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Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas)

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Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead
Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead
by Laszlo Bock
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.69
26 used & new from CDN$ 13.67

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to build a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive., April 7 2015
I agree with Laszlo Bock that leaders "who build the right kind of environments will be magnets for the most talented people on the planet. But it's hard building such a place, because the power dynamic at the heart of management pulls against freedom...Nobody produces their best work entangled in the Gordian knot of spoken and unspoken agendas and emotions. Google's approach is to cleave the knot. We deliberately take power and authority over employees away from managers." The decisions that managers at Google cannot make unilaterally include whom to hire and fire, how a worker's performance is rated, and how much of a salary increase, bonus, or stock grant (if any) is given to someone.

This unique policy essentially frees up the managers that Google wants to develop from making certain decisions unilaterally that undermine their ability to help build a culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. As Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt explains, without being concerned about when, how, and why to use the traditional sticks and carrots, managers can focus on serving the "team." This default leadership style nourishes relationships between and among everyone involved.

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

o Sergey Brin and Larry Page (Pages 18-23 and 67-71)
o Google culture (29-53)
o Transparency (41-51)
o Values (46-48, 284-285, and 318-325)
o "Culture eats strategy for lunch" (51-52)
o Testing cognitive ability (91-93)
o Zero-compromise of hiring talent (104-113)
o Decisions based on data (127-135)
o Freedom in shaping work and company (135-146)
o Performance management (150-177 and 325-327)
o People programs (160-182)
o Interview questions (167-169)
o Two tails (178-203)
o Project Oxygen (189-196)
o Upward Feedback Survey (197-200)
o Learning Institutions (204-224)
o Accomplishments versus compensation (242-250)
o Employee Resource Groups (265-268)
o Sense of community (263-269)
o Relentless improvement (359-360)

As I began to read this book, I was again reminded of material provided by Tom Davenport in one of his most recent books, Judgment Calls. He and co-author Brooke Manville offer 'an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance': [begin italics] organizational judgment [end italics]. That is, 'the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader's direct control." Bock explains how and why decisions concerning use of the aforementioned "sticks and carrots" can become abusive...and often does. "The irony is that the best way to arrive at the beating heart of great management is to strip away all [such] tools on which most managers rely." My own experience suggests that people who can be motivated only by sticks and carrots -- or manage others only if having them available -- probably should not have been hired in the first place.

Long ago, 3M's then chairman and CEO, William L. McKnight observed, "If you put fences around people, you get sheep. Give people the room they need." At Southwest Airlines, there is a Culture Committee whose membership consists of C-level executives and baggage handlers, mechanics and flight attendants, accountants and gatekeepers. As former CEO Herb Kelleher explains, "Before people knew how to make fire, there was a fire watcher. Cave dwellers may have found a tree hit by lightning and brought fire back to the cave. Somebody had to make sure it kept going because if it went out, everyone would be in great danger so the fire watcher was the most important person in the tribe. I said to our culture committee, `You are our fire watchers, who make sure the fire does not go out. I think you are the most important committee at Southwest Airlines.'"

I mention McKnight and Kelleher because they are among the great business leaders upon whose shoulders Google's leaders now stand. Bock acknowledges, "We don't have all the answers, but we have made some fascinating discoveries about how best to find, grow, and keep people in an environment of freedom, creativity, and play." That is the environment within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. Moreover, it is also the environment with which others -- customers and client companies -- also want to be associated. He asserts -- and I wholly agree -- that Google's rules will work for almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be.

The abundance of information, insights, and counsel that Laszlo Bock provides can help those who read it to achieve for themselves as well as their organizations a high-freedom workplace environment. Why accept less?

Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader
Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 16.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Steve Jobs most people did not know...until now, April 6 2015
In Becoming Steve Jobs, Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli attempt to portray him as those who knew him best described him (without fully explaining him) during lengthy and rigorous interviews. The narrative is presented in first-person singular for convenience’s sake but also because Schlender had a relationship with Jobs of almost 25 years.

This book also offers an alternative to Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography and it challenges that biography on several points. The research (especially the interviews) that Schlender and Tetzeli conducted questions, for example, Isaacson’s acceptance of Jobs’s denial of shortchanging partner Steve Wozniak $2,500 on one transaction. The accusation rings true “because it fits with a few other instances in which Steve took shortcuts with people who were close to him.”

I was especially interested in what Tim Cook has to say about Steve Jobs and his relationship with him, especially just before he died when Cook offered to be a liver donor. “No! I’ll never let you do that! I’m not doing that!” He only yelled at Cook four or five times during their thirteen-year relationship “and this was one of them.” What does Cook make of this outburst?

“This picture of him isn’t understood. I thought the Isaacson book did him a tremendous disservice…Steve cared. He cared deeply about things. Yes, he was very passionate about things, and he wanted things to be perfect. And that was what was great about him…A lot of people mistook that passion for arrogance. He wasn’t a saint. I’m not saying that. None of us are. But it’s emphatically untrue that he wasn’t a great human being, and that is totally not understood.”

According to Schlender and Tetzeli, countless others who were also closely associated with Jobs and knew him best insist that he really was a great human being. They agree with Cook that very little of what has been published offers any sense of why they would have worked so long and so hard for Jobs. “Those former employees share another common thread, too: the idea that they did their very best work of their lives for Steve.” One of them, Susan once said to Schlender, “If you weren’t good at your job, he owed to the rest of the team to get rid of you. But if you were good, he owed you his loyalty.”

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Schlender and Tetzeli’s coverage:

o Steve Jobs’s manipulation of his public image (Pages 2-6, 9-10, 100-103, and 383-85)
o NeXT Computer, “a tragicomedy” (2-3, 5-7, 91-92, and 180-181)
o Personal traits of Steve Jobs (21-23, 45-46, 63-64, 812-82, 104-05, and 367-72)
o Steve Wozniak (28-29, 37-42, and 48-50)
o Jobs’s business principles and characteristics (40-46 and 229-233)
o Susan Barnes (81-82, 90-91, 96-97, and 103-104)
o Public opinion of Jobs (121-122 and 227-228)
o Pixar (130-46 and 166-79)
o Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (148-58, 231-32, 403-04, and 410-112)
o Decline of Apple (189-194)
o Larry Ellison (192-193)
o Avie Tevanian (197-199, 2r43-247, and 374-375)
o Jobs’s return to Apple (200-203 and 206-214)
o Apple Turnaround (208-216, 224-26, and 239-41)
o Ron Johnson and the Apple Store (278-281)
o Jony Ive (230-1236 and 354-359)
o Ed Catmull (232-237 and 342-43)
o Laurene Jobs and the Stanford commencement address (313-16)
o Bob Iger (328-29, 338-346, and 397-399)
o Tim Cook on Jobs (390-393)
o Death of Jobs (407-412)

I suggest that you read Becoming Steve Jobs and then decide what to make of him. Perhaps I’ll have as different opinion after I re-read Becoming Steve Jobs again but, for now, I am inclined to think that the two biographies, Isaacson’s and this one, have great value but for different reasons. I highly recommend both. As for the contradictions that Brent Schlender, Rick Tetzeli, and others cite, I cannot resolve them.

No one they spoke to had “a unified theory for the staying power of Steve’s childish behavior, not even Laurene,” his widow. In a review of the book for The New York Times, Brad Stone refers to the frustrating complexity of Jobs: “He was a control freak who seemed to care deeply for people around him, except when, suddenly, he didn’t.” So many contradictions. To paraphrase Walt Whitman, “Steve Jobs was large. He contained multitudes.

Message Not Received: Why Business Communication Is Broken and How to Fix It
Message Not Received: Why Business Communication Is Broken and How to Fix It
by Phil Simon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 26.33
28 used & new from CDN$ 19.83

5.0 out of 5 stars "If can't explain your idea to a six-year old, you really do not understand it." Albert Einstein, April 4 2015
On average, each of us receives about 8,000 "messages" from various sources [begin italics] each day [end italics]. I wish I had a dollar for every unnecessary message I have received during the last twelve months. Einstein's observation, the subject of this review, correctly expresses one of Phil Simon`s key points: Make absolutely certain that the "message" sent is worthy of the efforts made to ensure that it is received by the person to whom it is sent. More often than not, I suspect, messages that are received should not have been sent.

Phil Simon skillfully uses several reader-friendly devices that include especially relevant quotations that are inserted throughout his lively and eloquent narrative. For example:

"The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do." B.F. Skinner
"The future ain't what it used to be." Yogi Berra
"The biggest single problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." George Bernard Shaw

Other reader-friendly devices include seven Tables (e.g. 1.1 "Average Interest Spans") and 18 Figures (e.g. 4.2 "Metcalfe's Law in Action"), mini-introductions to Chapters 1-8, boxed mini-commentaries, "Next" sections that offer a head's-up to material in the next chapter, "Notes at the end of chapters, and an appendix to Chapter 3. These devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later. I agree with Simon that most business communication doesn't work very well, if at all. He wrote this book to help as many people as possible master the skills needed to communicate with clarity, concision, and context-appropriateness.

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

o My Personal Communications Journey (Pages 18)
o Accelerating Technological Change, and, The Rise of the Machines (25-30)
o The Sliding Scale of Search (37-39)
o Marketing Madness (41-44)
o Information Overload: From Bad to Worse (54-55)
o From Organizations to Projects: The Evolution of Work (62-63)
o Is Being Overwhelmed Even a Choice Anymore? (64-69)
o Jargon: The Cause of So Much Noise (75-90)
o Adult ADD (91)
o A Communication Dynasty: Explain E-Mail's Impressive Reign (102-112)
o How We're Working Isn't Working (114-125)
o Why Bad Communication Is Bad Business (129-145)
o The World of Words (155-165)
o Communication Context, Awareness, and Technique (165-174)
o Shhh! Why Amazon Starts Senior Meetings with 30 Minutes of Silence (181-182)
o The Internal Social Network (204-210)
o Three Choices 216-217)

In a prior life, after earning an M.A. in comparative literature at Yale, I taught Advanced Placement English at two boarding schools in New England for thirteen years. Over time, I devised a system I called EDNA (based on Aristotle's concept of levels of discourse) that I later used when conducting workshops on high-impact communications for dozens of corporate clients. Briefly, Exposition explains with information, Description makes vivid with compelling details, Narrative tells a story or (with Exposition) explains a process or sequence, and finally, Argumentations convinces with logic and/or evidence. It also works as a mindset for oral communication, by the way.

All of the information, insights, and counsel that Phil Simon provides in this volume will strengthen and improve EDNA or any other system of discourse. More to the point, it will help each person who reads this book to think and communicate much more clearly. Better yet, it will also help those who read it to become better listeners as well as manage much more effectively the messages they receive, not only at work but everywhere else.

Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System
Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System
by Philip Kotler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.53
19 used & new from CDN$ 19.74

5.0 out of 5 stars “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Derek Bok, April 1 2015
In my opinion, Phil Kotler is the world’s preeminent authority on how to create or increase demand for whatever is offered for sale or trade. In a word, “marketing.” Therefore, it comes as no surprise that his latest book offers “real solutions for a troubled economic system” in a global marketplace. Economics (for better or worse) provide the infrastructure for commerce. Having earned a Ph.D. degree in economics (1956) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), Kotler is a results-driven empiricist who applies his pragmatic skills to a range of immensely complicated problems that include poverty, income inequality, workers under severe pressure, job creation despite growing automation, ignoring or underestimating social costs,” environmental exploitation, the dangers of narrow self-interest, the debt burden at the federal/’state/county/local levels, and politics’ subversion of economics. These are indeed very serious issues and Kotler minces no words when sharing his thoughts and feelings about how to establish and then nourish/sustain high-performance capitalism.

For example, in the first chapter, he identifies what he characterizes as “the fourteen shortcomings of capitalism.” One of his primary objectives in the book is to0 examine each of them as well as the underlying fo0rces and causes – and propose possible, plausible solutions. “This book discusses how capitalism plays out in the United States as in many other countries of the world. As more countries move to a higher level of economic development, their problems will resemble more closely the problems, and the solutions, that play out in the United States.”

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

o What Is Capitalism? (Pages 7-10)
o The Fourteen Shortcomings of Capitalism (12-15)
o The Causes of Poverty (19-23)
o Solutions to Poverty, and, Approaches to Helping the Poor (23-25 and 27)
o Thomas Piketty Arrives On the Scene (31-32)
o Dangers of the Inequality (39-42)
o Policies for Reducing the Great Differences In Incomes (42-55)
o Alternative Proposals to Help Workers Get a Living Wage, and, The Issue of Worker Dissatisfaction on the Job (72-77)
o The Impact of Technology, Fewer Jobs for More People, and, Who Will Be Affected Most? (80-86)
o Companies Avoiding Social Costs (96-99)
o The Rise of the Environmental Movement, and Companies Adopting an Ecological Consciousness (107-110)
o The Problem of the Business Cycle (116-119)
o The Sources of Turbulence (122-134)
o The Case for Individualism and Self-Reliance (136-139)
o The U.S. Great Recession: 2008-2011 (150-152)
o Solutions: Measures to Regulate the Financial System (161-165)
o Lobbying (168-176)
o Maintaining and Improving Infrastructure (184-186)
o How to Change the Culture of Consumerism (204-206)
o Two Major unresolved Issues: Jobs and Corporate Support for Sustainability (206-209)
o The Role of Materialism in Relation to Happiness and Achieving Happiness Without Materialism (217-222)

As Kotler carefully explains throughout his lively and eloquent narrative, "The fourteen shortcomings are not independent of each other. They are highly interrelated. The problem of poverty is part of the problem of income inequality, which itself is leads to low demand, which leads to too much unemployment, which leads to a clash between austerity and stimulus as two potential remedies, which is handicapped by political lobbying that gets legislators to vote for the causes that will keep them in power and therefore not vote for financial regulation and more environmental; protection, and so on.

"All this means that in working on any one problem, such as higher minim um wages, so many other issues come into play, such as some businesses possibly closing down, thus creating fewer jobs and more unemployment and incentivizing companies to import more goods from abroad, which leads to even less employment at home, and so on."

I agree with this overview. At the same time, I think it is more possible than ever before to diminish the nature and extent of some problems in one area such as unemployment that will, in turn, diminish the nature and extent of problems in other areas such as income inequality. Moreover, I think that communication, cooperation, and (most important of all) collaboration between and among federal, state, county, and local governments can increase and improve -- during the problem-solving process -- if more efficient use is made of various electronic technologies.

Philip Kotler will not -- because no single person can -- solve all the problems in our troubled economic system but he does provide in his latest book an agenda, a mindset, a rationale, and a game plan that can have significant impact if (HUGE "if") enough people become engaged in achieving goals that will accelerate personal growth and professional development throughout and beyond the United States. In this context, I am again reminded of an observation 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."

* * *

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out three others: John Bogle's The Clash of the Cultures: Investment vs. Speculation, Roger Martin's Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL, and Robert Frank's The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good.

Philip Kotler is the S. C. Johnson Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management. He has been honored as one of the world's leading marketing thinkers. He received his M.A. degree in economics (1953) from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. degree in economics (1956) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), and has received honorary degrees from twenty-one foreign universities. He is the author of over 57 books and over one hundred and fifty articles. He has been a consultant to IBM, General Electric, Sony, AT&T, Bank of America, Merck, Motorola, Ford, and others. The Financial Times included him in its list of the top 10 business thinkers. They cited his Marketing Management book as one of the 50 best business books of all times. More is available on

Tales From Both Sides Of The Brain: A Life In Neuroscience
Tales From Both Sides Of The Brain: A Life In Neuroscience
by Michael S Gazzaniga
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.56
31 used & new from CDN$ 15.48

5.0 out of 5 stars "His wit and joie de vivre showed generations of students and colleagues the human face of science." Steven Pinker, March 27 2015
Most of the great works of non-fiction are evidence- and/or experience-driven and usually involve a journal of personal discovery. That is certainly true of this book in which Michael Gazzaniga shares dozens of "tales" from his life and career in neuroscience, thus far. Gazzaniga is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he heads the new SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind. His primary focus in this book is on six patients whose treatment -- varying somewhat in nature and extent -- involved experiments in split-brain research that generated revelations of historic significance. As Gazzaniga explains, these were founding cases from CalTech (identified as W.J, N.G., and L.B.) and the East Coast series (P.S., J.W., and V.P.).

"While some have died, others live and remain very special people. They are the story and in many ways give the story its structure. Even with their brains divided for medical reasons, they conquered life with singular purpose and will. How they did this reveals secrets about how those of us without the operation accomplish this as well."

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me (in Parts 1 and 2), also listed to suggest the scope of Gazzaniga's coverage:

o Discovering Caltech (Pages 17-26)
o Science Then and Now, and, Origin of Split-Brain Research (40-46)
o Dr. Sperry, and, Discovery and Credit (46-54)
o Establishing the Basics (of scientific exploration), Pages 55-58
o Wait: How Does Sensory-Motor Integration Work? (67-75)
o Brain Cueing Is Everywhere (79-83)
o Leaving the Nest (91-96)
o Sharing Resources: The Art of Science (104-109)
o The New York Lunch (119-125)
o First Steps into the Neurologic Clinic (127-131)
o Challenging the Idea of Two Minds (131-135)
o Don't Quit Your Day Job (144-153)
o The Joys of Mentoring and Friendship (161-169)
o George A. Miller and the Birth of Cognitive Neuroscience (179-186)
o The Two Posners, One of a Kind (190-197)
o Simplifying Our Lives (216-225)
o Brain Mechanisms of Attention (225-232)
o Only Partial Disconnections: The Semi-Split Mind (239-244)
o The Allure of a Research University (246-248)

Those who read this brilliant book will also experience a personal journey of their own. I, for one, felt as if I were tagging along with Gazzaniga as he proceeds through his formal education and subsequent involvement in a series of breakthrough experiments. He confides, "As I look back on those early days, it may have been good for human split-brain research to begin coming of age in the hands of the simplest researcher: me. I didn't know anything [except that]. I was simply trying to figure it out using my own vocabulary and my own simple logic. That is all I had, along with bundles of energy."

Over time, of course, Gazzaniga gained international renown for his achievements that also include important advances in our understanding of functional lateralization in the brain and how the cerebral hemispheres communicate with one another. So, what we have is personal/professional memoir of a pioneer in neuroscience research but also a wealth of information and insights provided by the treatment of six very special people "who taught the world so much." Gazzaniga dedicates this volume to them. He duly acknowledges each breakthrough as "a task made possible over the years by the generous cooperation of the patients themselves" as well as countless associates with whom he collaborated, notably Roger W. Sperry to whom he reported at CalTech. "It is no secret that Roger Sperry and I had some difficulties later in my career...While sharing credit was not his long suit, it also should be no secret that I never gad anything but the highest regard for him. When he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1981 for split-brain work, it was well-deserved."

Thank you, Michael Gazzaniga, for all that I have learned from what you have learned and so generously shared. There is so much more for me to learn as my own "journey" continues. You conclude with a key point: "Humans may have discovered some of the constraints on the thought processes, but we have not been able to tell the complete story." No doubt you have several more "chapters" to contribute. Bon voyage!

Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing that Matters
Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing that Matters
Price: CDN$ 13.82

5.0 out of 5 stars “Price is what you charge. Value is what people think it’s worth.” Warren Buffett, March 26 2015
I selected the Buffett statement because it correctly affirms the importance of perceived value and the primacy of the consumer’s perspective

Since the marketplaces in ancient Greece and then Rome, marketing’s purpose has been – and continues to be – creating or increasing demand for whatever is offered, be it a smartphone or a magazine subscription, a light beer or a children’s toy. Competition for consumer attention now is much greater than it was at any prior time that I can remember. The difficulty of that exacerbated by the fact that – mostly because of the Web – consumers are better informed today than ever before. They control the purchase decision process.

I agree with Linda Popky that marketers should focus on “developing those long-term strategies that build customer loyalty and convince prospects to buy. Yes, businesses need to be aware of new media and new approaches and be prepared to integrate them. But they need to do this in a way that makes sense for their business. They need to maintain a clear focus above the din of the roaring crowd – above the marketing noise.”

How to do that? Popky recommends using the Dynamic Marketing Leverage Assessment Model which examines eight marketing principles “that have been at the core of good marketing initiatives for a long, long time.” More specifi9c ally, she refers to strategy, products and/ort services, customers, brand, communication, operations, sales channels, and market analysis. Interaction between and among them must be carefully coordinated at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise.

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

o How Do You Get Above the Noise?, and, Figure 1-2: The Dynamic Market Leverage Model (Pages 10-12)
o Change Is the New Constant (15-18)
o The Five Stages of the Purchase Process (27-30)
o Demand Generation (40-41)
o Conversations, Content, and Communities (43-48)
o Go to Market Means Go to Consumers (65-66)
o What Does the Ideal Bank Look Like (81-84)
o Five Ways to Generate Demand (86-98)
o Are We Harmonizing or Shouting at Each Other? (104-107)
o Channeling a New Force (110-112)
o Data, Data Everywhere (116-117)
o Sharing Data Insights to Assist Customers (122-124)
o Which Comes First: Customers or Employees? (132-133)
o Setting the Table (137-138)
o Context Counts (144-145)
o Using Social Sharing to Save Lives (146-148)
o The Five Momentum Factors (158-170)

Once again, I agree with Linda Popky: "Now, more than ever before, we need marketing stewardship. Just as a good orchestra needs a good conductor [and a great orchestra has a great conductor], we need strong marketing leaders who understand both the business and the craft of marketing. We need these people to be well integrated into the organization so they can tie marketing to the overall objectives of the business. Only then can we help our organization find their true voice and be heard above the noise."

In fact, I am among those who believe that [begin italics] everyone [end italics] within an organization should be actively and continuously involved in efforts to create or increase demand, not only for products and services but also for employment, career opportunities, and joint ventures. Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba wrote a book in which they explain how to create what they characterize as "customer evangelists." Companies annually ranked among those that are most highly regarded and best to work for are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their competitive marketplace. Yes, they all have customers who are "evangelists" as well as employees (or associates, if you prefer) who are also evangelists. Marketing is a constant sport and in the most successful companies, everyone is a player

The Membership Economy: Find Your Super Users, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue
The Membership Economy: Find Your Super Users, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue
by Robbie Kellman Baxter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.51
28 used & new from CDN$ 19.43

5.0 out of 5 stars How to create a community of “customer evangelists” who thrive in the Membership Economy, March 23 2015
The term “customer evangelist” was introduced by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba in their eponymous classic in 2002. I cannot recall a prior time when it was more difficult to create and retain them than it is today and competition is certain to become even more intense in months and years to come. That said, to what does the title of Robbie Kellman Baxter’s book refer?

She defines membership "as the state of being formally engaged with a organization or group on an ongoing basis. Members are part of the whole -- although they don't always contribute to the experience of other members. An organization able to build relationships with [begin italics] members [end italics] -- as opposed to plain customers [end italics] -- has a powerful competitive edge. It's not just changing the words you use; it's about changing the way you think about the people you serve and how you treat them."

Companies that thrive in what Baxter characterizes as the Membership Economy are annually ranked among those that are the best to work for and held in highest regard. They are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable with the greatest cap value in their competitive marketplace.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me (through Chapter 16), also listed to suggest the scope of Baxter’s coverage:

o What Is the Membership Economy? (Pages 2-3)
o The Membership Economy Matters to Its Members (21-22)
o Membership Organizations Come in a Variety of Flavors, and, The Darker Side of the Membership Economy (27-29)
o Promote a Culture of Marketing Innovation (34-38)
o Why Marketing Loves Membership (41-42)
o The Steps in a Typical Sales Acquisition Funnel (46-52)

o What Defines an Organization's Superusers, Increasing the Number of Your Organization's Superusers, and Why Superusers Are Important to an Organization (58-63)
Note: These three separate but related passages need to be re-read frequently as reminders of key points.

o Seven Potential Revenue Streams (68-73)
o Common Pricing Mistakes (76-78)
o When Free Isn't Really Free: The Napster's Story (87-77)
o Technology Matters -- Especially in the Membership Economy (92-94)
o Key Technologies of the Membership Economy (94-95)
o Increase Engagement Over Time (102-104)
o SurveyMonkey: Going Upmarket While Staying True ton Early Customers (118-123)
o LinkedIn: Using Freemium to Avoid the Chicken-and-Egg Problem (130-132)
o Pinterest: Driving a New Way to Search by the Power of Community (132-135)
o Starbucks: Build Something Uniquely Tied to the Brand (139-141)
o American Express: Give Membership Its Privileges (148-151)
o How Mom and Pop Can Embrace the Membership Economy (158-159)
o What You Can Learn from Small Businesses and Consultancies (163-164)

As I worked my way through Baxter's eloquent as well as lively narrative, it seemed to me that her concept of a community within a membership economy bears stunning resemblance to Seth Godin's concept of a tribe. The members are devoted to each other, of course, but especially to the cause, mission, values, and indeed vision they share. Residents of what I call the Apple Orchard have no desire to be elsewhere. (I am now wearing out my sixth and seventh Apple computers. To paraphrase Charlton Heston, "I will give up my Apple when they peel my cold dead fingers from around it.") Harley owners have the same strong sense of ownership pride. More relevant to the Experience Economy is the community that my friends Bo Burlington and Paul Spiegelman co-founded, Inc. Small Giants Community, dedicated to "inspiring the next generation of business changemakers and values-driven entrepreneurs from across the land." Presumably Baxter agrees with 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."

Baxter makes skill use of several reader-friendly devices that include dozens of "Tables" (e.g. 6.1 "The Onboarding Process" and 10.1 "Secrets to Increase Loyalty: What the Pros Know") as well as a "Remember" section at the conclusion of Chapters 1-21 and her Conclusion. These devices facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

Before concluding her book, Robbie Kellman Baxter expresses her desire to "be there" for all of her readers, if she can. Here's her offer: "If after reading this book, you want to incorporate the Membership Economy into your organization, let me know. I'm building an online community to support the Membership Economy, but in the meanwhile, just send me an email to with your specific question, and I'll do my best to answer it. Best of luck, and keep in touch!"

I presume to stress the importance of collaboration because it really is essential to what "a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens" can accomplish in the Experience Economy. In this context, I am again reminded of my favorite passage in Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

"Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves."

The Engaged Leader: A Strategy for Your Digital Transformation
The Engaged Leader: A Strategy for Your Digital Transformation
Price: CDN$ 9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why engaged leaders transform themselves so that they can transform their organizations, March 23 2015
Recent research by highly reputable firms such as Gallup and Towers Watson indicates that, on average, less than 30% who comprise the workforce in a U.S. company are actively and positively engaged; the others are either passively engaged (“mailing it in”) or actively disengaged, doing whatever they can to undermine the success of their company.

Whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations need effective leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. According to Charlene Li, the challenges for leaders today are daunting. “First, power and influence have decoupled from title and pay grade, and many people are at a loss as to how to proceed. The hierarchies developed at the dawn of the industrial age, and which are still common today, were done so to create efficiency and scale…But in our modern, digitally connected world, the need for efficiency pales compared with the need for speed, innovation, and change.”

The situation is exacerbated by traditional middle managers who are resistant to change, demonstrating what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” Because middle managers are located below the C-suite and the front lines, “they abhor the new openness. They see top executives going around them to talk with their direct reports. They feel they are losing control, so many fight these changes tooth and nail.”

More often than not, those who defend an organization’s status quo are the same people who challenged the previous status quo and replaced those who defended it. Li then suggests a third challenge, a daunting one indeed: A lack of ownership among leaders struggling to see the upside of the digital landscape. So, “why are so many CEOs and business leaders still trying to figure it out and find the upside? Because many still believe it’s someone else’s job. They don’t think they have the skills or expertise to tap into the digital and social tools. So they back off,” as do their organizations.

Li wrote this book in response to these challenges. Her primary objective is to suggest and explain a strategy for digital transformation that almost any organization can adopt. These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of her coverage:

o Backing Off -- It's Not an Option (Pages 9-13)
o Becoming an Engaged Leader -- Strategy Begins with a Plan (18-20)
o A New Mind-Set for Listening, and The Art of Listening (23-28)
o Share to Shape (36-39)
o The Sharing Shift -- From Scarcity to Abundance (39-42)
o The Art of Sharing (42-47)
o The Science of Sharing (47-52)
o Why Engagement Transforms Leaders -- and Their Organizations (57-59)
o Changing Minds About Engagement (59-61)
o Digital Engagement Strategy: Art and Science Overlap 62-79)
o Change Is a Process (83-92)

To repeat, whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations need effective leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. In other words, leaders who are positively and productively engaged in a never-ending process of transforming their organization so that it can respond much more effectively to challenges such as those Charlene Li identifies.

When asked to explain the extraordinary success of Southwest Airlines, its then chairman and CEO, Herb Kelleher replied, “We take great care of our people, they take great care of our customers, and our customers take great care of our shareholders.”

In a comparable manner, engaged leaders energize a workforce by listening at scale, sharing to shape, and engaging to transform. Then together, in collaboration, they transform their organization. In this context, I am again reminded of my favorite passage in Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

"Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves."

The High-Speed Company: Creating Urgency and Growth in a Nanosecond Culture
The High-Speed Company: Creating Urgency and Growth in a Nanosecond Culture
by Jason Jennings
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.79
33 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars How to accelerate personal growth and professional development in almost any organization, whatever its size or nature, March 22 2015
In one of his previous evidence-driven books, Think Big, Act Small: How America's Best Performing Companies Keep the Start-up Spirit Alive, Jason Jennings shares the results of his efforts to identify what became ten building blocks, each of which is examined in depth in that book. They are:

1. Down to Earth (i.e. leaders who are accessible, providing leadership that is transparent)
2. Keep Your Hands Dirty (e.g. SAS Institute at which leaders have "dirt under their nails")
3. Make Short-Term Goals and Long-Term Horizons (e.g. Sonic Drive-In)
4. Let Go of the Status Quo, "business as usual" (e.g. Cabela’s)
5. Have Everyone Think and Act Like an Owner (e.g. Koch Industries)
6. Invent New Businesses (e.g. Dot Foods)
7. Create Win-Win Solutions for Everyone (e.g. Medline Industries)
8. Choose Your Competitors: decide where and when to compete (e.g. PETCO Animal Supplies)
9. Build Communities, not only organi9zations (e.g. Strayer Education)
10. Grow Future Leaders at all levels and in all areas (e.g. O’Reilly Automotive)

Each of these building blocks suggests inherent values that should guide and inform an organization's hiring, onboarding, and development of people who embrace these values.

As I read Jennings' most recent book, The High-Speed Company, I was again reminded of Jack Welch's response at a GE annual meeting when its then chairman and CEO was asked why he admired small companies and wanted GE to function like one:

“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.”

With the substantial assistance of Larry Haughton, also a renowned business thinker, Jennings' latest book draws upon 11,000 interviews of leaders in all manner of organizations. He responds to a critically important question: "How to create a sense of urgency among the workforce while achieving and then sustaining profitable growth?" The pace of this book's narrative correctly suggests the velocity at which changes occur in which has become a global marketplace, and, the velocity at which leaders must respond effectively to those changes.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Jennings' coverage:

o Stay in the Fast Lane, and, Be Fast or Die Slow (Pages 3-6)
o Four Words That Made a High-Speed Company (11-13)
o Purpose Attracts and Excites Everyone (14-16)
o Finding Your Purpose (19-22)
o Creating and Cascading Purpose: Keep It Brief and Make It Memorable (23-25)
o Faster, Smarter Decisions (37-40)
o The Value of Guiding Principles (40-46)
o A High-Speed Company Really Knows Its Customers (63-67)
o Creating and Cascading "Consumer First" (70-79)
o Creating and Cascading Transparency (85-100)
o Creating and Cascading Systemization (109-120)
o A Master Class in Connection (125-130)
o Creating and Cascading Better Communication (134-142)
o Creating and Cascading Accountability (150-163)
o Consistent Growth (168-172)
o Creating and Cascading Prosperity (179-184)
o he Final Piece of the Puzzle (186-189)
o Creating and Cascading Stewardship (192-205)

In the final chapter, Jennings cites a conversation in one of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels, Bluebeard, when the painter Rabo Kazrabekian listens to his neighbor, Paul Slazinger, who tells him about his latest concept, “The Only Way to Have a Successful Revolution in Any Field of Human Activity.” He recommends a team of three specialists:

First, an authentic genius — a person capable of having seemingly good ideas not in general circulation. “A genius working alone is invariably ignored as a lunatic.”

The next is a specialist…a highly intelligent citizen in good standing who understands and admires the fresh ideas of the genius and who testifies that the genius is far from mad. “A person like that…can only yearn out loud for changes but fail to say what their shapes should be.”

Finally, a person who can explain anything, no matter how complicated, to the satisfaction of most people no matter how stupid or pig-headed they may be. “He will say almost anything to be interesting and exciting…Working alone…he would be regarded as being as full of shit as a Christmas turkey.”

“If you can’t get as cast like that together, you can forget about anything in a great big way,” he [Slazinger] says.

To a significant extent, Jason Jennings combines the strengths of a visionary who recognizes or imagines what others don’t with those of an authority who validates and sanctions those breakthrough insights, and those of a raconteur of compelling stories that attract and engage others whose support is essential to the success of the given enterprise.

Slazinger's concept may not be wholly relevant to all teams but does correctly stress the importance of combining a diversity of talents, experience, skills, and points of view in order to answer especially important questions or solve especially serious problems. All that said, the key to organizational success often depends on the nature and extent of a special kind of leadership that Jennings examined in previous works: stewardship. That is, leadership by women and men who go through life feeling "it's mostly about others." Robert Greenleaf characterizes them as servant leaders. Dan Goleman would say they have highly developed emotional intelligence. Jim O'Toole would say that their values and behavior are guided by a moral compass. Bill George suggests that the great leaders are authentic and follow what he characterizes as their True North: an internal compass that guides them as a human being at their deepest level. "It is your orienting point - your fixed point in a spinning world - that helps you stay on track as a leader. Your True North is based on what is most important to you, your most cherished values, your passions and motivations, the sources of satisfaction in your life. Just as a compass points toward a magnetic field, your True North pulls you toward the purpose of your leadership."

According to Jennings, the people who lead the fastest and best-performing companies don't see the world's problems, opportunities, rewards, and costs through the lens of what they mean to them. "They understand that true happiness and satisfaction come when we focus on others. They are, at heart, caregivers who see their purposes as being the best stewards of the resources, both tangible and intangible, that have been entrusted to them and making sure that all assets are used efficiently, effectively, and profitably.

"The single shared trait that I'd been looking for was [begin italics] stewardship [end italics]. It was also the essential last piece of the puzzle for creating urgency and growth in a nanosecond culture."

I conclude this review with my favorite passage in a work believed to have been written around 6th century BC, Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

"Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves."

Taking the Stage: How Women Can Speak Up, Stand Out, and Succeed
Taking the Stage: How Women Can Speak Up, Stand Out, and Succeed
by Judith Humphrey
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.53
28 used & new from CDN$ 13.71

5.0 out of 5 stars How almost anyone "can find their own strong voice, seize new opportunities to lead, and advance their career", March 16 2015
The title refers to any situation (at work or elsewhere) in which there is an opportunity speak up, stand out, and achieve whatever the given objective(s) may be. As Judith Humphrey explains, "Every time you walk up to that podium, or stand in front of an audience, or meet with a client or a boss, there are expectations that you will influence and inspire your listeners." Although written primarily to help women who are reluctant to "take the stage," whatever the circumstances may be, the information, insights and counsel she provides can be of incalculable to almost [begin italics] anyone [end italics] who yearn to be much more effective when interacting with others. Countless men as well as women are wholly unprepared for situations in which they are unexpectedly called upon to address an especially serious issue or to suggest how to respond to a crisis or to evaluate a major change in the competitive marketplace. It's not enough to know what to say or even how to say it. You also need to develop a self-image based on that knowledge that becomes what Humphrey characterizes as a "center stage mindset": (a) You are worthy of the limelight, you've earned it on merit; (b) Seize every appropriate opportunity to shine, not show off; and (c) refuse surrender to opposition or resistance.

There is one other component that I wish to add to this mindset: principled dissent. In her brilliant book, Quiet, Susan Cain has much of value to say about the immensely difficult task of examining the advantages and disadvantages of being primarily an introvert as well as those of being primarily an extrovert. I use the term "primarily" in the context of culture as well as one's temperament, personality, preferences, tendencies, and (yes) volition. "If given a choice..." is a helpful phrase. Some people dread being the center of attention whereas the behavior of others indicates a pathological need for it. Not all introverts are shy and reluctant, however, and not all extroverts are bombastic and impulsive. Moreover, expediency can also come into play. As Walt Whitman affirms in "Song of Myself," each person is "large"...and contains "multitudes."

Humphrey can help both introverts and extroverts to develop the mindset as well as the skills and self-confidence they need to "take the stage" effectively.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me (in Parts One and Two), also listed to suggest the scope of Humphrey's coverage:

o How Women Will Advance (Pages 7-9)
o [Why] Women Are Reluctant to Stand Out (16-18)
o Three steps to develop a "center stage" career (29-33)
o [How to] Develop a Political "Sixth Sense" (38-40)
o Avoid Aggressiveness: It Doesn't Work for Women or Men (44-46)
Note: I presume to add that all of the hundreds of CEOs with whom I have worked closely with over the years have been ladies and gentlemen.
o [The Mindset Needed for] Promoting Yourself in Every Situation (53-57)
o Five domains in which courage may be needed (60-64)
o [How to] Hold Your ground when challenged (67-74)
Note: My own opinion is that Humphrey's advice will also help those who feel ambushed in the workplace.
o Self-defeating behaviors (80-86)
o Self-defeating verbal and body language 89-92)
o Self-assertion script (96-101)
o Master interaction script (103-107)
o How to craft career-advancing conversation (109-115)
o How to elevate an elevator script" (117-122)

When concluding here book, Humphrey observes, "Life can be a great performance if you think of yourself as being on stage and seeing every situation as an opportunity to inspire your audience." I agree while again suggesting that the material in this book can be of incalculable value to men as well as to women, especially to men who supervise women. But with all due respect to the extended metaphor (i.e. stage, performers, "lines" of a play or script, audience, etc.), all of us every day have dozens (if not hundreds) of interactions with other people during which we can shine by sharing knowledge, by helping to answer questions, by helping to solve problems, and by in every other possible way to serve their needs, to nourish their personal growth and/or professional development.

All organizations need people to do that. So do communities. It is also in our own best interests to speak up when something needs to be said, take action when something needs to be done, and to stand out when a proper example needs to be set. In this context, I am again reminded of what Margaret Mead once suggested: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." That is the "success" which Judith Humphrey envisions and it requires a best effort by everyone involved.

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