Book Review: Shoe Dog By Phil Knight

Shoe DogNike is one of the world’s most famous brands. Its swoosh, famously created by an art student for just a few dollars, is ubiquitous. Its outsourcing business model is considered genius by some, controversial by others. Everyone knows Nike — or at least we think we do.

Shoe Dog, the story of Nike written by its founder, Phil Knight, offers a new perspective on the brand. Knight tells a surprisingly riveting tale. The book’s chapters are organized by year, and much of the book is spent on the first 10 years of the company (launched in 1962). As with a detective series in which we know the detective will emerge unscathed, the fact that we know the ultimate outcome of this story does not deter from the white-knuckle ride on which Knight expertly takes his readers. Knight is able to convey the fear and frustration of living on the edge that continues year after year, even as his company continues to grow. For example, Knight describes receiving the “pair count” (how many pairs of shoes shipped) from the warehouses every day. Because he depended on daily sales to generate the cash he needed to keep the business, then called Blue Ribbon Sports, alive, “the daily pair count determined my mood, my digestion, my blood pressure, because it largely determined the fate of Blue Ribbon,” he writes. “If we didn’t “sell through,” sell all the shoes in our most recent order, and quickly convert that product into cash, we’d be in big trouble.”

Blue Ribbon Sports may not be familiar to many, but it was the original name of the company that Knight founded in 1962 (the word “Nike” does not appear until nearly 200 pages into the book). Although known today as the king of outsourced manufacturing, Knight’s “Crazy Idea” — the business model he developed as a Stanford MBA student — was to introduce quality Japanese shoes to America, and specifically the Tiger, manufactured by Onitsuka Company (now Asics) in Kobe, Japan. For a number of years, Blue Ribbon Sports, a company that only existed in Knight’s mind when he traveled to Japan and told Onitsuka executives that he was its representative, was happy to be an importer of Japanese shoes — until, as Knight eloquently describes, Onitsuka decided to break its contract and surreptitiously replace BRS as distributor. The cold war battle between Knight and the man who would become his nemesis, an Onitsuka executive named Kitami, is almost worthy of the tense dance between John Le Carre’s George Smiley and the elusive Karla — which explains…(click here to continue reading this review)

Review: Living Forward by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy

Most people don’t plan their lives, write Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, authors of Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want. Instead, people drift through the years, going where circumstances take them rather than taking control.

Living Forward offers a game plan for taking control through a tool call a “Life Plan,” which, as the authors explain, will answer three vital questions.

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Whenever you make a plan, you must begin with the destination. Only by knowing where you are going can you figure out how you can best get there. For the authors, the destination of a life is one’s legacy. Thus, the first question a Life Plan answers is

How do I want to be remembered? The best way to identify your desired legacy, according to the authors, is to write your own eulogy. This rather impertinent process forces you to think about what you would like others to say about you at your funeral.

The first step, of course, is to understand who those others will be. Writing your eulogy, the authors explain, begins with identifying all of your key relationships, either by individual name or by group (e.g., my peers in the company). You then describe how you want to be remembered by each group.

Most of us live extremely busy lives. However, the authors note, a busy life is not a sign of success if you are not busy doing the right things: the things that are most important to you. The second question answered by the life plan is about priorities:

What matters most to me? To help readers determine their priorities, the authors offer a tool based on what they call Life Accounts. The term is chosen for its connotation of bank accounts — that is, accounts that either have a growing balance, consistent balance or declining balance. Grouped in three concentric circles around the YOU at the center, the first three Life Accounts — spiritual, intellectual and physical — involve your relationships with yourself. The second concentric circle of three Life Accounts — marital, social and parental — involves your relationships with others. Finally, the outermost concentric circle of three Life Accounts — vocational (your job), avocational (your hobbies) and financial — concerns your output.

These are prototypical Life Accounts, but the authors emphasize that people may have different accounts and even a different number of accounts. Every individual must determine what is most important to them and, thus, create their own Life Accounts. Whatever the specific accounts may be, “the goal is to have a positive balance in each of your Life Accounts,” the authors write.

The authors cite two criteria that for them are the essential components of a positive balance in a Life Account…..(click here to continue reading)

 

Review: The End of Average by Todd Rose

Drivers can adjust car seats in three different ways: they can push the entire seat up or back; they can move the bottom of the seat lower or higher; and they can tilt the back of the seat forward or backwards. These adjustments allow the car seat to be adjusted to the specific requirements of the individual driver. At first glance, this adjustment feature does not sound particularly revolutionary. And yet, as Todd Rose explains in his brilliant new book, The End of Average, adjustable seating is a rejection of one of the defining characteristics of our society: the dictatorship of the average.

Grade-point averages, standardized tests, performance approval ratings, whether you’re considered overweight or underweight — all sorts of measures are based on the idea that there is an average, and you are measured and judged based on how far you deviate from that average.

In the opening section of his book, Rose tells the story of how we became the age of average. It all began with a young Belgian social scientist named Adolphe Quetelet (pronounced “Kettle-Lay”), who applied the astronomy method of measuring averages to people, declaring that average represented perfection, while deviations from the average were errors. While “average” no longer denotes perfection, it does denote, writes Rose, “a prototypical representation of a group — a type.” Another social scientist, Englishman Francis Galton, built on Quetelet’s work to develop the concept of ranking (above average becomes a desirable status, not a deviation from perfection). Frederick W. Taylor used averages to develop the concept of standardization for the workplace. Education reformer Edward Thorndike adapted Taylor’s workplace standardization and applied it to the classroom.

And thus the age of average took over. The one exception was a 23-year-old scientist in the 1950s who convinced the United States Air Force that planes with average-sized cockpits were contributing to the hike in crashes. His suggestion: adjustable cockpits. (To him we owe a car’s adjustable seats.) How did young Gilbert Daniels convince the Air Force to develop cockpits that could be individually sized? He compared the 10 different measurements used in the average cockpit to the measurements of more than 4,000 pilots.

The result: Not a single pilot was of average size on all the measures (in spite of Daniels providing a range of sizes for each measure). The average-sized cockpit fit nobody. The bottom line is that averages can help us understand groups of people (French vs. British fighter pilots) but will not help us understand individuals. Daniels offers an alternative to understanding individuals, what he calls the Three Principles of Individualism.

The first is the jaggedness principle….

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Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

Speed Review: PeakAnders Ericsson, co-author of the new book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, has spent a lifetime studying what it takes to become an expert. His work was cited in the best-selling book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, who used Ericsson’s research on expert violinists as the basis for his “10,000-hour rule.”

According to this rule, if you practice for 10,000 hours, you will become an expert. Gladwell’s rule is an oversimplification of his research, Ericsson argues, although Gladwell does get the general concept correctly: To become an expert, it takes a huge number of hours of practice.

At first glance, this rather unsurprising assertion hides a deeper and more controversial implication: No one is born with vastly superior talent. Just to be clear, Ericsson launches his book with the poster child for innate superior talent: Mozart. As everyone knows, Mozart was a musical genius — both as a performer and a composer — at an age when most children were focused on playing with their tiny (lead, at that time) toy soldiers.

While not discounting the talent of young Mozart, Ericsson and his co-author, science writer Robert Pool, argue in Peak that Mozart would not have been Mozart had he been born the son of a cobbler. Thankfully, for the world, Mozart was born the son of a musician, whose apartment was filled with all kinds of musical instruments — all of which Mozart learned to play beginning at the age of four. Mozart, it turns out, practiced for thousands of hours just like the other experts in Ericsson’s book.

Of course, not all practicing is equal. Ericsson identifies three different types of practicing. The most basic type of practicing is naïve practice, the generic rather mediocre practicing that children muddle through as they go from piano lesson to piano lesson. They will not become star performers, nor do they intend to.

A much more effective type of practice is what Ericsson calls purposeful practice. Purposeful practice is ….

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Review: Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

NeverSplitTheDifference_LgNever Split the Difference by Chris Voss

Never Split the Difference, a new book on negotiation, presents an alternative to Getting to Yes, the classic text by Roger Fisher and William Ury of Harvard. For author Chris Voss, the use of rational tools and techniques is not the most effective approach for negotiations. Instead, the key to success, especially in very dangerous negotiations, is tactical empathy, which he describes as “emotional intelligence on steroids.”

As reflected in the title of his book, Voss, the former lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI, did not develop his theories on negotiation in the halls of academia. An education that began as a beat cop on the mean streets of Kansas City continued as he joined the FBI and eventually traveled the world as the agency’s chief negotiator in the most dangerous situations. Somewhat surprisingly, one of the most valuable lessons he learned was not in a jungle negotiating with ruthless terrorists, but in the streets of Pittsburgh.

A drug dealer had kidnapped the girlfriend of another drug dealer. As Voss listened to the tapes of the two drug dealers talking, he heard the aggrieved dealer ask the kidnapper, “Hey, dog, how do I know she’s alright?” The kidnapper paused and then said, “Well, I’ll put her on the phone.”

Already an experienced negotiator, Voss recognized the power of that question. It was the prototype of what he would eventually call the “calibrated question,” a highly impactful tool because it gives the other side a sense of control even if they are doing what you want them to do. If the drug dealer had said, “Put her on the phone!” the other dealer would either have refused — because he didn’t want be controlled — or demanded
something in return. When responding to the question, “How do I know she’s alright,” the kidnapper feels in control because he is making the decision to put the hostage on the phone.

Calibrated questions reflect the philosophy of emotional intelligence on steroids. Never Split the Difference is filled with compelling, often harrowing stories that further illustrate the empathy-based techniques and approaches that Voss advocates.

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Developing Everyone in the Company: An Everyone Culture by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey

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An Everyone Culture

The culture of Next Jump, an e-commerce tech company, is summarized in a catchy phrase: Better Me + Better You = Better Us. In other words, if I grow, develop and become more successful, and if I help you grow, develop and become more successful, then the entire organization becomes more successful (i.e., more profitable). Next Jump put some real weight behind the words through the structure of its compensation, which is 50/50: 50 percent of your pay depends on how you impacted revenues, and 50 percent depends on how you implemented the Better Me + Better You = Better Us culture.

Next Jump is one of three companies whose practices and philosophies are at the heart of An Everyone Culture by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. (The other two featured companies are hedge fund Bridgewater Associates and movie theater conglomerate Decurion Corporation.) Kegan and Lahey call these companies Deliberately Developmental Organizations (DDOs). The core philosophy of a DDO is that a company’s success depends on everyone in the company having an opportunity to grow. For a DDO, development is not one of the features of the company. Deliberate development is the engine that drives the company forward, as vital and irreplaceable as the engine of an automobile.

There is no dearth of volumes describing the importance of putting your people first. And having presented its argument that developing people is the single most important function of a business, An Everyone Culture could easily tumble into a series of intuitive but motivating howto’s, which would probably include a chapter on listening with empathy. However, Kegan and Lahey are scientists, and building on their research on adult development, they have created a robust model for organization-wide development that incorporates three dimensions:

Aspiration. DDOs have a culture that relentlessly pushes people to grow, not only as employees but also as people. The authors call this the edge.

Communities. People must not only want to grow but must be enabled to grow, and that requires safe, trustworthy communities. The authors call this home.

Practices. The final dimension incorporates the actual development practices and routines of the organization. The authors call this the groove. Implementing these three dimensions requires a series of “discontinuous departures” — principles, practices and structures that represent a true departure from business as usual. A total of 12 discontinuous departures animate the DDO framework.

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11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want

TheArtofPeopleDave Kerpen, the author of The Art of People, has developed a remarkable career around a key skill: being likeable. Kerpen is the founder of a social-media software company called Likeable Local as well as co-founder of a branding consultancy called Likeable Media. In his first two books, Likeable Social Media and Likeable Business, Kerpen explained how being likeable, which emerges from listening, storytelling and building relationships, was key to success in online marketing and business, respectively.

In The Art of People, Kerpen expands the scope of his approach to success even further, laying out a step-by-step manual for likeability in all situations. As the title of his book eloquently conveys (perhaps the reason Kerpen released his grip on the “likeable” brand name), being likeable is about the “art” of people. Becoming likeable is not a mechanical exercise; it is not about learning how to manipulate people to achieve your ends. Likeability is driven by authentic and transparent emotions.

A Lesson in Authenticity

Kerpen tells the story of listening for 20 minutes (while waiting for his phone to charge) as a tipsy stranger at a New York City party described her life, her hopes and dreams, and her disappointments. Eventually, the phone was charged and Kerpen was ready to leave, at which point the stranger, whose name was Jackie, realized she had monopolized the conversation. “What about you?” she asked. “Are you traveling anywhere?” This question led Kerpen to describe an imminent trip to San Francisco and to ask, almost as a joke, whether she had any connections at a highly exclusive Napa Valley restaurant for which he had not been able to get reservations. Jackie, it turns out, did have personal connections at the restaurant and was able to get the sought-after reservations for Kerpen and his wife. The story is a lesson in authenticity. Kerpen did not “chat up” Jackie in order to use her influence with the restaurant. He certainly had no idea this New York City stranger would have connections to the world-famous Bay-area restaurant he was interested in. However, he had been genuinely interested in her stories and her frustrations. “I listened and connected and helped her feel less lonely, if only for a few moments, and that happened to lead to my getting exactly what I wanted most at the time,” he writes.

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Review: #AskGaryVee by Gary Vaynerchuk

#AskGaryVeeGary Vaynerchuk is the prototypical social-media business success. The son of a wine shop owner, Vaynerchuk started a video blog called Wine Library TV — a quirky discussion about wine by a young man who loved the Jets and spoke about which wines fit best with Lucky Charms. Ten years later, Vaynerchuk is a highly successful social-media entrepreneur and, through his firm VaynerMedia, a sought-after consultant advising Fortune 500 companies. He is also a New York Times best-selling author. And since 2014, he is the host of #AskGaryVee, another YouTube show that, this time, is focused on helping his listeners succeed as entrepreneurs.

He brings that same mandate to his latest book, #AskGaryVee. Based on questions from his viewers, #AskGaryVee is a highly valuable primer on what works in social-media entrepreneurialism and in entrepreneurialism in general. For example, his advice to worry about the top line and not the bottom line when building a business (which aligns with his advice to solopreneurs that “cash is oxygen”) is compelling given Vaynerchuk’s meteoric rise to riches.

Of course, Vaynerchuk is first and foremost a social-media expert, and his concise overview of all the important social-media platforms that exist today is alone worth the price of the book. Another typically illuminating chapter is entitled “Content and Context,” in which he answers questions related to building compelling content and gaining exposure for that content.

For example, one viewer asked him how to get people to engage in a new and small channel. The answer: quality and hustle. “That’s all you can do: put out great content, engage with your tiny audience, and go out and try to get exposure for your content by collaborating or getting press or guest posting on someone else’s platform,” he writes. Many of the questions are quite specific. One viewer asks, for example, if he should avoid doing podcasts or videos because he has an accent. Vaynerchuk points to Google co-founder Sergey Brin and replies that accents should not stop the questioner (adding that if he doesn’t get an audience, it isn’t because of the accent). Another questioner asks whether short or long videos are better; Vaynerchuk answers that it doesn’t matter. He himself broke the commonly accepted “shorter-is-better” rule when he launched WLTV, which consisted of 40-minute videos.

Every chapter in #AskGaryVee is filled with this type of clear-cut, specific advice generated by the questions from his fans.

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Review: The Go-Giver Leader by Bob Burg and John David Mann

TheGo-GiverLeaderAt first glance, the setup for Bob Burg and John David Mann’s fable, The Go-Giver Leader, seems to be only tangentially about leadership. The main protagonist, Ben, is trying to close an M&A deal: He has been charged by his company to persuade the leaders of an acquisition target — a manufacturer of high-quality chairs — to let his firm buy the company.

While Ben is not in a leadership position, the authors convincingly demonstrate that Ben’s assignment requires him to do what leaders must do if they are to be successful: convince others to take action because they want to. By not having the power over those he’s trying to convince, Ben’s situation accurately reflects the current state of leadership today: Your title doesn’t buy you respect, and a command-and-control leadership style leads to the disengagement of those you lead — and eventual failure as a leader.

When he first arrives on the scene, Ben is convinced that his success depends on “take, take, take”: taking control, taking charge of the situation, taking command.

As the book advances, Ben meets the four company executives he must convince to sell. These four executives are each portrayed as successful leaders who inspire their employees and managers. Each of these four also represents four different facets of leadership.

Allen, one of two brothers who co-founded the company, represents vision. Through his conversation with Allen, Ben learns that the challenge is not to have a vision but to keep people focused on the vision — what Allen describes as “holding the vision.” This facet of leadership is summarized as leading from the mind.

Augustine, the other brother, represents empathy, or leading from the heart. One of the key lessons Ben learns is that pull is more effective than push. Counterintuitively, the more you yield, the more power you have.

Frank, the VP of production who has been with the company since its founding, represents grounding — that is, getting the job done. The best leaders, Ben learns, are people who can actually do the work. The key attribute here is to lead from the gut.

Finally, Karen, the VP of Finance and Personnel, represents the soul of the company. Karen is very supportive of employees undergoing life-changing, personal challenges. Through Karen, Ben learns the importance of leading with your soul.

With the help of a mysterious mentor — the friend of a friend whom he meets for daily lunches in a local restaurant, Ben is able to develop his four keys to legendary leadership:

1) Hold the Vision, 2) Build Your People, 3) Do the Work and 4) Stand for Something. Ben, however, learns the fifth and decisive key to leadership — Practice Giving Leadership — on his own (with a little help from his mentor) at the turning-point moment in the book. Giving leadership is based on the philosophy that great leadership is never about the leader. You are not the “deal,” which is, in fact, the reverse of “lead.” At the climax, Ben discovers that, indeed, “the best way to increase your influence is to give it away.” Burg and Mann, authors of the best-seller The Go-Giver Leader, have written a compelling fable that succeeds as both a thought-provoking learning tool and, rather surprisingly, as a work of fiction with an unexpected plot twist at the end

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Review: How to Have a Good Day by Caroline Webb

When someone would tell comedian George Carlin to “have a nice day,” Carlin would react angrily: “What if I don’t want to have a nice day?” Unlike Carlin, most of us would prefer to have nice days, but in our overworked, over-stressed and overbooked lives, it is not always easy. A new book by former McKinsey consultant Caroline Webb promises to come to our rescue. Entitled How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life, it uses the advances in behavioral science, psychology and neuroscience to help us overcome or mitigate all of the stresses, setbacks and mishaps that create the many bad days or bad moments we endure.

The Essential Sciences

Webb begins her book with a quick look at three scientific advances that are key to understanding how we will be able to create a good day:
• The two-system brain. Our brains run two opposing systems in parallel, she explains. The deliberate system is our conscious thinking, slow and rational. The automatic system is subconscious, fast and instinctive. The deliberate system calculates a 15 percent tip; the automatic system makes us jump back before we are hit by a car.
• The mind-body loop. The mind and body are interconnected in ways we never realized. We knew happiness leads to a smile, but we did not know smiling (no matter how we feel) will make us happier.
• The discover-defend axis. We are constantly moving along an axis, anchored on one end by a defensive outlook, expecting attack at any moment, while anchored on the other end by a discovery mood, seeking out rewarding experiences.

 

Having laid the scientific groundwork,Webb then covers her seven building blocks of a good day:

Priorities: setting the intentional direction of the day.
Productivity: making the most of the hours of the day. Relationships: having positive, productive interactions.
Thinking: making wise choices, being creative and smart. Influence: maximizing the impact of what we say and do.
Resilience: overcoming setbacks and annoyances.
Energy: boosting enthusiasm and enjoyment.

Webb offers clear guidelines for each of the building blocks. Thus, for example, the section of the book on productivity includes chapters on single-tasking, planning deliberate down time, overcoming overload and beating procrastination. The chapters related to influence cover getting through their filters, making things happen and conveying confidence. Throughout the book, Webb carefully links the science introduced at the beginning to her directives. Down time increases productivity, for example, not only because a brain needs to rest but also because neuroscientists have discovered that the subconscious brain keeps working even when the conscious brain is at rest.

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