An Experiment in Learning

In this experiment, five monkeys are put into a large cage. There’s a stool in the middle of the cage and a banana is hung from the ceiling above the stool. Outside the cage, an observer has a hose filled with ice water. It hardly needs mentioning that monkeys like bananas better than ice cold showers.

Within a few minutes, the most daring of the … [ Read more ]

Do you have your client’s best interests at heart?

In 1959, Play of the Week, an icon of civilization on television, was at risk of being canceled. Broadcast on Channel 13, New York’s public television station, the show offered high-quality theater week after week — including works by such writers as Eugene O’Neill, John Steinbeck, and Jean-Paul Sartre, with top talent. But the ratings were low, and sponsors were dropping out.

Ogilvy was looking for … [ Read more ]

Knowing Your Customers

In the 1930s, when I first knew the automotive industry, Alfred Sloan, who ran General Motors, would disappear from Detroit once every six weeks. Next morning he would walk into a dealership in Cincinnati or Kansas City and say, “I am Mr. Sloan from Detroit. Would you allow me to work for two days as your assistant service manager?” When he left, customers always said, … [ Read more ]

Don’t let self limitations hold you back

The first [leadership lesson] I learned in the jungles of Bangalore, at an elephant camp. When you visit such a camp you see these gigantic elephants tethered with a small stake. I asked the trainer: ‘Why do they stay tethered when they could so easily pull up the stake?’ He told me: ‘Well, the elephant is tethered as a small calf; when it tries to … [ Read more ]

What is Value?

Charles Steinmetz was once called out of retirement by General Electric to help it locate a problem in an intricate system of complex machines. Having spent some time tinkering with and testing various parts of the system, he finally placed a chalk-marked ‘X’ on a small component in one machine. GE’s engineers promptly examined the component, and were amazed to find the defect in the … [ Read more ]

How to do Training

In 1991, we put some 900 people through a basic seven-step problem-solving course, using two approaches. About half the employees came to our central corporate training facility for standard classroom training. The other half were trained in teams, on the job. This group didn’t get trained until they were part of a team that was working on a real problem. When they got to a … [ Read more ]

Ability Development

In Ability Development from Age Zero, Shinichi Suzuki describes telling a violin student:

‘”Stop playing the violin for one week. There is something you must learn besides the violin. It is the spirit of doing things for other people. … To begin with, pick up your friend’s books when they have fallen…. Live by looking for things to do for other people. This is your homework … [ Read more ]

A Violinist in the Metro

A Violinist in the Metro

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousand of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by … [ Read more ]

If you want to receive my tea, you must keep your cup empty

Positive change requires letting go of old patterns and taking a fresh approach. It demands going beyond our preconceived ideas. A story about the relationship of a teacher and student illustrates this principle. A student who thought he had it “all fgured out” would visit his teacher each day for personal lessons about life. Despite the teacher’s attempts to share her life experience, the student … [ Read more ]