I am a simple, straight-forward operations guy. I’ve read about leadership. It’s of no use to me.

It might be OK for army officers and expedition leaders and even chief executives. They need to create a vision, inspire trust and take people to a place they never thought they would get to. They have it within their gift to define strategies and move organizations to new places.

But if you are a humble operations manager like me, you run a factory or a call center or a depot. It’s not like you’re going anywhere. Where exactly are you going to lead your employees to?

Where will you lead them?

If you look after an operation, what does the land of milk and honey look like?

  • It is a place where your costs are low.
  • It is a place where your customer service is high.
  • And a place where your quality is impeccable.
  • (read more…)

Click on image to enlarge map.

Stanford and Harvard universities teamed up to create The Stanford Election Atlas, which gives users a precinct-by-precinct view of the results from the 2008 presidential election. The interactive data visualization tool presents the election outcome at individual polling places, compared with the old maps that only went as far as presenting election outcomes at the county level.

The atlas reveals voting patterns by neighborhood, including that those along shores, rivers and transportation corridors from the 19th century voted for Barack Obama. Rural Obama voters were clustered around mining and the Cotton Belt in the South, while those who voted for John McCain lived in the exurbs of cities and the surrounding rural areas. The atlas shows that suburban areas were divided between the two candidates.

The full atlas also allows users to superimpose the election results on data about race and income.

The atlas, which was released by Stanford’s Spatial Social Science Lab this week, took years of collaboration. (read more…)

The City of New York utilized its Open Data platform to help residents deal with the effects of Hurricane Sandy. The effort, which is part of the Digital Road Map the City launched last year, integrates geographic information systems (GIS), social media and other private and public assets to inform New Yorkers about the dangers posed by the storm. Highlights of the program include a Hurricane Evacuation Map and an accompanying Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder residents can use to see if their location is at-risk of flooding and plan an evacuation.

NYC.gov’s Hurricane Evacuation Map

The lessons the City learned from last year’s Hurricane Irene helped shape the mission and design of NYC Open Data. That event highlighted the need for government assets and information to be made available across multiple platforms in real-time. By making all manner of data available to the public, information the City tries to disseminate to the public in an emergency situation can reach a broader audience. (read more…)

SmartBrief is partnering with Big Think to create a weekly video spotlight in SmartBrief on Leadership called “VIP Corner: Video Insights Powered by Big Think.” This week, we’re featuring The Cambridge Group CEO Steve Carlotti.

Apple offers two very different examples of approaching latent demand, Carlotti says. He says iTunes is an example of emerging demand, while the iPad is an example of finding and filling a gap in the market.

Carlotti notes that iTunes unbundled and curated the music experience, which was a turnaround from its past. While Napster did something similar and offered it for free, iTunes charged for the service, and iTunes’ success illustrates that the unbundled and curated experience is the core value for customers, not that it could be free. “So it’s a great example of a market evolution where the market went from bundled for money, to unbundled for free, to unbundled for money, where the core element of the consumer value proposition was the unbundling and the curating, rather than the free,” he says. (read more…)

As we talk to groups of leaders, it is interesting to ask the question, “How many of you think that just possibly you might have at least one weakness?” Of course, every hand goes up. Most people are well aware that they have some weaknesses.

It is also a fascinating experience to ask people to think of the best leader they have ever worked with or closely observed. If you ask about this person’s strengths, the answers come quickly. You can then ask, “Did this person have any weaknesses?” Once again the answer invariably is, “Yes — he [or she] was not perfect.”

For some, it is an “aha” experience to understand that you do not need to be perfect to be an exceptional leader. No individuals have argued that they worked for, or had ever observed, a leader who was devoid of weaknesses. But while it’s OK for leaders to have weaknesses, it needs to be understood that there is an enormous difference between a common weakness and a fatal flaw. (read more…)