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3 Tips for Keeping Your R&D Budget Healthy

The last five years have been uncertain and tough ones for federal research and development spending. In the wake of the Recovery Act and constant budget battles, many programs experienced cuts or at least flat spending. Only in the last year have things been looking at all better. No matter what the macro trends are, there are a few things any program can do to improve their odds of shoring up or increasing their budget.

  1. Stay focused. The best federal R&D programs stay focused on what they are good at and avoid building far-flung empires. Knowing what you are good at and sticking to it is one of the hardest lessons a leader can learn. There’s a great story Walter Isaacson documented about Steve Jobs telling the new CEO of Nike: “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.” There’s always the temptation to extend the empire but don’t build your castles on sand.
  2. Link your investments to clear customer needs and/or required capabilities. How many times ...

How Retirement Was Invented

In 1881 Otto von Bismarck, the conservative minister president of Prussia, presented a radical idea to the Reichstag: government-run financial support for older members of society. In other words, retirement. The idea was radical because back then, people simply did not retire. If you were alive, you worked—probably on a farm—or, if you were wealthier, managed a farm or larger estate.

This was a big "if," at the time. That retirement age just about aligned with life expectancy in Germany then. Even with retirement, most people still worked until they died.

There were exceptions though. Military pensions had long been given to soldierswho had risked their lives (though those pensions didn't necessarily mean they could stop working ...

Leon Panetta’s Hard Lessons in Leadership

A host of memoirs by former Obama administration Cabinet chiefs have been arriving in bookstores, offering valuable management lessons for political appointees and career civil servants. This is the last in a series on the experiences of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (Stress Test), Defense Secretary Robert Gates (Duty), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Hard Choices), and Defense and intelligence chief Leon Panetta (Worthy Fights).

In Worthy Fights, Leon Panetta chronicles his tenure during the first term of the Obama administration as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (February 2009 to June 2011) and as secretary of Defense (July 2011 to February 2013). He also served as a member of the House and as budget director and chief of staff for President Clinton. While Panetta’s memoir is stirring controversy over his criticism of President Obama’s leadership style, the management insights for government leaders have received far less attention:

Involve key staff in decision-making. Panetta acknowledges that his credentials for the CIA position were not based on prior experience in covert action or intelligence gathering, and says he got the job because he knew something about running organizations. Based on his work in the Clinton administration, Panetta had seen the ...

Everything You Need to Know About Introverted Leaders

To be a great boss, you don’t have to be an extroverted back-slapper. A growing body of research suggests introverts can be excellent leaders too.

After all, billionaires Warren Buffett, Larry Page, and Bill Gates have been described as introverts. And other CEOs including Colgate Palmolive’s Ian Cook (paywall), have cited their introverted personalities as an advantage.

The key to success for both extroverts and introverts comes down being honest about strengths and weaknesses, and picking the right approach.

What’s the difference?

Introverted doesn’t necessarily mean shy. Extroverted doesn’t always mean gregarious.

A better definition might be that introverts tend to find social interaction draining, particularly with large groups. They gather their energy from time spent alone. An even more precise characterizationmight focus on sensitivity: Introverts are more inclined to be overstimulated by other people. They need solitude to recover.

How can that possible be a good thing?

Sensitivity is strength. Research from Wharton professor Adam Grant(pdf) suggests that introverted leaders are much more likely to listen to and empower employees that come up with new ideas, whereas extroverted bosses are more apt to feel threatened and shut them down.

As a result ...

Let the Body Rest, for the Sake of the Brain

I’m sure a lot of subway riders are skilled nappers, but this car seemed to be particularly talented. Going over the Brooklyn Bridge on a recent morning, just as the sun was coming up, a row of men in nearly identical black suits held on to the straps with their eyes closed. Their necks were bent at the slightest of angles, like a row of daisies in a breeze, and as the car clanged over the tracks and the sun pierced through the grimy train windows, it finally dawned on me they were all sound asleep. Not even the bumps and the light could stop them from sneaking in 15 more minutes of shut-eye before work.

We take it for granted, but most people have to wake up for work (or school or other morning obligations) long before they want to. Sleeping in is treated as a cherished luxury—it’s somehow become normal that people wake up still exhausted, and anything but is a notable exception.

But rising before the body wants to affects not only morale and energy, but brain function as well.

“The practice of going to sleep and waking up at ‘unnatural’ times could be ...