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There are many situations in which you want to make the right choice, a choice that might change your lives in hugely positive ways. Consider standing before a roulette wheel in Las Vegas: you choose “18 Red” for a variety of reasons that have all sorts of associative data you apply to it. Red is exciting; #1 is a symbol of success; the 8 represents the infinity symbol; maybe 18 is the age of your daughter. If you’ve made the right choice based on these influences, the payout will be high.
Now consider hiring someone for a position in your company. You look at a candidate’s resume and study the provided data: where they’ve recently worked, what they did there, how long they did it, where they went to school, what grades they received. It all looks good, so that candidate gets the job. While gambling and hiring seem quite dissimilar, the risks in each scenario are similar. And if you’ve made the right choice, the payout could be high in this case, too.
But which approach to decision-making seems more valid? The associative data or the concrete facts? The facts, right? Well, in The Rare Find, George Anders argues intelligently that these two examples might be equally meaningful in what they reveal. Hiring is just a good guess, and even the “facts” aren’t very illuminative. Even if a candidate spent five years at a successful company and graduated Ivy League, it doesn’t mean they’ll fit your culture or excel in the position you have to offer.
To get the best fit, Anders advises you look for a candidate’s character not through employee or education experience, but through their alternative interests. Perhaps a candidate has a jagged work history, perhaps they don’t have any glaring success stories. Anders says don’t overlook these candidates. Read resumes from the bottom up, Anders suggests, and look for hints as to “why” the person did what they did, not just the fact that they did it. Oftentimes, he surmises, you’ll discover hidden talents that can be useful to your organization and the tasks you need completed—and potentially avoid candidates who just “look good on paper.”
While some might regard this approach as a gamble, The Rare Find will counsel you on just why this approach is less of a risk, and will help you make better decisions in finding true talent to help your organization grow.
We’ve been fortunate to spend time with Dan Roam over the years, and his new book, Blah Blah Blah is as high-energy, insightful, and creative as he is.
Blah Blah Blah is a book that may just be impossible to give justice to in a review. From cover to cover, Dan Roam uses his great skill at communicating through words and pictures to inform us, charm us, and convince us to accept his belief that ideas become clearer when they are represented by pictures. Not that words aren’t important—this book is full of them—but Roam explains that:
Words are abstractions, the ultimate mental shorthand. When we know what they mean, words instantly call to mind ideas, images, feelings, and memories. When we all speak the same language, our words offer near-perfect communications efficiency. … But the extraordinary verbal efficiency of words also has a steep downside. Like all abstractions, words are by definition distinct from the actual “things” they represent. If we are unclear in our own mind about which specific “thing” our word means or if we’re unclear when we share words with other people, the whole system crashes.
Roam’s solution? Make communication less of an abstraction by using pictures to help guide understanding, to learn more quickly and to share ideas more clearly.
Start with Roam’s method of creating a Visual Grammar: “When we say a word, we should draw a picture.” Easy enough. Then combine that grammar into Vivid Thinking, which is more than just linking word pictures together, but about combining them in a specific way that reflects the complexity of our ideas—because Vivid Thinking is Balanced Thinking. As Roam writes:
Verbal mind, visual mind. They see the same world, but they don’t see it the same way.
This is important: drawing pictures as Roam suggests is not about simplifying. Nor does it dumb down our ideas. Instead, it makes them more concrete, more sticky. In fact, reading through Blah Blah Blah reminds me of my first reading of Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. Perhaps it’s Roam’s use of the word FOREST as a mnemonic device for his 6 essentials of vivid ideas. (The Heath brothers used the word SUCCESS as a mnemonic to remember their keys to sticky ideas.) FOREST stands for Form, Only the Essentials, Recognizable, Evolving, Span Differences, Targeted.
The use of FOREST is particularly memorable because of its relations to the phrase, “He couldn’t see the forest for the trees.” For Roam’s book offers easy to remember, easy to implement ideas that will help you see (and communicate) the forest and the trees.
Subir Chowdhury has written 13 books over the years, most recently a wonderful little parable entitled The Ice Cream Maker in which he introduced the LEO approach to sustaining quality in everything a company does. Since then, he has received repeated requests to write a more in-depth treatment of that process as it would work, or has worked, in the real world. And so Chowdhury took the LEO approach into the real world, tested it in numerous companies large and small, and has now delivered the book that so many were asking for—The Power of LEO.
LEO stands for Listen, Enrich, and Optimize, and it was developed by Chowdhury and his team after he realized that the Six Sigma and other management tools they were teaching to companies weren’t being fully implemented because they weren’t being tailored to those companies’ specific needs. LEO is designed to remedy that, tailoring those tools to each company’s unique circumstances, goals, and culture.
The Listen process requires putting aside past assumptions to comprehend the challenges the organization may be facing—involving customers, suppliers and employees in the process. The Enrich process involves reaching out to all relevant parties for ideas and solutions. And the Optimize process is when the solutions are examined and evaluated, subjecting them to every kind of challenge along the way and correcting possible shortcomings. As you move through these processes, the goal is to go from simply solving the problems your organization faces to avoiding them in the first place.
There are four cornerstones or mindsets to the LEO approach: “Quality Is My Responsibility” in which quality is shifted from a department responsibility to a personal responsibility; “All the People, All the Time” stresses the need for employees on every level of the organization to be a part of the quality campaign; “An I-Can-Do-It Mindset” encourages building employee confidence to ready them for the quality transformation, and; “No One Size Fits All” stresses again the need for solutions that are tailored to the company and situation at hand.
The LEO approach is then applied to three phases, the Fire, Flow and Future. The Fire is the specific problem at hand, Flow is the entire operations side of the company, and Future involves new products and services. Chowdhury dedicates a chapter to each of these areas with a case study for each: “Putting Out Fires” at a jelly-bean factory, “Fixing the Flow” at a toy company, and “Commanding the Future” at a major car manufacturer. He then rounds out the book with more stories on “Listenening Hard,” “Enriching the Product” and “Don’t Compromise, Optimize.”
Throughout The Power of LEO runs the undercurrent of “The Quality Mindset,” which focuses on people quality, and the author stresses from the beginning that the American leadership in innovation can better benefit our organizations and economy if we focus on quality in everything we do.