Dr Yes and Mr No

There was a nice interview in the Weekend Australian with Virgin’s CEO, Stephen Murphy. Quite honestly, I hadn’t heard of him and like everyone else I had assumed that Richard Branson was in total control of Virgin. Murhpy is a fairly conventional management accountant, so what is he doing at the helm of an entrepreneurial company like Virgin.

I turns out that Branson is known as “Dr Yes” inside Virgin and is known for his creativity and enthusism for big ideas. Branson hired Murphy because he was prepared to say no to some of Branson’s ideas. Also, having an operations specialist means that Branson is freed up to do what he is good at. As Branson says:

He leaves me to be entrepreneurial and come up with entrepreneurial ideas for the business…We are good personal friends, but one of his skills is knowing when to say ‘no’ to me

Great and innovative businesses like Virgin seem to have a tolerance for opposites. They have enthusiasts, naysayers, dreamers and doers under the same roof. But to get the most out of the diversity means an understanding and respect for the differences, like the relationship between Branson and Murphy.

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3 thoughts on “Dr Yes and Mr No

  1. You are right on the money. Respect for every point of view and courage to stand up and argue for the option you bring to the table. You never know, there may be a new solution which comes from the dialogue.

  2. Hi Greg. Thanks for stopping by. There’s a lot of evidence for the power of constructive conflict with innovation. I remember a talk by one of the top international researchers in highly performing R&D teams. He said that of all the things he had looked at, the best predictor of performance was team ‘reflexivity’ or the ability to ask probing questions to examine current performance.
    We still need to catch up next month. I’ll send you a note.

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