Here is an excerpt from an article (“Why Bezos Was Surprised by Kindle’s Success”) written by Daniel Lyons that was featured by Newsweek.com on December 21, 2009. In it, Jeff Bezos shares his thoughts about printed and digital books following the launch of Amazon’s electronic reader, the Kindle.
“The book really has had a 500-year run. It’s probably the most successful technology ever. If Gutenberg were alive today, he would recognize the physical book and know how to operate it immediately. Given how much change there has been everywhere else, what’s remarkable is how stable the book has been for so long. But no technology, not even one as elegant as the book, lasts forever.”
1. There will always be printed books but fewer of them printed on presses and in active use.
2. There will also be fewer book stores. Those that remain will be learning centers that resemble supermarkets, offering a wide range of products (both print and electronic) as well as services.
3. Off-site access to a wealth of resources will be available.
4. Instructional programs will be interactive for individuals and groups, on-site and electronically. I hope there will be strategic alliances between and among the learning centers, schools, colleges, universities, and public libraries.
5. Eventually, few printed books will be produced in substantial numbers; most will be printed per specification on request. For example, anthologies of favorite poems, short stories, excerpts from novels, chapters from textbooks, scenes from plays, etc.
The wine press that inspired Gutenberg to devise the printing press has since given way to various technologies but wine presses remain. The same will be true of printed books.
My greater concern, frankly, is the number of adults in the U.S. who cannot read and, especially, the percentage of high school graduates who are functional illiterates. Last I heard, it is estimated to be about 35%. Too many college athletes can autograph a football or basketball…but can’t read it.
One man’s opinion.
To read the complete article, please click here.
Note: I recently re-read this book while formulating questions fir an interview of its co-authors and found it even more relevant now than I did when first reading it. The material provides a “yellow brick road” to follow, one that leads to individual as well as organizational accountability of the highest order and greatest impact.
In this revised and updated edition of a book first published in 1994, the co-authors share with their reader what they have learned since their book was first published. Then and now, their objectives are the same: “…to help people become more accountable for their thoughts, feelings, actions, and results; and so that they can move their organizations to even greater heights. And, as they move along this always difficult and often frightening path, we hope that they, like Dorothy and her companions, discover that they really do possess the skills they need to do whatever their hearts desire.”
In this volume, Connors, Smith, and Hickman invoke once again a core concept of a “Line” below which many (most?) people live much (most?) of the time. Theirs is the attitude of victimization: They get stuck on a “yellow brick road” by blaming others for their circumstances; they wait for “wizards” to wave their magic wands; and they expect all of their problems to disappear through little (if any) effort of their own.
What to do? Connors, Smith, and Hickman explain (step-by-step) how to Live Above the Line by assuming much greater accountability for whatever results one may desire. This can be achieved through a four-step process:
See It: Recognize and acknowledge the full reality of a situation
Own It: Accept full responsibility for one’s current experiences and realities as well as others’
Solve It: Change those realities by finding and implementing solutions to problems (often solutions not previously considered) while avoiding the “trap” of dropping back Below the Line when obstacles present themselves
Do It: Summon the commitment and courage to follow through with the solutions identified, especially when there is great risk in doing so
How easy it is to summarize this four-step process…and how difficult it is to follow it to a satisfactory conclusion. (When composing brief commentaries such as this, I always fear trivializing important points.) Connors, Smith, and Hickman have absolutely no illusions about the barriers, threats, and challenges that await those who embark on this “journey” to accountability.
As they indicate in this new edition of their book, they have accumulated a wealth of information during the past decade which both illustrates and reconfirms the importance of making a personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and assume the ownership of what is required to achieve desired results. This is precisely what Theodore Roosevelt had in mind when praising “the man in the arena” and what W.E. Henley asserts in the final stanza of “Invictus”:
“It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”
Organizations are human communities within which everyone involved must somehow balance personal obligations to themselves with obligations to others. For me, the interdependence of these obligations best illustrates the importance of the Oz Principle: “Accountability for results at the very core of continuous improvement, innovation, customer satisfaction, team performance, talent development and corporate governance movements so popular today.” Connors, Smith, and Hickman go on to observe, “Interestingly, the essence of these programs boils down to getting people to rise above their circumstances and do whatever it takes (of course, within the bounds of ethical behavior) to get the results they want,” not only for themselves but also for everyone else involved in the given enterprise.
Connors, Smith, and Hickman cite Winston Churchill’s admonition, “First we shape our structures, and then our structures shape us.” Were the Steps to Accountability easy to take, if everyone lived and labored Above the Line, there would be no need for this book. There is much of value to be learned from L. Frank Baum’s account of the perilous journey which Dorothy and her companions share. What they finally realized — and so must we — is that, to paraphrase Pogo, “We have met the Wizard and he is us.”
John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist focused on the genes involved in human brain development and the genetics of psychiatric disorders. He has spent most of his professional life as a private research consultant, working primarily in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries on research related to mental health. He holds joint affiliate faculty appointments at the University of Washington School of Medicine, in its Department of Bioengineering, and at Seattle Pacific University, where he is the director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research.
Medina was the founding director of the Talaris Research Institute, a Seattle-based research center originally focused on how infants encode and process information at the cognitive, cellular, and molecular levels. In 2004, Medina was appointed to the rank of affiliate scholar at the National Academy of Engineering. He has been named Outstanding Faculty of the Year at the College of Engineering at the University of Washington; the Merrill Dow/Continuing Medical Education National Teacher of the Year; and, twice, the Bioengineering Student Association Teacher of the Year. Medina has been a consultant to the Education Commission of the States and a regular speaker on the relationship between neurology and education. Medina’s books include: Brain Rules (Pear Press), Brain Rules for Baby (Pear Press), The Genetic Inferno, The Clock of Ages, Depression, What You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s, The Outer Limits of Life, Uncovering the Mystery of AIDS, and Of Serotonin, Dopamine and Antipsychotic Medications.
Morris: Before discussing Brain Rules, a few general questions. First, when and why did you first recognize the relevance of your formal education in the natural sciences to improving the quality of human life “at work, home, and school”?
Medina: The “when” was essentially immediate. My specialty is understanding the genetics of psychiatric disorders. The relevance is immediate simply because of the nature of the topic. Whether at work, home or school, everybody carries their brain around them, and if the organ suffers from a disorder, we carry the disorder around with us too.
The “why” was also immediate, but encased a straight-up morality argument. I was being funded with federal money – that means taxpayer money, your money. I felt like I owed it not only to tell you what we were doing – you were paying my paycheck, after all, but to try to it relevant to real life. It helps that I have spent the bulk of my research life as a private consultant, mostly to biotech and pharmaceutical. They deal with very practical questions, too.
Morris: Charles Darwin has much of value to say about the necessity of being adaptable to environment changes. In your opinion, why are so many people unwilling and/or unable to do that, or at least do that effectively?
Medina: The brain doesn’t care about change. As the world’s most sophisticated survival organ, the brain cares about loss. Change often involves loss, so change can be a risky experience.
This may have deep biological roots. Our ability to adapt came from our East African birthplace, a meteorologically unstable place. If you couldn’t adapt, you’d be dead. But once you’ve found a solution, there is no need to continue the adaptive behavioral parrying, which is bioenergetically very expensive to maintain. We are built to find answers, then hang on to them as long as we can.
Morris: In my opinion, the greatest leaders throughout history transformed the status quo in one form or another. In this sense, they were revolutionaries rather than evolutionaries. What are your own thoughts about this?
Medina: I would disagree, at least if you are talking about science. Historically very few discoveries were made out of thin air. Most of the greatest insights depended upon the intellectual ecology in which the scientists lived. A certain critical mass of “new findings” occurred, and bright people all over the world found out about it, and several read the tea leaves the same way. There’s an independent eureka moment for each of these bright guys, but it came because the environment suggested it, however subtly. I like the quote attributed to Newton “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. “
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
John Medina cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
Here is another valuable Management Tip of the Day from Harvard Business Review. To sign up for a free subscription, to any/all HBR newsletters, please click here.
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Handing off projects is essential in today’s fast-paced work world.
But, it can be a nerve-wracking task. Does the new person understand what needs to get done? Will she follow through on what she’s promised to do? Whether you are asking a peer or a subordinate to take over for you, use a checklist to be sure you are both on the same page. Include questions such as, “What do you understand the priorities to be?” and “What do you need from me to be successful?”
The five minutes it takes you to go through this checklist ensures mutual understanding, saves you both time, and reduces the chance of mistakes.
Today’s Management Tip was adapted from “The Secret to Ensuring Follow-Through” by Peter Bregman.
To read the full post and join the discussion, please click here.