Wednesday, December 28, 2011

(BOOK REVIEW) Our Iceberg Is Melting

Our Iceberg Is Melting was co-written by John Kotter, the leadership and change guru from Harvard Business School and Holger Rathgeber, the modern global manager. They discuss about change and creatively highlight eight effective ways to bring positive change to any situation or organization in today’s world.
The book is a simple fable about performing well in an ever-changing world. The fable relates to a penguin colony in Antartica. This colony of penguins lives on an iceberg happily as they have for many years. Then one curious bird discovers a potential problem threatens their home and no one listens to him.

Fred, the main character, discovers their iceberg is melting but has no position to be heard by his colony’s Leadership Council. Knowing the fact that action need to be taken or else the whole colony will suffer, he starts of his journey of bringing change to his colony. Fred approaches Alice, one of the ten bosses in the Leadership Council that less likely to dismiss his story than other more senior penguins. After listening to Fred and studying the problem, Alice created an opportunity for Fred to explain the potential disaster to the Leadership Council. When the council is convinced, they conveyed the problem to the rest of the colony through an assembly. Next, Louis, the Head Penguin sets up a team of five birds to guide the colony through the changes. In the changing process, the team experienced frustration of having to deal with NoNo, the penguin who resisted change actively and passively. The team finally learning from the sea-gulls that migration is the best alternative. In the end, they start a new way of life through migration which is much safer to their previous one.

The characters in the story, Fred, Alice, Louis, and NoNo are similar to the people we recognize in the changing world. Fred being the young inexperienced penguin that discovers the problem; Alice, the practical and aggressive bird who has a reputation for getting things done; Louis, the Head Penguin; and NoNo, bird who resists change. 2
Our Iceberg Is Melting shows how Kotter’s Eight Steps produce needed change in any sort of group. The Eight Step Process of Successful Change is summarized as below:

1. Create a sense of urgency
2. Pull together the guiding team
3. Develop the change vision and strategy
4. Communicate for understanding and buy in
5. Empower others to act
6. Produce short-term wins
7. Don’t let up
8. Create a new culture

In reality, melting icebergs come in many ways. Change in life is inevitable and there is always a need for change. If the challenge of change is handles well, then you can prosper greatly. But if it is handles poorly, you will put yourself and other at risk

Friday, December 16, 2011

(BOOK REVIEW) Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions


Dan Ariely is the Alfred P. Sloan Proffesor of Behavioural Economics at MIT, where he holds a joint appointment between MIT’s Media Laboratory and the Sloan School of Management. He is also a researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and a visiting professor at Duke University. Ariely wrote this book while he was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.

”Predictably Irrational” is a book that discussed the idea of rationality, and it is a concise summary of many situations and way of thinkings that may affect our decisions. The book is set up in an easy to understand manner where each chapter gives us numerous examples about the simple, day-to-day decisions that shape our lives and pointed out how much of our "rational" decisions are actually irrational. Traditional economics assumes that every person makes decisions rationally, meaning we weigh all our options and choose what will logically be best for us. Based on interesting experiments, Ariely shows us that we are actually not as rational as the economics has always assumed. He thinks people act irrationally all the time but predictably so.

In this book, Ariely demonstrates how "decoys" are used by merchants to confuse us about our choices by manipulating consumers to purchase something they don't want. In a chapter on “relativity,” for example, Ariely writes that evaluating two choices yields different results than evaluating three - A, B and a somewhat less appealing version of A. Thus, given three choices, A, B (very distinct, but equally as attractive as A), and A- (similar to A, but inferior), we will almost always choose A, because it is clearly superior to A-. In this chapter, Ariely pointed out that, in the presence of two equal options, we couldn't decide between the two, and the presence of a third, inferior option, which is irrational behaviour and it shouldn't cause us to suddenly prefer one of the two. The cure to this according to Ariely is to break the cycle so that we can control what goes on around us.

Other points being discussed by Ariely are about why ”FREE!” is not always a good deal, why we pay too much for things, why keeping our options open is a total waste, and why we value the things we own far beyond what they are actually worth and so on. Ariely also speaks about social norms and market norms, where he viewed ”life with fewer market norms and more social norms would be more satisfying, creative, fulfilling and fun”. 2
He also stated that under the influence of arousal the potential to for us make irrational decisions is higher. Our behavior is fully controlled by emotions. Therefore, Ariely suggested that it is important for us to look at different emotional state and understand it fully before we can make a decision.

Other than this, Ariely pinpoint why we can't make ourselves do what we want to do. According to Ariely, more often than not, people set their goals but end up proscratinating, that is, giving up on their long term goals for immediate gratifications. However, with proper motivations such as deadlines and penalties, people are more willing to meet those deadlines or long term goals. People would also be more likely to meet their deadlines and long term goals if more consequences were put into effect.

Clearly, this is a book which really bends the mind. It provides us with a perceptive understanding and a clear explanation of what influences each of us.


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