Transcript for Episode #8 ‘Three Core Competencies Leading to Business Success with Peter Burke, PhD’
Host: Scott Weaver
Interviewee: Peter Burke
Date Oct 20, 2018
Intro: Welcome to the Arise2Live Podcast, where impactful perspectives bring balance to your business and family life. Your host, Scott Weaver, is the founder of Arise2 Business Consulting. He will give life changing insights to build a strong business and even stronger family. It’s time to Arise2Live. Take it away Scott!
Scott Weaver: Welcome to the Arise2Live podcast! I am your host, Scott Weaver, and today we have a great interview with Peter Burke, PhD. It is loaded with gold nuggets on foundations and “the how” to lead your business to success. There is so much information that I created a worksheet for this podcast, just download the worksheet on the arise2live.com website. And by the way, please sign-up for the Arise2Live email newsletter on the site.
Please note, getting the worksheet does not require signing up for the email list – just get the worksheet to help you run your business and sign-up for the newsletter if you want podcast reminders and a peek behind the scenes.
I would also like to announce the creation of the Arise2Live Facebook private group. It’s a developing community of entrepreneurs with families and a location to ask questions, provide ideas and solutions. It’s free! Sign-up at arise2live.com or sign-in to Facebook and search for Arise2Live Group and request to join.
Today’s podcast is sponsored by Ringside Rehab. Increase your strength, confidence, and positive thinking. Dr. Gregg Palzer is a top martial arts coach. One of his students won Junior Olympic Nationals in boxing this month. He offers classes in self-defense, boxing, and karate. More information can be found at ringsiderehab.com or on facebook.com/RingsideRehab.
For today’s interview, I have some introductory remarks to help you get the most out of it. The material is deep, stuff I wished that I was told when I first started out. It is also dense, so remember the show notes and download worksheet at the Arise2Live website.
A couple of notes:
First, is the guest, Peter Burke, PhD. He combines his Score councilor experience with small business owners and his past technology industry background. This definitely comes out in the interview, and this leads into the importance of cross-pollination of industry knowledge, that is, solutions in one business area can help you find solutions in your area of business. In this case, Peter spent decades in the big leagues of international high-tech competition and getting products that customers like out the door. His big-leagues lessons are directly applicable to your business and family, but you do have to think about your situation and how to apply the principles.
Note the importance of reading… Peter is well read, able to pull out what he’s learned to apply to a particular situation. He cites his work very well and the advantage is that you know where to look for a deeper discussion.
3 steps for business success 2:56
Finally, this interview is unscripted, but the overall flow of the interview can be condensed into 3 steps for business success. Step #1: determine the right direction, step #2: understand and balance the conflicting business needs, and step #3: discover and create a good team environment.
And with that background, let’s jump right in.
Welcome, everyone. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Today’s interview is with Peter Burke, Ph.D. I am so excited that I know I’m going to be learning. Peter’s one of my mentors. He’s older than me by 30 years. He challenges me to think properly and that I’ve been very grateful.
We are here on location in Corvallis, Oregon. If you don’t know where Corvallis is, this is the home of Oregon State University, and the men’s baseball team just won the College World Series. Go Beavs!
Peter has a Ph.D. from Stanford University. He’s taught at OSU for about six years. He’s worked a number of years in high tech for Tektronix and Hewlett-Packard. He has seen the rise of the computer age and his perspective on how technology changes, how life changes is amazing. And he’s still living it. He’s a SCORE counselor and is on the board of directors for the Business Enterprise Center, and he is now writing, capturing his thoughts and his knowledge. So put on your thinking caps. Get out your creative pens. Here’s some perspective to apply.
So how are you doing today, Peter?
Peter Burke: I’m anticipating this interview.
Scott: Anticipating! (Laughter) Hopefully, it’s a good anticipation. (More laughter)
Jaak Panksepp Neural Science Research 4:27
Peter: So there’s an author I read a lot lately, Jaak Panksepp. Jack Panksepp is a neuroscientist and he’s done a huge amount of work on animals looking for neurological and chemical behavior that we mammals all share, what he calls the blue ribbon emotions that if we separate a puppy from its mother, it will go into separation anxiety. And that’s true for humans, too. And so a very basic, strong, strong, built in emotion is curiosity seeking. It’s healthy to keep our curiosity alive and well and to seek new things. And with all our other skills, we can use that curiosity as it’s got to be built into your new company. That’s all there is to it. Yeah, Cousteau, when asked if out looking for Atlantis, “Do you think you’ll find something? Of course, we’ll find something.” We’re always successful in finding something major so amazing and you’re going to be seeking, you know, even when you know what you’re doing, I think a new idea comes along. It’s a good thing to not relinquish the thrill.
Scott: But an idea and the thrill of the idea is always exciting. But the idea has to be developed into something that a customer will actually buy.
Peter: So the 2 things: you have to thrill the customer as well as yourself. (Laughter) Packard, Hewlett Packard, I think, said (maybe the Tektronix guys), ”There’s no sense of asking the customer what they want because they don’t know.” We know stuff that will thrill them. Testing the market early, you know, that’s…
Role of Proper Thinking 5:56
Scott: Well, my first question for you is the role of proper thinking with proper business processes.
Peter: Well, my first thought on that is proper and propriety go hand in hand. And these are rules of behavior, rules of conduct. And of course, many of those rules are kind of the rules of etiquette, in other words, are designed and can be very situational. You know, what constitutes good manners? That’s what I think of as proper. You know, I always think there’s two sets of rules, there’s the rules that we humans make up and it’s very important to know that, you know, if you’re going to get along and accomplish something and then there’s the rules of nature that we have to learn what they are and observe them. You know.
Scott: Kind of like the rule of gravity.
Peter: The rule of gravity. Yeah. So, there was an interesting conversation this morning with a bicycle advocate who is saying, well, “At the crosswalk, who has the right of way?” and it was a, you know, a well-defined situation and the law says, “The bicycle has the right of way.” And the laws of nature say that if there’s a mistake, it’s not the driver of the car that’s going to suffer, it’s going to be the bicycler. And so, like here in the world, the process control Juran was a big name, and he basically said, “There’s only three questions you need to deal with. Where are we now? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?” And of course, defining that, defining metric so you’ll know that you’re succeeding. That does not change. Juran and who else? The Kepner-Treguo guys say, “This is built in. It’s evolutionary advantageous if you think of yourself as a small band of hunter gatherers out on the savanna. Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?” I mean, these are questions that are, you know, evolutionary advantageous.
Scott: So the more things change, the more of the same. Things have always been changing since the dawn. If you just figure out how people deal with it and do that.
Peter: Use the tools that work. Yeah.
Scott: Yeah, OK. Don’t overthink it.
Peter: Awareness of what’s going on. That’s a really big one. And that’s a real problem, too, because if you’re a visionary and caught up in your dream.
Scott: Like, excuse me, Peter I’m not being aware, what did you say?
Peter: Yeah, exactly. Scott is caught up in his dream and he’s losing track of what’s going on around him. So as a small businessperson, one way or another, you need somebody that’s keeping their eyes open. Scott, you are really focused on this adventure. But meanwhile, you’re aware that the world’s changing out from under you. You know, in the world of business, I think it’s so hard for me to understand because we can go through the analysis of cash flows, the concept of “Do you have a market? And this is a good market”. Yet there’s still this quandary here, which is the first motive. First, make a profit. That’s an HP guideline, ‘First, make a profit.” If you don’t have money, you’re not going to do anything else, but wait a minute. HP also taught, “Bottom line is not your goal. That is an outcome of your goal, which is to help the customer.”
Scott: So that seems to be some tension between the two things.
Trinity of Management 9:11
Peter: You bet. And again, let’s go back to Ernesto Sirolli, the trinity of management. You know how as a business, you need three different kinds of thinking. You need the creating the fantastic product. You need creating the fantastic marketing place, the marketer and creating the fantastic set of books. (Laughter) I mean, there’s always three way conflict right there. And I think that being successful, you have to develop the confidence to deal with irresolvable internal conflict and recognize that every solution you come to is going to be a partial solution that will please the product developer. But the marketer says, “You could have done better or different.” Then the bookkeeper’s saying, “Man, we’re squeaky.”
You know, I recommend a book by Sirolli because he talks about these three and he gives case studies where the marketer case A course of business succeed, case B completely blew the business out of the water. And the same for the product developer and the same for the bookkeeper. You know, a bookkeeper who came in and said, “We can save money by getting rid of this, this, and this.” And then he got rid of the heart of the company without even realizing it. So, you know, these three needs are their strengths and weaknesses. But within the world of shared problem, within the world of creating a functional organization, acceptance of divergent thinking and acceptance of the fact it’s going to be a tussle to come to an agreement.
Scott: And I think that that tension and that acceptance of something that may not have an answer in the business owner’s eyes is actually sometimes very difficult. Vision is very clear. This is where we’re going. And then reality comes in.
Business Team 11:00
Peter: Well, what are the rules of human interaction? Because the last thing I read about what predicts the success of a business team is, ‘Is it a team?” Are the people involved in the activity actually copacetic? Do they get along? Having the skill sets is one thing but having the ability to communicate and act as a team is another thing. And that’s…
Scott: So there’s analysis part where you try to figure out things. And then it’s what you call a rule of nature.
Peter: The rule of nature.
Scott: When human nature comes in and how people behave is not necessarily predictable, but yet there’s ways that you can handle the situation.
Peter: One of the ways is to give yourself some time. So I’m just reading “Bold.” “Bold” by Peter Diamandis, where he talks about flow and Google has analyzed team behavior in Google. Maybe I saw that on the internet, I don’t know, but any rate, Google’s analysis of a successful team includes having a clear goal that people believe in, (laughter) having quick communication within the team, having an attitude within the team that if you screw up – So what? Where was this? I just read it this morning. It’s in the Christian science monitor of a lawyer is trying to tackle the opioid crisis, using laws to somehow help with that. And he says, “It’s not a failure, if you don’t succeed. It’s a failure, if you don’t try.”
Within a functional team that’s going to be really successful, you have to have the emotional security to be able to say, “Well, wow, that was really a dumb idea!” (laughter) You know, and not feel you’re going to get hammered.
Scott: Creating a safe environment.
Peter: Creating, you have to have a safe environment, and I don’t think you can do that instantly. A safe environment have to be discovered through living through a variety of experiences as a team.
Scott: So for business owners and managers and even freelancers, they have to be intentional, conscious of creating a safe environment for their team and the people that they’re working with and their employees.
Peter: And of course, there’s what kinds of mistakes are you willing to tolerate. Which mistakes are going to be educational, which are going to be (well, you know), “We didn’t deposit the money in the bank for three months and suddenly we’re out of business.” I mean. (Laughter)
Scott: That’s probably unacceptable.
Peter: Yeah, Yeah.
Scott: But I can relate with that because when I had a team in Malaysia, you know, we were separated by thousands of miles and cultures. We were designing circuits to go into computer chips, specifically for printers. And one of the lead engineers over there forgot to put a key element on the test chip. And I just remember we were working twelve to 15 hours trying to meet these ridiculous deadlines and stuff. I forgot about it. He forgot about it. And that became a mistake that I overlooked. And I did take some heat. Yeah, but I protected the guy and that created a very safe environment for my team. And that’s a lot of trust.
Peter: And some of my most successful team experiences, the concept of limits is really important. You know who’s? I mean, I have a personality. I’ve read some personality tests that I’m inclined to get caught up in other people’s problems. (Laughter) But this can be definitely counterproductive. The really good management experience I had was my manager really knew the difference between what I was supposed to be doing and what he was supposed to be doing. And he would either tell me, “Burke, that’s your problem, fix it.” or he’d say, “Oh, this is for me,” and he’d go talk to other managers and higher up staff.
Role Clarity 14:47
It’s nice to have role clarity. I mean, you need role clarity and also a little bit of flexibility, you know, because again, in a high growth complex environment, I stepped into roles that just weren’t on paper. “Burke, we need somebody to decide to help this group out in Germany. Help the group out in Holland?” Yeah. Oh well, I’ll take it because it wasn’t their job. It wasn’t.
Scott: It was like parashooting or a gap filler.
Peter: It was a gap filler. I think that saying I actually decided was most important, of course, is that we all agree we’re trying to solve the same problem within a business environment. You can probably pull that off. And when the City Council has a meeting to talk about homelessness, well, where’s the shared problem statement? Hard to, hard to define. So I think a lot of the world of politics, the world of social interaction.
Shared Problem Statements 15:40
Scott: Let’s dive down a little bit about shared problem statements.
Peter: Shared problem statement. OK. In the product development world, that can be fairly easy to get a start on. But then you start saying, “Well, at what point are we going to be done enough to go to market?” That’s where the concept of a shared problem can be really challenged because the marketing group and the people paying for the development say, “Sooner is better,” and the creative engineers designing the product say, “No, we’ve got one more thing we can add.” The concept of “we know when we’ll be done,” we have some way of measuring when it will be done. For me personally, I’ve rented an office so I can do creative writing, and my goal that I can measure is, “Can I pay a year’s rent?” (Laughter) I’ve got six months to go now.
Scott: Somebody in business. How can they help create for their employees or contractors, create a shared problem statements or shared vision?
Peter: This is a personal adventure. We own a rental house that we added on an addition to make it accessible retirement home and we knew all the contractors. It’s our project but they kind of participated in the design and the workmanship, and they knew they were working for us personally. So even though there were six or eight of them, six out of eight felt that they were on board, you know, and the other two we never quite related to. But the pride of accomplishment in a project, HP and Tektronix at their best, I think there was a, you know, we are making good stuff that helps people do the kind of work they’re doing. And we, you know, I just have a good feeling about being part of a group that keeps their eye on fulfilling the customer’s needs, you know, and I think that’s a, you know, if it’s a shared problem that you “It’s I’m going to make Burke look better.” Well, that’s hard to share. If Burke, with his ideas and the cooperation of other people, can help an outsider achieve success in their world. I think that helps with the shared problem.
Our problem is to help the client, help the customer. Meanwhile, we have a skill set we’re using to help the customer. But if the focus is remembering the customer, remembering that the customer’s the source of the money, that’s going to keep us afloat. (Laughter) So you have two reasons. One, just the feeling that Joe Blow out there has a problem he can’t solve, but we can help him solve it. That’s giving a person a hand up that has a psychological, you know, a sense of we’re helping somebody else. It makes us feel good. I’m reminded of a scene from the movie “Help!” the Beatles where this mad scientist is going to take over the world if he can get a government grant to finance it. I mean, the pathway in my career that I’ve been absolutely unsuccessful is trying to seek government funding or write grants to get somebody else to pay for what I was doing, you know? My success was other people did that and said, Burke, we’ve got work to do and you’re going to do it. And so I didn’t have to go find the money. They found the money and I spent it.
Scott: And had fun, right?
Peter: Well, we spent a lot of money. (Laughter)
Scott: But that gets back into what your strengths and weakness in your roles are a part of the community in the business environment, right? You know, if you’re a small business or a freelancer not to get it in the trap of trying to do everything yourself.
Peter: And again, Siroli talks a lot about that is that you have your strengths and how do you get somebody else to help you. Go look for somebody that likes doing that kind of stuff that’s kind of got time on their hands, you know, they’ve retired and they’re kind of kicking around. It’s really interesting talking to retired people because some of them are absolutely running away from work as fast as they can and never want to even think about it again. I’ve got golf to do. I’ve got fishing, too, trying to build a house or something, you know, and others, you know, we spent the decades on the job and we learned stuff and part of it, that’s still, “What did I learn that’s useful.” And so I’m doing a lot of that. An old dog teaches old tricks.
Scott: Things come in cycles and go through. Right now in America, we have a lot of changes going on. You’ve seen the rapid changes in the sixties. How do you deal with change?
Peter: The business emergencies, I again, I’ll go back to Siroli. I’ll go back to the Shared Problem statement. I’ll go back to the law of gravity. There’s stuff out there that works. World of business is so full of people reploughing the same ground with new language, you know? (laughter) Well, one Business Advisor says everybody, especially an entrepreneur, needs a detector that just comes up and shakes you periodically and says, “Look, do you realize what baloney you’re doing?” you know, or “You realize the hammers about to fall,” you know, the trusted mentor, the trusted adviser.
Family Role 20:47
Scott: Yeah. What role would family does that?
Peter: Family man?
Scott: In that keeping things on track, keeping people self-aware.
Peter: I think internally being aware that you may have family responsibilities and hopefully your proprietary, you know, your priority on them is high enough. Maintaining adequate family responsibility. I don’t want to define what that means. But speaking of my own family life of late, we’re successful because we have very keen his, hers, and ours concepts of what’s what and my business life is in the ‘his’ categories, and her business life is in the ‘hers’ categories, and our home making together is in the ‘ours’ category. And so I think to have as an entrepreneur your family, what’s your learning from your family? You need to be cautious. You want to establish something so that your family feels secure, even if they think you’re off doing something nutty. On the other hand, they may have a perspective that’s valuable. So you want to get their perspective, but you don’t want – unless you are actually business partners, you want a certain breathing room between you. That’s my….
Scott: Yeah, that makes sense because there’s some details that they don’t have the background to fully understand and shouldn’t get caught up into the day to day.
Peter: So they don’t want to feel threatened. So you get your hundred million dollar startup money and you give them 900 million of it now. (Laughter) And I don’t know. I’ve had one client who brought his wife along, and she just agreed he shouldn’t do it. That was all there was to it. No question. He was advised. Tried to do it. And I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him in a long time. He did get a job. He was going to go off completely independent on making bicycle frames, but he decided that he found a good job that enabled him to continue doing some bicycle work, but also brought him a paycheck. You know, that’s one of the things that I think all small business people have to accept that maybe absolutely the path to success and the path of least resistance and the path of most security is to get a job.
Scott: So, you know, going back to the metrics. Yeah, and going to the 3 things is know where you are, where you want to go. Yeah. And then tying that into “Is it better to get a job to reach your goals?”
Peter: Yeah. Like one of my clients is bound and determined to go off on his own. But he’s not giving up his job. He’s actually working in the corporate environment. He’s going to be able to gain training that will help him with his own personal business. But meanwhile, keeping the company happy but also gaining skills that will help him as a solo entrepreneur where he’s bound and determined to do. But he’s got kind of a five year horizon, you know, that’s the how do you get there?
Scott: And also is the where you know. (yeah) he’s answered where he wants to go. He’s answer the “How?” (Yeah. Yeah) It may not be the most glamorous path.
Peter: Or the quickest. I’m reminded of a college humor writer who said that as a new college student or you could say, a new entrepreneur, “The proper study of mankind is man. And so you should change roommates every two hours.” You’re an entrepreneur. The proper thing is still to learn what might work and so you should try something new every two hours.
Scott: That sounds like spinning your wheels.
Peter: Wow. Now I just talked to my son today who’s three years on the job, and he’s getting a bit bored and he’s looking back over his career. He’s got about a three-year attention span.
Scott: He’s been in a lot of startups, hasn’t he?
Peter: He’s on his number seven or eight.
Scott: Yeah, right?
Peter: So he’s not ready to bail out, but he’s hired a new data scientist, so he’s thinking of relaxing from some of the administrative work and taking up data science projects, which is his skill set and.
Scott: Passion, right?
Scott: Seems like he loves the excitement.
Peter: Is that’s what drives him.
Scott: He must have the ability to start in the unknown. The acceptance of….
Peter: Yeah, that’s apparently what Werner Heisenberg said, “Research is what I do when I don’t know what I’m doing. If I knew what I was doing, it would be development.”
Scott: So I guess I have a lot of research projects then.
Theory U 24:58
Peter: Yeah, that’s where again, another person that I have learned a lot from Otto Scharmer of the theory U. He wrote a book called “Theory U”. I’ve rewritten it a bit in my own mind, and it’s the theory U, is the deep dive into how do you go about making a decision. To start, you declare an intent, which I think of as an action you are using. My god, here’s you can translate it almost into hands. I’ve got this intent, and now I’m going to use my head and do as much homework as appropriate homework and lay out all the information I have going into this decision.
And then in Scharmer’s guidance, you take a three minute break of absolute silence and you may do doodling, you may move your body around. But you are trying to get out of your head thinking and get into your heart thinking, into your gut. In the depths of this view you’re in, hopefully as much nonverbal thinking as you can evoke, let go of the old. Well, come the new what’s desiring to die, what’s desiring to be born? And then you kind of live through that for a while. A catalyst will come up. An idea started that idea. A little bit of brainstorming and then you go back into your head thinking, you know, like, which idea can we begin to work on? What do we need to do to test that idea? What do we need to do next? And then you go back into action, these are the hands. What can we do in the next three days that will further our idea? This advised doing all of your homework. You can to get into the thinking and then come out of it, not with, “Well, we have some more work to do. We’ll meet again next week.” Oh no, that’s the wrong answer. What specifically can we do in three days?
Scott: Yeah. So the U in this theory U is you started on, let’s say, the left hand side of the you with action.
Peter: With action.
Scott: And then on the right hand side of that, you end with an.
Peter: Action, right? Exactly.
Scott: Go down is the thinking, what’s the heart, the passion and work to do, but it always begins and ends with action.
Peter: Yeah, that’s not quite how I put it that way, but that’s exactly true. And so, yeah, and that’s one of the things that’s so remarkably frustrating about community meetings is all the action as we all decided to get here and talk about something and the action when you’re all over and done with it as well, we know let’s get back together next week, you know, (snoring) awful, awful.
Barriers of Action 27:25
Scott: So what do you think is some of the barriers of reaching action?
Peter: I think a big problem like homelessness is that solutions are hard to come by, you know, and that’s been true throughout history, you know, also, ownership of solutions is hard to come by. Yeah, that’s where in the world of social adventures, I think one or two individuals really can make a difference by stepping up and putting time and money and effort into something.
Scott: On your writing, what is your highest priority right now?
Peter: Well, I’m writing a biography of my parents and there’s only one person left alive who knew the, (laughter) but she’s 91. I’ve got an August goal to get a fairly long draft to her, 30-40 pages, I guess, and that’s my priority. And it’s my priority, partly just because for reasons I won’t go into, I didn’t know my father very well. But on the other hand, I’ve got a couple of hundred pages of his personal correspondence, his business correspondence, so I’m plowing through that, gleaning interesting things from him.
Scott: Oh wow.
Peter: A lot of business, right? He was had a remarkable ability to understate. (Laughter) One example was he is being asked, “Will the company be able to declare dividends?” And it says “Dividends as a policy decision rather than an economic decision.” You could tell about the company economics, but he could not answer the question of whether the board of directors decided to give dividends because that was a policy decision, not his job. Again, talking about whose job is it to do this and whose job is it to do that? That’s part of the understanding and acceptance and knowing the roles, accepting the roles and having understanding of how those roles can be broken on the fly if need be.
Scott: And so your father was exercising this many years ago?
Peter: He was, he was. It’s still applicable today.
Scott: Yeah, there’s just some business principles that are timeless.
Peter: Of course. You know, what I’m reading is stuff that was written down, and it’s contrast to what he was really like an ongoing discussion. I don’t know because I was not able to learn that, and I do know that he had a hot temper and a reputation for swearing. And on the other hand, his writing is so measured and self-controlled. His anger is so nicely controlled and that’s a big lesson. So I’m hoping to pass that on to my kids, basically, and other people who might, might benefit from it.
Scott: Oh, definitely. Thank you, Peter, for taking the time out and sharing so much information.
Peter: Well, Scott, I admire your willingness to be curious and jump in and see where. Where did we go, Scott?
Scott: I’m still discovering that.
Peter: I think it’s been a good adventure. Thank you, Scott.
Scott; Finally, if you are committed to make change happen and wish to be intentional about it, I have teamed up with another Scott to provide group and individual business coaching. We offer Premiere and practical coaching. To raise your business to the next level. More information is in the show notes or at oneunifiedstrategy.com. Well, that’s all for today. See you next time. And you got this, Arise2live.