Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Much Ado About Cognitive Biases

I'm seeing "cognitive biases" everywhere I look! Three times today I've come across the phrase, outside of the strictly business press. From: 

  • The Atlantic, December 2011: "The Myth of Objectivity." An essay about how our political leanings are tied to our m-i-s-conceptions about economics -- and how myside bias, the tendency to judge a statement according to how conveniently it fits with one's settled position, factors in. 
  • A recent novel by David Brooks entitled The Social Animal. Chapter eleven outlines some of the work being done in the cognitive bias sphere by behavioral economists and others. Their research is linked specifically to management consulting later in the book. 
  • Edge Perspectives with John Hagel: "Cognitive Biases in Times of Uncertainty." A blog posting about our tendency to focus on things that could go wrong in times of uncertainty. (wherein he cautions that this loss aversion bias of ours can lead us "down a path that we tread at our peril") 
You know what these rascals are. Scientifically, cognitive biases are "systematic tendencies to deviate from rational calculations." Unscientifically, they're inclinations or predilections. Mindsets. Or: the ways in which we're wired.

Biases live in our unconscious minds. That makes 'em Freudian features, I suppose, in the sense that they're mostly hidden from view, but they're not weird, neurotic, or pathological per se. To the contrary, it's normal to perceive the world in biased ways. I'm Okay, You're Okay. We're all biased. Everywhere and all of the time our biases are with us.

Even at work.

And that -- along with the fact that they can be pretty darn impregnable -- has important implications for business.


No matter where we are, it's never easy in the moment to clearly see our own biases. I'd be willing to bet, though, you've had no trouble over the years spotting your bosses'. Think for just a second: Are you able to recall a former boss whose predictable ways, or consistent cluelessness, maybe, caused you to mutter under your breath? make a beeline for the break room? march on over to I don't think there's any getting around it...

If you've cared about what your company's doing and where it's heading, if you've been awake and alert at the wheel, then you've seen your fair share of poorly conceived plans, over-budget projects, unsuccessful reorganizations and [insert your favorite failed initiative here]. You've probably also attributed one or more of those to one or more of your bosses and their dubious thought processes. Rightly so.

It's only to be expected. (Isn't it by now?) Bosses are human. When you mix biased bosses with biased non-bosses you end up with biased companies. Companies with room to improve.


That such companies exist is great for consultants. They provide an opening, in that such companies gotta act. Consultants can help them act better by making them smarter.

How do consultants make clients smarter?

By helping them make better sense of their business realities. Traditionally, the emphasis has been on providing them with effective ways of identifying things like structural differences (pertaining to costs, customers and competition) and capabilities (internal ones) -- the expectation being that clients would use those to glean intelligence, i.e., input, with which to inform and guide their later actions, i.e., output.

Makes sense to me, but, as we've come to find out, it's not an air tight or fool proof formula.

That's because between input and output there are decisions to be made. And, the deciding itself matters. Poor decision making leads to poor decisions. Research by the likes of McKinsey and Bain bears it out. It's also helped kick-start what looks and feels like a new movement: Some consultants are now helping their clients get smarter by homing in on the decision stage, too.

This new thrust is 100% about quality. Poor decision making lets garbage in. Good, i.e., high quality, decision making ensures that what goes in is the best it can be. The new value proposition logic says: Best-possible input thanks to best-possible decisions...should lead to best-possible output...which should lead to best-possible results for clients. Therefore, it's reasonable for consultants to expect to be rewarded for boosting decision effectiveness.


What makes for poor decision making is a lack of objectivity. The culprit? Cognitive biases. But getting rid of them or, more realistically, countering them -- well, that's easier said than done. Among the challenges: How do you even talk about such an esoteric subject? How do you go about developing tools and processes effective enough to counter real biases in real business situations?

I should say tons of good work has already been done on both fronts. For example, thanks to Dan Lovallo (a McKinsey adviser) and Olivier Sibony (a director in that company's Brussels office) not only do we now have a scientific definition of cognitive biases, we also have, with the publication last year of "The Case For Behavioral Strategy," a nifty bias typology for identifying them.

The Atlantic essay I cited deals with myside bias. Messrs. Lovallo and Sibony use "confirmation bias" to mean the same thing: the overweighting of evidence consistent with a favored belief, underweighting of evidence against a favored belief, or failure to search impartially for evidence. A confirmation bias, in turn, is a kind of pattern recognition bias. (As it turns out, we humans are really, really good at recognizing patterns -- even where they ain't.*)

Being able to communicate about biases is just a start. In order to combat their own, in-house biases, companies (i.e., clients) need weapons in the form of tools and processes.

For those consultants taking the lead in developing them, the work revolves around the idea that a decision, and the quality of it, is dependent upon three (3) factors: data gathering + judgments + a process for marrying the two. The more thoroughly each one of these is de-biased, the better the resultant decision. Individual consulting assignments then entail: 

  • working side-by-side with clients on a key decision, sniffing out sources of biases as they relate to the three factors; 
  • selecting practices and tools to minimize the most relevant biases; 
  • making those (practices and tools) that work a routine part of the way the client makes all key decisions. 
That's a pretty zoomed out view. Zoom in, on the other hand, and you see challenges, experiments, wins, losses -- a scene that seems generally to be "bursting with enterprise and energy like a hive of bees." (Wm. Gass)


The suggestion that decision making should and could become a point of emphasis in companies isn't new. Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy were talking a decade ago about "relentlessly confronting reality" and methodically rooting out biases.

McKinsey and Bain have done a lot of the heaviest lifting since then. Both still seem to be going full steam ahead. I know of other consultancies that are actively involved, but I don't know that this has become a mainstream offering. (Is your firm targeting decisions? If so, I'd love to hear from you.) My impression is that opportunities are plentiful.

Personally, I find the whole thing fascinating. Maybe even ingenious, the idea that a company's improved decision making could become, in effect, a driving force for growth. I can envision decision-centered approaches working wonders. At the same time, though, I still leave room for the converse; for the possibility that they could sizzle...fizzle...and flop.

How come?

We're not talking about simple systems here. We're not talking about machines. A certain pattern recognition bias of my own reminds me, always, to curb my enthusiasm. When it comes to we humans, and to systems (e.g., companies) that we comprise, let's just say...we're full of surprises. Famously so.

Can't wait to see how it all plays out.

*Confirmation biases are one of five types of pattern recognition biases the authors often see in business situations. The other four they call: Management by example, False analogies, Power of storytelling, and Champion bias. Click here for their full McKinsey Quarterly article.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Re-imagine! The Musical

Tom Peters's Re-imagine! (2003) was boundary busting in terms of its design and style. It was a Technicolor Book from a Technicolor Guy.*

These days...

Mr. Peters is Tweeting. About everything management under the sun, of course, including this, a current and concise summary of his Prescription for Success -- which is pretty much what it was when he released his 1982 masterpiece, In Search of Excellence:
Cherish your people, cuddle your customers, wander around, 'try it' beats 'talk about it,' pursue excellence, tell the truth. 
Now, given the fact that Twitter messages can't be more than 140 characters, condensing thirty-plus years' worth of his professional experience had to have been a real challenge. (Kudos for pulling it off.) And the "end product" is clever enough that I can see it finding its way onto a t-shirt or some other promotional object.

What I can't quite see, though, is Technicolor Tom. The exuberant dude who was vowing eight years ago that he'd reinvent the business book, among other things.

Consider this:

If I, or perhaps you, had fired off the same missive, would anybody've paid attention? Would it have been regarded as actionable and /or caused anyone's chin to drop? I don't think so. Which leads me to wonder: Is he bored? Is he losing his eye for color? If "yes" to either, then...

Might he be open to some ideas?

The problem is that the thing doesn't really sing. Keeping in mind that a tweet is a chirping sound, what if he were to start over and to try expressing himself -- if only for the creative exercise of it -- musically this time?

Here are three suggestions in that vein, from the simply whimsical to the outlandish:

[1] Twitter is limiting, but not altogether so. So, suppose he'd add musical notes to his Tweet; one for each of his six pointers (his "Tom Commandments"). It's feasible and could look something like this:

Doesn't that seem a little more Tom-like?

[2] Thinking outside the figurative box, how about actually setting the stuff of that already-sent Tweet to music? In other words: make a tune of it. A ditty. A short song. He could post a recording at And then Tweet about that. (i.e., supply a link) 

Could be fun, huh?
But why stop there?

[3] Why not have some real fun and re-present his full-blown formula as a full-blown musical?!? A production bigger an' more colorful than Re-imagine! itself to capture the author's intensity and high spirits. For this I re-imagine he'd want to collaborate with others who share his same Technicolor sensibilities. (I have just the group for the show's big number: "Ladies and gentlemen, direct from the school of Go Big or Go Home...MarchFourth Marching Band!" To experience the band for yourself, click on the pic below. You'll probably want to turn up the volume, by the way. And hold onto your hat.)

Re-imagine! The Musical


Too far out and over the top? Well, I'm at least half kidding about each of the above. But I throw 'em out there to make a point, one of the same points TP was making implicitly and explicitly when he wrote Re-imagine! That is, business writing is typically dull. It's often pretentious. It's (foolishly? misleadingly?) devoid of imagination, art, and emotion.

About his Tweet in question -- it's not bad. It's just not great. What concerns me is that it does away with almost all of the "cloudlike, nonlinear, hard to see, biased, and impossible to formalize" (thanks David Brooks) stuff that makes Tom Peters Tom Peters. Necessary stuff that helps us to know what he really means, and to decide for ourselves whether or not we like what we're taking in.

I'm reminded of this Wendell Berry nugget: 
The abstract, "objective," impersonal, dispassionate language of science [business]...cannot replace, and it cannot become, the language of familiarity, reverence, and affection by which things of value ultimately are protected. 
How much does Mr. Peters value and wish to protect the same things he did in '03? It's a little hard to tell based on the 127 characters he chose.

*I likened Re-imagine! to a modern day illuminated manuscript in this prior posting: [linked

Friday, October 21, 2011

All Along It's Been About Acumen


The accent belongs on the second syllable. It's:


Am I a fumin' human? No, not really. But I wouldn't be opposed if people'd return to acumen's older, more traditional pronunciation. I might even campaign for it.


To help keep business acumen from getting jumbled together, I s'pose, with business sense and business savvy -- both of which get fuzzier and fuzzier the closer you look at 'em. Look closely at the former, however, and the focus...


Business acumen has a specific and substantive definition. It's the capability to bring about positive business outcomes. Or sharper still, "the behavioral propensity to create capital". (E. Ted Prince) A person who has it understands the financial, accounting, marketing and operational functions of an organization AND is able to make good judgments and quick decisions.

Ultimately, it's a set of behaviors. A way. An approach (How many times have I used that word in past postings?) that can be taught and learned. Because it's specific.


Acumen in Latin means a point, which implies sharpness. A person with acumen is sharp or keen in some area. Business acumen is keenness or wisdom in the area of management*. The 'ac' part of the word is also found in the related word, "acute"; one way to remember what it means is to think "acute + mind = acumen".


This seems like a good leaving off place. If you'd like to learn more -- right now -- about acumen and acumen training, look what they're doing at: Perth Leadership. Acumen Learning. Paradigm Learning. Root Learning. Advantage Performance Group. Prisim Business War Games.

ok-KYOO-py Main Street

*It's not just managers who have, or need to have, good business acumen within companies.

P.S. In light of all of the above, this vid strikes me as amusing:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

WB's Way: A Certain Kind Of Modesty

The way of ignorance, therefore, is to be careful, to know the limits and the efficacy of our knowledge. It is to be humble and to work on an appropriate scale.
How are we ever going to make our collective way toward healthier communities? Wendell Berry’s been suggesting for years it has to start with personal decency, humility and cautiousness, a disposition he’s referred to as the way of ignorance. (a phrase borrowed from T.S. Eliot’s poem, East Coker)

I’m interested – for purposes of this short series – in what happens when the way of ignorance meets and conducts business. How do people and companies live up to its requirements in the real world? What kinds of results do they get when they do? Mr. Berry’s done more than his share to frame questions and provide answers, but I think more work is needed still.

Specifically, I’d like to try to link his ideas to the MANAGEMENT ADVISEMENT arena. And I’ve been keepin’ a sharp eye out lately for anyone or anything that might help.

Enter stage right: David Brooks and his new book, The Social Animal.

Enter, too, the concept of epistemological modesty. 

Epistemological What?

Might as well let him explain:
Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know. Epistemological modesty is the knowledge of how little we know and can know.
More user-friendly:
Epistemological modesty is an attitude toward life. This attitude is built on the awareness that we don’t know ourselves. Most of what we think and believe is unavailable to conscious review. We are our own deepest mystery.
Epistemological modesty is just like the way of ignorance.

If our ability to understand our selves is limited, so, also, by extension, must be our ability to understand other people, circumstances, and events. We still have to make decisions and take actions, of course. So the question becomes, How do we do so modestly? Mr. Brooks submits that we “can design habits, arrangements, and procedures that partially compensate for the limits on our knowledge.” In one of my favorite parts of the book, he then takes his best shot at illustrating what he means.

What really set my eyes a poppin’, though, were the parts in which he relates epistemological modesty to business management. This he does c-o-n-s-p-i-c-u-o-u-s-l-y via the characters (this is a fictional work) of Harrison, a “typical” management consultant* who DOES NOT exhibit epistemological modesty, and Raymond, a mid-level manager, who DOES. The narrator goes to great lengths to describe their respective decision making processes and the effects their decisions have on their companies.

It’s here where Mr. Brooks does just the kind of linking I alluded to before, and where he fills in some of the missing pieces. I don’t know what kind of impact this has had inside the consulting community, but I’m curious to find out.

I also want to find out if there are any real, living, breathing consultants who are talking this same sort of talk.

Philip Evans of the Boston Consulting Group is referred to in The Lords of Strategy (Walter Kiechel, III, 2010) as one who likes to think and talk about epistemology, specifically the nature of the knowledge of how to achieve competitive advantage. But, as for the modesty part?

BCG’s bailiwick has been strategic analysis and strategy formulation, along with the mission, vision, and values stuff that precedes it. In conversations about these topics with clients, what characteristic attitude does he bring? I’m sure all BCG consultations address enterprise risk management (ERM), but is that the same thing DB and/or WB have in mind?

"The Full Wendell" would call for companies to carefully consider, among many other things, the ramifications of the use of their products or services in the world. (Do they help end users become more self-sufficient? Do they promote wasteful consumption? Are they instrumental in helping people maintain and enhance their home towns?) Has any consultant at BCG, itself a US$ 3.05 billion firm, ever gone so far as to recommend to a client that the scope of her company’s operations should be limited, because, for example, further growth could be destructive?

These things I don’t know.

As always, more investigation is needed.

*Can you believe it, a management consultant in a novel?!?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What's Life Got To Do With It?

Great Aunt Gracie kicks the bucket. 
Her garden supply store is now YOURS. 
Collect $200! 

What if you were suddenly faced with the challenge of taking over a small business in midstream? Let’s say you’ve had no management training or experience. Oh, and you need to report for duty first thing Monday morning. How would you go about getting control of the situation? How would you gain perspective? And – 

Would you seek advice? What would be the most effective way to bring yourself up to speed on short notice? 

Well, in case you’re not aware, there’s no shortage of BUSINESS EXPERTS out there who’d be more than willing to give you their two cents’ worth...for your ten. To give but one example, David Allen would recommend that you take his advice, which he’s been offering since ‘01 in the ready-made form of his Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology. (I’ve borrowed the deceased-aunt scenario above from his 2009 book, Making Things Work, wherein he takes GTD theory to its loftiest level. Come to think of it, too, you can borrow this book from a library and avail yourself of his two cents that way…for free.) 

One thing you might like about Mr. Allen’s approach: he views work as a game, a game that can be played either well or poorly. His contention is that not only will his methods help you play work well, i.e., be as productive-and-therefore-as-successful as possible, they’ll also help you: minimize stress, increase your sense of freedom and spontaneity, and make work FUN. 


Interesting to me that those are some of the same things Milton Bradley was after when, in 1860, he introduced The Checkered Game of Life

Young Mr. Bradley – he was twenty-three – sought to create a board game that would simulate an individual’s travels through life; something that would present life as a series of choices. The way to win? Choose the good over the bad. From Jill Lepore’s 2007 New Yorker essay, The Meaning of Life, “The wise player will strive to gain on his journey that which shall make him the most prosperous (things like honesty, industry, and bravery) and shun that which will retard him in his progress (poverty, idleness).” Notice the moral intention. Many games of the day were designed to instill virtue. 

Why use a game to encourage folks to lead exemplary lives? Why – to use a newly invented term – “gamify” life? 

In Mr. Bradley’s words: to entertain “both young and old with the spirit of friendly competition.” I s’pose he also did it for the same reasons we still devise and play games today: 
  • game play can be compelling and rewarding 
  • it can stir positive feelings, like “urgent optimism”
  • complicated concepts are more easily understood and retention is better when participants are actively engaged in an activity. 
Everyone likes games. 
So, in a clumsy attempt to tie this back to the beginning – 

WHERE ARE THEY TO BE FOUND IN THE BUSINESS WORLD? More specifically, are board games being used for business advisement or education or training? Milton Bradley gamified all of life itself. Is it that far fetched to imagine that the same could be done of work (a mere subset of life)? 

Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life. To the best of my knowledge, David Allen hasn’t yet re-presented his approach as a game. Couldn’t he, though? I don’t know why not. And, what about any other of the comprehensive management approaches out there. How ‘bout gamifying them? 

I did some checking. As it turns out, there are indeed companies that are utilizing business board games for educational purposes! Paradigm Learning, for example, “combines the power of business board games and business simulations to create classroom-based learning experiences that are fun, challenging and content-rich.”  Prisim Business War Games, Inc. seems to be doing similar things. 

Cool, huh? 

I hope to be able to investigate one or both companies & their offerings and report back in a future posting. I want to keep the comparisons with THE GAME OF LIFE going, too. It has taken a lot of interesting twists and turns over the years, and its makers have addressed many challenges. Not long after the initial board game made its debut, for example, Milton Bradley’s understanding of how to succeed in real life was shifting: 
…he came to reject the notion that where you go in life is simply a matter of where you steer yourself. There were such things, in Bradley’s mind, as lousy starts, rotten luck, and bad cards. ‘The journey of life is governed by a combination of chance and judgment,’ he wrote in 1866. (Lepore)
To be continued.

I’ve compiled from various Web sources four (4) pretty nice pictures that show how Life’s game board has evolved over the years – and posted them here: (linked)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

WB's Way: The 78th Most Common Word

From ‘70s and ‘80s pop music:

Ooh, baby I love your way [Peter Frampton]
That’s just the way it is [Bruce Hornsby]
You can go your own way [Fleetwood Mac]
That’s the way of the world [Earth, Wind & Fire]

I don’t think I could’ve guessed that the word “way” is one of the most common written words in the English language. Now that I know it is, though, I’ll pay even closer attention.

Way originally meant “road, path, or course of travel.” A definition that interests me more, however, is: “a manner, method, or means” – as in a way of doing or of knowing. As in there are as many different ways of being as there are humans.

I’ve actually been paying some attention to its use for a while. This blog (as an indication) is all about various ways of managing. Every manager has her way. The Harvard Business School teaches its comprehensive way. Tom Peters recently summed up and tweeted about his way this way: 

"Cherish your people, cuddle your customers, wander around, 'try it' beats 'talk about it,' pursue excellence, tell the truth."
I haven’t thought this through, but – an exposition of Wendell Berry's way would almost certainly include and revolve around these notions: 
  • we (people) have to act; 
  • we have to act on the basis of what we know; 
  • what we know is incomplete; 
  • therefore, “the question of how to act in ignorance is paramount.” 

The Way of Ignorance. That’s the title of a 2005 collection of his essays. It's also a name I think he’d still happily give to his general approach to things. How do his thoughts (more specifically) about business follow from it? That’s what I hope to keep exploring and writing about...

A ways down the road.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

WB's Way: Intro

I’ve never really bought into the idea that graduates of MBA programs know better ‘an the rest of us what makes companies tick. Peter Drucker was a sociologist. Kenneth Andrews, who (among other things) headed up Harvard Business School’s advanced management programs in the '70s, earned a PhD in English.

Walter Kiechel wrote about both men in The Lords of Strategy, lauding them for the power of their insights and their contributions to The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World. (the book’s subtitle) He described Andrews as “a humanist in all that word’s senses.” And, he noted about Drucker that his “output was so rich, wide-ranging, and ever-renewed with fresh observations that it somehow didn’t come across as systematic.”

Rereading those snippets the other day, I couldn’t help but think of Wendell Berry. 

Wendell Berry.“The best serious essayist at work in the United States.” The recipient, this past March, of the 2010 National Humanites Medal. A swell guy, in my eyes, whose values, opinions, and sensibilities have intrigued me for at least a dozen years.

During their careers, Messrs. Drucker and Andrews were up to their respective elbows in big business. As for Mr. Berry? The word “business” hardly ever surfaces in his writings. And yet he has loads to say about: Work. Economy. Community. Propriety…

The human condition. That’s been his domain. Within it, he's developed interesting points of view that (IMO) speak to the role of people in getting things done and making things better. He's examined all sorts of stuff business thinkers haven’t traditionally shown much willingness to examine – but managers with responsibility for the overall success of their organizations must necessarily address.

I have a vague feel for Wendell Berry’s formula (which has ne’er been formulated, as far as I know) for success. I have a sense I’d enjoy working alongside him. But, I’m not positive. So I want to get a firmer grip; I want to make his approach more explicit, if possible. And then kick it around some.

Ultimately, I’d like to end up with a more informed opinion about whether or not more Wendell Berry in business would be good for business.

Any business.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Simply Illuminating, 1.04

[Part 4 of a short series]

Is this it? The illuminated business bible I’ve been looking for? The answer to all my (maybe I shouldn’t use this word) prayers

Well, let’s dig into the hardback edition of Tom Peters’ 2003 Re-imagine! and see. Evaluate it first for its manuscript qualities, then for its bible qualities.


I think it’d be mighty thought provoking to take a hard-cover, mint-condition copy of Re-imagine! and place it next to one of the world’s most magnificent illuminated manuscripts (are you familiar with the Book of Kells? I’ll attach a pic at the end) and just compare the two. Every which way. Looking for patterns. Noting what’s different…

Would you find similarities? 
Significant ones, I’d contend.

You’ll have to use your imagination for this, but – let’s first consider the key design components:

A typical two-page spread from Re-imagine! 
  1. TEXT. Not the fancy hand lettering you'd find in a manuscript, but the typography in Re-imagine! is comparably readable, modern, and appropriate for the material. 
  2. BORDERS. I liken some of the graphics, illustrations, and photos that surround Re-imagine!'s main body text to the decorated borders of illuminated manuscripts. They’re not really there to challenge the reader to “think visually”. They're more for ornamentation. 
  3. HISTORIATED INITIALS. Found in illuminated manuscripts at the beginning of new or particularly noteworthy sections of text. Re-imagine! doesn't use enlarged or decorated initial letters, but it does makes extensive use of varying word sizes, colors, and cases (upper and lower) to give clues as to their relative importance. This, by the way, is the lone design element Peters carried over – even to the title – into his The Little BIG Things, published in 2010.* 
  4. RECURRING ELEMENTS. The Saint John’s Bible, another exemplary illuminated manuscript, uses common art-elements both within and across its seven volumes. Similarly, Re-imagine! uses page headers, sidebar icons, and color-coded chapter identifiers (which are a challenge-and-a-half for press operators to print) to help give its author’s ramblings a more consistent form. 
  5. COLOR. Re-imagine! uses bold, in-your-face color from beginning to end. Says Peters,  “These are Technicolor Times. Thence...they demand Technicolor Words and Technicolor Ideas and Technicolor Actions.” Color brings the images on the pages of illuminated manuscripts to life and captivates readers. So, too, does the r-e-a-l gold or silver they employ. The cover of Re-imagine! was printed with f-a-k-e silver ink. 
  6. MINATURE ILLUSTRATIONS / ILLUMINATIONS. One of the defining features of an illuminated manuscript is its painted illustrations. You could say Re-imagine! is loaded with modern day illuminations that’ve been integrated with the main text. I also put the book's sidebars in this category. They're there to "flesh out" the main text, i.e., to shed light. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There. Does this one-to-one matching o’ design elements have you convinced?

I’d say while no one’s likely to mistake Re-imagine! for an illuminated manuscript, there are enough on-the-surface similarities that just about anyone could be made to recognize the common threads. What’s more, I’m willing to put out there with some confidence: illuminated manuscripts are to Re-imagine! as plain old, non-illuminated manuscripts are to most other business books out there today. 

NOW – 

Do I like what I see of Re-imagine!’s surface? Does it “stack up” to something like the Book of Kells in terms of the beauty of its design? 

Those are trickier questions to answer. How do I go about isolating my design-only thoughts, after all, from the other thoughts that enter my consciousness as I flip pages? (Do I like what’s being said? Is this well written? Do I trust the author? How are my interest and energy levels?)

Well, I could conceivably base my evaluation around the six design-component categories above. Or I could just make a sweeping generalization like this: 
Re-imagine! reminds me of a design-heavy college textbook, circa this past decade. The kind used in an Intro-To-Some-Subject-Intended-For-Non-Majors-Of-That-Subject. (I’d bet there are Business 101 books, for example, with a similar look.) It’s livelier and punchier than the majority o’ those, though. Full of attention grabbers. Think fairly hip textbook meets WIRED magazine. 
I can’t say I’m blown away by the design. But I do like it. And I think the team that did it deserves credit: (1.) for breaking with the tradition of biz books designed in the non-illuminated manuscript (no pics, no color) mold, and (2.) for the effort. Why for the effort? ‘Cause I’m sure they worked their tails off. A typical book relies on a template of some sort. By contrast, almost every spread of Re-imagine! is unique. Must’ve been like designing a magazine with 352 numbered pages. 


The slick packaging helped draw me in. It even called my favorite illuminated manuscripts to mind. Two illuminated (capital 'B') Bibles, in particular. Along with 'em? All kinds of deeper questions about the book's messaging. Its content. And my perceptions of its usefulness and meaning.

This Peters guy – who some have called a prophet – has sunk a lot of resources into making Re-imagine! visually appealing. Might he have something important to say? Something really important?

I’ve used the phrase “business bible” in this and previous posts. Playing the religious analogy for all it's worth, Is Re-imagine! worthy of serious consideration and study the way the Bible is for some folks? Is it worth returning to again and again (every Sunday night, perhaps) for guidance? Should its thinking-and-acting-instructions-for-managers be followed religiously? Ultimately, I wanna to know if I should place my faith in the darn thing above and beyond the other business books out there. What’s the point, otherwise? 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I’m searching for answers…......If business success could only be made to be predictable…......I’ve been let down in the past…......

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Will Re-imagine! one day be re-membered and re-ferred to, simply, as the Book of Tom

I’m going to leave that for a subsequent post. 

Here's a famous page from the Book of Kells: 

*I first saw this technique used by William Gass in Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife, an experimental novella published in 1968.