Profile for Robert Morris > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Robert Morris
Top Reviewer Ranking: 6
Helpful Votes: 1807

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Amazon Communities.

Reviews Written by
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas)
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)    (REAL NAME)   

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered
Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered
by Austin Kleon
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.19
41 used & new from CDN$ 5.14

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works...." Matthew 5:16, March 18 2014
As Austin Kleon explains, his previous book, Steal Like an Artist, "was about stealing influence from other people" whereas "this book is about how to influence others by letting them steal from [begin italics] you [end italics]." I agree with him that "all you have to do is to show your work" but only if (HUGE "if") it's worth stealing and you know how to do that in terms of what, when, and where. Actually, he wrote this book "for people who hate the very idea of self-promotion." It's not enough to be very good. "In order to be found, you have to [begin italics] be findable [end italics]. I think there's an easy way of putting your work out there and making it discoverable [begin italics] while [end italics] you're focused on getting really good at what you do."

Kleon's two books can be of incalculable value to those who need help with creating content (whatever its nature and extent may be) and then help with attracting the interest and support of those on whom the success of the offering depends. It could be a product, a service, or both. Its target market could be singles, seniors, the unemployed or under-employed, new parents, do-it-yourselfers, beginners at whatever...you get the idea.

So, how to become findable? First, Kleon explains the need for developing a new mindset, one that will enable the reluctant self-promoter to think differently so that she or he can then operate differently. Here's his key point: "Almost all of the people I look up to and try to steal from today, regardless of their profession, have built [begin italics] sharing [end italics] into their routine. Next, he urges his reader to find what the musician Brian Eno characterizes as a "scenius": a group of creative individuals who make up an ecology of talent. "What I love about the idea of scenius is that it makes room in the story of creativity for the rest of us: the people who don't consider ourselves geniuses."

Then Kleon suggests ten specific observations and initiatives, devoting a separate chapter to each. The purpose of the first, "You don't have to be a genius," is an important reassurance that David and Tom Kelley also provide in their recently published book, Creative Confidence: Believing that only geniuses are creative "is a myth that far too many people share. This book is about the opposite of that myth. It is about what we call 'creative confidence.' And at its foundation is the belief that we are [begin italics] all [end italics] creative...Creative confidence is a way of seeing that potential and your place in the world more clearly, unclouded by anxiety and doubt. We hope you'll join us on our quest to embrace creative confidence in our lives. Together, we can all make the world a better place."

The other nine call for initiatives that almost anyone can take. Kleon suggests the most important do's and don'ts to keep in mind. Two key elements are repeatedly emphasized. First, share generously and continuously with those who comprise an appropriate (key word) ecology of talent: people who share common interest and goals, yes, but also common questions and concerns. Share what will be of greatest interest and value to them. Also, be yourself. Why? I like Oscar Wilde's response best: "Everyone else is taken." Each person is a unique work-in-progress. That's hardly an original insight but well-worth repeating.

Let's allow Austin Kleon the final observations: "Human beings are interested in other human beings and what other human beings do. Audiences today not only want to stumble across great work, they, too, long to be part of the creative process. By showing people your 'behind-the-scenes footage" [i.e. portions of incomplete and imperfect work], they can see the person behind the products, and they can better form a relationship with you and your work." So show it...and your authentic self in process.

Strategy Is Everyone's Job: A Guide to Strategic Leadership
Strategy Is Everyone's Job: A Guide to Strategic Leadership
Price: CDN$ 9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why even a slight competitive advantage can be decisive for an organization...and a career, March 17 2014
This is my favorite passage in Lao-Tzu'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."

This passage from the Tao Te Ching creates an appropriate context for observations by Steve Stowell and Stephanie Mead: "Everybody can develop the ability to think, act, and contribute more over the long term by discovering a personal `strategic -contribution concept': the ability to anticipate and exploit tomorrow's opportunities today. We believe that organizations need people at all levels who can adapt to a changing environment, unlock value, and help their businesses be more competitive. In essence, we believe that strategy id everyone's job." Moreover, they believe that each manager inside the organization is running a small enterprise, a "business-within-a-business," and "has stewardship over a bundle of resources and capabilities."

Over the years, whenever retained to work a strategic planning team, I suggest that strategies by viewed as "hammers" that drive tactics viewed as "nails." I also share with team members two quotes from Michael Porter ("The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do" and Peter Drucker ("There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all."). In this context, I agree with Stowell and Mead that there is what they characterize as a "business-within-the-business" within any organization. If its strategies and tactics are not managed effectively internally, the organization will be managed - indeed controlled - by external forces. That said, as Drucker and Porter suggest, what is NOT done in the business-within-a-business is sometimes just as important as what is done.

Chapter 3 offers a case study of a fictional corporation (Galaxy) and a protagonist (Lee) that illustrate key points. The material focuses on several leadership challenges, the most important of which (in my opinion) is the need for middle management to think strategically (Big Picture, connecting organizational "dots," ultimate objectives) as well as tactically (execution initiatives in day-to-day operations). In terms of developing a strategic mindset as well as utilitarian skills, managers must also be leaders, as Lee eventually realizes.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Stowell and Mead's coverage.

o Strategic-Contribution Concept (Pages 2-3)
o What Is Strategy? (14-18)
o Galaxy Corporation: A Case Study (21-43)
o The Three Phases of Creating and Executing a Strategy (52-54)
o Survey Your Operation (57-64)
o "Nautical Adventure" (78-80)
o Lighting the Fire (109-114)
o Designing a Plan to Win (121-124)
o Executing the Strategy (126-130)
o Seven Leadership Principles (138-152)

There is indeed a "business-within-the-business" in any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. Its success will probably be determined by how many of those involved are actively and productively involved with achieving the given strategic goals. Even a slight strategic edge in any one area can be decisive. With all due respect to the importance of leadership in the C-Suite, it is at least as important at all other levels.

This is probably what Steve Stowell and Stephanie Mead when suggesting, "Ask yourself what having a slight edge could do for you and your organization, As you set sail on your strategic journey, all you have to do is to realize the results you desire and make a difference in your organization is to find that slight strategic edge. We hope these ideas and tools will help you as you set sail on your pursuit of success." My guess is, many of those who read this book will have already embarked on that voyage and now struggle to reach their destination.

More a quibble than a complaint, this book needs an index and one should be added if and when there is a new edition.

The Hybrid Tiger: Secrets of the Extraordinary Success of Asian-American Kids
The Hybrid Tiger: Secrets of the Extraordinary Success of Asian-American Kids
by Quanyu Huang
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.16
31 used & new from CDN$ 8.66

5.0 out of 5 stars Why what a country can achieve depends almost entirely on the education and cultivation of its children, March 16 2014
As I began to read this book, I came up with a brilliant idea: Have K-12 students in China and the U.S. attend schools in China. Then, perhaps, have all high school graduates serve for two years in the Israeli Army before attending colleges and universities in the United States. Of course, I haven't as yet worked out all the logistics. That will be somewhat of a challenge as will convincing their parents.

Quanyu Huang asserts that a proper and thorough examination of the relative strengths and weaknesses of American and Chinese education reveals two paradoxical patterns. "First, if analysis is confined to students at the primary and secondary levels, there is no question that [Chinese education] is undoubtedly `better' during these early phases." In fact, he believes it is "peerless."

In the later stages of education, however, "there is a surprising, countervailing pattern. At the highest kevels of academic and scientific achievement, the very same Chinese-educated students who in the early stages [begin italics] struggle [end italics] to have any impact at all. In fact, in terms of important postgraduate scientific research, researchers at Chinese universities and institutions have almost entirely failed to contribute anything of note."

My reference earlier to the Israeli Army was not entirely frivolous. At least some research based on recent statistics (e.g. registered patents per capita) suggests that Israel is one of the world's most innovative countries. Mandatory military service prior to enrollment in higher education is cited as one of the main reasons.

I was especially interested in Huang's lively discussion of Amy Chua, author of the bestselling Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in which she devotes substantial space to explaining and defending her personal philosophy, one she claims is "Chinese parenting." What does he think of her and her controversial ideas? Most people do not realize that how she has raised her daughters "is alien to most Chinese families. Indeed, her harsh, anachronistic methods are out of date and [begin italics] far [end italics] outside of what is acceptable and encouraged in mainstream society in China today; it should go without saying that it's below the standards of most Chinese-American parents." Hua's self-description as a "Tiger Mother" may be an accurate one of her but not of a real female tiger mother who is "always unbelievably nice to her kids. Indeed, she's a pushover! Real tigers coddle their children, exhibiting infinite patience and understanding." So much for Amy Chua.

Huang is an advocate of what he characterizes as "Co-Core Synergy Education," a hybrid of two cores of education: Chinese and American. "Synergy education can make kids - not just Asian-American kids, but American kids as well - stronger...American parents and educators should identify and incorporate the most effective strategies used in Asian-American parenting and education. Likewise, education in China could benefit from a careful exploration of the strengths of American parenting and education in search for strategies that might help Chinese education produce not only successful exam takers, but also knowledge creators who might vie for Nobel Prizes and the Fields Metal." Quanyu Huang discusses all this in much greater detail, offering specific recommendations on how to prepare all children "to thrive in the competitive and constantly evolving global landscape in which we now reside."

As I began to read this book, I came up with a brilliant idea: Have K-12 students in China and the U.S. attend schools in China. (Then, perhaps, have all high school graduates serve for two years in the Israeli Army before attending colleges and universities in the United States. Of course, I haven't as yet worked out all the logistics. That will be somewhat of a challenge as will convincing their parents.

Quanyu Huang asserts that a proper and thorough examination of the relative strengths and weaknesses of American and Chinese education reveals two paradoxical patterns. "First, if analysis is confined to students at the primary and secondary levels, there is no question that [Chinese education] is undoubtedly `better' during these early phases." In fact, he believes it is "peerless."

In the later stages of education, however, "there is a surprising, countervailing pattern. At the highest kevels of academic and scientific achievement, the very same Chinese-educated students who in the early stages [begin italics] struggle [end italics] to have any impact at all. In fact, in terms of important postgraduate scientific research, researchers at Chinese universities and institutions have almost entirely failed to contribute anything of note."

My reference earlier to the Israeli Army was not entirely frivolous. At least some research based on recent statistics (e.g. registered patents per capita) suggests that Israel is one of the world's most innovative countries. Mandatory military service prior to enrollment in higher education is cited as one of the main reasons.

I was especially interested in Huang's lively discussion of Amy Chua, author of the bestselling Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in which she devotes substantial space to explaining and defending her personal philosophy, one she claims is "Chinese parenting." What does he think of her and her controversial ideas? Most people do not realize that how she has raised her daughters "is alien to most Chinese families. Indeed, her harsh, anachronistic methods are out of date and [begin italics] far [end italics] outside of what is acceptable and encouraged in mainstream society in China today; it should go without saying that it's below the standards of most Chinese-American parents." Hua's self-description as a "Tiger Mother" may be an accurate one of her but not of a real female tiger mother who is "always unbelievably nice to her kids. Indeed, she's a pushover! Real tigers coddle their children, exhibiting infinite patience and understanding." So much for Amy Chua.

Huang is an advocate of what he characterizes as "Co-Core Synergy Education," a hybrid of two cores of education: Chinese and American. "Synergy education can make kids - not just Asian-American kids, but American kids as well - stronger...American parents and educators should identify and incorporate the most effective strategies used in Asian-American parenting and education. Likewise, education in China could benefit from a careful exploration of the strengths of American parenting and education in search for strategies that might help Chinese education produce not only successful exam takers, but also knowledge creators who might vie for Nobel Prizes and the Fields Metal." Quanyu Huang discusses all this in much greater detail, offering specific recommendations on how to prepare all children "to thrive in the competitive and constantly evolving global landscape in which we now reside."

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World
Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World
by Jane McGonigal
Edition: Hardcover
2 used & new from CDN$ 20.18

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why “people who understand the power and potential of games…will be the people who invent our future”, March 15 2014
It was Jane McGonical's opinion in 2011 that the human race was at a major tipping point. "We can stay on the same course," fleeing the real world for gaming in virtual words or "we can reverse course" and try something else entirely: "What if we decided to use everything we know about game design to fix what's wrong with reality? What if we started to live our real lives like gamers, lead our real businesses and communities like game designers, and think about solving real-world problems like computer and video game theorists?"

OK, how? McGonical wrote this book to share her thoughts and feelings about how such an admirable objective could (perhaps) be achieved. First, defining terms: She suggests there are four defining traits of a game: It has a goal, rules, a feedback system (e.g. score), and voluntary participation. I have been an avid golfer for most of my life and still play about once a week. My goal is to enjoy myself, I follow most of the rules, no longer keep score, and play willingly. According to Bernard Suits, "Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles." In golf, my obstacles include insufficient skill, natural hazards, and impatience.

McGonical identifies twelve unnecessary obstacles in the real world and suggests a how a specific gaming "fix" can overcome each. For example, years ago she coined the term "happiness hacking" which is "the experimental design practice of positive-psychology research findings into game mechanic. It's a way to make happiness activities feel significantly less hokey, and to put them in a bigger social context. Fix #10: "Compared with games, reality is hard to swallow. Games make it easier to take good advice and try out happier habits."

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of McGonigal's coverage.

o The Four Defining Traits of a Game (Pages 20-22)
o How Games Provoke Positive Emotion (28-31)
o The Four Secrets to Making Our Own Happiness (45-50)
o Why Failure Makes Us Happy (65-71)
o Happy Embarrassment (83-86)
o Epic Context for Heroic Action (100-104)
o Chore Wars (120-127)
o Jetset and Day in the Cloud (150-157)
o How Alternative Reality Games Can Create New Real-World Communities (168-173)
o The Invention of Happiness Hacking (187-214)
o Making Better Use of Gamers' Participation Bandwidth (232-246)
o The Evolution of Games as a Collaborative Platform (268-295)
o World Without Oil (304-316)
o EVOKE: A Crash Course in Changing the World (333-344)

Jane McGonigal provides an especially appropriate conclusion to her book: "Games aren't leading us to the downfall of human civilization. They're leading us to its reinvention. The great challenge for us today, and for the remainder of the century, is to integrate games more closely into our everyday lives, and to embrace them as a platform for collaborating on our most important planetary efforts. If we commit to harnessing the power of games for real happiness and real change, then a better reality is more than possible -- it is likely. And in that case, our future together will be quite extraordinary."

I share her faith and am in great debt to her for sharing in her book an abundance of information, insights, and counsel as to how all of us, sharing games together, can help to make us and our world better.

Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling For Less
Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling For Less
by Robert I. Sutton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.32
3 used & new from CDN$ 21.32

5.0 out of 5 stars How to increase and improve "pockets of peak performance" throughout the given enterprise, March 14 2014
Three of the greatest separate but related challenges that all business leaders face are achieving excellence, then scaling it up and sustaining profitable growth. In this book, as co-authors Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao explain, they became intrigued by what they characterize as "The Problem of More": How to scale or scale up from "pockets" of excellence to more people at more levels and in more areas throughout the given enterprise, whatever its size and nature may be.

They discuss these "pockets" as if they were "silos," functioning - in this instance functioning very well - in virtual isolation.

The strategy of scaling "fixed our focus on developing ideas that are grounded in great research, can help people spread and preserve excellence, and will grab and hold their attention. The chapters in Scaling Up Excellence spell out these lessons." One is that the similarities among scaling challenges are more important than the differences. This means that what scales up successfully on one organization can, with only minor modification, probably succeed in anther.

Also, scaling involves more than the Problem of More. Replication of excellence in Pocket A to Areas B, C, D, and E is insufficient. Meanwhile, there must also be improvement in all areas, what Pixar director Brad Bird characterizes as "relentless restlessness," to sustain what I would characterize as "kaizen on steroids." Sutton and Rao also learned that "people who are adept at scaling excellence talk and act as if they are knee-deep in manageable mess...The best leaders and scaling teams muddle through - and even revel in - these inevitable moments and months of messiness. They also learned that "scaling starts and ends with individuals - success depends on the will and skill of people at every level of an organization."

This last point has profound implications and potential consequences for those who read this book and then apply effectively what they learned. In essence, scaling up excellence is a mindset, not a methodology. In my opinion, it is perhaps best illustrated by the Manhattan Project, one that it most often thought of in terms of great scientists who collaborated on the design and construction of nuclear weapons. Their collaboration scaled up excellence in physics and mathematics, to be sure, but scaling excellence also occurred among those who built their facilities, selected the materials, delivered them where and when they needed to be, provided security, managed the operations, and in countless other ways supported the scientists' efforts.

Here in Dallas near the downtown area, there is a Farmer's Market at which several merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples of their wares. In that spirit, I now share several brief excerpts that are representative of the thrust and flavor of how Sutton and Rao present their material.

o "Scaling is akin to running a long race where you don't know the right path, often what seems like the right path turns out to be the wrong one, and you don't know how long the race will last, where or how it will end, or where the finish line is located. Yet it is one of the fundamental challenges that every organization faces, whether it's small or large, new or old, or somewhere in between." (Page 32)

o "As organizations and programs grow, the same superflat hierarchy and lightweight systems that promoted success in the early days can gum up the works. Sometimes scaling is dragged down by the opposite problem: people are so smitten with process, structure, and grooming that the core work takes a backseat...The risk of adding too many bosses and bureaucratic trappings too soon can plague organizations that are flush with resources -- especially when leaders want a bigger footprint and want it fast." (133)

o "Hiring the tight people is crucial for scaling, but it isn't enough. Unfortunately, too many leaders and gurus believe that, if you just buy the most skilled and motivated employees, exceptional performances will inevitably follow. They forget that team and organizational effectiveness requires weaving together people with diverse knowledge and skills -- not just gathering a lot of talented people and hoping they can figure out how to work together well." (146)

o "Ignorance, mediocrity, and mistakes run rampant when organizations fail to link the right people to the right information at the right time. This is true even when everyone involved has the best of intentions and even when someone somewhere knows exactly what to do (but no one has figured out how to get the information to those who need it.)" (174)

o "For better or worse, most workplaces are similar to high school in many ways." As indicated in a study by Princeton researchers Elizabeth Paluck and Hana Shepherd on bullying, "the cool people have a disproportionate impact on what others construe as bad (and good) behavior -- and whether or not their less cool colleagues will take individual responsibility for stopping it when it rears its ugly head. Thus an effective way to eliminate the negative is to recruit the most admired and connected people in your organization, teach them what 'bad' looks like, and encourage them to stop being perpetrators." (243)

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao provide in this volume but I hope that I have at least indicated why I think so highly of it. The twin Problems of More and Better will always challenge those who lead organizations. The need for both never ends because what are viewed as more and better today will be insufficient tomorrow.

The CEO Difference: How to Climb, Crawl, and Leap Your Way to the Next Level of Your Career
The CEO Difference: How to Climb, Crawl, and Leap Your Way to the Next Level of Your Career
by D. A. Benton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 17.52
31 used & new from CDN$ 13.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Key insights on personal growth and professional development, March 13 2014
Why did Debra Benton write this book? “My purpose is to help you master the what, how, and why of productively distinguishing yourself from other great people – to benefit both your organization and you…For this book I want to explain the secrets I’ve learned from some of the smartest businesspeople in the world. These secrets can help you achieve sustained success and help you either jump-start your career or leapfrog ahead of your competition.”

Just as you don’t have to be or aspire to be a CEO to think like one, you don’t have to be or aspire to be a CEO to develop and sharpen your and your organization’s differentiation from any others. As I began to read this book, I was again reminded of Marshall Goldsmith’s assertion that “what got you here won’t get you there.” One of the major challenges we face each day is to do more and do it better than we did yesterday. That is to say, to differentiate ourselves from what we have done and how well we did it before. Kaizen is a process for an individual’s continuous self-improvement as well as for the continuous improvement of the organization with which we are associated.

I wish I had had the benefit of Benton’s counsel years ago when I encountered several problems in my first full-time job, selling trucks for International Harvester during summer vacations while enrolled in college. I learned two valuable lessons that have since served me well. First, that we cannot control everything that happens to us but we can control how we respond to whatever happens to us, especially setbacks. I also realized that almost all human limits are self-imposed. This is what Henry Ford had in mind when observing, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

Benton provides an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can help her readers differentiate themselves in three separate but interdependent ways: how they think, how they conduct themselves, and how they interact with others.

The first involves what Carol Dweck characterizes as a “growth mindset”: being confident in what can be accomplished and also confident that you can do it. Benton: “The most important differentiators in life are being undaunted, unflappable, and broadly adequate, meaning that you have a feeling of self-worth, self-respect, self-regard, self-trust, and self-approval.”

The second involves being worthy of others’ trust and must be earned over time but can be lost in a moment. John Wooden once suggested that character “is who you are when no one’s looking.” I agree with him and with Benton: trust works both ways. “You deserve the same respect you show others. But you’re not always going to get it. So worry more about fulfilling your end of things and less about their not fulfilling theirs.”

As Benton explains, the third way to differentiate yourself is to develop a positive, upbeat, enthusiastic attitude in combination with a likeable personality. People will enjoy being associated with you. They welcome your company. Benton: “Go beyond good-natured and venture into good-humored.” We’ve all known people who seem to darken a room when they enter it. They differentiate themselves in a self-defeating way.

People with the right mindset, who earn and deserve others’ trust as well as their respect, and are always enjoyable to be with stand out no matter where they are and whom they’re with. They seem to be comfortable as well as self-assured. People are attracted to them and welcome, indeed seek their company.

Here’s what I consider to be an especially important point, well-expressed by Petronius in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet: “To thine ownself be true and it shall follow as the night the day; thou canst not then be false to any man.” More recently, Oscar Wilde suggested, “Be yourself. Every one else is taken.” And even more recently, Bill George has written two books about being authentic, following one’s true north.

Over the years, there is one question that Debra Benton has posed during her interviews of hundreds of CEOs and in conversations with a thousand others: “What are the defining characteristics of a person who is best-liked and most-valuable in your organization?” Their responses are in this book.

A Playful Path
A Playful Path
by Bernard De Koven
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 23.84
10 used & new from CDN$ 21.54

5.0 out of 5 stars "Games are clues to the future. And their serious cultivation now is perhaps our only salvation.", March 12 2014
This review is from: A Playful Path (Paperback)
This is the latest in a series of books and articles that Bernie De Koven has written thus far to share his thoughts and (especially) his feelings about one of the most important and yet least understood and appreciated elements in human experience: play. Consider this brief excerpt from an article he contributed to The New Games Book, published in 1976: "Because the games are new, we get a sense that they're experimenting. No one guarantees anything. If a game doesn't work, we try to fix it, to see if we can make it work. After all, it's a new game. It's not official yet. In fact, we're the officials, all of us, every one of us who comes to play. We make the judgments. We each take the responsibility for discovering what we can enjoy together."

Later, as I read The Well-Played Game, a book first published in 1978, I was again reminded of another book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990), in which Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discusses a state (i.e. "flow") during which creative artists, for example, are not consciously thinking about the next note to play or the next stroke to make on a painting. Athletes call it being in a "zone" as when Michael Jordan feels that he will make every a basketball shot or when Tiger Woods feels that he will sink every golf putt.

That does not mean that their actions are random or mechanical or that optimal performance will continue indefinitely. Those in a "flow" feel as if guided by a set of internalized rules or strategies. These rules influence the result but those involved do not need to consciously "will" each intention in action. Results occur naturally if allowed to. This is precisely what happens on hundreds of public basketball courts and playing fields throughout the U.S. when games are played without officials.

I thought about the aforementioned essay and book as I began to read A Playful Path, De Koven's latest book. They can serve as an excellent introduction but that is not essential. It is easy to explain what this book is about. At least here are what De Koven shares that are of greatest interest and value to me:

o What play is...and isn't
o What a game is...and isn't
o Playful relationships with family members, friends, business associates, et al
o Why activities and initiatives (e.g. formal, structured games) will -- and won't -- nourish playfulness
o How and why "letting go" can help us to become joyful
o Why joy is preferable to pleasure
o Channeling Walt Whitman, why each of us is "large" and "contains multitudes"

However, only those who read it can explain what it means to them -- the nature and extent of its value -- because each has followed a different path up to the point of becoming engaged with De Koven's narrative. What the book means to them will largely depend on the path they then follow. A Playful Path is Bernie De Koven's memoir of his own spiritual journey thus far, a journey that has nourished him, one that has been a mirror as well as a window.

To his great credit, De Koven shares details of his own journey, of time and effort on his own path, but respects his reader enough to decide (a) whether or not to embark on the same journey and (b) on which path to proceed.

One final point. With all due respect to the information, insights, and counsel to be found in this book, we are well advised to remember this ancient Hebrew aphorism: "Man plans and then God laughs." That is probably what Raphael Sabatini had mind in the opening line of one of his novels, Scaramouche: "He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad." To laugh is to breathe.

Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation, and Sustainability
Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation, and Sustainability
by Faisal Hoque
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.65
33 used & new from CDN$ 17.20

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why having more and better connections creates more and better opportunities, March 10 2014
Faisal Hoque wrote this book with assistance from Drake Baer. He acknowledges that "we now live in a time of creativity, innovation, and sustainability -- for these are the skills organizations need to be continually adaptive." He then suggests there is a three-part question hidden within the need for continued adaptability: "Which kind of psychological practices predict creativity, which social behaviors predict innovation, and which organizational structures lead to the sustainability of all these things?" The information, insights, and counsel he provides in this book are in response to that question.

I agree with Hoque that thinking and being holistic as well as humanistic are among the keys to personal growth and professional development. They are also among the keys to helping others to do so. I also agree that everyone and everything can be connected, directly -- or at least indirectly -- and that having more and better connections creates more and better opportunities. However, that is true only if (HUGE "if") connections are constantly nourished and, when necessary, protected by those involved. This is true of teams but also of companies and even societies and connections are more important now than ever before, given the nature and extent of breakthrough technologies that enable almost unlimited interactivity between and among almost anyone...anywhere...anytime.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Hoque's coverage.

o The Qualitative Is the Quantitative (Pages 12-17)
o Enabling Technology: The Game Changer (22-28)
o The Need for Better Tools (33-37)
o So What Is Mindful Meditation? 39-42)
o Taking Responsibility (51-53)
o How Einstein Managed Time, and, Time, Stimulation, and Success (67-71)
o Keystones to Building Partnerships (71-74)
o Three Mini-Profiles: Amazon, Nike, and IKEA (85-88)
o Finding the Platforms That Are Already There, and Platforms Connect with Ecosystems (89-95)
o Blockbuster, Yammer, and Petrified Organizations, and, Connectivity Predicts Success (108-114)
o Organizing with Talent Clusters (118-124)
o The Actors: Role as Performance (131-134)
o Love Your Colleague? (143-147)
o Where the Individual Meets the Organization (157-161)
o Rooting Out Ideas: Cultivating Curiosity (177-181)
o Meeting the Blueprint (199-202)
o Da Vinci's Ever-Growing Value (222-229)

I commend Faisal Hoque and Drake Baer on their lively and eloquent as well as rigorous and substantive narrative. They invite their readers to embark upon a journey of discovery to obtain self-knowledge they do not now possess. There are dots within each of us that need to be connected, some of which need to be connected externally as well. The stronger people become, the stronger their connections with others will be. Individuals as well as organizations and even nations can achieve the transformation to which the book's subtitle refers. Ultimately, the value of the material will be determined by how well each reader absorbs, digests, assimilates, and then applies what has be learned. Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the abundance of material provided in this volume. However, I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of it.

Relevance: The Power to Change Minds and Behavior and Stay Ahead of the Competition
Relevance: The Power to Change Minds and Behavior and Stay Ahead of the Competition
by Andrea Coville
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 17.24
24 used & new from CDN$ 10.74

5.0 out of 5 stars How to forge a lasting bond with the people you need to influence to create and sustain a competitive advantage, March 10 2014
Years ago during dinner with a venture capitalist in San Francisco, I asked him how he and his associates evaluated formal presentations from those seeking funds. He replied, "We've already checked out the credentials and financials or they wouldn't be meeting with us. We have three questions in mind: `How will you use the funds?' `What makes you different?' and `Why should I care?' How they answer that last question usually tells us what we need to know."

I thought of that reply as I began to read this book. According to Andrea Coville, who wrote it with Paul B. Brown, an organization will be able to establish and then sustain a bond with its stakeholders to the extent that it remains relevant to their needs? For example, the highly valued employees it seeks to attract and retain will ask "What's in it for me"? Profitable customers it competes for will ask "Why you and what you offer?" There will always be questions to answer and problems to solve. Now more than ever before, stakeholders will ask "So what?" In recent years, they are also keenly interested to know what an organization cares about, other than sales and profits. It must have social as well as commercial relevance.

Colville explains how almost any organization can become and then re main relevant to those on whom its success depends. I agree with her: "You cannot be all things to all people. But you can be relevant to all people based on some aspect of your offering. You can find out which will resonate by dividing your marketing [i.e. creating or increasing demand] by very specific categories: age, income, politics, whatever, and determine how you can make what you have relevant to people in each of these categories." She discusses three basic "intangibles" and explains how relevance occurs through content, context, and contact.

o The Three Dimensions of Relevance, and, The Relevance Challenge (Pages 8-14)
o Relevance: The Right Word at the Right Time (21-24)
o Thinking Upside Down (43-46)
o Categories/Segments of Relationship Framework (61-63)
o Context (71-74)
o Manipulative? (89-92)
o Countering Probable Negativity (97-98)
o Do Try This at Home (102-107)
o The Innovation Process (100-114)
o Things Change (123-127)
o The Rate of Change, and, Nuts and Bolts (137-141)

I commend Coville on her skillful use if several reader-friendly devices that include "Takeaway for Chapter X" (Chapters 1-10) and then "Final Takeaways" in a concluding chapter; "Things to Do Monday Morning" (Chapters 1-10); and boxed mini-commentaries throughout her narrative. These devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

In this book's Executive Summary, Andrea Coville identifies a challenge in today's global marketplace: relevance is more valuable, more complex, more difficult to establish, and then more difficult to sustain now than ever before. She wrote this book to help her readers respond effectively to that challenge.

I presume to add one final point. It is no coincidence that the companies annually ranked among the most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry segment. In a word, they are relevant.

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t
by Simon Sinek
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.65
36 used & new from CDN$ 16.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Why our society now has a chemical imbalance and what we must do about it, March 8 2014
I agree with Simon Sinek: "Too many of the environments in which we work today frustrate our natural inclinations to trust and cooperate." He notes that since the Boomers took over the running business and government, the U.S. (and much of the world) has experienced three significant stock market crashes in 1987, 2000, and 2008. "A new set of values and norms has been established for our businesses and our society -- a system of dopamine-driven performance that rewards us for individual achievement at the expense of the balancing effects of serotin and oxytocin that reward us for working together and building bonds of trust and loyakty. It is this imbalance that causes stock markets to crash."

Sinek carefully explains how and why this chemical imbalance in our society has occurred and then suggests hat he thinks must be done about it. "The big Boomer generation has, by accident, created a world quite out of balance" but "we can't simply blame an entire generation for the ills we face today." I agree. It has taken several decades for this imbalance yo occur and it will probably take several decades to correct it. How? That's what this book is all about.

It's title suggests to me the type of leader Robert Greenleaf describes in an essay written in 1970: "The servant-leader is servant [begin italics] first [end italics]... It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve [begin italics] first [end italics]. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is [begin italics] leader [end italics]first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions...The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature."

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Sinek's coverage.

o The Value of Empathy (Pages 7-8)
o We See What We Want to See, and, The Awesome Responsibility (12-17)
o Circle of Safety: U.S. Marines (18-25)
o It's All About the Group, and, Our Chemical Dependency (35-37)
o Our Goals Must Be Tangible (42-45)
o Generosity and Other Ways to Build Trust (51-52)
o Eating Last Is Repaid with Loyalty and Hard Work (68-70)
o Know When to Break the Rules (72-75)
o The Boom Before the Bust (81-84)
o The Eight-Hundred-Pound Boomer in the Room (84-89)
o When Leaders Eat First, and, Dehumanization (94-96)
o Abstraction Kills (97-101)
o Bad Cultures Breed Bad Leaders, and, A Culture Protected (133-136)
o True Power (141-147)
o Enemies Fight. Friends Cooperate (162-165)

When concluding his thoughtful and thought-provoking book, Simon Sinek observes, "Leadership, true leadership, is not the bastion of those who sit at the top. It is the responsibility of anyone who belongs to the group. Though those with formal rank may have the authority to work at greater scale, each of us has a responsibility to keep the Circle of Safety strong [i.e. one that provides mutual support and, when needed, mutual protection]. We must all start today to do little things for the good of others...one day at a time. Let us all be the leaders we wish we had."

Robert Greenleaf's remarks quoted earlier are even more relevant now than they were 43 years ago and the same is true of my favorite passage in Lao-Tzu's Tao Te Ching, written around 6th century BC:

"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."

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20