Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Using Your Brain to Work Smarter

The brain is an amazing organ, and in a recent edition of our Executive Edge newsletter, we looked at how you can take advantage of the unique characteristics of the brain to work smarter. While it might seem obvious that we must use our brain to work smarter, what this article talks about are the techniques that can help us take advantage of the processes of the brain in new ways.

Right Brain vs Left Brain – In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink states that in the Information Age, the left brain has ruled with its sequential, logical, analytical way of thinking. But as we enter the Conceptual Age, there is a need for more right brain thinking, which is nonlinear, intuitive and holistic in nature. So to succeed in this new age people must develop their creative side.

Nurturing Your Brain – In Brain Rules, John Medina discusses what we need to do to nurture and protect our brain so that it can work at full potential. Sleep is especially important for proper brain function, as the brain needs to process the events of the day and complete learning tasks while the body rests. Stress is a great danger to the brain, as the chemicals released during stressful times can do damage to brain functions. So for best performance we need plenty of sleep and to learn ways of reducing the effects of stress.

Managing Your Emotions – When put in difficult situations, we tend to intuitively react with our emotions, such as fear or anger. So executives must learn how to control their emotions in order to manage effectively. As the authors of The Brain Advantage explain, this may include practices like stepping back from a situation to calm emotions before responding.

Thinking LessThe Brain Advantage also discusses the findings of brain researchers which show that people with higher intellect and/or more experience actually show lower brain activity. They found that this is because smarter, more experienced people can shift to auto-pilot, allowing their subconscious to take over. Experience allows routine work to take less thinking.

These are just a few examples of how our understanding of the brain can help us work smarter, taking advantage of the strengths of our mind and avoiding the weaknesses. You can read the complete Executive Edge report by subscribing to it directly, or receive all Executive Edge reports free as part of our Soundview Premium Subscription.


Book Trends Part II

Leadership and communication are trends that have been and will continue to be with us, but some business book trends come and go with the hot topics of the business world.

Not too surprisingly, social media is one of those hot topics that are currently generating new books. Everyone wants to know how to make money with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Coupled with this subject is that of customer empowerment, that through the use of social media the customer has taken the reins and is telling companies what they want.

Chris Brogan is among the authors filling the need for information in the social media arena, with Trust Agents which he wrote with Julien Smith last year, and Google+ for Business coming out in November. Shel Israel and Robert Scoble discuss blogs in Naked Conversations, Adam Penenberg demonstrates the power of viral media in Viral Loop, and Robert Bloom explains the new power of the customer in The New Experts.

In tandem with the green movement, we’re also seeing an emphasis on corporate and personal responsibility. Customers are making product, service and investment decisions based in part on how good a “corporate citizen” a company is, rather than just on how good the products are.

Carol Sanford just released a book entitled The Responsible Business, about which we’re hosting a webinar tomorrow. Daniel Goleman recently shifted from emotional intelligence to Ecological Intelligence.  Joel Kurtzman emphasizes having a Common Purpose that looks beyond the bottom-line. And Tim Sanders discusses the responsibility revolution moving through corporate American in Saving the World at Work.

One more trend that needs a mention is innovation. Although this topic isn’t new, there has been a strong emphasis in the business book world on recreating companies to be innovation powerhouses. Clayton Christensen is a leader in this arena, with the concepts he introduced in The Innovator’s Solution, and then is applying to other fields like healthcare, with The Innovator’s Prescription. Josh Linkner explains how to empower employees to be creative in Disciplined Dreaming, and Norihiko Shimizu describes the continuous innovation practices of Toyota in Extreme Toyota.

One great thing about these prolific business authors is that they are ready to fill in the information gap when a new trend comes up on the horizon. Our challenge as businesspeople is to find the time to read and apply this information before the next sweeping change takes place. That’s why Soundview is in business – to cut down the time from book to application.

Present Problems for the Future Work Force
March 1, 2010, 11:56 AM
Filed under: General Business, Health Care | Tags: , , , ,

“Kids today …” It’s impossible to think of a generation of adults in the past century or more that hasn’t uttered this phrase at one time or another. A segment of any decade’s adult population is bound to take a degree of umbrage with the culture and comportment of the young people they’re in the midst of raising.

However, the issues facing today’s youngest citizens of planet Earth aren’t restricted to song lyrics or things posted on social networking sites. A quick glance at the headlines on Google News reveals stories such as  a New York Times piece on a reporter’s about-face over mental health treatment (a great read if you have a few minutes), an article from The Associated Press about misinformed paranoia over vaccinations, and a UPI release about childhood obesity.

The latter of the three stories is an interesting one to consider. The problem of childhood obesity receives its share of press in the United States. I won’t waste your time listing the numerous culprits for why the problem exists. Instead, I’d like to project a few years into the future when the obese children of today are members of the work force. If, as the UPI article suggests, scientists are able to detect the potential for heart disease in a 3-year-old, the child is likely to suffer from significant health problems as an adult.

Some people find it inhuman to tie a serious health issue such as obesity to dollars and cents, but the fact remains that a healthier work force is more productive and takes less sick time. Good health also lessens the impact on the health care system. While Congress toils over the shape and structure of health care, we have the potential right now to improve the health of the next generation. The missed school days of today could be the missed work days of tomorrow. For the sake of the people many executives will eventually manage, we’d be well served to act now. If the above links indicate anything, it’s that kids today have enough to worry about.

For an interesting take on how to fix health care, check out our summary of The Innovator’s Prescription

Small Business Weighs Health Care Options

Here at Soundview we’re experts at condensing books that number in the hundreds of pages down to eight essential pages of information. Our purpose in doing this is to provide executives with concentrated knowledge that’s meant to give maximum impact for minimum time invested. Knowing the amount of effort that we put into this work, I can only tremble at the thought of tackling the bill that’s currently sitting on Capitol Hill. The health care reform bill that awaits the House of Representatives is nearly 2,000 pages. While I can’t give you eight compact pages, I’d like to discuss one aspect of the bill that is currently causing debate amongst a key segment of the American economy: small businesses.

Take a look at this article from The Dayton Business Journal for an inside track on the debate. I was glad to see that the reporter indicated there are people who are in favor of the bill, as well as covering the vocal element that are against it. While I don’t state my political opinions in this forum, I bring up the bill and its impact on small businesses because I’m anticipating a bump in business books dealing with health care if the bill is passed.

To date, Soundview has really only featured one title that dealt explicitly with health care. The Innovator’s Prescription by Clayton Christensen, Ph.D. remains a valuable resource for understanding the nature of the American health care system and the history of the system’s development.

We had the opportunity to speak with Christensen at a Soundview Live event in July 2009. Looking back on that conversation, I continue to reflect on Christensen’s argument that the government’s efforts had little to do with the care that patients actually receive. “This is a debate about reforming health insurance, not health care,” he told us at the time. While I think there is truth in his argument, I can’t help but feel that the thousands of small business owners across the U.S. are more concerned with the bill’s potential effect on their bottom lines at present.

I revisit Christensen’s book quite often, particularly when I read stories about the progress of health care reform. Regardless of the size of your company, it wouldn’t hurt to take a second look at our summary of The Innovator’s Prescription. In the event a new system dawns, those who stay informed will likely be the ones to have the smoothest transition.

Walking a Tightrope in HR

If you look closely at many of my posts, you’ll notice that I rarely give out any personal details. Truth be told, I’m quite a private person, despite the fact that I communicate with all of you a few times each week. I sometimes feel as though the continued dominance of social media in our lives has led people to willingly give  up their privacy with nary a second thought.

Strangely, some of the same folks who don’t mind posting photos from a company happy hour on their Facebook pages are likely to bristle at corporate requests for info for a health and wellness survey. They may not have a choice in the near future. This article from discusses the increase in Human Resource departments asking employees to fill out a health and wellness questionnaire prior to enrolling in the company’s health insurance program.

I found this article to be loaded with the type of issues that define life in today’s corporate world. The survey can ask an employee about the number of alcoholic drinks he or she consumes each week. However, it can’t ask the same employee whether or not there is a history of cancer in his or her family. This is due to a fear of lawsuits due to genetic discrimination. To help ensure employee cooperation, some companies are offering incentives such as lower insurance premiums for workers willing to participate in smoking cessation programs. Yet, companies are at risk if they bar employees coverage for not agreeing to fill out the survey.

However, I think my favorite quote from the article is this one: “Maybe you think you’ll fudge the truth? Don’t. That’s fraud, and could be grounds for dismissal.” I can almost guarantee that some people reading that statement would reply, “How will they ever know?” I suspect that these are the same folks that would thrill us with a Twitter tweet about low cigarette prices at a local gas station.

Human Resource professionals are in a bind that I, for one, do not envy. As they continue to walk a tightrope between lowering their health care expenses and breaching privacy issues, one has to wonder whether it will be employee or employer who has to make the biggest changes.

For a great read on the difficulties facing HR departments (and how to solve them), check out our summary of The HR Scorecard by Brian Becker, Mark Huselid and Dave Ulrich.

Small Business and the Trillion Dollar Bill

The debate continues to gain momentum concerning the potential changes to health care in the United States. I took a few moments to read (and reread) this article from the Wall Street Journal that discusses the impact on small business of the proposed $1.04 trillion health care legislation. Our client base is quite diverse, something of which we’re very proud, but small businesses make up a vital (and vocal, I might add) segment of our subscribers. So many of the books that we summarize are intended to provide the information that can help entrepreneurs and small business owners to propel their businesses beyond the corporate equivalent of living paycheck to paycheck.

While it’s not my intention to offer any political commentary on the bill that is currently circulating in the House of Representatives, I will say that I was glad to see the Wall Street Journal put the issue “above the fold”  as they say in the newspaper business. (Quick editorial aside: With the way newspapers continue to move away from print and toward online-only offerings, what will editors say in future? Above the scroll?). Small businesses are often glossed over while the two sides of the aisle lob legislative shells at one another.

While this goes on, we at Soundview continue to refer back to The Innovator’s Prescription. We’re only two weeks away from our Soundview Live event with the book’s lead author Clayton M. Christensen. Will you be joining us? If you’re currently a subscriber, visit our Web site and sign up FREE. If you’re not a subscriber,  just click this link to learn more about how easy it is to become a Soundview subscriber and receive free admission to our Soundview Live audio events.

The upcoming edition of Soundview Live will feature extensive Q&A with Clayton Christensen. This is driven largely by the questions submitted by our subscribers. I, for one, hope our friends in the small business sector ask Christensen’s opinion of the proposed legislation and how it relates to the vision outlined in his book. Should make for great listening!

Somebody Call a Doctor

If we’re able to push aside the celebrity-related news for two seconds, what remains on the front page is an intense focus on the health care system here in the United States. Opposing sides are dissecting and scrutinizing every aspect of this hot-button issue. Today, with great interest, I checked out the story of Wal-Mart weighing in on the issue.

As the summer rolls on, this issue may generate the most heat of all. This is partly pleasing to me since we opted to select The Innovator’s Prescription as one of the 30 best books of 2009. I have to tell you, this was a book that generated some considerable debate amongst our selection committee. It had nothing to do with the quality of the content. We knew it was great material. We were somewhat concerned that our existing subscribers may feel the book didn’t have direct application to their own business. How times change, eh? With the prospect of major shake-ups in health care, there’s never been a better time to arm oneself with much-needed info about the health care industry and possible ways to improve it. This summary gives an in-depth look at a top-to-bottom overhaul of the health care industry via disruptive innovation.

And for you subscribers out there, you’ll be able to sign up for FREE for our Soundview Live event featuring Dr. Clayton M. Christensen, co-author of The Innovator’s Prescription. This live audio broadcast on the Web will give you the chance to send your questions in to Dr. Christensen. Who knows? By the end of the month, we could be looking at a whole new landscape in health care. I, for one, can’t wait to hear what Dr. Christensen has to say about it!