Sunday, February 21, 2010

Why It Might Be A Good Idea To Turn Off Cable News

Ever since the Clinton impeachment saga of the late '90's, cable TV airways have offered a full menu of issue oriented news shows. What might have originally seemed like an effective vehicle for the audience to learn about complex issues of the day has instead turned into a cacophonous orgy of propaganda . Sebastian Jones exposed the insidiousness of the entire enterprise in this expose in the March 1 issue of The Nation.

Jones explains how many of the so called expert analysts brought on to address issues are really nothing more than paid mouthpieces for various corporate interests. The networks just don't bother to tell us the audience who exactly is buttering the proverbial bread for the guest experts.He goes on to point out that both sides of the ideological aisle are equal opportunity propagandists. In the end we the public lose. All too often that's been the outcome on numerous issues of the day. Jones nails it in the last paragraph of his piece:

Jay Rosen, a media critic and journalism professor at New York University, has a different take. "More disclosure is good--I'm certainly in favor of that--but why are these people on at all?" asks Rosen. "They have views and can manufacture opinions around any event at any time."
Rosen echoes something Brown mentioned to me. Watching cable news cover the 2008 election with more analysts crammed at one table than ever before--as if to ask, "How many people can we put on the set at one time?"--Brown said he was "amazed how little they had to offer." He went on, "We live in a time where there are no shortages of opinions and an incredible deficit of facts."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A CEO Who Gets It

The New York Times Sunday Business section usually runs a column entitled, Corner Office. It is basically a discussion with a top business executive and the subject matter deals with the challenges of leading and managing. I especially liked this past weeks edition. The interview was with Mark Pincus, the founder and chief executive of Zynga,a provider of online social games.

The entire column can be read here. Three things stood out for me in the interview:

1) What Pincus looks for in a hire:

I keep my eye out for someone who has achieved a lot, so they’ve been
a great athlete or on a great team, but then something didn’t go quite right, and they’re still very hungry and want to be C.E.O. of something. I like to bet on people, especially those who have taken risks and failed in some way, because they have more real-world experience. And they’re humble. I also like to hire people into one position below where they ought to be, because only a certain kind of person will do that — somebody who is pretty humble and somebody who’s very confident.

2) What he looks for in leaders

This is another thing I really, really value: being a true meritocracy. The only way people will have the trust to give their all to their job is if they
feel like their contribution is recognized and valued. And if they see somebody else higher above them just because of a good résumé, or they see somebody else promoted who they don’t think deserves it, you’re done.
My approach is that you have to earn the respect of people you work with. And so, if you come in and you start bossing people around and they don’t want to work with you, they won’t. In our company, if you want to switch teams, you can. In hiring, it’s also a sign of a great manager when you tell me that there’s all these people
who want to come with you, or when you join us and we find other people are all sending us their résumés because you’re here.

3) How he manages

John Doerr [the venture capitalist] sold me on this idea of O.K.R.’s, which stands for objectives and key results. It was developed at Intel and used at Google, and the idea is that the whole company and every group has one objective and three measurable key results, and if you achieve two of the three, you achieve your overall objective, and if you achieve all three, you’ve really killed it.

We put the whole company on that, so everyone knows their O.K.R.’s. And that is a good, simple organizing principle that keeps people focused on the three things that matter — not the 10.

Then I ask everybody to write down on Sunday night or Monday morning what are your three priorities for the week, and then on Friday see how you did against them. It’s the only way people can stay focused and not burn out. And if I look at your road map and you have 10 priorities for you and your team, you probably don’t know which of the three matter, and probably none of the 10 are right.

I can look at everyone’s piece of paper, and their road map shows every item you were going to do and your predicted results and actual results, and then the results are in red if you missed them, yellow if they’re close and green if you passed them. I think road maps are a great principle just for managing your life. It keeps everybody focused, and it lets me know what trains are on or off the tracks.