Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"The Economics of Emotion" by Kyle M.K. - A brilliant practical look at behavioral economics

Author Kyle M. K. of Austin, Texas has worked for blue chip companies like Disney, Apple, Starbucks, and Ritz-Carlton. He has observed that the main trait that sets these organizations apart from those that are less successful is that they pay close attention to the emotions that they evoke among costumers and employees. In "The Economics of Emotion," he outlines how they accomplish this feat.

The book kicks off with a basic review of the primary human emotions: Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness.  Strategically and operationally, intelligent companies have figured out how to utilize an understanding of the interplay among these emotions to create an ecosystem that encourages contentment among employees and loyalty among customers. He also aligns himself with the growing movement to identify Purpose as a key indicator of success.

"Purpose underlies everything. When organizations find their purposes, they develop the foundation for all future business decisions." (p. 85)

The author does an excellent job of demonstrating the contrast between companies that understand emotional commitment and those that ignore it. A classic quotation from Dale Carnegie sets the stage for a discussion of corporate cultures: "When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion." (p. 139) In onboarding new employees, Apple stores are assiduous about making them feel welcome and included from their first hours on the job. Disney tries to ensure that during training, new employees, whom they assume are already Disney fans, experience some fun while learning the Disney systems and the Disney way of doing things.

Final chapters delve into the important topics of creating user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX) that produce positive emotions among those who utilize a company's products and services. An example of a stark difference in UX and CX for online clothing customers is highlighted by describing Stitch Fix and Trunk Club. If a customer is not happy with a piece of apparel that they have received from Stitch Fix, there is a very impersonal process for returning the item. In contradistinction, a Trunk Club customer has the opportunity to speak directly to their personal stylist to explain exactly where the mismatch occurred between product and desired outcome. "One company focuses more on the clothes, while the other focuses on the person wearing the clothes." (p, 225).

At the end of the day, it is clear from the examples that the author shares that successful companies are intentional and passionate about building relationships with their customers. When relationships are in play, emotions drive the customer experience.

The reader who is in a position to influence their company's culture and the UX and CX the company offers to their customers can use the examples in this book as templates to design a successful approach to managing the emotions of those with whom they hope to engage in positive and loyal relationships.



"Bar Harbor Babylon" by Dan and Leslie Landrigan - A Fascinating Look At Scandals From the Glory Days of Mt. Desert Island and Bar Harbor

Dan and Leslie Landrigan are to be commended for making gossip - sometimes over 100 years old - read like today's latest installment on E! "Bar Harbor Babylon" takes us back in time to the golden age when The Season in Bar Harbor each summer rivaled that of Newport as a playground for old money, robber barons, politicians, and rum runners.

My love for the coast of Maine hearkens back to my childhood when our family would head "Down East" to visit Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, and to climb Cadillac Mountain. When I learned that a "tell all" book about the golden era of the summer resort, I could not wait to read "Bar Harbor Babylon."

One of the reasons that this book is a satisfying read is that the authors have included names and events that ring with familiarity. The curse of the Hope Diamond takes center stage in one chapter. The Rockefellers, Joseph Pulitzer, the Astors, the Duke of Windsor, the KKK,  J. P. Morgan, and the Vanderbilts all play a role in the saga that was life at Bar Harbor from the late 19th century until the world changed and once luxurious mansions were torn down or converted to nursing homes.

The Landrigans write in a style that kept me interested as I plowed through each chapter, eager to learn inside information about heretofore vaguely familiar personages. The result is that I am already planning my next return trip to the coast of Maine to visit the sites of the long ago murders, rum running, and granite quarries that built the U.S. Treasury Build and the glorious NYC main Post Office.



"Truthteller" by Stephen Davis - A Manifesto To Encourage Us To Stand Up To The War Against Truth

Stephen Davis is an investigative reporter who is uniquely qualified to comment on his observations from traveling the globe to track down truth in a variety of stories. His career has spanned TV, newspaper, and documentary film making. "Truthteller" is the result of meticulous research into the rapidly escalating proliferation of techniques and tools used to mount a war against truth.

Over the course of eleven riveting chapters, Davis lays out a case for an entire tool box of obfuscation tools being deployed by government officials, politicians, business leaders, and law enforcement. The epidemic goes far beyond the outrages against truth committed each day by the current POTUS. Davis offers examples from stories he has covered that range from Estonia, New Zealand, the UK, the US, and Antarctica. Chapter by chapter, he uses case studies to reveal  the tools of avoiding truth: character assassination, shooting the messenger, conspiracy theories, delay, hiding behind the cloak of government secrecy, fake news,

Davis makes it clear that because of the fast pace of the news cycle, and the diminution of budgets by newspapers and other news outlets, it is seldom possible to dive deeply into developing stories. As a result, those who wish to hide the truth find it much easier to avoid the spotlight of scrutiny,knowing that the news cycle will quickly shift to the next "if it bleeds, it leads" headline or sound bite.

The resulting book is a virtual manifesto and call to action - encouraging each consumer of the news to use discernment and wisdom in evaluating sources of information. He asks questions that beg to be answered:

  • Why did multiple governments seek to prevent a thorough examination of the sinking of an Estonian ferry? 
  • Why was there a cover-up of multiple burns and injuries in Antarctica that may have involved a nuclear accident? 
  • Why are lawful enforcers of Brazilian environmental regulations routinely turned away from strip mines in the Amazon operated by a subsidiary of BP? 
  • Why was the confession to a murder in Sydney, Australia ignored?

The book is a must read for anyone who shares the concern of responsible citizens at the obvious erosion of truth and truth telling.



"The Purpose Path" by Nicholas Pearce - A Guide to Pursuing Your Authentic Life's Work

There is a very healthy trend building that encourages and empowers individuals and businesses to closely examine their purpose. Simon Sinek's bestseller "Start With Why" comes at the topic of Purpose by addressing the most important question that individuals and organizations should ask themselves. Nick Craig contributed mightily with last year's "Leading From Purpose."

White Rhino Report Review of "Leading from Purpose

Pastor Rick Warren was impactful in addressing the issue from a Christian perspective in his landmark book, "The Purpose Driven Life." Nicholas Pearce continues in the same spiritual vein with his new book, "The Purpose Path - A Guide to Pursuing Your Authentic Life's Work.."

Pearce has managed to braid together three vocational strands. He is a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, a pastor, and life coach. He looks at the topic of his book through all three of these lenses. The core tenet of this helpful book can be found here: "According to a study conducted by the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, the number one source of professional contentment is having a sense of purpose." (pp,138-9). Through nine chapters, Pearce leads the reader through an examination of how to achieve and to exercise what he calls "Vocational Courage" - the willingness to make career choices based on values and a sense of God's calling.

He offers many helpful examples of individuals who have walked that path, many of whom were students of Pearce whose courage inspired him. Among those singled out as examples of Vocational Courage was Max De Pree, former Chairman of the Board of the Herman Miler company. Through his leadership, teaching, writing, and speaking, De Pree was a paragon of the kind of Servant Leadership that flows when one is leading through Purpose and Calling. I had the privilege of sitting under De Pree's teaching when I was a graduate student, so I can attest to how inspiring is the brand of leadership that Pearce espouses and De Pree incarnated.

Near the end of the book, the author shares the pilgrimage of the founders of Ben & Jerry's as they struggled to find their calling in Burlington, Vermont. After several failed attempts, they settled on making ice cream as an affordable idea for a start-up, and found ways to weave their values into the fabric of the company. Pearce strongly suggests that one way for a company to accomplish a similar result in creating a Purpose driven organization is to incorporate Purpose oriented questions during the interview and screening processes for potential employees.

Professor Pearce's thoughts, as shared in this book, are a welcome addition to the growing conversation about the vital role that Purpose should play in the life of a healthy and happy individual and organization.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

"General Meade" - A Novel of the Civil War by Robert Kofman - An Excellent Read

Author Robert Kofman has written a carefully researched novel that highlights the journey that General George Meade took as he assumed command of the troubled Army of the Potomac. Kofman makes judicious use of letters that Meade wrote to his wife, Margaret, throughout the course of the Civil War. In addition, he spices the narrative with telegrams that were exchanged between Meade and Washington, outlining updates on troop movements, tactics, and strategies being deployed to pin down Robert E. Lee's intrepid troops. To fill in the gap, the author imagines conversations among the principal actors in the unfolding drama.

What becomes clear as the narrative develops is that the war could have ended much earlier had not Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton insisted that a large portion of the Union troops be positioned to thwart any possible invasion of Washington. As a result, there were insufficient numbers available to pressure Lee at Richmond and following the Battle of Gettysburg, when the rebel forces were most vulnerable.

It also becomes very clear that the delicate dance between military strategy and political strategy made things difficult for Meade. Lincoln appointed a number of politically influential men to be generals who has no real military experience, but were able to help ensure his reelection in 1864. These generals proved to often be an impediment during the implementation of battle plans. Despite  chronic interference from Washington in the execution of the plan to defeat the rebel forces, Meade developed a strong and loyal appreciation for Lincoln's leadership. He also had great respect for General Grant, even though Grant often overshadowed Meade in the latter stages of the war.

Mr. Kofman's writing style in describing battles is almost cinematic. Having spent time on several occasions at Gettysburg, I was able to read the author's account of that pivotal battle and feel as if I were there to hear the roar of the cannons and the rebel yell that accompanied Pickett's charge.

This novel serves as an excellent addition to the already rich corpus of works that shed light on the national tragedy that was The War Between the States.