Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The First Less-Than-100-Days!

Rules of Thumb has been out less than 100 days--a good time to report in on places I've been, people I've met, lessons I've learned. The headlines so far: Rules is getting a great response; reviews, tweets, blog posts, email traffic, you name it. The general response is: this book is smart, fun, helpful, timely, wise--I wish I'd read it a long time ago! I've gotten great feedback with people adding their own Rule #53, which is always fun and gives me new insights and fresh perspective; it turns Rules into a conversation among people trying to create a new way of working and doing business, a handbook for how to play the game now, after the world has changed--which is what I hoped it would be.
On the travel front, it's been a blast. We kicked off the Endless Global Tour in New York City with a great night of fun at the Japan Society, where Polly LaBarre and I reprised our old on-stage act from Fast Company days of yore (Click here for that video); had a great book party in Santa Fe that went late into the night; did the same in San Francisco at Book Passage. Then we got serious: on a trip to Europe I spoke in Vienna to a group of very bright, talented, and interested business leaders, then went to Budapest and had a long talk/discussion session with Eastern European bankers. Remember the rule: context is king? They brought that home to me by describing how "change" in Europe doesn't mean the same thing as "change"in the U.S.: change in Europe, they said, usually translates into either Fascists or Communists. A good lesson learned.
Then back to the U.S.--and a great Rules of Thumb breakfast session in Washington, DC with the always-brilliant Dan Pink followed by a cross-country flight to Seattle and talks at Microsoft and the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.
What have a learned?
Everywhere I go, people are trying their best to do two things at once: survive the current economic collapse, and make sense of it. At the same time, there's an interesting resistance to asking questions that seem too hard to reckon with: What if the problem is more systemic than we'd like to believe? What if it reflects on the lessons we're teaching in business school and the business-as-usual practices that we've come to accept as normal?
In some ways, Rules may be too polite, too nice, too pleasant a book.
The deep message that's in it should be clear: We need new rules. Period. If we think we're going to get change by tweaking the old way of working, we're kidding ourselves. Sure, we'll make it through the current economic crisis--that much is clear.
But what will we learn? What are we willing to do differently? How far are we willing to go to embrace a new operating system that requires us to keep score differently, define leadership differently, fashion a new definition of leadership, and a new definition of victory?
I'm hoping that as the book spreads, as more people read it and recommend it to their friends and colleagues, as more comments begin to surface and the conversation begins to ripen and develop, we'll get into some of these tougher issues.
Sure Rules is fun to read; sure the rules are provocative and can help you today and tomorrow to think clearer and work smarter.
But there's even more: there's a challenge there about how we need to reconsider our way of doing business if we want to do business for the long haul.
I'm looking forward to that discussion, and to your comments.

All Rights Reserved 2009 (c) Alan Webber, Rules Of Thumb