Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Technics: Business teams: Work-community and talents

Jeff Weiner is CEO of Linkedin, the rapidly growing global resume+ service that's trying to displace Facebook and Google in the ratings has some things to say about team work, community, and individuals talents.  Linkedin?  I'm signed up, but never coud make much use of it.  I'm retired, have a full time job with no compensation.

Technowlb, refWrite Backpage technics newspotter, analyst, columnist
     with Sportikos, refWrite Backpage sports

Linkedin (Jan22,2k13_

How to Spot the Five-Tool Superstar

In baseball, the holy grail for any talent scout is the discovery of the five-tool player -- a player that can hit for average, hit for power, run, throw, and field. Willie Mays was the classic five-tool player. He could beat you with his bat, his arm, his glove and his legs, and he oftentimes did:

YouTube (Jan22,2k13) I had to substitute-in a different Mays video because some distributors won't show their vids on YouTube in Canada, where I'm based — it's our copyright laws.  Outside Canada try this title on YouTube search:  Willie Mays makes an amazing over-the-shoulder catch. "1954 World Series Game 1: Willie Mays makes one of the most memorable plays in World Series history with an over-the-shoulder running catch in deep center field... Check out for more!"  — Video's Info.  Also check out   - Technowlb.] 

Greatest Baseball Catches Ever (pictures only).  930,00 video hits to date.

Over the years, one of the questions I've been asked most frequently is "What skills should I look for when hiring great talent?" The answer I give is the same I would to any indivdual looking to advance his/her career. As in baseball, consider this five-tool framework:

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1. Technology vision
Bill Gates understood the implications of Moore's Law and subsequently envisioned a day in which there would be a computer on every desktop; Marc Andreessen appreciated the potential of the internet well before his browser made it accessible and usable by everyone; and Elon Musk recognized that advances in energy storage might one day make it possible for the mass production of high performance electric vehicles.
In a world where business success is increasingly determined by innovative breakthroughs -- where software allows companies to reach hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people in milliseconds; where technological advances mean product creation and iteration happen at previously unseen rates -- one of the most valuable skills is the ability to understand where technology is headed and what's possible as a result. What made Wayne Gretzky great, as he once famously acknowledged, was the ability to skate to where the puck was going, not to where it had been. The same can be said of a visionary technologist.
2. Product sensibility
As valuable as a vision for technology can be, without a clear understanding of how that technology can be applied to meet the unmet needs of customers, that vision will be limited to great research papers, futurist journals, and symposium speeches. Substantially greater value accrues once that technology moves from a place of theoretical understanding to a practical application that ultimately delights customers.
Having great product sensibilities is perhaps best illustrated by Steve Jobs. The Mac, iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad are all examples of manifesting advances in technology in simple, intuitive, and beautifully designed products that changed people's lives and fundamentally changed the world.
3. Business acumen
Developing a product in high demand is not enough. Just ask the countless consumer web companies of the late 1990s whose plan was to lose a dollar on every sale but make it up on volume.
The truly great, lasting products don't just meet consumer needs -- they are built on sustainable, long-term business models that mutually benefit multiple players within their respective ecosystems. Take Google for example.
Building on the work of Bill Gross' bidded search model at Overture, Google added a clickability variable that would reward the most relevant sponsored search ads (the ones searchers were most likely to click on and transact with) and penalize the least relevant. With the introduction of relevancy into the prevailing search advertising model, they created a powerful virtuous cycle and one of the most successful business models ever. Consumers with commercial intent could find exactly what they were looking for, advertisers could utilize ROI analytics and bid rationally for placement, and Google realized a massively scalable source of profit they could reinvest in improving existing products (search index comprehensiveness, algorithmic search quality) and developing and/or acquiring new ones (e.g. Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Android).
4. Leadership
You can have a clear understanding of where technology is heading, an uncanny sense for how to turn that technology into a must-have product, and a Midas-like instinct for creating value. However, if you can't effectively communicate your vision and attract and retain world-class talent to execute it, you'll have nothing more than a plan. To realize that plan, you'll need to lead.
For me, leadership is simply defined as the ability to inspire others to achieve shared objectives. Managers tell people what to do; leaders inspire them to do it.
To inspire, you'll need clarity of vision, the courage of your convictions, and the ability to effectively communicate both. This holds no matter the size or stage of your company: Start-ups need to inspire new recruits to join the team, VCs to invest, and existing employees to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds; more mature companies need to explain to new and existing talent why they'll be able to have disproportionate impact on already well established platforms, convince decision makers to take intelligent risks, and educate external constituencies, e.g. Wall Street, the press, etc., on where the company is heading next.
Regardless of where your business is in its life cycle or how successful it has been to date, you'll need the right leadership to ultimately realize its full potential.
5. Resourcefulness
As important as the previously mentioned skills are, I would trade them all for the ability to get s*&% done.
Every individual and every team, no matter how skilled, is eventually going to experience obstacles -- running out of funds, the inability to scale a key piece of technology, a shift in consumer sentiment, a new entrant in the competitive landscape, naysayers within the organization -- if it's worth doing, you will always find yourself hitting walls. With that in mind, the most valuable people I've worked with are the ones that use sheer force of will to go around those walls, climb over them, or just flat out knock them down.
There's a great scene from the film "Apollo 13" that embodies this approach. The movie depicts the real-life series of events in which NASA attempts to return the manned Apollo 13 spacecraft to Earth after experiencing a series of potentially catastrophic failures ("Houston, we have a problem"). Through sheer ingenuity and determination, all three astronauts eventually make it home safely. This clip captures the resourcefulness and determination that made it possible:
YouTube (Jan22,2k13)  61,008 video hits to date; 1.47 minutes.
Apollo 13 clip
Whether it's in baseball or business, the true five-tool player is a rare find -- so much so that most successful teams don't have any five-tool players, let alone multiple players with more than one skill. What the best teams have are individuals who recognize what capabilities they have and which they lack, and subsequently complement one another such that in the aggregate, they have the ability to draw upon all five tools.
Rather than simultaneously strive to achieve excellence in all five areas, start by selecting one where you not only have the aptitude, but also possess the passion to continuously improve and master that ability over time. Being superlative at any one of the five tools will make you valuable to any team; two or more will make you a star. All five and one day you just may find yourself mentioned with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos among the pantheon of modern day business greats.


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