Dov Seidman’s HOW: A book review by Bob Morris

HOWHOW: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything (Expanded Edition)
Dov Seidmnan
John Wiley & Sons (2011)

HOW to manage the relationship between success and significance, not only to survive but also to thrive

I read this book when it was first published (in 2007) and recently re-read this Expanded Edition, curious to know how well Dov Seidman’s core concepts and key insights have held up. If anything, they are even more relevant — and more valuable — now than they were then. In fact, I believe they will become even more relevant in months and years to come.

In a global marketplace within which disruptive changes occur faster and in greater number than at any prior time that I recall, many (most?) people often feel like commodities, that they are being manipulated by forces over which they have little (if any) control. Seidman suggests — and I agree — that there is one area, however, where tremendous variation and variability still exist. “There is one area that we have not yet analyzed, quantified, systematized, or commoditized, one that, in many important respects, cannot be commoditized or copied: the realm of human behaviorHOW we do what we do. When it comes to how you do what you do, there is tremendous variation, and where a broad spectrum of variation exists, opportunity exists. The tapestry of human behavior is so diverse, so rich, and so global that it presents a rare opportunity, the opportunity to [begin italics] outbehave the competition [end italics] and create enduring value.”

In this Expanded Edition, Seidman eloquently reaffirms his abiding faith in what people of good will as well as talent can accomplish together, especially now that we are well into what he characterizes as the “Era of Balance” but also one in which behaviors can only be inspired:

“We are therefore also in the Era of Inspiration. Inspiration is the ultimate renewable energy resource. And today, inspirational leadership is the most powerful, abundant, efficient, affordable, and shareable source of human connection and guide of human behavior. This kind of leadership can inspire – and reinspire – over and over, without any cost and with dividends that never cease. Clearly, we need more leaders capable of inspiring the game-changing behaviors that map to the world we now inhabit.”

Long ago, I realized that the greatest leaders do not motivate others but they can and do inspire them. That is, inspire their self-motivation. I agree with this book’s subtitle: “HOW we do anything means everything” but obviously the ability of those such as Adolph Hitler to inspire is an obscene abuse of the power that Seidman has in mind.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Seidman’s coverage through Chapter 11:

o The Era of Behavior (Pages xv-xix)
o How Values Scale (xxi-xxiv)
o Getting Flattened (20-24)
o Distance Unites Us (27-31)
o The Age of Transparency (34-37)
o Outbehaving the Competition (48-54)
o Looking Out for Number Two 68-71)
o The Evolution of What Is Valuable (72-76)
o Dancing with Rules (86-91)
o Unlocking Should (97-101)
o Dissonance (113-118)
o Interpersonal Transparency (148-152)
o The Soft (i.e. trust, empathy) Made Hard (159-164)
o Trust, But Verify (176-180)

I presume to add a few comments about the importance of understanding the nature and extent of “behavior”: it involves what we say and how we say it as well as what we do and how we do it. The healthiest companies are annually ranked among those most highly respected and best to work; they are also ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry. That is not a coincidence.

In the next and final chapter, Seidman provides and thoroughly explains “The Leadership Framework” which embraces the fundamental influences that “fill the spaces between us, HOW we think, HOW we behave, HOW we govern ourselves as groups, and HOW the world has changed to put new emphasis on these ideas.” Seidman’s focus is on the need for effective leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. He suggests that there are five essential attributes of behavior on which the entire structure rests: vision, communicate and enlist, seize authority and take responsibility, plan and implement, and build succession and continuity.

His comments about the five attributes remind me once again of my favorite passage in Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

If you know of a better statement about HOW to lead effectively, I would very much like to know about it.

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