Monthly Archives: June 2012

Animal Prints Are So Hot Right Now

Animal Print carpeting is freaking awesome. I just moved into a 1 bedroom apartment in New York City and installed the beautiful STARK design Antilocarpa in Silver for my bedroom. Below is a picture of it.

STARK has some cool animal prints in our collection. This pattern truely represents a bachelor pad, but others can be used in different parts of your home for different purposes. Check out this post from Meg White of Meg White Interiors to learn more about accenting your home with animal print area rugs, runners, and pillows.

Tagged , , ,

All Hail the Generalist

*this is a post from Vikram Mansharamani  from the HBR blog. It’s not worth my trying to make my own post about this when it is said so perfectly here.

We have become a society of specialists. Business thinkers point to “domain expertise” as an enduring source of advantage in today’s competitive environment. The logic is straightforward: learn more about your function, acquire “expert” status, and you’ll go further in your career.

But what if this approach is no longer valid? Corporations around the world have come to value expertise, and in so doing, have created a collection of individuals studying bark. There are many who have deeply studied its nooks, grooves, coloration, and texture. Few have developed the understanding that the bark is merely the outermost layer of a tree. Fewer still understand the tree is embedded in a forest.

Approximately 2,700 years ago, the Greek poet Archilochus wrote that “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Isaiah Berlin’s 1953 essay “The Fox and the Hedgehog” contrasts hedgehogs that “relate everything to a single, central vision” with foxes who “pursue many ends connected…if at all, only in some de facto way.” It’s really a story of specialists vs. generalists.

In the six decades since Berlin’s essay was published, hedgehogs have come to dominate academia, medicine, finance, law, and many other professional domains. Specialists with deep expertise have ruled the roost, climbing to higher and higher positions. To advance in one’s career, it was most efficient to specialize.

For various reasons, though, the specialist era is waning. The future may belong to the generalist. Why’s that? To begin, our highly interconnected and global economy means that seemingly unrelated developments can affect each other. Consider the Miami condo market, which has rebounded quite nicely since 2008 on the back of strong demand from Latin American buyers. But perhaps a slowdown in China, which can take away the “bid” for certain industrial commodities, might adversely affect many of the Latin American extraction-based companies, countries, and economies. How many real estate professionals in Miami are closely watching Chinese economic developments?

Secondly, specialists toil within a singular tradition and apply formulaic solutions to situations that are rarely well-defined. This often results in intellectual acrobatics to justify one’s perspective in the face of conflicting data. Think about Alan Greenspan’s public admission of “finding a flaw” in his worldview. Academics and serious economists were dogmatically dedicated to the efficient market hypothesis — contributing to the inflation of an unprecedented credit bubble between 2001 and 2007.

Finally, there appears to be reasonable and robust data suggesting that generalists are better at navigating uncertainty. Professor Phillip Tetlock conducted a 20+ year study of 284 professional forecasters. He asked them to predict the probability of various occurrences both within and outside of their areas of expertise. Analysis of the 80,000+ forecasts found that experts are less accurate predictors than non-experts in their area of expertise. Tetlock’s conclusion: when seeking accuracy of predictions, it is better to turn to those like “Berlin’s prototypical fox, those who know many little things, draw from an eclectic array of traditions, and accept ambiguity and contradictions.” Ideological reliance on a single perspective appears detrimental to one’s ability to successfully navigate vague or poorly-defined situations (which are more prevalent today than ever before).

The future has always been uncertain, but our ability to navigate it has been impaired by an increasing focus on studying bark. The closer you are to the material, the more likely you are to believe it. In psychology jargon, you anchor on your own beliefs and insufficiently adjust from them. In more straightforward language, a man with a hammer is more likely to see nails than one without a hammer. Expertise means being closer to the bark, and less likely to see ways in which your perspective may warrant adjustment. In today’s uncertain environment, breadth of perspective trumps depth of knowledge.

The declining returns to expertise have implications at the national, company, and even individual level. A collection of specialists creates a less flexible labor force, one that requires “retraining” with technological developments creating constantly shifting human resource needs. In this regard, the recent emphasis in American education on “job-specific” skills is disturbing. Within a company, employees skilled in numerous functions are more valuable as management can dynamically adjust their roles. Many forward-looking companies are specifically mandating multi-functional experience as a requirement for career progress. Finally, individuals should manage their careers around obtaining a diversity of geographic and functional experiences. Professionals armed with the analytical capabilities (e.g. basic statistical skills, critical reasoning, etc.) developed via these experiences will fare particularly well when competing against others more focused on domain-specific skill development.

The time has come to acknowledge expertise as overvalued. There is no question that expertise and hedgehog logic are appropriate in certain domains (i.e. hard sciences), but they certainly appear less fitting for domains plagued with uncertainty, ambiguity, and poorly-defined dynamics (i.e. social sciences, business, etc.). The time has come for leaders to embrace the power of foxy thinking (click here to watch a TEDx presentation about this.

___

If you enjoyed reading this post as much as I did, check out the comments here

Tagged , , , , , ,

Benefits of an Entrepreneurial Education

My concentration (B-school buzzword for “major“) in the undergraduate business program at UM (Ross) was Entrepreneurship. Many people have asked me what that means and what I learned. Unlike finance or accounting, there is no real definition of what an entrepreneurial education is. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what I was going to learn going into it. Now that I’m in the real world, it all makes sense.

Entrepreneurship is not learned in the classroom or from a textbook. You have to get out the door and experience things firsthand. As a student of entrepreneurship, I started many different ventures while in school that ranged from a music blog to a social fundraising platform. I’m proud to say that most of them failed and are no longer in existence. Why am I proud to say that you ask? Failure is the greatest way to learn. It teaches you how to take ownership of something real, look at and approach real world problems and analyze your actions after the fact so you can improve your efforts next time. Real world experiences teach you that things usually don’t work out as planned. For entrepreneurs, there is always a next time. Whether your ventures fail after 5 years or IPO in 10 months, that ever-so-persistant entrepreneurial bug will start to itch again very soon. How you constantly improve yourself is what we entrepreneurs like to measure.

My greatest takeaway from B-school came from all my previous ventures. Startup events like Techarb’s Student Startup Showcase and Detroit Venture Partners’ and Ludlow Ventures‘ Funded by Night forced me to present my ideas in an organized, easy-to-follow fashion to avoid embarrassment infront of rooms full of people. I used to emphasize and explain a technology that only techies would understand instead of a simple concept that even grandparents would understand. Giving powerpoint presentations at these events and to venture capitalists taught me how to clearly translate what’s speeding around in my head into a concise, confident presentation. After my “Strategy and Implementation Plan” presentation last week to the board here at Stark, I now realize how valuable a skill articulating clear and organized thoughts is. That is the most valuable skill I acquired from a B-school entrepreneurial education.

As a mentor of mine once said, Every time an entrepreneur opens his mouth, he is pitching.” My friends all know how much I like to talk. Thank you B-school for teaching me how to actually say something instead of just blabber.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

An Entrepreneur’s Resume

It’s crazy to me how companies care so much about the traditional resume. My father told me I should update mine to include all of the projects I’ve been involved in over my lifetime. But why? And how could I capture everything I’ve done onto a piece of paper?

With services out there like Tru App, I feel that the traditional 1-page paper resume is out dated. There are so many unique ways to displays what you’ve accomplished in the real world that a static print out just doesn’t do you justice. For example, check out how my friend Raj talks about his accomplishments. Now THAT is what I call a resume.

After thinking about it for some time, I decided to create a section on my blog where I talk about my past projects. Check it out and let me know what you think! WordPress is an easy platform, and I think making something like that is really worth the time it takes.

Tagged
%d bloggers like this: