The Scoop @ MSCO

2012

Anna Begins

Love is a mystery that weaves through a shadowy labyrinth of truths and lies, myths and realities, confidences and insecurities, black and whites standing as outliers in a massive rolling fog of grey.

This state of often blissful chaos is particularly acute in new, untested, volcanic love. Rocket scientists and soothsayers don’t have a prayer of understanding what’s really going on.

Does she love me? Do I love her? Is she loyal? What does she fail to tell me? Can I read her daydreams? Will I be able to lean on her? Will I want to? What if? How about? Will there be a dividing day when the ether of love evaporates before our eyes? Will only one of us see the loss? Will it be me? Will I admit it? Will she be the first to know? The only one?
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Crossfire Hurricane, Inc.

It’s no secret that The Stones are on their 50th anniversary tour. What may come as a secret to many is that they are one of the most successful small businesses in history.

What’s more, it is one we can all learn from. The band never talks about their business in business terms but they absolutely think about it that way. The question is, what can we learn from them? Try this, which I guarantee you is far more valuable than anything you will pick up at Wharton:

*Never let anything diminish the power and the mystique of the brand. The Stones never went disco, they never abandoned their center of gravity, they refused to change with the times. In fact, as the times evolved and music changed, The Stones continued to define cool in every decade since they put their stamp on the world a half century ago. A brand is not a logo: it is a promise and The Stones always made good on theirs.

*Beware of the threat of complacency.  The Stones, like every great business, have never taken their product or their fans for granted. Never a mediocre show. Not one grade B song. They have all the money they could ever need and then some and yet every time they play a concert, it is as if they are being given a once in a lifetime career break they had better not blow. At 69, Mick is very much the magic act he was at 19.

*Understand the power of mystique. Great brands are not oversold. Over 50 years, The Stones have been highly-judicious about the use of their songs, media interviews, television appearances. JaggerRichards would be welcomed on every major TV show once a week as the star of the day but they knew that with their brand of product, less is more.

*Develop a signature product or set of them that are evergreen and will always provide a springboard and a powerful differentiator for whatever you do. The likes of “Start Me Up” and “Satisfaction” are in the pantheon of extraordinary that have provided a platform for the brand through the years and place them in a rarefied place few can ever aspire to and no one can challenge.

*Never lose sight of the fact that as much as your companyproduct may be admired and even adored, it is never divine. People are paying to buy what you are selling and once you think that they are stupid, indiscriminate or robotic in their patronage, you will lose them. Although part of The Stones surely tire of the groupies, they appear to revel in the adulation, making everyone feel like a member of the band…a VIP at the party.

Mick once attended The London School Of Economics. He could join the faculty now and hold the only class worth attending.

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No One Ever Cries In The Rain

I had breakfast this morning with a friend, a young man less than half my age, who I met by happenstance some months ago. We ran into each other at a local eatery and at first sight, I could tell that all was not well in his world.

“Good to see you,” I said. “How are you?”

“Oh, fine,” he replied. “Nothing to complain about.”

But I could look through him and see the eyes of a deeply-wounded person. A victim. A suddenly lost soul.

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The Improbable Power Of The Closed Mind

We all wax poetic about the power of genius, as well we should. Those with the exceptional intellect to see through the orthodoxy of conventional thinking and to forge breakthroughs based on game changing epiphanies, are universal treasures.

But they are as rare as total eclipses of the sun. The fact is, most of human life is driven by mental dwarfs with closed minds lacking an iota of curiosity or courage.

When I first started my business career, I would ask the zombiecrats in the large corporations why they did what they did the way they did it. And the response was always one version or another of “because that’s the way we have always done it here.”

Try to introduce a truly innovative idea into an organization of virtually any size, and it will be shouted down as “impossible, implausible, too risky, dangerous, too much work, unpredictable” and on and on and on. Why? Because most people get as comfortable in old, tired, failed ways of doing things as they do with the worn in slippers they keep by their beds.

Always, it takes a true entrepreneur to break through this stone wall of closed-minded myopia. Do you think you would have had your job for 10 minutes if you tried the “can’t do it” routine with Steve Jobs? With Gates when he was still a capitalist? With Disney, Ford, Edison?

The older a company gets and the further removed it drifts from the entrepreneurial spirit that founded it, the more it reverts to a post office mentality: coffee, lunch, smoke break, out the door at five, pension time. Remember when Hewlett Packard was a forest fire of ingenuity? When Dell was a rocket ship? I haven’t been inside their walls but I can see the close-minded disease a mile away.

The truth is we live in a mostly close-minded world. Most organizations are stuck in their own mud. Congress can’t do a damn thing. The Middle East never heals. Talking heads scream on the TV night and day.

We all must recognize that what we don’t know is far greater than what we know and that what we believe strongly in may be based on biases that we must sit down now and then and challenge. Just to see if they hold up and if there’s a better way.

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The Nexus Of Gravity And Momentum

Every business deals simultaneously with the forces of gravity and momentum. The winners manage to unleash the latter to prevail over the former.

Let’s explore this more precisely, first on the gravity side. Even for the best of businesses, all of the elements of the universe are constantly and consistently conspiring against it. Competitors. Economic cycles. Evolving trends and technology. And most damaging and dangerous of all, our own complacency.

All of these challenges rain down on your business relentlessly because, unattractive as it sounds, no one wants you to succeed. In fact, an array of daunting forces are aligned to drive your enterprise out of the marketplace, creating a vacuum for others to fill. Business is war and unless you fight with a fusion of wise strategy and hand to hand combat, your company will succumb to the endless and inevitable gravitational pull.

How do we prevent this? By driving the forward momentum with powerful and ever increasing velocity measured and fueled by:

*Continuous innovation

*Forceful and overwhelming marketing

*Team enhancement, replacement and enrichment

*Relentless training

*A monomaniacal drive to raise the bar on the company’s products and

services

The nexus of gravity and momentum underlines the fact–perhaps reveals it clearly for the first time–that business is a matter of physics. It is not simply a plan, financing, salesmanship and all of the other components of the B-School liturgy.   There is a true, yet mostly unexplored, science to it. And unless the relationship between gravity and momentum is understood and a strategy is developed around it, gravity will prevail.

It is really a metaphor for all of life. When we allow things to simply “take their course,” they decline and ultimately fail, it is inevitable. Unless we are proactive agents for our companies, families, causes and freedoms, the gravity of loss will bring down the goals of success.

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