1. I’ve worked for two billionaires. Here’s what I learned from them

    March 29, 2016 by ahmed


    Originally posted on LinkedIn by Paul Carrick Brunson

    I have spent decades “being educated” – in college, graduate school, numerous professional certifications, and now a PhD program. All of that schooling and training helped shape the person I am today, but at no point in my life has there been a more profound education than my time working for Enver Yucel and Oprah Winfrey.

    Enver and Oprah are two extraordinary people. And on top of that, they’re both billionaires. On the surface, they appear to be totally different people. They are in different industries, have different family structures, practice different religions, and speak different languages. However, once you get past their written biographies and dig deeper, you will notice they possess many of the same successful habits.

    I had the opportunity to work with both Oprah and Enver for 6 years collectively and those were, hands down, the best professional experiences of my life. I worked my ass off for them and in doing so absorbed everything I could.

    It’s my honor to share with you what I learned from them. Here is Part 1 of the 20 successful habits I learned working for two billionaires:

    1) Invest in Yourself
    This is a very simple concept, but something you would think someone who has “made it” would stop doing. Not at all for these two. I saw them both spend a significant amount of time dedicating their resources to self-development (whether it be a new language, exercise, social media classes, etc). The moment you stop investing in yourself is the moment you have written off future dividends in life.

    2) Be Curious…About Everything
    What the average person sees as mundane or overly complicated is not viewed the same way with a billionaire mindset. I once had a 30 minute conversation with Enver about the height of the curbs in Washington DC versus Istanbul, Turkey. Billionaires are incredibly curious; what the rest of the world thinks is a problem and complains about — that’s what these people go and work on.

    3) Surround Yourself With “Better” People
    I hope this is why they kept me around :-). Seriously, I never knew my bosses to keep anyone less-than-stellar in their inner circle. There were many times I thought to myself, “Damn, they have dream-teams built around them.” Jim Rohn had it right, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

    4) Never Eat Alone
    The last time I had dinner with Enver, as well as the last time I ate dinner with Oprah, there were easily 15 people at our tables, respectively. Coincidence? While most of us derive our key information from blogs or the newspaper, power players get their information from the source (other power players), directly. However, just because you can’t call up the Obamas and break bread with them doesn’t mean eating with others in your circle doesn’t carry value. In one of my favorite reads of the last few years called Never Eat Alone author Keith Ferrazzi breaks down how you can identify “information brokers” to dine with you. I’ve seen first hand how enormous the benefits are of this strategy.

    5) Take Responsibility For Your Losses
    I was working for Oprah during the time she was taking heat from the media about poor network ratings. I was also working for Enver during the closing of one of his prized divisions. What I witnessed them both do in response was powerful. Opposed to covering the losses up with fancy PR tactics, both stepped to the stage and said in essence “I own it and I’m going to fix it” and dropped the mic. Guess what? They sure did fix things (It’s widely noted Oprah’s network is realizing ratings gold and Enver’s assets have probably doubled since the division closing).

    6) Understand The Power Of “Leverage”
    This is something that was quite a shock to me. From afar, a billionaire appears to be someone who is a master at everything. But, in truth, they’re specialists in one or a few areas and average or subpar at everything else. So, how do they get so much done? Leverage! They do what they do best and get others to do the rest . Here’s a great article on leverage. Keep in mind I see this done with wealthy people and their money all of the time – they use OPM (other people’s money) for most or all of their projects.

    7) Take No Days Off (Completely)
    I recall going on vacation with Enver several times, yachting up and down the southwestern coast of Turkey (also known as the blue voyage). Sounds ballerific, right? No doubt we had a great time, but mixed in with all that swimming and backgammon was discussion of business, discussion of strategy, planning and plotting. The best way I can describe this habit is thinking about your business or your idea like your literal baby. No matter your distance, you don’t stop thinking of him/her (and after just having a second son, I can attest to this).

    8) Focus On Experiences vs. Material Possessions
    When you have money, your toys are big. However, the vast majority of money I saw spent on their “leisure” was on actual experiences versus the typical car, jewelry, and clothes we’re familiar with seeing in music videos and gossip blogs. I recall one time at dinner with Oprah, I spotted a table of about 20 girls off to the side. I later found out Ms. Winfrey was treating some of her graduating girls from her school in South Africa to dinner in NYC. Experiences create memories, and memories are priceless.

    9) Take Enormous Risks
    This is another one of those successful habits every entrepreneur can attest to. A matter of fact, Entreprenuer.com created a great infographic outlining commonalities of the world’s billionaires and one of the most prominent was this characteristic: billionaires are not adverse to risk. What intrigues me even more about Enver and Oprah was that even at their high financial status and success level, they still possessed a willingness to risk their most precious asset (their name and legacy) on new and bolder projects. If you’re not taking risks, you’re not making moves!

    10) Don’t Go At It Alone
    Nothing great in life is achieved alone. Especially in business, success isn’t a solo act. This character trait is akin to “surrounding yourself with better people.” It takes teamwork to make the dream work.

    What I witnessed from working for Enver and Oprah were characteristics and successful habits that not only apply to business “wins,” but also translate to general life success. I sincerely hope the tips I’ve shared here will inspire you to create (or maintain) great habits for your success.

  2. David Bowie: Look back in Quality

    March 26, 2016 by ahmed

    Originally posted on Minitab blog by Samantha Lee and Shana Lebowitz

    Unless you live under a black country rock, you’ve no doubt heard that the world recently lost one of the greatest artists of our time, David Bowie. My memories of the Thin White Duke go all the way back to my formative years. I recall his music echoing through the halls of our house as I crooned along whilst doing the chores. Then as now, Bowie’s creativity and energy inspired me and helped me do what I do.


    Since his death, I’ve been reflecting on the many prophetic works that this prolific and visionary artist contributed to the world. In the old days, songs were released in collections called “albums.” This was an artifact of an inefficient and technologically unsophisticated delivery system that relied on large, unwieldy disks that were prone to scratches, warping, and other defect modalities. But I digress. Like a true artist, Bowie often used the media at hand as a vehicle for his art.

    In addition, his albums often told stories, which many different audiences have interpreted in many different ways. When I listen to Bowie, I hear stories about life, love…and process quality control.

    You might be surprised to discover that David Bowie was a proponent of quality process improvement. For example, you may be familiar with one of David’s earlier classics, “The Man Who Sold the World.” But did you know that David’s original title for the album was The Man Who Sold the World on the Benefits of Continuous Quality Improvement? Of course, that’s never been publicly acknowledged. Unfortunately, cigar-chomping executives at the record company forced him to shorten the title because, in their words, “Kids don’t dig quality improvement.” Fools.

    Bowie’s subsequent album, Hunky Dory, was an ode to the happy state of affairs that can be achieved if one practices continuous quality improvement. Don’t believe me? Then I challenge you to explain why I hear these lines from the song “Changes”:

    I watch the ripples change their size but never leave the value stream of warm impermanence

    For decades I’ve struggled to understand these inscrutable lyrics, but now I realize that they are about control charts. Of course! You see, by ripples, David refers to the random fluctuations of varying sizes that occur naturally in any process. And he asserts that if the process is in control, then the ripples don’t wander outside of the control limits (a.k.a. the stream). Whilst acknowledging that such control makes us feel warm and fuzzy, David also reminds us that process stability is impermanent unless one is dedicated to continuous process improvement and control.

    If Hunky Dory is an homage to quality utopia, then Diamond Dogs surely represents the dysphoric chronicles of a harrowing dystopia in which the pursuit of quality has been abandoned. (Fun fact: some claim the original album title was Your Business Is a Diamond in the Rough; Don’t Let Quality Go to the Dogs.) Perhaps jarred by the panic in Detroit, David warned us to pay careful attention to issues of quality in our economic and social institutions. And he warned of an Orwellian future in which individuals are unable to pursue and maintain quality in their organizations because they are stifled by an authoritative ‘big brother’ who gives them neither the attention nor the resources to do so effectively.

    By the time his album Young Americans was released, David appeared to be feeling cautiously optimistic about improvements in the quality of quality improvements, as I am reminded every time I hear these lyrics from the song “Golden Years”:

    Some of these days, and it won’t be long
    Gonna’ drive back down where you once belonged
    In the back of a dream car twenty foot long
    Don’t cry my sweet, don’t break my heart
    Doing all right, but you gotta work smart
    Shift upon, shift upon, day upon day, I believe oh Lord
    I believe Six Sigma is the way

    Some might question Bowie’s insistence on Six Sigma methodology, but I believe none would question his assertion that we must “work smart,” and that dedication to quality is absolutely essential.

    As one final piece of evidence, I present the following quote from Bowie’s song, “Starman.” I personally believe this song is about a quality analyst from an advanced civilization in another galaxy. Gifted songwriter that he was, David realized that “quality analyst from an advanced civilization in another galaxy” was too many syllables to belt out on stage, so he used the “starman” as a metaphor. I’ve taken the liberty of making the substitution below; I think you’ll agree, the veracity of my interpretation is inescapable.

    There’s a [quality analyst from an advanced civilization in another galaxy] waiting in the sky
    He’d like to come and meet us
    But he thinks he’d blow our minds
    There’s a [quality analyst from an advanced civilization in another galaxy?] waiting in the sky
    He’s told us not to blow it
    ‘Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile

    So, so obvious when you know what you’re looking for. Kind of gives you goosebumps.

    I took a few moments with fellow Minitab blogger and Bowie fan, Eston Martz, to brainstorm about what made Bowie such a monumental and influential artist. I collected our notes and created this fishbone diagram in Minitab Statistical Software. This is only a partial listing of Bowie’s albums, musical collaborators, personas, and topics that he covered in his music. It would take many more fish with many more bones to cover all of his artistic collaborations, movie roles, and other artistic endeavors. Thanks for the music, David, and thanks for the inspiration, past, present, and future.


  3. 20 Cognitive biases that screw up your decisions

    by ahmed

    Originally posted on Business Insider by Samantha Lee and Shana Lebowitz

    You make thousands of rational decisions every day — or so you think.

    From what you’ll eat throughout the day to whether you should make a big career move, research suggests that there are a number of cognitive stumbling blocks that affect your behavior, and they can prevent you from acting in your own best interests.

    Here, we’ve rounded up the most common biases that screw up our decision-making.


  4. Where success isn’t an accident: Process management tips from a Baldrige award-winning school district

    March 23, 2016 by ahmed


    Originally posted on Blogrige by Christine Schaefer

    As superintendent of the Baldrige Award-winning Pewaukee School District, JoAnn Sternke is widely considered an expert on systematic process management (among other areas addressed by the Baldrige Excellence Framework). Sternke is frequently asked to share her district’s best practices to help other organizations around the country improve their systems so they too can achieve their desired results.

    Yet Sternke recently said something that new users of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence may find both surprising and reassuring. In regard to the “Operations Focus” category (where process management is assessed), Sternke admitted, “I used to fear category 6.”

    “Now I recognize that process is so vital to any organization’s success,” she added. “Improving processes will truly get us long-lasting results.”

    At the Baldrige Program’s Quest for Excellence® conference next month, Sternke—along with Pewaukee School District Information Technology Director Amy Pugh—will provide guidance on process management in the session “How to Manage Your Processes So They Don’t Manage You.” According to Sternke, “Participants will learn a five-step process to identify, document, measure, analyze, and improve processes.”


    “Without a process you don’t have a guide,” said Pugh. “Having a process makes it so much easier to identify targets and then collect key data points around those goals, monitoring them regularly and making changes as necessary.”

    Sternke agreed, “Success isn’t a happy accident if you can rely on process. [Having a systematic process] is what makes positive direction sustainable and predictable—and that’s what we aim for.”

    Tips and Insights on Managing Processes

    Based on her district’s experience, Sternke offered the following tips for managing key processes to support excellence across an organization:

    1. Have a process owner who is identified as the “go to” for this process, and have this person document the process so there is a collective understanding of the process.
    2. Know what’s key and measure this.
    3. Have a systematic review of the process—remember the “S” and the “A” in Plan–Do–Study–Act [improvement methodology]. Don’t become so busy doing the process that you don’t evaluate it or refine it.

    Sternke also shared her insights on innovation in relation to process management:

    “I’ve learned that innovation truly comes from process, not in ‘lightbulb moments,’” she said. “The quest to offer greater value to stakeholders is what drives both process improvement and innovation. They go hand in hand.”

    Benefits of the Baldrige Framework in Education

    Why is using the Baldrige Excellence Framework (including the Education Criteria for Performance Excellence) beneficial for school districts today? According to Sternke, she’s “better equipped to lead my organization using this framework” and doing so helps her avoid merely “pursuing random acts of improvement” as a leader, ensuring systematic improvement.

    “We can’t be successful if we just lead from one cool idea to another, thinking that is improvement,” she explained. “The people who come to work and learn each day deserve an organization that allows them to do the good work they want to do.”

    “The Baldrige framework is a proven means to better outcomes—and we all want that for our students,” Sternke added. “The Education Criteria focus our organization on the right things: the questions guide me as a leader and all of us in our organization to think more deeply about how we can make our organization operate best in order to be successful.”

  5. To forecast the future, look outside your industry

    March 20, 2016 by ahmed


    Originally posted on Linkedin by Neil Blumenthal

    The most powerful influences likely come from outside your company’s sphere, not from within it. Warby Parker, the company I co-founded, sells eyewear. But we aren’t looking at competitive threats within the eyewear industry, because there simply isn’t a great deal of innovation within the eyewear industry.

    Instead, we’re looking at companies like Amazon, which hugely change customer perceptions and expectations about things that affect Warby Parker – like how easy it is to order something online (or through other internet-enabled methods like Echo and the Dash button) and, of course, how quickly that item arrives.

    Amazon has trained customers to expect items to arrive within two days. Or sometimes even within one day. I was reminded of this when I recently bought a pair of pants at a boutique in New York. It took two and a half weeks to get the pants tailored, and then a series of phone calls to figure out when I could pick up the pants or whether they’d send the pants to me. By the time the pants came, I’d spent way more time thinking about pants logistics than I ever wanted to. And, while it may sound crazy, I really believe that I don’t enjoy wearing the pants as much as I would have had they arrived on time without a hassle. One’s perception of a product is based on the entirety of the brand experience – from the moment someone hears about the brand to their decision to shop, to selecting an item, transacting, waiting for the product to arrive, unboxing and using the product over time.

    Uber is another example. On the surface, we have little in common with a mobile ride hail company. But Uber influences UX and customer interaction experiences for every company in every industry. For a prime example, I don’t have to look any further than myself! I often use Uber, but on the occasions when I do hail a yellow cab, I find myself noticing anew all the unnecessary steps built into the process: telling the driver your address, paying with a credit card, selecting a tip, and sometimes signing a physical receipt.

    A third example is GrubHub Seamless. Out of convenience (and a regrettable lack of cooking ability), I often order food online from local restaurants. Remember when you had to phone a restaurant to place an order? And read your credit card number three times over the phone? And you always ended up standing in that weird corner of your apartment that didn’t get service? None of this needs to happen anymore. We can order with a click. Why cultivate patience when instant gratification is so easy to obtain?

    Ultimately, it pays to get a broader view of how a handful of companies are redefining how we shop, eat, drive, and live. If you want to forecast the future of your own industry, look outside of it.