Tag Archives: books

Harry told me, Work is Personal

In the bookstore

Have you ever been in a bookstore and just felt drawn to a book like a magnet? Yesterday, I had just finished a meeting in a bookstore coffee shop, so before heading back to the car I thought I would do a little title scanning – one of my favorite hobbies. As I patrolled the aisles I came upon the clearance shelf and there, staring back at me, with an inviting, “come hither”, $4.98 markdown price tag on the cover was Harry Beckwith’s “The Invisible Touch – The Four Keys to Modern Marketing.” I figured that’s a buck for each key and 98 cents for the experience: How could I resist?

Like I said, this was yesterday, so I’ve really only just cracked the cover, but I’ve already stumbled on this little gem: “Work is personal.” That’s it, three words, but when I read that I just thought “wow!” which I think mirrored the author’s reaction when he first encountered those words as a slogan on the back of a Fast Company baseball cap.

“Work is personal” – it’s kind of juicy, but I’m not going to try to outdo Harry breaking this idea down, because he just nailed it, I just felt compelled to share his words though:

“Work is not about business; it’s about us. The human dimension of business — the messy, emotional, utterly human dimension — is not merely important; it is all encompassing. As a result we must plunge into the world of feelings — truly frightening territory.”

I just love that! I think it nails a lot about why I do what I do, and I think it is so important that as a business author he acknowledges that this is not an easy nor comfortable place for the business-minded to dwell. Every day it seems the amount of evidence and literature mounts up supporting the idea that success in business is not so separate from our human qualities – just read a few Dans like Dan Pink, Dan Roam, Dan Ariely or Dan Goleman and you’ll get a taste of a rising tide of interest in the inescapably human aspects of business. We may wrap ourselves in corporate veils, but beneath that cloak we are people: frail, humble, shy, bold, altruistic, greedy, brilliant, bullheaded, savvy and irrational people. We want meaning, we want fulfillment, we want marvelous experiences – I believe that a business can provide all of those and I think you can build one of those businesses if you keep the human experience in mind for your customers, employees, vendors, and yes, for you too.

Thank you Harry for reminding us that Work is Personal – and if that’s the kind of insight that’s in the intro, I can’t wait to read the rest of your book. I’ve already gotten great returns on my $4.98 investment.

What’s the best book you’ve read lately? Got a “Wow!” to share?

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Zigging over Zag

I just reread Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands, a terrific book for anyone who wants to know more about how to build a brand. The author, Marty Neumeier is absolutely brilliant at communicating the concepts that make for a successful brand.  He also provides some incredible, nuanced insights into the nature of customer loyalty – an understanding that customer loyalty begins by being loyal to your customers and is only truly acheived after the customers have gone through a process of their own. They begin with a mere acquaintance with your brand, become a customer, and eventually reach a state where they begin to feel they deserve the loyalty they are being consistently given by your company.  At that point the loyalty becomes a two-way street because a “belonging” mindset has been achieved.  However if loyalty is not what you are consistently giving your customers you will be teaching them other behaviors and a very different mindset toward your company.

What are you teaching your customers?

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Dark feathers, bright ideas

Last night we had the first meeting of our new book club, and I thought it was a terrific success.  We had chosen The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb  for our first read and the general consensus of the group was that it was a particularly meaty choice for an inaugural meeting, but the conversation certainly didn’t suffer for it. Taleb is definitely an ornery individual and not afraid to debunk conventional wisdom. The book can be a little tough to get through, in part because Taleb deliberately jumps from one stylistic approach to another, but I highly recommend it nonetheless. The central theme is that truly random events are unforeseen, unplanned-for, and they can and do occur, sometimes with tremendous impact. When they have this last attribute of tremendous impact, be it positive or negative (think plane crash vs. finding out that the painting in your grandmother’s attic is a Picasso),  then the author dubs them “Black Swans”.   This book is in part a warning, but I don’t think the author’s purpose is to keep us looking over our shoulders or otherwise acting with paranoia.  I think the takeaways are think for yourself, be skeptical of experts, and be humble: you and the experts may owe a greater debt to luck than you may realize.  I don’t spend a lot of time trading stocks so I won’t opine on the author’s “barbell strategy” for investment, but as an entrepreneur I was intrigued by the concept of aligning yourself with opportunities that can benefit from positive black swans, but are more resilient to negative black swans.  I interpret this as be nimble in your thinking and flexible in your tactics, which aligns well with launching a business.  I also thought Taleb did a great job of reminding us that we need to not ignore the consequence of outlying events even if (especially if) the event is not a black swan and, in fact, does fit within our statistical model.  Hence the example that I loved: don’t try to wade across a river whose average depth is 4ft.  The deviations in depths are accounted for, but easily glossed over in theory, yet they can drown you in practice.

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