Friday, May 28, 2010


I caught this interview (sorry, the video is only available to HDNet subscribers) done by Dan Rather with a young CEO named Barry Silbert. Silbert, a former Goldman Sachs employee, is thirty-four but looks even younger. A lot younger. His company, Second Market, aims to create a marketplace for illiquid assets—a new kind of eBay-like domain where people can trade things like shares of Facebook or LinkedIn, or other non-traditional assets.

What struck me, in addition to the novelty of Silbert’s idea, was whether we prefer our leaders young or old, green or seasoned? Conventional wisdom suggests that a young leader brings innovation and energy, new ideas to replace outmoded ones. On the other hand, the veteran leader brings the kind of knowledge an organization needs, the kind only obtained through years of experience.

By now, you might have read Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, which often points to the scholar K. Anders Ericsson’s notion that one needs ten years, or 10,000 hours, to be an expert at something.

Which do we want and why? We saw this debate crystallized during our most recent presidential election, but what about when it comes to business? Perhaps another question is whether these perceptions (young=innovative, old=wise) are even valid.


Monday, May 17, 2010

A Tangled Web

At first I thought this New York Times article on the perils of PowerPoint was pretty funny. But as I think more and more about it, and read the comments people have posted, I feel increasingly torn. As a writer and a teacher of writing, I argue for simplicity and clarity.

However, what this article makes clear (in this case, we’re talking about overly-complex PPT slides) is that simplicity can be dangerous, leaving out important nuances and complexities. Some issues, many argue, can’t (or shouldn't) be boiled down into three bullet points.

In our communication we battle against time, cognition, and complexity. Even as I enumerate this brief list, I realize it’s too brief, and fails to thoroughly address our task as communicators. A meta-problem, I guess.

Certainly I don’t have the answer, but always welcome feedback.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010


The swarm of business ethics papers have subsided, and many of you are headed into finals and then off (or staying in DC) for the summer. I was impressed by the range of sticky dilemmas the first year b-school students tackled. It was a lot of fun listening to your recommendations about ways your chosen company could overcome what often seemed like impassable obstacles. This all came at a time when you are tackling your own dilemmas about career, school and, well, life!

So, perhaps this is a mini-convocation, and one written with ethics on the brain.

I’ve been thinking of these guys recently, and how quickly opinions and perceptions can shift.

Here’s to our own good character and judgment remaining strong, and a fruitful (and relaxing) summer.