Jennifer B. Davis
This is the general manager's delimna. To do the job well, the GM needs a well-rounded background and an understanding of a range of business disciplines from marketing to product development, from finance to operations. There is a case here for career diversification.

However, most GMs do not have a broad, highly-diversified background. Most rise to the ranks through a particular function (from a marketing coodinator to marketing manager to marketing director to VP of marketing). It is easy to tell the story of their career. There is a case here for career specialization.

Combined, these would recommend a moderate diversification strategy. A broad enough range of experience to give you a grounding in the discipline and the vocabulary, but enough of a continuity to make it easy to write a bio and build credibility with other executives, boards of directors, and investors.

In 1972, Richard Rumelt, a professor of strategy at UCLA's Anderson School of Management, ws the first to uncover a statistical link between corporate strategy and profitability, finding that moderately diversified companies outperform more diversified ones. Perhaps the same is true of careers.

The great news for all of us is that we own our careers. If yours has been narrowly focused on a discipline or function, branch out. Take a new assignment, take a class, volunteer, or start a business to get experience in an area that you don't already have. Remember, the goal is moderately diverse (and, of course, in an area that interests and excites you).

If your career has been broad and varied, now might be the time to focus. Also look at the common threads in the positions or roles you have had. Emphasize those commonalities to help weave a more cohesive career story and a more "moderately diverse" background.
Jennifer B. Davis
I have often contended that the reason that many entry level positions require a college degree is not because a liberal arts education is actually applied in the position, but rather the company does not want 18 year old kids applying for the job. They want 22 or 23 year olds with a little more life experience eager to prove themselves. Nothing against 18 year olds, but there is a huge amount of maturation that happens in those early twenties that companies benefit from.

I ran across this quote from Robert Frost the other day and found it interesting:

"Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence."

I actually wonder if this isn't a better definition of maturity, than it is of education (although they are interrelated, of course). Those individuals who are mature (of any age), can listen to criticism, alternate opinions, or radical ideas and remain themselves.
Jennifer B. Davis
What would we do without Excel?

Jennifer B. Davis
While the paperless office remains elusive, we can all appreciate how nice it would be to eliminate the mounds of paper around the house. To solve this issue, I reread David Allen's Getting Stuff Done, subscribed to his blog, and got on the paperless bandwagon. See my recommended products below:

The best product, besides the two monitors, of course, is the scanner. It is small and features one-button operation. It is fantastic for bills, receipts, and other documents that you want to keep (but don't want to sort, file, or have to rummage through later).
Jennifer B. Davis
The following quote is attributed to Isaac Asimov:

The most exciting phrase to hear in science the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but “That’s funny…”

What strikes you as funny? Interesting? Surprising? What kind of human behavior have you observed and thought "that's funny, I wonder why we do that"? What kind of unexpected, unintended uses of technology have you observed? These are the raw materials of innovation.

I am reminded about a stand-up routine by Jerry Seinfeld (of Seinfeld fame) about cordless phones. He said they would never catch on because hitting the button to hang up on someone wasn't nearly as satisfying as throwing down a receiver. Although he was wrong about the cordless phones, I wonder if the same principle didn't apply in the popularity of the flip-phone cell phone style which hangs up on a caller when you close the lid of the phone (which can be done with style and a degree of passion if the conversation warrants it).
Does this bode a problem for the iPhone? How do you hang up the phone with gusto on a paddle-style phone? Perhaps we have just invented a whole new use for multi-touch user interfaces: passionately pinch the image of the caller's face on the screen and they get a dial-tone. Strangely in this promotional picture for the iPhone, it looks like that is what is happening. That's funny....
Jennifer B. Davis
Since I am officially on every mailing list known to man, it should not surprise me that I regularly receive CIO magazine. Although not technically my field, I do find it interesting.

In a recent article by Carrie Mathews entitled "Future-State CIO" they include this handy graph, which I have included here. It make me think however, that the graph did not just apply to Chief Information Officers, but rather to all professionals looking to have a larger strategic impact on their organizations. As you move up in the organization, exert broader influence, and gain additional responsibilities, the percentage of your time spent in functional excellence decreases, being replaced with your role as a business strategist and leader.

We have all seen examples of people who didn't make this leap effectively, as with each move towards the "future state" the leader has to become more comfortable with giving up those things that might have made them successful in the past (ie, being the most technically competent, for instance). There have been books written about such leaps. This graph and the article spoke of an intangible "Executive Quotient" (EQ) that is required to perform at this more strategic level. I am interested in your feedback on this whole concept and your experience in developing your EQ.

So, all of your who are in pursuit of becoming the gallatic commanders of your companies and organizations, I wish you all the best as you leap beyond functional excellence to the future!
Jennifer B. Davis
We have a friend who likes spaghetti and marinara sauce, but only in the right ratio. He has more than once commented that the key to a good meal is all about the sauce to noodle ratio (his favors the sauce).

I wonder how much of life is summed up in the ratios. I ran across this provocative post on the ludicracy of planning and it got me thinking about the following ratios:

Planning: Doing - the ratio of planning to doing. Planning, scheming, discussing or diving in and achieving something (even if the achievement is failure).

Planning: Wishing - The ratio of planning to wishing. You can wish for something to happen. You can have an idea, but how much are you translating that to real plans, investments, and commitments.

There are other ratios that perhaps people might track in their own life (ie, listening:talking, playing: working, reading:writing) and credit as a secret for success. What's yours?

By the way, you can buy a reprint of the vintage poster of "Pluck Makes Luck" at
Jennifer B. Davis
I found a new little tool which is worth passing along. It is called 5Clicks by Interapple and it is a freeware utility that allows you to capture a portion of your screen and save it off in a variety of formats. The reason that I find this useful is that I use multiple monitors (something I have become addicted to and can't work without). When I do the standard Windows screen capture it gives me all 2,560 pixels in width, which is exactly the dimensions that I never need. This little tool will save me having to edit things down in PhotoShop or Paint when I need to snap a graphic (like the one to the right).