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Invisibles: Celebrating the Unsung Heroes of the Workplace Paperback – June 9, 2015
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Zweig’s stint as a fact checker at a magazine no doubt inspired him to look closely at the unsung, behind-the-scenes workers he calls the invisibles. They disappear into their work on two levels, the devotion to excellence and the fact that the more flawless their work, the less it is noticed or recognized. Zweig profiles several individuals who are highly skilled and essential in their jobs but relatively unknown. Among them are the guitar technician for Radiohead, the lead engineer of the tallest skyscraper in China, a cinematographer, and a UN interpreter. He focuses on three traits of the invisibles: no need to be recognized, meticulousness, and a high sense of responsibility. Zweig touches on philosophy, religion, and psychology in exploring the satisfaction derived from work exceptionally well done in contrast to the noisy self-promotion now prevalent. He offers historical context for our current obsession with attention-getting via social media and the Internet and uses the profiles to offer some quiet and thoughtful space to consider the inner value of high-quality work. --Vanessa Bush --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“It's a refreshing point of view, written with the precision and detail of the magazine fact checker Mr. Zweig used to be.”
-The Wall Street Journal
“An encouraging salute to the world behind the scenes, where the ‘Invisibles’ allow the show to go on. Journalist Zweig suggests, with considerable merit, that, in our culture of wanting it all, we have forgotten the hard work of getting there…In Zweig’s fascinating world, the limelight doesn’t hold a candle to the satisfaction of hard work well done.”
“Zweig’s stint as a fact checker at a magazine no doubt inspired him to look closely at the unsung, behind-the-scenes workers he calls the invisibles….[He] touches on philosophy, religion, and psychology in exploring the satisfaction derived from work exceptionally well done in contrast to the noisy self-promotion now prevalent…and uses the profiles to offer some quiet and thoughtful space to consider the inner value of high-quality work.”
"A fascinating tour of the hidden landscapes on which human society actually operates. This will change the way you see the world and, hopefully, your place within it."
-Douglas Rushkoff, bestselling author of Present Shock
"Invisibles is a one-book cultural revolution, fighting the current cultural tide toward narcissistic self-promotion with the truth that real satisfaction is often silent."
-Jean Twenge, bestselling co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic
"Top Business Book to Read in 2014: Invisibles explains why some of the world’s most talented, accomplished people choose to fly under the radar… It’s a clarion call for work as a craft: for generously sharing knowledge without hogging credit and prizing meaningful work above public recognition. An excellent book."
-Adam Grant, Wharton professor and bestselling author of Give and Take
"The genius at the top doesn’t make their team look good. It’s a great team that makes the guy at the top look like a genius…and Invisibles proves it."
-Simon Sinek, Optimist and bestselling author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last
“An interesting and important book. It takes us a step closer to understanding how we can be happier and lead more meaningful lives. We can all benefit from the examples of Invisibles.”
-The Buffalo News
“The Radical Power of David Zweig’s ‘Invisibles’ . . . precise and insightful.”
Named one of the “20 Best Books of June”
“Invisibles perform key tasks without seeking credit. And they’re in high demand.”
-The New Republic
“The great workers who get no credit in a self-promotion obsessed world.”
-The Washington Post
“There are high-functioning invisibles in all factions of the economy, and they operate almost in defiance of the prevailing wisdom that self-promotion and self-regard bordering on narcissism are the way to get noticed.”
“The wisdom of this advice is undeniable.”
-New York Magazine
“Zweig challenges the pervasive notion that the people who spend the most time getting others to pay attention to them win.”
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A 2009 national poll of college students showed that 57 percent agreed that people in their generation use social networking sites for self-promotion, narcissism, and attention seeking.
This makes us similar to that “annoying kid in the front of the class who keeps raising his hand, moaning with distress as he over-tries for the teacher’s attention,” notes author David Zweig.
A Pew survey published in 2007 found that just over half of 18-to-25-year-olds said being famous was their generation’s most important life goal, second only to “getting rich.”
While fame has been a goal for many throughout human history, our era is different. In the medieval period, the peasant girl who lived close to the castle might have wanted power, wealth, and privilege as much as an American Idol contestant. The difference is that she knew she would never achieve it.
The 8th century BC Greek epic poem, the Illiad, is one of the earliest known writings on fame. In it, Homer’s heroes are motivated by status and honour in the eyes of other men. When these heroes misbehave they do not feel guilt because of their inner sense of morality, rather they feel shame that others know the behaved badly.
“Fame! I’m gonna live forever. Baby, remember my name.”
Contemporary culture appears to promote the pursuit of fame as a medium to attaining attention, money and power. However, for the most people, fame or even just recognition is largely an illusion.
Why do so many people buy pursue this illusion?
Zweig argues that social media and other Internet-based communications makes it easy to amplifying of an already intrinsic desire to be noticed. A 2009 national poll of college students showed that 57% agreed that people in their generation use social networking sites for self-promotion, narcissism, and attention seeking.
While every era has had people desiring higher status, it is the paths that are different today. In previous eras, the paths to status were education, awards, athletic prowess, and wealth. The primary metric of status online is the size of one’s audience.
Against this background, David Zweig introduces the Invisibles, people whose work by its very nature ensures they are unknown. Increasingly, he holds, fewer people with the means to choose their career are pursuing paths like theirs, where they and the results of their work are invisible.
The Invisibles seek success differently, and it is not external rewards, nor through tireless self-promotion and of one-upmanship. Invisibles define success as philosophers and religions have for millennia, by the satisfaction derived from work itself and not the degree of attention you receive for it.
Zweig wrote the book, he explains, because “I was fascinated by people who chose to do work that required extensive training and expertise, that was critical to whatever enterprise they were a part of, yet knowingly and contentedly, they rarely, if ever, were known by, let alone received credit from, the outside world for their labour.”
The Invisibles attitude to work their approach is near antithetical to that of our culture at large.
You can probably name five movie directors, but you probably cannot name one cinematographer. You are not alone. Movies are a collaborative endeavour relying on a whole ecosystem of Invisible workers. Just a moment’s reflection makes clear that the quality of our experience lies very largely in the hands of the cinematographer at one end and the editor at the other. It is they who redeem a botched movie or enhance a good one.
“Invisibles’ is not about thankless, mundane jobs. On the contrary, the work of the invisibles is detail highly skilled, and their roles are critical to their enterprise.
Jim Harding is a “Wayfinder.” This invisible specialty creates “wayfinding” systems to help people navigate their way around a built environment such as an airport, museum or mall. It is the science and art of designing cues ranging from signage to lighting to colour, even the architecture, to enhances the customer experience without them knowing why or how.
If you easily find your way about complex building, it is because of good wayfinding. The beauty of Harding’s work is that when done right, it is invisible.
Julia Wilkins Ary is a member of the elite Interpretation Service at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. It is through the interpreters that nations’ speeches are understood by other nations.
At the Interpretation Service, the practice is simultaneous interpretation, not translation or sequential interpretation. As the speaker talks in one language, the Interpreter translates the intention into another language while listening to the next sentence without pause. Simulatneous interpretation is one of the hardest brain activities to perform which is why these Invisibles work in pairs, in bursts of only 30 minutes.
In this book, you will meet fascinating Invisibles. Peter Stumpf the piano technician responsible for preparing the instrument for each concert at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. David Apel, the man responsible for creating some of the greatest perfumes and colognes in the world. (No, Tom Ford does not sit in labs for months with the chemistry to create his fragrances.) Dennis Poon the man responsible for seeing that the tallest buildings in the world can resist wind forces that could topple them.
There are invisibles in all occupations, and what is common to them all is that they derive satisfaction from the value of their work, not the volume of their praise.
Being invisible might require a certain toughness, but this fades when you seek satisfaction in the work itself, and enjoy your own growth in the process.
“Simply through reading the Invisibles’ stories and witnessing their evident successes and fulfillment, we can internalize the power of their values and advance our own embodiment of them. I would call this the osmosis option,” writes Zweig.
Readability Light --+-- Serious
Insights High -+--- Low
Practical High ---+- Low
*Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy and is the author of Strategy that Works.
It is remarkable that Zweig manages to pull this off without talking very much about all the relentless self-promoters. If I tried to write a book like this, I would get distracted by those people and end up writing about them (and not the people who deserve the attention).
There are people who are on stage all the time, and there are people who work backstage. I've always been more interested in what goes on backstage. This is not just because I'm nice, it's also because when the Great and Powerful Oz says to "ignore the little man behind the curtain", I want to know all about that little man, and not about the flaming floating head. Some of the invisibles in Zweig's book are very modest, hidden people, but others seem like eminences grises who are more interesting than the big shots that they support.
Behind the anecdotes are a good cross section of psychological research supporting the notion that happiness and satisfaction comes from, well, doing a good job at your craft. Sometimes there's an element of "Gladwellitis" where the research and stories are explicitly force-fit into a theme rather than just speaking for themselves. But overall a very good read, with thoughts to ponder.
Most recent customer reviews
David Zweig has done some fantastic research, and all the stories and profiles in this book are super interesting.Read more
This book would be very useful for organizational leaders because many receive the accolades and yet...Read more