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Tempo: timing, tactics and strategy in narrative-driven decision-making Paperback – 31 Mar 2011

2.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Ribbonfarm Inc (31 Mar. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982703007
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982703007
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 169,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
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I can see why some people might not like this book. It's densely packed with ideas and follows a fractal pattern, applying the author's central thesis to examples of increasing size and complexity. As such, it's a book that defies a simple description. If asked to say what the book is "about", I would struggle, as it's only really possible to appreciate its conclusions after you've read the whole thing at least twice.

That said, there's plenty here to appreciate. The author examines decision-making at various scales, from individual decisions about what to make for dinner up to life-changing events that come to define our lives, whilst also covering organisational decision-making. The concept of "tempo" is used to illustrate how the pace and timing of our activities can shape how we think, both individually and collectively. This idea, which could merit a book in itself, also serves as a building block for grander ideas about "narrative rationality", or how whole lives can be understood in terms of stories with well-defined structures.

To achieve all of this in a mere 176 pages requires that the author proceeds at a breakneck pace, and sometimes I wish he would have been a bit gentler, slower and more forgiving of the reader's unfamiliarity with some of the terms used. It's clear that the subject matter is intensely interesting to him, and can be so to others, but at times it feels as though his ideas are hurtling past me too quickly for me to grasp them. But even in saying this, I've adopted his metaphors about timing and speed, which perhaps proves that there's something worthwhile here.
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As others have commented, this is not an easy read, but it is, I think, a worthwhile one. If you persevere, you will come away with a different sense of time and a useful set of distinctions about the operations of structures all the way from your mind up to the level of big social structures. And yes, there are actually several books that need to come out of this material, presented in a more accessible form.
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From p 123: "Does the leverage provided by a given cheap trick diminish through reuse in subsequent enactments?"

If you think this sentence might have meaning, you should buy this book. If, on the other hand, you do not (like me) you should avoid it.
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Mostly nonsense as far as I can tell. Possible I'm unable to appreciate the subtle genius, but I doubt it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars 15 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A useful collection of patterns to think about how organizations behave ... 18 Sept. 2014
By Stefano Bertolo - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A useful collection of patterns to think about how organizations behave and organize themselves. The argument style is however completely qualitative, with no clear predictions, much less predictions matched against carefully researched data. The book also feels a bit hostage to its Zeitgeist: if a pop-psychology idea was in a TED talk or on some fampus blog in the last few years, chances are you'll find it mentioned in this book (one could say that the TED series is imposing its tempo on the content selection of this book). That said, I'd still recommend it as a read for anyone who wants to think a bit more broadly than most people who surround them. Finally, the author's blog is actually better than the book itself.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh look into Psychology and Meditation 9 Mar. 2013
By Brian Campbell - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Psychology of decision making is a field that I was very unfamiliar with when I bought this book. It was recommended to me from a friend who lives in the Fingerlakes region of New York, where the author apparently lives. The analysis of timing and self-regulation in this book are not unparalleled in other self-improvement areas of literature, but it is very well written and easy to understand without having even close to extensive knowledge of psychology or the specific arena of the psychology of decision-making.

I would recommend this book to anyone that is pursuing knowledge on self-help, meditation, situational awareness, and increasing success, happiness, and productivity in their life through modern or pre-modern scripture. I do a lot of yogic meditation and the methods in this book of calming and addressing your life and it's various scenarios has gone very much hand-in-hand with many teachings of what I guess most Americans would know as the "buddha-state", or the calm, rational, controlled side of your individual perspective; trying to escape what Siddhartha Guatama would call the illusions of life to see the truth, in an objective, not subjective, way.

The only cons for me were that the analogous situations Rao chooses to use as an avenue for explaining the concepts are a little unrelatable, but only to me, because I don't work in an office or cook for myself very often, as I am still a 20 year old struggling with making my responsible life more fruitful and aerodynamic. However, even though it does get repetitive, the situations themselves were still relatable enough, and that kind of universality of tempo in different parts of different people's lives as being relatable in general is a big theme in the book anyway, so it holds true through my experience of reading it.

TLDR: Two thumbs way up - great book on maintaining calm and balance and success in your personal life by framing your perspective on events and content through the analysis of rhythm. Great combination book for self-help, self-improvement, and meditation enthusiasts.
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely Worth the Read 20 Dec. 2014
By Ted Gains - Published on
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This is a very interesting book.

There's no immediate "entry point" – no crazy subject matter that will reach out and grab you. The book reads as an extended essay that translates the basic workings of the human mind into the language of computer software.

There's lots of talk about "mental models" and "simulating possible worlds" inside your head. Which is pretty chill, but it's not easy to concentrate on text like this.

(Text that constantly TALKS about narrative and strategy, yet steadfastly refuses to have a narrative itself.)

I think it was well worth the read. As long as you don't go into it expecting to read some kind of story, you'll enjoy it.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Conceptually consistent, mindfully aware, and it scales 8 Jun. 2011
By Critt Jarvis - Published on
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Tempo provides a language of deeper insights into common sense, with conceptual consistency. Comprehensive yet concise -- comprising "When, Where, and Who" and interval logic -- it's giving me a meaningful backdrop to hold the complexity of "situation awareness".

Do you have the desire and intention to reduce friction in your group's decision-making enactments? Analogous to understanding weather patterns, a range of phenomena in decision-dynamics is illustrated in 3.5.

VANKET illustrates "Ideas from dusty academic journals and from rarefied domains of practice -- such as boardrooms and the decks of aircraft carriers -- [which] are not always reducible to everyday experience. So yes, at times, you will need to stretch you mind."

Indeed, exposing my beliefs, desires, and intentions to Tempo is helping me more accurately draw that thin red line from mindscape to landscape.

Two days of deep reading, my copy is totally dog-eared. Yours should be, too.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TEMPO and Decision Making Under Pressure 20 Jun. 2011
By Fred - Published on
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I describe this book "Tempo: Timing, Tactics and Strategy in Narrative Decision Making" as insightful and though provoking. It is a book that will take those of us wanting to improve situation awareness and decision making under pressure on a journey to developing, creating and nurturing the attributes and skills necessary in doing so.

The book is influenced by Carl von Clausewitz, Alfred Thayer Mahan, John Boyd, Gary Klein and Malcolm Gladwell to name a popular few who study and develop decision makers. The author blends these influences with his thoughts and insights on decision making in an outstanding way telling me he understands the big picture, the moral, mental and physical dimensions decisions are made in and he does so very nicely.

The author of Tempo, Venkatesh Rao a man I have never met or heard of prior to the book, began research into decision making that was funded by the United States Air Force and concerned key concepts such as mixed initiative command and control models: complex systems where humans, autonomous robotic combat vehicles and software systems share decision making authority. This research led Rao to this insightful 157 page book, packed full of useful information all law enforcement and security professionals should read.

The book is also very much inspired by the decisions of everyday life and the examples he uses to make his points come from the arena of everyday, making the sometimes difficult to explain lessons (emotion and timing, situation awareness, fluidity what he calls going with the flow, pace setting, dissonance, and the skill of putting it all together with a sense of timing needed in solving complex problems, very approachable, understandable and transferable to training programs and the street.

"There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life. Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat; And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures." ~Julius Cesar, Act IV, Scene 3

Rao, has great insights into how we develop mental models and their usefulness in developing situation awareness he describes as; "our subjective sense of the immediate relevance and quality of an active mental model: an unwieldy dynamic and partially coherent construct that represents our understanding of a particular class of situations." In short our "orientation" or how we individually and collectively see a situation. This in my view expounds on the importance of experience and lessons learned. Lessons learned from every day interaction. There is power in leveraging every lesson!

In the chapter he titled Narrative Rationality described as; "an approach to decision making that starts with an observation that is at once trivial and profound: all our choices are among life stories that end with our individual deaths. Surprisingly, this philosophical observation leads to very practical conceptualizations of key abstractions in decision making, such as strategy and tactic, and unique perspectives on classic decision-science such as risk and learning." Orientation and the factors Boyd discuss that shape and reshapes orientation; cultural traditions, genetic heritage, previous experiences, new information and analysis and synthesis all play a roll here. He goes on to say that the simple view "calculative rationality" or planning is not wrong, it's just limited to simple situations that fits one or more of your existing mental models very well. In complex situations, planning based on such models is merely a training exercise to sample the space of possible worlds, get a sense of the complexities involved, and calibrate your responses appropriately. This is what Eisenhower when he said, "plans are nothing, planning is everything." He also quotes Marc Anderson the creator of the Web browser Netscape:

"The process of planning is very valuable, for forcing you to think hard about what you are doing, but the actual plan that results from it is probably useless."

Narrative rationality is based on a very different foundation, the structure of stories.

"Narrative rationality is the ability to think, make decisions, and act in ways that make sense with respect to the most compelling and elegant story that you can improvise about a developing enactment."

This is a powerful chapter that breaks down the differences between linear processes (calculative rationality) and the non-linear (narrative rationality) very important to understand in real time dynamic encounters.

The importance of the explorer mentality is highlighted in the book.

"We have identified learning, in the most general sense, as the process of constructing a mental model from scratch. This process is open ended and has no goals beyond hardwired biological ones. It is unsupervised, uncertain, unbounded, unstructured, and mostly unrewarding. In more familiar terms, there are no teachers, safety belts, syllabi, grades or prizes.

Given these characteristics, it should not be surprising that it is a very disorientation and stressful phase in a deep story. Things you don't know that you don't know (unknown-unknown beliefs) dominate the situation."

This above attributes should sound very familiar to those in the law enforcement and security world as they permeate many encounters and interactions as we accord with an adversary.

He discusses entropy, the friction and difficulty of putting it all together as we attempt to observe, orient, decide and act in unfolding circumstances.

"The anxiety and incoherence of exploration cannot increase indefinitely. Whether or not we have enough information to act effectively, the sheer cognitive stress of exploration makes us seek relief, even when it takes the form of safe play among children. Our minds demand relief, and this leads to the moment I call the cheap trick, when the trajectory of increasing dissonance and entropy is arrested and turned around. The moment occurs when you recognize exploitable patterns in the raw material you have collected in your exploration.

Picture the stress level you have as you respond to a call and approach a potentially dangerous situation. Emotions are high, situation awareness is low. Who is setting the pace, the "TEMPO" of the encounter, you or your adversary? Now! How do you disrupt the flow and change the TEMPO? Do you even recognize the changes in TEMPO? If so is the TEMPO change to your advantage or disadvantage? What decision will you make next? Will that decision be based on some policy and procedure or will it be based on you ability to explore and gain more information before you act? Will your next action be one that is beneficial allowing you to safely and effectively solve the problem or will it be a decision that is detrimental to your safety? You are there. You have to act. Will the action you take be based on decision making abilities you posses, the tactic you choose or will it be based on an emotional response, luck or beating the odds?

"As you may have guessed by my introducing the notion of entropy into our discussion, we are working towards a way to correct this unnatural state of affairs. We are going to start thinking of time in terms of a unidirectional phenomenon, entropy. It won't be even or continuous, but as we will see, those requirements are only critical for calculative rationality. Narrative rationality necessitates a bumpy, uneven ride."

The book, Tempo: Timing, Tactics and Strategy in Narrative-Driven Decision Making will help you learn the problems and solutions that surround decision making. In my view if you take the time to read it, digest and think about the numerous concepts that surround decision making exposed in this book, you be much safer and much more effective on the street. I highly recommend this book. Be sure to check out [...] as well.
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