CBJ book review: Emotional Intelligence 2.0

Emotional Intelligence 2.0
Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves
TalentSmart, 255 p., $19.95

Anyone with a copy of Gallup’s Strengthsfinder 2.0 on the shelf probably did a doubletake when they saw the cover of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. Save for a shift from red to orange and an additional stripe, the covers are nearly identical.

That’s likely intentional. Those looking to tap into core talents can take the Strengthsfinder test online, then read about who to put those strengths to work. The folks behind Emotional Intelligence 2.0 offer a similar tool, but in this case, it is to measure how well you react emotionally to situations.

In both cases, the book (and accompanying online component) promise to help the reader identify aspects of their personality that are often difficult to self-detect. And, once identified, they promise to help you maximize those aspects to achieve success.

“Emotional awareness and understanding are not taught in school,” the authors write. “We enter the workforce knowing how to read, write and report on bodies of knowledge, but too often, we lack the skills to manage or emotions in the heat of the challenging problems that we face.”

They go on to claim that emotional intelligence accounts for 58 percent of performance in all types of jobs, and is the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace.

Emotional intelligence is made up of four skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. The authors take up several pages explaining what each of these is and how they affect your decision making and work habits.

The bulk of the book, however, is given over to strategies to improve your emotional intelligence in each of these four areas. After taking the online assessment (each book comes with a code that allows you to access the site), you can look for ways to address shortcomings.

Even if you don’t take the assessment, the book has valuable advice that can guide you through a process of self- improvement. For example, the section on self-awareness includes tips like “stop and ask yourself why you do the things you do” and “get to know yourself under stress.”

For those with low self-awareness scores, following such advice can help to boost those figures.

Beyond that, the book offers some brief information about emotional intelligence that helps to put the idea in perspective. It’s an interesting, helpful little book that, like Strengthsfinder 2.0, can help you on the path to self-discovery.

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CBJ Book Review: Ignore Everybody

This originally ran in the May 18-24, 2009 issue of the Corridor Business Journal.

Ignore Everybody

Hugh MacLeod

Portfolio, 159 p., $23.95

Having read Hugh MacLeod’s wildly successful blog, Gaping Void (www.gapingvoid.com), for the past four years, I feared that a whole book of his musings would be a bit too much.

That’s not a slight, necessarily. When you’re used to reading bite-sized nuggets from someone with an outsized personality like Mr. MacLeod, the prospect of 159 pages of the stuff is daunting.

I needn’t have worried, for Ignore Everybody was transforming. Where Mr. MacLeod’s blog posts offer the occasional burst of insight and inspiration, a book full of such thoughts was truly moving. I can safely say that this was the first business book I’ve been compelled to read in one day, and the first that made me actually feel like doing something immediately afterward.

Mr. MacLeod was a New York marketer with a cartooning background who started drawing cartoons on the backs of business cards while killing time in bars. He scanned these, uploaded them to the web and then wrote blog posts about marketing and cartooning to run with them. Today 1.5 million people monthly visit his blog, and screen prints of his cartoons sell for hundreds of dollars.

That in and of itself would be worth a book, and while Mr. MacLeod does share much about his own odd career path, he really focuses on his thoughts about creativity. He shares 40 such insights here, from “ignore everybody” to “none of this is rocket science.” In between, on pages liberally sprinkled with his funny, bawdy and incisive cartoons, he offers something that reads like a mash up of affirmation, advice and inspiration.

This may sound slight, and anyone paging through this in a bookstore would be hard pressed to argue otherwise. But it does what it sets out to do. Mr. MacLeod makes his point (“Ignore everybody”), amplifies it (“The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you.”) and then expounds on it for a page or two.

Each point is poignant enough, but it is the aggregation of all 40 points that drives home the key point: indulge your creative self, but don’t put so much pressure on yourself to make it your be-all end-all that you quash the energy that made that creative outlet so rewarding in the first place.

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CBJ Book Review:

This originally ran in the May 18-24, 2009 issue of the Corridor Business Journal.

Pow! Right Between the Eyes!
Andy Nulman
Wiley Books, 244 p., $22.95

I love comedy, but I find that when people try to blend comedy and business advice, the results are usually so stale as to be off putting at best, worthless at worst.

That makes Andy Nulman’s book a – wait for it… surprise. His book, subtitled “Profiting from the Art of Surprise,” certainly tries to get the reader laughing at the same time he is learning, but it does so with just the right balance of mirth and worth that it is the rare example of a comedic business book that works.

Mr. Nulman’s key tenet is this: “The element of surprise is the most important aspect in contemporary business.” In a world where you can go into a McDonald’s in India and get a burger that tastes just like one in Cedar Rapids, or walk into any Walgreens and know exactly where to find the cold medicine, that might seem a strange thing to believe.

But, Mr. Nulman writes, the problem with the expected is that it doesn’t generate any excitement about your product. “The end result is a yawn-inducing, decreasingly effective, peasoup-esque haze.”

Surprise your customer – or better yet, your potential customer – and “it slices through the dreariness of the dreaded ‘murketing’ message.”

Once he explains why surprise is vital and describes what it is, he spends much of the rest of the book telling the reader how to do it. Here, Mr. Nulman’s background in entertainment is put to full use. He knows how to present a case study and make his pitch, engaging the reader at the same time he stresses key points.

Two important chapters, however, are the difference between the book being a novelty and being seriously valuable. In them, Mr. Nulman warns against undertaking marketing efforts solely for the sake of shock and titillation. In one, he shares what a surprise is not, while in the other he cautions that while there is value in surprise, done wrong it can have unintended consequences. Constantly raising the element of surprise can be just as boring as having no surprise at all, he warns.

For those looking for quick takeaways, the chapter “The Art of the Business of Creating Surprise” is the best destination. Over the course of 60 pages, Mr. Nulman offers several ideas and anecdotes about ways to use surprise to spread the word.

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CBJ Book Review

This originally ran in the May 4-11, 2009 issue of the Corridor Business Journal.

So You Want to Start a Business?
Edward D. Hess and Charles F. Goetz
FT Press, 194 p., $18.99

There is an interesting distinction in the subtitle of this book, which reads, “8 Steps to Take Before Making the Leap.” In the introduction, the authors write that they actually are addressing the eight mistakes that typically derail startup businesses.

Further, they write that these mistakes are at the real culprits behind failures that have been attributed to a larger perceived problem: the lack of capital. “Running out of money is the result or consequence of more fundamental, underlying failures,” they write.

The book begins with an introduction that lays out what those eight mistakes are, then recasts the problem to state its solution when it is given its own chapter. For example, the first mistake is “choosing a bad business opportunity.” The related chapter is titled, “What is a Good Business Opportunity?”

The book wouldn’t be as valuable if it simply left things here. It’s one thing to know how to avoid a problem. It’s another to see why you’re prone to make that error in the first place and to recognize if you already have. An early chapter provides the needed context, better explaining what these errors are and what they lead to.

In the case of the first mistake about good and bad business opportunities, they authors write about ideas that seem good, but that won’t earn you enough to cover costs and make a living. Execution is more important than the idea, they write, and without it, a good idea can lead to a bad business opportunity.

With that context in hand, the first chapter makes more sense – as do subsequent chapters thanks to their own contextualizing introductions – and sets you up for the math-intensive discussion of product, customers and execution that follows.

Other problems covered in the book include selling at the wrong price, failing to hire and retain the right people and being unable to grow and scale the business. Each is discussed in a technical chapter that really uncovers the nuts and bolts.

As usual, this book might be of help to someone contemplating making the entrepreneurial leap, but it seems as if it would be better for someone who has already taken the plunge but who is dealing with challenges. Here, the immediate application of its concepts to a problem might be more helpful than the more abstract guidance they offer someone creating a business plan.

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Flawed business plan revealed!

Pearls Before Swine, 4/20/09

Gee, when you put it that way, it does seem kind of silly. Where was Goat when we needed him?

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Josh Feese succeeds with unique sales pitch

Radiohead made headlines in 2007 when they allowed fans to pay whatever they wanted to for their new CD, and several other artists followed suit. That was a great thing, for it was a fine example of offering choice to consumers. Rather than assume they would steal the music if given the chance, the band let consumers decide what the music was worth.

Drummer Josh Freese is building on that notion with his second solo album, Since 1972. He is offering packages that cost between $7 and $75,000. The low end price gets you a digital download, the top end gets you a five-song EP written about you and your life, recorded by Freese, one of his drum sets, "take shrooms and cruise Hollywood in Danny from TOOL's Lamborgini," and Freese's membership in your band for a month (plus much, much more).

It seemed like an inventive lark when it was announced earlier this year. But then a funny thing happened: People took him up on it. In a post on the Nine Inch Nails message board, Freese writes that "I have sold 150 of the $50 of the packages and all 25 of the $250 packages (those went in the first 24 hours.) In less than a week I have sold 4 of the $500, 2 of the $2,500, 2 of the $5,000, and the big old $20,000 package!"

The $20,000 package sale has earned Freese some press. Wired.com's Underwire blog has the story. It seems fan Thomas Mrzyglocki had some inheritance money and a desire to get away from things for a while, so he bought the package and hung out with Freese for a week. According to Wired.com, Freese said, "I really do like the kid and know that it's a bizarre experience for him."

Meanwhile, Freese has earned unbelievable press for an album that would likely have garnered a handful of reviews had it come out through traditional means. Giving fans a choice, and being willing to go well beyond the norm, has earned him some fans, some notoriety and some cash. Though, he tells Wired.com, it's not about that: "I've made a little bit of money," he said, "but I'm not out shopping for cars, you know what I mean?"

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CBJ magazine round-up

Originally published in the April 13-19 issue of the Corridor Business Journal.

The cover of this month’s Portfolio is either a few months too late or a couple of years too early. Either way, it’s odd to see one-time Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in thick coat and jeans staring somewhat defiantly at the camera. The cover story is about Ms. Palin’s plan to build a $40 billion gas pipeline out of Alaska, and how and why the plan has been derailed. Of more interest is a companion piece about Exxon and what are expected to be its battles with the Obama administration over environmental issues.

Another interesting piece looks at “the Steve Jobs Economy,” estimating the Apple CEO’s worth to the economy. Adding not only the sale of its products but also software and ancillary products sold for them and the products of competitors spurred by his innovation, it estimates a value of $30.8 billion.

Wired this month looks at the nation’s power grid and the challenges we face because of it. The piece suggests seven ways to fix the grid, and expresses hope that the Obama administration is poised to do so. The suggestions include generating power anywhere possible, storing it in “super batteries” and pushing conservation efforts more aggressively.

The issue also includes a fascinating article called “The Brain, Revealed,” that looks at efforts to more fully map and study the organ that controls it all. It’s a comprehensive look at what we know, and what we have yet to discover.

Fast Company’s cover this month profiles Chris Hughes, a founder of Facebook who was instrumental in creating the MyBarackObama.com web site that is credited with helping to connect Mr. Obama’s supporters, raise $30 million and form 35,000 volunteer groups. Just 25, Mr. Hughes is given considerable credit in the piece for Mr. Obama’s election. Regardless of the accuracy of such plaudits, he was clearly a factor, and that success shows how, in the right hands, social media can be a very powerful tool.

The issue also has a list of 10 ways to fix the auto industry. No. 1 on the list? Let Mr. Obama take over. Some critics would say that already has occurred. Stay tuned for the results.