Tag Archives: Strategic thinking

Accepting a job challenge–3

Dr. John Psarouthakis

Executive Editor


A very important, in my opinion,  message I have for you at this point in time is based on my experiences and background:

Let me flesh it out by telling you some of the experiences and observations which lead me to this point of view.

First, about my accent.

What you would hear when i talk are lingering cadences of a town called Chania on the Greek island of Crete. I lived there until I was 19 and a half years old,

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“Changing Relationships: The City (Society) and the University” —A Path to the Future—

Dr. JohnPsarouthakis,
Executive Editor The Business Thinker., Internet magazine and Founder and Managing Director of JP-Management Center, LLC.


This is a posting of an invited seminar I gave at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Following are the Institutions and Persons with whom I have had discussions and worked with in committees and advisory boards over the years on the topic of today’s discussion. Preparing this presentation I have borrowed liberally from Dr. Charles (Chuck) Vest’s writings:

Univ. of Michigan: James Duderstadt: President; Lee Bollinger: President (currently President of Columbia University): Mary Sue Colman: current President; Gilbert Whittaker: Dean, Provost; B. J. White: Dean and acting President (also President of university of Illinois); Panos Papalambros: Department head (engineering); Robert Boyland: Dean School of Music, Theater and dance; Karen Wolff: Dean of School of Music, Theater and dance.

MIT: Paul Gray: former, Dean, Provost, President, Chairman Charles (Chuck) Vest: President, Chairman, American Association of Engineers Warren Rohsenow: Department Head, Engineering Nam Suh: Department Head, Engineering, President, Technology Institute of S. Korea George Hatsopoulos: Sr. Lecturer, Founder and CEO, Thermo Electron Corporation

Carnegie Mellon University: Richard Cyert: Dean, President, Hebert Simon, Professor (several fields), Nobel Prize Laulreate-Economics, Bernard Goldsmith: Associate Dean

Eastern Michigan University: John Porter: President; Stewart (Stu) Tubbs: Dean; David Mielke, Dean

Michigan State UM., Peter McPherson, president

City of Ann Arbor Mayors, James Stephenson, Gerald Jernigan, Ingrid Sheldon

State of Michigan: Governors: James Blanchard, John Engler, Speaker: Gary Owen

Kellogg FoundationJohn Daly, Board Member, Corp. CEO 

PAIDEIA FoundationAntigoni Kefalogiannis, Director 

Industrial Technology InstituteBoard Members 

Michigan Manufacturers Association: Board members 

And Several Mayors, and school Superintendents where JP Industries and JPE had facilities were located (USA, UK, Europe, Mexico, Canada, and Japan)

Some Thoughts
The New Era of Humanities,
Arts and Social Sciences
New Innovation Systems  Will Come From New Partnerships Leadership
Future Settings for Leadership
Looking ahead on Leadership
A Vision for the “University”

Today, we find ourselves in a fast-paced, globally-interconnected, knowledge-driven times. This has its own instabilities and dangers, but also is rich in promise and opportunity driven by an unprecedented acceleration of knowledge, understanding, and technology, with ever more open national borders. As the information and genetic revolutions gather momentum, and great environmental challenges loom ever larger, society will, as always, look to university graduates, faculty, and staff for fundamental research, and for creative understanding and application of the knowledge they generate and engaging business, industry, governments, and other social institutions in new endeavors of learning, research, and problem solving. This will be an important element of the leading universities of the future. It is an exciting time for universities.

The New Era of Humanities
Our world has a rapidly expanding population, an economy that increasingly is integrated on a global scale, a world environment faced by a variety of threats and disparate cultural values. In order to live and work successfully in such a world, individuals, organizations, institutions, and nations must work together.

We have entered an era in which knowledge and the people skilled in its use are the key elements of sustainable growth in the complex environment we live in:It is an era of intense international competition.

Corporations are continually changing, merging, and dividing.
Employment is in flux.
Major immigration waves are in motion
Time scales are reduced.

In such times, we will succeed by our knowledge and wits rather than by our power and natural resources.

Key dominant technologies in times ahead–things like:

•wireless networks

•all-optical networks

•intelligent software

•high-speed rail

•new spacecraft concepts

•gene therapy

•artificial organs

•self-assembling materials

•microscopic machinery

•high-temperature superconductivity

•industrial ecology

•sustainable agriculture

•the information economy.

will shape the longevity and the quality of life we will have.

Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

The role of the humanities, arts, and social sciences has expanded in recognition that these are essential intellectual and cultural components of the creative spirit and ethos of education and scholarship at universities and particularly at technological institutes such as MIT. The humanities and social science faculty have played leadership roles in extending the global reach of many of the programs and in broadening the perspectives and expertise needed to engineer, manage, and set policy. MIT’s world-renowned strengths in economics and linguistics continues to build and evolve. Writing and the performing arts have continually expanded their importance and, in addition, have played a notable role in developing an appreciation of the role of diversity in living and learning. The visual arts have evolved in new directions and have expanded their strength and centrality in our institutions.

New Innovation Systems Will Come From New Partnerships

We need to strengthen the relationship systems that involve active partnerships with the communities. One way to do so is for universities to establish strong partnerships with industry as well as with other organizations—non profit foundations for example. An example is MIT’s Leaders for Manufacturing Program. This is a program in which a group of American industries have joined with MIT to build research and educational programs that are providing new approaches to the practice of manufacturing while preparing students who have both the technical and managerial expertise to lead tomorrow’s manufacturing industries. Inventing more such partnerships will allow us to capture the benefits of new ideas on the horizon. The University of Michigan has organized similar activities and centers of excellence.Many emerging areas of research hold real promise for significant economic and social benefit. Examples are the brain and cognitive sciences, information technology, environmental technology, and biotechnology.In the brain and cognitive sciences, for example, we can look forward to the day when advances in these fields will offer respite and even cures for mental illnesses, in much the same way that research in molecular biology has led to dramatic progress in the fight against a host of physical diseases. Such advances will provide the real path to reducing the social and economic costs of health care.Fulfilling these promises requires support of the research that takes place in universities, to be sure, but it also requires the participation of industry in transferring the research results from the laboratory to the economy. Long term success also requires active involvement and appropriate support for industry and academia from our state government. In sum, new partnerships in new fields hold the key to our economic vitality.


The future will demand new leaders -leaders with a deep understanding of science and engineering who possess the ability, values, and desire to apply their knowledge wisely and creatively to the betterment of humankind

Let me begin my observations on leadership with a brief rundown of some of the varied expectations of a university president these days.

He or she should be a: scholar, politician, fund-raiser, budget cutter, salary-raiser, father confessor, negotiator, diplomat, parental substitute, guarantor of safety, provider of wholesome and tasty dorm meals, dedicated researcher, conservator of age-old values, politically correct and hip leader, director of big-time athletics, witty spokesperson to the press, expert on all things, humble servant, charismatic leader, eloquent speaker, sophisticated host, example of physical fitness, well-read, scientist, historian, literary devotee, arbiter of musical taste, expert on waste disposal, investment guru, friend of the city council, towering public figure, and “just one of the guys.“ Perhaps, such a person might not be expected to walk on…..water!

But we are not here today to discuss the roles of university presidents, although that list does reflect some of the issues about the nature of leadership in today’s World.

Today’s theme is very timely. However, as we look at the state of the developed world, there is no question that strong and wise leadership of the universities will be needed.

But there are some other questions that we must ask:

Are universities exercising the leadership that are capable of?

Are the students being prepared to be leaders?

Leadership takes many forms. Namely organizational leaders: people who lead companies, banks, universities, government organizations, major political entities, and so forth. We tend to talk about who works for whom. This certainly is one definition of leadership, but let us explore some other aspects as well.

Components of Leadership

These components of leadership are: ideas, vision, motivation, and command. These have been necessary conditions of leadership. I do not know whether they are sufficient today…or tomorrow.

Let me begin with a few words about each of these components, and then explore the conditions which will call for leadership in the future.

Ideas may come from the leader; they may come from within the organization; or they may come from external sources. They may come from analysis; they may come from intuitive understanding; they may be new or old, but understanding their significance, their relevance, and their potential application are critical. Ideas are essential.

Visionis an amorphous thing. Most who study leadership believe that it is very important. It may originate in the leader, or it can be collectively established. I suspect that the former is more prevalent. Vision usually should be simple to articulate and to translate into goals.

Motivation seems that is made possible by innate human qualities such as charisma, eloquence, and energy.

Finally, the power to command usually is possible only in clearly understood, hierarchical organizations. The prime example, of course, is the military .

Future Settings for Leadership

What will be the societal and organizational nature of leadership in the future? Looking ahead, the world is growing with contrasts and complexity. Are world’s people coming to understand our common stake in the global environment and the global economy. There is a terrifying resurgence of nationalist and ethnic conflict in many countries. We are experiencing both scientific progress and economic advancement at the same time that there is growing stratification of wealth and divisions among peoples–both between nations, and within nations, but hopefully not between cultures.Inspitehowever, the trend seems to be toward more democratic, less hierarchical institutions–particularly as individuals gain greater access to advanced communications technologies and knowledge–and the information, organizing abilities, and power that such access provides.In a world challenged by issues of such growing magnitude and complexity, it will be increasingly important for people to be able to communicate effectively and freely, and to work together to integrate the efforts of many to achieve common goals. This will be even more important, and more challenging, as our institutions come to terms with the fact that our society, and our future, depend on the full participation of people from the full spectrum of cultural and racial backgrounds. So group work, or team work, will be increasingly important and on the international scale.

Looking ahead on Leadership 

Ideas will become more important, especially with wide-spread, instantaneous communications to propagate them. The more democratic the organization, the more important sound ideas will become. Visionwill become more important, insofar as it leads to organizing principles, which will be badly needed as organizations flatten and become more democratic, or at least more accepting of broad dialogue. Motivationwill remain important, but will be derived more from group spirit and consensus, and less from individual leaders than in the past. The power to command will be a less viable option for leaders in more democratic, “flatter” organizations. An interesting question will be the nature or necessity of command in distributed and virtual organizations. Lead Universities, indeed, have been responsible for some of the most far-reaching and profound changes in our society.

The need for leaders to solve the complex problems of the modern world requires a new paradigm for the research university itself -one in which industry, academia, governments and other institutions work together in effective partnership. For example, the quality of our environment, the sustainability of economies, and the efficient use of our material and energy resources, will depend upon sound scientific and engineering knowledge leading to action by all partners.The flow of information will be instantaneous and ubiquitous, as the technology, applications, and benefits of computer, information, and intelligence sciences evolve, expand, and become more central to human activities.Information technology will dramatically alter learning and working. Many faculty are changing their teaching role from one of lecturing to one of shaping and guiding the use of electronically-available information. Our security and quality of life will require that all people work together to form a coherent, productive society, built on common values as well as rich diversity. This will not occur unless it is fostered within our schools and universities.Finally, the future will demand indeed leaderswith a deep understanding of science and engineering who possess the ability, values, and desire to apply their knowledge wisely and creatively to the betterment of our societies.

There is a growing body of research on qualities other than intelligence that appear to be critical to an individual’s success and particularly for a leader. For example, persons who have excelled in rapport, empathy, cooperation, persuasion, and the ability to build consensus are regarded as those with great potential for effective leadership.

I believe that these observations have implications as well for the qualities of leadership that will be needed in our other institutions, governmental organizations, and society.

Looking to the Future

We stand at the brink of many new scientific adventures. Understanding the brain and the mind, for instance, will be one of the most profound and productive scientific ventures in the years to come -one that will have great implications for maximizing human potential and for living long and living well.The strength of economies, regions, and nations will be determined in large measure by technological and organizational innovation. This innovation must be built upon a foundation of new research in science, engineering, and management and communicating / transferring all that effectively to our societies.Humankind’s advances will depend increasingly on new integrative approaches to complex systems, problems, and structures. Design, synthesis, and synergy across traditional disciplinary boundaries will be essential elements of both education and research. Engineering, for example, will provide instruments and techniques to facilitate the rapid advancement of the biological and physical sciences. Biology and physics, in turn, will create revolutionary new approaches to engineering and production, as well as to health care.Research universities will grow in importance as the primary source of fundamental research and scholarship in the United States and the developed world.

A Vision for the “University”

Attract the best and brightest students and faculty and support them with a stimulating and effective living and learning environment;-Be committed to excellence, yet thrive on change;-Be steeped in fundamental scientific inquiry, yet lead the new, integrative modes of scholarship, learning, and action;-Be dedicated to scholarship, inquiry, and criticism, yet adept at bringing together industry, government, and academe to explore and solve major problems facing the world;-Recognize that its educational, scholarly, and leadership goals, as well as the quality and effectiveness of its intellectual dialogue, require the continued presence and engagement of strong programs in the arts, humanities, and social sciences;-Be dedicated to expanding technological and organizational capabilities, yet be concerned with exploration of attendant moral and ethical issues; and-serve our nations first and foremost, yet recognize that to do so now requires substantial global engagement and cooperation as well as competition. These, I believe, are the essential goals that will enable a top U to be the quintessential university for this century.


As our natural world evolves, and as societies continue to change and grow, it will be an ongoing challenge to achieve and maintain a sustainable balance across the entire planet. There will be no single or simple response to the challenges to achieving a sustainable economic growth while maintaining a desirable quality of life. The University’s work is never complete. To quote Vannevar Bush, a very influential public policy intellectual of the ‘40’s and ‘50’s, they forever seek the endless frontier.

Building the acquisition team

drjohn11aDr. John Psarouthakis, Executive Editor, www.BusinessThinker.com. Founder and former CEO, JP Industries, Inc, a Fortune 500 industrial corporation. Adjunct professor, Strategy and Acquisitions, Ross School of Management, University of Michigan

This is the 5th of short articles of my thoughts about Acquisition of a business.

Building a good team is important right at the outset of your search. You will need an attorney almost immediately, to review any confidentiality agreements or letters of interest that must be signed. However, you should also begin to think about the other team members you will need early on in the search process. A good accountant is essential to the adequate review of the seller’s books, and possibly in addition, an independent auditor. Other consultants you need may depend upon your own skill levels and the nature of the business. If you will need outside funding, a financial consultant may be needed. Depending upon your own background in the functional business areas of sales and marketing, operations, engineering and manufacturing, you may or may not require outside help. An environmental consultant is increasingly needed whenever real property is involved in the transaction, to assure that no hidden problems exist.

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