Although some predict that Facebook’s salad days will soon end, brands shouldn’t believe it.
The company remains on the forefront of the digital revolution, from virtual reality and artificial intelligence to rapid and creative global expansion of Internet availability. At the same time, Facebook’s infrastructure continues to create an entirely differentiated way of digital marketing that is measurably superior to the deeply flawed cookie-based ad tech stack.
It’s hard to vacation. Yes, I realize that this is a ‘first-world problem’ (laughably so), but I was struck on a recent vacation myself how it can be difficult to truly disconnect from work in a real way.
While we’re having fun with family, friends, and maybe even the occasional exotic locale, there can be a creeping sense of guilt for missing work. Emails are piling up. Clients are calling. Colleagues need me.
The overwhelmed brain can take a while to wind down.
Here’s the terrible truth about our minds: they’re limited. When it comes to attention, there are two ‘networks’ at play. The task-positive network (referred to as the Central Executive by neuroscientists) is your active engagement with a task. The task-negative network takes over when your mind wanders or is creative. When one of these two networks is active, the other is not.
Both the task-positive and the task-negative networks are very important to us humans. While we need that focused attention to accomplish tasks, the inspiration and ideas come from the daydreaming. It’s a two-part attention system, and it’s easy to abuse at work. Sometimes we force the employment of the task-positive network in order to be extra productive. Sometimes we vacillate back and forth too quickly, like when we allow social media to interrupt work.
Vacations can be enormously restorative, but not if we use our minds in the same way as we do when we’re working. Checking email, thinking about work, or using your Central Executive while on vacation means your mind doesn’t get that break.
So as you manage to eke out a couple days for yourself and your family this month, make sure you do your brain a favor and let it wander. Let your creative mind flow. When you need to concentrate on something, take your time.
Don’t worry, the Central Executive has gotten enough exercise, and will still be healthy when you return.
From time to time I check in on the latest from Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, an extremely insightful blog that features articles, research and commentary from the school’s faculty. If you haven’t yet visited the blog, I strongly recommend doing so. Whether you’re a newly-minted MBA or longtime executive, you can take more than a few worthwhile lessons from its generally fresh approach to market, policy, and management analysis.
Most recently, I read Carmen Nobel’s piece (“In Venture Capital, Birds of a Feather Lose Money Together”) on the disadvantages of friendship in venture capital investing and what can happen when otherwise affine VC investors fail in their joint endeavors. Based on the research and subsequent paper by HBS colleagues Paul Gompers, Yuhai Xuan and Vladimir Mukharlyamov, the article explores the perhaps-unexpected pitfalls of investing with others of similar socioeconomic backgrounds and vocational trajectories, especially when it concerns VCs who have known each other for many years.
To measure the performance of these investors, the team looked at a broad database of 3,510 VCs, along with the 12,000-plus investments conducted by these investors over a 30-year period, defining success by whether or not an investment in a private company led to an IPO down the road. Looking at the employment histories, educational backgrounds, ethnicities, and other fundamental criteria of these investors, the researchers found that success rates dropped by significant numbers when two VCs of similar backgrounds co-invested in companies. If co-investors previously worked at the same company, success rates dropped by 17 percent; alumni from the same undergraduate school, 19 percent; and those of the same ethnic minority, 20 percent.
The thrust of the article, more or less, seems to indicate that investors who bring different perspectives to a private business are more likely to challenge each other on key decisions, particularly in the early stages of the company’s development. Those challenges play crucial roles in everything from strategic management to the selection of board members and executive personnel. Food for thought!
Recently, numerous high profile leaders have gotten in trouble with the law. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund and a leading French politician, was arrested on charges of sexual assault. Before that, David Sokol, thought to be Warren Buffett’s soon successor, was forced to resign for trading in Lubrizol stock prior to recommending that Berkshire Hathaway purchase the company.
All of these incredibly talented leaders were successful and at the peak of their careers. So why destroy everything they have built by confusing acts and antics? The media has painted portraits of these leaders as evil, terrible people. However the question is raised what makes these thought to be “good” people lose their way?
These leaders did not necessarily become bad people, they rather lost sight of their morals and values. Few people find their way into positions of leadership by cheating or being evil, yet we all have the ability to lose sight of what’s important.
The important message is that people have a hard time staying grounded without some help. Leaders rely on people close to them to help them remain centered. Their spouse or partner can be a great person who knows them best and aren’t impressed by the wealth, prestige and titles.
As Senator Ensign told his fellow senators in a farewell speech in May, “When one takes a position of leadership, there is a very real danger of getting caught up in the hype surrounding that status … Surround yourselves with people who will be honest with you about how you really are and what you are becoming, and then make them promise to not hold back… from telling you the truth.”