First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Small is Beautiful — You Really Do Need a Small Decision-Making Team/Group

How big is the team – the group?

How much power do they have to make decisions?

Those are key questions these days. We’re in an era of fast decision-making. Slow decision-making can leave you behind – way behind. Your dominant, successful product or service is threatened – now. It does not matter if you have provided a preferred product/service for decades, or just a handful of years (months?). Today, every successful company is threatened.

Is there anyone left who has not observed the turmoil of the “personal transportation” industry? Taxis are threatened in city after city by Uber. And now, by others.

(That, by the way, is also interesting. When one “disruptive” competitor comes along, and begins to have success, another, and then another, will come along very quickly).

So, traditional taxis are threatened, and they’ve been around much longer than my entire lifetime.

But so are shorter-lived companies and services. Consider social media websites – site after site. About the time I get used to Facebook, or Twitter, I read that more and more people are spending more of their social media time on newer sites. At this moment, Instagram seems to be getting bigger by the week. And, it is possible that I am so not with it that Instragram may already be the wrong illustration to use.

(Please, God, do not let anyone begin to compete too seriously with LinkedIn. I’m just barely learning how to use it effectively. And, yes, I’d be glad to connect with you. Send me an invitation. Here’s my profile.).

So… the temptation, the tendency, the big-time-mistake of spending a huge chunk of time and resources on a product or service that is already in trouble to the new kid on the block has never been quite the problem before as it is today.

Just this week, I’ve read about the threat to print media (read this excellent New York Magazine article about Time’s travails), the hyper-competitiveness of Uber, the trouble of Sears, the prediction that Chipotle and its offspring will ultimately spell the doom of traditional fast food outlets… It is a tough time.

So, back to the opening two sentences.

How big is the team – the group?
How much power do they have to make decisions?

I still remember the time that I heard a venture capitalist state things so very simply. “You’ve go to have a product or service that people will pay for.” My friend, Dan Weston, always reminds me to add the phrase “and one you can make a profit from.”

It all starts at the top left circle

It all starts at the top left circle

Deciding if you are still making the right product, or providing the right service, is critical. Thus, making decisions is critical. And these days, those decisions have to be made faster than ever before. You may have to (likely will have to) shift now. Right now. Really, really, really quickly.

If your decision-making entity is too big – too many people – you will be genuinely handicapped.

In the article The Quirks of Smallness by Joe Pinsker (The Atlantic), the idea is this: smaller is better. Here are two key paragraphs (I’ve bolded a key phrase):

The priority of smallness seems to be key in building a board that can make smart decisions quickly—and this is echoed in research done on the optimal size of teams, too.
A writer for Fortune magazine was bold enough to suggest in 2006 that there is an “optimal” number for a group: 4.6. Aside from the obvious logistical problem of determining whether to include the arms or the legs of that marginal six-tenths of a person, sticking to a cut-and-dried number of people for all groups would be absurd, given the variety of projects out there. That said, smallness generally appears to be a trusty organizing principle.

No matter what your business, you are in the decision-making business. Too big a decision-making group, and you are going to be seriously handicapped. Build a good, sharp, reliable, small group. It looks like it should be 5, or fewer. Make sure they have the information they need. Empower them to actually make decisions. Then, they have to make those decisions. Quickly. And, then, the larger team has to execute, implementing those decisions.

So how big is your decision-making group?

Thursday, August 28, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Carmine Gallo on Talking Like TED: A third interview by Bob Morris

GalloA global best-selling author, Carmine Gallo is also a former reporter and anchor for CNN and CBS. He has sat down with many of the most dynamic and respected business leaders of our time. In these interviews, Carmine gained insight into what makes a great leader. Great leaders are also great communicators. He formed Gallo Communications with the mission of helping business leaders discover and apply the untapped power of effective communications. Communications comprise a multi-faceted art form. From internal relationships to press conferences, from rallying investors to counseling employees, from inspiring greatness to managing crisis, managers need to educate, motivate, and persuade much more effectively than many (most?) of them do now. Gallo Communications prepares business leaders for these make it-or-break it challenges.

His published books include The Apple Experience: Secrets to building insanely great customer loyalty, The Power of foursquare: 7 Innovative Ways to Get Your Customers to Check In Wherever They Are, The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, Fire Them Up! 7 Simple Secrets to Inspire Colleagues, Customers, and Clients, and 10 Simple Secrets of the World’s Greatest Business Communicators: How you too can learn the presentation secrets behind today’s greatest CEOs. His latest book is Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, published by St. Martin’s Press (March 2014).

Here is an excerpt from my third interview of Carmen. To read the complete interview, please cklick here.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write Talk Like TED?

Gallo: After the success of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, I was looking for another communicator to profile. It was very difficult to find one person—well known around the world—who had the complete package of presentation and business communication skills. I expanded my thinking and realized that TED, the famous conference that’s become a hit around the world, is popular because it showcases the world’s best speakers and communicators. I’ve also been asked to work with people who have given TED talks and so it wasn’t much of a stretch. The fun part was studying the neuroscience behind persuasion and discovering why 18-minute TED talks work so well.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.

Gallo: There are many revelations. For example, 18 minutes is quite possibly the ideal amount of time to deliver a presentation. Through trial and error the TED organizers discovered early on that 18 minutes is long enough to have a serious discussion and short enough to keep people’s attention. Now think about all of the great speeches that have moved us a nation — they’re all under 18 minutes: Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford, Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream,” and JFK’s inaugural. Also, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg launched a national movement to Lean In with a TED talk that lasted 15 minutes. A lot can happen in under 18 minutes!

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

Gallo: It’s more inspiring than I thought it would be. I set out to do a tactical book on how to deliver better presentations. The content of the presentations was so inspiring, however, the content also made me a better person and a better leader. The book took on a new life as I focused on inspiring my readers as well as giving them strategies and techniques they could use. Today most of the feedback I receive indicates that readers really are inspired by the book to lead better lives and to fulfill their potential. It’s very gratifying.

Morris: How do you explain TED‘s success since it was founded by Richard Saul Wurman in 1984?

Gallo: 18 minutes! Seriously, people want to be inspired and to learn something valuable in a short amount of time. That’s a big part of it. Of course, the year 2006 is also very important to TED‘s popularity. That’s when TED began to post its videos for free to share the insights. It became a global hit and today TED videos have been viewed 2 billion times. Humans are natural explorers. We’re curious. We crave learning new things — that’s why one of the book’s sections is called “novelty.” People cannot ignore something new and novel. Teach people something stunning in 18 minutes and put it online for free — that’s a winning formula.

Morris: The title of the book’s Introduction suggests that “Ideas Are the Currency of the Twenty-First Century.” What specifically does that mean?

Gallo: In the information age, the knowledge economy, we are only as successful as the ideas we have to share. If I can’t package my ideas in a way that grabs your attention and inspires you to take action on those ideas, then what does it matter? My ideas are my currency, a form of trade. I trade you my ideas for a salary, an investment, etc. I benefit monetarily from the exchange of my ideas.

Morris: What are some of the most common misconceptions about what great public speaking is…and isn’t.

Gallo: Public speaking is more than just grand oratory giving a speech in a front of a lot of people. Delivering an effective PowerPoint to a potential customer is “public speaking,” as is a job interview or a business pitch over coffee at Starbucks. We all need to improve at public speaking whether or not we ever give a formal “speech.”

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

Carmine cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

His website link

Gallo Communications link

Thursday, August 28, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easy; Convenient; FAST! – Whole Foods Will No Longer Accept Personal Checks; Checks Slow Things Down

“By accepting only electronic payments and cash, we will reduce wait times in line.”
Lindsay Robison, Whole Foods spokesperson based in Austin (read article here)


A short history – My personal history of paying for groceries…

c. 1961 – Harlingen, Texas — My mother bought groceries at Winn Dixie (I think), paying for the groceries with a counter check; no identification required

c. 1967 – Combes, Texas — My mother would send me to Tucker’s Grocery Store during the week, “in between the big grocery shopping” – I bought the needed items, and signed a ticket. Once a month, Tucker’s would send a bill, and my mother would write a check

Tucker's Grocery; the building is still standing; the grocery store closed  apparently long ago

Tucker’s Grocery; the building is still standing; the grocery store closed apparently long ago

c. 1981 – Dallas, Texas – My wife or I would pay for groceries with a personal l check – Driver’s License had to be shown

c. 2011 – Richardson, Texas – I started ”checking myself out,” paying with my credit/debit card, in the self check out line at Kroger (for the record, I hate checking myself out!)

c. 2014 – Dallas, Texas – Whole Foods announces it will no longer accept no more checks accepted for grocers

c. I don’t remember the year, sorry — the cashiers went from entering each item’s price on the cash register to scanning items


A few observations:

Today, for all customer derive, with any store, anya nd everywhere, it has to be easy and convenient to check out. Easy and convenient. And FAST! That’s increasingly the name of the game.

No more personal checks. It’s ok – I haven’t written one in quite some time at any store. Just another reminder that technology is changing things — lots of things.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Francis Got It Right 54 Years Ago


Perhaps some advice is time-sensitive, and others are timeless.

FrancesPicture1Frances Book CoverI found this to be the case when reading Arlene Francis‘ epic that she published in 1960 entitled That Certain Something:  The Magic of Charm (New York:  Messner, 1960).

If you are not familiar with Arlene Francis, you can read a great biography about her by clicking here.  She was married to television producer and director Martin Gabel.  For many years, she had a radio program in New York City, starred in movies and Broadway plays, and was a staple panelist on the Sunday night CBS television game show, “What’s My Line?”  She was idolized by many Americans, and represented the best in refined taste and culture.

I watched that game show every Sunday night, live at 10:30 p.m. CST.  In the picture below,  you see Francis (L), with panelists Bennett Cerf, Dorothy Kilgallen, and moderator John Charles Daly.   Francis was also a panelist on the syndicated version of the show which lasted through the mid-70’s.




But, this book is about charm.   To Francis, “genuine charm is an unmotivated interest in others” (p. 13).

These are profound lessons from the book:

The more you try to analyze the elements of charm, the more you come to realize that it is a reflection of the entire person” (p. 21).

There is charm in courage – there is only failure in fright” (p. 33).

If you become interested in the person you are talking to, you automatically begin an Operation Bootstrap which lifts both of you up and out of boredom.  Both of you become more charming, and charm is a mutually generating thing” (p. 45).

Charm on your shoulder will get you a lot further than a chip on your shoulder” (p. 77).

Charm begins at home – but it never stops wherever you go” (p. 131).

In Chapter 15, she gives twenty shortcuts to charm:

1.  Get up happy.

2.  Get organized.

3. Make sure you’re well groomed.

4. Face the day without fear.

5.  Forget past recriminations.

6. Do one special thing for someone else as a surprise.

7. Be a Sunday specialist – in just one subject.

8. Break down your work into small bits.

9. Do one thing a day to make your home more pleasant.

10. Wipe out one prejudice a day.

11. Force yourself to do one thing you’ve been embarrassed to do in the past.

12. Read something worthwhile for at least fifteen minutes each day.

13. Think about someone you dislike – and wish him well even if it kills you.

14. Practice looking at a person directly in the eye and concentrate wholly on what he is saying.

15. Spend five minutes analyzing your guilts and fears and check them for reality.

16. Clean up one job that you’ve been putting off doing for a long time.

17. Have faith in a power beyond yourself.

18. Resolve to hold your temper completely for just one day only.

19. Practice laughing at your own mistakes.

20. Practice forgetting yourself completely.

The book even ends with a “charmometer,” where you can take a series of questions and determine where you stand.

As you suspect, this book is long out of print.  If this blog interests you, you can obtain the book from third-party sellers.  Unused, mint-condition editions sell for as much as $450 each.  I got mine for $14.95.  Its cover is worn and its pages are yellowed.

However, that’s not very important is it?  I can still read the words, then close my eyes, hear her voice, and imagine I am right there listening to her tell the story about charm.

Maybe no one ever did it better.



Monday, August 25, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Get the Little Things Right, (Maybe the Little Things are Big Things), and You’ll be a Better Speaker

In the last week, I’ve heard two good speakers. One of them was introducing a new facility in a major non-profit. The room was not built for speaking acoustics. But he adapted well, and did a very good job.

The other one was in a traditional setting — church. It was the Sunday sermon. It was the first time I heard her preach, and she was excellent.

What are the little things, and the big things, that of these speakers did right.

#1 – They each spoke loudly and clearly – pronouncing their words fully. In other words, that was no difficulty in understanding them. You won’t believe how many speakers mumble, making it very difficult to understand their words. This is a deal breaker. If people can not understand your words, you will not be an effective speaker. The one speaking in the “not built for speaking” room had a bigger challenge – and he raised his volume appropriately. (There was no microphone), Very effective.

#2 – They each spoke with vocal variety and verbal punch – no hint of a monotone. I heard another speaker recently. Every word sounded exactly the same. I was bored in an instant. (No, I won’t tell you where I heard this speaker). Monotone speaking = bored, tuned out audience.

Never speak in a monotone.

#3 – They each used their entire bodies effectively, with plenty of facial expressions and gestures. And, the gestures were not all the same. They turned to each part of the room with balanced-room eye contact. They each had great eye contact. They had energy in their presentations.

#4 – They each were well prepared, and had important and substantive things to say. Good speaking really does boil down to this: have something to say, and then say it very well. They each did this.

Little things – good, well-developed content; preparation; vocal variety and using your face and body effectively. These are the ingredients for effective speaking. Maybe these are not “little things” after all.

Oh, and one bit of “coaching.” In the non-profit facility, there were audience questions after the presentation. He did a good job answering the questions, but he did not do this – ALWAYS do this – repeat the question for your audience. An audience member-asked question is not always clearly heard. So, don’t forget to repeat the question for the entire audience.


Here are a few additional posts to help you think more fully about some of these speaking elements.

2 Ways to Guarantee a Failed Presentation

Don’t Mumble – Your Communication Tip of the Day (One Reason why Todd Bradley is not the CEO of HP)

and, this one has links to a number of additional posts on effective speaking

Here Are A Number of My Blog Posts Dealing with Speaking/Presentation and Communication Issues – (frequently updated)

Monday, August 25, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

The Talent Masters: A book review by Bob Morris

Talent MastersThe Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers
Bill Conaty and Ram Charan
Crown Business (2010)

How to develop “robust talent pipelines and same-day succession plans”

I agree with Bill Conaty and Ram Charan that Steve Jobs is the archetypical “talent master.” Few others possess his combination of intelligence, temperament, energy, and determination (indeed tenacity) when the objective is to sustain generation of what Jobs characterizes as “insanely great ideas,” then dominate markets with the products those ideas suggest.

However, all of us can be “more like Steve” if we are willing to become more astute in terms of (a) identifying a person’s talent more precisely than can most other people by observing and listening; (b) strengthen our abilities through constant and intense practice; (c) make better judgments by mastering what Roger Martin characterizes as integrative thinking: “the predisposition and the capacity to hold two [or more] diametrically opposed ideas” in his head and then “without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or the other” to “produce a synthesis that is superior to either opposing idea”; and (d) master, also, their people skills when involved in various social processes and interactions.

Whereas Steve Jobs is the archetypical “talent master,” General Electric is the archetypical “talent master” organization. “When a valued leader does leave the fold – even one who may seem indispensable at the moment – the people in charge know what to do. They understand the business, know the candidates’ strengths and development needs [not weaknesses], and are well prepared to fill the slot with the right match quickly – even in a matter of hours. The goal is clear: no pause, no time for people to commiserate, no laxity in decision making, and no opportunity for the competition to poach talent.”

Conaty and Charan provide an excellent example. “When Larry Johnston resigned [to become CEO of Albertson's], GE set itself a new record for speed, naming his successor and three others down the line in half a day and announcing the changes before the day was over. That performance has been the model to shoot for ever since. GE does not allow a top leadership vacuum to exist, even for a day.” The institutional response to Johnston’s unexpected resignation was possible only because GE had (and continues to have) “robust talent pipelines and same-day succession plans” in place and operational. The rapid response also demonstrates “the strength and power of the GE system of talent mastery, one centered on the Session C system.

Robust talent pipelines, C Sessions, and same-day succession plans are worthless without people who know how to make the most effective use of them. The development of talent therefore requires the mastery of skills needed to sustain that development. The ever-practical Conaty and Charan identify five specific organizational How-To’s:

1. Get all senior leaders centrally engaged in talent recognition and selection
2. Hire for demonstrated leadership, not just for credentials
3. Learn as much as possible about values and behavior before hiring
4. Be humble enough to hire “outsiders” but ensure cultural assimilation
5. Be totally honest about who has greatest leadership potential

They also identify five specific How-To’s for the individual:

1. Make talent development an obsession
2. Drill down deep to the specifics of each person’s talents and potentiality
3. Give frequent, honest, and specific feedback
4. Make talent development a core competency with strict accountability
5. Provide intellectual challenges and opportunities for continuous personal growth and professional development

I presume to suggest that an extended metaphor, “gardening,” is instructive in this context: establish a culture of rich “soil” that has sufficient sunlight and moisture; plant the best “seeds” and then nourish them; prune, relocate, or remove one or more, if necessary; and meanwhile protect the garden as “plant” growth continues.

Talent is a resource, an asset, not a title or position. Most knowledge transfers in any workplace occur informally during interactions between and among those involved. To varying degree, each person should be both a “teacher” and a “student.” That is why this book can be immensely valuable to those who have supervisory responsibilities as well as to those entrusted to their care.

Sunday, August 24, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Trust is Lost – Reflections on the Bank of America, and Fareed Zakaria’s Plagiarism

“I have a strong feeling that a young reporter is entitled to one mistake and to have the holy bejeezus scared out of her to never do it again.”
Nina Totenberg, reflecting on the time she was fired for plagiarism as a 28-year-old reporter

(Quoted by King Kaufman, who concluded with this:
If it’s a cardinal sin, after all, one strike is plenty. We talked recently around here about how, as a journalist, your credibility is a finite resource. Once you’ve squandered it, it’s gone for good.)


I think it’s time for some bank leaders, and writers, and others to have “the holy bejeezus scared out of them…”

Here’s the thing. The world works best when we can trust each other. When we can’t, the world does not quite work in the right way.

Every day, people have to assume that they can trust the people they deal with.

I put gasoline into my car, and trust that what goes into my car is the mix that should go in my car. People ask another human being to cut them open – yes, to cut their bodies open – for their own good. These surgical incisions are to be made by a trained surgeon. You don’t ask a guy on the street to cut you open. You trust that the surgeon has in fact been adequately trained, and wants the best for you. Surgeons cut to help, not cut to harm. And, you trust them enough to let them perform their surgery on your body.

Trust matters!

Speed of TrustIn the Stephen M. R. Covey book The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything (Karl Krayer presented his synopsis of this book at our First Friday Book Synopsis), we learn that when trust is high – close to “total trust” – then business can be done much more quickly, with great confidence in the trustworthiness of all parties involved. The absence of trust slows eveything down. Yes, it does indeed.

We even trust our systems of regulations to keep us all trustworthy – worthy of trust. To keep us honest. There are weights and measures, and examinations, and tests, and degrees, all saying “you can trust this product; and, you can trust that this person was trained, and passed the tests to indicate that in fact he/she has been adequately trained.” I can eat meat with confidence that the meat is safe to eat, partly because our government inspects the meat we eat.

(Question: for those who want a pure market economy, with no regulations; no inspections. Would you like to eat hamburgers in a world with no meat inspectors conducting their inspections? Or, would you like to gather in buildings in a world with no building inspections?)…

But, I’m having a little trouble trusting these days.

Some of the biggest banks are paying out billions of dollars because what they did was a violation of the trust we placed in them. They have been found out. And, now, why should I trust them moving forward?

That is the question, isn’t it?

Expectations of trust permeate all of our society, and when it is violated, the entire foundation of our society is in jeopardy.

So, what prompted this post, at this time? I guess these two items, this week.

Bank of America has been hit with a $16.65 billion settlement for its… its… dishonesty, its behavior that was utterly untrustworthy. (Read about this here).

And, though far less visible, and with fewer negative consequences, this item. Fareed Zakaria apparently plagiarized a chunk of his book The Post-American World: Release 2.0. ( I read the frist version of this book, and presented my synopsis at our monthly event. Read about the plagiarism accusations here).

I’ve been an appreciative reader and viewer af Fareed Zakaria for years — and I am bummed; actually just a little angry; and feeling very let down by this news. I’ve read the article, with its tangible, specific examples of his plagiarism. It looks pretty damning.

(And, this is not the first time this accusation has hit Mr. Zakaria. He had already acknowledged earlier charges, with an “explanation.” I should have doubted his integrity more strongly then; now, with this further example… well, as I said, I’m pretty bummed about this).

Here’s the thing. I read books; I present synopses of books; I quote books. I always give credit to authors – I always identify my sources. (Just peruse my blog posts, and I think you will see this).

But when I read a book, there is an unspoken “given.” The author is saying, “I wrote this book. These are my words. You can trust my integrity.” If that has been violated, then trust is pretty much destroyed.

We need people, and companies, and banks, and authors to be trustworthy. I don’t have time to conduct all of my own inspections. I want to trust that people are trustworthy.

Aristotle referred to ethos (in persuasion). Ethos has to do with credibility. It’s as though every audience member says to every speaker, “Can I trust you?” And, the speaker says “yes!” And that yes is true; reliable – that speaker can be trusted. (Read this post: Does Your Audience Find You Trustworthy? – 4 Components of Ethos).

Quintilian once defined the rhetorician as “the good man speaking well.” That’s the kind of world we all want to live in. Every bank, every product, every service is provided by a good man or woman doing their job well — honestly. We know that we can trust them.

The loss of trust, and the subsequent lack of trust, can be utterly devastating to a society.

And, I really think we have to blame the leaders of our banks, our companies. Somebody at Bank of America closed their eyes (“willful blindness”). So, why should we trust them now?


An illustration of the speed of trust:

Just how “fast” is the speed of trust? I spend some time deciding which books I will actually purchase, and read fully. But, if the right person says “this is a must read,” I simply buy it and get started. Sometimes, that person may not be a person I know personally, but I know enough about them that I know I can trust their recommendation.

So, when I read that Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both recommended Business Adventures by John Brooks (Mr. Buffet called it the best business book he had ever read), I bought it, started reading it, and will present my synopsis of the book at the September 5 First Friday Book Synopsis. It is a very good book!

Read my post about this: Bill Gates asked Warren Buffett What His Favorite Business Book Was; Mr. Buffett Had an Answer – Do You Have an Answer to that Question?

Saturday, August 23, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Some Thoughts Prompted by the book NAFTA and the Politics of Labor Transnationalism by Tamara Kay

I’m just the book reader – the book guy.

NAFTA book coverYesterday, at the Urban Engagement Book Club for CitySquare, I presented a synopsis of this book: NAFTA and the Politics of Labor Transnationalism (Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics), Cambridge University Press, 2011, by Tamara Kay

I present synopses of business books every month (at the First Friday Book Synopsis), and books on social justice and poverty issues for the Urban Engagement Book Club. I choose “by myself” (with input from many people, and places) the books to read for the First Friday Book Synopsis, but a group of three of us (Larry James and Gerald Britt, from CitySquare, and…me) make the selections for the Urban Engagement Book Club.

This is a great learning experience for me. I certainly read some books I would have never discovered on my own. But, sometimes, the books feel pretty “foreign” to me. Meaning, they represent an issue, and an academic discipline, that is truly new to me. Like I said, I’m just the book guy – the book reader.

This book was one of those books. Am I glad I read it? Yes. But, it is not a “for a popular audience” book. It’s an in-depth look at labor issues leading up to and after the passage of NAFTA:

The North American Free Trade Agreement is an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States, creating a trilateral rules-based trade bloc in North America. The agreement came into force on January 1, 1994. It superseded the Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Canada.

Here are a few excerpts from the book (I put one excerpt in bold; especially important):

NAFTA – the concrete embodiment of globalization in North America – had the unanticipated consequence of catalyzing labor transnationalism, defined as ongoing cooperative and collaborative relationships among Mexican, U.S., and Canadian unions and union federations.

…new ties of cooperation and networks of protest.

…and chip away at racist attitudes against Mexicans and immigrants that permeated their organizations.

To summarize my argument, transnational political opportunity structures emerge from transnational institutional fields that create spaces where activists come together, mobilize, and develop their interests and identities in relationship to each other.

One of NAFTA’s most enduring lessons is that, in an era of globalization, drawing sharp distinctions between the local and the global becomes increasingly anachronistic. 

The facts are these: immigrants are not the cause of America’s declining wages and the export of good jobs overseas. Immigrants are not responsible for the “downsizing” that is sweeping through many U.S. industries and throwing millions of Americans out of work. And immigrants cannot be blamed for the fraying of the country’s social fabric that so many Americans perceive with uneasiness and alarm.

Labor transnationalism in North America is in its initial stages. 

Here are some thoughts that I included in my handout:

1) Laborers are going to have to work together, for what matters to all laborers.
2) The “cross-border” differences will have to be overcome as fully as possible.
3) Over the long haul, building effective labor transnationalism will be a slow process. But, it will be better than continuing division based on racism, mistrust, and lack of cooperation. Surprisingly, Labor’s response to NAFTA has helped accomplish this, to a great extent.

And, the book includes this:

The NAALC {The North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC) established eleven “guiding principles” each signatory agreed to promote:

#1 – freedom of association and protection of the right to organize
#2 – the right to bargain collectively
#3 – the right to strike
#4 – prohibition of forced labor
#5 – labor protections for children and young persons
#6 – minimum employment standards
#7 – elimination of employment discrimination
#8 – equal pay for women and men
#9 – prevention of occupational injuries and illnesses
#10 – compensation in cases of occupational injuries and illnesses
#11 – protection of migrant workers.

The book provided a great catalyst for a discussion of: workers’ needs, workers’ safety, workers’ rights; the ripple effects on labor of globalization, especially as seen through NAFTA. And, I really do think the issue of how workers are treated, and how transnationalism impacts the environment, are important issues.

This was a helpful discussion. I’m glad the book was on the list for this year…

Friday, August 22, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

I Keep Putting it Off – I Really Need to Quit Putting it Off

I'm going to stop putting things off-starting tomorrow.Do you have this problem? You put things off.

I do…

Things that need to be done; skills that need to be developed; conversations that you need to have… You just keep putting things off…

Maybe you really do have too much on your plate. But, even so, you are putting some things off that you really need to get to, aren’t you?

Or, maybe you haven’t figured out just what to do. (Read Getting Things Done by David Allen. (Or, check out my synopsis of that very good book. See below). Compile a full inventory of everything you need to do. Go to work on getting better at knowing what all to do.

Or, maybe you are just a lazy person — and, to some extent, we all are (read this blog post, prompted by M. Scott Peck’s classic, The Road Less Traveled: “Life is difficult; don’t be lazy” – 2 great lessons from M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled, maybe the best book I have ever read), If so, quit being so lazy. Just get to it!

Whatever the reason you have for putting things off, it’s really time to do something about it…Now, Not Later

May I make a suggestion?!

Schedule time to create a list of “stuff I keep putting off.”
Update the list regularly.
Tackle one at a time – clear out the list.
Repeat the process regularly

Stop putting things off!!!


A couple of specifics…

#1 – Skill Development to Stop Putting Off

I now have a Safari bookmark on my iPad. I call it my “skills I need to work on” bookmark. The links are to articles, and videos – lots of videos – to help me develop skills. I tackle one or more links each week (and, I add new ones each week).

I’m slowly learning how to do a few things I did not know how to do.

Let me recommend that you set a similar bookmark, and carve out some time each week to work on new skill development.

#2 – Book “Encounters” to Stop Putting Off

I have read all of these books, and many more -- but never enough!

I have read all of these books, and many more — but never enough!

Are any of these in your “I really should have read this by now” stack?

Steve Jobs
Lean In
The Second Machine Age
Think Like a Freak
Flash Boys
David and Goliath
(and, so many more…)

I do know how long it takes to read a book. Yes, I do… But, if you have a stack of books you’ve still never gotten around to finishing (some, even starting), may I recommend that you try out our book synopses at

15 Minute Business Books

With the audio recordings of our presentations from the First Friday Book Synopsis (we’ve been doing these, every month, since April, 1998), plus our multi-page comprehensive handouts, you really can learn enough from these books to find something useful. I’ve presented a synopsis of each of the books listed above, and many, many more.  And, my colleague, Karl Krayer, has presented synopses of many other titles.  These synopses are available at our web site.

(Of course, it would be better if you actually read the books. …But, you haven’t yet, have you?)

You can pop these recordings into your SmartPhone, and listen while you commute, or jog, or mow the lawn… Each one is about 15-17 minutes long.

Give it a try.


So – what is on your “stop putting this off” list? Time to get to it!

Friday, August 22, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | 1 Comment

Michael Nanfito: An interview by Bob Morris

NanfitoMichael Nanfito is the executive director at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE). Mr. Nanfito sets the vision and strategic direction for NITLE, working closely the member community. He has a background in networked information resources and technology-related entrepreneurial activity, ranging from the development of large data-driven web environments to consulting for small academic libraries.

Nanfito has worked in networked information resources since the late 1980s, at that time developing databases in the library database industry. In the 1990s, Nanfito served as a consultant to the Microsoft Corporate Library to identify information needs across the organization and to develop a strategy to implement web-based library portals. He subsequently worked as an entrepreneur and consultant in a variety of capacities in the Seattle area, including developing large data-driven web environments and consulting services to bring small libraries up to speed on emerging online library resources. Before joining NITLE in 2006, he served as director of instructional technology at the University of Puget Sound. One of his primary interests and efforts while at the University was the development of a digital asset management program to digitize, organize, and provide access to academic resources housed in departmental collections. A 2002 Frye Fellow, Nanfito holds the M.L.I.S. and a B.A. in history (San Jose State University).

His book, MOOCs: Opportunities,Impacts, and Challenges: Massive Open Online Courses in Colleges and Universities, was published by CreateSpace/An Amazon Company (December 2013).

Here id an excerpt from my review of Michael. To read the complete interview, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Nanfito: I “discovered” the Internet, quite by accident in 1991. At the time I had enrolled in the library and information science program at San Jose State University and was working with an advisor on a research project. Initially the project was to center on “information equity” issues but changed when she asked me why I had enrolled in the program. I responded that I was interested in the impact that information services have on the process of global democratization. The attempted coup in the (then) Soviet Union had just occurred. She decided my question was more interesting and re-wrote the grant to reflect the shift.

As I looked into the coup I discovered that a California State University professor of computer science, Dr. Larry Press, had just returned from Moscow immediately prior to the coup attempt. He had been working with some start up groups (this was the time of perestroika and glasnost) to get budding “commercial” software development services going.

(Not coincidentally, in 1989, the US Department of Commerce had allowed TCP/IP Internet services to be accessible in the Soviet Union and eastern bloc countries so academic institutions in each of the soviets had internet access at the time of the coup.)

I learned that resistance to the coup was aided by communications from academic institutions in each of the soviets, made possible by the use of something called the “internet.” As I investigated farther I learned that in addition to the “internet” the resistance made use of another murky service called “BITNET.” BITNET (the Because It’s Time Network) was exclusive to academic institutions (read more at I realized that I was at an academic institution and that I could probably get on this thing, whatever it was. I asked at the campus computing center and they gave me an account, pointed me to some things called “listserves” to learn more about using the “BITNET” thing.

I was brand new to both computing and online services. In point of fact I knew nothing about either and was an admitted technophobe – if not an actual luddite. When I had initially expressed my interest in learning how information services were influencing democratization, I was clear that I meant print services. I had just recently purchased an IBM 286 (clone) computer with the help of a friend and he had had something called a “modem” installed when they built the machine. I had no use for the modem – until I got my BITNET account. All of a sudden I was tooling around computers out there somewhere in a green-screen mode using TELNET, Archie, and FTP. It was all sort of fun but the content on these computers I was visiting was mostly about, well, computers and computing. Nothing that really applied to my query. That is, until I found Project Hermes.

One Saturday morning I was stumbling around the BITNET/Internet thing using my new 286 PC and modem, looking at files via TELNET and FTP. Then I saw a TELNET reference to Project Hermes, an experimental online repository of Supreme Court decisions. I picked a case at random (involving then Governor Clinton of Arkansas). The record I had stumbled on was not merely a bibliographic citation of the case, it was the full text. I recognized that this BITNET/Internet thing had utility. Then it got better, I discovered I could “download” the record. To my home computer. And print it. So I did. I timed it. It took less than five minutes to search for the record, download it, and print it off. I got so excited I had to go outside and walk around for a while. I realized that this would change everything. Citizens would be able to gain access to information of value and make use of it. Libraries would never be the same. My own graduate program suddenly seemed ridiculously antique.

The light bulb had gone off for me and I have been working with online resources ever since. And for me it is still about how to help people make sense of and use this extensible resource in the service of making the best decisions for themselves and their organizations.

A long answer to your question but it truly was an epiphany.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Nanfito: Attending educational institutions provided context for my real learning to happen. In both my undergraduate and graduate programs I made extensive use of special studies, the maximum allowed in both cases. This freed me to do some real work. I enjoyed most of the lectures I attended but I felt pretty disengaged overall. I was energized by the narrative I was developing for myself.

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? Why?

Nanfito: (Formal) credentials are not the only measure of ability and don’t (necessarily) mean as much as we wish they did. I wasted a lot of time believing I had to wait until I had received external authorization to really contribute. I no longer believe that and I don’t really look at people’s credentials much when hiring. I want to know about the person, what they are excited about, and whether they want to change the world or not. Transcripts and degrees don’t tell me any of that.

Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.

Nanfito: Moneyball leaps to mind. In our consulting work we emphasize the need and the value of taking the time to really identify the real problem at hand. Too often we leap to (comfortable) solutions before we have accurately identified the problem to solve. For me, Moneyball was in part about rejecting an old business model and asking better questions in order to understand an actual problem facing the organization and work at a solution for that problem, not the one we are comfortable with.

Morris: From which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Nanfito: East of Eden: “Thou mayest not sin.”

We have choices. The more common – and apparently inaccurate, at least according to Steinbeck’s character in the book – representation of that edict is “Thou shall not sin.” It is a command, a directive that is absent choice. The former version requires choice. In business, we have choices and we should cultivate curiosity and a culture of experimentation. Directives and excessive structure make it easy to abdicate our responsibility to make choices and decisions. Active involvement in the organization requires that we take chances, do our best, and take responsibility for our decisions.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao Tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Nanfito: In our collaboration consulting work for higher ed we emphasize the need for shared leadership. Hierarchy – which is firmly entrenched in education – is a tool. When it becomes the program, real sustained, programmatic collaboration is impossible and we are less than we can be.

Morris: From Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

Nanfito: Programs are best when they are about the substance and not the personality. Work to help others own your best ideas, make them their own, and thus help them build something useful.

Morris: From Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”

Nanfito: Convention is comfortable and comfort is a trap. Real change requires real change (there’s a cliché for you). Foster choice, risk-taking, and participatory decision-making. Work to make your innovation tomorrow’s boring cliché. That may be a measure of success. If everything I do is always “innovative” where is it’s utility?

Morris: From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd….’”

Nanfito: I learned a long time ago that once I believe I know something I stop asking questions about it. Curiosity about the given ubject or object is blunted. I stop learning. The real fun lies in the questions, not in the answers.

Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Nanfito: Someone advised me a long time ago not to “make problems that don’t exist.” Focus. Understand the real issues at hand and address them with discipline and humility. Avoid working on (or worse, inventing) questions to demonstrate your ability to answer them. Leave that to the trial lawyers.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

Michael cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

His website link

The NITLE link

The Academic Commons link

Friday, August 22, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 360 other followers

%d bloggers like this: