Senior Editor-at-Large for Fortune Magazine
—Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian
As a longtime editor and columnist for Fortune, Colvin has become one of America’s sharpest and most respected commentators on leadership, globalization, wealth creation, and the info-tech revolution. As a speaker, Colvin has engaged hundreds of audiences around the world, ranging in size from 10 to 10,000. Audiences especially appreciate his remarkable perspective: He has analyzed companies and business leaders worldwide as they confront the largest issues of our time, and has seen what distinguishes the winners from the losers.
Humans Are Underrated
It’s no longer the stuff of speculation or science fiction – machines are entering the workplace in record numbers, replacing human labour in the process. It’s a trend that will only increase, so what should we be doing about it? In this talk, based on his book Humans are Underrated, Colvin argues that we shouldn’t compete with computers on tasks they excel at – we’ll lose that battle – but instead, focus on qualities they’re incapable of. Empathy, creativity, sensitivity and relationship-building are all key components of any successful organization, and they’re essences that can’t be programmed, wired or calculated: they’re unique to us, and us alone. Colvin's talk explores how focusing on human qualities not only ensures our survival in a computer-dominated workplace, but also makes businesses more relatable, accessible, and successful in the long run.
Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will
As technology races ahead, what will people do better than computers?
What hope will there be for us when computers can drive cars better than humans, predict Supreme Court decisions better than legal experts, identify faces, scurry helpfully around offices and factories, even perform some surgeries, all faster, more reliably, and less expensively than people? The unavoidable question—will millions of people lose out, unable to best the machine?—is increasingly dominating business, education, economics, and policy.
The answer lies not in the nature of technology but in the nature of humans. Regardless of what computers achieve, our greatest advantage lies in what we humans are most powerfully driven to do for and with one another, arising from our deepest, most essentially human abilities—empathy, creativity, social sensitivity, storytelling, humor, building relationships, and leading. This is how we create value that is durable and not easily replicated by technology—because we’re hardwired to want it from humans.
These high-value skills create tremendous competitive advantage—more devoted customers, stronger cultures, breakthrough ideas, and more effective teams. And while many of us regard these abilities as innate traits—“he’s a real people person,” “she’s naturally creative”—it turns out they can all be developed and are being developed in a range of far-sighted organizations, such as:
- The Cleveland Clinic, which emphasizes empathy training of doctors and all employees to improve patient outcomes and lower medical costs.
- The U.S. Army, which has revolutionized its training to focus on human interaction, leading to stronger teams and greater success in real-world missions.
- Stanford Business School, which has overhauled its curriculum to teach interpersonal skills through human-to-human experiences.
As technology advances, we shouldn’t focus on beating computers at what they do. We’ll lose that contest. Instead, we must develop our most essential human abilities and teach our kids to value not just technology but also the richness of interpersonal experience. They will be the most valuable people in our world because of it. In a transformed economy, Geoff proves that to a far greater degree than most of us ever imagined, we already have what it takes to be great.
Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everybody Else
Winner of the Henry Longman Award—Best Business Book of 2009
Readers around the world are embracing the message of Talent is Overrated. Business leaders, teachers, attorneys, entrepreneurs, students, coaches of many sports—all have felt the power of this book’s message in their own lives and have found exciting new ways to get better at what’s most important to them.
Some of the strongest responses have come from parents, many of whom have said, “I want my kids to read this book.” It has become a popular graduation gift.
How come? Because the book tackles deep questions, such as: Why are some people—Warren Buffett, Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Rock—so incredibly accomplished at what they do, while millions of others in those same fields never rise above mediocrity? Why are some people so extraordinarily creative and innovative? Why can some continue to perform astoundingly at ages when conventional wisdom says it’s impossible?
Almost all of us think we know the answer to those questions: The lucky few superperformers were born with a special gift, an innate ability to do exactly what they do so extremely well. But Geoff Colvin found that we’re mostly wrong. A growing body of scientific research shows that it isn’t so—that specific natural abilities don’t explain great performance.
Instead, the key is what researchers call deliberate practice—but beware, because it isn’t what most of us do when we think we’re practicing. It’s a well-defined set of activities that world-class performers pursue diligently. More of it equals better performance. Tons of it equals great performance.
The surprising reality about great performance presents big opportunities to us and our organizations. Most organizations are terrible at applying the principles of great performance; by becoming better, they can achieve significant competitive advantage.
Individually, most of us don’t take advantage of these principles nearly as fully as we might. Using them, we can become much better at anything we do.
Most profoundly, the research on great performance reveals a liberating truth. High achievement isn’t reserved for a preordained few. It is available to us all.
The Upside of the Downturn: Management Strategies for Difficult Times
“Best Management Book of 2009″—Strategy + Business magazine 2009
The financial crisis and resulting recession are over, but they changed business in ways that won’t go away. We’ve entered a bizarre new world where the usual patterns, signs, and rules of thumb don’t work anymore—where strapped consumers save more rather than less, where the U.S. economy doesn’t drive global growth, where long-dominant firms in industries from media to motorcars fall or even die.
But one thing hasn’t changed: Turbulent times are when fortunes are made. That’s what The Upside of the Downturn is all about.
Geoff shows how most companies are foolishly following the traditional rules for managing through recessions and expansions. Those companies will weaken and fade. The best business leaders understand that today’s new rules present a huge opportunity, which they’re grabbing and running with fast. Among the strategies they’re profiting from now:
Reset priorities to meet the new environment. Easy to say, harder to do. Throwing out your old strategic plan isn’t defeatism—it’s essential.
Reevaluate people and steal some good ones. There’s no better time to identify your true stars than when the world is turning upside down. If your competitors are dumb enough to fire good people in the name of cost cutting, grab them.
Identify your company’s core and nourish it no matter what. The best companies actually increase some spending in turbulent times, funding the areas that make them unique and valuable.
Price with courage. Are you certain you must cut prices? The best business leaders know the long-term damage often outweighs the short-term boost.
Through dozens of interviews with the world’s top business leaders, Geoff identifies the most critical issues you’re dealing with now. You’ll understand why one CEO, while reading this book, kept asking himself: “Was he in our meetings?”
Angel Customers & Demon Customers: Discover Which Is Which and Turbocharge Your Stock
Co-author with Larry Selden
Do you have any unprofitable customers? Many business people insist they don’t—but they’re almost always wrong.
Can you name the customers that are doing most and least for your company’s stock? Many business people think they can—but they almost always name the wrong ones.
The pressure is on companies to perform like never before: Competition grows ever more brutal, investors more merciless. Now a number of leading-edge companies are taking a fundamental new look at their ultimate source of value and success: their customers. They’re learning to identify those that are boosting their stock and those that are actually hammering it—knowledge competitors rarely possess. Then they’re acting on that knowledge in ways that consistently deliver superior shareowner value. More profoundly, they’re reconceiving their companies as portfolios of customers, and organizing and managing on that basis.
You have never read a book about customers like this one. It has the potential to radically transform your business—to improve your profitability and share price dramatically—without layoffs or restructurings. You already know, or can easily learn, what you need to know.
Just learn how to use it.