Pam & Scott’s Six Must-read Business Books for the Summer
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Episode 24 Transcript:
Chris Curran: Growth Igniters Radio Episode 24: Pam and Scott’s Six Must-Read Business Books for the Summer.
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of growth, on the web at www.BusinessAdvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, founding partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated. And with me is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper.
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. It’s great to be here with you, as always. If this is your first time listening, the purpose of Growth Igniters Radio is to spark new insights, inspiration and immediately useful ideas for leaders to take themselves and their companies to their next level of success. So Pam, what’s up for today?
Pam Harper: Now that we’re well into summer, it’s a great time to recharge and refresh our brains.
Scott Harper: Mine needs it, yeah…
Pam Harper: And books are one of the best ways to do this. Of course, from time to time we’ve recommended books, and we’re always delighted to have had a few of the authors as our guests on Growth Igniters Radio.
Scott Harper: That’s right.
Pam Harper: The books that we’re going to be talking about today, likewise, will spark new insights, inspiration, and some immediately useful ideas.
Scott Harper: Okay…
Pam Harper: A great way to gain even more perspectives on any issue is to read complementary books, either sequentially, or in your case, you seem to do it together.
Scott Harper: Yeah, I tend to read books two or three at a time. I put one down, read a chapter, pick another one up − one’s in the bathroom, one’s in the bedroom or whatever − and it really gets the brain going because I go, “Oh, wait − these pair together.” It’s a book pairing, like you said.
Pam Harper: Yeah, it’s a book pairing, like wine pairing or beer pairing.
Scott Harper: … A Cabernet with chocolate, yeah…
Pam Harper: Exactly. And that’s what we’re going to do over the next half hour here. We’re going to take pairs of books that are related to what we see as a common theme and then we’ll talk about the books that way. Let’s get to it.
The first pair of books that we’re recommending challenges us to think differently about why people make decisions and behave the way that they do, otherwise known as behavioral economics.
Scott Harper: Behavioral economics. And this is a branch of microeconomics where we’re really dealing with individuals making decisions, and they don’t always seem to make sense, but there’s always a reason.
Pam Harper: We see this in real life all the time.
Scott Harper: Oh, all the time.
Pam Harper: I think you have one you’re going to talk about first.
Scott Harper: I do. One I just finished, actually, and really enjoyed. It’s [art of the Freakonomics series − Think Like A Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. They wrote Freakonomics a few years ago, then SuperFreakonomics, and now Think Like A Freak. I like this one because it’s just a little bit more practical.
Pam Harper: Okay, wait a moment. Before we go too much into that, what is the basic premise of Freakonomics? Why do I care if I think like a freak?
Scott Harper: It’s really challenging convention, challenging assumptions. So many times we think we know what an answer is or we think we know why somebody does something, but that may not be.
Pam Harper: What’s an example of this?
Scott Harper: An example is incentives. They talk a lot about incentives, being economists. [For example you can] say, “Well, you know what, I want you to get better grades, so I’m going to pay you to get better grades.” What happens? You may take really easy courses so you’ll get better grades and get more money. What can I say?
Pam Harper: Uh-huh (affirmative). Let’s take it into [the world of work] …
I think, isn’t Freakonomics also… their tagline − isn’t it about “the hidden side of everything?”
Scott Harper: Yes, the hidden side of everything.
Pam Harper: So …?
Scott Harper: What Think Like A Freak does is it tell stories like Freakonomics does, and then they delve into the hidden side.
Pam Harper: The hidden side…
Scott Harper: For instance, one of the stories they tell in Think Like A Freak is about a David Lee Roth [of the rock band Van Halen], who used to have very complex contracts and riders for when they were doing concerts. One of the riders, one of the stipulations was “we need M&M’s in the dressing room, no brown ones.” People thought that was just stupid diva behavior. Years later, it came out that they did that because they had a very complex setup. It was dangerous, some of the equipment, and they wanted to make sure people were paying attention to the details. If they went and they saw brown M&M’s in the dressing room, they said, “Ah, these people aren’t paying attention. We better do a special safety check.” They were using behavior to get in to people’s heads in ways that the people had no idea.
Pam Harper: Now, that’s really interesting.
Scott Harper: Challenging assumptions.
Pam Harper: I’m a CEO, I want to know what this has to do − what those brown M&M’s − have to do with me leading my company to that next level of success that I want to get to.
Scott Harper: Very frequently, when we come in to work with clients, they say, “We have a challenge” or “We have something we want done” or “We want people to do things, so we think we should have a reward system,” or “We think that we know why people are doing this dysfunctional stuff. We’re having fights between these two departments. Well, they need interpersonal skills training.” Well, not necessarily. One of the premises in Think Like A Freak is “look beyond the surface.”
Pam Harper: Look beyond the surface.
Scott Harper: Look for root causes.
Pam Harper: We say that a lot.
Scott Harper: Absolutely.
Pam Harper: You have to look beyond what you see. Freakonomics is a great way −Think Like A Freak, especially − is a great way to train your brain, I think, they say, to think and look at things differently and look beyond the surface.
That sounds good. Let’s talk about the next one. This is mine.
Scott Harper: This is the pairing, yeah.
Pam Harper: This is the pairing, remember. This one is Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. I especially like this book because so much of what we see out there doesn’t seem to make sense. What Dan Ariely says is that there’s always a reason why people do things. I think there’s a nice pairing between these two books.
Scott Harper: That’s right.
Pam Harper: Because you have to look beyond the surface and you have to look − as Ariely says − you have to look at the patterns. If people are doing things that don’t make sense, there’s always a reason. I like to say that.
Scott Harper: Oh, absolutely.
Pam Harper: He says it a little differently, but it’s that same message. You have to think, “Okay, there are certain things that you can predict that would not seem to make sense.”
Scott Harper: It doesn’t make rational sense, but if you get down into it, it makes sense. For instance, you’re dealing with social norms; you talk about informal culture in companies all the time.
Pam Harper: That’s right. That’s right. In my own book, I talk about these kinds of things. Social norms often don’t make sense. I remember going in to one company and the most powerful person in the whole company was giving out the stapler. Now, that does not make sense. Yet it did. It did, because this person had a lot of control over a number of other supplies, too. They were the most important things for people to get their work down in this particular company at that particular time.
Scott Harper: This person was exercising power by controlling what seemed like trivial resources.
Pam Harper: That’s right. I think that when you read books like Predictably Irrational and Think Like A Freak, and you think about behavioral economics, then you have a different framework to think about a lot of what any leader comes up against.
Scott Harper: That’s true. What really is useful for me when I look at books like this is to read the stories that they have in the book and then sit back and superimpose upon stuff that we have dealt with or are dealing with and say, “Okay, here’s an issue that is sort of weird − what’s underneath it? What are the incentives? What are the hidden incentives for people doing things the way they do?”
Pam Harper: Before you treat the symptom, look for the cause.
Scott Harper: Look for the cause − that’s right.
Pam Harper: Look for a new way to encourage what you’re looking for.
Scott Harper: That’s right. These two books very much work on that.
Pam Harper: I think that’s a fabulous place for us to take a quick break. When we come back, we’ll be talking more about books that we recommend for the summer. The next one is talking about how to deal with obstacles and disadvantages. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You are listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, on the web at www.BusinessAdvance.com. We enable successful companies to accelerate to their next level of innovation and growth. If you like what you’re hearing, spread the good word. Go to www.GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, select episode 24, and use the share links for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter at the top right of the page to tell your social media communities all about us. Use #GrowthIgniters. This will help extend our reach to all of the people who can benefit from this series.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Today, Scott and I are talking about those must-read business books for the summer. You’ll be able to find resources and links to all of them on the episode page.
We’ve talked about the first set of books. We’re doing this in pairings, like wine pairings. The first set of books was talking about behavioral economics,and how to look at what people do and actions that they take differently. The second pairing that we have is talking about books that help us to look at obstacles and disadvantages in new ways. I think you have the first one, Scott.
Scott Harper: I do. It’s by Malcolm Gladwell, who has written a lot of really good books. This is one of his latest ones. It’s called David and Goliath. It’s not about the big versus the small so much, although he does start out with the Biblical story of David and Goliath. It is really about dealing with things that appear to be disadvantages. He goes on to tell other stories, but the point of most of them is look for things that may be disadvantages that cause us to rise up − whether it’s a girl’s basketball team that are short and unpracticed, and they just worked like crazy and practice much harder than their taller, better-funded opponents, or a person who is dyslexic and became a tremendous attorney − a fantastic court attorney − because she couldn’t read so well. She read very slowly, so she really had to hone her verbal skills.
Pam Harper: These are great examples of people. Let’s talk about it from a company standpoint. What makes it relevant?
Scott Harper: The point is if you look at what some people may think to be a disadvantage, whether it’s “We’re really small. We don’t have a lot of resources,” [the disadvantage may lead to a positive outcome.] We’ve worked with really small, under-resourced companies, and one of the things some of them do is they really push to say, “How can we do the things the big guys do as well, or even better without those huge resources?” It creates a lot of creativity, and people can come up with ideas that a really well-funded company might never come up with, because they don’t have to dig as deep.
Pam Harper: Yeah, absolutely. Going along with this, the pairing − because, remember, we’re looking at how we deal with obstacles and disadvantages. Maybe one of the ways that we do this, building on David and Goliath, is going to the next book which is Yes, And by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton. “Yes, And…” is a common improvisational approach. If you’re familiar with improvisation, you have to listen to what the other person you’re working with is saying. What they talk about – what the authors talk about in this book − is that we live in a world of “no but.” In other words, going back to that obstacle − the disadvantage − I want to do something and you say …
Scott Harper: “No, but that’s way too difficult or too time-consuming or too expensive.”
Pam Harper: Now, you’ve shut me down. According to the book here, you have now shut me down. In truth, I do feel shut down right now.
Scott Harper: Oh, dear.
Pam Harper: But if you say to me … Say something.
Scott Harper: “Yes, and we can do that if we meet this certain deadline. How are we going to do that?”
Pam Harper: That’s right. It opens it up; it opens up the conversation. Their point is that there are actually tenets of improvisation. Think about also … I didn’t say this − very important. The improvisation that they’re talking about has come from the Second City, which is the famous Second City where we have people like John Belushi and…
Scott Harper: Roseanne Roseannadanna…
Pam Harper: Also current people.
Scott Harper: Yes, right.
Pam Harper: Many have come out of Second City: Tina Fey, and so many others.
Scott Harper: It really hones very, very nimble thinking.
Pam Harper: Right. Some of the best and most flexible minds and creative minds. They say that “Yes, And” is a form of creating − creating and-
Scott Harper: Co-creating.
Pam Harper: − and collaborating.
Scott Harper: Yes.
Pam Harper: That these are all important things to be able to do when you’re looking at dealing with obstacles and disadvantages.
Scott Harper: That’s true.
Pam Harper: You get past it. You’re working together. You’re in the moment. You’re listening. You’re listening to really understand, and there are a lot of other things. This book I found to be really inspirational in many ways. It has a lot of stories and it was also very practical; I mean there’s a lot of practicality to it. That’s that immediately useful idea. If you take all of these together, what you have is a way of looking at “Are we really at a disadvantage as much as we think we are? What are our advantages?” if you think about David and Goliath, pairing that with, “Okay, so we have obstacles, we have disadvantages − Yes, And − how are we going to collaborate and create a new approach, something maybe we never thought of before to work together, improvise, and come up with that winning solution.
Scott Harper: “How are we going to do it?” Right.
Pam Harper: Exactly.
Scott Harper: Very good.
Pam Harper: With that, we’re going to take another quick break, and when we come back, we will talk more about our third pairing, which has to do with looking into the future. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: Is listening to Growth Igniters Radio providing you with new insights, inspiration and immediately useful ideas you can use to take your company to its next level of success? If so, imagine how much more you and your company could get from a highly customized, in-person Growth Igniters event as part of your next company off-site. Go to www.GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, click “Contact Us” at the bottom of the page, and we’ll get back to you to explore how we could best help you achieve your most important goals.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Today, Scott and I are talking about book pairings, must-read books for the summer. You can find all these resources on the episode page under Resources.
Our final two book − our final book pairing − is about re-framing how we think about the future. There are some interesting things that are being brought out. The book that really resonated with me was talking about all the ways that technology has changed over the past few years. This book has been talked about quite a bit. It’s called the Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. If you think about all the ways that technology has accelerated and is continuing to accelerate, it means that we always have to be thinking about how that’s going to impact us and the world of work. They make the point that every one of us in every profession is impacted by this. Every company has to, as they put it, “transform or die.”
Scott Harper: That’s pretty dire.
Pam Harper: It really is, but it’s true. If we think back on examples, what are some things that we’ve seen …
Scott Harper: Well, that we’ve seen?
Pam Harper: That we’ve seen. On a personal level, I can tell you that every company that I was ever a part of − In many ways, it shaped my career − technology upended.
Scott Harper: That’s true.
Pam Harper: Technology upended every company that I was ever part of. Also, of course, there’s so much more that technology offers now. We, all of us, had to look at the way we do work. I mean we’re on Growth Igniters Radio − a podcast.
Scott Harper: That’s right, which didn’t exist earlier. One of the things that Brynjolfsson and McAfee discussed is the fear that people are going to be displaced by machines − whether it’s computers, it’s robots, or whatever. This Second Machine Age, is it going to be like the Terminator? Is Skynet is going to come and displace us all? They say no.
Pam Harper: No. In fact, they have proposals of sorts that they put out there. For instance, they talked about revamping education and also revamping work so that we’re pairing, appropriately enough, the power of machines with human ingenuity − their words.
Scott Harper: In fact, I lived through a very strong example of this back in my corporate days in research and development, before I joined your company. I ran a research discovery lab, and employed a lot of workers counting bacteria and doing tests for testing antiseptic mouth rinse. The technology became available to robotize a lot of this. People were really concerned, “Oh, I’m going to lose my job. The robot is going to do all of this.” What we really found was that people were freed up from routine − putting things from Test Tube A into Test Tube B. Our throughput increased massively. Our productivity increased massively. We didn’t lose people, and they were doing things that were more interesting, more rewarding and at a much higher level than if we didn’t have the robots. That was years ago; it just keeps going on and on and on.
Pam Harper: It does. Byrnjolfsson and McAfee actually conclude with a number of policy recommendation. This is not a light read. I will share with you all.
Scott Harper: That is true.
Pam Harper: This is not a light read, but it’s an important read. Getting through this and really thinking about all of the things that they’re talking about − it’s so important because I believe they’re speaking truth. This is the way of the world. The one thing that they say that, I think, leads to the final book recommendation, is that the more that we can use that human ingenuity − which has to do a lot with how we think − then we have the perfect pairing for moving forward into the future. That leads to our final book recommendation.
Scott Harper: The final book, absolutely. This one is by Daniel Pink. It’s one of his most recent books, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. Dan Pink makes the case that, again, like the Second Machine Age makes, that the world is changing; the world has changed. There are three forces that are really changing the whole world of work for people − for people and for companies. That is: automation, outsourcing, and the fact that there’s so much abundance. People are concerned − “what am I going to do? What job am I going to do? I can’t compete.” Whether you are a manufacturing laborer or you’re an attorney, more and more and more stuff is going out to countries where it has cheaper labor, or to machines.
Pam Harper: So why do we have to think with our right brain?
Scott Harper: What Pink makes the case of that − remember that Jim Blasingame in our last week’s episode quoted that as technology grows, the more technology there is, the more high tech there is, the more high touch we want − Pink makes the case that people have to go to their bright brain − the creative brain, the communicating brain − to become unique, doing things that cheap labor somewhere else can’t necessarily do, that machines can’t necessarily do. Whether it is to be artistic creative, or to do what you and I do, which is go in and look below the surface − look for hidden patterns, getting back to the behavioral economics.
Pam Harper: True.
Scott Harper: That’s very, very high touch, very specialized. I don’t think in our lifetimes or our children’s lifetimes are going to be machines that can do that. It’s high touch; it’s high creativity.
He talks about developing six senses for design, storytelling, and so on that people with the right brain are uniquely suited for doing.
Pam Harper: What it sounds like is that we’ve almost come full circle in a way, because if you think about the pairing, this pairing that we have, we have to look at the fact − we have to accept that machines, technology, is coming. It’s going to continue to come. It’s going to go on in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.
Scott Harper: And economic transformation, yes.
Pam Harper: And economic transformation. The more that we do what Pink is talking about − which is we engage with our right brain − we can partner and do [work in new] ways with technology. We don’t have to feel threatened by it. We can welcome it because we’ll come up with new situations and new opportunities for growth. That’s what it’s all about.
Scott Harper: That’s right. The technology and the outsourcing become extensions of our unique abilities, and it’s a “Yes, And.”
Pam Harper: Exactly.
Scott Harper: Yeah.
Pam Harper: On that note, we have gotten through all the six books. We hope you’ve found this book pairing session to be helpful, spark new insights, inspiration, and those immediately useful ideas.
Scott Harper: Thanks to you all for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To check out resources related to today’s conversation, share on social media, find out about next episodes, or open a conversation with us, go to www.GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, select Episode 24, and click on the appropriate links under Resources.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success, and leaving you with this question to discuss with your team:
Scott Harper: What’s on your reading list, and how will it make you think differently?