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Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Your Self Hardcover – April 21, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Webber, entrepreneur and columnist, offers advice and inspiration with 52 practical lessons gleaned from more than 40 years of working with extraordinary leaders in a variety of endeavors. He sets out to help today’s professional men and women stay focused, productive, and inspired even in our most turbulent times of change relating to globalization, technology, and the knowledge economy. The author kept records of his experiences and describes them along with the lessons he learned, showing us how these lessons can be applied to our business or personal life. His rules? When the going gets tough, the tough relax; don’t implement solutions, prevent problems; the difference between a crisis and an opportunity is when you learn about it; every start-up needs four things: change, connections, conversation, and community; entrepreneurs choose serendipity over efficiency; knowing it ain’t the same as doing it; and great leaders answer Tom Peters’ great question: “How can I capture the world’s imagination?” This excellent book offers valuable, thought-provoking ideas for library patrons. --Mary Whaley

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“This excellent book offers valuable, thought-provoking ideas for library patrons.” (Booklist)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; 1st Edition, 2nd Printing edition (April 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061721832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061721830
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,460,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Most self-help books (amazon.com currently lists 24,855 of them) are generous with words and thin on genuine ideas. Alan Webber either wanted to be done with the book business in one go or he has an endless supply of ideas. "'52 Rules of Thumb"' contains material for 52 average self-help books; each single rule could have been rolled out to 200-plus pages easily. Thank you Mr Webber for resisting that temptation. For anybody in the communication business (PR, priesthood, politics, parenting) this book is a treasure trove. The idea looter''s wet dream. Whenever preparing a sermon or a sales pitch or a motivational speech just pick one of Mr. Webber''s rules of thumb and you have an easy start. This book deserves five stars. You don''t agree? Well, my favorite rule in the book is '"Learn to take 'No' as a question"'.
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Format: Hardcover
Alan Webber has a track record unlike almost anyone else in the history of business. His passion and insight at Fast Company magazine revolutionized our world in the best possible way.

This book is like a blog, but better, because you can highlight it, postit it and bring it on an airplane. If you find yourself enjoying books where you can mull over a nugget or two and suddenly find them changing your strategy, this is a great book for you.
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Format: Hardcover
I just read this book during a cross-country plane flight on Monday and I must admit that I will not be requiring any Botox injections, for my forehead wrinkles, for some weeks. As I read through the various "truths for winning at business", fellow passengers would observe me slapping my forehead and uttering either, "Yes, of course" or "Why didn't I think of that."

With just the kind of chapter titles you would expect coming from one of the guys who invented Fast Company (the insanely great business mag that has never recovered the founders' absence), my favorites among Webber's various rules include: Change is a math formula; A good question beats a good answer; Learn to take no as a question; Facts are facts but stories are how we learn; If you want to change the game change the economics of how the game is played; Everything communicates; and Content isn't king, context is king.

You will find that each of these 52 entries includes a short story followed by a 'So What?' explanation of how this rule has practical application for the reader. Alan, thanks for a great, thought provoking read . . . and a flat forehead.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is as difficult to describe as it is easy to appreciate. What we have here is a series of 52 mini-commentaries, each devoted to an insight or conviction that Alan Webber has formulated throughout his life thus far. As I worked my way through them, I was reminded of Isaac Asimov observation, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's odd...'" Presumably Webber has encountered situations that struck him as odd and wondered about them, finally reaching conclusions that he characterizes as unofficial "rules" or "truths" about human nature. I suspect that are probably viewed by most people as guidelines.

Although Webber suggests that they can be applied to "winning at business without losing your self," I think they are relevant whenever and wherever there is human interaction. After about the first 12-15, I began to connect rules to specific situations. For example:

Rule #10: "A good question beats a good answer." This offers excellent advice to job candidates whose questions tend to reveal more about their abilities than their responses to an interviewer's questions do.

Rule #13: "Learn to take no as a question." Sometimes, no means no. However, on frequent occasion, no is a tentative rather than terminal response. Politely request an explanation and be well-prepared to respond to the reasons offered.

Rule #18: "Knowing it ain't the same as doing it." This reminds me of a book with an eponymous title, in which Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton discuss what they call "The Knowing-Doing Gap." Long ago, Thomas Edison said, "Vision without execution is hallucination."

Rule #43: "Don't confuse credentials with talent.
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Format: Hardcover
I've used a combination of 3 X 5 cards and a digital recorder as an "idea catcher" for years. It's a great technique. Alan Webber carries those cards, too, and he makes notes on them. He's turned 52 of them into a book called Rules of Thumb.

That's forty years worth of cards, including the ones he wrote up after interviewing people like Bill Bradley and Jim Collins and Helmut Schmidt. They're interesting and Webber is a great writer so this book is worth reading as long as you know what to expect.

But what we've got here aren't rules. They're more like lessons or observations.

That's an important distinction. You'll love this book if you dip into it from time to time and read a bit. You'll love it if you read a lesson a week and try to apply it.

But if you're looking for a real book, one that not only shares stories and insights, but connects the dots, Rules of Thumb will probably disappoint you. It's a collection of lovely tiles, but not a whole mosaic.

The subtitle also overstates things a bit. I'm not all sure what "winning at business without losing yourself" means, even after reading the book through. If I was a risk of losing myself before I read the book, it's still true afterward.

My bottom line: Rules of Thumb is a fine collection of little pieces. They're entertaining and some are thought-provoking. Most of them are business-related. If that's what you're looking for, you'll like the book.
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