Uncommon Service Blog

Saturday, May 23, 2009
David Brooks left his comfort zone this week for a column on CEOs he titled, "In Praise of Dullness."  At one point he offered a defense of his thinly-veiled distaste for the subject– ...people in the literary, academic and media worlds rarely understand business…the virtues that writers tend to... more ►

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The NYT Magazine recently did a terrific story on Suze Orman, increasingly known for the tongue-lashing she's willing to give viewers who aren't taking full responsibility for their financial lives. Or as Oprah calls these very public rebukes, “Suze smackdowns."  Suze -- she's achieved first-name-... more ►

Sunday, May 17, 2009
Graduation Speech Season is upon us, which may be my favorite season in American cultural life.  A whole army of amateur and not-so-amateur speakers takes the stage with the explicit task of helping to unleash the next generation of dreamers and doers. Unexpected magic can happen. And even when it... more ►

Wednesday, May 13, 2009
In a recent Business Week article, Virgin Mobile and ING Direct were singled out as companies that are winning by defying industry trends. In particular, these companies are designing services that honor their customers' preferences and aversions. The article quoted Peter Lurie of Virgin Mobil on... more ►

Monday, May 11, 2009
It is difficult to find something written about change that doesn’t talk about how hard it is. My observation couldn’t be more different. I find that change happens in an instant -- deciding what to change and finding the right levers for changing it, those are the complicated parts. I’ll use... more ►

Friday, May 8, 2009
A piece I wrote on entrepreneurship is included in a collection of essays on development work called In the River They Swim.  The book captures a wide range of voices, from President Paul Kagame of Rwanda to Marcela Escobari of Harvard's Center for International Development to Michael Fairbanks of... more ►

Wednesday, May 6, 2009
People, it turns out, are desperate to be helpful.  Verizon has discovered this and joined the growing ranks of companies using what I call "customer-operators" to do the work employees used to do, everything from generating new product ideas to servicing other customers when those product ideas... more ►

Saturday, May 2, 2009
We spend a lot of time here defining and illustrating leadership – less on the very tangible application of it. One thing I liked about the Anderson interview is that he offers some tactical advice. As a public service, I will summarize it here: 1. Never lose your temper. 2. Thank employees and... more ►

Thursday, April 30, 2009
In what is becoming a consistently provocative column for us, the NY Times recently featured Delta Airlines CEO Richard Anderson as part of its Saturday Corner Office series. Anderson came across as thoughtful, humble, and hopefully up for the task of saving that airline.  Buried deep in the... more ►

Saturday, April 25, 2009
Susan got a makeover. TMZ (TMZ?) is outraged, claiming the transition from “grammy to glammy” has stripped her of her “natural charm.” The story casts Susan as the innocent object of someone else’s plotting and scheming – the risk that a patronizing Diane Sawyer warned her about on Good Morning... more ►

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
I had the privilege of hearing Gen. David Patraeus interviewed about leadership yesterday at Harvard Kennedy’s School’s Institute of Politics Forum. I expected a politicized discussion about the torture memo, but the crowd was there to find out who this man is and what leadership means in the... more ►

Friday, April 17, 2009
  One of the assumptions at the center of this project is that there is often someone extraordinary lurking underneath the watered-down, apologetic version of ourselves that we choose to offer the world. A leader’s central task, we believe, is to create the conditions for those extraordinary... more ►

Thursday, April 16, 2009
Personal Digital Assistants. Do they still call them that? It sounds like a euphemism for Mommy’s Little Helper, which may be closer to the truth. My father was a military man, not by choice, but he rose to the occasion. The letters PDA stir memories of stories about the rules against Public... more ►

Monday, April 13, 2009
A recent NYT article discussed the growing trend among cities to cover revenue shortfalls by charging fees for municipal services.  One fee, in particular -- the "cash-for-crash" fee  charged to drivers for the police response to their accidents -- is stirring outrage.  Not coincidentally, it also... more ►

Friday, April 10, 2009
  One of the uncomfortable truths about exercise, I’m discovering, is that change requires changing. Until I convince my body that it’s really going to need to do something different, it’s not wasting any time on building strength I’m unlikely to use. I’m already regretting this analogy, but to... more ►