Soundview Executive Book Summaries


The Myth of Multitasking

Recently, I was on a conference call with my office and on the other line was a room full of people. As I listened, my email alert popped up and I clicked over to see what it was about. A minute later I realized that I hadn’t heard what was being said on the call. I quickly focused back on the meeting, only to be distracted again by the headline of the Wall St Journal lying open on my desk.

Then the dreaded question could be heard on the other side of the phone, “What do you think about that?” Oh, they’re talking to me and I have no idea what was just said. With a quick “I didn’t quite catch that last part, can you repeat it?”, I caught back up with the conversation while moving the newspaper out of view.

Multitasking is a myth for most of humanity. Our minds are designed to focus on only one thing at a time, and what most of us refer to as multitasking is actually linear-tasking, moving our focus quickly back-and-forth between several tasks. But our mind is focused on only one at a time.

A Utah researcher found that only about 2.5% of the population can actually multitask, a rare group of “super-taskers.” The rest of us can only truly multitask with activities that don’t require our mind to be fully engaged, such as knitting or working out. Such automatic tasks allow us to focus our mind on something else like reading or watching TV.

In The Age of Speed, Vince Poscente says that multitasking can actually slow us down. He points out that brain scans reveal that if we do two tasks at the same time, we have only half of the usual brain power devoted to each. Can we really afford to be only half there for an important activity?

Poscente believes that we should embrace speed. What he is suggesting is that we should use every technology at our disposal to speed up the unimportant tasks of our lives – the minutiae that we just need to get through. Then we can take our time with the important tasks, those things that really matter to us.

What does this look like in daily life? Well, it means that we must always be making evaluations of the tasks we’re performing. Is this a task I just need to get through as quickly as possible, and if so how can I make it more efficient? And on the other hand, if a task is important and valuable, how can I hold back the interruptions so that this time has my full attention?

An example that most of us can identify with is setting a rule of no mobile devices at the dinner table. Interaction with our family is essential and should not be interrupted by anyone’s cell phone. We draw a line here – this is not the time for speed.

In the corporate world, this concept is leading to what is called a “values-based time model.” Poscente uses the example of Best Buy and its Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). This initiative has led to a 35% increase in productivity.

So the bottom line is that multitasking is not the solution to our time pressures. Instead we need to make value-based decisions about what to focus our attention on and what to speed up with the technologies at our disposal. So when I’m on the phone with the main office I need to put aside the distractions!

Advertisements


Handing Over the Reins to the Consumer

For those who have not been keeping up on the big news in the e-book publishing industry, the DOJ (Department of Justice) recently brought a lawsuit against the 5 big publishers and Apple for price-fixing, based on their agreement to use the “agency” price model. The publishers made this move to gain back control of pricing from Amazon and it worked.

This story has quite a lengthy and complex history, which Charles Stross does a great job of explaining in detail in his blog of April 14th. One of Stross’ points is that publishers got themselves into this mess with Amazon by insisting on DRM (digital rights management) protection for their books.

Publishers were concerned about the pirating of their books, but in the process of protecting the content they made it much harder for customers to consume the books they had purchased on the device they preferred. So Amazon gained a monopoly by developing the Kindle and locking books to one device.

Years ago, when Soundview began publishing business book summaries in digital form, we had this discussion about DRM as well. We researched software, devices and customer preferences and came to the conclusion that what’s best for our customers was to provide them with summaries in as many formats as possible to provide them with flexibility. Could someone take advantage of the lack of DRM protection? Certainly, but we believed that what’s best for the customer would also be best for us in the long run.

This has indeed proven to be the case as this flexibility has allowed us to move quickly to provide our book summaries in formats for the latest devices for individuals, and to provide our content in the ways that work for our corporate clients as well.

Let’s hope that publishers learn this lesson soon before they’re put out of business by competitors who are willing to adapt.



Leading Effectively from Anywhere

In the preface to her book The Virtual Executive, Dr. Debra Benton tells a love story. A story of meeting a real-life cowboy and of learning to run her consulting company, with accounts in 19 countries, from a 550-square-foot, 75-year-old cabin on a remote high-mountain ranch with sporadic electricity.

Benton learned to be a virtual executive before it became popular and in the process brought in more money in her first year of remote leadership than in the company’s previous 15-year history. From this experience she has captured principles to teach all executives who are still learning the art of leading virtually.

In her own words Benton states that “My goal is to give you simplicity in a world of complexity.”

One part of the book that I especially appreciated is when she lists her definition of being successful. Here are her measurements of success, in brief:

  •  You are working toward, you are on the brink of, or you have achieved your dream career while you remain a solid citizen.
  • When you communicate – which you have to do all of the time with everyone in some manner or another – you are deemed impressive, memorable, credible, genuine, trusted, liked, competent, confident, comfortable, cool, calm and collected.
  • You feel broadly adequate, and you treat others as broadly adequate too. That means you expect acceptance for what you bring to the table, and you give it to others.
  • People do not care if your style is dictatorial or participative so much; they care because you have goodwill toward them.
  • You fully appreciate the Golden Online/Offline Rule: “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”
  • You understand that when others treat you negatively, it’s because they themselves feel inadequate, do not feel “okay”, are having a bad day, or are upset, and they often attempt to transfer those feelings onto others. However, you do not let them to that to you.
  • You are equally effective in communicating these positive attributes that have contributed to your success whether you are face-to-face, talking on a phone, or e-mailing half way around the world.

Dr. Benton will be sharing her principles for effective virtual communications at our upcoming Soundview Live webinar, Becoming a Virtual Executive, on April 26th. Please join us to learn these crucial techniques for yourself.



Can Technology and Sanity Co-Exist?

It’s amazing how easily we’re affected by the technology around us. Do you become impatient when a website doesn’t load in less than 2 seconds? Do you become frustrated when someone doesn’t respond to your email within a minute? Does any communication that’s more than a sentence long cause you to begin scanning?

It almost makes me long for the days of rotary phones and letters that go through the mail. But of course I’m showing my age because I expect that most of you have never used a rotary phone or written a letter and sent it through the mail!

But then it struck me that the problem isn’t with technology – it’s with us. We can either allow all of our gadgets to run our lives or we can make them work for us to make our lives better. This isn’t a novel thought by any means but it’s still a reminder that I need, and perhaps you need as well.

I ran across an article in the Wall St Journal titled Employees, Measure Yourselves. The article describes a new line of software and apps that have been created to help us measure how we use our work time, collect our creative ideas, track our heart rate for stress factors, and measure a whole host of other areas of our lives. If tracking activity can reveal trends and help us to improve, then this is a good thing.

As I scanned our Soundview archive, I found a few business book summaries that demonstrate this point very well. In The Age of Speed, Vince Poscente makes the case that rather than slowing down to avoid stress and achieve balance, we should take advantage of technology to help us work more quickly and efficiently. Charlene Li, author of Open Leadership, also makes the case for using technology to our advantage to become better leaders by tapping into the power of social media.

As I think about it, the very purpose of Soundview Executive Book Summaries is to leverage technology to help executives make the best use of their time, while keeping up on the latest business thinking. It started with print book summaries mailed to subscribers, then on to audio summaries that could be listened to in the car or on the treadmill, and now we offer eight digital formats for use on any computer, smartphone, e-reader or tablet.

How are you using technology to improve your life? Give it some thought and send along your ideas for others to read through our comments box.



Book Review: The Thank You Economy

by Gary Vaynerchuk

Upon picking up the Soundview Executive Book Summary of author and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk’s book The Thank You Economy, one concept should leap out at readers. Vaynerchuk wants you to provide one-on-one attention to your company’s entire customer base. This sounds like a considerable challenge to companies whose customers number in the thousands or tens of thousands. The fact that he believes social media is the tool with which to accomplish the task may do little to lighten the burden of this challenge to the reader. However, as the audiences who attend his speeches would likely report, Vaynerchuk is quite persuasive in getting his point across.

The Thank You Economy isn’t a social media primer, for those readers fearing another business book that spends half its pages going over well-tread ground. Instead, Vaynerchuk uses a fascinating array of examples from companies of all sizes to demonstrate the right (and, in some cases, wrong) way to use social media to connect with customers. He also devotes a section of the book to the importance of building a social culture within the organization, a process that begins with executives. Decision-makers quickly realize that Vaynerchuk is arguing the critical importance of connecting with customers is not a responsibility to be passed down the line.

The word to which Vaynerchuk returns time and again in his book is “opportunity.” While he may be referring to social media as the opportunity your business can’t afford to miss, there are those who would point to his book as an opportunity for advancement unto itself. For that, Vaynerchuk certainly deserves a thank-you of his own.

To get your copy of the Soundview Executive Book Summary of The Thank You Economy visit Soundview’s Web site Summary.com.



E-books and the Business Book Market
March 7, 2012, 11:24 AM
Filed under: Books in General, E-Books, Technology | Tags: , ,

On Monday I ran across an interesting article on the Smart Money site titled 10 Things E-Books Won’t Tell You. In the article Kellie Grant looks at the negatives of e-book ownership. As I read through her ten points, I found myself considering which of these points might apply to business e-book customers.

Here are the points that stuck out to me:

  1. We’re not one-reader-fits-all:  the point here is that books can’t be easily transferred from one manufacturer’s device to another. This can be a real problem for business executives, who tend to be early adopters and rough on their devices. How can you get you growing list of books from your Kindle to your iPad, or your Sony Reader to your Nook?
  2. Watch your data bill – a standard book can be up to 1GB in size, which can really affect your data usage if you download a lot of books. Cell phone companies are beginning to charge more for data, and who has time to hunt for WiFi hotspots to save on download costs?
  3. The extras will kill you – as business authors expand their use of multi-media in their books (see my post on the business use of iBook Author), this will raise the price of e-books and add to data usage.
  4. E-books are the new latte – as business book readers, we’re already guilty of buying stacks of books that we’ll never find time to read – that’s why Soundview offers book summaries.  But now it’s even easier to make an impulse buy with e-books purchased on a website, downloaded directly to your latest device. The result – more unread books, more money, more data usage.

And yet, the convenience is still very compelling! Since e-book publishing and device development are still evolving, perhaps we’ll see solutions coming soon for the issues listed above. But in the mean time it’s probably best to think carefully before each device and e-book purchase to make sure you’re investing your money wisely.



How Does Your Company Rate?

Although we’re seeing some slight improvements in our economy in recent weeks, we still have a long way to go to a full recovery. However, some are looking beyond the present crisis and see signs of a strong economy in the future – that is for those that make the grade.

In Good Company, Laurie Bassi and her co-authors make the case that to succeed in the future a company will need to meet the criteria for what they call a “good company.” They have developed a rating system (The Good Company Index) which takes into account certain criteria that are becoming essential in the new economy.

  1. Good Employer – they use a starting number based on ratings from Glassdoor.com and the Fortune list of 100 best companies.
  2. Good Seller – they use the consumer ratings of wRatings regarding quality, fair price and trust.
  3. Good Steward – they based this on statistics regarding a company’s record on the environment, penalties/fines, restraint in executive compensation and contribution to society/community.

As they state in their book, “A good company is one that starts with good intentions and then puts those into practice concretely through its actions in these three areas. Is your company good or moving toward good?

If you think that your company may not rate well and would like to move it up the charts, join Laurie Bassi and co-author Ed Frauenheim for our Soundview Live webinar Business Success in the Worthiness Era coming up on March 1st.