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.

Click here to read the rest of the review or sign up for our Executive Book Alert newsletter to receive new reviews of top business books every month!

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.

______________________________________
Click here to sign up for our FREE newsletter!
______________________________________

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….

Click here to read the rest of the review!

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.

______________________________
Sign up for our FREE newsletter!
_
_____________________________

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)

 

Make the Promise You’ll Deliver with this No B.S. Guide to Direct Response Social Media Marketing

As indicated by its name, the goal of direct response marketing is to elicit an immediate response from prospects. The opposite would be mass marketing, in which prospects are — perhaps and eventually — motivated to check out a product at the store after seeing the product’s (or the store’s) television commercial an ad nauseum number of times. Unlike the disengaged television viewers impatiently enduring commercials, social media prospects are somewhat active and some kind of connection to the seller. No wonder, as Kim Walsh-Phillips writes in No B.S. Guide to Direct Response Social Media Marketing, that “nothing has proven to give a higher ROI than social media marketing. Dollar for dollar, day in and day out, over and over again — you get the idea.”

Social media consultant Walsh-Phillips and co-author Dan Kennedy, a well-known, direct-response copywriter, combine to offer specific how-to advice on social media marketing. Their advice is generously illustrated with real-world examples, often reproduced in the book. The first lesson of the book, and one that the authors emphasize throughout the book, is that business is about money. It’s not about tweets, followers and any other social media metric about which too many businesses get excited.

“Let profit be the true measure,” writes Walsh-Phillips in the introduction, while Kennedy later notes that “you can’t go to the bank and deposit likes, views, retweets, viral explosions, social media conversations or brand recognition.” To help their readers make money, the authors offer a wide array of recommendations, often organized into concise but comprehensive lists.

One of their early offerings, for example, lists the six rules for effective marketing:

Click here to continue reading

Featured Book Review: Unfinished Business by Anne-Marie Slaughter

For many years, women were expected to make a choice: career or family. It was impossible, they were told, to have both. A woman could not devote the kind of time and commitment needed to climb the ladder of success while at the same time giving birth and taking care of children. Eventually, feminists began to fight back, rejecting the forced choice. It was possible, they declared, to build a successful career while still nurturing a family. It was possible, they eventually declared, to have it all.

Get a free book summary!

 

In 2008, Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of a powerful new book on women, men and work called Unfinished Business, believed the mantra. It was indeed possible, under the right circumstances, to have it all, and she was proof. Slaughter had a very high-profile job as dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. She also had a family, including a husband who was a tenured professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, and two sons, ages nine and 11. With the support and participation of her husband, Slaughter was able to thrive in her position while still leaving the office at 6 p.m.

In 2009, Slaughter was tapped by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to become the first female director of policy planning. The position was, of course, Washington-based. In accepting it, Slaughter began a commuter existence, spending the week in Washington, then returning home on Friday nights to spend the weekend with her family. Once again, it seemed that she had it all. But not exactly……..

What Makes Millennials Good Leaders

It’s dangerous to paint entire generations with the same brush; some tendencies or narratives can quickly become exaggerated. On the subject of Millennials and leadership, two conflicting stories often emerge: the first, that Millennials want a fast track to leadership roles without being willing to pay their dues; the second, that Millennials are not willing to accept the sacrifices — working long hours at the expense of family — expected of leaders.

A recent global study by France’s INSEAD shows that some of these narratives are misleading. According to the study, based on interviews with thousands of Millennials in 43 countries, 70 percent of the Millennials considered becoming a leader “important” or “very important,” and nearly 64 percent said they were willing to work longer hours and have more stress for the opportunities to be leaders. While past studies and books might focus on Millennials in their role as future leaders, a new book declares that the future has arrived. Millennials Who Manage: How to Overcome Workplace Perceptions and Become a Great Leader, by Chip Espinoza and Joel Schwarzbart, is written for and not about Millennial leaders and managers. Step by step, the authors lay out the challenges and best practices for Millennial managers already in leadership positions or preparing for the next step. The authors use their own surveys and research as sources for their prescriptions.

Because of their youth, Millennial managers immediately face unique challenges…

 

To learn what these specific challenges are, sign up for our FREE Executive Book Alert newsletter today!

 

One Businessman’s Secret to Success

Although known mostly for his conservative political activism, Charles Koch is also the CEO and chairman of a privately owned company that he has grown from a $21 million valuation in 1961 to $100 billion today. In his new book, Good Profit, Koch introduces a management framework called Market-Based Management, or MBM, which consists of five elements:

Vision. Create products and services that profit the consumer and society as a whole. The title of his book, Koch writes, comes from this viewpoint; good profit is good for all.

Virtue and Talents. Hire people that adhere to the values of the company first and foremost, before focusing on specific skills or knowledge.

Knowledge Processes. These are processes that enable the sharing of knowledge. Organizational structures that encourage collaboration, both internally and with external partners, are vital. Measurement processes, such as benchmarking, are also key. Finally, knowledge-sharing also depends on open two-way communication between employees and supervisors — specifically in allowing employees to “challenge their bosses respectfully if they think they have a better answer.”

Decision Rights. This is the business equivalent of the economic concept of “property rights” — in other words, ownership. The importance of ownership is another familiar but important component of good management. The more employees feel an ownership stake in what they are doing, the more care and conscientiousness they will apply to the task.

Incentives. Motivate employees to “maximize their contribution.” Koch uses Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, specifically the culminating need of “self-actualization,” as inspiration. Employees must feel that when the company benefits, they benefit. For Koch, there is no self-actualization motivation in automatic raises, including COLA raises.

The unfettered free-market politics of Koch, which is detailed in the first part of the book….

To read the full review, become a Soundview subscriber today!

 

You can also sign up to receive our FREE Executive Book Alert newsletter for reviews like this one.

 

 

Our Declining Abilities as Humans

In the early years of cellphones, the younger generation’s affinity for texting might have been seen as another generation-gap marker. Almost surreptitiously, however, the cellphone has become much more than just the new way of doing things for a new generation. As eloquently documented in psychoanalyst Sharon Turkle’s new book, Reclaiming Conversation, the cellphone — and, more specifically, the smartphone — has dramatically shifted the core element at the heart of human society: human relationships. The havoc wreaked by the cellphone is not generation-specific because all generations are guilty.

Turkle encapsulates the problem as one of losing both the desire and even the ability of conversation. We avoid face-to-face conversations, or even phone conversations, in favor of texting or email.

Granted, texting or email can, in the right circumstances, be more efficient. And indeed, the efficiency argument is one that underpins much of the enthusiasm for the smartphone. As revealed through the many interviews Turkle conducted in her research for the book, the generation that grew up with cellphones is perplexed as to why anyone would prefer a live conversation that one cannot edit or control (you must respond immediately). This apparent efficiency, however, is insidious, because “Human relationships,” she writes, “are rich, messy and demanding. When we clean them up with technology, we move from conversation to the efficiencies of mere connection (author’s emphasis). I fear we forget the difference. And we forget that children who grow up in a world of digital devices don’t know that there’s a difference.”

Pilots in a Cockpit

In her disturbing book, Turkle details the negative impact of moving from conversation to “mere connection.” It ranges from the end of imaginative and creative daydreaming — with a phone always handy, any spare second is filled with trolling through apps or checking Facebook — to the inability of being empathetic to others — which requires eye contact, listening and attending to someone — to even the inability of being true to one’s self. Today, unfettered journal entries have been replaced by carefully constructed positive posts on Facebook.

The damage of the age of the cellphone impacts everything we do. In the workplace, for example, employees turn on their screens and put on large earphones to block out the rest of the world — resembling pilots in a cockpit, according to one manager. It is not that the employees want privacy or solitude. In fact, the fear of solitude is one of the major changes wrought by the smartphone; people are never alone and never want to be alone. As a result, even the simple assignment of working on a project is unfathomable to younger employees; they need to work in groups.

Turkle is not anti-technology. She does not pine for a past that has disappeared. Instead, she compellingly describes how we are becoming unnecessarily diminished in our abilities as humans. The answer is not to reject technology but to use it properly. “We can become different kinds of consumers of technology, just as we have become different kinds of consumers of food,” she writes. Reclaiming Conversation is an important book, one that hopefully will be read and talked about — or at least posted about extensively on social media so that its vital message can break into the millions of cockpits that now make up our society.

For more reviews like this one, subscribe to our FREE monthly Executive Book Alert newsletter!

 

Get a sneak peek at February’s reviews

Take a look at the selections Soundview has chosen for February’s reviews.


RECLAIMING CONVERSATION

The Power of Talk in a Digital Age
by Sherry Turkle

In her disturbing book, Turkle details the negative impact of moving from conversation to “mere connec-tion.” It ranges from the end of imaginative and creative daydreaming — with a phone always handy, any spare second is filled with trolling through apps or checking Facebook — to the inability of being empathetic to others — which requires eye contact, listening and attending to someone — to even the inability of being true to one’s self.

 

GOOD PROFIT

How Creating Value for Others Built One of the World’s Most Successful Companies
by Charles G. Koch

In his new book, Good Profit, Koch introduces a management frame-work called Market-Based Management, or MBM, which consists of five elements: Vision, Virtue and Talents, Knowledge Processes, Decision Rights, and Incentives.

 

 

 

MILLENNIALS WHO MANAGE

How to Overcome Workplace Perceptions and Become a Great Leader
by Chip Espinoza and Joel Schwarzbart

While past studies and books might focus on Millennials in their role as future leaders, a new book declares that the future has arrived. Millennials Who Manage: How to Overcome Workplace Perceptions and Become a Great Leader, by Chip Espinoza and Joel Schwarzbart, is written for and not about Millennial leaders and managers.

 

 

 
SERIAL WINNER
5 Actions to Create Your Cycle of Success
by Larry Weidel

In his book, Serial Winner, Weidel argues that anyone can be a winner — and not just a winner but a serial winner, the type of person who wins over and over.

 

 

 

 

Want to see more like this? Sign up for our FREE monthly Executive Book Alert newsletter.

 

Balancing Competition and Cooperation

For some people, the key to success is competition — always looking after their self-interest and fighting to be better than others. Others believe that success comes to those who are best at cooperation — who know how to collaborate with others. Columbia Business School professor Adam Galinsky and Wharton professor Maurice Schweitzer argue that this dichotomy is false.

In their new book, Friend & Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete and How to Succeed at Both, Galinsky and Schweitzer build on research from across the social sciences as well as advances in neuroscience to explain how the most successful people and successful relationships are those in which we find the right balance of both competition and cooperation.

We are always toggling between the two, although it is not easy. According to the authors, three fundamental forces — resources are scarce, humans are social beings and the social world is unstable and dynamic — give rise to an ongoing tension between competition and cooperation. These three fundamental forces are the underlying threads that run throughout the book.

Why We Compare Ourselves to Others

A chapter that explores the role that social comparisons play in our lives illustrates how these forces impact cooperation and competition. We are social beings, the authors write, and one way we figure our place in our dynamic world is by comparing ourselves with others. Such social comparisons can be motivating. When the Soviets became the first country to fly a man in orbit, the United States felt it must do better; the result was the successful first mission to the moon. Social comparisons, however, can also be destructive, as the attack of Olympic skater Tonya Harding on rival Nancy Kerrigan demonstrates.

Social comparisons help put our achievements in context, notably when scarce resources are involved. The authors cite one academic study that showed that people who graduate during a recession are happier with their first jobs than people who get their first jobs during an economic expansion. The reason? During an economic downturn, graduates who get a job compare themselves to most other graduates, who aren’t able to get a job at all.

The authors offer three principles that help harness the power of social comparisons and make them work for us rather than bring us down. The first is to recognize the natural order of things in which most of us instinctively believe. One example of this natural order is that older siblings should be successful first. The Williams sisters (and in another domain, John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy) worked well together, as the older sibling was the first to reach the heights of their profession. The second principle is to recognize or create new opportunities to compete. Turn disappointment into motivation to do better next time. The third principle is to allow others to have some schadenfreude — some joy in someone’s misery. After your incredible vacation to Fiji, the authors suggest, don’t forget to focus on the negatives as well (the rainy days, the lost luggage).

The core lesson of social comparisons, write the authors, is to seek favorable comparisons to make yourself happy, unfavorable comparisons to push yourself harder.

The chapter on social comparisons is the opening salvo of a fascinating exploration into how humans both collaborate and compete and how it’s possible to find that perfect balance between the two. The authors cover a surprisingly wide range of issues, such as the role of “psychological safety” (the permission to speak up), that enable hierarchies to be productive rather than destructive; how to use both competence and warmth to build trust; and how women can compete without facing the unfair gender-stereotypical backlash of being too “hard” or “tough” — to name just three examples. Filled with unforgettable stories, this is the ultimate guide for learning when to cooperate as a friend and when to compete as a foe.

Want to read more reviews like this one? Subscribe to our monthly Executive Book Alert newsletter.