The message seems to be clear, and oft repeated. We are in a “jobless recovery.” I read and hear from all sorts of sources that jobs are scarce, especially the good jobs are scarce, and insecurity is the defining characteristic of the era.
Not too long ago, it seemed like there were plenty of jobs to go around, and people like Geoff Colvin could describe how workers could be “picky.” Here’s a passage from his book Talent Is Overrated — What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else:
Today’s best young employees, the ones on whom future success will depend, are demanding that employers help make them better performers… Organizations are finding that the advantages of building a big reputation for developing people are even greater than they may have thought. Such a reputation grants these companies a “first-pick advantage,” an edge in attracting the cream of college and business-school students.
Understand that each person in the organization is not just doing a job, but is also being stretched and grown.
This is true, of course – in an ideal world. People want jobs that stretch them, train them, help them develop into what they could be with such attention given to future building.
But this is not such an ideal world. “Panic” seems to be the response to the uncertainty. And everyone and anyone with a job wants to keep it, whether it is “helping them become better performers” or not. The uncertainty is too… uncertain.
To borrow just the title from Michael Lewis, Panic: The Story of Financial Insanity, insanity underlies our uncertainty.
So, I was thinking about all this, and realized that there is a simple way to grasp and explain what has happened. And it is demonstrated in the always reliable Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. You remember the hierarchy:
Well, I think it is obvious we have slipped down a notch or two. While just a brief time ago we were a nation looking for self-esteem and self-actualization in our work, we may be back down to physiological needs and safety needs. We need to pay the bills and survive this jobless recovery, and self-actualization will have to wait a while.
Personally, I wish we had a job-filled recovery. What about you?
Doug Caldwell, a regular participant at the First Friday Book Synopsis, linked to this post on his blog, and points us to this not-so-encouraging article about the duration of this jobless recovery: Wait Until 2017 Before Job Market Recovers, Report Says. Here’s what Doug said to do before you read this article:
If you are in a good mood or have had several adult beverages you can read this blog post sitting down that employment won’t be ‘normal’ until 2017.
Morris: Of all the non-religious works that were composed before (let’s say) the 20th century, which one of them were you most surprised to find is relevant today?
Butler-Bowdon: My personal favourite of the 19th century is Samuel Smiles’s Self-Help, published on the same day as Darwin’s The Origin of the Species in 1859. Smiles was a Scottish doctor cum journalist who had begun giving inspiring talks to working men in the north of England, drawing on many of the Victorian success stories of his time. The book is a wealth of examples of people who beat the odds and did something great with their lives, and although it is dated to the extent that he included almost no women, it is still a brilliant motivational work that deserves a bigger readership today. During his lifetime Smiles was quite famous, and it was said that many homes only had two books: the Bible and Self-Help. It was also the inspiration for Orison Swett Marden, the founder of Success magazine in the US and the author of books like Pushing to The Front.
Morris: To me, “spiritual” has always been an elusive term to define. What did you decide when selecting and then discussing the works in the 50 Spiritual Classics volume?
Butler-Bowdon: First, it was never going to be 50 Religious Classics. I was less interested in famous theologians or works of orthodoxy than whether a book had deeply moved or inspired people, whether it was written five or five hundred years ago. And I wasn’t bothered if some writings would be seen by others as sacrilegious (I wrote about a book on Wicca, for instance) or even a bit ‘trashy’. I was very keen to highlight that this has been a golden era in terms of modern spiritual writing, with books like The Celestine Prophecy, The Power of Now, Conversations With God and The Way of the Peaceful Warrior representing a new canon that lay totally outside established religion. Again, as with the previous 50 Classics books, I wanted to show that, even though many of them had been huge bestsellers, and people’s lives were being changed by these writings, they had not been given due critical recognition.
Having said this, I was also keen to cover many of the famous spiritual writings by authors such as Augustine, Teresa of Avila and Al Ghazzali. I wanted 50 Spiritual to be a treasury of inspiration covering many centuries.
Finally, my aim was to make this a spiritual book for people who don’t necessarily believe in God. The point I make is that, whether or not you believe in a divine entity, there is an unseen order that moves the universe, and that getting in tune with it provides for a magical, purposeful life. You become a vehicle for this force, helping to advance the universe in a positive way.
If you wish to read the complete interview, please contact me at email@example.com.
Also, you are invited to check out this Web site:
When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.
(Paul to Timothy, 2 Timothy 4:13)
Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library.
To a historian libraries are food, shelter, and even muse.
Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.
Every now and then, I think it is good to remind our readers what this blog is.
This is a blog by and for book readers and book lovers. And I admit that I am one of those book readers/lovers.
We occasionally just reflect on the developments of the day, or offer an opinion or two about different business issus. And we might occasionally refer to a non-business book or two. But primarily, this is a blog about business books.
Our blogging team is immersed in business books.
Karl Krayer and I (Randy Mayeux) have presented a minimum of two synopses of business books, each month, for over 11 years. You name the best seller, and we have probably read it and presented a synopsis of it. The Tipping Point; Good to Great; The Art of Innovation; Blink; Outliers; The World is Flat; Hot, Flat, and Crowded; Womenomics… – the list is long, and always growing.
Bob Morris is a frequent, frequent reviewer of business books (and a few other books) for Amazon.com, other sites, and for this blog.
And Cheryl Jensen and Sara Smith, after a significant career in the corporate world, now consult with companies, and for this blog they primarily share their insights from books related to women in business issues.
(click on the “meet our blogging team” tab at the top of this page to learn more about each member of our blogging team).
So this blog is a blog where you get the reflections of a pretty good group of book readers and book lovers. In addition, you can find many of the synopses of business books that Karl and I have presented over the years at our companion web site, with audio + handout, at 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
But primarily, this is a simple little blog. We talk about ideas – ideas that capture our imagination and make us think — from the best business books we can find. I hope you find it useful.
If you live in or near Dallas, check out our monthly gathering the First Friday Book Synopsis, always on the first Friday of the month (except for those rare holiday conflicts, when it moves to the second Friday of the month). Just click on the home page of this site, and follow the prompts to register.
I present a minimum of two new synopses each month. One, of course, is a business book for the First Friday Book Synopsis. The other is a book related to the nonprofit/poverty/social justice arena for the Urban Engagement Book Club sponsored by Central Dallas Ministries. (Companies and other groups then bring us in for longer versions of these synopses for their groups).
These two worlds occasionally overlap, and I suspect will do so more frequently as more and more people seem to be seeking deeper meaning in their work life, and thus opt for nonprofit careers.
Recently, I was asked to prepare a synopsis of the book Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine their Potential by Dan Pallotta. I presented this at the annual gathering for the Conference of Southwest Foundations. This group consists primarily of people who work for foundations, and the people/family members who set up the foundations themselves. It is a wonderful group!
Uncharitable is quite a provocative book. The author is arguing for a whole new way to approach the nonprofit questions. I mean, a really whole new way. He writes:
We give money to charity because we do want progress… Why do things seem to stay pretty much the same? Why have our cancer charities not found a cure for cancer? Why have our homeless shelters not solved the problem of homelessness? Why do children still go hungry on the streets of America? Why have the pictures of the starving children in Africa not changed in five decades?
Our system of charity doesn’t produce the results we are after because there is a flawed ideology at work.
He states that what we are now doing is simply not reaching the ultimate goal: actually eliminating problems.
There are some great success stories out there. Norman Borlaug, father of the Green Revolution, is credited with saving the lives of 1 billion people with his great discoveries/innovations in crop yields, significantly funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. And vaccines developed by Jonas Salk in 1952 and Albert Sabin in 1962 led to the virtual elimination of polio, a truly crippling disease.
So – success has been achieved in some major areas, and there is much to celebrate. But there is much more to accomplish.
Dan Pallotta believes that we can do better, and his innovative approach, in his view, would lead to far more actual victories in the battles for better lives for people all across the globe. Here is his summary of his view in table form (taken directly from his book):
For-Profit Rule Book
Nonprofit Rule Book
|Compensate according to value.
No limits on financial incentive.
Effect: attracts top talent for life
|Don’t compensate according to value
Strictly limit the use of financial incentives.
Effect: discourages top talent.
|Buy advertising until the incremental effect is zero.
Effect: Saturate the market with your offer,
build maximum demand.
|Don’t advertise unless the advertising is donated.
Dollars spent on advertising could have gone to the needy.
Effect: Minimal ability to build demand.
|Manage and reward risk.
Effect: Discover new opportunities for growth.
|Don’t take risks. Donated dollars are earmarked for programs.
Effect: Discover few opportunities for growth.
|Invest in the long-term.
Effect: Builds long-term value.
|Don’t invest in the long-term – must meet short-term “efficiency “ standards.
Effect: Institutionalizes problems.
|Unlimited permission to pay return on investment to attract capital.
Effect: Trillions of dollars of capital.
|No permission to pay return on investment to attract capital.
Effect: no surplus capital.
(table from page 42)
If you work for a nonprofit, if you contribute to nonprofits, if you follow philanthropy, this book might be one to put on your reading list. It is not without controversy, but it certainly does stretch the envelope for the way to approach some of the biggest problems facing us.
Here is a brief excerpt from my interview of Krayer. The complete interview is also available.
Morris: Of all the business books you have taught and discussed thus far, which one do you most enjoy re-reading because, each time, you continue to find something of value that you missed before?
Krayer: I believe that history will place Good to Great as the best business book ever written, perhaps as much for its rigorous methodology and its insightful discoveries. Readers need to remember that this book does not predict success, but rather, report what led certain businesses to success, based upon historical data. I really enjoy the enthusiasm that Jim Collins shared in writing the unexpected findings from his team’s research. I like to re-read those sections so that I can paraphrase them accurately to my audiences.
Morris: Given the recent proliferation of electronic reading devices such as Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s PRS, has the bound volume become an endangered species?
Krayer: Not in my view. I believe books are also symbols, and people enjoy displaying them in their homes and offices as well as carrying them around to show people what they are reading, as much as they do actually reading them. You can’t do that with these devices. I think that customers who value autographed copies and who travel to book signings to meet the author and receive a signed copy will not tolerate digital signatures sent through e-mail. I think that retail outlets that sell books have more than met the challenge, and have created experiences for customers who will continue to frequent these stores. I have posted detailed explanations of these reasons on our blog at http://ffbsccn.wordpress.comKrayer. Go to Karl’s categories. I welcome your comments if you think I am wrong. Let’s talk about it!
If you wish to read the complete interview, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently, Sue Moore of UBS Financial Services (and a regular at the First Friday Book Synopsis), sent me a link to this excellent article (click on title to read article):
The article includes a paragraph referencing Womenomics, which I recently presented at the FFBS: Here’s the paragraph:
In their recent book “Womenomics,” television journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman note that up to one-third of professional women take a breather from their careers at some point, and that MBAs are more likely than doctors or lawyers to choose to stay home with their children. The problem with this is crystallized in something Jack Welch said recently at a Society of Human Resources Management conference: that women who choose to get off the executive track are more likely to get passed over for top jobs when they are ready to return. “There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences,” Welch says.
This is damaging for the individual women, and could have a ripple effect on younger executives, Offereins (Diane Offereins, executive vice president of payment services at Discover Financial Services) fears. “I think it’s important to have women in the senior ranks because they think about hiring and promoting women,” she says.
(Our own Cheryl and Sara blogging team members gently suggested that Jack Welch should consider keeping his opinions to himself from now on. Read their post, Past Time to Retire, Jack Welch, here).
The article ends with this paragraph about a women who made it (back up) to the top, even after a four year period away from the corporate world:
One interesting newcomer to the rankings is BBVA Compass retail chief Shelaghmichael Brown. Brown was honored for smoothly integrating a string of acquisitions in the Southeast and Southwest. What we didn’t know until we interviewed her was that, after years of moving up the executive ladder, Brown left banking for four years earlier this decade to help her then-teenage sons with their studies. CEOs, boards and Jack Welch take note: Brown is proof that even after an extended hiatus, women can maintain their drive and passion, and pick up where they left off.
What shall we think about all of this? Last year was the year that women received the majority of degrees at every educational level (Associates, through all Graduate Degrees) in the U.S. Their preparation, their talent, their skills are simply too important for companies and organizations to cast them aside if they take some time off – even a few years off. The terrain is changing, and the business practices have to adjust to the new realities. These women bring too much to the table, and business needs to find a way to let their talents back in when they are ready to return.
To fail to do so is just… what’s the word I’m looking for… stupid. It’s bad for people, and it’s bad for business. It’s dehumanizing.
Here are some examples:
Disinterested is occasionally used as if it means uninterested when in fact the favored definition is unbiased and impartial.
Enervated, a phantonym of energized, in fact means weakened.
Fortuitous looks like lucky but the word really means happening by chance. It does not mean fortunate.
Penultimate does not mean untraultimate. It derives from the Latin word for almost and means next to last.
Presently does not mean now but in a little while. Currently conveys the intended meaning clearly.
Restive is “a doubly dicey term.” It does not mean restful nor restless; rather, it means stubborn, balky.
Rosenthal notes that the origin of the term out of left field has been traced to when the Chicago Cubs moved to Wrigley Field, and a mental hospital was then built on what had been left field in their previous park. Rosenthal’s son John follows baseball closely, recalling that when a pitcher from Cuba was asked the Spanish word for “fastball,” he answered “el fastball.” On the other hand, the Spanish word for “outfielder” is guardabosque. John Rosenthal points out, “It also means park ranger. I like the notion of three park rangers guarding the outfield from pesky singles, doubles, and forest fires.” Or the occasional mental patient.