Work Rules! (And So Does Laszlo Bock)
Laszlo Bock is the innovative, data-driven human resources director who helped transform Google’s workforce and culture. He worked there for a decade. He has stepped down to found Humu, a machine learning company that wants to “make work better”.
While at Google, Laszlo led the company’s people function and was responsible for attracting, developing, retaining, and delighting “Googlers.” He believes that giving people freedom and supplementing our instincts with hard science are steps on the path to making work meaningful and people happy.
During Bock’s tenure, Google has been named the Best Company to Work For more than 30 times around the world and received over 100 awards as an employer of choice. In 2010, he was named “Human Resources Executive of the Year” by HR Executive Magazine.
Below is a video presentation by Laszlo Bock:
He is the author of “WORK RULES! Insights from Inside Google to Transform How You Live and Lead”, which has been named one of the top 15 business books of 2015. It is a read we continue to recommend.
In his book Outliers, Author Malcolm Gladwell asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing.
Gladwell observes that talent alone does not make us high-achievers: it also takes a hell of a lot of practice. In the book, he theorizes that to become a top-performing outlier, one needs about 10,000 hours of practice.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Case in point: Bill Gates and The Beatles. Gladwell explains practice is what makes software billionaires and great soccer players. Practice is how so many Asians excel at math and how the Beatles became one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands in history.
10,000 Hour Rule Challenged
A Princeton study was subsequently cited as proof that Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour theory was somehow flawed. Business Insider bluntly asserted, “New Study Destroys Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule”. However, my read of the Princeton study comes away with a different understanding of the researchers’ meta-analysis of 88 studies on deliberate practice. The researchers concluded:
“We conclude that deliberate practice is important, but not as important as has been argued.”
The researchers were not referring to the work of Malcolm Gladwell but to that of K. Anders Ericsson who in 1993 argued that “individual differences in ultimate performance can largely be accounted for by differential amounts of past and current levels of practice.” The Princeton researchers found that practice accounted for just a 12% difference in performance in various domains. Interestingly, it found variance in performance not explained by deliberate practice.
Practice Alone Does Not Make the Outlier
The researchers theorize that the age that someone starts to practice seriously may be a critical factor — that there may be an optimal age to learn something. Another factor is intelligence and specific abilities, which we interpret to mean the kind of talent that is baked into our DNA. The researchers say further study of these other areas is necessary to really understand what it takes to be a top performer. If you’d like to read the study, you can find a PDF of it here: Deliberate Practice and Performance in Music, Games, Sports, Education, and Professions: A Meta-Analysis. My read of the document and of Gladwell’s assertions find them in agreement. Still, Malcolm Gladwell took a lot of heat from people who seemed to misinterpret his book. So, to set the record straight, he wrote a piece for the New Yorker.
Malcolm Gladwell’s Explanation
In a New Yorker article entitled, Complexity and the Ten-Thousand-Hour Rule, author Malcolm Gladwell clarified his work in Outliers for those too attention-deprived to read the work more closely. Gladwell was not saying that practice made up for a lack of talent. In the New Yorker article, he explained,
“No one succeeds at a high level without innate talent, I wrote: “achievement is talent plus preparation.” But the ten-thousand-hour research reminds us that “the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.” In cognitively demanding fields, there are no naturals. Nobody walks into an operating room, straight out of a surgical rotation, and does world-class neurosurgery. And second—and more crucially for the theme of Outliers—the amount of practice necessary for exceptional performance is so extensive that people who end up on top need help. They invariably have access to lucky breaks or privileges or conditions that make all those years of practice possible.”
Clearly, there is an art and science to understanding exceptional talent. For more on the topic of top performers, see To Recruit a Rock Star, It Helps to Know Them and How to Recognize Great Talent in Executive Search.
Cybersecurity Classic The Art of Deception
The Art of Deception is a brilliant cybersecurity book written by legendary hacker Kevin Mitnick. In stunning detail, he shares how social engineering works — how he and other hackers con people into giving up passwords, account numbers, and social security numbers. Deception is how hackers acquire the keys to the kingdom. Published in 2002, it remains a cybersecurity classic. The primary point of his book? In cybersecurity, we, humans, are the weakest link.
As executive search firm that recruits top technology executives in cybersecurity, we are a nerdy practice. That is why we recommend the hit television series Mr. Robot, a psychological thriller that follows a young programmer who works as a cyber-security engineer by day and a vigilante hacker by night. The series has made hackers human. (For more, check our blog post, Mr. Robot Must-See TV for Cybersecurity Search Firm)
World’s Most Famous Hacker
Kevin Mitnick is considered by many in cybersecurity to be the world’s most famous hacker. At one point, he made the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list because he hacked into 40 major corporations. He didn’t do it for anything but the sport of it. Because it was there. To see if he could. The FBI saw it differently. Mitnick was arrested in 1995 and spend five years in prison for various computer and communications-related crimes. Mitnick was convicted of copying software unlawfully. However, Mitnick supporters found the punishment excessive, claiming many of the cybersecurity charges against him were trumped-up and not based on actual losses.
The author who literally wrote (and lived) The Art of Deception is now a trusted cybersecurity consultant to the Fortune 500 and governments worldwide. Kevin Mitnick is Chief Executive Officer of the security firm Mitnick Security Consulting, LLC which helps test companies’ security strengths, weaknesses, and potential loopholes.
He mentors leaders, executives, and staff on both the theory and practice of social engineering, topics on which he is considered a leading global authority. The redeemed hacker also helps consumers—from students to retirees— learn how to protect their information and themselves from harm. In fact, he’s written a book about it called The Art of Invisibility, The World’s Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data.
Hacking Executive Search
The Good Search recruits senior executives and technologists in cybersecurity. In that industry, companies typically focus on one of two things: keeping the bad guys out and letting the good guys in. We recently placed the Head of Product for a company that does the latter, a sector called identity and access management. They let the good guys in. Recently, Stephen Colbert let Kevin Mitnick in as a guest on his show Late Night with Stephen Colbert.
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The Soul of Leadership
The Soul of Leadership is a dimension worth cultivating in one’s career. Mindfulness is playing an increasing role in all areas of our lives. It repeatedly yields positive results. So it stands to reason that honoring the spiritual side of our work lives will bring greater meaning and purpose to our work. In fact, Author Deepak Chopra writes that leadership takes both heart and soul as in his book, The Soul of Leadership: Unlocking Your Potential for Greatness.
Chopra brings rebrands success as something far beyond financial gain. In The Soul of Leadership, Chopra examines spirituality in the workplace and offers ways to reverse negative attitudes to fosters a positive working environment. Chopra offers a succinct guide that employs his principles. In doing so, the author shares the stories of two leaders who have made millions following the deepest inclinations of their souls, In fact, Chopra believes the only path to true success is finding and honoring one’s calling. Our careers are a hero’s journey. (For more on that, see Executive Search and The Hero’s Journey.) For that reason, we recommend the book The Soul of Leadership and applying its methods in your career.
The author contends that great leaders must develop consciousness. So in this way, Chopra goes where few business courses in leadership have dared. Most business schools serve up case studies for analysis, to compare less successful leaders to those who have delivered the greatest return on their corporation’s investment. While technical and managerial skills are important, Chopra has found that human skills are far harder to teach and pass on. “Yet they are the key to persuading other people to follow you.”
Here, Deepak Chopra shares the book’s insights in a presentation at Pershing’s Financial Solution Conference.
The Soul of Leadership Presentation
The Power of Habit
The power of habit is a power you can harness. So, before you decide to eliminate or add a new habit, check out this book by Pulitzer Prize-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg. He details what science now knows about why habits exist and how they can be changed. In doing so, he distills a vast amount of fascinating information about these habits of ours that seem to run on autopilot.
Habits Run on Autopilot
Research has found we have no brain activity when one of our habit programs is running. I found that data point stunning. It explains why habits are so very hard to change because we simply are not conscious when they are running. However, with insight offered in the book The Power of Habit, we have the knowledge we need to reshape our habits to lead more rewarding lives.
The Power of Habit Presentation
Charles Duhigg shared his insights from The Power of Habit in a presentation he gave to Microsoft Research.
The Power of Habit is a book we highly recommend. Another business book worth checking out is The Soul of Leadership: Unlocking Your Potential for Greatness.