It's time to reinvent management. You can help.

People rocking the MIX: Aaron Anderson

by Chris Grams on November 2, 2010


chris-grams's picture

People rocking the MIX: Aaron Anderson

As I've browsed the MIX over the past months, I've noticed a few regular contributors whose hacks, stories, and barriers always blow me away. Over the coming months, I hope to highlight some of these people and their ideas here in my role as a Moonshot Guide.

Today, I'd like to point you to Aaron Anderson, who by day is Director of the San Francisco State University Executive MBA program.

The first post of Aaron's that I stumbled upon was this hack, where he painted a dream for a new type of graduate business curriculum that teaches business by (gasp) creating an actual, viable business in addition to teaching business theory. But that's not the coolest part-- after a student graduates, the university would continue to incubate the business for years in return for partial ownership of the company, which would be distributed to not just the university, but also directly to faculty members who helped the student. Everybody--the student, the faculty members, the university--all win when the businesses succeed, so everyone is deeply invested in the company's (and student's) success.

When I first read this idea, I thought it was brilliant (others must have liked it too, because it had a lot of comments, including from Gary Hamel himself). Many folks know I'm not a big fan of the current MBA educational model and love seeing it blown up, whether it is the way Roger Martin is doing it at Rotman, how Stanford is doing it with their, or, even the way Aaron envisions here.

So I went and read all of Aaron's other contributions (see the full list here), and quickly realized that Aaron is a revolutionary's revolutionary, ready to blow up any existing model that has outlived it's usefulness and not afraid to challenge convention. My kind of dude.

Here are a couple of Aaron's other ideas I found especially compelling:

Getting past Porter's Five Forces model: I unleashed a full on hallelujah reading this one. The five forces stuff is brilliant of course, but seriously, does every conversation with a freshly minted MBA go straight to five forces within 15 minutes, or is it just me?

Is the way we shape leaders fundamentally broken? I think it is, and agree with Aaron's assessment. The folks who run business programs should take a long look at how the leaders they have shaped over the past generation have performed. It's not pretty.

Open sourcing the strategic DNA of educational institutions: Big surprise, this former Red Hat guy likes ideas about open sourcing stuff, especially strategy. Here's one of my posts about how we did this with the Red Hat mission.

Faculty free agency: Freeing professors from the confines of a physical university is an interesting concept. I wonder how this might be applied in the business world too. I could definitely see free agency work well in the software world and maybe other fields as well.

And finally, my personal favorite:

Killing the charade spawned by the annual performance appraisal: Double freakin' hallelujah. I wonder how many cumulative hours are spent filling out performance review forms around the world every year? What if we could capture all of these hours and use them for good? We might have world peace by now. Performance reviews are one of the many reasons why my company New Kind has a No Policy Policy (you can read our full non-policy here).

So thanks Aaron, for all of your great contributions to the MIX. Shout out, brother. Carry on.

And folks, if there are other people/ideas you think deserve to be highlighted, shoot me a tip via email: I would love to hear from you.

You need to register in order to submit a comment.

ellen-weber's picture

Chris and Aaron, this discussion is so needed, and you advance it with gusto. Thanks to both of you for building and for the delightfully bold ideas you toss into the ring!

There is a general fear (at times) among faculty who are tenured in MBA programs, and that fear can be exacerbated by uncertainties in the economy and in toppling structures.

Wow - folks here are doing what so many merely speak about, and together we can create real measurable solutions! Love the MIX's marvelous pictures of people who head out in the morning with hope and caring communities in mind! You are a breath of fresh air!

You'd enjoy the book, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.  David Korten calls for a turn away from the false capitalism which led to wealth for a few only, and away from socialism that people fear for its concentration of wealth to a few only. Somewhere in between - he suggests, where we build communities of care, and refuse to build the world around money as if it were wealth (which is a false notion) Korten claims, lies real wealth for an entire people.

Your recommendations and work describe his own call for change where we take risks to do what is right, offer peace rather than promote war, and act rather than merely talk of action. The toppled systems have also toppled our higher education preparation for the past way of leading! MBAs must and will change, so I'd rather be part of a great solution, than cling to past pillars:-)

Great insights for change here, and keep taking risks for innovation that is changing lives!


Warmly, Ellen

aaron-anderson's picture
Dear Chris,

At risk of being thought less of for bing the first to comment on your post, let me first thank you. It's not often you get feedback of this sort in almost real time (hence the real reason why we need to start beta testing journal articles); which is why I enjoy the MIX a great deal.  The on going, real-time feedback and critique is invaluable to advancing the overall aim of the "organization."

In my view, ideas are no good unless they are shared, and I've said a great long while ago - proprietary wisdom is neither.  I like your thinking in terms of converting the lost time spent on performance appraisals into "doing good." Wouldn't it be great if we took the windfall and advanced the social agenda of every organization.

Regards all - and GO San Francisco GIANTS (had to put a plug in for my favorite ball team)!