Pilgrimage to Omaha + Entrepreneurship, Asian-style! (Go to BeyondProxy.com, where value investing lives)

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Pilgrimage to Omaha + Entrepreneurship, Asian-style! May 1, 2013 (Weblink: BeyondProxy.com)

Pilgrimage to Omaha

Ikigai (Japanese term for “meaning in life”); Happiness went with being a taker more than a giver, while meaningfulness was associated with being a giver more than a taker

What the heck does “meaning in life” mean, anyway?

by eric barker

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Researchers at Tohoku University in Japan did a 7 year study of over 43,000 adults age 40 to 79 asking if they had ikigai (a Japanese term for meaning in life) and then tracked their health. People with ikigai were much more likely to be alive 7 years later.

Via Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology:

Even when likely confounds were taken into account, ikigai predicted who was still alive after 7 years. Said another way, 95% of respondents who reported a sense of meaning in their lives were alive 7 years after the initial survey versus about 83% of those who reported no sense of meaning in their lives. The lack of ikigai was in particular associated with death due to cardiovascular disease (usually stroke), but not death due to cancer. Which raises a good question: What does meaning in life really mean, anyway? It seems to be one of those know-it-when-you-see-it type of things. One thing we do know is that it’s not the same as happiness. Roy Baumeister (author of Willpower), Jennifer Aaker (author of the Dragonfly Effect), Kathleen Vohs and Emily Garbinsky explored the similarities and differences between happy and meaningful lives:

Our findings suggest that happiness is mainly about getting what one wants and needs, including from other people or even just by using money. In contrast, meaningfulness was linked to doing things that express and reflect the self, and in particular to doing positive things for others. Meaningful involvements increase one’s stress, worries, arguments, and anxiety, which reduce happiness. (Spending money to get things went with happiness, but managing money was linked to meaningfulness.) Happiness went with being a taker more than a giver, while meaningfulness was associated with being a giver more than a taker. Whereas happiness was focused on feeling good in the present, meaningfulness integrated past, present, and future, and it sometimes meant feeling bad. Past misfortunes reduce present happiness, but they are linked to higher meaningfulness — perhaps because people cope with them by finding meaning.

In his TED talk, Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow discussed two different types of happiness that sound very similar to the distinction between happiness and meaning. The first is being happy in your life. It is happiness that you experience immediately and in the moment. Like the definition of happiness above. The second is being happy about your life. It is the happiness that exists in memory when we talk about the past and the big picture. Stories are key here. Closer to the definition of meaning above.

Fred Wilson: TheStreet.com could have been the Twitter and Blogger of Wall Street. We Didn’t Know What We Had

Apr 30, 2013

We Didn’t Know What We Had

Fred Wilson is a VC and principal of Union Square Ventures.

I sat next to Jim Cramer last night at a dinner put on by some mutual friends. I hadn’t seen Jim in a while so it was a great opportunity to take a trip down memory lane. In 1996 or early 1997, my prior firm Flatiron Partners led the first round of outside financing forTheStreet.com. I joined the board and eventually became Chairman before stepping down a decade ago. When I first met Jim, he was running a hedge fund and blasting posts from his trading desk. This was 1996 and what he was doing was unprecedented. He was publishing in real time his thoughts on what was going on in the markets. On some days, Jim would post three or four dozen times. As Jim and I reminisced about those days last night, I said to him “you were tweeting and blogging a decade before anyone else was doing that.” He nodded, “yeah, that is what I was doing”. But we didn’t know that. The money our firm invested went to hiring a team of journalists and we saw ourselves as the Wall Street Journal of the web. That was a mistake. The Wall Street Journal is the Wall Street Journal of the web. What Jim was doing was something way more native, way more powerful, and way more important. But we missed it. TheStreet.com has gone on to build a niche financial publishing business that is a solid and profitable company. But it could have been the Twitter and Blogger of Wall Street. That’s what it was at the start. But we didn’t know what we had.

A guide beyond leadership legends and all that jazz

May 1, 2013 3:39 pm

A guide beyond leadership legends and all that jazz

By Andrew Hill

This is the first management book to prompt me to listen to some jazz, specifically two Duke Ellington numbers: his band’s performance at the 1956 Newport festival, which revived Ellington’s reputation; and a poignant rendition of a ballad composed by his close collaborator Billy Strayhorn. Ellington was a master of all three levels of the leadership process, Nigel Nicholson suggests: acts – he was a management improviser as well as a musical one; tactics; and strategies. He prepared for opportunities, such as that Newport concert, shaped unexpected events to a coherent purpose and, critically, adapted to changing circumstances. Ellington’s elevation to leadership role model is one of the rare original examples in this book. Otherwise, Nicholson mines a seam of familiar stories about the flair and flaws of political and corporate bosses: from Tony Blair and George W. Bush to Jack Welch and Steve Jobs.

The lack of more colourful stories will disappoint anyone who enjoyed the cut and thrust of Family Wars, the analysis of family companies the London Business School professor co-authored in 2008. But it is what he does with the well-worn material that is original – and highly ambitious. “The journey of this book,” he writes, “starts with our animal nature, moves on to take in the sweep of human history since the dawn of time to explain the varieties of leadership and their effects, before closing in on the territory leaders inhabit and what it means to be strategic.” Read more of this post

The Science of Serendipity in the Workplace; To Encourage Interaction and Innovation, Companies Try Smaller Spaces, Games; Trivia Helps Break Awkward Silences

April 30, 2013, 8:38 p.m. ET

The Science of Serendipity in the Workplace

To Encourage Interaction and Innovation, Companies Try Smaller Spaces, Games; Trivia Helps Break Awkward Silences

By RACHEL EMMA SILVERMAN

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An installation, planned for Salesforce.com’s workplace, tabulates workers’ responses to ‘voting doors.’

Companies aren’t leaving serendipity to chance.

Firms are thinking up new ways to encourage interactions among employees who normally don’t work with each other. The hope is that these casual face-to-face chats among people with different skills might spark new ideas, lead to new solutions or at the least, increase workplace camaraderie.

To make those connections happen, some firms are taking a scientific approach—collecting and analyzing data about their teams and mathematically computing the likelihood that employees will meet. In some instances, they are squeezing workers into smaller spaces so they are more likely to bump into each other. In others, they are installing playful prompts, like trivia games, to get workers talking in traditional conversational dead zones, such as elevators.

But despite all the buzz around serendipity—several panels at the popular tech conference South by Southwest Interactive discussed the topic—it is hard to know for sure whether any of these efforts really work. The real challenge, companies and workplace scholars say, isn’t merely connecting workers with their colleagues so much as it is connecting them with the right ones. Read more of this post

Your Optimism Might Be Stifling Your Team; by acknowledging the downside and recognizing the messy, iterative path of innovation, they liberated their team to go bigger and reach further.

Your Optimism Might Be Stifling Your Team

by Liz Wiseman  |   2:00 PM May 1, 2013

I admit that I’m prone to an optimistic outlook, a belief that most problems can be tackled with hard work and the right mindset. I’ve read the research that indicates that positive thinkers tend to do better in school, work and life. Perhaps I even assumed that optimism was infectious and that people wanted to work with a confident, hopeful leader. In the true spirit of optimism, how could this possibly go wrong? Then I found out from a colleague that he didn’t find my optimism nearly as reassuring as I did. We were in the middle of a high-stakes research project with a small window of opportunity to write an article for a prominent academic publication. To pull this off, we needed to complete a complex analysis, do a round of additional research, and actually write the article, all while working on several other projects and operating on a thin budget. To me, this seemed like a feasible, interesting challenge, and I enthusiastically dove in. Then at one critical meeting, a more junior colleague turned to me and said, “Liz, I need you to stop saying that!”

“Saying what?” I asked.

“Saying that thing you always say — ‘How hard can it be?'” I looked puzzled. He explained, “You say that all the time. ‘How hard can it be? We can do this. After all, how hard can it be?'”

I recognized what he was saying and began to explain my logic: While I was working for Oracle Corporation, a small but rapidly growing company, I had been thrown into management at the tender age of 24 and was told that I was now in charge of training for the entire company and was tasked with building Oracle University and making it work in globally. I learned to say to myself, “We can do this. After all, how hard can it really be?” Now, I explained how this growth mindset had worked beautifully for me and many of my colleagues over the years. Yet steadfast, my colleague reiterated, “Yes, but that is what I need you to stop saying.”

“But why?” I probed.

He paused and said, “Because what we are doing is actually really hard, and I need you to acknowledge that.”

He wasn’t opposed to the idea that our enormous task was doable; he simply wanted me to acknowledge the reality of the challenge and recognize his struggle. He didn’t want me glossing over the challenge with my coat of optimism. So I did admit, “Yes, what we are doing is hard. It is really, really difficult.” I then assured him that I would do my best to stop saying that thing. Meanwhile, in the back of my mind I told myself “Sure, I can stop saying that. After all, how hard can it be?” Read more of this post

Why Innovation Is Tough to Define — and Even Tougher to Cultivate

Why Innovation Is Tough to Define — and Even Tougher to Cultivate

Published: April 30, 2013 in Knowledge@Wharton

Innovation: It’s something everyone is in favor of, everyone likes the idea of, yet no one really understands it, according to Wharton legal studies and business ethics professor Kevin Werbach. Werbach moderated a panel on the topic at the recent Wharton Economic Summit 2013 held in New York City, during which he challenged the participants to define innovation, talk about its relationship to entrepreneurship, and explain what is needed to nurture it. He noted that innovation is essential for companies to grow, and that it is transformative.

In response to a question about whether innovation is necessarily related to new technology and big breakthroughs, Lady Barbara Judge, chairman of the United Kingdom’s Pension Protection Fund, defined innovation as either “using something new, or something known, but in a different way, different time or a different place.”

To illustrate the latter, she spoke of two men who are bringing car sharing, a concept popularized most notably by the Nasdaq-traded company Zipcar, to India in the guise of a company called Zoom. “It is not new technology but somebody saw it, used it, did it in a different place, in a different time and it’s really very innovative,” she said of the fledgling firm. Read more of this post

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