A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future

by Mark Quirk 11. March 2009 22:27

A Whole New Mind I can see it now – mathematicians, accountants, engineers and doctors all sitting around at lunch time in their new careers as petrol pump attendants and hamburger flippers while the artists, designers and outrageously dressed run the corporate world.

Well, perhaps that’s not quite what Daniel Pink was getting at with this book.  In fact the first part of the title does say what he’s getting at and the second part, well that’s the section of the title that makes you buy it.

The book itself is also in two parts – the current problematic situation entitled ‘The Conceptual Age’ and the solution called ‘The Six Senses’.

The current problematic situation…

… is down to three things: abundance, Asia & automation.

Abundance: in the western world we are short of very few things.  In fact for the most part we have an opulent abundance of ‘things’ whether it’s cars, computer mice, orange juice or toilet brushes – the range and choice of options is often staggering.  There is no doubt that we can do mass production.

And in a world of abundance, where you can get a thousand different chairs that all function perfectly well holding you off the floor, a great way to compete, is through design.  Imagine a designer toilet brush!  Oh yes, absolutely – why else would you pay £22 for a 10 pence cents of plastic?

Asia: in countries like India and China, there are millions of people with access to education and skills that match that of the west.  If you pair that with a lower cost of living you can see why outsourcing and off shoring to Asia is a growing trend.  If the skills exist and they are cheaper to obtain, then why not?  OK, I’ve simplified it somewhat but that’s the essence of the Asia part of the argument.

Automation: finally, computers are not sitting on their Loral's, or their chips.  They just keep getting faster and software gets more sophisticated – if your job could be done by a computer, watch out… you may have noticed that they’re happy to work 24 hours a day for very little pay… your job could be automated.

Daniel’s summary about whether your role is safe is in the form of three questions:

  1. Can someone overseas do it more cheaply?
  2. Can a computer do it faster?
  3. Are you offering something that satisfies the non-material desires of an abundant age?

Before tackling the solution consider this.

We’ve come from the the industrial age of factories and efficiency where the individuals were characterised by their physical strength & personal fortitude into the knowledge worker age.  Where we have achieved our current state through our proficiency in L-directed thinking – that is left brain directed thinking.  And now, we’re entering the conceptual age where the individual starts are creators and empathizers with a mastery of R-directed (right brain) thinking able recognise patterns and  create meaning for our fellow humans.

So, what are the aptitudes of this conceptual age?

The Solution…

… is down to six high concept (rather than low level detail), high touch (close to human) senses, where we all need proficiency:

  1. Design – not just function
  2. Story – not just logical argument
  3. Symphony – not just focus.  The ability to see the bigger picture and put disparate things together to form new solutions and products.
  4. Empathy – not just logic
  5. Play – not just seriousness
  6. Meaning – not just material accumulation

Each of these areas has it’s own chapter which includes a handy and extensive ‘how do I improve my ability’ section.  For example, for symphony one of Daniel’s suggestions is to learn to draw - and he recommends a book and course by Betty Edwards called “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” (I’ve already ordered my copy).  And under meaning one of the suggestions is to read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” (which is an absolute must-read; I delayed reading it for a few years thinking it would be too morbid – the context is Frankl’s experience in the Auschwitz concentration camp – I wish I hadn’t delayed).

On one or two occasions I thought that Daniel had included too many examples (if I’d been reading the book, rather than listening to the audio I would probably have skipped a few pages) – but even if you don’t read all of the detail in every section, I have no hesitation in highly recommending it – particularly, if like me, you’ve trained yourself well in l-directed thinking!

Format: Book 248 pages, Audio 6hrs 15mins and DVD 55 mins
Author: Daniel H. Pink

Enjoy!
-Mark

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Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

by Mark Quirk 24. February 2009 21:27

TribesSeth Godin’s latest book Tribes follows his successful formula of being short and like many good books, based around a set of stories.

The key points of the book, as indicated by the title, are tribes and leadership.  But, leadership delivered very differently from say Stephen Covey in The 8th Habit.  Seth’s perspective of leadership is the leader as a heretic – which fits with his Big Moo (be/represent something remarkable) approach.

A heretic here is someone with unconventional beliefs, someone who has an opinion that doesn’t confirm to the status quo.  If you add to that passion for their heretical view, you have the core makings of a leader.

The reason that passionate heretics should lead is that they are a force for change and their very heresy is a reason they will be listened to – or at least listened to by a key set of people who like their particular flavour of heresy.  And if the passionate heretic leads those people who want to listen, they become a tribe… and even a small tribe of say a thousand people can create change; and change is what makes the world go around.

In fact, Seth’s view is that stability is an illusion and that the ‘fad focused early adaptors’ are the people that buy and the people that talk.  The fad focused early adaptors inspired by the heretic become partisans – passionate tribe members supporting the shared purpose of the tribe.

So the two key elements of a tribe are a shared purpose and a way to communicate.

It’s important that the communication happens not only from the centre or leader to the tribe, but from tribe members to tribe members.  It’s this element that really differentiates this new style of marketing.  Even in the current digital marketing world with permission email marketing and pay-per-click, the centre is the source of the communication.  Whereas a tribe of partisans communicating with each other will create a much stronger bond and so momentum for the cause.

The ‘cause’? – what happened to ‘product’?  I think the point here is that if the passion comes first, passion for a new way, a new style of product, a new ‘thing’, the product sales will follow.  And one way to describe that, is as a cause or a movement.

This passion/cause/movement first approach is also what defines a great leader - along with authenticity, able to create a culture, inclusive, curious, committed, able to communicate their vision and connect their followers to each other.  Oh, and that inclusiveness is at the expense of those that are excluded.  Excluded because they don’t get it, or don’t revolve in the right circles or… whatever.  Include passionate partisans and exclude everyone else.

Seth clearly points out that being a leader isn’t the same as being a manager; far from it.  A good leader can come from anywhere in an organisation – in The 8th Habit Stephen Covey uses the term ‘trim-tabbing’ to describe leaders in a company who lead from outside the management chain (the trim-tab is a small ‘rudder’ on the end of the big rudder that turns an entire ship – also check out the Buckminster Fuller description on Trim-Tab).

A leader could be an individual with no connection to an existing organisation at all. Gandhi is commonly sited as a model for leadership.  He had no given authority, no business or firm to back him up.  Yet, his leadership lead to India’s independence.

There’s much more to Tribes.  I really enjoyed it and as usual with a Godin, it’s the snap that brings into focus a concept or in this case a trend that is happening right in front of you, but just outside of conscious awareness.

It’s also a call, as is apparent by the title, to would-be leaders, to start leading.

Format: Book 147 pages, Audio 3hrs 42 mins
Author: Seth Godin

Enjoy!
-Mark

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The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness

by Mark Quirk 7. February 2009 17:09

The 8th HabitWhen terms coined by a writer or a company enter our every day language, you know they’ve had an impact.  The cover of my copy of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People say’s that it’s sold over 10 million copies (and it’s still ranked 99 on Amazon’s best sellers list, despite being first published in 1989) so you might not be surprised that phrases like ‘sharpen the saw,’ and ‘think win / win’ were made popular from this Dr Stephen R. Covey’s classic.

So, what’s so important about the The 8th Habit that it has a book all to itself (and an extra 10 pages ignoring the appendices, and 38 pages more with)?  Dr Covey’s concise description is that The 7 Habits lead to great effectiveness; and in today’s world that’s not enough so the 8th Habit builds on the previous seven and leads to greatness.  Which is even move concise in the books title!

One unique element is that it’s accompanied by 15 videos.  You can watch these online or order a DVD and pay the postage (which is $35 for the UK and $7.95 for the USA at the time of writing).  Although the book still works without them, I thought the videos made an interesting compliment.

There are two parts to the book – Find Your Voice and Help Others to Find Thiers.  Which might be broadly summarised as learn to lead yourself - more focused on you as an individual (like the ‘private victory’ of The 7 Habits), and then lead others - more focused on business (the like ‘public victory’ of The 7 Habits).

Then there are four core themes that pervade both parts and I’ve tried to condense Dr. Covey description to give you the essence of if for self leadership:

  • Mind
    • Assume that the half life of your profession is two years – now prepare accordingly.  What is your vision of the future? 
  • Spirit
    • Assume you had a direct relationship with your maker – now live accordingly.  Use your conscience.
  • Body
    • Assume that you had had a heart attack, now treat your body accordingly.  Have discipline.
  • Heart
    • Assume that everything you say about another can be overheard – now speak accordingly.  Live with passion.

This really does only give you a flavour.  Like many good books it’s full of stories and fitting with Dr Covey’s data orientation there’s plenty of charts, tables and research.

There are parts of the book that I found a little difficult to keep my concentration, but overall it’s worth it.  If the super summary "Live, Love, Learn & Leave a Legacy" sounds good and you want to be a leader, this is one of the books you really should read.

Format: Book 382 pages, Audio 14hrs 24 mins, Short video 48mins and Workbook
Author: Dr. Stephen R. Covey

-Mark

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Outliers: The Story of Success

by Mark Quirk 23. January 2009 08:19
outliers

I've often felt somewhat disadvantaged. You see, I had a good upbringing in a loving family, with hard working parents. And, following in the footsteps of my older brother decided to go to University where I gained a great degree in computer science.

If you listen to enough talks and read enough books on success a theme quickly emerges – people that have great success did it in reaction to misfortune.  Terrible poverty, dysfunctional parents, illness, bankruptcy and so on feature in the stories of many.  And, let’s face it those rags to riches stories often make good listening.

Not having had any of those or any other major challenges I began to feel that I shouldn’t be succeeding and clearly could only go ‘so’ far encumbered by my privilege.

In Outliers – The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell tells it differently.  Firstly an outlier in science is something that doesn’t fit the typical bell-curve.  In the context of successful people it’s those who achieve extreme success – create the most successful companies, make the most remarkable breakthrough, are awarded Nobel prizes, become the best sports stars and so on.  Outliers argues that these people all had advantages.

It’s true that some of the advantages may be seen as negative ones.  But, just as often they are advantages of timing, events, place, birth date, culture, socio/economic class coupled with the wherewithal and hard-work ethic to use the advantage.

If this doesn’t sound terribly profound, consider that being born in December would scupper your chances to become a world-class hockey player and being born in August could make it much harder to become a British football star – irrespective of your talent.

A couple of months ago I watched a TV documentary on the BBC called “The Making of Me” about Vanessa Mae the child prodigy violinist who entered the music scene with a bang at the age of 10.  It asked the question of her incredible talent was it ‘nature or nurture’.  One of the researchers had studied many musical superstars and found that each of them had 10,000 hours of practice before ‘making it’.

Gladwell sites 10,000 as the magic number of hours to create an expert.  Bill Gates and Bill Joy managed to get 10,000 hours of computer programming in before most people even knew what a computer was – fundamentally down to when and where they were born.

Both of Gladwell’s previous books Blink and Tipping Point are brilliant – combining research, great stories and something different from the common knowledge.  Outliers is even better.  It doesn’t provide a list of actions but it is brilliantly written, brings a new perspective and helps you see things just a little differently.

Format: Audio book, 7 hrs 17 minsand Book, 300 pages
Author: Malcolm Gladwell

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How to Stay Motivated – Developing the Qualities of Success

by Mark Quirk 6. January 2009 20:11

There is no doubt that Zig Ziglar is a master motivator.  Proven to me yet again by listening to How to Stay Motivated – Developing the Qualities of Success

Recorded over six live sessions and packaged as a program this is part of a three volume ‘How to Stay Motivated’ set; the other two are ‘- Changing the Picture’ and ‘- The Goals Progam’.

The six sessions in this package are:

  1. Planning, preparing and expecting to win
  2. Taking the first step to a brighter future
  3. Motivation, the Key to Accomplishment
  4. Identifying the qualities of success
  5. Developing the qualities of success
  6. Maintaining a winning attitude

I’ve heard most of the concepts before from other programs and books, include two of Zig’s titles and I’m still pleased that I bought this one.  Zig is a master of communication, an entertainer with a message.

Format: Audio program, recorded with a live audience, 7 hours 48 minutes
Author: Zig Ziglar

-Mark

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Audio

The Memory Cure

by Mark Quirk 25. November 2008 20:03

The Memory CureHow do we keep our brain healthy? Healthy so that it’s bright and agile when we’re young and so it continues to serve us well in to our old age?

You can pick something up off the floor because you unconsciously you remember how to co-ordinate your limbs; when you phone a friend you remember their phone number, name and the history of experiences that are your relationship.

Memory is the basis of conscious life and dulling it or even losing it to dementia or Alzheimer’s in old age is crippling

Majid Fotuhi M.D. Ph.D. book does two things – it educates you about what actually causes memory loss and more serious issues like dementia and, the bit that everyone should read, ten steps to keep your brain healthy.

The biggest risk factor for memory issues is age... that is the older we get the higher our risk. There is however a big difference between age related memory impairment which is a normal part of aging, and of something more serious. So, Majid spends the first third of the book explaining the differences and the specific medical issues that can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s (the latter is one possible cause dementia).

Now, Majid is not just a keen hobbyist with this memory cure thing. Straight from his biography:

Majid Fotuhi obtained his MD from Harvard Medical School and his PhD in neurosciences at Johns Hopkins. He completed his residency training in neurology at Hopkins and then joined Sinai hospital's neurology team in 2003. He currently heads the Center for Memory and Brain Health at LifeBridge Health Brain & Spine Institute. He is also an assistant professor of neurology at Hopkins and teaches at the Harvard-MIT program in Boston.

He has spent his professional career studying the brain and working with patients with memory problems and disease. So the ten recommendations for a healthy brain that he includes in the book are really worth noting.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the things we would do ‘stay healthy’ and care for our heart are also good for your brain. Things like a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, a little wine, exercise, and if you have them dealing with issues like high blood pressure, cholesterol and one I hadn’t heard of high homocysteine, are key.

A little more surprising was the suggestion to get regular eye & hearing checks and keep the prescriptions up to date. The theory is straight forward, you can only remember the things that your senses, sense! If you can’t see or hear well, you won’t remember the things you don’t see or hear!

My favourite was that the old adage for your physical body- ‘use it or lose it’, works for your brain too. Exercise your memory through socialising, doing puzzles and quizzes and generally making an effort to use your head! (I’m going straight back to my Pocket PC brain training program.)

In the closing part of the book Majid uses his knowledge of the brain to suggest a few techniques for improving your memory.

I’m going to recommend this book to everyone I care about.

Format: Audio book and book
Author : Majid Fotuhi M.D. Ph.D.

-Mark

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Take It to the Next Level - What got you here, won’t get you there

by Mark Quirk 19. November 2008 21:51

Marshall Goldsmith audio program When you buy a book or as in this case a CD audio program, you really don’t know if it’s going to live up to the hype.  This program by Marshall Goldsmith from Nightingale Conant is however, a corker.  It combines two killer elements, solid information and humour.  I like lots of programs and books that don’t include humour, but Marshal does seem to have that rare, something special.

So, what’s it about?  Well, Marshall is an executive coach with both academic qualifications (he earned a Ph.D. from UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management in 1977) and the experience that has honed it.  So, the program is about coaching… but not like I’ve heard it before.

Like many programs do, Marshall starts out on CD 1 by talking about success and successful people (and he’s worked with lots of successful people) – telling you both why they are successful AND why those traits (such as strong self belief, choosing success, being willing to do what’s necessary) can stop you from getting to the next level.

He then follows this up with the 21 bad habits successful people have – which he calls the 21 success factors  ; and of course some thoughts about how to change them (if you break the bad habit, it can help you succeed).  You get a good flavour of how the program is different with the first two:

  • Winning too much – when you’ve programmed yourself to win, it’s really hard to pull back and there are lots of situations where you really should, pull back.
  • Adding too much value – being used to having your own opinion and solving problems means that it’s really hard to stop, and again… there are lots of situations where it’s better not to solve ‘the problem.’

The 21 success factors run over two CD’s and are followed by a proven process on how to change.  Marshall does a nice job in making the program relevant to both an individual and a coach working with others.  And when working as a coach there are few basic and practical pieces of advice – for example, only work with people that want to change AND are prepared to put in the work to change (Marshall has a specific process that he can quickly outline to describe to an individual or team what ‘putting in the work’ means).  These sound terribly obvious, but I know I’ve worked with several people as a coach where the first bit was true, but second, being prepared to put in the work… wasn’t.

Marshall goes on to describe his specific process for affecting long lasting, effective and measurable change.  Along with the concepts of ‘feed forward’ rather than ‘feed back’ and ‘peer coaching’.

If you are planning on or are already in a leadership role or work as a business coach, like I said at the start, I think “Take it to the Next Level – What got you here, won’t get you there’ is a corker.

There is also a book available with the same title, which I haven’t read, but I suspect is pretty good too.

Format: 6 Audio CDs + printed 51 page workbook
Author: Marshall Goldsmith
Dialect: US English

-Mark

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Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck

by Mark Quirk 27. October 2008 02:53
Made to Stick I've read a few books on communications in the past, and they've been OK - they've reminded me of things I've forgotten and inspired an idea or two.  But Chip & Dan heath's book, Made to Stick, is in a different class, it's simply brilliant.

The summary of idea's in the book can be summarised using their acronym - SUCCESs, which is also the order of the chapters in the book::

  • Simple - find the core
  • Unexpected - get & keep attention
  • Concrete - help people understand & remember
  • Credible - help people believe & agree
  • Emotional - make people care
  • Stories

One of the central villains, that really hits home, of creating sticky communication is the curse of knowledge.  The people who understand a concept, product, technology or whatever, in-depth are usually not the people able to communicate it to people that don't or at least not without external non-expect input.  This rings true especially because I've been in the situation several times of having to describe some computer software concept to people that don't have the technical background of my typical audience - it can be really hard!

The ideas in the book itself do what it says on the cover, they're sticky.  Whether it's the stories they use to illustrate the concepts to make them credible and concrete or the unexpected pre-written book summary at the back, or it's simple layout, approach and tone I can't quite say.  But it certainly invoked an emotional response in me with animated recommendations to anyone who will listen as - the best communications book I've every read!

Format: Book, 280 pages, Audio
Author: Chip Heath & Dan Heath

-Mark

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My Daughter wanted a pet, so I bought her a Greyhound

by Mark Quirk 30. September 2008 19:40

My Daughter Wanted a Pet So I Bought Her a Greyhound by Gill FieldingI know, what a great title for an audio program about money!  The first unique thing about it is that its from our American friends at Nightingale Conant but Gill Fielding who is supported by Peter Thompson are both British.  The benefit of this to the folks in the UK is that Gill refers to the UK market and the situation in the UK with the UK government etc.

Gill's goal and life mission(!) is to 'Fuel the fire of your financial freedom'.  As far as I can tell, she started this in a big way by giving away nearly a quarter of millions pounds on Channel 4's 'The Secret Millionaire' TV program - wow.

The uniting topic in the program is Gill's 'Money Matrix' a grid headed up by seven topics -

  • Compounding
  • Income & expenditure flows
  • Understanding debt & interest rates
  • Pound cost averaging
  • Taking advantage of Tax and government benefits
  • The money motorway
  • Passive

So, is it any good?  Well, I've read and listened to lots of material about money and of course there is some overlap with other modern money advice programs, but in general I loved Gill's stories, her completely down to earth 'east London' style and the practicality of the material.  Some of the content, for example related to starting a business, is quite high level, but it is good advice. If you're based in the UK, I'd be happy to recommend it.

Format: 6 Audio CDs + 1 Data CD for the workbook
Author: Gill Fielding supported by Peter Thompson
Dialect: UK English

Read more...

-Mark

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Audio

What's a Maven?

by Mark Quirk 6. September 2008 12:39

MarkUpperPerhaps you've read Malcolm Gladwell's marvelous book ' The Tipping Point' (audio version) in which during chapter two, entitled 'The Law of the Few: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen', Gladwell describes Maven's using the Yiddish origination as 'one who accumulates knowledge', and one of the three types of people common in starting 'word of mouth epidemics'.  And further that it's not just idle knowledge accumulation, Maven's know how to use their knowledge.

Thus a Success Maven who someone who not only knows about success, but knows how to be successful... thus they become experts in success.

Can I claim to be a Success Maven?  In many people's definition I'm very successful - I'm good at working on and getting what I want.  In my own view, I'm still becoming an expert in success, and I'm pretty sure that it's the journey that's most interesting.

One of my passions is reading, listening to books and other audio programs and occasionally attending seminars and workshops.  In a little over three years I've spent more than 1200 hours in this kind of personal development (or 150 eight hour days)... and in this blog I'll spout on those books, programs, seminars and workshops with the intention that if you too are travelling the success maven road, that perhaps we might walk a little of it together.

-Mark

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