18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2011
With this book, Bill Taylor, cofounder of Fast Company, continues in his passion to help leaders create change and fix what's wrong with their organizations. His books inspire and provide real-life stories, fueled by Taylor's own experiences and personal interviews with people who make things happen.
My favorite section of the book is Part III, "Challenge Yourself." (The other two are "Transforming Your Company" and "Shaking up Your Industry.) The lessons here are palpable, and for me the most valuable was in Chapter 8 and Taylor's interview with Boston Scientific cofounder John Abele. Taylor focused on a more personal story rather than the more well-known aspects of Boston Scientific. I won't spoil the story, but the insights from it helped me understand the delicate balance of collaborative leadership. It's not simply collective intelligence that solves a problem, but "collective capability." That is, leaders create the conditions in which diverse people work together to solve a tough challenge. The crux, as Abele says, is that "leaders can't be so self-effacing that they become invisible. They have to create a reason to collaborate and a platform to make it possible."
Taylor's book creates these conditions as well, conditions in which "diverse and dispersed groups of people can rally around a cause, sort through a problem, and make tangible progress on difficult-to-achieve goals." I hope that Taylor continues this with a companion website to this book to let leaders share their ideas, issues and stories.
The book ends with a Practically Radical Primer: 10 Questions Every Game Changer Must Answer. This is a quick-hit section that offers a lot of insights and challenge-yourself questions to help you create the changes you want to see happen.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Dan Pink has characterized this book as being "the most powerful and instructive change manual you'll ever read" and I certainly share his high regard for William Taylor's book. Most change initiatives fail and reasons vary from one situation to the next. However, as Taylor explains in this book, organizations cannot be transformed unless and until those who lead them first transform themselves and thereby serve as exemplars to others. He also points out that organizational transformation requires having effective change agents at all levels and in all areas, not only in the C-suite, what Cynthia Barton Rabe characterizes as "zero-gravity thinkers" - innovators "who are not weighed down by the expertise of a team, its politics, or `the way things have always been done.'"
Taylor agrees with Rabe that zero-gravity thinkers have "psychological distance" from the setting in which they work, "renaissance tendencies" that draw on a range of interests and influences, and "related expertise" that allows them to find the points where blue-sky ideas intersect with real-world opportunities. They are visionary pragmatists: they see possibilities and realize how difficult it will be to make them realities.
For example, Taylor cites what he calls "Five Truths of Corporate Transformation" (Pages 83-93):
1. Most organizations in most fields suffer a kind if tunnel vision, which makes it hard to envision a more positive future.
2. Most leaders see things the same way everyone else sees them because they look for ideas in the same places everyone looks for them.
3. In troubled organizations rich with tradition and success, history can be a curse - and a blessing. The challenge is to break from the past without disavowing it.
4. The job of the change agent is not just to surface high-minded ideas. It is to summon a sense of urgency inside and outside of the organization, and to turn that urgency to action.
5. In a business environment that never stops changing, change agents can never stop learning."
Later in his lively and eloquent narrative, Taylor cited and discusses "Five New Rules for Starting Something New" (Pages 172-182) and then "Five Habits of Highly Humbitious Leaders (Pages 245-254). As Taylor explains, he first encountered the term "humbitious" when a 30-year veteran of IBM, Jane Harper, used it to describe herself, together with the term "possibilitarian." She claims the term "humbitious," a blend of humility and ambition that drives the most successful business people, was coined by researchers at Bell Labs. Of course, more than two centuries earlier when Socrates was described as the world's wisest man, he replied that if that were true, it was because all he knew was that he knew nothing. Of course, effective change agents know a great deal but correctly realize what aspiring leaders at IBM were told, that "by far the lion's share of world-changing luminaries are humble people. They focus on the work, not themselves. They seek - they are ambitious - but they are humbled when it arrives. They know that much of the success was luck, timing, and a thousand factors out of their control." That is essentially how Jim Collins describes the mindset of Lever 5 leaders in his book, Good to Great.
Taylor achieves brilliantly his stated objective to do more than share with his reader what he has learned about "the hard work of deep-seated change"; he also provides a wealth of information about the behind-the-scenes efforts of change agents in a real-world circumstances who helped to transform their organizations and, more often than not, the industries in which their organizations compete. The major themes and core messages he gained from his association with these visionary pragmatists is distilled in the "Practically Radical Primer," a set of ten questions that can serve as a self-audit for aspiring change agents.
In this book, Taylor has identified and defined the challenges of change; he has also made every effort to prepare his reader to confront them in "not-so-crazy" but nonetheless radical ways. First, however, those who read this book must overcome what James O'Toole so aptly characterizes in his book, Leading Change, as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom."
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2011
I have heard much about Mr. Taylor and his innovative ideas. After reading Practically Radical I now see what the buzz is all about. It is refreshing to hear new ideas and actual examples of those ideas being used around the world, especially during these tough economic times. I have already started to use some of his phrases with my staff (Humbition,Vuja de). I have even put the phrase on page #199 on the bottom of my inter-office e-mails "The most effective leaders no longer want the job of solving the organization's biggest problems or identifying its best opportunities. Instead, they recognize that the most powerful ideas can come from the most unexpected places: the quiet genius buried deep inside the organization." I would highly recommend this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2011
I learned some time back that when Bill Taylor publishes a new book...you jump on the opportunity to pick it up and start the journey. As the co-founder of Fast Company magazine and the co-author of Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win(with Polly LaBarre), Taylor seems to be always talking about things that cause the imagination synapses to fire. Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself is no exception.
81 pages in and I haven't had a book this marked up, underlined, starred, and dog-eared in quite a while. The sub-title perfectly describes what I've experienced in the last 48 hours. "Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself." I have to say, much like Mavericks at Work, Practically Radical is a book with an inspiring idea on just about every page.
As the subtitle informs, Practically Radical is "built around three distinct (but related) modules: transforming your company, shaking up your industry, and challenging yourself (from the introduction)." Further, the three sections are designed to be read in any order. You can begin reading the section that has the most immediate appeal.
I started right from the beginning and struggled a little through the introduction. Honestly, it was a little slow going. But...once I turned the page and began reading chapter one, "What You See Shapes How You Change -- the Virtues of Vuja De,"...oh my. Almost immediately found myself underlining whole sections and rapidly finding very transferable concepts and ideas that will quickly get application and implementation. Chapter two, "Where You Look Shapes What You See," is very much the same; seriously marked up, starred and underlined.
I first picked up Mavericks at Work in the fall of 2006 when I began hearing people like Guy Kawasaki and Tom Peters talk it up. Practically Radical is already getting the same treatment as authors like Dan Pink begin to talk about Taylor's latest project. If you haven't already ordered your copy, let me help you get on the bandwagon. In the next few months, everyone will be talking about Practically Radical.
I highly recommend it!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2013
I liked the general concepts of the book. I thought the authors concepts of Vuja De and the others are very relevant to implementing change in todays organizations. What I thought was missing was the guidance on developing that skill set. The author highlights very nice examples of what others had done. I didn't feel like there was a good set up to highlight what the executive was seeing or more important how they were able to see it differently than the others in their industry.
I generally would recommend the book, but developing the skill set is on your own.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2011
I dog eared three pages in the introduction, yeah this book is that good. Practically radical is a must read, it makes you look at business in a different way. I will forever understand business strategy more thoroughly because of this book. The way Mr. Taylor writes is thought provoking and helps you better understand his points. He has an amazing mind on business and this book proves it. Purchase this book and you can thank me later.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2011
At a time when negativity still runs heavy as regards the economy, William Taylor has provided several breaths of fresh air in providing real-life stories of how others have excelled during these trying times, and often despite their share of naysayers. I recommend this to anyone in business who perhaps just needs a little bit of encouragement that you really can make a go of it.
on August 12, 2011
There is some disagreement about whether Einstein was the first to say, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
But regardless of who said it, the belief is repeatedly challenged in William C. Taylor's PRACTICALLY RADICAL--an excellent book that will get you thinking about change in your company or organization . . . and how you can use it to help things become even more energized.
The author, cofounder and founding editor of the magazine FAST COMPANY, looks at a wide range of for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations to determine how they have been able to succeed in today's tough times . . . among those profiled were Zappos, Swatch, the Girl Scouts, Interpol, fast-growing banks, high-flying airlines and Providence Police Department.
What I liked were the many ideas that I got from reading that can be applied to virtually any situation, such as this one:
* Why is this unlikely group of civilians sitting on the command session of a big-city police department? Because Chief Esserman has opened his mission-critical meetings to anyone who wants to attend: government officials, high-powered community leaders, grassroots activists, ordinary citizens, even members of the press. Virtually anything and everything about crime in this troubled city is open to the public and on the record every Tuesday morning at 8:30 sharp. In return, virtually anyone and everyone who wants to play a role in reducing crime has a seat at the table. Rhode Island may have a reputation, as the Times noted, for "parochialism" and "insecurity"--but there is nothing parochial about these gatherings, and most of the participants are secure enough to speak their mind.
I also liked this spin on research:
*To design a best-in-the-world customer experience, Lexus immersed itself in its customers' world. In the mid-1980s, a team of researchers took up residence in Laguna Beach to study the lifestyles, attitudes, and daily habits of affluent Americans. They tagged along, as their research subjects shopped for groceries, went to the country club, and picked up the kids at school. A decade later, a so-called super-affluent team conducted in-depth interviews with well-to-do Americans about everything from how they chose their neighborhood to what sorts of experiences they found meaningful. Lexus didn't want to understand how Cadillac or BMW sold their cars. It wanted to understand how its target customers lived their lives.
Lastly, the book got me rethinking that things don't always have to be the way they were--yet could still be successful:
* The main reason Orpheus plays so differently from most orchestras is that it operates so differently from most orchestras. The rehearsal I watched had most of the elements you'd associate with the creation of a great performance: a compelling score, world-class musicians, strong opinions, and, in the spirit of the old joke, lots of practice. But conspicuously absent was the most familiar ingredient in classical-music success-the big-name, huge-ego, all-knowing conductor. That's because Orpheus plays without any conductor whatsoever. Ever since its creation in 1972, and through its rise as one of the most celebrated chamber orchestras in the world, Orpheus has distinguished itself as much by its unusual approach to leadership as by its unsurpassed artistic achievements. It has managed to survive even thrive, in a field defined by exacting standards, demanding audiences, and tough-minded critics without the most iconic symbol of power and authority, the larger-than-life maestro.
I'm sure I will be revisiting PRACTICALLY RADICAL in the future for any time I'm looking for an idea "outside the box" . . . in addition, it is a title that I will be recommending to many of my clients and students.
on February 16, 2011
You want to transform your company, shake up your industry, and challenge yourself. Now, where do you start? Not from a vacuum: the times for dreams of starting from a clean slate and building up utopias are long gone. So, be practical. Yet adopting a middle-of-the-road approach can only make you shrivel up into mediocrity. So, be radical, i.e. proceed from what the roots of your company are, from the raison-d'être of what your industry is, and find the wellspring of all information - others. Everything is here, around you, for you to reinvent yourself as an innovative executive, as a purpose-driven entrepreneur, as a movement leader. In a nutshell, be practically radical, i.e, find solutions. Taylor quite relevantly reminds us of one of the best Clintonian piece of advice: "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America."
While the notion of "disruption" remains a pervasive marketing catchword, what I like most in this book is the idea that innovation stems from what I would call "constructive subversion," which was also the underlying theme of Mavericks at Work that Taylor co-authored with Polly LaBarre. When the know-it-alls perceive the world from their allegedly expert standpoint, they show a strong propensity to downgrade novelty into a French expression, calling it "déja vu." Creative minds reverse perspectives and look at a familiar situation as if they had never seen it before. They experience the "Vujà dé," "a strange term" Taylor says, that may be attributed to various people (he mentions Tom Kelley, Bob Sutton and George Carlin). It refers to the old rhetorical device of re-arranging syllables of a word or words in a sentence (metathesis) that French people ultimately named verlan in 1950, and that became the language of the immigrants and the working class of the Parisian suburbs.
So, regardless of any former experience, become an immigrant within your own turf: what you will see will shape how you change, and where you will look will shape what you see. You will make Providence (RI) a safer place with Dean Esserman, rejuvenate the Swiss Swiss watch manufacturing industry as did Lebanese Nicolas Hayek who co-founded the Swatch Group - while resurrecting Omega - or redefine the standards of service for Internet retail (even those of you who believe you know everything about Tony Hsieh, read Taylor's visit to Zappos` headquarters as a ... cevino - verlan for novice). The language of innovation recombines known syllables to create new emotions: "the most enduring source of competitive advantage is for emotionally charged employees to capture the emotionally drained customers."
This book is remarkably well organized in three sections (transforming your company, shaking up your industry, and challenging yourself), each subdivided into three chapters, with each ending chapter reading as a collection of five takeaways: Five truths of corporate transformation, Five new rules for starting something new, Five habits of highly humbitious leaders. Each section can be read independently. Yet, albeit permitting an à la carte study, the entire book is compelling because of the underlying consistency of the message. Will you ever be able to transform your company or shake up an industry if you have all the answers? At best, you will just be a prefab manager in a prefab company in a prefab world speaking a prefab language in the midst of prefab people living their prefab lives... You will never even think of the hidden geniuses around you or around the world at large, and you will never have the "million-dollar idea to attract ideas" that enabled Reed Hastings of Netflix to improve the company's recommendation engine by an order of magnitude. "The real genius of leadership today is knowing how to move forward when you and your senior colleagues don't have all the answers -- devising ways to uncover the most powerful ideas in the most unexpected places, even if those ideas come from outside the organization."
So, be ambitious, yet remain humble, and become "humbitious," and look at your company as a community where "everyone is in charge." Tellingly enough, the penultimate chapter of the book ends with the Threadless phenomenon. Ultimately, modern leaders could be imaginative curators who make everybody shine.
on January 14, 2011
As a huge Bill Taylor fan, I couldn't be more excited to start the year than to dive into his new book - Practically Radical. It was June, 2005 when Alan Deutschman published his eye popping Fast Company article Change or Die. In it, he set out to answer the intriguing question "could people change when it really mattered most?"; especially when it involved life and death. While on the surface, most of us would argue our willingness to change, Alan's research revealed that scientifically studied odds tell a totally different story - in fact, he learned that odds are nine to one against our ability to change. So, if leadership's most important responsibility is changing people's behavior, we've got some big challenges ahead of us. In short, we need some radical thinking to beat those 9 to 1 odds.....Enter Bill Taylor.
As he did when he co-founded Fast Company with Alan Weber in 1994, Bill has written a "game changing" manifesto that will not only guide your change efforts, it will inspire you rethink normal and play a much bigger game. The book's ultimate goal is to empower each of us to rewrite better stories for our businesses and our lives. Like he previous book - Mavericks At Work - Bill draws inspiration from some incredibly bold leaders who are not only reinventing enterprises, but who are reshaping entire industries in unique ways.
One of the great traits that I believe sets Bill apart is his unique ability to frame thought provoking questions that force you to look at the world with a different colored lens..."If your company went out of business tomorrow, who would miss you and why?" - "Are you the most of anything?" - "Have you figured out how your organization's history can help to shape it's future?"...The game changes when you ask the right questions, and this book demonstrates exactly what happens when such questions lead your change agenda.