Friday Book Review! The Network Imperative by Jerry Wind, Megan Beck, Barry Libert

The Network Imperative

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Not too many years ago, the idea of a hotel chain that didn’t own a single building or an international taxi service that didn’t own any cars might have seemed ludicrous. Today, of course, we know there are international companies worth billions of dollars in market value whose business model depends on customers connecting with independent suppliers of the service — not on the ownership of physical assets. In The Network Imperative, authors Barry Libert, Megan Beck and Jerry Wind describe the scalable, networking-based business model that is revolutionizing industries. Ebay, Uber, TripAdvisor and even Visa are examples of companies built on a network business model. One could argue that network firms are specific to certain industries. The authors disagree. “Be aware,” they write. “Investor capital, customer revenue and affinity, top talent and market buzz are shifting away from established firms toward network organizations.” According to their research, “digital networks are entering almost every industry, even some of the most mundane.”

High Performance

A quick comparison by the authors of market values between traditional and what they call “network firms” is revealing. For example, Hertz boasts a $7 billion market capitalization; Uber’s valuation is listed at more than $70 billion. Other business-performance measures also highlight the value of network firms. For example…(click here to read the full review)

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: 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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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: 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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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)