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America's Moment: Creating Opportunity in the Connected Age
America's Moment: Creating Opportunity in the Connected Age
by Rework America
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 38.13
40 used & new from CDN$ 7.63

5.0 out of 5 stars How to reinvigorate a unique American tradition: 'the restless desire to master our fate, joined in our community of freedom, Sept. 21 2015
Zoe Baird is president and CEO of the Markle Foundation, sponsor of the Rework America initiative. As she explains in the Preface of this book, the material provided could serve as a "practical agenda" for creating more and better opportunities for personal growth and professional development in a connected age. Baird and Howard Schultz were co-leaders of the Rework America taskforce and, in collaboration with 54 others, produced - during 18 months of deliberation, discussion, and collaboration -- what I view as a manifesto, a call to specific action. The material is a collective response to two questions: "What is your American Dream? And what are you going to do to make the American Dream possible for everyone?"

They offer six strategies for action to "pair up reality and theory." First, for business development and more opportunities for good work:

1. Connect to a world of buyers.
2. Invest in Main Street America
3. Share the knowledge, innovate the jobs.
4. Better made, in America

The other two strategies are for achieving personal development and more valued career paths:

5. Match Americans to opportunities.
6. Prepare for the life you want.

"These six strategies for action are meant to enable Americans who are eager to look forward and find new solutions." A separate chapter is devoted to each of the six strategies. It is important to keep in mind, while working your way through the material, that the contributors' observations and recommendations are guided and informed by the same question: "What can [and should] we do today to make opportunity available for everyone tomorrow?" An ancient aphorism from China suggests that the best time to plant a tree is 100 years ago. The next best time is now.

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of the book's coverage:

o Opportunities in the networked economy (Pages 18-61)
o Online platforms for data (23-24, 32-36, and 222-223)
o Digital Revolution (24-31)
o Innovation in a networked economy (37-39)
o The United States as a source of high-value production (39-45, 122-123, and 143-189)
o Measurement of U.S. economy (57-61)
o Investment in SME business (84-112)
o Consumer and household credit (91-94 and 103-107)
o Networked knowledge and health care (118-119 and 124-125)
o Innovation and jobs (126-142)
o Private-public alliances (164-169)
o Corporate investment and innovation (171-181)
o Need for improved infrastructure of telecommunications (184-189)
o Mismatches of jobs and job seekers in labor market (190-223)
o Financial aid systems (239-241)
o Employer-employee relations in the workplace and job market (255-262)
o Government in networked economy (262-272)

Obviously, the 56 contributors share a bold and compelling vision. And indeed, when attempting to achieve it, obstacles and difficulties are daunting. Hence the importance of hundreds of stories inserted throughout the collaborative narrative, stories about real people in real situations who are making a significant difference. They illustrate the truth of an observation long ago by Margaret Mead: ""Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

I agree with the contributors' concluding thoughts: "The old ways are set. People are used to them. Interest groups protect them. For a successful country, it can be easy to feel a bit complacent, easy to feel anxious about the uncertainties of change.

"That would be the path of drift: uncertain, divided, and unmoved. We prefer another American tradition: the restless desire to master our fate, joined in our community of freedom."

Ultimately, the American Dream has no ethnic, cultural, geographic, economic, or territorial limits. As has always been true and will continue to be true in months and years to come, the only limits will be self-imposed. There's the challenge. And there's our global community's great opportunity!

5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time
5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time
by Jeremie Kubicek
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 14.31
36 used & new from CDN$ 14.31

5.0 out of 5 stars "No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now." Alan Watts, Sept. 19 2015
As I began to read this book, I was again reminded of what countless research studies have revealed about what has the greatest impact during a one-on-one interaction: on average with only minor variances, 80-15% of the impact is determined by body language and tone of voice; only 15-20% of impact is determined by what is actually said. If your objective is to "be present and productive when there is never enough time" while working with others, these statistics have special significance. Moreover, in those workplace cultures within which fewer than 30% of the emplo0yees are actively and positively engaged, my guess is that inept and/or indifferent leadership is one of the major causes.

This is probably what Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram have in mind when observing, "Every day, millions of people are negatively impacted by the inability of a person to connect appropriately and to be present. Social miscues, the lack of emotional intelligence, and busyness stifle the growth of people and the progress of organizations."

Hence the importance of having a "transmission" with the smoothly working "gears" that Kubicek and Cockram discuss in this book. Briefly:

First gear: Being full recharged (refueled, refreshed, etc.) and ready to go
Second gear: Connecting with others
Third gear: Socializing with others
Fourth gear: Working hard but also working smart
Note: Kubicek and Cockram refer to multitasking; my preference is sequential tasking.
Fifth gear: Maximum efficiency and productivity
Reverse gear: When it is necessary to back up and change direction

"Each gear has its own purpose and place. Once you learn to use the gears consistently with those in your life [family members, friends, and neighbors as well as those at work], you will notice the common language that begins to form, enabling objectivity to characterize your conversation [and attitude] instead of the subjective judgment or condescension that becomes pervasive when each person is speaking a different `language.'" Kubicek and Cockram explain HOW to develop and continuously strengthen this mindset and these capabilities.

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me in Sections One and Two (Chapters 1-7), also listed to suggest the scope of Kubicek and Cockram's coverage:

o Social Miscues (Pages 16-18)
o Disconnections (19-22)
o Questions about priorities (26-28)
o 5 Gears: A briefing (35-42)
o Using Language to Connect (43-47)
o Getting into Overdrive (52-55)
o Stuck in 5th Gear (57-58)
o Healthy and Unhealthy 5th Gear (60-62)
o Teaching Others How to Use 5th Gear (62-63)
o What 4th Gear Does to Our Brain and Our Work (71-75)
o Reprioritizing What Really Matters (77-78)
o Why Business Happens in Third Gear (84-85)
o How 3rd Gear Can Increase Your Influence (89-91)
o What Happens When You Avoid 3rd Gear (91-92)
o How to Help Others Get into 3rd Gear, and, Overdoing 3rd Gear (93-96)
o Learning to Connect (99-100)
o What Happens [and Doesn't Happen] When Everyone Is in 2nd Gear? (100-102)
o Truly Being Present (102-106)
o Back to the Real World (106-108)
o 2nd Gear in a 4th Gear Culture (108-110)

Over time, those who develop the capabilities and apply them effectively will be able to avoid various stalls and breakdowns in their relationships with others. People will be pleased, even excited to see them and be with them rather than avoid them. People will welcome working with them, sharing mutual respect and trust, and may -- again, over time -- share confidences with them.

I agree with Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram: "The 5 Gears is a lifestyle. Do it well and experience a life that is fulfilling and the influence that goes along with someone becoming a person that others want to emulate. It will take your self-awareness and intentional willpower to learn to shift well and lead others into their own breakthrough.

"Give everyone a gift -- you. Be present with those in your life and those that you lead. When you do, you will watch your influence thrive and your respect flourish. We wish you all the best in that endeavor!"

I began with an observation by Alan Watts and conclude with a reminder from Oscar Wilde: "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken."

Finish Big: How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies on Top
Finish Big: How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies on Top
by Bo Burlingham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.71
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5.0 out of 5 stars "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice [when selling a company]. In practice there is." Yogi Berra, Sept. 18 2015
As I began to read Bo Burlingham's latest book, I was again reminded that the term "gazelle" refers to the classic entrepreneur of myth and reality, someone who starts a new business venture (or a new way of doing business) and aims for it to explode into a white-hot phenomenon such as Home Depot, Facebook, Jenny Craig, Netflix, Under Armour, and Instagram. The term was coined by the economist David Birch. His identification of gazelle companies followed from his 1979 report titled "The Job Generation Process" (MIT Program on Neighborhood and Regional Change), wherein he identified small companies as the biggest creators of new jobs in the economy.

In 1994, however, Birch revised his thesis, isolating job-creating companies he called "gazelles." Characterized less by size than by rapid expansion, Birch defined the species as enterprises whose sales doubled every four years. By his estimates, these firms, roughly 4% of all U.S. companies, were responsible for 70% of all new jobs. The gazelles beat out the elephants (like Walmart) and the mice (corner barbershops). When you hear politicians say, "Small businesses create most of the new jobs," they're really talking about young and fast-growing firms. They are talking about gazelles. Many (if not most) of them were founded by entrepreneurs. Some of them have since moved on to new adventures in the vineyards of free enterprise. Others remain with the company but not as CEO as still others do.

According to Burlingham, every entrepreneur exits eventually: "It's one of the few absolute certainties in business. Assuming you've built a viable company, you can choose when and how you exit, but you can't choose whether. It's going to happen. You can count on it." One ancient Chinese axiom suggests that the best time to plant a tree was 100 years ago. The next best time is now. Great entrepreneurs have followed that advice. That is why, as Burlingham explains, they are able to "exit their companies on top." Of course, entrepreneurs tend to be considered "great" if their companies achieve great success. Eventually, all of them -- "the good, the bad, and the ugly" -- retire or are removed.

These are among the key insights that Burlingham explores within his lively as well as eloquent narrative:

o Now is the time to start thinking about your exit.
o It begins with knowing who you are (and aren't), what you want (and don't), and (especially) why.
o Build a business that can be sold when and to whom you want to sell it.
o A good exit takes time -- measured in years, not months.
o In choosing a successor, leave enough time to be wrong.
o The best advice comes from people who've been through it themselves.
o No one builds a business alone. So what about everyone else?
o Make sure you know why potential buyers want to acquire your company.
o Your exit isn't over until you're fully engaged in whatever comes next.

Burlingham shares what he learned from dozens of great entrepreneurs and organizes his material within a framework of eight common characteristics. He urges his reader to take them into full account:

1. Have a crystal clear understanding of who you are, what you want, and why.
2. Look at your organization through the eyes of a potential buyer or investor.
3. Commit years -- not months --to completing preparations and creating options.
4. Make certain that you leave the organization "in good hands."
5. Enlist the counsel of those best qualified to provide it (e.g. entrepreneurs who know the dos and don'ts)
6. Take into full account your responsibilities and obligations to all stakeholders.
7. Thoroughly understand those to whom you're selling and why they're buying.
8. Have a clear vision of what you will do if/when the sale is completed.

"These eight factors, I found, went a long way toward explaining the vast differences of the entrepreneurs I interviewed, and I couldn't help but think that current and future business owners would benefit by knowing about them. That said, my purpose in writing this book is not to provide a how-to guide, but rather to illuminate the exit process by telling the stories of entrepreneurs who have gone through it."

Actually, Bo Burlingham combines in this volume stories of dozens of entrepreneurs but also an abundance of relevant knowledge and wisdom he has gained from his vast and deep real-world experience. That is indeed true but I want to make one other point: Those who read this book will be well prepared to accelerate their own personal growth and professional development while helping others within and beyond their organization to do so...and thereby increase substantially the value of that organization. In other words, much of the material in this book -- and the mindset it encourages -- can have impact now, today, as well as during a sale years from now. This book is a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

Charlie Munger: The Complete Investor
Charlie Munger: The Complete Investor
by Tren Griffin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.64
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars “Make everything as simple as possible but no simpler.” Albert Einstein, Sept. 16 2015
Briefly, Charles Thomas Munger (born January 1, 1924) is an American business magnate, lawyer, investor, and philanthropist. He is Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, the diversified investment corporation chaired by Warren Buffett; in that capacity, Buffett describes Charlie Munger as "my partner." The material that Tren Griffin provides in this book has three primary sources: Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffet, and Munger. Born Benjamin Grossbaum (1894-1976), Graham was a British-born American economist and professional investor. He is considered the father of value investing, an approach he began teaching at Columbia Business School in 1928 and subsequently refined with David Dodd through various editions of their famous book Security Analysis. Buffett and Munger have frequently cited Graham as their "teacher" -- Buffett was one of his students at Columbia -- and fully embraced the core principles of what Graham characterizes as “value investing.” Einstein's recommendation explains the essence of that approach to investments.

Tren Griffin's focus is on how Munger thinks as an investor. "He has called being a successful investor a 'trained response.' He believes that if you can learn to overcome behavior that drives poor decisions, you can gain an advantage over other investors. Much of the context will be about Munger invests, but the discussion is just as applicable to making decisions in other aspects in life." It is noteworthy that Buffett has repeatedly insisted that "investment is simple but not easy." Munger agrees, observing "it's remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent."

Griffin carefully organizes his material within seven chapters that, in this order, (1) explain the basics of the Graham Value Investment System, (2) explain the principles of that system, (3) provide "worldly wisdom," (4) examine the psychology of human misjudgment, (5) identify "the right stuff," (6) identify and discuss the seven variables of the GVIS, and (7) examine "the right stuff" in a business. He then shifts his attention to "Berkshire Math," "Moats," and "Value Investing vs. Factor Investing." I commend him on his skillful selection and placement of quotations by Graham and Buffet as well as by Munger throughout his lively and eloquent narrative. In fact, Munger provides most of them and these reflect Einstein's influence:

o Value investing is a very simple set of ideas and the reason that our ideas about investing have not spread faster is they're too simple. The professional classes can't justify their existence if that's all they have to say.

o I think the reason why we got such idiocy in investment management is best illustrated by a story that I tell about the guy who sold fishing tackle. I asked him, "My God, they're purple and green. Do fish really like these lures?" And he said, "Mister, I don't sell to fish."

Here are some other of Munger's insightful observations:

o I don't let others do projections for me, because I don't like throwing up on the desk."

o People calculate too much and think too little.

o You really can learn to make fewer mistakes than other people -- and how to fix the mistakes faster when you do make them.

o I know I'll perform better if I rub my nose in my mistakes. This is a wonderful trick to learn.

o The iron rule of nature is that you get what you reward for. If you want ants to come, put sugar on the floor.

o Almost all good businesses engage in "pain today, gain tomorrow" activities.

o If you want to get rich, you'll need a few decent ideas where you really know what you're doing. Then you're going to have to have the courage to stick with them and take the ups and downs. Not very complicated, and its very old-fashioned.

o There are actually businesses that you will find a few times in a lifetime, where any manager can raise the return enormously just by raising prices -- and yet they haven't done it. So they have huge untapped pricing power that they're not using. That is the ultimate no-brainer.

As I worked my way through Griffin's narrative, I was again reminded of a passage in Lawrence Cunningham’s Introduction the Second Edition of The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America: "The CEOs of Berkshire's various operating companies enjoy a unique position in corporate America. They are given a simple set of commands: to run their business as if (1) they are its sole owner, (2) it is the only asset they hold, and (3) they can never sell or merge it for a hundred years." With regard to investment thinking, "one must guard against what Buffett calls the `institutional imperative.' It is a pervasive force in which institutional dynamics produce resistance to change, absorption of available corporate funds, and reflexive approval of suboptimal CEO strategies by subordinates. Contrary to what is often taught in business and law schools, this powerful force often interferes with rational business decision-making. The ultimate result of the institutional imperative is a follow-the-pack mentality producing industry imitators, rather than industry leaders - what Buffett calls a lemming-like approach to business."

In all phases of Berkshire Hathaway’s vast and complex operations, especially when selecting a value investment or overseeing the management of the companies it owns, Buffett and Munger do indeed practice what Einstein preaches: “Make everything as simple as possible but no simpler.” I agree with Tren Griffin: "Learning about Munger's ideas and methods will forever change the way you think about investing and about life. You will make better, decisions, be happier, and live a more fulfilling life." To learn more about him, I highly recommend these two sources: Poor Charlie's Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger, Expanded Third Edition (2005), Peter D. Kaufman, Editor, and Janet Lowe's Damn Right: Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger (2003).

Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs
Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs
by David B. Yoffie
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 27.73
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5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable lessons to be learned from those who "paved an extraordinary path as the first generation of high tech superstar CEOs", Sept. 12 2015
As David Yoffie and Michael Cusumano explain in the Introduction, they had studied Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs for more than 35 years when they began their collaboration on this book, one in which they share what they learned about three CEOs who "paved an extraordinary path as the first generation of high tech superstars." However different those three were in many respects, Yoffie and Cusumano identify and discuss five "commonalities" in terms of approach to the essentials of strategy and execution:

1. Look Forward, Reason Back
2. Make Big Bets, Without Betting the Company
3. Build Platforms AND Ecosystems -- Not Just Products
4. Exploit Leverage AND Power -- Play Judo AND Suma
5. Shape the Organization Around our Personal Anchor

I agree with them: "Gates, Grove, and Jobs owed part of their success to the explosion of activity launched by the invention of the personal computer, the advent of the Internet, and the widespread adoption of digital mobile devices. They were undoubtedly in the right place at the right time...[and] stand out because they achieved and maintained dominance in their industries, even as seismic shifts altered the landscape around them. In the process, they had a lasting impact on their companies, their sector, and their era." Yoffie and Cusumano devote a separate chapter to each of the "commonalities," providing an abundance of information, anecdotes, and insights.

The first three chapters examine the basic strategy rules that help drive Gates, Grove, and Jobs to their greatest successes. The next two chapters analyze and illustrate the execution guides that all three followed at the tactical and organizational levels. The Conclusion summarizes what is required of other business leaders to master and execute the five strategy rules. These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Yoffie and Cusumano's coverage:

o Mastering the Rules of Strategy (Pages 2-9)
o The Three CEOs: A Briefing (9-18)
o Analogies in Game Theory and Chess (26)
o Lessons from the Masters: Look Forward, Reason Back, Part 1 (27-32)
o Lessons from the Masters: Look Forward, Reason Back, Part 2 (58-59)
o Bet Big to Change the Game (63-72)
o Cannibalize Your Own Business (79-85)
o Lessons from the Masters: Make Big Bets, Without Betting the Company (91-92)
o Think Ecosystems, Not Just Platforms (109-115)
o Lessons from the Masters: Build Platforms AND Ecosystems -- Not Just Products (128-130)
o Stay Under the Radar (134-139)
o Keep Your Enemies Close (139-143)
o Lessons from the Masters: Exploit Leverage AND Power (162-163)
o Know Thyself -- Warts and All (168-174)
o Never Lose Sight of the Big Picture (180-188)
o Lessons from the Masters: Shape the Organization around Your Personal Anchor (197-198)
o The Next Generation: Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Huateng "Pony" Ma (203-208)
o Beyond the Five Rules (209-216)

One of Yoffie and Cusumano's notable points is that "complements" to great CEOs have substantial value but "are not substitutes." Steve Ballmer, Craig Barrett, and Tim Cook "were absolutely essential to the success that Gates, Grove, and Jobs enjoyed. Yet [they] struggled to replace our three CEOs...[who] could have looked for new leaders more attuned to the next generation of technology, customers, and competitors [as GE's Reginald Jones once did when selecting Jack Welch to succeed him], or encouraged a more competitive process. In any case, the choice of successors should [begin italics] not [end italics] be about loyalty to the team or to past ways of doing things. It should be about grooming or choosing successors who demonstrate the ability to learn new things, break with the past when necessary, and champion the products, services, and platforms we have yet to imagine."

Opinions are divided (as they always seem to be) as to whether or not Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs would be the best choices to succeed Steve Ballmer, Craig Barrett, and Tim Cook as CEO of Microsoft, Intel, and Apple, respectively, in today's global marketplace. Those present at the creation of a great company are seldom the right persons to serve as its CEO 15-20 years later. I again agree with David Yoffie and Michael Cusumano that all new leaders must discover their own paths forward. "They will need to reshape these powerful organizations around [begin italics] their [end italics] anchor and lead [begin italics] their [end italics] companies into yet another uncertain future -- through new generations of technologies, customers, and business models." And let's also include competitors. New rules and new strategies will be needed. That was certainly true when Jones selected Welch and that will certainly be true when other CEOs are selected in months and years to come.

The Creator's Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs
The Creator's Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs
by Amy Wilkinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.37
40 used & new from CDN$ 6.21

5.0 out of 5 stars "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're probably right." Henry Ford, Sept. 10 2015
The term "gazelle" refers to the classic entrepreneur of myth and reality, someone who starts a new business venture (or a new way of doing business) and aims for it to explode into a white-hot phenomenon such as Home Depot, Facebook, Jenny Craig, Netflix, Under Armour, and Instagram. The term was coined by the economist David Birch. His identification of gazelle companies followed from his 1979 report titled "The Job Generation Process" (MIT Program on Neighborhood and Regional Change), wherein he identified small companies as the biggest creators of new jobs in the economy.

In 1994, however, Birch revised his thesis, isolating job-creating companies he called "gazelles." Characterized less by size than by rapid expansion, Birch defined the species as enterprises whose sales doubled every four years. By his estimates, these firms, roughly 4% of all U.S. companies, were responsible for 70% of all new jobs. The gazelles beat out the elephants (like Walmart) and the mice (corner barbershops). When you hear politicians say, "Small businesses create most of the new jobs," they're really talking about young and fast-growing firms. They are talking about gazelles.

And so is Amy Wilkinson in The Creator's Code, based on rigorous and extensive research that includes interviews of more than 200 entrepreneurs who created companies with more than $100-million in annual revenue. (Several now generate more than $100-BILLION in annual revenue.) One of the primary objectives of her research was to identify common attributes that could be coded and then formulated as concepts. As she explains, "Creators are not born with an innate ability to conceive and build $100 million enterprises. They work at it. I found that all share certain fundamental approaches to the act of creation. The skills that make them successful can be learned, practiced, and passed on." Each is the topic of a separate chapter in her book. Here they are, accompanied by an annotation of mine:

Comment: Find the unmet need, the unanswered question, the unsolved problem...and be especially alert for anomalies.

Comment: Create a distance between you and your competitors by outworking and outperforming them...ignoring traditional boundaries and limitations. Also, constantly challenge your assumptions and premises. Competitive marketplaces change and so must you...but never compromise non-negotiable values such as integrity.

Comment: Observe, Orient, Decide, and then Act faster and better than anyone else does. Also, know what NOT to do.

Comment: Experiment and test constantly, learn and then discard, applying what is learned...and if the result is DOA, bury it.

Comment: Recruit a variety of experiences and skills that offer diverse perspectives; encourage, indeed insist upon principled dissent.

Comment: Share knowledge, wisdom, and resources generously with those who need them and whose efforts have earned your support.

As Wilkinson explains, "The six essential skills are not discrete, stand-alone practices. Each feeds the next, creating synergy and momentum...When a creator brings together all six skills, something magnetic happens. Creators attract allies -- employees, customers, investors, and collaborators of all kinds. Customers become evangelists. Employees turn into loyalists. Investors back the company with support that transcends financial returns."

Larry Schweikart and Lynne Pierson Doti co-authored American Entrepreneur, in my opinion one of the most important books written about entrepreneurism. They share "the fascinating stories of the people who defined business in the United States" from the colonial settlements through early in the 21st century. More than 150 entrepreneurs are discussed and their efforts demonstrate several of the six skills/initiatives/approaches on which Amy Wilkinson focuses. It is important to keep in mind that, if the Fortune 1000 were viewed as oak trees, each of them began as an acorn.

This is what she has in mind when sharing her concluding thoughts: "Creation is at the bottom an act of faith, a commitment to a dream of the future. All of us hold within ourselves the potential to become creators, and the expanding universe of entrepreneurship provides infinite pathways for us to explore - if we dare. Look at the world around you. It's a world that's perpetually changing, perpetually being made [or remade anew]. Only you can seize the tremendous power that is yours to be come one of the world's creators."

With all due respect to the core components of the "creator's code" in this book, I presume to add another. Without exception, all of the great entrepreneurs throughout history possessed exceptional courage. This quality is probably what Jack Dempsey had in mind years ago when explaining that champions "get up when they can't."

Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion, and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary
Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion, and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary
by Linda Kaplan Thaler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.26
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Champions get up when they can't." Jack Dempsey, Sept. 9 2015
Angela Lee Duckworth is among the sources that Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval cite in their latest book, Grit to Great. Briefly, in her late 20s, Duckworth left a demanding job as a management consultant at McKinsey to teach math in public schools in San Francisco, Philadelphia and New York. After five years of teaching seventh graders, she went back to graduate school to complete her Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is now an assistant professor in the psychology department. Her research subjects include students, West Point cadets, and corporate salespeople, all of whom she studies to determine how "grit" is a better indicator of success than factors such as IQ or family income.

I agree with Kaplan Thaler and Koval that "the science of success is only beginning to be explored. And there is much to learn But the great thing about grit is that working harder, smarter, more passionately, and longer is something we control, unlike the community we grew up in, the high school we attended, the money and resources our parents have, company politics, or the current state of the economy. It is [begin italics] attainable [end italics] by each and every one of us. Even if you're not the smartest or most talented person in the room."

Decades of research by K. Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State University clearly indicate that, on average, achieving peak performance in almost any human endeavor (e.g. playing chess or the cello) requires 10,000 hours of "deep" (i.e. highly disciplined) practice under strict, expert supervision...and some luck. Even then, success is not guaranteed. I have conducted no formal research on this subject but I have taught Advanced Placement English in two of the world's most prestigious private boarding schools and coached their varsity football and basketball teams. This experience has convinced me that talent without the preparation that Ericsson prescribes illustrates Texas Coach Darrell Royal's observation, "potential" means "you ain't done it yet."

Bob Deutsch is a cognitive neuroscientist and another of the several dozen sources that Kaplan Thaler and Koval cite: "There are different levels of grit. It's not a unified, generic field, all-or-nothing concept. There's a million people who have grit, and there's a million who don't. But of those who don't, at least eighty percent could have grit." In other words, "it's a trait that can be developed, a skill that can be learned [or at least a temperament that can be developed] when a person is exposed to the right kind of training, experience, and practice." In this book, Kaplan Thaler and Koval explain HOW.

These are among the passages of greatest interest and value to me:

o Get a Bronx Attitude (Pages 19-22)
o The Four Ingredients of Grit (23-26)
o The Failure of Standardized Tests (31-35)
o The Recipe for Success (38-43)
o Move the Goalposts (53-55)
o Get Rejected (62-65)
o Take a Leap (69-72)
o Embrace Boredom (75-79)
o Celebrate Small Victories (82-85)
o Make Your Bed (85-87)
o Sunny Side Up (97-101)
o Failing Forward (101-103)
o Grit Is Age Agnostic (115-117)
o Pump Up Your Brain (120-122)
o Be a (Re) inventor (125-127)
o Develop Your Character (134-137)
o Get Back Up (137-140)

I commend Kaplan Thaler and Koval on their skillful use of a reader-friendly device at the end of each chapter, "Grit Builders." Each is a mini-commentary that suggests two or three specific ways their reader can apply the key points in the given chapter to their own situation. Having immediately established a direct and personal rapport with their reader, they then use this device to accomplishes two major objectives of substantial benefit. First, it enables the reader to interact with the material. Also, it enables the reader to take personal ownership of initiatives to apply it.

Years ago, Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval decided to launch their own company, the Kaplan Thaler Group, that eventually became one of the most admired and most profitable advertising agencies in a ferociously competitive marketplace, "New York New York." That took grit, to be sure, and it also took an unshakeable faith in the power of small but significant gestures of "nice."

I agree with them that grit "is the great equalizer in life because anyone, at any time, whatever their background or resources, can lay claim to it. It's been proven time and again, that those individuals who relentlessly and passionately summon their inner fortitude when things get tough or scary; who tirelessly turn defeat into victory thanks to their resilience into initiatives; and hold on with the fierce tenacity of a mother tiger to her cubs, are the true winners in life. With grit, there's no telling how far you can go, how much you can do, or how successful you can be."

The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results
The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results
by Brent Adamson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.79
34 used & new from CDN$ 20.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How re-writing the rules enables "the best companies to connect with current customers, dramatically boosting sales as a result", Sept. 9 2015
This is a sequel (sort of) to The Challenger Sale, previously published in 2011, in which Matthew Dixon, Brent Adamson, and their colleagues at Corporate Executive Board (CEB) what their rigorous and extensive research has revealed about how to "take control of the customer conversation" by becoming "challenger sellers."

In their latest book, with co-authors Pat Spenner and Nick Toman, they explain how and why, based on more recent research, "it is equally (if not more) critical to have challenger buyers" within organizations. They would be what Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell characterize as "customer evangelists."

Buyers are more knowledgeable, better informed, and more demanding than at any prior time that I can remember. It is also true that there are more people now involved in the purchase decision process than ever before. In fact, as Adamson, Dixon, Spenner, and Toman explain, there may not be a single "challenger customer"; rather, sellers may need to cultivate those who comprise what I call a "circle of influence." And even if there is a "Mobilizer" (challenger or champion), that person may be overruled by several others. More often than not, collective judgment prevails.

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of s coverage:

o Track Them All Down and Win Them All Over (Pages 10-13)
o Solving for the Right Problem (17-20)
o Fighting the Lowest Common Denominator (27-32)
o Seven Flavors of Customer Stakeholders (42-46)
o The Mobilizers (46-52)
o Three Keys to Unlocking Mobilizer Potential (52-56)
o Mobilizing the Mobilizer (58-61)
o Insight Is Not Thought Leadership (64-68)
o Building and Breaking Mental Models (73-76)
o Four Questions to Build Commercial Insight (79-81)
o The Dark Side of Content Marketing (118-120)
o Building Mobilizer Messages (137-139)
o Progressively Disqualify (145-147)
o Identifying and Tailoring to Mobilizer Types (149-153)
o A Better Way Forward (160-164)
o The Three Principles of Collective Caring (164-175)
o The Contours of Building Consensus (175-182)
o Equip Mobilizers to Bring Stakeholders Together (188-192)
o Implications and Implementation Lessons (209-249)

The co-authors also include several mini-case studies that provide real-world examples of how strategies and tactics have been applied:

o DENTSPLY (84-100)
o Xerox Printing Solutions (101-115)
o Skillsoft Mobilizer Toolkit (193-199)
o Cisco Systems (183-188)
o Alpha Company's Stakeholder Alignment Workshops (199-207)

During the course of their lively and eloquent narrative, they challenge their reader to answer a series of open-ended questions about "the customer organization, the dynamics within that organization, the Mobilizer, and commercial opportunity itself." For example:

o What need should this customer be learning about?
o What should be keeping this customer up at night?
o How should the customer respond to this need?
o How should the customer define the purchase criteria?
o How should the customer evaluate and reach consensus?

Note the repetition of the word "should." It is imperative for the seller to determine what the answer to each of these and other questions [begin italics] should [end italics] be and then manage the cultivation/initiation process accordingly. I commend Matthew Dixon, Brent Adamson, Pat Spenner, and Nick Toman for providing an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that will prepare their reader to achieve far greater success when managing that process. No matter how many people are involved in a purchase decision, no matter what the given issues are, it is imperative for the seller to be able to answer thoroughly and honestly whatever questions may be asked.

Long ago in Art of War, Sun Tzu asserts that every battle is won or lost before it is fought. The same is true of complicated sales.

Decoding the Workplace: 50 Keys to Understanding People in Organizations
Decoding the Workplace: 50 Keys to Understanding People in Organizations
by John Ballard Ph.D.
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 49.16
19 used & new from CDN$ 49.16

5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant explanation of why not all messages sent are received and not all messages received are understood, Sept. 8 2015
Perhaps the single greatest challenge that business leaders face is to establish and then sustain a workplace environment within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. The challenge is greater in organizations whose leaders mistakenly believe that social purpose and profitability are mutually exclusive. On the contrary. It is no coincidence that most of the companies annually ranked among those most highly admired and best to work for are also among companies that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry.

I agree with John Ballard that the most effective leaders decode their workplace so that they can understand the messages they receive from those entrusted to their care. As Ballard explains, "I use 'keys' as a metaphor. Keys unlock things; the right key can help decode a program; a person with a key can unlock and see what others perhaps cannot. Keys can help to decipher the world around you, and suggest explanations, interpretations, or solutions. The concepts and ideas you will find in these pages are indeed keys...The keys highlighted are those that I have found especially useful in decoding the workplace."

My own view is that the 50 keys Ballard highlights in combination with related information, insights, and counsel serve to create a context, a frame of reference, within which leaders can make sense of the hundreds of "messages" (both verbal and non-verbal) that they receive each day. Those who do not "read" other people correctly are certain to fail as leaders and managers. (Note: With regard to non-verbal communication, major research studies have established beyond doubt that, in face-to-face interaction, body language and tone of voice determine more than 80% of impact; what is actually said determines less than 20% of impact.) I presume to offer a key of my own in the form of a metaphor: It is impossible to drive a vehicle to a desired destination if all of its windows are covered with black paint.

These are among the "keys" that caught my eye, accompanied by an annotation:

o "Promotions and opportunities are not based on you and your performance but on perceptions of you and your performance." (Page 24)
Comment: False perceptions can often be the most dangerous realities.

o "Be aware, as best you can, of the impressions that you create." (25)
Comment: Ask at least three people who know you well and [begin italics] really care about you [end italics] to suggest three adjectives that best describe how you come across to others. If you don't have three who care about you enough to be candid, you have serious relationship problems that must be immediately addressed.

o "Unwritten rules apply only to behaviors -- not to what you think." (48)
Comment: Defying such rules, however, can create all manner of problems. Pick your fights or others will do it for you.

o "Ultimately much [if not most] of what you learn about surviving and succeeding in the organization is from 'trial and error.'" (71)
Comment: Also keep in mind that most wounds and most limits are self-inflicted.

o "Not all groups in the workplace that are called teams actually are teams; many are just work groups." (79)
Comment: The value of a team is determined by the value of what it produces [begin italics] in collaboration [end italics].

o "Differences between what an organization preaches and what it does could reveal the real core of an organization's culture." (95)
Comment: If you often dread going to work, if you do not frequently brag about your associates, if you don't want family members and friends to work with them, that tells you about all you need to know about your organization's culture.

o "A leader inspires others to go above and beyond the normal requirements of the job." (105)
Comment: Leaders don't motivate others; they inspire others to be self-motivated but only if there is mutual trust and respect.

Early on, Ballard observes, "This book focuses on essentials to help you understand the workplace, the concepts I consider to be essential to understanding yourself and others. I present them from my perspective, as seen through my lens -- as a management scholar and as a manager and consultant. This book is not a primer on management or organizational behavior per se." Quite true. Think of it, rather, as a primer on the basics of human nature within a workplace environment. He shares what he has learned from what he has experienced and observed. Self-discovery is a journey, a process, not an ultimate destination. Decades ago, my grandmother pointed out to me that I have two eyes, two ears, and one mouth. "Use them accordingly."

Not all locks can be opened with a key. It is possible but unlikely that you need all or even most of the 50 keys that John Ballard provides. (Over a period of years, you may need all of them at one time or another. Add them to your business acumen "keychain.") You may also have a lock or two for which he provides no keys in this book.

As you work your way through the book, decide what is most relevant to your current needs, interests, and concerns. Absorb and digest what he shares. After about a month, re-read the book or at least the passages you have highlighted. (Shrewd readers will have a highlighter near at hand as well as a lined notebook in which to record comments, questions, page references, etc.) The more self-understanding you gain over time, the more effective you will be in most relationships at work and elsewhere. If you embrace the idea of observing and listening at least 80% of the time during conversations, you will become a more complete human being. Begin the journey today. If it is already underway, Bon Voyage!

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies
Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies
by Nick Bostrom
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 26.69
28 used & new from CDN$ 22.33

5.0 out of 5 stars How to approach what could be “quite possibly the most important and most daunting challenge humanity has ever faced", Sept. 7 2015
John H. Flavell was probably the first to use the term metacognition when suggesting that it "refers to one's knowledge concerning one's own cognitive processes or anything related to them, e.g., the learning-relevant properties of information or data. For example, I am engaging in metacognition if I notice that I am having more trouble learning A than B; if it strikes me that I should double check C before accepting it as fact." That was in 1976.

As I began to read Nick Bostrom's brilliant book, I was again reminded of Flavell's research. What does the term "superintelligence" mean? According to Bostrom, "We can tentatively define a superintelligence as [begin italics] any intellect that greatly exceeds the cognitive performance of humans in virtually all domains of interest [end italics]." Bostrom focuses on three different forms of superintelligence and asserts that they are essentially equivalent: Speed superintelligence, a system that can do all that a human intellect can do, but much faster; Collective superintelligence, a system composed of a large number of smaller intellects such that the system's overall performance across many very general domains vastly outstrips that of any current cognitive system; and Quality superintelligence, a system that is at least as fast as a human mind and vastly qualitatively smarter.

He could well be right that the development of superintelligence - by human beings -- could be "quite possibly the most important and most daunting challenge humanity has ever faced. And - whether we succeed or fail - it is probably the last challenge we will ever face." To his credit, he duly acknowledges the possibility that many of the points made in the book could be wrong. "It is also likely that there are considerations of critical importance that I fail to take into account, thereby invalidating some or all of my conclusions."

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Bostrom's coverage in Chapters 1-7

o Seasons of hope and despair (Pages 5-11)
o Opinions about the future of machine intelligence (18-21)
o Artificial intelligence (23-30)
o Whole brain emulation (30-36)
o Biological cognition (36-44)
o Brain-computer interfaces (44-48)
o Forms of Superintelligence (52-57)
o Recalcitrance (66-73)
o Will the forerunner get a decisive strategic advantage (79-82)
o From decisive strategic advantage to singleton (87-90)
o Functionalities and superpowers (92-95)
o An AI takeover scenario (95-99)
o The relation between intelligence and motivation (105-108)
o Instrumental convergence (109-114)

I commend Bostrom on his skillful use of reader-friendly devices such as Figures (14), Tables (13), Boxes (13), summaries and synopses, and extensively annotated notes (Pages 261-304). These devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

As of now, today, no one knows with certainty to what extent (if any) superintelligence will eventually be able to do everything that human intellect can do...and do it better and faster. Humans design systems and, as Bostrom suggests, humans are beginning to design systems that can also design systems. My own crystal ball imploded long ago so I have no predictions to offer. I do have a few articles of faith that I presume to share now. First, I believe that instruments of artificial intelligence (AI) will never replace human beings but, over time, they will become increasingly more valuable collaborators insofar as the whats and hows are concerned. Second, I believe that human beings will always be much better qualified to rank priorities and determine the whys. Finally, and of greatest importance to me, I believe that only human beings possess a soul that can be nourished by "a compassionate and jubilant use of humanity's cosmic endowment."

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