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Hell Hath No Fury Like Talent Spurned (The Truth About Innovation - www.maxmckeown.com)

Hell Hath No Fury Like Talent Spurned (The Truth About Innovation - www.maxmckeown.com)

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Published by Max Mckeown

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: Max Mckeown on Feb 07, 2011
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02/07/2011

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Hell hath no fury like talent spurned
 
In 1683, a young man, by the name of Eugene, approached the King of France, aman thought to be his Father, to request a commission to become a soldier. TheSun King, fearful of anyone with half a claim to the throne, and believing thatEugene was too ugly to be a great military leader, refused
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Eugene wasunproven while Louis was undefeated on land for two decades, with half amillion men in his army. Did Eugene loss really matter?
 Eugene's ambition, from the perspective of the monarch, was unimportant, but asa direct result of Louis making it impossible for Eugene to make his name fightingfor the French. He was forced to fight in the service of strangers and became awilling combatant against his former king. In short, Eugene wanted to provehimself by defeating the man who had rejected him and his talent. It was a costlymistake. Eugene's military brilliance played a vital role in defeating the French inBavaria and Belgium, disasters that limited the European expansion of the Frenchempire.Ironically, Louis had become successful precisely because he was prepared topromote people based on their talent rather than on their bloodline. In the firsttwenty years of his reign, he had empowered talented people to reorganise hiskingdom, encourage culture and reform the army. It was only when his fear andarrogance over-rode his judgment that his gift for nurturing talent was neutralised- something that anyone that wishes to lead or is responsible for advisingleadership should remember.Usually these lessons are only learned after the damage has been done, but thereis no reason that you cannot prove to be an exception.Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle and on a good day the world’s 4th richestman, developed similar blind spots to the needs of ambitious talent. Afterworking closely with Tom Siebel for six years he rejected his lieutenant's ideas forsoftware to help sales and service teams. As Fast Company put it:"There's something poetic about a rivalry between two people who were onceteacher and student. Siebel's eight-year-old company is now the clear leader in its
 
field [...] They're fierce competitors, who have a lot in common. Both are controlfreaks full of hubris who seem to revel in openly insulting each other.""I hate Tom", was one comment from the charming Mr. Ellison who has recentlyoffered billions for the upstart company. What would have happened if Siebel'sideas had been adopted and nurtured by Poppa Larry in the first place? Hewouldn't have had to play second fiddle for the past decade and he would havebeen able to supercharge the Siebel idea with the existing customer base,organisation, and cash. Both men are rich but could have been more successfultogether than apart.Something similar happened when the owners of Palm, the PDA maker, failed toallow its founders creative freedom to expand the capabilities of their then-famous Palm computer. Did they stick around to follow the orders of theirsupposed masters? Nope. The spurned founders left to found a new rival,Handspring, which competing with "withering personal computer rivalry" over thenext five years until Palm 'bought them back' in a deal that, in effect, gave theestranged talent's backers control over 30 per cent of the company.Unfortunately, this proved to be too late to reverse the decline of Palm as anoperating system. In 1998 - before the acrimonious divorce - Palm had 80 per centof the PDA market and was considered by many to have the potential to beatMicrosoft. But by the time they kissed, made-up, they had less than 50 per cent of the market and were losing money. The result is that Palm has now decided touse Microsoft's PDA software on its most popular product - created by Hawkins -the Treo Smartphone, which has shipped more than a quarter of a million units inthe US alone.The Sun King, Larry Ellison, and Palm's owners 3Com all made the same mistake of assuming that their servants were interchangeably valuable and that even themost gifted among them would remain subservient. This shared misjudgementcost Louis his European expansion, Oracle applications growth for a decade, and3Com it's hard-won edge over Microsoft.
 
So what can we learn? To answer the question, consider a completely differentway of working with talent:"Edison built a community that was deeply committed to the innovation process.Edison worked most closely with Charles Batchelor, an Englishman whose trainingas both a mechanic and a draughtsman complemented (and grounded) Edison'smore flighty visions. The relationship between them was demonstrated by theagreement to split profits 50-50 for all inventions and to receive stock in allresulting companies."The strength of Edison was, first, that he recognized the collaborative nature of innovation, second that he was willing to share wealth and third, that he was gavefreedom to his chief collaborator so that he could continue to be fulfilled workingwith him rather than against him.Every successful venture has a core team to make it work. Failure to nurture thatteam's effectiveness and loyalty will jeopardize anything what has been achieved.At Apple, Steve Jobs has a small team, headed up by affable Brit Jonathon Ives,who runs its industrial-design department. This group has been responsible fordesign behind the 'i-revolution' in Apple's fortunes. The iMac, iPod and iPhone.One report described Ive as "about as obsessive-compulsive as you can bewithout being hospitalised, and his wild enthusiasm for detail is what gives iPodsthe aura of sleek, otherworldly perfection that has helped make them thequintessential 21st century accessory."So ask yourself: What would happen to Apple if Ives left? How good would Sonybecome if they had the iPod man on board? Would Edison have beenremembered as a genius if he had tried to grab all the cash and alienatedBatchelor?The wise company understands that each employee can become many timesmore valuable than when were first hired. It also realises that dissidents arenecessary to innovation. How are you looking after your talent? Can your peopleachieve more with you than against you? Are you sure?

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