Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Boys in the boat – Daniel James Brown 2013

Well, this book
pretty much sums up all I learned.

„No didactic teaching will place these values in a young man’s soul. He has to get them by his own observations and lessons.” (Brown quoting Pocock, 2013, p.7).

“The university, and rowing, had made him (Al Ulbrickson, the coach) who he was. Now they were almost a religion to him. His job was to win converts.” (Brown, 2013, p.16).

“The common denominator in all these conditions – whether in the lungs, the muscles, or the bones – is overwhelming pain. (…) pain is part and parcel of the deal. It’s not a question of whether you will be hurt, or of how much you will hurt; it’s a question of what you will do, and how well you will do it, while pain has her wanton way with you.” (Brown, 2013, p.40).

“to make sure the boys weren’t overtraining and dropping below their optimal weight.” (Brown, 2013, p.41).

“Look, Son, if there’s one thing I’ve figured out about life, it’s that if you want to be happy, you have to learn to be happy on your own.” (Brown, 2013, p.58).

“And they pulled with all their hearts. When horses pulled like that, Charlie told Joe, they could pull far more than twice what each could pull alone. They’d pull, he said, till the log moved, the harness borke, or their hearts gave out.” (Brown, 2013, p.63).

“Anxiety, self-doubt, and bickering replaced that night’s buoyant optimism as Bolles (coach) scrutinized each of them anew trying to figure out who to keep in the boat and who to demote.” (Brown, 2013, p.84).

mind in boat: “from the time an oarsman steps into a racing shell until the moment that the boat crosses the finish line, he must keep his eyes focused on what is happening inside the boat. His whole world must shrink down to the small space within the gunwales. He must maintain a singular focus in the rower just ahead of him and the voice of the coxswain calling out commands.” (Brown, 2013, p.90).

“As the California boat fell into the field of view of the Washington boys, their confidence surged. The pain that had been building in their arms and legs and chests did not abate, but it fled to the backs of their minds, chased there by a sense, almost, of invulnerability.” (Brown, 2013, p.98).

About being left by his father: “”I just don’t understand why you don’t get angry.” Joe continued to stare ahead through the windshield. “It takes energy to get angry. It eats you up inside. I can’t waste my energy like that and expect to get ahead. When they left, it took everything I had in me just to survive. Now I have to stay focused.” (Brown, 2013, p.134).

“The brutal afternoon workouts left him exhausted and sore but feeling cleansed, as if someone had scrubbed out his osul with a stiff wire brush.” (Brown, 2013, p.135).

On the racing shell: “Looked at another way, it is a work of art, an expression of the human spirit, with its unbounded hunger for the ideal, for beauty, for purity, for grace.” (Brown, 2013, p.136).

“After all he had been through, it was obvious that he still remained utterly disposable, even at the crew house, the one place he had started to feel more or less at home.” (Brown, 2013, p.155).

“There were too many days when they rowed not as crews but as boatfuls of individuals. The more he scolded them for personal technical issues, even as he preached teamsmanship, the more the boys seemed to sink into their own separate and sometimes defiant little worlds.” (Brown, 2013, p.158).

“Many crews, even winning crews, never really find it. Others find it but can’t sustain it, It’s called “swing”. It only happens when all eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that no single action by any one is out of synch with those of all the others. (…) Only then will the boat continue to run, unchecked, fluidlyand gracefully between the pull of the oars. Only then will it feel as if the boat is a part of each of them, moving as if on its own.” (Brown, 2013, p.161). And if you try to pull harder, you will destroy it. Everyone should only pull at 90%. The boat will life 1-2 cm out of the water.

“Occasionally the sophomores won, but usually they lost. They rowed well when left on their own, but the moment they got a glimpse of the older boys they fell apart completely. Months of taunting had gotten under their skins.” (Brown, 2013, p.177).

“At the same time, the exertion required to maintain a high rate makes the physical pain all the more devastating and therefore the likelihood of a miscue greater. In this sense, speed is both the rower’s ultimate goal and also his greatest foe. (…) “Rowing is like a beautiful duck. On the surface it is all grace, but underneath the bastard’s paddling like mad.”” (Brown, 2013, p.178).

“Even as rowers must subsume their often fierce sense of independence and self-reliance, at the same time they must hold true to their individuality, their unique capabilities as oarsmen and oarswomen or, for that matter, as human beings.” (Brown, 2013, p.178).“Each must be prepared to compromise something in the way of optimizing his stroke for the overall benefit of the boat – the shorter-armed man reaching a little farther, the longer-armed man foreshortening his reach just a bit.” (Brown, 2013, p.179).

“And capitalizing on diversity is perhaps even more important when it comes to the characters of the oarsmen. A crew composed entirely of eight amped-up, overtly aggressive oarsmen will often degenerate into a dysfunctional brawl in a boat or exhaust itself in the first leg of a long race. (…) Good crews are good belnds of personalities: someone to lead the charge, someone to hold something in reserve, someone to pick a fight, someone to make peace, someone to think things through, someone to charge ahead without thinking.” (Brown, 2013, p.179).

“It is an exquisite thing when it all comes together in just the right way. The intense bonding and the sense of exhilaration that results from it are what many oarsmen row for, far more than for trophies or accolades.” (Brown, 2013, p.180).

“Demoted and promoted and demoted again, he’d start to think of himself as a kind of yo-yo in the hand of the coaches, or the Fates, he wasn’t sure which – up one minute, down the next. The sense of purpose crew gave him brought with it the constant danger of failing and thereby losing the precious but fragile pride that his early successes had brought him.” (Brown, 2013, p.196).

“He said for him the craft of building a boat was like religion. It wasn’t enough to master the technical details of it. You had to give yourself up to it spiritually; you had to surrender yourself absolutely to it. When you were done and walked away from the boat you had to feel that you had left a piece of yourself behind in it forever, a bit of your heart. He turned to Joe. “Rowing,” he said, “is like that. And a lot of life is like that too, the parts that really matter anyway.” (Brown, 2013, p.215).

“One afternoon he asked Joe how he came to be there, at the shell house. It was a big question asked in a small way, Joe realized. (…) “Why do you row?” “What do you hope to get out of it, Joe?”” (Brown, 2013, p.219).

“When you get the rhythm in an eight, it’s pure pleasure to be in it. It’s not hard work when the rhythm comes – that “swing” as they call it. I’ve heard men shriek with delight when that swing came in an eight; it’s a thing they’ll never forget as long as they live.” (Brown, 2013, p.229).

“He wanted to spend the first few weeks working on the fundamentals. “As a general rule,” he said, “men are in a more receptive mood for pointers when working with familiar teammates.” (Brown, 2013, p.229).

“He told Joe that there were times when he seemed to think he was the only fellow in the boat, as if it was up to him to row the boat across the finish line all by himself. When a man rowed like that, he said, he was bound to attack the water rather than work with it, and worse, he was bound not to let his crew help him row.
He suggested that Joe think of a well-rowed race as a symphony, and himself as just one player in the orchestra. If one fellow in an orchestra was playing out of tune, or playing at a different tempo, the whole piece would naturally be ruined. That’s the way it was with rowing. (…) And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew. It wasn’t just the rowing but his crewmates that he had to give himself up to, even if it meant getting  his feelings hurt.
Pocock paused and looked at Joe. “If you don’t like some fellow in the boat, Joe, you have to learn to like him. It has to matter to you whether he wins the race, not just whether you do.” (Brown, 2013, p.235).

“”Joe, when you really start trusting those boys, you will feel a power at work within you that is far beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. Sometimes, you will feel as if you have rowed right off the planet and are rowing among the stars.” (Brown, 2013, p.235).

 “He liked these boys. He didn’t know Gordy Adam and Don Hume well, but both made a point in welcoming him aboard.” (Brown, 2013, p.239).

“giving himself up to the crew’s effort entirely, rowing as if he were an extension of the man in front of him and the man behind him.” (Brown, 2013, p.240).“the transformation wasn’t so much that he was trying to do what Pocock had said as that this was a bunch of boys with whom he could do it.” (Brown, 2013, p.240).

“All were merged into one smoothly working machine; they were, in fact, a poem of motion, a symphony of swinging blades.” (Brown, 2013, p.249).

“To be of championship calibre, a crew must have total confidence in each other, able to drive with abandon, confident that no man will get the full weight of the pull.” (Brown quoting Pokock, 2013, p.251).

“The boat began to swing. The bow began to rise out of the water.” (Brown, 2013, p.270).

 “”I never expect to see a better rowed race.” Then he stepped down. Nobody cheered. Nobody stood up and applauded. Everyone just sat, silently soaking in the moment.” (Brown, 2013, p.273).

“All of Seattle – and much of the rest of the country – would be listening. There would be no place to hide if the boys didn’t come through for him.” (Brown, 2013, p.280).

“All along Joe Rantz had figured that he was the weak link in the crew. He’d been added to the boat last, he’d often struggled to master the technical side of the sport, and he still tended to row erratically. But what Joe didn’t yet know – what he wouldn’t, in fact, fully realize until much later, when he and the other boys were becoming old men – was that every boy in the boat felt exactly the same that summer. Every one of them believed he was simply lucky to be rowing in the boat, that he might fail the others at any moment. Every one of them was fiercely determined not to let that happen.” (Brown, 2013, p.326).

“Al Ubrickson did what he always did before big races: he backed off the training.” (Brown, 2013, p.327).

“rowing slow and low, limbering up, enjoying the in and out of their breathing, the synchronized flexing and relaxing of their muscles. The boat felt easy under them, sleek and lithe.
Anxiety had bubbled up in Joe’s belly all morning, but it started now to give way to a tenuous sense of calm, more determined than nervous.” (Brown, 2013, p.340).

“boat and men forged together, bounding fiercely forward like a living thing.
Then they rowed into a world of confusion. They were in full sprint mode, ratheting the stroke rate up toward forty, when they hit a wall of sound.” (Brown, 2013, p.348).

“and knew that somehow the boys had to go even higher, give even more than they were giving, even as he knew they were already giving everything they had.” (Brown, 2013, p.349).

 “Someone whispered, “Who won?” Roger Morris croaked, “Well … we did … I think.” (Brown, 2013, p.350).

“Where is the spiritual value of rowing? … The losing of self entirely to the cooperative effort of the crew as a whole.” (Brown quoting Pocock, 2013, p.353).

“He had spent much of the night simply staring at his gold medal, contemplating it as it hung on the end of his bunk. As much as he had wanted it, and as much as he understood what it would mean to everyone back home and to the rest of the world, during the night he had come to realize that the medal wasn’t the most important thing he would take home from Germany.” (Brown, 2013, p.355).

“there was nothing more he could do to win the race, beyond what he was already doing. Except for one thing. He could finally abandon all doubt, trust absolutely without reservation that he and the boy in front of him and the boys behind him would all do precisely what they needed to do at precisely the instant they needed to do it. He had known in that instant that there could be no hesitation, no shred of indecision. He had no choice but to throw himself into each stroke as if he were throwing himself off of a cliff into a void, with unquestioned faith that the others would be there to save him from catching the whole weight of the shell on his blade. And he had done it. Over and over, forty-four times per minute, he had hurled himself blindly into his future, not just believing but knowing that the other boys would be there for him, all of them, moment by precious moment.
In the white-hot emotional furnace of those final meters at Grünau, Joe and the boys had finally forged the prize they had sought all season, the prize Joe had sought nearly all his life.
Now he felt whole. He was ready to go home.” (Brown, 2013, p.355).

“Harmony, balance, and rhythm. They’re the three things that stay with you your whole life. Without them civilization is out of whack. And that’s why an oarsman, when he goes out in life, he can fight it, he can handle life. That’s what he gets from rowing.” (Brown, 2013, p.357).

“in four years of college rowing, each of them had rowed approximately 4,344 miles, far enough to take him from Seattly to Japan. Along the way, each had taken roughly 469,000 strokes with his oar, all in preparation for only 28 miles of actual collegiate racing.” (Brown, 2013, p.359).

Sunday, 5 March 2017

HBR’s 10 Must Reads – On Strategic Marketing

Like most business school writing it’s a bit repetitive and going in circles. But I thought it was interesting to go back to some of the stuff which is used and abused in daily business and see what it was meant to be.

While we all heard a thousand times that we need a customer centric organization, it’s interesting to see that this means for brand managers to relinquish control and being led by the customer manager identifying customer needs. (Rust, Moorman and Bhalla, 2010, p.6). “companies need to focus less on product profitability and more on customer profitability.” (Rust, Moorman and Bhalla, 2010, p.11).

Also that one of the key points of the customer decision journey is that – unlike in a funnel – the number of brands under consideration is contantly increasing and decreasing. (Edelman, 2010, p.16). Also that this journey is not meant to be invented for each category anew and certainly not for each advertising campaign, but that the four stages are universal. “(I)nstead of focusing on how to allocate spending across media – television, radio, online, and so forth – marketers should target stages in the decision journey.” (Edelman, 2010, p.18).

 “(Ford’s) (m)ass production was the result, not the cause, of the low prices.” (Edelman, 2010, p.44). “Therefore we first reduce the price to the point where we believe more sales will result. Then we go ahead and try to make the prices. We do not bother about the cost. The new price forces the costs down.” (Edelman quoting Ford, 2010, p.45).

 “In other words, the job (the customer want to get done), not the customer, is the fundamental unit of analysis for a marketer.” (Christensen, Cook and Hall, 2005, p.61).“Job-defined markets are generally much larger than product category-defined markets.” (Christensen, Cook and Hall, 2005, p.64).“The fact is that most great brands were built before their owners started advertising. (…) Brand building by advertising is indeed prohibitively expensive. But that’s because it’s the wrong way to build a brand.” (Christensen, Cook and Hall, 2005, p.70).

Brand communities exist in different types. They are not just a community because they share the brand’s values. In pools people have strong associations with a shared activity or goal (…) and loose associations with one another.“ (Anderson, Narus and van Rossum, 2006, p.140). In webs “(p)eople have strong one-to-one relationships.” (Anderson, Narus and van Rossum, 2006, p.140). And in hubs “(p)eople have strong connections to a central figure.” (Anderson, Narus and van Rossum, 2006, p.140).

Loyalty is not the important measure. “Indeed, even someone who buys again and again from the same company may not necessarily be loyal to that company but instead be trapped by inertia, indifference, or exit barriers.” (Anderson, Narus and van Rossum, 2006, p.155). “When customers act as references, they do more than indicate that they’ve received good economic value from a company; they put their own reputations on the line.” (Anderson, Narus and van Rossum, 2006, p.156).

Market research is most useful when it becomes an operating management tool: “When a customer reported a neutral or negative experience, marking him a potential detractor, the interviewer requested permission to immediately forward this information to the branch manager, who was trained how to apologize, identify the root cause of the problem, and resolve it.” (Anderson, Narus and van Rossum, 2006, p.168).

The relationship of marketing and sales can be improved by organizing it better. But more importantly they should join forces, as it’s their combined job not to make things more efficient or cheaper, but to increase revenue. Their boss should be the chief revenue (or customer) officer. He’s responsible for the common goal: the generation of profitable and increasing revenue (Kotler, Rackham and Krishnaswamy 2006, p.187).