First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

“You should do what you love and love what you do.”

Teresa Amabile

In an article that was published by California Management Review in 1997, “Motivating Creativity in Organizations,” Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile observed, “You should do what you love and love what you do.”

Amabile is one of my intellectual heroes (heroines?). She and her associates have conducted extensive research on the impact of job conditions on the quality of work produced.

They discovered that this is what the best work requires:

1. That people be given a great deal of freedom in figuring out how to complete the work – that is, the opportunity to make day-to-day decisions during the project. In a word, autonomy.

2. That team members felt both challenged and excited in a positive fashion by the work they were asked to do. In a word, inspiration.

3. That those involved had sufficient organizational support such as resources, a supportive work group, a supportive supervisor who communicates well, and an organizational environment in which creativity is strong encouraged and generously rewarded. In a word, appreciation.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Another of my intellectual heroes is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (1997) and Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (2008). He and his associates have also conducted rigorous and extensive research to determine when people are happiest in the workplace. Here is a brief excerpt from Flow:

“Hours pass by in minutes, and minutes can stretch out to seem like hours.” When researchers interviewed highly-accomplished specialists (e.g. musicians engaged in a performance, athletes engaged in competition), they spoke of feeling as though they were being carried along by water. They were almost floating. In a word, flow.

Therein lies both the challenge and opportunity that every organization faces: To establish and then sustain a work environment in which people do what they love and love what they do.

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Teresa Amabile is the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School. She is also a Director of Research at the School and is the author of Creativity in Context and Growing Up Creative, as well as over 150 scholarly papers, chapters, case studies, and presentations.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is professor and former chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago. His previous books include the aforementioned Creativity and Flow as well as The Evolving Self.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rosabeth Moss Kanter on adding values to valuations: Indra Nooyi and others as institution-builders

Here is an excerpt from article written by Rosabeth Moss Kanter for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Daily Alerts, please visit

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(Editor’s note: This post is part of a six-week blog series on how leadership might look in the future. The conversations generated by these posts will help shape the agenda of a symposium on the topic in June 2010, hosted by HBS’s Nitin Nohria, Rakesh Khurana, and Scott Snook.)

When I imagine the future of leadership, one face I picture is Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo.

Nooyi moved from India to the U.S., then rose in this multinational beverage and snack company to head the financial function before becoming CEO. Today, she retains her financial savvy but has broadened her agenda well beyond the numbers. Nooyi is leading PepsiCo to examine the health implications of its products, partner with governments and NGOs, grow the business in emerging markets, and empower the younger generation to take responsibility early in their careers. On her watch, PepsiCo hired an official from the World Health Organization to be chief scientist, an industry first. The company has already found a way to reduce the sodium in potato chips.

Under Nooyi, PepsiCo is reshaping relationships between business and society. PepsiCo launched a partnership with Waste Management Inc. to create innovative public recycling kiosks offering incentives for consumers to deposit empty bottles and cans. The company took marketing funds generally used for expensive Super Bowl TV commercials and has used them instead for the “Pepsi Refresh” challenge, a competition to find the best not-for-profit organizations whose social innovations can solve significant world problems.

Cross-cultural, female, visionary, and values-driven, Nooyi embodies characteristics that will be increasingly sought in leaders for a globalizing world. In an interdependent world of border-crossing and boundary-spanning, leaders must position their organizations not only in the marketplace but also in a social nexus in which sectors overlap and societal problems belong to everyone.

Vanguard leaders add a social logic to traditional financial logic. Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald is passionate about P&G’s values and culture, including its stated purpose to “improve the lives of the world’s consumers, now and for generations to come.” In the fall of 2009, he launched a new business strategy, which he calls “purpose-inspired growth”: to “improve more lives in more places more completely.” GE’s Jeffrey Immelt has reshaped General Electric around “eco-imagination,” which is a business strategy and a societal purpose. Timberland’s CEO Jeffrey Swartz has long advocated the marriage of commerce and justice and was a pioneer in offering employees community service opportunities. In smaller organizations, too, entrepreneurs are creating businesses that echo their values. Seth Goldman leads Honest Tea, orienting this emerging company around healthy, organic ingredients and support for good causes through product lines such as “community green tea.”

These vanguard leaders and companies reflect opportunities and imperatives for sustainability in a topsy-turvy world. Globalization and the spread of information technology have turned organizations upside-down and inside-out. Decisions are being pushed to lower levels, closer to the field, or propelled by self-organizing networks. Societal issues and social identities have come inside organizations as discussable matters, while more people are encouraged to engage with society outside the organization. More information is transmitted more rapidly, exposing the inside to external scrutiny and making misconduct easier to find and report. Frequent and often unexpected change has added to uncertainty and complexity. More people from different cultures, backgrounds, and social types interact more frequently, making diversity a given and cultural understanding a priority.

As cosmopolitan boundary-crossers who see beyond their industry, sector, or home country, leaders must understand the greater good while find opportunities in societal problem-solving to create innovations that build the future. They must seek partnerships that help them accomplish missions impossible for one organization to handle alone. They must understand the broader context in which they operate while also having the vision to change it. Their business savvy is still important, but by adding societal values to financial valuations they create a meaningful human institution out of a bundle of impersonal assets.

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To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Daily Alerts, please visit

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Rosabeth Moss Kanter holds the Arbuckle Professorship at Harvard Business School, chairs the Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative, and is the author of Confidence and SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth and Social Good.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

After The Great Oil Spill — Revisiting Thomas Freidman’s Hot, Flat, And Crowded

(note from Randy – I am certainly no expert in this field.  I read books, and then try to let the authors and the books speak.  This post is an attempt to let Friedman’s book speak to us).


The news is not yet turning any better in the aftermath of the Gulf Oil disaster.  Oil continues to escape. No expert is sure, but there seems to be a growing consensus that the total amount of oil seeping into the environment is going to be greater than the 11 million gallons of the Exxon Valdez disaster – maybe much more.

Maybe it’s time to revisit a few of the quotes/warnings from Thomas Friedman’s book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded.  Like this paragraph:

We now understand that these fossil fuels are exhaustible, increasingly expensive, and politically, ecologically, and climatically toxic.  That’s the line we’ve crossed.
What changed?  The simple answer is that flat met crowded.  So many more people were suddenly able to improve their standards of living so much faster.  And when the crowding of the world and the flattening of the world converged around the year 2000, the world went into a track where global demand for energy, natural resources, and food all started to grow at a much accelerated pace – as the Western industrialized countries still consumed considerable amounts of energy and natural resources and big emerging countries got to join them at the middle-class dinner table.

So, this is the problem.  What is the solution?  There is no “one solution” — it will take an array, a constellation of solutions.  But, before we embrace any solution, we have to acknowledge the reality:

“Hello, my name is Randy,
We are the United States,
We are the world,
And we are all addicted to oil.”

Only when we acknowledge the depth of the problem do we have a chance to turn toward true alternatives.  (Remember, the phrase “alternative energy” is about true alternatives!)

Friedman includes this quote in his book:

“Obsessing over recycling and installing a few special light bulbs won’t cut it…  We need to be looking at fundamental change in our energy, transportation and agricultural systems rather than technological tweaking on the margins…  To stop at “easy” is to say that the best we can do is accept an uninspired politics of guilt around a parade of uncoordinated individual action…”  (Michael Maniates, Washington Post, November 22, 2007).

Our economy needs us to make money on energy in ways that are – renewable; cleaner; different..  The fish, and the people who make their living from our oceans, need no more oil spills.  Our bodies need cleaner air.  The reasons are numerous – it really is time to get serious about alternatives.

Here’s Friedman’s key quote from the book:

Green is the new red, white, and blue because it is a strategy that can help to ease global warming, biodiversity loss, energy poverty, petrodictatorship, and energy supply shortages – and make America stronger at the same time.  We solve our own problems by helping the world solve its problems.  We help the world solve its problems by solving our own problems.

If climate change is a hoax, it is the most wonderful hoax ever perpetrated on the United States of America.  Because transforming our economy to clean power and energy efficiency to mitigate global warming and the other challenges of the Energy-Climate Era is the equivalent of training for the Olympic triathlon:  If you make it to the Olympics, you have a better chance of winning because you’ve developed every muscle.  If you don’t make it to the Olympics, you’re still healthier, stronger, fitter, and more likely to live longer and win every other race in life.  And as with the triathlon, you don’t just improve one muscle or skill, but many, which become mutually reinforcing and improve the health of your whole system.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , | 1 Comment

If the Reader Quits Reading, Blame the Writing!

Writing matters.  Good writing makes a difference.  Poor writing? – it simply does not get read.

All good writing has this one element in common – the writing entices you to keep reading.  Once it rambles, is dry, is boring, the reader is gone.

Will the reader read my next sentence? is the question to be asked about every sentence.

The ReWork guys are big on good writing.  They are really, really down on bad writing.  It’s in their book.  It’s in their own writing style.  And, now, Jason Fried has written:  Why Is Business Writing so Awful? for

He starts with this:

Nearly every company relies on the written word to woo customers. So why is most business writing so numbingly banal?

What’s bad, boring, and barely read all over? Business writing. If you could taste words, most corporate websites, brochures, and sales materials would remind you of stale, soggy rice cakes: nearly calorie free, devoid of nutrition, and completely unsatisfying.

Click on over, and keep reading.  It’s short – to the point – just like all of his writing.

And, yes, it will keep you reading until the end, and is worthy of your time.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Wellbeing

Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements
Tom Rath and Jim Harter
The Gallup Press (2009)

This is Tom Rath’s latest book, co-authored with Jim Harter whose previous book, 12: The Elements of Great Managing, Harter co-authored with Rodd Wagner. Rath explains that in addition to their own research for this book, he and Harter consulted an abundance of research conducted by the Gallup Organization with which they are associated. Moreover, “Gallup assembled an assessment composed of the best questions asked over the last 50 years. To create this assessment, the Wellbeing Finder, we tested hundreds of questions across countries, languages, and vastly different life situations.”

Although 66% of those surveyed are doing well in one of the five areas, only 7% are thriving in all five. “These five factors are the currency of a life that is worthwhile. They describe demands of life that we can all do something about and that are important to people in every life situation we studied.” Here they are, with my own take on each:

Career Wellbeing
: Eager to begin work each day, feels appreciated as a person as well as an employee, respects supervisor, enjoys associates, speaks with pride and appreciation about company to others

Social Wellbeing: Has several strong relationships, can activate a support system when encountering problems, feels loved

Financial Wellbeing: Manages finances prudently, aware of costs and in control of expenditures, frugal but not cheap

Physical Wellbeing: Gets sufficient rest as well as rigorous regular exercise, has plenty of energy in reserve, eats sensibly

Note: In Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, John Ratey explains why there is a direct and decisive correlation between a healthy lively body and a healthy lively brain. Those who have a special interest in this important subject are strongly urged to check out Ratey’s book.

Community Wellbeing: Is actively and productively engaged in the neighborhood and in the community as well as in various groups within the area such as a church, P.T.A., Crime Watch, Meals on Wheels, homeowners’ association, etc.

Rath and Harter have much of value to say about each of these five dimensions of human experience such as their core values, sources of nutrition, strategies for development, threats to well-being, and interdependence with each other. Of even greater value, in my opinion, they suggest what lessons can be learned from responses to Gallup’s global surveys during the last 50 years and offer their observations and recommendations in terms of how each reader can improve the quality of life and sense of well-being in each dimension.

They observe, “For many people, spirituality is the threat that connects and drives them in all of these areas. Their faith is the single most important element in their lives, and it is the foundation of their daily efforts across each of the five areas. For others, a deep mission, such as protecting the environment, drives them each day. While the things that motivate us differ greatly from one person to the next, the outcomes do not.”

Readers will especially appreciate Rath and Harter’s provision of a brief summary of the “essentials” at the conclusion of the separate chapter they devote to each of the five elements. They also provide seven appendices in the “Additional Tools and Resources” section and thus enable each reader to complete a number of self-diagnostic exercises within the context they have so carefully formulated throughout the preceding narrative. Appendix A, for example, consists of “The Well-Being Finder: Measuring and Managing Your Well-Being” and Appendix G offers a brief but remarkably comprehensive discussion of “Well-Being Around the World.”

Credit Tom Rath and Jim Harter with a brilliant achievement of enduring importance and exceptional significance. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time someone has analyzed hundreds of Gallup’s global surveys involving millions of respondents and correlated, indeed integrated what they reveal within a framework that embraces five major dimensions of human experience.

I wholeheartedly agree with them that “one of the best ways to create more good days is by setting positive defaults. Any time you can help your short-term self work with your longer-term aims, it presents an opportunity. You can intentionally choose to spend more time with the people you enjoy most and engage your strengths as much as possible.” Once our daily choices are in proper alignment with long-term benefits, our families, our friendships, our workplaces, and our communities will become healthier and thus even more worthwhile. If well-being is the objective, then well-becoming is the opportunity.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



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