Tag Archives: The Design of Business

A Quote for the Day – From Power by Jeffrey Pfeffer

The design thinker, in the words of novelist Saul Bellow, is “a first-class noticer.”
(from The Design of Business by Roger Martin).

Here’s a quote from Jeffrey Pfeffer’s Power – Why Some People Have it and Others Don’t:

Watch those around you who are succeeding, those who are failing, and those who are just treading water.  Figure out what’s different about them and what they are doing differently.  That’s a great way to build your diagnostic skill – something useful in becoming an organizational survivor.

Pay attention.  Keep paying attention.  Those who pay careful attention really do have the advantage over those who go through life in some kind of oblivious fog.


I will be presenting my synopsis of Power at the January First Friday book Synopsis.

Switch & Tribes & Many Other New Business Book Synopsis Presentations now available at 15minutebusinessbooks.com

Karl Krayer and I have just completed our 12th year of monthly presentations of business books at the First Friday Book Synopsis.

Our webmaster (thanks, Dana!) has just uploaded a number of these on our companion website, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.  When you purchase one of our presentations, you receive the handout, which includes representative key quotes from the book, and an outline of the content of the book.  In addition, you receive the audio of our synopsis in an MP3 format, which you can listen to on your computer, load into your iPhone/iPod, of use in any other way you would like.

The way to take maximum advantage of this is obvious – listen to the recording while following along with the handout.  This is what the participants at our live monthly event do each month.  But you can get plenty of information by listening alone while you work-out or drive, or just by reading the handout alone.

Here’s a testimonial from the CEO of a mid-sized, growing company.  He knew that a client was a fan of one the books we had presented, and wanted to discuss the book’s implications for his business.  The CEO purchased our synopsis from our site, read over the handout (he did not have time to listen to the audio), and then met with his client. The client had read the book – the CEO had not.  As they discussed the book, it was clear that our handout had provided enough of the important content that the CEO actually had a better grasp of the key content and transferable principles of the book than the other person had, who had actually read the book.

If you have never ordered from us, you might want to read the FAQ’s to understand where these presentations and recordings were made, and learn a little more about what we offer.  Some of these were presented by my colleague Karl Krayer, and the others were presentations I made.

Here is a partial list of the new titles now available on our site.  And more are coming each month.

59 Seconds

Book author(s) Richard Wiseman

Presented at FFBS in 2010 March

The Design of Business

Book author(s) Roger Martin

Presented at FFBS in 2010 February

Fierce Leadership

Book author(s) Susan Scott

Presented at FFBS in TYBTL

The Healing of America

Book author(s) TR Reid

Presented at the Urban Engagement Book Club

Inside Advantage

Book author(s) Robert Bloom with Dave Conti

Special Presentation

Mastering the Rockefeller Habits

Book author(s) Verne Harnish

Special Presentation


Book author(s) Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Presented at FFBS in 2010 February


Book author(s) Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner

Presented at FFBS in 2009 December


Book author(s) Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Presented at FFBS in 2010 March


Book author(s) Kevin Maney

Presented at FFBS in 2010 January


Book author(s) Seth Godin

Presented at FFBS in 2009 January

Tyranny of Email

Book author(s) John Freeman

Presented at FFBS in 2010 January

Stop, look, listen – Three Failings at the top levels of Toyota

Time has a terrific overview, with some insightful analysis, on the Toyota meltdown: Behind the Troubles at Toyota by Bill Saporito with Michael Schuman and Joseph Szczesny.  Here are three key excerpts:

“The big deal is this question, Does an organization know how to hear and respond to weak signals, which are the problems, or does it have to hear strong signals? You have to listen to weak signals. By the time you get to strong signals, it’s too late.” (Steven Spear of MIT, author of Chasing the Rabbit: How Market Leaders Outdistance the Competition and an expert in the dynamics of high-performance companies).

When weak signals started coming out in 2002, Toyota’s top management wasn’t listening.

Complexity is the enemy of any manufacturer, and rapid growth increases it.

We’ve already posted a couple of times about Toyota’s failed crisis management (its “dreadful crisis management,” says the Time article).  It is clear that they knew of their problems long before the current crisis.  The Time article points out that the first National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigations came in 2003.

I keep thinking about the counsel I get consistently from the best business books, and one clear and oft-repeated message is this:
stop, look, pay attention, spot problems, and open your mouth loudly to call attention to these problems!

Here’s a quote that might put it in simple English:

The design thinker, in the words of novelist Saul Bellow, is “a first-class noticer.”
(from The Design of Business by Roger Martin).

The process really is simple. Make sure you have a number of “first-class noticers” in your company, encourage them to notice things, and listen to them, actually listen to them, when they tell you something.

Toyota had these “weak signals” coming at them, but they did not pay attention.  I suspect that workplace segregation played a key role – the people at the top just simply do not interact often enough with the rest of the people in the real world, from employees to vendors to customers…  (Note:  “interact with” means have conversations with means listen to…)  And, as the Time article says, “by the time you get strong signals, it’s too late.”

So it seems to me that this rather old and well-worn advice could have been pretty helpful:

Stop – look – listen.

4 Steps along the Path of Life-Long Learning – or, Why should we read business books?

After reading the book, I wrote this on my handout of my synopsis for The Design of Business by Roger Martin:

A blinding flash of the obvious:  — everything can be done better; there will be new things done; you (and I) have to get better at getting better at making everything better…
• “the design thinker lives to advance knowledge!”

With practically every book I read, I realize that this quest for life-long learning is a real one, and incredibly important to pursue.  And as close as I can tell, this is the path to follow:

Step 1)  learn new information

Step 2)  pick out an area of deficiency – pick out a place to make improvement

Step 3)  tackle this problem

Step 4)  then, after getting better, learn another round of new information – and repeat process.

(Yes, it sounds like a truncated version of Benjamin Franklin’s approach.  He sought to build his life around thirteen virtues, and worked on one, and only one, each week.)

And I’m a big fan of using books to provide direction along this path.

That’s why I read books, including business books.

Let’s add Listening to our list of Core Competencies

I had a professor way back in my undergraduate days say this:

“if one expert says something, pay it some attention.  But if every expert says it, pay a whole lot of attention.”

Well, I challenge you to find a single expert who says this:

“you don’t have to listen – to your colleagues, or your employees, or your customers.”

No, the evidence is clear.  I’ve read enough business books to learn that business leaders, business authors, and everyone else believes that listening – developing really, really good listening skills – is seriously important.  Here’s what Roger Martin says about it (in one specific context):

What is the best way to learn another language? (He is discussing the language of reliability and the language of validity in a business setting). It is to spend time with those who speak the language you wish to acquire, in their environment.  Just listen, as if it is truly important and with empathy, and you will learn the language in no time.

Though I have not found listening listed on anyone’s list of core competencies, I think it should be added.  And if you have not developed the ability to listen really, really well, you will definitely fall behind.

And here is a little hint about good listening skills:  when someone else is talking, do not try to figure out what your response will be — just listen.  And after that other person finishes talking, make sure you understood exactly what that person said.  And then, and only then, should you figure out what you will say in response.

And, yes, I need to more fully develop this ability myself.