Author: Alexander Sadowski


A ‘Smart’ Idea Wins UConn Students Praise, Award at Travelers Challenge

 
Travelers Competition
A team of UConn students that proposed a ‘smart-home’-style device for small businesses placed second in the 2014 Travelers IT Case Challenge on November 7 in Hartford.

“Our team was poised and prepared, earning second place and representing UConn well,” said Wei-Kuang Huang, the team mentor and a professor in the Operations and Information Management department.

The student team included: Khaly HuynhEddison BuenanoJeffrey Avery and Rubi DeLeon. All are seniors majoring in business data analytics, except DeLeon, who is majoring in business administration. They will divide a $700 award and each has the opportunity to participate in a job interview with Travelers.

First place and a $1,400 prize was awarded to the Carlson School of Management from the University of Minnesota. Other participating schools included: Bentley University, Central Connecticut State University, Quinnipiac University and University of Wisconsin.

“The competition at Travelers was both challenging and rewarding,” Avery said. “Professor Huang was a great mentor and the group really came together as a whole to achieve an awesome result.”

For their case competition, the students had to determine what new investment would benefit the company’s business insurance division. They chose a “smart home technology” paired with a mobile encryption technology and pitched it as a service for small businesses.

The UConn team’s recommendation to Travelers was to utilize it to create new business value, allowing a small business owner to lock doors, view video and audio, control appliances and other tasks from a smartphone. In turn, this would benefit the insurance company because it would lower an insured company’s security risk profile.

“We had only about two weeks from the time we received the case to the time we presented to Travelers, but even before the case, we met weekly to research current IT trends in the insurance industry,” Avery said. “This came in handy during our question-and-answer session, following our presentation, because we were quite well-versed in issues surrounding IT. Secondly, it turns out that Travelers is currently implementing smart-home technology with some of its clients, so our case turned out to be highly relevant.”

Avery said the team had tremendous support from peers at UConn as well as alumni, who took the time to view practice presentations and provide valuable advice and insight. All four students were enrolled in Huang’s OPIM 3103 class, where they had already been given a case study relevant to the insurance industry. It turned out to be valuable practice when the Travelers’ case competition arose, Avery said.

The competition was open to IT students with high GPAs. The students spent more than 40 hours researching, meeting and rehearsing, Huang said. The teams presented their findings to a panel of Travelers senior management. They also had a chance to network with the executives during the competition, which was held at the Travelers’ headquarters in Hartford.

Pictured L to R: Wei-Kuang Huang, Rubi DeLeon, Khaly Huynh, Jeffrey Avery, and Eddison Buenano.


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Vote for UConn by 11/21!

PwC ChallengeTime is running out! Your vote can send our team to another national championship!

The UConn Trailblazers—a team of five talented accounting students—is hoping to compete in the prestigious PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Challenge national case competition in New York in January.

To get there, the team must defeat Villanova, Texas, Arizona and Gonzaga by getting the most votes on Facebook. Only the top vote-getter may attend.

Trailblazer team members include Katie PontoniecLauren ConsoliJack MurphyGiovanni Ninivaggi and Daniel Francoeur.

“There are five semifinalist teams, and the team that has the most votes when the polls close on Friday will go to New York in January to make their presentation to the national leadership of PwC,” said Professor David Papandria of the Accounting Department. “This is a big deal. Dozens of teams participated in the challenge, and our UConn team is so close.”

You can click on the link below to vote. Please vote once a day through Friday to help our team. Thank you!

Vote here »

Tell your friends to vote!

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Faculty Attend Workshop on Brain, Learning; Dartmouth Prof Offers Suggestions on Retaining Knowledge


Faculty Workshop
Many people think of the human brain as like a giant filing cabinet. Just open the right drawer, pull out a folder, and it will be loaded with all the information you need.

In fact, retrieving information is more like going on an archaeological dig, said G. Christian Jernstedt, professor emeritus of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College.

“We find fragments and we assemble them into something meaningful,” he said. “That’s why we rummage around in our brains for the answers. Sometimes there isn’t even a correct answer. It’s the thinking that is the important part.”

Jernstedt spoke to 60 faculty and graduate students Oct. 31 at a workshop titled, “Perspectives on Learning, Teaching and the Brain.” Jernstedt specializes in human learning and speaks around the world about cognitive, social, behavioral and educational neurosciences.

During the full-day workshop, he talked about emerging research on increasing the ability to learn, building effective learning habits, and different ways to evaluate what has been learned.

Management Professor Travis Grosser said the lecture was fascinating. “I wanted to learn more about how the brain works and how to apply that knowledge in the classroom,” he said. “I appreciate that the School of Business is helping us become better teachers and helping us grow and develop our professional skills.”

Some 150,000 articles and books have been written about the human brain in recent years, Jernstedt said. Among his findings is that the more engaged a person is, the more active their learning becomes.

“Memory is constructed, it isn’t a passive situation. If it is an active process, it works,” he said. “The person who is ‘doing’ is the person who is learning.”

That’s why taking notes is more effective than listening; why talking to others is better than learning alone, he said.

What happens when you use an area of the brain a great deal? Before GPS was widely used, London cabbies had to study maps of the city until they knew every road. For them, the centers of the brain that learn place, direction and navigation blossomed. “When you use the brain, it changes,” he said.

But while some changes are universal, every individual learns differently. In fact, the human brain is a bit like a novelist, Jernstedt said.

“Our brain makes up stories about reality,” he said. “Our stories vary by experience. We all see things differently.”

For an example, he showed an abstract picture of a man and woman engaged in an embrace. When the same picture was shown to young children, they saw porpoises in the photo because their frame of reference is different, he said.

“So when we develop courses, programs and schools, it is important to recognize that how people code and retain information varies, depending what’s happened to them,” Jernstedt said.

The human brain contains 20 billion cells just for thinking, he said, yet we are most successful when we tackle one task at a time. “People who say they ‘multitask’ either do it poorly, or are really shifting between tasks,” he said.

Research by a jam-and-jelly company also indicates that too many options are overwhelming. On the days when customers could sample 20 or more types of jam, only 3 percent bought the product. When offered only five varieties, 30 percent of the customers purchased jam. Too many choices leads to indecision, he said.

In another analogy, Jernstedt noted that the tiger beetle runs about 5 1/2 miles per hour, but it does so in bursts, and then freezes, because its brain is filled up and it needs to rest it. Likewise, it is important for humans to take intellectual breaks in the classroom, and for faculty to build in time for students to process and reflect, he said.

The human brain is a powerful tool, he said. “This organ can do extraordinary things when we find out how to use it,” he said. With practice, people can even change the speed at which the brain operates.

Marketing Professor David Norton said he attended the workshop because he was interested in strategies to help his students. “We are asking them to learn a great deal in a rather short amount of time,” he said. “I’m interested in anything that helps to communicate that information more efficiently.”

“The biggest opportunity is to bridge science with practice,” said Management Professor Kevin Thompson, noting that students tend to retain only about 10 or 15 percent of what they hear in a lecture. “I’m here to find out what we can take away to help or improve learning for our students.”


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UConn Real Estate Students Finish Third in Prestigious International Competition

dt.common.streams.StreamServer
(11/12/2014) – A team of real estate students from the University of Connecticut School of Business earned third place in a prestigious international case competition on November 4 in New York City, sponsored by Cornell University.

The UConn team consisted of William BartolDrew HarneyAustin SmythKristine Victor and Patrick Nista.  Francesca Michel was the alternate.Continue Reading


Student Group Hosts Jim Calhoun, CEO of Converse, Inc.


Honors in Business Association
The Honors in Business Association (HiBA) hosted Jim Calhoun ’89 (CLAS), CEO of Converse for a discussion about his experience as an undergraduate at UConn, his career path, and what it is like being CEO of a multibillion dollar international company.

Before speaking to a larger audience, Calhoun spoke with students at an intimate reception sponsored by the UConn School of Business Dean’s Office. Gregory Doyle ’15 (BUS), an attendee at the reception stated, “It was great connecting with a past UConn graduate who has been successful on a large corporate scale. He seemed really passionate about Converse and what it represents. I especially enjoyed hearing about the mistakes he has made along the way and what he has learned from them.”

Following the reception Calhoun began his discussion in the Student Union Theater with a picture of his father, former UConn men’s basketball head coach Jim Calhoun. The picture was of the former coach wearing Converse sneakers as a college student and playing basketball against UConn, a team he would later coach. Calhoun brought the picture full circle stating that the picture hangs in his office at Converse headquarters.

In addition to taking in advice from Calhoun, students were stunned to learn that Calhoun was to thank for the famous product placement of Wilson in ‘Cast Away’ starring Tom Hanks.

Both the reception and speaking event attracted UConn students across all disciplines who all took something away from Calhoun’s talk. Justin Hall ’17 (ENG) stated, “Calhoun’s presentation was both insightful and interesting. Personally I left with a greater understanding of how to utilize and how to create pivotal opportunities throughout my life.” Alyssa Zabin ’16 (CLAS), from student group Leadership in Action added, “It was great as students to see what huskies before us have done as they build upon their undergraduate experiences in profound ways.”

Larry Gramling, associate dean of the School of Business who sat down with Calhoun for a question and answer session expressed, “A great deal of what made the event one of the very best I have ever attended at UConn was first and foremost due to Jim Calhoun who did a great job by just being himself: genuine, down-to-earth, and engaging before the event in the Lounge, during the talk, and afterwards when many of the 100 or so in the audience came up to talk to Jim.”

About Honors in Business Association: Honors in Business Association (HiBA) is a student organization formed between the Honors Program and UConn School of Business. HiBA strives to create a sense of community for students in both Honors and the School of Business and those with an interest in business while focusing on professional development. Contact information: uconnhiba@gmail.com or Quian Callender at quian.callendar@uconn.edu.

Pictured L to R: John Averill ’16 (CLAS), Quian Callender ’16 (BUS), Alyssa Zabin ’16 (CLAS), Jim Calhoun, CEO of Converse, Associate Dean of the School of Business Larry Gramling, Grace Kim ’16 (BUS), Emily Vasington ’16 (BUS), Brooke Wasserman ’15 (BUS), and Global VP of Communications at Converse Terri Hines.


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Veterans’ Bootcamp Offers Mentorship, Business Expertise

Veteran's BootcampSteven Therrien, of Harwinton, Conn., has what he believes is a great idea for creating a superior solar panel that would capture some of the sun’s energy that is now lost.

But Therrien, a former Navy corpsman and advanced x-ray technologist, was overwhelmed at the prospect of starting his own business.

“Before, I looked at it as an insurmountable mountain,” he said.

After enrolling in a nine-day Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), sponsored by the UConn School of Business, he has increased confidence that he can make his business plan a reality.

The course is funded exclusively by private donations and features the expertise of UConn business faculty. This year, 26 veterans learned everything from how to write a business plan to finding funding. They developed social media skills and took a course on “discovering your personal genius.”

“It’s very flattering and humbling that so many people are willing to give their time and themselves to help a veteran,” Therrien said. “We all appreciate it very much.”

This fall, UConn’s EBV was recognized at the Pentagon by Newman’s Own, Fisher House Foundation and the Military Times as one of the nation’s best and most innovative programs for improving the quality of life for U.S. military personnel.

This is the fifth year that the EBV program has been offered at UConn. Seven of the veterans hail from Connecticut; most of the rest are from neighboring states. This year’s class was composed of 19 men and seven women.

“This was a great class, the first one that we had with no attrition at all from acceptance through graduation,” said program Director Michael Zacchea. “Our veterans said it was an amazing and transformative event.”

“These people aren’t in it for the money,” Zacchea said. “Every vet here wants to solve a problem. They are very focused on ‘mission accomplished.’ Because our veterans all come from diverse backgrounds, we offer a very hands-on program. We tell them how to find an accountant, a lawyer, how to establish a relationship with a bank.”

What makes the bootcamp unique is it addresses the veterans’ holistic needs—even providing a free suite and laptop for the future business
owners. It also offers mentorship for a year, to help veterans identify and overcome business barriers. The UConn program is also part of a larger community of veteran entrepreneurs throughout the country. The rigorous course usually had veterans working on their businesses until midnight.

Since they graduated on Oct. 10, the veterans have been preparing their business plans, for which they could be awarded a $3,000 grant to use as seed money.

“I would tell everyone to hire a veteran,” said Rosita Campbell of New Jersey, a bootcamp graduate, who wants to own her own fitness center. “We are dependable, reliable and offer standards of service and excellence that are beyond what is expected. We also have incredible integrity. All of that has been ingrained in us from a young age.”

See photos from the UConn EBV program.


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Big-Time Champions of Corporate World Bring Insight, Excitement to Auriemma Leadership Conference

Geno Auriemma UConn Leadership ConferenceThe president of Meriden-based Protein Sciences said her company hopes to have an experimental Ebola vaccine ready in six months.

Meanwhile, a UConn alumnus, who ran one of the largest financial institutions in Europe, is now setting his sights on expanding and revolutionizing the banking industry in Africa.

And a senior vice president at United Technologies Corporation said that the growth in wealth and status among Asian residents will open up an enormous tourism market that will increase demand for air travel—and new jet engines.

“Leading for Innovation and Change” was the topic of the Geno Auriemma UConn Leadership Conference at Mohegan Sun on Oct. 22 and 23. For the nearly 200 business executives and entrepreneurs who attended, the ideas, enthusiasm and leadership advice were invaluable.

During his lunchtime presentation titled, “Changing the Game,” Auriemma coached business leaders on the need to re-create and innovate a company, or a team, even in good times. “Why go to practice when you know you’re going to win? Why change something when what you’re doing is already working? Because you have to get better,” said the coach of the UConn Women’s Basketball Team.

“As a coach, I know the flaws in our team. Do you want to make changes when you’re 40 and 0? Or at the end of the season when you don’t get into the Final Four? The time for change is when things are going great and you’re at the top of your game. You don’t want to make changes in a time of panic, out of desperation.”

Auriemma, who coached Team USA to a gold medal in the 2014 FIBA World Championship in Istanbul this fall and the UConn Women’s Basketball Team to nine NCAA Division One National Championships, also told the audience that sometimes leaders have to look backward—at what made a business great—in order to move forward.

Often, Auriemma said, he watches footage from games that occurred 40 or 50 years ago and finds a skill or a strategy that has been forgotten. “Sometimes going back, to what made your corporation or your team or your sport great, may be the way to go,” he said. “If you ignore the past, you may miss an opportunity to learn.”

The conference was punctuated with exciting examples of innovation and change in Connecticut.

In a discussion about the healthcare industry, Manon Cox, president and CEO of Protein Sciences in Meriden, talked about how the company has invented FluBlok®, a flu vaccine that contains no egg, antibiotics or other preservatives and is three times stronger than a traditional vaccine. She went on to tell a spellbound audience that the company is now working on an Ebola vaccine and hopes to have a product ready for trial in six months.

Bob Diamond ’77 MBA, ’06H, founder and CEO of Atlas Merchant Capital and formerly chief executive of Barclays, discussed his company’s ambitious goals to revolutionize the financial sector in Africa.

“Seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are in Africa,” said Diamond, who was valedictorian of his MBA class at UConn in 1977. “Africa jumped off the page for us.”

More babies were born in Nigeria last year than in all of Europe, he noted. Meanwhile, fewer than 20 percent of the residents of Africa even have a bank account. Some 80 percent live too far away to ever use a bank branch and most will do their banking with a mobile device.

The financial opportunities in Africa are not limited just to a single business, but present an opportunity for economic growth for an entire continent, he said.

“Innovation isn’t always about doing something brand new,” Diamond said. “It’s also about how to create jobs and foster economic growth.”

Vision, speed, and creative ideas are vital even in a long-established company like United Technologies, said Michael McQuade, senior vice president of science and technology. Whether developing jet engines, elevators, or the latest, quietest and fast helicopter, innovation is a daily component of all the company does.

“At our subsidiary, Otis, we move the world’s population every three days in elevators,” he said. “We do things for which failure is not an option. We are constantly thinking about creativity in an area where we cannot fail.”

McQuade said the two biggest trends the company is following are the urbanization of the world, with more than 1 million people moving to cities a day, many in high-rises requiring elevators; and the growth of the middle class, which has tremendous implications for jet-engines and travel, particularly in Asia.

One of the ways that UTC retains, motivates and inspires its workforce is to offer company funding for higher education, he said.

John Caine ’97 a UConn alumnus and chief product officer at Priceline.com said his company has embraced the changing lifestyles of consumers. Some 30 percent of reservations now are made from a mobile device—often at the last minute. As such, the company’s subsidiaries, like Open Table and KAYAK, have ahd to change to accomodate those customers, including creating sites that are easy to use from a mobile device.

The company doesn’t just talk about change for its customers, he said. There are no private offices at Priceline.com and at least once a year the employees relocate to a new desk to get a fresh perspective.

A new perspective was needed at Aetna during a crisis that was costing the company $1 million a day, according to Elease Wright ’76, former senior vice president of human resources. She talked about how the company transformed itself during that crisis.

“We went from the darling of Wall Street to the company everyone loved to hate,” she said. The company selected new administration and engaged every employee of the company, she said.

“We recognized that if we didn’t change the organization, we would become irrelevant,” she said. The company focused on the people who used its services as the centerpiece for all decisions. “If we were dealing with a tough issue, we asked ourselves, ‘What would our values say?’ It became a way of life.”

“Change was messy and difficult, but do-able,” she said. “One of the leading indicators of failure is success. You constantly have to think about strategy, marketing, perspective and listen to suggestions. Egos can ruin companies. Leadership must be consistent with values. It takes only two or three years for a culture to unravel.”

Andy Bessette ’75, executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Travelers, talked about reinventing the Travelers’ Championship golf tournament to attract greater attendance and raise more money for charity. He urged his colleagues to create a culture that allows people to speak up—and then to really listen to what they recommend.

“You have to talk to everybody,” said Bessette, who earned a bachelor’s degree from UConn and is a former Olympic athlete. “It’s important to get feedback and be engaged. You want to be respected as a leader by your team. You have to talk to everybody…you have to be in the tank with your people.”

The two-day program was inspiring for many, including Sharad Patney ’13 MSBAPM, who works in information technology at VLink Inc. of South Windsor, Conn.

“The interaction between different industry leaders is what I enjoyed most,” said Patney, who attended the conference for the second year. “This type of program pulls us out of our shells and allows us to look at our businesses from a new perspective.”

Pictured: Bob Diamond, Professor Lucy Gilson, and School of Business Dean John Elliott.


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Helping Others Feels Great, Ed Satell ’57 Says During Lecture on Corporate Social Responsibility

A UConn alumnus with an impressive, decades-long record of philanthropy said helping others not only feels great, it can reap tremendous benefits for both corporations and their neighboring communities.

Ed Satell, Social Responsibility Lecture

Ed Satell ’57, and his wife, Cyma Satell, said people can either watch things happen or make them happen. The Satells prefer the latter.Continue Reading


Upperclassman Yue Zhu Wins $5,000 Scholarship

Yue ZhuYue Zhu, an upperclassman in the School of Business, has won a $5,000 scholarship from the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2, an organization that promotes international cyber security.

Zhu, who has a cumulative GPA of 3.95, said he hopes to pursue information security as a career after graduation.

“Yue is an exceptional student,” said Professor Dmitry Zhdanov, who is his academic adviser. Last year Zhu was recognized with UConn’s Outstanding MIS Junior Scholarship. He also participated in the CoMIS National Case Competition last April, in which Team UConn won the second place out of 12 colleges from around nation.

The ISC2 Foundation is an international charitable trust that aims to empower students, teachers and the general public to secure their “online life” with cybersecurity education and awareness programs and to fill society’s need for trained cybersecurity professionals.

“This is a highly prestigious scholarship in the information security field, coming from the organization which is a gold standard in information security excellence,” Zhdanov said, noting that Ryan Fried won it as a UConn student in 2012. “It is safe to say that our program is producing top-notch talent.”

Zhu grew up in China, which is still his home, but has been attending U.S. schools since the 11th grade. Although a junior, he has already accumulated enough credits to graduate.


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General Dempsey Delights Audience with Strategies for Leadership, Teamwork, Innovation–and Humility

General DempseyLead with a “servant’s soul,” always be well-informed, select persuasion over force, and strive daily to win the trust of your colleagues.

That was some of the advice offered by U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, the highest-ranking military officer in the country, during the keynote presentation at this year’s Geno Auriemma UConn Leadership Conference, sponsored by the UConn School of Business. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered lessons from his military career that carry over to the corporate world.

The theme of the two-day conference, Oct. 22 and 23 at Mohegan Sun, was leading for innovation and change. He spoke to nearly 200 entrepreneurs and business executives from Connecticut and beyond.

Dempsey began his speech discussing the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962—exactly 52 years to the day of his presentation. He discussed how President Kennedy was confronted by a series of options and had the painstaking work of determining what course to take. Eventually he decided on a blockade of Cuba, and it worked.

“You make decisions always in uncertainty. There is never enough information,” said Dempsey, who is in charge of some 2 million military personnel and is the top military adviser to the president. “You can actually paralyze yourself in the effort to get just one more piece of information. Don’t overwhelm yourself and everyone around you with too many options.”

Trust is the underpinning of all leadership, Dempsey said, and is another trait that transcends military and corporate success. He talked about an Air Force para-jumper, part of a military rescue team, who 12 times rappelled off the side of a mountain in Afghanistan, while under machine-gun fire, to rescue his fellow airmen.

“I said, ‘What were you thinking?’ and he said, truthfully, ‘I wasn’t thinking about much except “I have to go…they’re my teammates,”‘ Dempsey said to the audience, which was quiet with intrigue.

“We are the finest military in the world, not because we have the coolest equipment. And we do. Or the finest uniforms. I think the Marines have those. It’s because we trust each other. In the military, you must trust the man or woman to your left and to your right; the chain of command; the medic who is caring for you; and the pilot who will stand a helicopter on its nose in any kind of terrain, altitude and weather to get you out of there.

“As we talk about leadership and innovation… I believe innovation might make you more efficient and effective, but it won’t make your team better unless it is built on that foundation of trust,” he said.

Other key speakers during the two-day conference included Andy Bessette, executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Travelers; Bob Diamond, former chief executive of Barclays and currently founder and CEO of Atlas Merchant Capital; Manon Cox, president and CEO of Protein Sciences; Matt Fleury, president and CEO of the Connecticut Science Center; Christine Potter, vice president of Stanley Black & Decker; Karen Munson, vice president of Munson’s Chocolates; and Michael Jackson, vice president at NIKE. Many of them referenced Dempsey’s comments in their own presentations.

“The whole conference was very thought-provoking for me,” said Mike Guido, vice president for product concept development at Prudential. He described the general’s speech as inspiring and said he learned a great deal from other speakers about embracing technology. “I work in financial services and I think our industry needs to evolve and make changes. We can learn a great deal from other industries.”

Another trait of an exceptional leader is adaptability, Dempsey said, noting that U.S. Special Ops forces didn’t use high-tech strategies in the early days of the conflict in Afghanistan. Their vehicle of choice was a horse.

“Our adversaries know if they stand toe-to-toe with the U.S. military, they will be defeated,” he said. “They have become very adaptable. They are thinking organizations, as we are. If we fail to innovate, even the finest military team in the history of mankind will fail.”

Dempsey noted that businesses, like the military, face a “drive for immediacy.”

“We’ve been in an air campaign for four weeks and people are asking ‘What happened? Why is ISIS is not defeated?'” he said. “It’s mind-numbing to think that we can overcome 20 years of unrest, disenfranchisement and sectarian- and religious- conflict in four weeks of an air campaign. But that’s kind of what drives us. Decision makers have a drive for immediacy right now.” He went on to say that good business practices, like a marriage proposal, come down to making the right decision at the right time.

He went on to say that no leader can do it alone and that an effective leadership style is something to master. He talked about trying to lead with “a servant’s soul.”

When asked how he succeeds in changing people’s minds, Dempsey said he welcomes divergent opinions.

“The more trust you build the better. The best argument generally prevails. I do my homework before I make a recommendation—and I find I’m generally one of the best prepared in the room,” he said. “But interact with a sense of humility. If I said ‘I know more about this than you,’ that wouldn’t get very far in the White House.”

“I carry around with me a card. On it is written: When is it I allowed someone to change my mind about something?” he said. “If you’re dealing with people and they know you’re open minded, it is a much different conversation than if it is you trying to overwhelm them.”

The general, who will retire next September, said he could ‘bludgeon his way through’ his job, but prefers to leave behind a group of prodigies and a legacy of leadership. Adding a nod to Auriemma, who is a friend, Dempsey said, “Look at the great coaches who get great results,” he said. “They also produce other great coaches.”

Dempsey peppered his talk with personal anecdotes, including a visit from actress Angelina Jolie, which drew thousands from their Pentagon offices, and his experiences with his own Facebook page, which he said sometimes attracts some strange visitors.

But perhaps his most popular story was when he described how, as 40-year old tank battalion commander, he learned about confronting failure during a crucial exercise. Twice a year he had go to a tank range to prove his worthiness and ability to lead 500 soldiers. “Every six months someone looks you dead in the eye to see if you’ve got what it takes,” he said.

The daytime drill hadn’t gone well and to keep his commanding officer status, he had to perform almost perfectly during the nighttime exercise.

“Here I am the tank commander and I’m about to fail miserably. I was never so nervous in my life,” he said. “The sergeant major walks up to me and I expected he was going to give me a little encouragement. He said, ‘Here’s my advice. If you don’t get those points, turn that tank around and keep going. We don’t want any part of you.'”

“I think I learned more about confronting failure that day,” he said. “I passed and I never felt so good about getting a C in my entire life.”

The combination of leadership suggestions and personal stories resonated well with the audience.

Jennifer Runkle, HR manager at Electric Boat, said Dempsey’s speech was amazing. “We’re always looking for new ideas that have worked at other companies,” she said. “Even though we are part of the defense industry, we can learn from other types of businesses. It was very eye opening, very valuable.”

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