The Revolution Transforming Decision Making, Consumer Behavior and Almost Everything Else

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In a January 2015 New York Times Review of Books essay, critic and magazine editor Leon Wieseltier warned against a post-humanist — after the human — culture in which technological devices and data replace human beings and thought. “Quantification is the most overwhelming influence upon the contemporary American understanding of, well, everything,” he writes. “It is enabled by the idolatry of data, which has itself been enabled by the almost unimaginable data- generating capabilities of the new technology.”

In short, “Where wisdom once was, quantification will now be.” One might assume that Wieseltier does not have a copy of Data-ism, a new book from New York Times technology journalist Steve Lohr, on his bedside table. At first glance, Data-ism seems to be the embodiment of Wieseltier’s fear that quantification has replaced wisdom. The “ism” title seems to promise an introduction (manifesto?) to the philosophy of quantification. The subtitle is not timid: “The revolution transforming decision making, consumer behavior and almost everything else.” And within its pages, Lohr does a masterful job of describing all of the possibilities of “big data.”

Data-ism is perhaps one of the most balanced, levelheaded examinations of the potential of big data. Lohr never hesitates to give voice to the critics or skeptics of a data-driven world, nor fails to point out the limitations of artificial intelligence. It is this balance and restraint, however, that makes Lohr and his book the most persuasive champions of the massive and generally positive changes that “the virtuous cycle of more and more varied data and smarter and smarter algorithms, written by human programmers” will make in our lives. In short, quantification will not replace wisdom, as Wieseltier fears; but, Lohr shows, it will augment our wisdom — working with our amazing human brains — to help us make better decisions, free our time and energy to focus on the tasks where we can make the most difference, and, ultimately, make the world a much better place.

 

The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs

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SIX SKILLS FOR ENTREPRENEURIAL SUCCESS

Consultant and entrepreneur Amy Wilkinson’s book, The Creator’s Code, is a step-by-step guide on how to become a successful entrepreneur based on 200 interviews with those who have achieved the heights of entrepreneurship — from well-known pioneers such as Howard Schultz of Starbucks to less well-known names, such as Sarah Blakely, whose idea for footless pantyhose became the billion-dollar company Spanx, and partners Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, who launched the wildly successful Gilt Groupe online fashion platform.

Carefully parsing the transcriptions of her interviews, author Amy Wilkinson was able to synthesize the responses into just six essential skills required for entrepreneurial success.

Some of the essential skills in The Creator’s Code are not surprising to any reader who has researched or experienced entrepreneurship. The first of her skills, for example, is to “find the gap.” Most entrepreneurs achieve their success by unearthing an unmet need or finding a gap that needs filling with a new product or business model.

Wilkinson, however, is not satisfied with a pithy prescription followed by examples. She explains to her readers how they can find the next billion-dollar gap by identifying three archetypes of entrepreneurs: sunbirds, who transplant ideas from other areas, architects, who build from the ground up, and integrators, who combine different concepts. Shultz is a “sunbird” (named after the hummingbird-like bird who moves pollen from flower to flower). Shultz made his millions by having the foresight to realize that transplanting Italian coffee shops, with their baristas and long menu of fancy coffees, would fill a need that no one before him had fathomed.

Spanx’s Blakely is an architect, building up her company from just an idea. Maybank and Wilson, of the Gilt Groupe, are integrators, who combined e-commerce and fashion to build a unique company based on online flash fashion sales.

Another of her more familiar skills, to “fail wisely,” is also presented with fresh, practical how-to information. More than just being resilient, Wilkinson argues that successful entrepreneurs know how to manage failure. For example, in addition to placing small bets (rather than risking it all), Wilkinson found that many entrepreneurs set failure ratios — proactively deciding how much failure they were willing to accept before giving up. The key to failure ratios is thinking in terms of a portfolio of risks. For example, Stella & Dot founder Jessica Herrin has a 1-to-3 ratio, accepting to fail at one out of three initiatives she attempts.

The four other essential skills at the heart of The Creator’s Code are less familiar. “Drive for daylight” is Wilkinson’s phrase for keeping focused on the road ahead. “Fly the OODA Loop” is the skill to be more agile than competitors. The phrase comes from the world of aviation dogfights, when American pilots were taught that the key to winning air battles was to Observe (get information), Orient (prioritize the information and ignore the irrelevant), Decide (on a course of action) and Act. “Network minds” is the ability to bring together “the brainpower of diverse individuals.” Wilkinson’s innovative ideas for networking minds include designing shared spaces, fostering flash teams, holding prize competitions and building work-related games. Her code closes with the somewhat surprising “gift small goods” — a call for generosity that strengthens relationships and increases productivity.

In The Creator’s Code, Wilkinson offers a solid framework for building up entrepreneurial skills, supported by fascinating, detailed stories of the creativity and hard work required to turn an insight or an idea into a thriving enterprise.

You Too Can Take the Stage!

“If you would like a stronger voice in discussions; if you wish to express yourself with more clarity and impact; if you want others not to interrupt you because they don’t “hear” you; if you’d liked to be assertive but not aggressive, promote yourself, be visible, speak with presence, and move your career forward by showing yourself as a confident, capable leader – if you say “yes” to any of these, then this book is for you.”                  Judith Humphrey

This book Humphrey is talking about is her latest title Taking the Stage. While the book is aimed primarily at women, the principles apply to anyone who is seeking to move up in the business world. Having the confidence to speak up in any situation takes courage and knowledge, and Humphry provides the information and techniques needed to shine.

Here are some of the things you can learn:

  • Speak up confidently, even when others don’t agree.
  • Convey your accomplishments without self-doubt.
  • Be assertive but not aggressive.
  • Deliver clear and convincing messages.
  • Move beyond “minimizing” language and apology.
  • Find your own powerful and authentic voice.
  • Achieve confident body language and a leadership presence.

If you would like to achieve this kind of confidence in your workplace, then please join us on June 9th to hear Judith Humphrey explain how to reach for this level of confidence. Strengthen your voice at our Soundview live webinar Taking the Stage. And bring your questions to post during the event.

How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter

leadershipblindspots

Good leaders become great by skillfully managing their own vulnerabilities. Leadership Blindspots is a comprehensive guide to recognizing and acting on the weak points that can impair effectiveness, diminish results and harm a career.

The blindspot risk is that leaders fail to respond to weaknesses or threats due to a variety of factors, including the complexity of their organizations, over-confidence in their own capabilities, and being surrounded by deferential subordinates. Leadership Blindspots provides a useful model for understanding how blindspots operate and why they persist, but at the same time suggests real, actionable steps to improvement. Author Robert Bruce Shaw details a range of techniques that make blindspots stand out in sharp relief, so action can be taken before severe damage occurs — to a leader or his or her company.

The one characteristic great leaders share is the constant desire for self-improvement. Good can always be better. Some weaknesses and threats are blindspots because they are invisible to the individual but have the potential to wreak havoc on one’s reputation and long-term success. Identifying and fixing crucial problems is the leader’s job, and sometimes the most debilitating problems are with the leaders themselves. Leadership Blindspots is the first step toward owning and addressing one’s vulnerabilities and, as a result, becoming a more effective leader.

IN THIS SUMMARY, YOU WILL LEARN:

  • Why blindspots and strengths often come from the same source.
  • How to balance confidence and humility in leadership.
  • The 20 most common blindspots in which leaders lack awareness.
  • How to overcome blindspots in individuals, teams, organizations and markets.

Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the individual title to purchase and download it right now to begin learning these critical business skills.

Getting to Yes with Yourself

gettingtoyes

NEGOTIATE BY ACCESSING YOUR INNER SELF

In the 35 years since he co-authored the seminal bestseller on negotiation, Getting to Yes, William Ury eventually realized that it needed a prequel that describes the mandatory preliminary step to any negotiation: Negotiators have to negotiate with themselves on what they truly need and want first before they can successfully negotiate an agreement with others.

As Ury describes in his new book, Getting to Yes with Yourself, most negotiators sabotage their own interests because they are wrapped up in the anger and tension of the situation. Obsessed with the negative, they are distrustful at best, bitter and entrenched in their positions at worst.

For example, Ury opens the first chapter with the story of prominent Brazilian businessman Abilio Diniz, who had built up, with his father, Brazil’s leading supermarket retailer. Diniz had been in a nearly three-year, no-holds-barred battle with a foreign business partner over control of the company — a dispute the Financial Times called “one of the biggest cross-continental boardroom showdowns in history.” The mediations and lawsuits threatened to continue for years. Ury helped Diniz discover that his seething, resenting and anger were clouding what was more important to him: the freedom to do as he chose and the time to spend with his family. Armed with this new insight, Diniz would eventually reach an agreement with the partner and extract himself from the battle. It was not easy or quick (shortly after his discussions with Ury, Diniz gave a magazine interview in which he mentioned his opponent 38 times), but a turning point, according to Ury, was the moment that Diniz had successfully negotiated with himself first.

Putting Yourself in Your Own Shoes

The story of Diniz exemplifies the first of six steps in Ury’s Inner Yes methodology at the heart of his book: putting yourself in your own shoes. This sounds a bit strange at first: We know what we want; it’s putting yourself in other people’s shoes that is the challenge. In truth, as the story of Diniz illustrates, negative emotions in a conflict blind us to what is most important to us and, instead, lead us to work against our own interests.

The Inner BATNA

The second step, according to Ury, is to develop your inner BATNA — the “best alternative to a negotiated agreement.” If negotiations fail, there will be an acceptable alternative; surprisingly, recognizing this alternative often frees the negotiator from the negative emotions and inner constraints that destroy negotiations, thus leading to resolutions. Ury tells the story of a mother whose 13-year-old son had been battling her at every turn since the age of seven. Ury helped this distraught and frustrated mother by guiding her to her BATNA: If the relationship with her son was never resolved, she had at least had loving relationships with her other two children. The mother finally “let go” of the battle, refusing to pour all of her energy and anxiety into the broken relationship. Ironically, letting go proved to be the first small step toward an eventual reconciliation with her recalcitrant son.

These first two steps represent the first phase — saying yes to self — of Ury’s methodology. But it is only the beginning. To achieve what Ury calls the “inner yes,” you must also say yes to life in the next two steps: Reframe your picture by developing positive starting assumptions about life and the world, and stay in the zone, living in the present rather than focusing on resenting the past or fearing the future. Finally, you are in a position to say yes to others, which requires you to respect them –– even if it is to answer the rejection and personal attacks of difficult people with respect — and to give and receive, that is, to give first before taking.

Getting to Yes with Yourself is much more than a manual for succeeding at the negotiating table. Filled with extraordinary stories, ranging from hot and cold wars on the global stage to heart-wrenching battles in ordinary lives — including the inspirational battle of Ury’s own daughter to stay alive and positive despite life-threatening illness — Getting to Yes with Yourself should take its place along such books as Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, as a positive, life-affirming guide to success.

The Secret of U2’s Success

Excerpted from Connection Culture by Michael Lee Stallard.

U2 began as a rock band that people booed and laughed at. Now,after receiving its 22nd Grammy Award in 2005, U2 has more than any band in history. It recently surpassed the Rolling Stones’s record for the highest revenue grossing concert tour ever. Critics rave over the band’s music, and fans worldwide can’t seem to get enough of its songs and concert appearances. All the signs indicate that U2 is at the top of its game and will be going strong for the foreseeable future. So how did this group rise to such lofty heights, and what can we learn from its success?

The way U2 functions is even more extraordinary than its music. The band’s four members—lyricist and lead singer Bono, lead guitar player “the Edge,” bass guitar player Adam Clayton, and drummer Larry Mullen Jr.—have known one another since they were teenagers in Dublin, Ireland. Bono has described the band as more of an organism than an organization, and several of its attributes contribute to this unique culture. Members value continuous improvement to achieve their own potential, always maintaining the view that they can become even better.

U2’s members share a vision of their mission and values. You might expect a band’s mission to be achieving commercial success as measured by number 1 hits and concert attendance. However, U2’s mission is to improve the world through its music and influence. Bono has described himself as a traveling salesman of ideas within songs, which address themes the band members believe are important to promote, including human rights, social justice, and matters of faith. Bono and his wife, Ali, help the poor, particularly in Africa, through their philanthropy and the organizations they’ve created.

U2’s members value one another as people and don’t just think of one another as means to an end. Bono has said that although he hears melodies in his head, he is unable to translate them into written music. Considering himself a terrible guitar and keyboard player, he relies on his fellow members to help him write the songs and praises them for their talents, which are integral to U2’s success.

Bono has also had his band members’ backs during times of trial. When Larry lost his mom in a car accident a short time after the band was formed, Bono was there to support him. Bono, who had already lost his mother, understood Larry’s pain. When U2 was offered its first recording contract on the condition that it replace Larry with a more conventional drummer, Bono told the record company executive:There’s no deal without Larry. When the Edge went through divorce, his bandmates were there to support him. When Adam showed up to a concert so stoned he couldn’t perform, the others could have thrown him overboard for letting them down. Instead, they had someone step in to cover for him, and then went on to help Adam overcome his drug and alcohol addiction.

Bono’s bandmates have his back too. One of the most vivid examples of this came when U2 campaigned during the 1980s for the observance of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States. Bono received a death threat that warned him not to sing “Pride (In the Name of Love),” a song about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., at an upcoming concert. The FBI considered it a credible threat. Bono described in an interview that as he sang the song, he closed his eyes. When he opened his eyes again at the end of a verse, he discovered that Adam was standing in front of him to shield him from potential harm. Years later, when U2 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Bono thanked Adam for being willing to take a bullet for him.

Unlike many bands in which one megastar gets most of the economic profits, U2 shares its profits equally among the four band members and their long-time manager. This further shows the value Bono has for his band members and manager. (We’re not saying that all organizations should split the company’s economic profits equally; simply recognize that when leaders take too much it works against engaging the people they lead.)

Each member has a voice in decisions, thanks to the band’s participatory, consensus-oriented decision-making approach. If one person strongly opposes a particular action, the band won’t do it, which encourages the flow of knowledge among band members, allowing the best ideas to come to light. Their passion for excellence is also reflected in relentless arguments over their music. Bono has stated that this approach can be slow and frustrating at times, but the members of U2 believe it is necessary to achieve excellence.

These factors—which Connection Culture calls shared identity, empathy, and understanding—create a culture of connection, community, and unity among the members of U2. Bono has described the band as a tight-knit family and community. Their commitment to support one another extends beyond the four members of the band to a larger community that includes their families, crew members, and collabo-rators—many of whom have known each other for decades.

The secret of U2’s success is its leadership and culture. Bono connects as a leader among equals because he communicates an inspiring vision and lives it, he values people as individuals, and he gives them a voice in decision making. It is this culture of vision, value, and voice that has helped U2 achieve and sustain its superior performance. This is a connection culture. In examining how U2 operates we see the influence a connection culture can have on the individual, as well as the group as a whole.

Learn more about U2 and the Connection Culture at our Soundview Live webinar with Michael Lee Stallard: Fostering a Culture of Connection.

How Social Recognition Empowers Employees and Creates a Best Place to Work

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Building a fully engaged, energized workforce is the key to business success. The Power of Thanks reveals how leading companies empower employees through social recognition, in which the practice of mutual appreciation and trust directs and rewards higher performance.

Eric Mosley and Derek Irvine, executives at the world-renowned employee-recognition firm Globoforce, explain why social recognition is so powerful and how you can apply it in your company. They show how a carefully planned and consistently executed Culture of Recognition business strategy inspires greater employee engagement and loyalty; stronger, more unified teams and departments; a creative, innovative company culture; improved customer satisfaction; and increased profitability and organizational health. Mosley and Irvine provide practical advice and proven examples for devising a powerful, growth-generating strategy that modernizes employee recognition for today’s social, global, multi-generational and 24×7-wired workforce.

When employees participate in a culture that makes everyone a stakeholder in the organization’s success, positive energy spreads like wildfire, and business results follow. Something so simple and powerful might work like magic, but it’s really just common sense. It’s smart management. It’s long-term thinking. It’s The Power of Thanks.

IN THIS SUMMARY, YOU WILL LEARN:

• Why culture is central to business success today.

• The difference between social recognition and other forms of appreciation.

• How social recognition creates happier employees and drives ROI and business results.

 

Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the individual title to purchase and download it right now to begin learning these critical business skills.

The New Science of What It Takes to Persevere, Flourish, Succeed

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Consultant and author Paul Stoltz has previously written extensively on adversity, developing what he calls the “Adversity Quotient,” which measures the ability to leverage setbacks and failures into success. Stoltz has more recently discovered, however, that while AQ is essential to success, it is not sufficient. As he explains in his new book, GRIT: The New Science of What It Takes to Persevere – Flourish – Succeed, “If AQ is all about how you effectively deal with ‘it’ — whatever comes at you — then GRIT is about what it takes to really go for ‘it’ — your boldest and most important goals — and make ‘it’ happen.” AQ, he writes, is your defense, but GRIT is your offense.

Stoltz uses the word “GRIT” in two ways. Although consistently in all caps, GRIT is used at the beginning of the book as a word that encapsulates the offensive counterpoint to adversity, as described above. In his second chapter, Stoltz introduces the four dimensions of GRIT, which then becomes both word and acronym. These dimensions are:

Growth. Growth refers to a mindset that is constantly looking for the new and the different. Growth, Stoltz writes, is “your propensity to seek and consider new ideas, additional alternatives, different approaches and fresh perspectives.”

Resilience. The core of Stoltz’s original research and writing, resilience is the ability not only to bounce back from adversity but, more importantly, to make constructive use of the adversity.

Instinct. The focus here, according to Stoltz, is to know instinctively which goals to pursue and how to pursue them.

Tenacity. Most quests are going to be longer and more difficult than anticipated. Tenacity separates those who succeed from those who fail.

Stoltz emphasizes that not all GRIT is good. To help readers visualize the positive and negative facets of GRIT, Stoltz presents his six-faced GRIT grid cube, with opposing faces representing good and bad, smart and dumb, and strong and weak GRIT. Stoltz explores each facet in detail. For example, bad GRIT, he writes, is evident when people relentlessly pursue goals that aim to hurt people, gain benefits at another’s expense or unintentionally pursue a damaging goal. Stoltz cites the example of a humanitarian organization that installed 10 million hand pumps in Bangladesh to help the impoverished population get access to water. Unfortunately, the water pumped up was filled with arsenic.

To exemplify good GRIT, Stoltz offers as an example his wife, Ronda Beaman, who was diagnosed with MS 24 years ago. A personal fitness trainer, Beaman was told, when diagnosed, to slow down, but refused. Twenty-four years later, she is still working out as hard as ever, despite occasional intense pain in her shoulders and weird headaches.

Stoltz offers equally compelling stories of dumb vs. smart and weak vs. strong GRIT. The ultimate goal, he writes, is to achieve “optimal GRIT” — which is, according to Stoltz, “when you consistently and reliably demonstrate your fullest, “goodest,” smartest and strongest GRIT to achieve your goals.”

This definition is expanded later in the book, as Stoltz moves readers to more advanced notions of GRIT. First, he includes what he calls the “four capacities” of GRIT: emotional, mental, physical and spiritual. GRIT must not only be smart, good and strong but also emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually balanced, Stoltz explains. GRIT must also be present in a wide variety of situations (work, school, relationships, money-related situations and more). Finally, GRIT begins with the individual but then moves up what Stoltz labels the “grit ladder,” through the relational, team, organizational and, finally, societal “rungs.”

As Stoltz expands and deepens his definition of optimal GRIT, he describes how to both gauge and grow one’s grit, offering a number of different tools for each. Stoltz is a veteran consultant, whose Adversity and GRIT techniques and tools have been used by Fortune 100 companies around the world and taught in schools as prestigious as the Harvard Business School and MIT — which is why GRIT is not a philosophical treatise but a toolbox for life.

How to Handle the Emotionally Charged Conversation

Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Marcia Reynolds, president of Covisioning LLC.

When I teach coaching skills to leaders, someone always asks what to do if a person cries. They usually want to do something that would make the person feel worse for crying. Here are tips for effectively handling emotions that could come up during difficult conversations.

Note: Take the Rate Your Zone of Discomfort quiz to judge your ability to deal with uncomfortable situations.

What if the person cries?  

Allow people to take a moment as you calmly wait for them to signal they are ready to move on.

Crying is a natural physiological response when someone feels hurt, sad, or had expectations that weren’t met. Their reaction could result from stress or a buildup of disappointments. Generally, if you tell the person to take her time and calmly sit in silence, she will let you know when she is ready to move on (I say “she” but men cry too). If you have a tissue available, offer it. If the crying is uncontrollable, ask if they would like to reschedule the meeting but only do this as a last resort. It is always better to give the crying person a moment to recoup than to make her feel wrong for crying.

How do you react when someone gets angry?

If you stay calm and listen, their anger usually subsides.

When you sense someone’s anger, you might instantly defend yourself, getting angry in return, or you shut down. If you feel you are at risk of being harmed, you should find a way to remove yourself as soon as possible. If not, give the person a chance to vent to release the steam. Then when he starts to calm down, ask what has made him so angry and sort out what is true from speculation. Then maybe you can find some ways of dealing with the situation so he regains even a small sense of control.

What if a person or a group of people are confused or afraid?

Dig deep to find what they are afraid of losing.

Do not try to diffuse or soften their emotions; better to tell them you would like to understand what is causing the fear so you can help them move forward. What do they feel they have lost or afraid they will lose? Listen to their stories so you can discover what is holding them back. Is the loss real or speculation? What do they need so they can take one step forward? Listen first, then seek to find what will restore their confidence and feeling of significance.

Avoid judging people for their reactions. Respectfully hold them in high regard during a difficult conversation. Recall what you believe they are capable of achieving. From this perspective, you have a chance at holding an amazing conversation that could surprise both of you.

To hear more about effective ways to handle difficult conversations, join us for our Soundview Live webinar with Marcia Reynolds on May 28th: Turning Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs.

Staying On Top of Issues That Can Make or Break a Company

We have just released our latest batch of executive book summaries, and they cover the gamut of business subjects and issues. But they do have one thing in common: they provide critical information to help you stay up on the latest issues and innovations in order to continue to succeed.

powerofthanks

The Power of Thanks by Derek Irvine and Eric Mosley

Globoforce executives Eric Mosley and Derek Irvine explain how a Culture of Recognition can boost employee engagement and loyalty, stronger teamwork, a more innovative culture, increased customer satisfaction, as well as greater profitability and organizational health. Ultimately, they show how to build a better workplace for employees.

leadershipblindspots

Leadership Blindspots by Robert Bruce Shaw

Robert Bruce Shaw helps leaders to identify weaknesses, threats and other vulnerabilities that can impair effectiveness, results and even their careers. Shaw reveals how blindspots operate and why they persist, but also provides techniques for recognizing them and taking action before they create lasting damage.

dataism

Data-ism by Steve Lohr

New York Times reporter Steve Lohr explains how big-data technology has its benefits and its drawbacks, which raises questions about the wider implications for everyone. Lohr lends insight into what’s ahead, suggesting that individuals and organizations will need to exploit, protect and manage data to stay competitive.

Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the individual titles to purchase and download them right now to begin learning these critical business skills.