You won’t believe this special offer and where Donald Trump comes into it

January 12, 2017

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The pun in the title of my book, Tennis Tensions, has done me no favours. It has attracted attention mainly from people interested in the important but unintended issue of the tension in tennis racquets not in tennis players

Now the mighty Amazon organization has helped me clear up the confusions. Click here for more information.

Starting today, [12 January, 2017] a clarification is offered for purchasers of the e-book version. There seems to have been interest from business and sports professionals and teachers.

To encourage would-be customers, the message comes with special offers over the next week, after which the price returns to at least the price of a cookie and latte at your favourite computer cafe.

To explain in my own words:

Tennis Tensions is a case study of forty critical matches played in the course of the US Open in September 2015. It examines the tensions revealed, in order to understand the factors influencing a drop off in performance.

This is the tournament in which Serena William is competing to achieve what became known as The Serena Slam, winning all four Gram Slams in a Calendar year. The pressures to succeed are even more intense than usual.

In the Men’s tournaments, other stories develop. The top seed and favourite for the Singles title is Novak Djokovic. He becomes the prime target for a crop of emerging young talents seeking to beat the top gun. The great Bryan Brothers are suffering a dip in form, and are in danger of failing to win any of the doubles trophies in the four Grand Slam events of the year.

How do players cope with the tensions of the moment and deal with performance anxiety?

And Donald . . .?

Ah, yes. Donald Trump. In a light-hearted passage, I speculate on the motives of a political hopeful who had unexpectedly turned up at the tournament. What happened next? You’ll have to read the book.

There you have it. If you are interested in tensions influencing the outcome of sporting contests, act now to save yourself the cost of a coffee. Oh, and tell your friends.


The Pros and Cons of self publishing

February 24, 2016
 Tennis Matters Blue

A year or so ago I started to think seriously about self publishing.  Since then I have had a chance to compare a text book published traditionally with three self published monographs and others in various stages of planning

First, let it be said, I publish primarily as a way of getting my ideas out there.  That has been the case since I wrote by first business book with the knock you down title Problem Solving through Creative  Analysis in 1973.  PSTCA was published by Gower Press. I think I chose Gower because a young colleague from Manchester Business School had joined them as I was completing a first draft. The book outlined work I had done on  ‘structures that destructure’, i.e. techniques for stimulating creativity.

Later I worked with with various publishers with whom I have shared a mostly amicable relationship. These include the collaboration with my current publisher Routledge, now part of the global Taylor and Francis group, who commissioned  my most recently published text Dilemmas of Leadership 3rd edition.

Money matters, but not like you might think

There is plenty of advice around about making a lot of money out of publishing. I am not able to offer such advice.  I doubt I have ever made more that 10% of my annual income directly from writing. On the other hand, a later version of PSTCA (mentioned above) was read by someone who became a dear friend and who brought me in to his company as an external trainer and  thus kept me in a slightly better class of  car for several years. His friendship was far more than an added bonus.

Intrinsic motivation
Anyway, I am a firm believer in the principle of intrinsic motivation.  You work best if you are primarily in love with what you are doing, rather than for the money it promises. Big earners only notice money if they feel a competitor is judged better because he or she earns more. It is an ego before bank balance thing.

On to the Pros and Cons

If you have are offered a contract from an established  publisher, cherish it.  The big plus is that the final product will benefit from a range of professional inputs from copy editors, proof readers, marketing, pricing and PR experts. Rare is the author with all these skills.

There are two major downsides to weigh against the benefits of the pampering with an experienced publisher behind you.  Traditional publishing is increasingly vulnerable to market forces reducing profits from ‘dead tree’ products. Your contract will reflect that.  The other issue is time to market.  Things are speeding up, but there is a long way to go before even the most successful of traditional publishers will be able to set up their own route-to- market to compete with with the lean mean electronic self-publishing route.

Self publishing is in contrast rapid, and has lower entry barriers (business school speak, but self evident), and thus  more open to anyone to give it a try.  The self-publishing author is able to produce print and e versions relatively easily. I use Amazon’s Create Space services which is a safe choice for the inexperienced author.

Frontloading and deep diving

A lot of tacit knowledge about being an author acquired through writing  twenty non-fiction texts, still left me wirth a lot of gaps in the skill set needed for self publishing.  One particular experience was the commitment to the discipline of writing regularly. Another was accepting that a great deal of redrafting is necessary.  Finally, pre-planning (‘frontloading’ ) before diving in to writing, is just as important.

I have already hinted at the down side of self-publishing.  You risk the vulnerability of the lone author.  You have to decide how to compensate for the other non-writing skills.

Search widely, invest wisely

I am now moving on to assessing the best investment for buying in some of those skills. A good example is designing a cover (which you need, incidentally, even for e books). Shop around, as they say about consumer decision making.

I kept reading about the advantages of going it alone  For me, this is not the best mind-set.  You should never go it alone, you need all the help you can get. The bigger question is which services should you pay for, and when. I decided to make my mistakes on a small scale, preparing to invest more when I am further up that learning curve.

My first self published books

My first self published books in  the period 2014-2016  followed the principle of getting ideas out to a wider audience.  I wanted to explore the nature of creativity and leadership in a new format.My first effort, The Manchester Method (e book only) was by way of a trial. I made my mistakes on a small scale.  The ‘final’ e-version still has the look of a book completed before the author discovered how to use advanced design options.

I followed this up with Tennis Matters  which I found easier to produce, having edged further up the design mountain.  I also found delight in making multiple revisions of the ‘final’ version, discovering that the self -imposed deadline was worth breaking at the cost of a few extra days to market.  That’s another advantage of self -publishing.

Other discoveries

Making a decent looking index is tricky but not impossible. I used Microsoft Word. I also found  that at my level of (in)experience, mini books were best for making minor changes.

Just this week, I received copies of Mourinho Matters. This had been the third self-published book since I started the project approximately eighteen months ago.  It is my most ambitious in length (just over 200 pages) and I am still going up that lengthy learning curve in producing print and e books.

Mourinho Matters

In hindsight

In hindsight, I just thought of another advantage. I selected topics I wanted to write about, and which were close to my interest and skills core. And I had a large number of researched and tagged research items available (including the thousand Leaders We Deserve posts) to draw on.


What is Twitter’s New Business Model?

October 19, 2015

Major changes are announced by Twitter. The company is cutting back on staff and reorganizing its leadership. But will it find a new Business Model?

One of persistent questions in the business press has been ‘what is Twitter’s business model?’ The company has grown sensationally but always on its potential to make money rather than short-term profit. In that respect it is similar to Amazon. LWD subscribers will find several posts on this topic.

Turnover of senior executives

Over the last few months there has been a rapid turnover of senior executives at Twitter. Its head Dick Costelo departed in July when a Board reshuffle saw its brilliant entrepreneurial co-founder Jack Dorsey return in a transition role as CEO.

This resulted in a sideways move for a Twitter insider Adam Bain, who was considered a candidate to take over from Mr Dorsey who was seen as more of an ideas man with great inspirational and motivational skills.

Then earlier this month, [5 October 2015] Dorsey’s interim position was reclassified as a permanent one as CEO. This left unresolved a possible clash of interests with his involvement with Square, a fast growing mobile payments company in which he still retains executive responsibilities. As the new CEO, Mr Dorsey acted swiftly and announced major staff reductions at Twitter in a major restructuring plan.

Here comes Omid

One week after his appointment, Mr Dorsey also announced the arrival of Mr Omid Kordestani, an influential figure at Google whose reinvention of its corporate self as Alphabet may have contributed to Kordestani’s move to new challenges at Twitter.

Outsiders considered that further moves are required to give the company stability and coherent leadership. The official role of Mr Kordestani is as executive chairman. It remains to be seen how the leadership roles at Twitter will play out, and how the Company will redefine its business model.


You don’t need a Kindle to read Amazon eBooks

October 4, 2015

imageMessage from your editor and author of the eBook Tennis Matters

Many people still miss out on ordering eBooks from Amazon because they do not own a Kindle. I discovered this after a little market research in the clubhouse of a well-known Manchester tennis club. Tennis playing friends had told me they wanted to buy my recently published eBook Tennis Matters.

When I later asked them what they thought of it they became rather evasive in their replies.

Was it because they found my masterpiece less than the fascinating read I had promised it to be? Perhaps so, although I had received unsolicited praise that gives so much easing of the pain experienced by the bruised ego of the newly published author. One who had been pressed into proof-reading duties noted

l have just finished your book on my Kindle en route to London and thought you might be interested in my views. The light-hearted tone coupled with the personal reminiscences (the antique tennis racket story struck a chord), the appeal to the tennis fan (of which I am one), and the leadership/business school angle made for an interesting and appealing mix. Having started out of a sense of quasi-duty to a friend I enjoyed it more and more

Encouraged by the message, I conducted a little trial on a convenience sample of nine social tennis players. Four out of the nine gave as their reason for not ordering a copy of Tennis Matters

‘ I do not have a Kindle’

To their unconfined joy, I was able to reassure each of them of their error, sending them on their way with the news that there is no need to have a Kindle to read said masterpiece which is available for the astonishing price of £1.99 or rough equivalent in other currencies.

If you go to the link for Tennis Matters you too will see that you can download a FREE App for iPhone, Tablet, or PC and then use it to order your eCopies of any book (including Tennis Matters of course).

Then you too will learn of my battles with a wayward forehand, try out the tennis teasers and catch up with the updated tennis posts from the 1000 plus archived materials of Leaders We Deserve.

An earlier post also outlined a little of the contents of Tennis Matters

 


Satya Nadella’s leadership dilemmas at Microsoft begin with Nokia

August 5, 2014

Paul Hinks

Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella became Microsoft’s third ever CEO in February 2014. He faces enormous challenges of change to an economic powerhouse

Since its inception 39 years ago, Microsoft has driven change. Its products have shaped and disrupted the IT landscape. Its desktop and server operating systems have become industry standards. Yet, relentless competition demands further changes. The new CEO recognizes the situation.

‘One Microsoft’

A few months into his appointment [10th July 2014], Nadella published an ‘internal memo ‘ in the public domain entitled: ‘One Microsoft’. The document provides insight into the strategic priorities at Microsoft – as well highlighting deeper leadership dilemmas. “The day I took on my new role I said that our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation.” He wrote.

Changing landscapes and Microsoft’s previous success

Cloud Computing and Mobile technologies were focal points in the memo – repeated references to “a mobile-first and cloud-first world” emphasising where he feels Microsoft’s future lies.

A key dilemma and challenge for Nadella is that Microsoft no longer appears to be dominant in shaping the direction of the IT landscape. Microsoft’s desktop and server operating systems provide examples of different franchises that became de facto industry standards. Today we talk about firms such as Apple, Google and Amazon and how their products and services have momentum – the iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Android phones – as well various cloud services.

It isn’t that Microsoft hasn’t tried to succeed in these new marketplaces – it has. It’s just that Microsoft’s success doesn’t mirror the success of its competitors. Microsoft has attempted to break into the tablet market but Apple still leads the way. Windows mobile phones competes against Android phones and iPhones, but they do not enjoy the passionate following that their competition enjoys.

Microsoft Axes 18,000 jobs

The acquisition of Nokia in 2013 provides an example of Microsoft’s efforts. Nokia was itself a market leader in the mobile telecommunications market before suffering a number of setbacks which saw its products fall out of vogue. Some analyst at the time saw merit and synergy in Microsoft’s acquisition. However on Thursday [17th July 2014] the BBC reported that Microsoft was announcing a loss of 18,000 jobs globally – the bulk of the cuts to be at Nokia:

Microsoft pledged to cut $600m (£350.8m) per year in costs within 18 months of closing the acquisition – cuts that were much more severe than the 6,000 initially expected. Is this acknowledgement that the Nokia deal was ultimately a failure? Or is it an example of how knowledge, know-how and patented technology can be bought lieu of ethical leadership and employees’ livelihoods?

The Future direction of Microsoft?

Nadella and Microsoft appear to recognize the challenges ahead. Change is necessary. Cloud Computing infrastructures are maturing; mobile online access is now ubiquitous – Nedella’s memo acknowledges Microsoft’s need to adapt and respond – repeated references to “mobile-first and cloud-first world” provide a clear indication of where he sees Microsoft’s future. Will change at Microsoft result in the progress needed for Microsoft to remain a dominant force?

Bill Gates’ 1990 vision of ‘Information at your fingertips’, and then his keynote speech at Jan 1995 Comdex of ‘information at your fingertips ‘ provide evidence of how Microsoft’s first CEO led the way and helped shape an industry.

Nadella has one of the toughest jobs in the industry, made more challenging by an expectation that Microsoft can remain creative and innovate. Not an easy task.


Is Amazon under control or under the influence?

July 28, 2014

Bezos bullet train
Amazon announces disturbing financial figures. Its charismatic chairman Jeff Bezos will, as ever, be taking the long view

The mighty Amazon – the company not the river – may be in temporary trouble. Its second quarter sales reported on Thursday [24th July, 2014] showed powerful growth in revenues but unanticipated losses. The results worried the numbers people. Shares, already drifting downward, slumped around 10% on Wall Street the following day.

Taking the long view

Its founder and leader Jeff Bezos is famed for taking the long view. He is a business visionary who fitted the bill as a great leader for the near classic story he has helped bring about at Amazon. His leadership style is restless and remorseless.

He is noted for personal involvement and fermenting a culture of creative challenge. He also likes to ‘back-engineer’ strategy from a desired future to reach and deal with imminent decisions.

The immediate future

The immediate future suggests that his enthusiasm for innovation in the interests of that more distant future may have incurred costs for the present. The ideas at times have breath-taking simplicity. Sometimes there is an initial appearance of craziness that often accompanies great creativity. Think Steve Jobs, or Napoleon even.

This week, the craziness appears to be found in the diversity of effort which may suggest a lack of a cohesive plan. The results were timed to accompany the launch of the company’s new smartphone, the Fire Phone. Other recent plans have included grocery delivery, video streaming, and drone delivery of products.

Not to mention The Washington Post

Then there was the recent takeover of the Washington Post, with assurances from Bezos that under his ownership the newspaper will retain its independence, and certainly without influence brought to bear to advance Amazon’s interests.

Bezos is a fascinating business personality. He has created one of the Century’s most successful businesses with a simplicity of its core competence of rapid, safe product delivery at highly competitive prices. Perhaps its strategic trajectory constrains the creative impulses of its remarkable founder.

To be continued

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Bezos Buys the Washington Post: A brave new world for newspapers

October 9, 2013

by Evette Alexander

Serial innovator Jeff Bezos is known for reinventing industries around customer needs, pioneering such concepts as online retail and tablet readers. Now, his curious purchase of the Washington Post has the world wondering if, how and to what end he will transform the daily news

Extra, Extra!

On August 5th, Washington Post staff gathered to hear shocking headlines from owner Donald Graham. He had sold the paper that had been in his family for 80 years to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for $250 million

Graham wrote that he arrived at the decision to sell after seven years of declining revenues in a troubled industry that raised “questions to which we have no answers.” According to Bercovici writing in Forbes attempts at online innovation failed to compensate for the mass diversion of advertising revenues to Internet giants, of which Amazon alone captured $610 million last year (Bercovici, 2013). With Bezos, he sees a chance for the company to succeed.

In a letter to employees, Jeff Bezos was quick to reassure that the company’s core values “do not need changing;” however, the business must and will change. He communicated a vague desire to “invent” and “experiment” in order to understand and provide what readers want – leaving everyone to guess what that could mean.

Old media savior or category killer?

Without a clear road map, some cast Bezos as an “old media savior”, a philanthropist who bought the paper as a public service to “re-invest in the infrastructure of our public intelligence” Bob Woodward, (of the infamous Post duo that broke Watergate) envisions Bezos using his “deep pockets” to “hyper invest” in investigative journalism However, Bezos – not his family trust – bought the paper.

Others fear him as the Fourth Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The “category killer” often accredited with single handedly destroying the traditional book industry now has his sights on news print. Will he retire the presses to cut costs and drive content to Kindle?

Bezos once indicated a key “problem” for newspapers was offering print and digital at the same time, suggesting print would be obsolete within 20 years . Bezos may also see his “duty to readers” differently than journalists). What if the all-powerful reader prefers celebrity boob job stories over political coverage? How far change could extend when faced with a tradeoff between market share and the values he pledged to uphold?

A friend in Washington (DC)

Bezos is quick to remind us of his “day job,” lest we forget his primary interest is Amazon. Would he use the paper’s influence to protect his brainchild in a political battle? The Washington Post still has a powerful voice in the capital where politicians are starting to turn a sheriff’s eye to online quasi-monopolies like Google, Apple iTunes and Facebook. Although Bezos lobbies for Amazon’s regulatory interests in Washington, the Post is not to serve owner interests But, as one of its former editors points out, “mixing commerce and journalism is always fraught with its own perils on the ethics side” [Hagey, K. and G. Bensinger (2013) “For Bezos: A new puzzle,” The Wall Street Journal. 7 August 2013]

Experienced trailblazer meets new frontier

The Post paints a rosy future for itself under Bezos, expecting he will “marry quality journalism with commercial success in the digital era.” Bezos’ track record is impressive to be sure. He started Amazon.com in his garage in 1995, which now includes devices, cloud computing, and is emerging as an online media platform. He successfully replicated the online retail model across Europe, Asia and South America. If the Post’s new model proves successful, we may see him do the same abroad.

Clues into Bezos’ strategic philosophies lie in his annual letter to Amazon shareholders. He remains focused on creating long-term value over short term returns, so we should see him making significant upfront investments and enduring low revenue streams for future payoffs He will seek actively to delight customers by over-delivering, lowering prices and anticipating their needs before competition demands it (Amazon.com, 2013). He sees failure as necessary for invention, yet is demanding and attentive to detail. He pushes for innovation, with a regular reminder that “it’s still Day 1” for the Internet.

Perhaps now, it’s Day 1 for the newspaper.

The author

Evette Treewater Alexander is Manager of Strategy & Market Intelligence at ADT, the leading provider of home security and automation services in North America. She is pursuing a Global MBA at the Manchester Business School and looks forward to her next workshop in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where she previously lived and worked as a strategic marketing consultant. The blog post was developed from an assignment she carried out for the Global Events & Leadership course.