The Other 90% : Book Review; V5 Issue 1

Title: The Other 90% 
Author: Robert K Cooper
Publication details: Crown Publishers, a division of Random House Inc., 2001
Number of pages: 320 pages

“Have I given my best at it?” This is a question that Robert K Cooper the author of the book ‘The Other 90%’ makes the reader reflect on right at the beginning of the book. Conventional science has proven that human kind does not even use one thousandth of its capabilities; and there is no doubt that human kind can scale greater heights if even a small fraction of this untapped capabilities are put to use. The author believes that the opportunity to go beneath and beyond conventional thinking and self–imposed limits exist for each of us by knowing and practicing simple but effective steps. In his book he proposes techniques that will help existing and aspiring leaders to make a subtle difference in the way they think, act and react towards making them successful in their business and personal endeavours.

The four key stones for tapping the unexplored capabilities and to undertake a search for the other 90% are:-

  1. TRUST (building and sustaining exceptional relationship)
  2. ENERGY (increasing the calm effectiveness under pressure)
  3. FARSIGTHEDNESS (envisaging and creating the future)
  4. NERVE (exceeding expectations) 

For each of these four key stones the author gives mostly simple and practical mechanisms, techniques and suggested theories, drawn from his own personal life experience, his learning from his grandfather and inspirations drawn from great people such as Lance Armstrong, Mother Theresa, Thomas Edison, Richard Branson, Galileo and many many others.

The ‘Trust key stone’ is an exploration into oneself, into one’s capabilities and also the feel that one exerts upon the people who one works with and leads. By possessing original ideas, using all the 3 brains a human being has (scientifically as explained by the author – gut in the intestine, feel of values and goals in the heart and the intellect in the brain), valuing others and living the life by setting trust as your greatest asset (like a lighthouse), one can have great stepping stones to tap the remaining 90%.

While talking about the ‘Energy key stone’ the author explains how the greatest energy of a cyclone lies in the central calm epicenter. It is imperative to understand the right amount of energy required for completion of any task. Techniques such as being quick without rushing, tapping on natural talents for excelling in life and maintaining a balance in emotions are learning modules. However, the most important point focused in the ‘Energy keystone’ is to ‘live the life.’ Spending time with family gives you more energy by putting more life in your day. Following this lesson will continuously replenish the energy we need to tackle bigger things in life. And more importantly this energy bank can give a continuous and perennial flow, if there is a good dosage of humor in one’s life. The author says, “Every single day, humor is a gift of energy. It startles us out of our routines. It puts things in perspective. It brings us closer together. It helps us face difficult times.”

“Little plans have no power to stir your blood” – Dreaming big is essentially not only just daring. The suggestion of the ‘Farsightedness key stone’ is based on research indicating that most successful and happy people have developed skills to keep looking farther ahead than they have to. The author’s lesson on ‘Extending the Time Horizon’ focuses on this topic. By relating the memories from the past to current realities, current potential and navigating towards desired results by altering and adjusting the course with regular plans, one can achieve that big dream eventually.

Nerve is explained as “an approach to life characterized by courage, exploitation and spirit.” This keystone encourages one to rise above adversity and challenge the boundaries of possibility in one’s life. Practical approaches suggested in this module includes – how to develop the skin of a rhino and soul of an angel, climbing one’s own mountain by shaping the edges of your own competitiveness and caring as if everything depends on one’s caring.

The lessons in this book provide a variety of practical ways to excel in a pleasure filled world with greater grace, ingenuity and empathy. The only requisite for the practitioner is to know what they are and when to use them. The revolutionary explanation of competitiveness in this book will certainly inspire every reader to unlock his/her vast untapped potential for leadership and life. 

" Competition is not in comparison with what others do, rather in excelling in one’s own capabilities and performance. "

Most of his work is useful and much of it is original. Cooper successfully ties together the physiological, mental, and social aspects of his topic. And although his personal accounts are quite frequent, they are mostly short and touching. Most of the content is the type of stuff you either immediately internalize or you do not internalize, rather than carrying it with you as an assignment. An exception is the admonition to frequently ask yourself what you've done lately that was exceptional and what exceptional things you plan to do in the near future. Another point I found especially useful was to know what your main values are. It sounds obvious but he takes it to another level by showing how people frequently are not living according to their values. Usage of famous quotations at the end of every chapter, exemplary combination of art and science and insights to little known techniques make this book truly a life guide.

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently: Book Review; V5 Issue 1

Title: Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently
Author: John C. Maxwell
Publication details: Jaico Publishing House, 2010
Number of pages: 247 pages

Have you come across people who inspire, create positive energy, and develop better relationships just through their communication? Here is a book which will tell you how they do it. “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect” by John C. Maxwell an internationally respected leadership expert, speaker, and author illustrates the importance of connecting with people and not just talking to them. He also explores the principles and practices that can make one’s communication more effective in any context be it communicating to your team member or presenting to an audience.

The book opens with a chapter on the necessity of connecting. There is a lot of noise and chatter in the world and it is difficult to filter through and be heard clearly, accurately and with intention. But we must find a way to connect to people if we want to have any influence with them. Then Maxwell reveals the five principles of “Connecting” viz., connecting increases your influence, is all about others, goes beyond words, requires energy and is more skill than natural talent. Maxwell reinforces each principle with anecdotes, data and quotes including those from people who have commented on his blog. So to illustrate that connecting requires patience he uses Henry David Thoreau’s quote “The man who goes alone can start the day, but he who travels with another must wait until the other is ready.”

Maxwell then goes on to detail out the following five practices that can help us connect:-

  1. Connect on common ground (connecting based on common interests and values)
  2. Keep it simple (ensuring one’s communication is not complex to understand)
  3. Create an enjoyable experience (making your communication interesting for the listeners)
  4. Inspire people (communicating such that you motivate your listeners)
  5. Live what you communicate (importance of establishing credibility and supporting your words with actions)

Each practice is broken into sub practices. So for creating an enjoyable experience the sub practices include take responsibility for your listeners, communicate in their world, capture people’s attention from the start, activate your audience, say it so it sticks, be visual and tell stories. And again they are supported with numerous examples. I like the story Maxwell tells to illustrate “Talk to people not above them”. A preschooler on asking his dad about why his apple was turning brown was given a response of “Because after you ate the skin off, the meat of the apple came in contact with the air, which caused it to oxidize, thus changing its molecular structure and turning it into a different colour.” There was a long silence and then the boy asked “Daddy are you talking to me?” Funny, but drives home the point right?

After each principle and practice has been defined and demonstrated, Maxwell explains how to apply it to one-on-one situations, group situations and larger audiences. For instance while talking about connecting going beyond words he suggests that in one-on-one situations connect emotionally through touch, in group situations through honoring the group’s efforts and rewarding their work and in larger audiences through facial expressions, laughter and tears. The book also offers a lot of practical tips. For example he suggests using a connection checklist comprising of Integrity (did I do my best?), Expectation (did I please my sponsor?), Relevance (did I understand and relate to the audience?), Value (did I add value to the people?), Application (did I give people a game plan?) and Change (did I make a difference?).

The story telling style makes it easy to read and make the lessons more memorable. The format of the book is such that you can open any chapter and gain some valuable insight. Regardless of what role or position or function you are in this is one book that can help you be more effective at what you do.

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do : Book Review; V4 Issue 3

Title: First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently
Author: Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
Publication details: Simon and Schuster, New York, 1999
Number of pages: 271 pages

When I had to select a book for review on the theme “Employee Engagement”, “First Break All the Rules” was an obvious choice. Authored by leaders of The Gallup Organization, this book summarizes their findings of 25 years of research on 2 questions. “What do the most talented employees need from the workplace?” And “How do the world’s greatest managers find, focus, and keep talented employees?” The authors are convinced that employees leave managers and not the companies they work for. Hence effectiveness of managers is vital to retaining employees. Through their research the authors discovered that great managers build a work environment where employees answer positively to the following famous 12 questions included in most employee satisfaction surveys today:-

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  8. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  9. Do I have a best friend at work?
  10. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  11. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

And the key to ensuring positive answers to these questions, lie in managers being able to discharge four important responsibilities extremely well viz., Select a person, Set expectations, Motivate the person and Develop the person. Now if you think you know how to do these then just see if it is the way great managers do these. Great Managers select for talent and not simply experience, intelligence or determination. They define the right outcomes and not the right steps when defining expectations. When motivating they focus on strengths and not weaknesses. They find the right fit and not the next rung on the ladder when developing someone. Thus the book challenges conventional wisdom like the best way to help an employee is by fixing his/her weaknesses. The authors give detailed tips on each of the four keys to engaging people. For instance on defining right outcomes they talk about how your customer’s expectations should help you determine what is a valuable outcome. In the airline industry while safety is paramount, customers don’t choose an airline because of its safety record since they anyways expect to arrive unharmed. So while flight attendants at Southwest Airlines are experts in safety procedures, they focus on ensuring passengers have fun while flying with them. 

The book has some valuable insights into managing people. Spend more time with your best people. The best managers know they are on stage every day. They know their people are watching every move they make. And it gives some fantastic solutions to the typical problems faced by managers. For example it talks about how employees invariably want to be promoted even if it means getting promoted out of roles in which they excel and moving into roles in which they struggle. For example, not everyone has the talent or the desire to be a manager. The talent to be a great software programmer will not be the same talent needed to be a project manager. The solution? “Create heroes in every role.” One way to do that is by defining graded levels of achievement in every role. At ATand T help desks are organized at 3 levels according to the complexity of the client’s question. It also propounds some radical theories like paying an excellent performer at a junior level role more than an average performer at a senior level role.

The best part of this engaging book is the way the ideas are explained through simple and real life examples be it the art of interviewing or conducting performance reviews. Every chapter is complete in itself and you can pick up the book and read any chapter and make sense of it. While the book is mainly for managers it also has a section for individuals and for management to help them implement the ideas elaborated in this book. I first read this book several years back and since then have reread it many times. I really hope you too will read and reread this book and you will come to value it as much as I do.

The Tipping Point: Book Review; V3 Issue 4

Title: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Publication details: 2001, Abacus
Number of pages: 259 pages

In this very interesting book, Malcolm Gladwell analyses and explains the ‘tipping point’, “that magic moment when ideas, trends and social behaviours cross a threshold, tip and spread like wildfire.” He looks for clues among spread of disease viruses, on how social epidemics like fads, crime waves and revolutions get started. And he identifies three key factors that play a role in ‘tipping’ a particular trend into wide-scale popularity.

The ‘Law of the Few’ factor states that certain people with exceptional social skills and social contacts can cause change. These people are Connectors (people who know a lot of people and are in a position to influence a lot of people or spread an idea and make it visible to a lot of people), Mavens (people with a focused interest in particular areas, like where to get the best prices, and a willingness and interest to share that information with others) and Salesmen (people with a talent for persuasion, and for changing our minds and making us see or act differently). The likelihood of a new idea tipping into exponential success is much higher if these three groups endorse and advocate the idea. The book cites the example of a nurse who wanted her community women, who would not ordinarily do so, to get tested for diabetes and breast cancer. When holding seminars at local churches failed, she switched venues to beauty salons and trained some stylists in the information that needed to be transmitted and it worked!

Gladwell defines the ‘Stickiness’ factor as the quality that compels people to pay close, sustained attention to a product, concept, or idea. The message has to be so memorable that it can incite change. Stickiness can be deliberately cultivated and refined to maximise the impact and 'spread' of content or behaviour. For instance Lester Wunderman created a ‘gold box’ treasure hunt in the TV commercials for its Columbia Record club account that made viewers part of an interactive advertising. This created stickiness for these ads. In the case of a successful children’s TV show ‘Blues Clues’, it was the repetition and the format of asking questions and leaving preschooler sized pauses before the off-stage audience answered them that created stickiness.

‘Power of Context’ factor asserts that epidemics are sensitive to the environment in which they occur and that small changes in environment can make a big difference to outcomes. For example, some sociologists believe that New York City turned around a high crime rate problem by cleaning up graffiti, repairing broken windows and being intolerant of cheating on subway fares. Taking care of ‘little things’ ensured the ‘big things’ took care of themselves and New York became a much safer city. The magic number 150 is an interesting example. Once a workgroup exceeds 150, relationships break down. Traditionally, tribes used to split off when they grew beyond 150. Modern organizations like Gore Associates have also found by housing only 150 employees or less in a building, the R & D people know the sales people, the production people etc and hence work together more effectively.

So what if Gladwell’s ideas are not original, they bring together ideas in such a compelling and clever manner that it has become a very popular book. Gladwell has a way with words that engages the reader. Consider this “Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push — in just the right place — it can be tipped.”

Gladwell not only explains the factors for ‘Tipping point’, but also gives incisive examples of how to understand, measure, and take advantage of all the factors. By studying ‘The Tipping Point’ you can get insights into human behaviour. And a deep understanding of human behavior can help you create a more effective marketing message, promote political change and solve social ills. Hence, I feel, this is one of those books that anyone with a desire to create a wide spread change, can benefit from reading.

FISH! : Book Review; V3 Issue 2

Title: FISH!

Authors: Stephen C. Lundin Ph.D., Harry Paul, John Christensen

Publication details: Hodder & Stoughton, 2006

Number of pages: 112 pages

One of your team members regrets not having become an actor. Another team member is bored with the tedious work and given a choice would love to become a cricket coach. As their manager is it possible for you to help them find passion, fun, and sense of pride, everyday in their work and feel “Thank God it’s Monday rather than Friday?” Yes! as per Fish!, a modern parable engineered to make you and your team enjoy your way to better productivity at the work place! The book teaches you that living your true potential is a choice that one can make every day.  Its unique formula addressing today's work issues including employee engagement and burnout will help you energise and enthuse your teams.


The book’s central character Mary Jane Ramirez was given the responsibility to turnaround the operations team that lacked energy, creativity, passion and good work ethics. For instance the team treated their customers as if the customers were interrupting them. During a chance visit by her to Seattle’s world famous Pike Place Fish Market, she observed that despite the mundane work, the fishmongers were cheerful, playful and enjoyed their work. The book tells the story of how Mary unravels the secret of their happiness and how her team adopts their four principles of choosing the attitude, playing at work, treating customers to make their day and being emotionally present for people to transform the operations department from a “toxic energy waste dump” to a place where people would vie to work in. Inspired by Mary’s teamher company had this inscribed at the entrance which also summarises the principles of this book... “As you enter this place of work please choose to make today a great day...Find ways to play. We can be serious about our work without being serious about ourselves. Stay focused in order to be present when your customers and team members most need you. And should you feel your energy lapsing, try this sure fire remedy: find someone who needs a helping hand, a word of support, or a good ear -- and make their day.”

The book demonstrates how the four principles can be implemented. For instance Mary’s team implemented ‘Choose Your Attitude’ by putting up an ‘attitude menu’ comprising items like ‘energetic’, ‘creative’, ‘supportive’ and ‘caring’ to serve as a constant reminder of ‘making the right choice’. Instead of playing like the fishmongers by having flying, smiling and talking fish the operation team implemented initiatives like joke of the month contest, turning small lights on when it is time to lighten up, posting signs saying “This is a playground. Watch out for adult children.” etc. There are also illustrations of consequences faced by people who were not working based on these principles. One of the characters describes how not being present for her colleague resulted in her colleague losing her job and the company losing a client and a lot of money.

Apart from the main principles Fish also illustrates other important success factors at work like not losing faith in oneself, learning and growing continuously, taking personal risks, not giving up on your team for you own career advancement and being persistent. These are again demonstrated through the numerous challenges faced by the central characters in the book. Throughout the book Mary exemplifies qualities of an ideal manager like implementing what she preaches, giving her team the adequate flexibility and authority to take decisions, being transparent about the problems, encouraging the team members to identify solutions rather than prescribing them herself etc.

If you loved “Who Moved My Cheese?” then undoubtedly you are going to love this book. It uses a deceptively simple and engaging story to convey its message. Take for instance the way the characters in the book describe the benefits of ‘Play’... “Happy people treat others well. Fun leads to creativity. The time passes quickly. Having a good time is healthy. Work becomes a reward and not just a way to rewards.” This book can serve as an excellent guide for creating energetic, enthusiastic, creative and effective teams with the key learnings highlighted in quick read boxes, supported by inspiring quotations like “Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle...Meaning is something you build into your life.”  And you don’t have to be a manager to benefit from reading this book; you can apply the lessons in the book in any aspect of your life in order to keep yourself excited about what you do.

Managing in Turbulent Times: Book Review; V2 Issue 3

Title: Managing in Turbulent Times

Author: Peter F Drucker

Publication details: Harper Collins Publishers, 1980

Number of pages: 256 pages

After spending weeks looking for a relevant book Managers could use in these tough economic times I found this prophetic and seminal book ‘Managing in Turbulent Times’ by Peter F. Drucker, considered by many to be the most influential and widely read authority on management. Even after 25 years after its publication, the book is relevant because of its classic wisdom on running a business, in good times as well as bad times.

The book starts by asserting that in turbulent times the fundamentals have to be managed well. It explains what according to Drucker managing the fundamentals entails. An enterprise's figures should be adjusted to inflation, liquidity and financial strength must be put before earnings; the decline of productivities (of capital, time, knowledge, physical resources) must be reversed and the costs of staying in business tomorrow must be earned today, regardless of "record profits."

Drucker then provides actions and long term strategies that will ensure a company's capacity to survive a blow, to adapt to sudden change, and to avail itself of new opportunities. Strategies include concentrating resources on results by knowing the performing and productive resources; sloughing off (abandoning) of resource devouring and unproductive past; deciding how much to grow so that a company does not become marginal in its market; making existing companies especially large ones capable of innovation; and business strategies like being the right size or deciding when to diversify and how. Drucker recommends a scorecard for managers that assess performance in a)appropriating capital, b)people decisions, c)innovation and d)strategies versus performance.

The book then elaborates upon the realities of the new economic, social and political environment and how they can be managed. He discusses a range of topics including cheap imports, multinational corporations, technological change, employee participation, changing population demographics, and global markets. His commentary on recession throws up some interesting possibilities for managers to consider in current times of economic slowdown. For example he narrates how when American mass builders, thinking people cut back on housing during recession, in 1973-74 started making “basic home” without the frills, they did not sell at all. On the contrary spending on housing increased. Same was the case with eating out. He says this is because there is a new market segment that is linked to population dynamics rather than income. I like the way Drucker issues various challenges to managers throughout the book. He says, “The manager..will have to learn to create “issues”, to identify both the social concern and the solution to it, and to speak for producer interest in society as a whole rather than for special interest of “business”. 

The book is full of tips on how to implement the strategies recommended. “Any increase in volume that leads to reduced productivities…should be eliminated..”  He covers different economies - developed and developing; different companies; different periods to illustrate what is working and not working. Drucker has solutions to the challenges associated with each of his own prophecy. For instance about the workforce he predicted it becoming heterogeneous, knowledge workers seeking a second career in their sixties and seventies etc. He says as a step towards managing “labor forces” each with different needs and characteristics, acknowledge these differences in connection with work policies, training programs and benefits. So a woman whose husband’s company provides health insurance for family, may value benefits other than the health insurance benefit.

This book is not easy reading and you will need to budget couple of sittings to understand and assimilate the content. But then nothing worth having comes easy. It is relevant for managers grappling with various management issues and for management students aspiring to become managers.

FL!P : Book Review: V2 Issue 2

Title: FL!P

Author: Peter Sheahan

Publication details: HarperCollins Publishers, India, April 2008

Number of pages:326 pages

Wondering why your current business idea or career move is not working as well as it used to. Maybe it’s time to flip your thinking on it. Peter Sheahan is the author of the groundbreaking book ‘Generation Y: Thriving (and Surviving) with Generation Y at Work’. And in his new book ‘Flip’ he gives a formula for succeeding in today’s business context by turning everything you know on its head.

The book begins by describing the four forces of change today viz., increasing compression of time and space; increasing complexity; increasing transparency and accountability; and increasing expectation on the part of everyone for everything. These changes require you to reexamine every aspect of running a company to continue being successful.  

The book highlights what today’s successful businesses and ‘flipstars’ such as Richard Branson, Google, Toyota, Rupert Murdoch and Apple have in common. It is an ability to 'flip' conventional thinking about business and then act boldly.  A limit was put by the government on premiums that could be charged. So, Progressive car insurance from offering insurance only to high risk drivers at high premiums started offering insurance to all drivers at widely varying premiums. Most players were talking about work-life balance. But Macquarie Bank during recruitment said, “Say goodbye to your You are not going to see them for ten years. But when you do, you will be rich!” Both companies are highly successful today.

Scattered across the book is counterintuitive wisdom on doing business. To meet expectations about our products or services, just picking being two of the three ie., fast, cheap or good,  is not enough. The book says “Think And, Not Or.” We must pick all three and something more. The more could come from being green, easy, healthy etc. Luxury car Lexus makes things easy for its user by arranging to pick up the car for service, leaving a replacement to use, returning the car clean with chocolates on the front seat and getting free parking. While talking about “To Get Control, Give It Up” the book says “You should tap into the brilliance that individuals don’t work for you have, whether they be customers, bored scientists in academia or teenage kids with an idea about how to advertise your product better”.  Another flip mentioned is “Action Precedes Clarity” ie., acting in spite of ambiguity.

The book also contains valuable conventional wisdom. Design the total ownership experience for customers by incorporating service, form, functionality and story. It talks about how Apple iPod‘s marketing slogan “A thousand songs in your pocket” told the story of what it would do for customers in daily life. What I liked best about the book are the numerous such industry examples ranging from Microsoft to the company dealing with Lonely Planet Travel guide books. It also gives a glimpse of the current business and workplace trends like the use of social networking tools, competing companies working with each other, Gen Y employees seeking more empowerment etc.

The book is full of interesting tips and suggestions. For example the suggestion made in the book for finding new ideas for your product or service ---“…contact with fringe areas of society where new ideas percolate…This is why Nike assiduously tracks trends within minority urban communities, striving to identify what suburban consumers will later buy in even greater quantities.” Each chapter ends with 'to do' lists for readers.

While this book is a must read for business owners, decision makers and marketing professionals, it is also a book for people looking for inspiration to do something different in their lives. I think it is apt to end this review with the words used by the author at the end of the book “Get up off your butt and do something!!!”

The Secret: Book Review; V2 Issue 1

Title: The Secret

Author: Rhonda Byrne

Publication details: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, Great Britain, 2006

Number of pages: 198 pages

If a book starts with an alluring promise of its contents giving you anything you want: happiness, health, and wealth, it is difficult to resist reading further right?  So not surprisingly I could not stop reading the book ’The Secret’. Rhonda Byrne when faced with a very difficult time in her life learned about ‘The Secret’ and overcame every single one of her difficulties using its principles. In gratitude she created a DVD to share this knowledge. When this DVD became hugely successful she created a book by the same name.

“The Secret is the law of attraction." According to this everything in the Universe vibrates on a particular frequency. When you think in harmony with the frequency of something, you attract it to you. If you think about health, you become healthy. If you think instead about your illness, you become more ill. You attract what you think about. It says “It is impossible to bring more money into your life when you are noticing you do not have enough, because that means you are thinking thoughts that you do not have enough….and you will create untold more circumstances of not having enough money. You must focus on abundance of money to bring that to you.”

And the book tells you how you can find out what you are thinking … “To know what you are thinking, ask yourself how you are feeling…. It is impossible to feel bad and at the same time have good thoughts.”  The steps to utilizing this law in life are simple. Know what you want and ask the universe for it. Feel and behave as if the object of your desire is on its way. Be open to receiving it.

A child cured of Hepatitis, Jack Canfield the author of ‘Chicken soup for the soul’ attaining a hundred thousand dollar a year lifestyle from a eight thousand one, a woman attracting the perfect partner by acting as if she already had one… are all inspiring personal examples cited in the book of the power of positive thinking in the areas of health, money, relationships respectively. It provides various tips for practicing ‘The Secret’. Some of them are using secret shifters like pleasant memories to shift your frequency from negative to positive, being thankful and grateful to all that you have, expecting the things you want, creating your day in advance the way you want it to go. For instance for relationships to improve it talks about not complaining about other people but focusing on what we appreciate about others to get more of that from them.

No doubt it is essentially a beautifully packaged and marketed book with ideas on positive thinking that are centuries old. But then there are some things that we know and still need constant reminding. The principles detailed in it are summarized at the end of each of the chapter for ease of reference. The book has pertinent quotes from many sources and contributors -scientists, doctors, life and business coaches and metaphysicians from both past and present.

One flaw I see in the book is that it does not talk about taking action to improve a negative situation. If I am overweight and I keep overeating instead of moderating my food intake and exercising, I doubt whether I will lose weight. Also it does not make sense that innocent people who are victims of tragedies attracted the same. However, you can neither prove nor disprove the law of attraction. It is something akin to faith. If you do not receive what you asked, you know you did not have enough faith. And only you can know it. No one else can.

There it’s not a secret any longer. But to practice this you need to know its nuances which only the book will give you. From getting a cup of coffee to being cured of cancer, the book claims ‘The Secret’ can work for anything. I am beginning to believe in its power. I tried the book’s principles on a few small things and guess what it worked! So it makes me wonder why it should not work on bigger things. All I need to do is tune my frequency to what I want in life. That’s what I am going to do. What about you?

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish : Book Review; July'08

Title: Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

Author: Rashmi Bansal

Publication details: CIE, IIM Ahmedabad, India, 2008

Number of pages: 325 pages

There is a way to become successful and derive personal satisfaction from your work. Just bring the same kind of energy and passion to your existing job that you see entrepreneurs featured in the book ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish’ exhibit in their work. The book narrates the fascinating stories of 25 IIM Ahmedabad graduates who at some point in their life started their own companies. These entrepreneurs belong to diverse industries like IT, Retail, Finance, Consulting, Agriculture etc and IIMA batches ranging from Class of 1970 to Class of 2004 and they started out at different stages of their careers. The one thing they have in common is their ability to dream big and pursue their dreams.

We get the inside view of how a business like Edelweiss Capital or Mphasis was born and built and in the process we gain an understanding of some of the hardships, experiences, challenges faced by an entrepreneur. Be it the story of Vinayak Chaterjee’s Feedback Ventures morphing from a market research company to India’s leading infrastructure advisory and engineering firm or Deep Kalra’s story of building India’s leading travel portal, each of the stories are equally unique and prove there is no consistent formula or strategy for success. So while small is beautiful without scale the actual vision cannot be realised and while it pays to ride a wave in an upturn, belief in one's ideas is as important to see through the trying times. And yet there are some common threads. The entrepreneurs evaluate “Is the business inherently scalable? Is the market opportunity large enough?” They “... are smart people, they manage the risk-reward equation very well.” They do not give up. They build teams that can sustain the business.

Most of them thought innovatively or differently. Some of them ventured into nascent spheres like schooling (Eklavya’s Sunil Handa), online trading (India Infoline’s Nirmal Jain) etc. Others like’s Sanjeev Bikhchandani and Renuka Sugar’s Narendra Murkumbi, who built wealth for poor farmers, nurtured ideas that were well ahead of time.

The book also looks at alternate models such as social entrepreneurship exemplified by Vijay Mahajan who pioneered the concept of microfinance in India through his organisation ‘Basix’ And then there are those who believe they can be entrepreneurs without necessarily being 'owners’. An example is S B Dangayach who is not the owner of Sintex but works like one in every sense and was behind the iconic Sitnex water tanks.

Written in a conversational format, the author, Rashmi Bansal an IIMA alumnus herself, thinks aloud before having a conversation with an entrepreneur. We then get to hear about the vision, struggle, team building, success story and advice for young entrepreneurs in the very own words of the entrepreneurs. So it’s no surprise that the book is filled with gems like “Become extremely conversant with finance especially if you are going into some form of a fairly complex, large type of operation.”, “Base your business on deep customer insights.”, “There is no point in merely saying we are all a family. We have to believe it, we have to show it, we have to behave, we have to walk the talk.” and “In every business the more you know about the grassroots the better”. With its liberal use of Hindi (“Dil mein Chaah to niklegi raah”) the book makes you feel proud about the fact that it’s not just the story of successful entrepreneurs but Indian entrepreneurs. This is a must read for all young MBA graduates and a “treasure” for all those who are looking for inspiration to counter the feeling of “What I am doing at work is just not enough, But really, what can I do?”