Rather than starting with a big idea or planning a whole project before you begin, many successful people and businesses make a methodical series of little bets. Little bets are low risk actions taken to test an idea. These little bets help determine direction while providing critical information from a number of little failures and small but significant wins. Bestselling author Peter Sims explores the value of taking small, experimental steps in developing breakthrough innovation in Little Bets. This book is now available as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.
“Practicing little bets frees us from the expectation that we should know everything we need to know before we begin. By focusing on doing rather than planning, learning about the risks and pitfalls of ideas rather than trying to predict them with precision up-front, an experimental approach develops growth mind-set muscles,” writes Sims. Based on extensive research, Sims discovered methods that unshackle anyone from the constraints of conventional planning, analytical thinking and linear problem solving that our educational system overemphasizes at the expense of creativity. Sims gives readers a critical takeaway when he explains how to leverage small wins to accomplish performance goals.
Sims shares examples of successful breakthrough innovators at work including Chris Rock, the Google founders, and Jeff Bezos and the dramatic results of their efforts. With Little Bets, anyone will be able to know the right moment to make a little bet to make a difference in the world around them.
MERGING EAST AND WEST IN A GLOBAL BRAND
In The Lenovo Way, Gina Qiao, Senior Vice President of Global HR, and Yolanda Conyers, Lenovo’s Vice President of Global HR Operations and Chief Diversity Officer, tell the incredible story of the world’s number one PC maker, Lenovo. Originally called Legend, Lenovo was some 15 years ago a little-known (outside of China) computer company started by a survivor of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. That Liu Chuanzhi was able to build a computer company in China that could compete with the likes of Dell and Apple was already a success story; that his company, now renamed Lenovo, would be able to successfully acquire in 2005 the iconic IBM PC business, which was actually four times the size of Lenovo, was a feat of perhaps unprecedented business skill and daring.
Within Lenovo, the acquisition was described as the snake eating the elephant. Not surprisingly, the digestion of said elephant was a tumultuous, often frustrating process, chronicled in The Lenovo Way by two of its key players.
Gina and Yolanda
The experiences of Gina Qiao and Yolanda Conyers in many ways reflect the frustrations of the post-acquisition experience for both the Chinese and the non-Chinese managers and employees of the new behemoth.
When English was announced as the official language of the new company, Gina knew exactly three words of English: “hello,” “goodbye” and “thank you.” Arriving at the headquarters of the American firm her company had just acquired, she was refused entry by the gatekeeper, who told her she had to do better than say she had “a meeting with Peter.”
In one important strategy brainstorming session, Gina was silent in response to a proposal from her American counterpart because she disagreed but did not want to be disrespectful. The American counterpart took her silence for approval and pushed through the proposal. Gina eventually learned to use the phrase “I am not comfortable” to communicate her respectful concerns.
Yolanda soon discovered that her Chinese colleagues were seething over what they saw as her overly aggressive, straightforward style. Eventually, Gina would sit her down and give her an extensive list of pointers about what not to do. Examples: no group emails; don’t say you disagree, which shows disrespect; take the time to build individual relationships; wear a jacket to work — dress can also be misinterpreted as a sign of disrespect. Eventually, Gina would move to the U.S., and Yolanda would eventually move to China, enhancing their understanding of other cultures.
The integration challenge was heightened by the fact that there were what the authors call “three rivers,” referring to the three different corporate backgrounds of Lenovo’s executives: Lenovo, IBM and Dell (a number of key people brought in after the merger, including the new CEO of Lenovo, Bill Amelio, as well as Yolanda Conyers, came from Dell).The Lenovo veterans were seen as “unyielding and unwilling to communicate” by others; the IBMers were seen as “slow-moving and entitled”; while the Dell hires were seen as “aggressive and arrogant.” With vastly different languages, national cultures and corporate cultures to overcome, the fact that the new Lenovo not only survived but thrives is a testament to its leaders, including the authors of the book.
The Lenovo Story
In some ways, The Lenovo Way is misnamed. There is, indeed, a Lenovo Way, which consists of four Ps (plan before you pledge, perform as promised, prioritize the company first, and practice improving every day) and Lenovo’s Protect and Attack strategy, which is focused on protecting and exploiting current advantages while always looking for new growth areas. And given Lenovo’s global success, after some difficult post-acquisition years, its strategies for success in the age of globalization should be carefully heeded. However, it is the successful integration of the Chinese and Western cultures that is truly at the heart of this book — and its greatest lesson.
The one drawback to the book is that the voices of Gina Qiao and Yolanda Conyers are lost, since the text refers to them in the third person. Nevertheless, these two incredible women from opposite sides of the world will encourage everyone to believe that the most insurmountable cross-cultural challenges can be overcome with patience and an open mind.
This proved to be an interesting year for business books. In a year during which world governments and corporations have struggled with economic pressures and internal breakdowns, strong leadership has been desperately needed. This was reflected in the business books that rose to the top of many people’s reading lists. At a time when trust in leaders has diminished even more, executives should take time to read and learn from these summaries.
The complete list of 30 books is included below, all of which have been summarized by Soundview as part of its subscription offering. To read descriptions of the individual titles, go to Best Books of 2014 . They are also available for purchase individually.
Work with Me – Barbara Annis & John Gray
Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers – Anthony Mersino
Springboard – G. Richard Shell
Disciplined Entrepreneurship – Bill Aulet
Finding Allies, Building Alliances by Mike Leavitt & Rich McKeown
Compelling People – John Neffinger & Matthew Kohut
Coaching for Breakthrough Success – Jack Canfield & Peter Chee
The 80/20 Manager – Richard Koch
Focus – Daniel Goleman
Choosing Change – Walter McFarland & Susan Goldsworthy
The Learned Disciplines of Management – Jim Burkett
Grounded – Bob Rosen
Hacking Leadership – Mike Myatt
Leadership 2030 – Georg Vielmetter & Yvonne Sell
Absolute Value – Itamar Simonson & Emanuel Rosen
Moments of Impact – Chris Ertel & Lisa Kay Solomon
A Team of Leaders – Paul Gustavson & Stewart Liff
Flex – Jane Hyun & Audrey Lee
Brief – Joseph McCormack
The Innovative Sale – Mark Donnolo
Elevate – Rich Horwath
The Purpose Economy – Aaron Hurst
Accountability – Greg Bustin
Thanks for the Feedback – Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen
The Road to Reinvention – Josh Linkner
Overfished Ocean Strategy – Nadya Zhexembayeva
How the World See You – Sally Hogshead
The Responsible Entrepreneur – Carol Sanford
Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … and What Does – Susan Fowler
Pitch Perfect – Bill McGowan & Alisa Bowman
We’re already working on summaries of the top books of 2015. If you ‘d like to have these titles in your library, become a Soundview Member. You won’t regret it.
The ability to carry out our positions in the most effective and efficient way is often neglected in order to get the job done on time. However it is important to your career and organization to reflect on how processes can be done better or more effectively. Developing skills that can be applied to both your professional and personal life can lead to your highest potential. Learn how to improve your skills by being a better motivator, better communicator, and take better risks with these three new Soundview Executive Book Summaries.
Pitch Perfect by Bill McGowan and Alisa Bowman
In our professional and personal lives, situations rest on how well we communicate. Bill McGowan, media guru and correspondent, teaches you how to get your message across and get what you want with pitch perfect communication. In Pitch Perfect, McGowan shows you how to construct the right message and deliver it using the right language, verbally and nonverbally. Throughout the book, he distills his ideas into seven principles leading readers to effective communication.
Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … and What Does by Susan Fowler
Top leadership researcher, consultant, and coach Susan Fowler suggests stop trying to motivate people because it doesn’t work. In Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … and What Does, Fowler builds upon scientific research on human motivation to present readers a model that will help leaders guide their employees toward motivation that not only increases productivity and engagement but that gives them a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Knowing what doesn’t work, why it doesn’t work, and what does will help leaders bring change in their organizations.
Little Bets by Peter Sims
It is always rewarding when you take a risk and it pays off. In Little Bets, bestselling Peter Sims found that rather than start with a big idea or plan a whole project in advance, you should make a methodical series of little bets, low-risk actions taken to test an idea. This book offers readers a new way to explore and develop new possibilities with engaging accounts of innovators around the world who capitalized off their little bets.
Many entrepreneurs, write the authors of Scale: Seven Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back, don’t know the difference between growing a business and “growing a job.” A job is the responsibility of one person. In contrast, a business functions through a number of individuals in key roles, each with their own sets of responsibilities. In other words, authors Jeff Hoffman and David Finkel write, if as an entrepreneur you are working 70 hours a week because you alone are still responsible for the four core systems of your business finding prospects, closing sales, producing and delivering the product, and collecting on what you are owed you haven’t built a business, you’ve built a job. And sustaining such a job is not possible unless you sacrifice other aspects of your life.
The Self-Employment Trap
In Scale, Hoffman and Finkel lay out seven principles to help entrepreneurs escape the trap of every aspect of the business moving through them — what they call “the self-employment trap.” The first principle is understanding the concept of building a business, not a job. To clearly lay out the difference, they offer a business growth model based on three levels:
Level One is the preparation for launching the business and includes the business plan and making sure the business is viable.
Level Two Early Stage is getting the business off the ground. This is when you start to build a customer base and reach profitability.
Level Two Middle Stage is when you escape the self-employment trap by starting to build out the four core systems described above. Level Two Advanced Stage is when you’ve established a management team, and the systems keep the company running.
Level Three is the exit stage: As an owner-entrepreneur, you can sell the business or be a passive (and proud) owner of the business you launched from scratch.
Many entrepreneurs stay stuck in Level Two Middle Stage because they are focused on operating the business — selling to prospects and delivering the product — and are not taking the time to build a base that will allow others to take over “the job” they are now doing alone. The remaining principles in Scale are intended to help entrepreneurs break out of Level Two Middle Stage.
Through principles two and three, entrepreneurs learn to build a solid foundation for future growth. Principle two covers systems and controls for the business, while principle three offers tools to clarify the market and identify competitors.
Principle four, “Create the Right Strategic Plan,” helps entrepreneurs to do their homework so they can pick the best strategy for their company. Principle five — “Learn to Read the World So You Build Tomorrow’s Marketplace,” is focused on keeping the company up to date.
In principle six, “Overcome the Predictable Obstacles to Scaling, Pillar by Pillar,” the authors show how to scale the sales and marketing, operations, finance, team and executive leadership pillars of the business.
The final principle is “You Do Have Time to Scale Your Company.” The authors offer a “time mastery system” that will refocus time and effort on tasks and responsibility of true value — and eliminate the work that you should not be doing in the first place.
Hoffman, a former CEO in the Priceline.com family of companies, and Finkel, a successful business coach, have written a practical guide filled with tools and methodologies — many available online — that will help many entrepreneurs finally break free of the exhausting and frustrating self-employment trap.