Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nietzsche versus the Harvard Business Review?

I'll admit it.

I'm sometimes suspicious of academic business commentary.

Just imagine how often this scenario plays out: A bright, well-off high-schooler gets accepted to a top Ivy League college. He majors in (say) economics, graduates and goes on to post-grad work and eventually moves into academia as a professor.

Next thing you know, reports on business are coming out from "respected Harvard professor so-and-so".

Sure, he's STUDIED business for years, but the sum total of his hands-on business experience? Zippo!

Nietzsche called this the difference between “wissen” and “erfahrung”. Rough translation: the difference between book-smarts and street-smarts. At Early to Rise we've found that the street smart advice usually ends up with a higher correlation to actually making money and being succesful than theory and academics.

And so I was pleasantly surprised to open this month's Harvard Business Review and find good “street-smart” advice on managing hypergrowth from Alexander Izosimov.

He’s not a professor but the CEO of Vimpel Commuciations, Russia’s second-largest mobile phone company.

Yes, HBR does run plenty of intellectually interesting and occasionally useful articles from the academic elite. But I’ve noticed I find myself reading the ones from seasoned business executives more often.

Izosimov should know about rapid growth: He’s helped roll out cell phones in Russia as market penetration jumped to 120% (yes some have two) from 12% - and his company’s market cap jettisoned to $40 BILLION from $600 million in the same period.

His recommendations sound very much aligned with what Early to Rise and Michael Masterson in Ready Fire Aim advise when managing a rapid expansion period.

1) Sell First and Ask Questions Later. Don’t waste time on perfection or the opportunity will pass you by.

2) Don't Try Too Hard to Innovate. They call it the bleeding edge for good reason.

3) Organize Like McDonalds. Get standard structures and procedures in place so your infrastructure doesn’t bog you down.

4) Push Decisions Out to the Front Line. Paralysis by excessive corporate analysis is death.

5) Foster a Can-Do Culture. Enable an action-oriented company. Don’t punish rapid failure. Learn and move on quickly.

If this kind of advice makes sense to you, check out Izosimov's full article. And if you don't already have it, get a copy of Ready, Fire, Aim - I guarantee the best $20 you'll ever spend.

[Note: An earlier version of this post was released while it was still in draft form. Whoops! If you saw that, I apologize for any confusion and probably several misspellings, no doubt including Nietzsche. – CFB]

No comments: