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Greetings from the Workforce Institute Executive Summit

Today I emceed the second annual Workforce Institute Executive Summit - a day long session we run for executives who are attending our KronosWorks conference.  You can find today's agenda and speaker bios at

Here are some of my favorite insights from today's speakers:

From Rich Karlgaard, Publisher of Forbes -

Why do people feel worse about the economy than the facts of our current economic situation actually support?

  • People are angry with Washington.  Once the election is behind us, and the uncertainty about who's running the country clears, that emotion should subside a bit.
  • New York is the epicenter of the US financial community and also the epicenter of the US media.  The sheer volume of individuals personally affected on Wall Street may skew the perception of the media who don't understand that the panic is not running so high on Main Street.
  • This is the first major stock market adjustment that impacts the majority demographic represented by the Baby Boomers that wasn't proceeded by an artificial bubble (dotcom stocks) or national crisis (9/11).
  • Innumeracy (lack of math skills) is a growing problem - and leaves people vulnerable to overreacting.  Karlgaard cited the example of an email that's been making the rounds that indicated the AIG bailout could have been used to give every US citizen over 18 a $425,000 personal stimulus package.  Sounds good until you do the math and understand the real number is $425.
  • The quantity and quality of business journalists is declining as people with the necessary business and literary acumen pursue more lucrative careers.

Karlgaard noted that the 1970s, an economic climate very similar to what were seeing now, was a veritable crucible of entrepreneurship and innovation.  His hypothesis is that when traditional organization growth slows during times of economic turmoil, smart innovators are likely to turn to entrepreneurship.  This decade spawned Southwest Airlines, FedEx, Genentech, Microsoft, Apple and Oracle, among others.  What are some of the components of their sucess?

  • Creative synthesis of ideas
  • Supply chain innovation
  • Analytics innovation - do you think or do you know?
  • Self service innovation
  • Speedy innovation - failing fast and moving on to continuous improvement
  • Training innovation - investing in your people
  • Open source innovation - tapping into the expertise of people outside of your company
  • Customer feedback innovation
  • Virtual innovation - bringing experts together virtually vs. the traditional organizational model
  • Purpose innovation - uniting organizations behind a shared vision

Bill Bradley, former US Senator, New York Knick and Olympic gold medalist, spoke to us about what it takes to lead in a changing world - from a personal and an organizational perspective.  Senator Bradley reflected on the qualities of great leaders: readiness to confront the unknown, passion, selflessness, resilience, imagination and integrity.  He talked about the importance of the ethic of connectedness in our world today; i.e. the need to link collective caring with personal responsibility in order to address the significant issues that face not only our domestic challenges, but global challenges such as climate change and access to healthcare.

What's your level of confidence that you'll manage through the current turbulence?  In Bill Bradley's words, how do you "keep the current economic challenges and failures of today from becoming the enemy of victory tomorrow?"

Share your insights!

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