Archive 2015


The wife spent her afternoon at the mall and is excited to show off her purchases. She announces that she’s coming out of the bedroom. The slinky, black number is impressive at first, but soon you realize that a size 6 dress on a size 8 frame comes up a tad short in the flattery department.

“No, sweetheart, I don’t think this outfit makes you look fat,” you reply.

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For the small businessman or middle class employee, meeting your financial obligations is like trying to navigate the Khumbu Icefall at Mt. Everest. You proceed cautiously looking for solid footing, all the while realizing that unpredictable shifts in the terrain can create yawning crevasses into which you can easily plunge. The route is treacherous, intimidating and highly personal. Only another struggling climber can appreciate the difficulty of the journey.

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Eye on the Prize


What on earth can a scholarly meditation of mankind’s fickle journey through history possibly have in common with the characteristics of exponential entrepreneurship; Coca-Cola’s design principles and agility; Baby Boomers not only postponing retirement but also launching businesses; or the role conversations play in the successful implementation of corporate strategies?

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The world is changing faster than ever before. Such volatility and uncertainty is frightening for some and exciting for others. getAbstract falls into the latter category, because changing environments always provide inspiration for great books.  The books getAbstract selects for its library are all relevant to business, but they share one other characteristic: They never advise “business as usual.”

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How is the Answer



When it comes to transforming your organization, good intentions will only get you to the starting line. The “whys” and “whats” of change management are significant, of course, but turning theory into practice requires direction. Therein lies the critical difference between Vlatka Hlupic’s The Management Shift and other books that promise to retool and revitalize your culture. Hlupic, a professor at the University of Westminster and founder and CEO of London’s Drucker Society, provides the “hows,” so you can enhance performance and sustain success.

Like many other business experts, Hlupic agrees that the top-down management paradigm is about as practical as a BlackBerry. While it may work for select organizations, the trend toward innovation, collaboration and inclusiveness is undeniable. Hlupic suggests that if you want to remain competitive and profitable, you better empower your people and unleash their creativity and enthusiasm. Hlupic, an in-demand speaker and consultant, spent some time with getAbstract explaining the essence of The Management Shift.

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“Look, kid,” the big boss says from behind a solid oak desk, smoke billowing from his pungent cigar as his triple chin spills over the Windsor knot in his tie. “I know ya’ got some talent. Come work for me. I’ll give you a nice salary and good benefits. Maybe someday you’ll have your own office.”

The young man accepts the offer – with the tacit understanding that he’ll spend the next 20 years plowing forward with his head down, obeying orders without so much as a whimper. The employer-employee relationship was pretty simple in the old days – and undoubtedly still exists. But it’s a flawed and outdated managerial style. Working folks are looking for more than financial rewards and even job security – they desperately want to matter.

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Recently, we sat down with executive coach, Scott Eblin, to discuss leadership. This time, we turn to the concept of mindfulness, which Scott examines in his most recent book Overworked and Overwhelmed. The topic, which Arianna Huffington termed the “third metric” of success, is extremely timely. In our fight or flight culture, we are beginning to understand that accomplishment can no longer be measured simply by fortune and power. Instead, we must figure in the quality of our life – our health and happiness – as measures of our achievement. But in our 24/7 corporate culture, how can we ensure our net worth and title are in line with our mental health? We spoke with Scott to find out.

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If you’ve delighted in Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles or any of Pixar’s other animated films, then you recognize the studio’s trademark creative genius. But you don’t win numerous Academy Awards and generate billions of dollars in ticket and video sales by happenstance. You need gifted employees, keen business acumen and, above all, an inspirational leader who understands and can execute your organization’s vision.

Ed Catmull, co-founder and president of Pixar Animation Studios, is credited with revolutionizing the animated film industry and establishing Pixar as the gold standard. He’s known as a dynamic, insightful and humble man who relishes the challenge of melding diverse interests into a unified, cohesive unit.

Catmull’s book, Creativity, Inc., details Pixar’s remarkable achievements and provides profound insight into Catmull’s managerial philosophy and methodology. Though he’s a strong, decisive CEO, Catmull is a far cry from the old-time stereotypical executive bully who rules with an iron fist and swears by his infallibility. Quite to the contrary, Catmull wears his vulnerability as a badge of honor and sees inestimable value in admitting to mistakes and misjudgments. In fact, one of his core principals focuses on uncovering “unseen problems” and attempting to ensure that they are not repeated.

“We will always have problems, many of them hidden from our view,” explains Catmull. “We work hard to uncover these problems, even if doing so means making ourselves uncomfortable (and) we marshal all of our energies to solve (them).”

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A Giant Among Us



When it comes to industry dominance and profitability, everyone knows Google is a colossus. But the company is also a giant in the eyes of its workforce. In results from Glassdoor’s annual Employees’ Choice Awards, Google co-founder Larry Page was voted the best large company CEO. Glassdoor, the career website, bases its awards solely on anonymous input from employees.

Google also was ranked No. 1 in two other categories – best places to work and compensation and benefits – and No. 3 in cultures and values. Glassdoor’s large company category includes organizations with more than 1,000 employees. Page, who received a 97% approval rating, was followed by Nike’s Mark Parker (97%), H-E-B’s Charles Butt (96%), Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (95%) and Ultimate Software’s Scott Scherr (95%). Employees in the United Kingdom also rated Page No. 1 (99%), followed by Ken Chenault (98%) of American Express, David Dyson (97%) of Three, Martin Bennett (97%) of HomeServe UK and Carolyn McCall (96%) of easyJet.

“Gaining the trust and approval of an entire workforce is one of the most difficult yet rewarding responsibilities for any leader,” said Robert Hohman, Glassdoor CEO and co-founder.

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Scott Eblin, is the co-founder and president of The Eblin Group, a professional development firm that supports executives and managers in exhibiting leadership presence by being fully present. The popular coach and speaker has also penned two of our favorite business books The Next Level and Overworked and Overwhelmed, the latter of which New York Times best selling author Marshall Goldsmith says “will fundamentally change how you live each day.” We were lucky enough to have the chance to sit down with Scott recently to discuss his philosophies and how we can overcome the fight or flight feeling so many of us frequently feel.

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You’re cruising home from work in your slick, late model, fully electric-powered sedan when suddenly the car on your right swerves into your lane, creases your front bumper and brings traffic to a grinding halt.

You swing open your door and climb out to investigate, only to discover that the offending vehicle is one of those new-fangled driverless numbers that operate autonomously. Great. Now how are you supposed to get the insurance information or fill out a police report without both sides of the story? And who is going to be held liable for damage or injuries?

Welcome to your future.

If you think this scenario is a science fiction fantasy from Isaac Asimov, then you are blissfully unaware of arguably the hottest topic in technology – artificial intelligence (AI). The very notion that machines potentially could pose a genuine threat to human beings is enough to unhinge even the most sophisticated minds among us.

Elon Musk, founder of the firm responsible for inventing and manufacturing the widely praised Tesla electric automobile, told an audience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014 that AI is akin to “summoning the demon,” according to “The Economist” magazine. Prominent British philosopher Nick Bostrom considers sophisticated artificial intelligence as an “existential risk” to humanity.

The recent sci-fi thriller hit, “Ex Machina,” cast an imposing light on the AI phenomenon, spinning the tale of a highly evolved female robot being evaluated for her human qualities and whether, in fact, she possesses consciousness. One of the film’s main characters predicts that the development of a robot that thinks, feels and acts like a human is inevitable.

“One day the AIs are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa,” he says. “An upright ape living in the dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction.”

Perhaps. But for now, a more level-headed approach can be found in John Frank Weaver’s Robots Are People Too, a getAbstract selection that’s drawing plenty of attention. The author, an attorney and expert on AI and the law, acknowledges the vast power and potential of artificial intelligence. Instead of lobbing doomsday warheads, though, Weaver intelligently discusses the ramifications of AI as it applies to creativity, privacy and cultural and legal issues.

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Did you hear the one about a couple of Second City executives who thought their experiences with improvisational comedy could actually benefit those in the corporate world?

It’s no joke.

Tom Yorton and Kelly Leonard aren’t suggesting that your department managers do 10 minutes of standup on the conference room table. Besides, most suits think running a business is about as funny as a colonoscopy. Nor are Yorton and Kelly asking you to search for the next Gilda Radner, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert or Tina Fey in your mailroom. The intent behind their book, Yes, And, is to demonstrate that the same collaborative principles upon which the famous Chicago improv troupe is built can also be applied to your business.

“When we teach comedy in the business world, it’s not in the service of pure entertainment,” Yorton said. “We’re doing it to help change behavior and get people to try things they otherwise wouldn’t do within the typical stiff, boring patterns of communication.”

While the authors provide an entertaining back-stage peek at Second City and the many personalities who rocketed to comedic fame, their fundamental purpose is to share the secrets of successful innovation and teamwork. Second City, a comedy improv pacesetter for half a century, initiated its corporate solutions outreach some 20 years ago. Now the company organizes roughly 400 business workshops annually.

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Stephen Young, author of the top-selling book, Micromessaging: Why Great Leadership is Beyond Words, is Senior Partner of Insight Education Systems, a management consulting firm specializing in leadership and organizational development services. As a recognized leader in his field, the former Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at JPMorgan Chase frequently consults with senior executives and the management teams of numerous Fortune 500 companies, and businesses worldwide. Indeed, his widely acclaimed seminar MicroInequities: The Power of Small™ has been embraced by over 15% of the Fortune 500 corporations and is being touted by corporate leaders as the new paradigm for diversity and leadership.

Stephen’s work has been featured in numerous business articles including The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review newsletter, and by Oprah Winfrey in several issues of O magazine. In addition, TIME magazine featured Stephen’s MicroInequities program in their annual “What’s next?” in the leadership category.

Inspiring so many powerful players in the corporate and academic worlds – not to mention Oprah – is no small feat, and so we jumped at the chance to sit down and delve a little deeper into the theory of micromessaging and how an awareness of it can help to create great leaders, and in turn impact productivity.

We believe that knowledge of micromessaging is the cornerstone that defines our ability to be an effective leader. Without this knowledge and skill, we merely function as task-driven colleagues or managers. When someone learns how to apply these concepts they are able to alter loyalty, motivation, inspiration and – ultimately – the performance of others.

getAbstract: Could you explain the concept of micromessaging?

Stephen Young: Micromessaging is about the subtle things that we do and say that reveal infinitely more information than simply the words we use. We don’t consciously think about the looks, the gestures, the tone of voice, and all the innuendos that makes us believe we’re doing the right thing.

For example, I could come into the office in the morning, greet you, and do all the right things: shake your hand, and say, “Good morning Hannah, how are you? How was your weekend? How is the project coming along? What about that other situation? Good. If you need my help, I’ll be in my office. It’s good to see you.” Before heading to my office, however, I take a couple of steps to the right to greet one of your colleagues, and you observe me lean back, tilt my head, smile, open my arms, and say, “Hey! Billy, man, what’s going on? It’s good to see you.” And you immediately know that Billy and I are connected, and you and I are not.

So, to your point, neither greeting was wrong, but an important message was conveyed via their delivery.

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Brian Souza is the New York Times bestselling author of The Weekly Coaching Conversation, as well as the critically acclaimed Become Who You Were Born To Be. Today, the founder and president of ProductivityDrivers, is a much sought after keynote speaker, and a highly acclaimed thought leader whose work has been featured in dozens of newspapers and magazines around the world including The European Business Review, Fast Company, and Success Magazine.

Indeed, Brian’s achievements and accolades are highly impressive and they become even more so when you realize that he juggles them while remaining a loyal husband to his childhood sweetheart, and doting father to his two young daughters. And that makes us love him all the more.

With The Weekly Coaching Conversation about to be rereleased in hard back, along with Brian launching a brand new website to complement and build on concepts addressed in the book, we figured the timing was perfect to sit down and catch up.

getAbstract: Your book was an instant New York Times bestseller, and is one of getAbstract’s top 10 most downloaded summaries. Why do you think it’s resonating so well with so many people around the world?

Brian Souza: I believe it’s because the message is new – it’s different – it’s easy to understand, simple to apply, and best of all, it works.

getAbstract: What do you see as the key differentiators?

Brian Souza: I think mainly because it’s fun to read. My goal wasn’t just to educate; I wanted to entertain. Secondly, it’s a quick read – you could easily complete it on a short, two hour flight. Plus it’s packed with tons of actionable takeaways.

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Were you one of the lucky few to attend the 2015 TED Conference in Vancouver last week? Voracious reader, philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates was on-hand to share some of his favorite books as part of his presentation notes. You might remember that we recently featured John Brooks’s Business Adventures – Bill Gates’s and Warren Buffett’s favorite business book. In his TED Conference review, Gates writes that “it’s certainly true that many of the particulars of business have changed. But the fundamentals have not. Brooks’s deeper insights about business are just as relevant today as they were back then. In terms of its longevity, Business Adventures stands alongside Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor, the 1949 book that Warren [Buffett] says is the best book on investing that he has ever read.”

In Joe Studwell’s How Asia Works the author challenges the belief that countries should leave economic development to market forces. He uses economic history to show that almost every advanced economy used protectionism at some stage to boost growth. He cites East Asia’s remarkable record to show why poor countries must remain steadfast in pursuing their goals, unswayed by trendy economic advice or pressure from their own entrepreneurs.

Our third pick from Gates’s TED list is Making the Modern World. Scientist and policy analyst Vaclav Smil’s approach is historical and multidisciplinary: He compares how algae, birds and beavers use materials to how humans use them, and traces human development from the first stone tools through the Bowflex machine. In his review, Gates notes that, “Smil is interested in the materials we use to meet the demands of modern life. Can we make enough steel for all those cars and enough concrete for all those roads? What are the risks if we do? In other words, can we bring billions of people out of poverty without destroying the environment?” Looking for a staggering statistic that might just keep you up nights? China used more cement in the past three years than the U.S. used in the entire 20th century.

You liked Bill Gates’s favorite books? You’ll find the full list on his blog Gates Notes.