Books We Love!

In preparing leaders to address the new world of work, we build on the expertise of the writers, researchers, and leaders who have already done so much to improve business practices and guide people toward success. Here are two ways that you can learn from the authors that we admire:

  1. Our review of the books we love provided below
  2. List of more than 60 books that we recommend (membership required) 

Reviews of Books We Love


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  • 19 May 2021 7:08 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Habits make up the underlying fabric of our lives. We all have them, and so do organizations. Understanding habits and replacing them with better, more helpful behaviors can provide us with the keys to create the businesses and lives we dream of enjoying. In The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg provides readers with a sound understanding of how habits form and how we can identify them and adapt them to be valuable mechanisms that help us achieve our goals faster and more easily.

    We all rely on a sequence of habits that help us through our day. Organizations have also developed habits that dictate how the managers and their teams go about their work. As Duhigg writes – 'there is no organization without habits, only intentional and unintentional habits.' Leaders who can consciously adapt their organization's habits to support their culture and values will gain a competitive edge in their market, build places of work that people want to be a part of, and increase their profits along the way. Helpfully, Duhigg shows readers exactly how to create the ideal environment for building good habits personally, organizationally, and across communities.

    From I to all


    The book provides three sections that deal with individual habits, organizational habits, and societal habits. The book begins with captivating stories about individual's keystone habits and an intriguing tale of a change in societal habits that led to peace for a small town in Iraq. While seeming unconnected, as the chapters unfold, we learn how habits form and create a foundation that enables widespread change for individuals and large groups of people.

    Habits are simply a sequence of actions that we put together to save time and remove the need for constant decision-making. These routines are partly to do with skill-building and also a way for us to conserve energy – and time. Once a habit has been formed – such as brushing teeth – the need for detailed analysis, full attention, and conscious decision making is removed, and we are free to turn our attention to other things.

    Interestingly, the habits we form never die. They forever remain in our heads, waiting for the right cues to be sparked into action. The only way to overcome unhelpful habits is to overlay them with new neurological patterns. These effectively overpower the older behaviors and force them into the background. This is as true for individuals as it is for organizations and societies, and the author cleverly illustrates this with multiple stories, scientific studies, and anecdotes throughout his book.

    Organizational habits


    While individuals have habits, organizations have routines. These routines emerge either consciously through leadership or unconsciously from employees who develop 'workarounds' on the fly to deal with dysfunctional policies and procedures.

    Just as surely as individual habits follow the pattern of cue → routine → reward, so do organizational routines. If left unchecked, management can respond to workplace cues with automatic responses. These routines might play out to protect their position, help them gain more status, or deliver some other reward that may not benefit the organization.

    Clever leaders identify and build upon keystone habits that encourage the organization's values and intentional cultures to become ingrained. These keystone habits work by encouraging additional supporting structures to be created and newer, better practices to form and flourish around them.

    Duhigg provides the example of Alcoa's intentional keystone habit formation of 'safety first.' This focus led to several other supporting processes being put in place. A 'safety first' focus required fast communication of incidents for them to be addressed and repeat incidents avoided. To support this keystone habit, an internal messaging system was needed to enable swift communication. Once in place, this led to transparent leadership and open employee engagement and input. This 'safety first' ethos permeated the entire organization, creating a 'domino effect' for communications, reporting, openness, and learning from mistakes. Everyone benefited, and the keystone habit caused many other behaviors to change for the benefit of all.

    Conversely, Duhigg offers the example of a hospital that allowed employees to develop their own organizational habits and workarounds that protected nurses from arrogant physicians, sadly with disastrous results.

    Keystone habits are helpful to individuals and organizations partially because they build on 'small wins.' These small wins help create a positive mindset and create an impetus for more significant catalysts for change and more considerable achievements. When done well, organizational routines can make otherwise difficult decisions and choices easier, aligning with core values and culture.

    Customer habits


    Today, many organizations are turning to studying customer habits and using this knowledge in their sales and marketing campaigns. Habits can be formed without our awareness – which is why leaders must be on the lookout and consciously aware of their organization's routines. From a sales and marketing perspective, this means using behavioral science to tweak and nurture customer relationships and nudge their habits in ways that support organizational goals.

    One way to encourage the adoption of new habits and processes is to couch them in the familiar. An organization that wishes to encourage customers to adopt new routines will do well by sandwiching these routines between familiar habits. The YMCA is one organization that successfully used this tactic to attract more people to their gyms. To sell the habit of exercise, they 'wrapped it' in the familiar routine or instinct people have to go to places where it's easy to make friends. This was done by teaching their staff to remember customers' names and greet them with a friendly hello and smile. This simple change helped the gym to retain their new customers and customers to build a new, healthy habit upon their innate drive to socialize.

    Understanding and creating good habits


    By learning how habits form, we can begin to build the automatic routines we need to achieve the successes we desire. In The Power of Habit, we learn how habits are formed and how to identify habits and then change or tweak them to support our higher intentions.

    The author points out that not all habits are created equal. Some are harder to shift and change than others. For example, giving up smoking will require a completely different approach to building the habit of ongoing employee feedback. Rather than attempting to provide the reader with a one-size-fits-all formula for habit formation and adaption, Duhigg gives us a framework that can be applied to individual habit formation just as easily as organizational or societal routine creation.

    Readers are invited to begin by identifying the habits they wish to change, then experiment with the rewards these behaviors deliver and isolate the cues that are sparking the habitual process. Once a routine has been identified, a plan can be put in place, and the conditions to create a new habit formed. Whether reading this book to help establish better individual habits or consciously build organizational habits that support a company's success, Duhigg's book provides readers with the necessary tools and understanding to develop better habits at work and home.

  • 11 May 2021 9:27 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Culture has a direct impact on a company’s stock value and productivity. To ignore culture – or let it look after itself – is to neglect a major influencer of a business’ viability. Multiple studies have proven this time and again. Kevin Oakes, the author of Culture Renovation and co-founder of i4cp, the Institute for Corporate Productivity, provides readers with 18 progressive steps for implementing a culture renovation that will bring the desired results for businesses of any kind.

    Backed by sound data and illustrated with case studies and company stories that bring each step to life, Culture Renovation provides leaders with a solid playbook for creating organizational cultures that will lead them to competitive advantages, unlock the full potential of their workforce, and rehumanize workplaces. In a time when employees are looking for companies that can deliver positive, holistic experiences and provide an avenue for serving a higher purpose than simply increasing shareholder value, culture is more important than ever.

    Demonstrating how your organization’s culture builds people up is the new gold standard. After painting a vivid picture of what culture can achieve, the author launches into the nuts and bolts of exactly how to change organizational cultures. Following the classic renovation pattern, the book is broken into three key stages – Plan, Build, and Maintain. Readers learn exactly how to start a culture renovation, what’s needed to stay on track, and why maintaining organizational culture will serve the business and its employees into the future.

    Planning company culture


    As with all successful renovation projects, it pays to begin with a plan. When it comes to renovating cultures, the first step in planning is understanding where the organizational culture stands. This will enable the path to the desired culture to be plotted accurately. A major part of this involves actively listening to employees and customers and asking the right questions to draw out perceptions of the company’s culture.

    Active and ongoing, listening to employee and customer sentiment is imperative for companies that aim to have productive, inclusive and psychologically safe businesses that respond and adapt quickly to changing market needs. However, listening is only part of the equation in culture renovation plans – acting upon the insights gained is a must, no matter what those insights are.

    Setting a course for a new culture involves identifying the company’s goals and purpose. This then needs to be encapsulated in a simple statement that resonates with the workforce and helps to guide future decision-making. Great culture renovations preserve the positive and fundamental elements of the business. These threads of the past need to be woven into the business story about its future aspirations and who it will become. In doing so, a cohesive picture of what the business was and what it aims to be is created. This in turn, provides an inspiring purpose for employees that also captures the ‘why’ of the organization succinctly and wholeheartedly.

    Culture renovation starts at the top with the dissemination of the company’s purpose. Authentic and transparent leadership is then used to move culture renovations from the planning stage to implementation – arguably the most fraught stage of culture change.

    Building a new culture


    If people are the engine of a business, their diversity, creativity, activity, and ideas are the rocket fuel. Once the culture a company wants to develop has been defined, the behaviors that support it need to be clarified.

    Without embedding desired, culture-supporting behaviors into systems and processes, culture change efforts are unlikely to succeed. Performance management review processes, employee recognition programs, and learning and development schemes are some of the key areas that must be considered when encouraging new behaviors.

    Ten examples of cultures and their supporting behaviors are provided by the author with the note that it is common for businesses to embody more than one type – however, it is rare for a company to exhibit all ten. For example, leadership traits that support inclusive cultures embrace sincerity and cooperation while employee traits involve diversity, collaboration, and a focus on relationships.

    Along with identifying the supporting behaviors of the desired culture, influencers, energizers, connectors, and blockers within the employee community should also be acknowledged. Wherever possible influencers and energizers should be recruited to the culture change cause as they can become key ambassadors for change. Just as important as identifying and recruiting influencers is the process of identifying and removing blockers. People who are not behind the new direction of the business can stymie change efforts and should be removed swiftly to avoid failure.

    Oakes recommends an Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) to help identify key influencers who can be recruited to the culture change cause and help to expedite the process. ONAs are also helpful for exposing silos, units that collaborate well, and where to focus efforts for the biggest and fastest impact. Identifying key players within an organization for culture change efforts can mean the difference between success and failure.

    Along with behaviors and influencers, leaders will do well to define indicators of what a successful culture renovation will look like and use these to monitor progress. Understanding what to measure and how to measure it can be difficult. Helpfully, the author has detailed guidance for common culture change measures that are not tied to the industry or specific business attributes.

    Maintaining company culture


    Culture change is not a destination; rather, it is an ongoing process that requires constant attention and tweaking of processes. As recently as 2020, the US SEC mandated that public companies must report on human capital metrics that have an impact on profitability. These new requirements are creating increasing demand for high-level HR skills and many organizations are responding by recruiting CHROs to their senior leadership teams. This change in leadership teams is a positive for the workplaces of tomorrow – combining strategy plans with human capital knowledge and processes that power those plans is a recipe for success.

    Culture is based on the behaviors of the people living, breathing, and working it. Companies who leverage their leaders as teachers can embed behaviors that support the desired culture faster and more effectively. This approach has the added benefits of enhancing leader’s self-awareness, appreciation of talent within the organization and broadens their understanding of the differing opinions throughout the business.

    Onboarding processes provide another opportunity to build and maintain a company’s culture. Onboarding methods that last for just a month or less and focus on paperwork and red tape miss an important chance to establish desired employee behaviors, relationships, and knowledge that supports a newly created culture. Building a new hire’s network within an organization speeds their indoctrination, improves productivity, and increases retention considerably.

    Similarly, performance management processes can be used to reinforce culture while increasing efficiencies, transparency, and organizational - as well as individual - success.

    Effective talent mobility programs are one of the most effective and underutilized organizational development and culture enhancement techniques at a company’s disposal. More than simply moving people from one department to another, talent mobility programs include the lateral movement of employees so they can round out their skills in complementary areas, promotions, and moving someone ‘down’ in order for them to move ‘up’ faster.

    Talent sharing between companies found a new lease of life in the early days of the pandemic when several key CHROs got together to match laid-off and furloughed workers with businesses who were experiencing a sharp spike in demand that necessitated fast hiring. This talent-sharing approach is likely to become a normal practice in the future. Employee capabilities will be recorded and categorized in databases in a way that is reminiscent of stats on the back of baseball cards.

    Talent sharing can be contained within business partnerships to deliver benefits to each organization as well as employees. Amazon and the US Navy, Boeing, and Callaway Golf are two examples in which talent sharing has benefited the worker with unique development opportunities and each organization with wider scope for talent development and the improvement of their business processes.

    Company culture is now gaining the recognition it deserves for influencing value and productivity. Understanding how to consciously develop and direct a company’s culture is a key part of the CEO and senior leadership team’s role. Kevin Oakes’ Culture Renovation does an excellent job of outlining why and how leaders can influence culture and shows this continual process is a most worthy endeavor for those who wish to guide their businesses to future wellbeing and profit.

  • 21 Apr 2021 7:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As the title suggests, this book about humor has a serious side too. Humor in the workplace is often nonexistent, yet levity is one of the fastest and surest ways to forge strong connections, boost creativity, and improve productivity. As Aaker and Bagdonas show us throughout their book, humor in the workplace really can be a superpower that creates spaces where people can think freely, speak openly and try new approaches to old (and new) problems.

    Based on six years of research and studies involving more than 1.5 million people across 166 countries, the authors answer the how and whys of humor in the workplace, showing where it can differ across cultures and through different stages of life. Humor is not an innate ability. Fortunately, just like intelligence, creativity, and emotional intelligence, it can be learned and fostered. In doing so, we can transform our interactions in the workplace, forge more substantial and deeper connections with others, and signal that we truly see the people around us. The benefits that humor can bring to our lives are in ever-increasing demand; learning how and when to use levity can propel us professionally and bring new purpose to our days. Aaker and Bagdonas

    The Mechanics Of Humor


    Humor has a remarkable impact on how we see others. Those who show a sense of humor are perceived as having a higher status and are more likely to be voted into leadership roles. Playful workplace cultures allow teams to thrive and mutually support each other, even when times get rough. The science behind these facts points to our neurochemistry. When we laugh, a cocktail of hormones is released by the brain. Dopamine makes us feel happier, oxytocin prompts us to feel more trusting, and endorphins that engender euphoria feelings are released with each chuckle. At the same time, cortisol, our stress hormone, is concurrently lowered in our systems.

    In a moment of laughter, we are charmed and disarmed by the person evoking that response from us. Laughter provides the link between humor and psychological safety. Just the anticipation of laughter decreases our cortisol and epinephrine levels by 39 and 70 percent, respectively. A spark of human connection is ignited when we laugh or smile, and both people in the interaction become more inclined to share thoughts, feelings, and intimate details about who they are. In short, humor is the fastest path to openness and vulnerability.

    Not everyone has the same style of humor. One of the key reasons we leave joking aside when we come to work is that we’re afraid we may inadvertently offend someone with our particular brand of laughter. It’s a fair concern; just as surely as a shared chuckle can strengthen relationships, inappropriate or aggressive humor can weaken ties and make workplace conflicts challenging to resolve. Learning the four different humor styles and expanding your range is one way to avoid accidentally upsetting someone with your kind of levity. Even so, faux pas will happen so, and it’s equally important to be able to spot when we’ve crossed the line and know how to recover from a humor fail. The authors of this book have us covered on both counts.

    Whether your preferred style of humor is subtle, aggressive, expressive, or affiliative, because humor is a skill we can all build upon, it’s possible to develop our range and thus be able to call upon the right kind of humor for any given situation. When used well, humor helps us learn more deeply and enhance our right-brained creativity and lateral thinking modes. These benefits alone make levity at work ever more important now and into the future.

    Observation and taking the time to notice the absurdities and oddities around us are foundational for developing humor and fun. At the heart of all humor is a kernel of truth, and all humor contains surprise and misdirection – this is where punchlines get their punch. Thankfully, humor at work isn’t about laboring to create side-splitting jokes for our workmates; it’s more about making more human connections in our everyday interactions. When we are open to doing this and find lightheartedness in our daily exchanges, we become more productive, effective, and happy - and far less bored. Humor can bring richness to the quality of our professional relationships and organizational cultures if only we are brave enough to let it.

    Leading with Levity


    From persuasion to pointing out the elephant in the room and making a difficult ask, humor can increase our chances of a positive response and even make a ‘yes’ more favorable. Leaders who use levity build trust within their organizations. Organizations with high levels of leadership trust are 32 times more likely to take risks that could benefit the company, 11 times more likely to see higher levels of innovation than their serious competitors, and six times more likely to achieve higher performance levels. We can use levity to create a competitive advantage.

    Because we are naturally inclined to mirror the behavior of the highest-status individual in a group, leaders are in a unique position to influence workplace culture. By keeping things light and playful, they create the optimal conditions for great work. By walking the levity line, leaders can lay fertile ground for creative thinking, initiate the circumstances needed for psychological safety, and widen their workforce’s perspective.

    However, using humor at work can be difficult the higher one rises in an organization—the lines of appropriate humor shift with rising status. What may have been acceptable humor in middle management is no longer palatable when coming from a senior leader, particularly if their natural humor style tends to make fun of others higher up the chain. The higher one rises, the fewer people there are to joke in this way. In these cases, self-deprecating humor is often the next best option for leaders.

    The upside of this switch is that self-deprecating humor from leaders is often taken as a sign of confidence and projects humility. This style of humor can help a leader’s relatability and enhance status. However, when people of lower status use self-deprecating humor, it can come across as insecurity and erode other’s confidence in them. Regardless of status, it is wise to follow some basic rules when making light of situations and bringing humor to the table: never make another person’s identity the prop, plot point, or punchline for your humor.

    Strengthening Company Culture With A Smile

    When used appropriately, humor and levity are powerful tools for bringing boldness, authenticity, and joy to the workplace. Leaders who are uncomfortable using humor themselves can tap into the humor of those around them – celebrating people, moments and enabling others to provide humor can help define and highlight company values long after the actual moment has passed.

    Working with employees who naturally bring a sense of play to work can co-create cultures of levity. Leaders who are uncomfortable with humor themselves should look out for three types of employees and support their ability to bring humor to the organization. Instigators, Culture Carriers, and Hidden Gems can all work together to build a culture of levity and play. When people are comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, their sense of humor will come too.

    Lots of humor and levity in good times solidifies relationships to make it easier to call on others through difficult times. Balancing gravity and levity is a powerful strategy for building winning teams with public displays of humor from leaders and colleagues. When done, this sets the tone for organizational cultures and provides tacit permission for others to follow the lead.

    Conclusion

    Whether shifting a team’s mindset, looking for new insights into business challenges or simply building workplace trust, the authors of ‘Humor, Seriously’ clearly show that humor and levity are essential tools. With them, we can forge human connections, strengthen authentic bonds and improve performance in good times while fostering the resilience needed to weather the bad. Punctuating our working day with moments of joy is a beneficial and enjoyable way to get ahead in business.

  • 2 Mar 2021 2:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In her book 'The Fearless Organization,' Amy C. Edmondson, Harvard Business School's Professor of Leadership and Management, gives leaders and managers new ideas and practices to create the optimal environments needed for knowledge-intensive organizations to work better. In today's volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world of business and our ever-increasing reliance on creativity, imagination, and innovation to agilely respond to market needs, psychologically safe workplaces are more necessary than ever before. 

    Both individual and collective talents must be harnessed and directed for our businesses' good and maintain organizational relevance. For talents to be unleashed, a psychologically safe environment – one that welcomes questions, new ideas and doesn't shy away from failure – needs to be established and nurtured. Then, and only then, will people take the risk of speaking up, sharing their thoughts and opinions, and risking failure to enhance a business' productivity or innovate new products and systems. 

    Edmondson's book shows us the importance of psychological safety at work, provides examples of what psychologically unsafe workplaces can lead to, and details a map for creating and nurturing psychological safety within any business. 

    WHY AND ENVIRONMENT OF SHARING IDEAS MATTERS


    Both consciously and unconsciously, we avoid interpersonal risks. Nowhere outside the workplace is this more true. No-one wants to look ignorant, incompetent, or unnecessarily rock the boat. At work, doing so could put our very livelihoods on the line, or at the very least, reduce our social standing in the groups that are hugely important to our view of self. While keeping quiet may protect us from these judgments, it isn't good for business, innovation, and customer experiences.  

    When workplaces lack psychological safety, errors go unreported, opportunities for innovation are missed, and awkward situations can quickly develop. Fear of appearing inept, reprimanded, humiliated, or even penalized often holds people back from sharing essential business insights and ideas. While their self-protection is natural and often subconscious, the impact on an organization can be devastating. 

    Edmondson argues that regardless of the talent a business has employed, without the right conditions – conditions that support psychological safety – that talent will never blossom enough to produce the fruit a company needs to achieve unrivaled success. Psychological safety is integral for speaking openly, suggesting new ideas, questioning current practices, and effectively coordinating with others. These reasons make psychological safety imperative for business success now and in the future. 

    Teams with high levels of psychological safety outperform their less safe counterparts in process improvements, creativity, innovation, and research and development. While not a cure-all, psychological safety is foundational for other important workplace behaviors – clear goal setting, dependable colleagues, personally meaningful work, and a belief that your work has impact are all reliant on the level of psychological safety within a working group. 

    Edmondson details stories from more than 20 organizations that illustrate the consequences of workplace fear and the undeniable benefits of psychological safety. From Volkswagen and their fall from grace with the diesel emissions scandal to Nokia's disappearance from the mobile phone market – each of the businesses described can trace their public failures back to a culture of fear and psychologically unsafe working environments. 

    Conversely, many outrageously successful organizations - Pixar, Barry-Wehmiller, and others - attribute much of their success to creating a psychologically safe work environment that supports employees to speak their minds and bring their whole selves to work, and actively participate in building a better business for all. 

    Psychologically unsafe workplaces, ones led by fear of stepping out of line or being caught on the wrong side of failure, may work for a while. But this kind of environment sows the seeds of failure. Deception, silence, and withholding relevant data combine to create an organizational timebomb. A timebomb set to go off and cause painful, sometimes public, damage to the organization that allowed it to develop. 

    Building workplace confidence and psychological safety 

    Creating a psychologically safe workplace is a journey that takes patience, consistency, and continued nurturing of the right behaviors. It's not just leaders who have the power to bring about psychological safety at work – although they do hold the sway of power in this arena. Managers at all levels, across all departments of an organization, play a part in creating and keeping psychological safety within their workplaces. 

    Two of the critical ways leaders and managers can sow the seeds of psychological safety are framing silence as an unethical choice and actively ensuring people know that it is safe to fail. People should understand that their colleagues and the larger business deserve and expect their candor. If failure is not overtly allowed, spoken about positively, and responded to correctly, people will avoid it wherever possible. 

    Psychologically safe workplaces invite participation, ideas, and opinions from all levels of the organization. They seek to fail fast and learn from their mistakes to grow and become better at what they do. More often than not, psychologically safe companies are led by leaders who aren't afraid to admit they don't have all the answers and speak candidly about the goals the business seeks and the challenges they will face along the way. 

    Psychologically safe workplaces are not reliant on a single person. They are co-created with the help of strong yet humble leaders. These workplaces give people the license to thrive and grow, they encourage openness and innovation, and they provide the tools and policies that teams need to achieve greatness. 

    A blueprint for psychological safety at work 


    The author finishes the book with a straightforward process for building and sustaining a psychologically safe workplace environment. 

    Beginning with Setting the Stage, leaders can help people start thinking about their work differently, particularly when things go wrong. Framing failures as opportunities for learning is critical at this initial stage of building psychologically safe workplace cultures. Setting expectations about failure, uncertainty, and the interdependent nature of various organizations' jobs are also crucial at this stage. 

    Supporting this early framing is behavior that emphasizes the purpose of the business—identifying what's at stake and why the work matters are also vital for stage setting in terms of psychological safety. The shared purpose is motivating and pulls teams together to form the strong supportive bonds that are integral to a psychologically safe work environment. 

    After setting the stage, leaders need to invite participation from all levels of their organization. This is most effectively achieved by asking concrete, direct, respectful, and curious questions that lead people to think deeply and aspirationally. 

    Powerful questions stimulate reflective conversations, provoke thought and evoke even more questions. They also allow leaders to display situational humility, demonstrating that they don't know everything and value the input from the people within their organization. The work should invite participation with formal structures and processes that seek information and provide guidelines for respectful discussions. 

    Finally, it is not enough to set the stage and invite participation if leaders are not open and welcoming to the responses they request. Actively listening to the answers sought after should include expressions of appreciation – even when the answers are not as productive as managers may have hoped for!  The very act of speaking up and offering an opinion should be acknowledged and thanked. In doing so, leaders give others the message that their views, thoughts, and ideas are both welcomed and valued. 

    Failure must also be destigmatized. Rather than providing an opportunity to blame and shame, failures need to be looked at and thought of as growth and learning opportunities. These conversations allow those involved to discuss, consider and work together to find newer and better ways of working. 

    Psychologically safe workplaces are not a destination to be arrived at; rather, they are a continual process of small and large corrections that move a company toward inspired innovation, greater clarity, and deeper insights. If businesses want to remain relevant and viable in the VUCA environment of today and tomorrow, psychological safety at work is not merely a 'nice-to-have'; it is key for enabling the growth of people's talents and pushing organizations to achieve tremendous success. 

  • 11 Jan 2021 4:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Author Kai-Fu Lee begins his book with an unexpected invitation to look within ourselves and each other to guide us through the new age of AI. He notes that our AI future will be created by us and reflect the choices we make and actions we take together. If we allow it, AI provides us all an opportunity to discover what makes us human. But our path will not be straightforward, nor will it be easy. Technology is calling for us to face the critical issues confronting our societies today – growing inequality, widespread unemployment, and our beliefs about what gives us value and meaning as humans. More than a simple book about the race between China and the U.S to lead the world into a new age of technology, Kai-Fu proposes a new direction that could lead to humanity flourishing.

    Broken into three parts, Kai-Fu takes us on a journey through the changing landscape of AI, details the challenges that lie ahead, and invites us to grasp the opportunities that our move to an AI age will present. AI Superpowers is like an action novel! It is hard not to be carried along by the ideas or be excited about this new age that is dawning.

    The rise of the machines


    Until the world champion of "Go," Ke-Jie, was overcome by Deep Mind's AlphaGo AI algorithm in 2017, China seemed mostly disinterested in boarding the AI train. Two months after AI's triumph over a human, the Central Chinese government launched plans to build their own AI capabilities.

    China helped move AI from the age of discovery to the age of implementation. And from an era of expertise to an era of machines making complex decisions based on data. Today, the success of AI is no longer reliant on a select group of expert computer scientists. Three factors feed its development: big data, computing power, and new AI algorithms.

    AI development plays to many of China's strengths. A cut-throat entrepreneurial environment, a drive to endlessly innovate and iterate business models, and endless enthusiasm for exposing new areas of profit is already bringing about their development of life-changing apps.

    Both the U.S and China are incubating AI giants set to dominate global markets, extract wealth from consumers, and advance AI-driven automation into every corner of society. While this will create an exponential increase in productivity across nearly every industry, it will also extend unemployment lines, concentrate wealth in the hands of a few, and create a genuine threat of social and political unrest, even collapse.

    Four waves of change


    Disruption from AI will wash over our world in four waves. Beginning with Internet AI, moving through to Business AI, Perception AI, and culminating in Autonomous AI, each wave will bring new opportunities and challenges.

    Internet AI is already a big part of our lives today – rooted in the recommendation algorithms that learn our preferences and idiosyncrasies to serve hand-picked content that keeps us online and consuming a wide range of products and services.

    Business AI is also fast becoming a part of daily transactions. Algorithms mining vast amounts of health, financial, and insurance data are displacing many mid-level white-collar jobs. Micro-financing, house loans, faster and more accurate medical diagnoses, fraud detection, and myriad other functions can be handled by a computer algorithm – and more effectively too. In many cases, these systems are already pushing humans out of their positions and forcing them into new roles. Why employ a credit risk manager when an algorithm can outperform them in terms of speed, accuracy, and the analysis of multiple data points to deliver more reliable recommendations than a human ever could?

    Perception AI is also creeping into our lives via the Internet of Things (IoT). By extending the capabilities of AI with sensory input – sight, hearing, and in some cases, touch - Perception AI can learn from and influence our perception of our environment. This blending of digital and real-world information blurs the lines between virtual and 'real' experiences to deliver smart buildings and cities, enhanced learning, retail, and domestic experiences.

    Autonomous AI represents the integration of the three previous waves of changing technology to shape the world we share.

    China and the U.S are adopting AI from different ends of the spectrum – America is adapting AI to their current infrastructure. China is adapting and creating new infrastructures – AI's trajectory is such that it will radically change and shape our societies, cultural expectations, and almost every aspect of our lives. The question is: Will AI bring us a technological utopia, dystopia, or a dangerous mix of each?

    A choice between roads


    As disruptive as the steam engine or electricity, yet faster than both, AI could eat more jobs than it produces – certainly in the short term. Although we may dream of a world in which work is unnecessary, and all have the time for creative and altruistic pursuits, that fact remains that our identity, purpose, and meaning is inextricably tied to our occupations.

    The social impact of a world without work, growing unemployment lines, financial insecurity, and rising inequality is hardly a happy fantasy. However, along with the risk of economic and societal upheaval, AI presents an opportunity for humanity to free itself from the idea that our intrinsic worth is tied to our economic value. It offers us a possibility to double-down on what truly makes us human to focus on people, relationships and prioritize love over intelligence.

    How – and if - we do this, our societies' fabric could be woven from a richer thread to create widespread fulfillment and flourishing across our planet. We could build an amalgamation from AI's ability to think and our innate ability to give care, love, and compassion. This is one way for us to harness AI's power and generate prosperity while embracing our essential humanity.

    To do this, we will need to combine several approaches, bravely trial, and follow the policymaking results to discover the best AI governance method. Both the free market and government policy will need to combine to create the foundation for this new societal contract. The incremental implementation of these policies could lay the foundation for shifting cultural views towards more caring and supportive communities.

    Retraining displaced workers, reducing the hours of a regular working week, and redistributing AI-generated wealth won't be enough on their own. Kai-Fu argues that Universal Basic Income (UBI) could well be a red-herring – working like a magic wand to subdue the masses while allowing tech oligarchs to carry on as they wish.

    Kai-Fu proposes another solution that would support a positive future with AI – one that reinforces the message: "It took efforts from people all across society to help us reach this point of abundance. We are now collectively using that abundance to recommit ourselves to one another, reinforcing the bonds of compassion and love that make us human."

    AI's potential to disrupt and destroy isn't in international military contests; it lies in what we do with our labor markets and societal systems. We have the opportunity to leverage this new technology to build the kinds of societies we desire.

    When it comes to shaping the future of AI, we aren't passive spectators; we are the authors. We can choose to use AI as a tool that exposes the deeper meaning of what it is to be human. We can use it to come together, work across class boundaries and national borders, to write new chapters of cooperation and compassion in our story of humanity.

  • 25 Nov 2020 10:49 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Unlike the usual business books, Frederic Laloux's 'Reinventing organizations' invites readers to evolve their view of work roles and places to create a newer and kinder way of working. Describing organizational structures from the viewpoint of developmental theory, belief systems, and worldviews, Laloux embarks on a journey to answer fundamental questions about the world of work and future organizational structures. Are there better, more fulfilling, and soulful ways to arrange organizational structures? If so, what do these organizations look like, and how do we bring them to life?

    I suspect Laloux had a hunch the answer to his first query was a 'yes' when he embarked on his research. Reinventing Organizations delivers examples of a range of businesses working in kinder and more accepting ways and provides a framework that new and existing organizations can follow or adapt to build or bring about change within their own companies.

    From hierarchical structure to devolved power systems

    Laloux begins by explaining the various iterations of humanity's development, concluding that most organizations today are run with an 'Achievement' worldview. From this perspective, innovation, keeping ahead of the competition, and aiming to run a business similar to a 'well-oiled machine' makes sense. Every person has their place in an organization, working both cooperatively and independently of the other parts.


    'Evolutionary' organizations, on the other hand, see themselves as integrated, continually changing, adapting, and self-managing living structures. There is no-one at the helm pulling leavers or steering toward a brave new future. Every cell can affect change and is vital to the health of the entire system. In these kinds of organizations, individuals join the higher cause that enables them to 'punch above their weight,' achieving outcomes they would never have managed on their own and developing new ways of being.

    Initially, this kind of thinking appears to be rooted firmly in utopic fantasy. Yet, through the analysis of 12 very different companies across disparate industries – manufacturing to community nursing, education to running electrical grids – the author shows us that organizations can effectively and profitably pioneer self-management, wholeness, and evolutionary purpose in the workplace.

    These self-managed organizations have no power struggles because the power reserved for top players in 'Achievement organizations' has been entirely devolved. Everything from purchasing decisions to pay, hiring, training, firing, performance assessments, and more have been handed over to its members. No-one and everyone hold the power in self-managed organizations. Paradoxically, the organization becomes more powerful and more agile than could ever been previously possible.

    Making assumptions


    Most organizations today base their structure, rules, and policies on a set of assumptions. Sometimes overt and at other times inferred by how these organizations are run; workers are assumed to be lazy, only interested in remuneration, self-interested above all else, and incapable of making the right decisions.

    These assumptions are in line with Douglas McGregor's 'Theory X' of management and place employees in the role of reluctant servants. Their ideas, aspirations, and personal purpose have little value in such a structure. Their worth comes only from what they can produce.

    Self-managed organizations dance to a different tune. Their systems and processes are based on a drastically different set of beliefs. There are no unimportant people, and no-one holds controlling power.

    Colleagues are assumed to be essentially good (unless proven otherwise); they enjoy being accountable and responsible for their decisions and actions; they are motivated by more than extrinsic rewards. They are eager to use their talents and skills to make a positive contribution to their lives and the organizations they work for. Based on this set of assumptions, organizations create new processes and ways of working that enhance a business' viability aligned with its purpose and the people who work within it.

    The rules of self-managed business


    Most self-managed organizations rely on a structure of multiple, small teams. Depending on the nature of the business, these teams range in size from 12 people to 50. Team leaders are advised to delegate tasks wisely, avoid over-reliance on any team member, and avoid reverting to traditional hierarchical behaviors: regular meetings and coaching help keep teams up to date with their work and track. The team members themselves agree on everything from annual targets to the rules of work.

    In hierarchical organizations, decisions are often made by just a few people. The CEOs and the executive team are expected to understand any given issue's intricacies and make all-knowing, wise decisions.

    In some organizations, consensus is the central process for decision making. With this process, reaching agreement throughout the tiers of management can take weeks, if not months. These delays can cause new market opportunities to be lost.

    Self-organized teams side-step both processes elegantly with the advice process. Any individual within an organization can make decisions – big or small. There is just one stipulation – decisions cannot be acted upon until all parties affected by it have been consulted along with experts on the topics related to the decision. Once this has been achieved, decisions are made, accepted, and the organization's direction, priorities, or processes can change. Actions can be performed at any organizational level, for any topic, and be instigated by any individual, regardless of their role and responsibilities.

    Along with the advice process for decisions, other foundational techniques for conflict resolution, information sharing (everyone has access to everything), and feedback, support self-managed organizations to remain stable while adapting to the market's demands and pursuing new opportunities

    As colleagues in a self-managed organization come to terms with the freedom and voice they have been granted, respect, responsibility, and intrinsic motivation blossom amongst the workforce. Comradery grows, and people begin to pull together without their egos getting in the way of progress. Individuals are asked to abandon roles of 'Rescuer,' 'Persecutor,' or 'Victim' and instead adopt the role of 'Challenger,' 'Coach,' or 'Creator' – in many teams. Colleagues take on all three in varying degrees.

    As unlikely as it may seem, self-managed organizations are not just possible; they're already in existence around us. In many cases, companies with this organizational structure have risen to be leaders in their fields. A simple look at Patagonia, Morning Star, or Sun Hydraulics shows this to be true.

    While many business specialists talk of flattened organizational structures and increasing engagement through management-led initiatives concerned with culture, these few self-managed organizations have been approaching the many problems with the current ways of working from an entirely different worldview perspective.

    Laloux's book provides an eye-opening exposé into a revolutionary way of running an organization based on wholeness, trust, and the building of relationships. These organizations support individual development and come together with honesty, trust, and confidence to make great things happen.

  • 27 Oct 2020 10:07 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Shepherd and Phaup's book begins with a look at our technology-driven future and invites readers to recognize the challenges of change, glimpse new possibilities, and start planning for what's ahead.

    If ever there was a time to evolve and grow into a new tomorrow, it is now. The World Economic Forum has described the 4th Industrial Revolution as a new chapter in human development. The turning of history's pages is set to accelerate, driven by the stream of technological advances we have witnessed in recent decades. These changes can be likened to the dramatic shifts societies experienced in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Industrial Revolutions. Today's advances are merging the physical, digital, and biological worlds to create enormous opportunities alongside daunting challenges. Standing still against this tide of change is not an option for ambitious business leaders.

    The authors lean on the wisdom of researchers, thinkers, and practitioners across a broad range of disciplines from management theory and psychology to decision making and motivational techniques.  They map a framework, supported with resources, thoughtful questions, and easy-to-understand charts, that leaders can use to plan their way into the future with confidence and clarity.

    From little things, big things grow


    The changes to the world and workplaces will affect people, businesses, and societies at all levels. We will need to adapt and prepare for the new job roles of the future. That will demand that we cultivate creativity and flexibility, strengthening our ability to engage, cooperate, and collaborate while attaining new technical skills.

    As machines and computers take over repetitive, mundane, and dangerous tasks, new tasks will emerge. These tasks will call on us to develop and use essential human skills and qualities such as creativity, communication, and empathy. People will need higher levels of interpersonal skills to work with each other in the same or dispersed locations. We will need to understand the new technologies that power our workplaces. Employers and employees alike will prize adaptability, creativity, and emotional intelligence.

    The book names ten essential skills for adapting to this new work environment: complex problem solving; critical thinking; creativity; people management; coordinating with others; social, conversational, and emotional intelligence; decision-making; service orientation; negotiation; and cognitive flexibility. A short, dynamic work cycle of learn/ change/repeat – will replace traditional, long-term working careers. The days of earning credentials that will see us through from entering the workforce to retirement are behind us.

    It's not just employees who will need to adapt to the new cycle of work-life and the skills. Organizations will also play a role in mapping career paths, identifying critical skill sets, and communicating the behaviors needed to achieve that vision.

    Preparing for change


    Whether change is thrust upon an organization or chosen boldly by visionary leaders, the first step is to develop a crystal-clear vision. Transformation is easier said than done. But the authors provide pertinent and insightful questions to help leaders articulate their vision and bring stakeholders with them.

    As with any change, not everyone will be thrilled with their organization’s new direction and goals. By explaining the types of resistance and offering tips for addressing them, this book will help leaders and managers move through inertia, gain momentum, and reach their goals.


    At the heart of this book is the Talent Transformation Pyramid, a framework for executing change that any organization can adapt to its needs. The Pyramid provides a complete model for improving individual and team performance by building on technical skills, creativity, flexibility, and emotional intelligence. This model highlights twelve critical factors for enabling employees, teams, and the entire organization within an easy-to-understand framework for predicting performance. It also addresses environmental factors that impact performance, and it neatly incorporates technical competencies, tools, information, policies, and culture. The model illustrates how factors support each other and help you understand the puzzles of competence, performance, and working in teams.

    Assessing the road ahead


    Talent Transformation asserts that assessments will play a larger role in recruitment, onboarding, learning, credentialing, and certification. Multiple studies have already shown that valid and reliable tests are better predictors of organizational fit, job fit, and job performance than interviews. The range of assessments is likely to grow with the increased adoption of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

    Although assessments and the measurements that come from them will never be perfect, perfection is not the goal. Assessments and measures need only to deliver the information required by the recruiter to make sound decisions.

    Assessments are not only for recruitment. They can also help to identify appropriate career paths for individuals, evaluate team dynamics, and enhance compatibility across team roles. They can be a powerful aid to give us a deeper personal understanding of our personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.

    It’s clear that employees are increasingly working remotely and distributed teams are becoming more commonplace. It is therefore important to note that dispersed teams need more support than those onsite, if we are to forge robust connections and stay engaged. Assessments can help this support and increase the engagement of distributed teams and remote employees.

    Assessments are also vital throughout a team's lifecycle and to an organization's growth. Through forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning, each stage of a team's lifecycle provides an opportunity for greater connection, creativity, and communication. Assessment results are a fast and straightforward way for individuals to understand themselves, others, and their team's dynamics

    In summary

    Improving individual and team performance helps leaders build organizations that are greater than the sum of their parts.

    Improving an organization’s outcomes calls for setting SMART goals, selecting the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and regularly monitoring progress. These efforts help organizations succeed as they move away from rigid, vertical hierarchical structures toward horizontal models that support agile ways of working, information sharing, and collaboration between functions.

    The world of work is changing. Customers are also changing, moving toward hiring services over owning goods, seeking personalized experiences, and using innovative marketplaces that put buyers in direct contact with creators and sellers. Customers increasingly expect businesses to embrace social responsibility.

    Tomorrow's world of work will demand new skills and require greater agility, responsibility, and vision from leaders. Talent Transformation provides a clear framework and practical pointers to help you begin your journey into the future today.

  • 22 Sep 2020 10:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This fascinating book offers new insights into our common biases, how we ignore pertinent information, without even realizing it, where overconfidence comes from, and how to overcome flawed intuitive assumptions.

    Throughout the 400 or so pages of Thinking fast and slow, Daniel Kahneman shows us how much more goes on behind our eyes than we realize. We also learn strategies to avoid making big mistakes in both our work and personal lives. The lessons taught in his book will significantly affect how you think and lead you to question more and intuit with more accuracy. Based on over four decades of study and research into biases, the psychology of judgment, decision-making, and behavioral economics, Kahneman sheds light on how we come to conclusions throughout our life and what prompts the intuitions we use for decision making. He reveals that we need first to understand our minds' workings to make better decisions and understand the impact of our biases. In doing so, decision-makers will be able to make better choices as we, their critics, will judge them more fairly on how they come to these conclusions rather than just the outcomes of them.

    Two inter-dependent personalities in a single mind

    At the beginning of his book, Kahneman introduces two aspects of our minds – System 1 and System 2 – and invites us to think of these as different personalities embodied within us. Neither system is embodied in a particular area of the brain. Each system functions using a variety of locations throughout our grey matter.

    System 1 is our automatic, fast, and unconscious thought. It cannot be turned off; it does not need a conscious direction to function. System 1 creates our impressions, intuitions, and supplies System 2 with information to aid its conscious decisions. The instigator of biases, System 1 is also responsible for several functions that get us safely through our day.

    Detecting one object is further away than another, orienting us to the source of sounds, completing simple, common phrases, automatic expressions of disgust at horrible images, detecting hostility in voices, answers to simple equations, reading words on a large billboard, and recognizing stereotypical resemblances are all functions attributed to System 1.

    System 2 is how we think of as 'me.' To function, it requires our attention, and it is disrupted when our focus is drawn elsewhere. While System 2 can discern information and figure out answers to difficult questions, it's often lazy and defers to System 1 if it can.

    Examples of System 2's work include bracing for a starter's gun in a race, focusing on a singular voice in a crowded room, looking for a specific person in a crowded space, and monitoring behavior in social situations. System 2 completes tax forms, checks the validity of complex arguments, and can also change System 1 works by programming ordinarily automatic functions of attention and memory.

    Intensely focusing activates System 2 and can effectively make us temporarily blind or deaf to stimuli that would typically attract our attention. An excellent, amusing experiment – the Invisible Gorilla Movie – was able to prove this. A short clip of people dressed in two different colors passed a ball between them. Viewers were asked to count how many times people wearing a particular color received or passed the ball. Participants who managed the task completely missed seeing the person dressed in a gorilla suit walk into the shot, beat their chest several times, and exit the scene.

    System 2 doesn't manage multiple distinct choices or inputs at once very well. However, it can hold conflicting ideas and information in focus simultaneously, and it enables us to follow rules.

    While System 1 might be imperfect for making decisions and influencing behavior – particularly for suiting social situations, we couldn't do without it. System 1 is as necessary as System 2 we think of as being who we are.

    Finding a happy balance


    Rely too much on System 1, and you are more likely to make mistakes. Ask too much of System 2, and you may have to stop everything else you are doing to allow it to function. In cases of effortful forms of thinking – using System 2 but putting time pressure on it for an answer – energy from other functions may be redirected to System 2, leaving you without the energy to see or hear someone speaking to you.

    Both self-control and deliberate thought seem to draw on the same limited budget of effort and energy. What's more, System 1 has more influence over behavior when System 2 is busy, and it has a sweet tooth, too, demanding glucose to keep System 2 working. Intuition is also generated by System 1.

    Fortunately, cognitive thought is not always arduous. Without exerting willpower, people can spend long periods expending considerable effort. It's known as a flow state and was studied and identified by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly.

    Another feature of exerting effort is the building of skill. As skill is developed, less energy is needed, and new skills are added, at least in part, to System 1's repertoire. Our lazy System 2 is more than happy to delegate to System 1, where it can.

    There is a link between cognitive control and intelligence: training attention improves our executive control. Non-verbal tests of intelligence also improve. System 1 is impulsive and intuitive. System 2 is capable of reasoning, cautious, and for some people, lazy.

    Finding a balance between System 1's work and the deployment of System 2 is one of the keys to thinking and reasoning well. Recognizing when we need to defer System 1's judgments and assumptions can help us make better decisions by slowing down a little and employing System 2.

    Activating System 2

    We are more likely to learn something by finding surprises in our behavior than hearing surprising facts about people in general. Our own experience teaches us best and understanding how our minds work using the System 1/System 2 idea, we can become more conscious of our behavior. Knowing that we like to make causal stories to explain events, people, and actions we see, a System 1 process won't stop us from doing it. But it can help us pause and think again using the more remarkable abilities of System 2. Understanding that many of our biases are generated by System 1 won't stop us from making them. Many of them are helpful in daily life – people who act friendly often are. People who are shouting are likely to be angry and thus worth avoiding.

    Understanding our different thought processes, how they are generated, and where they are likely to come from, at least allows us to spot them, pause and choose a different course of thought and action.

    The attentive System 2 is who we think we are. In reality, we are both, in many cases, more System 1 than 2. Our thoughts and behaviors are often guided by System 1, and generally, this works well. When we use attention and practice to develop skill, we add another arrow to System 1's quiver. The intuitive judgments and lightening choices that come to mind will mostly be accurate thanks to the adaptability and growth of System 1.

    That said, System 1 is still prone to some outstanding errors of judgment and assumptions. These massive mistakes are often to do with not recognizing that information is incomplete, of low quality, or even that we are answering a more straightforward associated question than the one posed. The only way to avoid these errors is to understand that navigating through life can be a cognitive minefield. Slowing down and pushing System 2 to action is the only way we can hope to dodge the innate errors System 1.

    The very nature of the slow-moving establishments and policy-making organizations makes them better at decision-making than individuals. They naturally think more slowly, with more heads and energy resources than a single person. They have the power and facilities to implement checklists and orderly procedures. If we can learn to slow our thinking and recognize when System 1 may not be up to the task, not only will we enhance our own lives and decisions, the businesses we work within will also become more robust.

  • 8 Sep 2020 8:20 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Rather than choosing to believe the unbelievable accounts of talent come from nowhere, Coyle traveled the world to explore what's behind the skills that have appeared over the past decades. He details his journey and the research behind it, so we can understand what underlies these seemingly unconnected expressions of mastery. Backing up the enticing subheading 'Greatness isn't born, it's grown' for The Talent Code, Coyle provides many examples of how exceptional talent is grown, an engaging explanation of what talent is and an easily replicable framework for building a unique skill sets.

    Beginning with a definition for talent – the possession of repeatable skills that are not reliant on physical size – Coyle goes on to delve into the physiology behind skill-building. We find that skill relies on myelin - a substance made up of proteins and fats that coat specific neural pathways. In doing so, the white matter improves the firing of our synapses. He argues that this underrated matter is the basis of skill, a standpoint that is supported by years of neurological research. By focusing our efforts, we can grow myelin in specific areas of our brains and improve our skills. Throughout, he illustrates the many concepts with easily understandable vignettes, true stories, and discussions with experts in the areas of motivation and myelin. Take-aways from this book can be easily applied to many aspects of our lives, not least our workplaces.

    Forging Talent


    Thanks to our genes and the biological processes they engender, each of us can develop nearly any skill. By firing our neurological circuitry repeatedly, we prompt our bodies to respond by optimizing these pathways, ensuring the electrical impulses that are fed along our nerve cells aren't lost or misdirected.

    However, merely firing a circuit doesn't always result in improved skill. To gain mastery, we need to refine the circuitry associated with the skills we wish to develop. This is when 'deep practice,' as Coyle calls it, comes into play. Rather than randomly firing our brain's circuitry, we need to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone and find our sweet spot of difficulty. This is most often at the edge of our ability, where we reach and make mistakes. It's the mistakes and the process of correcting them and trying again that makes us smarter, faster, and more insightful.

    Coyle likens the process of laying broadband cabling within to produce faster and more accurate signals throughout our brain and body. These simple to understand concepts are just one example of how the author illustrates difficult to visualize processes and simplifies them so we can understand and apply the practices in our own lives.


    The best way to build robust skill circuits is to fire them, attend to any mistakes made, and then fire the same circuit again. In real-life terms, that's attempting an action – playing the part of a song, swinging your bat, or writing a paragraph - stopping when you notice a mistake, correcting your course and playing, swinging, or writing again.

    The process is not a simple one and requires enormous amounts of energy, focus, and time. To build new skills, we must be motivated and passionate about the learning process. We must be hungry for the skill, attentive to mistakes, and single-mindedly focused on its development. Without the passion and persistence to push at the edges of our ability, we would never have the tenacity required to reach mastery. Anders Ericsson, Herbert Simon, and William Chase quantified the effort needed to gain mastery of any skill as a decade of deep practice or 10,000 hours of focused repetition of the skill we were aiming to attain.

    Once we are on the path to mastery, the new skills we once worked so hard to attain, begin to feel natural, as though we always possessed the ability. Such is the nature of well-developed talent.

    Prompting a passion for learning


    If the deep practice is the conscious and continual reaching for more, the drive needed to persist along the path to skill attainment could be likened to a flash of inspiration. The author calls this 'ignition' or the primal urge to become the future self we see when viewing the great skill of another.

    These motivational signals come in countless ways – such as the loss of a parent, watching someone just like you achieve unimaginable feats of prowess, or simply trying to keep up with others. These can be categorized as drivers to meet more basic needs – the need to belong, the urge for safety, or our craving for connection. These simple motivational signals can prompt us to unleash the energy needed to reach our goal, at a primal level, to belong, guard against scarcity, and create safety in our lives.

    But a single moment of ignition may not be enough to sustain the level of energy output needed to reach a master level of skill. Clear messages that let us know what is valued need to be repeated and reach us on a personal, fundamental level. This is so we can keep firing the skill circuits over a long enough period to enable the myelination of our nerve cells to the point where skill appears to become an innate talent.

    It isn't easy to create these prompts of our own. This is where the value of a great coach, mentor, or teacher cannot be overstated.

    The final piece of the puzzle


    If talent is a well-practiced skill, and our drive to learn is a primal cue we cannot ignore, then great coaches and mentors are the ringmasters who muster our urges and direct them to enable us to become better.

    Great coaches understand the work required to master a skill and have the ability to push us in the right direction toward attainment. They encourage and demand the deep practice, coaching us to try, fail, refine, and try again, never ceasing to push us forward over more hurdles.

    A common way great coaches work is to demonstrate a complete skill, break it down into the component parts, and have students practice using logical progressions and repeating cycles. Throughout the process, the coach will watch avidly, fine-tuning the practice with targeted comments that encourage, correct, and urge the student to reach further in the right direction for them to develop the brain's circuitry.

    Often, coaches' messages will affirm the value of effort, the importance of slow progress, and stir their students to try harder for longer to build healthy neural connections that support their blossoming talents. They understand that praise must be earned to motivate. What's more, they understand that each student needs a different set of motivators to keep them on the right path to develop their talent. There is no one size fits all when it comes to developing skills.

    Great coaches do what individuals are unable to do themselves; they continue to ignite the passion needed to persist. They provide the right drives that keep their students working past their milestone breakthroughs.

    Daniel Coyle's Talent Code gives us an excellent map for anyone who wishes to develop and preserve talent in themselves or others.  He shows us the importance of directed and sustained practice for the growth of myelin and the essential circuitry. More than that, he explains the importance of pushing ourselves, seeking new challenges, and preserving the carefully myelinated pathways of our brains and how we can all do this with great success if we are prepared to put in the extended effort required.

  • 18 Aug 2020 12:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In his seventh book of 15, Daniel Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, provides an engaging exploration of our minds, coupled with tools to integrate the multiple regions of our brains and senses for increased wellbeing.

    Mindsight reveals that by understanding our minds better, we become more able to connect with others and unleash the intuition, inventiveness, authenticity, and compassion that our lives and future workplaces will demand. As some tasks of future workplaces become automated or relegated to computerized systems and robots, our humanity and ability to connect will be increasingly important for businesses to succeed and grow. By tapping into our innate ability to integrate a range of states, ideas, and feelings, we are better placed to access these valuable traits and talents. Siegel shows us the benefits of a deeper and more connected sense of self, but Siegel also provides practical exercises to achieve this in our own lives.

    The book provides a text that teaches while entertaining, engages, and primes us for a better understanding of ourselves, our relationships, and others. It’s illustrated with easy to understand explanations of our brain's physiology, vignettes of patient histories and their paths toward personal transformation, and exciting discoveries and inferences about how our minds function.


    The power of knowing ourselves

    Siegel describes mindsight as the ability to gain perception and knowledge from our minds, relationships, and the brain's mediating neural mechanisms. This ability removes the superficial boundaries that separate us. It allows us to see that we are part of a broader, interconnected whole – both internally and externally. Without this ability, we become inflexible, hostile, and lack a moral compass. This has a negative impact on us and can also adversely impact public policy, business relationships, and culture.

    The author asserts people can become objects, rather than subjects worthy of respect and understanding when we lack mindsight. We are more likely to act from unconscious biases, favor people we believe to be like us, and treat those who aren't with disdain, disregard, and less compassion. Indeed, our very humanity is at risk without mindsight in today's connected world,

    Wellbeing and happiness come from knowing ourselves and defining who we are as part of a larger, connected whole. A clear mindsight lens enables this to take place. Mindsight teaches us to remain curious, open and accepting of the thoughts and feelings that arise in us. It teaches us to observe and label our states of being and conduct constructive internal dialogue and even negotiations, so we become more able to monitor and navigate our inner world. In doing so, we are also able to modify our thoughts and behaviors. This moves us toward a state of serenity and clarity. It promotes wisdom and gives us the courage to behave with integrity while leaning into our vulnerabilities.

    A firm base for understanding

    At the beginning of the book, Siegel introduces us to the physiology and functions of our brains. We are equipped with an appreciation of what our brain does for us and how these tasks are done. From here, the reader moves on to explore the nine functions of the prefrontal cortex. That is, bodily regulation, attuned communication, emotional balance, response flexibility, fear modulation, empathy, insight, moral awareness, and intuition. The stable base for improving our mindsight is one of openness, observation, and objectivity. From this firm foundation, we can explore our minds clearly and confidently while embracing all that it means to be human within ourselves and others.

    Siegel explains how our brains' firing lays the pathways for our thought patterns and responses to the full range of stimuli we encounter daily. He illustrates how the brain-body connection is a part of this flow of information and energy while explaining why the integration of our different parts is essential for understanding and regulating the flow of this energy and information.

    We're shown through multiple patient stories that by becoming open to our body's feelings and states and the relationships woven into the fabric of our inner world, we open the gateways for clear mindsight. In doing so, we can achieve clarity about who we are and how we wish to shape our lives.


    Where focus goes, energy flows

    One of Siegel's book's most exciting revelations is the use of focused attention and how we can consciously shape our minds and lives. Likening our attention to a scalpel, he explains how we can channel our cognitive resources to directly activate neural firing and associated areas of the brain. As Siegel says – "what fires together, wires together." With mindful focus, we can direct the continued development of our brains.

    Simple mindfulness exercises – focusing on the breath, body scanning, insight, and walking meditations, and journaling and aerobic exercise are our natural tools for directing the expansion of our minds. These tools enable us to target particular areas of our brains, strengthen existing neural pathways, and even create new ones.

    Exercising attention is similar to developing a muscle. Monitoring our awareness and directing our intention is at the core of all mindfulness practices, from yoga to insight meditation. This ability to monitor our thoughts and feelings takes us on a path to a brain signature of resilience. It allows us to have an open and curious approach state to challenging situations, so we can move towards and through them with the confidence and calm needed to learn from each experience.


    A picture of our brain and body

    Our body is an extension of our brain, connected with neural extensions that are developed in the womb. Information, from our body, is transmitted via these pathways up through the brain stem, through the limbic system, and to the prefrontal cortex areas. This is where we can make sense of them. When we ignore or dismiss information from our bodies – gut feelings, heartfelt emotions – we are cutting vital information from our brains. Being aware of the states of our body is an essential part of full mindsight development. We are reminded of our inability to block bad feelings while keeping the good. We need to be aware of subcortical energy to have the full packet of information needed for informed thinking.

    Our lives can seem empty of meaning if we miss the information, energy, and engagement that come from this body/mind vertical integration. Each of us has a single-window or tolerance; when the experience happens that fit inside this window, we are at ease and able to comfortably feel the emotions, feelings, and bodily sensations evoked by them. We remain receptive and open to the experience. But when day to day experiences fall outside this window, we are inclined towards reactivity and automatic responses – falling apart, blowing up, or becoming unreasonably defensive. As we develop mindsight and appreciate our inner and outer states of being, our windows of tolerance expand. We can then experience the fullness of our lives and those around us with more acceptance and clarity.

    Mindsight shows us that mind, body, and temporal integration is not a luxury. It is integral to our work of caring and connecting with others. With developed mindsight, we can choose to advance the nature of our minds, lives, wellbeing, and relationships with others. This is undoubtedly a benefit for each of us now as well as for future generations in all aspects of our human existence.

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