- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (April 14, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670031968
- ISBN-13: 978-0670031962
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 40 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,313,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Good Business: Leadership. Flow, and the Making of Meaning Hardcover – April 14, 2003
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In psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's definition of leadership, the personal is political. The best-selling author of Flow interviewed several dozen exemplary CEOs whose wisdom provides the radical job description of the books premise: "Leaders must make it possible for employees to work with joy, to their hearts content, while responding to the needs of society." Csikszentmihalyi leverages his definition of "flow"-the capacity for full engagement in an activity-to create a blueprint for a workplace in which bringing out the best in workers comes before products and profit. When leaders select and reward employees who find satisfaction at work, they can create an upwardly moral organization.
In this view, leadership is a privilege that requires checking ego in the coatroom and peering into the mirror to ask tough questions. For example, "How do I determine if something is right or wrong?" Or, "What is my business doing to benefit human well being?" He offers some inspiring stories from leaders who engage employees to go with the flow, including Body Shop CEO Anita Roddick, Patagonia crown prince Yvon Chouinard, and media mogul Ted Turner. Some of Csikszentmihalyis advice will sound familiar. Yet he creates a compellingly fresh vision of good business in both a material and spiritual sense. Ultimately, the success of this book lies in its powerful, non-flaky ability to define corporate soul in terms of a company becoming a stakeholder in an entity larger than itself.--Barbara Mackoff
From Publishers Weekly
Asking business leaders to turn a profit in this climate is tough enough, but psychologist Csikszentmihalyi challenges them to do something even tougher: make people happy. The author first explored flow, the enjoyment felt when an individual is focused on a complex task, in 1991's bestselling Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, and he has often returned to the subject (The Evolving Self; Creativity; etc.). Now he wants to show business leaders how to foster flow and use their psychic energy to enhance the happiness of their employees, customers and even themselves. The advice book offers predictable but sound guidance to business leaders: know oneself, set clear goals for employees and consider the consequences of business decisions. Insightful quotes from figures like Aristotle, Dante Alighieri and John Locke provide some historical grounding, but mostly the author focuses on how modern businesses motivate employees and contribute to the common good. By conducting extensive interviews, the author collects the secrets of successful business leaders, including the Body Shop CEO Anita Roddick; McDonald's chairman and CEO Jack Greenberg; and AOL Time Warner's Ted Turner. Roddick, for example, says that looking at company's lavatories and cafeteria can reveal a lot about a firm's corporate culture and the happiness of its employees. If a firm fails to create a clean, healthy environment for its workers, it probably isn't doing much good. Csikszentmihalyi shows how moral responsibility, respect for the environment and clean bathrooms can make a business good and the whole world better.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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He was absolutely right, of course. Unfortunately, while he was far from naïve, as he clearly saw the dangerous curves in the road ahead, his beliefs carry a strong whiff of anachronistic idealism given the way things have turned out. In many ways we could not have strayed further from the path he laid out for us.
What makes the current state of affairs so particularly sad is that it isn’t as if people didn’t hear the message. They did. His words have been repeated time and time again from the corporate lectern and in the annual report to shareholders ever since. The problem is that the message was never taken to heart. The heart, in fact, was long ago ripped out of our biggest and most profitable companies by greed and a false sense of what economic development really means.
He devotes ample ink, for example, to the growing inequity – in 2004, remember – in corporate compensation. And he quotes a long list of CEOs who sang along with the choir about it all blowing up in our faces if something wasn’t done about it. No one, however, despite the continued chorus of self-righteous incrimination, has actually done anything about it. Executive compensation appears to know no upper limit.
Ultimately, Mr. Csikszentmihalyi, as all of us historically have, puts his faith for our success in the hands of the individual. Motivated by the personal opportunity built into free market capitalism but guided by the altruistic precepts of American idealism, the Superman Self was to lead the charge of American business and political hegemony in the world.
It didn’t work out that way not because all of the good people that the author profiles here picked up and left. It didn’t work out because the world changed. Spurred on by rapid advances in technology the world has gotten both smaller and more integrated. Every aspect of our social, economic, and commercial lives is now so inter-twined that it is impossible to sort out one system from another. Leadership is now a function of fame and fame has little to do with anything other than fame itself. It is a reinforcing closed loop system that is destroying any sense of the American doctrine of fairness on which the American Century was built.
The book ends with a couple of moving conclusions: “These moments of deep flow are the manifestation of what I have described as “soul,” that is, of a person’s being transformed through his or her efforts into someone more complex than he had been before.” And, “If more and more leaders of business would follow their lead [the men and women profiled] …business would truly fulfill its potential to help make life happier for all.”
Flow is “a deep sense of enjoyment.” To be fully engaged in a state of flow, one must be skilled and challenged.
“Adults who are more often in flow are not only happier, but they spend significantly more time at work actually working instead of gossiping, reading the papers, or surfing the Web… If flow is absent, work turns into drudgery, and the worker loses his or her creative initiative.”
“Money, security and comfort may be necessary to make us happy, but they are definitely not sufficient. A person must also feel that his or her talents are fully employed, that he is able to develop his potentialities, and that his everyday life is not stressful or boring, but holds deeply enjoyable experiences.”
Prof. Csikszentmihalyi and his colleagues determined eight conditions of flow experience:
1. Clear Goals
2. Immediate Feedback
3. Balance Between Opportunity and Capacity
4. Deep Concentration
5. Present Moment
7. Sense of Altered Time
8. Loss of Ego
“When a task produces flow, it is worth doing for its own sake… Another way to term such activities is intrinsically rewarding.”
The author writes about “the importance of what in creativity research is called ‘incubation’—the subliminal parallel-processing activity that takes place in the mind when we are not consciously trying to solve a problem.” On a related note, he observed from his interviews that “the most frequently mentioned personal trait the managers wished they could change was ‘impatience.’”
He makes another interesting point about the speed of the brain’s processing power and why multitasking doesn’t work. “The brain can process on the order of 110 bits of information each second. To understand what another person is saying to us, for example, requires about forty bits, which explains why we cannot understand more than two people talking at the same time.”
From a management perspective, flow is important because an “organization whose employees are happy is more productive, has a higher morale, and has a lower turnover… An ideal organization is one in which each worker’s potentialities find room for expression.”
“To summarize briefly the essential conditions for flow to occur, they are: clear goals that can be adapted to meet changing conditions; immediate feedback to one’s actions; and a matching of the challenges of the job with the worker’s skills.” Additional “ways of improving the business environment involve setting policies that allow people to move and act with freedom, to have control over their tasks, and to have input in decisions affecting their work.”
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