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Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win
Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win
by Ryan Babineaux
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.27
40 used & new from CDN$ 7.92

5.0 out of 5 stars The power of strategic, enlightened failures from which to learn valuable lessons fast, March 26 2014
The word "failure" is often carelessly used and so I begin with my own opinion that -- with rare exception -- a failure is a consequence from which nothing of value is learned. This seems to have been what Thomas Edison had in mind when correcting a colleague who deemed an experiment deemed a "failure." It was, in fact, a valuable learning lesson, one that increased their knowledge of what doesn't work. In this context, I am again reminded of a passage in Paul Schoemaker's latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: "The key question companies need to address is not `[begin italics] Should [end italics] we make mistakes?' but rather `[begin italics] Which [end italics] mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?'"

This is what Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz seem to have in mind when observing, "People who are happy and successful expend less time planning and more time acting. They get out into the world and try new things, make mistakes, and in doing so, benefit from unexpected experiences and opportunities" that they would not otherwise have. The key is to learn how to "make small changes to what they [begin italics] do [end italics]...to break free from habitual behaviors and initiate new adventures, act boldly with minimal preparation, and leverage their] strengths for rapid change." Babineux and Krumboltz agree with Helen Keller, as do I: "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." That said, neither she nor they recommend placing one's self in harm's way by taking foolish, impulsive risks. Be proactive, yes, but focus on opportunities that require "smart action."

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

o Focus on Opportunities, Not Problems (Pages 3-5)
o A Long Bike Ride Leads to a Great Idea, and, The Joyful Tipping Point (9-13)
o Don't Let a Day Pass Without Having Fun (14-18)
o Mapping Joy (19-21)
o Fail Fast to Learn Fast (27-31)
o Be a Beginner, Not an Expert (31-34)
o Failure Is What You [Do or Don't] Make of It (37-38)
o Act on Your Curiosity (45-49)
o Five Keys to Curiosity (49-50)
o Test Your Assumptions (60-67)
o Discover Your Success (72-75)
o Bigger Isn't Always Better (80-85)
o The Power of Small Wins (85-90)
Note: Peter Sims also has a great deal of value to say about this in his book, Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries
o Build on Your Strengths (92-94)
o See the World Like an Anthropologist, and Be Inquisitive (101-110)
o Too Much Thinking Can Stop You in Your Tracks (122-126)
o Overcome Procrastination (155-160)
o Ten Ways to Diversify Social Relationships (171-177)
o Tips for Introverts (177-179)

I commend Babineaux and Krumboltz on their skillful use of several reader-friendly devices that include boxed mini-commentaries that are inserted throughout their lively and eloquent narrative; dozens of relevant quotations (e.g. John Horn's observation, "Why we play as children is not because it is our work or because it is how we learn, thought bother statements are true; we play because we are wired for joy, it is imperative as human beings"); checklists of key points; and a Call to Action at the conclusion of Chapters 1-9 that will help readers to apply material that is most relevant to their needs, interests, goals, and resources as well as to those of the given enterprise.

In the Preface, Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz make a promise that they certainly keep when providing an abundance of information, insights, and counsel: "Each chapter includes a discussion of cutting-edge research, inspiring stories from the lives of famous and ordinary people alike, and specific steps to put ideas into practice to enact immediate [and beneficial] change in your life." The "Fail Fast" approach they propose can help almost anyone to transform their life through small, immediate actions. "When you embrace [strategic, enlightened] failure rather than resist it, every moment provides the opportunity" to learn, grow, stretch, stumble and then recover...and thereby learn what can help to achieve personal success and professional development. Bravo!

The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil
The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil
by Christine Bader
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.50
28 used & new from CDN$ 18.50

5.0 out of 5 stars “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”: A tale of two companies and more, much more, March 24 2014
First of all, many people incorrectly believe that an idealist is necessarily "out of touch with reality" when, in fact, idealism and realism are not mutually exclusive. The greatest leaders throughout history were values-driven and attracted followers precisely because of a vision that, without exception, was based on ideals. In this remarkable book, Christine Bader focuses on her nine-year period employment by BP (1999-2008) during which she learned – and now shares -- valuable lessons that contributed to her personal growth as well as her professional development. Hers is indeed a journey of discovery.

Providing some background information is in order. As she explains: "I fell in love with that BP. And BP loved me back, giving me the opportunity to live in Indonesia, working on social issues around a remote gas field; then China, ensuring worker and community safety for a chemicals joint venture; then in the United Kingdom again, collaborating with colleagues around the world to better understand and support human rights.

"BP was paying me to help the people living around its projects, because that in turn would help its business. I was living the cliché of doing well and doing good. and I was completely smitten. My beloved company even let me create a pro bono project advising a United Nations initiative to clarify business's responsibilities for human rights, aimed at creating international policy to help even more people."

These brief excerpts describe "the good BP" during Bader's "best of times." And then Big Oil broke her heart, "the worst of times." She left BP to work on the U.N. project full-time. Some of the most interesting material in her narrative provides stories and reflections from other Corporate Idealists, noting that "while my story may be unique in its details, it is not in its themes" nor in the nature and extent resistance that Corporate Idealists encounter.

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

o Papua: A culturally sensitive setting (Pages 2-6)
o John Browne: A Different Brand of Oilman (6-9)
o Security and Human Rights (20-29)
o On [Bader's] Personal Front (37-42)
o An overview of Bader's years in China (42-72)
o Human Rights and BP Values (78-89)
o A Global Debate (92-96)
o End of the John Browne Era (98-104)
o The Business and Human Rights Debate (109-115)
o Protect, Respect and Remedy (116-122)
o The End of the Beginning (134-137)
o The Power of Normative Standards (137-140)
o BP's "Perfect Storm" (164-166)
o Supping with the Devil: Kofi Anan with Phil Knight (179-186)
o A Sorting Function (201-208)

While re-reading The Revolution of a Corporate Idealist, I was again reminded of the fact that many of the companies annually ranked as the most highly admired and best to work for are also among those annually ranked as most profitable and having the greatest cap value in their industry segment. That is emphatically NOT a coincidence. Enduring principles and sustainable profits are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are [begin italics] interdependent [end italics].

After all of the best and worst of times that Christine Bader endured, her basic values remain intact but she has also developed what Ernest Hemingway once characterized as a built-in, shock-proof crap detector. When concluding her book, she observes, "The Corporate Idealist community sees both the challenges and potential of big business. We realize that we can't save the world -- we can even save every finger and toe. We can expound upon but not fully explain the disasters of our companies and industries, which is deeply unsatisfying to those who want simple answers and assurances. But we can nudge our companies toward a vision of a better future, one in which 'responsible business' and 'fair trade' are redundant, not novelties or oxymorons."

I hope that those who read this book -- especially those now preparing for a career in business or who have only recently embarked on one -- will become an active member of the Corporate Idealist community. There is so much important work yet to be done. As indicated earlier, I fervently believe -- as does Christine Bader -- that enduring principles and sustainable profits are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are interdependent.

Low-Hanging Fruit: 77 Eye-Opening Ways to Improve Productivity and Profits
Low-Hanging Fruit: 77 Eye-Opening Ways to Improve Productivity and Profits
by Jeremy Eden
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.30
37 used & new from CDN$ 12.71

5.0 out of 5 stars How to “get a good cash crop yield from business innovation”, March 20 2014
Years ago, I helped a Fortune 50 company establish an electronic suggestion box for its intranet. Generous tax-paid bonuses would be awarded for ideas that reduce operating costs and increase productivity. All an employee needed to do was go online, sign in, and state the suggestion. One recent hire in the mail distribution center at corporate headquarters suggested that, except for an emergency, each next-business day delivery document or package be shipped only on Fridays. That simple suggestion saved the company about $800,000 the first year and offers an example of “low-hanging fruit” that can so easily be “harvested.”

According to Jeremy Eden and Terri Long, “To get a good cash crop yield from business innovation, leaders must have six elements in place. They must provide problem-solving skills, motivate employees [or as I prefer to describe it, inspire employees to motivate themselves], organize collaboration across units, make decisions quickly, build implementation skills, and create accountability to deliver hard-dollar benefits.”

Among the 77 chapters of material that Eden and Long provide, these were of greatest interest and value to me.

o Ask "Why?" Five Times to See the Real Problem (Chapter 3)
o Don't Be Fooled by Misleading Metrics: Zero in on the Ugly and Rattle the Status Quo by Turning Metrics Upside Down (6)
o Use Brainstorming in a New Way: To Find Problems, Not Solutions (10)
o Stop Ignoring Your Introverts (13)
o Use a Checklist -- It Works for Pilots and Brain Surgeons, and It Will Work for You! (20)
o Give People What They Need, Not What They Want (22)
o The Five Surprising Words That Keep a Good Executive from Being Great (30)
o Executive Motivators That Demotivate Everyone Else (32)
o Eliminate Corporate Whac-A-Mole (38)
o The One Monthly Meeting You Must Hold (46)
o The Devil's in the Details: Track Every Idea, Every Dollar, Every Month (55)
o The Golden Rule: Withdraw and Replace Ideas That Don't Increase Earnings (56)
o It's Not What You Start, It's What You Finish (61)
o Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "Everyone is Entitled to Their Opinion, but Not Their Own Facts" (64)
o The Obligation to Dissent (70)

Eden and Long discuss each of these and the other subjects that the chapter titles indicate, providing a wealth of information, insights, and counsel with regard to HOW to improve productivity and profits. Readers will also appreciate the insertion of relevant quotations throughout the narrative. Here's the head note to Chapter 36, Rally the Troops, provided by Simon Sinek: "Average companies give their people something to work on. Innovative companies give their people something to work toward." By the way, Sinek's latest and best book, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, has just been published by Portfolio/The Penguin Group. I highly recommend it.

While re-reading this book prior to composing this brief commentary, I was again reminded of situations in which obvious business opportunities, the low-hanging fruit of potentiality, were harvested by ordinary people who were extraordinarily alert. For example:

o George de Mestral, a Swiss electrical engineer who came up with the idea for Velcro while removing burrs from his dog's hair.

o Arthur Fry who co-invented Post-it so he could locate selections in his hymnal when singing in his church choir

o Mary Kay Ash who added a fragrance to leather softener lotion and sold it as hand cream, the basis of her global cosmetics firm

o Bette Nesmith Graham was an amateur painter who returned to work as an executive secretary, applied gesso with a paintbrush to correct her typing errors, and "mistakes out" became Liquid Paper

They suggest to me that almost anyone who overcomes what I call the invisibility of the obvious can produce an abundant harvest in the vineyards of free enterprise. I agree with Jeremy Eden and Terri that, whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations have almost unlimited opportunities for improvement of what is done and how it is done.

* * *

More a quibble than a complaint, this book has no index. I hope one will be added if and when there is a second edition.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
by Ben Horowitz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.19
38 used & new from CDN$ 16.04

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One man's thoughts and feelings about making especially difficult decisions and resolving especially difficult situations, March 19 2014
Up front: I think the word "thing" is worthless because it has no meaning in and of itself; it can be substituted for almost any other noun. However, the thing of it is, no one else seems to share this opinion so I'll say no more about it.

* * *

Three major works were published in 1859: Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Karl Marx's A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, and Richard Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. I was reminded of that fact as I worked my way through The Hard Thing About Hard Things for the first time and began to correlate themes in these classic works with several that Ben Horowitz develops in his lively and thought-provoking memoir/narrative.

For example, his discussion of "the struggle" is clearly derived from Marx's assertion, "Life is struggle." Of course, that claim is predated several centuries by the Buddhist maxim, "Life is suffering." Horowitz affirms great value in courage, especially when those who launch start-ups proceed through a process of natural selection. According to Darwin, "In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment." That is certainly what Horowitz had to do several times while CEO of Loudcloud and then Opsware when each was near-death. Despite all manner of struggle and suffering, he must have been sustained by his self-confidence and competitive nature when facing daunting challenges.

Jack Dempsey once observed, "Champions get up when they can't." Obviously, he is referring to more than physical courage and his comment calls to mind that Dante reserved the last and worst ring in hell for those who, in a moral crisis, preserve their neutrality. My own opinion is that hard times do not develop a leader's character, they reveal it...or a lack of it ...and this is especially true of entrepreneurs. As for Wagner's opera, it also examines (as does Horowitz) themes of aspiration, determination, and personal sacrifice as well the perils of defying conventional wisdom.

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

o The Marc Andreesen Relationship: The first 18 years (Pages 9-16)
o Euphoria and Terror (20-28)
o Sixty Days to Live (41-47)
o Survival of the Fittest (47-52)
o The Ultimate Decision (52-56)
o About the Struggle, and, Some Stuff That May or May Not Help (61-63)
o Why It's Imperative to Tell It Like It Is (66-67)
o The Right Way to Lay People Off (68-72)
o Why You Should Train Your People (106-108)
o Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager (111-113)
o If You've Never Done the Job, How do You Hire Somebody Good? (124-129)
o How to Minimize Politics, and, The Technique to Do So (149-154)
o Creating a Company Culture (180-183
o Organizational Design (188-192)
o When Making the Right Choice Requires Intelligence and Courage (210-212)
o How to Lead: Three Essential Abilities (220-222)
o The First Rule of Entrepreneurship: There Are No Rules (243-247)
o Staying Great: The Standard (255-256)

I really enjoyed reading this book because, throughout, I had the feeling that Horowitz was speaking directly to me, that he had written this book for me. I think many (if not most) other readers will feel the same way. Here he is, warts and all (lots of warts), sharing so much of what he has learned, most of it from hard times, setbacks, crises of various kinds, and - yes -a few ill-advised decisions that he duly acknowledges.

His passion and candor are refreshing, to be sure, but I appreciate much more his insights and counsel that suggest he possesses what Hemingway once characterized as "a built-in, shock-proof crap detector." He also exemplifies that person whom Theodore Roosevelt once characterized as "the man in the arena."

There are indeed "hard things" for which an MBA degree cannot possibly prepare a person, nor can a business book. If nothing else, however, Ben Horowitz shares his thoughts and feelings as well as his experiences so that those who read this book will at least be better prepared to make those decisions that all of us dread.

Candor: How to have courageous coaching conversations when it really matters
Candor: How to have courageous coaching conversations when it really matters
Price: CDN$ 9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars How to identify and correct ineffective patterns of communication when guiding, coaching, and giving feedback to others, March 18 2014
In a previous book that Steve Stowell co-authored with Stephanie Mead, Strategy Is Everyone's Job, Chapter 3 offers a case study of a fictional corporation (Galaxy) and a protagonist (Lee) that illustrate key points. The material focuses on several leadership challenges, the most important of which (in my opinion) is the need for middle management to think strategically (Big Picture, connecting organizational "dots," ultimate objectives) as well as tactically (execution initiatives in day-to-day operations). In terms of developing a strategic mindset as well as utilitarian skills, managers must also be leaders, as Lee eventually realizes.

The same fictional company and characters appear in this book, co-authored with Tony I. Herrara. Once again, the reader is asked to serve as one of the characters, Adrian, a senior-level executive at Galaxy. His challenge this time around is to be much more candid in his communications with those for whom he is directly responsible, notably Lee. The details of the narrative are best revealed in context. However, as Stowell and Herrera explain, their purpose is to help their readers "appreciate the vital importance of having effective conversations about challenging subjects, recognize the defensive tendencies that often hamper such conversations, and explore and practice a tested framework for facilitating balanced conversations under stress (i.e. when tensions are high or the topic is controversial)."

They introduce a five-step courageous conversation process in Chapter 7 (provided by Taylor, a recently retired former colleague of Adrian's) and presumably they wait until then in order to serve the purposes of the plot, such as it is. Meanwhile, in Chapter One, they focus the reader's attention on an evolving situation at Galaxy. They use direct address ("Your morning....") and sustain through the tenth and final chapter so this is an extended business narrative that, if it were a film, the reader would be the central character, with Stowell and Harrera providing the voice over.

There are no head-snapping revelations in this book, nor do Stowell and Harrera make any such claim. The fictional case study worked in the previous book but is much less effective when called upon to bear the full weight of the narrative in this one. My guess is a chapter devoted to Adam's briefing by Taylor would have been sufficient. In residential real estate, every home has a buyer out there, somewhere, and every business book has a reader out there, somewhere. One man's opinion, this book will be of greatest interest and value to those who are about to assume a major supervisory role or who have only recently done so

Those in need of more thoughtful and more substantial guidance should check out Patrick Lencioni's The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable and Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition, co-authored by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.

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

Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered
Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered
by Austin Kleon
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.19
43 used & new from CDN$ 5.05

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World
Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World
by Jane McGonigal
Edition: Hardcover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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