First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Braun’s Pencil Hits # 1 and # 2 on Best-Seller Lists

Promise of a Pencil CoverAdam Braun’s blockbuster best-seller, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change (New York:  Scribner, 2014) has hit the lists with fervor.  It is now # 2 in the Wall Street Journal business best-selling list for the second week in a row, and comes in at  #109 in total Books, and the following in specialty categories.

This is one of our two featured books at the First Friday Book Synopsis in June, 2014 at the Park City Club.  Registration opens on May 10 at

Who is Adam Braun?   He is an American businessman, author, and philanthropist. He is the Founder and CEO of Pencils of Promise, an award-winning nonprofit organization that has built more than 150 schools across Africa, Asia and Latin America and delivered over 12 million educational hours in its first four years. PoP was founded with just $25 using Braun’s unique “For-Purpose” approach to blending nonprofit idealism with for-profit business principles. In 2012, he was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 List.  Braun began his career in finance, until he met a young boy begging on the streets and asked him what he wanted most in the world.Adam Braun picture The answer- “A pencil.” He then traveled through 50+ countries to focus on educational systems and eventually left a dream job at Bain & Company to launch Pencils of Promise.  Braun was selected as one of the first ten World Economic Forum Global Shapers and has been featured at the United Nations, Clinton Global Initiative, Google Zeitgeist, Mashable’s Innovation Index and Wired Magazine’s 2012 Smart List of 50 People Changing the World.

What is this book all about?  Here is a summary from

Adam Braun began working summers at hedge funds when he was just sixteen years old, sprinting down the path to a successful Wall Street career. But while traveling as a college student, he met a young boy begging on the streets of India. When Braun asked the boy what he wanted most in the world, he simply answered, “A pencil.” 

This small request became the inspiration for Pencils of Promise, the organization Braun would leave a prestigious job at Bain & Company to start with just $25 at the age of twenty-four. Using his unique “for-purpose” approach, he helped redefine the space in which business, philanthropy, and social media intersect. And a mere five years later, Pencils of Promise has now built more than two hundred schools around the world, proving that anyone can create a movement that matters. 

The Promise of a Pencil chronicles Braun’s journey through more than fifty countries to find his calling, as each chapter explains the steps that every person can take to ignite their own passion and potential. His trailblazing story takes readers behind the scenes with business moguls and village chiefs, world-famous celebrities and hometown heroes. Driven by compelling stories and shareable insights, this is a vivid and inspiring book that will give readers the tools to unlock their own extraordinary journey of self-discovery. 

If you have ever wanted a more purpose-driven life, if you have ever felt like you could become more than your current circumstances allow, it’s time to ask yourself, “What do I want most in the world?” And through the lessons shared in this book, turn those ideas into reality.

Promise of a Pencil Kids PictureThe picture you see to your left is of some of the children hoisting their pencils.

Look at those smiles and you will see how worthwhile the effort that Braun leads has become.

Rarely have we ever seen a book just leap to the top of legitimate best-selling lists so fast.

We look forward to presenting this book to you in June.

Don’t forget that registration opens on May 10.

Sunday, April 6, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Four Books That Book Lovers Should Read

You may have noticed that The Dallas Morning News is sponsoring a One Day University on Saturday, May 10, 2014.  You pick five classes out of ten possible choices.  This event has appeared in several regions in the country, including New York City.  Registration information is available by clicking here.

One of these classes is taught by Joseph Luzzi from Bard College.  Who is he?  Luzzi is a Ph.D. from Yale and has specialized in Italian studies and literature at Bard College since 2002.  At Bard, he serves as Co-Director of the college’s Joseph LuzziFirst-Year Seminar program, a full-semester “great books” course that covers major texts and intellectual traditions.   His book,  My Two Italies  (New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is scheduled for release in July, 2014.  Here is a description of that book from

Two Italies CoverA poignant personal account from a child of Calabrian peasants whose lifelong study of Italy unveils the mysteries of this Bel Paese, “Beautiful Land,” where artistic genius and political corruption have gone hand and in hand from the time of Michelangelo to The Sopranos.  The child of Italian immigrants and an award-winning scholar of Italian literature, in My Two Italies, Joseph Luzzi straddles these two perspectives to link his family’s dramatic story to Italy’s north-south divide, its quest for a unifying language, and its passion for art, food, and family.  From his Calabrian father’s time as a military internee in Nazi Germany—where he had a love affair with a local Bavarian woman—to his adventures amid the Renaissance splendor of Florence, Luzzi creates a deeply personal portrait of Italy that leaps past facile clichés about Mafia madness and Tuscan sun therapy. He delves instead into why Italian Americans have such a complicated relationship with the “old country,” and how Italy produces some of the world’s most astonishing art while suffering from corruption, political fragmentation, and an enfeebled civil society.  With topics ranging from the pervasive force of Dante’s poetry to the meteoric rise of Silvio Berlusconi,  Luzzi presents the Italians in all their glory and squalor, relating the problems that plague Italy today to the country’s ancient roots. He shares how his “two Italies”—the earthy southern Italian world of his immigrant childhood and the refined “northern” Italian realm of his professional life—join and clash in unexpected ways that continue to enchant the many millions who are either connected to Italy by ancestry or bound to it by love.

His class at the one day university is entitled “Four Books Every Book Lover Should Read.”  I snooped a bit to see if I could discover what these titles are, and I found a previous presentation where he discussed six.  My educated guess is that the four he discusses in Dallas are from these six:

Dante’s Divine Comedy (1319)

Shakespeare’s Othello (1604)

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925)

Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927)

Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1961)

Philip Roth’s American Pastoral (1997)

So, how many of these have you read?  And, do you agree with these six?  And, would you pick this class if you decide to attend?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

George Will’s Amazing Book on Chicago’s Wrigley Field

Before I resumed going to church, every Sunday morning we would watch “This Week” on ABC, hosted by David Brinkley, with Sam Donaldson and George F. Will.  Will, while a conservative and unexcited George WillRepublican, was always quick and to the point, and very knowledgeable about current affairs.  A Chicago Cubs fan, while in working in Washington D.C., he was a part-owner of the Baltimore Orioles.  He left ABC in 2013 to join Fox News.  He usually wears a bow tie, but I couldn’t bring myself to publish one of those pictures.

He wrote one of the most influential books that I have read in my life, entitled Men at Work:  The Craft of Baseball  (New York:  Macmillan, 1990).  That book should be read by anyone who thinks baseball is just a game, and that players and managers are overpaid.  The book demonstrated that this is game is not played by the “boys of summer,” but rather by men, applying intensive decision-making, examining complex variables, and exhibiting extraordinary skill in their jobs.

So, I anxiously awaited his next book about Chicago’s famed baseball yard.   It is called A Nice Little Place on the North Side:  Wrigley Field at One Hundred  (New York:  Crown Books, 2014).  We can’t present it at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas because although it reached the best-seller lists, it is not a business book.

A Nice Little Place CoverYou can read a review of this book from the Wall Street Journal by clicking here.   Joseph Epstien concludes that review with this:

George Will has achieved a fine balance in “A Nice Little Place on the North Side” between his heartfelt allegiance to the Chicago Cubs and his recognition of their status among sports fans as a national joke. As fodder for humor the Cubs have been inexhaustible. The morning after the Cubs lost the 1984 National League Championship Series to the Padres, owing in good part to Leon Durham, the team’s first baseman, allowing a dribbling grounder to go through his legs, I was shopping in my neighborhood grocery store. The owner asked if I had heard about Leon Durham’s attempted suicide. “Really?” I asked, genuinely shocked. “He stepped out in front of a bus,” the man said, “but it went through his legs.” Lots of laughs, those Cubs, and, as George Will neatly puts it, “a lifelong tutorial in deferred gratification.”

From, where it is # 1 on the sports best-selling list and # 224 in overall books, you can read this summary:

Winding beautifully like Wrigley’s iconic ivy, Will’s meditation on “The Friendly Confines” examines both the unforgettable stories that forged the field’s legend and the larger-than-life characters—from Wrigley and Ruth to Veeck, Durocher, and Banks—who brought it glory, heartbreak, and scandal. Drawing upon his trademark knowledge and inimitable sense of humor, Will also explores his childhood connections to the team, the Cubs’ future, and what keeps long-suffering fans rooting for the home team after so many years of futility. In the end, A Nice Little Place on the North Side is more than just the history of a ballpark. It is the story of Chicago, of baseball, and of America itself.

Who hasn’t seen outfielders diving after a ball into the famous ivy on the outfield wall?  Or the story about Steve Bartman, who on October 14, 2003, allegedly interfered with Cubs outfielder Moises Alou catching a foul ball, extending an inning and opening the gates for an 8-run watershed for the Florida Marlins in a playoff game?  Or, hearing about first baseman Ernie Banks, who excitedly would proclaim, “let’s play two.”  Or, all the controversies and barriers to renovating the park for a more modern and comfortable appearance?

Forget politics.  Forget what you think about George Will’s philosophy, opinions, and dress.  Immerse yourself in this book.  You will be a better fan.  You will also find something else to reference about an American icon.  The stories here are abundant.  Wrigley field is certainly not one of the wonders of the world, but its loyal fans who are accustomed to losing and tight quarters to watch baseball games, are a unique part of American culture.

Monday, March 31, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grab Some Buds – Is This Brew Bitter? Check Out Knoedelseder’s Best-Seller

Make no mistake about it.  When I am ready for a beer, I choose a Budweiser.  Regular.   Not Bud Lite, not Michelob, not Michelob Ultra.  I like the “King of Beers.”  Regular Budweiser.

So, I am enjoying the former best-seller, Bitter Brew:  The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America’s Kings of Beer by William Knoedelseder (New York:  Harper Business, 2012).  It is rare, but not Bitter Brew coverwithout precedent, that we will go back and present a former business best-seller at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas that we have passed over previously from the lists.  This one was a best-seller on several top lists.  Even today, it remains at #13, #38, and #49 on three different best-selling business lists.   I will be discussing this with Randy Mayeux, who also presents at the First Friday Book Synopsis, as to whether we should go back and get this one.  It is really worth considering.

The inside cover states that the book is “the engrossing, often scandalous saga of one of the wealthiest, longest-lasting, and most colorful family dynasties in the history of American commerce – a cautionary tale about prosperity, profligacy, hubris, and the blessings and dark consequences of success.”

William Knoedelseder pictureWho is William Knoedelseder?  This is the biography that I found on

He is a veteran journalist and best-selling author who honed his investigative and narrative skills during 12 years as a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times, where his ground breaking coverage of the entertainment industry produced a long string of exposes. His two-year investigation of payola and other corrupt practices in the record business sparked five federal grand jury investigations across the country, led to the arrest and conviction of a score of organized figures and formed the basis of his first best-selling book, Stiffed: A True Story of MCA, the Music Business and the Mafia (Harper Collins 1993). Stiffed was named Best Non-Fiction work of 1993 by Entertainment Weekly, which called it “the scariest book of the year…and the funniest.”  The two of the principal mob figures depicted in Stiffed–New Jersey crime boss Gaetano “Corky” Vastola and Roulette Records founder Morris Levy–subsequently served as the models for HBO’s Tony Soprano and his music business mentor Herman “Hesh” Rabkin.  Since 2000, Knoedelseder has written three other books. In Eddie’s Name (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) chronicles the brutal murder of a Philadelphia teenager that made national headlines when Knoedelseder, as executive producer of the Knight Ridder news program Inquirer News Tonight, pressed the city to make public the content of 911 tapes recorded the night of the killing, which ultimately revealed a complete breakdown of Philadelphia’s emergency response system; I’m Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Standup Comedy’s Golden Era (Public Affairs/Perseus) recounts Knoedelseder’s time as cub reporter covering the L.A. comedy club scene when David Letterman, Jay Leno, Robin Williams and Andy Kaufman were young and undiscovered. It has been optioned for film by actor Jim Carrey.  His next book for Harper Collins, Fins, is about the life and times of Harley Earl, the visionary car designer who helped engineer the phenomenal rise of General Motors.

I found this summary of the book on

The creators of Budweiser and Michelob beers, the Anheuser-Busch company is one of the wealthiest, most colorful and enduring family dynasties in the history of American commerce. In Bitter Brew, critically acclaimed journalist William Knoedelseder tells the riveting, often scandalous saga of the rise and fall of the dysfunctional Busch family—an epic tale of prosperity, profligacy, hubris, and the dark consequences of success that spans three centuries, from the open salvos of the Civil War to the present day.

You can read an excellent review of this book, published in The Wall Street Journal by Roger Lowenstein by clicking on this link:  

Lowenstein is the author of The End of Wall Street and Buffett:  The Making of an American Capitalist.

The selection of this book for the First Friday Book Synopsis is not automatic.  There are other considerations as to whether we will go back and get one like this.  I will discuss this more fully with Randy Mayeux.  His call has been very reliable, and predictive of long-term success.  In one of his previous blog posts, he noted that in 2013, he had presented seven best-sellers that are still on the New York Times best-seller list, while I only had one during the same period.  There is no guarantee we will decide to work this one in.  Regardless of what we decide to do, and no matter what you drink, this is quite a saga, and worth a careful read.

Maybe you could pop one while reading it!  Note – that’s not what I did.  I prefer to concentrate on what I am reading, and remember what I read.


Saturday, March 15, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be Like TED – The New Carmine Gallo Best-Seller for the FFBS

Carmine Gallo pictureTalk Like TED CoverI look forward to some future month at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas for a presentation on a new best-seller, Talk Like TED:  The Nine Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2014), written by Carmine Gallo.  The book debuted this week at #6 on The Wall Street Journal best-selling list, and is currently #3, #4, and #7 in three different business best-selling lists.

Who is Carmine Gallo?  This is not his first book!  Carmine also wrote The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, The Apple Experience, which was the first book about the the Apple Store and how other brands can elevate the customer experience, and Fire Them Up, which identifies the seven secrets of the world’s most inspiring leaders.  You can find synopses of some of these books for sale on our site.  Interestingly, Gallo is not associated with TED talks.

Here is a summary of the book that I found on

Ideas are the true currency of the twenty-first century. So, in order to succeed you need to be able to sell yourself and your ideas persuasively. The ability to sell yourself and your ideas is the single greatest skill that will help you accomplish your dreams. TED Talks have redefined the elements of a successful presentation and become the gold standard for public speaking. TED—which stands for technology, entertainment, and design—brings together the world’s leading innovators and thinkers. Their online presentations have been viewed more than a billion times. These are the presentations that set the world on fire, and the techniques that top TED speakers use are the same ones that will make any presentation more dynamic, fire up any team, and give anyone the confidence to overcome their fear of public speaking.

Have you never watched a TED talk?  When I teach presentation skills at the University of Dallas in its College of Business MBA program, I require students to watch and critique five presentations from this site.  It’s a goldmine.  You can access the site here:  At Creative Communication Network, we teach a custom presentation skills program based upon intensive individual coaching.  You can be sure that we will be updating the program with some of the techniques from this book, in order to offer our clients the newest possible information to help them be successful.

I do not know which month this will be at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.  We only publish our schedule one month ahead.  But, you will have ample notice of the session when we will present this one.  The synopsis of the book will be presented by either Randy Mayeux or myself, depending upon our selections.  However, I do know it will be coming up very soon.  This is already a blockbuster best-seller.

Saturday, March 15, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lucy Wins Best Comedy Television Scene on NBC Show – But Books Don’t Say She Was the Best!

If you watched NBC’s program narrated by Bette White on Sunday, September 1 about the 30 funniest moments in television history, you saw that the “I Love Lucy” chocolate factory candy scene was # 1.

You can watch the scene by clicking here.

Yes, that is funny.  I have to admit to you that I didn’t think most of the other 29 scenes on the show were very funny.  There were two exceptions – one was from the “Dick Van Dyke Show” at an auction, and another from “All in the Family,” where Edith stuffs a phone message in her bra.  I guess I just didn’t choose to use my time in the ’70′s and ’80′s watching sitcoms.  And, I still don’t today.

Back to Lucy.  The literature on Lucille Ball is not universally favorable.  While the biographies portray her as talented and driven, we can conclude that she was a flawed person.  (Of course, who isn’t?)  She doesn’t top Marilyn Monroe in the quantity of biographies written about a famous person, but she certainly had plenty.  Click here for a sampling from  She was particularly “egged” in the tabloids when she disapproved of Patty Duke, at age 23, dating her son, Desi Arnaz, Jr., at age 17.   You can read a quick tracking of her life by clicking here.  Regardless of what people have written, there is no question that she brought great entertainment to millions of Americans for many years.

Did you watch that show on NBC?  Do you have a favorite comedy scene?  Let’s talk about it really soon.

Monday, September 2, 2013 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blogging on Business Update from Bob Morris (Week of 6/17/13)

BOB Banner

I hope that at least a few of these recent posts will be of interest to you:



Keeping Up with the Quants: Your Guide to Understanding and Using Analytics
Thomas H. Davenport and Jinho Kim

Digital State: How the Internet is Changing Everything
Simon Pont, Editor and one of several contributors



Brian Klapper: An interview by Bob Morris

Dave Ulrich: A third interview by Bob Morris

Dennis Perkins: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

A Q&A with David Shenk

Bill McDermott (SAP) in “The Corner Office”
Adam Bryant
The New York Times



“How to Storyboard Your Presentation”
Management Tip of the Day

“Gandolfini Through The Eyes Of Those He Worked With”
National Public Radio

“Original ‘Mad Man’ David Ogilvy on the 10 Qualities of Creative Leaders”
Maria Popova
Brain Pickings

“LinkedIn Builds Its Publishing Presence”
Leslie Kaufman
The New York Times

“Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform”
Edward M. Hallowell

“Why Your Company Should Use the Kickstarter Model to Innovate”
Michael Schrage

“Captains in Disruption”
Ken Favaro, Per-Ola Karlsson, and Gary L. Neilson

“The Power of Process: What Young Mozart Teaches Us About the Secret of Cultivating Genius
Maria Popova
Brain Pickings

“Our Artful Brain”
Priscilla Long
The American Scholar

“Living With Mistakes”
David Brooks
The New York Times

“Innovative Methods to Develop Leaders”
Patrick Dweeney
Chief Learning Officer

“How and Why Engagement at Work Derives From Happiness”
Dan Bowling
Talent Management

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To check out these resources and other content, please click here.

To subscribe via RSS Reader, please click here.

Sunday, June 23, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

George Kohlrieser: An interview by Bob Morris

Kohlrieser, GeorgeGeorge Kohlrieser is an organizational and clinical psychologist. He is Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour at IMD and consultant to several global companies including Accenture, Alcan, Amer Sports, Barclays Global Investors, Cisco, Coca-Cola, HP, IBM, IFC, Morgan Stanley, Motorola, Nestlé, Nokia, Roche, Sara Lee, Tetra Pak, and Toyota. He is also a Police Psychologist and Hostage Negotiator focusing on aggression management and hostage negotiations. He has worked in over 100 countries spanning five continents.

Kohlrieser is Director of the High Performance Leadership (HPL) Program, an intense six-day IMD program for experienced senior leaders and the Advanced High Performance Leadership (AHPL) for former HPL participants. He completed his doctorate at Ohio State University where he wrote his dissertation on cardio vascular recovery of law enforcement leaders following high stress situations. His research has made significant contributions to understanding the role self-mastery and social dialogue has in helping leaders sustain high performance through life long learning.

He is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, adjunct faculty member of Union Graduate School, Antioch, Ohio, adjunct faculty member of Fielding Institute San Francisco, California, adjunct faculty member of Zagreb University, Croatia. He is past president of the International Transactional Analysis Association, San Francisco, California and is also a member of the Society of International Business Fellows (SIBF). He has consulted for the BBC, CNN, ABC, and CBS and his work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, and other leading newspapers and magazines.

He is author of the internationally bestselling book, Hostage At The Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others, and Raise Performance, and, more recently, co-author of Care to Dare: Unleashing Astonishing Potential Through Secure Base Leadership with Susan Goldsworthy and Duncan Coombe.

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

* * *

Morris: Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original (perhaps unrealistic) expectations. More often than not, the resistance to change is cultural in nature, the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” Your thoughts?

Kohlrieser: This is a very interesting and challenging point. In fact, research shows that people do not naturally resist change – they resist the fear of the unknown and the pain of the change. The human brain actually thrives on curiosity, innovation, new learning, challenge and change to create new neurons until the day we die. This has come to be known as brain plasticity. Followers with a secure base leader will be empowered to successfully navigate the uncertainty, ambiguity, and other unknowns associated with change. James O’Toole is correct: most people are hostages to the “ideology of comfort” and to the status quo. They do not dare themselves to do something new or different. The challenge for leaders is to build trust that enables them to drive change. If leaders are not driving change, they are not really leading. We must dispel the myth that people naturally resist change – it is simply not true.

Morris: Looking ahead what do you think will be the greatest challenge that CEOs will face?

Kohlrieser: The greatest challenge I see is the “paradox of caring” – being able to both care and also dare followers, teams and organizations to achieve their full potential and to be true innovators. How do leaders show enough caring and bonding, even with difficult people and those they don’t like? Giving regular feedback and conveying hard truths unlock the door to the highest levels of performance. Successful leaders challenge their people by inspiring them and building trust, not by coercion, control or threats.

Leaders must drive change. Without change organizations wither and die. Leaders who don’t drive change put their companies in grave danger. The challenge facing leaders is to explain the benefits that change will bring. I use the term “secure base leader” to describe someone who gives a sense of safety as well as the inspiration and energy to encourage followers to explore and take risk. In other words, you must care enough to encourage daring by shutting down the defensive nature of the brain and invite the mind’s eye to seek opportunity and possibility. This combination is crucial, and it’s why my new book about unleashing astonishing potential is called Care to Dare.

Morris: In your opinion, why do so many C-level executives seem to have such a difficult time delegating work to others?

Kohlrieser: It comes down to focus and trust. Secure base leaders, referred to in my books, always look for underdeveloped talents and turn delegation into opportunities to stretch people. This means they have to trust people to learn, develop and possibly to fail. Letting go of control is often the most difficult thing for an executive to do. After all, their experience means they often assume they know how to do things better, which may or may not be true. Give people a secure base leader and they will achieve amazing things – delegating is one form of stretching another person to show what they can do. The executive must always be standing behind as a secure base. A good example is flight training. There is a moment when the flight instructor must relinquish the flight controls to the trainee.

Morris: When and why did you decide to write Hostage at the Table?

Kohlrieser: I have been held hostage four times. Early in my career it became clear that hostage negotiators have to establish a relationship with a very unlikeable, even despicable person. They must engage in a dialogue under high pressure and influence the hostage taker to give up their weapons and their hostages knowing that they will likely go to prison. The success rate of hostage negotiators doing this work is an extraordinary 95 per cent. When I described what hostage negotiators do to the executives and other professionals I work with at my IMD High Performance Leadership Program, they wanted to know if the secret of hostage negotiation can be applied to situations when one is being held a psychological hostage.

It is one thing to be a hostage with a gun to your head; it is another to be held hostage by a boss, spouse, situation or yourself. People wanted to know how hostage negotiations applied to everyday situations. So the “hostage” metaphor is a highly empowering concept that I wanted to describe in the book based on theory and actual stories. The fact is even when physically a hostage, you don’t need to feel a hostage. The techniques used to gain freedom in a hostage situation can be used by all of us in everyday life. Warren Bennis and Dan Goleman, my two wonderful mentors, colleagues and friends, encouraged me to formulate these ideas into a book, and I was honored to have Warren Bennis include it in his Leadership series.

Morris: Obviously, much of the material in the book seems to be based on what you learned from your extensive experience as a police psychologist and hostage negotiator. What were the most valuable lessons learned from that experience?

Kohlrieser: I have learned a number of lessons in my 40-year career. The most powerful lessons for me have been:

1. The power of bonding and the impact dialogue can have on an adversary, a hostage taker, or a person threatening violence.

2. The paradox of caring. Hostage negotiation succeeds because the hostage taker feels genuine care, interest and concern from the hostage negotiator.

3. The power of focusing on the goal and not on the danger or the problem. When facing a gun, the brain will naturally focus on the weapon unless you train your brain to focus on the person and the goal.

4. The power of language, dialogue and of asking questions.

5. Making concessions within a negotiation.

6. The power of loss in motivating people and in driving violence, especially hostage taking. There is always a loss that precedes a hostage-taking situation.

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To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

His home page

His faculty page

His Amazon page

IMD “Big Think” interview

YouTube videos

Monday, April 22, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lawrence Cunningham: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

CunninghamLawrence Cunningham is the Henry St. George Tucker III Research Professor at George Washington University Law School and Director of GW’s Center for Law, Economics and Finance (C-LEAF) in New York. He is the author of numerous books including three editions of The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America (Third Edition, March 8, 2013), The AIG Story (written with Hank Greenberg) and Contracts in the Real World: Stories of Popular Contracts and Why They Matter. His research appears in leading university journals, including those published by Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Michigan, Vanderbilt and Virginia; his Op-Eds have run in the Baltimore Sun, the Financial Times, the National Law Journal, the New York Daily News and the New York Times. On Amazon, Cunningham has been ranked one of the top 100 authors in the category of business and investing.

Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of him. To read all of it, please click here.

* * *

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

Cunningham: As a university professor, it would be blasphemous but to declare my formal education invaluable and there’s also a lot of truth in it. I learned some of the most important things I know from classroom work in economics in college and in law and business in law school. I’ve learned a great many things in the decades since, of course, but those days trained me to think, encouraged me to be curious, taught me how to interact with others, and nurtured countless other traits.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you went to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Cunningham: The importance of relationships to opening doors and keeping them open. Merit seemed as important as anything else when I began my career as a corporate lawyer in 1988. And while merit matters, what’s more important over the longer term is the quality of the network of friends, colleagues, mentors, and fans that you develop and maintain at each phase of your life and career. There is a lot of truth in the old saying: “It’s not what you know but who you know.”

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

Cunningham: Other People’s Money. Hollywood has always had a bit of a hate affair with American business in portraying corporations and capitalists in negative lights. The exception is Other People’s Money, as it presents both sides of the story in a difficult circumstance of a company in decline: whether to stick it out or close it down. (Incidentally, it is akin to the angst portrayed in The Essays of Warren Buffett concerning a struggling New England textile company that Buffett eventually shut down.)

* * *

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First from Voltaire: “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”

Cunningham: Truth is elusive. Searching for it is indeed noble. But be skeptical of anyone who claims to have found it.

Morris: From Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Cunningham: Reminds of a quip, attributed to Will Rogers, quoted in The Essays of Warren Buffett: “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” It also reminds me of another Einstein quip: “Everything should be as simple as possible, but not more so.”

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

Cunningham: I wish such wisdom had been taken to heart by the financial engineers whose derivative products fueled the mortgages behind the housing boom that collapsed so catastrophically in 2008.

* * *

Morris: In Tom Davenport’s latest book, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” What do you think?

Cunningham: The wisdom of crowds and the power of markets are real. But within an organization it can be difficult to maintain a “collective capacity” for decision making, which would resemble a democratic vote. Shareholders do a little of that when electing directors and voting in annual meetings when no single person is entitled to make such extraordinary decisions. But with such choices made, directors and the senior executives they appoint cannot discharge their duties by referendum.

True, within boards of directors, corporations have always drawn on a fundamental notion of organizational judgment. A team rather than an individual speaks for and binds the corporation. Law even gives such board decisions reverence, under the “business judgment rule,” which keeps judges out of second-guessing.

The danger to watch for in any move to such organizational judgment is the risk of authority without accountability, which I know we will discuss a bit more later.

Morris: Here’s a brief excerpt from Paul Schoemaker’s latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: “The key question companies need to address is not ‘Should we make mistakes?’ but rather ‘which mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?’” Your response?

Cunningham: I am not sure about the notion of having an appetite for mistakes, even as a way to test assumptions. There are other less costly ways to test assumptions, such as by logical critique, contained experiments and consulting analogical experience. The wisdom I see in this quotation might be flipped around, to say there are a class of mistakes we should avoid absolutely. Foremost among these would be any decisions that impair a company’s reputation, for instance, another point I know we’ll discuss more later.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

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

The publisher’s page for The Essays

Amazon’s page for The Essays

Monday, April 8, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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