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Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Your Self Hardcover – April 21, 2009
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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
“This excellent book offers valuable, thought-provoking ideas for library patrons.” (Booklist)
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I like that he approached the key topics of management through these rules. I know in Management by Design: Applying Design Principles to the Work Experience, you can read for a while to see what I'm getting at. This isn't an issue for Alan. Once you get past the occasionally too pithy rules, the narrative is straight forward and consumable. In the era of the Twitter and Facebook, you need to grab people quickly or they move on. Alan does a good job of grabbing the reader. I think this format is also good in that it lets the reader's curiosity decide where they want to wander, and what they should be grabbed by. I don't need to read the entire book to get value (which is the approach we discussed for the new book I pitched called Uncertainty).
So here are the areas that I really resonated with, perhaps it is because versions of them exist in my own talks, but we can't have too many people on the side of change is good, embrace it, deal with it and lets go co-create the future...
* New Realities Demand New Categories
* A good question beats a good answer
* We've move from an either/or Past to a Both/and Future
* Learn to See the World Through the Eyes of Your Customer (would probably still be at Microsoft and be a VP if they got this one)
* If You Want to Change the Game, Change the Economics of how the Game is Played (thus my harping on the US getting over itself and trying to reinvent the economy rather than playing all the old games: Strategic Measures-Toward New Measures for a Sustainable, Knowledge Economy
[...]* The soft stuff is hard (thus my leaning that the future of IT will end up seeing automation cost reductions offset by investments for people to use collaboration technology in an effective way)
* Good Design is Table Stakes. Great Design Wins. (I would also add that it matters what you design, thus the emphasis on Management by Design around designing workplace experiences)
* Words matter (and putting names on things matters too. If you can't refer to it, you can watch it or change it)
* Content isn't king. Context is King. (Amen)
* Everything is performance (I like that everything isn't productivity, and that performance has more than one meaning, for all of us players)
* Simplicity is the new currency (entire chapter on simplicity in Management by Design - most managers create complexity in the name of oversight and compliance, just to discover, when it is too late, that they made their own job harder)
* Technology is about changing how we work (and how we live)
* Don't confuse credential with talent (thus my push in my education work to de-emphasize traditional degrees in favor of recognizing life-long learning and experience, in an official way -- thus reinventing one of the primary functions of colleges. They may evolve so they aren't about teaching, but about recognizing learning)
* On the way up, pay attention to your strengths; they'll be your weaknesses on the way down (I would offer a caveat, that this is true only if you climb down the same mountain. If you shift mountains, the rules change)
* Take your work seriously. Yourself, not so much (should be on the boardroom bathroom wall in all Fortune 1000 companies, well, all companies, because if you need it by the time you make it to the Fortune 1000 it is probably too late)
* Stay Alert! There are teachers everywhere (which watching the labor discussions at a local college, really bothers teachers. This has always been my mantra and if I didn't believe it, I would be where I am today. Just-in-time-Learning, however, doesn't fit with the American education system, and learners who decide who they trust, where and when, is very disruptive to traditional education).
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." Make no mistake, credentials can have substantial value but (as #18 suggests) they offer evidence of nothing more than what obtaining them required.
With regard to talent, I agree with Anders Ericsson and his research associates at Florida State University that its importance also tends to be overrated. Darrell Royal once observed that "potential" means "you ain't done it yet." In my opinion, the best credentials are redundantly verifiable accomplishments that are relevant to the given needs.
Rule #45: "Failing isn't failing. Failing is failing to try." I agree, presuming to add that that failing is also failing to learn anything of value from whatever is considered a failure. Back to Edison who cherished every setback in his Menlo Park research center as a precious learning opportunity.
After you read Alan Webber's book, he invites you to formulate your own Rule #53 and then share it with him (email@example.com). I hope you do. Here's the one I came up with: "You better be there when your name is called," perhaps inspired by Woody Allen's assertion, "Eighty percent of success is showing up."
And here's the best part -- anyone can make these rules work for him/herself. Whether you are an entrepreneur, middle manager or business function leader, you will find this crisply written book helpful and thought provoking. Even the concepts that some may find familiar are presented in a way that makes you reconsider and reapply.
Tiger Woods goes back to Hank Haney for swing coaching; anyone in business can go back to Alan Webber.