The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work

The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work

by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer                  

“Inner work life influences people’s performance on four dimensions: creativity, productivity, work commitment, and collegiality… Inner work life matters for companies because, no matter how brilliant a company’s strategy might be, the strategy’s execution depends on great performance by people inside the organization.”

“To a great extent, inner work life rises and falls with progress and setbacks in the work. This is the progress principle and, although it may be most obvious on the best and worst days at work, it operates every day.”

The Progress Principle is the result of primary research by two psychologists who studied 238 knowledge workers from 26 teams in 7 companies representing 3 industries over the course of a team project—generally about 4 months. Participants submitted daily diary forms to the researchers confidentially. The authors cite some positive and negative scenarios, using pseudonyms to disguise the individuals and their employers.

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Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism

Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism

by Tom Peters  

Nearly 40 years after the publication of the über-bestseller In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters has written his 19th book. His insights on organizational effectiveness (and dysfunction) are as relevant as ever. ‎

“In In Search of Excellence, we defined Excellence in terms of long-term performance. But that begs a/the question. How do you achieve that long-term super-effectiveness? … Excellence is not an ‘aspiration.’ Excellence is not a ‘hill to climb.’ Excellence is the next five minutes.”

Given that Peters has two engineering degrees, an MBA, and a PhD in business, you might be surprised by his findings. “Enterprise excellence is about just two things: People. Service. Excellence = Service. Service to one’s teammates, service to one’s customers and vendors, service to our communities.”

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Unfettered: Mission-Aligned Boundary Spanning

Boundary Spanning in Practice
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Unfettered: Mission-Aligned Boundary Spanning

by Kitty Wooley et al. (interview)

Senior Fellows and Friends is a group of current and former U.S. government employees. Spearheaded by Kitty Wooley, members of the group have published two compilations of articles about breaking through the silo mentality. They encourage inter-agency collaboration throughout the hierarchy to achieve greater institutional learning, more motivated staff, and greater effectiveness in executing organizational missions. While their context is government, the topics also apply to large businesses and nonprofit organizations. Continue reading “Unfettered: Mission-Aligned Boundary Spanning”

Authentic Leadership

Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value

by Bill George

Former Medtronic chairman and CEO Bill George wrote this book following a series of corporate scandals, including Enron, Sunbeam, Tyco, and Worldcom—just to name a few. These companies imploded because management was fixated on maximizing short-term shareholder value.

To paraphrase my favorite line in the book: you are running a business, not a stock. That said, the compound annual growth rate of Medtronic split-adjusted stock price was 28.5% during George’s 12-year tenure, according to my calculations. Not too shabby!

The first part of the book deals with the character, values, and sense of purpose required to inspire employees. George also shares his wisdom and personal experiences regarding customers, quality, market share, growth, innovation, acquisitions, FDA approval delays, Wall Street analysts, and corporate governance. Continue reading “Authentic Leadership”

The Tyranny of Metrics

The Tyranny of Metrics

by Jerry Z. Muller

“This book argues that while they are a potentially valuable tool, the virtues of accountability metrics have been oversold, and their costs are often underappreciated.” There are chapters on the dysfunction of “metric fixation” in colleges and universities; schools; medicine; policing; the military; business; and philanthropy. Problems include gaming the system, costs exceeding benefits, and diverting effort from the core mission. A major theme is metrics as a substitute for competent judgment.  Continue reading “The Tyranny of Metrics”

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

by Matthew B. Crawford

This book is primarily about restoring honor to the manual trades. Crawford writes about the “rich cognitive challenges and psychic nourishment” that come with “the experience of making things and fixing things.”

It makes sense to start with some context about the author’s career path. “I started working as an electrician’s helper shortly before I turned fourteen… When I couldn’t get a job with my college degree in physics, I was glad to have something to fall back on, and went into business for myself.” Later, Crawford went back to school and earned a Ph.D. in political philosophy. He took a job as executive director of a think tank, but he found the work dispiriting. “Despite the beautiful ties I wore, it turned out to be a more proletarian existence than I had known as a manual worker.” After only five months, he quit and opened a motorcycle repair shop. “Perhaps most surprising, I often find manual work more engaging intellectually.” Continue reading “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work”

The Excellence Dividend

The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work That Wows and Jobs That Last

by Tom Peters

Tom Peters makes a renewed call to excellence in the context of an increasingly data-driven and dehumanized world. His “putting people first” mantra is even more on point than it was when his seminal work In Search of Excellence was published in 1982.

“The primary defenses against AI-driven job destruction are widespread, relatively unconstrained creativity and novel organizational arrangements designed to produce products and services that will stand out in an automated world. I unequivocally believe that such creativity is antithetical to algorithmic optimization of human affairs.”

“So what is this Excellence Dividend? In short, businesses that are committed to excellence in every aspect of their internal and external dealings are likely to be survivors. They are better and more spirited places to work. Their employees are engaged and growing and preparing for tomorrow. Their customers are happier and inclined to spread tales of their excellence far and wide. Their communities welcome them as good neighbors. Their vendors welcome them as reliable partners. That in turn translates directly into bottom-line results and growth. And, AI and robotics notwithstanding, it translates into jobs that last and the likely creation of new jobs as well.” Continue reading “The Excellence Dividend”

The Art of Seeing

the-art-of-seeing

The Art of Seeing: An Interpretation of the Aesthetic Encounter

by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Rick E. Robinson

This book explores the enjoyment of viewing art within the framework of flow, the psychology of optimal experience. Flow is an intrinsically rewarding feeling of total involvement in an activity. To be fully engaged in a state of flow, one must be skilled and challenged. The author studied museum professionals as a proxy for the more general art viewing population.

“The experience is one of an initial perceptual hook followed by a more detached, intellectual appreciation that returns the viewer to the work with a deeper understanding.”

“The best examples of objects containing such challenges are works whose meaning appears to be inexhaustible.” As one respondent put it, “‘A good painting will never be used up.’”

Four dimensions of aesthetic experience are explored: cognitive, perceptual, emotional, and communicative.

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Team of Teams

team-of-teams

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World

by General Stanley McChrystal with Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell

When General Stanley McChrystal took command of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in 2003, he was fighting a 21st-century war with a 20th-century military. This engaging book is about the reconfiguration which  led to faster decisions and greater results. McChrystal’s mission was to defeat Al Quaeda in Iraq (AQI), but his leadership insights are applicable to business as well. Continue reading “Team of Teams”