Uplifting Business Reading

Earlier this year in my “recommended reading phase,” a good friend suggested I read Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.  At the time, I think it was the title that put me off, though I dutifully downloaded it into my iPhone just in case I ran out of books.  As it turns out I did, and boy was I the lucky one.  Lencioni has this interesting way of telling a fable in the first half of the book to illuminate the points, and then spends the later half of the book explaining the theory in more traditional expository prose.

In the end I read only two of his five books from this five pack – but I imagine I will read them all.  They are on the light side, but perfect for the holiday season. Happy reading.

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Holiday blues

Like a lot of families, ours has been impacted by the economy in general.  We decided to ask the kids to buck up and bit and not be disappointed Christmas morning when they had fewer presents than years past.  The tree is up now, sparkling with white lights and adorned with a trove of homemade ornaments. Beautiful, even without presents underneath.  What’s odd though is not the children’s reaction, but my own.

I love Christmas and I love filling the tree with as much “stuff” as possible.  Turns out the bucking up is entirely on my part…..who would have thought!

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The Girl with Dragon Tatoo!

OK, OK – perhaps I was the last person to read this. There is something annoying about jumping on the band wagon. But I must say now that I have finished Stief Larsson’s trilogy, I am a happy reader. Elizabeth Salendar is a fantastic character.  Larsson’s intrigue and mystery surrounding her life and thoughts keep you memorized through almost all of the trilogy. Only the last book drags a bit here and there. This is primarily because Elizabeth is locked up and unable to do much.

Al in all, this is a five-star book – too bad, Larsson’s untimely death will keep us from ever know exactly what he had in mind for this cyber heroine!

More news soon!

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Fall of Giants, by Ken Follett

Last month I had the good fortune of being given a galley copy of Follett’s latest book, Fall of Giants. It will be available in stores on September 28, 2010.  What a delight – 987 pages about five main characters from different western countries at the turn of last century.  What I liked best was seeing the interconnectedness between the social, political, and geographic  histories – individual and national – as World War I came and went. I would especially recommend it to high school upper classman trying to keep all of the various social moments straight in the early 20th Century.

My only regret is that I will have to wait years before I get to read book II and III since Fall of Giants is the first in the Trilogy.

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Initial thoughts about “Connected”

So this book was great! Nikolas Christakis and Jame’s Fowler’s “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks” is worth a read. And it relates beautifully to this year’s theme, which ideas change us and why?

I already finished it and have recommended it to several people:

  • Bruce – who I work with on education reform issues at the Center for Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW)
  • Darren – who will benefit immensely from the political insights in his work as a campaign manager in Minnesota
  • Paul – who is an expert in “teaming” and diversity at Metro State University
  • The Iowa AIW Coaching Crew – who will get insights into their schools’ AIW team successes (and challenges)
  • Jose – who works with online networks of people for WordPress
  • David 1 – who runs a chemistry lab at 3M
  • Hans and Tom – who sold it to me at Micawbers Bookstore.

People I intend to recommend the book to:

  • Tina – who decided to increase her fitness regime
  • Mary – who is changing children’s lives with SiteLines
  • Aunt Pat – who already knows a lot about social networks
  • Carla – who runs a book club in a St. Paul Public Library
  • Kathleen – who works in the international corporate world
  • My VIS classmates  – who live internationally
  • Elizabeth – who has influence and impact on the sustainable development in the Bay Area, who in turn may share it with her husband who works with NASA environmentally related issues
  • David 2 – who is a superintendent in Chaska
  • Steve – who was running for governor but withdrew
  • Jenney – who I share all my best reads with, who in turn will share it with her husband, who might just use it in his architecture course.
  • Cheri – who I also share all my best reads with AND could use it in her PR work
  • Yvonne – who I also share all my best reads with AND could use it in her Real Estate work
  • And you, whoever you are reading this blog!

Final To Do List:

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From Light Scones to Connectedness

Since the last blog, I have read the The Unbearable lightness of Scones, by Alexander McCall Smith. I read it primarily because I needed some light reading after Ronald White’s A. Lincoln. Smith is a great author when you want desert, but don’t want to downgrade to a bar of Chocolate. All his books are a trifle more upscale, like a Mozart Kugle, (click here for a peek if you don’t know what one is).

Like a Mozart Kugle, there is a limit to have many you can consume in one sitting. So with that read, I have moved on to something deeper. This morning while cooking breakfast, I was listening to public radio and heard the interesting story about the power of social networks. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, the co-authors of “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks” talked to Kerri Miller about their research.

So here is my challenge – If you are reading this blog, maybe you are open to reading a new book. If so, would you consider reading “Connected.” Then we can talk about it here. This might be the quintessential book for this year’s theme “Which ideas change us and why?”

What do you say! Let’s put their theories to the test.

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Olympic Opening Ceremony

WOW – The Olympic opening ceremony was spectacular. Sure there was flash and sparkle, but the delicate way in which the ceremony celebrated the majesty of Canadian geography and the rich cultural heritage was fantastic. I was especially struck with the grounding of the ceremonies in the four indigenous chiefs welcoming the world. How different that is from the US, or for that matter other nations that have displaced and overrun aboriginals.

Just today I was talking to a historian. He was arguing that the longest American legacy has been the displacement of indigenous peoples. Longer than slavery, longer than democracy, we have taken land that wasn’t ours. His solution was a heartfelt apology backed up with a national tax paid to all the tribes for the lands. This would change our legacy as a nation and as I people.

“Really?” I thought, realizing I wasn’t nearly as a liberal as I had thought. What he said was interesting but I thought “not in my lifetime could that happen. It just doesn’t line up with the American myth of rugid individualism and our super special status in the world.”

And then I settled in to watch the Olympics. WOW – Canada appears to have made that change. It has quietly risen to a level of international integrity and passed the rest of the developed world by with its spirit of unity. The spokesperson actually used storytelling in the same breath as media.
Perhaps the rest of us should take Canada’s cue and begin a new era.

Thanks for showing us how reconciliation transforms into “oneness” on the international stage. Go Canadians: First Nations, British, French, and the Newcomers: All of Canada – You rock!

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Phew – Finished the Biography

White’s awarding winning book, A. Lincoln (2009), is a good read, perhaps even a great one. BUT you have to REALLY like history. Truly for those who want to learn about the remarkably complex President Lincoln, this book is a must read.

For people with average interest, it’s way too long, too chronological, and dull.

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How Much is Too Much for the Brain ?

This morning, while cooking breakfast, I was listening to the radio. A great show from the “Science Lab” (NPR) came on talking about will power, or at least that’s what I thought it was about. The people in the experiment were asked to memorize a number. Participants did not know that there were actually two categories of numbers: two-digits and seven-digits.  They were given as much time as they felt they needed and told only that they would repeat the number when they got to another room down the hall.

BUT, as they would walk down the hallway a person would suddenly appear and give them the choice of a snack (as a kind of thank you for participating in the study). There were two choices: chocolate cake and a bowl of fruit salad.  At a rate of almost 3 to 1 the people with two-digit numbers selected fruit salad, while those with seven digits in their head chose chocolate cake.

The researchers concluded by saying that humans have two systems inside our brain constantly competing with each other for attention: the emotional system and the rational system (not to be confused with the left lobe and right lobe). Anyways, it turns out that keeping the rational brain busy with the task of remembering all seven digits prevents is from loudly overriding the emotional brain’s desire for the rich, gooey chocolate cake. While memorizing two-digits is “a piece of cake ” (just kidding – couldn’t resist).  It’s easy enough for the rational brain to remember the two digits AND enter  into the “cake or fruit” debate . Participants can hear the little voice in their heads saying “think about the calories…make the healthier choice…”

Interesting. I think I just learned a down side of multitasking!

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Friendship: Organic or Not

In a recent conversation, a long time friend and I argued about the nature of friendship. I was lobbying strongly for an organic metaphor, that relationships are like plants. One person provides the sunshine while the other provides the water. With both inputs, the plant will thrive, but without either one the plant will eventually die. The obvious analogy is that for a friendship to thrive BOTH people must pay attention to the relationship and put energy into it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I thought my analogy was tight. But my friend had a completely different metaphor.  He said, “This “balance” translates in … what should I call them? visible tokens? To me balance is a mirage. It’s an ideal, not a real place”, he continued, “relationships (and not only human ones) progress or exist in lots of noise and confusion, sometimes in silence, even.”

He went on to say that “relationships are a chaotic algorithm (which is not to say random); the peculiarities of a particular relationship appear at its strange attractors, recursively”.

When I tried to push the organic metaphor, he  said  “a relationship is a system (btw: “system” doesn’t necessarily imply soulless robots), even though you cannot synthesize it in a mathematical formula. I was trying to illustrate that I don’t need a “mathematical formalization” to accept a dynamical system (i.e. a relationship) and that “mathematical formalization” is what “visible tokens” are.

(NOTE : If you are wondering what happened to reading, I’m just finishing up the A. Lincoln book. To be honest, while I’ve enjoyed it, I can’t say that there’s a lot to write about.  I would truly only recommend this book for people REALLY interested in american history, and I’m not even sure I would put myself in this category.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad I read the book.  Not just sure how many people I would recommend it to.  -Dana)

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