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The Green SheetGreen Sheet

The Green Sheet Online Edition

May 25, 2015 • Issue 15:05:02

GS Books Notes

A few of the books that have caught the eye of The Green Sheet recently contain a blueprint for becoming a leading-edge learning organization, an in-depth look at human creativity and a handbook for building a successful business while also endeavoring to improve the world. They are described below.

Learn or Die

In Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization, author Edward D. Hess posits that humans are lazy thinkers, who operate on auto pilot most of the time. "We take what we already know, replicate it, improve it, and repeat," Hess wrote. "It is much easier than thinking innovatively." He believes businesses have taken this model, which he called an operational excellence model, as far as it can go.

"Unfortunately, many of the jobs this model creates can now be done by machines," he added. "Today, the only real competitive advantage is an ability to learn and innovate. That's it. And if your business is set up on the old model, it just doesn't lend itself to learning and innovating."

He feels that surviving this requires shaking up a company's culture in a way that will reward people strongly enough to override their natural tendencies and continuously generate and share new ideas. "Doing so requires creating a hybrid business model, one that prioritizes the need for innovation while keeping in play the best aspects of operational excellence – for example, its focus on relentless, constant improvement," he wrote. "Succeeding at this hybrid culture requires a commitment to learning. Lazy brains won't survive."

The book sets forth actions businesses can take to become successful learning organizations, such as the following: empower fast, cheap, customer-centric experimentation; turn mistakes into surprises; teach employees to work around their weaknesses; and make it a duty to dissent. Hess, a professor at the University of Virginia's Darden Graduate School of Business, discusses these steps fully and offers examples of their implementation. The book was published in December 2014 by Columbia Business School Publishing.

How to Fly a Horse

Busting myths about creativity is the primary mission of How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery by Kevin Ashton, who is known as a technology pioneer at MIT and leader of three successful startups. "Creating is not rare," he said. "We are all born to do it. If it seems magical, it is because it is innate. If it seems like some of us are better at it than others, that is because it is part of being human, like talking and walking. We are not all equally creative, just as we are not all equally gifted orators or athletes. But we all can create. … There is no electric fence between those who can create and those who cannot, with genius on one side and the general population on the other."

So, how do creators create? Ashton said they work. In particular, they apply in various ways everyday, ordinary thinking, in myriad small steps, working diligently from problem to solution, problem to solution. He researched examples of creativity from the arts, science, business and invention. Case studies include Mozart (who, it turns out, didn't imagine his works fully formed in his mind before writing them down), Apple, Archimedes, the Wright Brothers and the artist Kandinsky, among others. The book was published by Random House in January 2015.

Do the KIND Thing

In Do the KIND Thing: Think Boundlessly, Work Purposefully, Live Passionately, author Daniel Lubetzky, the Chief Executive Officer and founder of KIND Healthy Snacks, weaves together a personal memoir and a how-to book that shares the principles that shaped KIND's business model to empower entrepreneurs who want to pursue their passions with purpose, both personally and professionally.

The child of Holocaust survivors who taught him that small acts of kindness can ultimately make a huge difference in how people relate to each other, Lubetzky said the book is "my way of giving back to the next generation of entrepreneurs and anyone eager to learn from the experience of others. Hopefully, others will learn from the many mistakes I made, and be encouraged to persevere as they encounter obstacles of their own." The book was published by Ballantine Books in March 2015. end of article

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