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Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less -and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined Hardcover – February 7, 2017
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From the Publisher
Scott Sonenshein Talks With Daniel H. Pink
Daniel H. Pink is the author of DRIVE and TO SELL IS HUMAN, among other books.
Daniel H. Pink (DP): In your book, you introduce a new term that you say is a key to high performance—stretch. What does that mean?
Scott Sonenshein (SS): Stretch is resourcefulness — doing more with what you have. It turns out there's a science of resourcefulness that shows it's a learnable skill that applies in good times as well as bad times to help us reach our goals. People think of resourcefulness as something done out of need when facing shortages or to resolve problems, but that's just one aspect of it. Stretching means we don’t start from feeling like what we have isn't enough. Instead, we embrace what we already have and then creatively put those resources, such as time, money, relationships, and materials, to work.
DP: Why is stretching important for individuals and organizations today?
SS: Stretching helps us accomplish our goals with maximum effectiveness and efficiency, which is of paramount importance in these uncertain times. Our gut reaction to most challenges, especially when there isn't clarity about the best solution, is that we'll increase the odds of success if we amass lots of resources. Research shows that not only is this false but it also leaves us feeling less capable and accomplished. The key to achieving goals is to be engaged, creative and active with what’s already in hand—to stretch.
DP: You contrast chasing with stretching. What is chasing and why is it so dangerous?
SS: People want to know where they stand—so they compare what they have with those around them. They then convince themselves (often falsely) that they need what others have in order to succeed. But how we act and what we do matters a lot more than what we have. Lots of people do very little with a lot, while others do a lot with a little. Chasing harms our prospects of performing because it creates a constant dependence on getting more to do more. It also makes us less satisfied.
DP: Most organizations ask, "What resources do we need in order to act?" But you say that's the wrong question. What do you mean?
SS: Resourceful organizations foster a culture that promotes asking "What can I do with what I have?" and rejects the paralysis and distraction that comes from asking "What must I have to act?," such as a bigger budget or larger team. Organizations that stretch challenge employees about how to do the most with what they have by purposefully imposing constraints, ripping up plans and learning from spontaneous action, combining unexpected resources, using expectations to boost the value of resources, and putting to work the untapped contributions of all employees.
DP: If I only have time to develop one form of stretching, what should it be?
SS: Appreciate that you already have everything you need to succeed in business and life. Stop worrying about what you don't have and start engaging what you do have in more useful ways.
We rarely have as much of anything as we want, but we can learn to do more with it. Scott Sonenshein is a gifted thinker whose insights have sharpened my work for over a decade, and his fascinating debut book reveals how resourcefulness is a skill that’s waiting to be learned. Get ready to unleash your inner MacGyver. (Adam Grant, bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take)
I always appreciate a book that challenges me, forces me to think, and creates constructive discomfort. And I especially value such a book when its key conclusions have a base of research. Dr. Sonenshein has accomplished all this with Stretch, and I am thankful for the chance to grow from reading his work. (Jim Collins, bestselling author of Good to Great and Great by Choice)
It’s easy to feel like we never have enough time, resources, or money. Scott Sonenshein’s surprising and entertaining book inspires and instructs us to make the most out of what we already have. The result is more-more creativity, more engagement, and more satisfaction. (Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of To Sell is Human and Drive)
Stretch is a masterpiece. Whether you want to build a better life or a better business, Scott Sonenshein reveals how the power of constraints sets you free and why the lust for more is bad for your mental health and-ironically- your personal success and the success of your business. I love the stories, rigorous research, and especially, how Sonenshein’s warmth and wisdom fill every page and make Stretch a joy to read (Robert Sutton, Stanford professor and author of the The No Asshole Rule)
Well-informed and frequently enlightening…Sonenshein is an amiable guide to attaining the benefits of stretching. A convincing argument within a compelling narrative-recommended for business managers and resourceful individuals alike. (Kirkus)
In Silicon Valley successful entrepreneurs value constraints to help define both the problem and solution. In Stretch, Scott Sonenshein explains how to turn limitations into valuable assets, helping us achieve our goals both at work and at home. (Ann Doerr, Chairman, Kahn Academy)
A smart yet accessible book that will appeal to readers interested in simplifying their careers and lives. (Library Journal)
From the Back Cover
A groundbreaking approach to succeeding in business and life, using the science of resourcefulness
We often think the key to success and satisfaction is to get more: more money, time, and possessions; bigger budgets, job titles, and teams; and additional resources for our professional and personal goals. It turns out we’re wrong.
Using captivating stories to illustrate research in psychology and management, Rice University professor Scott Sonenshein examines why some people and organizations succeed with so little, while others fail with so much.
People and organizations approach resources in two different ways: “chasing” and “stretching.” When chasing, we exhaust ourselves in the pursuit of more. When stretching, we embrace the resources we already have. This frees us to find creative and productive ways to solve problems, innovate, and engage our work and lives more fully.
Stretch shows why everyone—from executives to entrepreneurs, professionals to parents, athletes to artists—performs better with constraints; why seeking too many resources undermines our work and well-being; and why even those with a lot
benefit from making the most out of a little.
Drawing from examples in business, education, sports, medicine, and history, Scott Sonenshein advocates a powerful framework of resourcefulness that allows anybody to work and live better.
Top customer reviews
I am not sure if this was intentional, but throughout the book Sonenshein referred to several examples of his wife, “an extraordinary stretcher”. As a working mother in a dual career family I appreciated how Sonenshein drew from his own personal examples highlighting his wife’s decisions and successes. We need more examples of couples who support each other with high powered careers and thrive by supporting each other!
I could not put this book down and look forward to sharing this book with colleagues and friends. I hope that Sonenshein is working on his next book because I cannot wait to read it.
Peter Senge wrote about reinforcing cycles as part of his book The Fifth Discipline, which I consider one of the finest business books ever penned. In it, Senge describes the downward cycle that some companies fall into, and why it is so difficult to reverse. Sonenshein explores those cycles from different point of view- an organization and resource perspective- and develops concepts for the reader to consider on how organizations – and individuals- can take a fresh look at resource availability and achieve much more success with fewer resources.
In full disclosure, I had the pleasure of working with Randi Sonenshein, Scott’s wife, who is a highly-accomplished executive in her on right (and a delightful person) and assisted Scott in writing Stretch. And I met Scott on a few occasions. (He is now a Professor of Management at Rice University). Further, while I wasn’t part of Silicon Valley, my employer at that time he was at Vividence was a product and service provider to numerous established tech firms as well as start-ups, and thereby I had a first-row seat as some of our customers flourished and some vanished. Those experiences clearly shape not just one’s thinking but entire career.
The core concept that the author develops is that of opposing approaches and mindsets: one that we might label as the conventional U.S. approach of more and better results are obtained by having or acquiring more or better resources. He labels that approach chasing, and the practitioners chasers. The alternative approach is stretching (and stretchers) which requires looking at the available resources in unique and thoughtful ways to get better results from better utilization.
Mr. Sonenshein explores those two viewpoints and the effect each has on society, enterprise and the individual. The book title likely gives away that he concludes that stretching is almost always better. The book is liberally peppered with examples of business leaders who’ve employed stretching to optimize resources. While some stretched from lack of an alternative – the beautiful example of young black woman Sarah Breedlove Walker, born in the post-Civil War-South, lifting herself, and then other black women, out of abject poverty by starting a business from almost nothing; other examples feature enterprises like D. G. Yuengling and Son, which could have afforded to devote additional resources to launch a growth strategy, but chose instead to stretch existing resources, acquire used equipment and the like. As opposed to some of its competition at the time – Sonenshein calls out Stroh brewery’s aggressive growth via acquisition strategy only to crash- Yuengling remains as America’s oldest continually operating brewery.
In closing chapters, he provides various techniques to examine existing resources to ferret out alternative uses, warns of traps to avoid, and how stretching as individuals can lead to personal growth.
Stretch is not only useful, it is an entertaining read.
I totally enjoyed it, and it goes in my personal library of business books worth keeping as a reference. Probably next to The Fifth Discipline.
There are definitely some good insights, ideas and recommendations; for example, the key distinction between a stretch (make the most of the resources you have) vs. chase (acquire resources systematically) mindset, a variation on the classical dilemma of exploration vs. exploitation.
However, the whole thing feels a little bit unfocused, with different strands of psychological research put together in what is not always a coherent narrative. Moreover, the examples used are sometimes weak or cherry-picked; for example, yes, we can attribute the demise of many companies to a chasing mindset, but we can also find examples of success (for example, Amazon strategy itself of acquiring more and more to become the leader in online retailing).
My overall impression is that a good idea got stretched to the point of becoming too thin.