Paid to Think: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: October 23rd, 2012 by bobmorris

Paid to Think: A Leader’s Toolkit for Redefining Your Future
David Goldsmith with Lorrie Goldsmith
BenBella Books (2012)

A one-volume library of business information, insights, and wisdom

Note: The title is somewhat misleading because the scope and depth of the material that David Goldsmith provides in this book are far greater than its title suggests. My fear is that the title may discourage at least a few people from discovering that this is indeed a “one-volume library of business information, insights, and wisdom.”

As I began to work my way through Goldsmith’s book, I was reminded of Tom Davenport’s latest, Judgment Calls, in which he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment . That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” The success or failure of an organization depends almost entirely on the judgment of all who comprise its workforce.

Why? Because, each day on the job, they must make all manner of decisions of varying degree of complexity and do so within a collaborative culture, they are expected to help other make sound decisions. With rare exception, the best decisions are based on the best information. That is why Davenport and Manville stress the value of collective judgment (i.e. “We know more than any one of us does”) and I agree. However, as Goldsmith explains in his brilliant one-volume business library, individuals must make dozens of decisions each day that have varying degrees of importance…and impact. They are paid to think, yes, but also to make sound decisions and some do that better than others.

With Lorrie Goldsmith, he really does provide what is suggested in my review’s title, an excerpt from remarks made by Jay Abraham in the Foreword. Here’s the context: Paid to Think is “an all-encompassing new vision and playbook for managers that applies brilliantly and immediately to just about every managerial, operational, strategic, competitive, or organizational issue your organization faces [or could face] and will unquestionably face in the world, today.”

Goldsmith’s expressed objective is to provide a thorough explanation of how to “make better, faster, and more accurate decisions that will ultimately lead to improved outcomes with less risk, waste, and mistakes.” In the Introduction, he immediately establishes a direct and personal, at times conversational and always collegial rapport with his reader. He provides (literally) an abundance of valuable information, invaluable insights, and practical advice. As is true of few other business books, other readers will feel as I did that Goldsmith wrote this book specifically for me.

The first chapter, “Enterprise Thinking,” all by itself is worth far more than the cost of this book. Goldsmith introduces his perspectives on how best to create strategy, learn, perform, and forecast. He identifies and explains 12 practices of Enterprise Thinking (ET), organized as follows: Strategizing (e.g. #3: Establishing Alliances), Learning (e.g. #5: Acquiring New Knowledge), Forecasting (#8: Forecasting the Future), and Performing (e.g. #11: Innovating Everywhere). “I want you to think of ET as a group of activities that are so enmeshed with each other that even a slight improvement in one will improve the performance of all.” In fact, that can be said of [begin italics] all [end italics] relationships between and among all leadership and management initiatives by both individuals and teams.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye:

o   An Overview of the Enterprise Thinking Categories and Corresponding Activities (Pages 10-15)
o   Three Components to Developing Plans (48)
o   Solving the Right Challenges by Asking the Right Questions: Redefining (67-77)
o   Five Principles of Priority-Management Planning (129-131)
o   The Benefits of Building the Infrastructure First (157-166)
o   Alliances Killers (203-210)
o   The Leverager’s Dilemma: Addressing the Downside of Technological Change (218-221)
o   Gaining a 360º Awareness of Your Organization (260-262)
o   The ET Competitive Intelligence Process (324-337)
o   Triggering Innovative Thinking (446-463)
o   Overcoming the Barriers of Organizational Politics (490-492) Forecasting Triggers (535-539)
o   Five Stages of Becoming an Enterprise Thinker (590-593)

I know of no other single business book that offers more and better information, insights, and advice that can help almost anyone to know more precisely where to focus one’s attention and energies as well as how to put the new knowledge to immediate and practical use.  As David Goldsmith points out, “The better able a leader is to think through an idea before committing to action, the greater the chances an organization has to achieve higher returns, all while mitigating risk and reducing expense…In brief, thinking better, faster, and more accurately before you act improves the chances that the idea or initiative is a winning one and worth the expenditures that will be made in later stages of development and launch.”

As another holiday season approaches, I presume to suggest that this book would be an excellent gift for anyone now preparing for a career in business or has only recently embarked on one. However, I think this book can also be of substantial value to middle managers who have more to learn but less to unlearn than do those at the C-level.

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