by Christine O'Connor
Exciting news book clubbers! We have landed on Mr. Sonenshein’s radar. If you check back to my Chapter 6 post on Facebook, he left us a message. If you have a specific question for him, set it aside. I’ll reach out to him after we’ve finished the book (which is right around the corner) and send him a list. How fun!! Yay book club!
Also, a couple people were late adding comments to previous chapters due to illness, travel etc. If you have time, please go back and see if you have anything additional to add to what's been written. Thank you!
Catch up here:
This chapter extends the “stretching” metaphor to the realm of physical exercise and makes an analogy to sports injury: it outlines 5 ways to avoid the kinds of damage that stretching unwisely can trigger.
1. The first warning makes an important distinction between being frugal and being a cheapskate. I was reminded of the stories about Amazon in the early days when employees were given desks made out of old doors braced by two short file cabinets. The frugality was hip. But the example of a company that didn’t spend sufficiently on good administrative systems and risk management shows that there’s a difference between prudent expense caution and risky expense reduction.
2. The second risk is “wandering” or a loss of focus. The advice is to have a core career identity, particularly important in the LinkedIn era, and then diversify and add skills and experiences. The example given is the story of Ronald Wayne, the 3rd founder of Apple, who left after 12 days (read why in his own words). He was an engineer who is depicted as a tinkerer with a failed slot machine business; however, again the benchmark by which he is deemed to be a failure is that he did not become a billionaire. He was a gay man who worried about coming out; he had personal property that would have been at risk in the new venture, while Wozniak and Jobs did not; and he wound up going back to Atari and spending many years at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. There’s no mention of his career there: what if he found meaningful work there? What if he was right that he just couldn’t keep up with Woz and Jobs, two men whose company he describes as “having a tiger by the tail” in the Wikipedia entry about him. Again, I felt that there was an inconsistency here: his life is being evaluated only by the benchmark of financial success.
3. The third risk is “leaping without learning” citing Ron Johnson’s failure at JC Penney. This is the man credited with inventing the Apple Genius Bar, which is one of my favorite things in the world, so I felt a pang that he relied only on his intuition and did not seem to know about the incremental approach of Lean Start Up to measure new initiatives.
4. The fourth risk explores the issue of having high expectations. The author looks at this subject more deeply and makes a distinction between the Pygmalion effect of positive expectations and the negative effect of performance pressure. This chapter made me think of my eldest in 5th grade when her favorite teacher kept praising her for her potential but then also criticizing her when her work was not as good as he thought her capable of doing. She stopped caring about schoolwork and threw herself into her theater work.
5. The fifth risk is “toxic mixtures” although I found this analysis incomplete. The first example cited was the major “fail” of Gerber’s line of frozen dinners; I thought this was clearly a branding problem: why would adults want to eat baby food? And the name was “Gerber’s Singles”, advertising the fact that the ideal consumer was someone who normally eats alone. Not exactly a draw but again more about mis-branding than anything. This section reminded me of the social media “Fail” meme popular a few years back.
Up Next: Ch 9 by Sarah Hunter