Insights From Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead

WHAT’S WORKED AT GOOGLE

Laszlo Bock, head of People Operations at Google, once interviewed a job candidate who was clearly wearing a new and quite expensive pinstripe suit purchased just for the interview. Bock told the candidate that he had good news and bad news. The good news was that he was hired; the bad news is that he would never wear that beautiful suit again.

Googlers, as the 50,000 employees of Google are called, do not wear suits. However, casual clothes is just one (rather minor) facet of a progressive working environment that has allowed Google to win numerous Great Place to Work awards, not only in the United States but in countries around the world. In his book Work Rules: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Work, Bock details how the company recruits, motivates and manages the highly talented people who join the company.

A High-Freedom Approach

For Bock, a “high-freedom approach” to managing people is key, as compared to the low-freedom command-and-control approach of traditional companies. For example, in addition to mission (Google’s succinct mission statement is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”), the cornerstones of Google’s culture are transparency and voice, he writes.

While many companies insist they champion full transparency of the company’s operations and giving their employees a voice, Google translates the words into unequivocal, on-the-ground action. For example, one would expect that Google would carefully guard its code base — the collection of source code that contains, Bock writes, “the secrets of how Google’s algorithms and products work.” In most software companies, new engineers can see some of the code base for just their product. “At Google, a newly hired software engineer gets access to almost all of our code on the first day,” he writes. The issue is trust, he explains. If you trust your employees, there is no reason not to be transparent and not to let them guide decisions.

As Bock writes in one of the two “work rules” that summarize the chapter on culture, “Give people slightly more trust, freedom and authority than you are comfortable giving them. If you’re not nervous, you haven’t given them enough.”

Each chapter ends with two to four of these succinct work rules that encapsulate the core lesson of the chapter. These work rules are listed at the end of the book, creating perhaps one of the most comprehensive guides to managing people ever gathered in four short pages.

Some of the work rules are progressive but not surprising. The work rules for selecting new employees, for example, are set a high bar for quality, find your own candidates, assess candidates objectively and give candidates a reason to join.

Other work rules may be more unexpected. The rules for compensation begin with “Swallow hard and pay unfairly. Have wide variations in pay that reflect the power law distribution of performance.” In other words, it is often assumed that employees at a certain level should make approximately the same amount of compensation, with some slight adjustment for performance. However, the contribution that employees make to the company will vary greatly from employee to employee. Studies show that the top 1 percent (in performance) of workers generates 10 times the output of average workers. Employees, Bock writes, should be compensated accordingly.

While there are numerous books about Silicon Valley management methods, Work Rules offers both an in-depth exploration of the workings of the iconic company’s HR efforts and policies and a take-away list of practical to-dos valuable to the HR functions of any company.

Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done

PRODUCTIVITY STRATEGIES DESIGNED FOR HUMANSIt seems that every day is the same for most of us: too much to do, too little time to do it. In this hyper-busy, 24/7 world, author Josh Davis’ contention that we can regain control of our lives by being highly productive for two hours a day seems almost silly. Yet in his book, Two Awesome Hours, Davis makes a compelling case that we can get most of the important work done in a total of two hours — or a similarly overall short amount of time (two hours, he explains, is not a magic number but representative of the small amount of highly productive period for which we should aim).Not a MicroprocessorThe secret is to change the mindset of most productivity efforts, which is built on the concept of trying to be efficient for the entire day. The fact — as proven by science — is that machines and computers can be efficient for eight or 10 hours a day, but humans cannot. The brain is not a biological version of a computer microprocessor. You can’t just turn it on and off. It needs to rest. It becomes distracted — and that’s okay.

In short, Davis writes, we need to stop trying to emulate the productivity of machines and instead work with our continually expanding knowledge of how the brain works.

Five Strategies

Based on the science of the brain, Davis has developed five productivity strategies that are designed for humans and not machines.

Strategy 1. Recognize Your Decision Points. It may seem that the moments between tasks are unimportant and, in fact, unproductive. After all, you are not working. As a result, most people rush through what Davis calls “decision points,” those moments in the day when you are deciding what to do next. In their quest to be “productive,” however, people don’t give enough thought to what they should be doing next. They grab the first task they see and end up spending an enormous amount of time on a task that is of secondary importance. “There’s a time and place for the less important work, but leveraging your decision points will help you keep attuned to your larger priorities,” Davis writes.

Strategy 2. Manage Your Mental Energy. Not all hours are the same. This is a major difference with machines, which will work the same no matter when they are operating or for how long. A brain will become tired, and different tasks have more or less impact on brain fatigue. Davis urges his readers to learn when their mental energy is at its peak; this is the time to focus on the most difficult of tasks. And they should be careful not to drain their energy just before that energy is most needed.

Strategy 3. Stop Fighting Distractions. As with decision points, distractions are often seen as the enemy of productivity. In truth, they can be opportunities for regeneration and refocusing. That doesn’t mean reading the sports pages or cyberloafing on social media sites at will, Davis explains. However, daydreaming for a few minutes while looking out the window can send you back to the task refreshed and newly focused.

Strategy 4. Leverage Your Mind-Body Connection. There is a tendency, Davis writes, to separate the mental from the physical. In truth, mind and body are connected, and this offers opportunities to help (or hurt) your mental capacity by how you treat your body. How, when and what you eat or drink, for example, can make a big difference in your mental capacity. Use the mind-body connection to your advantage, Davis urges.

Strategy 5. Make Your Workspace Work For You. The right physical environment will also play a major role in your productivity. “You often can’t change the place where you work, but there are lots of little things you can do to ensure that your workspace is helping, not hindering your productivity,” he writes.

These five deceptively simple strategies, Davis writes, “are effective not only because they are simple and easy to start implementing but also because they work with, not against, your biology.”

In this quick and engaging read, Davis makes a compelling case that the secret for creating the conditions “for at least two hours of incredible productivity every day” is to forget efficiency and draw on the lessons from the latest research in psychology and neuroscience — two disciplines that have nothing to do with machines.

Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins

EVERYONE CAN BE A GOOD STORYTELLER

Anyone who has read Steven Levitt’s phenomenal bestseller Freakonomics remembers the advice that his father gave him when Levitt, an economist with suspect mathematical skills, wondered about his professional future as an economist. The advice: Find a niche. The advice itself is not the memorable part, of course; it is the story that accompanied it. Levitt recalls that his father explained how he, too, was not the genius of his class and decided that his best bet was to find an under-filled niche that the stars of medical school would ignore. Thus, Levitt explains, his father developed an expertise in intestinal gas and eventually became known as the King of Farts.

Freakonomics is filled with evocative, funny and illuminating stories, which explains, according to Annette Simmons, author of Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, why it was so successful. Facts are important, she writes, but they often fail to connect with those who hear them. To truly be informative and persuasive, you need good stories — especially personal stories.

Another major advantage of stories is that they effectively convey experiences. “Experience changes minds, alters decisions and creates cohesive action,” Simmons writes. The best way for investors to understand the impact of poor working conditions in the company’s developing world factories, for example, is to walk through a sweatshop. In most cases, however, using the tool of personal experience to influence others is not feasible. A good story, if told with enough feeling and detail, can act as a vicarious experience, plunging the listener into the situation.

Six Stories to Tell

Many people believe that they are not good storytellers, when in fact, Simmons points out, every one of us tells stories all the time. We may not realize, however, that when describing a funny moment of forgetfulness or venting about a frustrating customer-service experience, we are telling a story. Of course, not all stories are appropriate for influencing people. Venting makes us feel good but is hardly a teaching moment.

Simmons identifies the six types of stories that, she writes, “lead to influence, imagination, and innovation”:

Who-I-Am Stories. People won’t trust you if you don’t get personal. “Reveal who you are as a person,” Simmons writes.

Why-I-Am-Here Stories. Use stories to explain your agenda and to be authentic. Explain what’s in it for you.

Teaching Stories. Telling a story that creates a shared experience will be more motivating than just giving someone advice.

Vision Stories. Describe, through a detailed story, your vision of the future.

Value-in-Action Stories. Use stories to show a value in action. Hypothetical situations will sound contrived. A true story will make a compelling case for that value.

I-Know-What-You-Are-Thinking Stories. Use a story to show your listener that you are already aware of their unspoken objections or suspicions — and that you have an answer.

Finding the Right Stories

One of the challenges to becoming a good storyteller is finding the right stories. Simmons offers four buckets of story sources from which storytellers can draw: a time you shined, a time you blew it (embarrassing stories build trust); a story about a mentor (which shows humility and gratitude); a story from a book, movie or current event (that exemplifies the core message).

Simmons devotes a chapter to each of the six types of stories. In each chapter, she assigns the reader a general situation. In the chapter about teaching stories, for example, she asks the reader to imagine a pet peeve concerning a job poorly done. The assignment is to tell a non-judgmental story to teach the person to do a better job.

In the final section of this practical how-to book, Simmons helps the reader hone the craft of storytelling. She covers areas such as how to add sensory details that make the story experiential, the importance of brevity and the power of multiple points of view.

In an information-age world that seems enamored with the mass processing of “Big Data,” Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins offers the refreshing perspective that the most traditional of all types of communication — the oral history — is also the most effective tool for influencing and leading people.

Five Timeless Lessons From Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs

THE STRATEGIC RULES OF THREE GIANTS

Bill Gates, Andy Grove and Steve Jobs have been the subjects of many books, and Gates and Grove have even written their own bestselling books. Strategy Rules, a new book coauthored by Harvard Business School professor David Yoffie and MIT Sloan School of Management professor Michael Cusumano, offers a new take on these three giants of entrepreneurship and technology by bringing them together into one how-to guide on strategy. According to Yoffie and Cusumano, the three men, although vastly different in personalities, followed the same five rules for strategy and execution:

  1. Look Forward, Reason Back. The first rule was to look forward into the future and then reason back to the actions required today. A vision of what the world could be was only the beginning for these three men, however. Perhaps even more important was the ability of all three to determine — in detail — what needed to happen immediately to turn vision into reality.
  2. Make Big Bets, Without Betting the Company. Gates, Grove and Jobs were bold leaders, but they were not reckless, write Yoffie and Cusumano. They knew how to time or diversify their big bets so that even huge strategic bets were not irreversible.
  3. Build Platforms AND Ecosystems. Another important rule, the authors write, was to build platforms and ecosystems, as opposed to pursuing a product strategy. Build Platforms AND Ecosystems. Most industries think in terms of products. Technology companies, however, succeed when they build industry platforms, not stand-alone products. Bill Gates would not be among the world’s richest men and Microsoft would not be the dominant company it became if Gates had sold his product — the DOS operating system — to the client that had requested it: IBM. Instead, in exchange for a much lower payment from IBM, Gates kept the right to license the system to other companies. The rest is history.
  4. Exploit Leverage AND Power. All three men, according to the authors, could play Judo and Sumo. Judo requires using the opponent’s strength. Gates, Grove and Jobs could each find a way to turn the strengths of their opponents into weaknesses. One notable example was Jobs’ successful negotiation with the music companies for a license to their music. Paying little attention to the tiny company (only 2 percent market share in its own industry!), the music companies negotiated an agreement highly favorable to Apple and which would be the foundation of the iTunes revolution. At the same time, the three did not hesitate to freely use their power, once they had it, to dominate their competitors, just as a Sumo wrestler uses his pure strength to dominate his opponent.
  5. Shape the Company Around Your Personal Anchor. Personally, the three men had vastly different strengths and interests. Gates was the software coding genius, Grove a precise engineer and Jobs a wizard at design. The companies they built reflected these strengths.

At their peaks, Microsoft, Apple and Intel were collectively worth $1.5 trillion. More than just business behemoths, however, these three companies and their founders changed the world, and our lives, in dramatic ways. Whether an entrepreneur dreaming of creating the next life-changing company or the manager of a multi-billion global company, any business leader should explore and adapt the lessons offered by the business practices of these three extraordinary business leaders.

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.

How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter

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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

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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 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 Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way

SHIFTING FOCUS TO THE NEEDS OF THE PATIENT

In December of 2004, the 77-year-old father of James Merlino, a colorectal surgeon in training at the Cleveland Clinic, came to the hospital for a biopsy, expecting to be discharged later in the day. Merlino’s father never left the hospital, unexpectedly dying seven days later.

As he describes in his book, Service Fanatics: How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way, Merlino was devastated by his father’s death, not only because it was so unexpected but also because of the way his father had spent those final days — days of frustration at unresponsive nurses, insensitive doctors and inefficient service, combined with the growing fear that he was going to die.

His father’s death was a turning point for Merlino, who recognized that, contrary to what was taught to rising young doctors, medicine should not be simply the emotionless treatment of disease. Hospitals needed to focus on the entire experience of the patient.

Merlino left the Cleveland Clinic but returned a few years later under a new CEO who had launched a revolutionary Patients First mission for the hospital. Merlino would eventually become the Chief Experience Officer of the Cleveland Clinic. Service Fanatics is the story of how he and the new CEO, Toby Cosgrove, turned the mission of Patients First into reality. Today, the Patients First mindset drives every decision and process of the Cleveland Clinic.

The Cleveland Clinic story is one of overcoming resistance and derision and battling the egos of doctors who treated patients as numbers or diseases, not as people. While doctors attempted to resolve the disease as best they could, they had no awareness of the fears and needs of the person behind the disease. The patient was almost irrelevant; it was the ailment that was the focus.

It is the story of transforming a hospital into a place in which every person on staff is considered and expected to be a “caregiver.” In his quest to transform the hospital’s approach to patients, Merlino conducted extensive research with other hospitals and explored other organizations and industries beyond the medical profession.

One of the first steps in creating a new Patients First environment, Merlino writes, was to precisely define the goal. The challenge in medicine is that the customer is not always right. In Merlino’s specialty, for example, patients must rise from bed the day after their surgery since getting up and walking around is essential to ensuring a good recovery. Patients, however, consider this obligatory exercise the sign of an insensitive doctor. Thus, unlike a restaurant, customer satisfaction can be a treacherous measure for whether a hospital is doing the best job it can.

Eventually, Merlino and his team at the Cleveland Clinic defined Patients First as 1) Safe Care, 2) Quality Care, 3) Customer Satisfaction and 4) High Value Care — in that specific order.

Service Fanatics is the careful narration of an organization meeting a customer-service challenge, and it is at once unique but filled with lessons for all types of organizations. Building the involvement of staff; adding to rather than changing your culture; executing by fixing processes first, then identifying best practices; and myriad other insights into transforming an organization, captured in valuable bullet points at the end of each chapter, will help leaders from all industries focus and align their businesses to the needs of the customer.