Tag Archives: the Element

A Quote For The Day From Sir Ken Robinson — On Creativity

Sir Ken Robinson

I was re-watching Sir Ken Robinson’s wonderful presentation from the 2006 Ted Conference, Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity, and this quote jumped out at me:

“Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value.”

(By the way, this definition is also in his book:  the Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.

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You can purchase my synopsis of The Element, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

My personal “Bests” — from business books I presented in 2009

In 2009, I presented twelve book synopses at the First Friday Book Synopsis (as I do every year).  At the bottom of this post, I list the books by month. (Remember, my colleague Karl Krayer presented a different book each month).

Here are a few “bests” — my selections —  re. the books from the year:

• Best theme for the year:
• It takes passion, deliberate practice, and 10,000 hours of effort, to get really, really world-class good at something.  The three books with the details and the motivation are:
• Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.
Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin.
• The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
by Ken Robinson.

• Most enjoyable/engaging books to read
• Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.
• The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson.
• Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition by Guy Kawasaki.
• Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity by Michael Lewis (Editor).  (The chapter by Dave Barry on buying a house is absolutely laugh-out-loud funny!)
• SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.  It is worth reading just for the parable of the horse manure.

• Most practical business read…
• Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition by Guy Kawasaki.  This one is worth keeping and re-reading for its practical advice.

Were there any books that I could have just skipped?  I think I gained value from all twelve, although I do think the Suzy Welch book, 10 10 10, though worth reading, could have been nearly as effective as an essay.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers

• The best book I presented this year…
And now – if you made me choose only one, and that was the only one I could read for the year – the year’s “best” – I think I go with Outliers.  But I would be unhappy at having to choose only one.

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Here are Randy’s presentations from the First Friday Book Synopsis in 2009.

January, 2009:
Outliers: The Story of Success
by Malcolm Gladwell. Little, Brown and Company (November 18, 2008).

February, 2009
Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition
by Guy Kawasaki
Portfolio Hardcover (October 30, 2008).

March, 2009:
Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else

by Geoff Colvin (Author)
Portfolio Hardcover; 1 edition (October 16, 2008)

April, 2009:
Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity
by Michael Lewis (Editor). W.W. Norton & Co. (November 17, 2008).

May, 2009:
The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
by Ph.D., Ken Robinson.  Viking Adult.  (January 8, 2009)

June, 2009:
10-10-10: A Life-Transforming Idea by Suzy Welch. Scribner (April 14, 2009).

July, 2009:
The Genius Machine: The Eleven Steps That Turn Raw Ideas into Brilliance by Gerald Sindell. by Gerald Sindell.  New World Library (2009).

August, 2009:
The Future Arrived Yesterday: The Rise of the Protean Corporation and What It Means for You by Michael Malone. Crown Business (2009).  

September, 2009:
Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay.  Harper­Business/HarperCollins.  (2009).

October, 2009:
Free: The Future of a Radical Price
by Chris Anderson.  Hyperion.  2009.

November, 2009:
What Americans Really Want…Really: The Truth About Our Hopes, Dreams, and Fears
by Frank I. Luntz.  Hyperion (September 15, 2009).

December, 2009:
SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance
by Steven D. Levitt (Author), Stephen J. Dubner (Author)
William Morrow. (2009).

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Many of these presentations, with audio + hadnout, are available for purchase at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

Reinforcement for that 10,000 hour rule and the Power of Deliberate Practice (from Coach Wooden, Gladwell, Colvin, and Levitt & Dubner)

I first learned of the 10,000 hour rule — it takes 10,000 hours to get really good at/to truly master any skill –from reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  Then I learned more about how to spend the 10,000 hours in “deliberate practice” from Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin.

Here’s more.  In Superfreakonomics, Levitt and Dubner refer back to the “father” of the 10,000 hour rule, K. Anders Ericsson.  And yesterday, at a lunch gathering, I presented my synopsis of Wooden on Leadership, by the great, legendary, best-ever-coach John Wooden.  Though he does not refer to the concept directly, he provided the true “deliberate practice” model, with each session of his practices planned to the minute…

So — here are a few reminders from each of these authors, with brief comment a time or two:

From Wooden:
Have a definite practice plan – and follow it.
The coach must never forget that he is, first of all, a teacher.  He must come (be present), see (diagnose), and conquer (correct).  He must continuously be exploring for ways to improve himself in order that he may improve others and welcome every person and everything that may be helpful to him.
You must have patience and expect more mistakes, but drill and drill to reduce them to a minimum.

From Gladwell:
The people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else.  They work much, much harder.

In my synopsis of Outliers, I added these reflections:
• centerpiece to this book is the 10,000 hour rule… — with much intentional practice!
• “Practicing:  that is, purposefully and single-mindedly playing their instruments with the intent to get better”
• Some “observations:
1.              It really does take a lot of hard, hard work – the 10,000 hour rule really is close to an actual rule!
2.              Hard work requires much intentional practice.
3.              Success is the result of “accumulative advantage.”

From Colvin:
There is absolutely no evidence of a ‘fast track’ for high achievers.
Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration.  This is what makes it “deliberate,” as distinct from the mindless playing of scales or hitting of tennis balls that most people engage in.  Continually seeking exactly those elements of performance that are unsatisfactory and then trying one’s hardest to make them better places enormous strains on anyone’s mental abilities.

From Levitt and Dubner:
If you don’t love what you’re doing, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good at it.
“Deliberate practice has three key components: setting specific goals; obtaining immediate feedback; and concentrating as much on technique as on outcome.”  (K. Anders Ericsson)

(I wrote this in a blog post about Ken Robinson’s The Element:  How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything a while back:
So — here is the question that we each need to ask: What do I care deeply enough about that I am willing to put in significant time, over the long haul, to get better at it? Even if the time I put in is not necessarily fun.

So, we’re always back to this challenge — where are you investing your 10,000 hours?

My favorite line from Ken Robinson’s The Element — and a couple of other reflections

This past Friday, I preseented a synopsis of the wonderful book the Element:  How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson, Ph.D.  I have a few comments on the book, and a reflection on the morning at the First Friday Book Synopsis.

First, the book.  It is a really good read!  This book is a “feel good” book, that challenges one deeply.  You feel good because Robinson tells story after story of a person who had been overlooked, unfulfilled, a little “lost,” until he or she found just the right path.  The stories were numerous:  Richard Branson, Paul McCartney (Robinson is British, and probably a little partial to other Brits), the billiards great Ewa Lawrence, and many others.  In many cases, our “normal” educational system had failed to see and feed a student’s potential.  In fact, far too often, potential had been practically squashed.  The book is challenging because it calls into questions our basic assumptions about just what we should be “teaching” in our schools.  He argues passionately for a new understanding regarding what is truly important (with “creativity” at the top of his list).  It is a provocative and useful set of questions to ponder.  By the way, you can watch the video of his terrific presentation from the TED conference, Do Schools Kill Creativity? at the TED video site here.

Now, here is my favorite line in the book.  Elvis Presley was rejected for his school’s glee club.  Here is what Robinson wrote:  “they said his voice would ruin their sound…  We all know the tremendous heights the glee club scaled once they managed to keep Elvis out.”  This man is a witty writer!

Second, the event.  We are in our 12th year of the First Friday Book Synopsis.  Karl Krayer and I have presented synopses of well over 250 books in the 11+ years we have been meeting.  On May 1, we had our largest number of participants ever — 128 people.  I asked one person why he thought it had grown to such a number, and he said:  “everyone is looking for a job.”  That may be true, and networking is certainly a critical factor — never more so than in this challenging time in our economy.

But another participant said this (this is a slight paraphrase — I did not record her comments):  “I’m not usually a morning person.  But I come to this, and I really feel like I learn important information from two good books. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I attend.” I think that may be a key part of the secret of this event.  It really does provide a lot of really helpful and useful material in a very short, compact time frame.  Yes, people feel like they have accomplished something important by attending the First Friday Book Synopsis.

So – to all who make this a success, thank you.  I hope we provide you with that important sense of accomplishment.

Passion — The Crucial Ingredient that Precedes “Getting Really Good” at Something

There is a clear finding in the books I have presented so far in 2009.  If you put Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell with Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, you learn that getting really, really good at anything requires a lot, a whole lot, of hard work, with a discipline of pursuing “deliberate practice” over the long haul.

Gladwell puts it this way (in a music context):  “Practicing: that is, purposefully and single-mindedly playing their instruments with the intent to get better” (p. 39).

Colvin pursues this further, suggesting the specific steps required to “deliberately practice”:

What Deliberate Practice Is And Isn’t:  For starters, it isn’t what most of us do when we’re “practicing.”

• It’s designed specifically to improve performance

• It can be repeated a lot

• Feedback on results is continuously available

• It’s highly demanding mentally

• It isn’t much fun

• Deliberate practice is not the only thing (luck; circumstances play a part) – but without it, greatness is not achieved and does not show up

So, if it requires much hard work to get really good at something, and for those who do so, they discover, and admit, that deliberate practice is never fun, what in the world will drive someone to put in such practice? Colvin says that it must come from intrinsic, not extrinsic, motivation.  And he has a chapter on the most crucial ingredient in this mix:  passion.  In his chapter on passion, he states:  “The consistent finding reported by many researchers examining domains is that high creative achievement and intrinsic motivation go together. Creative people are focused on the task (How can I solve this problem?) and not on themselves (What will solving this problem do for me?)” (pp. 188-189).

The best ideas and observations from the best business books really do tie together.  Jim Collins in Good to Great describes the Hedgehog Concept, in which the first circle is this: “What are you passionate about?” And now, a new book by “one of the world’s leading thinkers on creativity and innovation,” Ken Robinson, is entitled: the Element:  How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.  (the Element is my selection for the May First Friday Book Synopsis).   He states:  “I use the term the Element to describe the place where the things we love to do and the things we are good at come together.” Passion is truly a dominant theme in current business thinking.

So — here is the question that we each need to ask: What do I care deeply enough about that I am willing to put in significant time, over the long haul, to get better at it? Even if the time I put in is not necessarily fun.

So: What are you passionate about?