First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Not Enough For A Book; Too Much For An Article – “Kindle Singles” Are On The Way

Bob Morris and I have talked about books that really did not quite have “enough” content to justify a book.  (No, I won’t reveal titles here).  Well, new technology might just provide a solution – shorter than a book, longer than an article.  I read about it on Andrew Sullivan, but he found it here.  They will be called “Kindle Singles,” (until a competitor comes out with its version, with a different name).  From the article:

Amazon is rolling out a separate section of its Kindle store meant for shorter content—meatier than long-form journalism, but shorter than a typical book. Called “Kindle Singles,” the content will be distributed like other Kindle books but will likely fall between 10,000 and 30,000 words, or the equivalent of a few chapters from a novel.

The company believes that some of the best ideas don’t need to be stretched to more than 50,000 words in order to get in front of readers, nor do they need to be chopped down to the length of a magazine article.

Matthew Yglesias expands on the benefit:

I think that’s a great idea. Particular in the kind of political/policy space I work in, I think we see a ton of good magazine articles that outline ideas worth expanding on that get turned into books that are really quite a bit longer than they need to be. But conventions about content-length—the column, the magazine article, the book—are driven by the economics of printing and distributing bundles of ink-covered paper rather than considerations about the content itself. One of the great things about blogging is that it’s let people become more flexible about item-length when it comes to shorter kinds of things. Now it looks like the rise of e-reader technology will drive a similar trend toward flexibility at the longer end, which I think will be a big win for non-fiction writers and readers.

From one commenter:

So, they’ve invented the novella of non-fiction writing?

Thursday, October 14, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , | Leave a comment

Robert Pagliarini offers “4 Steps to Becoming a Multi-Tasking Master”

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Robert Pagliarini for BNET, The CBS Interactive Business Network.

Robert Pagliarini

To read the complete article, check out the other resources, and/or obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.

*     *     *



No doubt you’ve heard the research that “proves” multitasking is counterproductive, but I disagree. There is bad multitasking and there is good multitasking. The trick is to learn how to multitask the right way.

Traditional multitasking doesn’t work because it involves two or more activities competing for the same resources. A typical multi-tasker may try to listen to voicemail while reading a report, talk to a friend while writing an email, read the morning newspaper while talking to their spouse, or play a board game with their kids while watching the evening news. The problem with all of these is that these tasks are competing for the same limited resources.

Fortunately, there is a smarter way to multitask. In psychology, chunking is a strategy for making more efficient use of memory. For example, trying to remember “IMAT TRA CTE DTOF UR RYSH EEP” would take forever and you’d forget it tomorrow. But you could instantly remember “I’m attracted to furry sheep.” Why? Even though the order of letters hasn’t changed, grouping them differently produces a much different result. Psych people call this chunking (the grouping part, not the attraction to sheep).

For our purposes, chunking is a strategy for making more efficient use of your time and schedule. Chunking allows you to get more done by grouping multiple tasks together. So, how does chunking avoid the pitfalls of traditional multitasking? The trick is to choose two tasks that don’t compete for the same resources by combining a mental task with a physical task.

4 Steps to Becoming a Multi-tasking Master

List dead time activities. Dead time is not time when you have nothing planned, but is time spent doing a brainless activity that feels like a waste of time. No matter who you are or how productive you think you might be, we all have some dead time throughout our day. Examples include brushing your teeth, getting dressed, standing in line, sweeping the floor, driving, sitting in waiting rooms, working out, cooking, doing the laundry, jogging, vacuuming, doing the dishes, etc. Think about an average day and list all of the areas of dead time you find. Look for pockets of dead time that are predictable and recurring. Write them down as you think of them.

Brainstorm the positive activities you want to do more often. Step 1 had you list dead time activities, but improving your life is all about doing the things you’re not currently doing but that you want to do. If time weren’t an issue, what activities would you do? Maybe you’d read every John Grisham novel or more articles in your industry’s journal. Maybe you’d hand-write letters to your top clients or to family or call each of your friends once a week. If you’re having trouble coming up with a good list, think of those things you enjoy and/or that will get you closer to reaching your goals.

Determine if the activities require your head or your body. Mark the activities in step 1 and step 2 as either “head” or “body.” In other words, does the activity require you to think (head) or be physical (body)? Head examples include attending church, watching TV, memorizing new vocabulary, reading, listening to an audio program, etc. Body examples include lifting weights, washing a car, cooking, driving, doing laundry, jogging, showering, flying, commuting (i.e., subway, bus), working on the lawn, walking, doing dishes, etc.

Make the connection. Look for opportunities to combine a head activity with a body activity. For example, you could listen to the Portuguese audio program while you stretch, memorize 10 new words by posting them in the shower and near the kitchen sink, walk while calling your friends, listen to The Grapes of Wrath while driving into work, etc.

For chunking to work, you must combine just one head activity with just one body activity. For example, at my church, you can take a hike on a trail with a preacher while he gives a bible study. A friend makes all of her calls while on a StairMaster. What about you? What can you chunk?

Want to make more money, learn how to start a business, or how to create your best life? You can download several free resources (assessment, poster, audio interview, video, and more) at

*     *     *

Robert Pagliarini is a man on a mission. He is obsessed with improvement and making the most of the “other 8 hours” — the 8 hours not spent sleeping or working. He’s also obsessed with empowering others to live life to the fullest by radically changing the way they spend their other 8 hours. He is the author of The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth & Purpose and Six-Day Financial Makeover.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anil and Ajay Patel Provide the Business Insight for the Day

Now here’s your important business insight for the day…

People are always looking to buy stuff cheaper.
Anil and Ajay Patel,young entrepreneurs, who transformed their love of video games into a profitable business,  (Twins Turn Video Game Hobby into Business).

Thursday, October 14, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , | Leave a comment

Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: A book review by Bob Morris

Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less
Guy Claxton
Ecco Press (1999)

This book has created tremendous interest among those who want to gain a better understanding of human intelligence. According to John Cleese, author Guy Claxton provides “The essential guide to creative thinking!” (To see a 10-minute film clip during which Cleese shares his own thoughts about creativity, please click here.) Almost immediately Claxton notes that “Roughly speaking, the mind possesses three different processing speeds. The first is faster than thought….Below this, there is another mental register that proceeds more slowly still. It is often less purposeful and clear-cut, more playful, leisurely or dreamy….[the] third type of intelligence is associated with what we call creativity, or even ‘wisdom’.”

With delicious wit as well as probing insight, Claxton helps us to understand learning by osmosis; the potential value of intuition and creativity to decision-making and problem-solving; why reason and intuition are sometimes antagonists; the phenomenon of perception without consciousness; the “rudiments” of wisdom; and, how to recognize situations in which there is greater need for the tortoise’s “slower ways” than for those of the hare who, in many quests for understanding, either arrives later or not at all.

The book is extremely well researched and original. The author takes gutsy stands. For instance, he considers the “Left brain Right brain” issues as dated pop psychology. According to his thorough research, the mind’s skill set is a lot more fluid than that. Everything the left brain can do, the right brain can do also, and vice versa. His advocates balance of the thinking modes. He concentrates on the two main ones: intellect (d-mode) and  intuition (undermind). He believes that optimal cognition is reached through a balance between the two modes of thinking. That said, the key is to use the proper mode of thinking at the proper time. One is not better than the other, one is more appropriate than the other at a given moment. Also, thinking modes can be used in effective sequences.

Claxton suggests that many tough problem solving situations can be tackled through four stages of thinking: first, preparation in D-Mode; second, incubation in intuitive mode; third, illumination in intuitive mode; and fourth, verification in the D-mode. You could say that this book merely defines the three speeds of the brain: reflexive (lightning speed), intellectual (fast), and intuitive (slow). However, that would be the equivalent of summarizing a description of the “Mona Lisa” by describing this masterpiece as 4 feet high by 2.5 feet wide. Thus, there is a lot more to this book than three speeds. Each chapter is rich with information, perspectives, and new angles as well as intuitive ND counterintuitive concepts. If you liked How to Think like Leonardo DaVinci, by Michael Gelb, you will love this book. It is not as quick and easy a read, but it drills down much deeper.

This is a very informative, highly entertaining book.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jeffrey Fox on “What Rainmakers Do in Tough Economic Times”


Jeffrey Fox


Here is the featured article in the latest issue of Jeffrey Fox’s online newsletter. To check out all the resources he provides at his website and sign up for a free newsletter subscription, please click here.

In my opinion, no one knows more about how to create or increase demand for products and/or services (i.e. rainmaking) and also about how to expedite leads to closure (i.e. sales).  I highly recommend all of Fox’s books and, given the current “tough economic times,” especially these:

How to Become a Rainmaker (2000)
How to Become a Marketing Superstar (2003)
Secrets of Great Rainmakers (2006)
How to Become a Fierce Competitor (2010)

*     *     *

Rainmakers are those salespeople who bring in the revenue; bring in the big clients; and keep the important, dissatisfied customer from leaving.  Rainmakers ring the cash register. In good times ordinary salespeople can look like a rainmaker.  In good times ordinary sales people float with the flow, as the rising river lifts all rafts.  It is in tough times that companies notice the true rainmaker.  In big companies about five percent of the sales force are true rainmakers.  In small companies, particularly companies with less than ten people, there is often only one rainmaker, usually the owner or lead partner.

In all companies, in tough times, ordinary sales people make 30% fewer sales calls than in they do in good times.  30% fewer calls!  Ordinary salespeople have lots of socially acceptable sounding excuses for not making calls: “the customer has no money;” “the customer’s budget has been cut;” ” the customer won’t see me.”  They sound okay, but are just excuses.  The fierce competitor companies, and the rainmakers, do just the opposite.  The rainmakers make 30% more sales calls in tough times than they do when the economy is booming.

Rainmakers also do the following:

1. They create their own good economy…by selling more, introducing new products, opening new markets, entering new niches.

2. They don’t sell features or benefits, products or services, patents or technology. They sell the dollarized value customers get from the products.  Rainmakers don’t sell a motor.  They sell the $20 a day the customer saves by investing in the energy efficient motor.  Dollarization is the most powerful selling strategy. Sell money.  If you sell money, you won’t have to ask for money.

3. They call on decision-makers, those customer people who can say “yes.” This means they make sales calls at high executive levels.  And because the rainmaker sells money, high-ranking execs will always meet them.

4. They pre-call plan in writing every sales call on a decision maker. Rainmakers never wing-it, regardless of their years of experience, or their long time relationship with the customer. Rainmakers always, always pre-call plan.

5. Rainmakers always ask the customer to commit to an action that leads to the sale. Ordinary sales people rarely, or never, ask for the order.  Ordinary sales people fear rejection, fear hearing “no,” so they don’t ask.  The rainmaker also fears rejection, but asks anyway, knowing that one customer ‘yes” trumps one-hundred “no’s.”

Rainmakers and fierce competitor companies go together.  If you don’t have a rainmaker go hire one.  If you have a rainmaker, hire another one.

Here are ten fast simple Rainmaker rules.  Yup. Real simple.  So simple that too many salespeople break the rules every day.

1. Never wear a pen in your shirt pocket. The possible inkblot, an in-the-customer’s face Rorschach Test, will kill the deal.

2. Never drink coffee on a sales call. You can’t ask questions with coffee in your mouth.  You can’t take notes with a coffee cup in your hand.  No embarrassing spills.  It’s a sales call, not a coffee break at Dunkin Donuts.

3. Set up breakfast sales calls. Inexpensive. No alcohol.  Customer gets something done on his or her way to work.

4. If you take a customer to lunch, take the best seat. It is impolite to let your customer waste her time looking at the marina, the other patrons.  The customer must be focused on answering the rainmaker’s questions.

5. And you are not at lunch to eat lunch. You are at lunch to ask questions, and to get the order.

6. Treat every sales call on your long-term customers as if it were the first sales call. Prepare.  No nonchalance.  No winging it.

7. Always ask for referrals. Use them.  People love to refer.  It validates their decision to have worked with you.

8. Send five notes a day to prospects and customers.

9. Heed the rainmaker motto:  if you don’t do business with me, we both lose.

10. And the rainmaker toast…

“Early to bed,
Early to rise,
Sell hard.
And dollarize.”

Thursday, October 14, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | | 1 Comment

Does Management Work? – It Looks Like it Does

the skilful or resourceful use of materials, time, etc.


More than a year ago, I wrote this post: Which is It? Overmanaged and Underled — OR, Undermanaged and Overled? How about Undermanaged and Underled? My conclusion then, and still now, is that yes, many companies and organizations are underled, but they are also undermanaged.

There are, of course, plenty of cases of micromanagers who squelch creativity and initiative.  But in general, people do better when there is the right kind of management.  And for every case of a company that is overmanaged, I suspect there are many more that are undermanaged.

I remember hearing a General interviewed in the early days of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, complaining about the inability to get simple things done in Iraq.  He said (paraphrased): “Don’t ever let me complain about the bureaucracy back in the United States again.  I would give anything to have those bureaucrats here — they actually get things done!”

In today’s, we find this:  In Defense of Middle Management:  A new study demonstrates just how important bureaucracy and paperwork really are by Ray Fisman. It summarizes the findings of a serious academic project, a new World Bank-Stanford study titled “Does Management Matter?” Here is a brief excerpt from the Fisman article:

It turns out management does matter: The consultants boosted productivity by around 10 percent by improving quality, managing inventory, and speeding up production.

The study’s authors enumerate 38 practices that define good management. These include routines to record and analyze quality defects, production and inventory tracking systems, and clear assignment of job roles and responsibilities.

These 38 practices are specific for the industry/factories studied in India that were part of the study, and include such additional items as:

The shop floor is marked clearly for where each machine should be
The shop floor is clear of waste and obstacles
Machine downtime is recorded

The complete list of 38 practices is in Table 2 of the full study, DOES MANAGEMENT MATTER? EVIDENCE FROM INDIA by Nicholas Bloom, Benn Eifert, Aprajit Mahajan, David McKenzie and John Roberts.

In the Slate article, two photos from a factory in India are worth a couple of thousand words:

Before: Flammable garbage in a Mumbai textile plant

After: Textiles at the plant have been organized and racked


The idea really is simple.  Plan the work.  Organize the work environment.  Organize the work.  Make sure everyone knows what to do when, what to do next.  “Manage.” Chances are, we could all use a little good management to help us work more effectively and efficiently.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brad Power on “Four Executive Mindsets That Propel Process Improvement”

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Brad Power 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.

*     *     *

As I argued in my last post, the biggest challenge to sustaining process improvement in an organization is getting and retaining the attention of top executives. Without it, investments in process redesign, training, and systems changes won’t get funded. Worse, turf issues between departments and functions — critical to cross-functional process improvement — won’t get resolved.

In particular, I’ve found that four traditional mindsets and behaviors get in the way:

Work Harder — the urge to fix service problems by creating workarounds (fire fighting, adding complexity) or placing blame.

Keep Wall Street Happy — an expedient, short-term focus on quarterly (or monthly or weekly) financial results.

Stress Functional Excellence — a narrow, hierarchical tendency to design work from the inside-out by starting with functional or local optimization.

Compete on Bold Moves — focus on blockbuster products, sales innovations, or big deals; in other words, put a premium on heroes and heroics.

But what’s to replace those mindsets? Unless we can clearly articulate what executives should support, we can hardly blame them for not supporting it. Here are four alternatives:

Work Smarter: When we have service and delivery problems, we should work smarter — not necessarily harder — to redesign processes and eliminate problems permanently (often called “root cause problem solving”). When service and delivery problems occur, we should think twice about solving them by heroic efforts, working longer hours, putting more people in the problem area, and working around the problem. And we should also watch out for tendencies to believe that people doing the work are the source of all process problems. Too often we use the “Five Whos,” looking for who caused the problem and blaming them, rather than the “Five Whys,” looking for the systemic source of the problem.

Be a Steward of Operational Capabilities: Senior executives must own the long-term development of organizational capabilities and customers’ experiences, operational strategy, and process innovation (changing how we work). Some managers link process improvement with cost reduction. So when times are good, they aren’t interested in it. When times are bad, they look at quicker fixes such as reducing travel, squeezing suppliers, cutting back on marketing, freezing wages and headcount, or layoffs. Operational capabilities are built over time, and require ongoing commitment. Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, who is regarded as the father of the “shareholder value” movement, has said the obsession with short-term profits and share price gains that has dominated the corporate world for over 20 years was “a dumb idea.”

Listen to the “Voice of the Customer”: Defining how we organize our work starts with listening to the customer — not with studying how we are organized today. Delivering the experience our customers want (and even demand) should ultimately guide how we work as a team across functions and departments. Most senior executives believe that work is organized and delivered by functions and departments, and that functional and departmental excellence therefore ensures performance. They don’t reflect on the big picture — that while each function and department may be doing a good job, the overall (cross-functional, “end-to-end”) process may not work well at all; it might even be dysfunctional, so to speak.

View Process Innovation as Strategic: Superior financial performance comes not just from excellent products and services, but also excellent processes. This is especially so when a company isn’t a leader in product innovation. Through the relentless pursuit of improvements in time, cost, quality, service and the removal of waste, process innovation can give us competitive advantage. Some senior managers believe that if they get the right people in a few key roles, process improvement will follow. They believe that their elite professionals (such as doctors in hospitals, traders in trading organizations, and software engineers in software companies) drive the performance of the organization. These senior managers don’t consider that the processes that people work within play a critical role in their potential effectiveness and efficiency.

*     *     *

Brad Power ( is a consultant and researcher in process innovation. His current research is on sustaining attention to process management — making improvement and adaptation a habit (even fun?). He is currently conducting research with the Lean Enterprise Institute.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luis Urzúa, Shift Foreman – Leader of the Decade

So here’s the situation.  You’re the shift foreman for 32 other men.  They are descending into chaotic hopelessness.  Fist fights are breaking out.  Resources are nearly exhausted.   All you can really do is wait – hope – and panic.  Or…you can take the lead.  What do you do?

If you want to survive, you take the lead.  And that is exactly what Luis Urzúa, the 54 year old shift foreman did with his crew of 32 men over 2,000 feet underground.

He divided the men into three groups.  He gave them “specific/tangible” tasks to perform.  He evenly and fairly divided out their incredibly sparse resources.  And, he waited until they all made the surface before he left the mine.  And when he was greeted by President Sebastián Piñera, the President told him:  “Mr. Urzúa, your shift is over.”

Alex Ibanez/Chilean Presidential Press Office, via Associated Press


Luis Urzúa, one of the happiest moments of his life (EFE)


It’s simple:  Luis Urzúa is the leader of the decade.

This post has two parts:  the story of Urzúa, and the insight of Robert (Bob) Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best…and Learn from the Worst. (Bob Morris reviewed this book on our blog here).  Here’s the last paragraph of Bob’s review:

Sutton identifies the “what” and explains the “why” of a good or bad business decision or initiative, then focuses most of his attention on how to do what must be done while avoiding (or repairing) the damage of what should not be done.

The Story — Urzúa’s Leadership:
You can read much about what Urzúa actually did here: Chilean mine foreman works heroically to keep hope alive. Here are some excerpts:

For Urzúa, the command challenges began within moments of the mine collapse — he quickly ordered his men to huddle while he took three miners and scouted up the tunnel, searching for information on the massive cave-in. Correctly deducing that the men were trapped, Urzúa instituted a set of rules and regulations that were both methodically rigid and crucial to the men’s survival. He ordered that the mine’s stash of emergency food be rationed into minimal portions — two spoonfuls of tuna fish and half a glass of milk every 48 hours.

As rescuers spent 16 days in frustrated attempts to drill a rescue hole 700m down to the trapped men, Urzúa also used his training as a topographer to make detailed maps of the miners’ underground world, which includes more than 2km of tunnels, caves and a 35m2 refuge.

With a white Nissan Terrano pickup truck as his office, Urzúa drew maps; divided the miners’ world into a work area, a sleep area and a sanitary facility; and used the headlights of mining trucks to simulate sunlight in an attempt to provide a semblance of routine to the men’s daily lives. Urzúa also kept the men on a 12-hour shift schedule.

When the first letters from the trapped men arrived “top side,” rescue workers were heartened to see the messages carefully worded and dated, a sign that the miners were not disorientated.

“You think they wrote those letters in the moment? No,” Manalich (Chilean Minister of Health Jaime Manalich) said. “Urzúa had that material prepared. He knew there would be a rescue mission.”

As Urzúa’s 12-hour shift stretches to over a month of command and control, the former soccer coach has such complete dominion over the situation that on Friday last week during a daily medical conference call, he told Manalich to “keep it short, we have lots of work to do.”

The Chilean government has three separate rescue plans in place, called simply plans A, B and C. Each effort is a multimillion-dollar gamble; all count on Urzúa to organize a host of tasks for his mining crew.

Insight from Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss:
Luis Urzúa has been a good boss (make that a great boss).  Robert (Bob) Sutton, the author of Good Boss, Bad Boss, wrote a blog post entitled Luis Urzúa and the Trapped Miners: A Good Boss, Performance, and Humanity. Sutton was interviewed on CNN about Urzúa’s leadership in the mine (I cannot find the interview on-line), and on PRI’s The World, which I heard (listen to the app. 6 minute audio here).  Here are a few excerts (taken from the audio – maybe not a perfect transcription, but close):

A boss has two jobs:  One, to be technically competent. Two, he has to have the compassion and caring about people.

Sometimes we have this romanticized view of leadership that the boss is sort of a superhero who runs around doing everything himself.  (But Urzúa) organized teams below him; a medical team, a spiritual team.  He consistently puts his own needs last.

He let people know what was coming.  Give people as much predictabilty as possible.  Small wins…little sort of steps that they can take.

Very often, leadership is sort of described in a big, broad brush sort of notion.  What great bosses do is provide the little steps so that we can move along, and clearly he has/and his team have been doing that.

We all want to be on a team where the right people are in the right seats.

I suspect that the work of this remarkable leader, and his appointed team leaders, will get a lot of attention in the coming months. But I think it is time to go ahead and state the obvious: Luis Urzúa, Shift Foreman is the Leader of the Decade.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , , | Leave a comment



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 414 other followers

%d bloggers like this: