First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

You Can Purchase Our Book Synopsis Presentations – Subscription Plan Now Available

Let me take a moment for a “commercial.”  This blog is a place to learn information, a place to be challenged, a place to think about ideas for effective business ideas and strategies.  But occasionally, I would like to share a little about what we do.

Karl Krayer and I have spoken monthly at the First Friday Book Synopsis for over 12 years.  We are book readers, thinkers, consultants.  We also offer training in a number of areas:  writing skills, presentation skills, leadership, time and energy management, among others.  (Read our bios here).

In addition, we provide book synopsis/book briefing presentations to companies and organizations.  You can choose from any of the books we have presented, or we can custom prepare any book for your organization.

To contact us for any of these programs, visit our web site here, or send me an e-mail:  Contact us, and Karl Krayer or I will get back to you.

We have recently upgraded our companion website,  We have been “behind,” but we are catching up with the synopses of many of the books we have presented at the First Friday Book Synopsis.  For example, we have just uploaded our presentations of these books:

Reality Check
The New Experts
The Post American World

Others are on the way soon.  And from this point forward, we should have the two books from the most recent First Friday Book Synopsis within a couple of weeks after each event.

Note:  it is important to read the faq’s before you make your first purchase.  These address many of your questions (read the faq’s here).  Each presentation comes with the handout plus the audio of our presentation.  The handout is intended to be used with the audio.  The vast majority of the recordings are from our presentations at the First Friday Book Synopsis, but not all.

Some people purchase these, and listen on their own (in their car; in their iPod/MP3 while they exercise).  Others listen, following along with the handout.  (This is probably the way to get the most out of each presentations).

And we have some who play the audio for a group, then lead a discussion of the implications and applications.  Great idea!

You can purchase at two price points:  $9.99 per synopsis, or a yearly subscription, with full access to all of the archives plus the 24 new presentations a year.  A bargain!

Browse titles with the catalog, and make individual synopsis purchases, here.

Sign up for the annual subscription, get instant and full access to all the presentations already up on the web site, and access all new presentations for the next 12 months, here.

I hope you will give our services a try.  Either bring us into your company or organization, or purchase our book synopsis presentations through our web site.  These will provide valuable content and useful help as you build your future.


Note:  Karl Krayer and I work together in Creative Communication Network.  In addition, we have blogging team members who work independently..

Our blogging team partner, Bob Morris, is available as a consultant.  He is an invaluable resource for an array of business issues and problems.  He is also a master interviewer (just browse through his interviews!), and can provide custom interviews to fit the needs of your company or organization.  You can contact Bob directly at

And our other blogging team partners, Cheryl Jensen and Sara Smith of C&S Knowledge Company provide valuable services.  Visit their web site here, where you can also find their contact information.

Friday, September 10, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sam Carpenter on “The Politics of Sentimentality”

Sam Carpenter

Unlike my previous life – the life I led before the age of 50 – I now observe the world as a collection of separate systems, both mechanical and mental. It’s what I call my “systems mindset.” As I contemplate the inner workings of mechanical reality in this detached way, once in a while I stumble into an insight that instantly replaces a cloying foggy suspicion with a simple crisp explanation. (And demonstrating my firm grasp of the obvious, I’ll go ahead and say it: The more one understands the inner workings of mechanical reality, the more one is apt to get what one wants out of that mechanical reality.)

Early yesterday I found an article in the Wall Street Journal that carried me through the rest of the day feeling as if I had won some kind of an “oh yeah!” lottery. Yet I sit here writing this synopsis the next morning at 2:00am feeling a bit envious that another author has concisely put into words what I had only vaguely suspected.

So, here it is. It’s an essay discussing the “increasing sentimentality of public discourse” that provides an outside-and-slightly-elevated understanding of the media’s devolution from reporting hard news, to swaying public opinion via emotional anecdote. It’s a systems mindset expose of a primary reason why the 10% of our population that truly needs our collective help is lost in the gyrations of an additional 30% who think they deserve special attention, but don’t.

The Wall Street Journal article is entitled “Politics and the Cult of Sentimentality,” by Theodore Dalrymple (which is the pen name of Anthony Daniels).  [Click here.] To read the article, click here. The piece stems from Dalrymple’s new book, Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality [click here.]

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You can download the first three chapters of Carpenter’s book Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less by emailing

I urge you to visit Carpenter’s website and check out the resources. You can also sign up for a free subscription to receive his posts and newsletters.

Friday, September 10, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Things Employees Want Most

Issie Lapowsky

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Issie Lapowsky for Inc. magazine. To read the complete article and check out other resources, please click here.

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Don’t want your employees to go the way of JetBlue’s Steven Slater? Here are [five of] 10 things that could keep them happy.

It’s no coincidence that Steven Slater [click here], the now-famous JetBlue employee, has been elevated to the status of a working person’s hero. He did what so many frustrated employees would love to do, if only they had the courage, the beers, and the inflatable slide to help them escape a less-than-pleasant office environment.

It should come as no surprise, though, that the most successful businesses are the ones that work the hardest to please their employees, and it’s up to managers to make sure they’re giving their staffs what they want to the best of their abilities.

After reading the book Why Work Sucks and How to Fix it by Cali Ressler, Jeff Gunther, CEO of the Charlottesville, VA-based software company Meddius, decided he would change the way his staff works by instituting a results-only working environment, often referred to as a ROWE. Meddius employees can work any time from any place in any way, as long as they get their work done. Gunther has found that by giving employees the trust and autonomy they need, they’ve actually been more productive and loyal to the company.

We’ve broken down the 10 things employees want that will help you keep them on board.

[Here are the first five.]

1. Employees want purpose. Don’t assume that a hefty paycheck and regular bonuses are the most important things to your employees. They, like you, want to know that what they’re doing on a daily basis has some purpose behind it. “What people want most is the chance to make a difference,” says Alexander Hiam, the Massachusetts-based author of Business Innovation For Dummies. “When you have a chance to have your ideas heard and one of them actually gets implemented, it’s such a boost.”

Dig Deeper: Building a culture of employee appreciation

2. Employees want goals. To instill a sense of purpose in your employees, be sure to lay out a clearly-defined set of goals for them on a regular basis. At Meddius, Gunther’s team of managers re-aligns each department’s goals every three months. “The goals have to be very measurable, obtainable goals,” Gunther says. For the sales team, for example, that might mean setting a goal as to the number of deals the team is expected to close in a certain period of time for a certain dollar amount. Once goals are in place, it is up to each team to decide how to achieve them.

Dig Deeper: How to set business goals

3. Employees want responsibilities. Sometimes the hardest part of being a manager is delegating, but employees crave your trust, and with that trust, should come responsibility. “People are so busy and harried themselves that all they do is work, they don’t really manage,” Hiam says. “Ask people if there are more things they can do, and then you can catch your breath and be a manager.”

Dig Deeper: How to delegate properly

4. Employees want autonomy. Take it from Gunther, giving your employees freedom over how they work can actually make them more productive. Unless you’re managing an assembly line, give your employees the freedom to work in a way that works for them. Daniel Pink, the Washington D.C.-based author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, says, “Let people figure out the best paths to the goal, rather than breathe down their necks all the time.”

Dig Deeper: How to build a beautiful company

5. Employees want flexibility. In addition to deciding how they work, the experts say employees also appreciate having a say over when they work. Gunther has, of course, set up a radically flexible schedule for his employees that might not work for every office. But, he says, it has enabled him to find and retain top talent for Meddius. “We’ve had people who have taken significant pay cuts to work for us, because at their old job they were told to show up and be at the office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.,” he says. “Generation Y is looking for a synergy between their personal lives and their professional lives.” Set up a flexible vacation policy or a telecommuting policy that enables employees to work from home. It involves a great deal of trust, but, as Pink says, “If you don’t trust your employees, you’ve got much bigger problems.”

Dig Deeper: Beyond Flextime: Trashing the Workweek

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Issie Lapowsky is a reporter at Inc. magazine. She has covered lifestyle and entertainment for the New York Daily News, and her work has been published in BlackBook magazine and The Brooklyn Rail. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Friday, September 10, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pat Lencioni on “Why Companies Need Less Innovation”

Pat Lencioni

Here is an excerpt from an article written  by Pat Lencioni for Bloomberg Businessweek magazine. To read the complete article, please click here.

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Perhaps the most popular—and misunderstood—term of the first decade of the new millennium is “innovation.” A new stack of books and articles is produced every year asserting the critical importance of innovation for organizations that want to survive, especially during these challenging times. And to a large extent, I agree with that assertion. Unfortunately, most organizations in search of innovation seem to be generating as much cynicism as they are new thinking.

The problem isn’t so much that we’re overstating the importance of innovation; it’s more about what so many leaders are doing with it. Too many of them are exhorting all of their employees to be more innovative, providing classes and workshops designed to teach everyone how to think outside the box. They’re also doing their best to include innovation on a list of core values, emblazoning the word on annual reports and hallway posters, hoping that this will inspire people to come up with new ideas that will revolutionize the long-term strategic and financial prospects of the company.

Even well-intentioned and dedicated employees are bound to respond cynically to these efforts, frustrated by what they see as hypocrisy. They just don’t perceive a genuine eagerness among leaders to embrace the new ideas of rank-and-file employees, and they’re mostly accurate in that perception. For all the talk about innovation, most executives don’t really like the prospect of their people generating new ways to do things, hoping instead that they’ll simply do what they’re being asked to do in the most enthusiastic, professional way possible. And so it is no surprise when they get pounded for preaching innovation without really valuing it.


What should leaders do? Be more open to new ideas from employees? Probably not. Better yet, they should stop overhyping innovation to the masses and come to the realization that only a limited number of people in any company really needs to be innovative.

As heretical as that may seem to those who want to believe that “innovation is everyone’s business,” consider that even the most innovative and creative organizations need far more people to be dutiful, enthusiastic, and consistent in their work than innovative or creative.

Think about a movie set. For every writer or director or actor on the payroll, there are hordes of people who have to be technically proficient, consistent, patient, and disciplined in their responsibilities. If they innovate, the project turns to chaos.

And the most creative restaurant requires the work of a single chef to design a fabulous menu, and dozens of cooks and waitresses and waiters and dishwashers who will do their jobs with commitment, consistency, and dutifulness. If the cooks innovate, consistency is gone and customers can’t rely on what they’re going to get. Even a high-tech company, regardless of what they say, doesn’t want or need its finance department or sales staff to be truly innovative.

What should leaders demand of their people, if not innovation? How about a combination of interpersonal creativity and autonomy? “Creatonomy.” I realize that sounds like a protein drink for bodybuilders, but what it means is that we need our employees to take complete responsibility to do their jobs and satisfy customers in the most effective and charismatic way possible, but within the bounds of sound business principles. For those who say, “Well, that’s what we mean when we use the word ‘innovation,’ ” you need to realize that it’s not what your employees are hearing.


Creatonomy is something that thrives in great companies. The world’s best airlines (e.g. Southwest), quick-service restaurant companies (e.g. Chick-fil-A), department stores (e.g. Nordstrom), and entrepreneurial businesses excel in it. Their employees are passionate and committed and take complete responsibility for their work, consistently turning customers into loyal fans. Sure, they’re encouraged to share their ideas about new ways to work, but most of what they are known for is being great at what has already been defined as the product or service that their company offers. And most leaders I know would take that any day, even before innovation.

Now that I’ve discouraged the wholesale application of innovation within a company, I’d like to backtrack a little. There is one group of people in an organization that has to exercise the capacity for innovation, regardless of their functional area. That group is the leadership team. Those who are chartered with overseeing a company’s various departments from the top are the keepers of innovation.

They are ultimately responsible for determining the boundaries of change that are acceptable and, perhaps most important of all, identifying the handful of others within their departments who have the invitation and freedom to innovate.

So, if you’re a leader, the next time you think about giving a speech or sending out an e-mail calling for your people to innovate, consider being more specific about what you really want from them. And if you really believe that your organization isn’t innovative enough, focus your efforts first on the people at the top.

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Pat Lencioni is the founder and president of the Table Group [click here], a business dedicated to providing organizations with ideas, products, and services that improve teamwork, clarity, and employee engagement. Lencioni’s speaking and consulting clients include a mix of Fortune 500 companies, professional sports organizations, the military, nonprofits, schools, and churches. Lencioni is the author of nine best-selling books with nearly 3 million copies sold, including the new release, Getting Naked, and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which continues to be a fixture on national best-seller lists.

Friday, September 10, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John Hagel III and John Seely Brown on how to “Shape Serendipity, Understand Stress, Reignite Passion”

John Seely Brown and John Hagel III

Here is an excerpt from an article written by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown 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 Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.

*     *     *

We are delighted when we get approached by readers to discuss our latest book, The Power of Pull. [click here]. Based on our encounters with readers, we see four themes resonating deeply.

[Here are the first two.]

Feeling more stress? You are not alone. We all feel increasingly stressed. This stands in stark contrast to the daily news headlines focused on the early signs of an economic recovery. Is this stress all in our minds?

The 2009 Shift Index for the U.S. Economy [click here], which we released in June 2009, revealed a troubling long-term trend: return on assets (ROA) for U.S. public companies declined by a staggering 75% since 1965. This long-term view of company profitability calls into question the health of U.S. corporations. This is a wake-up call for executives running these companies. They have become so focused on short-term quarterly performance and economic cycles that they have completely lost sight of longer term trends that, in the end, have a far more profound impact on corporate performance.
This performance deterioration experienced by companies ripples down to all of us working within these companies. Even those of us not working for companies find that we are facing intensifying competition from talented individuals around the world. So, the stress is real. Our book validates this, but more importantly, it provides pragmatic pathways to overcome this stress, both for individuals and for companies.

Serendipity can be shaped.
Being in the right place at the right time is not a new concept; the catchy little phrase has been with us since childhood. But is a fortuitous encounter that leads to a new business contract pure luck? Are some people luckier? Does luck last?
We believe you can shape serendipity. This is a very counter-intuitive notion. After all, most of us believe that serendipity is pure luck. How can you shape luck? While chance is an intrinsic element of serendipity, we believe that you can significantly alter the probability and quality of the unexpected encounters in our lives.

Three choices determine how [click here].

• Where we spend our time. People are spending more time in virtual environments, especially social network platforms, because they instinctively sense that these environments are often rich catalysts for serendipity. At the same time, people are making choices about where they spend their time in physical environments that also shape serendipity. While the world is getting flatter due to technology advances, people still move to large urban centers, frequent conferences, and participate in institutions which increase the likelihood of unexpected encounters with people relevant to their interests and needs.

• How we spend our time. These physical and virtual environments attract a large number of people. How do we stand out and get noticed so that we attract unexpected encounters?

• How we maximize the value of the unexpected encounter. If we are not prepared when the unexpected encounter finally occurs, it will not yield much value. Listening deeply, being attentive, and understanding what the other person is involved in prove invaluable in converting a chance meeting into a more valuable sustained relationship that keeps on giving.

*     *     *

This is another key message to relieve stress. We don’t have to wait helplessly for massive institutions to “get it.” We have the ability to make change happen ourselves. And there is a pragmatic path that does not require us to make massive investments of time and effort and wait long periods of time to reap the rewards. We can move in incremental steps that accumulate over time into fundamental change.

*     *     *

John Hagel III and John Seely Brown are co-chairmen of the Deloitte LLP Center for the Edge [click here], and have written several books focused on technology and innovation. Their latest book is The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion. co-authored with Lang Davison and published by Basic Books (2010).

Friday, September 10, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You are no longer the predator. You are the prey.”

The New Orleans Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings last night.  Their coach, Sean Payton, wanted to start this season with his team fully prepared for the challenge of defending their Super Bowl crown.  One of the steps he took was to bring in Derek Fisher to speak to his team.  Fisher is a 5 times NBA Champ (only he and Kobe Bryant have played in all five of the Lakers’ most recent championships).

Last night, Andrea Kremer reported this, and reported that Fisher said this to the Saints:

Derek Fisher

“You are no longer the predator.  You are the prey.”

It reminds me of the great business truth that I read most memorably from Gary Hamel, quoted in The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley:

To those few companies sitting on the innovation fence, business writer Gary Hamel has a dire prediction:  “Out there in some garage is an entrepreneur who’s forging a bullet with your company’s name on it.  You’ve got one option now – to shoot first.  You’ve got to out-innovate the innovators.”

Or, to put it a little more graphically, from another great athlete:

“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”
Satchel Paige

Friday, September 10, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Declining Creativity: Holy Mackerel, This is a Big Problem!

First, a quick “how did I find this?”  One of the blogs I read almost every day is Larry James’ Urban Daily.  Larry is the CEO of Central Dallas Ministries, and though he writes most often about social problems and social justice (poverty, homlessness), he also has some great surprises.  This morning, he excerpted this article from Newsweek. — his colleague, Dr. Janet Morrison, (who works with “underprivileged inner city students” – she is a marvel!) pointed him to the article.

The article: The Creativity Crisis: For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. What went wrong—and how we can fix it.

The article describes how CQ (Creativity Quotient) may be more important than IQ in determining future success.  And the article gives details about data regarding this truth, going back to some legendary tests conducted with the “Torrance kids,” a group of nearly 400 Minneapolis children who completed a series of creativity tasks newly designed by professor E. Paul Torrance.

The correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ.

  Like intelligence tests, Torrance’s test—a 90-minute series of discrete tasks, administered by a psychologist—has been taken by millions worldwide in 50 languages. Yet there is one crucial difference between IQ and CQ scores. With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect—each generation, scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making kids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling.

The entire article is a terrific read.  Here are more excerpts:

The accepted definition of creativity is production of something original and useful, and that’s what’s reflected in the tests. There is never one right answer. To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result).

With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling.

“It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,”

The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future. Yet it’s not just about sustaining our nation’s economic growth. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care. Such solutions emerge from a healthy marketplace of ideas, sustained by a populace constantly contributing original ideas and receptive to the ideas of others.

Overwhelmed by curriculum standards, American teachers warn there’s no room in the day for a creativity class.

Creativity has always been prized in American society, but it’s never really been understood. While our creativity scores decline unchecked, the current national strategy for creativity consists of little more than praying for a Greek muse to drop by our houses. The problems we face now, and in the future, simply demand that we do more than just hope for inspiration to strike. Fortunately, the science can help: we know the steps to lead that elusive muse right to our doors.

A few comments from me:

Creativity and Innovation are different, but related.  Creativity precedes innovation, and both are critical to future business and societal success.  By the way, in the article, the definition ties the two together: “To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result).”

Recently, I spoke to a man who helps people start and buy businesses, and he observed that a much, much higher percentage of business purchases these days are franchise businesses than they used to be.  He offered a few implicaitons of this trend.  Here’s one – there’s more of “the same” and less of “ the different.”  Different comes from creativity and innovation  The same is… the same.

It really does appear that we have a need for a creativity and innovation resurgence.  And, the article warns us, it has to start with the right training in school and family at a pretty young age.  So, this may take a while!

Read the article.  Really.  And then… work, more, more often, on nurturing creativity.


Let me remind you that my favorite book from the 12+ years of the First Friday Book Synopsis is by Twyla Tharp, the award-winning choreographer:  The Creative Habit:  Learn It and Use it For Life.  You can order my synopsis, with handout + audio, at our companion web site,  But, I strongly recommend that you actually read the book for yourself.

Friday, September 10, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Multipliers and Diminishers…Bad Multipliers and Diminishers

In Multipliers, written with Greg McKeown, Liz Wiseman juxtaposes two quite different types of persons whom she characterizes as the “Multiplier” and the “Diminisher.” Although she refers to them as leaders, suggesting they have supervisory responsibilities, they could also be direct reports at the management level or workers at the “shop floor” level. Multipliers “extract full capability,” their own as well as others’, and demonstrate five disciplines: Talent Magnet, Liberator, Challenger, Debate Maker, and Investor. Diminishers underutilize talent and resources, their own as well as others, and also demonstrate five disciplines: Empire Builder, Tyrant, Know-It-All, Decision Maker, and Micro Manager. Wiseman devotes a separate chapter to each of the five Multiplier leadership roles and juxtaposes each with its Diminisher counterpart.

As with Jim Collins’ Good to Great and misunderstandings about getting people on and off a “bus,” whether or not to be a “hedgehog” or a “fox,” and keeping a “fly wheel” moving and in the right direction, there are apparently some misunderstandings about “Multipliers” and “Dimishers” in Wiseman’s Multipliers. As indicated in the first paragraph (above), she is quite specific about what she means but given human nature, people will abuse as well as use the two terms. For example, suggesting that a person is either a Multiplier or a Diminisher. That is, of course, rubbish.

In his recently published book, Good Boss, Bad Boss, Robert Sutton offers clearer distinctions when defining terms. I acknowledge my debt to him when suggesting the following:

1. Good Multipliers increase health, happiness, understanding, productivity, profitability, etc.; Bad Diminishers reduce them.

2. Bad Multipliers increase illness, misery, ignorance, waste, insolvency, etc.; Good Diminishers reduce them.

3. Good Multipliers increase the number of Good Diminishers.

4. Good Diminishers reduce the number of Bad Multipliers.

You are welcome to check out my review of Wiseman’s book.

Friday, September 10, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



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