Workplace Diversity

By Guy Higgins

I recently came across two articles. The first, Yes, your kid will do something with that philosophy degree after all, was a newspaper column that addressed the potential power of a classic liberal arts education. The second was condensed from McKinsey’s report on Women in the Workplace 2017 and looked at how women are faring in corporate careers. Continue reading

The Smartest Guy in the Room?

By Guy Higgins

I came across an article recently, What Know-it-alls Don’t Know, or the Illusion of Competence. The article captures the results of some psychological studies that yielded what the psychologists today call The Dunning-Kruger Effect. The Dunning-Kruger Effect is the cognitive bias of inflating a self-assessment, also known as the “illusion of competence.” One of the things I found interesting is that the bias is most pronounced among those people who are, in reality, the least competent. For example, eighty percent of all drivers believe that they are better than average drivers – with those people with the worst driving records being the most certain of their superior skills. Even more remarkable is how highly college athletes rate their professional potential. Forty to sixty percent (at least some of whom – by definition – are below-average college players) of NCAA athletes (men and women – for all those ladies who were nodding about how vain the male athletes are) believe that they are at least “somewhat likely” to play professionally. The actual percentages hover around one percent. Continue reading


By Guy Higgins

Recently, the national news in the U.S. has included significant coverage of a rash of accidents involving U.S. Navy warships operating in the Western Pacific. Before I go any further, the investigations into these accidents are far from complete, and the conclusions have yet to be drawn. Therefore, my speculations as to the causes are just that – speculations. My conclusions about the importance of training are not speculations. In the late eighteenth century, Captain Thomas Truxtun ordered his crew to “practice daily with the guns.” As a result, when his crew encountered the crew of the French ship L’Insurgent in the Quasi-war with France, Captain Truxtun’s crew achieved an overwhelming victory. Training today is no less important than it was for Captain Truxtun’s crew two centuries ago. Continue reading

Leadership, Behavior and Artificial Intelligence

By Guy Higgins

I’ve posted about artificial intelligence (AI) in the past and my skepticism about the capabilities of AI and the pace with which it will be introduced. I remain skeptical, and I will return to AI as a tool for leaders later in this post.

Presently, I’m reading Scale, a book by Dr. Geoffrey West (President Emeritus of the Santa Fe Institute). The book is about how plants and animals, surprisingly, scale (an elephant can be thought of as a mouse scaled up in size), how organizations, also surprisingly, scale (Los Angeles can be thought of as Ridgecrest, CA, scaled up in size) and is exceptionally interesting (at least to me). Dr. West’s research into the causes for these surprises revealed that scaling is an inevitable result of the networked nature of plants, animals and organizations.   In the section of the book devoted to cities, Dr. West discussed not only the physical networks (roads and utilities) but also the social networks (today, enabled by social media). As part of his discussion, he reviewed some of the psychological and social research work done by Stanley Milgram in the mid-Twentieth Century. Dr. Milgram did the original research that led to the concept of six degrees of separation (a network phenomenon), but he also did some foundational research that revealed the potential for any human being to exhibit behavior at odds with his or her personal ethics when ordered to do so by an authority figure. Related research done at Stanford University by Philip Zambardo revealed the potential for peer pressure to cause people to act in ways that violated their personal ethics. Continue reading

Leadership and Gandalf the Grey

By Guy Higgins

For the last two weeks, I’ve posted about the leadership exhibited by characters created by J.R.R. Tolkien in his classic, The Hobbit. This week, my final installment will look at the wizard who prompted the “adventure” and served as an advisor and a sometimes member of the troop – Gandalf the Grey.

Gandalf is a wizard, possessed of an impressive “intelligence network” and capable of exercising significant power, but he is far from being invulnerable or unbeatable. He is well regarded by elves, dwarves, hobbits and those few humans who actually know him. Continue reading

Leadership and Thorin Oakenshield

By Guy Higgins

Last week, I started a series of leadership posts by talking about Bilbo Baggins. During that post, I touched on Thorin Oakenshield. Today, I want to look a bit more deeply at Thorin.

Thorin Oakenshield was the son of Thrain and the grandson of Thror, who had been King Under the Mountain until the dragon Smaug killed him and stole everything in his kingdom, including the Arkenstone (symbol of the kingship). Thorin wanted to reclaim the Arkenstone and thereby the dwarf throne. Continue reading

Leadership and Bilbo Baggins

By Guy Higgins

I first read The Hobbit in 1971 when I was in flight training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, and I’ve been a J.R.R. Tolkien fan ever since. I’ve read and re-read The Hobbit and, of course, The Lord of The Rings (LOTR for aficionados). I’ve also read The Silmarilion and his other lesser known works. Over the last week, I’ve been watching Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy of films. While the films depart from the book in some areas, I think that they are reasonably true to Tolkien’s original vision in the one area I want to discuss in this post. Continue reading

Working vs. Organizing

By Guy Higgins

I was reading a short article in the Wall Street Journal, Adapting to the Future of Work (and yes, that’s the same article I referenced last week – sometimes, there’s just too much to capture in a single post).

The article starts out talking about the senior leadership in companies and “the organization.” It ends with the observation, “This shift from a “top-down” to “side-by-side” organizational construct will be a critical component to the future of work. CMOs (I believe this is defined as Chief Management Officer) will play an important role, enabling an empowered network of employees capable of acting autonomously rather than waiting for direction.” Continue reading

Transparency in Communications

By Guy Higgins

As I recently read a Wall Street Journal/Deloitte article on the future of work, Adapting to the Future of Work, I was struck by this comment, “About three in five (59 percent) of corporate leaders say transparency in communications is a critical priority for achieving their organization’s goals.” For me, transparency of communication means open and honest communication.

Now, this was written by someone from either the Wall Street Journal or from Deloitte (or jointly by authors from both organizations). Both are well respected companies that employ solid professionals. Therefore, I will take the authors at their word. That, to me, then raises the question, who are these two out of five corporate leaders who fail to understand that the purpose of communication is (or at least should be) to communicate. That, in turn, would seem to subsume the idea of transparency. If statements from leaders at any level of the organization are not transparent, they must, perforce, be hiding something. If they are hiding something, the most pertinent possible question is, “Why?” Continue reading

James Damore’s Communication Skill and Leadership at Google

By Guy Higgins

I’ve read, in its entirety, James Damore’s ten-page memo, Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber, which captures his concerns about the ways in which Google approaches diversity issues and what he (Damore) thinks Google could do achieve a more representative workforce. I’ve also read some of the related op-ed pieces by columnists of both liberal and conservative bents. For those who’ve read my posts over the past six years, you may appreciate that I’ve read about and investigated a number of sources concerning diversity and differences. I, therefore, read Mr. Darmore’s memo in the context of what I’ve learned from those sources. I think that I understood his memo the way he intended for it to be understood. I want to post about two factors that I think have contributed to the firestorm that Mr. Damore’s memo has generated: first, his failure to effectively communicate his ideas on a highly emotional topic without creating “hate and discontent” and second, the failure of Google’s leadership to respond in a positive manner thereby generating more “hate and discontent.” Continue reading