Review: Originals by Adam Grant

Throughout history, there have been extraordinary people who, in Wharton professor Adam Grant’s elegant phrase, “moved the world.” Grant calls these people “originals” because they are nonconformists who are unimpressed with the status quo and have the creativity and courage to forge and follow their own paths. As he explains in Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, originals can be inventors, entrepreneurs, authors and painters, leaders of political movements. Martin Luther King was an original. So was Leonardo Da Vinci, and so is Bill Gates.

Originals, however, are not just world-famous people who revolutionized their domains. Grant also tells the story of originals whose names would be unknown to most: Carmen Medina, the CIA employee who battled for years to finally incorporate the digital age into intelligence sharing; Rick Ludwin, the TV executive who, despite not working in the comedy department, championed a rejected sitcom by comedian Jerry Seinfeld; Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of a company who encouraged employees to send him memos such as the one that begins, “Ray, you deserve a ‘D’ for your performance today … It was obvious to all of us that you did not prepare at all …”

In Originals, Grant not only offers stories of great accomplishments but also dissects exactly how these accomplishments were achieved. He debunks the idea that originals are great risk-takers. Most of America’s founding fathers were reluctant revolutionaries. Martin Luther King writes that he was pushed into service as leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott before he had a chance to say “no.” Bill Gates eventually dropped out of college but only after first securing a leave of absence from the university and ensuring that his parents would support him. Originals, Grant argues, are more risk-mitigators than risk-takers.

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Review: Driven to Delight by Joseph A. Michelli

Speed Review: Driven to DelightFor most of its storied history, Mercedes-Benz has been a very product-focused company, and with good reason. The brand was built on the quality and durability of its luxury cars. In the last decade of the 20th century, however, a few upstart brands started challenging Mercedes-Benz in its luxury space.

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These luxury upstarts, such as Toyota’s Lexus and Honda’s Acura, didn’t have the history of Mercedes-Benz, but they were willing to offer something more: unbeatable customer service. For example, Lexus dealers were required to sign a covenant that included the statement, “Lexus will treat each customer as we would a guest in our home.”

When Steve Cannon moved from vice president of marketing to CEO on January 1, 2012, he decided that Mercedes-Benz USA would battle to be the best of the luxury car manufacturers in customer service. As recounted in Driven to Delight, by Joseph A. Michelli, a consultant who worked closely with the Mercedes-Benz USA leadership and author of books such as The Zappos Experience, The Starbucks Experience and the best-selling Prescription for Excellence, Mercedes-Benz USA has met the challenge. First, a Map It wasn’t, of course, an easy journey. Unlike Lexus and others who were starting from scratch, Cannon had to overcome the entrenched product-focus mindset at the heart of the company.

Another challenge, as described by Michelli, is that most of the leaders and employees who would need to buy in and implement a new customer-focused mindset were not employees of Mercedes-Benz USA; they were employees of the more than 300 Mercedes-Benz dealerships in the U.S. Part of the customer service issue, in fact, came from this structure. Customers would find excellent service in one Mercedes-Benz dealer, and then find in another dealership that, as one patron explained, employees almost expected customers to be grateful for the opportunity to buy a Mercedes-Benz. To begin moving in the direction he wanted, the company had to understand where it was and where it needed to go. Eventually, a map would be created that showed….

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Review: Extreme Ownership By Jocko Willink, Leif Babin

Transporting military leadership lessons to the business world is not new, as demonstrated by the continuing popularity with managers of The Art of War, a 2000-year-old Chinese treatise on warfare. However, it may be difficult to find a more compelling, tension-filled yet clearly applicable business text than Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s book, Extreme Ownership.

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Former Navy SEAL officers Willink and Babin, who now run a leadership consultancy called Echelon Front, built on the lessons of their battlefield experiences, base Extreme Ownership on the battle of Ramadi, a major 2006 offensive by allied forces to purge the Al-Qaeda presence in this large Iraqi city. Ramadi is a city of 400,000 people, and the battle was therefore a difficult and deadly streetby-street, building-by-building conquest in which “every piece of trash [was] a potential IED [improvised exploding device], every window, door, balcony and rooftop a potential enemy firing position,” the authors write.

Each chapter in the book begins with a scene from the battle (the authors note that they have taken extra precautions to prevent any specific tactics, techniques and procedures from being revealed in the book, and in fact, the book was cleared by military authorities).

After the narrative of the battlefield event is completed, the authors then provide the core principle to be learned from the event. The authors then, in what is one of the most valuable sections of each chapter, demonstrate how the lesson learned is applied to a real-world business case.

For example, the title of the book is Extreme Ownership, and this refers to one of the authors’ key leadership principles: leaders must take complete — even “extreme” — ownership for anything and everything that happens in the unit or organization that they lead. The chapter begins……..(click here to read the full review)

 

Make the Promise You’ll Deliver with this No B.S. Guide to Direct Response Social Media Marketing

As indicated by its name, the goal of direct response marketing is to elicit an immediate response from prospects. The opposite would be mass marketing, in which prospects are — perhaps and eventually — motivated to check out a product at the store after seeing the product’s (or the store’s) television commercial an ad nauseum number of times. Unlike the disengaged television viewers impatiently enduring commercials, social media prospects are somewhat active and some kind of connection to the seller. No wonder, as Kim Walsh-Phillips writes in No B.S. Guide to Direct Response Social Media Marketing, that “nothing has proven to give a higher ROI than social media marketing. Dollar for dollar, day in and day out, over and over again — you get the idea.”

Social media consultant Walsh-Phillips and co-author Dan Kennedy, a well-known, direct-response copywriter, combine to offer specific how-to advice on social media marketing. Their advice is generously illustrated with real-world examples, often reproduced in the book. The first lesson of the book, and one that the authors emphasize throughout the book, is that business is about money. It’s not about tweets, followers and any other social media metric about which too many businesses get excited.

“Let profit be the true measure,” writes Walsh-Phillips in the introduction, while Kennedy later notes that “you can’t go to the bank and deposit likes, views, retweets, viral explosions, social media conversations or brand recognition.” To help their readers make money, the authors offer a wide array of recommendations, often organized into concise but comprehensive lists.

One of their early offerings, for example, lists the six rules for effective marketing:

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Review: Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford

In the early 1960s, a coalition of academics, journalists, technologists, including Nobel Prize Winners Linus Pauling in chemistry and Gunnar Myrdal in economic sciences, submitted a report to President Lyndon Johnson that described a “triple revolution.” “Two of the revolutionary forces identified in the report — nuclear weapons and the civil rights movements — are indelibly woven into the historical narrative of the 1960s,” writes Martin Ford in Rise of the Robots. “The third revolution, which comprised the bulk of the document’s text, has largely been forgotten.” In their report to Johnson, the authors warned of an economy based on machines, not humans, with the result being, Ford writes, “massive unemployment, soaring inequality and, ultimately, falling demand for goods and services as consumers increasingly lacked the purchasing power necessary to continue driving economic growth.”

The central thesis of Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, is that the world can no longer afford to ignore this third revolution. It is here, now. In his detailed, wide-ranging book, Ford, a software entrepreneur and writer, points to the economic markers that bolster his pessimistic vision of the future. For example, starting in the 1970s and contrary to all that had happened before, increase in productivity stopped translating into increased wages — just one of seven deadly economic trends that Martin attributes to advances in information technology.

Creative destruction may be a comforting hypothesis, writes Ford — yes, the horse-and-buggy industries disappeared, but they were replaced by the massive automobile industries. The new companies of the digital industry…….(click here to read the full review)

Review: The Challenger Customer by Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon

In The Challenger Sale, Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon offered a new B2B sales process through which the best salespeople — known as Challengers — broke through by offering customers unique insights into their problems, tailoring their offerings to specific customer needs, and taking control of the sale rather than being pushed around by customer objections or demands.

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Further research by Adamson and Dixon and their colleagues at the consultancy CEB (formerly Corporate Executive Board) revealed that The Challenger Sale had not gone far enough. The book had laid out a method for breaking through to individuals in the customer organization. However, B2B purchasing is now done by committee and not by individuals. Their new book, The Challenger Customer, co-authored with fellow CEB consultants Pat Spenner and Nick Toman, describes the challenges and solutions for selling to a group of buyers with different goals and priorities.

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Review: Above the Line by Urban Meyer

At the end of the 2010 football season, University of Florida football coach Urban Meyer was at the top of his game. In only six seasons at Florida, he had already won two championships. And more championships were predicted.

Then Meyer stunned the college football world by announcing that he was stepping down as coach for personal reasons — a catch-all reason given by those in positions of authority looking for a discreet escape hatch. However, the catch-all phrase was right on target for Meyer that year. He was indeed leaving the program for personal reasons. His personal health. His personal relationships. His personal priorities.

In 2012, Urban Meyer returned to coaching at Ohio State University, the team for whom he had rooted as a boy growing up in Ashtabula, Ohio. He had not lost his desire to win, the competitive drive that had been instilled in him by his supportive but no-holds-barred father. (His father rewarded his son with a special dinner when, as a boy, Meyer got into his first fight, protecting his sister.) Meyer was also as intense as he had always been about his expectations of hard work and commitment to the team. There was, however, a new focus on life balance and a greater sense of priority…..

Featured Book Review: Unfinished Business by Anne-Marie Slaughter

For many years, women were expected to make a choice: career or family. It was impossible, they were told, to have both. A woman could not devote the kind of time and commitment needed to climb the ladder of success while at the same time giving birth and taking care of children. Eventually, feminists began to fight back, rejecting the forced choice. It was possible, they declared, to build a successful career while still nurturing a family. It was possible, they eventually declared, to have it all.

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In 2008, Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of a powerful new book on women, men and work called Unfinished Business, believed the mantra. It was indeed possible, under the right circumstances, to have it all, and she was proof. Slaughter had a very high-profile job as dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. She also had a family, including a husband who was a tenured professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, and two sons, ages nine and 11. With the support and participation of her husband, Slaughter was able to thrive in her position while still leaving the office at 6 p.m.

In 2009, Slaughter was tapped by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to become the first female director of policy planning. The position was, of course, Washington-based. In accepting it, Slaughter began a commuter existence, spending the week in Washington, then returning home on Friday nights to spend the weekend with her family. Once again, it seemed that she had it all. But not exactly……..

Review: Why Should Anyone Work Here?

In their newest book, Why Should Anyone Work Here?, Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones turn their attention from leaders to the organizations themselves. Traditionally, companies have sought employees who fit in well with their cultures. Goffee and Jones argue, however, that today organizations need to adapt to their employees, and not the other way around. To attract the best and brightest, companies have to be prepared to be more flexible and accommodating.

Six Imperatives

In Why Should Anyone Work Here?, the authors lay out six imperatives for companies to become what they term DREAMS organizations (the acronym is taken from the first initial of each imperative: difference, radical honesty, extra value, authentic, meaning and simple rules). The first imperative, difference, is not the same as diversity, which is often focused on traditional categories of people, such as race, age or gender. For difference, organizations must let people be their unique selves. This means that organizations must accommodate and encourage different perspectives, habits, world views and assumptions.

At the end of each chapter focused on the imperatives, the authors list a series of action steps. One of the action steps related to…

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Adopting a Performer’s Mindset

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One of the most famous quotes from the most quoted playwrights is, “all the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” For former TV and movie actor-turned-coach and keynote speaker Michael Port, the world of business especially is a stage, and stagecraft is the key to success. In his seventh book, Steal the Show, Port shares the secrets of acting and stagecraft “to guarantee,” as the subtitle declares, “a standing ovation for all the performances in your life.”

While most people would hardly think of themselves as actors, there is clearly a parallel between giving a speech, acing an interview, or making a presentation to your bosses and climbing on stage to perform Hamlet. There is some kind of a script, there is the audience and there you are, trying to make a connection with the audience.

In Steal the Show, Port does an excellent job in providing practical, real-world advice to turn any non-actor into a successful performer.

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