Book – The Obstacle Is The Way

ObstacleThoughtful and entertaining book with many useful ideas – or suggestions how to look at negative situations differently.  Rooted in Stoicism, the ideas are very relevant for modern people and modern business. One of the points of the book is separation of what can be controlled and what can not.  As many circumstances can be completely unfair, we should not spend energy on lamenting the unfairness of the situation, but rather find the most reasonable plan of action. Wonderful examples:

  • bananasTwo companies interested in growing bananas wanted to buy a desirable piece of land somewhere in Honduras.  Unfortunately, two different entities claimed the rights on the land and it was not clear which one can officially sell it.  The large company dispatched lawyers and tried to find the rightful owner, the smaller company, however, just met with both owners and bought the land twice.  This approach guaranteed the right of ownership of the land for the smaller company.
  • Government regulations prohibited building bridges across the river…  what interfered with banana shipments.  The solution was to build two long piers and a pontoon between them.  The construction did the job needed to transport bananas from one side of the river to another.
  • A black boy who wanted to read during the time of segregation, forged a request of a white person to allow him to pick up books for somebody else.

The book quotes Serenity Prayer…  what seem to be quite beneficial for business: “…to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” rockWhen Thomas Edison watched his business burn… he suggested his son to call friends to watch the fire they will never see again (the fire was fueled by different chemicals used in the business).  Edison did not see a reason to be upset by the event that happened and could not be changed.  However, after the fire was extinguished, his company quickly started rebuilding the business.  

Book – Bringing Out The Best in People

Bringing-out-the-bestThe book describes the power of positive reinforcement as a management technique.

One of the most colorful examples from the book is the uselessness of a “sandwich.”  A criticism “between” two positive messages does not do much beyond confusing the employee and generally sending a negative message.  Better approach is two separate messages, one positive and one negative, separated in time.

sandwitchPositive reinforcement should be frequent and come after the desired behavior.  “Employee of the month” and other types of infrequent phrase are not as effective in reinforcing desired behavior.

Interesting “management by objective” critique

A company promoted one person to the position of the plant manager and the plant improved…  Then the company moved this person to a different plant, and the new plant also improved.  Then, the company brought the person to the larger plant and discovered that there was no improvement and the person himself seemed to be disorganized.  The company asked the book’s author why would it be, have something happened with the person?  The author asked what exactly the person did to improve first two plants, but the company did not know…  Maybe the person did exactly the same with the third plant?  Sometimes improvements happen independently from actions.

Interesting point about team structure

teamTeam structure is not needed for teamwork.  Team is not always better than an individual – if the team has one expert, the team structure could just dilute the work of the expert.  However, teamwork is effective, and required reinforcement of cooperative, rather than competitive behavior.

Book summary from a consulting company blog