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Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas)

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HBR Guide to Office Politics
HBR Guide to Office Politics
by Karen Dillon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Rise above rivalry, avoid power games, and build better relationships to accelerate personal growth and professional development, 12 May 2015
In HBR Guide to Office Politics, published by Harvard Business Review Press 2014), Karen Dillon offers an abundance of information, in sights, and counsel that can help almost anyone to rise above rivalry, avoid power games, and build better relationships, not only at work but in all other dimensions of their lives.

I cannot recall a prior time when I have observed or heard about more incivility in the workplace than I do now. Courtesy is hardly common. There is severe pressure on everyone to produce more and better work in less time, and at a lower cost. Electronic devices enable almost anyone to connect with almost anyone else, anywhere and at any time and yet many (most?) workers, paradoxically, feel out-of-touch with, if not alienated from their associates. This is the context, the workplace culture, within office politics are most likely to thrive.

At the outset, she offers four invaluable caveats to those who find themselves engulfed in "playing politics."

o <strong>Question your reaction</strong>: When people appear to be playing political games, we often think we know their motives, but sometimes we're off the mark. Step back and reevaluate: What else could be driving the behavior? Maybe it's not as vengeful as it seems -- or even intentional.

o <strong>Try removing yourself from the equation</strong>: Everybody brings her own quirks, worries, and stresses to work. What you assume is a personal attack may have absolutely noting to do with you.

o <strong>Accept that not all conflict is bad</strong>: Great performance can come out of being challenged by an aggressive colleague or being forced to collaborate with someone you can't stand. We can and often do rise to challenges. Don't assume 'uncomfortable' means bad."

o <strong> Keep your cool</strong>: Office bullies and other game players win every time they see they've rattled you. Never give them that satisfaction -- you'll just perpetuate the problem. Stay composed, and they'll lose their power.

She wrote this book for those who are now in urgent need of assistance with achieving these goals: to increase their influence without compromising their integrity, contend with backstabbers and bullies, working their way through really difficult conversations, manage tensions when resources are scarce and prospects are ambiguous, obtain their fair share of choice assignments (including promotions), and meanwhile, avoid the feeling that all conflict is bad.

With regard to the last point, it is well worth keeping in mind Harry Truman's definition of politics as "the art of getting things done." Those who comprise a workforce must decide which politics will be acceptable to help their organization to get the "right things done" and done right.

Karen Dillon concludes: "So what's the main takeaway, if I had to boil it down to one? As organizational development and HR expert Susan Heathfield puts it, don't try to be the boss's pet -- be [begin italics] everyone's [end italics] pet. That is, devote your energy to being a terrific employee and colleague. You'll find that you're less preoccupied with all the jockeying that's going on around you-- and more focused on positive pursuits like performance, growth, and fulfillment."

Dissent: The History of an American Idea
Dissent: The History of an American Idea
by Ralph Young
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent." Edmund Burke, 12 May 2015
On occasion, I read two or more books at the same time if they address many of the same issues. For example, this book and Carol Belkin's The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America's Liberties. Dissent has indeed been one of the most powerful forces prior to, during, and following the War for Independence. It is also true had there been no Bill of Rights and what its ten amendments establish, it would have been difficult -- if not impossible -- to protest anything within the legal framework that has since preserved and protected the "inalienable right" to which the Declaration of Independence refers.

According to Belkin, "Despite the fluidity of meaning that marks the history of federalism, the Bill of Rights has fulfilled James Madison's fervent hope that this 'parchment barrier' would benefit from civic and moral development of the nation. It has proved a strong bulwark for our liberties and a safeguard against the majority's abuse of minorities. And it has established the vocabulary for our most critical discussion of, and fiercest debates over, who we are and what we think is best to do."

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Ralph Young's coverage:

o Dissent: American Revolution (Pages 55-78)
o Dissent: War of 1812 (91-93)
o Slave resistance and rebellion (115-122)
o Dissent: Mexican War (161-166)
o Dissent: Spanish American War (184-186)
o John Brown (185-189)
o Dissent: Civil War (191-212 and 204-205)
o Ku Klux Klan (216-220)
o Haymarket (262-2630
o Emma Goldman (320-335)
o Dissent: World War One (327-344)
o Sacco and Vanzetti (344-348)
o America First Movement (392-396)
o Dissent: World War Two (393-406)
o House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC): Pete Seeger and Paul Robeson hearings (410-413)
o Freedom Riders (430-432)
o Martin Luther King, Jr. and Selma (445-447)
o Dissent: Vietnam War (455-460)
o Eugene McCarthy (470-472)

In the final chapter, Young shifts his attention to the new elements that have entered the dissent narrative, notably the social media that "have the impact of reaching massive audiences and raising public awareness of [alleged] injustice." I agree with him that postings on Twitter and Facebook "spread the word of protestors of the time and place of the next rally or demonstration or civil disobedience action or spontaneous 'flash protest"...The possibilities are endless for dissenters to utilize these new tools to spread the word, educate people, and increase participation in their movement." However, Young goes on to share his concerns about dissent that does not serve as "the fuel for progress." He refers to irresponsible dissent that is, best uninformed and self-serving, and at worst, unethical or even criminal. There are significant needs that need to be addressed, such as demanding more responsible journalism, demanding that politicians "are beholden to the people and not to those who bankroll them, we need to question authority, we need to speak out [as he has], we need to make sure that 'We the People' really means something. We need to dissent."

Obviously it is impossible for a brief commentary such as mine to do full justice to the abundance of insights, and counsel that Ralph Young provides but I hope that I have at least indicated why I hold his book in such regard. The idea of dissent can be traced back in time thousands of years but its nature and extent as well as its potential power are probably most evident in the history of the United States.

As I began to read this book for the second time, I was again reminded of this observation by Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris, 1900-1910
In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris, 1900-1910
by Sue Roe
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A lively story of unknown artists with "closely overlapping lives" who have since become household names, 11 May 2015
Many years ago, there was a CBS Radio series called "You Are There" that later became a television series hosted by Walter Cronkite. He returned in time to an especially significant event in history to provide an eyewitness account of, for example, John Cassavetes as Plato in The Death of Socrates, James Dean as Robert Ford (outlaw) in The Capture of Jesse James, Paul Newman as Marcus Brutus in The Assassination of Julius Caesar and as Nathan Hale in The Fate of Nathan Hale, Jeanette Nolan as Sarah Bernhardt in The Final Performance of Sarah Bernhardt, Kim Stanley as Cleopatra in The Death of Cleopatra, Rod Steiger as Richard Burbage in The First Command Performance of Romeo and Juliet, Beatrice Straight as Anne Boleyn in The Crisis of Anne Boleyn, and Joanne Woodward in The Oklahoma Land Rush.

I commend Roe on her consummate skills that enable her to transport her reader back in time to early- 20th century Paris much as Woody Allen for those who see his film, Midnight in Paris, to the years there after the First World War. Pablo Picasso was probably the gravitational center of the culture before that war but even his dominant personality could not subdue, only enhance, the charm and historical significance of Montmartre's cafes and cabarets, galleries and studios, shops and private homes during the first decade of the 20th century. She really made me feel as if I were there in the milieu. I could almost hear her voice assure, "all things are as they were then, except you are there! "

As Roe explains, "The cross-fertilization of painting, writing, and music and dance produced a panorama of activity characterized by the early works of Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck and Modigliani, the appearance of the Ballet Russes and the salons of Gertrude Stein."The Larger framework for this book's structure also includes the World's Fair, major art exhibitions (of both paintings and sculpture), ballet and symphony performances, and relevant social, economic, and political developments in Europe as well as in the United States.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Roe's coverage:

o Montmartre village (Pages xiii-xvi)
o Henri Matisse (17-23,55-56, 107-113, and 169-171)
o André Dorain (18-19 and 105-113)
o Pablo Picasso (23-25, 36-39, 56-58, 78-81, 87-94, 157-162, and 270-274)
o Picture sellers in Montmartre village (28-35)
o Paul Cézanne (31-33 and 204-206)
o Maurice Vlaminck (43-48, 85-86, 111-112, and 246-248)
o Georges Braque (61-68, 81-82, 178-179, 237-238, and 243-246))
o Serge Diaghilev (69-70, 204-206, and 303-304)
o Bateau-Lavoir (75-79, 140-141, 154-155, and 179-180)
o Gertrude Stein (97-00 and 134-140)
o Amedeo Modigliani (142-148 and 208-210)
o Picasso and Matisse (154-155 and 175-177)
o Gauguin's influence on Picasso (160-161)
o Salon d'Automne (204-206 and 303-304
o Ballet Russes (258-262 and 286-289)

There is a Farmer's Market near the downtown area here in Dallas at which merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples of their wares. In that same spirit, I now offer three excepts from Rose's narrative that are representative of her skills:

o "The real revolution in the arts first took place not, as is commonly supposed, in the 1920s, to the accompaniment of the Charleston, black jazz, and mint juleps, but more quietly and intimately, in the shadow of the windmills -- artificial and real -- and in the cafés and cabarets of Montmartre during the first decade of the twentieth century. The unknown artists who gathered there and lived closely overlapping lives are

o "There had always been painters in Montmartre; its reputation as the centre of artistic life dated back to the reign of Louis VI, who was a great supporter if the arts. (Montmartre appears in records dating back to the twelfth century.) The Abbey of Montmartre founded under his rule and built on the site now occupied by St. Peter's Church, between the Place du Tertre and the Sacré Coeur, attracted generous donations, earning Paris the title of 'Ville de Lettres'. Montmartre's reputation had originally been founded not on prostitutes but on nuns, some of whom achieved sainthood." (Page 15)

o "'What I am searching for, [Modigliani] wrote in one of his sketchbooks, 'is neither the real nor the unreal, but the Subconscious, the mystery of what is Instinctive in the human race'. The new go0al for the modern artists was to find ways of expressing the interior life. In their own way, Picasso and Matisse, Derain and Vlaminck, Diaghilev and Poiret, Marie Laurencin and Gertrude Stein were all by now engaged in this quest." (211)

o "The struggles of a few dedicated, near-destitute artists working in the broken-down shacks and hovels of rural Montmartre seemed to have created the foundation for the wider arena of modern art. In retrospect, the bohemian world of the artists in Montmartre in the first decade of the century may be seen as a kind of living [begin italics] parade [end italics], a brief, dynamic, entertaining drama containing all the seeds of the main, twentieth- century show -- and all the fun of the fair." (312)

Sue Roe provides a superb Bibliography to which I presume to add David McCullough's The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, Gabrieller Selz's Unstill Life: A Daughter's Memoir of Art and Love in the Age of Abstraction, Anne Sinclair's My Grandfather's Gallery: A Famliy Memoir of Art and War, and Paul Durand-Ruel: Memoir of the First Impressionist Art Dealer (1831-1922) co-authored by Flavie Durand-Ruel and Paul-Louis Durand-Ruel.

Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact
Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact
Price: £14.40

5.0 out of 5 stars How to "lay the groundwork for using stories as credible tools" to "adjust the perceptions your stories build and sustain", 6 May 2015
Note: The review that follows is of the Second Edition of a book first published in 2000.

In my opinion, no one has a wider and deeper understanding of the art and science of storytelling - notably the business narrative -- than Annette Simmons does. She is convinced - and I agree - that almost anyone has a number of personal stories that they are unwilling and/or (more likely) they are unable to share with others. Her purpose in this book and her mission in life is to help as many people as possible to overcome their self-imposed barriers so that they can share what she characterizes as "meaningful stories" that touch the heart rather impersonal messages "dressed in bells and whistles" of lifeless rationality. As Simmons explains, "This book gives you new skills in story thinking that will complement your skills in fact thinking. Facts matter, but feelings interpret what your facts mean to your audience."

As I came upon those words when reading this book for the first time, I was again reminded of an observation by Maya Angelou: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." The power of a personal story well-told is such that the audience could be one or two people or one or two thousand people.

Simmons focuses on six different types of personal stories. What they are and how to use them are best revealed within her narrative, on context. However, I now provide some information about one of them, "Teaching Stories." As she explains, "Certain lessons are best learned from experience and some lessons over and over again -- patience, for instance. You can tell someone to be patient, but it's rarely helpful. It is better to tell a story that creates a shared experience of patience alo0nt wi9th the rewards of patience. A three-minute story about patience may be short and punchy, but it will change behavior much better than advice. It is as close to modeling patience as you can get in three minutes." She explains the skills and process needed to think about, prepare, refine, and then share stories in all six categories.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Simmons' coverage:

o Significant Emotional Event Stories (Pages 12-14)
o Stories as Experience Reconstituted: Stories We Tell Every Day (21-29)
o Choose the Stories You Tell (Pages 26-29)
o Where Do I Find Stories? (37-40)
o Feedback (40-43)
o Brain Training (46-56)
o Don't Expect a Recipe to Make You a Chef (48-49)
o "Who I Am" Stories (59-66)
o "Why I am Here" Stories (67-79)
o Teaching Stories (81-92)
o Vision Stories (93-94)
o Book, Movie, or Current Event Stories (102-140)
o "Values-in-Action" Stories (105-121)
o "I Know What You Are Thinking" Stories (123-135)
o Sensory Experience (139-149)
o Brevity (151-159)
o BIG Stories (161-170)
o Points of View (171-176)
o Secrets of the Design-Thinking Process: Solution and Story Testing (191-195)

I agree with Simmons that every culture "is based on stories and metaphors that aggregate around that culture's preferential answers to universal but ambiguous human dilemmas like how to manage time, authority, safety money, ethics, and whatever else is important. If it is important to the culture, you will find a story that tells you what is important and why." With rare exception, the greatest leaders throughout history were great storytellers. They shared a vision and embodied values with which others could identity. Jesus and Mohammed expressed articles of faith almost entirely with parables and Abraham Lincoln was widely renowned (even by those who hated him) as a master "teller of tales."

Simmons observes, "The key to story thinking is to learn which stories stimulate your own feelings first. Then find the stories that also stimulate the feelings of others. The skills you develop by starting from the inside will help you learn the way stories create feelings that motivate us to action."

I was especially interested in reading the chapter Annette Simmons added, Chapter 16, "Borrowing Genius" (Pages 187-207). She begins this final chapter as follows: "Some of the brightest minds in their fields have aggressively applied storytelling principles, applications, and practices to their own goals with great effect. They now offer more practical insights, creative applications, and experiments than do many so-called storytelling experts. This chapter outlines some of their most innovative applications, along with ideas on how ton transplant them into your own practice of personal story telling."

The "secrets" were contributed from "fields" that include the design-thinking process, the nonprofit world, the legal field, and narrative medicine as swell as from digital storytelling, content marketing, and storytelling podcasts such as This American Life, The Moth, and Serial.

I urge everyone who reads this brief commentary of mine to obtain and then re-read (at least once) this second edition, and do so with appropriate care. Better yet, read and re-read it with a sense of delight. Absorb and digest the valuable information, insights, and counsel that are provided. Meanwhile, I presume to suggest that you highlight key passages and keep a notebook near at hand to record whatever touches your heart and stimulates your mind. Perhaps you will begin to feel that the book is reading you. (That's what I felt as I began to re-read it for the first time.) Let this book be a magic carpet, not to travel to distant lands and ancient times but, rather, to regions of your heart and mind where precious material resides, the material you will need to create and share your own personal stories.

As you begin your journey of personal discovery, I join with Annette Simmons to wish you a heartfelt "Bon voyage!"

Disrupting Digital Business
Disrupting Digital Business
by R ""Ray Wang
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

5.0 out of 5 stars How to establish and then sustain a decisive advantage over competitors with a disruptive business model, 5 May 2015
By way of background, "disruptive innovation," a term of art coined by Clayton Christensen, describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors. An innovation that is disruptive allows a whole new population of consumers at the bottom of a market access to a product or service that was historically only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or a lot of skill.

Characteristics of disruptive businesses, at least in their initial stages, can include lower gross margins, smaller target markets, and simpler products and services that may not appear as attractive as existing solutions when compared against traditional performance metrics. Because these lower tiers of the market offer lower gross margins, they are unattractive to other firms moving upward in the market, creating space at the bottom of the market for new disruptive competitors to emerge.

Ray Wang ix well-prepared to explain how to create an authentic customer experience in the peer-to-peer economy and thereby create - in process - what Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba characterize as "customer evangelists." Wang is the principal analyst, founder, and chairman of Silicon Valley-based Constellation Research, Inc. He's also the author of the popular business strategy and technology blog "A Software Insider's Point of View." With a viewership of millions of page views a year, his blog provides insight into how disruptive technologies and new business models such as digital transformation impact brands, enterprises, and organizations. Wang has held executive roles in product, marketing, strategy, and consulting at companies such as Forrester Research, Oracle, PeopleSoft, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Almost all of the information, insights, and counsel Wang provides is relevant to almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. As he explains, "The key to companies' success will be to develop disruptive business models of their own. Organizations and individuals will have to know what they want to be -- and to live and breathe it. To develop disruptive digital business models, companies aspire to be transformation focused, relevant, authentic, intention driven, and networked." Success, he asserts, requires mastery of all five separate but [my italics] interdependent areas. This is the "what." Wang also explains the "how" and the "why."

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of his coverage:

o Organizational DNA (Pages 15-22)
o Business Model Shifts (23-34)
o Mini-case study: Zingerman's deli (46-54)
o Mini-case study: Marriott (54-66)
o Trust (72-79)
o Mini-case study: Fox News (79-84)
o Mini-case study: Bitcoin (84-88)
o Intention-Driven (93-97)
o Self-Learning: (100-103)
o Force Multipliers (118-124)
o Freemium (135-143)
o Co-Innovation and Co-Creation (143-144)
o Designing New Customer Experiences (148-152)
o Developing a Culture of Digital DNA (152-157)
o Applying New Technologies to Existing Infrastructure (157-163)
o Moving to from Gut-Driven to Data-Driven Decisions (163-166)
o Co-Creating and Co-Innovating with New Partners (166-170)

I agree with Wang that the goal is to establish an authentic business brand. The organization has to ask itself what the company would be like if it were a person. Digital leaders have to think about this every day and then reflect that [in their relationships with] customers, employees, partners, and suppliers. The goal is to identify the technologies that will disrupt the business model, so that we get the transformational change." Only then can an organization achieve and sustain higher margins, greater market share, increased brand relevancy, and massive scale.

Connection Culture (Association for Talent Development)
Connection Culture (Association for Talent Development)
by Michael Lee Stallard
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here are "the elements of workplace cultures that help people and organizations thrive for sustained periods of time", 5 May 2015
Most of the companies annually ranked among those that are most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their competitive marketplace. That is no coincidence. However different they may be in most respects, all of them have a culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. In his latest book, written with Jason Pankau and Katharine Stallard, Michael Lee Stallard examines the elements of such a workplace culture.

As he explains, "An organization's culture reflects the predominant ways of thinking, behaving, and working. To appreciate the importance of culture in the workplace, consider your own experiences. Over the course of your career, have you experienced times when you were eager to get to work in the morning, you were so immersed in your work that the hours flew by, and by the end of the day you didn't want to stop working? What was it about the job that made you feel that way? How about the opposite? Have you experienced times when you struggled to get to work in the morning, the hours passed ever so slowly, and by the end of the day you were exhausted? Again, what was it about the job that made you feel that way?"

Over the years, I have worked within or closely observed hundreds of workplace cultures and agree with Stallard that understanding the factors that create a connection culture, one that enables people to thrive, is extremely important. Stallard notes, "According to Gallup's employee engagement research, 70 to 74 percent of American workers are not engaged in their jobs. Globally, that percentage rises to 87 to 89 percent (Gallup 2013). Disengaged people show up for the paycheck, but don't perform anywhere near what they are capable of if they were in a culture that energized and engaged them. This lack of employee engagement is a problem that's about to become much bigger. The business world is becoming a much more global and competitive place, with standards going up all the time. Organizations with a large percentage of disengaged employees may not survive. Individuals who fall behind thanks to poor work cultures will also be in trouble."

Connection Culture describes a new way of thinking about leadership based on the universal need to feel connected to others as opposed to feeling unsupported, left out or lonely. The book describes the connection culture leadership model, supporting research, case studies, and 15 building blocks to create a connection culture. In one part of the book, Stallard recommends ten ways to improve your connection skills, accompanied by my brief annotations:

1. Recognize varying connection needs. With people? With great music? With nature?
2. Be present in conversations. Focus on eye contact and listening with intent.
3. Develop the ability to empathize. What is another person feeling? Why?
4. Develop the habit of emphasizing positives. That said, beware of denial and delusion.
5. Control your tone of voice. What you say is less important than how you say it and weather you walk the talk.
6. Negotiate with a mindset to solve a problem rather than "win." That said, the best resolution is one that is a "win" for everyone involved.
7. Provide autonomy in execution. That is especially important when delegating. Specify What, When, and Why. Defer to How.
8. Learn and apply the five languages of appreciation. They are words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gifts, and physical touch.
Note: The intentions of authentic people are seldom (if ever) misunderstood.
9. Apologize when you make a mistake. If you don't, the disconnect may become irreparable.
10. Develop social skills and relationship skills, and recognize the differences between them. Being liked does not necessarily mean you are respected and trusted.

Stallard focuses on six specific needs: respect, recognition, belonging, autonomy, personal growth, and meaning. "This list is derived from personal research, as well as research and insights from A.H. Maslow on hierarchy of needs and need deficits, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on flow and optimal experience, Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci on autonomy, and Viktor E. Frankl on meaning. The first three needs (respect, recognition, and belonging) are relational needs. When these needs are met, we feel connected to the people we work with. The next two (autonomy and personal growth) are task mastery needs, which affect how connected we feel to the work we are doing. Finally, the sixth need, meaning, is an existential need." He provides research from neuroscience and organizational behavior to support his connection culture model.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of coverage in Connection Culture:

o Three Psychosocial Cultures: Connection, Control, and Indifference (Pages xv-vii)
o The Competitive Advantage of Connection (1-9)
o Michael's personal epiphany from experience at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (2-5)
o Shared vision, identity, empathy, and compassion (13-15, 75-81, and 62-75))
0 Shard understanding and knowledge flow (15-16 and 81-85)
o Connection: universal character strengths (21-23 and 99-102)
o Mini-case studies (29-50)

Note: The mini-case studies include "Alan Mulally's 'Encore' at Ford," "Admiral Vernon Clark and Restoring Navy Pride," "Frances Hesselbein Saves the Girl Scouts," "Mike Krzyzewski's 'Aha Moment.'"

o Google (41-42, 58-59, and 68-69)
o Summary of research on organizational and individual wellness
o Summary of research on the decline of connection (53-54 and 60-64)
o Summary of research on organizational health and sustainability (56-60)
o Five Reasons Connection Cultures Need to Be a High Priority (65-66)
o Hiring, developing and promoting for competence and connection skills (72-75)
o Helping others to develop connection skills (77-81)
o Pixar's connection culture (88-91)
o Three types of people in the context of connection (93)

One of Stallard's key points is that the foundation of a workplace culture includes but is not limited to how people work together; it also includes personal interaction between and among those involved: how people treat each people. I agree that everyone within an organization needs to develop connection skills, especially leaders, and I am convinced that, whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations need effective leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. Specifically, in a healthy culture, employees who feel connected perform at the top of their game, give a best effort, align their behavior with organizational goals, help improve the quality of decision-making and problem-solving, and contribute as much as they can to improving what is done and how it is done.

I commend Michael Lee Stallard, Jason Pankau, and Katharine Stallard on the abundance of invaluable information, insights, and counsel in a concise volume of a little more than hundred pages (which includes the introduction and fascinating story about the rise of the rock band U2), accompanied by two appendices. Today's time starved leaders and those who aspire to be leaders are sure to appreciate this book because it eliminates the fluff, cuts to the chase and is loaded with actionable recommendations. Almost all of this material is relevant to almost any organization in which there is an urgent need to elimination disconnection between and among its workforce, especially insofar as communication, cooperation, and (most important) collaboration are concerned.

Efforts to eliminate disconnections will no doubt encounter stout resistance, usually cultural in nature, the result of what Jim O'Toole so aptly characterizes as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom." Do not despair. Keep in mind this memorable observation by Margaret Mead: "A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System
Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System
by Philip Kotler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." Derek Bok, 5 May 2015
In my opinion, Phil Kotler is the world's preeminent authority on how to create or increase demand for whatever is offered for sale or trade. In a word, "marketing." Therefore, it comes as no surprise that his latest book offers "real solutions for a troubled economic system" in a global marketplace. Economics (for better or worse) provide the infrastructure for commerce. Kotler is a results-driven empiricist who applies his pragmatic skills to a range of immensely complicated problems that include poverty, income inequality, workers under severe pressure, job creation despite growing automation, ignoring or underestimating social costs," environmental exploitation, the dangers of narrow self-interest, the debt burden at the federal/'state/county/local levels, and politics' subversion of economics. These are indeed very serious issues and Kotler minces no words when sharing his thoughts and feelings about how to establish and then nourish/sustain high-performance capitalism.

For example, in the first chapter, he identifies what he characterizes as "the fourteen shortcomings of capitalism." One of his primary objectives in the book is to0 examine each of them as well as the underlying fo0rces and causes - and propose possible, plausible solutions. "This book discusses how capitalism plays out in the United States as in many other countries of the world. As more countries move to a higher level of economic development, their problems will resemble more closely the problems, and the solutions, that play out in the United States."

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Kotler's coverage:

o What Is Capitalism? (Pages 7-10)
o The Fourteen Shortcomings of Capitalism (12-15)
o The Causes of Poverty (19-23)
o Solutions to Poverty, and, Approaches to Helping the Poor (23-25 and 27)
o Thomas Piketty Arrives On the Scene (31-32)
o Dangers of the Inequality (39-42)
o Policies for Reducing the Great Differences In Incomes (42-55)
o Alternative Proposals to Help Workers Get a Living Wage, and, The Issue of Worker Dissatisfaction on the Job (72-77)
o The Impact of Technology, Fewer Jobs for More People, and, Who Will Be Affected Most? (80-86)
o Companies Avoiding Social Costs (96-99)
o The Rise of the Environmental Movement, and Companies Adopting an Ecological Consciousness (107-110)
o The Problem of the Business Cycle (116-119)
o The Sources of Turbulence (122-134)
o The Case for Individualism and Self-Reliance (136-139)
o The U.S. Great Recession: 2008-2011 (150-152)
o Solutions: Measures to Regulate the Financial System (161-165)
o Lobbying (168-176)
o Maintaining and Improving Infrastructure (184-186)
o How to Change the Culture of Consumerism (204-206)
o Two Major unresolved Issues: Jobs and Corporate Support for Sustainability (206-209)
o The Role of Materialism in Relation to Happiness and Achieving Happiness Without Materialism (217-222)

As Kotler carefully explains throughout his lively and eloquent narrative, "The fourteen shortcomings are not independent of each other. They are highly interrelated. The problem of poverty is part of the problem of income inequality, which itself is leads to low demand, which leads to too much unemployment, which leads to a clash between austerity and stimulus as two potential remedies, which is handicapped by political lobbying that gets legislators to vote for the causes that will keep them in power and therefore not vote for financial regulation and more environmental; protection, and so on.

"All this means that in working on any one problem, such as higher minim um wages, so many other issues come into play, such as some businesses possibly closing down, thus creating fewer jobs and more unemployment and incentivizing companies to import more goods from abroad, which leads to even less employment at home, and so on."

I agree with this overview. At the same time, I think it is more possible than ever before to diminish the nature and extent of some problems in one area such as unemployment that will, in turn, diminish the nature and extent of problems in other areas such as income inequality. Moreover, I think that communication, cooperation, and (most important of all) collaboration between and among federal, state, county, and local governments can increase and improve -- during the problem-solving process -- if more efficient use is made of various electronic technologies.

Philip Kotler will not -- because no single person can -- solve all the problems in our troubled economic system but he does provide in his latest book an agenda, a mindset, a rationale, and a game plan that can have significant impact if (HUGE "if") enough people become engaged in achieving goals that will accelerate personal growth and professional development throughout and beyond the United States. In this context, I am again reminded of an observation by Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

* * *

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out three others: John Bogle's The Clash of the Cultures: Investment vs. Speculation, Roger Martin's Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL, and Robert Frank's The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good.

Philip Kotler is the S. C. Johnson Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management. He has been honored as one of the world's leading marketing thinkers. He received his M.A. degree in economics (1953) from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. degree in economics (1956) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), and has received honorary degrees from twenty-one foreign universities. He is the author of over 57 books and over one hundred and fifty articles. He has been a consultant to IBM, General Electric, Sony, AT&T, Bank of America, Merck, Motorola, Ford, and others. The Financial Times included him in its list of the top 10 business thinkers. They cited his Marketing Management book as one of the 50 best business books of all times. More is available on

The Membership Economy: Find Your Super Users, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue
The Membership Economy: Find Your Super Users, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue
by Baxter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.26

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to create a community of "customer evangelists" who thrive in the Membership Economy., 30 April 2015
The term "customer evangelist" was introduced by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba in their eponymous classic in 2002. I cannot recall a prior time when it was more difficult to create and retain them than it is today and competition is certain to become even more intense in months and years to come. That said, to what does the title of Robbie Kellman Baxter's book refer?

She defines membership "as the state of being formally engaged with a organization or group on an ongoing basis. Members are part of the whole -- although they don't always contribute to the experience of other members. An organization able to build relationships with [begin italics] members [end italics] -- as opposed to plain customers [end italics] -- has a powerful competitive edge. It's not just changing the words you use; it's about changing the way you think about the people you serve and how you treat them."

Companies that thrive in what Baxter characterizes as the Membership Economy are annually ranked among those that are the best to work for and held in highest regard. They are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable with the greatest cap value in their competitive marketplace.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me (through Chapter 16), also listed to suggest the scope of Baxter's coverage:

o What Is the Membership Economy? (Pages 2-3)
o The Membership Economy Matters to Its Members (21-22)
o Membership Organizations Come in a Variety of Flavors, and, The Darker Side of the Membership Economy (27-29)
o Promote a Culture of Marketing Innovation (34-38)
o Why Marketing Loves Membership (41-42)
o The Steps in a Typical Sales Acquisition Funnel (46-52)

o What Defines an Organization's Superusers, Increasing the Number of Your Organization's Superusers, and Why Superusers Are Important to an Organization (58-63)
Note: These three separate but related passages need to be re-read frequently as reminders of key points.

o Seven Potential Revenue Streams (68-73)
o Common Pricing Mistakes (76-78)
o When Free Isn't Really Free: The Napster's Story (87-77)
o Technology Matters -- Especially in the Membership Economy (92-94)
o Key Technologies of the Membership Economy (94-95)
o Increase Engagement Over Time (102-104)
o SurveyMonkey: Going Upmarket While Staying True ton Early Customers (118-123)
o LinkedIn: Using Freemium to Avoid the Chicken-and-Egg Problem (130-132)
o Pinterest: Driving a New Way to Search by the Power of Community (132-135)
o Starbucks: Build Something Uniquely Tied to the Brand (139-141)
o American Express: Give Membership Its Privileges (148-151)
o How Mom and Pop Can Embrace the Membership Economy (158-159)
o What You Can Learn from Small Businesses and Consultancies (163-164)

As I worked my way through Baxter's eloquent as well as lively narrative, it seemed to me that her concept of a community within a membership economy bears stunning resemblance to Seth Godin's concept of a tribe. The members are devoted to each other, of course, but especially to the cause, mission, values, and indeed vision they share. Residents of what I call the Apple Orchard have no desire to be elsewhere. (I am now wearing out my sixth and seventh Apple computers. To paraphrase Charlton Heston, "I will give up my Apple when they peel my cold dead fingers from around it.") Harley owners have the same strong sense of ownership pride. More relevant to the Experience Economy is the community that my friends Bo Burlington and Paul Spiegelman co-founded, Inc. Small Giants Community, dedicated to "inspiring the next generation of business changemakers and values-driven entrepreneurs from across the land." Presumably Baxter agrees with Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Baxter makes skill use of several reader-friendly devices that include dozens of "Tables" (e.g. 6.1 "The Onboarding Process" and 10.1 "Secrets to Increase Loyalty: What the Pros Know") as well as a "Remember" section at the conclusion of Chapters 1-21 and her Conclusion. These devices facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

Before concluding her book, Robbie Kellman Baxter expresses her desire to "be there" for all of her readers, if she can. Here's her offer: "If after reading this book, you want to incorporate the Membership Economy into your organization, let me know. I'm building an online community to support the Membership Economy, but in the meanwhile, just send me an email to with your specific question, and I'll do my best to answer it. Best of luck, and keep in touch!"

I presume to stress the importance of collaboration because it really is essential to what "a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens" can accomplish in the Experience Economy. In this context, I am again reminded of my favorite passage in Lao-tse'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."

Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game
Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game
by Mark R. Miller
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beware of Whack-a-Mole leadership and management, 28 April 2015
I have read and reviewed all of Mark Miller's previous books, including Great Leaders Grow and The Secret (both in collaboration with Ken Blanchard) and consider Miller one of the observant and insightful business thinkers in thought leadership. Once again in Chess Not Checkers, he calls upon his highly developed skills as a raconteur to provide information, insights, and counsel in the form of a business narrative. That is, he establishes a setting, introduces characters, builds tension with conflicts that occur during the plot development, and eventually there is a climax with resolution of the key issues.

The details of this narrative are best revealed in context. However, I am comfortable suggesting what the major issues are that Miller addresses, based on his own wide and deep background in leadership, management, personal growth, and professional development. These issues are involved when attempting to answer questions such as these:

o How best to identify the most important questions to ask and the most difficult to solve?
o How best to identify those answers and solutions?
o How to balance collective judgment with individual initiative?
o Every "game" has its rules and some games are more complicated than others. How to decide which game and how best to play it?
o How to keep score? That is, how to measure what is most important?
o How to create a sense of urgency to obtain buy-in for proposed action?
o How to create a sense of "One for all, all for one"?
o How to get talent and work in proper alignment?
o How to know when to stay the course, change it, or end the given "journey"?
o To what extent should a "turnaround mindset" be sustained after a turnaround has succeeded?

The new CEO and the other players in Miller's narrative face the same questions, problems, challenges, frustrations, ambiguities, anxieties, etc. that counterparts in the so-called "real world" do. Their "journey" of personal growth and professional development is an endless process rather than an ultimate destination. The same is true of those who read this book as well as those they supervise and others who supervise them. Ecclesiastes once suggested that "there is nothing new" whereas Heraclitus suggested that "everything changes, nothing changes." They are both correct.

All organizations need effective leaders at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. Every day, there are "games" played at those levels and in those areas. Sometimes it's checkers, other times it's chess. All organizations need leaders who are masters at both games and constantly strengthen their skills at both.

The Road to Character
The Road to Character
by David Brooks
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.59

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here is a thoughtful and heartfelt affirmation of a "moral ecology" that can help all of us to cultivate stronger character, 25 April 2015
This review is from: The Road to Character (Hardcover)
I have read and then reviewed most of David Brooks's previously published books and think this one is his most important, at least thus far, because it will have wider and deeper impact on the lives of more people than any of those previous books could.

He selected several dozen persons throughout mostly recent history who underwent a "journey of character development." He establishes a frame of reference within which to examine a tradition of moral realism, the "crooked timber" school of humanity, that began in biblical times. "This tradition, or worldview, put tremendous emphasis on sin and human weakness. This view was captured in the figure of Moses, the meekest of men who nonetheless led a people, and by biblical figures like David, who were great heroes, but deeply flawed."

Brooks makes brilliant use of two thematic metaphors: Adam I is wholly self-absorbed and self-serving, obsessed with gaining wealth, power, prestige, influence, etc.; Adam II experiences life as a moral drama who exemplifies Greenleaf's concept of a "servant leader," dedicated to making the world a better place by helping others.

In the Introduction, Brooks indicates that The Road to Character is about Adam II: "It's about how some people have cultivated strong character. It's about one mindset that people through the centuries have adopted to put iron in their core and to cultivate a wise heart." He then provides an arresting disclosure: I wrote it, to be honest, to save my soul."

For Bill George, Adam IIs follow their "True North," what Jim O'Toole characterizes as a "moral compass."

These are among the "journeys" that were of special interest and value to me:

o Frances Perkins (Pages) 33-43
o Dwight D. Eisenhower (48-73)
o Dorothy Day (74-104)
o George C. Marshall (105-129)
o A. Philip Randolph (130-152)
o Bayard Rustin (138-151)
o George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) 153-185
o Augustine of Hippo (Pages 203-206)
o Samuel Johnson (213-239)
o Miguel de Montaigne (228-234)

There are among the people "who have built a strong inner character, who have achieved a certain depth. In these people, at the end of this struggle, the climb to success has surrendered to the struggle to deepen the soul. After a life of seeking balance, Adam I bows down before Adam II. These are the people we are looking for."

And these are the people we should become. To those who share my high regard for this book, I recommend three others: David Whyte's The Heart Aroused, Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture, and Clayton M. Christensen's How Will You Measure Your Life?

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