Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Willpower

In light of my weakness for marchmallows (I've now consumed 2 bags), I read the new book Willpower - Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney. While I enjoyed the book, I don't recommend it. Reason is: most of the message I was looking for was contained in a very small portion of the book. However, I read a lot and I'm sure that many people will enjoy more of the book than I did.

I'm sitting upright as I type this blog entry. More on that later. The book describes research conducted by Baumeister wherein they deduced that willpower / self-control is like a muscle, inasmuch as it can be fatigued from over use. We can exercise our self-control and increase its strength. One such exercise they found to be effective, was practicing the habit of sitting up straight. They also showed that the depleted ego can be energized with a sugary treat. Diet sweeteners did not work.

He devotes chapters to several celebrities who struggle with self-control, including Oprah Winfrey, David Plaine, Drew Carey, and Eliot Spitzer. I mostly enjoyed the first few chapters, before he got into the celebrity case studies.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Marshmallows

I bought a bag of marshmallows, so I could perform the famous marshmallow experiment on my friends' kids. Then I ate them all. So I had to buy another bag.

Seems I failed my own experiment.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Car Guys vs Bean Counters

I just finished the audiobook version of Bob Lutz's new book, "Car Guys vs Bean Counters - the Battle for the Soul of American Business." I liked it. I learned a lot about the automotive industry. I see a lot of similarities with other industries.

Early in the book Lutz described the systemic problems at GM in words that resonated with me, since I've seen the same thing in other companies. He said they were fostering a culture of corporate infallibility and self-worship. And that their goal in product design and development was "perfecting mediocrity."

Their focus had been on making profit numbers, and not on producing quality vehicles. By intentionally not designing high quality (and slightly more expensive) cars, the bean counters were treating the customers as hapless victims, in order to ensure profits down stream (replacement parts). They were driven to reduce costs, skimp on service, and ruthlessly pursue quarterly profits.

The book also includes an interesting history of how the Chevy Volt came about.

I don't agree with everything Bob says. And you probably won't either. But it's still an interesting book. I think this is a great read for any senior manager in any industry.

Here is the CNN/Money review and the BusinessWeek review.