First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull – Key Thoughts, and My Five Lessons and Takeaways

“What is the best book you’ve read?”

I get that question a lot. I never have a good answer. It’s like asking “what’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?”. There are so many ways to think about that question – the most memorable (one in Alaska), the best food (ok – maybe that same one in Alaska), the one I needed most (one after an exhausting five set tennis match, many, many years ago). And then, there are variations – the best barbecue you’ve ever had (I’ve eaten great barbecue from each of two of my brothers, one of whom was state champion more than once a few years back), the best Mexican food, the best… You get the idea. In other words, there is no “best meal ever” answer.

And, maybe except for The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, and my favorite Nero Wolfe novel (The Doorbell Rang), there is no answer for the “best book you’ve ever read” question either.

The best book is the one that gave me what I needed, at the time I needed it. And, at times, it almost does not matter how good a book it actually is if it gives me what I need at the moment.

{I think back to when The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck was recommended to me a few decades ago, at a critical time in my life. The book seemed to have been written for me. That’s one that pops into my mind pretty regularly}.

So, with these thoughts… I have a book to recommend highly. Don’t dismiss it too quickly. You may think it is just a story about the success of Pixar. Yes, it is that… but it is so much more.

Creativity-Inc.-CoverThe book is Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull (President of PIXAR Animation and Disney Animation), with Amy Wallace (New York: Random House. 2014). I read it, and prepared a synopsis for this book, at the request of and for a private client. (I think I will either present it at a later First Friday Book Synopsis, or simply record my synopsis and put it up on our companion 15minutebusinessbooks site).

This may be as good a book as I have read about:

How to work with powerful personalities (think Steve Jobs), how to manage the balance of “task-master” and “freedom” with creative people; how important it is to embrace and learn from failures and mistakes in the pursuit of the end success… The list of valuable insights in this book is really long.

Here are some key thoughts gleaned from the book:

  • Build a team; give them freedom – but, freedom in service of a common goal…
  • Maybe the biggest problem: the unending resistance to change
  • Find the problems; see the problems, find the problems…
  • Braintrust – constant questioning… (with “straight talk”)
  • Honesty is ok, but candor is better, and essential! (candor = a lack of reserve)
  • The team comes first – first the team, then the ideas! (not the other way around — (To me, the answer should be obvious: Ideas come from people. Therefore, people are more important than ideas).
  • Truly, truly, genuinely expect that the unexpected will arrive
  • Randomness will happen!
  • “Be wrong as fast as you can…”
  • Be careful where you let your “Steve Jobs” go, and where you let him (her) speak up…
  • Failure is not only inevitable, but also valuable; good
  • Conflict is good; necessary
  • The successful ones have to mentor the new ones!
  • Use “inclusive” furniture
  • “The stick propping the door open was too small” – every detail matters!

If you manage people, especially if you manage creative people, this would be a valuable book for you to read.

Ed Catmull

Ed Catmull

Here are my 5 lessons and takeaways from the book:

#1 – Learn as widely — (as many skills) — as you can
#2 – Learn to observe (take field trips to see…everything)
#3 – Learn to practice candor – it is essential!
#4 – Really, truly, give everyone a voice
#5 – Keep making everything, every part of everything, better!

Seriously, this may be just the book you need at this moment in your business life.


Thursday, April 23, 2015 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Isaacson’s Short List of Three: Edison, Ford, & Jobs – Ed Catmull Helps us Understand Why Steve Jobs Deserves to Be on that List

Yes, I’ve read Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (I presented my synopsis of that book shortly after it came out). Yes, I am reading Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli which I will present next week at the May 1 First Friday Book Synopsis.

Creativity-Inc.-CoverBut, I may have found the most insight about Steve Jobs in Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. Here are some excerpts from the book…

We met in a conference room with a white board and a large table surrounded by chairs—not that Steve stayed seated for very long. Within minutes, he was standing at the white board, drawing us a chart of Apple’s revenues. 

I remember his assertiveness. There was no small talk. Instead, there were questions. Lots of questions. What do you Steve-Jobs-whiteboardwant? Steve asked. Where are you heading? What are your long-term goals? He used the phrase “insanely great products” to explain what he believed in. Clearly, he was the sort of person who didn’t let presentations happen to him, and it wasn’t long before he was talking about making a deal.

Whenever offering a note, he always began the same way: “I’m not really a filmmaker, so you can ignore everything I say.… ” Then he would proceed, with startling efficiency, to diagnose the problem precisely.

You couldn’t dismiss Steve. Every film he commented on benefited from his insight.  

Steve JobsWalter Isaacson says that when history is written, the three names we will remember from business will be Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Steve Jobs. From Isaacson:

Steve Jobs became the greatest business executive of our era, the one most certain to be remembered a century from now. History will place him in the pantheon right next to Edison and Ford.

More than anyone else of his time, he made products that were completely innovative, combining the power of poetry and processors. With a ferocity that could make working with him as unsettling as it was inspiring, he also built the world’s most creative company. And he was able to infuse into its DNA the design sensibilities, perfectionism, and imagination that make it likely to be, even decades from now, the company that thrives best at the intersection of artistry and technology.

This book helps you understand why Steve Jobs deserves to be in that list.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Dorie Clark on How to Stand Out: An interview by Bob Morris

ClarkDorie Clark is the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013) and Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It (Portfolio/Penguin, 2015). A former presidential campaign spokeswoman, she is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Entrepreneur as well as the World Economic Forum blog. Recognized as a “branding expert” by the Associated Press, Fortune, and Inc. magazine, Clark is a marketing strategy consultant and speaker for clients including Google, Microsoft, Yale University, Fidelity, and the World Bank.

She is an Adjunct Professor of Business Administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and a Visiting Professor for IE Business School in Madrid. She has guest lectured at Harvard Business School, the Harvard Kennedy School, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, the Wharton School, the MIT Sloan School of Management, and more. She is a frequent guest on MSNBC and appears in worldwide media including NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and the BBC.

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Dorie.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Stand Out, a few general questions. First of all, I think your previous book — Reinventing You — is a brilliant achievement. To what extent have you reinvented Dorie Clark over the years since you graduated from Smith College?

Clark: I’ve reinvented myself quite a few times. Right after college, I went to Harvard Divinity School and thought I’d become an academic, but (after getting my masters degree), I didn’t get into any of the doctoral programs I applied to. So I reinvented myself into a journalist, only to get laid off, and then a political campaign spokesperson, only to work on two consecutive losing campaigns. It took me until nearly a decade after college to land on my current profession as a marketing strategist/author/speaker. So my interest in reinvention comes quite naturally! I wanted to write Reinventing You to help other professionals go through the process more seamlessly, and faster and better.

Morris: My own opinion is that most people prune — if not reinvent — their lives every few years. Frankly, I have found this immensely difficult, sometimes painful. It’s such a struggle to resist what Jim O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” What are your own thoughts about all this?

Clark: Reinvention is definitely becoming a constant in most people’s lives. After all, how many people do you still know who spend a lifetime – or even a decade – at one company? But I like to differentiate between what I call “Capital R” Reinvention, which is a more dramatic job change or career change, and “lowercase r” reinvention, which is the practice of keeping ourselves flexible and adaptable with small choices we make, from taking a class on something new to being open to making a new friend in an unlikely place. The better we are at “reinvention” on a regular basis, the less likely “Reinvention” will feel traumatic when the time comes for a major change.

Morris: I congratulate you on what you have achieved in your career thus far. Presumably there have been a few setbacks along the way. Thus far, what has been the single greatest disappointment and what are the most valuable lessons that you have learned from it?

Clark: There continue to be setbacks and disappointments in my professional life, even though in general I feel happy with the success I’ve achieved. My first book, Reinventing You, was actually the fourth book proposal I created; the other three before it were all rejected. And there are at least four fellowships I’ve applied for in the last 2-3 years that I haven’t been chosen for. You have to keep pushing. But probably the hardest disappointment was the first, getting turned down for the doctoral programs. That’s because academia was my only plan; I really didn’t have a Plan B. But that taught me something important, which is that you should always have an alternate strategy, because you never know how things will play out, and you need to be prepared.

Morris: In your opinion, should people prepare for a career in a specific field or master skills that will be highly-valued in any field? Please explain.

Clark: My ideal advice would be to learn baseline skills – good writing and speaking, for instance – and then get professional experience in particular fields through internships or volunteering. Paying a university to educate you in a specific discipline, especially one that might change rapidly, could be quite expensive and leave you adrift if the field changes or if the need is no longer there because of demographic changes or technological advances. Far better to get specific work experience at work, rather than in a classroom.

Morris: Opinions are divided — sometimes sharply divided — about the how essential charisma is to effective leadership. What do you think?

Clark: I think people want to follow someone who seems “like a leader.” But charisma is often misunderstood. I like the research of the Center for Talent Innovation, which broke down the concept of “executive presence” – often related to charisma – into its constituent parts. They are communication skills, gravitas (i.e., can you handle pressure during difficult circumstances?) and, to a more limited extent, appearance (such as professional dress). All of these are things that individuals can master with practice.

Morris: Here are two of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd….’”

Clark: One of my favorite stories from Stand Out is about the psychologist, Robert Cialdini, who revolutionized the field by paying attention to his students when they questioned the typical way of doing business. In his field, experiments were done in a laboratory setting and then the findings were simply assumed to translate to real life. Students wondered how researchers knew the same principles would apply, and Cialdini told them they simply had to trust that human nature was the same everywhere. But he listened and wondered if there was a way to know for sure, so he started doing the first field experiments in psychology and became a legend in his field by advancing the discourse in a meaningful way.

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

Clark: In the business world, we often talk about the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Principle – i.e., that 20% of your effort yields 80% of your results. That’s particularly true when it comes to the research I did around breakthrough ideas. Most of these recognized experts are known for one or, at most, two “big ideas” and concepts that are associated with them. It shows the importance of doubling down when you’ve found an idea that resonates.

* * *

Here is a direct link to the complete interview.

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

Her home page with Free 42-Page Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook link

Amazon page link

Reinventing You link

Stand Out link

TEDx talk: Finding Your Breakthrough Idea link

Twitter link

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TED Talks on 60 Minutes – Remember, these are “Talks” (Should we call them TED Speeches?)

Chris Anderson, Curator of TED

Chris Anderson, Curator of TED

What we’re trying to do is to make difficult knowledge accessible.
Chris Anderson, Curator of TED (from 60 Minutes Overtime)


Last Sunday night, on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Charlie Rose profiled the TED Talks.  View and read the segment here.

What a terrific segment!

Here’s how it started:

It has become a place where big ideas find a global audience. It is known simply as TED. And TED Talks are little presentations that anyone can watch online for free. There are TED Talks on almost every subject you can imagine: building your own nuclear reactor; stopping cyberbullies; exploring Antarctica; a better way to tie your shoes. But what sets TED Talks apart is that the big ideas are wrapped up in personal stories and they’re mostly from people you have never heard of before. And it is those stories that have captured the imaginations of tens of millions of viewers around the world. Giving a TED Talk can be life-changing even if some speakers don’t always realize what they’re getting into.

Amy Cuddy

Amy Cuddy

I am an unabashed and enthusiastic fan. I have watched a lot! of TED Talks. One of the Talks highlighted on the 60 Minutes segment was the one by Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.

I show this video to every one of my speech classes. It is a great reminder that our bodies play a huge role in our communication– even our communication to ourselves — (a main point of her talk).

But… I have a simple observation. As you read about the TED Talks, and as you watch them, and get caught up in their stories, don’t forget the obvious: these are “talks.”

Oh, sure, it may be new “packaging,” but this is simply a testament to the power of speaking well in front of an audience. If you know anything about history, you know that history is shaped, and understood, by the speeches given throughout the ages.

The TED Talks are actually TED “speeches.” And they take the task seriously. They audition, they practice, they coach. (After being asked, I have coached two TEDxSMU speakers).

So, call them what you want – speeches, presentations, talks. But don’t forget the obvious. Being able to speak well – yes, by including a moving and compelling story (that’s not new either) – is a skill worth developing, even as we learn much from those who do it so well at TED.

We have TED to thank for their role in keeping the power of speaking alive and well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Here is the New York Times April, 2015 Business Books Best Sellers List – Becoming Steve Jobs at #2

Here is the New York Times April, 2015 Business Books Best Sellers List.

Becoming Steve JobsA new book on getting the most out of Social Security is at the top of the list. At #2 is Becoming Steve Jobs, the new unauthorized biography of Steve Jobs. I will present my synopsis of this book at the May 1 First Friday Book Synopsis. And at #8 is Our Kids by Robert Putnam (who is best known for his article, and book, Bowling Alone). Karl Krayer will present his synopsis of this book, also at the May 1 First Friday Book Synopsis.

I have presented synopses of Bold, Think Like a Freak, and The Power of Habit at earlier sessions of our monthly First Friday Book Synopsis event, and Karl Krayer presented his synopsis of Thinking, Fast and Slow, at an earlier session of our event also.

Here is the New York Times April, 2015 list of business book best sellers. Click over to the New York Times site for a brief description of these books.

1 Get What’s Yours, by Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Philip Moeller and Paul Solman.
2 Becoming Steve Jobs, by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli.
3 Money: Master The Game, by Tony Robbins.
4 Bold, by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler.
5 Think Like A Freak, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.
6 The Power Of Habit, by Charles Duhigg.
7 Thrive, by Arianna Huffington.
8 Our Kids, by Robert D. Putnam.
9 Thinking, Fast And Slow, by Daniel Kahneman.
10 Better And Faster, by Jeremy Gutsche.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

More About the 96 Minute Rule – Insight from Chris Crouch, and others – (with update)

Let’s revisit.

We are all distracted, more and more, all the time.

Walk into any gathering anywhere, and before, after, and in-between sessions, people are glued to their SmartPhones. They look down, not at each other.

If you are sitting at a computer screen, to do your “knowledge work,” chances are you have trouble staying on task.

One solution is so clear, so simple—so powerful. It is the 96 Minute Rule.   I first wrote about this back in June, 2013 in my post: 5 Rules of Personal Productivity – This Really is How You Get More Done.

Harvey Schachter, a writer for Canada’s Globe and Mail, picked it up and wrote this column: The 96-minute rule, and other timely tipsIn his column, he included these lines:

The 96-minute idea comes from corporate trainer Randy Mayeux. It’s not completely original, nor are the other splendid ideas he has for increasing your productivity. All he knows is what he reads in books. Back in 1998 he created, with a partner, the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas. Every month since then he has offered a tight summary of a popular business book for an audience over breakfast, and spring boards off those presentations to offer corporate training.

He’s correct about the “not completely original” part. I’m not sure I have ever come up with a truly original idea. And I always try to give credit. Sometimes, I forget where I read or heard something. Sometimes I just don’t dig deeply enough for the “first” source of an idea.

{I remember back in my preaching days, I used an analogy in a sermon about going on offense instead of playing defense. A friend said to me that he knew which book I had gotten the idea from. Turns out, he was right. I had read the book, and as I looked, I rediscovered the passage with my underlinings and even a note in the margin. But, I had read it quite a bit earlier, and had no memory of the passage in the book. But, my sermon analogy was definitely prompted, forgotten-by-me, from this one short passage from this book).

So… back to the 96 Minute Rule. I really don’t know where I first read/learned/heard about it. But it is a rule that I really, really like, and I try to follow it pretty diligently. It makes sense to me. It works for me. I’m glad to have learned it.

Again, here’s my description of the rule from that first blog post I wrote:

Rule #1 – The 96-Minute Rule.
I really like this, because it is so simple, so clear.  First, remember the 80/20 rule – people get 80% of their work done in 20% of their time.  Now, consider the theoretical 8-hour work day:  480 minutes.  Now, how many minutes do you need for 20% of your work day?  96 minutes.
So, this rule says to get in your best “place” to work, turn off all distractions, and immerse yourself into your most important task for 96 uninterrupted minutes.  96 minutes a day of focused, uninterrupted, intentional “work” gets a whole lot done.
This rule has plenty of support – ideas which reinforce this wisdom.  Peter Drucker talked about 90 minutes being the minimum chunk of time to do meaningful “knowledge work.”  And here’s advice from Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson:
If you’re constantly staying late and working weekends, it’s not because there’s too much work to be done.  It’s because you’re not getting enough done at work.  And the reason is interruptions…  you can’t get meaningful things done when you’re constantly going start, stop, start, stop. 
Instead, you should get in the alone zone.  Long stretches of alone time are when you’re most productive.  When you don’t  have to mind-shift between various tasks, you get a boatload done. 
During alone time, give up instant messages, phone calls, e-mail, and meetings.  Just shut up and get to work.  You’ll be surprised how much more you get done.
Get in the “alone zone,” block out all distractions, and follow the “96 minute rule.”  Use 20% of your time, every work day, with great, uninterrupted, productive focus.

In that earlier post, I linked to this post by Matthew Cornell: Productivity Group Experiment: The 96 Minute Rule. In this post, he referred to an experiment:

If you’re interested in ways to get more productive, check out Chris Crouch’s new group experiment, The 96 Minute Rule.

And now, that 96 Minute Rule has sort of entered the vocabulary. The most recent appearance was for an insert in the Times of India:  96 minutes of productivity by Palak Bhatia. You can see why!   In a world of constant distractions, we all need some serious focused-work time. The 80-20 rule kind of sets the parameters.  And it turns out that Chris Crouch actually put the idea to the test, naming the rule, and demonstrating its value.

It is a good rule.

So… let’s recap. You are distracted. You should work on fighting those distractions. Set your goal – 96 minutes of uninterrupted (knowledge) work every day – 20% of a typical 8-hour work day.

Who first came up with this? Well, the 80-20 rule comes from the Pareto Principle:

Management consultant Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto.

Peter Drucker added to our understanding. Chris Crouch came up with the actual number of 96 minutes (pretty brilliant – simple, and brilliant – the best kind of brilliant).

And now, it is up to you – and me. Will we organize our days to carve out 96 minutes of interrupted time – will we follow the 96 Minute Rule?

It is a rule worth following, I think.   And, I’ve tested it long enough to believe that it is worth following.



Chris Crouch described this rule in the 9th chapter of his book Getting Organized:  The chapter is entitled The 80/20 Rule  He wrote:

Get a timer and set it for 96 minutes.  Focus, without interruptions, on your No. 1 priority for the day.  Try this as early in the day as possible…  Most days, these 96 minutes will be more than enough to call it a highly productive and successful day.  

(Getting Organized was published in 2004; the e-book was published in 2005, which I am now reading on my Kindle app).

I keep finding other references to the 96 Minute Rule.  In July, 2005, Kathy Wells Paauw blogged about it with this post: 96 Minutes a Day That Will CHANGE YOUR LIFE. In her post, she recommended that a person get to work with these 96 minutes of productivity at the top of the morning:

When I enter my office, take 10 minutes to review my tickler file and clarify the three most important areas of focus for the day. Then spend the next 96 minutes* (8:30-10:06 AM) focusing on those three areas. Do this before checking email.  Do not answer the phone during this focus time.

I suspect as I keep digging, I will find even more references to the idea. It really is a good idea.

Monday, April 20, 2015 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

It Is a Good Thing to Read More Books – Seriously

It is a good thing to read more books – seriously.

So, two short prompts for this blog post.

Prompt #1 — Recently, I met a men who now works in economic development for a region of cities. He had heard me give a presentation at a conference that included one of my book briefings, and he talked to me about the value of reading business books.

He previously worked as a manager for HEB, the Texas-based grocery store chain. At HEB, every manager was required to read three business books a year. (One every four months – a pace anyone could handle). The managers got to pick their own books. The assignment included some sort of “reporting mechanism,” to demonstrate that they had actually read the three books. His assessment: it was a valuable discipline. He said all the managers were always reading business books, talking about them to others, and the very act of reading such books helped make them better managers.

Ed Catmull

Ed Catmull

Prompt #2 – I’m reading the excellent book Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. He is a book reader. Surprisingly, he does not have much good to say about many of the books he has read. (He has politely not named these not-worth-reading books). Here’s an excerpt:

I read many books as I set about trying to become a better, more effective manager. Most, I found, trafficked in a kind of simplicity that seemed harmful in that it offered false reassurance.

But, as you read between the lines, you discover that he was always looking for and reading books to help him know his next steps…  And you get the idea that even the bad books he read helped him know what not to do… And, he was especially appreciative of books that helped him ask the right questions:

To the historians and biographers whose books helped me ask better questions…

Creativity-Inc.-CoverHe included Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs in his list of books he appreciated.

So… read books to learn how to think; to learn what good questions to ask. Read books to discover what not to do. Just read more books, and think about what you are reading. And, of course, always ask what transferable principles you can put into practice.

It is a good thing to read more books – seriously.

Monday, April 20, 2015 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Liz Wiseman: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

Wiseman, bio-lizLiz Wiseman is a researcher, executive advisor, and speaker who teaches leaders around the world. She is the author of three best-selling books: Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter and The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools.

Liz is a former executive from Oracle Corporation. She writes regularly for Harvard Business Review and Fortune and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Inc. and Time Magazines. She has been listed on the Thinkers50 ranking and named as one of the top 10 leadership thinkers in the world.

She holds a Bachelors degree in Business Management and a Masters of Organizational Behavior from Brigham Young University.

Her latest book, <str>Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, was published by HarperBusiness (October 2014).

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of Linda.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write Rookie Smarts?

Wiseman: At the “height of my career” at Oracle after being perpetually under-qualified for a series of oversized jobs, I finally felt like I knew what I was doing. But, as I left this comfortable environment, I wondered how my hard-won knowledge and expertise might become a liability. I had this lingering (if not nagging) question: How does what we know get in the way of what we don’t know but need to learn? I wondered when experience was a liability and being inexperienced (and even under-qualified) could be an asset.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.

Wiseman: The most surprising finding was that in the realm of knowledge work, rookies tend to outperform experienced people, especially when the work is innovative in nature and needs to be delivered fast. There were also a number of counter intuitive findings. For example, we typically think of rookies as big risk takers; however, we found that rookies work more cautiously, biting off smaller pieces and checking in frequently with stakeholders to minimize risk. We also found that rookies aren’t actually bumbling and clueless – they have significantly higher levels of self-awareness and are more attuned to organizational politics, which causes them to reach out, build alliances, and stay connected with critical players.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

The research findings were very different that my research hypothesis – in fact, I think about 50% of my hypotheses were wrong. However the final books very closely follows the original book proposal. I am persistent to a fault and have been accused of being “a dog on a bone.” In hindsight, there are a couple places I fell like I should have deviated more from my original plan.

Morris: As I indicate in my review of the book for various Amazon websites, there are dozens of passages throughout your narrative that caught my eye.

For those who have not as yet read the book, please suggest what you view as [begin italics] the most important point [end italics] or [begin italics] key take-away [end italics] in each of these passages.

First, The New Workscape (Pages 6-10)

Wiseman: “When there is too much to know, having the right question may be more important than having a ready answer.”

Morris: A Question of Experience (20-22)

Wiseman: “The upside of experience may be less pronounced than once imagined, while its downside may be even steeper. What we know might actually mask what we don’t know and impede our ability to learn and perform.”

Morris: The Learned and the Learners (22-24)

Wiseman: “Sometimes the more you know, the less you learn.”

Morris: The Rookie Smart Mindset: Backpacker, Hunter-Gatherer, Firewalker, and Pioneer (27-34)

Wiseman: “Rookie smarts isn’t defined by age or by experience level; it is a state of mind – it is how we tend to think and act when we are doing something for the first time. These four rookie and veteran modes are not an attempt to categorize people; they illustrate patterns of behavior. They are modes we can slip into and roles we tend to assume. We shift into and out of these modes based on our situation, mindsets, and assumptions.”

Morris: The Right Terrain (34-38)

Wiseman: “While rookies can play an important role, they need to be channeled and directed toward the right kinds of terrains for top performance.”

“Experts tend to outperform novices in the long game because they can recognize patterns and project into the future, but rookies are particularly well suited to deal with the immediate and the ephemeral.”

“In complex systems, where there is too much information for any one person to process or any one expert to know, the organizations that win will be those that tap into the greatest number of brains.”

Morris: The Fountain of Youthful Thinking (41-42)

Wiseman: “The most dangerous place to be might be at the top—whether it is the top of a ladder or at the top of your game…If you are at the top of your game, it might be time to position yourself at the bottom of a learning curve. It is on this steeper learning curve that we can rekindle our rookie smarts.”

“Are you learning faster than the world is changing?”

* * *

Here is a direct link to the complete Part 2 of the interview.

To check out Part 1, please click here.

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

Rookie Smarts link

Multipliers Books link

The Wiseman Group link

Sunday, April 19, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tony Hsieh at Zappos Announces “No More Gradualism” – (with appreciation to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

i-have-a-dream-speechWe have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.
Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream, August 28, 1963 (emphasis added)


Of all the excerpts from Dr. King’s speech, the line about gradualism may be the one that crops up in my thinking most often.

He was speaking, of course, about the excruciatingly slow pace called for and taken by “leaders” regarding racial equality. But, the idea itself has a wider reach.

We see gradualism all around us.

We get advice. “You can’t move too quickly. You have to be patient. It takes time.”

On subject after subject, in civic life, corporate life, everyone seems to be a fan of “gradualism.”  (Unless, of course, it is a change that they want made immediately!)

So, here’s quite a story; quite a development. At Zappos, they have been trying the gradual approach. The issue – becoming a “self-managing company.” They have been trying to make the transition in steps — you know, “gradually” – the approach of “gradualism.”

Enter Tony Hsieh. It sounds like he’s had enough of such gradualism. So, he is acting – quickly, once-and-for-all, no-more-delay… No more gradualism for this guy.

Tony Shieh, CEO of Zappos

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

I read about this here: Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to employees: Embrace self-management or leave by the end of the month by Richard Feloni. Here are key excerpts:

The online shoe-seller Zappos has been experimenting with a self-management organizational structure known as Holacracy for nearly two years.
But on April 30 the company plans to be fully manager-free, according to a company-wide memo CEO Tony Hsieh emailed late last month.
“Having one foot in one world while having the other foot in the other world has slowed down our transformation towards self-management and self-organization,” he wrote.

And here’s the key paragraph, from Mr. Hsieh’s memo to all employees at Zappos:

After many conversations and a lot of feedback about where we are today versus our desired state of self-organization, self-management, increased autonomy, and increased efficiency, we are going to take a “rip the bandaid” approach to accelerate progress towards becoming a Teal organization (as described in the book Reinventing Organizations).

This is what is pretty clear. Not everybody at Zappos has successfully made the transition; not everyone was fully on-board. And, even those on-board had not successfully fully implemented the change.

Reinventing OrganizationsThis is a bold experiment at Zappos — a once-and-for-all, no-more-gradualism approach. Mr. Hsieh is ready to jettison the old completely, and move fully to being a “Teal Organization.”

{So, what is this new “Teal” organization? From a review of Reinventing Organizations:

What is a “Teal Organization”? Frédéric Laloux, in Reinventing Organizations, uses a colour scheme, based on Integral Theory, to describe the historical development of human organizations: Red > Orange > Green > Teal. Laloux lists three breakthroughs of Teal organizations:

#1 — Self-management: driven by peer relationships
#2 — Wholeness: involving the whole person at work
#3 — Evolutionary purpose: let the organization adapt and grow, not be driven.}

Here’s what I think… Gradualism is probably a strategy that needs to be retired. It simply takes too long to make needed change that way, regardless of what arena you are talking about or working in. And, in today’s world, delay and slow-approaches-to-change can leave you, or a company or organization behind in a hurry.

I’m not one to pass judgment on whether or not Zappos should actually become such a self-managing organization. But I think I get the idea that if they are going to do this, they want to/ought to just “rip the bandaid” off, and do it! No more gradualism.

It will be interesting to watch, won’t it?

Friday, April 17, 2015 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | 1 Comment

Here are my Five Lessons & Takeaways from Civic Sermons by Gerald Britt

Civic SermonsI’ve now finished my reading of, and my handout for my synopsis for, Gerald Britt’s book Civic Sermons: Ideas for a Different Civic Culture. (Read my first blog post about this book here).

How do I feel about it? Like everyone should read it. Did I enjoy it? No; but I appreciated it. And the reason I did not “enjoy” it is simple – the social justice challenges are so overwhelming, and the progress is so slow.

There are times when one wants to just…quit.

But, that is not a very good option – quitting. There are people to help, and there are systems to tackle.

He has four major sections in the book:

Race and Poverty
Economic/Neighborhood Redevelopment

Not a one of these have we “mastered.” There is so much work to be done in each.

Of all the thoughts that came, this one may be as big as any. In his famous I Have a Dream speech, Dr. King spoke this line:

One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

That’s the description! There are vast oceans of opportunity and prosperity, and pretty hefty islands of poverty, in city after city. It is such an apt description. In one sense, in this book Rev. Britt is simply describing that lonely island of poverty in our area.

Look, we are all busy. I get that. But order this book from Amazon, and read it slowly. The chapters are short – read a chapter every couple of days. And think about our area – and our responsibilities to the people of our area. It will do your heart good. And, it might help you be an even more active problem solver…

Here are my Lessons and Takeaways from Civic Sermons by Gerald Britt:

#1 – The “lonely islands of poverty surrounded by a vast ocean of material prosperity” (Dr. King) is still, sadly, a very apt description.
#2 – Everything matters – health care; and ending discrimination; and education; and jobs; and housing; and effective representation; and…
#3 – The balance between outrage and humble keep-at-it work is delicate indeed.
#4 – The right leader, at the right time, matters. (A thought about Martin Luther King, Jr.).
$5 – We’ve got to provide better starting places; and better environments for growth, development, and progress…


The Wealth of the PoorGerald Britt works with Larry James at CitySquare.  I have earlier presented a synopsis of The Wealth of the Poor by Larry James.  Larry is the CEO of CitySquare.  You can read my review of and takeaways from my blog post for Larry’s excellent book here).  Read these two books one after the other; a great one-two tutorial on social justice.


Thursday, April 16, 2015 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment


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