Implement Improvements With These Summaries

Leaders and managers constantly search to make improvements within their organizations. However, the strategies or processes to implement these improvements are not always well defined. Learn how to improve the performance of your business by reaching for the low-hanging fruit, building resilience into your strategy, and cultivate a better workplace environment with these two new Soundview book summaries and featured book review.


by Jeremy Eden and Terri Long

Low-Hanging Fruit by Jeremy Eden and Terri Long

To boost productivity and profits, most companies either accept the way things are or think big by spending time and money trying to make things better. However, the smartest companies get better results with greater ease and at a fraction of the cost by thinking small and reaching for the low-hanging fruit. In Low-Hanging Fruit, Jeremy Eden and Terri Long present 77 of their most effective techniques for generating performance improvements drawn from their success working with major companies.


by Jeffrey Sampler

Bringing Strategy Back by Jeffrey Sampler

In an ever-changing world, conventional strategic planning processes no longer seem to work. However, instead of giving up on strategy, we should embrace it. In Bringing Strategy Back, strategy expert Jeffrey Sampler introduces four “strategic shock absorbers” that enable leaders to build resilient organizations that can withstand even the most unexpected global turbulence. When the future is uncertain, organizations will be prepared and proactive with this new framework.


by Ron Friedman

The Best Place to Work by Ron Friedman

We’ve all heard of people having terrible experiences at work within a low performing, unorganized organization. But how do entrepreneurs and executives turn their organizations into extraordinary atmospheres that promote effective processes? In The Best Place to Work, psychologist Ron Friedman uses research on motivation, creativity, behavioral economics, neuroscience, and management to reveal what really makes us successful at work. He explains how to effectively diffuse a workplace argument, elevate your thinking, and reach smarter decisions.

What Goes Wrong In Groupthink?

Two heads are better than one, according to the old saying. So why are groups with lots of “heads” known for making bad decisions? Why does “groupthink” immediately connote ineffectiveness and mistakes?

These questions are answered in a fascinating new book called Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter, written by Cass R. Sunstein, a former White House official, and Reid Hastie, an academic specialized in the psychology of decision making. Building on their combined experiences and research, Sunstein and Hastie dissect what goes wrong in group decision-making, then offer clear-cut solutions to overcome these problems.

Group decision-making involves discussions among members of a group, each with their own skills, experience, ideas and information. Unfortunately, as the authors explain, there are two types of influences on group members — informational signals and social pressures — which skew the deliberations. Informational signals cause people to keep information to themselves when it contradicts information from others, especially leaders. Social pressures cause people to keep information to themselves to avoid punishment, for example, the disapproval of leaders who are contradicted.

These influences lead to four problems, the authors write: Instead of correcting the errors of their members, groups actually amplify those errors (e.g., the leader’s mistaken conclusion is validated by the group); cascade effects take over when the group follows whomever spoke first or loudest; groups become more polarized, that is, more extreme in their sentiments, as the internal discussions reinforce their predisposed thoughts; and groups focus on shared information (what most people know) instead of unshared information — the information known only by a few individuals.

Having laid out the core problems, the authors offer solutions. They begin with a list of methods aimed at counteracting the four core problems, such as

Leaders have to keep quiet and convince group members that they sincerely want to hear all ideas.

Group success (not individual success) should be rewarded. Group members must understand that if the group is right, everyone benefits; this will encourage them to ensure that they find the right answer rather than pushing their own ideas.

Group members should be assigned specific roles (for example, one person is the medical expert, another the legal expert), thus ensuring that everyone contributes.

Either individuals or assigned teams (known as red teams) should be tasked with acting as devil’s advocates.

Groups also fail, the authors write, because they don’t distinguish between the “sloppy” early rounds of deliberations, in which all ideas must be allowed on the table, and the final rounds of deliberations, in which groups must be tight and analytical as they seek the precise solution. Successful groups will deliberately separate the two processes.

In another approach, the authors demonstrate that the wisdom of crowds (making decisions based on the average or majority of large crowds of people) will often lead to the right answer if a majority of crowd members know their material. Decision-makers often prefer to rely on one single expert, but “chasing the expert” significantly reduces the probability of getting the decision right.

Wiser is a quick, engaging and thoughtful read that compellingly argues that, with a few simple steps and open-minded leadership, group deliberations can, indeed, lead to wiser decisions.

The Conscious Business

I decided to use today’s blog to look at a trend we’ve been seeing in recent business books – Conscious Business. This is by no means a new trend, with some people crediting it’s origin to Anita Roddick of the Body Shop back in 1976. But there seems to be renewed interest in the subject lately.

“The term conscious business implies that a business will seek to be conscious of its impact on the world in various spheres, and continue this inquiry over time. It is concerned with both its impact on a human’s inner and outer world as well as animal and environmental well-being. Furthermore, a conscious business considers both short-term and long-term effects of its actions or inactions. A conscious business evolves as does the methods that a business can and chooses to be of benefit to the world and to function with awareness.” – Wikipedia

Among the books published recently that have caught our attention are:
Conscious Capitalism – with John Mackey CEO of Whole Foods
At once a bold defense and reimagining of capitalism and a blueprint for a new system for doing business, Conscious Capitalism is for anyone hoping to build a more cooperative, humane, and positive future.

Conscious Business with Fred Kofman (this is a new edition)
Conscious Business presents breakthrough techniques to help you and the people in your company create a workplace founded in unconditional responsibility and unflinching integrity, anchored by authentic communication and impeccable commitments, and guided by right leadership

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership with Jim Dethmer
These pages contain a comprehensive road map to guide you to shift from fear-based to trust-based leadership. Once you learn and start practicing conscious leadership you’ll get results in the form of more energy, clarity, focus and healthier relationships.

The Conscious Leader with Shelley Reciniello – we hosted a webinar with her in December.
The Conscious Leader describes the nine most fundamental but often neglected truths about human beings and their workplace behavior in jargon-free, accessible concepts and examples. With humor and inspiration, Dr. Reciniello provides you with the principles and practices necessary for conscious leadership which you can immediately apply in your organizations.

Uncontainable with Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Store
In Uncontainable, Tindell reveals his approach for building a business where everyone associated with it thrives through embodying the tenets of Conscious Capitalism. Tindell’s seven Foundation Principles are the roadmap that drives everyone at The Container Store to achieve the goals of the company.

It would seem that the concept of being a conscious business is becoming integrated into companies of all sizes as a matter of survival. Consumers are voting for these types of companies with their purchases, so businesses are under pressure to get it right. What is your business doing in the area of conscious business practices?

Book Review: Game-Changer


by David McAdams

People and businesses are constantly playing games in order to win advantage in everything from gaining customers to controlling market share. However, if they are not careful, they may end up strategically out-played. Duke economics professor David McAdams transforms the concept of game theory to introduce what he calls the “game-theory approach to life.” McAdams presents the benefits of using game theory to plot business tactics and gain insights, in Game-Changer. This book is now available as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

“Game theory realizes its greatest business potential when leaders of a firm create the culture and organizational structures needed for everyone to thrive together. A game-aware management team can transform everything from how employees are motivated to how buyer and supplier relationships are nurtured, and much more. When used with wisdom and humility, game theory can be a powerful and positive transformative force,” writes McAdams. Outstrategize your rivals with McAdams’ six ways to change games: commitment, regulation, cartelization, retaliation, trust and relationships. He also introduces the idea of The Prisoners’ Dilemma. This dilemma presents the situation of two criminals that face the choice whether to confess or not, separately. Although confessing seems like the right choice, it will be the worst for both. McAdams explains how to recognize situations you are in to illustrate that self-interest is not always the best strategy.

By practicing game-awareness you will be able to recognize how to “change the game” to your advantage by learning to be a deeper strategic thinker. By being a deeper strategic thinker, you will increase the odds of winning all the games you play.

A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office


In Winners Dream, SAP CEO Bill McDermott describes his journey from his blue-collar roots in Amityville, New York to becoming CEO of the largest business software company in the world. Unlike many CEO books, Winners Dream is structured not as a book of lessons but as a straightforward chronological autobiography — although nearly every page is infused with business wisdom told through compelling stories.

Know Your Customer

One of the earliest business lessons McDermott offers comes from when McDermott is not even out of high school. When the small deli where he works is emptied out by robbers, the owner decides to sell what is now just a shell. McDermott, with help from his parents and after talking down the price, buys the tiny store, stocks it and starts hunting for customers — not an easy task with the competition of two major convenience store chains within a few blocks. “I was David amidst Goliaths,” McDermott writes. “What, I thought, did I have that the Goliaths did not? What could my little deli give people that 7-Eleven and Finast could not?” To get the answers to these questions, McDermott realized he had to ask another question: “Who is my customer?”

The young high school businessman determined that he had three types of customers: senior citizens from a nearby senior home, local blue collar workers and high school kids hanging out after school. For the seniors, many of whom did not like to leave their homes, McDermott set up a delivery service. For the blue-collar workers, many of whom were paid on Friday and broke on Sunday, he set up a credit system — they could buy on credit during the week but had to pay with the next Friday paycheck. For the high school students, he offered something exceedingly simple: they could all go in the store. At that time, the major chains only let students in the stores in small groups because of the fear of stealing. Thus, McDermott writes, kids with money in their pocket were forced to wait out in the cold.

McDermott’s high school experience offered him a clear lesson: To succeed in business, you must give your customers what they want — and that means you must know what they need. It was a lesson that would guide him when he had moved far from the corner deli.

Drive and Empathy

A successful retailer even in high school, McDermott was clearly born with a fine business acumen. But he also inherited a very strong work ethic from his parents and was driven by ambition and confidence. When he applied to Xerox and was told that HR would be contacting him with a response, McDermott asked the last interviewer to hire him on the spot instead — which he did.

For McDermott, passion, planning and confidence are key success factors for a business career. But perhaps even more important is empathy — understanding the needs of the people you sell to and you work with. It was empathy that made his small deli a success during high school, and when in 2010, as SAP CEO, he was working on a new strategy to strengthen the future of the largest business software company in the world, the questions he asked are surprisingly similar: Who exactly are our customers, and what do they want? For SAP, customers were any possible end users of technology. And what they wanted was compatibility with multiple mobile devices and access to cloud computing — and those are the areas in which SAP would move forward.

Winners Dream is subtitled A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office. It is a journey that illustrates, with every step, inspirational business guidance and solid leadership lessons for anyone striving for a similar journey in their lives.