January 8th, 2013
As the New Year moves into its second week, many people are probably still considering how to act most effectively on their new goals and resolutions for 2013. This is a time-honored process, and even famous people and historical greats have done it, as evidenced by the recent post on Brain Pickings by Maria Popova, “Famous Resolution Lists: Jonathan Swift, Susan Sontag, Marilyn Monroe, Woody Guthrie.” Before the momentum slows, consider my own variation on this exercise, the Total Life List. I’m grateful to Marie Kaddell of LexisNexis, who has re-posted my guest blog post about this topic for the New Year, on the LexisNexis Government Info Pro blog. Marie has generously provided both writing and speaking opportunities to me during the past four years, as I noted last year in “Gratitude and Guest Posts.” I’m honored to once again be included in her terrific yearly publication 2012 Best Practices for Government Libraries: Pushing Boundaries; Mobility…Community…Accessibility.
I’m also grateful to Deborah Kalb, who interviewed me recently for her wonderful Book Q&As website. With her father Marvin Kalb, Deborah wrote the 2011 book Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama, which recently came out in paperback. In our Q&A, she asked thought-provoking questions that helped me to reorder my thinking about what I’ve written, and what I plan to write in the future. Deborah has interviewed many excellent fiction and nonfiction writers since her site started last year. The interviews are all brief and to-the-point, and will give you insights into books you are already familiar with, as well as introduce you to others you’ll want to add to your what-to-read list for the new year.
January 2nd, 2013
Guy Kawasaki is Exhibit A for the power of personal branding. So when after writing best-sellers for traditional publishers he began to self-publish books, lots of people were likely to have taken a more favorable view of this burgeoning end of publishing. Now, along with co-author Shawn Welch, he has written a comprehensive guide to the process: APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur—How to Publish a Book. Guy, whom I also wrote about last July when we were at the SLA Annual Conference in Chicago for different reasons, is well-connected because he works hard at it. He produces quality products and wants to help others succeed. A key additional success factor is the positive force of his personality.
It’s not surprising that the book has drawn lots of favorable coverage. In particular, see recent posts by three business-oriented authors: Matthew E. May’s “Guy Kawasaki Removes The Middleman, Goes APE”; Debbie Weil’s “Top 10 Questions on APE: the new best-seller on self-publishing by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch”; and, on Forbes.com, Roger Dooley’s “How to Publish Your Book: Guy Kawasaki’s Blueprint.”
APE presents lots of options for self-publishing, yet it is also relevant and useful for authors working with traditional publishers. The tone is similar to Guy’s other books: friendly yet realistic. The process is presented in a clear-eyed way; he is open about the difficulties and pitfalls but stresses how doable it is and how successful it can be with the proper care, time and effort. I enjoyed the quotations and references to other books and his reminder that writing and publishing a book should have a high and noble purpose. A major takeaway is that for any book, self-published or not, the best situation is when the author’s and reader’s interests intersect.
December 26th, 2012
The holiday season marks the publication of various business-oriented best-of lists. I always enjoy reading these roundups, and also wrote about them in 2011 and 2010. Jack Covert and his colleagues at 800ceoread have picked The Advantage, by Patrick Lencioni, as the business book of the year. Earlier, they released the “elite eight” of picks, subdivided into categories, with The Advantage picked in management. Other winners included Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You (personal development), which, along with Lencioni, also appears in the Top 10 Business Books of the Year, by Harvey Schachter, in Toronto’s Globe and Mail. Steve Coll’s Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power is on the 800ceoread list (general business), and is also the winner of this year’s Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.
Todd Sattersten, Covert’s former colleague and co-author of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, cautions that he read fewer books this year, so his list is called “My Favorite Business Books of 2012.” One of the titles is The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau, which also made the 800ceoread list for small business & entrepreneurship. Bloomberg BusinessWeek chose the Best Books of 2012, According to Business Leaders. Not all of these books are in the business category, but it is interesting to see what these leaders are reading, such as the choices of Jan Hatzius, chief economist of the Goldman Sachs Group (Nate Silver’s The Signal and The Noise); and Lawrence Summers, former Treasury secretary (Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined). The British publication Management Today runs Andy Haldane’s top business books of the year, from the executive director, financial stability of the Bank of England. His top pick is the 50th anniversary edition of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas S. Kuhn (influential for his concept of the “paradigm shift”). And it is always a pleasure to read about the books of the year from The Economist. Economics and business is only one category of many; one of its titles is the ubiquitous Private Empire. The race for 2013 begins in less than one week.
December 21st, 2012
During a recent visit to New York City, I stumbled in to Edward Tufte’s gallery, ET Modern, only moments before he was to give a free talk at 2:00 PM. I had been meaning to visit the gallery, near the spectacular High Line in Chelsea, and fortuitously walked in oblivious to the fact that he would not only be there, but would be giving a periodic “report” on progress for his artistic work. Tufte, whom I also wrote about in 2009, remains a whirlwind of activity at 70. He is variously an artist, author, entrepreneur, teacher, scientist and philosopher. His gallery includes only his artworks, and also sells copies of his large, beautifully-produced self-published books on how best to convey graphical and statistical information, the most recent being 2006’s Beautiful Evidence. In 2010, President Obama appointed him as a member of the Recovery Independent Advisory Panel. He consults, works as an artist/sculptor and teaches one-day courses around the country, “Presenting Data and Information.” All this comes after 33 years of teaching at Yale and Princeton. The main part of his talk was illustrated with projections of photos of his large-scale, open-space sculptures. He then answered questions about a variety of topics, including how he works and manages his time. He figures that he has perhaps ten more years of productive work. He also stayed to talk informally with people afterward. Although he is famous, he makes himself accessible. There is a demand for his work, and a continued interest in what he is doing and thinking, with considerable media coverage.
He is a role model for today’s knowledge workers, by building on a considerable body of work developed over many years; teaching and learning; being highly entrepreneurial (he self-published before it was the cool thing to do) and remaining relevant, with a name synonymous with quality. Whether or not he would consider it in these terms, he has a stellar personal brand. Drawing lessons from his work, and how he accomplishes that work, can be crucial for those faced with the necessity of producing a consistent high-quality output, making our thoughts understood and creating and sustaining a market for our work.
December 11th, 2012
The Economist has turned its yearly The World In… publication, now in its 27th year, into a brand, well beyond the print edition. There is an extensive website (which I wrote about last year), and a blog, Cassandra. On December 6th and 8th, there was The World in 2013 Festival in New York. Earlier this year came the book Megachange: The World in 2050, edited by Daniel Franklin, Executive Editor of The Economist and Editor of The World In…
Although there are many predictions for the next 12 months, and what the effects of those events may be, to me the real value comes from well-organized thought and information about that time period by subject experts and high-profile practitioners from business, technology, the arts, politics, health care and other fields; putting into context information about what lies ahead. There is an illuminating 13 page section, The World in Figures, with snapshot-like statistics on 18 industries and 82 countries. The Calendar 2013 reminds us that although the details remain, we already know a lot of what is going to happen next year, simply because it is scheduled to happen, or that it marks a particular anniversary. We thus learn that March 20th will be “the inaugural UN-sponsored International Happiness Day”. And a calendar entry notes the November 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, while a separate article, “They Had a Dream,” discusses Kennedy in relation to the 50th anniversary, in August, of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
There are eleven guest articles from prominent people writing about what they see in the next 12 months in their area of expertise, and in some cases, what their own activities will be. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, known for his “black swan” theory, provides suggestions for dealing with financial risk; Harvard’s Michael Porter and Jan Rivkin outline eight policy areas for boosting America’s competitiveness, and Melinda Gates writes about steps needed to keep reducing the worldwide number of childhood deaths. As Franklin points out in his introduction, “contributors to this volume have lots of ideas for how to make things better.”
November 30th, 2012
It’s been three weeks since I’ve been in Claremont, California; where I spent several days at the Drucker School and elsewhere at Claremont Graduate University and The Claremont Colleges. Now the new, Fall 2012 issue of The Flame, CGU’s excellent quarterly magazine, is available in print and online. I’ve been reading this regularly since my first visit to Claremont in 2002, when I began researching my book Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life.
The article “A Hunger for Change” profiles Badiul Alam Majumdar, Vice President and Country Director, The Hunger Project-Bangladesh. More than 20 years ago, he gave up a tenured teaching position at Washington State University to return to Bangladesh, the country of his birth, to make a different type of difference in the world. He was one of Drucker’s earliest students at Claremont in the early 1970s.
What is the relationship of football and other sports to positive psychology and flow? That is what retired NFL player Damian Vaughn is trying to determine, as related in the article “Football, Flow, and Finding Your Way After Tearing an Achilles Tendon.” Vaughn now consults with athletes and business people on finding flow and peak performance, and is studying at CGU’s School of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences (SBOS). He’s also working on two pilot studies at CGU’s Quality of Life Research Center with the founder of flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, whom I wrote about for USA TODAY in 2003.
There is also an enlightening Q&A, “The Mormon Moment, In Context” (three pages in the magazine, but extended online) with Patrick Q. Mason, the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies and Associate Professor of North American Religion at CGU’s School of Religion (SOR). Besides providing additional context on Mormonism and Mitt Romney, Mason also discusses his own life as a scholar and author, including the important role The Autobiography of Malcolm X has played in that life. “One of the reasons I like Malcolm,” Mason says, “personally and spiritually, is because he was a spiritual pilgrim. His life is a remarkable one of assimilating truth and searching for truth.”
November 21st, 2012
Last week I wrote about my experiences in Claremont, California at Drucker Day, on November 10th. However, I also had the pleasure of spending November 8th and 9th, and part of November 7th, on the campuses of The Claremont Colleges and The Claremont Graduate University. In between meetings with friends at the Drucker School and the Drucker Institute, I also managed to take advantage of a few on-campus activities.
After arriving in town mid-day Wednesday, I attended a fascinating talk by John Bachmann, senior partner (and retired managing partner) of Edward Jones, and chairman of the Board of Visitors of the Drucker School and trustee of Claremont Graduate University. He was interviewed by Rick Wartzman, the Executive Director of the Drucker Institute, on “How I Became a CEO.” Bachmann is also a Distinguished Visiting Assistant Professor at the Drucker School, and was a longtime friend and consulting partner of Peter Drucker. He is a perfect example of the many high-profile, highly accomplished leaders who were followers of Drucker.
A trait that Bachmann shares with Drucker, and so many of Drucker’s followers, is intense intellectual and cultural curiosity. This played out for Drucker in his interest in and collecting of Japanese art. During the Drucker Centennial in 2009, I attended the opening of an exhibit, “Zen! Japanese Paintings From the Sanso Collection,” of this collection on campus, at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, at Scripps College. I returned there during this visit for another Japanese-themed exhibit, “Genji’s World in Japanese Woodblock Prints.” Maybe it was because it was late Friday, but I had the gallery all to myself.
I always enjoy going to the Honnold/Mudd library on campus, including the Honnold/Mudd Café. On Thursday I attended the library’s Claremont Discourse Lecture, “How American Bandstand Created the American Teenager,” by Scripps College professor Matt Delmont. It was based on his new book The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia. As a pre-teen during that decade in Scranton, Pa., I religiously watched the show when it was a weekday, after-school offering. Matt’s lecture was highly interesting and intriguing, the same qualities I’m finding so far in the book. It provides new perspectives on Bandstand’s host, the late Dick Clark; and on rock music’s central role in the growing power of teenagers in the early baby-boom years. And gaining new perspectives is a perfect reason to spend a few days on a college campus.
November 13th, 2012
How can sustainability become a profitable source of innovation? And how can we go beyond economic and environmental sustainability to achieve social sustainability through individually flourishing lives? Those were some of the main themes of Drucker Day 2012, an all-day gathering I attended on November 10th at the Drucker-Ito School at the Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif. The event (which I also wrote about last year) serves many purposes: as a tribute to Peter Drucker, a coming together of alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the school for fellowship, food and networking; and to examine challenging topics of importance in business and society. This year included a panel presentation on sustainability in Costa Rica, with Gabriela Llobet, general director of Cinde; Roberto Mata, CEO of the carbon-neutral coffee cooperative Coopedota; and Carmen Irene Alas, who is based in El Salvador, as the Chief Editor of the magazine Estrategia y Negocios.
Jeremy Hunter, an assistant professor at the Drucker School whom I wrote about in the recent post Mindfulness at Work (and Beyond), was featured in two sessions. The first, Re-envisioning Sustainable Business: From Cost Advantage to Flourishing; was in the morning for the entire group, presented with Chris Laszlo, a visiting professor at Drucker who is based at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland. (I also enjoyed Laszlo’s afternoon breakout session The Sustainability Frontier: Embedding Sustainability into Strategy for Competitive Advantage, with Drucker School professor Vijay Sathe, who also moderated the Costa Rica panel.)
Jeremy led a participatory afternoon breakout session, Cultivating Your Resources: Building Resilience from the Inside Out. The idea was that living in today’s hyper-connected, perpetually busy world has given many of us stress levels that are too high, producing unsustainable lifestyles that are potentially harmful to social sustainability. He led our group in a brief meditation, while we remained in our seats in the classroom. It was structured around ways to discover internal resources (such as positive experiences, favorite places or pieces of music) and external ones, such as “values, beliefs and experience that sustain and nourish you.” The act of briefly thinking deeply about, and paying attention to one of these resources produced positive changes in both body and mind for many of us. Of course, most of us won’t have Jeremy to personally guide our future meditations. As with sustainability, it is up to us to put it into practice.
November 6th, 2012
William A. Cohen, one of the most astute writers on the work of Peter Drucker, has released his third Drucker-related book in the past five years: Drucker on Marketing: Lessons from the World’s Most Influential Business Thinker. He was Drucker’s first executive PhD student, in the 1970s, at what is now the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito School of Management at Claremont Graduate University, in California. Now he has combined his own background in marketing with his extensive knowledge of and insight into Drucker’s work. The terrific foreword to the book is by Philip Kotler, the S.C. Johnson & Son Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, often called the “father of modern marketing.” Kotler reveals that upon first meeting Drucker, they discovered a mutual, serious interest in Japanese art.
I’ve known Bill Cohen since 2007, a year before the publication of his first Drucker-focused book, A Class with Drucker: The Lost Lessons of the World’s Greatest Management Teacher, and two years before my book Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life. Both of us participated in the Drucker Authors Festival at the Drucker-Ito School in 2010. Bill exemplifies a fascinating aspect of so many Drucker followers: they are high-achieving, very well-rounded people. Among other things, he is a retired Air Force major general, and a highly prolific author with an extensive background in both business and academia. He is now president of the California Institute of Advanced Management.
In Drucker on Marketing, Cohen collects, analyzes and synthesizes Drucker’s most important thoughts on the subject, and shows how they have applied to specific business cases and can be applied in your own business, now and in the future. His style is direct and conversational, and the analysis is enlivened with examples such as FedEx’s failure with its Zap Mail service of 1984, and how the entrepreneur Peter Hodgson discovered and bought the rights to an obscure General Electric product that eventually became known to millions as Silly Putty. Despite the importance Drucker placed on marketing, he never devoted an entire book to it. I think he’d be pleased with Drucker on Marketing.
November 2nd, 2012
Matthew E. May delivers lots of timely and relevant information in The Laws of Subtraction: 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything, his engaging new book about doing better work and living more productively and meaningfully. As the title suggests, Matt stresses the value of thoughtfully and strategically paying attention to what is not essential and can be eliminated; the creative importance of emptiness and negative space; and the power of intelligently working within constraints. This is his fourth book since 2006, on top of leading his own Los Angeles-based “ideas agency,” Edit Innovation, and lots of public speaking and blogging.
He has extensive experience working with Toyota, and one of the aspects I particularly enjoyed was the material on Japanese and Zen-based thought and action. It is helpful as I continue to reflect on my recent first time in Tokyo, where I spent a week making presentations about my book. And I am also honored to be one of the 54 “Silhouettes in Subtraction,” people who were invited to write one page each in his book about how subtraction has been important in our life and work. These include thought-provoking essays from the likes of author/executive Chip Conley, presentations guru Nancy Duarte and Little Bets author Peter Sims.
There are a number of captivating illustrations and pictures; appropriate for a book that is at least partially about design. Matt discusses how ideas become creative expression and how things can be and have been built better. You will also find in-depth looks into the creation of the Lexus brand within Toyota; the iconic FedEx logo; the Exhibition Road “shared space” street in London and the thought process that goes into comics, from an interview with Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.
A premium is placed on things that are important yet difficult to achieve; such as reflection, quiet, calm and tranquility. On pages 192-198, he succinctly outlines some portals into these states; including mindfulness meditation, neurofeedback and retreats. These may not always be easy, yet the final one is certainly doable: “long, languid showers.”