To Achieve Better Results—Ask A More Beautiful Question

As answers become commoditized, curiosity and inquiry are vital

Ask More Questions

Not too long ago, the people who had all the answers had all the power, but in a connected world awash in petabytes of data, answers are becoming commodities, and the people who know how to ask more beautiful questions will carry the day.

Warren Berger’s 2014 book, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, is a good place to start if you want to understand why questioning has become so critical in today’s economy. This book is a primer on how to get started crafting questions that can help you get ahead in your career, and in life.

After all, as Case Western professor of Social Entrepreneurship, David Cooperrider states in the book:

How to be Smarter Faster Better at Work and Life

Genuine Productivity Hinges on Improving Your Decision-making Ability

Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg Best Business Books 2

When I first read the subtitle of Charles Duhigg’s new book, Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, I was pretty skeptical—do we really need another productivity book? Hasn’t everything about productivity already been said or written about a thousand times before? What new insights could this gifted storyteller possibly bring to the table?

Plenty, it turns out.

From startling neurological discoveries about what motivates us, to how the Marine Corps prepares its recruits for the uncertainty of war; from how Google and Saturday Night Live create effective teams, to the implications of the tragic demise of Air France Flight 447; there are productivity insights galore in Duhigg’s carefully woven tapestry of riveting stories.

The Power of Habit

What you absolutely need to know in order to create powerful and lasting change in your life

The Power of Habits—Best Business Books by Charles Duhigg

We like to think that the things we do every day (in actions big and small) are the result of our conscious choices and the exercise of our free will, but scientists who study the human brain are questioning that assumption. Based on abundant research data, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we rely on subconscious habits more than we realize (or care to admit).

Are we then creatures of habit, rather than creatures of choice?

If we even suspect that the answer to that question might be “yes”, then it behooves us to understand what habits are. How do they work? How can we change bad habits and install new and better ones—habits that pull us closer to what we really want?

Answering those questions was Charles Duhigg’s precise purpose for writing, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.

Explained in Duhigg’s highly entertaining and rich story-telling style, habits are thoroughly demystified allowing readers to visualize how they might apply the ideas in their own life.

In fact, using the insights I picked up in this book, I was able to finally lose 40 lbs and get back into shape. It had a real impact on the quality of my life and I can’t think of a higher tribute that anyone can pay to an author’s work.

For this reason, I’m very confident that you too can apply the ideas presented in this book, to improve the quality of your personal and professional life.

Here are 5 powerful ideas that I took away from the book (among many, many others):

Join My Outsight Business Book Club

Get Smarter, Faster and Better Every Day by Learning with Others

Outsight Business Book Club—Learning from the world's best business books

Are you a forward-looking executive who wants to stay on the cutting-edge of current thinking about business, productivity, and how to create better results?

Are you a manager seeking to take your team to a higher level of achievement and performance?

Are you an ambitious individual who wants to continue learning and growing,  in order to stay competitive in today’s fierce job market?

If you answered yes to any of the above, my new Outsight Business Book Club may interest you. And the best news is that this unique opportunity is FREE for all my readers.

Give it a try!

Why You Should Start a Book Club at Work

4 Reasons Why Book Clubs are Good for People and Organizations

Warby Parker sells eyeglasses and loves books

The team at Warby Parker isn’t just obsessed with revolutionizing the eyewear industry, they’re also obsessed with books.

In a world where the vast majority of companies don’t even offer a single book club to their employees, the team of about 300 people over at Warby Parker, offers more than 10.

And if you were to step into their spacious flagship store in Lower Manhattan, you’ll see something that looks more like a book store and less like an eyewear boutique.

Even their name references their passion for the written word.

“Warby Parker” is an amalgam of the names of two characters found in the personal journals of Jack Kerouac—Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper.

So why such a strong devotion to books?

What is it about books and book clubs that appeals to this disruptive innovator?

“At Warby Parker, we’re constantly looking to find new ways to both challenge and inspire our employees,” said Neil Blumenthal, one of the company’s co-founders, in a 2014 interview with Fast Company.

“One of the most obvious, but often overlooked, ways is simply to pick up a book and read.”

Yes, picking up a book and reading it on your own may be a great individual investment of time and effort but if you were to take that experience and share it with your co-workers, it could be transformative.

Starting a book club at work not only helps you, it’s beneficial for everyone in the organization.

Here are 4 reasons why you should consider starting one at your company:

Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t

Key takeaways from one of the best business books you'll ever read

Power photo

There’s a game of thrones afoot in every organization, whether we like it or not.

And we’re either in the game, exercising some degree of agency and control over what happens to us, or we’re on the sidelines, powerless to impact the course of events, and at the mercy of those with the power to call the shots.

Based on those hard facts, every person has a choice to make.

In, Power: Why Some People Have it and Others Don’t, Stanford University Professor, Jeffrey Pfeffer, mounts a vigorous case for why, and how, we should choose to forge a path to power.

Power is a must-read for anyone who labors in an organization.

And though it’s not perfect, it’s one of the best business books you’ll ever read.

To inspire you to explore further, here are some key takeaways from the book:

Is Everything We Hear About Leadersip Wrong?

Leadership BS Seeks to Debunk these 6 Fanciful Myths About Leadership

Leadership BS

Take a look at the U.S. Presidential race, the naked graft and corruption of the Brazilian government (among many others), or the state of leadership in corporate America—there seems to be a huge disconnect between our idealized notions of the “servant leader” and the cold, harsh facts of leadership in the real world.

Basically, you should question everything gurus tell you about leadership; you should take a look at the data-based evidence and make your own judgments, and you should take care of yourself (because no one else is going to).

That, in a nutshell, is the thesis of Leadership BS: Saving Workplaces and Careers One Truth at A Time by Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer.

Prof. Pfeffer studies and teaches power and organizational behavior at Stanford Business School and in his latest book he doesn’t pull any punches in attacking the burgeoning “leadership industry” for what he calls its “failure” to produce better leaders and improve the often “horrible” environments at many workplaces.

Leadership BS is insightful and provocative, but it’s also more than a little discomfiting for those poor souls in the “leadership industry” whom he takes to the woodshed for their alleged ignorance, excessive idealism, and fallacious advice.

Leadership Quackery is what Pfeffer might call it in a moment of modesty.

Leadership Bullsh*t is what he actually calls it on the cover of his new book.


The heavy-handed and perhaps unfair critique of the leadership industry not withstanding, the result is a thought-provoking and engaging book that anyone who works, leaders and non-leaders alike, needs to read.


But be forewarned, Prof. Pfeffer’s work is not always cheery nor palatable, and some have even called it cynical and Machiavellian. He calls it data-driven and sober—a clear-eyed description of reality. This is leadership as it exists, he claims, not as we would idealistically wish it could be.

Whether you agree or disagree with his analysis, the book contains many insights that you can use in your own career and in your every day dealings at work, or as you develop your own theories about how leadership works in the real world and how you can be an effective leader inside your organization.

Here are the 6 leadership myths that Prof. Pfeffer seeks to disabuse us of through his latest book:

Employee Engagement Depends on Leaders Modeling the Way

Start With these 4 Steps To Lead By Example and Build Engagement

Leaders Model the Way

As a kid I used to LOVE watching Kung-Fu movies. You know, the ones with the cartoony stunt work, hilariously bad translations and horrible voice-overs? Somehow in these movies the video track always failed to match the audio.

Makes me wonder…is that how we sound to our employees when we make proclamations and then act in ways that run counter to what we just said? What message are we sending to our people?

That’s why I propose that the first rule of (employee) engagement should be this: above all else, be clear. And the best way to be clear is to make sure your video matches your audio. In other words, make sure that what you say is backed up 100% by what you do, at work.

Call it leading by example or modeling the way.

Here are 4 steps you can take to make that happen.

Managers Must Develop and Grow Their People

4 Ways to Increase Engagement through Growth & Learning

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I’ll be honest, I seriously dislike hearing managers or executives talk about people in terms of “human resources” or “human capital”.

I don’t think they understand that hitherto, in the course of human endeavors, “resources” and “capital” have been things that tend to be “used up” or “depleted”. And that’s a horrible way to think about the people in an organization—like machines that you operate, break, repair (and repeat) until they arrive at the final cycle of their operational life. Is it any wonder that for more than a century many managers were focused on what they could get out of people instead of what they could put in?

Some are still playing that game today, how else can we explain Gallup’s figure of 70% non-engagement at work?

That simply won’t do.

Today, your job is to develop your “human talent” so that you can grow together.

And how will we measure your success on this front?

How to Practice Sawubona to Increase Employee Engagement at Work

Smart Managers Recognize, Praise, Care for and Consult their People

sawubona pic

A few years back Chris Brogan taught me a fabulous new word: “Sawubona”. It’s the Zulu way of saying “Hi!” and its literal translation is, “I see you”. Now tell me, is there a more beautiful way of communicating one of the central yearnings of every human being on this planet—to be acknowledged, to be appreciated, to be taken into consideration?

To be seen?

And is this not at the core of what we want from the higher-ups at work? Would truly “seeing” people at work not help in defusing much of the unnecessary conflict, negative feelings and lack of engagement that we encounter in so many workplaces?

After all, the conventional wisdom says that people don’t leave their job—they leave their manager.

We can fix this and to help, here are 3 ways that leaders, or anyone on any team, can practice Sawubona at work, everyday: