Our Blog

Our Blog

“Networking!” A key takeaway by high school business student

Uncategorized No comments

Bobbie Reyes in Green

Bobbie Reyes, of Hayward High School, has confidence in her budding career, and if you meet her you will instantly know why.  Like any great entrepreneur, she knows how to recognize opportunities.  When she stepped into Rick Charles’ Business Finance and Marketing class last fall she was prepared to drop the course, but something in Mr. Charles’ introduction struck a chord, and she knew she had to stay.  10 months later she was runner up in the Bay Area’s regional finals, and on October 9th she will be competing with 40 other young men and women from around the nation for $25,000 in the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s (NFTE) Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.

Win or lose, Bobbie is gaining tremendously from the experience using the networking skills cultivated saying that future employers are waiting to hire her once she graduates from college.

Says Reyes, “I have people waiting for me to graduate from college so that they can hire me.”

The source of her pride and forward-looking nature? Her answer, “Networking.” It is a skill she learned through her Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) instructor, Rick Charles during a program offered through his business and marketing class at Hayward High School.

The most impactful lesson she learned from NFTE, according to Reyes, is networking. She believes it is one of the most powerful skills to develop as a young person.  She says that it is due to her successful approach to networking that future employment will not be a problem.  She also believes in continual improvement, saying,  “Every time I receive an award from my community or from NFTE, I remember that there is always room to grow.” She wants young people to know that one needs to be a risk taker and to try new things. “That’s what happened to me with NFTE.  I took a chance and ran with it.  You never know what doors will open for you,” says Reyes with a smile.

During a recent visit to a NFTE classroom, the students asked for my business card. I congratulated them on their proactive approach to networking and encouraged them to develop a system that works to keep that data handy for future reference. What system do you use?

What is “innovation” after all?

Uncategorized No comments

What is Innovation, after all?

Experts in the field of “innovation” discuss the critical role that jazz serves in demonstrating, and training for, an innovative mind-set.


Jim Nadel, Executive Director, Stanford Jazz Festival

Jim Nadel, Executive Director, Stanford Jazz Festival

A term often used without a clear definition

“Innovation” is a commonly used term. In strategy documents of organizations ranging from Harvard Business School and the American Medical Association to small start-ups, the term is one that is used profusely. It is obviously important, but how you we define it and how do we achieve it?


At a recent Stanford Jazz Festival event, guests had the chance to explore the concept with leaders in business and music. Conversations revealed three essential aspects of innovation to help us start to think more deeply about what this ellusive (and often over-used) term really means.

Looking to jazz for concrete concepts

Last month, Larry Coryell & Bombay Jazz played to a capacity audience during the Stanford Jazz Festival. After the performance, some guests had the opportunity to mingle with the artists. Several of these guests, experts in the field of “innovation,” discussed the critical role that jazz serves in demonstrating, and training for, an innovative mind-set. These guests, each leaders in their respective fields, reviewed three (3) essential elements of innovation.

1. Teamwork/collaboration


Elizabeth Doty, Founder, Leadership Momentum

Elizabeth Doty, Founder, Leadership Momentum

Elizabeth Doty, a graduate of Harvard Business School and founder of Leadership Momentum commented, “On-stage, you see the performers working in harmony to create a unified experience. They are each  able to shine, but they also adapt to ensure the whole performance weaves together.”   She was impressed because her work involves helping leaders collaborate more effectively. For her, teamwork is essential. She adds, “If leaders do not work as a team, their efforts to innovate can create confusion or complexity for customers and other stakeholders.”


Band member George Brooks emphasized that a great deal of emphasis of jazz is on collaboration, explaining, “We work on stepping in or holding back based on what will work best for the whole.” This type of sensitivity and awareness of group dynamics plays out in every one of their performances, as it does in other jazz performances, where there is a great deal of leeway regarding what will happen at any given point in time.


Collaboration is an important feature of the innovation process overall, according to a specialist in the field, Debra Dunn, who is also a Stanford Jazz Workshop Board member and consulting faculty member of the Stanford Design School. She, too, had been to the show, and provided background on innovation from an academic and a practical standpoint, adding that, one of the primary reasons she joined the Stanford Jazz Workshop Board was because of the method that the school uses to teach the skill of collaboration:


“The work done in the camp is about far more than music. There is a much higher probability, especially among people who have that experience during their formative years, that they will learn about how to be part of a group, how to collaborate, be open to what other people are bringing, and look on ways to build upon that. That is a big part of what happens at jazz camp: they are learning to work with others in a way is different from other educational venues.”

2. Diversity


Debra Dunn, Consulting Faculty Member, Stanford Design School

Debra Dunn, Consulting Faculty Member, Stanford Design School

To Dunn, this particular performance also demonstrated another vital part of the innovation process: bringing diverse points of view together “to create the germ of some phenomenal new break-through.” The band had members from America and India performing onstage together. After describing the successful aesthetic effect that that created musically, she went on to explain how the concept is successful in business:


“The concert on Saturday night was a beautiful example of how jazz exhibits and models innovation. That group brought together radically different musical forms – classical Indian music and what we think of more commonly as jazz.  When you take a multi dimensional team trying to solve a problem and you put them in a room together, it looks very much like that. This concert provided a great example [of this element of the innovation process.]”  Describing it in business terms, she believes that bringing outside perspectives into an organization helps that organization create and implement important changes.”


3. Improvisation – working without a script

George Brooks (left) of Larry Coryell & Bombay Jazz

George Brooks (upper left) of Larry Coryell & Bombay Jazz

According to Jim Nadel, Founder and Artistic & Executive Director of Stanford Jazz Workshop, “An important part of the innovative process involves risk-taking and trying new things. Performers and students, both, develop the skills needed to experiment and improvise. These skills include:  self-confidence, goal-setting, and spontaneity” says Nadel. He explains that students learn to make quick decisions, but also to prepare/practice, so that, when the moment comes, they are “ready” to react with strong skills to bring a solid result. “Having a beginners mind outlook, combined with years of practice, enable those who improvise to do so successfully,” says Nadel.

Looking forward to hearing more up-to-the-minute information on how those around us are defining the term “innovation.”

What’s in store for the future of Medical School Education?

Uncategorized No comments

The future of medical school education – “creating leaders of change”

Dr. Clay Johnston, dean, Dell Medical School: soft smile belies bold mission

Dr. Clay Johnston, dean, Dell Medical School: soft smile belies bold mission


Yesterday, The New England Journal of Medicine published an article entitled “Innovation in Medical Education.” http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1407463 Similarly, last fall, the American Medical Association rolled out a plan to introduce “innovation” to medical school education.

What are the issues and how will new paths be forged?

I had the opportunity to speak with the dean of America’s newest medical school to learn more about these issues first-hand. In this piece I cover his perspective on the issue, and review points raised in the medical community publications cited above.

Dr. Clay Johnston, Dell Medical School, University of Texas, founding dean, summarized the overarching problem he will be addressing in his new role:  “Doctors have often resisted change even in the face of a healthcare system begging for improvement.” To that end, he continued, “we’ve got to make anticipating and shaping the future a part of the core mindset of future physicians.  Rather than being the ones resisting change, or even reluctantly accepting new approaches from other sources, doctors need to be trained to proactively drive the change needed in our industry.”

American Medical Association (AMA) Approach

Last fall, the American Medical Association (AMA) hosted a pivotal meeting to initiate the transformation of medical education in the U.S.


The AMA proposes four new initiatives to update their educational system to create an openness to transformation within their ranks. These include:

  • Competency-based curriculum

  • Technology-enhanced learning

  • Team-based training/ integrating education across medical professions

  • Greater focus on prevention and chronic diseases

The New England Journal of Medicine: “Innovation in Medical Education” proposal

The authors recommended three changes in medical school education:

  1. Establishing metrics for success in the goal of  “the production of a workforce capable of delivering economically sustainable care that will improve the health of patients and populations in a changing environment”

  1. Examining fundamental changes to the structure of medical education, such as whether graduation should be time-based or competency-based;

  1. Piloting new models for financing medical education. As it stands today, they say “Currently Medicare (mostly) pays hospitals (mostly) for training residents (exclusively physicians), using a historical formula that is largely untethered to current goals.”

Trends to watch

Hopefully, as the AMA and other stakeholders roll out new initiatives, they will keep their eye on the overarching purpose of these mechanisms, as articulated by Dr. Johnston – “creating leaders of change in medicine.”


Tracking and replicating success among new institutions, such as Dell, in addition to other schools that have established a reputation for leading new initiatives, will be essential.


For those interested in hearing Dr. Johnston’s vision for change, scroll ahead to the last four minutes of this video presentation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1Hf8Dar1IQ


Is “The American Dream” moving overseas?

Uncategorized No comments

Is “The American Dream” moving overseas?

It appears entrepreneurial activity has slowed in the US, but is growing overseas.

Why is the spirit of change/innovation important to any economy?

OnPoint Interview: Beyond Silicon Valley, Declining Entrepreneurship.

Has Silicon Valley become corporate? Can the entrepreneurial spirit thrive?

Has Silicon Valley become corporate? Can the entrepreneurial spirit thrive?


A new Brookings Institute study reveals a drop (by nearly half) in new business creation (“entrepreneurship”) and business risk-taking overall across the last 30-40 years in the US. Even in Silicon Valley itself, considered the hotbed of business creation in the US, according to the study, the percentage of new businesses was dramatically reduced over the last three to four decades.


During a recent OnPoint show, four thought-leaders, including  Danielle Kurtzleben, economics and business correspondent for Vox.com, Nancy Koehn, historian and professor business administration at the Harvard Business School (HBS). Ray Hennessey, editorial director of Entrepreneur.com. (@Hennesseyedit), Lina Khan, policy analyst in the Markets, Enterprise and Resiliency Initiative at the New America Foundation. (@linamkhan)


Why are economists like Danielle Kurtzleben,  economics and business correspondent for Vox.com, concerned?  She explains, “This sort of ‘churn’ or ‘business dynamism,’ which includes moving from job to job and learning new skills,  is essential to growth.” Another word she uses to describe it is “creative destruction” (linking “entrepreneurship” to “innovation.”)  She warns, “Productivity is reduced when there is less change.” Based on observations of global competitive trends, she warns, “If you are not moving workers around, this really could put a crimp on growth.”


Nancy Koehn, historian and business administration professor at HBS, whose work focuses on entrepreneurial leadership, is equally disturbed. She says, that, in this study, “we see an ongoing and steepening trend, especially in the last six years.” She underlines, “This is a big deal.” Why? Because, she explains, this means that job creation and innovation are also down. This has cultural implications as well because America has always been the place defined by its entrepreneurial spirit. She calls it “can-do” and “make-it-up-as-you-go-along,” and “do-something-different” and states that these concepts have been part of the “American Dream.” She says that the definition of “entrepreneurship” (coming out of HBS in the 1970’s) is “opportunity driven vs. resource constrained,” and that this is the root of economic growth and the rise of new, successful businesses, concluding, “Entrepreneurial activity is important to the beginnings of big business…..This trend is worrisome for what it portends for 20-30 years from now.”


The speakers agreed that, while entrepreneurship and the innovation mindset is markedly subdued  in the last 30 years in the US, overseas, it is “catching fire.”

It will be interesting to verify this trend of entrepreneurial activity growing overseas while stagnating in the US with real data and to see if, over time, what these economists predict, will reshape the global playing field for new business growth.

OnPoint Interview: Beyond Silicon Valley, Declining Entrepreneurship.

Aligning ourselves around the term “entrepreneurship” (2006, HBS Professor Howard Steven article)


Special Thanks:


Thank you, Kaz Asakawa @Kaz_Asakawa management professor and specialist in innovation at Keio University in Japan,  for bringing this issue to my attention.


Call to action for the 21st Century by the Dean of Harvard Business School and his team

Uncategorized No comments

Call to action for the 21st Century by the Dean of Harvard Business School and his team


“To prepare leaders to succeed in this more complex world, and to increase our scale and reach to bring our mission to even more people, requires a relentless dedication to innovation.”

Dean Nitin Nohria of Harvard Business School

Dean Nitin Nohria of Harvard Business School


This week, Harvard Business School (HBS) seemed to reproduce itself at the Fort Mason Center of San Francisco, as Dean Nitin Nohria, and other HBS luminaries, including Faculty Chair Robert Steven Kaplan and William Sahlman, came to present their newly launched capital campaign. I enjoyed talking with the dean and others, old friends and new. This post is to share the fresh approach to life and to work that they imparted.


The new campaign is to position the School for leadership in management education in the 21st century. The primary objectives of The Harvard Business School Campaign are to:


  • Inspire significantly increased levels of participation and engagement among alumni

  • Inform, identify, and engage the next generation of HBS leaders

  • Strengthen the perception of HBS and business in the world

  • Engage with and support the University in new and mutually beneficial ways

  • Raise funds for current priorities and future flexibility.


“Today, as we launch this new Campaign for Harvard Business School,” said Dean Nitin Nohria in addressing the alumni leaders and invited guests who attended the event, “let us take the opportunity to ask ourselves: When future generations look back on this time, what will our legacy be? What choices will we make? How will we reimagine this institution and leave it stronger than we found it?


“When I look at the challenges facing our world today, I’m convinced that now more than ever we need the type of leadership Harvard Business School can provide,” Nohria said.


“Over the last century, more than a billion people have been brought into the circle of economic inclusion—but there are still billions more waiting, in America and around the world. Business leaders have a vital role to play in helping to widen this circle of inclusion. Together, we can make a difference,” he emphasized.


Nohria also spoke of the role of HBS in the fields of innovation and entrepreneurship and the spirit of Silicon Valley, and referenced the mission of Harvard Business School in this “call to action.” I believe it is one that should motivate all of us, young and old, rich and poor, and in all corners of the world:


“To prepare leaders to succeed in this more complex world, and to increase our scale and reach to bring our mission to even more people, requires a relentless dedication to innovation.”

The mission of Harvard Business School: “We educate leaders who make a difference in the world.”

The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy, and Affinity (Jossey-Bass, 2014)

Uncategorized No comments

The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy, and Affinity (Jossey-Bass, 2014)

For mission-driven organizations of all kinds (non-profit or otherwise), this recently published book will be essential summer-reading. It demonstrates how the brand emanates from the organization’s mission and values and requires the active participation of both internal and external audiences.

The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy, and Affinity (Jossey-Bass, 2014)

The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy, and Affinity
(Jossey-Bass, 2014)

Nathalie Laidler-Kylander and Julia Shepard Stenzel have written a new book to help nonprofits more effectively manage their brands to further their missions. The Brand IDEA framework outlines the concepts of Integrity, Democracy, and Affinity: aligning the brand with the organization’s mission and values, engaging internal and external stakeholders in defining and communicating the brand, and leveraging the brand to support partnerships and collaboration.  Drawing on interviews with over 70 organizations, the book explores in detail how nonprofit organizations are developing and implementing new ways of building and managing their organizational brands. Examples include: how Special Olympics transitioned from a state of brand confusion to a clear brand identity that has increased cohesion and consistency, how Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts transformed patrons into brand ambassadors, and how the Girl Effect freely offered its brand assets to partners to dramatically increase both reach and impact.

“Every nonprofit leader should read this book. The Brand Idea provides a wealth of insight, real-world examples, and practical advice about the important role that brand plays, not only among external constituents, but among internal ones as well.”  Eric Nee, Managing Editor, Stanford Social Innovation Review

Nathalie Laidler-Kylander, Ph.D.,  teaches management, leadership, and marketing at Harvard’s Kennedy School and Tufts’ Fletcher School. She has been researching and writing about nonprofit brands for over a decade. Julia Shepard Stenzel consults with nonprofits and is an active nonprofit board member. Both Nathalie and Julia are graduates of Harvard Business School.

Authors Nathalie Laidler-Kylander and Julia Shepard Stenzel

Authors Nathalie Laidler-Kylander and Julia Shepard Stenzel

For more information, please visit www.nonprofitbrandidea.com.

The book is available at:



http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-111855583X.html (use discount code IDEA7 for 30% off through the end of the year)

Linking a vision to a societal issue – providing momentum for change

Education, Marketing, Uncategorized No comments

When I asked Dr. Kevin Kumashiro, the new dean at The University of San Francisco’s (USF’s) School of Education, about his vision for the school, he did not talk about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and other more popular themes for educational institutions. Instead, he answered, “Rather than ‘brilliant’ lecturers, our educators need to find ways of deeply understanding the context of the students whom they serve. If they have an appreciation of their lives, their neighborhoods and their communities, they can provide them with the skills and tools their students will need into the future.”

Dr. Kevin Kumashiro

Dr. Kevin Kumashiro, Dean, USF School of Education

I am intrigued by Dean Kumashiro’s vision and believe it will inspire change not only within the university itself but beyond. Specifically, by focusing on the living conditions of students, we can begin to address one of the biggest causes of the education gap in our country – income disparities. Impacting this key societal issue will give students better access to the type of education that is sufficient to compete outside of poverty – in mainstream America and on a global basis. It will be interesting to follow Dean Kumashiro’s tenure at the USF School of Education and to see how his graduates approach their role in affecting social change. Notably, Dean Kumashiro’s vision for The School of Education ties into this Catholic university’s firmly entrenched value of helping the economically disadvantaged.

For an overview of how the issue of “access to education” has become a leading topic in educational policy discussions, please read some of the seminal documents on this topic, below:

The White House issued a report in early 2014 entitled, Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students: A Call to Action

The Southern States published this piece, which became the initial wake-up call to this issue in 2013, entitled The New Majority: Low Income Students in the South and in the Nation.

Last weekend’s New York Times Magazine piece continued the dialogue with Paul Tough (expert on mental attitudes) and his review of research showing that attitude gaps in kids from low-income families prevent them from either applying to, or completing college or university. Read Who Gets to Graduate.

The Branding Debate

Uncategorized No comments

Over the past two days, I enjoyed reading pieces that covered both sides of the branding* debate (See definition of the term, “branding”, below). This is because they represent  facets of the conversations I hear within organizations of all stripes that are reflecting on their marketing needs. These points of view can be used as data points to consider when determining how much time and money to put into the branding effort of any operation.

The main question:

  • Is branding worth the investment?

Related questions:

  • Should we invest in a professional branding agency or build on our own brand?

  • How much time, energy, and effort  is this exercise worth?

  • How about a brand “refresh” instead of “re-branding”?

  • How can we measure the results of this investment?

Read on and enjoy, along with more and more of us, following the branding debate as it unfolds over time.

1. Apparently Apple is focusing less on its brand and more on the quality of its product (this is typical of high tech products in America, but also applies to consumer products in other countries, like Japan where new product development receives a greater proportion of investment dollars than traditional branding efforts). Read this recent piece in the Harvard Business Review

2. This piece covers the example of a global company that did not test its logo, only to realize that the imagery it used reminded British consumers of a popular underwear brand. (A quick $15 survey could have prevented this.) New York Times recommending brand research to avoid unintentional (if not funny) consequences.

* (Simple definition of the term “Branding”)

Since “branding,” like many marketing teams, is one that can be  used in many ways, here I am defining it as that element of the overall marketing approach that addresses the identity of the organization, in terms of words and images (literal and figurative) associated with that organization, and how these are communicated to others.  It is typically tied to the overall marketing plan because it is the result of a deep understanding of the company itself, its target customers, and how it distinguishes itself from other players in the marketplace. As is true of every element of the marketing plan, it is reflective of the entire marketing strategy. For those who are in interested in how branding extends throughout the entire marketing plan, read this piece in the Harvard Business Review.


Integrating Business and Education in Silicon Valley

Uncategorized No comments

Eric Swalwell Promotes Access to Companies for Local Students

Recently, President Obama announced grants to help integrate work experience into educational programs in the US with the intention that the grants will help finance partnerships between local education agencies and employers.  Participants in this program will have the opportunity for job-shadowing and mentoring which will give students a chance to experience, first hand, high-demand industries such as information technology, health-care and other science and technology sectors. This grant program is an important development for our educational system as it introduces a reshaping of what current high schools offer and will ensure that students are properly prepared for the rigors of college and a rapidly evolving job market.

Rep. Swalwell at the App workshop he hosted in April 5, 2014 in Hayward

Rep. Swalwell at the App workshop he hosted in April 5, 2014 in Hayward

This vision is already becoming a reality to East Bay students.  Congressman Eric Swalwell, who serves as the U.S. Representative from California’s 15th congressional district, which covers most of eastern Alameda County in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area, has created a program that is providing East Bay students with access to companies that can inspire them and help prepare them for a successful career in industry. He says, “We need schools to put themselves into the community that surrounds them. For example, here in the East Bay and Silicon Valley, we have biotech and tech firms that can help students understand the relevance of math and science in the world around them. It is my hope that students and their teachers dedicate themselves to reaching out to those in industry to establish mutually beneficial relationships, and vice-versa.”

Rep. Swalwell is a part of the House of Representatives’ Science, Space and Technology committee and has been active in promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education that prepares students for the 21st century economy and workforce. As an example of his commitment, he has been coordinating an inaugural STEM App Challenge in the region. The Challenge is taking place across the country in participating Congressional districts, with winners being selected from each. Students submit the prototype of an app (for a phone or tablet) and a short video explaining the process and thinking behind it. Rep. Swalwell has held three workshops at which students were provided with assistance from both professional app developers and computer science instructors.