Category Archives: management

Michelle Killebrew’s TEDx Talk: How Social Technology Can Make Us More Human

Michelle Killebrew works for for IBM Social Business, where her team focuses on messaging and solutions that define social business and demonstrate how organizations can embrace this next information revolution in the workforce. In this TEDxUniversityofNevada 2015 talk, she discusses how technology, especially social technologies like Twitter and Facebook, can make us more human. Through our power of choice, we can decide whether we will enable social technologies to impact our lives in either a positive or negative way.

Please watch Michelle’s insightful talk, then share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Owen Robert’s TEDx Talk: Chances Lead To Choices Lead To Changes

In his current role as General Manager for Microsoft’s Americas Operations Center, Owen Roberts leads a team of more than 2,000 employees and contractors in operational roles that support the fulfillment and revenue processing operations of the company’s $80+billion business. In addition to developing and nurturing partner and customer relationships, Owen’s team is responsible for building, launching, and maintaining operational programs and processes, and putting the infrastructure in place for Microsoft to support the technology of tomorrow.

Owen gave a masterful talk at TEDxUniversityofNevada 2015 about how he has embraced risk taking and change in his life and career. He shows how in his own life choosing adventure and uncertainty over safety and certainty has lead to career opportunities and set him ahead of his peers. Even though this advice is not new, so few people choose to really embrace change as a habit of well-being and success.

Please take the time to watch Owen’s talk and then share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Liz Wiseman’s TEDx Talk – Living And Working With Child-Like Wonder

The Definition Of A Great Boss

Change Requires Leadership

Liz Wiseman’s TEDx Talk – Living And Working With Child-Like Wonder

We were extremely pleased to have Liz Wiseman as the first speaker at TEDxUniversityofNevada 2015. Liz  teaches leadership to executives and emerging leaders around the world. She is the President of the Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm headquartered in Silicon Valley. She is the author of the “Rookie Smarts, Why Learning Beats Knowing In The New Game Of Work.”

In this very insightful talk, Liz describes how being inexperienced can actually help us and our teams do better and faster work because we are forced to assume a posture of learning. Living and working with rookie smarts can be accomplished with three simple choices 1) ask more questions, 2) seek novelty, and 3) treat work as play.

Please take the time to watch Liz’s talk, then share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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5 Mental Habits That Support Lifelong Learning

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Organizational Citizenship

Here is the video of my recent talk for TEDxReno. I have to tell you honestly that they had some problems with audio that day, starting with my talk. They edited out the entire front end of my talk, so I share it with you again below so you can know how it really started:

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” President John Kennedy gave us this mantra of citizenship in his 1961 inaugural address. Two hundred and seventeen words before this now famous call to action, he told us why it matters with these words: “In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course.”

I’m glad I got the opportunity to do one of these. It is the most difficult talk I’ve ever given in my life. I bet I spent about 50 hours preparing – something I’ve never done before. The folks at TEDxReno did a very good job helping their speakers to prepare, something that I will try to copy when I help my team organize our next TEDxUniversityofNevada.

Mark Estee On The Value Of Relationships For Business

I want to share with you another video from one of our TEDxUniversityofNevada speakersMark Estee. In this video, Mark discusses how relationships are the key to his success. Strong relationships with suppliers, customers, employees, the community, professional advisors, and family help Mark’s business thrive.

I am a raving fan of Mark and his business, Campo Reno. Oddly enough, the first experience I had in Mark’s restaurant was not a good one. But I gave him another chance after he reached out to me personally to try to recover, and I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with Mark and his business ever since.

I hope you take the time to watch the video and hear from Mark first hand his advice for success. After doing so, please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Laura Zander At TEDxUniversityofNevada

The Online Executive MBA program at The University of Nevada was the sole sponsor for TEDxUniversityofNevada. The event was held January 25, 2013 on the campus of the University of Nevada. There were 18 total speakers from the community, 100 registered participants, and about 30 volunteers. By all accounts the event was a big success.

One of the speakers in the business and entrepreneurship session was Laura Zander of Jimmy Beans Wool in Reno. In her talk, Laura briefly discusses how she started her company and has quickly grown it to a seven figure revenue stream. Laura gives examples from her own life about how the ability to dream big and stay flexible are important entrepreneurial skills.

Take the time to watch this video – it is very insightful. After you do, please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

5 Mental Habits That Support Lifelong Learning

In his classic book entitled Leading Change, John P. Kotter devotes his final chapter to the importance of leadership to creating and sustaining successful organizations. Beyond the development of leadership skills, the successful executive will need to be a lifelong learner. Kotter suggests the following five mental habits that successful leaders will need to support lifelong learning (p. 183):

  1. Risk taking: willingness to push oneself out of comfort zones
  2. Humble self-reflection: honest assessment of successes and failures, especially the later
  3. Solicitation of opinions: aggressive collection of information and ideas from others
  4. Careful listening: propensity to listen to others
  5. Openness to new ideas: willingness to view life with an open mind

His observation about the relationship between listening and learning is especially insightful:

Much more than the average person, lifelong learners also listen carefully, and they do so with an open mind. They don’t assume that listening will produce big ideas or important information very often. Quite the contrary. But they know that careful listening will help give them accurate feedback on the effect of their actions. And without honest feedback, learning becomes almost impossible (p. 182).

I think the overwhelming majority of faculty that teach in the Executive MBA program at the University of Nevada meet Kotter’s criteria of lifelong learners. The program director, Dr. Kambiz Raffiee, models the way for our group. Our program development meetings are always very productive. No one ever wastes our time with arrogant pontification or tries to dominate the conversation in order to force an opinion on others. We share a common goal, and we all actively listen to each other as we consider ways we can continually improve our courses to meet the high and evolving expectations of our executive students.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Framing Decisions As Gains Or Losses: The Case Of Yucca Mountain

On Sunday, March 4, 2012 the Reno Gazette Journal reported results of the following online poll: Should Nevada stick to its opposition to using Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste facility?  Eighty percent of respondents reported no and 20% yes.  The poll was accompanied by opinion articles for and against Yucca Mountain being developed as a temporary storage facility and research facility.  Writing against Yucca Mountain, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto states:

The reason for Nevada’s long-standing opposition to the Yucca project is that it poses grave risks to public health and the environment. While Nevadans’ initial opposition may have rested on the perceived unfairness of being singled out for a facility no one else wanted, the state has since constructed a well-substantiated, scientific case against the project which is, according to the Obama administration, “unworkable.” Simply put, Yucca Mountain cannot physically isolate waste from the human and natural environment.

Writing for Yucca Mountain, Tyrus W. Cobb states:

For Nevada, the benefits of hosting the spent fuel temporarily could be enormous. First, the direct economic impact is far greater than any other project that Brookings or state economic development officials envision. Indeed, closing Yucca has already resulted in the loss of more than 2,500 of the best paying and highly technical jobs imaginable — positions that would be immediately restored. Remember that $17 billion had already been expended to develop the repository, but that funding has been cut off, thanks to the adamancy of our elected officials.

What I found interesting about this debate was the results of the poll: 80% responded that Nevada should not continue its’ opposition to Yucca Mountain.  This result is in contrast with most prior public opinion polls that show most Nevadans are opposed to Yucca Mountain, and this public sentiment has likely contributed to almost all politicians in Nevada being opposed to Yucca Mountain.  Why the change in public opinion (in this admittedly unscientific poll)?

Two concepts I teach in my class on decision making may help explain the results.  The first concept considers the framing of a decision. Consider three possible frames for how a public opinion question on Yucca Mountain might be asked:

  1. Do you support the use of Yucca Mountain a permanent depository of nuclear waste?
  2. Should Nevada stick to its opposition to using Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste storage facility or use the site as a research center and negotiate for benefits?
  3. Do you support Nevada negotiating with the federal government to host a temporary nuclear storage facility and research facility?

If the poll was framed as in #1 above, I would suggest most Nevadan’s would say no, they do not support the use of Yucca Mountain as permanent nuclear storage facility.  If the poll was framed as in #2 above, as it apparently was by the Reno Gazette Journal, then apparently 80% of respondents do not think Nevada should stick to its opposition of Yucca Mountain.  If the poll was framed as in #3 above, then I am not sure what the results would be.

What accounts for the differing results depending upon the frame?  Psychological research suggests that framing decisions as gains or losses significantly affects our choice.  For example, many people would not choose to not undergo a medical procedure where immediately after the procedure 10% of patients died and 60% were dead after five years.  On the other hand many people would choose to undergo a medical procedure where 90% were alive immediately after the procedure and 40% were alive after five years.  Notice that the statistical information describing the medical procedure is identical in both choices (i.e. 10% dead =90% alive, and 60% dead = 40% alive), but more people would choose the procedure when the data is presented the probability of living (gain) rather than the probability of dying (loss).

Looking at the three Yucca Mountain poll questions posed above within the lens of gains and losses, Nevada respondents would likely consider the hosting of a research facility to be a gain and the storage of nuclear waste to be a loss.  Thus #1 is primarily a loss (permanent depository of nuclear waste) and will be opposed, #2 is a small gain (as a research center and negotiate for benefits) and supported, and #3 as a gain and loss (host a temporary nuclear storage facility and research facility) making the decision more difficult.  I have to wonder whether Nevadans’ have actually changed their opinions regarding Yucca Mountain or whether the frame of the question changed the results.

As we move into the political election cycle and the airwaves are saturated with candidate advertisements, try and pay attention to how the marketing messages are framed.  While we might hope for positive issue ads to dominate, the reality is the negative attack ads are more effective and will likely drive candidate spending.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

James A. Sundali, Ph.D.

James A. Sundali, Ph.D.James Sundali is associate professor of strategic management. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona and his MBA and bachelor’s degree in economics from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He has been at the University of Nevada, Reno since 1997 and has taught strategic management, corporate finance, game theory, bargaining and negotiation, individual choice behavior, organizations and the natural environment, the psychology of gaming, and managerial and leadership insights from film and literature.

50 Valuable Management Blogs

The good people over at recently compiled a list of  50 Blogs That Will Make You a Better Manager.  The top blog on their list is called Better Managers Blog. I’ve never seen this one before, but I like it a lot. My favorite management blog, Bob Sutton’s Work Matters, made the number 6 spot on their list and that ranking is well deserved.  I always learn new and interesting things from Bob, and if he ever recommends a book I usually buy it right away.

My personal blog, Positive Organizational Behavior, is number 12 on the list, and I’m grateful for the recognition. A few of my other favorite blogs that made their list are Art Petty’s Management Excellence and Dan McCarthy’s Great Leadership.  A favorite of mine that was not on this list was Aspire by Mary Jo Asmus.

Check out the blogs on this list and engage the blog author in conversation by leaving a comment on a post that catches your attention.

What Can We Learn from Occupy Wall Street?

What is your take on the occupy Wall Street movement?  I have been fascinated by it and the ensuing debate regarding the 99% vs. the 1%.  Without clearly stating a goal or taking a political position, this loose confederation of protesters has impacted the conversation in society.  This morning I listened to a politician who said we should not be talking about these issues since it was a challenge to the free enterprise system.   While the politician might not be up for the debate, I have no worries that the free enterprise system can handle the debate.

One of the reasons this debate fascinates me is that it is my job to educate students who might be striving to become part of the 1%.  I haven’t seen a demographic breakdown but I would bet that a fair proportion of the 1% is business owners and business leaders many of whom were educated in business schools.  I wonder what values these leaders learned in business school.

I am currently reading a book titled The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards written by Paul Woodruff, a philosophy professor at University of Texas, Austin.  While the book does discuss philosophy, it is primarily about leadership.  The Ajax dilemma originates from the Trojan War in Greek mythology and is the story of two great warriors, Ajax and Odysseus, and which one of them should receive the coveted armor of the slain warrior Achilles from King Agamemnon.  Odysseus is the brilliant strategist who was the architect behind the Trojan horse.  Ajax is the workhorse soldier whose exploits on the battlefield are unmatched.  After the award goes to Odysseus, Ajax goes on a rampage and kills himself.  Ajax’s suicide creates deep division in the army.  Woodruff uses the story to frame the debate regarding the division of rewards.  Woodruff clearly uses Ajax to be representative of the 99% and Odysseus representative of the 1%.

When Agamemnon awards the armor to Odysseus almost all agree that Odysseus is more deserving than Ajax because without Odysseus the war could not be won.  Ajax on the other hand is replaceable, although it would take four or five soldiers to replace him.  But while Agamemnon’s decision is “fair,” the decision may have lacked “justice.”  Woodruff writes:

Fairness and justice are truly at war with one another.  Fairness is not wise.  Fairness is following principles wherever they may lead, regardless of people’s feelings.  Fairness is a trap in which justice and compassion die, where members of a team are hurt beyond repair.  Yet fairness has often been thought to be the heart of justice.  That cannot be correct.  The heart of justice is wisdom.

Wisdom is a quality of leaders.  It is not so mysterious as you may think, but it cannot be delivered by a formula.  Being wise, a leader pays attention to others and sets an example for the leaders who report to him.  The sort of action that is wise in one situation may be foolish in another.  A wise leader may have a reason in mind that calls for action today and inaction tomorrow (pg. 62-63).

So where does Woodruff take us with this reasoning?  Does he provide us an answer as to how we should divide up the wealth between the 99% and the 1%?  No he does not.  But what he does do is show us very clearly that leadership requires wisdom.  A leader who is not wise and whose decisions lack justice will risk destroying a community.

This is the type of story that I like to discuss with my MBA students.  It is my belief that becoming an integrated and wise leader requires that you are connected to the world around you. Being connected means you need to pay attention to not just what is going on in your field but also what is going in the arts and humanities, in politics, in science and religion, etc.  So I admire the occupy Wall Street protesters not because I think they are right, or because that I think they are wrong, but because they have asked me to pay closer attention to an important issue and to clarify my thinking on it.

James A. Sundali, Ph.D.

James A. Sundali, Ph.D.James Sundali is associate professor of strategic management. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona and his MBA and bachelor’s degree in economics from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He has been at the University of Nevada, Reno since 1997 and has taught strategic management, corporate finance, game theory, bargaining and negotiation, individual choice behavior, organizations and the natural environment, the psychology of gaming, and managerial and leadership insights from film and literature.

In 2006 he was awarded the B.J. Fuller Excellence in Teaching Award and in 2008 the Graduate Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award. In the last few years he has been involved in teaching abroad with classes in London, New York City, and Bilbao, Spain. His research is focused on experimental economics, behavioral game theory, behavioral finance, and individual choice behavior.