Archives for category: Management

Writing an accessible and thorough book about a complex and everchanging subject, such as social media, is a daunting prospect – particularly when your audience is a niche one such as veterinary medicine. Dr. Caitlin DeWilde; however, has done just that.

With the look and feel of a textbook, but the format a “Dummies” or “Idiots how to” book, Social Media and Marketing for Veterinary Professionals is a how to guide to all the major Social Media platforms and to all the tasks needing to be understood for someone who is not a marketing professional or even someone that interested in social media or reviews.

With chapters dedicated to each of the major platforms making up the first half of the book this can at times feel redundant; however, the thoroughness will be welcomed by those feeling out of their depth in a brand-new field and the dedication to not making assumptions is more than admirable. The second half of the book is a much more interesting read for the existing user, touching on issues such as retargeting (when online ads seem to follow you around the internet), review bombing, return on investment (ROI), and general advertising strategies both online and in print ads.

Filled with footnotes, the book is impeccably researched as would expect from someone with Dr. DeWilde’s reputation as “The Social DVM.” The index is a little thin, but it at least has one and it covers most of the things that one is likely to need to find in a hurry. What is a surprising addition is the over 80 QR Codes that link directly to an online resource for forms and other digital content. It is a little disappointing that the QR codes only take the user to a menu structure that the reader then must navigate through to get the required content. But this is a minor quibble and is a great use of a technology that is often used and abused. The fact that these online resources exist at all, and are included in the price of this volume, more than makes up for any navigation quibbles.

While I waded through all 200 odd and large format pages in three or four sittings, this is actually a book to tackle one chapter at a time, or to dip into as required. Growing your knowledge with your own experimentation and reading. While there is some building on what has come before, the chapters generally stand on their own and therefore can be used as a reference book if so desired.

Whether it be new managers suddenly saddled with a topic they know nothing about, staff members who have only ever used social media for their own personal networks, or those looking to build their own personal brands online there is now a guide for you with no translations from other industries required. To the vast majority of its readers, the subject of this book will always be a side interest to their main passion – whether it be veterinary management or veterinary medicine. We don’t often get resources geared towards niche areas within other niche areas. It is great to see this one.

Dr. DeWilde has literally written the book on using social media as a veterinary professional.

And it’s a good one.

I loved Dominick Quartuccio’s other book, Design your Future which I reviewed here. When I was sent the second edition of On Purpose Leadership I had high hopes, and in general those hopes were met – sort of.

The problem, and I’m prepared to be wrong here, is that while Design Your Future felt like a new and fresh bundle of ideas, On Purpose Leadership feels like a second bite of the same apple. That it was written before Design Your Future is an irony not lost on me.  The idea of bringing focus into your leadership world is not by any means unwelcome. As is being those lessons to your team. The issue is that it is not a different enough book for the reader to feel that they actually have read a different book.

The tools in On Purpose Leadership are great in themselves. The “drifting” and dissatisfaction of leaders, even those who have achieved significant success, is a well understood phenomenon. Most of us call this burnout. Anything that helps those in management circles is very welcome. Identifying the problems with burnout or drift is helpful as are identifying the solutions. The idea of putting oneself first, that others want to be led, and creating an environment for success are all excellent principles for addressing the problem.

This is a short and small book, with some interesting case studies, but for me the greater insights are to be gleaned from Mr. Quartuccio’s other book or reading both books in tandem.

The TV show on Apple TV + “Five Days at Memorial” based on the book of the same name (which in turn is based on a Pulitzer Prize winning article) is about three quarters through as I finished the book and I write this. Therefore, my criticism and praise of the show should be seen in this context. I’ll try to keep this review free of major spoilers for the TV show, but it is difficult to discuss the issues of this true story without covering some of the events involved.

“Five Days at Memorial” tells the story of what happened to the doctors and patients at Memorial Hospital during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans when they lost power, were flooded, were abandoned by authorities, and evacuation was difficult to impossible. It is a challenging story that involves issues of disaster preparedness, corporate ownership of hospitals, death, euthanasia, quality of life, triage, race relations, rationing of care, and the potential criminal culpability of doctors for decisions made during emergency situations.

The TV show seems to be told from a particular point of view which in a story like this means taking a particular side. It paints a bleak picture of hospital ownership, which according to the book, are certainly due for criticism; however, the lack of care and forethought shown is disingenuous. It does set a similar tone, but like many “docudramas” it combines characters, invents new ones, and seems to invent situations to fit story arcs and running times. The acrimonious relationship between the staff at Memorial and the staff of the Life Care Hospice hospital, that inhabited the same building, seems to be a fiction made for TV.  It also wholesale moves one situation from a different hospital, Memorial was not the only hospital with major issues during Katrina, to Memorial for dramatic effect.

While I’m painting a picture of the show as being an unreliable narrator that is not to say that it is not entertaining and emotionally engaging. It also shows the importance of disaster preparedness and the dedication of medical professionals. Being in the veterinary profession, the plight of pets and the role they play in the movement of people during emergencies, is of particular interest. While the book does an excellent job of recognizing the issues that looking after pets in an emergency raise, the TV show pays only lip service to this, except for one brutally accurate scene in episode six.

As of episode six, the show is of limited use as a teaching tool about disaster response and medical ethics although it is a show worth watching. It does do an excellent job of showing how rumors start and get out of control but provides no solution for controlling them – unlike the book which forays into comparing how other hospitals, during Katrina, dealt with the same issues as Memorial differently or made the same mistakes.

As a teaching tool for disaster response issues, the book is remarkable. It acts as the crucible for ideas that was never able to be had in public and really needed to be. These are issues that affect us to this day. The book, written in 2013, makes this clear with hindsight as it discusses the withdrawal of ventilators from patients during a potential Influenza pandemic. While Katrina changed many things about disaster response and emergency preparedness, this book shows how much still has to change nine years after its publication and 17 years after Hurricane Katrina.

The book swings wildly between differing points of view on the more contentious issues which buffets the reader much as the characters in the book must have felt. The research is impeccable and paints an impressively detailed picture of both Memorial during Katrina and  that of public opinion, law enforcement, politicians, and the medical community in the aftermath.

It also explores in depth not only moral quandaries faced by doctors and emergency personnel, but also the ethical and legal issues that also arise. It does an extraordinary job of showing how people in decision making positions get trapped by a lack of situational awareness and become prisoners of decisions made with different information at different times.

What Five Days at Memorial shows, both in written form and to a lesser extent its TV cousin, is that heroes can be flawed and that villains can do good. What really needs to be our focus is values. Do emergencies change our values or do our values inform how we respond to emergencies? We need to discuss that, particularly considering COVID 19, and if the TV show helps that happen then it will have done a great service to our society.

However, it will be the book that informs that discussion and that we should use as a foundation. This is what great books do. They focus our minds and give us evidence to think. There are no easy answers in Five days at Memorial and a lot of questions. But what Ms. Fink (more accurately addressed as Dr. Fink since she herself is an M.D.) has done is set us a table for us to dine over and have those discussions. These issues will not go away, and as the book makes clear in the epilogue, we are doomed to make the same mistakes, with the same justifications, or go down potentially dangerous roads, if we do not have frank discussions about how we as a society actually feel about ethical and moral quandaries that often arise in the most trying and difficult of times.

Ever have books that hang around in your book pile for way longer than would seem rational?

The book’s premise was obviously interesting enough to find its way into the pile in the first place, but repeatably fails to be interesting enough to make it the next step and actually be read. I don’t know how long Measure What Matters has been in my possession, but it has been a while.

Of course, as is often the case when finally getting around to reading a long overdue book, one thinks the book is great. I suspect my reticence is to do with the books subject matter: goal setting. I have a complicated relationship with goal setting, or more precisely with goal setting as it is usually described to people in the business world. I’ve often found that systems of formulaic goal setting overly burdensome and lacking in coherent structure. However, how can one not be intrigued by a book that describes Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as soulless numbers!

Measure What Matters touts a system of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) which are used in multiple different formats by companies such as Google, The Gates Foundation, and Bono’s One Charity. What soon becomes clear, however, is that what Mr. Doer is proposing is a culture shift in how companies measure performance and direction. It also has the acceptance that with OKRs there will be failure. In fact, if there is not failure, team members are probably not setting ambitious enough goals. What also resonates is the duality of goals for leaders of teams, but with the teams themselves setting their own goals on how the team can get there. A mix of top down and bottom-up objectives.

The culture shift in Measure What Matters is pervasive, extending into employee reviews and relationships between teams, supervisors, and leaders. The book is also honest about implementation and change management – steps often overlooked in this kind of book. Filled with examples for what works and does not, Measure What Matters is almost a spiritual partner to that most revered of business books (well by me anyway) Traction by Gino Wickman. (I have never reviewed Traction for my site due to being just too intimidated by it.)

A great example of “honest” OKRs rather than the “soulless” KPIs is the example given of an objective of reducing office cleaning costs by 25%. At its most basic, the simple measure of whether the costs went down by 25% could mean that the goal was achieved. However, Mr. Doerr not only suggests ways of measuring the quality of cleaning, but also suggests that to be a true OKR the person responsible for this OKR should have their office in the area being cleaned – thereby being directly affected by the key results of the objective.

This is not a book of cold and soulless analytics. This is a book that reminds us that there is more to business objectives than math. That the way to achieve greatness is to have greatness as the objective. To be motivated by failure as much as by possibility.

For once, I am excited about a book about goal setting and goal setting in general. Having a road map helps, but understanding that emotion and intuition also have their place helps more. Measure what matters is a bible text for the modern manager.

cover "Happy at any cost"

“The Revolutionary Vision and Fatal Quest of Zappos CEO Tony Hsiesh,” is the subtitle.

This book, however, is a tragedy.

Happy at Any Cost is the story of on undoubted visionary leader; their quest for not just their own happiness, but also for the happiness of others. This in turn leads to a lot of good, a lot of success, but ultimately exploitation, substance abuse, and the death of a beloved figure in the world of business and Las Vegas.

Unlike Aimee Groth’s 2017 book “The Kingdom of Happiness” which I reviewed here, and is an inside look at the Las Vegas “Downtown Project” and by extension Zappos, this is the telling of the story of Tony’s last two years as he struggled with mental illness and substance abuse issues put in the wider context of the rest of his life. This is also a cautionary tale for entrepreneurs and for those who can be swept up in vision without dealing with, or caring to deal with, the nuts-and-bolts details that make visions work.

Employing an interesting dual timeline structure, Ms. Grind and Ms. Sayre present an exhaustively researched, and deeply unnerving, tale of Tony Hsieh’s rise and fall. His rise as a tech entrepreneur at Link Exchange, then becoming CEO of what turned into Zappos, his evangelism for company culture with his book Delivering Happiness, and becoming a leading Las Vegas civic figure with the Downtown Project. His fall with the problems with the Downtown Project, issues with Zappos’s adoption of a new company structure called Holocracy, his move to Park City, Utah, his “retirement” from Zappos, and his struggles with alcohol, drugs, and mental illness. It also tells the story of Tony’s last days up to and including his death after a house fire in Connecticut.

Happy at Any Cost very much frames Tony’s life story as a coping mechanism for mental health issues and has the worthy goal of pointing out that if there was not the social stigma long associated with mental health issues perhaps it would have been easier for those around him to help. It is interesting to note, that a reading of Tony’s book Delivering Happiness, particularly in retrospect, leaves the reader with the feeling that the focus on fun and party atmosphere that permeates the book could easily be a coping mechanism for other issues. Where it perhaps most accurately hits the mark is in its exploration that having happiness as a goal in itself as ultimately self-defeating and that happiness should be a by-product of whatever drives you.

I find Tony a fascinating figure to discuss. Someone with gargantuan visions which he often left others to implement. Sometimes that worked and other times it failed. By definition, someone’s legacy is based on what marks they leave behind. Tony was someone who talked about culture and put culture at the front of their business model when nobody, literally nobody, was talking about company culture. For all its flaws, Tony helped rejuvenate Downtown Las Vegas and make it a vibrant hub of new business. However, Tony unbelievably left no will making the unraveling of his estate a legal nightmare for his family and associates. Given his investments in Las Vegas real estate, and businesses, this is likely to be a story with many subsequent chapters and potential consequences.

“A failure of leadership due to a lack of management” was my conclusion to the story told in “The Kingdom of Happiness.” It is hard not to look at “Happy at Any Cost” and come to the same conclusion.

Tony was someone who was in serious trouble near the end of his life. Many of those around him tried to help, some undoubtedly exacerbated the situation, and some just bought into that this was the vision. This book, in some ways, is a celebration of what Tony was able to achieve, which makes the ultimate tragedy even more real and poignant.

It is a haunting tale of what happens someone creates their own world where they no longer hear the world “no.”  

Does anyone care about reviews anymore?

Well – yes we should, however, even amongst those of us who care about reviews, we quite possibly care a bit less.

Why?

As the always insightful Mike Blumenthal says in this article about the fall in user and review growth on Yelp and this article on the fall in reviews on Google Local, things are not looking great for the review space. It cannot all be blamed on COVID-19. The trends of reduced new user numbers and a significant slowing in the rate of new reviews was well in place before the pandemic.

So, what is going on?

I believe what we are seeing is what I have dubbed “The Karen Effect.” The origins of the term “Karen,” meaning in rough terms a middle-aged white woman demanding to speak to the manager, being overly officious / unreasonable, or just being downright racist, is not exactly known. However, the term Karen exploded in usage during 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the summer of the Black Lives Matter protests after the killing of George Floyd. Karen today could mean anyone, of any gender, losing their temper over or generally overreacting to a perceived wrong.  

This rise in petty unreasonableness and overly bad behavior, towards those working in service industries or retail, during the pandemic has in turn given rise to another phenomenon: the sharing of this behavior online. I wrote about my fears about clients trying to leverage live streams and social platforms in an aggressive manner in this 2016 post. While this weaponizing of the documenting of interactions with a business has been successfully attempted, it has also backfired.

The first time I became aware of the potential for this tide to turn was after seeing this 2014 viral video:

This is an all too familiar scene that could have happened yesterday rather than eight years ago. A customer, believing they have been wronged, exacting their revenge on social media and in doing so exposes their own failings and unreasonableness. It also highlights the extremes to which employees will go to try and address customer complaints and keep their cool while doing so.

This is the Karren Effect.

What does this have to do with reviews?

Videos of front-line employees being polite, following their business’s policies, and trying to help a customer are not great social capital. In fact, they are boring. Watching a customer “lose their sh*t” over a perceived wrong is great social capital and in turn adds a measure of retribution for someone being punished for bad behavior. This, of course, is not always the case. Some businesses screw up, act badly, and can be badly represented by employees. But since the rise of the Karen, and the flooding of social media showing just how bad things can be, would you trust a stranger’s opinions about a business? Particularly a negative opinion? The embrace of video on social media, and everyone having a high definition video camera in their pocket, or more likely in their hand, has meant that good content can be generated from bad behavior – although generally not for the person behaving badly.

Likewise, influencer marketing and the dubious reputation that it has in many circles has also not helped the review space. While many social media influencers go to great lengths to inform their followers as to when posts are a paid promotion and thereby stay on the right side of the law, others do not and also try to leverage their “influence” into free products and services.

Influencers who try to abuse their Influence has also fallen foul of “The Karen Effect.” Most social media users have little tolerance for influencers those who abuse their power – a power given to the influencer by those same social media users – and businesses despise them. This leads us back to reviews. If influencers, who by definition are known to their audience, are not be trusted with their opinions due to undisclosed commercial relationships, how can review platform users trust complete strangers – regardless of whether the review is good or bad?

The Karen Effect is the loss of trust in the opinions of strangers.

One can hope that the Karen Effect leads to a resurgence of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or gives rise to another organization of a similar ilk. I have always bemoaned that most of the complaints about Yelp and Google Local were effectively dealt with by the BBB and that it was businesses, by not supporting them, that led to their diminished standing today and the rise of Yelp and Google Local.

It seems that people are looking for someone to trust online. They are finding other users online lacking. It will be interesting to see what fills the void.

For all the time that I have been managing veterinary hospitals I have also had oversight responsibility for the computers and technological systems (I.T.) employed at those hospitals. Coming from a technical background in the entertainment lighting world, this just seemed to be a natural extension of my existing skill sets – the things that make me good (hopefully) at what I do.

One of the things that I have always been passionate about is data security. I’ve written articles and had them published on the subject. I made sure my hospitals had proper backup procedures, good anti-virus protection, updates ran regularly, and great firewalls.  I’d always felt that there is always an element of carelessness, or lack of understanding of the risks, when hearing about those that have fallen foul of hardware failures or ransomware. Nothing in my years of experience did anything to dissuade me from this impression.

Until one of my hospitals was hacked.

The story starts first thing on a Sunday morning when I get a call from the office manager on site saying that they are unable to get their practice management software up and running. I try logging in remotely and get nowhere so I make the five-minute drive to take a look. What meets me on the screen of the server is a message that runs my blood cold and leads to feeling of despair sinking into my stomach.

“Your System has been hacked. All of your data has been encrypted. To release your, data payment must be made via Bitcoin….”

We have backups, we have a replication server, we’ll be fine.

We were not.

The ransomware attack had been possible due to one the connections that we used to allow doctors to write up their medical records from home. In addition, there had been an old user with administrator rights that had somehow been overlooked and led to the hacker being able to access the server. The height of irony was that we were in the process of moving over to a more secure system to allow remote access when this attack took place. If we had been a couple of weeks further along this attack would not have been possible as it unfolded.

Our server was encrypted, our replication server was encrypted, our daily incremental backup drive was encrypted, our weekly full backup drive was encrypted, and several workstations were also encrypted. We had no internet, no practice management software, and so no access to medical records, schedule, email, or files.

Paying was not an option on general principles.

Our last hope was offsite cloud backup.

This backup had been fully protected and within 24 hours we were able to have remote access to this so we could access schedule and records.

We tried for three days to download the massive database onto a drive to allow us to restore the server. After three days of failure, in part cause by file size, an inopportune Windows automatic update, and network / computer stability issues, our cloud backup vendor arranged for a physical drive to be sent to us. Once the drive arrived (at 8PM at night several days later) the instructions were unclear as to how to access what had been sent to us and the cloud backup provider did not have anyone on staff late at night who knew how the drive had been prepared. We finally restored functionality to most of the hospital on the seventh day after the attack.

Lessons learned

Our I.T. vendor had, for the most part, been great. They understood the position we were in and I, in turn, protected them from the owners and staff who were rightly upset and frustrated. I had several moments of frustration myself , particularly when it came to getting a physical drive from the cloud backup vendor which turned into a comedy of errors. But both sides were able to work on the problem and maintain a professional atmosphere. We’ve had a long relationship with our I.T. support vendor and they have been very good to us in turn. They understood our need to go with other suppliers for things such as phone systems and servers but were still being prepared to help support those items and the overall health of our networks. Without that long term relationship, and atmosphere of mutual trust, things could have been very difficult indeed.

We used our barely functioning network to try and download a huge amount of data. We should have done this offsite, at one of our other locations. We should have also immediately requested a physical drive to be sent to us. I offered multiple times to get on plane and courier the drive personally, however, this was turned down but did add to the pressure on the cloud backup company to get their act together.

Try to be calm. After all was said the done the total loss of business for the week that we were unable to either take care of that week or squeeze into the following week was estimated at 4% – well within the normal variation from week to week. Not even close to the amount to bother our insurance company with. Clients will understand. Deal with what you can, improvise, and communicate as much as possible with everyone.

The major lesson that I learned, however, was one of humility. Anything can he hacked. All it takes is time and a willingness to spend that time. There was, in the heat of the moment, a number of times when the blame game reared its head. I made the decision to not allow that from anyone, feeling that if there was any blame it was the wrong time to even talk about it. What I ultimately realized that what is important was not in preventing a hack, but our resilience if the face of that attack. It is not a matter of if, but when. We lost no data – I consider that a great victory. We lost little to no business – I also consider that a victory. We also came out the other side of the ransomware attack with a much stronger awareness and agreement on the importance of cyber security.

Humility is not an excuse, or a reason to not try everything possible to prevent issues. But it helps with the realization that all systems are vulnerable. That the very things that make I.T. systems so great and useful, are also the things that can lead to vulnerabilities.

Humility is directly related to resilience. When bad things happen what is important is that we can recover from them as quickly and easily as possible- not to pretend that there are no bad things or that we are immune to them.

I rarely write book reviews about books I don’t like.

I don’t believe I’ve ever written about a book I despise.

I have never read a more immoral and unethical book than Robert Greene’s “The 48 Laws of Power.” It does not have a luxury of the possible satirical nature of Machiavelli’s “The Prince;” a book that Mr. Greene quotes extensively. It also has no excuse of being from a different age given its original publication date of 1998.

The 48 Laws of Power is a book that argues that we all should lie, cheat, and steal to get what we want and hold on to what we have. It argues that customers and colleagues are marks to be taken advantage of. Friends are to be feared and loyalty is valueless; other than as something to exploit. The book seems to be saying that everyone is out for themselves, and so to do anything other than to be looking out for one’s self makes you a fool.

This outlook, of course, flies in the face of pretty much all current management theory and treats all interactions as a zero-sum game: there must be a winner and a loser in everything. It ignores the work of mathematician John Nash Jr. and the prisoner’s dilemma. In fact, it is interesting that the book does not mention the prisoner’s dilemma and the bias that groups have towards cooperation.

The book is filled with historical examples and examples from myth. However, these examples are cherry picked and contain little historical context and no moral framework. An advisor keeps quiet about their fears of following Napoleon into war, because they ultimately feel they will fail and therefore cause their own downfall – never mind all the people who died at the battle of Waterloo, so long as the advisor keeps their “power.” The book fundamentally misinterprets the failures of the Treaty of Versailles, and by way of repudiation, the success of the Marshall Plan.  It claims Claudius pretended to be a fool to seize power, rather than someone who by happenstance became emperor and, by being highly educated, a highly effective administrator.

This book endorses the worst fears about politicians and managers that are held by those who elect them or follow them. A reading of this book, taking as fact that this is how all those in power do, or should, behave essentially makes the case for revolution and collectivism. If everyone is only out for themselves, and you can’t trust anything anyone says, then what use are leaders? People infected (and I use those words with great care) by the thought processes in this book have no place in the modern workplace.

This book also provides instructions on conning people, in creating a cult (not kidding), and scapegoating the innocent to protect one’s own position. The book endorses narcissistic behavior and manipulation to seduce people and is generally sociopathic.

And it’s a shame.

For this book does contain a lot of good information. Its problems lie in its total lack of a moral framework. The book also has merit for anyone who feels they may be being manipulated, to understand the mindset and tools of the manipulator. But these arguments are a stretch for a book of this length and depth. I think a good barometer for organizations, is upon seeing this book on a bookshelf, to ask those around you what they thought of it. Those that embrace it, rather than act with revulsion at its amorality, should be treated as this book itself would recommend treating them – with distrust and suspicion.

This is not a good book. It puts forward a dangerous point of view because there are people who will, and I’m sure do, use this as a manual to scheme and manipulate those around them – and think that it is okay to do so. This book is almost everything that is wrong with the world today, and everything that is wrong with business – ever.

There way are better explanations of how to view the world and the behaviors of others, and even on how to get ahead in the workplace. It is hard to find one that has such an ugly view of people, society, and history.

There are few people who would argue with the statement that math is at the heart for most of our modern world. What is less well understood is what happens when that math goes wrong. And it does. All the time!

Mr. Parker’s highly amusing and thought-provoking book is about math and computers, but what becomes clearer as the book goes on is that this is also a book about systems and how and why systems can fail. There are lots of examples of people adding up numbers incorrectly or trying to take shortcuts to make the math simpler, which in turn leads to devastating and sometimes lethal consequences. However, it the subtler applications of mathematics where “Humble Pi” really scores.

For example, looking at 30- or 40-year-old kitchen appliance, still in use, is often accompanied by a phrase such as “they don’t make things today like they used to.” While this might seem obvious at first glance given that we are talking about an appliance working well beyond its expected lifespan, this is actually an example of “Survivor Bias.” If we looked at how many of the appliances had been manufactured, and then looked at how many were still in daily use, the chances are that we would recognize that this surviving appliance is an outlier and that the vast majority of the appliances have actually long been replaced or broken down. It is only the existence of this surviving outlier that prompts the idea even though we would likely not comment on its existence were more of the appliances in existence. The appliance’s rarity generates a false narrative that can only be understood by understanding the underlying math of the number of appliances produced.

For managers there is much to take away from Humble Pi. Mr. Parker encourages us to look at systems like layers of sliced Swiss cheese. All systems should be made of multiple layers – the checks and balances of any good system. But it is important to understand that there are possibilities for mistakes in every layer of a system – the holes in the cheese. The challenge as designers of systems is to ensure that the holes in each layer do not align. The author uses the example of two different nurses in a hospital performing a complicated drug calculation the same way and both making the same math mistake leading to a medical error.

Related to this idea of errors being a natural part of a system is the impact of a lack of tolerance for errors on new employee training. If managers terminate employees for making mistakes, the people who are left to train new employees are those who are must less likely to make mistakes. These are probably the worst people to train new employees who are obviously more prone to making mistakes. If instead, we teach employees to work a system that can detect mistakes and provide feedback, a system where the holes do not line up, then we will overall have far less mistakes – even when people are new. As the books says, humans can be very resourceful in finding ways to make mistakes.

This is not just a book about rounding errors, and why you should turn your computer off regularly. It is a book about what it means to be human in a world that relies and is built on mathematics, which humans are inherently not very good at. It is a fun and interesting read that will stay with you long after you put it down.

Who does not hate networking?

“A Friend of a Friend…” by David Burkus makes the case that we are doing networking all wrong, or not at all, and that there is a better way of thinking about personal networks. With a few caveats, I think there is a lot to learn from Mr. Burkus.

To most people, the purpose of networking is to be able to leverage your network for professional ends. That means reaching out to those people with whom you have “close ties” and seeing what they can do for you or who they can introduce you to. The author suggests, however, that “loose ties,” those that you have fallen out of touch with or never had a terribly close connection with in the first place, are a better way of leveraging your network connections. It is these loose ties that are more likely to bring a diversity of thought to your circle. With some intriguing data, the book put forward the idea that people who have similar thinking, and world view, tend to cluster together. As an example of this clustering of similar thinking patterns, Mr. Burkus uses the example of voting patterns, because voting districts tend to increase in their preference for a particular party over time – even when allowing for jerrymandering!

Trying to increase the diversity of thought to improve your exposure to ideas is not without risks. While most people would agree that they and others are subtly influenced by those around them, what is less well realized is that even the behavior and habits of friends of friends can influence our rates of obesity, smoking and stopping smoking to give just a few examples. Influence is contagious.

While for some it might seem that social media could be an ideal solution to these networking issues, the author urges us to use caution and to treat social media as a potential tool rather than as a panacea. Social Media can exacerbate the very issues highlighted above – a lack of diversity of thought, through the contagious nature of influence.

What has been known in some entrepreneurial circles and at some high-end retreats is that one of the best ways to get to know someone, without all the baggage of status and perceived worth, is to actually complete a task with a stranger – helping to prepare a meal is the most focused on example, but taking a class on almost any subject when collaboration is required works just as well.

In a refreshing change from most personal development and business books is to find the resources that accompany the book freely available from the authors website, with a commitment to keep them there. https://davidburkus.com/resources/

Where the book is lacking is in the assertion that personal friends and connections can also turn into good and productive business connections or partners and vise versa. While this is undoubtedly true, and the book serves up many examples of it working in the real world, it does not explore or even caution of the HR issues and general pitfalls of not having clear boundaries in the workplace for both those involved and those around them. While it is a relatively minor quibble, it does seem to be strange oversight given the book’s otherwise excellent attention to detail and research.

“A Friend of a Friend” is an excellent resource for those who find networking unnatural. It also explains why it looks so easy for some and borderline impossible for others. The success of its promise, and premise, still has a lot to do with personal motivation, but these tools are that are relatable and accessible for all. This book is for the introverted, extroverted, and the closet introverted alike.

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