Friday, September 25, 2009

Book Review: The Age of Speed

Title: The Age of Speed: Learning to Thrive in a More-Faster-Now World
Authors: Vince Poscente
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Available Online at

Building from a simplistic children’s story, the tortoise and the hare, Poscente takes readers on a journey exploring the notion of speed in today’s society and breaks down myths about speed. He begins by examining the concept of “time” and how we have traditionally define/organize our time. Poscente opts for a new notion of time, building on values rather than the traditional work-home-leisure paradigm.

The take home message is that one should develop efficient and fast ways to deal with the mundane tasks in order to allot more time to fun, creative tasks and family. Poscente does concede that that speed isn’t necessary for success in all circumstances and utilizes a metaphor to expand on this:

  • Those who resist speed and succeed nonetheless are referred to as Balloons (e.g., speciality shops)
  • Those who embrace speed but accelerate out of control with no clear plan or direction for how to utilize their speed are referred to as Bottle Rockets (e.g., Dell Computers)
  • Those who require speed but resist it are referred to as Zepplins (e.g., Kodak)
  • Those who embrace speed with a clear direction/plan are referred to as Jets and serve as a exemplar for business strategy in today’s society (e.g., Google)

I liked how the book was structured with small but insightful chapters. The use of metaphors and case study analysis in this book was also well executed and facilitated understanding. The practical tips and strategies for embracing speed presented to the reader provided excellent advice on how to become a “Jet.”

I found some parts of the book, although insightful, were repetitive. Considering the topic, I would have appreciated greater directness and conciseness.

Applications & Lesson Learned
This book has great applications in the workforce. By examining your circumstances and the nature of your work, you can determine how best to use speed to your advantage and succeed. It is also important to keep in mind that speed and direction need to come from not only at the individual level but also the organizational level.

“If we truly want to soar, we have to understand our authentic purpose, be nimble and open to opportunities, be free of clutter and drag that can limit our potential, and seek our speed in unique and innovative ways” (p. 209)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Book Review: Crucial Conversations

Book Review

Title: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High
Authors: Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Available Online
For more than 25 years, Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler researched people in the workplace. These authors found that what makes someone an effective colleague is the way they manage their conversations. The authors studied these conversations and took detailed notes when they were having crucial conversations.
The authors offer some basic steps for how to manage crucial conversations. First is to identify when a conversation is turning crucial. One way to do this is by your own physical signals (e.g., Is your stomach getting tight? Are you eyes drying up?).

Once a crucial conversation is recognized the authors suggest to “start with heart.” What this means is to dig deep down inside and figure out the message you’re truly trying to get across. Often in a crucial conversation you can become defensive and your message may get lost or never get sent because the focus turns to defending. If you can recognize that a conversation has turned crucial and stay focussed, then you can learn to avoid being defensive and stay focussed on the message you’re really trying to get across. If your conversation partner begins to get defensive, this is one way to recognize that they do not feel safe in the conversation. When someone is feeling unsafe, they are likely not hearing your purpose. To return to a safe conversation, the effective conversationist has to guide the conversation back to a mutual purpose; if both parties can agree on one goal, it makes the conversation safer, with both parties more likely to hear what one another has to say.


One of the best things about this book is the use of examples for various situations. This book is not just useful in a work setting, but also applies to conversations with spouses, family members, and friends.


The authors did a very good job of getting the point across in the first few chapters, however after that the advice seemed a bit repetitive.

Lesson Learned

Practice makes perfect. Just as trying to remember to sit with good posture may take a conscious effort so too does staying in tune to your emotions during conversations when they turn crucial. It’s easy to prepare yourself for a crucial conversation when you are expecting one, but as conversation escalates and emotions get stronger, it is easy for conscious effort to control your emotions to fade. Just as you may sit down extend your back, put your shoulders back, and focus on good posture, once you begin working on something you may realize a few minutes later your back is slouched and your shoulders are forward. If you are in the middle of a crucial conversation and you suddenly become aware that your emotions have taken over, take a few minutes to regain your composure, take some deep breaths, and start back into the conversation. Over time, forming some of the habits in this book should become natural just as good posture is more natural for someone that practices at it, such as a ballet dancer or physiotherapist.