All in one volume: A workbook, operations manual, supercharger, compass, mirror…and built-in/shock-proof crap detector
I read this book when it was first published (February 2010) and recently re-read it before sharing some thoughts about it now in this brief commentary. Michael Bungay Stanier seems to have an insatiable curiosity about what works, what doesn’t, and why. He also seems determined to share what he has learned with as many people as possible. Obviously he agrees with Stephen Covey that most of us need to spend more time on what is important and less time on what is urgent. Presumably he has learned a great deal more in recent years and I hope another book is in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, in this book, he makes brilliant use of several reader-friendly devices:
o “Coaching Insights” (e.g. “Six Great Work Paradoxes”)
o “Great Work Wisdom” (mini-commentaries)
o Fifteen map making exercises
o “Complete the Map” exercises
o “Getting Insights from the Map” exercises
o “Coaching Tips” (One per each of seven Parts)
o A “Wrap Up” for each Part
o “Beyond the Map” observations and insights
o “Five “Great Work Truths”
Stanier immediately establishes a direct rapport with his reader and sustains it throughout his lively and eloquent narrative. His thinking and writing have what I characterize as a “Rice Krispies” style: Snap! Crackle! and Pop! Moreover, his enthusiasm for teaching and learning is contagious. This book comes about as close to an inactive tutorial as a book can.
Back to the “Great Work Wisdom” mini-commentaries for a moment. They are provided by Dave and Wendy Ulrich (“Toward Abundance,” Pages 23-25), Penelope Trunk (“A Leap of Faith,”41), Seth Godin (“The Secret to Doing Great Work,” 73), Leo Babauta (“Two Simple Steps,” 106), Chris Guillebeau (“Work Differently,” 132-133), Tim Hurson (“Expect Nothing in Return,” 154-155), and Michael Port (“Jazz and Great Work,” 168). These colleagues produce great work when providing a wealth of information, insights, and counsel.
Some of the most valuable material in the book involves devising a series of 15 maps. They range from the first that requires situation analysis (“Where Are You Now?”) to the last that provides assistance to those who wander off the path (“Lost Your Great Work Mojo?”). In my opinion, Stanier is in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi characterizes as “flow” as he carefully guides his reader through the process of giving definition to what must be for many people people wholly unfamiliar cognitive territory.
I urge everyone who reads this book to check out the wealth of supplementary resources provided by Michael Bungay Stanier and his colleagues at the Box of Crayons website. I also urge him to add an index if and when there is a revised, updated new edition.