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Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas)

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by Eric Metaxas
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.67
37 used & new from CDN$ 12.26

5.0 out of 5 stars "Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine." Dietrich Bonhoeffer,, Oct. 3 2014
This review is from: Bonhoeffer (Paperback)
What more remains to be said about Dietrich Bonhoeffer? More to the point, what can I contribute to what so many others have already said about him and this amazing book? Here are a few brief comments:

1. This is among the quite rare definitive biographies I have read (608 pages in length) to which there seems to be little (if anything) to add but, at the same time, from which there is little (if anything) to delete. The same can be said of Boswell's The Life of Samuel Johnson and few others.

2. With all due respect to his martyrdom, Bonhoeffer was not a saint. Rather, as he would repeatedly insist, he was an imperfect human being who - during the last years of his life - struggled to be worthy of his faith that he viewed as a gift of holy grace,

3. He had no wish to die but, as H. Fischer-Hullstrung (Flossenburg concentration camp's doctor) later remembered, he seems to have embraced what he viewed - with serene gratitude - an opportunity to die for a faith for which he so fully lived.

4. Eric Metaxas' juxtaposition of Bonheoffer with Adolph Hitler invests this biography with tension and focus in ways and to an extent I have seldom encountered in a work of non-fiction. I am immediately reminded of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.

5. As Bonhoeffer is portrayed in this book, he is the polar opposite of those for whom Dante reserved the last and worst ring in hell: people who, in a moral crisis, preserve their neutrality. He was compelled to "let his light so shine before men...." Of course, Hitler wanted him "destroyed."

I have accumulated a number of quotations and now share a few:

"Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession....Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."

"Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility."

"To endure the cross is not tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ."

"God's truth judges created things out of love, and Satan's truth judges them out of envy and hatred."

"The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children."

"A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol"

"We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer."

"When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh."

"Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are."

"Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross; he waited until one of them turned to him."

In the Prologue, Eric Metaxas observes, "The man who died was engaged to be married. He was a pastor and theologian. And he was executed for his role in the plot to assassinate Hitler. This is his story." I congratulate Metaxas for creating what is certain to remain the definitive account of that "story."

* * *

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a theologian, martyr, a spiritual writer, a musician, a pastor, and an author of poetry and fiction. The integrity of his Christian faith and life, and the international appeal of his writings, have received broad recognition and admiration, all of which has led to a consensus that he is one of the theologians of his time whose theological reflections might lead future generations of Christians into creating a new more spiritual and responsible millennium. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian famous for his stand against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. His beliefs and convictions ultimately cost him his life in a Nazi concentration camp. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the most famous theologians and martyrs of the 20th century. To learn more about him, please visit

Managing Organizational Change: A Practical Toolkit for Leaders
Managing Organizational Change: A Practical Toolkit for Leaders
by Helen Campbell
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 26.57
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5.0 out of 5 stars How to lead effective organizational change: Concise, substantial, practical, and do-able discussions and recommendations, Oct. 1 2014
Most organizational change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original expectations and reasons vary, of course, from one organization to the next. More often than not, however, the major cause is cultural in nature, the result of what James O'Toole so aptly characterizes as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom." What we have in this volume are the information, insights, and wisdom that Helen Campbell has accumulated during several decades of real-world experience with all many of organizations that struggled to achieve and then manage change.

She immediately establishes a direct rapport with her reader, expressing her hope that each reader will use the information to learn from her as well as from those with whom she has been associated; educate those in their own organization to understand the nature and extent of the organizational changes that are needed; assess performance to expedite the process; recognize potential risks and avoid them; manage the ones that cannot be anticipated; celebrate successes and those who were instrumental in achieving them; meanwhile, keep senior management of informed of verifiable progress to date; and develop integrated frameworks and methodologies that can help to add value throughout the given enterprise.

As I worked my way through Chapter 2 in which Campbell introduces her six-step "cycle of change" (i.e. Direct, Drive, Deliver, Prepare, Propagate, and Profit), I was reminded of a similar approach that John Kotter recommends in his classic, Leading Change (1996), and in later works discusses in greater depth, notably in A Sense of Urgency (2008) and XLR8 (2014). Basically, Kotter suggests an eight-step process:

Step 1: Establishing a Sense of Urgency
Step 2: Creating the Guiding Coalition
Step 3: Developing a Change Vision
Step 4: Communicating the Vision for Buy-in
Step 5: Empowering Broad-based Action
Step 6: Generating Short-term Wins
Step 7: Never Letting Up
Step 8: Incorporating Changes into the Culture

What was true more than 2,000 years ago -- when Heraclitus suggested that change is the only constant -- is even truer today, especially in today's global marketplace where "business as usual" is constant change. New initiatives, project-based working, technology improvements, staying ahead of the competition - these forces and the pressure they generate come together to drive ongoing changes to the way we work.

Of course, Campbell fully understands all this. Whatever the process, however many steps it involves, the fact remains that changes will occur, and probably do so faster and in greater number than ever before. Neither organizations nor those who lead them can control everything that happens but it is possible (a) to anticipate and then prepare for probabilities and (b) to determine how to respond to what does happen.

These are among the subjects and issues of greatest interest to me:

o External and internal cultural forces
o Culture traps and how to avoid them
o Developing and sustaining a capacity to change
o Forging a commitment to change (why Kotter begins his cycle with establishing a sense of urgency)
o Commitment traps and how to avoid them
o The Six-Step Process
o Twelve appendices that (all by themselves) are worth far more than the cost of the book.

Just as in residential real estate, for every house there is a buyer, it is also true of books about organizational change: for every one of them there is a reader who will gain substantial benefit from the material provided. This really is a "practical toolkit" with operations manual included. I presume to suggest that those who read have a lined notebook near at hand. Helen Campbell includes space to complete several exercises but, given the importance of this subject, it also makes sense to highlight key passages and record comments, questions, and what I call "boodles," business doodles that consist of annotated (albeit primitive) illustrations of key points and, especially, key relationships and correlations.

Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast: A Blueprint for Transformation from the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation: A Blueprint for Transformation from the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation
Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast: A Blueprint for Transformation from the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation: A Blueprint for Transformation from the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation
Price: CDN$ 17.02

5.0 out of 5 stars How almost any organization can transform itself with high-impact innovation, Sept. 30 2014
The success or failure of innovative medicine can be -- literally -- a matter of life and death. Hence the importance of establishing and then constantly strengthening a culture such as the one for which the Mayo Clinic has been renowned for decades. In this book, Nicholas LaRusso, Barbara Spurrier, and Gianrico Farrugia focus on the Mayo Clinic's Center for Innovation (CFI). For them, and for everyone at the CFI, "care" refers both to an attitude and to behavior that manifests that attitude. LaRusso is the founding medical director at the CFI and Farrugia is its founding associate director; both are physicians. Spurrier is CFI's founding and current administrative director.

As they explain, "Transforming to a-new-and improved 21st century model of care experience is what we're all about at CFI. We don't seek new miracle clinical cures for medical ailments. That is also essential, but there are other parts of the organization working on those -- including hundreds of physicians and medical researchers within the Mayo Clinic. Instead, we strive to integrate design, knowledge, and technology to deliver a better experience for the patient...It's all part of what we, at the Center for Innovation, call Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast. We're so dedicated to that principle that we trademarked the phrase."

They wrote this book for senior-level executives and management teams both within and outside the health care industry, in much the same way Danny Meyer wrote Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business for senior-level executives and management teams both within and outside the restaurant industry. "It's for those working in complex organizations that can't quite seem to bring transformative innovations to market. It's for those trying to get their complex organization to pursue innovation in a methodical way, with some structure and discipline but not with so much that transformative innovations become stifled or lose impact."

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

Mayo Clinic: The Snapshot (Pages 7-13)
o Moving into the 21st Century, and, Innovating the Mayo Clinic Way: Developing Your Own Model of Care (23-26)

Very Important Point: The term "care" in this context is comparable with "hospitality" insofar as client/customer/consumer/patient service is concerned. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of making them feel secure, welcome, appreciated, etc.

o At the Center of the Storm: Health Care Costs (31-36)
o Clearing the Way for Big Change, and, A Pattern of Resistance: Why Large, Complex Organizations Can't Innovate (40-47)
o A Short History of Mayo Clinic's CFI (55-61)
o The CFI Way: Thing Big, Start Small, and Move Fast (63-85)
o The Fusion Innovation Model (89-97)
o What Is Design Thinking? (97-99)
o Acquiring a Deep Understanding of Customers (104-108)
o The Power of Latent Thinking (108-110)
o Keep It Moving Forward, Please: Project Management (116-124)
o CFI on the Internet (140-143)
o The Innovation Accelerator Platform (149-156)
o Innovation the Mayo Clinic Way: Stepping on the Innovation Accelerator (170-171)
o Framing the Problem, and, Creating a Research Path (206-208)
o An Experience in Innovation (231-242)

I am deeply grateful to Nicholas LaRusso, Barbara Spurrier, and Gianrico Farrugia for the abundance of information, insights, and counsel they provide in this book. There are valuable lessons to be learned by leaders in just about any organization, what ever its size and nature may be. The material provides a blueprint -- rather than a prescription -- by which to establish and then develop a series of innovation initiatives that ensure continuous improvement of the organization, one with a workplace culture within which personal growth as well as professional development are most likely to thrive.

Those who sharer my high regard for this book are urged to check out Danny Meyer's aforementioned Setting the Table as well as three others:

Prescription for Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Creating a World Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System
Joseph Michelli

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
Atul Gawande

The Cleveland Clinic Way: Lessons in Excellence from One of the World's Leading Health Care Organizations
Toby Cosgrove

Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation
Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation
Price: CDN$ 14.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable lessons to be learned from Digital Masters about how to use technology to achieve business transformation, Sept. 26 2014
Why did George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee write this book? They conducted rigorous and extensive research for three years in a collaborative effort to determine how firms around the world and in many different industries work with digital technologies. "We collected data and interviewed people at hundreds of companies. We talked with executives and examined the companies' performance. We studied both how the companies approach all things digital and the results of their efforts." They wrote this book to share everything they learned that could be of substantial value to any organization (whatever its size and nature may be) that currently faces the challenges of turning technology into business transformation.

"Our most fundamental conclusion is that the Digital Masters -- companies that use digital technologies to drive significantly higher levels of profit, productivity, and performance -- do exist, but they're rare." Digital mastery can be achieved in one or more forms of business model reinvention driven by digital technology. For example, reinventing industries, substituting better products or services, creating new digital businesses, reconfiguring value delivery models, and rethinking value propositions. There are indeed valuable lessons to be learned from the ones discussed in this book -- including Asian Paints, Burberry, Caesar’s Entertainment, Nike, Procter & Gamble, and Starbucks -- but it would be a fool's errand to cherry-pick from among their initiatives and then attempt to apply all of it to the circumstances of the given business situation.

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

o Four Levels of Digital Mastery (Pages 15-17)
o What Do Digital Masters Do Differently? (33-34)
o Putting Customer Data at the Heart of the Experience (39-42ast (54-69)
o Incumbents Beware 75-77)
o Reinventing Industries (79-83)
o Reconfiguring Value Delivery Models (87-90)
o Rethinking Value Propositions (90-92)
o What Do Digital Visions Look Like? 101-106)
o How Can You Frame a Transformative Digital Vision? (106-113)
o All Hands to the Pump (122-131)
o Why Digital Governance Is Needed, and, Key Mechanisms for Digital Governance (138-147)
o The Digital Platform as a Leadership Challenge (165-170)

Then in Part III, Westerman, Bonnet, and McAfee provide "A Leader's Playbook for Digital Transformation" (Chapters 9-12) in which they explain how to (a) frame the digital challenge; (b) focus investment of resources; (c) mobilize the organization at all levels and in all areas, and finally (d) sustain the digital transformation which, keep in mind, is an on-going process, not an ultimate destination.

I commend George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee on the abundance of in formation, insights, and counsel that they provide. Their objective is to help prepare as many executives as possible to become effective leaders in what has become the Digital Age; more specifically, to prepare them to help their organization become and then remain a Digital Master. That is, one that knows where and how to invest in the digital opportunities. "The size of the investment is not as important as the reason -- and the impact. Digital Masters see technology as a way to change the way they do business -- their customer engagements, internal operations, and even business models."

They also point out that, for Digital Masters, committed leadership is more than just a phrase buzzing around the C-suite. "It is the lever that turns technology into transformation. Despite the advice of many gurus to 'let a thousand flowers bloom' in your company, we saw no examples of successful transformation happening bottom-up. Instead, executives in every Digital Master steered the transformation through strong top-down leadership; setting direction, building momentum, and ensuring that the company follows through."

I presume to suggest that those who are about to read this book begin with "Digital Mastery Self-Assessment" (pages 251-254) and perhaps one or more of the other assessments that appear earlier on Pages 227, 236, 239, and 242. There are no "right" or "wrong" answers but there can be answers that are dishonest, usually the result of denial or delusion. Complete the exercise(s) and then proceed to the Introduction and begin what I hope is a journey of self-discovery. Also, one that provides the aforementioned preparation for turning technology into business transformation. After reading the book, re-visit the responses to the self-assessment(s). The value of what you can learn from those interactive exercises will probably be far greater than the cost of this brilliant book.

Data Science for Business: What you need to know about data mining and data-analytic thinking
Data Science for Business: What you need to know about data mining and data-analytic thinking
by Foster Provost
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 41.99
36 used & new from CDN$ 28.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Torture the data enough and it will confess to anything." Ronald Coase, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics, Sept. 26 2014
As Foster Provost and Tom Fawcett explain in the Preface, they examine concepts that fall within one of three types:

"1. Concepts about how data science fits into the organization and the competitive landscape, including ways to attract, structure, and nurture data science teams; ways for think about how data science leads to competitive advantage; and tactical concepts for doing well with data science projects.

2. General ways of thinking data, analytically. These help in identifying appropriate data and consider appropriate methods. The concepts include the [begin italics] data mining process [end italics] as well as the collection of different [begin italics] high-level data mining tasks. [end italics]

3. General concepts for actually extracting knowledge from data, which undergird the vast array of data science tasks and their algorithms."

There you have the nature and extent of the WHAT on which the information, insights, and counsel focus. Provost and Fawcett devote most of their attention to explaining HOW to apply these concepts to achieve high-impact data mining driven by data-analytic thinking. I share their belief "that explaining data science around such fundamental concepts not only aids the reader, it also facilitates communication between and among business stakeholders and data scientists. It provides a shared vocabulary and enables both parties [data scientists and non-data scientists such as I] to understand each other better. The shared concepts lead to deeper discussions that may uncover critical issues otherwise missed."
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Provost and Fawcett's coverage.

o From Big Data 1.0 to Big Data 2.0 (Pages 9-13)
o From Business Problems to Data Mining Tasks(19-23)
o The Data Mining Process. (26-34)
o Other Analytics Techniques and Technologies (Pages 35-41 and 187-208)
o Selecting Informative Attributes (49-56)
o Supervised Segmentation with Tree-Structured Models (62-67)
o Class Probability Estimation and Logistic "Regression" (97-100)
o Overfitting (113-119)
Note: This is a tendency to tailor models to the training data.
o Correlation of Similarity and Distance (142-144)
o Some Important Technical Details Relating to Similarities and Neighbors (157-161)
o Stepping Back: Solving a Business Problem Versus Data Exploration (183-185)
o A Key Analytical Framework: Expected Value (194-204)
o A Model of Evidence Lift" (244-246)
o Decision Analytic Thinking II: Toward Analytic Engineering (279-289)
o Co-occurrences and Associations: Finding Items That Go Together 292-298)
o Bias, Variance, and Ensemble Methods 308-311)
o Sustaining Competitive Advantage with Data Science (318-323)

As I worked my way through the book a second time, in preparation to compose this review, I was again reminded of comments by Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google: "From the dawn of civilization until 2003, mankind generated five exabytes of data. Now we produce five exabytes every two days...and the pace is accelerating." Correspondingly, the challenges that this process of data accumulation creates will become even greater. Provost and Fawcett wrote this book for those who must manage this process but also to assist the efforts of instructors who are now preparing them to do so.

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens
How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens
by Benedict Carey
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.06
36 used & new from CDN$ 16.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to take full advantage of a host of techniques that deepen learning that remain largely unknown outside scientific circles, Sept. 25 2014
As Benedict Carey explains, "this book is not about some golden future. The persistent, annoying, amusing, ear-scratching present is the space we want to occupy. The tools in this book are solid, they work in real time, and using them will bring you more in tune with the beautiful, if eccentric, learning machine that is your brain."

Ironically, perhaps paradoxically, Carey invites his readers to use their minds to think about their minds in new ways. He examines an emerging theory that accounts for new ideas about when, where, and why learning happens: The New Theory of Disuse. "It's an overhaul, recasting forgetting as the best friend of learning, rather than its rival."

There really is a "science of learning" and it requires the same rigor and focus that the study of physics or calculus does. His research and analysis of others' research invalidate some assumptions about learning, validate others. When asked, "How much does quizzing oneself like with flashcards help?" here is Carey's response:

"A lot, actually. Self-testing is one of the strongest study techniques there is. Old-fashioned flashcards work fine; so does a friend, work colleague, or classmate putting you through your paces. The best self-quizzers do two things: They force you to [begin italics] chose [end italics] the right answer from several possibilities; and they give you immediate feedback, right or wrong. As laid out in Chapter 5, self-examination improves retention and comprehension for more than an equal amount of review timer. It can take many forms as well. Reciting a passage from memory, either in front of a colleague or a mirror, is a form of testing. So is explaining it to yourself while pacing the kitchen, or to a work colleague or friend over lunch. As teachers often say, 'You don't fully understand a topic until you have to teach it.' Exactly right."

In a similar vein, Albert Einstein once suggested to a graduate student at Princeton, "If you can't explain a great idea to a six year-old, you really don't understand it."

Of even more interest and value to me is his repudiation of cramming. Is it a bad idea? "Not always. Cramming works fine as a last resort, a way to ramp up fast for an exam if you're behind and have no choice. The downside is that, after the test, you won't remember a whole lot of what you `learned' - if you remember any at all. The reason is that the brain can sharpen a memory only after some forgetting has occurred...Spaced rehearsal or study or self-examination are far more effective ways to prepare. You'll remember the material longer and be able to carry it into the next course or semester easily. Studies find that people remember up to twice as much material that they rehearsed in spaced or tested sessions than during cramming. If you must cram, do so in courses that are not central to your main area of focus."

These are among the dozens of other subjects and issues that also caught my eye:

o Cognitive science and physiology of the brain: Aids for study (xi-xvi)
o Retrieval of memory (21-41, 59-79, 82-97, and 205-209)
o Philip Boswood Ballard (Pages 29-35 and 205-206)
o Elizabeth Ligon Bjork and Robert Bjork (35-40, 93-100, 153-158, and 160-163)
o Context for memory, environment for learning (47-64)
o Four Bahrick Study (69-74)
o Testing as self-examination (76-79)
o Preparation in learning (92-103)
o Carey's experiences in learning: Incubation or percolation, problem solving (107-130 and 131-148)
o Obstacles to learning (124-126, 145-156, and 167-168)
o Psychology of learning (134-1e39)
o Learning Cognition: Discrimination (142-146, 159-163, and 175-194)
o Interleaving (163-171)
o The brain during sleep (195-212)
o Learning: Essential Questions (223-238)

Here's my take on Carey's book:

1. People must be self-motivated to learn.
2. They learn more when focused on whatever interests them.
3. Achieving that objective is the reward they value most.
4. People learn more when they learn with others, in collaboration.
5. The more people explain something to others, the better they will understand it.

Ben Carey concludes his book with a Q&A section, responding to many of the questions you and others may have. (I had them and others before I began to read it.) Here is one question of special interest to me: "Is there any effective strategy for improving performance on longer-term creative projects?" That is an excellent question and his answer to it again stresses the importance spacing one's efforts. "Simply put: Start [longer-term creative projects] as early as possible, and give yourself permission to walk away. Deliberate interruption is not the same as quitting. On the contrary, stopping work on a big, complicated presentation, term paper or composition activates [or re-activates] the project in your mind, and you'll begin to see and hear all sorts of things in your daily life that are relevant. You'll also be more tuned into what you think about those random, incoming clues. This is all fodder for your project -- it's interruption working in your favor [rather than as a distraction] -- though you do need to return to the desk or drafting table before too long."

Those who purchase this book expecting Carey to reveal a "secret sauce," secrets, short cuts, etc. to accelerate their learning process will be very disappointed. This is not a book for intellectual dilettantes. There really is a "science of learning" and it requires the same rigor and focus that the study of physics or calculus does. The best works of non-fiction offer a journey of personal journey. To those who are about to read this brilliant book, I offer a heartfelt "Bon voyage!"

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight In The Age Of Information Overload
The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight In The Age Of Information Overload
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Price: CDN$ 15.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to "recapture a sense of order and thereby regain the hours of time wasted by a disorganized mind", Sept. 23 2014
Clutter can fill up our minds the same way it fills up closets, drawers, cabinets, attics, and basements of residences. The problem is even more serious in offices, given all the places in which clutter can accumulate. Climate-controlled storage has become a multi-billion dollar business in the United States precisely because so many people have so much "stuff" that there is insufficient room for it anywhere else.

Don't blame the human mind. It is what the brain does and is remarkably well-organized but our use of it is certainly not. Pretend for a moment that you are behind the wheel of a Ferrari F12berlinetta, a vehicle that combines superior design and performance. Start the engine and begin to drive it. Oh, I forgot to mention, you don't know how to use the accelerator, brakes, and steering wheel. The challenge is to understand what this magnificent vehicle can do and then master the skills necessary to take full advantage of those capabilities. I realize that citing the hypothetical situation of driving a Ferrari F12berlinetta without any control of its speed or direction is a bit of a stretch but the fact remains that many human beings feel overwhelmed by the velocity and complexity of their lives. Cluttered thinking results in a cluttered life.

Daniel Levitin wrote this book to help as many people as possible to meet this challenge, to increase their understanding of (a) the human mind and (b) how effective use of it can help them "recapture a sense of order and thereby regain the hours of time wasted by a disorganized use of mind." He notes two of the most compelling properties of the human brain and its design: "richness and associative access. Richness refers to the theory that a large number of things you're ever thought of or experienced are still in there, somewhere. Associative access means that your thoughts can be accessed in a number of different ways by semantic or perceptual associations." These are but two of countless functions and capabilities of the human mind. "The cognitive neuroscience of memory and attention -- our improved understanding of the brain, its evolution, and limitations -- can help us to better cope with a world when more and more of us feel we're running fast just to stand still."

The best business books tend to be research-driven and that is certainly true of this one. Daniel Levitin provides 83 pages of annotated "Notes" (Pages 397-481), a clear indication that the abundance of information and insights he provides has a rock-solid foundation of authoritative sources.

These are among the dozens of passages of special interest to me, also listed so as to indicate the scope of Levitin's coverage:

o The Inside History of Cognitive Overload (Pages 3-13)
o Information Overload, Then and Now (13-32)

Note: How serious has the problem become? According to Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, "From the dawn of civilization until 2003, humankind generated five exabytes of data. Now we produce five exabytes [begin italics] every two days [end italics]...and the pace is rapidly accelerating."

o How Attention and Memory Work (37-45)
o The Neurochemistry of Work (45-48)
o Where Memory Comes From (48-54)
o Where Things Can Start to Get Better (77-87)
o Home Is Where I Want to Be (106-112)
o How Humans Connect Now (113-120)
o Aren't Modern Social Relations Too Complex to Organize? (120-135)
o When We Procrastinate (195-201)
o Creative Time (201-215)
o Thinking Straight About Probabilities (220-230)
o How We Create Value (268-276)
o The Future of the Organized Mind (329-337)
o Where You Get Your Information (365-369)
o Browsing and Serendipity (376-383)

Levitin acknowledges, "There is no one system that will work for everyone -- we are each unique -- but in [this book] there are general principles that anyone can apply [begin italics] in their own way [end italics] to recapture a sense of order and to regain the hours of lost time spent trying to overcome the disorganized mind...Getting organized can bring us all to the next level in our lives. It's the human condition to fall prey to old habits. We must consciously look at areas of our lives that need cleaning up, and then methodically and proactively do so. And then keep doing it...The key to change is having faith that when we get rid of the old, something or someone even more magnificent will take its place."

Long ago, I began to realize that our lives are the results of the decisions we make, for better or worse. Also, that making no decision is itself a decision, usually with consequences and sometimes with serious consequences. I am deeply grateful to Daniel Levitin for all that I have learned from this book, especially during a second reading when preparing to compose this brief commentary. It seems ironic -- and is perhaps a paradox -- that we need the human mind to enrich our understanding of the human mind. The material in this book can help anyone to make better decisions about what's important and what isn't so that better decisions can be made about what to keep and what to eliminate.

It really is true: Cluttered thinking results in a cluttered life. The choice is ours.

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking)
Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking)
by Christian Rudder
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.77

5.0 out of 5 stars Noah had his flood and it eventually ended. Now we have ours and it will never end., Sept. 22 2014
To what does the title of this book refer? According to Christian Rudder, "Kataklysmos is the Greek word for the Old Testament Flood; that's how the word `cataclysm' came to English. The allusion has dual resonance: there is, of course, the data as unprecedented deluge. What's being collected today is so deep it borders on bottomless; it's easily forty days and forty nights of downpour to that old handful of rain. But there'd also the hope of a world transformed -- of both yesterday's stunted understanding and today's limited vision gone with the flood."

What his book about? "This book is a series of vignettes, tiny windows looking in on our lives -- w3hat brings us together, what pulls us apart, what makes us who we are. As the data keeps coming, the windows will get bigger, but there's plenty to see right now., and the first glimpse is always the most thrilling. So to the sills. I'll boost you up." Indeed he does.

In this context, I am reminded of Plato's "Allegory of the Cave," included in his classic work, The Republic (Book VII, 514a- 521d). The allegory focuses on a group of people who are chained to a wall in a cave, and have been prisoners all of their lives. They see shadows on the wall cast by figures between them and the source of light behind the figures, outside the cave. (Keep in mind, this is an allegory.) Like Plato, Rudder focuses on the human condition rather than on any specific members of it, such as Noah, and he asks the same questions such as "What is real?" That is a question constantly asked by those who are actively involved with social media, especially OkCupid (of which Rudder is a co-founder) and other matchmaking agencies.

Consider this passage in Chapter 8: "Observed behavioral data is very useful, as we've already seen. But there are some things -- thoughts, beliefs -- that don't entail an explicit action. And often the ugliest, most divisive, attitudes remain behind a veil of ego and cultural norms that is almost impossible to draw back, at least through direct questioning. It's social science's curse -- what you most want to get is what your subjects are most eager to hide. This tendency is called [begin italics] social disability bias [end italics], and it's well-documented: the world over, respondents answer questions in ways that make them look good."

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

o Websites: A briefing on common realities (9-24)
o Human story (reactions on Internet) behind data, Internet usage in U.S. (11-20)
o Ratings (33-41)
o Language on Twitter (59-63, 212-213, and 256-257)
o Embeddedness (77-79)
o Online conversation (86-92)
o Analysis of data, quantitative analysis of racial data on OkCupid (99-113)
o African Americans as Political Candidates, Google search, politics and racism (127-135)
o Negativity on Internet (139-149)
o (Ethnic preferences for words (158-171)
o Homosexuality, Nate Silver (175-187)
o Racial data on OkCupid (197-199 and 2342-243)
o Personal Brands (209-219)
o Collection of data, government surveillance of data (226-236)

Technology really is our new mythos and will continue to be, at least for a while. It is important to remember, however, that the visionary founders of dataclysmic companies - Hewlett Packard, Intel, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Alibaba - companies that continue to dominate the global marketplace, should not be viewed as "tech gods" or "titans." I agree with Christian Rudder: "We should all do well to remember this. All are flawed, and mortal, and we all walk under the same dark sky. We brought on the flood -- will it drown us or lift us up? My hope for myself, and for others like me, is to make something good and real and human out of the data. And while we do, whenever the technology and the devices and algorithms seem just too epic, we must all recall Tennyson's aging Ulysses and resolve to search for [begin italics] our [end italics] truth in a slightly different way. To strive, to seek, to find, but then, always to yield."

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that Rudder provides but I hope that I have at least indicated why I think so highly of his book. How serious are the nature and extent of the dataclysm? According to Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, "From the dawn of civilization until 2003, humankind generated five exabytes of data. Now we produce five exabytes [begin italics] every two days [end italics]...and the pace is rapidly accelerating."

New technologies -- especially if they are disruptive technologies -- can enable us to process data in increasingly greater quantities, data that can help us to make decisions but only we can make decisions that are, hopefully, in the best interests of the human race. Decisions to help achieve a "world transformed" to which Christian Rudder referred. That is indeed a great challenge, to be sure, but also a glorious opportunity. Noah dealt with his flood and now we must deal with ours. Are we up to it? I agree with Rudder: "I like our odds."

Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It
Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It
by Ian Leslie
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.85

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." Albert Einstein, Sept. 21 2014
Strengthening observational skills is a worthy objective. However, if a person has little (if any) curiosity driven by a desire to learn, to understand, what's the point? Also, someone with little (if any) curiosity probably has no interest in that fact.

It is no coincidence that companies that are annually ranked among those that are most innovative are also the most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry. What they also have in common is a culture within which anomalies are highly valued. This is what Isaac Asimov has in mind when observing, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but `That's funny....'" Now more than at any prior time that I can remember, all organizations (whatever their size and nature may be) need both problem-finders and problem-solvers at all levels and in all areas of operation in the given enterprise.

As Ian Leslie explains, "A society that values order above all else will seek to suppress curiosity. But a society that believes in progress, innovation, and creativity will cultivate it, recognizing that the inquiring minds of its people constitute its most valuable asset." He goes on to point out, "During the Renaissance and Reformation, European societies started to see that their future lay with the curious and encouraged probing questions rather than stamping on them. The result was the biggest explosion of new ideas and scientific advances in history." Moreover, "The great unlocking of curiosity translated into a cascade of prosperity for the nations that precipitated it. Today, we cannot know for sure if we are in the middle of this golden period or at the end of it. But we are, at the very least, in a lull." Part of the current, unresolved situation is the fact that the rewards of curiosity have never been higher but our ideas about how curiosity works are muddled and misguided.

That is among the reasons -- and probably the primary reason -- why Leslie wrote this book: to share what he has learned about curiosity so that as many other people as possible can, as Charles Eames described it, "reassess their relationship with what Aristotle called 'the desire to know' -- to [begin italics] choose [end italics] curiosity."

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest to me, list also to indicate the scope of Leslie's coverage:

o Dangers of Diversive Curiosity (11-12)
o Cognitive approach to curiosity (33-34)
o Stories and storylines (43-45, 47-452, and 151-152)
o Puzzles versus mysteries (52-53)
o Education: Facts and creativity, self-organized learning, and thinking skills versus knowledge (105-123)
o Education: Attitudes toward Curiosity (108-198 and 131-132)
o Memory (118-123)
o Epistemic Curiosity: Caring about information gaps, success and knowledge, and progressive education versus fact-based learning (123-132)
o Chess (129-131)
o Unconscious at work (145-148)
o Education: Specializing and quantitative expertise in different fields/Foxhogs/Charlie Munger (152-155)
o The Big Why (156-158 and 162-163)
o Benjamin Franklin (163-167)
o Thinkerers: Symbolic analysts (167-170)
o Transformative power of attention (172-173)
o Epistemic and empathic curiosity (187-188)

Here are Ian Leslie's concluding remarks: "Epistemic curiosity can be tough to justify in the moment. It is hard work, it diverts us from our tasks and goals, and we never quite know where it will take us. But we have a choice. We can decide to explore the worlds of knowledge that present themselves to us. Or, we can turn our face from the beauty and the mystery and make for the next appointment." I urge all who read this brilliant book to embrace and cherish what he characterizes as a "sublimely lucky break."

Once again I am reminded of Tennyson's Ulysses who challenges his crew to join him once again for new adventures: "To strive, to seek, to find...and not to yield." In business, there is an ever-increasing need for people with a great "need for cognition," the scientific measure of intellectual curiosity. In parenting, there are countless opportunities to serve as a role model for learning within and beyond the classroom, for the sole purpose of learning, rather than for grades, recognition, and rewards. In technology, various digital devices almost instantaneously connect questions with content that provides answers and yet, deeper inquiry is a process rather than a destination. And in education, children need order and structure in order to explore subjects -- previously unknown to them -- that arouse their curiosity but they also need caring and capable guidance from their instructors to nourish that curiosity.

For many people, this may well prove to be one of the most important books they've read in recent years...if not ever. Yes, the information, insights, and counsel it provides are that valuable.

The Innovator's Method: Bringing the Lean Start-up into Your Organization
The Innovator's Method: Bringing the Lean Start-up into Your Organization
Price: CDN$ 14.29

5.0 out of 5 stars How to use the right tools to test, validate, and commercialize new ideas, Sept. 20 2014
According to Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer, the innovator’s method is a process “by which successful innovators manage the uncertainty of innovation – a process to test and validate a creative insight before wasting resources building and launching a product customers don’t actually want. We’ve found that this method is widely used by the most successful innovators in start-ups as well as established companies.” Moreover, “Increasingly evidence suggests that our familiar management techniques work poorly when applied to the context of uncertainty…for nailing it – our term for deeply understanding the uncertainty and resolving it well.”

Through a process of trial-and-error, initiatives in innovation (whatever their nature and circumstances may be) leave no doubt that validation or invalidation requires a new set of management principles. This book is best viewed as an operations manual to accompany the tools needed to test, validate, and commercialize new ideas. Furr and Dyer also have much of value to say about how to generate those ideas. My own opinion is that innovators today are comparable with medieval alchemists who attempt to convert raw materials into precious metals. Then and now, a crucible is essential and the process Furr and Dyer recommend serves that function.

These are among the dozens of passages of special interest to me:

o Uncertainty (15-23)
o Minimum "awesome" products (33-35 and 111-137)
o Management training and innovation (43-47)
o Building broad and deep expertise (54-58)
o Insights/Hindustan Unilever (67-84)
o Job-to-be-done/customer problems/"five whys" questioning process (85-110)
o Generating solutions/solutions storming (111-116)
o Kinds of prototypes/prototyping at Google (118-132)
o Key components in business models (143-163)
o Peter Thiel (167-169 and 174-175)
o Transition from innovation to execution (187-189)
o Adoption lifecycle and innovation/communication strategies (193-200)
o Applying innovator's method in teams (213-216)
o Disruptive and incremental innovation (221-228)
o Results of innovator's method at Amazon (239-240)

Here are Furr and Dyer’s concluding remarks: "Whether you're a leader, a manager, an entrepreneur, or an individual contributor, we know you can apply this method to resolve uncertainty, wherever you face it, whether in internal processes or external innovations, at lower cost and with greater success than ever before. The innovator's method will help you creatively solve problems that you face in both your professional and personal life. Most of all, you can use these tools to learn more quickly than others -- and in this era of uncertainty, speed of learning is the new competitive is the new competitive advantage. We look forward to seeing you use these tools to cross each new finish line first, wherever that may be."

For thousands of years, humans have struggled to fill a need with something that is new or better than what they have. It could be a device like a stirrup or a process like conversion of steam into a source of power. With all due respect to the traditional trial and error process, the fact remains that innovators today need a better method by which to test, evaluate, and commercialize those new ideas that are validated. This process must be much faster and more reliable. There can be no guarantees, of course. No method is infallible unless executed by perfect people.

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the wealth of information, insights, and counsel provided by Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer’s in this book but I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of it. Their massive research and rigorous analysis of what reveals are the focus of this book: In terms of testing, validating, and commercializing new ideas, what works, what doesn’t…and why.

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