Content by Robert Morris
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Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas)
5.0 out of 5 stars
How and why a wider perspective (System 2 thinking) will guide you toward more effective decisions and fewer disappointments, Sept. 17 2014
I agree with Yogi Berra: "You can observe a lot by just watching."
However, as Max Bazerman explains in this brilliant book, more than watching is necessary: we must also notice and then, of perhaps even greater importance, we need to have developed a mind-set that enables us to recognize what is especially significant. This is what Isaac Asimov has in mind when observing, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but 'That's funny...'" Hence the importance of anomalies. It is impossible to connect the dots to reveal patterns, trends, causal relationships, etc. unless you know what the right "dots" are and connect them in the right way. The same is true of accumulating disparate data (viewed as pieces of a puzzle) and know how to assemble them in proper order.
As Bazerman explains, "The Power of Noticing challenges leaders to also be noticing architects. Leaders too often fail to notice that they have designed systems that encourage a misspecified goal (booked sales) rather than a more appropriate one (actual profit to the organization). I encourage all leaders to become better noticing architects and to design systems that encourage employees to notice what is truly important." All of the great leaders throughout history were great noticers. With rare exception, they helped others to become great (or at least competent) noticers.
In the second chapter, Bazerman suggests that inattentional blindness "is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our failure to notice. Much worse -- and well-documented -- is the common tendency to willfully ignore inconvenient evidence of others' unethical behavior. In Dante's Inferno, the last and worst ring in hell is reserved for those who, in a moral crisis, preserve their neutrality. Inattentional blindness has been a problem for several centuries. Consider this observation by Thucydides: "When a man finds a conclusion agreeable, he accepts it without argument, but when he finds it disagreeable, he will bring against it all the forces of logic and reason."
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Bazerman's coverage.
o The Broader Argument: Our Failure to Notice (Pages xix-xxi)
o From Bounded Awareness to Removing the Blinders (13-15)
o Jerry Sandusky Scandal (16-25)
o Broad Oversight (36-42)
o Implicit Blindness (50-61)
o Negotiating the Wrong Deal (78-82)
o Not Noticing on a Slippery Slope (88-92)
o Sherlock Holmes in "Silver Blaze": The Dog That Didn't Bark (101-109)
o Not Noticing the Ingredients of a Financial Collapse, and, It IS Too Good to Be True (126-132)
o The Market for Lemons (139-145)
o Cynicism: The Dark Side of Thinking One Step Ahead (146-150)
o Walking the Customer: "We Reward Results!"(159-162)
o Failing to Notice Predictable Surprises (171-172)
o The Power of Noticing Predictable Surprises (178-180)
o A Noticing Mind-Set (182-185)
o Nothing Is Easier for Outsiders (187-191)
Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of information, insights, and counsel that Max Bazerman provides in abundance. However, I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of his book. He concludes: "As I hope you have learned by now, focusing is important, but sometimes noticing is better -- at least when you are making critical decisions. In hope that this book has provided useful guidance to help you, as a focuser, also become a first-class noticer." I presume to add a few points of my own. First, we tend to see what we expect to see and notice little else. Also, as Thucydides suggests, we tend to embrace that with which we agree and reject that withwhich we don't. Finally, it is extremely difficult but nonetheless possible -- and perhaps imperative -- to establish a culture within which noticing is not only a core competency but an embedded value.
5.0 out of 5 stars
How the bravery, cunning, near misses, and initiatives of the Culper Ring "helped save our nation and shape its future", Sept. 16 2014
I have read and reviewed several dozen books that examine the process that led up to the Declaration of Independence and then continued during the war that followed. However, until reading Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger's book, I knew almost nothing about the nature and extent of organized and coordinated efforts to obtain information (i.e. intelligence data) on the British military priorities, strategies, tactics, and vulnerabilities that would guider and inform how General George Washington and his associates would wage -- and eventually -- win that war. And I amazed and encouraged by the fact that, thus far, more than 2,000 readers have shared their thoughts about an account of events that occurred more than 240 years ago.
Kilmeade and Yaeger remind their reader that "this is a story about ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things, people whose fears and hopes and lives were not much different from our own, and how they changed the course of history. Their humility stopped them from seeking fame or fortune because their love of country sparked their exploits."
These are among the subjects of greatest interest to me:
o Why Washington needed the services of what became the "Culper Ring"
o How and why the members were selected
o What each contributed: Benjamin Tallmadge, Robert Townsend, James Rivington, Abraham Woodhull, Caleb Brewster, Austin Roe, and "Agent 355"
Note: Agent 355 was a female, one whose identify remains unknown
o Washington's perspectives on spying
o The Ring's most significant contributions (e.g. preventing Benedict Arnold from surrendering West Point)
o The Ring's setbacks, close calls, missed opportunities, etc.
o Nathan Hale's special significance
o The major differences between Arnold and George André
o Means of communication during the 1770s
o Similarities and differences between intelligence and counter intelligence then and now
o The Ring's contributions to General Charles Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown that, in effect, ended the war
Here are Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger's concluding remarks: "Those few who knew the Culpers' secret kept it close, and all Washington could do was carry in his heart the gratitude he had for the sacrifices of his brave spies, which were no less meaningful for having been made in city streets and country back roads as on a battlefield. For these men and women, too, had [in Washington's words] given their all to "establishing Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."
5.0 out of 5 stars
How midsized companies can achieve and then sustain organizational health, Sept. 16 2014
The most valuable business books tend to be research-driven and that is certainly true of this one. As Robert Sher explains, “In December 2011, [he and his research associates] began a series of interviews with leaders of midsized companies to explore the factors that facilitate or kill growth…Between December 2011 and July 2013, we conducted 101 interviews, many of them recorded and transcribed, in which executives discussed their experiences at 110 companies [listed on Pages 211-220]. We conducted many (66) in person and the rest by telephone. Some executives spoke to us under the condition of complete anonymity, and are not [identified].”
Sher is one of the first business thinkers of whom I am aware who focuses entirely on midsized companies: those whose annual sales are between $10-million and one billion dollars. The almost 200,000 midsized companies in the U.S. account for about a third of the U.S. GDP and a third of all U.S. jobs. He wrote this book for those who are leaders in these companies to help them face unique challenges. He duly notes that their nature may be essentially the same but the extent (i.e. scale) of each challenge can differ significantly for those leading companies with $10-million in annual sales companies than for those leading companies with one billion dollars in annual sales.
I agree with Sher that there are no formulas, templates, solutions, and “secret sauce” appropriate to all midsized companies. During the last 25 years, I have worked closely with more than 700 owner/CEOs and their associates in companies with annual sales between $5-million and $50-million and learned first-hand that, although many of them ask the same questions and face the same problems, the answers and solutions not only differ between and among companies. Moreover, the answers and solutions for a company 3-5 years (or even 3-5 months) ago may not be the right ones for it now. In today’s business world, change really is the only constant and seems to occur faster and with greater frequency than at any prior time that I can remember.
Sher identifies and briefly discusses what he characterizes as "six factors in the DNA of midsized companies that set them apart from both larger and smaller companies and give rise to the distinctive challenges they face." Keep in mind these are general rather than defining characteristics.
1. A low tolerance for risk
2. High barriers to internal collaboration
3. Few ways to develop talent
4. Less investor patience for leaders learning on the job
5. Less strategic thinking
6. Less seasoned talent
To repeat: These are general rather than defining characteristics.
Of greatest interest to me is what Sher has to say about the seven growth killers with which leaders in midsized companies must contend each day. He devotes a separate chapter to each. Keep in mind that all are risks to which all organizations are vulnerable. For midsized companies, they can be potentially fatal. He offers advice in two separate but related dimensions: How to avoid them, and, how to overcome them. Here they are, accompanied by my brief annotations:
1. Letting Time Slip-Slide Away
Comments: In Hemingway's novel, The Sun Also Rises, one of the expatriates mentions that his company "back in the states" went bankrupt. How did it happen? "Gradually and then suddenly." Everyone involved in the given enterprise must buy into the idea that "time is money," a precious resource that must never be wasted.
2. Strategy Tinkering at The Top
Comments: I view strategies as "hammers" that drive tactics ("nails") to achieve objectives. If you don’t know where you're going, any road can take you there. It is also true that if you keep changing the destination, you'll never go anywhere.
3. Reckless Attempts at Growth
Comments: Not all growth is progress so the objective should be profitable growth. Dozens of companies I have worked with became more profitable only after they became smaller. Think of an organization as a garden that must be constantly pruned. Less can be more if there is less waste. More can be less if initiatives consume resources that should be preserved or allocated elsewhere. I agree with Jason Jennings: "If it's DOA, bury it."
4. Fumbling Strategic Acquisitions
Comments: Most M&As either fail or fall far short of original expectations. With regard to midsized companies, an M&A could be fatal and often is. Focus on the degree of probability of what will happen after the courtship, wedding, and honeymoon have occurred. Also, be sure to re-read Chapters 3 and 4. In my opinion, with rare exception, a badly conducted and/or badly implemented M&A will do more damage to an organization's health than anything else could.
5. Operation meltdowns
Comments: I agree with Sher that midsized companies "usually lack both rigorous processes and dedicated operational troubleshooters. They are often surprised and overwhelmed by meltdowns in key processes, especially those that come from always-difficult process of automating systems." Whenever anyone must make a decision, I think two questions must be asked: "Is this a sound business decision? and then, How do I know? Operational meltdowns are the inevitable result of bad decisions, including a decision to do nothing.
6. Liquidity Crashes
Comments: Unavoidable accidents do happen on the roadways but most in business can be avoided with constant tracking and alertness for early-warning signs. I also favor worst-case scenario thinking in combination with contingency planning and accumulation of reserve resources. Sher has much of value to say about all this in Chapter 6.
7. Tolerating Dysfunctional Leaders
Comments: Coping with this not-always-silent growth killer obviously poses different challenges in a publicly traded company than it does in one that is privately owned, usually by the CEO and her or his family. Governing boards are primarily responsible for the former. What to do about the latter? Again, Sher offers sensible advice. My own is to tolerate while locating another, better position. Many owner/CEOs see their company as a personal ATM. The only way I have ever been able to get their attention is to suggest that increasing the company's profitability now will substantially increase the cost if and when it is sold later. Even then....
Robert Sher is to be commended on the wealth of information, insights, and counsel he provides in this volume. I think the material can be of incalculable value to leaders in midsized companies but also to those who provide services (banking, legal, accounting, insurance, etc.) to those companies. My only words of caution are these: Don't assume that all leaders in midsized companies face the same degree of risk with regard to the "silent growth killers" discussed in this book. Also, don't assume that the degree of risk for any one of them will remain the same.
I am again reminded of an incident years ago when one of Albert Einstein's colleagues at Princeton playfully chided him for asking the same questions on his final examinations. "That is quite true. Each year, the answers are different." Leaders in midsized companies, especially, appreciate the relevance of that incident to their own efforts.
5.0 out of 5 stars
"It is impossible to go through life without trust: that is to be imprisoned in the worst cell of all, oneself." Graham Greene, Sept. 16 2014
"It is impossible to go through life without trust: that is to be imprisoned in the worst cell of all, oneself." Graham Greene
In the Introduction, Ulrich Boser cites a well-publicized, tragic incident that occurred many years ago (October 1972) when a rugby team's charter flight crashed in the Andes. Of the 45 aboard (including five crew), only 16 survived. One of them, Nando Parrado, later wrote a book, Miracle in the Andres, and observes, "None of us were saints. We survived not because we were perfect, but because the accumulated weight of concern for each other far outweighed our natural self-interest." The implications of that traumatic group experience suggest that almost anyone can be trusting even in life-and-death situations when the sxurvival instinct is usually strongest.
As I began to read this book, I was again reminded of how diminished my own capacity for trust has become over the years and I think this is also true of many others. Although I live in a "very nice" residential neighborhood, I always keep the front and back doors locked. I never leave the garage door up after leaving or returning home. I no longer stop to provide help to other motorists. Even when I "pop in and out" of a store such as a dry cleaners, I lock the car. According to Boser's research, the most trusting states include Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Utah whereas the least trusting states include Alabama, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Boser also discusses widespread distrust in government at national, state, and local levels. Boser provides a "Tool Kit for Policymakers" (Pages 139-140) on how to earn wider and deeper trust between and among those such as I who regret "sagging social capital."
It seems to me that to a much greater extent than ever before, many people are demonstrating what I characterize as the "Barbarian Syndrome." The term "barbarian" was coined in ancient Greece and its original meaning was "non-Greek." Today, in almost every dimension of contemporary life, people distrust others only because they are or aren't [fill in the blank]. It could be white or black, Republican or Democrat, you get the idea.
These are among the challenges that Boser discusses with rigor and sensitivity:
o How to trust
o How to be/become worthy of trust
o Why trust
o How to determine another's trustworthiness
o How and why to trust those deemed by others to be unworthy of trust (e.g. IRS agents)
o How to leverage technology to improve communication with others
o When and when NOT to make a "leap of faith"…also why
I am convinced that the burden of proof is on those who would be trusted. That is, they must earn trust and once they have, that trust must never be betrayed. This is precisely what Ulrich Boser has in mind when concluding his thoughtful book: "When it comes to our faith in others, trustworthiness is the difference between trusting well and trusting poorly. And we need to do more to build this sort of trustworthiness -- and this sort of trust. That means stronger communities. That means a deeper social fabric. That means understanding that trust is ultimately a risk -- one that might not always pay off. But above all, it's time to leap."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
How and why, "Only by seeing our world anew...can we both re-create it and preserve it for the future.”, Sept. 16 2014
In the first chapter of The Great Reset, Richard Florida explains that peaks and valleys are part of the lifecycle of any society as “obsolete and dysfunctional systems and practices” collapse, replaced by “the seeds of innovation and invention, of creativity and entrepreneurship.” The First Great Reset occurred in the 1870s, the Second in the 1930s, and a Third now underway. Florida suggests, “The promise of the current Reset is the opportunity for a life made better not by ownership of real estate, appliances, cars, and all manner of material goods, but of greater flexibility and lower levels of debt, of more time with family and friends, greater promise of personal development, and access to more and better experiences. All organisms and all systems experience the cycles of life, death, and rebirth.”
I recalled these observations as I began to read Peter Thiel’s brilliant book, written with Blake Masters, and especially when he suggests that the entrepreneurs who stuck with Silicon Valley learned four big lessons from the dot-com crash that still guide business thinking today:
1. Make incremental advances.
2. Stay lean and flexible.
3. Improve on the competition.
4. Focus on products, not sales.
“These lessons have become dogma in the start-up world; those who ignore them are presumed to invite the justified doom visited upon technology in the great crash of 2000. And yet the opposite principles are probably more correct.” Here they are:
1. It is better to risk boldness than triviality.
2. A bad plan is better than no plan.
3. Competitive markets destroy profits.
4. Sales matters just as much as profit.
He discusses each of the eight in (Pages 20-22) and then establishes a framework for an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can help leaders in almost any organization whatever its size and nature may be) to overcome what Jim O'Toole so aptly characterizes as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom," to challenge the status quo, ask the right questions and then formulate the right answers. In essence, "question received ideas and rethink business from scratch." As Thiel explains, "Indeed, the single most powerful pattern I have noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places, and they do this by thinking about business from first principles instead of formulas."
In this context, I am reminded of an incident that occurred years ago when one of Albert Einstein's colleagues at Princeton playfully chided him for asking the same questions every year on his final examinations. "Quite true. Each year, the answers are different." Those who establish a status quo (i.e. the new order) must answer the right questions with the right answers. They then defend it although -- over time, as the Einstein incident suggests -- prior answers become insufficient (if not dead wrong).
"A new company's most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size afford space to think. This book is about the questions you must ask and answer to succeed in the business of doing new things: what follows is not a manual or a record of knowledge but an exercise in thinking. =Because that is what a startup has to do: [to repeat] question received ideas and rethink business from scratch." Yes, much of what Thiel has to say concerns start-ups but it would be a serious mistake to limit the term to new companies. I think it should also include new ideas, not only about new products and services but also about new policies, new procedures, new experiments, and new metrics. Indeed, new ideas about how to create and then sustain a culture within which new thinking about new ideas is most likely to thrive.
I do agree with Thiel about the issue of size: "small groups of people bound together by a sense of mission have changed the world for the better. The easiest explanation for this is negative: it's hard to develop new things in big organizations, and it’s even harder to do it by yourself. Bureaucratic hierarchies move slowly." This is what Jack Welch had in mind years ago at a GE annual meeting when its then chairman and CEO explained by he held small companies in such high regard:
“For one, they communicate better. Without the din and prattle of bureaucracy, people listen as well as talk; and since there are fewer of them they generally know and understand each other. Second, small companies move faster. They know the penalties for hesitation in the marketplace. Third, in small companies, with fewer layers and less camouflage, the leaders show up very clearly on the screen. Their performance and its impact are clear to everyone. And, finally, smaller companies waste less. They spend less time in endless reviews and approvals and politics and paper drills. They have fewer people; therefore they can only do the important things. Their people are free to direct their energy and attention toward the marketplace rather than fighting bureaucracy.”
Make a list of the great project teams and you will probably include Disney's animators who created so many classic films (Bambi, Dumbo, Pinocchio, Snow White), Xerox PARC, Lockheed's Slunk Works, and the Manhattan Project. I am unable to grasp fully the leadership challenges these teams posed. Herding cats? More like herding honey badgers...or worse yet, T-rexes. Thiel cites a more contemporary example of a great team in Chapter 10, "The Pay Pal Mafia," with whom he co-founded a startup in 1998 and later sold to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion. Each of them has subsequently been involved in other startups that have also done exceptionally well.
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Thiel’s coverage.
o Lies People Tell (Pages 25-30)
o Cutthroat Academia: War and Peace (37-43)
o Characteristics of Monopoly (48-53)
o Building a Monopoly: Three Stages (53-57)
1. Start Small and Monopolize
2. Scaling Up
3. Don't Disrupt
o Can You Control Your Future? (61-69)
o The Power Law of Venture Capital (83-87)
o What to Do With the Power Law (90-92)
o The Case for Secrets, How to Find Secrets, and What to Do with Secrets (101-106)
o Beyond Professionalism, and, Recruiting Conspirators (119-122)
o How to Sell a Product (130-139)
o Complementary Businesses (144-150)
o Seven Critically Important Questions (153-165)
o The Difference Engine (175-180)
o The Return of the King: Steve Jobs (187-189)
Peter Thiel is a world-class pragmatist who is determined to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why. His final remarks are an affirmation of what is possible, indeed imperative, not only in business but throughout the scope and depth of humanity: “Our task today is to find singular ways to create the new things that will make the future not just different, but butter – to go from 0 to 1. The essential first step is to think for yourself. Only by seeing our world anew, as fresh and strange as it was to the ancients who saw it first, can we both re-create it and preserve it for the future.”
5.0 out of 5 stars
How social coercion can help to enable compliance and trust within a group, whatever its size may be, Sept. 15 2014
As Bruce Schneier explains, "All complex ecosystems, whether they are biological ecosystems like the human body, natural ecosystems like a rain forest, social ecosystems like an open-air market, or socio-technical ecosystems like the global finance system, or the Internet, are deeply interlinked. Individual units within those ecosystems are interdependent, each doing its part and relying on the other units to do their parts as well. This is neither rare nor difficult, and complex systems abound.
"At the same time, all complex ecosystems contain parasites. Within every interdependent system, there are individuals who try to subvert the system to their own ends. These could be tapeworms in our digestive tracts, thieves in a bazaar, robbers disguised as plumbers, spammers on the Internet, or companies that move their profits offshore to evade taxes.
"Within complex systems, there is a fundamental tension between what I'm going to call cooperating, or acting in the group interest; and what I'm going to call defecting, or acting against the group interest and instead in one's own self-interest."
In these few words, Schneier has established the framework within which to present an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that prepare his reader and almost any organization (or almost any group within an organization) to help establish and then sustain a culture within which mutual trust is most likely to thrive. There is one essential question to be answered: How to empower the "cooperators" with whatever resources are needed so that they can minimize (if not eliminate) the damage done by "defectors"? In this context, "an ounce of prevention" really is worth "a pound of cure."
Schneier uses the term "Cooperators" but, having read and then re-read his brilliant book, I presume to suggest that "Collaborators" would be more appropriate. Why? Establishing and then sustaining the aforementioned culture of mutual trust requires more, much more than buy-in or consent or agreement; it requires wide and deep collaboration between and among those who are not only involved but, more to the point, actively [begin italics] engaged [end italics] in the given enterprise, at all levels and in all areas.
Schneier suggests, "This book is about trust. Specifically, it's about trust within a group. It's important that defectors not take advantage of the group, but it's also important for everyone in the group to trust that the defectors won't take advantage"...until, of course, that trust is betrayed. "Specifically, it explains how society enforces, evokes, elicits, compels, encourages -- I'll use the word [begin italics] induces [end italics] -- trustworthiness, or at least compliance, through systems of what I call [begin italics] societal pressures [end italics], similar to sociology's social controls: coercive mechanisms that induce people to cooperate, act in the group interest, and follow group norms."
This book is also about security. In this context, "an ounce of prevention" really is worth "a pound of cure." A culture within which trust thrives can only be reasonably secure if four societal pressures are effectively applied: moral, reputational, institutional, and systems. These are the subjects of greatest interest to me in Parts I and II:
o The core principles of "the science of trust"
o Key developments throughout the history of organizational security
o Key developments during the evolution of cooperation
o Key developments throughout the social history of trust
o The unique challenges posed by establishing and then maintaining various societal pressures
Note: These challenges are even greater for leaders of organizations with multiple domestic and/or foreign locations.
o The strengths, limitations, and vulnerabilities of security systems
In Part III, Schneier introduces and then explains a model whose design takes into full account how effective societal pressures can help an organization to achieve its strategic objectives. This model is based on ten core principles:
1. Understanding the social dilemma
2. Consideration of all four societal pressures
3. Paying attention to scale
4. Fostering empathy and community; increasing moral and reputational pressures
5. Using security systems to scale moral and reputational pressures
6. Harmonizing institutional pressures across related technologies
7. Ensuring that financial penalties account for the likelihood that a defection will be detected
8. Choosing general and reactive security systems
9. Reducing concentrations of power
10. Requiring transparency -- especially in corporations and government institutions
In any organization, at least some defection is inevitable because no prevention system is infallible. Also, it would be a serious mistake to assume that defection is always bad and that societal pressures always serve admirable purposes. "Defection represents an engine for innovation, an immunological challenge to ensure the health of the majority against the risk of monoculture, a reservoir of diversity, and a catalyst for social change...The societies that societal pressures protect are not necessarily moral or desirable. In fact, they can protect some pretty awful ones."
Obviously, it remains for each reader to determine which of the material provided is most relevant to the given organization's needs, resources, and strategic objectives. Just about everything needed for the design process is provided in this book.
| by Henry Kissinger|
|Price: CDN$ 21.00||
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
A brilliant response to so many compelling questions about balance of power then, now, and in years to come, Sept. 15 2014
I have read most of Henry Kissinger's previously published books and reviewed several of them. In my opinion, his latest -- World Power -- is the most valuable thus far because it addresses a challenge that the human race faces in months and years to come, one that it has never faced before: the possibility of total global chaos.
Consider these observations by Kissinger in the Introduction: "No truly global 'world power' has ever existed. What passes for order in our time was devised in Western Europe nearly four centuries ago, at a peace conference in the German region of Westphalia, conducted without the involvement or even the awareness of most other continents or civilizations." Without a global world power, obviously, there can be no world order.
The title of my review refers to a number of compelling questions and the first one posed in the Introduction is a whopper: "Are we facing a period in which forces beyond the constraints of any order determine the future?" Here are some others to which Kissinger also responds:
o What is the relevance of the Westphalian System to world order? So what?
o To what extent has Islamism threatened world order throughout the last 1,000 years?
o To what extent does Islamism (or at least radical Islamism) threaten world order today?
o What can be learned from the relationship between the U.S. and Iran during the last 50 years?
o What is the relevance of Asian multiplicity to world order?
0 What are the various stages of development of the U.S. foreign policies with regard to world order since Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901?
o Insofar as world order is concerned, what valuable lessons can be learned from the Cold War?
o Are nuclear military power and world order incompatible?
o To what extent do disruptive technologies threaten world order?
o To what extent can they help to establish, perhaps then strengthen world order?
o Given the current and imminent realities as well as probabilities, must the human race do to achieve world order?
Kissinger thoughtfully and illuminating responses to these and other questions are best revealed within his lively and eloquent narrative, in context. However, it may be of interest to check out a few brief excerpts that are representative of the thrust and flavor of his style:
o "The history of most civilizations is a tale of the rise and fall of empires. Order was established by their internal governance, not through equilibrium among states: strong when the central authority was cohesive, more haphazard under weaker rulers. In imperial systems, wars generally took place at the frontiers of the empire or as civil wars. Peace was identified with the reach of imperial power." (Page 11)
o "Europe turns inward just as the quest for a world order it significantly designed faces a fraught juncture whose outcome could engulf any region that fails to shape it. Europe thus finds itself suspended between a past it seeks to overcome and a future it has not yet defined." (95)
o "At least three viewpoints are identifiable in Arab attitudes: a small dedicated but not very vocal group accepting genuine coexistence with Israel and prepared to work for it; a much larger group seeking to destroy Israel by permanent confrontation; and those willing to negotiate with Israel but justifying negotiations, at least domestically, in part as a means to over come the Jewish state in stages." (131)
o "Order always requires a subtle balance of restraint, force, and legitimacy. In Asia, it must combine a balance of power with a concept of partnership. A purely military definition of the balance will shade into confrontation. A purely psychological approach to partnership will raise fears of hegemony. Wise statesmanship must try to find that balance. For outside it, disaster beckons." (233)
o "The American domestic debate is frequently described as a contest between idealism and realism. It may turn out -- for America and the rest of the world -- that if America cannot act in both modes, it will not be able to fulfill either." (329)
o "Is it possible to translate divergent cultures into a common system? The Westphalian system was drafted by some two hundred delegates, none of whom has entered the annals of history as a major figure, who met in two provincial German towns forty miles apart (a significant distance in the seventeenth century) in two separate groups. They overcame their obstacles because they shared the devastating experience of the Thirty Years' War, and they were determined to prevent its recurrence. Our time, facing even graver prospects, needs to act on its necessities before it is engulfed by them." (373)
I wholly agree with the remarks with which John Micklethwait concludes his review of World Order for The New York Times: After expressing some dismay concerning Kissinger's self-serving equivocation and courtiership, he suggests "the message is clear and even angry: The world is drifting, unattended, and America, an indispensable part of any new order, has yet to answer even basic questions, like 'What do we seek to prevent?' and 'What do we seek to achieve?' Its politicians and people are unprepared for the century ahead. Reading this book would be a useful first step."
Even if all the world leaders ask the same questions, including those suggested by Henry Kissinger in this book, it seems certain that there will then be serious differences between and among them in terms of what they believe are the right answers. Voltaire's Dr. Pangloss would have each of us tend to our own garden in the best of all possible worlds. Today, that garden is the planet Earth. It is perhaps possible but, my opinion, highly unlikely that world leaders will ever be able to agree on a set of rules that define the limits of permissible action and a balance of power that enforces restraint where rules break down. I am again reminded of Pogo the possum....
5.0 out of 5 stars
A brilliant examination of a Hall of Fame career and an "exceptional, tumultuous, and epic American life – an immortal life.”, Sept. 12 2014
I am among the 200 reviewers (thus far) who have rated this book highly but there are others (and there always are) who complain about something: its length, abundance of historical material, too much coverage of this/not enough of that, etc. I have read a number of biographies in recent years, including those of John Cheever (Bailey), Steve Jobs (Isaacson), Barbara Stanwyck (Wilson), Johnny Carson (Bushkin), John Wayne (Eyman), Michael Jordan (Lazenby), Woodrow Wilson (Berg), and John Updike (Begley) as well as Leigh Montville's biography of Ted Williams (2005). In my opinion, none is a greater achievement than what Ben Bradlee, Jr. offers in The Kid, his examination of the "immortal life" of Ted Williams (1918-2002).
As Charles McGrath points out in his review of the book for The New York Times, "What distinguishes Bradlee's The Kid from the rest of Williams lit is, its size and the depth of its reporting. Bradlee seemingly talked to everyone, not just baseball people but William's fishing buddies, old girlfriends, his two surviving wives and both of his daughters, and he had unparalleled access to Williams family archives. His account does not materially alter our picture of Williams the player, but fills it in with much greater detail and nuance...Bradlee's expansiveness enables his book to transcend the familiar limits of the sports bio and to become instead a hard-to-put-down account of a fascinating American life. It's a story about athletic greatness but also about the perils of fame and celebrity, the corrosiveness of money, and the way the cycle of familial resentment and disappointment plays itself out generation after generation."
Bradlee devotes seven pages of Acknowledgments of hundreds of sources (including Montville) to which he is "deeply indebted." He also includes 155 pages of Notes and in Appendix II (Pages 787-800) he lists everyone he interviewed. This is a research-driven book, to be sure, and probably the definitive account of the life of one of the most colorful - and controversial - public figures during the second half of the last century. Bradlee allows the sources to speak for themselves and provides a more balanced view than does Richard Ben Cramer, for example, in his biography of Joe DiMaggio and two of Williams.
There is much in Williams and his life to admire, notably his skills as a hitter of baseballs and his two periods of service as a Marine pilot (during WW 2 and then Korea) as well as his active support of the Jimmy Fund. He was very uncomfortable when praised for that support. Here is a brief portion of the information provided by the Fund's website: "Ted Williams was a hero in the ballpark, on the battlefield, and in the hearts of millions of children suffering from cancer. Famous for his extraordinary batting record during his decades-long career with the Red Sox, Ted also displayed heroism as a fighter pilot in two wars, and his tireless efforts on behalf of the Jimmy Fund. Ted went everywhere to support the cause: American Legion banquets, temples and churches, Little League games, drive-in theaters, department stores for autograph sessions. Most memorably, he made countless visits to the bedsides of sick children at the Jimmy Fund Clinic. As a kid, Ted dreamed of being a sports hero, but as an adult, he dreamed of beating cancer. His efforts over the years contributed to remarkable progress in the treatment of childhood cancers."
These are among the dozens of other dimensions of his life and career that are of greatest interest to me:
o His childhood in San Diego and early promise as a baseball player
o His minor league years (1936-1938) and the friendships he developed (e.g. with Dom DiMaggio and Bobby Doerr)
o Being identified as "The Kid" by Red Sox equipment manager, Johnny Orlando
o The first season in MLB, after which Babe Ruth designated him "Rookie of the Year"
o The 1941 season: Williams batted .406, hit 37 home runs, and had 120 RBIs, finishing second to Joe DiMaggio for MVP
o First active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps as a fighter pilot, World War 2 (1943-1945)
Note: According to Johnny Pesky, a Red Sox teammate who was also involved with Williams in the aviation training program, "He mastered intricate problems in fifteen minutes which took the average cadet an hour, and half of the other cadets there were college grads." Pesky again described Williams' acumen in the advance training, for which Pesky personally did not qualify: "I heard Ted literally tore the sleeve target to shreds with his angle dives. He'd shoot from wingovers, zooms, and barrel rolls, and after a few passes the sleeve was ribbons. At any rate, I know he broke the all-time record for hits."
o Second active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps, Korea (1952-1953)
Note: During the second tour of duty, Williams served in the same Marine Corps unit with John Glenn who described him as one of the best pilots he knew.
o Why he disliked the sports media so intensely, especially in Boston
o When and why he retired
o The significance of his relationship with Sears Roebuck
o His brief career as a manager of the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers franchise from 1969 to 1972
o His inadequacies as a husband and as a father
o The ambiguities of John Henry Williams
o Questions that remain unanswered concerning what happened after Ted Williams' death on July 5, 2002 (aged 83)
o Key lifetime statistics: BA .344; HRs 521; 2,654 hits; and 1,839 RBIs
Bradlee thoroughly explores these and countless other subjects and related issues, perhaps with more details and to a greater extent than many readers prefer. He celebrates Williams' several significant strengths and virtues but refuses to ignore or even neglect his prominent inadequacies in most of his personal relationships. I appreciate the fact that Bradlee does not presume to explain what drove him other than a need to become the greatest baseball hitter who ever lived (I agree with Bradlee and countless others that he was) and by his determination to have total control of his personal life, especially the news media.
As Bradlee explains in his Author's Note, "Researching and writing this book took more than a decade. After six-hundred-odd reviews, uncounted hours of research in archives and among the private papers given to me and by the Williams family, after looking closely at that signed baseball more than a few times [one Bradlee received in his youth] and thinking hard about the man I'd briefly met as a boy and the man I was meeting now, I felt ready to let go of this Ted Williams tale, the story of an exceptional, tumultuous, and epic American life - an immortal life."
This is by far the best biography of Williams that I have read thus far, indeed it is among the best biographies of athletes I have ever read. I am deeply grateful for learning what I did not previously know about "The Kid," of course, but also for the meticulous care with which Ben Bradlee, Jr. presents all of the material, helping his readers to gain a better understanding and a greater appreciation of one of the most complicated human beings any of us will ever know. Bravo!
5.0 out of 5 stars
"Effective leadership is defined by results, not attributes." Peter Drucker, Sept. 11 2014
What we have in this volume is an abundance of information, insights, and wisdom that Peter DiGiammarino has acquired thus far with specific relevance to how to develop and drive "teams of high-potential, growth-driven professionals to build highly successful and fast-growing ventures based on offerings that solve specific, important, pervasive and persistent problems for tight markets." There you have, in essence, what this book is all about and an indication of how it can be of substantial value those who are determined and able to apply effectively – from among the abundance of information, insights, and counsel -- whatever is relevant to the given enterprise.
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of DiGiammarino's coverage.
o Note to OD Students and Practitioners (Pages 15-18)
o The Seven Truths (18-19)
o Who: Market (24-25)
o Why: Problem (25-28)
o What: Solution (28
o How: Do-Sell-Grow (28-30)
o Work Problem: Get Clear (42-47)
o Core Leadership Group (54-56)
o Work Problems 2-3: Get Aligned (60-62)
o The Change Framework (67-68)
o Meetings: Ground Rules (85-87)
o FOCUS: Penetrate Peaks (99-101)
o GROW: Organization Evolution (104-110)
o Effectiveness vs. Systems and Process Maturity (124-126)
Readers will appreciate DiGiammarino's skillful use of 127 Figures that are inserted strategically throughout the narrative to illustrate or highlight key points and provide relevant information. Some of the Figures are in clusters to suggest sequence or process. I like the various exercises that achieve two separate but related purposes: They help the reader to interact with the material, and, they also help the reader to apply whatever is relevant to the given enterprise. He also adds "Work Problem" checklists and a summary at the conclusion of Chapters 2-6. I also commend him on the generous provision of additional material and resources in an Appendix (Pages 130-160) that discuss key business subjects that range from "Executive Sessions" to "How to increase the odds of being happy and of leading a fulfilled life."
I agree with DiGiammarino that organizational design or re-design worthy of the name requires both a macro perspective (the so-called "Big Picture") and a macro focus on significant details within which (according to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) a divinity can perhaps be induced to reside.
5.0 out of 5 stars
How and why Rebel Heretics will thrive in the Social Age, Sept. 9 2014
I agree with Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt: "No one know what the future of social, or its impact on business, will really be. No one -- yet -- understands its full potential." That was no doubt said about the printing press as well as steam power and telephonics, later about the Internet and then the Web, and now about social media. In one of his several books, Frank Feather quoted a teacher who suggested that "a liquid always assumes the shape of its container." I think that's generally true but if we view the social media as a container, we still do not know its nature extent as new capabilities and applications seem to be revealed each day.
These are among the subject areas that Coiné and Babbitt explore that are of greatest interest to me:
o The major differences between the Industrial Age and the Social Age: Implications and probable consequences
o What an "amplifier" is and why it "only gets louder"
o "Rogue Tweeters" and why they are "way past ugly"
o The Evolution of Social Recruiting (Chapter 4)
o Determining the ROI of social recruiting
o How and why engagement always has been and continues to be a "top-down leadership issue"
o Determining the ROI of a "community"
o The "perfect" killer app
o Why workers perform better in "flat" organizations
o The causes and effects of "the death of large"
o How and why to flatten hierarchies
o The nature, extent, and potentialities of the "OPEN Challenge"
o Creating or increasing demand with social media
o Social media and analytics
o The unique and compelling significance of "Rebel Heretics"
As indicated earlier, I really do agree with Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt: "No one know what the future of social, or its impact on business, will really be. No one -- yet -- understands its full potential." That said, I remain convinced that leaders in almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be, can derive substantial value from the information, insights, and counsel they provide if (HUGE "if") they proceed in a timely manner to formulate a game plan based on whatever is most relevant among the material in this book. That done, they must implement the game plan with sufficient resources and a shared sense of urgency.
My own opinion is that social media comprise the first "wave" of what will soon become a "tsunami" of information, of course, but also of new applications, disruptive innovations, in addition to threats and perils as well as unprecedented opportunities as organizations struggle to leverage that information to maximum advantage. In essence, the organizational challenge is survive during this latest process of natural selection...or perish.