course on time management, “There are countless things you can do. There are numerous things you want to do. There are several things others expect you to do. There are many things you think you are supposed to do. However, there are only a few things that you must do. Focus on those and avoid the rest.”

As I mentioned in my article “don’t say ‘yes’ when you really want to say ‘no’,” don’t be vulnerable enough to be pulled along by forces that are beyond your control. Be accommodating when you can and assertive when you must. Be intentional about how you choose to use our time. Your life depends on it.