Book Report: Mavericks at Work Essay
“If you do things the way everybody else does them, why do you think you’re going to do any better? ” Originality. This was the centerpiece of the Purple Cow and really, this is the key element to becoming a maverick. The maverick pushes how to differentiate himself from the competition in smart, strategic ways. This isn’t a unique concept, but the idea is simple. If you’re original, and the idea does not work, it may go unnoticed or you may get made fun of. If the idea works and is efficient, others follow and you are a genius. The key here is not to deliver, but to try.
If you don’t have the courage to try; you don’t have the courage to succeed. Competition can help make you grow as we. Compete one-on-one; compete against another company; compete against your own objectives – the more the competition, the potentially better product (you) because of what’s at stake… pride. Passion always will be in the driver’s seat. This feeling drives a person for better work; it makes you stay late and wake up early. Passion drives you to what others would call work each day. I have no passion to do the dishes, but I do have passion to conceptualize a mobile app.
No matter how much passion you have, you should also retain humbleness for the unknown. Don’t assume; don’t be a know-it-all; and keep learning. The most effective leaders are the ones who are the most insatiable learners. Simple is difficult. But always keep it simple as possible. And you don’t sell a product; you sell an experience. Starbucks makes millions over cheaper priced stores because they sell experience, not just coffee. Be unique in your story; be simple in your delivery. Social Media works. Reach out to your contacts on a personal level, and they respond. They talk about you and how they personally feel.
This affects their network, which builds a quasi-trust with your brand. Invest in social and your customers feel connected with you. This builds loyalty. Then build the product. The book then turns into the investment of people. Of not hiring separate stars, but hiring teammates that build the products whose the star. David Roberts didn’t win the 2004 World Series for the Sox. No, his team put him in the position to be an all-star and he delivered. The Red Sox then won the series. And it goes to the question of ”why would great people join your organization” in the first place? Is it the exciting projects? Is it the culture?
Or is it just a job. Those were some of the main points. Overall, the book was good, but I don’t know if Rob missed it too much over the past few months from his bookshelf Meet the innovators and upstarts who are inventing the future of business. Their unconventional ideas and groundbreaking strategies can become your business plan for the twenty-first century-a better way to lead, compete, and succeed. Business as usual is a bust. In industry after indus-try, the old guard is cutting back and losing ground. Meanwhile, organizations that were once dismissed as upstarts, as wildcards-or mavericks-are making waves and growing fast.
There is a reason: In an age of hypercompetition and nonstop innovation, the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something truly original. That’s the lesson behind the companies, executives, and entrepreneurs you’ll meet in Mavericks at Work. They are winning big in business by rethinking the logic of how business gets done. They have devised exciting new answers to the timeless challenges facing organizations of every size and leaders in every field: how you make strategy, how you unleash new ideas, how you connect with customers, how your best people achieve great results. Who are these mavericks?
They are break-the-mold business units inside giants such as IBM and Procter & Gamble, as well as high-profile innovators such as HBO and Pixar. They are Internet banks and gold mines, fashion retailers and advertising agencies, funky sandwich shops and hard-charging computer programmers. Together, they are creating an inspiring agenda that every business can put to work. Their success demonstrates that: Being different makes all the difference Sharing values beats selling value The company with the smartest customers wins Nobody is as smart as everybody Character counts for as much as credentials Great leaders are insatiable learners
Whether you’re a young professional setting out on your career, a senior executive looking to make your organization grow, or an entrepreneur building a company from scratch, Mavericks at Work will help you think bigger, aim higher, and win more decisively couldn’t help but feel a pang for all the lawyers (yes, a pang) when I read this passage in the much-blogged New York Times article, “The Falling-Down Professions” by Alex Williams: At the Chicago office of Perkins Coie, partners recently unveiled a “happiness committee,” offering candy apples and milkshakes to brighten the long and wearying days of its lawyers.
That sure is nice, but I’m not sure yummy snacks can combat a 20% rate of depression and the annual mass exodus of burned-out associates. Ditto with Sullivan & Cromwell’s “groundbreaking” program encouraging partners to shower their underlings with “thank you” and “good work. ” File under: putting lipstick on a pig. As the piece argues, no number of “happiness committees” will halt the erosion in status of the once-venerable legal and medical professions—because their slide as the go-to careers is rooted in a deeper shift in how people think about success.
While we still care about money, security, and mastery, we’ve come to put creativity, meaning, and freedom on the same plane (as a general rule—my sample doesn’t include Donald Trump). Here’s where I’d take a different turn. While that is an absolutely vital value shift at work in our society today—and one that is a driving force behind the current golden age of entrepreneurship—I don’t think it signals the demise of one set of professions and the ascendancy of another (e. g hedge funds and private equity firms).
Lawyers aren’t doomed (full disclosure: my excellent father is a lifelong, and excellent, lawyer), only certain firms and certain leaders. The really interesting shift isn’t from one profession to the next, but from one way of thinking about the arc of a career and working life in general to the next. It goes something like this: Old version: work hard (for a very long time), achieve success, earn freedom (to retire and do all the things you missed out on while you were working) New version: find work that affords you freedom = success
I would argue that the organizations and leaders that find a way to build freedom (freedom from the time clock, freedom from the cube, freedom from the org chart, freedom to create) into work will be the winners in the future. Freedom is a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control; freedom is about what you can unleash. And, increasingly, freedom isn’t something you pay your dues to earn so much as a basic human right of all working adults. Sounds pretty obvious, but most organizations today would have to go to drastic extremes to make that a reality. And some are.
One of my favorite experiments in this realm, which has gotten a lot of well-deserved attention: Best Buy’s radical experiment in workplace flexibility, the ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment) initiative. Created by two HR dynamos (I know, two words you rarely see in that close proximity), Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, the program attacks head-on what most “alternative work arrangements” only tip-toe around: the fact that we’re literally laboring under a myth (namely, time put in + physical presence + elbow grease = RESULTS). Our assumptions about how work works, where we work, and when we work are relics of the industrial age.
That’s not a new problem. ROWE finally addresses it. The basic principle: people can do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done. Period. You can come in at 2pm on Tuesday. Leave at 3pm on Friday. Go grocery shopping at 10am on Wednesday. Take a nap or go to the movies anytime. Do your work while following your favorite band around the country. The ROWE “13 Commandments” say it all—here are a few: –Work isn’t a place you go, it’s something you do. –Employees have the freedom to work any way they want –Every meeting is optional –Nobody talks about how many hours they work No judgment about how you spend your time This is radical stuff. So radical that Cali and Jody rolled ROWE out in several divisions over a couple years before fully briefing CEO Brad Anderson on the program (he’s now an enthusiast). Today, nearly all of the 4,000 headquarters employees are working in ROWE and there are plans for pilots among retail employees this year (which will be interesting to watch). The results have been spectacular: an average 35% boost in productivity in divisions working in ROWE and a decrease in voluntary turnover by 52-90% depending on department. Interestingly, involuntary turnover increased among ROWE workers—while it might seem like slacker paradise, shirkers have no place to hide when the only measure of work is results. What’s more, as the number of meetings fell, collaboration and teamwork improved. ) Just as important, employee engagement and other “soft” metrics (like energy and hours of sleep and family time) went up significantly. Check out the fascinating study from University of Minnesota for more data on the links between freedom and accountability, productivity, happiness, and health.
You can read about ROWE on Cali & Jody’s excellent blog (and, soon, in their upcoming book Why Work Sucks And How to Fix It) and here . I feature ROWE in my ongoing series on “workplace revolutions” on CNN. Lots of companies list “flextime” among their perks, what would it look like if they all added “absolute freedom”? 5/ 11/2012 CIO : 2006 Companies content to be just a little better than the competition may fade into mediocrity. That’s the warning from William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre in their new book, Mavericks at Work.
Companies defining not only best practices but also a set of next practices will be the ones that shine in an overcrowded, ultracompetitive marketplace, say the authors (both original members of Fast Company’s editorial team). After spending nearly two years visiting 32 maverick firms, the authors have lessons to share in four key areas: rethinking competition, reinventing innovation, reconnecting with customers and redesigning the workplace. Despite differing greatly in terms of size, revenue and business models, the companies profiled share a “usual isn’t good enough” mind-set.
For example, these mavericks provide compelling reasons for customers to choose them. One maverick idea that CIOs might apply is the concept of “open-source innovation”: When you’re stuck on a business problem, consider turning to the outside world for help instead of trying to force a solution internally. The authors present the case study of mining company Goldcorp, which shared proprietary data in a Web-based contest seeking solutions on where to drill for gold, with great success. Also informative for CIOs: Mavericks buck traditional ideas regarding hiring and recruiting.
They hire with the notion that character outweighs credentials. And they don’t wait for good people to contact them. They look for those who fit, and consider it a bonus to recruit them from rivals. Ultimately, Mavericks at Work poses a challenge: Is status quo good enough for your company, or will you find a way to be at the forefront of business leadership? CIOs charged with driving new lines of revenue could find insight in this book—and value in answering the key questions it presents. 5/11/12 BOB Morris Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win William C. Taylor and Polly G.
Labarre Harper Paperbacks (2008) How an organization can prosper in a “hypercompetitive marketplace” As William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre explain in this book, Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-70) was a wealthy land speculator in southwest Texas who cared little about cattle. “When someone repaid a debt with 400 head of cattle rather than cash, Maverick’s caretakers allowed them to wander unbranded. Over time, locals who saw unbranded cattle would say, `Those are Maverick’s’ – and a term was born that today refers to politicians, entrepreneurs, and innovators who refuse to run with the herd. Until reading this book, I did not know the origin of the term and tended to define it too narrowly as a descriptive of those who are by nature unconventional, eccentric, odd, etc. One of the basic arguments in this book is that, “when it comes to thriving in a hypercompetitive marketplace, `playing it safe’ is no longer playing it smart [and in business] mavericks do the work that matters most – the work of originality, creativity, and experimentation.
They demonstrate that you can build companies around high ideals and fierce competitive ambitions, that the most powerful way to create economic value is to embrace a set of values that go beyond just amassing power, and that business, at its best, is too exciting, too important, and too much fun to be left to the dead hand of business as usual. ” That is certainly true of the decision-makers in the 32 organizations on which Taylor and LaBarre function in this book. The strategies, practices, and leadership styles may in some respects seem “unconventional, eccentric, odd, etc. However, they help to explain how organizations as diverse as Anthropologie, Commerce Bank, DPR Corporation, GSD&M, IBM’s Extreme Blue, ING Direct, the Pixar Animation Studio, and Southwest Airlines have achieved extraordinary success in the “hypercompetitive marketplace” to which the authors refer. However, and this is a key point, Taylor and LaBarre correctly note that there’s a significant difference “between learning from someone else’s ideas and applying them effectively somewhere else. ” Presumably Cirque du Soleil’s founder, Guy Liberte, and his associates rigorously examined dozens of other organizations while ormulating and later refining their own strategies, practices, and leadership styles. In fact, that process never ends in “maverick” organizations such as Cirque du Soleil as their leaders continue to learn much of great value, especially what would not work and/or would not be appropriate for their organization. This really is a key point for those who read this book: by all means pay close attention to the various “Maverick Messages” that Taylor and LaBarre provide and explore the various “Maverick Material” they identify, then adapt — rather than attempt to duplicate — whatever will help make their own organizations more competitive.
I was especially interested in the material provided in Chapter Ten, The Company You Keep: Business as If People Mattered. Specifically I was curious to know how various “maverick” organizations recruited, interviewed, hired, and then developed the people they need to achieve what Jim Collins would describe as their “BHAGs,” their Big Hairy Audacious Goals. What kind of people do they look for? Here’s one response, from Jane Harper, founder of IBM’s Extreme Blue: “This is about finding people who could run the company someday.
What we offer is cool projects, small teams, and dynamic places to work. We look for virtuoso skills, unique life experience, and genuine passion. Our people groove on this work. They love it. And you can’t fake that. ” IBM describes Extreme Blue as an incubator for talent, technology, and business innovation. Its manifesto is “start something big. ” Taylor and LaBarre observe, “In the long term, the aim of Extreme Blue is to demonstrate new ways for IBM itself to work – to accelerate the turnaround strategy unleashed by the now legendary Lou Gerstner and advanced by his successor, Sam Palmisano. Later in this chapter, Taylor and LaBarre pose two questions that address the challenge of what they describe as “enhancing the character of competition”: (1) Why would great people want to be part of this company? and (2) Where and how to find great people in the first place? Consider these brief comments about Cirque du Soleil: “Our mission is to invoke the imagination, provoke the senses, and evoke emotions. ” Lyn Heward “Talent is everywhere. That is why we look everywhere. If we want to reinvent ourselves – which is what everybody at Cirque is trying to do – then we have o constantly bring in new things. We never close off any avenue where we might discover new talent. Out responsibility is to have our eyes open. ” Line Giasson “There are no stars here. The show is the star. That’s why our evaluation goes deeper than a talent evaluation. We need to learn about the person behind the artist. How many somersaults you can do is not as important as open-mindedness to our process, the tough-mindedness to get through the job, and what we call a `fire to perform. ’ That’s what we’re looking for. ” Lyn Heward
In the Introduction, Taylor and LaBarre promise to provide a book “that aims to be true to the maverick spirit of the agenda that it champions and the leaders it chronicles. ” They fully deliver on that promise as they examine with rigor and eloquence 32 organizations that exude “an undeniable sense of purpose. But it’s a sense of purpose that provokes: each company’s strategy tends to be as edgy as it is enduring, as disruptive as it is distinctive, as timely ass it is timeless. ” 5/11/12 Armchairs Reviewed by Celia Renteria Szelwach, DBA (ABD) (Also available as CD)
Anytime I hear the word “Maverick,” I think either Tom Cruise in the movie Top Gun (before his couch-jumping days on Oprah) or a rebellious outcast in the workplace–so of course I was drawn to this book. The lime-green cover calling to me from the airport bookstore didn’t hurt either. Authors Taylor and Labarre, former editors of Fast Company magazine, encourage us to “think bigger, aim higher, and win more decisively” by following the maverick methods of 32 organizations including Southwest Airlines, Cranium (makers of popular board games), Commerce Bank, Craigslist, and others highlighted in this book.
Their goal for Mavericks At Work is to open the reader’s eyes, engage his imagination, and equip him with the tools to act boldly by sharing “next” rather than “best” practices relevant for the 21st century. After reading this book, I believe they’ve succeeded. In 12 chapters, the authors discuss the value of disruptive points of view. By shunning traditional strategies, maverick companies like Cranium and Southwest Airlines have completely revitalized mature industries in order to reconnect with customers.
The authors also highlight the value of open-source innovation in helping companies like Goldcorp tap into new ideas from external sources. Subsequent chapters emphasize the importance of innovation networks, continuous learning, emotional branding, and the power of people. The Appendix offers valuable resources for follow-on reading. The writing is engaging and upbeat although I found it very difficult to follow the flow of the content and organization of this book. Chapters didn’t transition smoothly so I had to re-read previous sections in order to figure out how the next chapter applied.
It’s possible that this follows the “maverick” style the authors are promoting. In other words, the authors are practicing what they preach by challenging the reader through a non-linear and original thought process. Still, Mavericks At Work is the treatise on how to be unique and profitable in a sea of copycat competitors. This book is for corporate executives, entrepreneurs, or anyone desiring to break the mold by applying unconventional ideas and unusual strategies in order to reshape an industry, revitalize products and services, or even reinvent one’s own perspective. Armchair Interviews says: Highly recommended. /11/2012ASP. Net Mavericks at Work is very much like Less is More , Think Big, Act Small , Build to Last , or Good to Great . It’s an overview of some remarkable practices the authors, William Taylor and Polly LaBarre, found in a handful of companies around the world. The book covers a lot of ground, so I’m only going to share my favorite quotes (by the way, the etymology of the word maverick is quite interesting). ——————————————————————————– “The first and most important piece of every job is to tell a unique and relevant story about the space, the product, or the experience.
Story is the fundamental platform for organizing ideas. That’s how you connect emotionally with people. ” (David Rockwell, founder and CEO of Rockwell Group ) “The next frontier for making products more emotional is to turn them into something social—to create a sense of ownership and participation among customers themselves. The more people you invite to shape the company’s personality, the more you enable them to share their ideas with one another, the greater their stake in what your company does—and the more invested they become in its success.
In the new world of competition, generating a whole lotta love means unleashing a whole lotta participation. ” “In an age of endless choice and unrestrained advertising, companies do better when they make their customers smarter. And the most effective way to make customers smarter is to help them educate one another. The most intelligent way to stand out with customers is to unearth the collective intelligence of customers. ” “Who wants to enter a market that’s already too crowded? But even in the most crowded markets, there’s room for an innovator with something original to offer and something authentic to say. “If your goal is to establish a psychological contact with customers, then almost by definition you won’t appeal to all customers. […] Most of the maverick companies we’ve come to know focus on a narrowly drawn set of customers. ” “If you believe that a brand has to have a set of convictions, then you have to be prepared to piss people off. ” (Peter van Stolk, founder and CEO of Jones Soda) “One strategy for making an impression with customers, especially when rivals insist on nickel-and-diming them, is to give away something that other companies charge for—or wouldn’t think of offering in the first place.
The investment can be small; the returns can be priceless. ” “You cannot have happy, satisfied customers if your organization is filled with unhappy, dissatisfied people. ” “You’re responsible for your career. You need to look at it like a business. What do you want to happen? How do you want to be known? […] You can stay in one place and become an expert and a leader. You can have a good career that way. But a great career is all about movement. ” (Al West, CEO and Chairman of SEI Investments ) “The quality of a company’s performance can’t exceed the quality of performers in the company. “One more strategy to […] competition: as your rivals slash costs and make their products more affordable, you add features to make products more personal. ” 5/11/12 Mavericks at Work is very much like Less is More , Think Big, Act Small , Build to Last , or Good to Great . It’s an overview of some remarkable practices the authors, William Taylor and Polly LaBarre, found in a handful of companies around the world. The book covers a lot of ground, so I’m only going to share my favorite quotes (by the way, the etymology of the word maverick is quite interesting). ——————————————————————————- “The first and most important piece of every job is to tell a unique and relevant story about the space, the product, or the experience. Story is the fundamental platform for organizing ideas. That’s how you connect emotionally with people. ” (David Rockwell, founder and CEO of Rockwell Group ) “The next frontier for making products more emotional is to turn them into something social—to create a sense of ownership and participation among customers themselves.
The more people you invite to shape the company’s personality, the more you enable them to share their ideas with one another, the greater their stake in what your company does—and the more invested they become in its success. In the new world of competition, generating a whole lotta love means unleashing a whole lotta participation. ” “In an age of endless choice and unrestrained advertising, companies do better when they make their customers smarter. And the most effective way to make customers smarter is to help them educate one another.
The most intelligent way to stand out with customers is to unearth the collective intelligence of customers. ” “Who wants to enter a market that’s already too crowded? But even in the most crowded markets, there’s room for an innovator with something original to offer and something authentic to say. ” “If your goal is to establish a psychological contact with customers, then almost by definition you won’t appeal to all customers. […] Most of the maverick companies we’ve come to know focus on a narrowly drawn set of customers. ” If you believe that a brand has to have a set of convictions, then you have to be prepared to piss people off. ” (Peter van Stolk, founder and CEO of Jones Soda) “One strategy for making an impression with customers, especially when rivals insist on nickel-and-diming them, is to give away something that other companies charge for—or wouldn’t think of offering in the first place. The investment can be small; the returns can be priceless. ” “You cannot have happy, satisfied customers if your organization is filled with unhappy, dissatisfied people. ” You’re responsible for your career. You need to look at it like a business. What do you want to happen? How do you want to be known? […] You can stay in one place and become an expert and a leader. You can have a good career that way. But a great career is all about movement. ” (Al West, CEO and Chairman of SEI Investments ) “The quality of a company’s performance can’t exceed the quality of performers in the company. ” “One more strategy to […] competition: as your rivals slash costs and make their products more affordable, you add features to make products more personal. ”