Books Section: 25 Amazing Business Books From 2014

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Here are 25 amazing business books from 2014 that will inspire, motivate and offer priceless advice for the entrepreneur, business leader, or hopeful business owner for upcoming year.

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HR Section: Is your leadership presence a true reflection of who you really are?

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How do others experience you as a leader? According to psychologist Kathryn Cramer, every leader has a “signature presence,” a set of leadership assets that are as unique as your handwritten signature. Just as your autograph telegraphs who you are, so, too, do the daily actions that comprise your leadership presence.

Here are five questions you can ask yourself and others to help determine those distinctive qualities that define your leadership.

  1. When I’m at my best, how would I describe myself?
  2. When I receive compliments, what specifically do people praise? Is there a theme to the praise?
  3. In what types of situations do I easily slip into “the zone” — meaning, with confidence and fluidity?
  4. Ask a colleague, “In what ways have I been a help to you?”
  5. Ask three people you know well: “Name five things about me that you can count on me to do.”

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Book Review Section: The Leadership Contract: The Fine Print to Becoming a Great Leader

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Recent studies show that only 7 percent of employees have trust and confidence in their senior leaders. How can we ever get our organizations to succeed if so few employees believe in their senior leaders? The Leadership Contract explains why leadership, and specifically leadership culture, is the only real differentiator between the organizations that thrive and those that fall behind.

This book explains how to establish a leadership contract that is fully understood and agreed upon by business leaders to ensure the success of their company.

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Book Review – Posterity: The Secret to Learning Anything: Albert Einstein’s Advice to His Son

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Posterity is at once an epistolary chronicle of America and a fascinating glimpse into the hearts and minds of some of history’s most admired figures. Spanning more than three centuries, these letters contain enduring lessons in life and love, character and compassion that will surprise and enlighten.

Included here are letters from Thomas Jefferson to his daughter, warning her of the evils of debt; General Patton on D-Day to his son, a cadet at West Point, about what it means to be a good soldier; W.E.B. DuBois to his daughter about character beneath the color of skin; Oscar Hammerstein about why, after all his success, he doesn’t stop working; Woody Guthrie from a New Jersey asylum to nine-year-old Arlo about universal human frailty; sixty-five-year-old Laura Ingalls Wilder’s train of thought about her pioneer childhood; Eleanor Roosevelt chastising her grown son for his Christmas plans; and Groucho Marx as a dog to his twenty-five-year-old son.

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Book Review: Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind

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We seem to have a strange but all too human cultural fixation on the daily routines and daily rituals of famous creators, from Vonnegut toBurroughs to Darwin — as if a glimpse of their day-to-day would somehow magically infuse ours with equal potency, or replicating it would allow us to replicate their genius in turn. And though much of this is mere cultural voyeurism, there is something to be said for the value of a well-engineered daily routine to anchor the creative process. Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (public library), edited by Behance’s 99U editor-in-chief Jocelyn Glei and featuring contributions from a twenty of today’s most celebrated thinkers and doers, delves into the secrets of this holy grail of creativity.

Reflecting Thomas Edison’s oft-cited proclamation that “genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration,” after which 99U is named, the crucial importance of consistent application is a running theme. (Though I prefer to paraphrase Edison to “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent aspiration” — since true aspiration produces effort that feels gratifying rather than merely grueling, enhancing the grit of perspiration with the gift of gratification.)

In the foreword to the book, Behance founder Scott Belsky, author of the indispensable Making Ideas Happen, points to “reactionary workflow” — our tendency to respond to requests and other stimuli rather than create meaningful work — as today’s biggest problem and propounds a call to arms:

It’s time to stop blaming our surroundings and start taking responsibility. While no workplace is perfect, it turns out that our gravest challenges are a lot more primal and personal. Our individual practices ultimately determine what we do and how well we do it. Specifically, it’s our routine (or lack thereof), our capacity to work proactively rather than reactively, and our ability to systematically optimize our work habits over time that determine our ability to make ideas happen.

Only by taking charge of your day-to-day can you truly make an impact in what matters most to you. I urge you to build a better routine by stepping outside of it, find your focus by rising above the constant cacophony, and sharpen your creative prowess by analyzing what really matters most when it comes to making your ideas happen.

 

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Banking Section: MasterCard’s Social Media ‘Conversation Suite’ Shapes Brand Strategy

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MasterCard has created the “Conversation Suite” — what the company calls a “dynamic, global insights and engagement engine” — in an effort to shift the company from merely monitoring social conversations to applying insights that “inform business decisions and foster more impactful communications.”

MasterCard describes the Conversation Suite as a web-based analytics tool, built in tandem with Prime Research and supported by a global team of social media experts that monitor, analyze and engage in conversations around the world, in real-time, 24/7.

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Book Review: Brand Thinking & other noble pursuits by Debbie Millman

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Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits is the equally fantastic follow-up to the 2007 anthology How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer, culling and synthesizing some of her finest interviews with such admired minds as Daniel PinkSeth GodinMalcolm Gladwell, and Wally Olins.

In the foreword, the inimitable Rob Walker provides his seemingly simple but enormously insightful definition of branding:

“My view is that branding is the process of attaching an idea to some object, or to a service or organization.”

Cultural critic and author Daniel Pink, who has explored such cornerstones of culture as the science of selling ideas and the psychology of motivation, sets out to define what a “brand” is:

I would define it two ways: from the sender’s point of view and from the receiver’s point of view. I don’t want to make it overly complicated, but from the perspective of P&G or Dell or any other company, a brand might be a promise: a promise of what awaits the customer if they buy that particular product, service, or experience. From the receiver’s point of view, I think a brand is a promise … a promise of what you can expect if you use the product or service, or if you engage in the experience.

When asked whether he thinks people chose products and experiences based on that promised expectation, Pink calls on our quest for belonging:

[T]ransactions between companies and individuals — or between brands and individuals — are in their own ways conversations. A promise can be one element of a conversation. It’s what draws people in. I think that’s why the dynamic is different when you look at this conversation after someone has bought the product or the service. I think the brand can operate in a somewhat different way then. When the brand is something that an individual takes home, the brand becomes something different. The brand becomes a form of affiliation, or a form of identification—a form of status. I tend to look at it as a form of affiliation. If I open up my laptop and it has the Apple logo on it, that might make me feel marginally more associated with a group of cool, interesting people than if the computer had another logo on it. … It’s deeply tribal.

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