Book Review: The Zappos Experience

by Joseph Michelli

When business book authors seek companies that exemplify superior abilities in areas such as innovation, product development and talent development, a small list of names rapidly fills the pool. If asked, readers could name the top five with little effort: Apple, Google, Amazon.com, Facebook, and Procter & Gamble. In fact, the first three, respectively, are the top three companies named on FORTUNE magazine’s 2012 list of the 50 most admired companies. When the discussion turns to customer service, a new name joins the list: Zappos.com. In The Zappos Experience: 5 Principles to Inspire, Engage and WOW best-selling author Joseph Michelli explores the wildly different way of thinking that powers one of the strongest customer service engines in today’s global marketplace. The Zappos Experience is now available in multiple digital formats as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

Michelli’s familiarity with corporate giants is second to none. His previous books have profiled Starbucks, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, and Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market. If there is a single quality that distinguishes Michelli from his contemporaries, it’s his ability to blend elements of a company’s history with critical insight into how the company’s finer points can be replicated in the reader’s organization. Other authors get distracted by providing more biography than takeaways. Michelli’s five principles connect Zappos’ outstanding philosophy of building a great culture to a reader’s attempts to increase employee engagement, connect with customers and provide a truly exceptional service experience.

Zappos’ abilities as a service provider were a key factor in the company’s 2009 acquisition by Amazon.com. Readers will be fascinated by what Michelli discovered about the acquisition and the linchpin that helped Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh confirm the deal. Needless to say, Amazon.com’s third-place finish on FORTUNE’s most-admired list in 2012 is tied to some extent to Zappos’ service culture.

To download your copy of The Zappos Experience, visit Soundview’s Web site Summary.com.

Special Note to Soundview Subscribers! Don’t forget to listen to Soundview’s Author Insight Series featuring Joseph Michelli. He provides some additional insights about Zappos that you won’t hear anywhere else. Log in to your Soundview online library and check it out!

Book Review: Disciplined Dreaming

Creativity is often mislabeled as a mysterious force. The concept dates back to ancient history when poets and musicians were beholden to muses or gods for moments of creative brilliance. In today’s business world, the importance of generating a constant stream of new (not to mention good) ideas is too great to be left to fate. Fortunately, the creative process isn’t shrouded in mystery. According to Josh Linkner, author of Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity (now available as a Soundview Executive Book Summary), executives and their teams can arrive at great ideas without resorting to incantations or ceremonies.

One key aspect of Linkner’s philosophy is that creativity should serve as a force of empowerment within an organization. This is counter to the classic concept of the “idea man” in a company. While it is understandable to assume that ideas come more naturally to some rather than others, a closer look may prove that the person rich in ideas is also diligently (if unknowingly) following many of the ideas about which Linkner writes. Executives need to understand the power that comes with making and maintaining a work environment in which people can be creative. It makes one’s office a workplace in which the next great idea can come from any direction.

Linkner also helps executives avoid the common, seductive trap of dismissing others’ ideas outright. Part of the reason employees hesitate to provide meaningful solutions is because they don’t feel as if their ideas count. Linkner provides numerous examples, including some memorable stories from his own company ePrize, that prove the old adage, “The mind, like a parachute, works better when open.”

To get your copy of the summary of Disciplined Dreaming, visit Soundview’s Web site Summary.com.

Are Your Skills Sharp Enough?

According to an article in The Washington Post, unemployment numbers took a surprising jump over the past month. This concern about the continuing rocky return of the American economy has caused a scramble for any semblance of job security. While the unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent for the month of May, the affected areas of the economy could possibly be spread across the spectrum of jobs.

This is obviously concerning news for executives. One of the main ways in which many executives are attempting to solidify their position within an organization is by strengthening their skill sets. While traditional coursework and seminars still have a foothold on the executive education arena, more and more executives are turning to mobile learning as a means to strengthen skills at a pace that fits the intensity of their schedules.

If you’re in this group (and really, who isn’t in today’s climate?), I would strongly recommend you check out CKC’s Executive Edge ™ . This skill-building publication is delivered directly to you twice each month, and each issue is devoted to the mastery of one of numerous skills that every executive needs to succeed.

From the feedback that I’ve received, one of the aspects of Executive Edge that people most enjoy is the focus on practical applications of skills. This often arrives in the form of takeaways from executives with hands-on experience. Unlike other publications that focus on theory and speculation, Executive Edge delivers front-line information forged from the success stories of companies across the globe.

To learn more about how you can strengthen your skills, check out the latest issue of Executive Edge. Visit Summary.com to learn about Soundview’s other great executive skill-building resources.

Three New Soundview Summaries for May 2011

There are three great new summaries now available at Summary.com:

The Power of Professionalism: The Seven Mind-Sets that Drive Performance and Build Trust by Bill Wiersma

In this groundbreaking book, Wiersma outlines the seven key mind-sets of trusted professionals, offering a blueprint for both individuals and organizations interested in fostering a culture of professionalism. Professionalism is the ladder upon which all other organizational virtues rest. That’s why organizations whose members view themselves as professionals will outperform, outsmart, and outlast organizations that don’t.

Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible by Daniel Burrus & John David Mann

From small businesses to multinationals, individual careers to entire industries, Flash Foresight looks at how Daniel Burrus’s seven radical flash foresight “triggers” have transformed dozens of careers, fortunes, and lives. Flash Foresight provides an easy-to-implement blueprint for applying the same strategies to your own business, enabling you to see the invisible and do the impossible. Today, as the pace of technological change accelerates almost beyond the point of comprehension, Flash Foresight is an imperative.

Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Tim Brown

The myth of innovation is that brilliant ideas leap fully formed from the minds of geniuses. The reality is that most innovations come from a process of rigorous examination through which great ideas are identified and developed before being realized as new offerings and capabilities. This book introduces the idea of design thinking‚ the collaborative process by which the designer’s sensibilities and methods are employed to match people’s needs with what is technically feasible and a viable business strategy.

To learn more and to get your copies of these great new titles, visit Soundview’s Web site Summary.com.

Sneak Peek at Potential Soundview Summary

The Associated Press published a story today that international telecommunications equipment manufacturer Alcatel-Lucent SA posted a lower loss in the first quarter. The reason this story is of interest to Soundview Executive Book Summaries‘ subscribers is that it ties in to a potential upcoming summary. While we can’t officially announce it yet, I can tell you that we’re hard at work in an attempt to produce a summary of Robert J. Herbold’s What’s Holding You Back: 10 Bold Steps that Define Gutsy Leaders. Aside from his own highly successful international consulting company, Herbold served time as a top executive with two of the globe’s most profitable companies. He was Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Microsoft, and he also served at the executive level with Procter & Gamble. Herbold’s astounding resume aside, the content of What’s Holding You Back contains some of the best advice for leaders that I’ve read in recent years.

So, how does Alcatel-Lucent fit into the equation? During our build-up to producing the summary, I had the opportunity to speak with Herbold yesterday. It was an enlightening conversation that subscribers will have the opportunity to hear in the form of a Soundview Author Insight Series interview, our monthly discussion with the authors of each summarized title. One of the issues we discussed is the problem of group consensus at the executive level. Herbold writes that organizations need to return to a practice of single-person accountability. In his book and in our chat, he cites Alcatel-Lucent as an example of what can go wrong when legacy leadership collides head-on with consensus thinking.

To make sure that you’re alerted as soon as the summary of What’s Holding You Back becomes available, check this blog and follow Soundview on Twitter @businessbooks.

Book Review: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan

It’s difficult to discern when a term comes into widespread use. In American politics whenever there is a newly elected president, the precedent seems to be to judge his performance based on what is accomplished during the first 100 days of his administration. In business, the same rule is often applied. The difference, according to authors George B. Bradt, Jayme A. Check and Jorge E. Pedraza, is that an executive doesn’t receive the guarantee of a four-year term during which to work. As the authors write, “Your first 100 days on the job could be your last.” Their book The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan: How to Take Charge, Build Your Team and Get Immediate Results is  the latest summary available from Soundview Executive Book Summaries.

The book is a vital success planning tool for any executive stepping into a new leadership position. One of its greatest strengths is a section that discusses the most common landmines that new leaders will encounter in their jobs. In addition to providing a detailed outline for success, the authors include a variety of tools (both in print and online) to aid leaders in acclimatizing to an organization and boosting their performance out of the gate. The authors clearly indicate the milestones (in terms of days) by which executives should attempt to implement certain goals. Though the book is divided into three parts, it is likely that readers will spend the most time focusing on the third section. With detailed information and interesting examples, The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan is a great guide to get any new leader the strong start he or she needs.

For more great leadership titles, visit Soundview online at Summary.com.

A Summary for the Era of Real-Time

As governments and economic experts sit with rapt attention watching every detail of the various struggles in the Middle East, many media outlets are rely on the constant stream of real-time updates from social technology. I was looking over a potential  Soundview Executive Book Summary the other day and thinking about how  fascinating it’s been to watch the evolution of the coverage of armed struggle. From an American perspective, in less than a century, conflict coverage went from the exclusive domain of newspapers during World War I to radio and cinema newsreels during World War II. The Vietnam War is considered the first conflict that entered American homes each night via television. In each of these examples, the amount of time between action and transmission decreased. We are now at the point where someone’s handheld device can both record and upload video the moment something occurs.

Business has also been impacted by the rapid shift to real-time interaction. In Real-Time Marketing & PR: How to Instantly Engage Your Market, Connect with Customers and Create Products That Grow Your Business Now by David Meerman Scott, executives have the opportunity to see the scope and power of instant engagement. I think we’re all aware of people in every organization who tend to scoff at the business applications of real-time technology. One of the best aspects of Scott’s book is that it presents some of the more convincing evidence that growth can be directly linked to the frequent, instant engagement of one’s customers. I think this is definitely a summary that you’ll want to pass along to any naysayers that you might encounter in your workplace.

To get a copy of the Soundview Executive Book Summary of Real-Time Marketing & PR, visit Soundview online at Summary.com.

New Soundview Review Strengthens Your Negotiating Power

The idea of negotiation is polarizing to many people. There are some individuals for whom the idea of sitting down at a bargaining table produces sweaty palms and heart palpitations. Others view negotiation as the opportunity to flex some muscle and crush an opponent. In Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World, a book recently reviewed by Soundview Executive Book Summaries, author Stuart Diamond attempts to bring negotiation off the battlefield and into more friendly confines.

One of the key phrases that propels Diamond’s book is “If you come to a negotiation expecting a war, you will get one.” Also, Diamond points out, you will get less from the negotiation. This notion moves negotiation into the realm of a collaborative endeavor where both parties attempt to reach a mutually beneficial solution. There are no victors or vanquished in Diamond’s world. The book contains some memorable stories of successful, positive negotiations. One of the most impressive is Diamond’s own foray into the jungles of Bolivia. He successfully negotiated with native farmers to forgo planting and harvesting the coca plant (used in the production of cocaine) and instead replace it with bananas. Diamond crossed cultural, economic and potentially life-threatening lines to undertake this negotiation. It’s an impressive feat that fits perfectly into Diamond’s book.

If you’re interested in learning more about Getting More, you can visit Soundview’s Web site, Summary.com, to read a FREE review of this and hundreds of other top business titles. You can also keep up with all of the latest business books by subscribing to Soundview’s FREE e-newsletter BizBook Review of the Week.

Three Great NEW Soundview Summaries

Subscribers to Soundview Executive Book Summaries already received some great news this week, so I thought I’d share it with everyone else. There are three brand new summaries now available for download in any of Soundview’s eight digital formats. If you’re an iPad user (or iPad2 for that matter), make this the month that you check out Soundview’s new Smart Summary format. It’s the first business book summary format designed specifically for the iPad and other tablet devices.

Here are the new releases:

Real-Time Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott: In this eye-opening follow-up to The New Rules of Marketing and PR, David Meerman Scott reveals the proven, practical steps to take your business into the real-time era. Find out how to act and react flexibly as events occur, position your brand in the always-on world of the Web, and avoid embarrassing mistakes and missteps in this executive book summary of Real-Time Marketing and PR.

You Already Know How to Be Great by Alan Fine: This executive book summary of You Already Know How to Be Great offers a bold new approach to performance by one of the top coaches in the country. Alan Fine, an accomplished tennis, golf, and executive coach and a renowned authority on peak performance, has found the biggest obstacle to improved performance isn’t not knowing what to do; it’s not doing what you already know. Fine reveals his simple and proven approach to achieving breakthrough performance through an amazing process called G.R.O.W. (Goal, Reality, Options, Way Forward).

The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan by George B. Bradt, Jorge E. Pedraza, Jayme A. Check: Moving into a new leadership position is one of the toughest challenges an executive can face. Whether you’re a veteran leader taking over a new organization or a novice moving into your first leadership role, this practical guide will help you manage your leadership transition so you can take charge, build your team, and deliver results. This executive book summary of the second edition of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan presents proven solutions and cutting-edge techniques for getting started successfully in your new role.

For more information on these great new summaries, visit Soundview online at Summary.com.

Soundview Live: Learn to Avoid “Me First!” Presentations

Just wanted to send a reminder to everyone that Soundview is less than 48 hours away from the next great installment of Soundview Live, our interactive Webinar series that puts YOU in touch with today’s top authors. The next edition takes place on Wednesday, March 16 at Noon (Eastern). This edition of Soundview Live will feature Nancy Duarte, CEO of Duarte Design, Inc and author of Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences. She will instruct listeners about creating presentations that persuade.

One of the keys to delivering a great presentation is to avoid the “Me First” mentality into which too many presenters seem to fall. During the preparation process for Wednesday’s event, I had the opportunity to interview Nancy and asked her why this problem persists. Here’s what she said:

Sometimes I think it’s because maybe the presenter has so much anxiety about spending so much time around the information they think has to be conveyed. They are so inbred about their own thoughts and getting their own objectives out of the meeting that they rarely spend the time to think about the fact that they’re just one small moment in this other person’s life. This meeting might be very important to you, but it’s really just a small moment in the other person’s life. We rarely take the time to think about how can we add value to that person’s moment with us. Instead it’s all about what we can get out of the audience instead of what we can give.

Don’t forget to sign-up for Wednesday’s Soundview Live with Nancy Duarte. Soundview subscribers can attend this event for FREE. Duarte’s organization has created presentations for some of the most influential organizations in business today. This is your chance to receive personal insights direct from Nancy. Don’t miss it!

For more information on this and other Soundview events, visit us online at Summary.com.