First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Still Looking for a Booming Future?

I am amazed how fascinated we are with the future.  Years ago, Stephen Covey told us that the best way to predict the future was to create it.

We also seem to love to read about it.   Here is one more new book that tells us what the United States will look like in 2025.  The book is called The Next Boom by Jack Plunkett (BizExecs Press, 2010).

In the book, Plunkett predicts that we will add 40 million people to the United States population in the next 15 years.  He predicts a greater presence of engineers and scientists in countries such as China, India, and Brazil.  And, he believes we will see a rise in the production of goods and services from markets in Southeast Asia and Africa.

I remember how much I loved to present synopses in 1999-2000 of The Long Boom by Peter Schwartz, Peter Leyden, and Joel Hyatt (Perseus Books, 1999).  I have to admit that it really feels good to read about a prosperous future.

But what a crash when that future is not fulfilled!  The “long boom” wasn’t very long.  The “next boom” may never bloom, or boom. 

Speaking only for myself, I am not willing to take the risk.  Needless to say, I won’t be reading this one or presenting it at our synopsis.  I’ve crashed once too often about unfulfilled futures.

But that is just me.  What about you?  Do you like reading about the future? 

Let’s talk about it!

Monday, February 28, 2011 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Natalie Portman Reminds Us Well – There Are No Little People

Collaborators aren’t born, they’re made.  Or, to be more precise, built, one day at a time, through practice, through attention, through discipline, through passion and commitment – and, most of all, through habit…  Like creativity, collaboration is a habit – and one I encourage you to develop.
Collaboration guarantees change because it makes us accommodate the reality of our partners – and accept all the ways they’re not like us.  And those differences are important.  The more we can draw upon our partner’s strengths and avoid approving our partner’s weaknesses, the better the partnership will be.
You need a challenging partner.  In a good collaboration, differences between partners mean that one plus one will always equal more than two.
Twyla Tharp, The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together

With God, there are no little people.
Francis Schaeffer

Here’s a snippet of a scene from Sports Night, Aaron Sorkin’s first television series (Sorkin won the Academy Award for adapted screenplay last night for The Social Network. You can read the script of this Sports Night episode, The Six Southern Gentlemen of Tennessee,  here). Casey McCall, one of the two fictional Sports Night co-hosts, had appeared on The View in the episode.  A big deal had been made about the color of his tie by the women on The View.    Monica (played by Janel Moloney) came to see him…

MONICA, A VERY SWEET 25-YEAR-OLD, APPEARS AT THE DOOR.
SHE’S HOLDING SEVERAL DRESS SHIRTS OVER ONE ARM AND SEVERAL NECKTIES OVER THE OTHER. IT WOULD APPEAR THAT SHE’S HAD TO SUMMON MOST OF HER COURAGE FOR THIS MOMENT.

MONICA
Excuse me, Mr. McCall?

CASEY
Yeah.
CASEY TURNS OFF THE TV.

MONICA
I’m sorry, is this a bad time?

CASEY
For what?

MONICA
I’d like to ask you a question, but if you’re preparing the show, if this is a bad time, I can come back.

CASEY
What’s your question?

MONICA
What’s my name?

CASEY
(BEAT) What’s your name?

MONICA
Yes.

CASEY
What are we doing right now?

MONICA
If this is a bad time —

CASEY
I’m sorry, I’m not very good at remembering names.

MONICA
Who was the number two man on the Boston Red Sox staff in 1977?

CASEY
It was Ferguson Jenkins.

MONICA
My name’s Monica. I’m the assistant wardrobe supervisor for Sports Night as well as two other shows here at CSC. I think you hurt the feelings of the woman I work for. Her name is Maureen and she’s been working here since the day you started.

CASEY
I know Maureen.

MONICA
Can I ask you another question?

CASEY
I’m sorry I didn’t know your name.

MONICA
(HOLDING UP A NECKTIE) Do you know what color this is?

CASEY
It’s grey.

MONICA
It’s called gun metal. Grey has more ivory in it, gun metal has more blue. Can you tell me which of these shirts you should wear it with?

CASEY
I don’t know.

MONICA
You’re not supposed to know what shirt goes with what suit or how a color in a necktie can pick up your eyes. You’re not expected to know what’s going to clash with what Dan’s wearing or what pattern’s gonna bleed when Dave changes the lighting. Mr. McCall, you get so much attention and so much praise for what you actually do, and all of it’s deserved. When you go on a talk-show and get complimented on something you didn’t, how hard would it be to say “That’s not me. That’s a woman named Maureen who’s been working for us since the first day. It’s Maureen who dresses me every night, and without Maureen, I wouldn’t know gun metal from a hole in the ground.” Do you have an idea what it would’ve meant to her? Do you have any idea how many times she would’ve played that tape for her husband and her kids?

—————–

Let’s start with the obvious.  The Academy Awards gives out Oscars for a number of different categories – all of which point to the obvious truth there is no such thing as a good movie that is not a team project – a true collaborative product.  It takes a lot of people working together, with great and diverse skills, to make an Oscar-worthy movie.  So there is no best actor, best director, best actress, without a really good cinematographer, or screen writer, or make-up artist, or, composer, or…you get the idea.  And the Oscar telecast is filled with such reminders, as every winner thanks people who helped him or her win this coveted award.

But, within each category there is excellence all the way down to the smallest behind-the-scenes bit-part.  And it was this truth that Natalie Portman so eloquently stated.  Even though one winner (Randy Newman) reminded the audience that reading off a list of names is “not good television,” Portman’s list reminded us that people — real people, behind every name in such a list of “thank-yous” —  are the reason a movie is made well to begin with.

Ms. Portman thanked many people, but near the end of her acceptance speech, she added this (from transcript, here):

And also there are people on films who no one ever talks about that are your heart and soul every day. Margie and Geordie who did my hair and makeup, Nicci, who dressed me, and Kate and Laura Mulleavy, who designed the beautiful ballet costumes, Joe Reidy, our incredible AD, first AD, and our camera operators J.C. and Steve who gave me so much soul behind the camera everyday, you gave me all of your energy.

Here is the business lesson (and yes, movies are big business).  It takes a team — a diverse team, made up of people with a life-time of carefully honed skills (the 10,000 hour rule!) to make a world-class movie.  Collaboration, with gifted, skilled, trained, people, at every level of the organization, produces excellence – even magic.  And shoddiness, anywhere on the team, can lower the quality all the way through the endeavor.

And for every leader (or, those with “leading roles”), take a lesson from Natalie Portman.  Don’t forget to include, and thank, the “little people.”

Monday, February 28, 2011 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Here’s Our Assignment: Set-Up-To Succeed (Never Set-Up-To-Fail — Never!)

The set-up-to-fail syndrome “is self-fulfilling and self-reinforcing – it is the quintessential vicious circle…”  High expectations or low expectations both influence other people’s performance.  Only high expectations have a positive impact on actions and on feelings about oneself.  Only high expectations can encourage the heart.
James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others

We undermine so very much.  We undermine ourselves; we undermine our people.  I wonder, at times, if we undermine our country.

If we “set-up-to-fail,” then failure is an ever-greater possibility.  If we set-up-to-succeed, then success is an ever-greater possibility.

Maybe it is this simple:  we get what we aim for.  But, “aiming for” requires specific actions; steps to follow.

And, there are steps we can take, steps we have to take, to set-up-to-succeed. We have to set the example, provide plenty of good training, and feedback, and encouragement (we have to “encourage the heart”).  If we do not provide the training, the feedback, the encouragement – to ourselves; to others – we are setting-up-to-fail.

And if we set-up-to-fail, there is a pretty good possibility that we will fail.

So, here’s our new assignment – in every endeavor, in every new initiative, let’s get serious about setting-up-to-succeed.

Saturday, February 26, 2011 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , | Leave a comment

The Question We Should Never Forget to Ask

Perhaps rightfully so, we will never escape the horrible images created by the Nazi Holocaust.  We should not forget.

My favorite book about the subject was a chiller – Hitler’s Willing Executioners:  Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust by Daniel Jonah (Vintage, 1996).   You can read my comments about that book on this site from a previous blog.

So, here comes another one for your list.  Late last year, Daniel Blatman wrote The Death Marches:  The Final Phase of Nazi Genocide (Harvard Press, 2010).   You can read an objective editorial review of this book entitled “Death Along the Way” by Timothy Snyder in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, January 8-9, 2011 (p. C6).

Somehow, I think we get comfortable with the idea that the Holocaust is simply history.  We believe it will never happen again.  We hope it, or anything like it, will never happen again.  That is true of other historical maladies, such as the Great Depression and the polio epedemic.

Snyder’s review posits a more important question that he gains from reading this book.  Toward the end of the war, the concentration camps were not killing facilities.  They were overwhelmed with prisoners evacuated from many sites, and those evacuations are classified as “death marches,” in which 250,000 people died during their marches, or upon reaching their destination.  Snyder says this:  “because the death marches do not fit our presumptions about genocide, his [Blatman’s] important book opens again the crucial question of the 20th century:  why we kill.” 

That remains a question many people have asked many times, and fewer people have tried to answer fewer times.  It is easier to ask than to seek an answer.  But until we answer, books like this make sure we never forget to ask:  why?

What do you think?  Let’s talk about it.

Friday, February 25, 2011 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Won’t Get Memories From a Kindle Like You Will From a Book

Here is some more ammunition for Kindle-bashers, coming from the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal on February 12-13, 2011.

In the weekly Books section, Eric Ormsby writes that “books beget books – and sometimes writers are moved to pay tribute to the ones that formed them” (p. C7).  His article points out that writers claim that their inspiration for writing comes as much from the books they have read, as from life itself.  And, especially so from those they read as a child. 

In the piece, he argues this:  “an interesting feature of such reminiscenses is how strongly they depend upon the physical nature of the book.  The printed book’s physicality presents a challenge to e-books, however convenient they are.  We tend to remember the love and heft of a book that we fell in love with.  Will we feel the same about ghostly glimmerings of a monitor?”

And, then:  “One reads a certain edition, a specific copy, recognizable by the roughness or smoothness of its paper, by its scent, by a slight tear on page 72 and a coffee ring on the right-hand corner of the back cover.”

Ormsby’s piece reminds me of Tim Sanders’ best-seller, Love is a Killer App.  Sanders advocates working with a book, not just reading it.  He said to buy hardback books – 4-6 at a time, write in the margins, and draft a summary at the end of  a chapter before going to the next.  The book even shows sample pages from books Sanders worked with.

There is no way that innovations on electronic readers such as a Kindle, including emoticons, highlighters, and flash pens come close to duplicating, or even replicating, working with a book in the way Ormsby and Sanders talk about it.  Hold your book, work with your book, and remember your book.  That is how you build and capture your memories.   And, that is what inspires additional writing.

In conclusion, a glimmering monitor does not hold a candle to that experience.

What do you think?  Let’s talk about it!

Friday, February 25, 2011 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Inspired Philanthropy – for those Ready to Get Serious about their Philanthropy

I recently presented my synopsis of Inspired PhilanthropyYour Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Giving Plan and Leaving a Legacy (Third Edition) by Tracy Gary, for The Dallas Foundation, a nonprofit in Dallas.  (The Dallas Foundation, Here for Good. —  Simple, wonderful line).

The book is a “workbook” on how to plan your philanthropic endeavor.  It has plenty to offer, including quite a few personal exercises to help you refine your own understanding of your core values, and then, the book offers tangible steps to follow to develop your own philanthropic short-term, long-term, and life-long (and after your life) plan.

It’s worth reading!

Here are some helpful, inspiring, insightful excerpts:

• Here’s my “one-page paragraph summary” of the book:

Giving generously is relatively easy.  Giving well; giving wisely; giving in a way that makes enough difference to matter, is much, much more difficult.  To give wisely and effectively requires serious time, — seriously, serious time! – and then the wise use of that time.  (And, maybe, just a touch of the “overly organized”).  And then…difference can be made!

A great quote:

“We have to share with our people.  Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing.” (Mother Teresa).

The book states that it takes work, and time, and serious reseach, to learn to be an inspired philanthropist.  The author describes:

• The Philanthropic Learning Curve (“Becoming an inspired philanthropist takes time.”):
• Level One:  Becoming A Donor
• Level Two:  Getting Organized
• Level Three:  Becoming More Strategic
• Level Four:  Focusing On Issues And Results
• Level Five:  Leveraging
• Level Six:  Harmony And Congruence

If you want to make a genuine difference with the gifts you make, this could be the book for you.

Thursday, February 24, 2011 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , | Leave a comment

How to Market Yourself

It almost doesn’t matter.  Seriously – it almost doesn’t matter.  Market yourself any way you want to.  Use social media, use the D-R-I-P method.  Use the farming approach of a good real estate agent.  Refine your elevator speech.  Get serious about using Constant Contact.

Yes, of course there are ways to do it that are better than other ways.  But it almost doesn’t matter which approach you take.

If you really want to market yourself – then, market yourself.

Do some marketing of yourself every week (nearly every day!).  Carve out some actual time for marketing yourself.  Write; meet; network; send out stuff.  Put your body inside a bunch of elevators so that you can give that wonderful new elevator speech.  Write blog posts, and put them up on a blog.  And send out notes to everyone in your known universe to let them all know that you are writing good stuff on a blog.  Full your pockets (or purse) with good, attractive, memorable business cards – with the address of your blog on those cards – and hand them out at those networking events.

Go to those networking events.

Just market!

If you don’t market yourself, who will?

 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , | Leave a comment

Let’s Try Something; Let’s Try Something Different; Let’s Try Something New

In the book The Art of Innovation:  Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm by Tom Kelley, we find this simple suggestion:

Observe real people in real life situations to find out what makes them tick…

This is step # 2 in the IDEO five step methodology:

The IDEO five step methodology…
#1  Understand the market.
#2  Observe real people in real life situations to find out what makes them tick…
#3  Visualize new to the world concepts and the customers who will use them.
#4  Evaluate and refine the prototypes in a series of quick iterations.  Plan on a series of improvements.
#5  Implement the new product for commercialization.

This week, I’ve had a chance to do a “ride along” with an account manager for a client (in preparation for some training sessions).  I watched, listened, and learned.

As we talked afterwards, it was clear that a new pair of eyes (mine) could see some things that someone constantly in the midst of an endeavor misses.  Not because of a lack of desire to see – but simply because it is tough to see what is always in front of you.  Thus, the wisdom of IDEO’s approach:  they always start by going out and observing real people, at work or at leisure, with real products, in their own settings…

As I observed, I thought of some recommendations to make.  Some of these are in fact “new.”  Some are, in fact, quite old – you know, the tried and true, but so easily ignored or forgotten.

So, I am preparing a list of “try these” items for our client.  I think it could be valuable.

Now, it’s your turn – and my turn.  Conduct a “ride-along” with yourself.   Yes, it very difficult – to look at and observe your own practices, to look at what you are doing, or not doing, with a new set of eyes.  (It is easier for an “outsider” to see what you have become oblivious to).  And ask these questions, all in the quest to do your work better:

• What can I try?

• What I try that is simply different?

• What can I try that is new?

This much I do know – there is a competitor lurking right around the corner that will offer some of these different/new approaches.  You may as well be the one to come up with them yourself.

———

You can purchase my synopsis of The Art of Innovation, with handout + audio, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , | Leave a comment

“Eat People” – Kessler Asks Where The Jobs Will Be (I Think He Is Partly Right, And Partly Wrong)

Here’s a title that I might, or might not, read.  I’m just not sure.

The book is Eat People And Other Unapologetic Rules for Game-Changing Entrepreneurs, and Andy Kessler is trying to make sense of this current employment climate even as he argues for bold entrepreneurship.  On the Amazon page, we read this:

The era of easy money and easy jobs is officially over. Today, we’re all entrepreneurs, and the tides of change threaten to capsize anyone who plays it safe.

And in his op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, Is Your Job an Endangered Species? Technology is eating jobs—and not just obvious ones like toll takers and phone operators. Lawyers and doctors are at risk as well, Kessler summarizes his main points.

Technology is eating jobs—and not just toll takers.
Tellers, phone operators, stock brokers, stock traders: These jobs are nearly extinct. Since 2007, the New York Stock Exchange has eliminated 1,000 jobs. And when was the last time you spoke to a travel agent? Nearly all of them have been displaced by technology and the Web. Librarians can’t find 36,000 results in 0.14 seconds, as Google can. And a snappily dressed postal worker can’t instantly deliver a 140-character tweet from a plane at 36,000 feet.
So which jobs will be destroyed next? Figure that out and you’ll solve the puzzle of where new jobs will appear.
Forget blue-collar and white- collar. There are two types of workers in our economy: creators and servers. Creators are the ones driving productivity—writing code, designing chips, creating drugs, running search engines. Servers, on the other hand, service these creators (and other servers) by building homes, providing food, offering legal advice, and working at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Many servers will be replaced by machines, by computers and by changes in how business operates. It’s no coincidence that Google announced it plans to hire 6,000 workers in 2011.

I think I agree with his accusation labeling technology as the culprit regarding the loss of many jobs.  My complaint is that he somehow thinks less regulation is the answer to creating more jobs.  Maybe he is right – but what I suspect is something else.  We simply don’t know where the future kinds of jobs are going to come from.  And since we don’t know, we need some-place/some-one to blame for the loss of so very many jobs.

I, for one, don’t believe that the blame should be placed at the feet of regulation, or government intrusion.  Yes, place plenty of the blame on technology…  too much that has been done by human beings, in product making and process systems, can now be done, is being done, or soon will be done by some form of technological advance.  The number of people needed to do what used to be done by many, many, many more people will keep dwindling.

And then (the question rises again), where will the jobs be?

Monday, February 21, 2011 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , | Leave a comment

We Need Empathy At Work, And Not Just Competition – Business (And Life) Counsel From Playwright Doug Wright

“We lead by being human. We do not lead by being corporate, professional, or institutional.” (Paul G. Hawken, founder, Smith and Hawken)
James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Pozner, Encouraging the Heart:  A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others

More profoundly than just getting things done, strong connections with others represent a value unto themselves. Relationships lie at the heart of who we are as humans; they give our lives meaning and significance.
Dov Seidman, how:  Why HOW we Do Anything Means Everything…In Business (and in Life)

————-

On a drive to a client’s last Thursday, I listened with rapt attention to a great hour on Think, the local NPR program (KERA – 90.1), hosted by Krys Boyd.  Krys is a terrific, always thoroughly prepared interviewer, and her guests on Thursday were a Pulitzer and Tony winning playwright, and his high school drama teacher.  Here’s the paragraph on Think’s web site:

Doug Wright

What makes a writer a writer, and how can a great teacher influence the arc of a writer’s career? We’ll spend this hour with playwright, author, screenwriter, actor, director Doug Wright and Linda Raya, the Highland Park High School Fine Arts director and theatre teacher who instructed Doug when he was a student at the school. Doug Wright will deliver the keynote address at this weekend’s 15th annual Highland Park Literary Festival.

During the interview, this paragraph absolutely gripped me (I transcribed this from the audio):

Doug Wright:
Art (should be perceived as) a serious subject.  I’m very fond of saying that Art, and Drama in particular, is the one discipline that teaches empathy…  Because if you’ve got a kid in Anne Frank, then they’re learning what it was like to be Jewish during World War II.  Drama is all about slipping into someone’s shoes, and walking their walk…by studying plays and acting in them we learn tolerance.
And the emphasis in schools (athletics):  we teach competition; we teach competition really, really well.  But we don’t always teach empathy and tolerance.  And I think that’s what these disciplines foster.  And I think it is shocking and disturbing that they’re the first to meet the chopping block when legislators are looking at the state budget.

I have read a lot of business books over the years, and there is little shortage of discussion of concepts such as “winning,” competition,” “beating the competition,” “being first.”

But this interview reminded me that there is another, I think better, side to this whole endeavor – let’s call it the “human side.”  And in the heart of this side is empathy – walking in another’s shoes.  Doug Wright reminds us of the simple fact that all business leadership, all business management, all business endeavor begin (and end) with human beings.

Starting by being human might be the best business (and life) counsel of all.

 

Monday, February 21, 2011 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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