How Fast, Inexpensive, Restrained and Elegant Methods Ignite Innovation


Why do some projects deliver under budget and ahead of schedule, while others cost more and take longer than expected? More important, which products work better: the quick and thrifty or the slow and expensive?

In a story-filled blend of quirky pop culture and practical engineering insight, Dan Ward’s F.I.R.E. answers those questions and more. Ward’s extensive research and firsthand experience show how the world’s top technologists consistently deliver best-in-class results on shoestring budgets and cannonball schedules, and using skeleton crews.

But this is not just a book about how to win. With unflinching candor, Ward shows how the FIRE method, even when followed wisely and well, can result in a flop. Taking a deep look at several negative outcomes, he shows how to make failures optimal rather than epic.

F.I.R.E. provides strategic concepts for leaders, decision-making principles for managers and practical tools for people working on anything from spacecraft and fighter jets to websites and children’s toys. Technology professionals and curious amateurs alike will come away with a deeper understanding of effective product design.


• Build strategies for speed.

• Streamline your designs.

• Design your products and processes with less cost.

• Unleash the power of small teams and short meetings.

Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the title to purchase and download it right now to begin learning these critical business skills.


Ten Essential Tools for Business Forged in the Trenches of Hollywood

Our guest blogger is Jeff Cohen, author of The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments.

The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments provides a practical, no-nonsense methodology for negotiating deals, managing your time and handling crisis, all at the highest level.

In a storied instance of professional redemption, I created The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments to overcome resistance and achieve my goals without losing my soul along the way. Although developed in Hollywood, the real world tactics, strategies and guiding principles are vital for any business environment.

Success is life on your own terms. The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments empowers you to successfully navigate and negotiate the terms of your life.


“Love is preserved by the link of obligation which…is broken at every opportunity for advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

Being feared is more useful and reliable than being loved.


“All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Power not reason drives the outcome of a transaction.


“Men are moved by two levers only: fear and self-interest.” – Napoleon Bonaparte  

Parties are motivated by and can be predicted to behave in accordance with their perceived best self-interest.


“Things are entirely what they appear to be – and behind them…there is nothing.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

All manner of irrational and emotional impulses must be shaved away to objectively analyze the battlefield.


“Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.” – George Bernard Shaw

Combat is honor. Choose your enemies and battles wisely.  If combat is thrust upon you, choose to define your enemy and the conditions for victory.


“The man who can’t dance thinks the band is no good.” – Polish Proverb

Dealmaking is a dance whose basic steps are: offer, counter, close.  Conduct the tempo and tune to your advantage.


“Time is at once the most valuable and the most perishable of all our possessions.” – John Randolph

Time is the Dealmaker’s commodity. Set goals and create a time management system to maximize the impact of your labor and resources.


“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” – Mike Tyson

Train yourself to calmly and effectively handle emergencies.  Then, fix the problem, analyze the error and improve the algorithm.


“A.B.C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing. Always be closing.” – Blake/Glengarry Glen Ross

Dealmakers make deals.  Know your role, get paid and remember your ABCs.  Always be closing.


“Whoever fights monsters should beware that he, himself, does not become a monster.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Don’t allow fighting monsters to make you a monster. Heed Nietzsche’s warning by internalizing the virtue of forbearance and finding shelter from the storm.

To hear more about Cohen’s controversial commandments, join us for our Soundview Live webinar: The Essential Tools for Business Negotiation.

Turning Uncertainty into Breakthrough Opportunities

attackersadvantageThe forces driving today’s world of structural change create sharp bends in the road that can lead to major explosions in your existing market space. But exponential change also offers exponential opportunities. How do you leverage change to go on the offense? The Attacker’s Advantage is the game plan for winning in an era of ambiguity, volatility and complexity, when every leader and every business is being challenged in new and unexpected ways.

Ram Charan, harnessing an unequalled depth and breadth of experience working with leaders and companies around the globe, provides tested, practical tools to help you:

• Build the perceptual acuity to see around corners and detect, ahead of others, those forces — especially people, who are the catalysts of change — that could radically reshape a company or industry.

• Commit to a new path forward despite the unknowns, positioning your business to make the next move ahead of competitors.

• Make your organization agile and steerable by aligning people, priorities, decision-making power, budgeting and capital allocation and key performance indicators to the new realities of the marketplace.

The Attacker’s Advantage provides a stark and simple challenge: Stay in a legacy world of incremental gains or defensiveness, or be an attacker by creating a new world, scaling it up quickly, ahead of the traditional players.

Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the title to purchase and download it right now to begin learning these critical business skills.


A Manager’s Guide to Keeping the Best and Brightest


When a valued employee suddenly and unexpectedly gives his or her notice, managers and supervisors will want to know why. Often, they will seek the answer in the “exit interview,” the standard meeting between outgoing employees and their bosses. The concept of exit interviews raises an obvious question: Would it not be better to find out why valued employees may want to leave before they turn in their resignation letters?

Consultant Richard Finnegan agrees and offers a solution: the “stay” interview. In his book The Stay Interview: A Manager’s Guide to Keeping the Best and Brightest, Finnegan lays out the process for regular face-to-face meetings during which managers can pre-emptively uncover problems and concerns and resolve them.

Questions and Probes

The goal of the stay interview, and one that differentiates it from performance reviews or personal-development meetings, is for the employee to set the agenda, not the manager. This does not mean that the manager should not prepare for the meeting. On the contrary, managers should prepare as much as possible, Finnegan writes. For example, he suggests that before the meeting managers prepare two lists: an “important to them” list and a “my beliefs” list. The “important to them” list is an effort to anticipate (and thus be prepared to respond to) all the issues and concerns that the employee might have. “Avoid falling into the trap of thinking that if something is important to you, then it must be important to everybody,” warns Finnegan. “Conducting effective stay interviews requires putting your needs on the sidelines and focusing entirely on those of your employees.” The “my beliefs” list must follow this rule. It is a list of solutions or suggestions that managers believe should be offered (if the employee does not ask for them first) because they believe the employee will benefit from them.

The next step is to prepare the questions for the interview that will, in essence, help the employee set the agenda — that is, keep the meeting focused on his or her needs and not the needs of the manager. Finnegan offers five key questions to use in the interviews:

When you come to work each day, what things do you look forward to?

What are you learning here?

Why do you stay here?

When was the last time you thought about leaving our team? What prompted it?

What can I do to make your experience at work better for you?

These questions are the opening to the conversations. Each question, Finnegan emphasizes, must be followed up with what he calls “probes”: questions designed to dig deep into the reasoning of the employee’s responses. Effective probing will reveal the core emotions, concerns or challenges at the heart of the first responses to the questions.

Four Essential Skills

Probing, according to Finnegan, is one of the four essential skills required to make stay interviews work. Listening and taking notes are also essential skills, but it may be the fourth skill that Finnegan highlights that may be the most challenging to managers: supporting the employee without throwing the company under the bus. It’s easy in such situations to commiserate with the employee about the unfairness of the situation. In the long run, however, an employee is not going to stay engaged in a company in which even middle managers agree that the executives don’t know what they’re doing. Managers, Finnegan writes, should respond by expressing to employees their trust in top management — a trust that must be sincere. If managers have their own doubts about the company, they are not in a good position to work with employees on engagement.

Finnegan’s comprehensive guide, which covers all the facets of stay interviews, including developing stay plans and avoiding interview traps, does not gloss over the challenge of keeping the best and brightest in the company. In The Stay Interview, he introduces a valuable employee engagement tool that is realistic and practical but requires a conscientious effort from both parties.

Customers Buy. Fans Buy In.

Our guest blogger is Lee Elias, co-author of Think Like A Fan.

What do you call the people that do business with you? Are they consumers, patrons, customers, etc? I have become fond of referring to these people as fans. In reality, anyone who does business with you, whether it is monetarily or through trade, is making an investment into your brand and company. The physical transaction between a person and business may make them a literal consumer, however the choice to put their trust and faith in what you are providing is what makes them a fan.

Fans come in many forms; casual, fair weather and die-hard. Simply taking money from these people is no longer the most effective business model. With today’s limitless connectivity and ability to communicate, cultivating relationships and making these fans feel like part of your organization can be infinitely more beneficial, both monetarily and mentally, than ever before.

In a time when challenging the status quo has become the status quo, consumers have placed a responsibility on all organizations to stand out in order to gain their loyalty, not just their money. In order to find continued success moving forward, organizational leaders will all need to gain an understanding of how digital technology is reshaping the consumption of media.  Our entire market is integrating deeper and deeper into wireless, mobile, and digital solutions that consumers crave. These innovations are a major opportunity for revenue and brand building if implemented and integrated correctly. Proper planning and preparation for a digital migration effort is essential, and business leaders will find they cannot sit back and “see how it plays out” for as long as they may have been used to with earlier, more traditional marketing methods.

Today’s connectivity has opened the door for organizations to touch an audience 24/7/365.  Fans are constantly calling for a better overall experience – how are you answering the call?

There are several opportunities to transform from “merchandise” people buy to a “mission” they believe in. For example, organizations can

– “Broadcast” uniformed information across multiple platforms

– Speak with their audience, not at their audience

– Enable current customers and followers to promote your brand

– Stay constantly visible to supporters in order to stay relevant

– Continually “tap” their audience to engage and incite interaction

– Understand how to respond to both positive and negative reviews

– Substantiate internal sales forces to increase creativity and productivity

– Establish trust and authenticity as a keystone of the brand

– Create a digital community in which followers want to visit

– Utilize social media platforms to their maximum potential

– Work with (not against) competitors to maximize profits

– Create a culture of confidence in their brand

There is no doubt that a digital migration is happening. The question most of the elite are looking to have answered is when to make the change…the answer is now, as in right now.

Join us on September 29th at 12 PM ET for our Soundview Live webinar titled “Think Like A Fan”.

The Subtle Science of Getting Your Way


How do you get people to see things your way? Whether you’re trying to secure a promotion, make a sale or rally support for a new idea, the ability to persuade those around you is absolutely essential to success.

Merging research and real-world application, Persuasion Equation is an insightful guide that reveals what really drives decisions, and introduces readers to the persuasion  equation –– a powerful combination of factors proven to speed agreement.

Readers will discover the surprising reasons that people say “yes” and learn how to radiate an aura of expertise; win trust and leverage credibility; build a business case that appeals to both heart and mind; adapt for personality differences; understand technology challenges and persuasion tactics; use language strategically; perfect the five-step persuasion process; generate group buy-in; and be sensitive to the crucial psychology of self-persuasion.

From crafting compelling emails, to convincing a colleague, to nailing the big presentation, Persuasion Equation is your personal recipe for success.


• The three persuasion precepts and how to set your persuasion priorities.

• Key heuristics and biases that influence your decision making.

• To build a convincing business case via quantitative and qualitative reasoning.

• To build credibility and use verbal and nonverbal “power language.”

• Why positive self-talk is key to your persuasive efforts.

Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the title to purchase and download it right now to begin learning these critical business skills.

Balancing the Inverse Equation of Increasing Demands + Shrinking Resources


What consultant Jesse Sostrin calls “the manager’s dilemma” is easily explained and all too familiar to any manager: too much demand, not enough resources. Specifically, as Sostrin writes in his new book, The Manager’s Dilemma: Balancing the Inverse Equation of Increasing Demands and Shrinking Resources, “There is not — and never will be — enough time, energy, resources or focus to meet the demand.” As a result, managers and businesses are often toggling between a “performance zone,” where resources meet demands, and a “danger zone,” when resources and demands are out of balance, and one, Sostrin writes, becomes “defensive, disorganized, disrupted, disoriented and disengaged.” (Sostrin uses the evocative acronym TERF for time, energy, resources and focus.)

Before addressing the dilemma, you have to know that it exists, Sostrin writes. Many managers are unaware that they are in the dilemma. They say things such as, “With so many deadlines and demands, some priorities will have to be sacrificed,” or “It’s too crazy now; I’ll focus better once things settle down.”

Contradictory statements such as these — not addressing priorities only means that the deadlines and demands will continue, for example — are red flags that indicate the manager is entangled in the manager’s dilemma and doesn’t know it, writes Sostrin. “The first and best response to the manager’s dilemma,” he explains, “is to accept the situation for what it is and to focus all of your available TERF in a concentrated effort to balance the equation.”

Principles to Guide Managers

Balancing the equation is the first of the two big phases that managers must achieve to effectively emerge from the manager’s dilemma. Sostrin offers four principles, explored in detail in the book, that will guide managers in balancing the equation.

The first principle is to follow the contradiction. Contradictions, explains Sostrin, are subtle clues that tell the alert manager something is wrong. Rushing your work because you have no time to slow down, only to spend more time fixing the mistakes in the rushed work is a typical contradiction reflecting the manager’s dilemma.

Once alerted, the other three principles help you move out of the danger zone: Determine your line of sight; in other words, focus on the right priorities. Distinguish your contributions; that is, know your strongest value-added capabilities, and use those capabilities over others. And plug the leaks, i.e., the ongoing experiences that reduce performance by draining your TERF.

These four principles, writes Sostrin, “rebalance the inverse equation of shrinking resources and increasing demands” — but he believes managers can do better. In a section called “Flip the Scales,” Sostrin introduces an additional four principles that, he writes, will “render the dilemma’s effects irrelevant.”

The first principle is to create the conditions you need to achieve more value. A sample of such conditions, according to Sostrin, includes flexibility, openness to diverse ideas or a willingness to innovate even if it requires letting go of the past.

The second principle is to find the pocket of influence. The issue is timing — learning the optimal time to take the bold action required. Sostrin’s third principle is to convert your challenges to fuel — in other words, turn setbacks into opportunities for learning and performance. A tool called the navigation map makes this possible. Finally, Sostrin urges you to make your goals their priorities. This last principle entails building a mutual agenda with your team.

Scenarios, examples and tools in The Manager’s Dilemma support this solid eight-principle methodology for addressing one of the core barriers to management performance: too little resources for too many demands.

Delivering the Unexpected

Today’s blog is from Dustin Klein and Howard Brodsky, authors of the just released book The Unexpected.

Innovation is a word that is tossed around a bit too often today, but when it’s used correctly – and applied effectively – there’s no denying its impact.

So what constitutes innovation?

It can be breakthrough technology. But it can also be a business style or approach, a corporate culture, or a new process. In essence, it is asking “what if?” and then testing the answer.

One way to ply innovation is an approach to how you can service your customers, your vendors and your employees. It doesn’t require dismantling your operations, your workflow, your current processes or procedures, or even your existing products or services. But it does require you to think differently about every interaction you have both internally and externally.

The concept is called The Unexpected. And while that may sound a bit ominous, it isn’t.

Rather, The Unexpected is based on the idea that consumers have resigned themselves to accepting subpar service in order to get the lowest possible price.

And unfortunately, because of the commoditization of many products and services, many business organizations have found themselves in a similar situation as they try to compete on lowest price. Sadly, they’re finding there isn’t much lower they can go and still be profitable.

As a result, you hear a lot of companies say “We compete on service.” But what does that really mean?

More important, when you start to hear everybody say that, it devalues exactly what that “service” is. And when you devalue something, you lose the competitive advantage it once carried.

Moving forward, delivering what might be considered “world-class” customer service – going above and beyond, delivering “plus-one”, and ensuring your customers can depend on you – may soon become your ante at the great poker table of business. And many of those who fail to deliver a minimum service level that is at least above average, will wither away.

So how does innovation play into this equation?

Simple. By innovating your business approach internally and externally, by training your team to be “eyes up” and to identify opportunities to do something different, you can effectively separate yourself from the pack and create a competitive advantage that is hard to overcome.

Here’s what has been uncovered:

First, people want something that is Memorable, which is the first element of The Unexpected. That means something that causes you to walk away and say, “Wow – I can’t believe what just happened to me.”

Here is a very simplistic example:  Let’s say you frequented the same restaurant every Friday night with your spouse or significant other. You always ordered two glasses of red wine with your meals. What if one Friday night the owner sent out two glasses of a new red wine he or she stocked BEFORE you ordered. And what if the waiter told you that the owner thought you might enjoy this new wine and simply wanted your feedback on its quality and taste. It was on the house and a thank you for being such a loyal customer.

You’d find that an Unexpected surprise.

Not only that, but neuroscience tells us that an experience such as this releases dopamine from the brain stem and results in an elevation of your positive mood – creating happiness and joy. It etches a little reminder into your brain that says, This Happened, and creates a memory – the What.

But The Unexpected is more than this. You must also make that Memorable experience Distinguishable, which is the second key element. The Memory must create a Where – it must distinguish your brand from other brands. In this case, the restaurant.

And then, it must also be something that people want to tell others about, thus becoming Viral, the third key element of The Unexpected.

Finally, if you accomplish those three things – Make it Memorable, Distinguishable and Viral – it will result in the fourth key element of The Unexpected:  Profitable.

You will either be able to go deeper and wider with your key client base and increase your profitability – for example, by telling others about how you received the free wine you might cause a friend to say, “Wow – we go there every Saturday and order dessert. I wonder if they might do the same thing for us when they create new signature desserts.” Or, you might be able to create more Profitability as Starbucks and The Ritz-Carlton do – by commanding a premium price for your products and services because you are never quite sure what Unexpected experience either organization will deliver.

Incorporating The Unexpected into your day-to-day operations is actually quite simple….but that is a lesson for another day.

To hear more about how to deliver the Unexpected to your customers, join Brodsky and Klein at our Soundview Live webinar: Breakthrough Strategies to Earn Loyal Customers for Life.

How to Thrive in a World of Too Much


How did they do it before? It’s a question many of us ask, as we stay glued to our laptops or our phone, always present, always working, always trying to be “productive” at all hours of the day. And yet, we can’t keep up. Which leads to that question: How did they (which, for those of us of a certain age, means “we”) do it before?

In his book Busy, business psychologist Tony Crabbe offers a succinct answer: because we are trying to resolve information-age problems with industrial-age solutions. We try to be more productive, we try to “manage time” — when the problem, according to Crabbe, is not that we have too little time to do what we have to do. The problem of the information age is that we give ourselves too much to do.

Busy is not just a burden. It has become a badge of honor. One brags about how busy one is.

Stopping this cycle of being overbusy and never actually catching up — which, despite our bravado, just makes us exhausted and frustrated — begins with understanding what Crabbe calls “the three faces of busy.”

The Three Faces of Busy

Each of the “three faces of busy,” writes Crabbe “refers to a different way in which we relate to busyness.”

The first face sees “busy as an experience.” This is the busyness, he writes, that keeps us harried and overwhelmed, the busyness that makes us feel that we don’t know how to manage our time.

The second face of busy is, according to Crabbe, “busy as a success strategy.” In this case, we believe that success comes by busy more productively, by always striving to do more and more. Unfortunately, this type of busyness leaves us little time to do the “big stuff,” such as taking the time to think creatively.

Finally, the third face of busyness is “busy as an approach to happiness.” This busyness face, writes Crabbe, refers to the goal of having more and more — more stuff, more popularity, more status. Values, relationships and our health are put on hold during a relentless acquisition frenzy.

Three Strategies to Battle Busyness

In his book, Crabbe offers three distinct strategies to battle each of the faces of busyness. The first strategy, aimed at getting beyond busyness as an experience, is a strategy of mastery. The goal is to become masters of our lives, Crabbe writes. It means to stop trying to get everything done through more efficient organization and start, instead, to make tough choices about what to eliminate. Mastery also involves, Crabbe writes, “shifting our focus from managing time to managing attention.”

The second strategy is to differentiate. This strategy is aimed at getting beyond busyness as a success strategy. As noted above, if we only focus on being more productive, we don’t take time to reflect or be creative — the keys to standing out in our overcrowded world. In this section of the book, Crabbe urges his readers to focus on innovation, not productivity of more of the same. He also argues that too many people see busyness as an effective brand, when all it really does is convey your lack of mastery. A truly effective brand is a simple summary of what makes you unique (for example, one of his clients had “no problem!” as his brand, which is the nickname he had been given in his business for his can-do attitude.)

Crabbe’s third strategy, engagement, is designed to overcome busyness as an approach to happiness (the “having more makes me happy!” attitude). The three steps in this strategy are let your values define your meaning of success; develop deeper relationships with fewer people instead of piling up the number of connections; and replace the addiction to shallow buzz (“I’m flying from meeting to meeting.” “I’ve taken up this new hobby.” “I’m a player!”) with the joy of flow — Mihaly Csikszentmihaltyi’s famous term for losing oneself in a task and not realizing the time flying by.

Busy is very clearly organized into the three sections focused on the three strategies. Each of the chapters in each section ends with a summary of the “big messages” of the chapter as well as one- to three-paragraph “go-do” and “experiment” sections. Perhaps some readers addicted to buzz and productivity might be tempted to focus on these end-of-chapter summaries. If so, they will have missed the point of this innovative and important book.

A Transformational Capability, Hidden in Plain Sight

This guest blog features Karl Danskin and Lenny Lind, authors of Virtuous Meetings.

Large group meetings aren’t what they used to be.  In the last 10 years, the most fundamental aspect of meetings has transformed: the role of the participant. A revolution in organizational capability and effectiveness has occurred, hidden in plain sight. What only became possible around 2005, will be commonplace in 2025.

Along with the internet and interactive websites and media and now “social media” came the ability and expectation of giving one’s feedback – having one’s say.  During the same time, internet input devices became ubiquitous. So reading and then writing in response to one’s world has become commonplace.

Within the context of meetings, especially large ones, smartphones and iPads have become commonplace too. Consider this situation: a large meeting, convened by an organization that has important designs and objectives for the participants. Each participant has a computer of some sort on their person (at least a smartphone).  Each participant is brimming with thoughts and feelings after hearing the CEO tell about the way forward … What would happen if you activated a wireless internet in that room, with some software that opened a screen on all those devices that asked, “What insights are you having?”  And then the CEO, and everyone in the room, could review and discuss those insights after they’d been themed quickly …

This situation describes a transformation – the shift from a meeting designed for mostly one-way communication, from the stage to the participants, to a meeting designed for frequent two-way communication, from the stage to the participants and back again to the stage … and then from the stage outward again, with thoughts about what the participants were saying.  Two-way.  Cycles of communication. Deep understanding.  Like dialogue, except now possible in large groups of hundreds or thousands.

Finally, because old habits die hard most large meetings are designed now just like they were 50 years ago – as one-way communication events.

Consider those possibilities in your own context, and bring those thoughts to this Soundview Live webinar: A New Model for Thinking About Large Meetings.  We will explore this capability and its profound impact on meeting outcomes.

For anyone who is remotely connected with organizational effectiveness and/or large meeting design and facilitation, this webinar should rock your world.  Organization leaders, welcome.