Many years ago, I read Donald Trump‘s The Art of the Deal (New York: Random House, 1987)
The book is often-cited as one of the best-selling business books ever written. Others use the content of the book to register complaints about his Presidency, claiming that what Trump wrote is inconsistent with what he now says and does.
But, the larger question is, “does The Art of the Deal even qualify as a business book?” And, exactly how big of a best-seller is it? As of this writing, the book is in the top 100 of three Amazon.com best-seller sub-categories.
I found some information about these questions; click here to read these questions.
“It’s difficult to weigh Trump’s opus against other “business books” for two reasons.
News item – 17 year old Nive Jayasekar creates a mobile app for Home Depot for organizing projects over a weekend, wins $10,500, and she can’t decide wither or not to take job offer from Facebook.
Facebook Wants To Hire This 17-Year-Old But She Hasn’t Decided If She Wants The Job
So, I was in an elevator recently with a man who was completely on task on his Blackberry. As he looked up, I asked, “so, are you about ready to give your Blackberry up? It is on its last legs, I read.” His face registered the horror. He said, “I’m just not ready.” You know, the equivalent of the “they will have to pry it out of my hands” look. After all, he grew up digitally on his Blackberry. (And, after all, Blackberry is now “ancient” – the first ones came out in the days of the dinosaurs, way back in 1999). He doesn’t want to learn the new replacement device. But, he will have no choice. If Blackberry survives, it will be a miracle. (And, with a new touch screen, which I read just recently that RIM is now preparing/developing. The tiny little keyboard really is yesterday’s technology).
The first book I presented at the First Friday Book Synopsis, way back in April, 1998, was The Circle of Innovation by Tom Peters. A decade earlier, in 1987, Tom Peters wrote Thriving on Chaos. The book begins with these words:
There are no excellent companies…. No companies are safe… In 1987, and for the foreseeable future, there is no such thing as a solid, or even substantial lead, over your competitors. Too much is changing for anyone to be complacent.
This was true in 1987, has become more true as the years have gone by, and is even truer now than ever before. Consider: how secure do the following companies feel these days: JC Penney; Research in Motion (BlackBerry); American Airlines, and a host of other companies? I just read that Avon will probably disappear by the end of next year.
You know that each of these have had people, A+ players, with great insight and a terrific work ethic, work diligently to be competitive and stay competitive, and yet… their future is so very fragile, so very uncertain.
Tom Peters may say that we need to learn to “thrive” on chaos, but the part of the title that is on target is the “chaos” part. Everything feels chaotic.
So, here’s some old, time-tested advice for surviving in this era of chaos. Peters spoke of practicing “Proactive Management.” Let’s put it this way – you’ve got to carve out plenty of time to think about your business, almost as much time as you carve out to spend on your business.
And, as you think about your business, you constantly ask these questions:
1) What are our competitors doing that could do us in? How can we stay at least one step (preferably two, or more steps) ahead of them?
2) Is our core business – our core product, our core service – genuinely “excellent?” Is it genuinely competitive with what else is out there, and what else is coming right around the corner?
3) What are we now doing that we could do better?
4) What are we doing that we should just completely forget doing — that we should simply do no longer?
5) What are the basics that we are neglecting? (Are we having actual conversations with customers? Are we listening to what they need rather than selling them on what we offer?)
6) What are we doing to recruit, and keep, the best talent out there? (There is a very real war for talent going on!).
There are other important questions to ask. But the important point is this – it is a chaotic time. A 17 year old may have the next idea that puts your business at risk…and if you don’t invest time in dealing with the chaos, thinking about your business, you may not have much business to conduct…
What have you learned?
When have you learned?
How do you keep learning?
Does the average employee get better at his or her job?
Does the average company/organization actually help people learn, so that that they can get better?
Are you getting better at your job? (Yes, go ahead and ask me: “Are you, Randy Mayeux, getting better at your job?)
Here’s Wikipedia’s description of a learning organization:
A learning organization is the term given to a company that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself. Learning organizations develop as a result of the pressures facing modern organizations and enables them to remain competitive in the business environment. A learning organization has five main features; systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, shared vision and team learning.
For an organization to be a learning organization, it has to be made up of learning individuals. Don’t you think?
So, what are some traits of a learning individual? Here are some thoughts:
When an individual gets new information that “demands/compels” some change, he actually makes that change.
When she is lacking information, she seeks that information, and finds out where to find new information.
When he begins to notice (and he will begin to notice!) that his thinking is stale (and his thinking will get stale!), he will seek and ask for ideas from outside – way outside—his comfort zone. He will read books and articles from authors/sources he would have earlier simply rejected.
Which, by the way, reminds us – learning individuals will read. A lot. And then some more. And she will especially embrace the value of the longform – essay length articles, and books. Tweets simply may not have enough content to teach much.
And, in remembering that “bias for action” that Tom Peters wrote about (theme #1 in In Search of Excellence: A bias for action, active decision making – ‘getting on with it’. Facilitate quick decision making & problem solving), have you seen the movie The Social Network? In the admittedly fictionalized version of Mark Zuckerberg and the birth of Facebook, that trait about Zuckerberg just jumps out at you. When he got the “idea,” he pounced. Immediately. I mean, literally, immediately – he would jump up, run to his dorm room, and go to work. He would work in 36-hour-sprints to implement the idea. First the idea – then the work. He knew how to code, he knew how to make it real, but he needed the idea. He learned the idea, and then he implemented the idea — right then!
Now that is a learning individual. And though it would help immensely if your organization helped you learn, you can become a more effective learning individual without the help of the organization. It.is.your.job! to make yourself an active learning individual.
Here’s a rather obvious recommendation: If you live in the DFW area, make the First Friday Book Synopsis a part of your regular schedule. You will hear content-rich synopses of 24 books a year, and receive valuable handouts in the process.
You will definitely learn valuable information. But then, it is up to us – all of us – to turn this information into a new, more effective, reality. And, until we do that, we haven’t really learned anything at all.
As one newcomer put it just last Friday, “why haven’t I been here before? I will not miss it…”
In April of 1998, Karl Krayer and I presented synopses of the first two books selected for the 1st First Friday Book Synopsis. I presented The Circle of Innovation by Tom Peters, and Karl presented The Leadership Engine: How Winning Companies Build Leaders at Every Level by Noel Tichy. (I’m a fan of Tom Peters, but Karl’s selection had the more lasting impact – a really good book!) Except for a snow storm and an electric outage or two, we’ve met every month since then.
In April of 2011, we begin our 14th year with two more terrific books. They are:
Synopsis by Karl Krayer
Change the Culture, Change the Game: The Breakthrough Strategy for Energizing Your Organization and Creating Accountability for Results by Roger Connors and Tom Smith.
Synopsis by Randy Mayeux
Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself by William C. Taylor.
I will be posting soon (a time or two, I suspect) from the Taylor book, Practically Radical. He is also the author of Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win, which I presented in November, 2006.
Here is one of many terrific quotes from Taylor’s earlier book:
Few companies consciously set out to be just another me-too player with another ho-hum business model, following a bland formula that’s hard to distinguish from everyone else’s. But in industry after industry, that’s precisely how most companies wind up competing, which is why competition feels so unforgiving.
At the First Friday Book Synopsis, we have great food, great networking; we give away books (many books, thanks to our blogging colleague Bob Morris); we give away tickets to a future First Friday Book Synopsis; and we learn – from the presentations, and from each other.
I hope you can join us on April 1 , and help us launch our 14th year of the First Friday Book Synopsis.
Let’s begin with the obvious. It is possible to treat someone in a belittling manner. Let’s acknowledge that we can speak with a tone, and words, of ridicule.
And let’s acknowledge this: there is nothing positive about these practices. Nothing. It does not build anyone up, it does not bring out the best in people, it does not enhance productivity, it does not nurture community.
And since it is possible to belittle, to ridicule, then we all know someone who is an expert at such practices. In fact, you – yes, you, the one reading this blog post – might be practicing the slimy art of belittling and ridicule yourself.
Those are my thoughts prompted by a short, simple, to the point tweet from Tom Peters. Here is his tweet:
Consultant called in for exec retreat. Enters, goes to white board, writes “DON’T BELITTLE;” turns and walks out. (YES!!!)
Now, I do not know why this slimy art seems to be on the rise (but I think it is). I might point to our toxic attack environment seen especially in talk radio, and overall lack of civility. I do know that some people who are very good at belittling and ridicule are making a lot of money practicing their craft.
In a Slate.com article It’s Not the Job Market: The three real reasons why Americans are more anxious than ever before by Taylor Clark, we find a reminder that we are increasingly more isolated than ever before:
America’s increasing loss of community, what we might call the “Bowling Alone” effect. Human contact and kinship help alleviate anxiety (our evolutionary ancestors, of course, were always safer in numbers), yet as we leave family behind to migrate all over the country, often settling in insular suburbs where our closest pal is our plasma-screen TV, we miss out on this all-important element of in-person connection.
Maybe this isolation makes us more willing to just treat people badly.
But, I think this really does need to be addressed, attacked, stopped. Or, as the management consultant quoted by Peters put it, “DON’T’ BELITTLE!,” maybe we all need to just start walking out of the room, start walking away from the people who do it, until they stop.
Remember this simple and powerful reminder from Kouzes and Pozner:
Honored and not diminished. That’s how we all want to feel.
James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Pozner: Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others.
(from a brief video by Tom Peters – and a thank you to Larry James for posting this, where I first saw it).
Question posed to Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines:
What is your secret to success?
Answer, by Kelleher:
You have to treat your employees like customers.
Here’s the video (about 2 1/2 minutes — worth a look):