How lucky we were to have such accomplished and forward thinking business experts as Rex Briggs, Barry Posner, Michael Haynie, Michael Raynor, Arte Nathan, Andrew Sherman, Victor Hwang, Huggy Rao, and Neal Petersen speak at the 2014 TEDxUniversityofNevada event. Together these professionals bring decades upon decades of unmatched insights, research, knowledge, and experience to the collective business community. Below are summarized highlights from four of their talks, which primarily focused on the concepts of productivity, leadership, performance, and excellence within the organization.

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Rex Briggs

As it relates to maximizing efficiency, Rex Briggs kicked off the opening session with the intriguing question: “Can we increase the productivity of our knowledge?” In his talk he explained how we have become exponentially more productive within a generation, and asked questions about what it means to be productive. He also challenged the audience to consider how we can re-think and best scale productivity within our organizations. Briggs is known as one of the world’s leading experts in media effectiveness measurement and is credited with pioneering many digital measurement techniques. His ROI work is referenced in over 100 marketing books, as well as his own books, which are often assigned as required reading at Wharton and Harvard. Briggs is the author of SIRFs-­Up – Catching the Next Wave in Marketing, which tells the story of how brands can better optimize advertising spend. He also authored What Sticks, Why Most Advertising Fails and How to Guarantee Yours Succeeds, a book that reviews a five year research project that tracked $1 billion in advertising spend by 36 major marketers.

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Barry Posner

Next, Barry Posner gave a refreshing talk about leadership. Posner is a co-author of the book The Leadership Challenge, which is actually also a global campaign aimed at liberating the leader in everyone. The belief is that teams, businesses—and even the world—get better when ordinary people enable those around them to achieve extra-ordinary things. As such, he encouraged the audience to ask questions of themselves like “what do you most care about?” and “what would you be willing to sacrifice for?” Knowing who you are and what you stand for is the first step to becoming a successful leader. He closed his talk with the two truths about leadership that everyone should know: 1) that you make a difference, and 2) that you can’t do it alone. Posner is the Accolti Endowed Professor of Leadership at the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University, where he served for 12 years as Dean of the School. He has been named as one of the nation’s top management and leadership educators by the International Management Council and recognized as one of the Top 50 leadership coaches in America, and ranked among the Most Influential HR thinkers in the world by HR magazine.

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Michael Raynor

According to Michael Raynor, co-author of the book The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think, there are three rules that all exceptional companies follow: 1) better before cheaper 2) revenue before cost, and 3) there are no other rules. Informed by research that uncovered the top 344 “statistically exceptional” companies out of 25,000 total companies from hundreds of industries covering 45 years, Raynor emphasized that rules were made to be followed and that rules can only work their magic if you follow them even when you don’t want to. He provided case studies from companies that both did and did not follow the “three rules.” Raynor is a director at Deloitte Services LP and the Innovation Theme Leader in the firm’s Eminence function. He is also is an adviser to senior executives in many of the world’s leading corporations across a wide range of industries.

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When it comes to harnessing excellence within the organization, it would be wise to pay attention to Stanford Professor Huggy Rao who recently co-authored the book, Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less. According to Rao, excellence is about the mindset and not the footprint. As organizations get bigger, smart people get dumber, or silent … and silence is the enemy of excellence. He gave the example of how a taxi cab driver in Mumbai informed the hotel that he was driving to in advance that he was going to be soon arriving with a jet lagged family and a hungry three-year old. Upon their arrival, the hotel waived the family past the check-in process and escorted them straight to their room where warm milk and cookies were waiting for the child so that they could get settled. To scale excellence, Rao advised to eliminate the bad and accentuate the positive. Rao is the Atholl McBean Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University. He studies social movements as motors of organizational change. His research has been published in journals such as the Administrative Science Quarterly, American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science and Strategic Management Journal.

In closing, if you want to maximize efficiency, promote leadership, maximize profitability and scale excellence within your organization, check out the latest books from Briggs, Posner, Raynor and Rao.

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