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Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow Hardcover – Sep 21 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Despite using the word mojo in the subtitle and citing inspiration he received from 1960s counterculture icon Timothy Leary, this guide to better management isn't for hippies. Yes, Conley started the California boutique hotel chain Joie de Vivre Hospitality with the Phoenix Hotel, once a haven for faded rock stars. And yes, he quotes liberally from rebel CEOs who surf. But Conley's book is packed with thoughtful, instructional stories and advice for entrepreneurs as well as Fortune 500 managers, gleaned from his own experience as well as other business books. At the center of this confessional how-to is psychologist Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a pyramid that ranks human needs from base to self-actualizing. Used as the basis for employee, customer and stakeholder satisfaction, Conley contends, it can transform a business and its people. Though Stephen Covey and Peter Drucker have looked to Maslow before, Conley describes how using the pyramid saved his company from bankruptcy when the dot-com bubble burst. Conley is most successful when he expresses his ideas in numbered lists rather than the wordy passages that slow down the beginning. On the whole, though, his advice is inspiring and accessible. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
When Hotelier Conley was profiled by USA Today as one of its People to watch in 2001, he seemingly could do no wrong. His company, Joie de Vivre Hospitality, which operates a chain of boutique hotels in the San Francisco Bay area, was riding high on the dot-com boom. But then the bubble burst, followed by 9/11 and an industry-wide crisis that hit his upscale business hard. As his world crumbled around him, Conley turned to the writings of psychologist Abraham Moslow for inspiration. In contrast to the darker premises behind Freud's psychoanalysis and B. F. Skinner's behaviorism, Maslow took a more positive approach, seeking to study the best and brightest that human nature has to offer, encouraging an environment of self-actualization that encourages peak experiences. Conley understood that personal transformation and corporate transformation are not all that different, and this story shows not only how Maslow's ideas brought about a resurrection in Conley's business but also how similar mind-sets continue to create growth and a positive work environment at companies such as Google, Netflix, Harley-Davidson, and Apple. Siegfried, DavidSee all Product description
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With regard to the first two, I am reminded of a time when Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered a lecture on transcendentalism in Concord (MA) and then agreed to answer questions. A farmer stood up: "Mr. Emerson, how do you transcend an empty stomach?"
Maslow believed that the hierarchy of human needs is best understood when viewed as a triangle, with basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, etc.) at the base. As those needs are at least partially fulfilled, we ascend the pyramid to higher needs (e.g. security, stability, social connections, affiliations), fulfilling them along the way. As Conley explains, "At the top of the pyramid is self-actualization, a place where people have transient moments called `peak experiences'...A peak experience -- comparable to being `in the zone' or in the `flow' - is when ought to be just is." Or as Maslow himself suggests, "They are moments of ecstasy which cannot be bought, cannot be guaranteed, cannot even be sought...but one can set up the conditions so that peak experiences are more likely, or one can perversely set up the conditions so that they are less likely." However, as the Concord farmer reminds us, basic needs must first be filled. That is as true of individuals (who fear being terminated) as it is of a company's owners (who may have no choice but to file for Chapter 7).
In this volume, Conley offers a step-by-step process by which to build a great company. After acknowledging Maslow's influence on his thinking (and in process explaining Mallow's core concepts) in Part One (Chapters 1-3), he examines three "relationship truths." In Chapters 4-6, he explains how to create base motivation, loyalty, and trust for employees. In Chapters 7-9, he explains how to create satisfaction, commitment, and "evangelistic" fervor for customers. And then in Chapters 10-12, he explains how to create trust, confidence, and pride of ownership for investors. In Part Five (Chapters 13 and 14), Conley explains how to coordinate the three separate but interrelated "relationship truths" to create a "self-actualized life" for each of those involved. Although that may prove to be an unrealistic goal, it is worthy of pursuit nonetheless. Whereas a mountain has a finite height, Maslow's pyramid does not. No individual and no organization can ever become fully actualized. There will always be room for improvement because achieving one goal creates opportunities to achieve others. Revealingly, Conley describes himself as a Himalayan Sherpa who guides his reader to up to the summits of Nepal or Tibet. What he implies is that his role has another, in my view more important function: To guide his readers to insights that will enable her or him to chart a proper course when embarked on a never-ending journey from one peak performance to the next.
This is also true of a company whose culture that must constantly adjust to both internal changes (e.g. its workforce) and external changes (e.g. in its competitive marketplace) while in pursuit of greatness. Consider these comments John Kotter and James Heskett share in Corporate Culture and Performance that suggest a causal relationship between a strong culture and peak performance: "Corporate culture can have a significant impact on a firm's long-term economic performance. We found that firms with cultures that emphasized all the key managerial constituencies (customers, stockholders, and employees) and leadership from managers at all levels outperformed firms that did not have those cultural traits by a huge margin. Over an eleven-year period, the former increased revenues by an average of 682 percent versus 166 percent for the latter, expanded their work forces by 282 percent versus 36 percent, grew their stock prices by 901 percent versus 74 percent, and improved their net incomes by 756 percent versus 1 percent." My guess (only a guess) is that in all of the peak performance companies, the words "culture" and "character" are synonymous.
It is no coincidence that, year after year, many of the same companies on Fortune magazine's list of those that are "Most Highly Admired" are also among those most profitable. However, as we all soon learn once embarked on a business career, there is a "bottom line" to an individual's personal character as well as to an organization's financial performance. Maslow suggests that when reaching the summit of self-actualization, there is a recognition that "this is the real me." Bill George calls this one's "True North," "the internal compass that guides you as a human being at your deepest level. It is your orienting point - your fixed point in a spinning world - that helps you stay on track as a leader. Your True North is based on what is most important to you, your most cherished values, your passions and motivations, the sources of satisfaction in your life. Just as a compass points toward a magnetic field, your True North pulls you toward the purpose of your leadership."
Self-actualization awaits each person who reads this book. Let the journey begin. Bon voyage!
Chip Conley takes that familiar perspective into new territory by describing how he applied the concept to employee, customer, and investor needs in building his Joie de Vivre, his boutique hotel management company. Employees get money, recognition, and meaning from their work. Customers receive what they expect, have their desires fulfilled, and are pampered by gaining what they don't recognize they want. Investors engage in a relationship that's established in the right way, enjoy a positive relationship with those who run the company, and help establish a legacy through their investment. By putting all three hierarchies in place, you can create a unique corporate culture, develop an enthusiastic set of employees and managers, build customer loyalty, and maintain a profitable business.
This way of describing the book makes it seem very academic, but that's not true. Mr. Conley is a hands-on manager who loves nothing better to develop boutique hotels that nicely fit a small psychological segment of mostly affluent travelers. He uses specialty magazines to identify his targets.
The book is as much about how he arrived at this set of conclusions as what the conclusions are. While Silicon Valley was booming, his San Francisco-area hotels were doing great. But when the dot-com bust hit, these hotels suffered along with the rest of the market. Years of no salary, unhappy investors, and putting up lots of his assets followed. It's an engaging story just for how to do a difficult turnaround under trying conditions.
I see a few other dimensions that Mr. Conley might add in future books:
1. What about doing a similar set of hierarchies for other stakeholders such as suppliers, lenders, partners, neighbors, and the communities in which you operate?
2. What about creating a strategy independent of the hierarchies that will provide superior performance in good times and bad?
3. Describing the special problems of publicly held companies and how they can implement such a program.
4. How to use the hierarchies to make continuing business model innovations.
5. Case histories of others following his advice.
I look forward to seeing those elements added to this fine work.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Also, as someone who is interested in the hospitality business I found some of the specifics he discussed around Joie de Vivre to be helpful.
(*** Please note: I have read many fantastic articles by Hsieh, and find it illuminating to watch him speak. I just didn't think his book added depth to the ideas discussed in his shorter form articles/interviews***)
1- "This book is about the miracle of human potential: employees living up to their full potential in the workplace, customers feeling the potential bliss associated with having their unrecognized needs met, and investors feeling fulfilled by seeing the potential of their capital leveraged."
2- "Maslow's message struck a chord with many business leaders. In essence, he said that with humans, there's a qualitative difference between not being sick and feeling healthy or truly alive. This idea could be applied to companies, most of which fall into the middle ground of not sick but not truly alive. Based on his Hierarchy of Needs, the solution for a company that wants to ascend up the healthy pyramid is not just to diminish the negative or to get too preoccupied with basic needs but instead to focus on aspirational needs. This idea is rather blasphemous for some. The tendency in psychology and in business has always been to focus on the deficits. Psychologists and business consultants look for what's broken and try to fix it. Yet, "fixing it" doesn't necessarily offer the opportunity for transformation to a more optimal state of being or productivity."
3- "1. Every company is organized based on a certain premise of human nature. 2. Most companies aren't very conscious of this fact and operate based on an outdated or short-term perspective, even though sustainable results might be better served by a different business approach. 3. Companies have a habitual "tendency toward the tangible," which means that financial results usually get more attention than relationship issues. 4. More and more business scholars and consultants are making the intangible of relationships and the human spirit more tangible, and many successful companies are leading the way with respect to how they reorganize themselves to pursue both profits and happiness."
4- "The Employee Pyramid: Money (Survival) - Creates base motivation, Recognition (Success) - Creates Loyalty, Meaning (Transformation) - Creates Inspiration."
5- "The Customer Pyramid: Meets Expectations (Survival) - Creates satisfaction, Meets Desires (Success) - Creates commitment, Meets Unrecognized Needs (Transformation) - Evangelism."
6- "The Investor Pyramid: Transaction Alignment (Survival) - Creates trust, Relationship Alignment (Success) - Creates Confidence, Legacy (Transformation) - Creates Pride and Ownership."
7- "Finding meaning in one's work--both in what you do daily d in the company's sense of mission--is one of the rarest but most valuable qualities anyone can have in their job."
8- "In reading Frankl's book and in studying dozens of meaning-driven companies, I've come to realize that workplace meaning can be dissected into meaning at work and meaning in work. Meaning at work relates to how an employee feels about the company, their work environment, and the company's mission. Meaning in work relates to how an employee feels about their specific job task. Pollard captures the potential synergy of this dichotomy with the following passage from his book, "As a person sees a reason for the task that is personally satisfying and rewarding and has the confidence that the mission of the firm is in alignment with his or her own personal growth and development, a powerful force is unleashed that results in creativity, productivity, service quality, growth, profit, and value.""
9- "Ironically, the two common elements that define companies that deliver on this level of the pyramid seem diametrically opposed to each other: technology (hard) and people (soft). Companies that know how to harness their technology and empower their people have the potential to deliver customized service that will translate into committed customers."
10- "Buffett represents a growing set of business leaders who believe that "companies obtain the shareholder constituency diat tiiey seek and deserve." He suggests that if companies "focus their thinking and communications on short-term results or short-term stock market consequences they will, in lar^e part, attract shareholders who focus on the same factors." In other words, just understanding your business plan isn't enough for business leaders. You need to also understand the motivations of your investors to ensure they're aligned with your own."
11- "If there's one constant theme in all three pyramids, it's t conventional wisdom is wrong. Conventional wisdom suggests that (1) money is the primary motivator for employees, (2) customers stay loyal when they're satisfied, and (3) investors are exclusively focused on the financial return on investment. As we've seen, these are simply base needs that ignore higher human needs. At the peak of the Investor Pyramid, it's ultimately a legacy, not liquidity, that people seek."
12- "As a guide, I often refer them to the Transformation Pyramid we discussed in Chapter Two. Take a look at whether this activity or priority is a survival need (something that will help provide basic sustenance or comfort), a success need (something that will enhance the performance or experience), or a transformation need (something less predictable, more intangible, and ultimately, most satisfying or memorable). My number one recommendation for those who are using a pyramid to define their peak experience is to make sure you are climbing the right mountain. A midlife crisis is perhaps the natural result of someone realizing they've perhaps climbed the wrong peak."
13- "The base needs are typically "has" needs: what material things we want in our life to give us safety, comfort, pleasure, or status. As humans and societies age, they move beyond the "has" to the "does" needs. As our material needs are met, what one does for a living becomes a more relevant symbol of our identity. At some point, relentless "doing" no longer carries currency, at which point the "is" needs predominate at the peak of the pyramid. You see this in wise men and women and in cultures that have learned that having and doing carry you only so far. When someone or something just "is," it feels pure, essential, powerful, and magnetic. There is a strong sense of presence that accompanies this state of being."