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Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas)

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The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success
The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success
by Rich Karlgaard
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.32
36 used & new from CDN$ 17.90

5.0 out of 5 stars What an organization must have to continually innovate, be healthy in volatile times, and enjoy lasting success, April 24 2014
According to Rich Karlgaard, an organization must have a hard edge, a soft edge, and a strategic base to continually innovate, be healthy in volatile times, and enjoy lasting success. I agree. It is by no means a coincidence that the companies annually ranked among those that are most highly-respected 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.

The most valuable insight in Karlgaard's book is that these companies have achieved and sustained an appropriate balance and coordination of two mindsets: One is "hard-edge" and the other is "soft edge." He explains that there are five "pillars" that undergird the Hard Edge: Speed, Cost, Supply Chain, Logistics, and Capital Efficiency

Obviously, they are essential to operations... but insufficient. That's why he includes five "pillars" of the Soft Edge, a portion of the equation that tends to be neglected, if not ignored: Trust, Smarts, Teams, Taste, and Story. Having both a hard edge and a soft edge is obviously important. However, long-term business success also requires a strategic base, one that enables a company to continually innovate, be healthy in volatile times, and enjoy lasting success.

As Karlgaard explains, the Strategic Base also has five "pillars": Market, Customers, Competitors, Substitutes (i.e. indirect competitors), and Disruptors. Here's the challenge for business leaders: Find their company's "sweet spot" at which its hard edge and soft edge become interdependent with its strategic base. Some decisions are best-made with hard-edged thinking, others with soft-edged thinking, but all decisions must directly or indirectly strengthen an organization's strategic base. Here's another way to look at the workplace culture he endorses: It is defined by highly developed emotional intelligence combined with sustained efficiency and productivity at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise.

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

o The Triangle of Long-Term Company Success (Pages 4-15)
o "In the Future, the System Must Be First" (23-27)
o Hard-Edge Advantages Are Wonderful But Fleeting" (32-34)
o Trust Is the Foundation of Greatness, and, Building Trust Is Strategic -- and Rare (39-45)
o How to Build a Culture of Trust, Inside and Out (53-59)
o Grit Accelerates Learning (71-74)
o Learn Fast from Your Mistakes (83-86)
o The Mighty Power of the Two-Pizza Rule (105-109)
o Why Cognitive Diversity Works (115-118)
o Sociometrics: The Hard Science of Teamwork (131-135)
o The Big Three: Function, Form, Meaning (141-148)
o Where Taste Meets Data, and, Finding the Sweet Spot (165-172)
o Why Stories in Business? (179-184)
o Good Stories and Storytelling (191-198)
o Data Storytelling (205-207)

I agree with Karlgaard: "Technology and competition are constantly raising the bar of high performance in our companies. But funnily enough, as the bar goes up, it's the ancient values of trust and smarts, teamwork and taste and storytelling that become even more important." Leaders who seek to achieve lasting success for their companies, whatever their size and nature may be, would be well-advised to keep Karlgaard's observations in mind. Also, to keep a copy of The Soft Edge near-at-hand whenever problems emerge -- and they certainly will -- especially now when conflicts and crises seem to occur more often and faster than at any prior that I can remember.

Hard-edge issues should not be addressed with a soft-edge mindset, nor should soft-edge issues be addressed with a hard-edge mindset. I presume to one final suggestion to leaders: keep in mind also this brief passage in Lao-Tzse'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."

Without mutual respect and trust, that can't happen.

Building Your Business the Right-Brain Way: Sustainable Success for the Creative Entrepreneur
Building Your Business the Right-Brain Way: Sustainable Success for the Creative Entrepreneur
by Jennifer Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.24
34 used & new from CDN$ 12.97

5.0 out of 5 stars This is a WORK book for those who are willing and able to nourish and make effective use of their right brain., April 24 2014
Although Jennifer Lee says she wrote this book for "right-brain entrepreneurs around the world who courageously take inspired actions and make their big visions real, step by small step," the fact remains that the information, insights, and counsel she provides can be of substantial value to almost anyone, include school students, who may lack confidence in how "creative" they are but, nonetheless, are determined to accelerate their personal growth and, once embarked on a career after formal education, their professional development. The entrepreneurial mindset is not limited to those involved with start-ups or companies with less than a dozen employees. This mindset can be developed by almost anyone, whatever the given business may be. Lee wrote this book for a wider audience than her dedication suggests.

I urge everyone to complete the "Sustain Success Survey" (Pages 7-11), then after reading the first two Parts of the book, review responses and make whatever revisions may be necessary, given what has been learned thus far. Then repeat the process after reading Parts III and IV. Keep in mind that Lee concludes with additional resources (Pages 213-217). As is also true of sources that offer a wealth of learning and -- yes -- unlearning/re-learning opportunities, the ROI of this book will depend almost entirely on how much time, energy, attention, and reflection are invested while reading it.

I commend Lee on her brilliant use of various reader-friendly devices. They include:

"Right-Brain Reflections"
Illustrated Play Sheets
Dozens of Exercises
Right-Brain Entrepreneurial Spotlights"
"Left Brain Chill Pills" and "Right-brain Boosters"
"Tips" and "Head's Ups"
"Action Accelerators"
"Left-Brain Checklists"

These devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later. I strongly recommend that a lined notebook is kept near-at-hand when completing various exercises and to record notes. The Mead Wide-Ruled ("Black Marble") Composition Book is my person preference but any notebook will do. I highlight key passages with the Sharpie optic yellow (wide). Also, I extend heartiest congratulations to Kate Prentiss on the superior quality of the hundreds of illustrations she produced to complement, indeed enrich and enliven the narrative. She and Lee provide a scenic as well as an enlightening journey of discovery. Bravo!

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

o Business as Art: Trust Your Creative Process (Pages 4-7)
o Guiding Principles to Maximizing Value of This Book (15-17)
o Your Entrepreneurial Ecosystem (21-32)
o Uncover and Articulate Your Core Message (38-44)
o Content Ideas for Your Newsletter (57-60)
o Some Ways to Build Your Opt-In List (60-63)
o What Goes Into Your Offer (75-80)
o How to Create Content if You Have an Informational Product (98-100)
o Things to Consider for Your Launch of Offering (106-110)
o Launch, Then Create (122-125)
o Three Basic Paths for Making More Moola (128-133)
o The Evolution of the Multiple-Moola Making Methods Map (136-137)(
o Growing Your Team and Getting Support (155-164)
o Types of Processes to Document (183-189)
o The Temptation of Technology and Tools (189-190)
o The Importance of the Pause (193-194)
o The Five Embracing-Ease Strategies for Sustained Success (195-207)

Those who share my high regard for this brilliant book are urged to check out others: Any of Dan Roam's books, notably his most recent, Show and Tell; David and Tom Kelley's Courage of Creativity; and Sunni Brown's The Doodle Revolution. To those who read Jennifer Lee's book and will soon embark on their own journey of discovery, I wish them Bob Voyage! To other readers who now struggle to contend with what James O'Toole characterizes as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom," I urge them to keep in mind the LEGO Strategy that enabled a once great company to overcome seemingly insurmountable barriers and become even greater. How? One brick at a time.

Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness
Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness
by Frederic Laloux
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.12
11 used & new from CDN$ 15.11

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How and why to create, develop, and sustain "a more soulful, purposeful, and productive workplace", April 24 2014
Recent and extensive research on workplace cultures in the U.S. indicate that, on average, less than 30% of the employees are actively and productively engaged; the remaining 80% are either passively engaged ("mailing it in") or actively engaged in undermining the success of the given enterprise. According to Ken Wilber in the Preface, Frederic Laloux's book covers all four quadrants, at least five levels of consciousness and culture, several multiple lines or intelligences, and various types of organizational structures" of what both Wilber and Laloux view as a "new paradigm," one that poses unique perils and opportunities for individuals as well as organizations. The nature and extent of employee engagement are inextricably involved in this paradigm, one that requires a "guide to creating [or transforming] organizations inspired by the next stage of human consciousness.

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

o Changing Paradigms: Past and Present Organizational Models (Pages 13-35)
o A New Metaphor: organizations as living systems (55-60)
o Self-Management (Structures) (61-97)
o Self-Management: Processes (99-141)
o Striving for Wholeness: General Practices (143-172)
o Onboarding: (176-178)
o Training (180)
o Common Cultural Traits (225-234)
o Evolutionary-Teal: Introducing Self-Management (268-277)
o Introducing practices related to evolutionary purpose (282-284)
o What an Evolutionary-Teal society might look like (294-300)
o The Structures of Teal Organizations (319-325)

In terms of its structure, the defining characteristics of a Teal organization include self-organized teams, no executive team meetings, radically simplified project management, most staff functions performed by team members themselves, interviews of job candidates focus on "fit" with values and purpose, significant training in relational skills and company culture, personal freedom with authority as well as responsibility, no job titles, individual purpose must be compatible with organizational purpose, candid discussion of work/life issues and commitments, focus on team performance, self-set compensation with peer calibration of base pay, no promotions but fluid rearrangement of duties and responsibilities, and dismissal the very last step in mediated conflict resolution.

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do dull justice to the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that Laloux provides. Moreover, he would be the first to point out that it would be a fool's errand to attempt to apply everything learned from the book. Presumably he agrees with me that reinvention is an on-going process rather than a special project. This is what Marshall Goldsmith had in mind when entitling one of his more recent books What Got You Here Won't Get You There. That said, I presume to add that whatever got you here won't even allow you to remain "here," whatever and wherever that may be. Frederic Laloux offers a compelling vision, to be sure, but also an operations manual. He agrees with Thomas Edison: "Vision without execution is hallucination."

Innovation the NASA Way: Harnessing the Power of Your Organization for Breakthrough Success
Innovation the NASA Way: Harnessing the Power of Your Organization for Breakthrough Success
by Rod Pyle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.91
35 used & new from CDN$ 14.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable business lessons to be learned from a truly unique “engine of innovation”, April 22 2014
Until reading and then re-reading this book, almost everything I knew about the U.S. government’s National Aeronautical and Space Administration was based on what I learned from two films, The Right Stuff and Apollo 13. What I find remarkable, almost unbelievable, is that so much (if not most) of what I learned from the material provided by Rod Pyle can be of substantial value to leaders in almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. When required by circumstances, almost all organizations need to be bold when responding to threats and opportunities, sufficiently daring when challenging the status quo, and passionate about what they do and how they do it.

As Pyle suggests, "During the space race, NASA's golden age to many observers, innovation was encouraged in a number of ways. First came need-based innovation: the task set before the agency in 196 [by then President John Kennedy] was so vast, so demanding, that the new and original became commonplace...The second was innovation at the end of a sharp stick...when there simply was neither the time nor the resources [for additional verification]...Finally, there was innovation of the more blue-sky variety... innovative mission that were flown only on paper for years, with one notable exception being Skylab."

Pyle makes skillful use of several reader-friendly devices that include these:

o At the beginning of Chapters 1-17, a set of “Challenges” to create a context, a frame of reference, for initiatives needed to ask questions, solve problems, etc.

o Boxed set of “Solutions” for each Challenge

o At the conclusion of Chapters 1-17, a set of Innovations to review achievements with a brief evaluation that suggests lessons to be learned

Pyle focuses on major projects that include X-15 (Pages 31-34); Mariner 4 (45-54); Apollo 1 (71-85 and 133 and 134), 8 (137-155), and 11 (157-171); Skylab (173-190); Viking (191-203); Space Shuttle (225-239); and International Space Station (241-250). He suggests lessons to be learned from both NASA organization, in terms of both its achievements and its occasional failures. Consider as a case in point Eugene Francis ("Gene") Krantz who served as a Flight Director, the successor to NASA founding Flight Director Chris Kraft, during the Gemini and Apollo programs, and best known for his role in directing the successful Mission Control team efforts to save the crew of Apollo 13.

Previously, in January of 1967, three astronauts -- Virgil I. ("Gus") Grissom, Edward H. White II and Roger B. Chaffee -- were incinerated on the ground while conducting some pre-launch tests for what was to have been Apollo 1. After that tragedy, Krantz made a statement that came to be called "The Krantz Dictum." Here are his concluding remarks:

"From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: 'Tough' and 'Competent.' Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do. We will lever again compromise our responsibilities. Every time we walk into Mission Control we will know what we stand for. Competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and our skills. Mission control will be perfect. When you leave this meeting today you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to write 'Tough' and 'Competent' on your blackboards. It will never be erased. Each day when you enter the room these words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control." In my opinion, Krantz personifies NASA leadership and teamwork at their best.

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

o Success on Mars (Pages 13-14)
o Innovation from the Old World (23-26)
o The Dirty Rag (26-28)
o Fifty-One Feet of Mean (31-33)
o Just Another Day in the Cockpit (42-44)
o Finding Mars, and, Goodbye, Martians...Hello, Mars (49-53)
o How Hard Can It Be? (55-60)
o Just a Simple Test..., and, "We're Burning Up" (71-75)
o “The Krantz Dictum” (77-81)
o Into the Unknown, and, Understanding the Challenge (89-93)
o Daring the Heavens, and, Facing the Monster (103-108)
o A Bold Answer to a Final Problem (114-116)
o Innovation in Desperation, and, The Breakthrough (123-128)
o An Urgent Call (140-144)
o Overcoming Doubt, and, Boldness Rewarded (150-155)
o Inspiration Before Danger (162-164)
o Coming Home: Bringing NASA's Lessons to Your Business (263-270)

Although there are indeed many valuable business lessons to be learned from NASA’s triumphs, and especially from its two tragedies and other crises, the fact remains that this organization is also unique in several significant ways. For example, literally nothing in its operations is insignificant, as we all learned after a rubber O-ring proved inadequate during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986.

That said, it remains for those who read this book to determine what is most relevant to their own organization. Rod Pyle urges his reader to be bold, daring, and passionate when pursuing opportunities. Fortunately, he provides an abundance of information, insights, and counsel to help his readers achieve more, much more than they once thought possible. If and when there is need a reassurance of what can be achieved, look at the moon.

Step Up: Lead in Six Moments that Matter
Step Up: Lead in Six Moments that Matter
Price: CDN$ 16.38

5.0 out of 5 stars How to “step up and demonstrate leadership in important moments, with or without the official title and authority to do so., April 21 2014
What Henry Evans and Colm Foster characterize as a "leadership moment" is by no means limited to residents of the C-Suite. Just as effective leadership is needed at all levels and in all operational areas of an organization, leaders occur there as well and -- more often than not -- have serious implications and significant consequences, for better or worse. Evans and Foster identify six and devote a separate chapter to each. I prefer to view these moments, rather, as guidelines or opportunities, although -- as Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard suggest in their brilliant book, TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments -- at least some brief interactions can prove to be momentous.

I commend Evans and Foster on their skillful use of reader-friendly devices that include these:

o Dozens of embedded QR code ("Step UP") links to supplementary resources
o Dozens of Figures that illustrate key points, relationships, sequences, etc.
o At the beginning of each chapter, an "Our Promise" alert to the material to be covered
o Also a "Recognize the Moment" that serves very effectively as a Head's Pp
o At the conclusion of each chapter, a "Summary of Key Learnings" and "Your Next Steps to Step Up and [whatever]."

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

o The Six Moments That Matter (Pages 1-2)
o Developing Mastery of Experiential Learning: The Process (4-6)
o Recognize the Moment to Manage One's and Others' Negative Emotions (12-19)
o Recognize the Moment to Be Candid (39-55)
o Recognize the Moment to Be Decisive (65-77)
o Recognize the Moment When Change(s) Must Be Made (95-108)
Note: Some of the most valuable material is provided in Chapter as Evans and Foster focus on how to recognize, accept, and then whatever changes (however difficult, however unpleasant, however "inconvenient") must be made...especially if the change(s) required involve one's self.
o Recognize the Moment to Leverage Pessimism to Achieve Positive Results (125-140)
o How to Recognize the Moment When to Leverage Negative Momentum So That It Can Reverse Direction (151-159)
o It Isn't All About You, and, Why [Creating Emotional Safety] Works (175-180)
o Two Keys to Succeeding as an Organization's "Director of Emotional Safety" (180-183)
o Your Next Steps to Step Up and Create Emotional Safety (191-192)

Here are four brief excerpts that are representative of the thrust and flavor of Evans and Foster's narrative style:

"The key to developing your ability to remain intelligent, even as your blood begins to boil, is to recognize that anger is not a binary, 'either-or' emotion. That is, there are many levels of anger. At the mildest, you are slightly irritated, and then you become frustrated. If the situation persists, you become angry; and if the emotion continues, you may become enraged. To learn to become intelligent while angry, you must start small -- that is, learn to retain your thinking ability when you are merely irritated and then move on frustration and so on." (Pages 19-20)

"Openness to change is a basic personality characteristic, and although challenging mental models and cognitive biases is an effort for all of us, those who are lower on the openness-to-change scale will find doing so especially daunting. People who are highly open to change are intellectually curious and are great at starting new projects. They tend to have lots of varied interests, read a number of books at any one time, and enjoy interacting with all sorts of people." (107)

"The leaders in an organization are the people who [begin] habitually move [end] from stating problems to finding solutions. Whenever they sense that negative momentum is building, they immediately convert to a solution-oriented dialogue. Those leaders can come from [begin] any [end] position on an organizational chart; title doesn't matter." (165-166)

"Great leaders create an atmosphere characterized by genuine personal connection and warmth, one where the cold light of intellect is balanced with a human touch. [Achieving the right balance between rationality and warmth] will go a long way toward creating an environment free from politics and gaming, one in which employees feel comfortable discussing real issues openly and honestly. People will be free to admit mistakes and learn real lessons as a result of reviewing both failures and successes." (187)

Obviously, no brief commentary can possibly do full justice to the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that Henry Evans and Colm Foster provide. However, I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of their book. If you agree, you may also wish to check out Evans' previously published book, Winning with Accountability: The Secret Language of High-Performing Organizations.

Moocs: Opportunities, Impacts, and Challenges: Massive Open Online Courses in Colleges and Universities
Moocs: Opportunities, Impacts, and Challenges: Massive Open Online Courses in Colleges and Universities
by Michael Nanfito
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.94
12 used & new from CDN$ 16.40

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why MOOCs offer learning opportunities that, for millions of people, would otherwise be unavailable, April 16 2014
Early in his narrative, Michael Nanfito observes, "The question that schools, colleges, and universities face relates the educational institution's reason for being: How will tools like MOOCs [i.e. Massive Open Online Courses] further the mission of the institution?" For institutions that traditionally have large, lecture-hall-based classes, "a MOOC might simply be an extension in scale of these paradigms." For other institutions that traditionally have small classes, however, "the role of the MOOC and its component technologies is less clear." Whatever the case, the mission of the institution must drive the development of strategy and subsequent planning and decision-making. That said, my own opinion is that a mission that precludes a MOOC or some other form of distant learning is too narrow.

Why did Nanfito write this book? His objective "is to help campus leaders make the best decisions for their institutions. Technology, support, funding, and organizational development are all concerns that must be part of the discussion if campus leadership is to actively manage online learning rather than blindly react to external pressures." Again, one man's opinion, "campus" should refer to a community rather than to a physical location. In several states, there are two multi-campus publicly funded systems. Here in Texas, the Texas A&M University System has 12 and the University of Texas System has 15. With appropriate modification, of course, colleges could also establish and develop a MOOC, with "massive" referring to impact and value rather than to enrollment.

In an article published in 2013, "The Most Thorough Summary (to date) of MOOC Completion Rates," Phil Hall and Katy Jordan suggest that there are five categories of MOOC participants:

1. "No Shows" who register and then become MIAs
2. "Observers" who log in and graze but complete no assessments
3. "Drop-Ins" who enroll and then complete some work but not the complete course
4. "Passive Participants" who consume the material in the course ("like a pizza") but complete no assignments
5. "Active Participants" who complete most of the work and take all quizzes and examinations

It is important to keep in mind that just as many of those who enroll in traditional courses of instruction are unprepared to earn a passing grade, many (if not most) of those enrolled in a MOOC are active participants to whom Hall and Jordan refer. For example, of the 40,000 who enrolled in a course ("Introduction to Sociology") sponsored by Princeton University, only 3.21% completed it.

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

o Identifying Expectation and Hope (Pages 27-29)
o Analytics, Assessment, and improved educational outcomes (35-36)
o The Demographics of MOOCs: Overview (41-42)
o The Enrollment/Completion Paradox (48-49)
o A brief review of the technologies that implement and sustain a MOOC (60-62)
o MOOC Accessibility (67-69)
o Setting the Stage: massive investment and hedged bets (79-83)
o From Project to Program: Four Fundamental Questions to Answer (84-87)
o Add it up: revenue dreams and abstract business models (87-90)
o Mozilla Open Badges (116-120)
o The American Council on Education (ACE) and Accredited MOOCs (122-125)
o MOOCs and the Measurement of Knowledge and Competency (135-137)
o Models for Review and Consideration (143-144)
o Lessons from Learning-Centered Institutions (156-158)
o The Rise of the Machines: Big Data (163-170)
o The Rise of the Machines: Adaptive Learning (170-176)

This is among the first books of which I am Aware that attempt to provide a briefing on MOOCs and the "opportunities, impacts, and challenges" to which its subtitle refers. It is by no means definitive, nor does Nanfito make any such claim. I agree with him that online learning is here to stay but there will be some significant challenges, both to those who schedule and conduct the courses and those who enroll in them.

As he observes in the final chapter, more than a century ago, leaders wrestled with an American educational system that was fractured, provincial, and occasionally idiosyncratic. "Just as previous generations contributed the values, enthusiasms, and expectations of their time to the business of educating, it is our opportunity at this time to outline the issues and prepare the solutions that carry us forward into the next century."

The Age of the Moguls
The Age of the Moguls
by Stewart H. Holbrook
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 43.95
19 used & new from CDN$ 34.92

5.0 out of 5 stars "Lords of capital" in "a savage and gaudy age", April 15 2014
This review is from: The Age of the Moguls (Paperback)
First, some brief background information about Stewart Hall Holbrook (1893-1964). Throughout his adult years, he was at first a lumberjack and then a writer, journalist, and (his descriptive) "lowbrow historian." The Age of the Moguls (1953) is probably his best-known work but it should be noted that, for more than thirty years, he wrote for The Oregonian, the oldest continuously published daily newspaper in the western United States (founded in 1850) and also authored or co-authored dozens of other books whose titles correctly indicate the scope and variety of his interests. For example, Little Annie Oakley & Other Rugged People (1948), Wild Bill Hickok Tames the West (1952) with Ernest Richardson, Davey Crockett (1955), Wyatt Earp: U.S. Marshall (1956), The Golden Age of Quackery (1959), The Golden Age of Railroads (1960), and Wildmen, Wobblies & Whistle Punks: Stewart Holbrook's Lowbrow Northwest (1992), an anthology. Holbrook's style of writing is as lively as his selection of subjects but it would be a mistake to question the authenticity of his historical material. One source (whose name I do not recall) has correctly described him as a "feisty David McCullough."

In The Age of Moguls, Holbrook examines a number of "lords of capital" who, in his words, "made `deals,' purchased immunity, and did other things which in 1860, or 1880, or even 1900, were considered no more than `smart' by their fellow Americans, but which today would give pause to the most conscientiously dishonest promoter....They were a motley crew, yet taken together they fashioned a savage and gaudy age as distinctively purple as that of imperial Rome, and infinitely more entertaining." The group Holbrook considers is divided into three categories: promoters, bankers, and industrialists, with merchants in the latter group. They include Jim Fisk, Jay Gould, Charlie Gates, Thomas William Lawson, Henry H. Rogers, Henry Morrison Flagler, and Samuel Insull; Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Cyrus McCormick, Philip D. Armour, Henry Clay Frick, Henry Ford, and the Du Ponts; also the Guggenheims, Andrew W. Mellon, James J. Hill, Edward Henry Harriman, Henry Villard, the first two Vanderbilts, and the Astors. Some of these names remain familiar in our own time; others do not. All were "tough-minded fellows, who fought their way encased in rhinoceros hides and filled the air with their mad bellowings and the cries of the wounded." A colorful lot indeed.

There are several reasons why I hold this book in such high regard. First, until reading it, I knew very little about the social and economic significance of what Holbrook characterizes as a "savage and gaudy age." As he explains so well, it was certainly both but the moguls he examines, together, established a bedrock of capitalism which remains intact to this day even as new laws and regulatory enforcement of them seem to ensure that, although Holbrook is not overly concerned with comparative business ethics then and now, were they alive today, "almost every man in this book would face a good hundred years in prison." I admire this book, also, because Holbrook succeeds so well in bringing the moguls to life in ways and to any extent I did not anticipate. Some are much more colorful than others, of course, but Holbrook anchors each in a human context, warts and all. Finally, I admire this book because it enables me and other readers to draw comparisons and (especially) contrasts between the current business world and the one which evolved throughout much of the 19th century. Those who receive most of Holbrook's attention have been variously described (then and now) as "giants and titans, and more often as rogues, robbers, and rascals" but Holbrook has convinced me that these and other adjectives (both positive and negative) accurately characterize most of them. For better or worse, all were "larger than life."

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
by Greg McKeown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.89
31 used & new from CDN$ 13.09

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why and how to diminish non-essentials to achieve organizational excellence by focusing only on what is absolutely essential, April 15 2014
As I began to read this book for the first time, I was again reminded of an Einstein observation - "Make everything as simple as possible but no simpler" -- as well as of Greg Mckeown's previous book, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, in which he and co-author Liz Wiseman juxtapose two quite different personas whom they characterize as the "Multiplier" and the "Diminisher." Although they refer to them as leaders, assigning to them supervisory responsibilities, they could also be direct reports at the management level or workers at the "shop floor" level.

Multipliers "extract full capability," their own as well as others', and demonstrate five disciplines: Talent Magnet, Liberator, Challenger, Debate Maker, and Investor. Diminishers underutilize talent and resources, their own as well as others, and also demonstrate five disciplines: Empire Builder, Tyrant, Know-It-All, Decision Maker, and Micro Manager. They devote a separate chapter to each of the five Multiplier leadership roles.

In Essentialism, Mckeown focuses on what must be done to increase what is essential to an organization's success - as well as to an individual's success - by reducing (if not totally eliminating) whatever is not essential to such success. I agree with him: Almost anyone in almost any organization (whatever its size and nature may be) can choose how to expend time and energy; reduce/eliminate "noise" and clutter, preserving only what is exceptionally valuable; and decide which few trade-offs and compromises to accept while rejecting all others. Essentialists have what Ernest Hemingway once characterized as a "built-in, shock-proof crap detector," one that is especially reliable when detecting their own.

"There are three deeply entrenched assumptions we must conquer to lived the way of the Essentialist: `I have to,' `It's all important,' and `I can do both.' Like mythological sirens, these assumptions are as dangerous as they are seductive. They draw us in and drown us in shallow waters."

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

o The Cluttered Closet Test (Pages 17-19)
o The Essentialist Mind-Set: A Three-Step Process (20-25)
o Discern the Vital Few from the Trivial Many (60-61)
o How to Create Spaces to Design, Concentrate, and Read (65-71)
o Clarify the Question (80-81)
o A Mind Invited to Play (86-89)
o Protecting the Asset: Ourselves (94-96)
o The 90 Percent or NOTHING Rule (104-107)
o How to Cut Out the Trivial Many (116-117)
o From "Pretty Clear" to "Really Clear": Two Common Patterns (121-124)
o The Power of a Graceful "No" (131-0135)
o The "No" Repertoire (140-143)
o How to Avoid Commitment Traps (148-154)
o EDIT: The Invisible Art (155-162)
o LIMIT: The Freedom of Setting Boundaries (163-167)
o How to Produce More by Eliminating More (188-192)
o FLOW: The Genius of Routine (203-205)
o The Essential Life: Living a Life that Really Matters (236-237)

Mckeon also provides an appendix, Leadership Essentials, during which he suggests and discusses five:

1. Be Ridiculously Selective in Hiring People
2. Go for Extreme Empowerment
3. Communicate the Right Things [values, standards, objectives] to the Right People at the Right Time
4. Check in Often to Ensure Meaningful Progress

Greg Mckeon makes frequent use of terms such as "less," "more," and "better." For example, the essentialist mind-set affirms "Less but better." We know what he means: Less (if any) of what is non-essential but better results. In this context, as he explains, essentialists are trimmers and pruners, eliminating organizational fat while strengthening its bones. That is especially important these days when, on average, less than 30% of those who comprise a U.S. workforce are actively and positively engaged; the other 70+% are either passively engaged ("mailing it in") or actively undermining efforts to achieve the given business goals.

Obviously, no brief commentary can do full justice to the abundance of information, insights, and counsel provided in this volume but I hope that I have at least indicated why I think so highly of it. I encourage those who share my opinion to check out David Shaked's Strength-Based Lean Six Sigma: Building Positive and Engaging Business Improvement, published by Kogan-Page (2013).

Resource Revolution: How to Capture the Biggest Business Opportunity in a Century
Resource Revolution: How to Capture the Biggest Business Opportunity in a Century
Price: CDN$ 6.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to take full advantage of the abundance of unprecedented business opportunities during the new industrial revolution, April 14 2014
As Stefan Heck and Matt Rogers observe in the Introduction to this book, written with Paul Carroll, "Many people, companies, and even nations will try to resist the new industrial revolution. People always resist revolutions. The Luddites tried to kill the first industrial revolution by destroying the steam engines, even though the new machines took Europe out of grinding poverty by delivering productivity that drove unprecedented economic growth. Political gridlock and two world wars tried to kill the second industrial revolution, which eventually defined the dramatic improvements in economic outcomes in the twentieth century."

After years of rigorous and extensive research, Heck and Rogers concluded that the third industrial revolution, now underway, "will dwarf the previous industrial revolutions in terms of both size and speed." They characterize it as a "resource revolution" and wrote this book so they could (a) suggest the nature and extent of unprecedented opportunities this third generation is generating, and (b) explain how and why capturing these opportunities requires a new management style." That, in essence, is what this book is about.

They examine a multi-decade economic transition from one set of primary resources to another as the new revolution unleashes substantial economic growth and productivity improvements, "enabling millions to enter the middle class, and giving birth to new industries and business models." I agree with them that no one can predict how business will look in twenty or thirty years, "any more than Watt could have foreseen how his steam engine would transform the world." However, as countless global corporations have already demonstrated (e.g. Dow, DuPont, GS Caltex, SK Refining, and Walmart), "resources are the right area of focus and that the opportunities are extraordinary."

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

o Accelerated expansion of the middle class (Pages 12-14)
o Wealth creation in industrial revolutions (20-38)
o Elon Musk: The Real Iron Man (69-76)
o Increase Circularity (86-90)
o Increase Virtualization (93-98)
o DIRTT: "seeds of revolution in construction" (101-109)
o System Integration for All, and, Business Models for the Future (137-142)
o Finding the Breakthrough, and, Choosing the Threshold (146-151)
o It Only matters at Massive Scale (165-167)
o Making It Easier for the Customer (172-176)
o The Committed Champion (180-188)
o Becoming a Network Organization (193-195)
o Looking for Talent Far Afield (199-201)
o Developing Talent, and, Freelance Innovation (204-210)
o Revolutionary Possibilities: 12 Candidates (216-222)
o Broader Implications of "the biggest opportunity in a century" (223-228)

I agree with Stefan Heck and Matt Rogers: "Producing a third industrial revolution that focuses on how we use resources will require a rethinking of the way that companies operate, and managers will have to adapt quickly to profit from once-in-a- century opportunities that are in front of us." It is worth noting that zero-waste manufacturing is becoming the norm among major U.S. automakers. "I also agree: "`The challenges we face may be unprecedented, but simply put, any bet that we will succumb to a global economic crisis is a bet against human ingenuity. No such bet has ever paid off."

This is an especially important book because it can be of incalculable value to almost any executive in almost any organization (what its size or nature may be) that will be directly or even indirectly affected by the tumultuous changes that are certain to occur within the global marketplace in months and years to come. Many of these changes will occur faster, in greater number, and with greater impact (for better or worse) than any of us have ever encountered before.

The Innovator's Field Guide: Market Tested Methods and Frameworks to Help You Meet Your Innovation Challenges
The Innovator's Field Guide: Market Tested Methods and Frameworks to Help You Meet Your Innovation Challenges
by Peter Skarzynski
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 26.86
30 used & new from CDN$ 26.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Here’s a “comprehensive, practical how-to guide to address the most pressing innovation challenges in your organization”, April 11 2014
Why did Peter Skarzynski and David Crosswaite write this field guide? Briefly, to help leaders in just about any organization "who seek step-change improvement in their organization's, team's, or individual innovation initiatives. With regard to those initiatives, they reveal themselves to be sorld-class empiricists, determined to understand what, works, what doesn't, and why, then share what they have learned with as many business leaders as possible. My reference to "business leaders" includes [begin italics] anyone [end italics] who can provide effective leadership at any level and in any area of the given organization.

Here are the nine Principles of Innovation (i.e. "why you are doing what you're doing") that Skarzynski and Crosswaite introduce and discuss in detail:

1. Articulate a clear definition of innovation
2. Aim your efforts at the business concept, and focus not just on the "what" but also "who" and "why"
3. Understand that innovation means new learning
4. Earn the right to ideate through insight-driven innovation
5. Focus on strategic innovation to avoid one-off efforts
6. Make the work of innovation not merely the generating of new ideas but an end-to-end process through to successful commercialization
7. Build innovation capability through a learn-by-doing approach
8. Be systematic and systemic in your approach
9. Embrace and employ open innovation.
#Re #9, I highly recommend Henry Chesbrough's classic work, Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology.

Readers will appreciate Skarzynski and Crosswaite's provision, at the beginning of Chapters 2-10, a set of key Qs they will address in the material to follow and then a set of "Key Take-Aways" at the chapter's conclusion. Throughout their lively and eloquent narrative, they explain HOW TO:

o Increase your innovation IQ through insight-driven experimentation
o Enable breakthrough innovation
0 Develop a nascent idea to a business concept
o Expedite fast innovation
o Derive maximum advantage from experimentation and risk-taking

Note: Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz also have much of value to say about this process in Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win.

o Innovate while actively engaged in marketing (i.e. creating or increasing demand)
o Organize for innovation
o Lead innovation
o Get started

I agree with Skarzynski and Crosswaite that innovation is difficult "because organizations are structured and managed to execute their current model, and innovation -- focuses on creating the new one. You seek to create new concepts for the core business, for adjacencies, and for outside the core. There are healthy tensions between a focus on the new and the critically important need to manage and execute today's business. Each is important, and each requires continuous learning."

They alert their reader to six "common pitfalls" and explain why each is erroneous, indeed self-defeating." Here they are, each discussed in depth (Pages 251-252):

Misconception #1: Innovation is about tools and process only.
Reality: It's about new learning. "Tools and process are simply codified and organized scaffolding to help you to get that learning."

#2: Innovation is about technology only.
Reality: It's about the job (e.g. answer a question, solve a problem) the customer hires the technology to do. "

#3: Innovation is about ideas or creativity only.
Reality: "If innovation equals a new idea successfully commercialized, then there is a lot more to innovation than just ideation or creativity." Taking a limited view of what is possible severely limits chances for high-impact innovation.

#4: Commercialization is about execution, not innovation."
Reality: The "we got it" view tends to ignore many other elements of the business model such as pricing, channel, and market support. "You must think through and challenge all elements of the business concept...and thereby widen the innovation aperture."

#5: Innovation can be delegated down.
Reality: Senior-level management must be "actively engaged in creating the points of view on both content (innovations0 and process (capability). When they do that, the process gains traction" and sustains it.

#6: The work of innovation stops at launch.
Reality: The mist innovative companies "make proactive efforts and deploy mechanisms to perpetuate postlaunch learning and iteration to capture 'upside' on opportunities already in market."

As indicated, Peter Skarzynski and David Crosswaite discuss all this in greater detail. I commend them on the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that are provided in this field guide. This material can help leaders in almost any organization -- whatever its size and nature may be -- to meet its innovation challenges. Bravo!

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