Driving past your neighborhood gym, you can see rows of people on various cardio equipment through the strategically-placed windows, sweating as they pound away in an effort to stay fit and trim. However, as you stroll through your office at work, how many cubicles do you pass that have co-workers focused on expanding their skill sets and narrowing in on their strengths. Probably not that many. Most are focused on their assignments at hand, which often may not speak to their particular strengths, but they do it anyway because that’s what they were assigned.
This scenario does not jive well with Marcus Buckingham —author, keynote speaker and former senior researcher at Gallup Organization. He has something else in mind: a strength revolution.
Buckingham asks, “What would happen if men and women spent more than 75 percent of each day on the job using their strongest skills and engaged in their favorite tasks, basically doing exactly what they wanted to do?” According to him, if people left their weaknesses in the dust and began focusing on growing their strengths, companies would see efficiency increase, as well as quality of work. It would be a win-win situation.
Buckingham is the author of five books: First Break All the Rules (coauthored with Curt Coffman, 1999), Now Discover Your Strengths (coauthored with Donald O. Clifton, 2001), The One Thing You Need to Know (2005), Go Put Your Strengths to Work (2007), and now his latest The Truth About You, due out at the end of September 2008.
I’m excited to see what Buckingham has to say in The Truth About You; according to his Web site , the book is geared toward young professionals, 17-25 years old. Nevertheless, the site assures that the book will be “valuable for anyone who wants to take control of their career and performance.” At 112 pages, and published by Thomas Nelson, I’m sure it’s a book we all could make a little time for. It also will be an excellent gift to give the young professionals in our lives this holiday season.
I recently finished reading the brothers Brafman’s (Ori and Rom) latest collaboration, Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior (Doubleday Books, 206 pages). As of early August, the June release was sitting at No. 14 on The New York Times’ best sellers’ list , down from its July position of No. 7. Perhaps something else is swaying book buyers to other titles. Nonetheless, the book takes readers on a psychological voyage lined with fascinating—and sometimes odd—case studies, ranging from over-sensitive egg buyers to the “curse” of having a low draft pick.
They write: “Living in a time when we can predict hurricanes, treat diseases with complex medical interventions, map the universe, and reap the benefits of systemized business approaches, it’s easy to forget that … all of us are swayed at times by factors that have nothing to do with logic or reason.”
After finishing this fairly quick and compelling read, I found it was hard not to apply some of what I had learned—or at least become more aware of—to what was going on in my personal and professional life. Does that mean that I have managed to loosen the grip that irrational forces have on me? Not quite, but at least I understand more about them.
For more information about Sway, check out the authors’ Web site , where you can read reviews of the book, learn more about Ori and Rom, as well as follow them with their blog.
As consumers, when we go to buy things, most of us do a little research. We may talk to friends and family that own a particular product, but possibly the easiest thing is to take a quick stroll on the World Wide Web. Go to Consumer Reports’ website, check out reviews on Amazon, or simply Google the product of interest and see what pops up. Before parting with our money, we want to know what other people think, whether they’re experts or folks just like us; it either validates a good purchase, or makes us feel secure that we didn’t shell out for something that falls apart during the first five minutes of use.
So that brings me to the bestsellers lists. Respected publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek all feature a best-sellers list, letting their readers know what books are selling well, not necessarily which books that actually read well. There is a difference. How do you know that the books on those lists were actually enjoyed, recommended, and have valid takeaways? You don’t; those lists simply provide the measurable data that the books listed have sold the most.
But I’m not saying there aren’t good books on the best-seller lists; you just need to pay attention to them over a series of months to get a real feel for what books are staying steady on the lists (strong book sales are the most likely evidence that a book has good content) and which books are simply a flash in the pan. But who has time to track best-selling books on three different lists?
The bottom line: As a book buyer, you can’t just stop at the best-sellers list, you need to take that next step and get a second opinion in the form of a recommendation or review by a trusted source. Trust me on this, I should know.
I would expect that most of us spent at least a few evenings in front of our TV in August watching some of the many Olympic events . And if you’re in business, it also crossed your mind what an opportunity this massive event is for those that are involved. The key word for business in these Olympic Games: Innovation!
Adidas developed a running shoe for Jeremy Wariner that has different spikes on the left and right shoes, since he propels primarily with his right foot. Opening and closing ceremony tickets are embedded with RFID chips made by ASK-TongFang that identify the owner and prevent fraud. And the 18,000-seat basketball gymnasium includes an aluminum-alloy skin that reflects most of the sun’s rays to keep it cooler inside, designed by Beijing Architecture Research Institute. These innovations and many others open doors for the companies involved that equate to billions of dollars of business in the coming years.
How does a company become innovative and keep the innovation juices flowing? We scanned our library of top business book summaries to see what the innovation leaders are recommending to keep ahead of the competition. Here are few ideas:
Patricia Seybold brings her internet-focus to innovation in Outside Innovation, advocating for the involvement of customers in the product design process. By engaging your lead customers and providing them with design tools, you can harness their creativity to bring brilliant new products to market. Lego is a prime example with their Mindstorms product line, which was developed in tandem with key families, hobbyists and educators.
In The Ten Faces of Innovation, Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman describe the various roles that people can play within an organization in order to foster innovation. These include the Anthropologist – who goes into the field to see how customers are using and responding to products, the Cross-Pollinator – who mixes and matches ideas, people and technology to create new ideas, and the Handler – who instantly looks at ways to overcome limits and challenges. There are seven other personas that can help any company to become a long-term innovator.
These two titles, along with eight others, are available in Soundview’s Innovation Collection.
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Sarah T. Dayton
Editor in Chief