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Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas)

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by Sophia Amoruso
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a personal memoir in the picaresque tradition, 6 Jun 2014
This review is from: #GIRLBOSS (Paperback)
Some readers could be deterred by a writing style that may seem to resemble narcissism on steroids. Other readers who are not put off by the constant self-references (there are almost 50 in her brief Chronology) and melodramatic assertions (e.g. "The only thing I smoke is the competition") will find remarkable wisdom as well as candor in Sophia Amoruso's lively discussion of the various stages of her personal growth and professional development...thus far.

She certainly learned her lessons the hard way. Her epiphany or turning point occurred in Seattle when she was arrested for shoplifting: "Getting caught stealing was the straw that broke the getaway camel's back...I eventually came to terms with the fact that living free doesn't always mean living well, and there are certain truths I had to reckon with. I was starting to realize that Liked and wanted nice things, and if stealing wasn't going to enable me to get them, I was going to have to try something almost too conventional for me -- getting another job." That was in 2005. Today, she is the 30-year-old CEO of a $100-million-plus business, Nasty Gal, that has a fifty-thousand-square-foot office in Los Angeles, a distribution and fulfillment center in Kentucky, and three hundred and fifty employees.

These are among the subjects of greatest interest to me:

o The nature and extent of influence that her childhood had on her adolescence
o The impact of her parents' divorce (2001)
o The life lessons learned while living in Seattle
o Why and how Amoruso launched Nasty Girl Vintage (2006)
o The most valuable business lessons learned since then
o The extent to which her life prior to 2006 helps to explain the company's success
o The most valuable lessons that females (i.e. #GIRLBOSS wannbes) will learn from her experiences
o Material that will also be of interest and value to a #BOYBOSS or a male who aspires to become one

The nine "Portraits of a #GIRLBOSS" provide some of the most interesting material in the book: Christina Ferruci, Buying Director of Nasty Gal (Pages 48-50); Madeline Poole,, @MPnails (72-74); Alexi Wasser,, @imboycrazy (96-98); Norma Kamali, Fashion Designer and Entrepreneur (146-147); Christene Barberich, Refinery29 Editor in Chief (175-177); Jenné Lombardo, Founder of the Terminal Presents,, @JenneLombardo (197-199); Leandra Medine, and author of Seeking Love, Finding Overalls (213-215); and Ashley Glorioso, Senior Stylist at Nasty Gal (228-231).

This material serves to support one of Sophia Amoruso's themes throughout her book: there is no one profile or job description for a #GIRLBOSS. This emphasis on individuality is probably what Oscar Wilde had in mind when suggesting, "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken."

A Culture of Purpose: How to Choose the Right People and Make the Right People Choose You
A Culture of Purpose: How to Choose the Right People and Make the Right People Choose You
by Christoph Lueneburger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.11

5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant analysis of perhaps the single most important dimension of organizational alignment, 4 Jun 2014
According to Jim Collins in Good to Great, one of the greatest challenges in business is to "get the right people in the right seats." Of even greater importance, I presume to add, "and on the right bus." In competitive sports as in business, there must be an appropriate "fit" of person with position...and with associates. The key consideration is proper alignment of worker, tasks, and workplace environment. Most mergers fail or at least fall far short of original expectations. Why? One of the most common reasons is incompatible cultural values.

I agree with Christoph Lueneburger: "What is the most important challenge for a twenty-first century leader? Building a culture of purpose." In this book, he explains how to build one or strengthen one that already exists. "The attributes at the core of a culture of purpose are energy, resilience, and openness. Because cultures are made up of people -- and each shapes the other, from the core to the frontier -- the three sets of building blocks depend on and influence each other."

Recent and extensive research on what can be learned from exit interviews of highly-valued workers reveals that they do not feel that they and their efforts are appreciated, and, that they see little (if any) social value in what they are asked to do. Other research studies indicate that, on average, less than 30% of a U.S. company's workforce is actively and productively engaged; the other 80+% are either passively engaged ("mailing it in") or actively engaged in undermining the success of the company.

It is no coincidence that many of the companies that are annually ranked among those that are most highly-regarded and best to work for are also ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry. However different these companies may be in most respects, all have a culture of purpose whose attributes are energy, resilience, and openness.

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

o Change Leadership (Pages 15-16)
o Mini-Case Study: How Frank O'Brien-Bernini Rejuvenated Owens Corning (16-26)
o Influencing Others by Embracing Their Problems (31-34)
o Discovering the Leader: Markers for the Competency of Influencing (43-45)
o Results Delivery (47-50)
o Discovering the Leader: Markers for the Competency if Results Delivery (61-63)
> Markers for the Competency of Commercial Drive (79-80)
o Strategic Orientation (82-85)
o Making Sustainability Hip (90-93)
o Discovering the Leader: Markers for the Competency of Strategic Orientation (93-95)
o Engagement on Leaders (101-104)
o Understanding the Person:
> Markers for the Trait of Engagement (115-117)
> Markers for the Trait of Determination (133-134)
> Markers for the Trait of Insight (148-149)
o The Primacy of Curiosity (156-158)
o Understanding the Person: Markers for the Trait of Curiosity (161-163)
o Understanding the Culture: Markers for the Trait of Energy (182-183)
> Markers for the Trait of Resilience (197-199)
> Markers for the Trait of Openness (212-213)

Note: The various references to "markers" indicate especially important, indeed defining characteristics of what is essential to effective leadership, to the personal growth and professional development of individuals, and to the ongoing health of organizations.

With regard to the sequence of building a culture of purpose, Christoph Lueneburger observes, "Three things are worth pointing out. First, this journey is not linear and monolithic throughout an organization...Second, the building blocks described [i.e. energy, resilience, and openness.] are cumulative...Third, the middle part of this transformation, the conscious transition from reactive to proactive, is the hardest hit." Given the opportunities for personal growth and professional development as well as for organizational transformation, opportunities that otherwise would probably not be available, efforts to "marry purpose to profit" will be well worth it for everyone involved.

Think Like a Freak: How to Think Smarter about Almost Everything
Think Like a Freak: How to Think Smarter about Almost Everything
by Stephen J. Dubner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £5.00

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How and why mastering the economic approach will produce better answers to questions and better solutions to problems, 4 Jun 2014
In their latest book, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner cite several examples of people who trick guilty parties (i.e. those who prey upon people who are ignorant and/or gullible) into unwittingly revealing their guilt through their own behavior. Here are three examples:

o Two women appealed to King Solomon, both claiming to be the mother of a newborn. Unable to decide, he ordered the child to be cut in half and divided equally. One woman embraced the idea. He knew immediately that the other woman who begged him to let the other have the child was in fact its mother.

o Rock star David Lee Roth of the Van Halen group has a 53-page list of technical and security requirements. One in the Munchies section specifies "M&Ms (WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES)." Immediately upon arrival, he checks the jar. "If he saw brown ones, he knew the promoter hadn't read the rider [to the otherwise standard contract) -- and that 'we had to do a serious line check to make sure that the most important details hadn't been botched either."

o So-called "Nigerian scammers" send millions of email messages each month to millions of people throughout the world. (It's called the "Nigerian scam" because more than half of the messages invoke Nigeria than all of the other emails combined.) I have received 3-5 each week in recent years. The "Beloved friend" message is always illiterate and ludicrous. Stupid, right? Not so fast. According to Levitt and Dubner, the Nigerian scammers know that almost everyone who receives a message will ignore it. But if only one in a hundred recipients provides the requested bank information....

"The ridiculous-sounding Nigerian emails seem to be quite good at getting the scammers' massive garden to weed itself." Those who think like a freak have mastered that skill. Some people use it to prey upon people who are ignorant and/or gullible. Others use it to identify predators.

In Think Like a Freak, Levitt and Dubner develop in much greater depth -- and with a few unexpected wrinkles -- some of the core concepts examined in Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics:

1. Incentives are the cornerstones of modern life.
2. Knowing what to measure, and how to measure it, can make a complicated world less so.
3. The conventional wisdom is often wrong.
4. Correlation does not equal causality.

Here's another: One of the keys to success in life (however defined) is knowing what is worth leaving behind, and what is not. This probably what Don Schlitz had in mind when composing the lyrics for his song, "The Gambler: "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away, know when to run." And another suggestion referred to earlier: "Teach your garden to weed itself." Be sure to check out the discussion of the $2,000 bonus that Zappos offers to everyone who completes (and is paid to complete) a rigorous training program. (See Pages 128-130 and 150-152.)

These are among dozens of other observations by Levitt and Dubner (and one by Isaac Newton) that also caught my eye:

o When attempting a penalty kick in soccer -- "protecting your own reputation by not doing something foolish -- you are more likely to kick toward a corner...Sometimes in life, [however], going straight up the middle is the boldest move of all." Although "the percentage of success for a shot at the middle is significantly more likely to succeed, only 17 percent of kicks are aimed there." The Freak mindset knows and acts upon such percentages. (Page 7)

o "It has long been said that the three hardest words to say in the English language are [begin italics] [end italics]. We heartily disagree! For most people, it is much harder to say [begin italics] [end italics]. That's a shame, for until you can admit what you don't yet know, it's virtually impossible to learn what you need to." (20)

o "Thinking like a Freak means you should work terribly hard to identify and attack the root cause of problems" rather than waste time and effort responding to symptoms of those problems. (66)

o Isaac Newton: "To explain all nature is too difficult a task for any one man or even for any one age. Tis much better to do a little with certainty and leave the rest for others than come after than to explain all things by conjecture without making sure of anything." (89)

"Have fun, think small, don't fear the obvious -- these are all childlike behaviors that, according to us at least, an adult would do well to hang on to." (100)

Note: Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) once observed that he spent all of his adult life struggling to see the world again like a child. I am also reminded of advice provided by Robert Fulghum in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Share everything, Play fair, Don't hit people, Put things back where you found them, Clean up your own mess, Don't take things that aren't yours, Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody; When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together; and Be aware of wonder.

o On the Smile Train's "once-and-done" option to donors: "There is one more factor that made one-and-done successful, a factor so important -- subtle and powerful at the same time -- that we believe it is the secret ingredient to make any incentive work, or at least work better. The most radical accomplishment of once-and-done is that it [begin italics] changed the frame of the relationship between the charity and the donor [end italics]." (124-125)

When concluding their book, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner observe, "Now that we've arrived at these last pages, it's pretty obvious: quitting is at the very core of thinking like a Freak. Or, if that word still frightens you, let's think of it as 'letting go.' Letting go of the conventional wisdoms that torment us. Letting go of the artificial limits that hold us back -- and of the fear of admitting what we don't know. Letting go of the habits of mind that tell us to kick into the corner of the goal even though we stand a better chance by going up the middle."

As I read and then re-read these concluding remarks, I was again reminded of observations by Alan Watts in The Book: "We need a new experience -- a new feeling of what it is to be 'I.' The lowdown (which is, of course, the secret and profound view) on life is that our normal sensation of self is a hoax, or, at best, a temporary role that we are playing, or have been conned into playing -- with our own tacit consent, just as every hypnotized person is basically willing to be hypnotized. The most strongly enforced of all known taboos is the taboo against knowing who or what you really are behind the mask of your apparently separate, independent, and isolated ego."

Decades ago, I realized that most human limits are self-imposed, and, that it takes great courage to learn who we are (who we REALLY are) and accept it, then summon the courage needed to become the best person we can possibly be.

Flex: The New Playbook for Managing Across Differences
Flex: The New Playbook for Managing Across Differences
by Jane Hyun
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.28

5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable information, insights, and counsel with regard to how to become and help others to become a "fluent leader", 19 May 2014
According to Jane Hyun and Audrey S. Lee, "This book offers what courageous, thoughtful leaders need in order to operate successfully in today's diverse, global marketplace." What specifically do they need? The core competencies include being able to understand, respect, and acknowledge differences between and among those for whom they are responsible; adjust ("flex") their management style to accommodate those differences; and minimize (if not eliminate) any "power gap" defined in terms of gender, age, or cultural differences. I agree with Hyun and Lee about the importance of cultural fluency at all structural levels and in all operational areas of the given enterprise. This fluency does not invalidate authority. On the contrary, for both leaders and followers, it [begin italics] enriches [end italics] it.

That is to say, cultural fluency is by no means limited to the C-level nor to managers elsewhere. Mutual respect and trust (worthy of the name) can and should be established and then nourished regardless of title or status. Emotional intelligence is best demonstrated by body language and tone of voice as well as by behavior over time, not by what is said, however eloquent that may be.

However, Hyun and Lee are spot on when observing that a fluent leader "is more than just someone who is emotionally mature, demonstrates empathy, and is able to make an accurate assessment of [people and their emotions. The fluent leader must also demonstrate elements of innovative thinking, but there are other aspects of this style that go beyond creativity and thinking outside the box." Such as what? Hyun and Lee offer a full-range of defining characteristics as well as leadership beliefs and behaviors that, in their shared opinion, a fluent leader possesses.
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Hyun and Lee's coverage.

o The High Stakes of Losing Our Best Talent (Pages 5-7)
o What Women Bring to the Leadership Table (14-15)
o Hardwired for Sameness (19-22)
o The Key Competency: Fluency (24-26)
o Identifying the Power Gap, and, How the Power Gap Manifests Itself on Your Team (34-46)
o The Art of Flex (68-70)
o The Fluent Leader Mind-Set (79-87)
o Look for Creative Ways to Bridge the Power Gap (101-111)
o Tap into Hidden Potential and Promote the Right People (121-124)
o The Importance of Navigating the Power Gap with Peers (130-136)
o Obstacles to Closing the Gap from the Bottom Up, and, Don't Put Authority Figures on a Pedestal (152-156)
o Working with Bosses Who Maintain Their Power Gap (164-169)
o Meaningful Engagement Begins with Closing the Gap (210-212)
o Great Onboarding Models (221-226)
Note: Hiring great talent is essentially worthless if the onboarding process fails.
o Multiple Ways to Support, Guide, and Grow Your Employees (236-238)
Note: All great supervisors have a "green thumb" for doing this and help direct reports to develop one.
o Fluent Leadership is Needed to Facilitate Innovative Thinking, and, How Difference Drives Innovation (265-267)
o Encourage Management Styles That Spur Innovative Thinking (267-271)

I agree with Jane Hyun and Audrey S. Lee that divergent thinking can drive innovation. This is what Roger Martin has in mind, in The Opposable Mind, when suggesting that integrative thinking involves "the predisposition and the capacity to hold two [or more] diametrically opposed ideas" in one's head and then "without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or the other," be able to "produce a synthesis that is superior to either opposing idea." Throughout his presidency, Abraham Lincoln frequently demonstrated integrative thinking, a "discipline of consideration and synthesis [that] is the hallmark of exceptional businesses [as well as of democratic governments] and those who lead them." Principled dissent is essential to the success of this process.

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mind can do full justice to the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that are provided in this book but presumably I have, at least, indicated why I think so highly of it. Given the challenges that await leaders in years to come as well as those with which they must cope now, fluency and flexibility are not only desirable and important, they are essential and imperative.

* * *

More a quibble than a complaint, the book has no index. Hopefully one will be added if and when it there is a second edition.

Power Cues
Power Cues
by Nick Morgan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rigorous and comprehensive exploration of where and what determine the value of interactions, for better or worse, 19 May 2014
This review is from: Power Cues (Hardcover)
In this exceptionally thoughtful and thought-provoking book, Morgan notes that our conscious minds can handle (i.e. process) about 540 bits of information per second whereas our unconscious mind can handle about eleven million (11,000,000) bits of information per second. Percentages vary from one research study to the next but the results of all of the research studies that I have examined indicate that, on average, less that 20% of one's impact when interacting with another person is determined by what is said; more than 80% of our impact is non-verbal...tone of voice and body language. Time out: Please re-read that last sentence.

Morgan explains how, to a significant extent, we can increase our impact others' subconscious minds if we strengthen our interpersonal, non-verbal communications. That, in essence, is "the power that rules human interaction." Here is a covey of seven "power cues, " accompanied by a question. How you answer each question will help to determine the nature and extent of an area in which to improve.

1. Self-Awareness: How do you show up when you enter a room?
2. Non-Verbal Impact: What emotions do your tone of voice and body language convey?
3. Feedback: What unconscious "messages" are you receiving from others?
4. Presence: Do you have a leadership voice, one that resonates with authority?
5. Clear Signals: What authentic signals do you send out in key situations?
6. Unconscious Mind: Is your unconscious mind limiting you or freeing you?
7. Storytelling: Are you telling powerful stories?

Morgan devotes a separate chapter to each of the seven, explaining with precision as well as eloquence what to do in response to your candid answers as well as HOW to do it effectively.

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

o We're Not Aware of Our Most Important Activities (Pages 6-14)
o What Humans Really Want (18-21)
o Knowing Your Own Power Cues: Let's Rethink Our Communications (23-25)
o Why Gesture Matters, and, How Our Minds Really Work: Not So Much (32-33)
o Field Notes: The How-You-Show-Up Questionnaire (49-50)
o The Difficulty of Paying Attention to Everything (53-55)
o Mirror Neurons Make It All Possible (63-64)
o Take Charge of Your Emotions and You'll Be Able to Take Charge (65-68)
o Play the Top Dog to Be the Top Dog, and, Remember Who's in Charge (72-75)
o Use Your Unconscious Expertise the Way It Should Be Used (87-89)
o How to Spot the Person in Power (95-98)
o Learn [How] to Listen to Your Unconscious Mind (109-110)
o The Secret Sounds That Run Your Life (121-124)
o Pitching Your Voice to Project Leadership (131-134)
o The Leadership Conversation (138-140)
o Influence Has Four Sources (152-154)
o How to Send Honest Signals Through Cyberspace (161-166)
o How to Tell a Great Story (205-221)

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mind can possibly do full justice to the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that Nick Morgan provides in this volume but I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of it. Here's just about everything anyone needs to know about how and why mastery of non-verbal as well as verbal skills can increase substantially the quality and impact one has in all interpersonal communication.

I presume to add one final point. All of these skills have a higher purpose: To ensure that your message and how you communicate it - both consciously and unconsciously -- help you to achieve the given objectives, and meanwhile, to help ensure that you "get" the messages that others are communicating to you, whether they realize it or not.

Step Up: Lead in Six Moments That Matter
Step Up: Lead in Six Moments That Matter
by Marshall Goldsmith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.44

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to "step up and demonstrate leadership in important moments, with or without the official title and authority to do so, 19 May 2014
What Henry Evans and Colm Foster characterize as a "leadership moment" is by no means limited to residents of the C-Suite. Just as effective leadership is needed at all levels and in all operational areas of an organization, leaders occur there as well and -- more often than not -- have serious implications and significant consequences, for better or worse. Evans and Foster identify six and devote a separate chapter to each. I prefer to view these moments, rather, as guidelines or opportunities, although -- as Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard suggest in their brilliant book, TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments -- at least some brief interactions can prove to be momentous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Innovation the NASA Way: Harnessing the Power of Your Organization for Breakthrough Success
Innovation the NASA Way: Harnessing the Power of Your Organization for Breakthrough Success
by Rod Pyle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.58

5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable business lessons to be learned from a truly unique "engine of innovation", 19 May 2014
Until reading and then re-reading this book, almost everything I knew about the U.S. government's National Aeronautical and Space Administration was based on what I learned from two films, The Right Stuff and Apollo 13. What I find remarkable, almost unbelievable, is that so much (if not most) of what I learned from the material provided by Rod Pyle can be of substantial value to leaders in almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. When required by circumstances, almost all organizations need to be bold when responding to threats and opportunities, sufficiently daring when challenging the status quo, and passionate about what they do and how they do it.

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

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

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

o Boxed set of "Solutions" for each Challenge

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask
Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask
by Michael J. Marquardt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.58

5.0 out of 5 stars Unless you ask the right questions, you'll never get the right answer and that indicates you really don't know what problem is, 17 May 2014
This is a revised and updated edition of a book first published by Jossey-Bass in 2005. During the nine years since then, obviously, a great deal has changed in what has become an extensively digitized, and increasingly more volatile global marketplace. Michael Marquardt's objective and focus remain the same, however: To provide whatever information, insights, and counsel his reader will need to become highly skilled in an immensely important but nonetheless under-appreciated dimension of effective leadership, asking the right questions. He interviewed a number of prominent leaders and shares what he learned from them. He also draws upon his wide and deep experience with C-level executives, notably as program director of the Executive Leadership Program at George Washington University. It is worth noting that he also serves as president of the World Institute for Active Learning.

As I began to read this second edition for the first time, I was again reminded of an incident that occurred years ago when one of Albert Einstein's faculty colleagues at Princeton noted that he always asked the same questions on his final examinations. "Quite right. Each year, the answers are different." As Marquardt explains so convincingly, those who master the skills of strategic inquiry -- to know which questions to ask as well as when and how to ask them -- will be able to obtain or determine the right answers to the most important questions, whatever they may be at any given time.

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

o Key Aspects of Leading with Questions (Pages 6-8)
o What Happens When Leaders Don't Ask Questions (14-18)
Comment: Results are usually even worse when leaders ask the wrong questions.
o Questions as the Ultimate Leadership Tool (22-27)
o Organizational Benefits of a Questioning Culture (34-48)
o Common: I learned decades ago that the only "dumb" question is the one not asked.
o Individual Benefits of a Questioning Culture (48-58)
o Questions That Empower or Disempowered, and, Types of Effective Questions (84-86 and 91-99)
o Roots of Great Questions (86-90)
o Finding Great Questions (101-102)
o Judger versus Learner: The Mindset for Asking Questions (103-108)
o How to Frame Questions (110-114)
o The Leader's Role in Shaping a Questioning Culture (130-143)
o Building Relations That Empower (152-156)
o Managing Key Employee Interactions (165-173)
o Leading Teams as a Coach-Questioner (178-186)
o Questions at Various Stages of Problem Soling (206-210)
Comment: Too often, the focus is on the symptom(s) of a problem rather than on the root cause(s). Toyota has popularized the "Five Why" approach to avoid making that mistake.
o Using Questions to Bring Fresh Perspective (214-218)
o Leading Organizational Change (232-235)

I agree with Marquardt that all managers who aspire to become effective leaders must develop a number of questioning skills, values and attributes that he thoroughly examines in this book. They include the ability to ask the right questions; knowing when and how to do that; possessing courage and authenticity to earn credibility and, of greater importance, respect and trust; confidence and trust in the process and (especially) in those involved; having a bias for bold but prudent action rather than risk aversion; outstanding listening skills; a passion for learning...and for sharing; and self-awareness that nourishes both confidence and humility.

The information, insights, and counsel provided in this revised and updated edition are even more valuable now. I congratulate Michael Marquardt on a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

Agile Change Management: A Practical Framework for Successful Change Planning and Implementation
Agile Change Management: A Practical Framework for Successful Change Planning and Implementation
by Melanie Franklin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £30.72

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Change management is impossible without change agents who have an agile mindset, 14 May 2014
The last time I checked, Amazon offers 13,473 books on one or more aspects of business change management. Why another? I think there are three primary reasons. First, change has always been the only constant in the business world and each year, it seems to occur faster and with greater impact than before. There will always be a need for field-tested information, insights, and counsel from new sources to help manage it rather than be managed by it. Also, changes in one's competitive environment usually require changes within one's organization. Hence the importance of developing a rapid-response mindset, one that can accommodate both potential threats and possible opportunities in a timely manner. My third reason is illustrated by an incident that occurred years ago when one of Albert Einstein's faculty colleagues at Princeton point out that he asked the same questions each year on his final examinations. "Quite true. Each year, the answers are different." Business leaders need to be aware of "new answers" are as well as of the right questions that have been asked for centuries.

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

o Five guiding principles of agile change management (Pages 11-17)
o What are the benefits of a roadmap? (26-30)
o Part 2: Applying the roadmap to what you change (50-54)
o Active Listening (67-73)
o What is business need? (79-84)
o Bringing the elements of business need together (85-93)
o Generating information about the change (114-122)
o Defining the impact of the change (132-144)
o Personal awareness (147-162)
o Personal leadership (163-173)
o Steps in building relation ships (184-194)
o Setting the scene for change initiatives to thrive(196-201)
o Building a sustaining environment (217-220)

Melanie Franklin has no head-snapping revelations to share, nor does she make any such claim. What she offers is what the subtitle of her book suggests: "A practical framework for successful change planning and implementation." I think this book will be of most immediate value to those now preparing for a career in business or have only recently embarked on one. Also, for middle managers with supervisory responsibilities who need to fill knowledge gaps and sharpen basis skills.

However, I became convinced years ago that agile change management requires those involved to have an agile mindset. More specifically, change agents who embrace challenges, are not risk-averse, nor hostage to what Jim O'Toole characterizes as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom," and who welcome opportunities for others as well as for themselves to achieve personal growth and professional development.

The Digital Marketer: Ten New Skills You Must Learn to Stay Relevant and Customer-Centric
The Digital Marketer: Ten New Skills You Must Learn to Stay Relevant and Customer-Centric
by Larry Weber
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why effective marketing depends on finding new and better answers to the same questions, 14 May 2014
Since the ancient bazaars in Athens and Rome, marketing has created or increased demand for whatever the given offering may be. In recent years, many of the transactions have been conducted electronically, online. Almost 40% of the world is connected and that percentage is certain to increase. My point is, almost all of us are involved in some form of marketing each day, wherever we may be, attempting to attract interest in what we offer or evaluating what is offered to us.

That said, the Internet and especially the WWW have created entirely new opportunities and (yes) perils for marketing initiatives. According to Larry Weber and Lisa Leslie Henderson, "Digital has dealt all of us new cards. Today's customer journey still starts with a need or a desire, but our prospects often undertake an at times lengthy period of silent due diligence during which time [begin italics] they [end italics] discover and evaluate their options via the web. During this period of discovery our prospects' consideration set often grows rather narrow."

On average, people pull information from 10.4 sources before making a purchase. There has obviously been of shift from provision of information (e.g. functions, features, benefits) to "creating useful resources that address our prospects' and customers' underlying needs and desires. If these experiences resonate, we may be invited into the purchase decision process [as consultants, not purveyors]. Serving as trusted advisors, rather than biased advocates for our company's products and services, we create the conditions for our prospects and customers to evaluate [begin italics] for themselves [end italics] whether we make the grade."

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

o Three reasons why managing customer experience is worth the effort (Pages 19-20)
o Will We Ignore Change, Grow with It, or Drive It? (31-42)
o The CDO (Chief Data Officer): Expanding Our Organization's Way of Thinking (50-58)
o Brand or Be Branded (71-80)
o Be Resourceful as Do-It-Yourself Learners (80-86)
o Frameworks for Thinking about Customer Experience (98-113)
o Getting Our Arms around Our Customers' Experiences (113-122)
o What Are Marketers Doing with Data and Analytics? (135-143)
o We Are All Innovators (158-171)
o Content Marketing Works Through the Journey, and, Where Is the Content Machine Heading? (185-194)
o Tips for Creating Relevant Content (194-206)
o Social Media Has Taken the World by Storm (216-222)
o Fish Where the Fish Are (230-234)
Note: It is also a good idea to know when and what they are biting there.
o Pursue a Converged-Media Strategy (243-246)
o Create a Centralized Marketing Database (271-273)
o Strategies for Designing Loyalty Programs (289-294)
o A Shared Vision of Customer Centricity (300-303)
o Where Do We Begin? (308-313)

My own opinion is that different marketing skills, new or not, are needed to create or increase demand for the given offering in today's global, connected, intensely competitive marketplace. However, as Theodore Levitt suggests in his classic HBR article, "Marketing Myopia" (July 2004), the same basic questions must be asked:

"Who is my customer"
"What is our core business?"
"How are and what we offer different from the competition?"

In this context, I am reminded of an incident that occurred years ago when one of Albert Einstein's faculty colleagues at Princeton pointed out that he asked the same questions every year on his final examinations. "Quite right. Each year the answers are different." The same can be said about how to create or increase demand. Disruptive technologies will continue to require different answers to the same questions.

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