I usually include ”my takeaways” at the end of my book synopsis presentations. These are the insights/challenges that I think I, and maybe others, might choose to focus on.
I liked the book. And as a life-long pessimist, I found myself thinking, maybe it’s time to be a little more optimistic.
By the way, though I did not have time during my presentation last Friday (in our short 15 minute time frame) to cover this, the book has a lot to say about Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. This week, Ray Kurzweil was interviewed/profiled on the Newshour on PBS. Now that is one a visionary, optimistic man. (Watch Paul Solman’s interview of Ray Kurzweil here).
Here are my takeaways:
• Six Takeaways:
1) Read more books that point to optimism, and actual solutions (but, not “self-help” books. Books with data, stories, “research” – books that give actual reasons for optimism). Study your way into a more optimistic outlook. (Constantly guard against your tendency to be a pessimist. Embrace optimism).
2) Broaden your inputs – broaden them greatly. – And, then, broaden your outputs.
3) Function on a team, regularly – to solve specific problems. (To solve those problems – and, to learn how to better function on a team).
4) Exercise your compassion/meaning muscles. Only “making a difference” (desiring to “change the world”) will drive the kind of work that needs to be done.
5) And – constantly guard against fighting “change.” Embrace change – including new technology. Just to get used to embracing new technology. Because it will continue to come, faster than ever, and we all need to view it not as an enemy, but as a tool to embrace…
6) And embrace, with more enthusiasm, a true “open-source” approach. (“Proprietary systems slow things down”). Learn to share.
My synopsis of Abundance, with audio + comprehensive handout, will be available e soon on our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
And, to read many of my highlighted passages from the book, read my (Some of) My Highlighted Passages/Direct Quotes from Abundance by Diamandis and Kotler.
Don Thompson is an economist and professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. He has taught at Harvard Business School and the London School of Economics. He is author of nine books, including The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art, which details his explorations in trying to understand the high end of the contemporary art market. Shark has been published in thirteen languages. His most recent book, Oracles: How Prediction Markets Turn Employees into Visionaries, was published by Harvard Business Review Press (June, 2012).
Here is an excerpt from my interview of him. To read the complete interview, please click here.
* * *
Morris: Before discussing Oracles a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?
Thompson: A dozen brilliant people I encountered in grad school (at Berkeley) and later, in universities, businesses and government. From each I learned new things, but more important, new ways of looking at problems, and how to think outside the box.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?
Thompson: My formal education included an MBA, which got me interested in problem solving, and a PhD, which furthered that interest but is also provided an essential entry point to an academic career. So the formal education part has been invaluable for my career path.
Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you when to work full-time for the first time?
Thompson: The importance of the soft skills involved in communication, motivation and managing.
Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles?
Thompson: Citizen Kane. The explanation is in the eyes and mind of the viewer.
Morris: From which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business?
Thompson: I’ll suggest two: Michael Mauboussin’s More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconventional Places (Columbia Business School Press 2008), and Cass Sunstein’s Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide (Oxford University Press, 2008). The Mauboussin book is about business, but more centrally, about making rational decisions. The Sunstein book is about how wrongheadedness gets worse when people get together in groups. Both are brilliant thinkers, I recommend anything with those names attached.
Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-Tzu’s Tao Te Ching:
“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know.”
Thompson: Right. None of us is as smart as all of us (which is also a Japanese proverb).
Morris: Next, from Voltaire: “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”
Thompson: The prediction market equivalent is probably, “If you really are afraid of the answer, don’t ask the question.”
Morris: And then, from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”
Thompson: It never occurred to me that there was another option. Probably too late now.
Morris:Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”
Thompson: That is a great quote. I once was presented with its equivalent, by a Columbia marketing professor named Al Oxenfeldt, with whom I had co-authored a couple of articles and was proposing a new topic, which I had collected a lot of data on. Al said, “If something is not worth doing, it is not worth doing well.” Quite right.
Morris:In Tom Davenport’s latest book, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” What do you think?
Thompson: That is exactly the philosophy of Jim Lavoie and Joe Marino, co-CEOs of my favorite prediction-market company, Rite-Solutions – which is the subject of the first chapter of Oracles.
* * *
To read the complete interview, please click here.
Don cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
Don’s faculty page, please click here
Amazon’s Oracles page, please click here.
Amazon’s The $12 Million Stuffed Shark page, please click here.
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”
The Lombardi remarks help to explain why Bob Vanourek and Greg Vanourek urge all leaders as well as those who aspire to become one to “chase perfection” at a time when “we live in a world that is overmanaged and underled.”
By the way, this is precisely what J. Keith Murnighan has in mind, in Do Nothing!: How to Stop Overmanaging and Become a Great Leader, when observing, ”Things are simpler when other people are in charge and you don’t have to make big decisions. Taking over as a leader means that you must depart from the comfort of the status quo, and the anxiety, fear, and uncertainty that accompany your excitement really are noxious. To avoid these feelings, people naturally fall back on what’s familiar and certain – that is, what they know how to do. Unfortunately, this can be truly counterproductive.”
Readers will appreciate the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that the Vanoureks provide, much of it based their wide and deep experience with C-level leadership worldwide as well as their interviews of leaders at 61 quite different organizations based in 11 countries. These organizations include Cisco, eBay, Google, KIPP, Xerox, and Zappos. Readers will also appreciate the provision of “Practical Applications,” an end-of-chapter section that suggests options for implementation relevant material, Chapters 1-10.
Here are some of the several dozen passages that caught my eye:
o Chapter Road Map (Pages 13-16)
o Benefits of Triple Crown Leadership (36-37)
o Chapter  Supplment: Interviewing for Heart (59-60)
o Getting Beyond [One's] Natural Leadership Style (90-92)
o Personal Breakdowns and Organizational Breakdowns (151-152 & 152-154)
o Turnaround Adaptations (176-184)
o TripleCrown Social Impact (218-226)
No brief commentary such as this can do full justice to the nature and extent of invaluable material that the Vanoureks provide in this volume. They strike me as being world-class pragmatists who have an insatiable curiosity to understand — insofar as great leadership is concerned — what works, what doesn’t, and why. They are eager, indeed obsessed to share what they have learned with as many principled, results-driven executives as they can. They immediately establish a direct and personal rapport with their reader. In fact, most of those who read this book will feel — as I did — that the book was written specifically for them.
Presumably Bob and Greg Vanourek agree with me that it would be a fool’s errand to attempt to apply everything learned. Although the core values remain the same for all organizations (i.e. Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring), it remains for each reader to select material that is most appropriate to the needs, interests, resources, and values of the given organization.
Long ago, Oscar Wilde offered excellent personal advice: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” The same is true of organizations and especially true of companies such as Cisco, eBay, Google, KIPP, Xerox, Zappos…and yours.