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László and Klara Polgár, a Hungarian couple, wanted what most parents want: Success for their children. László and Klara, however, did not just hope for success, they deliberately built it. They began planning their children's development at the start of their courtship. László, a psychologist, sought a wife who would help him test his theory that anyone could be turned into a genius with the right upbringing. László and Klara didn't speak about success in general terms; they had an exact idea of what their unborn children would do. Boy or girl, each child would be built into a grandmaster chess player. This romantic scheming probably wouldn't appeal to most, but it did ask two all-important questions: Where do experts come from? Are they born or built?
In June 2012, Amy Cuddy, a professor at Harvard Business School, took the Internet by storm with a TED talk on a radical new way to prepare for job interviews. She recommended a technique dubbed “power-posing”: taking on a powerful stance, as in standing arms akimbo. Cuddy’s research claimed that just two minutes of power-posing could alter hormone levels in the blood. She and her team reported that power-posing increased testosterone and decreased cortisol, with the net result that people felt more confident. The power posers in the study were deemed better job candidates than the non-posers. In short, people who felt more powerful were more likely to land the job.
In both physical fitness and innovation, bad habits undo the best intentions. A good workout comes to nothing if it's followed by a super-sized meal on the way home. Likewise, the best innovation initiatives come to nothing if your organization gets a few basic things wrong. Bad innovation habits can undo the best innovation intentions.
“Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel” is for anyone interested in how to succeed in the illegal drug trade. It’s also for anyone interested in how to run a business. Were it not for the “narco” theme, the book would be a generic management title. Tom Wainwright, the book’s author, finds that drug lords have the same issues as legal business executives: personnel problems, shortages of raw materials, and tense relations with government regulators (perhaps an understatement). The narco business is a business like any other.
What if military leaders and innovators are looking in the wrong places to study innovation? We focus on innovative companies, successful entrepreneurs, or previous innovators in the military. But what if we have just as much to learn by turning our focus inward on what drives our behavior?
A full replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton stands in the entrance of Google Corporation's headquarters in Mountain View, California. Its jaw is open as it leans forward, stretching 36 feet from tail to nose. It looks every bit the hunter that we know from the movies. As intimidating as the T-Rex is, though, the joke’s on him. Google uses the extinct animal as a reminder that we must “innovate or die.”