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.
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.
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.
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.
Vince Poscente is an internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, founder of The Goal Acceleration Institute, and author of both The Ant and the Elephant and The Age of Speed. His specialty? Helping people achieve big goals in less time. Given that in just four years, Poscente himself trained to go from recreational skier to an Olympic speed skier competing in the 1992 Albertville Olympic Games, we’re thinking he’s pretty well qualified to tell us a thing or two about just going for it, achieving our dreams, and living the lives we want. So, with our interest in his theories piqued, we went ahead and did – probably just what he would do – we called him up, and asked him for an interview. He said yes. So, in the spirit of Poscente, we set the clock to five minutes… And without further ado, let’s ready, set, go!
gA: Can you tell us a little about your background and explain how you believe your past got you to your present?
VP: Well, I’ll try to keep this as succinct as possible. What I’m best known for is having gone from recreational skier to an Olympian – who, at my peak, ranked 10th in the world – in just four years. This achievement alone is proof that I somehow put together an effective formula for reaching big goals fast, in this case the Olympic Games.
Being able to take that achievement and “formula”, and apply it to any number of unrelated goals and objectives – for both myself and my clients – is something I’ve since dedicated my life to. And I must say that it’s very nice that recognition of this unique gift has afforded me a bunch of honors and just an amazing ride through life that’s included being inducted into the Speaker Hall of Fame in both Canada and the U.S., with people like Ronald Reagan, Zig Ziglar and Og Mandino, and becoming a New York Times best-selling author. But ultimately, it’s given me the opportunity to have that sense of contribution in helping other people not only reach their goals, but be real clear on what those goals are. Today, companies have the pressure to reach big objectives, and people working for those companies are feeling overwhelmed. My job is to eliminate that, so that individuals can have more fun, and corporations can achieve their big ambitions fast.
gA: How would you describe the two books of yours that we’ve created summaries of for getAbstract?
VP: The Ant and the Elephant is a personal development book, told in parable format; the ant being the metaphor for the conscious mind, and the elephant for the subconscious. The theory is that when you align your ant and your elephant, then things get easier and more fun; in other words, it’s less arduous to get to where you want to go. But if you have a conscious intention, your ant will head in one direction and your subconscious agenda may be on a completely different path, thereby creating a self-destructive course.
Ultimately the book lays out a formulaic plan on how to align your ant and elephant, whilst being an entertaining read at the same time.
On the other hand, The Age of Speed is more of a case study, a concept book about the world we live in. Contrary to how some have perceived it, the book is not about having more speed in your life, but rather how we can thrive in a fast-paced world without feeling like we’re overwhelmed. (Actually, the subtitle is Thriving in a More Faster Now World, so I don’t know why some readers have misinterpreted the intent. But that’s another note.) I wrote The Age of Speed to have a better perspective on how technology is impacting us – how the distractions can take us down, and how multitasking is a real issue. We’re all feeling like we’re just trying to cope, and we can’t cope our way to excellence and a higher level of results.
Mark Zuckerberg is known for challenging himself with some pretty intense New Year’s “resolutions”, such as last year’s commitment to learn Mandarin in a year. This year the young Facebook founder decided to make 2015 the year he begins to read more. Not only that, but he is doing so publically via his new Facebook page A Year of Books (making it pretty difficult to quit!).
“I’ve found reading books very intellectually fulfilling,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today. I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books.”
Zuckerberg kicked off the project with Moisés Naím’s The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be, and encouraged the 370,000 page followers to read along with him and get involved in a post-read Q&A with the author.
The reason for this choice? “It’s a book that explores how the world is shifting to give individual people more power that was traditionally only held by large governments, militaries and other organizations,” Zuckerberg wrote.
But that’s not all. “Mr. Naím, an economist who has been Venezuela’s trade and industry minister as well as editor in chief of Foreign Policy magazine, is a courageous writer who seeks to dissect big subjects in new ways,” wrote The Wall Street Journal in 2013 when the book was published. “At a time when critics of overreaching governments, big banks, media moguls and concentrated wealth decry the power of the “1%,” Mr. Naím argues that leaders of all types – political, corporate, military, religious, union – face bigger, more complex problems with weaker hands than in the past.”
And in case you needed one more incentive, you might be swayed by President Bill Clinton who declared that “The End of Power will change the way you read the news, the way you think about politics, and the way you look at the world.”
Indeed the critical acclaim for The End of Power has been extensive and from a slew of formidable reviewers and viable critics. Now, with Zuckerberg’s endorsement, the book is gaining new attention, and we wanted to make sure that you knew that the summary was available in our library.
Many writers and observers wax lyrical on the über success of men like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and though there are many factors at work that have contributed to their success, many identify their ongoing dedication to learning as a key attribute. A case in point, which Gates recounted for the Wall Street Journal, takes place more than 20 years ago, when Gates, upon meeting Buffett for the first time at what one can only assume was a powerhouse gathering, didn’t indulge in an exchange on boardroom topics but instead, rather tellingly, inquired as to Buffett’s favorite business book, perhaps knowing that this one simple query would not only reveal – upon its reading – many of Buffett’s own philosophies, but that it would also expose him to new concepts of his own.
Although a 40-hour work week may seem like a lot of time to get work done, sometimes you may catch yourself wishing you just had a little bit more time. If that’s the case, the best solution is to improve your processes at work and prioritize your workload.
Nothing halts your progress more than stress so allowing your mind and body to rest and reset can be the easiest way to get back into the zone.
Explore more strategies for time management in the below infographic:
In this era where TV, movies, video games and cell phones are all the craze, reading books has become a lost art. Children and adults alike are now beginning to loathe the idea of reading a book because their attention span has been eradicated since everything we, as humans, desire is made instantly available to us. In fact, 42% of college graduates and 33% of high school graduates will never read a book again in their life after graduating.
As shocking as this is, there is still hope. Reading is the best mental exercise for improving the mind and is essential for the growth of a child.
The infographic below will breakdown and discuss all the benefits of reading:
In today’s world, convenience, in any form, is paramount. That is especially true when it comes to reading. Nothing is more convenient than purchasing and reading a book, whether paper or on a screen. Currently, half of the US is in possession of a handheld device capable of being used as an e-reader (iPad, Kindle, Nook, even apps via phones, etc.). Electronic reading continues to grow in popularity because readers enjoy the simplicity of purchasing books, lighted reading at nighttime, and the ease of traveling with a large number of digital books, without the muscle strain. As the technology improves, expect to see more and more readers turn to the world of electronic reading.
Learn more about the rise of e-readers with our infograph…