Book Review: Beyond Measure

Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work. The premise of this Ted Talk was intriguing. The speaker mentioned several studies I wanted to learn more about. I promptly bought her book and enjoyed reading it. The book revolves around research on teams and working together. The future of work is going to be heavily reliant on collaboration. With a large majority of individuals working as contractors, we are going to have to leverage on each other’s skill sets to achieve large goals. This change reduces our dependencies on superstars and increases the need for people with the right attitude.

The book focused heavily on how companies were able to leverage their entire workforce to achieve remarkable results. A good example would be of Apple. Often the success of the company is attributed to the genius of Steve Jobs or Johnny Ive. However, the author showcases how everyone at the company plays a key role in making beautiful and user friendly products.

My main takeaway from the book was how the future is dependent on our abilities to unlock the ideas within each of us. While machines can replace the manual work done by humans, it is our ideas which are going to propel us forward. Creating a culture within our companies and even our lives to foster and nurture the growth of these ideas is key to our success.

Listed below are some of my notes and highlights while reading the book:

1. The paradox of organizational culture lies in the fact that, while it makes a big difference, it is comprised of small actions, habits and choices.

2. The quality of connectedness and the flow of ideas is a great indicator of how healthy a workplace is.

3. A simple exercise to build trust and openness within colleagues starts with being honest about who we are. Two people sit down face to face and they take turns asking each other a non-trivial question. For example ‘what is it you most want from life?’ ‘What do you fear?’. One person listens intently for 5 minutes and then trades places and answers the same question.

4. In truly creative debate, self-interest is always a liability, but selfness is power.

5. Ensuring dialogue requires information, great questions and diversity on your teams.

6. Questions are the heart and soul of constructive conflict. They open up the exploration, bring in new information and re-frame debate.

7. “If you can’t talk about mistakes, you learn nothing. If anything, it convinces you that you’re perfect – which is dangerous. If you can own up to mistakes, then others can, too. And that’s how you learn. It’s how the whole organization learns.”

8. Mutual reliance and an underlying sense of connectedness is what builds trust.

9. Creativity requires a climate of safety, but without social capital, no one will risk the fresh thought, the unpredictable idea, the testing question.

10. Helpful teams prevent problems before they arise and they won’t let colleagues become isolated or cut off.

11. We need to make it a habit to listen actively. Look out for people who are constantly interrupting other’s to get their points across.

12. For teams to have break through ideas they need quiet time. Moments when they can completely detach themselves from endless notifications and alerts. It is in within these moments that sparks of creativity and genius are created.

13. Get team members to sit in on different functional group meetings. Isolating people to only their expertise limits innovation and growth within teams and people.

14. The Pygmalion effect argued that it is is expectations, more than innate ability, that influence outcomes. Never mind who’s gifted, who’s talented. Expect great things and you are more likely to get them.

15. Performance management system that stack rank people kill your corporate culture. The real challenge has to be how can we motivate people across our company.

16. The best managers take an interest in the lives and careers of their direct reports. They help puzzle out problems, not by giving answers but by asking the right questions.

17. Respect flows from capability, not position. Once you work from the simple assumption that everyone counts, everyone contributes more.

18. What small change made a big impact on your work? On your culture?