First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

The Organized Mind: A book review by Bob Morris

Organized MindThe Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
Daniel J. Levitin
Dutton/The Penguin Group (2014)

How to “recapture a sense of order and thereby regain the hours of time wasted by a disorganized mind”

Clutter can fill up our minds the same way it fills up closets, drawers, cabinets, attics, and basements of residences. The problem is even more serious in offices, given all the places in which clutter can accumulate. Climate-controlled storage has become a multi-billion dollar business in the United States precisely because so many people have so much “stuff” that there is insufficient room for it anywhere else.

Don’t blame the human mind. It is what the brain does and is remarkably well-organized but our use of it is certainly not. Pretend for a moment that you are behind the wheel of a Ferrari F12berlinetta, a vehicle that combines superior design and performance. Start the engine and begin to drive it. Oh, I forgot to mention, you don’t know how to use the accelerator, brakes, and steering wheel. The challenge is to understand what this magnificent vehicle can do and then master the skills necessary to take full advantage of those capabilities. I realize that citing the hypothetical situation of driving a Ferrari F12berlinetta without any control of its speed or direction is a bit of a stretch but the fact remains that many human beings feel overwhelmed by the velocity and complexity of their lives. Cluttered thinking results in a cluttered life.

Daniel Levitin wrote this book to help as many people as possible to meet this challenge, to increase their understanding of (a) the human mind and (b) how effective use of it can help them “recapture a sense of order and thereby regain the hours of time wasted by a disorganized use of mind.” He notes two of the most compelling properties of the human brain and its design: “richness and associative access. Richness refers to the theory that a large number of things you’re ever thought of or experienced are still in there, somewhere. Associative access means that your thoughts can be accessed in a number of different ways by semantic or perceptual associations.” These are but two of countless functions and capabilities of the human mind. “The cognitive neuroscience of memory and attention — our improved understanding of the brain, its evolution, and limitations — can help us to better cope with a world when more and more of us feel we’re running fast just to stand still.”

The best business books tend to be research-driven and that is certainly true of this one. Levitin provides 83 pages of annotated “Notes” (Pages 397-481), a clear indication that the abundance of information and insights he provides has a rock-solid foundation of authoritative sources.

These are among the dozens of passages of special interest to me, also listed so as to indicate the scope of Levitin’s coverage:

o The Inside History of Cognitive Overload (Pages 3-13)
o Information Overload, Then and Now (13-32)

Note: How serious has the problem become? According to Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, “From the dawn of civilization until 2003, humankind generated five exabytes of data. Now we produce five exabytes [begin italics] every two days [end italics]…and the pace is rapidly accelerating.”

o How Attention and Memory Work (37-45)
o The Neurochemistry of Work (45-48)
o Where Memory Comes From (48-54)
o Where Things Can Start to Get Better (77-87)
o Home Is Where I Want to Be (106-112)
o How Humans Connect Now (113-120)
o Aren’t Modern Social Relations Too Complex to Organize? (120-135)
o When We Procrastinate (195-201)
o Creative Time (201-215)
o Thinking Straight About Probabilities (220-230)
o How We Create Value (268-276)
o The Future of the Organized Mind (329-337)
o Where You Get Your Information (365-369)
o Browsing and Serendipity (376-383)

Levitin acknowledges, “There is no one system that will work for everyone — we are each unique — but in [this book] there are general principles that anyone can apply [begin italics] in their own way [end italics] to recapture a sense of order and to regain the hours of lost time spent trying to overcome the disorganized mind…Getting organized can bring us all to the next level in our lives. It’s the human condition to fall prey to old habits. We must consciously look at areas of our lives that need cleaning up, and then methodically and proactively do so. And then keep doing it…The key to change is having faith that when we get rid of the old, something or someone even more magnificent will take its place.”

Long ago, I began to realize that our lives are the results of the decisions we make, for better or worse. Also, that making no decision is itself a decision, usually with consequences and sometimes with serious consequences. I am deeply grateful to Daniel Levitin for all that I have learned from this book, especially during a second reading when preparing to compose this brief commentary. It seems ironic — and is perhaps a paradox — that we need the human mind to enrich our understanding of the human mind. The material in this book can help anyone to make better decisions about what’s important and what isn’t so that better decisions can be made about what to keep and what to eliminate.

It really is true: Cluttered thinking results in a cluttered life. The choice is ours.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Power of Noticing: A book review by Bob Morris

Power of NoticingThe Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See
Max H. Bazerman
Simon & Schuster (2014)

How and why a wider perspective (System 2 thinking) will guide you toward more effective decisions and fewer disappointments

I agree with Yogi Berra: “You can observe a lot by just watching.”

However, as Max Bazerman explains in this brilliant book, more than watching is necessary: we must also notice and then, of perhaps even greater importance, we need to have developed a mind-set that enables us to recognize what is especially significant. This is what Isaac Asimov has in mind when observing, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny…'” Hence the importance of anomalies. It is impossible to connect the dots to reveal patterns, trends, causal relationships, etc. unless you know what the right “dots” are and connect them in the right way. The same is true of accumulating disparate data (viewed as pieces of a puzzle) and know how to assemble them in proper order.

As Bazerman explains, “The Power of Noticing challenges leaders to also be noticing architects. Leaders too often fail to notice that they have designed systems that encourage a misspecified goal (booked sales) rather than a more appropriate one (actual profit to the organization). I encourage all leaders to become better noticing architects and to design systems that encourage employees to notice what is truly important.” All of the great leaders throughout history were great noticers. With rare exception, they helped others to become great (or at least competent) noticers.

In the second chapter, Bazerman suggests that inattentional blindness “is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our failure to notice. Much worse — and well-documented — is the common tendency to willfully ignore inconvenient evidence of others’ unethical behavior. In Dante’s Inferno, the last and worst ring in hell is reserved for those who, in a moral crisis, preserve their neutrality. Inattentional blindness has been a problem for several centuries. Consider this observation by Thucydides: “When a man finds a conclusion agreeable, he accepts it without argument, but when he finds it disagreeable, he will bring against it all the forces of logic and reason.”

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Bazerman’s coverage.

o The Broader Argument: Our Failure to Notice (Pages xix-xxi)
o From Bounded Awareness to Removing the Blinders (13-15)
o Jerry Sandusky Scandal (16-25)
o Broad Oversight (36-42)
o Implicit Blindness (50-61)
o Negotiating the Wrong Deal (78-82)
o Not Noticing on a Slippery Slope (88-92)
o Sherlock Holmes in “Silver Blaze”: The Dog That Didn’t Bark (101-109)
o Not Noticing the Ingredients of a Financial Collapse, and, It IS Too Good to Be True (126-132)
o The Market for Lemons (139-145)
o Cynicism: The Dark Side of Thinking One Step Ahead (146-150)
o Walking the Customer: “We Reward Results!”(159-162)
o Failing to Notice Predictable Surprises (171-172)
o The Power of Noticing Predictable Surprises (178-180)
o A Noticing Mind-Set (182-185)
o Nothing Is Easier for Outsiders (187-191)

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of information, insights, and counsel that Max Bazerman provides in abundance. However, I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of his book. He concludes: “As I hope you have learned by now, focusing is important, but sometimes noticing is better — at least when you are making critical decisions. In hope that this book has provided useful guidance to help you, as a focuser, also become a first-class noticer.” I presume to add a few points of my own. First, we tend to see what we expect to see and notice little else. Also, as Thucydides suggests, we tend to embrace that with which we agree and reject that withwhich we don’t. Finally, it is extremely difficult but nonetheless possible — and perhaps imperative — to establish a culture within which noticing is not only a core competency but an embedded value.

Sunday, September 28, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why not multitask to get more work done?

NassResearch conducted by Clifford Nass and his associates at Stanford University was based on two assumptions:

o That multitaskers are superhumans, capable peak performance, while completing several tasks simultaneously

o That multitaskers have a highly developed ability to switch attention from one task to another in an orderly way

What in fact did the research reveal?

“We all bet that multitaskers were going to be stars at something, We were absolutely shocked. We lost all our bets. It turns out that multitaskers are terrible at every aspect of multitasking. They’re terrible at ignoring irrelevant information; they’re terrible at keeping information in their head nicely and neatly organized; and they’re terrible at switching from one task to another.”

In The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, Daniel J. Levitin has this to say:

“We all want to believe that we can do many things at once and that our attention is infinite, but this is a persistent myth. What we really do is shift our attention rapidly from task to task. Two bad things happen as a result: We don’t devote enough attention to any one thing, and we decease the quality of attention applied to any task. When we do one thing — uni-task — there are beneficial changes in the brain’s daydreaming network and increased connectivity…You’d think people would realize that they’re bad at multitasking and would quit. But a cognitive illusion sets in, fueled in part by a dopamine-adrenaline feedback loop, which multitaskers [begin italics] think [end italics] they are doing great.”

When multitasking, we don’t get more work done. We get less work done and of a much lower quality. Now you know.

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To read the complete report, Cognitive Control in Media Multitaskers, please click here.

Tragically, Clifford Nass died November 2, 2013, at Stanford Sierra Camp near South Lake Tahoe, after collapsing at the end of a hike. He was only 55.

Clifford Nass earned a B.A. cum laude in mathematics (1981) and a Ph.D. in sociology (1986), both from Princeton University. Before attending graduate school, Nass worked as a computer scientist at Intel Corporation. Nass focused on experimental studies of social-psychological aspects of human-computer interaction. He directed the Communication between Humans and Interactive Media (CHIMe) Lab. The four foci of the CHIMe Lab are: 1) Communication in and between Automobiles: Research on Safety, Information Technology, and Enjoyment (CARSITE); 2) Social and Psychological Aspects of Computing Environments (SPACE), which focuses on mobile and ubiquitous technology; 3) Abilities of People: Personalization, Emotion, Embodiment, Adaptation, Language, and Speech (APPEEALS); and 4) human-robot interaction. He is also co-Director of the Kozmetsky Global Collaboratory, which focuses on developing countries. To learn more about him and his important work, please click here.

LevitinDaniel J. Levitin is the James McGill Professor of Psychology and Music at McGill University, Montreal, where he also holds appointments in the Program in Behavioural Neuroscience, The School of Computer Science, and the Faculty of Education. An award-winning teacher, he now adds best-selling author to his list of accomplishments as “This Is Your Brain on Music” and “The World in Six Songs” were both Top 10 best-sellers, and have been translated into 16 languages. Before becoming a neuroscientist, he worked as a session musician, sound engineer, and record producer working with artists such as Stevie Wonder and Blue Oyster Cult. He has published extensively in scientific journals as well as music magazines such as Grammy and Billboard. Recent musical performances include playing guitar and saxophone with Sting, Bobby McFerrin, Rosanne Cash, David Byrne, and Rodney Crowell.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

David Van Rooy: An interview by Bob Morris

Van RooyDavid Van Rooy is Senior Director, Talent Management for Walmart. He previously held roles in International Human Resources, and was responsible for the world’s largest performance management and employee engagement programs at Walmart, covering nearly 2.2 million employees globally. Before Walmart his most recent role was at Marriott International, where he led global HR operations and systems for several Centers of Expertise (COE) including compensation, benefits, workforce planning, performance management, associate engagement, and learning. He also held several Talent Management and Marketing roles of increasing responsibility at Burger King Corporation.

David received his doctoral degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Florida International University (FIU). He has published over 20 peer reviewed scientific business articles and book chapters. Most of these have been highly recognized and his work has been covered by many national and international outlets including USA Today, CNN, Forbes, Inc., and Fox News, and HR Asia. This has been complemented by over 30 presentations at international conferences. In addition to performance management and employee engagement, he is a recognized expert in the fields of emotional intelligence and employee assessment and selection.

His book, Trajectory: 7 Career Strategies to Take You from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, was published by AMACOM (May 2014).

Author Note: In gratitude for the brave and unselfish service of our military men and women, David will be donating all of the author royalties he receives from the sale of Trajectory to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) in support of our military veterans transitioning into the civilian workforce. IVMF’s mission is to enhance American competitiveness and advance the employment situation of veterans and their families by collecting, synthesizing and sharing veteran-employment policy & practices, providing employment related expertise, capacity, training and education and delivering technical assistance to stakeholders in the veterans’ community. You can learn more about this great organization here.

Here is a brief excerpt from my interview of him. To read the complete interview, please click here.

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Morris: Before discussing Trajectory, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Van Rooy: My parents. They provided me with a supportive, values-based childhood and demonstrated the value of hard work and integrity.

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Van Rooy: I would have trouble pointing to a single person. I have been extremely fortunate to have amazing professors, bosses, and mentors throughout my career.

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.

Van Rooy: At the first company I worked for out of graduate school I was presented with a neat opportunity to move from HR into Marketing. My time in marketing gave me direct exposure to a different part of the business, which I believe helps me to this day. Less than a year later, though, I had a chance to move to a new organization, but the role was back in HR. At that point I realized I had to decide which career path to take, and I decided that HR was where I wanted to be down the road. It’s sometimes hard to make these decisions at the time, but looking back on my career I have no doubt it was the right career choice for me.

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

Van Rooy: My Ph.D. is in a field called Industrial and Organizational Psychology, which includes heavy research and analytical components. This has helped me in understanding data that is so important with decision making, particularly as the amounts of it continue to increase.

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

Van Rooy: In college I took an organizational psychology class, and Bringing Out the Best in People by Aubrey Daniels was required reading. As an aspiring psychologist I was drawn to the message about motivating people through positive reinforcement. The alternative – negative reinforcement – can lead to behavioral change, but it is either short-lived or not as powerful as positive reinforcement.

Morris: Here are two of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”

Van Rooy: Absolutely! Many ideas that originally “failed” were simply ideas ahead of their time. Something that did not work in the past should not be forever discarded; instead, reevaluate when conditions change, and you may find that what was once dangerous or crazy is now brilliant.

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

Van Rooy: It’s easy to fall into a trap and continue doing what worked in the past, even if it is no longer worthwhile. Over time we tend to get better and more efficient at what we do, but it’s important to make sure that it is still important. For example, you may be able to create a monthly scorecard much quicker than when you started it, but unless it is still being used it does not really matter.

Morris: The greatest leaders throughout history (with rare exception) were great storytellers. What do you make of that?

Van Rooy: It’s important that people have passion for what they do, and feel connected to the greater purpose. Stories have a powerful effect on us because we can relate to them, and as a result we remember them. It is this emotional connection that results in storytelling becoming such a powerful way to inspire others.

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To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

His website link

Inc. link

David’s Amazon page link

Sunday, September 21, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Kid: A book review by Bob Morris

The KidThe Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams
Ben Bradlee, Jr.
Little, Brown and Company (2014)

A brilliant examination of a Hall of Fame career and of an “exceptional, tumultuous, and epic American life – an immortal life.”

I am among the 200 reviewers (thus far) who have rated this book highly but there are others (and there always are) who complain about something: its length, abundance of historical material, too much coverage of this/not enough of that, etc. I have read a number of biographies in recent years, including those of John Cheever (Bailey), Steve Jobs (Isaacson), Barbara Stanwyck (Wilson), Johnny Carson (Bushkin), John Wayne (Eyman), Michael Jordan (Lazenby), Woodrow Wilson (Berg), and John Updike (Begley) as well as Leigh Montville’s biography of Ted Williams (2005). In my opinion, none is a greater achievement than what Ben Bradlee, Jr. offers in The Kid, his examination of the “immortal life” of Ted Williams (1918-2002). His sense of nuance is impeccable.

As Charles McGrath points out in his review of the book for The New York Times, “What distinguishes Bradlee’s The Kid from the rest of Williams lit is, its size and the depth of its reporting. Bradlee seemingly talked to everyone, not just baseball people but William’s fishing buddies, old girlfriends, his two surviving wives and both of his daughters, and he had unparalleled access to Williams family archives. His account does not materially alter our picture of Williams the player, but fills it in with much greater detail and nuance…Bradlee’s expansiveness enables his book to transcend the familiar limits of the sports bio and to become instead a hard-to-put-down account of a fascinating American life. It’s a story about athletic greatness but also about the perils of fame and celebrity, the corrosiveness of money, and the way the cycle of familial resentment and disappointment plays itself out generation after generation.”

Bradlee devotes seven pages of Acknowledgments of hundreds of sources (including Montville) to which he is “deeply indebted.” He also includes 155 pages of Notes and in Appendix II (Pages 787-800) he lists everyone he interviewed. This is a research-driven book, to be sure, and probably the definitive account of the life of one of the most colorful – and controversial – public figures during the second half of the last century. Bradlee allows the sources to speak for themselves and provides a more balanced view than does Richard Ben Cramer, for example, in his biography of Joe DiMaggio and two of Williams. Perhaps most striking is Bradlee’s impeccable sense of nuance.

There is much in Williams and his life to admire, notably his skills as a hitter of baseballs and his two periods of service as a Marine pilot (during WW 2 and then Korea) as well as his active support of the Jimmy Fund. He was very uncomfortable when praised for that support. Here is a brief portion of the information provided by the Fund’s website: “Ted Williams was a hero in the ballpark, on the battlefield, and in the hearts of millions of children suffering from cancer. Famous for his extraordinary batting record during his decades-long career with the Red Sox, Ted also displayed heroism as a fighter pilot in two wars, and his tireless efforts on behalf of the Jimmy Fund. Ted went everywhere to support the cause: American Legion banquets, temples and churches, Little League games, drive-in theaters, department stores for autograph sessions. Most memorably, he made countless visits to the bedsides of sick children at the Jimmy Fund Clinic. As a kid, Ted dreamed of being a sports hero, but as an adult, he dreamed of beating cancer. His efforts over the years contributed to remarkable progress in the treatment of childhood cancers.”

These are among the dozens of other dimensions of his life and career that are of greatest interest to me:

o His childhood in San Diego and early promise as a baseball player
o His minor league years (1936-1938) and the friendships he developed (e.g. with Dom DiMaggio and Bobby Doerr)
o Being identified as “The Kid” by Red Sox equipment manager, Johnny Orlando
o The first season in MLB, after which Babe Ruth designated him “Rookie of the Year”
o The 1941 season: Williams batted .406, hit 37 home runs, and had 120 RBIs, finishing second to Joe DiMaggio for MVP
o First active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps as a fighter pilot, World War 2 (1943-1945)

Note: According to Johnny Pesky, a Red Sox teammate who was also involved with Williams in the aviation training program, “He mastered intricate problems in fifteen minutes which took the average cadet an hour, and half of the other cadets there were college grads.” Pesky again described Williams’ acumen in the advance training, for which Pesky personally did not qualify: “I heard Ted literally tore the sleeve target to shreds with his angle dives. He’d shoot from wingovers, zooms, and barrel rolls, and after a few passes the sleeve was ribbons. At any rate, I know he broke the all-time record for hits.”

o Second active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps, Korea (1952–1953)

Note: During the second tour of duty, Williams served in the same Marine Corps unit with John Glenn who described him as one of the best pilots he knew.

o Why he disliked the sports media so intensely, especially in Boston
o When and why he retired
o The significance of his relationship with Sears Roebuck
o His brief career as a manager of the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers franchise from 1969 to 1972
o His inadequacies as a husband and as a father
o The ambiguities of John Henry Williams
o Questions that remain unanswered concerning what happened after Ted Williams’ death on July 5, 2002 (aged 83)
o Key lifetime statistics: BA .344; HRs 521; 2,654 hits; and 1,839 RBIs

Bradlee thoroughly explores these and countless other subjects and related issues, perhaps with more details and to a greater extent than many readers prefer. He celebrates Williams’ several significant strengths and virtues but refuses to ignore or even neglect his prominent inadequacies in most of his personal relationships. I appreciate the fact that Bradlee does not presume to explain what drove him other than a need to become the greatest baseball hitter who ever lived (I agree with Bradlee and countless others that he was) and by his determination to have total control of his personal life, especially the news media.

As Bradlee explains in his Author’s Note, “Researching and writing this book took more than a decade. After six-hundred-odd reviews, uncounted hours of research in archives and among the private papers given to me and by the Williams family, after looking closely at that signed baseball more than a few times [one Bradlee received in his youth] and thinking hard about the man I’d briefly met as a boy and the man I was meeting now, I felt ready to let go of this Ted Williams tale, the story of an exceptional, tumultuous, and epic American life – an immortal life.”

This is by far the best biography of Williams that I have read thus far, indeed it is among the best biographies of athletes I have ever read. I am deeply grateful for learning what I did not previously know about “The Kid,” of course, but also for the meticulous care with which Ben Bradlee, Jr. presents all of the material, helping his readers to gain a better understanding and a greater appreciation of one of the most complicated human beings any of us will ever know. Bravo!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Josh Linkner on “Leadership Lessons from the Honey Badger”

Honey-Badger-175x131Here is one of Josh Linkner‘s most popular posts. To check out the wealth of free resources that he provides, please click here.

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Don’t let the sugary name fool you. Recognized as the most fearless animal by the Guinness Book of World Records, the Honey Badger is a strange yet powerful creature. This determined animal may not be a household name, but even the King Cobra fears and respects this beast.

Please click here to watch an hilarious and informational brief video of a Honey Badger in action, a film about this crazy animal that has been seen over 52 million times.

Besides the sidesplitting narration, there are actually some poignant leadership lessons from the Honey Badger we can all learn thanks to this eccentric creature. The Honey Badger is:

• Willing to do whatever it takes. No matter how dirty it gets, how much pain it must endure, how challenging the circumstances may be, Honey Badger will stop at nothing to reach it’s goal.

• Singularly focused. Distractions are a joke for this creepy mammal. Honey Badger remains laser-focused on the prize and can be lured away by neither threat nor temptation.

• Unstoppable. It doesn’t allow setbacks, external circumstances, competitors, extreme conditions, fatigue, or laziness to get in its way. Honey Badger forges ahead with the requisite confidence to ensure nothing can interfere with accomplishment.

• Fearless. In the wild, there are countless mortal threats. The Honey Badger can only survive by forging ahead despite these risk and refuses to let fear consume even a millimeter of its zeal. Certainly it recognizes potential hazards, but Honey Badger sprints ahead nonetheless.

• Gives back. Maybe not intentionally, but this animal’s ferocity enables others’ (crows, jackals, etc.) survival. Honey Badger’s raw force is so powerful that it contributes back to the common good.

Life often throws us curveballs, and it is all too easy to cave under the pressure. A timid approach can end up becoming your undoing. A faint-hearted Honey Badger would meet extinction, just like the bashful business leaders who fail to seize their full potential.

You’ve been told to connect with your inner-child. Instead, I suggest brining out your inner-Honey Badger if you want to win in our highly competitive world. White doves are nice to look at, but I’ll be bringing a Honey Badger to my next fight.

Isn’t it time you did the same?

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Please click here to read the complete article.

Josh Linkner is the New York Times bestselling author of Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity, named one of the top 10 business books of 2011. Josh is the CEO and Managing Partner of Detroit Venture Partners. Together with business partners Earvin (“Magic”) Johnson and NBA team owner Dan Gilbert, Josh is actively rebuilding urban areas through technology and entrepreneurship. Josh is also Adjunct Professor of Applied Creativity at the University of Michigan. For more information on creativity, visit his website by clicking here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How societal pressures (morals, reputation, laws, and security systems) can minimize betrayals of trust

SchneierI have just read and will soon review Bruce Schneier‘s latest book, Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive.

Almost all of the in formation, insights, and counsel he provides can help almost anyone earn and then sustain the trust of family members, friends, associates in the workplace, and others. This is especially today in a hyper-connected society in which almost anyone, anywhere, can interact with almost anyone else, anywhere.

What makes people trustworthy?

Schneier: “That’s the key question the book tackles. Most people are naturally trustworthy, but some are not. There are hotel clerks who will steal your credit card information. There are ATMs that have been hacked by criminals. Some restaurant kitchens serve tainted food. There was even an airline pilot who deliberately crashed his Boeing 767 into the Atlantic Ocean in 1999. Given that there are people who are naturally inclined to be untrustworthy, how does society keep their damage to a minimum? We use what I call societal pressures: morals and reputation are two, laws are another, and security systems are a fourth. Basically, it’s all coercion. We coerce people into behaving in a trustworthy manner because society will fall apart if they don’t.”

I highly recommend this book as well as Schneier’s Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World and Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World.

It may also help to keep in mind this African aphorism: “Trust but verify.” Also some street smarts: “First time you betray my trust, shame on you. Next time, shame on me.”

To learn more about Bruce, please click here.

Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World, Bruce Schneier, How societal pressures can minimize betrayals of trust, Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive, Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , | Leave a comment

Marshall Goldsmith on “The Power of Asking the Right Questions”

Goldsmith, MarshallHere is another brief, remarkably thoughtful article written by Marshall Goldsmith for Talent Management magazine. He suggests and I agree that mentors — and especially supervisors — should ask questions that probe for understanding to create a more insightful dialogue. To check out other resources and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and/or Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.

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If there were a Mentors Hall of Fame, Socrates would be an instant inductee.

Above all, he understood the secret of mentoring: questioning brings insight, which fuels curiosity, which cultivates wisdom.

Quality questions have a multiplier effect on learning. Ask an information-seeking question and you get only an answer or a fact. Ask an understanding-seeking question and you unleash a more powerful chain of events.

The human brain is often compared to a computer, but it’s very different. Most computers are information-storage devices. Ask an information-seeking question, and the computer goes into a retrieval mode.

Ask an understanding-seeking question, however, and the mind has to make up an answer. Computers cannot make up answers. An understanding-seeking question stimulates mental activity that creates insight. As the mind turns to respond to an understanding-seeking question, special new synapses are activated, triggering an insight experience.

The more the mind experiences creative discovery, the more it hunts another insight. This pursuit of insight or discovery is “curiosity.” To the mind, curiosity is its own reward. The byproduct of perpetual curiosity is wisdom.

How can mentors start this insight-curiosity-wisdom chain?

One major starter is the understanding-seeking question. Here are important elements that produce insight.

Sociability: Watch out for too much silence. If the protégé does not answer in 10 seconds, he or she may need you to redirect the question. Know that eye contact can be important in conveying an interest in the protégé’s answers.

Beware of not giving the protégé an opportunity to answer. Silence can be golden. Pause after asking a question. If you’re susceptible to this trap, count to 10 after asking a question and before asking another. Assume that the protégé heard and understood and is simply contemplating an answer.

Dominance: Think before you ask. Consider your goal and focus. Determine what you seek to learn, and then choose questions that will take you there.
You may have a tendency to craft questions that give you the answer you like to hear. Leading the protégé is just as ineffective as leading a witness. Soften your tone. Make sure your approach does not make the protégé feel as though he or she is on trial.

Openness: Avoid keeping your questions too much on the surface. While invading privacy is not the goal, your aim is to foster in-depth thinking. Be willing to allow a bit of controversy; conflict is nothing more than a symptom of tension. When you accurately interpret and work through conflict by your candor and openness, interpersonal closeness and valuable creativity will be the likely byproducts.

You may often find yourself wanting to answer for the protégé. Back off and give the person a chance to communicate his or her thoughts. It is also important to avoiding getting too personal too quickly. While you may be more than ready to foster closeness, the protégé may need more time.

Other specific techniques include:

Start with a setup statement: Questions can be more powerful if the sender and receiver are on the same wavelength. Starting with a setup statement establishes identification and context.

Ask questions that require higher-level thinking: The goal is to create insight, not to share information. The main objective is to nurture understanding and growth, not just exchange facts. Construct questions that require the protégé to dig deep.

Avoid questions that begin with “why”
: In most cultures, a question that begins with the word “why” is perceived as judgmental. Body language can play a role in how such questions are perceived, but even with perfect body language, our antennae go up as soon as we hear a “why” question.

Use curiosity to stimulate curiosity: Socrates did more than ask good questions. He demonstrated enthusiasm for the learning process. Attitude is as much a part of the Socratic method as technique.

Ultimately, great mentors are not only curious; they are excited to stimulate curiosity. They are open about their excitement and verbally communicate pleasure when the protégé’s “Aha!” finally comes.

* * *

Here’s a direct link to the complete article.

Marshall Goldsmith
is an authority in helping leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior. He is the author or co-editor of 32 books, including Managers as Mentors, with co-author Chip Bell. He can be reached at his firm, the Marshall Goldsmith Group.

Sunday, September 7, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What does a healthy company look like?

One for all, all for one
Based on everything I have experienced, observed, and learned over the years, here’s what I think a healthy company looks like:

o First-Person Plural Pronouns: Everyone thinks in terms of “serving our customers,” “what we can accomplish working together, ” and “how all of us can help each other to improve what we do and how we do it.” Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno: One for all, all for one. Communication, cooperation, and collaboration thrive in a healthy company.

o Problem Ownership: Whoever discovers a problem owns it. If a customer tells you about a problem, you own it. Whenever someone asks you to help solve a problem, you become a co-owner of that problem. In a healthy company, problem finders as well as problem solvers are strongly encouraged and generously rewarded.

o Going the Extra Mile: According to the results of Napoleon Hill’s three-year study of the world’s greatest performers in business throughout the world, the only thing they had in common is a commitment to always “go the extra mile”…to do whatever it takes to achieve success. This is embedded in a healthy company’s DNA.

o The Crisis Paradox: The Chinese character for “crisis” has two meanings: peril and opportunity. Healthy companies thrive when facing a crisis. They “show their stuff” and “are at their best.”

It is no coincidence that the companies annually ranked among those most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those most profitable with the greatest cap value in their industry segment.

Now please re-read that last sentence.

I urge those in need of more information about organizational health to check out these titles:

Freedom, Inc.: Free Your Employees and Let Them Lead Your Business to Higher Productivity, Profits, and Growth
Brian M. Carney and Isaac Getz

Beyond Performance Management: Why, When, and How to Use 40 Tools and Best Practices for Superior Business Performance
Jeremy Hope and Steve Player

Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition

Guy Kawasaki

Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution
Jeanne Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson

Transforming Performance Measurement: Rethinking the Way We Measure and Drive Organizational Success
Dean R. Spitzer

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John F. Dini: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

DiniJohn F. Dini is a consultant and coach to hundreds of business owners, CEOs and Presidents of companies with over 11,000 hours of delivering face-to-face, personal advice to entrepreneurs through The Alternative Board®. Dini is the author of three books including Beating the Boomer Bust and 11 Things You Absolutely Need to Know About Selling Your Business, now in its second edition. He is a serial entrepreneur, but prefers the term “chronically unemployable.” John holds a BS in accounting from Rutgers University, and an MBA from Pepperdine University, and has five additional certifications in exit planning, business brokerage, behavioral analysis, medical practice management, facilitation and coaching.

He writes numerous articles on small business topics for newspapers, magazines, and in his own blog “Awake at 2 o’clock?” at John speaks frequently to business groups and national associations, and is an 11-year member of Jim Blasingame’s “Braintrust,” appearing regularly on “The Small Business Advocate,” a nationally syndicated radio program, as an expert in the issues of small business ownership. His latest book, Hunting in a Farmer’s World: Celebrating the Mind of an Entrepreneur, was published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (September 2013).

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of John. To read all of it, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write Hunting in a Farmer’s World?

Dini: I started out writing a book about the culture in a small company. The original analogy was going to be a Tribe. As I thought through the stories I wanted to tell, I realized that I wasn’t thinking about culture. I was really thinking about the character of the people who create cultures; the founders and owners of small businesses. It really doesn’t matter how many employees they have, their thinking is always dominated by a sense of personal responsibility for all stakeholders, and the knowledge that, regardless of the resources that are (or more often aren’t) available, failure is not an option. They work without a net. If they screw up, it isn’t merely a missed budget or a couple of points off the stock price. Their failure means that their families and their customers as well as employees and their families are all going to suffer.

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

Dini: Dini: I had read Thom Hartmann’s book on ADD in the 90s, Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception, and thought then that his description of hunters applied very well to the entrepreneurs I work with. I came across it again when cleaning up my bookshelves at home, and realized that what I was discussing in the book was really the thinking process of entrepreneurs. To go back to Simon Sinek’s work again, I suddenly understood that I wasn’t writing about how entrepreneurs behave, I was writing about why they behave that way. Once I locked in on the hunting analogy, the rest came pretty quickly.

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

Dini: I could have prattled on and on with great stories about terrific people. I realized that I would wind up with a book that would leave many entrepreneurs saying “Great. So now I understand why I hate farming, but why didn’t he tell me what to do about it?” I went back and rewrote the middle section about the things I’ve seen owners do that allowed them to run good businesses without getting bogged down in farming tasks.

Morris: What are the most significant differences between hunters and farmers?

Dini: Hunters hunt. They can’t help it, and it isn’t always the best thing for them or their companies. I talk a bit in the book about how dangerous they can be to an organization when bored or underutilized. They tend to approach the world from a perspective of what they want it to be, while farmers deal with what is. Make no mistake, hunters kept humanity alive for thousands of years, but farmers allowed us to settle in one place and build civilizations. One of the things I hope comes out of the book is that they are complementary talents. If people accept each other’s tendencies, they can form tremendously effective teams.

Morris: To what extent do the Welch comments (quoted in Part 1) express what you call “the hunter’s mindset”? Please explain.

Dini: I think that corporate executives have the Hunter’s Mindset as much as any entrepreneur. If you read them again, Welch’s comments aren’t about differences in perspective as much as they are about size and scale. He is right, smaller businesses have short lines of communication, direct influence by the CEO, and the resulting ability to be nimble. That’s because they are small. I think his is as much a logistical observation as a cultural one.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

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

His website link

Exit Map link

Hunting in a Farmer’s World link

John’s Amazon page link


Sunday, August 31, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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