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Concrete Economics: The Hamilton Approach to Economic Growth and Policy
Concrete Economics: The Hamilton Approach to Economic Growth and Policy
by Stephen S. Cohen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 30.91
41 used & new from CDN$ 22.62

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why getting economic policy right 'is and has been of overwhelming importance in generating prosperity, April 6 2016
Opinions vary as to when, why, and to what extent major financial crises occur but the fact remains that there have been several throughout US economic history. Policies either failed or proved inadequate and needed to be redesigned. Stephen Cohen and J. Bradford DeLong explain that their book 'is about government and entrepreneurship. But it will not rehash the sturdy and well-known arguments that, to thrive, an entrepreneurial economy needs an environment characterized by a broad range of freedom, protections, and incentives. Consider that argument axiomatic. We are here to talk about the other interplay of government and entrepreneurship. And it is very important.'

I agree and here is a key point that is made throughout Cohen and DeLong's lively narrative: whenever government officials took a pragmatic approach to economic policy, entrepreneurship (broadly defined) thrived; when their approach was ideological, the results were far less satisfactory and on several occasions disastrous. 'Getting economic policy right ' and getting the political economy right [another key point] ' is and has been of overwhelming importance in generating prosperity.'

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

o History of redesigns in economic policy (Pages 6-15)
o Alexander Hamilton ( 7-9 and 33-52)
o American system of manufacturing (8-9, 34-35, and 44-45)
o Economy redesign by Theodore Roosevelt (10-11 and 67-74)
o East Asian development(16-25 and 121-156)
o Ideological approach to economic policy (16-25)
o The Jefferson myth of small government (27-28)
o Hamilton's redesign of economic policy (27-54)
o Abraham Lincoln (55-66)
o Homestead Act and agriculture (63-67)
o The New Deal (74-82)
o Eisenhower-era economic redesign (83-119)
o Automobiles (92-93 and 97-98)
o Defense spending on digital technologies (111-119)
o East Asian model for export-based development (126-156)
o China-US trade balances/imbalances (145-151)
o US responses to East Asian development (157-186)
o Financial crises (166-167)
o Financial deregulation and financial policy (169-175)
o Deregulation of banks and banking (175-182)
o Pragmatic approach to economic policy (188-192)

For me, one of the most important themes that Cohen and DeLong explore is suggested in the book's title: Shift discussion of economic policy back to the concrete, where it had recurrent successes in the past. More specifically, the Hamiltonian approach to economic growth and policy. 'It worked and so very quickly it had become too strong and too useful to too many powerful groups for any Jeffersonian political coalition to dismantle. Hamilton's system was constructed of four drivers that reinforced one another, not just economically but politically: high tariffs, high spending on infrastructure, assumption of the states' debts by the federal government, and a central bank.'

I agree with Stephen Cohen and J. Bradford DeLong that the United States economy needs another redesign. That is, 'Pull it out from the speculative realms of ideology and its handmaiden theoretical abstractions. Push thinking and talking and proposing about what we should do about economy into concrete terms. Insist that proposed shifts be coached so as to be image-able, as in 'This is the kind of result we will get.' This will help more than anything else we can imagine to reshape the economy in a positive direction, and our society as well.'

As I now observe the current political environment, I have serious doubts that much can be done to make that vision a reality. I cannot recall a prior time (at least in my lifetime) when communication, cooperation. and collaboration between and within the two political parties were worse than they are today. Meanwhile, I am again reminded of these lines from Yeats's The Second Coming:

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.'

Strategic Analytics: Advancing Strategy Execution and Organizational Effectiveness
Strategic Analytics: Advancing Strategy Execution and Organizational Effectiveness
by Alec Levenson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 40.94
26 used & new from CDN$ 30.48

5.0 out of 5 stars Here is “a comprehensive road map for starting and completing a cultural transformation.”, April 6 2016
C-level executives face a number of challenges and one of the most important is formulating both an appropriate strategy and then the analytics that help to achieve the given strategic objectives.

According to Alec Levenson, “The purpose of this book is to help decision makers at all organizational levels, in both the business and HR, use analytics more effectively to achieve their goals. The framework and advice will help you break out of the traditional mode of uncoordinated analytics and decision making. Applying the tools and lessons provided here should lead to both improved execution of your strategy and increased effectiveness of your organization – if you have the determination and perseverance to apply a plan consistent with this approach and stick with it.”

Of course, that is a HUGE “if,” hence the importance of having a compelling vision that helps to maximize buy-in because, as Thomas Edison correctly reminds us, “vision without execution is hallucination.”

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Levenson’s coverage in Parts 1-2:

o Strategic Analytics Diagnostic: Three Steps (Page xxiii)
o The problem of ROI as a business tool (16-21)
o Other common measurements that fall short of what Strategic Analytics can do (21-26)
o Do enterprise analytics first to surface structural issues (31-34)
o How does all this relate to balanced scorecards? (34-38)
o When to apply statistics for testing the model (46-48)
o Strategic Analytics: competitive advantage (51-62)
o Articulate Your Organizational Strengths and Weaknesses (54-56)
o The Competing Sources of Competitive Advantage (60)
o Organization Design Analytics (67-71)
o Organizational Capability Analytics (73-81)
o Culture and Group Analytics (82-86)
o Job Design Analytics (91-95)
o Individual Capability Analytics (95-98)
o Analyses Primarily at the Enterprise Level (108-113)
o Analyses at Both the Enterprise and Human Capital Levels (118-126)
o Customer retention and profitable growth for technology companies (132-135)
o Customer retention and profitable growth for retail sales companies (135-138)
o Designing GTM (go-to-market) systems for technical excellence versus cross-functional effectiveness (140-141)
o Minimizing labor costs while maintaining capability (143)
o Maximizing capacity utilization and distribution system efficiency (144-146)

Levenson makes excellent use of several reader-friendly devices that include “Issues Addressed in This Chapter” and “Key Questions” sections that guide and direct a careful reading of the material. Also, boxed micro-commentaries; “Figures”; case studies; real-world examples (e.g. Apple’s competitive advantage, Boeing’s 787, CostCo’s member retention initiatives, Frito-Lay’s route sales maximization, and Google’s innovation); and a “Summary” at the end of each chapter. These devices help to facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine could possibly do full justice to the value of the information, insights, and counsel that Alec Levenson provides. However, I hope that I have at least indicated why I think so highly of his work. Let’s give him the final word: “Changing culture is difficult, but do able. The Strategic Analytics diagnostic can provide a comprehensive road map for starting and completing a cultural transformation.”

Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends
Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends
by Martin Lindstrom
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 26.65
30 used & new from CDN$ 20.06

5.0 out of 5 stars How to mine for and then integrate Small Data with Big Data to create Rich Data, April 1 2016
Frankly, I am dismayed by the widespread and durable abuse of terms such as “Big Data” and “Small Data.” Heaven knows how much damage has been done by well-intentioned people who are, nonetheless, understandably confused. In his latest book, Martin Lindstrom makes a valiant effort to eliminate some of the fog complicating all this. He offers dozens of examples of “tiny clues that uncover huge trends.” He also pinpoints the specific limitations and inadequacies of Big Data.

In the Foreword, Chip Heath nails it: “In today’s business environment, Big Data inspires religious levels of devotion and Martin Lindstrom is an atheist…Big Data doesn’t spark insight. New ideas typically come from juxtaposition — combining two things that previously haven’t been combined. But Big Data typically lives in databases that are defined too narrowly to create insight…Big Data is data and data favors analysis over emotion. It’s hard to imagine data capturing many of the emotional qualities we most value: [begin italics] beautiful [end italics] or [begin italics] friendly [end italics] or [begin italics] sexy [end italics] or [begin italics] cute [end italics]. If data fostered better emotional decisions, then accountants, not poets, would be the cultural prototype for great lovers…In sum, Big Data has problems, and Martin is successful at showing how Small Data is essential to overcoming them.”

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

o Culture (Pages 9-11, 14-17, and 30-32)
o Food kitchens (11-12, 16-18, 21-23, 84-85, and 100-101)
o Russia (21-35, 43-46, and 63-64)
o Shopping centers and malls (35-43 and 47-48)
o Lowes Foods (47-50, 62-73, 224-226, and 232-233)
o Desire (49-50 and 130-131)
o United States: Color (61-65, 67-69, and 71-72)
o India: Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law (78-90 and 93-94)
o India: Color (81-86 and 88-96)
o Cereal food packaging (92-96)
o Weight and weight loss (98-100 and 107-117)
o Jenny Craig (107-117)
o Aspiration (131-137)
o Religion and brands (139-141)
o Fashion and adolescent girls (148-168)
o China: Automobiles (179-180)

One of Lindstrom’s several strengths is a conviction he describes this way: “If you want to understand how animals live, you don’t go to the zoo, you go to the jungle.” When conducting research, he applies the skills of an anthropologist in search of “clues” to “an unmet or unacknowledged desire that forms the foundation of a new brand, product innovation, or business…In search for what I call small data, almost nothing is off limits…My methods may be structured, but they’re also based on a whole lot mistakes, and trial and error, and faulty hypotheses that I have to toss out before starting over again…The smallest detail, or gesture, may become the key to unlocking a desire that men, women, and children (and in some cases, the culture itself) didn’t know they had. I look for patterns, parallels, correlations and, not least, imbalances and exaggerations.”

He explains his “7C methodology” in the final chapter. Suffice to say now that the primary purpose of his research (best viewed as a series of investigations) is to identify what may view as insignificant “clues” or “keys” that prove to be, instead, significant revelations that help to explain human behavior.

When concluding his latest book, Lindstrom observes, “My role – the role of anyone trying to make sense out of small data – is to understand not just one single personality, but all of them. Which is why in the end the secret behind any ethnographic research will never be found in any methodology, even mine. It begins with yourself. Who are you? What are you like when you’re by yourself?”

As for Martin Lindstrom, his natural state is to be in relentless examination of small data, “the greatest evidence of who we are and what we desire.”

Be Bad First: Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future
Be Bad First: Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future
by Erika Andersen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 34.42
34 used & new from CDN$ 22.58

5.0 out of 5 stars We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.' Aristotle, March 31 2016
Frankly, I dislike terms such as 'bad' and 'failure' when discussing efforts to improve. They tend to be self-defeating. That said, here's the basic premise of this book: To improve at being or doing whatever, it is necessary to be 'bad' during the process of becoming better.

As Erika Andersen explains, 'we have to learn to be okay with being continuously uncomfortable in a way that no one in a previous generation has had to do'we have to learn to be 'comfortable with being uncomfortable''What I'll be doing with you here is supporting you in building a few key habits of mind and action ' mental skills that will allow you to acquire new capabilities quickly and continuously. This is an essential ability in our world.' I agree.

Time Out. I cannot recall a prior time in my life when a larger percentage of the people I know had more 'crutches' than they do now. Self-justifications fill the air like arrows at Agincourt. So many people refuse to take ownership of the consequences of decisions they made. Personal accountability is as rare as a unicorn. Let's be crystal clear: What Andersen recommends will require patience as well as persistence, focus as well as mindfulness, and courage as well as passion. Her mission in life is to help as many people as she can to become the best person each can be. Oscar Wilde advises, 'Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.' Andersen takes it a step further: 'Be the very best person you can be and never stop improving yourself. Never. And I'll help you do that. That's why I wrote this book.'

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Andersen's coverage in Chapters 1-5:

o Why Being Bad First Is So Essential (Pages 4-8)
o Three Generations: As Change Accelerates (8-11)
o But Not Knowing Things Feels So'Bad (13-16)
o Mastery Makes Us Feel Good, and, Mastery and Survival (19-21)
o Another Lucky Break (21-24)
o Aspiration (35-38)
o Neutral Self-Awareness (38-41)
o Endless Curiosity (41-43)
o Completely Within Your Control, and, First, Some Self-Assessment (46-49)
o So: We Do What We Want Most (54-56)
o How Aspiration Looks (57-58)
o Imagining a Possible World (61-66)
o Why [Improvement] Matters (69-70)
o How Neutral Self-Awareness Looks (71-74)
o Managing Your Self-Talk (74-78)
o Becoming Your Own Fair Witness 79-82)
o The Power of a Mirror (84-85)
o Setting the Stage for Honesty (86-90)

The book's subtitle refers to getting good at things FAST and staying ready for the future. I think that claim is overcooked. Improvement in some areas requires more time and attention than it does in other areas. Becoming a much better listener, for example, or earning an introverted colleague's trust. Keep in mind this sound advice from ancient Rome: festina lente. When appropriate, 'make haste slowly.' The point is, getting better is ' or at least should be ' a never-ending process, not an ultimate destination. As for 'staying ready for the future,' Peter Drucker insists that much of it is already here and William Gibson agrees, adding that 'it's just not evenly distributed.' Whatever awaits, it seems prudent to prepare for the most likely contingencies.

Andersen is a world-class expert on personal growth and personal development. The information, insights, and counsel she provides in this volume have been gained from hundreds (if not thousands) of her personal as well as professional relationships. With all due respect to the potential value of the material in the book, however, it is essentially worthless unless and until readers apply it effectively in their lives. So I urge each of those who read my brief commentary to embrace this opportunity to embark with Andersen on a journey of personal discovery. Establish with her help the routines and habits on which success (however defined) depends. I presume to add that a best effort ' obviously ' offers no guarantee of achieving success. That said'

Here's what Helen Keller suggests: 'Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.' I say go for it. With Erika Andersen, you will have splendid company.

The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness
The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness
by David Gelernter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.58
34 used & new from CDN$ 16.49

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why 'a brain becomes a kind of organic computer; and the mind is like the software, March 30 2016
In the first chapter, David Gelernter cites one of my favorite passages from an essay of Ralph Waldo Emerson in which he responds to what had become 'the grossly unfashionable practice of introspections.' Here it is:

'In silence, in steadiness, in severe abstraction, let him hold by himself; add observation to observation, patient of neglect, patient of reproach, and bide his own time, ' happy enough if he can satisfy himself alone that this day he has seen something truly'For the instinct is sure, that prompts him to tell his brother what he thinks. He then learns that in going down into the secrets of his own mind he had descended into the secrets of all minds.'

In this thoughtful and thought-provoking book, Gelernter takes his reader on an extended exploration of what is generally referred to 'depth psychology.' As I understand it, it consists of approaches to therapy that are open to the exploration of the subtle, unconscious, and transpersonal aspects of human experience. A depth approach may include therapeutic traditions that explores the unconscious and involves the study and exploration of dreams, complexes, and archetypes. What intrigues me is the fact that depth psychology is an interdisciplinary endeavor, drawing on literature, philosophy, mythology, the arts, and critical studies. Concepts and practices at the core of depth psychology are central personal growth and professional development.

These are among the passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Gelernter's coverage in Chapters One-Five:

o Mind from Inside (Pages 9-11)
o The 'Little Room of Man (12-17)
o How Can We Know the Mind from Inside? (17-19)
o Spectrum View 1: The Transformation in How We Make Sense of the World (21-27)
o Spectrum View 2: The Transformation from Acting to Being the Main Focus of Mind (27-39)
o Spectrum View 3: The Transition from Outer to Inner Field of Consciousness (39-46)
o From the Top: Dreaming That Is More Than Wish Fulfillment (56-58)
o Travels Across the Spectrum, and, Two Fields of Conscious (63-67)
o The Liberation of Emotions (68-75)
o Strange Thoughts (84-85)
o Approaching the Hallucination Line (91-92)
o Dreams: Remembrance, Predictions, and the 'Only Protection' (96-103)
o Thinking, and, Sensing and Emotions (110-114)
o Thinking and Feeling: Parallel Minds (115-121)
o Summarizing Conscious Mind (123-124)
o Making Templates (136-138)
o Learning by Forgetting (138-141)
o Enter Reasoning (142-146)
o Exit Reasoning (146-148)

Also, be sure to check out Chapter Nine, 'The Basic Points.'

* * *

To what does the title refer? Gelernter observes, 'The mind does protect us from frightening content of dreams, by the only means it has: making us (or letting us) forget. There is nothing else it can do. On the other hand, the mind [begin italics] can [end italics] reverse time, unwritten unreality, and under narrow but important circumstances, foretell the future.'

He then adds, 'The mind, in sum, follows a great tidal motion. At its logical peak, reality and self are two separate things. Our reflective selves and the reality on which they reflect are different. But from there start of our journey down-spectrum, the borders begin to blur, And at the end of the trip, our real selves have been absorbed into dream reality, and only our hollow unreflecting dream selves are left on the narrow edge of consciousness ' and the place the remains after dreaming has taken what it needs. Reality and self have both changed radically from what they were.'

These brief excerpts can only suggest ' albeit brilliantly ' the as yet unfulfilled potentialities of a self, of a mind, that is not only compatible with by interdependent with both its conscious mind ('now') and its unconscious mind ('then'). Gelernter discusses all this in great detail and, thank heaven, in mostly layman's terms. In this context, I am again reminded of this passage from T.S. Eliot's poem Four Quartets: 'We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.'

David Gelernter nails it: 'Nothing is more beautiful than the human mind.'

Stragility: Excelling at Strategic Changes
Stragility: Excelling at Strategic Changes
by Ellen R. Auster
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 27.93
21 used & new from CDN$ 24.19

5.0 out of 5 stars How to thrive in a global marketplace that seems to become more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous each day, March 29 2016
Ellen Auster and Lisa Hillenbrand selected an excellent quotation from the work of Peter Drucker as a headnote to Chapter One:

'Change is the norm. To be sure, it is painful and risky, and above all it requires a great deal of very hard work. But unless it is seen as the task of the organization to lead change, the organization ' whether business, university, hospital and so on' will not survive. In a period of rapid structural change, the only ones who survive are the Change Leaders.' From Management Challenges in the 21st Century (2001)

Key business insights are best anchored in human experience and that is especially true of Ellen Auster and Lisa Hillenbrand's brilliant use of micro-case studies that focus on these diverse subjects:

o Roger Federer: Shifting Both Strategies and Execution to Win (Pages 5-6)
o Macy's: Redefining Strategy Leads to Record Growth (16-17)
o Free the Children: Continuous Transformations to Achieve Purpose and Mission (30-32)
o KFC: Winning Hearts and Minds (42-43)
o Colgate University: Turning Protest into Passion for Joint Action (51-53)
o Samsø: Embracing Change to Create a Renewable Energy Community (62-63)
o Starbucks: Re-inspiring One Barrista at a Time (89-92)
o Dematic: Delivers for Its Customers (100-102)
o Kaiser Permanente: Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement (118-119)
o U.S. Navy: Apply Stragility to [begin italics] Your [end italics] Ship (127-129)

Yes, this certainly a diverse range of subjects, one that supports Auster and Hillenbrand's contention that stragility can help individuals as well as organizations 'to thrive amidst relentless turbulence and uncertainty. Achieving Stragility is the key to competitive advantage that lasts. Whether we're making major change in strategic direction or course-correcting a strategy already in the world, we need Stragility to harness the energy and ideas of our people to accomplish key goals today. And we need to build the necessary change capabilities to enable us to continually rally to meet the next change on the horizon.'

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

o Stragility Skills (Pages 8-10)
o Redefining Strategy to Win (13-20)
o Watch Our Wings (20-24)
o Shift Strategies and Tactics (26-30)
o Developing Political Strategy 44-50)
o Cultivate 'Better Together' Teams and Solutions (58-62)
o Global Port Invasion: From Rough Waters to Smooth Sailing (73-75)
o Go Slow to Go Fast 80-86)
o Stay Close to the Action (86-89)
o Change Less and Achieve More (102-106)
o Run Water Through the Pipes (106-108)
o Be the Change (110-116)
o Learn to Learn (116-118)
o Winning with Stragility: A New, Powerful Source of Competitive Advantage (129-130)

I commend Auster and Hillenbrand on their creative use of various reader-friendly devices such as 'At a Glance' and 'Recap' sections that, respectively, tee up and review key points. They will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of later whatever material is most important to the reader. I also strongly recommend checking out the five 'Stragility Diagnostic Tools' that, if taken seriously, can reveal valuable information.

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that Ellen Auster and Lisa Hillenbrand provide. However, I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of their book. If your organization needs a competitive advantage or needs to strengthen the one it has, Stragility is 'must reading.'

Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy&How to Make Them Work for You
Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy&How to Make Them Work for You
by Geoffrey G. Parker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 30.40
24 used & new from CDN$ 26.61

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars and Sangeet Paul Choudary focus in their brilliant book. They pose two interesting questions, March 29 2016
The title of this brief commentary refers to the rise of the platform as a business and organizational model on which Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Paul Choudary focus in their brilliant book.

They pose two interesting questions: How can a major business segment be invaded and conquered in a matter of months by an upstart with none of the resources traditionally deemed essential for survival, let alone market dominance? And why is this happening today in one industry after another?”

Again, the answer is “the power of the platform,”a new business model embraced by Airbnb, Uber, Alibaba, and Facebook…and previously by Amazon, YouTube, Wikipedia, iPhone, Upwork, Twitter, KAYAK, Instagram, and Pinterest, among others. As is also true of the Worldwide Web that Tim Berners-Lee devised more than twenty years ago, the platform’s c ore functions are connectivity and interactivity. Its overarching purpose is to “consummate matches among users and facilitate the exchange of goods, services, or social currency, thereby enabling value creation for all participants.”

Unlike the traditional linear value chain, platforms scale more efficiently and more quickly by eliminating gatekeepers; unlocking new sources of value creation supply and demand; using data-based tools to create community feedback loops; and centering on people, resources, and functions that exist outside the operations of a platform business such as Uber, “complementing or replacing those that exist inside a traditional business” such as a taxi cab company.

This is a key point because scaling is best viewed as rightsizing. This is what Geoff Moore has in mind in his latest book, Zone to Win: Organizing to Compete in an Age of Disruption. He makes clever use of an extended metaphor from the gridiron, offensive and defensive coordination. As he explains, “making the number on the back of the established lines of defense” is a painfully wasteful response to waves of new opportunity. “This brings us to the heart of the crisis of polarization: At the core you must deliver on two conflicting objectives. On the one hand, you must maintain your established franchises for the life of their respective business models, adjusting to declining revenue growth by optimizing for increasing earnings growth…At the same time, every decade or so you must get your company into one net new line of business that has exceptionally high revenue growth.”

This precisely why platform companies can gain a competitive edge so quickly. They also follow Michael Porter’s advice: "The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do."

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

o Airbnb (Pages 1-12, 21-26, 64-71, 142-143, 192-195, 229-233, and 253-254)
o Google (3-7, 21-25, 30-33, 49-50, 140-141, and 214-217)
o Apple (6-7, 52-53, and 152-153)
o Uber (16-18, 20-26, 30-32, 36-38, 459-51, 211-213, and 249-254)
o Internet/Databases (24-25, 42-44, 60-63, 72-79, 91-92, 107-113, and 283-289)
o Negative network effects (26-32, 112-115, and 229-234)
o Social networks (39-40, 134-135, 223-224, and 252-252)
o Facebook (41-50, 90-91, 98-103, 131-135, and 216-218
o Amazon (54-56, 69-73, 157-158, 176-178, 204-218, and 242-243)
o Competitive platforms (60-62, 73-77, 87-88, 96-97, 131-134, 152-154, and 207-227)
o Disintermediation (68-69, 71-72, 161-162, and 170-171)
o eBay (83-84, 112-113, 161-162, and 169-171)
o Decision-making in platforms (139-140, 187-188, and 253-256)
o Connectivity platforms (200-201)

Parker, Van Alstyne, and Choudary are to be commended on their skillful use of several reader-friendly devices that include “Takeaways from Chapter…” sections that focus on key points in each chapter, Figures (such as 1.2. “Some of the industry sectors currently being transformed by platform businesses, along with examples of platform companies working in those areas” and 7.3. “Four models for managing and sponsoring platforms.” Also, a “Glossary (295-300), “Notes” (301-323), and Index (325-335). These and other devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

That said, I am dismayed by the fact that Platform Revolution and other business books are still being published without an Index.]

These are among Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Paul Choudary’s concluding observations: “The purpose of all these [platform revolution] constructs should be the unlocking of individual potential and the building of a society in which everyone has the opportunity to live a rich, fulfilling, creative, and abundant life. It’s up to all of us – business leaders, professionals, working people, policy-makers, educators, and ordinary citizens – to play our part in marking sure that the platform revolution brings us closer to that objective.”

I agree with them. The healthiest organizations really are those with a workplace environment within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. Therefore, winning this latest “revolution” – as is true of winning all others in business – involves making necessary adjustments to a platform that is most appropriate to initiating or responding to the challenges of a global marketplace that seems to become more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous each day.

The title of this brief commentary refers to the rise of the platform as a business and organizational model on which Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Paul Choudary focus in their brilliant book.

They pose two interesting questions: How can a major business segment be invaded and conquered in a matter of months by an upstart with none of the resources traditionally deemed essential for survival, let alone market dominance? And why is this happening today in one industry after another?”

Again, the answer is “the power of the platform,”a new business model embraced by Airbnb, Uber, Alibaba, and Facebook…and previously by Amazon, YouTube, Wikipedia, iPhone, Upwork, Twitter, KAYAK, Instagram, and Pinterest, among others. As is also true of the Worldwide Web that Tim Berners-Lee devised more than twenty years ago, the platform’s c ore functions are connectivity and interactivity. Its overarching purpose is to “consummate matches among users and facilitate the exchange of goods, services, or social currency, thereby enabling value creation for all participants.”

Unlike the traditional linear value chain, platforms scale more efficiently and more quickly by eliminating gatekeepers; unlocking new sources of value creation supply and demand; using data-based tools to create community feedback loops; and centering on people, resources, and functions that exist outside the operations of a platform business such as Uber, “complementing or replacing those that exist inside a traditional business” such as a taxi cab company.

This is a key point because scaling is best viewed as rightsizing. This is what Geoff Moore has in mind in his latest book, Zone to Win: Organizing to Compete in an Age of Disruption. He makes clever use of an extended metaphor from the gridiron, offensive and defensive coordination. As he explains, “making the number on the back of the established lines of defense” is a painfully wasteful response to waves of new opportunity. “This brings us to the heart of the crisis of polarization: At the core you must deliver on two conflicting objectives. On the one hand, you must maintain your established franchises for the life of their respective business models, adjusting to declining revenue growth by optimizing for increasing earnings growth…At the same time, every decade or so you must get your company into one net new line of business that has exceptionally high revenue growth.”

This precisely why platform companies can gain a competitive edge so quickly. They also follow Michael Porter’s advice: "The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do."

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

o Airbnb (Pages 1-12, 21-26, 64-71, 142-143, 192-195, 229-233, and 253-254)
o Google (3-7, 21-25, 30-33, 49-50, 140-141, and 214-217)
o Apple (6-7, 52-53, and 152-153)
o Uber (16-18, 20-26, 30-32, 36-38, 459-51, 211-213, and 249-254)
o Internet/Databases (24-25, 42-44, 60-63, 72-79, 91-92, 107-113, and 283-289)
o Negative network effects (26-32, 112-115, and 229-234)
o Social networks (39-40, 134-135, 223-224, and 252-252)
o Facebook (41-50, 90-91, 98-103, 131-135, and 216-218
o Amazon (54-56, 69-73, 157-158, 176-178, 204-218, and 242-243)
o Competitive platforms (60-62, 73-77, 87-88, 96-97, 131-134, 152-154, and 207-227)
o Disintermediation (68-69, 71-72, 161-162, and 170-171)
o eBay (83-84, 112-113, 161-162, and 169-171)
o Decision-making in platforms (139-140, 187-188, and 253-256)
o Connectivity platforms (200-201)

Parker, Van Alstyne, and Choudary are to be commended on their skillful use of several reader-friendly devices that include “Takeaways from Chapter…” sections that focus on key points in each chapter, Figures (such as 1.2. “Some of the industry sectors currently being transformed by platform businesses, along with examples of platform companies working in those areas” and 7.3. “Four models for managing and sponsoring platforms.” Also, a “Glossary (295-300), “Notes” (301-323), and Index (325-335). These and other devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

That said, I am dismayed by the fact that Platform Revolution and other business books are still being published without an Index.]

These are among Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Paul Choudary’s concluding observations: “The purpose of all these [platform revolution] constructs should be the unlocking of individual potential and the building of a society in which everyone has the opportunity to live a rich, fulfilling, creative, and abundant life. It’s up to all of us – business leaders, professionals, working people, policy-makers, educators, and ordinary citizens – to play our part in marking sure that the platform revolution brings us closer to that objective.”

I agree with them. The healthiest organizations really are those with a workplace environment within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. Therefore, winning this latest “revolution” – as is true of winning all others in business – involves making necessary adjustments to a platform that is most appropriate to initiating or responding to the challenges of a global marketplace that seems to become more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous each day.

An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization
An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization
by Robert Kegan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 34.13
39 used & new from CDN$ 22.76

5.0 out of 5 stars How to establish a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive, March 27 2016
Recent research studies (at least those with which I am familiar) have identified what is most important to employees at all levels and in all areas and, revealingly, the results are almost the same when customers are surveyed. Feeling appreciated is among those ranked highest ranked.

Moreover, employees’ responses also suggest that most organizations continue to face three major challenges insofar as high-potential workers are concerned: how to attract and hire them, how to develop their skills, and then how to retain them.

Keeping that in mind, now consider what Robert Keegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey share in the Introduction: “From the start of our research team’s investigation of the three DDOs [deliberately developmental organizations] at the heart of the book, we were struck by three things. First, all of them are doing what the science of human development recommends, and they are doing so in ingenious and effective ways (although only of there organizations explicitly studied the science). They seemed to have an intuitive, practical grasp of how to accelerate people’s development.

“Second, these organizations are taking their concepts to scale so that everyone in the organization — workers, managers, and leaders alike — has the opportunity to develop…Finally, all three companies [Bridgewater Associates, Next Jump, and Decurion] intentionally and continuously nourish a culture that pouters business and individual development — and the way each one supports the other — front and center for everyone, every day. Delivered via their homegrown, robust, daily practices, their cultures constitute breakthroughs in the design of people development and business strategy.”

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

o An Everyone Culture, and, A Twenty-First-Century Design for Development (Pages 3-6)
o The Next Jump Story (14-25)
o Bridgewater Associates: Getting to Root Causes (41-54)
o The Meaning of Development (57-58)
o The Trajectory of Adult Development (58-62)
o Three Plateaus in Adult Mental Complexity (62-71)
o Shifts in the Demands of Followers and Leaders (73-77)
o What We Mean by Development in a DDO (77-83)
o A Scientific Approach (83-84)
o A Conceptual Tour of the DDO: Edge, Home, and Groove (85-122)
o Bridgewater: Tools for Getting in Synch (126-135)
o Next Jump: “Character is a Muscle” (135-142)
o Decurion: “Ten Times More Capable Than You Think” (142-149)
o Five Qualities of Practicing a DDO (149-151)
o The Pan-Development Culture (152-154)
o Holding On, Letting Go, Sticking Around — All Stages (154-158)
o Putting It All into Practice (158-161)
o A Surprise Conclusion (197-200)
o Uncovering Your Biggest Blind Spot (201-232)
o Frazier & Deeter (244-255)

As Kegan and Lahey correctly point out, the work settings at Bridgewater Associates, Next Jump, and Decurion “are built for human development. They support people in overcoming their limitations as part of contributing to the profitability of the business. It’s just as true that DDOs seek profitability so that they can stay in business to help people overcome their limitations and grow.” It is important to add that these three companies were not and are not among Kegan and Lahey clients. Theirs was a research rather than service relationship.

However different they may be in most respects, ALL of the companies annually ranked as those best to work for have what Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey characterize has “an everyone culture,” one whose organization is deliberately development. However, that is not to say that companies such as Google (Alphabet), ACUITY Insurance, The Boston Consulting Group, Wegmans Food Markets, Quicken Loans, Robert W. Baird, Kimley-Horn and Associates, SAS Institute, Camden Property Trust CPT, and Edward Jones are – or could be -- be the best company to work for [begin italics] everyone [end italics]. In this context it is best to keep Margaret Mead’s insight in mind: “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” The same is true of the best companies to work for.

Outmaneuver: Outthink-Don't Outspend
Outmaneuver: Outthink-Don't Outspend
by Alex Verjovsky
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 38.72
6 used & new from CDN$ 38.72

5.0 out of 5 stars How leveraging maneuver strategies and tactics can establish and then sustain a decisive competitive advantage, March 24 2016
As Jeffrey Phillips and Alex Verjovsky observe, “When speed and agility are important, maneuver is far more attractive than attrition, especially because maneuver wins at a much lower cost. Yet maneuvering requires more strategy and insight than attrition and often demands a different business model. Maneuver values insight, intelligence, decisiveness, speed, agility, and innovation — factors that may not be present in a company focused on attrition. And given the emerging competitive factors and increasing pace of change, the enablers we listed for maneuver will help companies compete in the new globalized marketplace, far more than size and cost will.”

When discussing the importance of adaptation and natural selection, Charles Darwin is reputed to have suggested “it is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” What we have in this volume are Phillips and Verjovsky’s thoughts about why maneuver is so valuable to both organizations and individuals. Also, how it works, highlighting three maneuver strategies: preemption, dislocation, and disruption. “We’ll demonstrate how any company of any size can implement any of or all these strategies at any planning level within the company. We’ll present a methodology to help you identify your opponent’s critical weaknesses, which can be easily attacked through maneuver tactics. We’ll review business models, cultural and hierarchical changes needed to implement maneuver strategy and describe the kind of insight and intelligence necessary to act on maneuver opportunities. Finally, we’ll present key enablers for maneuver and compare [actually contrast] their importance in an attrition and a maneuver strategy. The outcome will show what’s needed to win in an emerging global market.”

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Phillips and Verjovsky’s coverage in the first five chapters:

o Why Attrition Gives Way got Maneuver (Pages xiv-xvii)
o Capital, Capabilities, Requirements, and Vulnerabilities (13-32)
o Campaigns versus Battles (35-42)
o Distinction Between Preemption and “First Mover” Advantage (49-54)
o Two Case Studies (56-68)
o Preemption Criteria (69-70)
o Preemption Methodology (74-78)
o Reconnaissance (84-88)
o Corporate Reconnaissance (89-94)
o Corporate Intelligence (95-99)
o Why Reconnaissance and Intelligence Is [sic] Vital for Maneuver Strategy (99-104)
o What Do Firms Need to Succeed? (108-110)
o Insourcing or Outsourcing Intelligence (112-114)
o Capabilities, Requirements, and Vulnerabilities (117-119)
o Clauswitz’s Maneuver Methodology: Four Factors for Consideration (121-123)
o Identifying Weaknesses (131-133)
o Prioritizing Vulnerabilities to Attack (134-138)
o Kenneth Adgie’s Five Maneuver Tactics (140-143)
o Psychological Tactics (150-154)
o Methodology Essentials (156-157)

Authors who attempt to correlate the workplace with the battlefield usually find themselves on the proverbial slippery slope. Obviously, terms such as “life” and “death” have significantly different meanings within each domain. However, there are valuable business lessons to be learned from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Machiavelli’s The Prince, and Carl von Clauswitz’s On War. I am also in substantial debt to other works recommended by Peter Drucker such as Be, Know, Do: Leadership the Army Way: Adapted from the Official Army Leadership Manual. My point is that, at least to some extent, there are valuable business lessons to be learned from a wide range of sources. Phillips and Verjovsky cite several throughout their narrative when explaining how speed, stealth, movement, insight, and innovation can help almost any organization to succeed with initiatives that preempt, dislocate, and disrupt the given opponent. I immediately think of these military examples:

o The 300 Spartans led by Leonides against the Persians at Thermopylae (480 BC)
o The Union defense of Little Round Top against Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg led by Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (1863)
o The British attack on Akaba led by T.E. Lawrence across the desert (1917)

There are countless other examples that also demonstrate how competitive advantage can be achieved with initiatives driven by preemption, dislocation, and disruption. Business leaders must thoroughly understand the seven major phases of the Maneuver Methodology, keeping in mind two valuable insights: Thomas Edison’s assertion, “Vision without execution is hallucination,” and Peter Drucker’s caveat, “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all."

One final point. Yes, as Jeffrey Phillips and Alex Verjovsky correctly note, traditional business models are based on traditional military models. If you follow global developments, you already know that those traditional military models are much less effective, nor are variations of them in the business world and this helps to explain the demise of so many companies that were ranked for decades among the Fortune 50. I highly recommend OutManeuver as an operations manual when formulating a business model to compete and succeed in a global marketplace that seems to become more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous each day.

* * *

Although author bios and four appendices are provided, there is no index. That is inexcusable. I hope that if and when there is a second edition, one will be provided.

The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth, and Success
The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth, and Success
by Leon Shapiro
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 34.82
23 used & new from CDN$ 24.57

5.0 out of 5 stars “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 2 (Act III, Scene 1), March 22 2016
Results of the most recent research in child psychology suggest that peers rather than parents have the greatest influence on most children by the time they are in second or third grade. (Opinions are somewhat divided about when but that seems to be the consensus.) Other influences include older siblings, authority figures, celebrities (especially entertainers), and various social media.

It is important to keep that in mind when working your way through the material that Leon Shapiro and Leo Bottary provide in this book. It helps to explain why so many C-level executives derive substantial benefit from membership in a peer advisory group such as Vistage. Peers seem to be very influential throughout one’s lifetime.

Some business leaders (many who are also owner/CEOs of small companies) have created their own informal advisory groups that usually consist of their company’s banker or major investor, attorney, accountant, and one or two owner/CEOs of companies with which they neither compete nor do business. Members of these groups have no fiduciary responsibilities, usually meet quarterly or semi-annually, and meanwhile are available to provide one-on-one assistance whenever it is requested.

In the superb Foreword to The Power of Peers, Rich Kalgaard observes: “To be the CEO of a small or midsize company is brutally hard. Lonely, too. Honest and empathetic advice is hard for CEOs to come by. Who does one talk to? Is it fair to burden the family? Dare one show doubt or vulnerability in front of employees, investors, or the board? Sure, one might confide difficulties to a therapist or coach, but what if the therapist or coach knows little about the specifics of the CEO’s business? Trusted CEO peer groups are the perfect answer to these solitary challenges and awesome responsibilities borne by men and woman at the top.” The Power of Peers by Leon Shapiro and Leo Bottary shows how to do this. It is the right book at the right time for CEOs today.”

It is noteworthy that Kalgaard is the publisher of Forbes magazine and author of two books destined to become business classics: The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success (Jossey-Bass 2014) and Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations (HarperBusiness 2015). I hold his insights and counsel in very high regard.

Personal digression: Over the past two decades, it has been my pleasure as well as privilege to work closely with hundreds of small-to-midsize companies, retained as a consultant, and also chaired two peer groups (in Dallas and Arlington, Texas) for more than a decade within The Technical Committee (TEC) organization, founded by Bob Nourse in Milwaukee in 1957. Last I heard, TEC remains active only in Wisconsin and Michigan. I can personally attest to the unique value of a CEO peer advisory group if (HUGE “if”) it has crisp as well as cordial leadership and actively engaged members who are eager to receive help but also to help others.

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

o Goals for "communities of practice” (Pages 8-9, 32-36, 40-41, and 57-58
o Optimizing business opportunities (11-12, 37-39, 88-92, 129-130, and 138-141)
o Learning (19-20, 42-43, 54-55, 84-85, and 111-112)
o Culture of emotional support (20-21, 55-56, 98-99, 107-109, 111-112. and 119-121)
o Trust (21-22, 70-72, 125-126, 147-148, and 151-152)
o Young Presidents’ Organization (34-35, 57-58, and 65-66)
o Five factors for successful peer groups (44-45)
o Nourishing a safe environment (61-62)
o Smart guides (73-86)
o Conversations between and among members (78-79 and 138-140)
o Fostering valuable interaction (87-89)
o Accountability: Individual and Organizational (101-114)
o Diverse perspectives (131-144)

Understandably, Shapiro and Bottary draw upon their association with the Vistage organization which rebranded TEC in 2006. This wide and deep first-hand experience with peer advisory relationships gives credibility to their insights and counsel. Membership in a group such as Vistage is best considered in terms of cost (i.e. hours and dollars) and value (i.e. the ROI of cost). As with most (if not all) other human initiatives, the nature and extent of the benefits (i.e. ROI) will be determined by how much knowledge and wisdom the member is willing to (a) obtain from the group’s chair and other members and then (b) apply it effectively in her or his own company. Stated bluntly, you get about as much from membership as you put into it.

Also consider the wisdom of this Chinese proverb: “If you want happiness for an hour – take a nap. If you want happiness for a day – go fishing. If you want happiness for a year – inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a life time – help someone else.”

When concluding their book, Leon Shapiro and Leo Bottary suggest that a peer advisory group “is one of the most powerful, proven, and efficient leadership tools for enhancing the value of your business and your life. A diverse group of your peers will help you identify your blind spots, challenge your assumptions, and provide you with the kind of insights you’ll need to succeed and thrive.” I agree while noting, as indicated, that such a group is not for everyone. Those who read this book with appropriate care will be well-prepared to make that determination.

One final thought, expressed in an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

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