SOLUTIONS TO FAMILIAR MISTAKES
At a party in Greenwich Village, author and consultant Peter Bregman hears a yelp as one of the guests steps on the host’s dog. The guest yells at the fleeing dog to “watch out!” Then, seeing Bregman looking at her, she explains that “he’s always in the way.” As Bregman writes in his new book, Four Seconds, “Really? You step on a dog, and then you blame the dog? Who does that? Actually, a lot of us do.” Four Seconds is filled with behaviors and actions that a lot of us do, and most of those actions, Bregman argues, are actually self-defeating. Blaming others instead of taking responsibility, for example, makes people appear weak and dishonest, hurts one’s self esteem and, perhaps most importantly, eliminates learning opportunities. “When something is your fault and you don’t admit it, in all probability, you’ll make the same mistake in the future, which will lead to more blame,” Bregman writes.
The Mistakes We Make
In 51 short, engaging chapters, Bregman offers a litany of the common mistakes and actions that most of us make, and then describes the solution. The first step in every case, however, is the same: take a breath. Take the four seconds you need to inhale and exhale, urges Bregman, which will give you the time to act or react appropriately and constructively.
“Don’t Blame the Dog: Take the Blame Instead” is a chapter in the book’s section on strengthening relationships (one of three sections; the others are entitled “Optimize Work Habits” and “Change Your Mental Defaults.”) Other chapters related to strengthening relationships include lessons on not writing people off (but remaining aware of their faults), changing your expectations when people consistently fail to meet your original expectations, and giving people the benefit of the doubt if they are suddenly unreasonable — because something else is going on. Chapters in the “optimize work habits” section include how to keep your cool, how to let people fail (or almost fail), and why to focus on outcome, not process. The “change your mental defaults” section covers topics such as committing to follow through and trusting yourself first.
Each chapter is packed with engaging personal stories. The chapter on putting outcome above process begins with the story of the author and his daughters trying to help people in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. With all the distribution centers overfilled with donations, the author abandons the prescribed process and stops at a random devastated house to donate their goods.
Experience Adds Depth
Bregman uses his experience as a consultant to bolster the personal stories with real-world examples of the problem. In the chapter on blame, for example, he describes a meeting in which a V.P. of sales willingly shoulders the blame for his company’s poor results, thus inspiring the other functional leaders to stop playing the blame game and to take their share of the responsibility. “By taking the blame, Dave changed the course of that meeting and, as it turns out, the course of the company,” Bregman writes. “He also got promoted.”
The lessons here are sometimes counterintuitive (Bregman argues against setting goals), always entertaining, and most importantly, insightful and revealing. As readers of Four Seconds pore through these pages, they will laugh out loud, shake their heads at the gall of some people … and look around awkwardly as they read about familiar situations that they also badly mishandled.
Philip Kotler is widely acknowledged as the father of modern marketing and the world’s foremost expert on strategic marketing. He was voted the first Leader in Marketing Thought by the American Marketing Association and named The Founder of Modern Marketing Management in the Handbook of Management Thinking.
So why would this marketing guru write a book on capitalism? Here are his reasons in his own words:
First, I want to understand it myself.
Second, I believe capitalism is better than any other system.
Third, I want to examine and propose solutions to each of the fourteen shortcomings that would help make capitalism perform better and benefit more people.
Fourth, many readers want a shorter book on capitalism to get their thinking started.
Fifth, I believe that my background provides an opportunity to develop some special insights into the workings of capitalism.
So what are these fourteen shortcomings that Kotler refers to? Capitalism –
- Proposes little or no solution to persisting poverty.
- Generates a growing level of income and wealth inequality.
- Fails to pay a living wage to billions of workers.
- May not provide enough human jobs in the face of growing automation.
- Doesn’t charge businesses with the full social costs of their activities.
- Exploits the environment and natural resources in the absence of regulation.
- Creates business cycles and economic instability.
- Emphasizes individualism and self-interest at the expense of community and the commons.
- Encourages high consumer debt and leads to a growing financially-driven rather than producer-driven economy,
- Lets politicians and business interests collaborate to subvert the economic interests of the majority of citizens.
- Favors short-run profit planning over long-run investment planning.
- Should have regulations regarding product quality, safety, truth in advertising, and anticompetitive behavior.
- Tends to focus narrowly on GDP growth.
- Needs to bring social values and happiness into the market equation.
This is quite a list of shortcomings, and yet Kotler believes that capitalism is the best system out there! So what does he offer for solutions to this broken economic system? Join us on April 21st and hear for yourself, as we have invited Philip Kotler to our next Soundview Live webinar, Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System. It’s sure to be an exciting and perhaps controversial discussion.
For generations we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion ,hard work, talent and luck. But in today’s dramatically reconfigured world, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. Give and Take illuminates what effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation and leadership skills have in common.
Adam Grant examines the surprising forces that shape why some people rise to the top of the success ladder, while others sink to the bottom. In professional interactions, it turns out that most people operate as takers, matchers or givers. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return.
Using his own groundbreaking studies, Grant reveals that these styles have a dramatic impact on success. Although some givers get exploited and burn out, the rest achieve extraordinary results across a wide range of industries. Praised by social scientists, business theorists and corporate leaders, Give and Take opens up an approach to work, interactions and productivity that is nothing short of revolutionary. This visionary approach to success has the power to transform not just individuals and groups but entire organizations and communities.
Over the past three decades, in a series of groundbreaking studies, social scientists have discovered that people differ dramatically in their preferences for reciprocity –– their desired mix of taking and giving. The two kinds of people who fall on opposite ends of the spectrum are called takers and givers.
Takers have a distinctive signature: they like to get more than they give. They tilt reciprocity in their own favor, putting their own interests ahead of others’ needs. Takers believe that the world is a competitive, dog-eat-dog place. They feel that to succeed, they need to be better than others. To prove their competence, they self-promote and make sure they get plenty of credit for their efforts.
The opposite of a taker is a giver. In the workplace, givers are a relatively rare breed. They tilt reciprocity in the other direction, preferring to give more than they get. Whereas takers tend to be self-focused, evaluating what other people can offer them, givers are other-focused, paying more attention to what other people need from them. These preferences aren’t about money: givers and takers aren’t distinguished by how much they donate to charity or the compensation that they command from their employers. Rather, givers and takers differ in their attitudes and actions toward other people. If you’re a taker, you help others strategically when the benefits to you outweigh the personal costs. If you’re a giver, you might use a different cost-benefit analysis: you help whenever the benefits to others exceed the personal costs. If you’re a giver at work, you simply strive to be generous in sharing your time, energy, knowledge, skills, ideas and connections with other people who can benefit from them.
In the workplace, give and take becomes quite complicated. Professionally, few of us act purely like givers or takers, adopting a third style instead. We become matchers, striving to preserve an equal balance of giving and getting. Matchers operate on the principle of fairness: when they help others, they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity. If you’re a matcher, you believe in tit for tat, and your relationships are governed by even exchanges of favors.
Giving, taking and matching are three fundamental styles of social interaction, but the lines between them aren’t hard and fast. You might find that you shift from one reciprocity style to another as you travel across different work roles and relationships.
It’s clear that givers, takers and matchers all can –– and do –– achieve success. But there’s something distinctive that happens when givers succeed: it spreads and cascades. When takers win, there’s usually someone else who loses. People tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch. In contrast, when givers win, people are rooting for them and supporting them, rather than gunning for them. Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them.
THE INS AND OUTS OF CONSTRAINTS
As marketing consultants Adam Morgan and Mark Barden, authors of a new book entitled A Beautiful Constraint, began their research into constraints (e.g., too little time, too little money) and how to overcome them, they divided the world into three kinds of people: victims, who lowered their ambitions when faced with constraints; neutralizers, who did not lower ambitions but instead found different ways to achieve them; and transformers, who saw constraints not as barriers but as something that could be used as opportunities. Transformers, according to the authors’ theory, even believed that constraints could be leveraged to achieve even greater ambitions. In fact, the authors identified two sub-types of transformers — the responsive transformers, who successfully responded to constraints, and the proactive transformers, who deliberately imposed constraints on themselves to spur greater creativity and ambition.
For the authors, world-class graphic designer Michael Beirut, whose clients include the New York Ties, Saks Fifth Avenue, Disney and The Clinton Foundation, represented the transformer type. However, when they interviewed Beirut, he disagreed slightly with their concept. Victims, neutralizers and transformers were not three distinct types of people, he told the authors, but three stages through which everyone goes through as they face constraints. “This was an important shift in our thinking,” the authors write. “If we have a tendency to initially react one way to the imposition of a constraint, we need not see this as fixed and final. We all have the potential to move from victim to neutralizer to transformer.”
In A Beautiful Constraint, the authors lay out a six-step methodology for progressing through the stages — a methodology that addresses mindset (do we believe it is possible?), method (do we know how to start to do it?) and motivation (how much do we really want to do it?). After discovering in the first step the potential of the transformer stage, that is, using rather than defeating constraints, step two (also focused on mindset) involves, in the authors’ terms, breaking path dependence. Most people, the authors write, eventually come to depend on certain well-trodden paths that they take to achieve their goals or commitments. Becoming a transformer requires understanding that we must break our dependence on these paths.
The next three steps deal with the method for breaking this dependence and discovering ways to use constraints. Step three is to ask propelling questions — questions that will propel us off the comfortable tried-and-true paths. Step four is to adopt a can-if mindset: instead of thinking, “we can’t because …” transformers consistently say, instead, “we can if …” Step five is to create abundance — to recognize that we inevitably have more resources than we think we have. After the three “method” steps, the authors close their methodology with the final step, linked to motivation: activating emotions, which explores the potent role that emotions — from fear to excitement — play in generating the passion and persistence required to transform constraints.
Each step is supported with multiple examples. For example, the creators of the FIFA 13 game faced the constraint of a long load time, which frustrated their gamers. A propelling question — “How can we make waiting a valued part of the experience?” led to a can-if solution: “We can turn loading time into one of the most rewarding parts of the game if we think of it as a chance to build skills and make better players.” The solution to the loading constraint was thus: skill-building games that gamers could play during the load.
This book highlights the full potential of print publishing: engaging graphics and illustrations and a clear design reinforce and support the insightful and inspiring lessons of A Beautiful Constraint.
“By one estimate, 90 percent of all of the data in history was created in the last two years. In 2014, International Data Corporation calculated the data universe at 4.4 zettabytes, or 4.4 trillion gigabytes. That much information, in volume, could fill enough slender iPad Air tablets to create a stack two-thirds of the way to the moon. Now, that’s big data.” Steve Lohr
Steve Lohr has covered technology, business, and economics for the New York Times for more than twenty years and writes for the Times’ Bits blog. In 2013 he was part of the team awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. He was a foreign correspondent for a decade and served as an editor, and has written for national publications such as the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic, and the Washington Monthly. He is the author of Go To: The Story of the Math Majors, Bridge Players, Engineers, Chess Wizards, Maverick Scientists, and Iconoclasts—the Programmers Who Created the Software Revolution. He lives in New York City.
In his book Data-ism, Lohr makes several claims about the explosion of data:
- That Big Data is the next phase, in which vast, Internet-scale data sets are used for discovery and prediction in virtually every field.
- That this new revolution will change the way decisions are made.
- That relying more on data and analysis, and less on intuition and experience, can transform the nature of leadership and management.
In our upcoming Soundview Live webinar, The Revolution That’s Transforming Everything, Steve Lohr explains how individuals and institutions will need to exploit, protect, and manage their data to stay competitive in the coming years. Filled with rich examples and anecdotes of the various ways in which the rise of Big Data is affecting everyday life, it raises provocative questions about policy and practice that have wide implications for all of our lives.
Join us on April 16th to learn how big data affects your business decision making, and post your questions for Steve during the webinar.